Feòrag: October 2007 Archives

October 31, 2007

Government body listens to scientists shocker!

United Kingdom: A committee considering scientific evidence and making recommendations for change based on scientific evidence has issued its report. Religious groups, who had tried to nobble the enquiry, will not be pleased with the results. No change in the upper limit is suggested, and liberalisation in other areas is proposed. What's more, the committee said that superstitious doctors who object to the procedure should alert their patients well in advance. Ben Goldacre has the press release, which quotes committee member Dr Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, extensively:

This thorough report - after a rigorous enquiry into a set of very narrow scientific issues - sets out clear conclusions on what the scientific evidence can tell us about abortion law reform.

The medical evidence is stark about how the threshold of viability has not reduced below 24 weeks, and that is why our conclusions are so firm...

The Committee had no alternative - given the medical and scientific facts - but to argue for the end of the 40 year requirement for two doctors signatures, the old-fashioned ban on nurses performing abortions, and the unnecessary restriction of choice for women about where they have early medical abortion.

I am pleased the Committee argues for the GMC to make clear that doctors who conscientiously object must alert their patients in advance and ensure another doctor takes the consultation if abortion is a possibility.

Dr. Harris also left us a tempting tidbit:

The so called minority report is a amusing mish-mash of paranoid conspiracy theories, pseudo-scientific clap-trap and anti-abortion zealotry. The few recognisably scientific arguments it makes are completely dealt with in the Committee's report and rebutted by the totality of the scientific literature.

I think we can all guess which report the Prattle would like to see.

Sense prevailsBad Science, 31st October 2007. See also SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS RELATING TO THE ABORTION ACT 1967, an account of the committee's remit on the UK Parliamentary website.

October 30, 2007

The appliance of science

United States: Progress in forensic science has cast serious doubts on the convictions of three men for satanic murders when they are teenagers. The bodies of three 8-year-old boys, Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Chris Byers, were found hog-tied in a drainage ditch in Arkansas in 1993, and they appeared to to have been mutilated.

A young mentally reatrded man, Jessie Misskelley, made a confession to the police, implicating two of his friends. He told police the boys had been sodomised, forced to perform oral sex, and mutilated. He also mentioned occult rituals and orgies, which led to satanic cult rumours spreading round the local area. But even at the time, Misskelley's testimony was known to be suspect. Many things didn't add up. He initially claimed he attacked the children at a time they were known to be in school, then came up with four other alternatives after prompting from the police. He got the colour and type of cord used to tie the children up dramatically wrong.

Despite the judge deeming this statement to be inadmissible as evidence, a witness made reference to it, and it was considered by the jury. And there were other problems with the evidence, questionable witnesses and prejudicial closing arguments. The main expert witness was a self-styled occult expert with degrees that did not require class attendance.

The new forensic evidence, the work of half a dozen scientists, has failed to link DNA evidence to any of the men convicted of the murders, but it has uncovered a link with the stepfather of one of the dead boys. The scientists also came to a different conclusion about how the bodies came to be mutilated: it was clearly the work of animals and fish in the ditch where they were found.

The oldest of the men convicted was sentenced to death, but fortunately has not been ritually sacrificed yet.

More information on this miscarriage of justice can be found at Free West Memphis 3.

October 23, 2007

Handbags at dawn

There has been, as you might expect, some reaction from certain Christians concerning J.K. Rowling's revelation that one of her characters is gay. Not all the reaction is what you might expect though. John Mark Reynolds, a Creationistwho has weebled on about how delightfully Christian the Harry Potter books are is really, really upset, and insists that Ms. Rowling does not know her figment of her own imagination as well as he does. No way can Dumbledore be gay, he proclaims, and if he is, why did she not mention it earlier?

She wrote about Christianity openly by Book Seven, but if Dumbledore was gay, she decided to hide it. She hid it so well that there is no evidence of it.

But was it that well-hidden? In a comment on Making Light, Rob Hansen recalls a conversation with a literary critic:

I remember Roz Kaveney telling me at the time the book appeared that she read the Grindelward/Dumbledore relationship that way and that she figured Rowling had been careful to write it the way she had to forestall the howls of outrage from the usual far-right/religious reich cretins.

Comments elsewhere have linked to where Kaveney put that thought into writing but, naturally, I can't find any of them now. Nor does Reynolds' argument, that Rowling is no longer the sole "owner" of her own intellectual property, that coherent either.

No offense to an excellent author, but Dumbledore no longer belongs only to Rowling. He also belongs to her readers who have been given a series of books in which Rowling was free to say what she wanted to say.

Alas, for this argument, we have fanfic, where the readers take other authors' characters and write their own stories about them. If the fanfic is anything to go by, then the readers have concluded, in a loud and unanimous voice, that not only is Dumbledore gay (and probably really, really kinky with it), but so are all the other characters. And they're all at it with one another!

(via Pharyngula)

Catching up

Some stories I missed, or didn't get round to writing about:

  • A woman who falsely accused her father of raping her as a child after undergoing recovered memory therapy on the NHS has reached an out-of-court settlement with Tayside NHS. The treatment is responsible for a number of claims of Satanic abuse, though this case had no such elements. Settlement for bogus abuse womanBBC News, 20th October 2007.
  • It seems that it's not only the Roman Catholic Church which has been covering up child sexual abuse by its clergy. The Church of England has a similar problem. C of E child abuse was ignored for decades The Daily Telegraph, 22nd October 2007. (Thank you to Andrew Ian Dodge.)
  • OMFG!!!!! A fictional character is a poof! That should upset the fundies even more. Rowling Says Dumbledore Is GayNewsweek, 19th October 2007. (My favourite quote from J.K. Rowling on the matter is in the BBC News version of the story: Oh, my god, the fan fiction.)
  • The case of a Christian magistrate who resigned because his bigotry restricted his ability to do his job has reached an industrial tribunal. Christian JP forced out over gay adoption cases, tribunal hearsThe Guardian, 22nd October 2007. See also WWJD?: Lies and Blackmail!Prattle, January 26th 2007.

October 17, 2007

Eyes right

Venerable atheist magazine The Freethinker is online, featuring a news blog, so it's been added to the blogroll. It's also possible to subscribe to the magazine using Paypal, so I did—something I'd been meaning to do for some time.

Invisible buttsecks!

England: A man so terrified of catching gay cooties that he refused to be served by a gay librarian has been held for a few hours by police. He claims his imaginary friend caused him to make offensive remarks to library staff. Joe Fairclough has now been banned from Leigh Library, near Wigan.

Man jailed in anti-gay rowManchester Evening News, 16th October 2007.

October 16, 2007

Hoary old chestnut evolves legs, wings.

United States: Yet another animal shelter falls victim to the annual urban myth about black cats being adopted for sacrifice at Hallowe'en and has sentenced the poor animals to another month of misery.

Hillside SPCA, Pottsville, prohibits adoptions of black cats now to Nov. 2, fearing the animals could be mistreated in Halloween pranks or worse, be sacrificed in sadistic or occult rituals.

We put a sign up during the month of October prohibiting adoptions, said Sylvia Nabholz, a volunteer and board member with the nonprofit animal shelter off the Gordon Nagle Trail, Route 901.

Although Nabholz said she was not aware of any cruelty incidents specifically involving black cats, the temporary ban on their adoption is a precautionary measure.

...Fortunately, she said, the shelter has not noticed an increase in adoption rates of black cats in the the month before Halloween.

Hillside SPCA nixes adoptions of black cats for HalloweenThe Republican and Herald, 15th October 2007. See also Hoary old chestnutThe Prattle, 25th October 2002; Hoary old chestnut campaigns for vote.The Prattle, 26th October 2003; Warm black pussies.The Prattle, 30th October 2003; That time of year againThe Prattle, 31st October 2006.

Another opportunity for fundies to bear false witness

Wales: A man obsessed with the Devil has been ordered to be detained indefinitely after he killed a vicar. No doubt fundie sites will be citing this as a case of Satanic crime by the morning, but they would be pretending not to know that he's not been jailed, but instead committed to a secure mental hospital. Geraint Evans stabbed Fr. Paul Bennett repeatedly in the grounds of his church.

Evans was initially charged with murder but his plea of manslaughter was accepted after three doctors presented reports to the court confirming that Evans was a deluded paranoid schizophrenic.

The court heard that he was obsessed with God and the devil and fixated with religion and knives.

...He was a subscriber and contributor to satanic websites using the pseudonym Jack Blade where he declared: I am satan.

Satanist guilty of vicar killingBBC News, 16th October 2007.

Bringing about world peace by nuking everybody

Just to demonstrate that we at Prattle Towers are fair, we'd like to point out that atheists can be violent, intolerant arseholes too. P.Z. Myers witnessed Christopher Hitchens' speech at the Freedom From Religion Convention this weekend, and was not impressed:

He told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam. Then he accused the audience of being soft on Islam, of being the kind of vague atheists who refuse to see the threat for what it was, a clash of civilizations, and of being too weak to do what was necessary, which was to spill blood to defeat the enemy.... We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

It was simplistic us-vs.-them thinking at its worst, and the only solution he had to offer was death and destruction of the enemy.

This was made even more clear in the Q&A. He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid,... and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you … which is only true if you assume that every Moslem already wants to kill Americans and is armed and willing to do so....

Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.

And he was apparently sober at the time, too!

FFRF recap: heroes of the revolution, Hitchens screws the pooch, and the unbearable stodginess of atheistsPharyngula, 14th October 2007.

October 15, 2007

Fundies caught trying to pervert abortion review before it even begins

United Kingdom: A inquiry reviewing abortion law has warned scientists presenting evidence that they must disclose links to faith groups after it was found that religious organisations were trying to influence the result surreptitiously.

At least eight submissions of written evidence have come from medical professionals who have not disclosed their membership of Christian groups opposed to abortion on faith grounds. Six of the doctors are members or activists with the Christian Medical Fellowship, an organisation that has given its own evidence to the inquiry.

Suspicion that contributors had not been transparent about their affiliations has led the clerk of the committee to take the unusual step of writing to all those who gave evidence asking them to disclose their links to any relevant organisations...

Some on the committee are worried that unless witnesses are transparent about their affiliation to anti-abortion groups the inquiry will not be able to properly assess their evidence.

Evan Harris MP, the Liberal Democrats' science spokesperson, said: This inquiry is specifically about the scientific evidence not moral or religious arguments and our witnesses need to be evidence-led not ideologically or theologically driven. The CMF risk undermining the inquiry by getting people called as expert scientific witnesses when they are not.

Two witnesses who will give evidence today, Chris Richards, a paediatrician and honorary clinical lecturer at Newcastle University, and John Wyatt, a neonatal paediatrician at University College London, are members of CMF, but did not disclose that on their original submission.

Abortion inquiry asks scientists to disclose links to faith groupsThe Guardian, 15th October 2007.

Man who left fortune to Tories declared to be nuts

Scotland: The will of a man who left £8 million to the Conservative Party has been overturned by the courts on the grounds that he was not of sound mind when he made the will.

Branislav Bane Kostic ran a successful pharmaceuticals business in Switzerland and London, but became convinced that dark forces were out to get him.

He cut his son Zoran, who lives on Marchmont Road, out of his will and instead left his entire estate to the Conservative Party. At the time, he thought that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher would save the world from monsters, and believed she was the greatest leader of the free world in history.

So, clearly bonkers then. The BBC has further details of the extent of his delusion:

He was tormented by delusions that I and other members of my family were part of a worldwide conspiracy of terrorists and criminals who were trying to kill him.

“My father refused medical treatment, because he also feared that doctors would harm him. In the grip of his delusions, my father turned to the Conservative Party for help to fight the conspiracy that he imagined.
...

The court heard that Mr Kostic had made the will after saying Margaret Thatcher was the greatest leader of the free world in history and that she would save the world from the satanic monsters and freaks.

Rejected son wins back £8m from ToriesEdinburgh Evening News, 15th October 2007; Tories lose £8.3m bequest battleBBC News, 15th October 2007.

Bargain of the Day: the Devil's OS

No, not Windows Vista, but Ubuntu Satanic Edition (Linux for the Damned).

Ubuntu SE is not currently a distro, it's more a series of themes to transform the look of Ubuntu. You must first download and install one of the standard Ubuntu variants and then upgrade to Ubuntu SE. Don't worry; you can easily change your system back if you intend to recant...

Ubuntu Satanic Edition is available for both Ubuntu Edgy 6.10 and Feisty 7.04, including both Gnome (Ubuntu) and KDE (Kubuntu) variants. We suggest installing over Ubuntu Christian Edition, but the standard Ubuntu will do fine.

(via Happy Linux Thoughts, and the Bulldada Newsblog).

Suspended cleric blames Satanists

Vatican City: The case of Monsignor Tommaso Stenico, suspended from his high ranking post after he appeared to come out in a TV interview has taken a new and interesting twist.

Monsignor Tommaso Stenico, a capo ufficio, or section head, at the Vatican ministry responsible for the clergy, insisted yesterday he was not gay. He said he had posed as a homosexual to research a plot by satanists.

Sex, lies and videotape: turmoil at the VaticanThe Guardian, 15th October 2007.

October 14, 2007

A compelling invitation

Kathryn Cramer gets better spam than I do!

It is with great honor and pleasure that I the President and Founder of the only Portuguese Association of Exorcists located in Fatima, Portugal, wish to introduce to you our goals and objectives in anticipation of your future collaboration with our organization....

Unfunny clown

United States: An Illinois Christian clown has been arrested on charges relating to child pornography and sex tourism after a routine check of his computer on returning from the Philippines revealed pictures of naked boys, and clothed boys showing their genitals. A. Paul Carlock Jr., a.k.a. Klutzo, had an excuse though:

Carlock initially told investigating officers that the images on his computer and camera were photos he had intended to edit so they'd be appropriate to show at his church. He said the photos showed that the boys were too poor to afford clothes and that he photographed the naked boys because that's how they live, the affidavit said.

However, officials found one image marked as edited in which the only change was that the edited version had been enlarged, according to the affidavit.

Unfortunately, there was also something else suspicious about his computer:

Officials also allegedly discovered a program on Carlock's computer called Evidence Eliminator, which authorities said is marketed as being able to erase images from computers to the extent that investigators cannot retrieve them.

Now, it might be that he just wants to be sure that other Christian clowns don't see his confidential business documents, so police checked his house and found at least 21 other child pornographic movies. And, if that wasn't enough, it seems that boys at the House of Joy orphanage where he had worked cheering up the orphans has complained of waking up to find him in their beds fondling them.

Of course, he has left a trail online, and Novice Nun the Wiser OPI, has been busy. Let's start with his Amazon profile, where we can check out the items he has reviewed and his choice of tags:

October 11, 2007

Violent, mentally-disturbed young man is violent; other reasons sought

United States: I was going to open up the betting on how long it would take before the latest US school shooting was blamed on goths, but unfortunately, the blaming happened before I even got to a keyboard:

One student told Philadelphia Channel 6 Action News that the student was a goth and had been wearing a trenchcoat, boots and a chain.

The Associated Press notes, that the child responsible had a history of serious mental illness and violence, which is clearly far too relevant here, and also that he was a bit of a twat:

Coon's troubles seemed to come to a tipping point this week when he was suspended for fighting outside with a classmate. Students said Monday's fight was over God — Coon told his classmates he didn't believe in God and instead worshipped rocker Marilyn Manson...

He's crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody, said Doneisha LeVert, 14. We didn't think nothing of it.

So let's leave it to the New York Daily News to remind us of the really important stuff:

Coon, a Goth who decked himself out in black nail polish, a trench coat and Marilyn Manson T-shirts, and who claimed to worship the Devil, had been beaten up for saying f--- God, one student said.

I think they meant fuck there.

It must come as a relief after the last four such incidents were completely devoid of a goth connection. Now to start hunting conspiracy theories...

Ohio student goes on gun rampageBBC News, 10th October 2007; Student Gunman in Ohio Warned of AttackAssociated Press, 11th October 2007; Suspended 14-year-old shoots 4, then kills himself at schoolNew York Daily News, 11th October 2007.

October 10, 2007

Safer sex lesson

United States: I remember back in the day, when it seemed like a Conservative politician was accidentally killing themselves through autoerotic asphyxiation every week. It seems the Tories learned from their (colleagues') mistakes, but the knowledge has yet to make it over the Atlantic.

Revd. Gary Aldridge was a graduate of Liberty University and had worked with Jerry Falwell. At the time of his death, he had been senior pastor at Thorington Road Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, for 15 years. He was found dead at his home in suspicious circumstances last June, and the coroner's report has just been issued. He was:

...clothed in a diving wet suit, a face mask which has a single vent for breathing, a rubberized head mask having an opening for the mouth and eyes, a second rubberized suit with suspenders, rubberized male underwear, hands and feet have diving gloves and slippers.

The report goes on to describe the elaborate restraints he had managed to attach to himself before noting that he'd thought of safety (or maybe cleaning up afterwards) at least once:

There is a dildo in the anus covered with a condom.

The coroner concluded that no-one else had been involved in his death.

Falwell colleague dies getting his autoerotic rubber kink onPandragon, 9th October 2007; Dead Reverend's Rubber FetishThe Smoking Gun, 8th October 2007. Thanks to Arthur D. Hlavaty.

October 9, 2007

Deport them to England, now!

Scotland: A Motherwell couple are claiming that Strathclyde Police discriminated against them on religious grounds because the force's personnel files have a single field for Married/civil partnership.

The couple, who have been wed 26 years, told a Glasgow employment tribunal they had deeply held religious beliefs as Christians as to the sanctity of marriage and found the description as married/civil partners offensive causing injury to their feelings as married persons.

Strathclyde Police urged a preliminary tribunal hearing to throw out their claims on the grounds of religion and sex because they had no reasonable prospect of success, or, alternatively, to order Mr and Mrs McQuade to pay a deposit of £500 each as a condition of the case proceeding further.

As well as keeping the database simple, the police point out the single field ensures that people are not discriminated against and prevents personal information being given out by accident. No disadvantage was suffered by the couple as a result of their being treated the same as everyone else.

Catholic man and wife sue cops over fileGlasgow Evening Times, 5th October 2007.

About this Archive

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