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UN anti-blasphemy measures have sinister goals, observers say

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 27, 2009

UNITED NATIONS – Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.

Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85–50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee, and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.

But while the draft’s sponsors say it and earlier similar measures are aimed at preventing violence against worshippers regardless of religion, religious tolerance advocates warn the resolutions are being accumulated for a more sinister goal.

“It provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because they have been accused of committing blasphemy,” said Bennett Graham, international program director with the Becket Fund, a think tank aimed at promoting religious liberty.

“Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body’s (effective) stamp of approval.”

Passage of the resolution is part of a 10-year action plan the 57-state Organization of Islamic Conference launched in 2005 to ensure “renaissance” of the “Muslim Ummah” or community.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “CANADA.COM”

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Good thing Mohammed never said anything censorious about oil

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on February 27, 2009

Now this is just getting silly. An Islamic theologian has declared that using ethanol as a fuel is sinful.

As if the debate around using ethanol to fuel cars weren’t already complicated enough, now an Islamic scholar has suggested that driving or even riding in a vehicle fueled by ethanol could be considered a sin for observant Muslims.

The opinion comes from Sheikh Mohamed al-Najimi, of the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy in Saudi Arabia. It is based on the part of Islamic law derived from a statement by the prophet in which dealing with alcohol in any form–including purchase, sale, transport, consumption, and manufacture–is strictly prohibited.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “PHARYNGULA”

Placebo Effect: A Cure in the Mind

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on February 27, 2009

[Originally posted at: Scientific American]

Belief is powerful medicine, even if the treatment itself is a sham. New research shows placebos can also benefit patients who do not have faith in them.

A man whom his doctors referred to as “Mr. Wright” was dying from cancer of the lymph nodes. Orange-size tumors had invaded his neck, groin, chest and abdomen, and his doctors had exhausted all available treatments. Nevertheless, Mr. Wright was confident that a new anticancer drug called Krebiozen would cure him, according to a 1957 report by psychologist Bruno Klopfer of the University of California, Los Angeles, entitled “Psychological Variables in Human Cancer.”

Mr. Wright was bedridden and fighting for each breath when he received his first injection. But three days later he was cheerfully ambling around the unit, joking with the nurses. Mr. Wright’s tumors had shrunk by half, and after 10 more days of treatment he was discharged from the hospital. And yet the other patients in the hospital who had received Krebiozen showed no improvement.

Over the next two months, however, Mr. Wright became troubled by press reports questioning the efficacy of Krebiozen and suffered a relapse. His doctors decided to lie to him: an improved, doubly effective version of the drug was due to arrive the next day, they told him. Mr. Wright was ecstatic. The doctors then gave him an injection that contained not one molecule of the drug—and he improved even more than he had the last time. Soon he walked out of the hospital symptom-free. He remained healthy until two months later, when, after reading reports that exposed Krebiozen as worthless, he died within days.

[Read the rest of this post at: Scientific American]