Monthly Archives: April, 2015

10 Completely Crazy Conspiracy Theories About The CDC

By Debra Kelly via Listverse

The main goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to, theoretically, keep us safe from all those nasty diseases that they have locked away in their labs, their clean rooms, and their biohazard vaults. But, people are people, and people are naturally suspicious of anyone with that many nasty tools at their disposal. This has led a some pretty wild theories about just what’s going on behind the closed doors of the CDC.

10 • The Coffin Stockpile

CDC coffins_300pxThe CDC is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and that didn’t go unnoticed by people who had also seen what looked like a huge stockpile of coffins sitting in a field along Interstate 20, outside Madison, Georgia. Throw in proximity to the airport, and the rumor mill started turning.

According to the conspiracy theorists, the field was the site of coffins that the CDC was stockpiling in preparation for what they were calling a “high-casualty event.” Most recently, that was the massive Ebola outbreak, when conspiracy theorists realized that not only were the coffins still there, but there was also a page on the CDC website dedicated to the handling and disposal of the bodies of people who had died from Ebola. The site absolutely does specify that special caskets were required for burial. (Originally, they were called “hermetically sealed caskets,” a term that was replaced with “metal” caskets in a January 2015 update.)

There are a couple of huge problems with the whole theory. For one, the caskets are not actually caskets; they’re burial vault liners, which are placed inside the grave in areas that are prone to ground conditions like flooding. The heavy liners keep soil from shifting and collapsing into a wooden casket. Also, the burial vaults don’t belong to the CDC, FEMA, or any other government agency; they belong to the company that manufactures them, Vantage Products. The field in Georgia is just where they store them, and there’s nothing fishy about it, as their manufacturing facilities are located nearby.

9 • The Man-Made AIDS Virus

The idea that AIDS was a man-made virus unleashed on an unsuspecting population really got its start in an East German publication, allegedly sponsored by the KGB, called AIDS: USA Home-Made Evil. The 1986 work of two scientists, the pamphlet argued that the American government had used their Fort Detrick, Maryland, laboratory to combine a sheep virus with a human one to create AIDS.

The whole idea was taken a step further by Dr. William C. Douglass, who wrote AIDS: The End of Civilization and claimed that the German scientists were right, and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC were responsible for the introduction of the virus into the human population. He claimed it wasn’t hard because it was spread through pretty much any kind of casual contact that you could think of, including mosquitoes.

Strecker Group head Dr. Robert Strecker also jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon with some even more impressive theories. According to him, the CDC is actively spreading the AIDS virus, which is actually a hybrid between a cow virus and a human one, and there are six different types of AIDS viruses all engineered in what he vaguely suggested might be a partnership with the Communists. His theories, works, and poorly made amateur videos went on to inspire Dr. Alan Cantwell, who pointed the finger at the CDC for what he believed were clear political motivations for their active spread of AIDS.

According to Cantwell, the CDC is the instrument of a genocide targeting America’s gay population. One of his fellow theorists goes, amazingly, a step further and suggests that this incredible attempt at genocide calls for nothing less than martial law and a revocation of civil liberties while the whole problem is sorted out.

8 • The CDC, Mercury-Tainted Vaccines, And Autism

Outdoor portrait of 6 years old boyThe battle over whether parents should or shouldn’t vaccinate their children is an ongoing one, and there’s a pretty fascinating story on the conspiracy theorists’ side. In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an article in Rolling Stone linking the big pharmaceutical chains with the government’s tendency to hide potentially dangerous effects.

According to Kennedy, the CDC held a meeting at the Simpsonwood Conference Center, that he described using words and phrases like “isolated” and “complete secrecy.” It was invitation-only, and only top officials from various parts of the government were invited—from the FDA, the WHO, and everyone from a who’s-who list of drug companies. They were under strict orders not to discuss anything.

The whole meeting allegedly had to do with findings released by a CDC epidemiologist that linked mercury-based vaccines with a high rate of autism and other developmental problems like delays in speech and hyperactivity. According to the data, vaccines were responsible for raising the instances of autism to one in 166 cases—up from the normal one in 2,500.

The rest of the conference, Kennedy says, was spent discussing how to cover everything up. He says that the transcripts of the super-top-secret meeting (which he acquired through the Freedom of Information Act) detail the damage control mode that all the representatives went into. Data was reworked, and the CDC was more than happy to lend a helping hand in getting rid of the mercury-based vaccinations, not by destroying them but by selling them and exporting them to other countries.

The transcripts convinced Kennedy that the dangers of vaccinations were real, pointing out that other countries, including Russia, had banned the mercury-based additive from vaccinations decades ago. He goes on to say that the clear conflict of interest and the connections between the CDC and the financial interests of the drug companies make it clear that something needs to be done.

The story hasn’t had an easy run of it. Originally, it first appeared in both Salon and Rolling Stone. Salon retracted the story, while it remained up on the Rolling Stone site in a pay-only section, until disappearing in what they called a “redesign error.” The article then reappeared, and Rolling Stone denied that they had purposely removed it, even though there were no links to the article anywhere, and search terms turned up nothing.

According to Kennedy, there are two doctors that have had access to the information he did: Mark and David Geiers. The Geiers themselves are controversial at best, promoting what they call a cure for autism that involves chemical castration. Mark Geier’s medical license was suspended for promoting this “cure,” and David Geier, who wasn’t even a doctor, was charged with practicing medicine without a license.

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10 Scientific Explanations For Near-Death Experiences

By J. Francis Wolfe via Listverse

There is very good reason for all of humanity to have a healthy curiosity relating to near-death experiences. Death is the one experience we are all guaranteed to ultimately share. The field of science has therefore made numerous attempts to explain the near-death phenomena that so many people have independently described.

10 • The Temporoparietal Junction May Be Responsible For Out-Of-Body Experiences

right temporo-parietal junction_300pxAmong the more common elements of near-death experiences is the distinct feeling of an individual having left their worldly body. Those who have had an “out-of-body” experience often report floating above themselves while being able to see their body and the people surrounding them. There have even been a few reports in which those who have had an out-of-body experience can identify objects and events occurring during times in which they were considered clinically dead, but there have also been studies demonstrating that this all could be due to damage in the temporoparietal junction of the brain.

The temporoparietal junction is responsible for assembling the data collected by the body’s senses and organs to form the perception of an individual’s body. When this part of the brain is damaged, it is possible that this results in the “out-of-body” experience that so many people have reported.

Though the experience may appear to be incredibly vivid and real, scientific studies have been able to reproduce this phenomenon without bringing the subject close to death, simply by electrically stimulating the temporoparietal junction of the brain.

9 • Excess Carbon Dioxide May Create The Tunnel And White Light

tunnel tumble_200pxNearly every individual who has had a near-death experience discusses the existence of a bright, white light and a tunnel that seems to lead to the afterlife. The white light seems to take on an otherworldly quality and is often accompanied by an overwhelming sense of peacefulness and welcoming.

A 2010 study of patients who had heart attacks revealed that there may be a correlation between this type of near-death experience and the level of CO2 in the blood. Out of the 52 cardiac patients studied, 11 reported a near-death experience. The levels of CO2 in the blood of those 11 patients were significantly higher than the patients who did not report having a near-death experience.

The feeling among researchers is that the excess CO2 in the bloodstream can have a significant effect on vision, which leads to patients seeing the tunnel and the bright light.

8 • Lack Of Oxygen To The Brain Causes Hallucinations

out of bodyMany near-death experiences include the presence of long-dead friends and relatives appearing and perhaps even guiding the individual as they pass from the world of the living to the afterlife. Memories from every part of life are recalled in rapid succession, and there is an overwhelming sense of comfort, yet it appears that scientific research has provided an explanation for this phenomenon as well.

While excess CO2 has an effect on vision during a near-death experience, a lack of oxygen to the brain also plays a contributing role. It is well known that oxygen deprivation can lead to hallucinations and may even contribute to the feeling of euphoria that is often reported. While the sample size available to researchers is limited, studies have indicated that individuals who reported a near-death experience during cardiac arrest also had lower levels of oxygen.

Researchers believe that oxygen deprivation could well result in people “seeing their lives flash before their eyes” or being transported to a place where they are surrounded by friends and relatives who have long since passed on. This remains just a theory, however, as the other available research seems to indicate that multiple factors contribute to the near-death experience, which include the aforementioned CO2 levels as well. It makes sense in this regard that near-death experiences are commonly reported by those resuscitated following a heart attack, as a heart attack occurs when blood is blocked from reaching the brain.

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Contrails v Chemtrails: The Science That Debunks The Conspiracy

Irish Weather Online

Contrail over Kildare. Image Author Contrail over Kildare. Image: Author

There are those who claim that the trails we see behind aircraft high in the sky are not the normal condensation of water vapour from the hot exhaust gases but are in fact chemicals that are being deliberately sprayed upon us by government agencies for some dark and sinister reasons. When asked to prove their claims, however, their response is invariably either just a video or blog of someone else making the same unsubstantiated claim, or a simple “Well why don’t you prove that they’re NOT chemtrails!”. Proof has been given time and time again but ok, here it is one more time, using only sound scientific methods and no political mumbo-jumbo.

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False Flag Attacks

By Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know via YouTube

Imagine if a government disguised its operatives as members of some other organization — and then attacked itself. While this might sound crazy, several historians have argued that false flag attacks are more than just conspiracy theories.

Your personal pseudoscience detector

By via Skeptical Raptor

pseudoscience_250px_250px_250pxPseudoscience is like bubble gum. It tastes pretty good, it’s fun to blow bubbles, and it annoys some people. But eventually, the flavor leaves, and you find that you’re just chewing on some nutritionally dubious substance. Now you have to find a place to spit it out.

Or I guess you can swallow it, and it stays in your intestines for the rest of your life. Oh sorry, that’s more junk science.

If you read something that makes some medical claim, here’s a quick and easy checklist to determine if it’s pseudoscience. Or real science-based medicine. What we all need is an official, Skeptical Raptor endorsed, pseudoscience detector.

Here it is, your own pseudoscience detector, based on a scientific seven-point checklist for fake science.

  1. The discoverer pitches his claim directly to the media. Going to media directly bypasses the all-important peer-review process, where real scientists can evaluate whether the claim is real science. There are some journalists that are thorough scientific skeptics, but it is rare. That’s why press releases rank near the bottom of acceptable scientific evidence.
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  3. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his/her work. Special pleading for a conspiracy is just a logical fallacy. If someone discovers a cure for all cancers (probably not possible, since there are so many different cancers), the powers that be will be bringing truckloads of dollars to buy it, because they could market it for even more truckloads of money. But if you have no evidence that it cures all cancers, you’re not going  get anything.
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  5. The scientific effect is always at the very limit of detection. This is the very definition of “it doesn’t work.” Moreover, if the thing being promoted has a tiny effect, then more of it will have more of an effect, the typical dose-response relationship expected from all compounds.
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  7. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal. Anecdotes are not data. More anecdotes are not data. Anecdotes are not controlled, but they are subject to all sorts of bias. Like confirmation bias, where  .  .  .

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The “Food Babe” Blogger Is Full of Shit

Yvette dEntremontBy Yvette d’Entremont via gawker

Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe, has amassed a loyal following in her Food Babe Army. The recent subject of profiles and interviews in the New York Times, the New York Post and New York Magazine, Hari implores her soldiers to petition food companies to change their formulas. She’s also written a bestselling book telling you that you can change your life in 21 days by “breaking free of the hidden toxins in your life.” She and her army are out to change the world.

She’s also utterly full of shit.

FoodBabe 02_flat

Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe, is utterly full of shit.

I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.

Hari’s superhero origin story is that she came down with appendicitis and didn’t accept the explanation that appendicitis just happens sometimes. So she quit her job as a consultant, attended Google University and transformed herself into an uncredentialed expert in everything she admittedly can’t pronounce. Slap the catchy moniker “Food Babe” on top, throw in a couple of trend stories and some appearances on the Dr. Oz show, and we have the new organic media darling.

But reader beware. Here are some reasons why she’s the worst assault on science on the internet.


Natural, Organic, GMO-Free Fear

food babe 10Hari’s campaign last year against the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte drove me to launch my site (don’t fuck with a Bostonian’s Pumpkin-Spice Anything). She alleged that the PSL has a “toxic” dose of sugar and two (TWO!!) doses of caramel color level IV in carcinogen class 2b.

The word “toxic” has a meaning, and that is “having the effect of a poison.” Anything can be poisonous depending on the dose. Enough water can even be poisonous in the right quantity (and can cause a condition called hyponatremia).

But then, the Food Babe has gone on record to say, ” There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” I wonder if anybody’s warned her about good old dihydrogen monoxide?

(AKA water.)

It’s a goddamn stretch to say that sugar has deleterious effects, other than making your Lululemons stretch a little farther if you don’t “namaste” your cheeks off. However, I implore you to look at the Safety Data Sheet for sugar. The average adult would need to ingest about fifty PSLs in one sitting to get a lethal dose of sugar. By that point, you would already have hyponatremia from an overdose of water in the lattes.

And almost enough caffeine for me.

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Also See:

Inside Morgellons, the Internet’s Disease

morgellons gizmodo
Kate Knibbs_80pxBy Kate Knibbs via gizmodo

Joni Mitchell was hospitalized this week, but the songwriter has been sick for years. She has described her debilitating illness as “a slow, unpredictable killer–a terrorist disease. It will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.” Yet doctors have described this same illness as an internet meme, a delusion spread online.

Morgellons

Morgellons
The U.S. Center for Disease Control investigated Morgellons and concluded it is psychosomatic.

Mitchell is talking about Morgellons disease, a condition where people report their skin crawling with parasitic, foreign fibers, often sprouting out of sores and lesions, in addition to fatigue and other health problems associated with itching skin. Morgellons is emphatically not accepted by the medical community. In fact, many doctors and researchers credit the internet with creating the conditions to spread Morgellons self-diagnoses as a kind of digital folie a deux. “It seems to be a socially transmitted disease over the Internet,” mass delusional specialist (yup, that’s a thing) Robert E. Bartholomew told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.

In 2008, a panel of doctors answered questions about Morgellons for the Washington Post. Dr. Jeffrey Meffert explicitly pinpointed the internet and digital communities as the reason why the idea of the disease caught on, saying the disease “has only existed as long as high speed internet.” Skeptics don’t see Morgellons as a virus, but see it as a misbelief gone viral.

In 2012, the U.S. Center for Disease Control investigated Morgellons and concluded that it is psychosomatic. A CDC spokesperson told me the center is no longer tracking reports of Morgellons since it published the study.

Many doctors believe that people who self-diagnose with Morgellons have delusions of parasitosis and infestation, and are inflicting their abrasions on themselves. In other words: It’s all in their heads.

People who identify as Morgellons patients—or “Morgies”—are upset by this assessment. So where do people go when they feel like the medical community rejects them? Online.

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Also See: Morgellons (Wikipedia)

25 of the biggest lies told by L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology

By Jeffrey Augustine via The Underground Bunker

L. Ron Hubbard audits a tomato to determine whether it experiences pain, 1968.

Hubbard audits a tomato in 1968.

  1. The lie: “I happen to be a nuclear physicist; I am not a psychologist nor a psychiatrist nor a medical doctor.” — L. Ron Hubbard, in the 1952 lecture “Dianetics: The Modern Miracle.” Also found transcribed in the Research and Discovery series, Vol. 3 page 470, and New Tech Volumes, Vol. 5 page 143.

    The truth: Hubbard flunked both high school and college, leaving after his sophomore year at George Washington University during which he failed a course of “Molecular and Atomic Physics.”

  2. The lie: Hubbard was a “blood brother” of the Blackfoot nation.

    The truth: Blood brotherhood was not a practice of the Blackfoot.

  3. The lie: Hubbard slept with bandits in Mongolia, and traveled to India and Tibet.

    The truth: Hubbard never traveled to those countries.

  4. The lie: Hubbard was a “pioneering barnstormer at the dawn of aviation in America.”

    The truth: As Jon Atack points out, Hubbard flew gliders in the early 1930s, which doesn’t really put Hubbard there with the Wright Brothers (1903) or Charles Lindbergh, who crossed the Atlantic in 1927.

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  5. The lie: Hubbard’s 1940 adventures in Alaska led to the development of LORAN, a radio-based system for navigation.

    The truth: Alfred Lee Loomis invented LORAN (Long Range Aid to Navigation) in the 1920s and 1930s at Tuxedo Park in the US. Hubbard was not even remotely qualified to do any serious electrical engineering.

  6. The lie: Hubbard created the US Air Force.

    The truth: In 1941, Hubbard was one of many people offering free advice to government officials about how the US should prepare for a war the country seemed sure to get involved in. On June 30, Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada wrote a letter to Hubbard telling him the he would, indeed, push for a bill to create a US Air Force. But ten days earlier, the US Army Air Corps had already changed its name to the US Army Air Force. The US Air Force, under the name we know today, came into existence later, in 1947.

  7. The lie: Hubbard claimed to have been awarded 21 or 27 combat medals in World War II as a navy lieutenant.

    The truth: Hubbard never served a single day in combat and was never awarded any combat medals.

    scientology bart simpson xenu

  8. The lie: Hubbard was wounded in combat and was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

    The truth: Hubbard’s US Navy service record shows that he never received Purple Hearts or a Bronze Star.

  9. The lie: Hubbard was “returned home as the first American casualty of the war in the South Pacific.”

    The truth: The US Naval Attache in Brisbane ordered Hubbard returned to the US for being meddlesome and quarrelsome.

  10. The lie: Hubbard was a “commander of corvettes” in the North Atlantic.

    The truth: Hubbard was assigned command of navy yard patrol vessel YP-422 in Boston Harbor. However, he was relieved of command before the vessel was commissioned after getting into an argument with the Commandant of the Navy Yard.

  11. The lie: Hubbard fought German U-Boats in the North Atlantic.

    The truth: No he didn’t.

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Also see Tom Cruise at his craziest:

Lunar Cycle Effects Busted

steven_novellaBy via NeuroLogica Blog

When I was an intern doing a rotation in the emergency department, on one particularly busy shift a nurse commented (to no one in particular) that it must be a full moon. I habitually look at the moon and generally know what phase it is in (right now it is a waxing gibbous, almost full), and so I knew at the time that in fact there was a crescent moon in the sky. I informed her of this. She gave a disappointed look and then went on with her work without any apparent further thought on the matter.

The episode struck me at the time. It seemed to me that I just witnessed a clear example of confirmation bias – what if it had been near a full moon?Moon_Animated_250px That would have confirmed her prior belief in a lunar effect, while this negative correlation was brushed aside and likely did not have any negative effect on her belief. (Although, my interpretation and memory of this event can itself be an example of confirmation bias regarding confirmation bias.)

Belief in the so-called lunar effect, that the phases of the moon exert an influence on human behavior with the most common element being a full-moon inducing extreme behavior, is very common. In my experience it is one of the most common pseudoscientific beliefs I encounter in the general public. One survey indicates that 43% of adults believe in the lunar effect, especially mental health professionals, including nurses.

When someone expresses such a belief to me I often use it as an opening to discuss skeptical principles. While belief in the lunar effect is widespread, it is usually not part of any emotionally held religious or ideological belief. It is therefore an excellent teaching opportunity. One question I like to ask is, “how do you think that works?” The most common answer I receive is probably the least plausible – that the tidal effects of the moon influence the brain because the brain is sitting in water (spinal fluid).

The tidal effect answer is incredibly implausible for a number of reasons.

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Are Stupid People More Confident?

This might explains why some conspiracists believe what they believe. 🙂

By BrainStuff via YouTube

We’ve all heard about the supposed relationship between confidence and knowledge – but is it true? Two researchers think they’ve found the answer.

Also See:

Going Clear Scientology and The Prison of Belief 2015

I don’t know how long it will be before this is pulled from dailymotion.com, but while it’s there, here is the full version of Going Clear Scientology and The Prison of Belief 2015.

DO NOTE: Some of the adverts in the sidebar contains adult content.

https://dailymotion.com/video/x2l7b1p

Neurotology Music Video

By Saturday Night Live via YouTube

Followers of Neurotology star in a music video that sings the religion’s praises in this Scientology parody.

For lyrics and more information: Saturday Night Live’s genius spoof of Scientology: Lyrics and images (Tony Ortega)

Glyphosate Causes Cancer – So Do Apples

By The Original Skeptical Raptor via Skeptical Raptor

Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup)  is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that are known to compete with commercial crops grown around the world. glyphosate-roundup-monsanto_250pxIt has several advantages over many herbicides in that it breaks down in the soil into non-toxic organic molecules, reducing or eliminating contamination of groundwater and lower soils.

Monsanto has developed genetically modified (GMO) grains that are resistant to glyphosate, so that agriculture can apply the herbicide to kill the competitive weeds while not harming the crop. This allows farmers to suppress the weeds while allowing better production out of the grain crop.

Whatever the benefits of glyphosate, GMOs and the herbicide are tied together in many minds. And there has been an ongoing effort by many people to claim that glyphosate causes cancer. But let’s look at the science, because maybe we’ll get some information.

What’s this about cancer?

The famous (or is that infamous?) study from Séralini, which claimed that glyphosate and GMO corn caused cancer in rats, is quite popular with the anti-GMO forces. For many reasons, including bad statistics, improper experimental design, and bad conclusions, the article was retracted by the journal.

Because that article was retracted, it doesn’t actually count because it really doesn’t exist (but to be fair, it was eventually, re-published in a very low ranked journal). This story is frighteningly similar to the story of that cunning fraudMrAndy Wakefield, who wrote a fraudulent, and ultimately retracted, article about vaccines and autism. I guess Séralini  is the Wakefield of the GMO world.

There are better studies out there–maybe.

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Operation Gladio: The Secret War

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

At the close of WWII, US allies created secret, “stay-behind” armies, designed to protect the population in the event of a Communist invasion. So why are they linked with terrorist groups? What were these secret armies actually doing, and – perhaps more importantly – did they ever stop?

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