Sep. 30th, 2009

joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
I've written about VivaGel before and I'm very excited about it.

Basically, it's a gel whose active ingredient prevents the transmission of all 4 strains of high-risk HPV that Gardasil & Cervarix do, plus another 2 strains not covered by the vaccines AND it seems to protect against HIV and Herpes!  In clinical studies, human vaginal cells were treated with the active ingredient, then introduced to HSV and HIV 1, 3, 12, and 24 hours after being treated.  It showed 100% antiviral activity up to 12 hours, and for 12 and 24 hours it showed 90% antiviral activity in more than half the women tested.  It ALSO shows contraceptive properties in animals.

Well, VivaGel has now concluded its initial human testing studies and has been found to be safe for human use. VivaGel has been awarded US$20.3 million from the US-based National Institutes of Health to develop its HIV indication. The NIH also made an additional award to develop its HSV-2 (genital herpes) indication.

VivaGel was granted Fast Track status by the US FDA in 2006 as a product for prevention of HIV infection. This designation will accelerate the clinical and regulatory development path. Their microbicide program has received further support in other areas including a US$5.4 million grant from the NIH to develop combination microbicides in collaboration with ReProtect Inc.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) will become the third disease area under investigation for VivaGel® following encouraging pre-clinical data.

Oh, and they are looking at marketing it both as a topical microbe (i.e. a lubricant and/or vaginal insert) AND as a condom coating to replace Nonoxynol 9 (N-9), which has spermicidal properties. Because of its detergent nature, N-9 has been shown to increase the risk of infection with HIV and other viruses such as HSV-2, which is why I won't use it. The company researching and manufacturing VivaGel has signed agreements with two leading condom companies to develop VivaGel as a condom coating. For regulatory reasons, the approval process for VivaGel® in this application may offer a faster route to market than the stand-alone gel.

So be on the lookout in a couple of years for products with VivaGel!
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Today's Atheist Meme of the Day:

"That can't be a coincidence! It must have had a supernatural cause!" isn't a good argument for God or the supernatural. Our minds evolved to see patterns, even where none exist; and our intuitive understanding of probability is not very good. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get through.

Between pareidolia, post hoc rationalization, and confirmation bias, we are inherently flawed in our ability to tell "coincidence" apart from real correlation.  Science is the tool that gives us even a partial ability to see the difference because it minimizes our own flawed observance from the equation.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Today's Atheist Meme of the Day:

We can acknowledge that something is hypothetically possible, and still reject it in any practical sense if it's implausible, unsupported by any good evidence, and inconsistent with what we know about the world. Including God or the supernatural. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get through.

It may be theoretically *possible* that all the oxygen molecules in this room right now could spontaneously decide to move into my empty cup.  According to the laws of physics, it's possible, but it's also so incredibly unlikely that it does not serve any purpose for me to account for the possibility as a probability.  There is no need whatsoever for me to behave in a fashion that accommodates this possibility.  I can reject this scenario as unlikely and be pretty damn safe about my rejection without requiring that I dismiss it's *possibility*.

The chances of it happening are so close to zero that we can safely behave as though it is zero.

The chances of a supernatural being existing are so close to zero that we can safely behave as though it is zero.

The chances of many so-far defined supernatural beings existing are *actually* zero because of their inherent contradictions in the definition.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Quoted from the Advocates For Youth newsletter:

I am outraged and dismayed to tell you this... But part of the funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs is back.

Late last night, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) pushed through an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee authorizing $50 million in funding for abstinence-only programs as part of Health Care Reform- despite over 10 years of evidence that these programs do not work.

By a razor-thin vote of 12-11, the Senators on the Finance Committee gave conservative ideology a victory over science and common sense.

We are too close to finally ending federal funding for failed abstinence-only programs. Tell your Senators it's time to stop these programs once and for all!

In fact, we have been working with coalition partners around the country to launch a National Sex Ed Month of Action beginning tomorrow, October 1. Our hope was - and is - to build support in Congress for the REAL Act and comprehensive sex education.

It's been a 10-year fight to end funding for these harmful and ineffective programs. President Obama has called for their elimination. Democrats in the House and Senate have held firm through budget negotiations.

This fight has been long, but - with the end in sight - it is more important than ever that we all make our voices heard.

Ask your Senators to strip the Hatch Amendment from Health Care Reform. Don't let 12 Senators undermine sex education in the United States!

With the passage of the Hatch Amendment, it is more important than ever that we send a clear message to the United States Senate:

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs were a dangerous experiment, teaching ignorance instead of education. Their time is finally past - and together, we will end these harmful programs.


James Wagoner

James Wagoner
Advocates for Youth


Sep. 30th, 2009 07:57 pm
joreth: (::headdesk::)
From PZ Myers' journal:

Do I really need to add anything to this buffoon's own words? Get the rubber room ready.

(via Below the Beltway)
Read the comments on this post...

What. The. Fuck?

"10 Commandments in a courthouse? What are you kidding me? That's horrible! Take it down!" (sarcasm)

YES!  Putting up laws from the Qu'ran would be equally horrible. Our constitution forbids the government endorsement of any religion over any other religion and that includes funding religious-themed objects with taxpayer dollars.

"'Thou Shalt Not Kill' bwah, that's too controversial!" (sarcasm)

No, it's not the message in the 10 Commandments (although I do take exception to several of them), it's spending taxpayer dollars on anything that honors or endorses religion, particularly one religion over any other.

"Can't pray in school, no no no!" (sarcasm)

Yes, yes, yes. You can still pray in school. What you can't do is be FORCED to pray by a paid employee of the state, nor can that state employee utilize the scope of his authority or materials afforded to him within the scope of his job position (time, property, etc.) to endorse or encourage any religion or religious activity over any other even if they make it optional. Not every child is Christian, not every child is *that* version of Christian, and it is not the function of the school, the teacher, or administrator, to facilitate religious activities of any sort, regardless of the children's religious affiliation. That's what churches are for.

"Can't sing Christmas carols in this country because that is too offensive!" (sarcasm)

Uh, what? I know that it is finally being discouraged for state-sponsored organizations to have Christmas-specific celebrations, instead choosing "holiday vacations" and religion-neutral music and such. And I agree with that. But unless you can show me the actual state or federal statutes where it has been made illegal to sing a Christmas carol, or can show me the case where someone was arrested for it, you're just making shit up.  However, I do take offense at the message in a lot of Christian-themed music, including Christmas carols, because they're either flat out wrong, or intolerant of others.  But you can still sing them if you want to.

Beck then goes on to show clips of school children singing praises to our President as if that were a bad thing or hypocritical because he likens it to prayer in school or singing Christmas carols in public.

Yeah, I think teaching our children in our government-funded educational system who our President is and what he is doing in the course of current events, and to express their gratitude when he does something good for the country, is entirely appropriate behaviour. I would caution against encouraging beliefs about the infallibility of our President and blind acceptance of authority, but otherwise, I don't understand why this is a problem or what it has to do AT ALL with prohibiting the government from endorsing any religion.  Apples to spaceships.

There's a big difference here. Obama actually exists and actually *does stuff* for our country.

And one of the functions of the public educational system is to educate children on those topics that will make them functioning adult members of society. Current events is one of those topics. Our educational system produces more productive adult members of society when they are taught as children how government works and the important events of the day. One of the REASONS why we have a public educational system at all is because our forefathers believed that a better educated public makes for better voters, which furthers the quality of American life.  When people who cannot afford private education make up large blocks of voters in a country that lets everyone vote and actually does what the voters vote on, it is in the country's best interest to provide those voters with basic education one way or another.

"So if those who don't believe in god are growing, what do they fill the void with?"

What void? The only void I know of is death. The idea that there is a god-shaped hole in our hearts, and not filling it with god himself either leaves us empty inside or we try to fill it with other stuff, like Capitalism, is just ... I don't even know where to begin with this one since it's so wrong in so many ways.  Follow the link, Greta Christina says it better than I could, and the topic really is big enough for its own post.

"What do they fill the void with? ... Government now will solve all your problems!" (sarcasm)

Uh, wha? Who says that? I strongly believe that Obama, as head of our nation, will do some damage control left over from the Bush administration. I believe that because his actions prior to becoming head of our nation give evidence that he does, in fact, do stuff that I agree with are good for the country. I believe that because he does, in fact, have the power to do things that will affect our nation. I never once said he was perfect. He wasn't even my first choice for Democratic candidate. And I've never met any other Obama supporter who claimed he will solve all our problems, although many of his more fervent supporters do get crowds riled up with hopeful, inspirational speeches about his ability to do that damage control and "save us" in those ways that his position as President gives him the ability to affect.

They're not talking about saving our immortal souls, or providing spiritual happiness and peace, or about anything else the position of President has no power to affect. They're talking about political power and the good that can be wrought with a kind and rational leader. The President's power is limited. Within those limits, sure, some people have very high hopes for what he can accomplish. But outside of the scope of his political reach, no one thinks Obama can fix everything.

And as the rest of the government is still made up of people - flawed & biased, some of whom are flawed and biased in ways I disagree with, the government itself will most certainly not solve "all our problems".  It continues even to create a few.  Many of the problems in my life are not solvable by government anyway - that's not its function.

Once again, Beck is just making shit up.

"America, I have a question for you. Why do you think we are as powerful as we are or have been? What did we do different than other countries?"

We secularized our government.

Most of the other nations of the world have religion inextricably entwined with their government. Ours intentionally does not. For the nations that do, there is a very strong correlation with poverty, ignorance, crime, and a lower quality of life. For the nations that don't, there is a very strong correlation with higher national wealth, low crime rates, education, and high quality of life. When we have strongly religious leaders in the White House, our stats in education, in science and technology, in crime, in employment, and in overall quality of life go down and they go back up again when our leaders do not use their imaginary friends to guide their decision-making process.

What we did different is we left god out of our government while simultaneously giving individuals the freedom to allow god into their homes.

THAT is why we are a great nation. Not "the greatest" nation, no, we have a bunch of things to work on. But it's one of the high points.

"Is it because we are just superior human beings? No, it's because we recognize god's authority."

I recommend you actually READ our government documentation and the post-documentation written to explain the documentation by our forefathers. It overwhelmingly, clearly and explicitly states that our government most decidedly does not recognize any religious or supernatural authority within the scope of governmental rights and responsibilities.

He goes on to quote the Declaration of Independence, where it says "are endowed by their Creator",  as proof that our government recognizes god's authority.  First of all, they do not specify which version of the "creator" they are talking about. And the following documents make a great deal of effort to say that the American government is to stay out of that question and to not endorse any version over another. That means that YOUR GOD, Glenn Beck, has no more place in our government than any other god.

"So many other countries get it completely wrong. They believe that human rights are handed down by some government, some body, some official in the government. It's all about *them*, not Him."

Uh, wha?! Most of the other governments *do* believe that their rights are handed down to them by a god. Even those that say the rights come from some official in the government, that official gets his power to decide those rights by divine inspiration.  Ours does the exact opposite.

In fact, the sentence in the Declaration following the Creator sentence that Beck quotes states: "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

DERIVING THEIR POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED.  Our leaders do not get their powers of authority from god.  The Declaration of Independence, and every other document written for or about the creation of our government says that god has no place in government and the government is for the People, by the People, and of the People.  NOT GOD.

"No government can fill the gaping hole inside of us if god is chased out!"

Again with the gaping holes! First of all, there IS NO GAPING HOLE. Second of all, government is not chasing god out of your individual body or mind or life, it's being chased out of government because YOUR GOD IS NOT MY GOD and the only way to co-exist with people of differing faiths is to have a ruling body that is neutral on the subject of god.

"Maybe we need to stop looking for more social justice and start looking at eternal justice!"

Ah ha! Here's the real point. Glenn Beck just doesn't want to help out his fellow man. Contrary to his claim about it being "all about them, not about Him", what he's really saying here is "it's all about me". He doesn't want to be responsible for other people, he doesn't think he should care about social justice. Just shoot them all and let god sort them out.

"Have you read the words (of the Battle Hymn of the Republic) or sung the words lately?"

Yes, I have. And they're very disturbing, frankly.

"'As he died to make men holy / let us die to make men free...' Let's celebrate our freedom and die for each other's freedom if we must (just not kill each other)."

Nice save there at the end.  Can we say irony? It is precisely because we have created a secular government that gives you the freedom to worship the god you do. When you give a government the power to endorse one religion over another, you remove your own freedom to worship the god of your choice, Glenn Beck. When you take away the freedom of others to have other religions or no religion at all, you leave yourself open to have your own freedom removed from you.  Nobody is free unless everyone is free.

The only reason you have the ability to worship your personal god is because we took god out of our government.


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