British Chiropractic Association Drops Suit against Simon Singh

•April 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I mentioned last week, science writer Simon Singh recently won an appeal in a suit brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) about an article he wrote in The Guardian that was critical of treatment claims made by the BCA. The outcome of the appeal interpreted Singh’s commentary, specifically that the BCA “happily promotes bogus treatments”, as subject to a “fair comment” defense. As a result of this change in momentum and a near continuous stream of bad press, the BCA decided today, after two years of litigation, to drop the suit against Singh.

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Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Strongly Correlate to Depression Relief in Terminal Cancer Trial

•April 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

Most people, some more intimately than others, are aware that many species of fungi contain the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin. While widely regarded as a recreational staple, research suggests that it shows medicinal promise as well. Dr. Roland Griffith, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University, conducted trials over the last few years seeking to understand the interaction between psilocybin and the brain. Most recently his research finds him testing the efficacy of psilocybin in assisting cancer patients coping with feelings of intense depression and anxiety associated with the disease and its treatment.

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iPhone 4.0: the Good, the Bad, and the Continued Lack of Flash

•April 8, 2010 • 5 Comments

The greatly anticipated iPhone OS 4.0 birthed its way into the public eye today, with each new feature enhancement to the SDK carefully enumerated for developers by Cupertino’s greatest, Apple CEO Steve Jobs. As was typical of Spring seasons past, the mad scientists at Apple conjured up another generation of functionality, complete with several fist-pump worthy innovations, to keep their smartphone competitive in one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Also typical of the past, the upgrade lacked several key improvements, leaving some to ponder if the ears on Steve’s head are truly just for show (I also heard he is the Stig).

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WikiLeaks Video: Journalists Killed in US Attack, Military Rationale Dubious

•April 6, 2010 • 4 Comments

WikiLeaks is a non-profit website that serves the world community by publishing classified media concerning human rights violations and abuses of government power. By remaining largely anonymous and protecting the sources of its information, WikiLeaks bypasses censorship in its many forms, and provides a valuable service that mainstream media organizations simply cannot accomplish. In perhaps their most memorable posting to date, last year the website listed 570,000 hacked pager intercepts from a 24-hour period encompassing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The hours I spent reading intercepts from that day made the experience more vivid than all of the media coverage surrounding the event that I’ve seen over the last eight and a half years. Yesterday, WikiLeaks released another string of heart-wrenching media, but in this footage, it is the “enemy” that garners sympathy.

On July 12, 2007, two Apache AH-64 helicopter gunships along with 240 soldiers in Humvees supported by Bradley Fighting Vehicles made their way into the Al-Amin neighborhood of Baghdad. Responding to reports of small arms fire directed at coalition troops, a contingent of the force including both Apache helicopters descended on the epicenter of activity in east Al-Amin. With Bradleys and Humvees strong pointing perpendicular streets adjacent to several open blocks, the helicopters scanned rooftops and avenues for signs of any insurgent activity in between their positions. Here is where the WikiLeaks video footage begins.

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Simon Singh, Libel Law, and the British Chiropractic Association

•April 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For those not aware, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) brought a libel suit in English courts against science writer and comedian Simon Singh for an article he wrote in The Guardian in April 2008. The crux of their disagreement rests in this excerpt from Singh’s article:

“You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

For some time, it appeared that Singh would lose the battle on legal semantics. Following a May 2009 preliminary hearing, the judge found Singh’s statement that the BCA “happily promotes bogus treatments” was Singh’s assertion of fact and not opinion. Therefore, the burden of proof rested on Singh to show that the BCA knowingly provided treatments which they (as an organization) and their members (as individual practitioners) patently knew to be ineffectual. Short of every BCA member sitting on the stand and admitting their malfeasance (a near impossible task), Singh was sure to lose the case and face financial ruin in the process. The scientific and libel reform communities could do nothing but hang their heads in disgust. A break in a string of bad news came earlier in the week, however, when the Royal Courts of Justice in London rendered an appellate decision to permit Singh’s statement as a matter of opinion, thereby permitting a “fair comment” defense. While this is great news for Simon Singh and a first step towards the much-needed reform of British libel laws, it is still a capitulation to the slovenly and ignorant BCA and the pseudoscience they employ to justify their actions.

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Strong Magnetic Fields Muddle Moral Inferences

•April 1, 2010 • 2 Comments

Early this week, researchers from MIT’s moral psychology lab announced a provocative new discovery. By applying a strong magnetic pulse through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) in the brain, researchers were able to create a measurable difference in the capacity of people to infer the intentions of others. This change manifested itself in trials as an increase in “all’s well that ends well” perceptions. In other words, the subjects were more likely to judge the morality of an event based on its outcome than the means to achieve it.

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Call a Terrorist a Terrorist

•March 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Over the last two days, FBI agents arrested nine members of a heavily armed religious extremist group. These militants plotted to murder a police officer, and then go on a killing spree at his funeral using assault rifles and improvised explosive devices. They hoped that following this rampage, their actions would set off widespread violence against government targets from other like-minded groups. The members of Hutaree, as the group calls itself, are charged with the attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosives, possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, and more. The group’s website promotes their fundamentalist religious world view, and contains embedded YouTube footage depicting the team undergoing tactical maneuvering and automatic weapons training. But according to every mainstream news report I’ve seen, these would-be murders are not terrorists. Their mug shots might give you a hint why. Since they are trailer park white Christians from rural Michigan, when they want to maim and murder for political purposes, they are called radicalized members of the American militia movement.

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