Cristina Odone wants to leave Britain if we stop animal cruelty. Go ahead.

In a piece that stinks to high heaven of confused stupidity Cristina Odone seems to have lost all sense of perspective claiming that it is British culture to place the welfare of animals above that of humans. Of course her words are chosen to invoke maximum disgust, revealing a kind of mental unbalance one often sees in the “persecuted” religious.

Britain is set to become a country that prizes a cow more than a Jew, an ox more than a Muslim. If John Blackwell, soon to be head of Britain’s vets, gets his wish, ritual slaughter will be banned. Blackwell, you see, is worried about the pain that animals might feel if they are not stunned before they are butchered. He is not worried though about the millions of Muslims and Jews whose religion dictates that they eat only animals that have been killed in a particular way. Let them eat cake.

Odone’s poorly thought out nonsense is a response to a reiteration from the British Veterinary Association calling for the ban on the unnecessarily painful slaughter of animals, specifically the sadistic practices of the dhabihah and shechita preparation of meat.
Odone naturally has no ground to stand on and this is immediately obvious in her appeal to tradition. What a tired thing.

Halal and Kosher butchers have for millennia practised a ritual slaughter as part of their religious tradition. It is a hygienic way of butchering animals which consists of slitting their throats and allowing them to bleed to death. Not for the faint-hearted, but religion seldom is.

She goes on to bark about religious people mattering less than non-theists! Is she unaware of the Bishops sat in our House of Lords, the Jewish girls’ school where questions on evolution are blanked out in exam papers, religions dodging taxes for no good reason?
Odone is typical of the kind of theist that sees removal of religious privilege as an attack on religion.

Once this precedent is established, circumcision — another religious ritual practised by both Muslims and Jews — will be banned. The anger and upset this has caused in the Muslims and Jewish communities in Germany cannot be underestimated. The German authorities, when faced with accusations of anti-Semitism, quickly backed down.

The cowardice shown by the German government in this situation is the shameful part of this story. Cutting, and often times sucking, the penis of a baby is a barbaric practice protected, once again, by religious privilege. Worse yet there have been several reports of babies being infected with herpes after having the blood sucked from their penis by the mouth of the knife-wielding rabbi. I’ll leave it to you to imagine what kind of person protects such a practice. The last part of the paragraph is unbelievable:

Their defence, like that of Mr Blackwell, was that it is “humane” to ban such religious rituals — but history shows what crushing religious minorities leads to.

 How does protecting animals or babies from unnecessary cruelty relate to “crushing religious minorities”? Nonsense. Utter nonsense.

Finally Odone shows her ignorance of biology in the last paragraph.

Banning a religious ritual because an animal may (who knows) feel some pain before its killing, is a nonsense value.

Pain in calves that were both stunned and not has been measured and it has been shown that they do suffer more when not stunned.

It prioritises the animal over the human, and the four-legged over the pious. Yet it will be adopted here in once-tolerant Britain, if Mr Blackwell has any say in the matter. I pray he doesn’t.

Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear that the pious (surely an insult) may no longer be allowed to cause suffering because their fairy tales say they must.
Religious privileges are being revoked and the odious Odone and her ilk are frightened of being forced to play on an even playing field with the rest of us.

You don’t want to live in a Britain where animal cruelty is seen as a disgrace? Please do leave, I’m sure you’ll find a comfortable home in the theocracies around the world.

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A feminist programming language? Why the hell not?

What might your reaction be upon hearing about the idea of a programming language that takes its cues from feminism? If you’re a computer scientist you may be interested on what parts of feminist philosophy one can apply, usefully, to the creation of a new programming language. If you have no understanding of computer science and a strange aversion to the word ‘feminist’ then you’ll probably just tweet an angry no and remain none the wiser.

To which, of course, they don’t reply when questioned on their problem. Ah, to be able to ignorantly babble so. Liberation.

If however you’re a little crazier in your reactions to the idea of a feminist programming language then you might write an uninformed piece on the idea.
Daniel Greenfield, a right-wing, homophobe decided to add his unwanted thoughts into the mix, seemingly unable to grasp that there may be overlap between programming and feminism.

They’re not disciplines and they have no points of orientation. It’s like asking how to combine being an NRA member and a plumber. There’s no actual overlap.

The underlying diseased thinking is the left’s obsession with politicizing absolutely everything.

Giving it 5 minutes of thought I can see how feminism might provide some guidance on variable and function modification/creation, garbage collection, and relationships between objects (if the language will even have objects!), so quite why someone who is proudly quoted by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck couldn’t is beyond me.

The majority of Greenfield’s drivel is actually him regurgitating nonsense that was apparently posted on Bitbucket and later Github, along with “code” – both have since been removed, and good riddance I say.
I won’t put up what it says as it’d be a waste of everyone’s time but these are obviously nasty adolescents whose bullshit is being spread by a seemingly grown man.

It’s not all bad news however. On the Abuse Of Notation blog there is a well thought out piece (read it now) on some of the practical and theoritical aspects of this prospective new programming language. Emphasis in bold is mine.

With all this in mind, I’d like to say something about Arielle Schlesinger’s proposal to investigate feminism and programming languages. Given that it’s a staple piece of programmer wisdom that, in the words of Alan Perlis, “a language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming, is not worth knowing”, the project of reflecting (from a feminist angle) on how our programming languages make us think about what we do with them seems timely, to say the least. A programmer who wants to know that which is worth knowing about programming, will certainly want to know about languages that affect the way one thinks about programming. I can only assume that those programmers who responded to Schlesinger’s proposal with knee-jerk derision were not interested in that which is worth knowing, which in my book makes them rotten programmers who should probably find something else to go and do with themselves.

Everyone who’s come near a programming language knows that there is a correct tool for the job, and there’s no reason to think Schlesinger’s musings, and hopefully eventual implementation, won’t have some impact on the future of programming. I never realised quite how polluted with short-sighted misogyny the programming world was, or at least I’d blindly hoped it wasn’t as awful as the gaming world. What a fool I’ve been.

So why shouldn’t we have a feminist programming language? I can’t think of any reasons, and I could certainly do with some fresh thoughts in the stale, male-dominated world of programming.

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“Dr” wants religious beliefs to trump evidence based medical advice

There is a fantastic and dangerous lie, unmentioned and assumed, in human society: parents know what’s best for their child. The simple fact is that sometimes parents need to be told what’s good for their child. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recently introduced a policy advocating state intervention where there is a conflict between the parent’s choice and what is good for a sick child.

Although respect for parents’ decision-making authority is an important principle, pediatricians should report suspected cases of medical neglect, and the state should, at times, intervene to require medical treatment of children. Some parents’ reasons for refusing medical treatment are based on their religious or spiritual beliefs. In cases in which treatment is likely to prevent death or serious disability or relieve severe pain, children’s health and future autonomy should be protected.

Unbelievably some people don’t think a child’s well-being should trump the parent’s beliefs even if those beliefs place the child’s life in danger. Brent Hunter, a chiropractor and graduate of Life University, recently crossed my radar when, on his blog over at Natural News, he made the wild claim that choosing the right medical treatment for a child is some form of oppression.

This is Ludicrous! This is America – the land of the free! This country was founded on religious liberty. America’s Founding Fathers desired a country where people were free to practice their religion and live their lives free of oppression.

No, Mr Hunter, what’s ludicrous is that it’s legal for parents to essentially murder their child in some parts of the United States. A child’s safety must always be placed above the daft and dangerous superstitious beliefs of their parents, no matter how strong their conviction.
This isn’t just a philosophical point, children are dying due to barbaric, vile and utterly incomprehensible religious beliefs. Professor Jerry Coyne wrote a piece over on his blog website detailing some of the deaths kids have suffered at the hands of their parents, all because of their faith in god and a lack of basic medical knowledge.
Here’s one case but I recommend reading the full piece for a better understanding of just how religion can pervert the basic genetic impulses of a parent to care for their offspring.

One teenager asked teachers for help getting medical care for fainting spells, which she had been refused at home. She ran away from home, but law enforcement returned her to the custody of her father. She died 3 days later from a ruptured appendix.

Brent later goes on to produce a list of conflicts between religion and vaccines. Emphasis is his.

  • Vaccines are made with toxic chemicals that are injected into the bloodstream by vaccination.
  • All vaccines are made with foreign proteins (viruses and bacteria), and some vaccines are made with genetically engineered viral and bacterial materials.
  • A conflict arises if you believe that man is made in God’s image and the injection of toxic chemicals and foreign proteins into the bloodstream is a violation of God’s directive to keep the body/temple holy and free from impurities.
  • A conflict arises if you accept God’s warning not to mix the blood of man with the blood of animals.
  • Many vaccines are produced in animal tissues.
  • A conflict arises if your religious convictions are predicated on the belief that all life is sacred.

Yes, vaccines do contain chemicals that are toxic to humans but, and this is crucial, you have to be exposed to deadly doses in order to die, and this just doesn’t happen with vaccines. See this piece at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for more on the “toxic myths”.
As for the conflicts between god and science, well I’m sorry but evidence-based medicine wins every time. If you’re willing to let your child suffer and die because you think a fairytale character will save them then you’re an awful parent and you don’t deserve, nor should you be allowed, to care for an innocent child.

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(Some) Free Wifi for Fulham

It would seem some manner of “free” wifi is bound for the streets of Fulham, Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. Under a new deal, not yet signed, Arqiva look set to install wireless access points in the lampposts around the borough. Shepherds Bush will see points installed at the end of 2013, with Hammersmith and Fulham following in 2014.

Whilst the council are touting the service as free it is barely that. The first 30 minutes are free but there will be charges after those minutes are up. No word on what those charges will be yet but if Arqiva want to challenge the services already provided by mobile networks, coffee shops & libraries they’ll have to be competitive.
Council services will be free but how often do you really need to access those and would you really want to pay your bills over a public network?

On the subject of the cost of this new wireless network, the claim is that Arqiva will make a one-off payment to the council of £500,000 and that some profits will also find their way to the local purse. This is of course good news for our borough but I am very sceptical on how much of a financial success this project will be. Hopefully the council will publish the income separately on its site.

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Homeopathic nonsense crops up in local article

Homeopathy can appear anywhere I guess. I’ve recently seen it pop up in my local newspaper (Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle) in an article on urban foxes and their status as pests.
The piece features a Kensington man, Mark Mason, who makes honeyed sandwiches, laced with a “homeopathic remedy”, for the local foxes. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment I think the foxes should be left to their own devices. They are wild animals and should be treated as such. Leave them to find their own food so that they can reach a stable population size without our interfering, and definitely stop leaving discarded food for them to find near your house!

That’s all I want to say on the fox issue. What concerns me more is how the journalist, Camilla Horrox, has simply suggested that the homeopathic, honey sandwich Mark is feeding to the foxes can somehow cure mange. Here’s the opening paragraph:

URBAN foxes in Kensington are being fed honeyed sandwiches laced with a homeopathic remedy which treats mange by a local wildlife lover.

Further down it possibly gets worse.

Mark Mason-Gardner 45, is also trying to educate children in the area about how important urban wildlife is despite being classified as a pest by the council and many other residents in the borough.

I sincerely hope that whilst teaching the youth Mark doesn’t try to pass off nonsense about homeopathy. We’re seeing now what happens when bad advice is given on medicines, with the MMR scare. Any one person suggesting alternative medicine is at all effective is one person who can cause more damage than they realise. Journalists, even at the local level, should take more care when writing their articles that they don’t include dangerous medical advice, be it for humans or animals.

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What Doctors Don’t Tell You – An Incredible Accusation

It’s a strange thing to think that your doctor may be keeping a secret from you. Some medicine, cheap and plentiful, that could change your life for the better, forever.

My family doctor has treated us for at least the last 28 years and I couldn’t imagine that when a relative was diagnosed with ovarian cancer he was keeping the true secret to curing it from her, from us all. But this is exactly what one publication suggests.

Good for hangovers and hunger but not cancer.

What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) is a monthly magazine published in the UK that claims to reveal the secret cures that doctors, for wild and highly conspiratorial reasons, refuse to tell us.
Some of their recent revelations include sunbathing to rid one of diabetes, and vitamin C, which doesn’t do much for the common cold, as a cure for AIDS and measles.

That WDDTY feel that they can, and should, publish such material speaks to their attitude about evidence in treatments but what concerns me most is the accusation that around the world millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacologists, pharmacists, any number of healthcare professionals and dedicated researchers are actively allowing innocent people to die by their millions.
This is not a light accusation. If we take malaria as an example then the people at WDDTY are effectively saying that all the people involved in combating malaria were somehow responsible for the deaths of between an estimated 655,000 and 1,133,000 in 2010 alone.
Health workers are being gunned down whilst trying to bring vaccines to those in need. Do you honestly believe that these incredible people would risk their lives to inject children with a drug they know won’t work, or worse yet will actively harm the child?

I hope that the accusation makes you feel as sick as it does me. Your doctor is not keeping secrets from you and whilst the world of drug research isn’t perfect you can bet your arse that the cancer, HIV, malaria, TB and heart disease researchers, along with uncountable others, are out there working hard every day to make the world a safer place whilst these quacks, these frauds, these charlatans, these vile fucking murderers seem only too keen to turn a profit at the cost of your life.

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Richmond Adult Community College Teaching Reiki Nonsense – A Letter

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing over some concerns I have that RACC is holding Reiki courses.

My first concern is with the unscientific nature of reiki and the way in which its unsupported claims are advertised in your syllabus.

There is, for instance, no evidence that ki (chi) or any “life energy” exists in the human body. In fact one of the most famous series of tests, carried out by a young girl, showed that Touch Therapists (they also believe that humans have some kind of energy field) were unable to detect the presence of a field 56% of the time [1]. That’s worse than we would expect them to do through random guessing alone.

There’s also the issue that the feeling of well-being one experiences after a reiki treatment can be induced by a sham reiki treatment – that is one where the “reiki healer” knows nothing of reiki, nor do they try to influence the patients energy field, yet the patient still reports outcomes such as a reduction in pain[2]. This is due to the placebo effect and is found in various sham treatments such as chiropractic, homeopathy, intercessory prayer and other alternative medicines.

My final and most important concern is that the use of alternative medicines can sometimes lead to people avoiding conventional, proven treatment. Perhaps the most concerning and heartbreaking case was that of Penelope Dingle, an Australian woman who died from metastatic rectal cancer in 2005 after refusing conventional treatment at the suggestion of her homeopath[3], who is being sued[4].

Before her death Penelope wrote a letter to her homeopath[5] which I think illustrates how a vulnerable person can be manipulated by sometimes well meaning but ultimately harmful people and their beliefs.

The coroners report on Mrs Dingle’s death is also quite damning[6].

I hope the college will seriously consider whether it should be the kind of place that encourages pseudo-scientific and potentially dangerous nonsense. I understand that reiki can have positive effects on a person, but such effects can be sought through other health regimes that would not have such potential for misuse.

To quote Tim Minchin: “Alternative medicine that has been proven to work is just called medicine”

Yours sincerely,

James Smith.

[1] http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=187390#qundefined
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21531671
[3] http://steelclaws.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/who-was-penelope-dingle-and-why-what-happened-to-her-matters/
[4] http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/13310801/woman-sues-homeopath-over-sisters-cancer-death/
[5] http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2011/s3260776.htm
[6] www.homeowatch.org/news/dingle_finding.pdf

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