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HuckleB's Journal
HuckleB's Journal
December 15, 2015

Are people really scared of solar panels? Or why questioning and empathy matter.



That’s only two commentators, possibly from the same household. It’s obvious they don’t like the idea and are exhibiting some genuine fear and uncertainty. The industry reps attempted to assure them but that will probably not work at all since their opposition is deep and complicated, read on.

The original source is here at the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. The Town Council rejected a proposal by the Planning Board to rezone a section of land off U.S. highway 258 from residential/agricultural use to manufacturing use, “essentially denying approval of a solar farm.” Several council members voted for the rejection but one voted against it. (Sorry about the double negatives in use here, but that’s how it went down.) The details of the story reveal that the town may simply be fed up with being overrun by solar farms. Three other solar farms have already been accepted by the town council, with one currently under construction. The council eventually voted for a complete moratorium on solar farms.

The rest of the comments show additional reasons why the citizens aren’t keen on allowing more solar farms. They fear it is lowering their property values, that people are moving away because this industry is not providing additional jobs or bringing in money for the town. And, yes, they don’t trust the government. Not surprising. They are concerned that the panels may be health hazards probably because of misinformation and fear of the unknown. They are looking for direct answers to why their neighbors are dying of cancer, an extremely complicated question, for sure. The comments about blocking out the sun and sucking up the sun’s energy may have been metaphors, or concerns that former growing space is being overrun with giant panels that grow nothing and look ugly to the neighbors.

From the articles, it does NOT appear that the WHOLE town came out to exhibit their basic misunderstanding about solar energy! They are genuinely not happy with the proposed use of the town land. This scenario is VERY COMMON at any town council meeting. Some residents are displeased that things are changing in a way they perceive is not to their advantage. Therefore, in a public forum, they will make heated, emotional, and sometimes rather absurd claims in order to bolster their position. Their uncertainty comes out as comments that can sound quite odd when quoted.



In other words, this Internet sensation was click bait silliness, and much worse than the silly comments of two of the townspeople. Confirmation bias rears its ugly head, again.

December 14, 2015

Critical thinking is needed throughout life, not just in science


"HERE’S a game to play next time you catch the news headlines. Count how many would dissolve away or be markedly different if the people writing them had evaluated the evidence more critically. Your count will probably be alarmingly high.

We have a long tradition of allowing civic affairs to be settled by persuasive rhetoric. That is inadequate for our modern society. Science and technology shape our world and, as a society, we need to make well-reasoned and scientifically literate choices about everything from genetic engineering to geoengineering.

But many of the tools used to make science-heavy decisions are also needed to properly evaluate a much broader range of subjects: in particular, critical thinking and numerical analysis. A basic grasp of statistics and probability, for instance, is key to judging the risk from terrorism, say, or how to invest your money (see “How to outsmart your irrational brain“).

But the desired combination of scientific literacy and critical thinking remains rare in public discourse. Perhaps that is because we hope children will learn to evaluate claims rationally if we teach them science. That works for some, but all too often the reaction is: “I’ll never need to use this once I’ve left school.”



A fair piece.
December 12, 2015

The Toxic 'Chemical Hypocrisy' Of Food Babe, Joseph Mercola And Mark Hyman


"The media brims with hyped headlines about chemicals and food additives, implying that food will harm our children, medicine will make us sick, or our favorite cosmetics are toxic. With headlines making huge leaps from research to ruckus, like “Contaminating Our Bodies With Everyday Products,” a New York Times op-ed that wrongly advises pregnant women to eat organic to avoid “toxic chemicals,” or “Toast and Cancer: The Potentially Scary Link,” a Yahoo Health headline that implies we should run from our breakfasts, chemical catastrophes seem to lurk around every corner.

The mainstream media is not alone in fueling fear fires when it comes to products we use every day. The very peddlers of so-called alternatives to popular foods, medicines and beauty products use words like “dangerous” and “toxic” to describe the contents of our pantries and medicine cabinets.

Famous food activist and blogger Vani Hari, better known as “The Food Babe,” alternative medicine mogul Dr. Joseph Mercola, and celebrity doctor and author Mark Hyman, who has served as a long time Clinton family advisor, have more than quackery (the promotion of non evidence-based health advice) in common. They are all “chemical hypocrites,” promoting or selling products containing one or more ingredients they’ve publicly condemned.


But behind the caring facade; of protecting the public from so-called “toxins” lies a “Tricky Trinity,” namely the pair of natural medicine doctors and their blogging buddy, selling nothing more than a good feeling one alternative product at a time, many of which contain the very chemicals they hate. Make no mistake, the trio is slick at convincing readers to swap mainstream products for so-called healthy alternatives. It appears that either these fear mongers are cunningly disingenuous, or they fail miserably at due diligence."


The scam artists that seem to continue to grow in popularity despite being called out. How different is this from what's happening with Trump? How are so many people conned by scumbags like these?

December 11, 2015

Study reveals Chinese medicines contain Viagra, rat poison and endangered animals


"A study of 26 widely-available traditional Chinese medicines has found 90 per cent were not safe for human consumption because of undeclared illegal and dangerous substances.

Australian researchers at Curtin University, Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide used DNA sequencing, toxicology and heavy metal testing to screen the composition of 26 traditional Chinese medicines sold as flu and general wellness treatments, purchased from the Adelaide Markets.

The brands of medicines were not disclosed, but researchers said those tested were easily found in markets and retailers around Australia.

The results, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, found 92 per cent of the medicines tested contained at least one or more substances not listed on the label. Sixty per cent of the medicines contained more than one undeclared substance.



December 11, 2015

Portland Baroque Orchestra Celebrates Timbers Championship With Special Hallelujah!

Now this is how to celebrate a championship!

December 11, 2015

Portland Baroque Orchestra Celebrates Timbers Championship With Special Hallelujah!

Now this is how to celebrate a championship!

December 11, 2015

The Displaced Person: Reading Flannery O’Connor in the age of Islamophobia.



O’Connor takes her title from the Displaced Persons Act, which, between 1948 and 1952, permitted the immigration of some four hundred thousand European refugees into the United States. President Truman signed the bill with “very great reluctance” for what he saw as its discriminatory policy toward Jews and Catholics: the Act stipulated that, in order to be eligible, one must have entered Germany, Italy, or Austria before December 22, 1945, which, according to Truman, ruled out 90 percent of the remaining Jewish people displaced by the war. Similarly excluded were the many Catholics who’d fled their largely Communist countries after the December 22 deadline.

“The bad points of the bill are numerous,” Truman wrote. “Together they form a pattern of discrimination and intolerance wholly inconsistent with the American sense of justice.” He called the decision to enforce the December 1945 deadline “inexplicable, except upon the abhorrent ground of intolerance.”

Despite the bill’s restrictions and limits, the public was deeply concerned, as some Americans are now, with the possibility that “subversives” might infiltrate the country under the Act—and that the huge influx of refugees would take jobs from American workers.


Many of our self-styled Christian leaders would do well to seek out “The Displaced Person,” which, like O’Connor’s best work, carries a dark moral force without recourse to didacticism or sentimentality. In its dogged focus on the obligation of Christians to help the oppressed, the story shrugs off its topical elements; O’Connor dwells not on the abominations of the Third Reich but on the long shadow cast by this kind of evil. In this way, Mrs. Shortley was, in a sense, correct when she looked upon that pile of bodies in the news reel—violence is a contagion, as the late René Girard theorized, begetting more violence, which begets more violence, and on and on and on."


A good read. It's well worth the time.

December 11, 2015

Anti-GMO Terror? Mail bombs sent to Mexican pro-GMO organization.


"A Mexican pro-GMO group called Alianza Protransgénicos (the pro-transgenics alliance) was sent two package bombs in the mail. One went off on opening, injuring four people, including the vice-president of the group.


The anti-GMO attack is particularly interesting, as it reveals the level of emotion and ideological fanaticism that can be present in such groups. Sending bombs to a pro-GMO group is similar to bombing abortion clinics. In the latter case, extreme religious beliefs are the motivating factor, and killing for one’s religion is nothing new. Killing over a debate about farming and food one might assume is quite different.


They have articles of faith as well, most notably an appeal to nature. Natural = good, unnatural (however you define that) = bad.

The core problem is that with many activists in the anti-GMO movement their cause is not a scientific debate, it is a fight of good vs evil. Once you frame a conflict in such stark terms, you have become a fanatic (there are real good vs evil struggles in this world, but this isn’t one of them). The pattern is repeated frequently:



Fanaticism is fanaticism, and we see it every day online, even at DU.

It has to be called out, or this is where it will lead.

December 11, 2015

Why ‘Tolerating’ Anti-Vaxxers Is a Losing Strategy


"Now and then, in just the right situations, there’s a lot to be said for intolerance—especially when it comes to the safety of kids. We don’t tolerate bullying in schools on the false belief that a few scuffles can build character. We don’t tolerate smoking on playgrounds because parents should have the right to determine the tobacco habits of their second-graders.

And we shouldn’t—but too often still do—tolerate parents who deny established science and refuse to vaccinate their school-age children, potentially endangering every other child in the school and the community beyond as well. That’s a lesson the families at Brunswick North West Primary School in Melbourne, Australia are learning in the worst way possible after as many as 80 of 320 students—or up to 25% of the student body—have been struck by chicken pox in just the past two weeks, thanks to the school’s liberal policies concerning vaccine refusers.

Brunswick’s no-vax tolerance was not just an unwritten thing, but was formally stated in a newsletter distributed in May. “Staff respects the right of every family to make choices about immunisation and we will definitely not exclude children who are not fully immunised from our service,” said the text of the newsletter, according to the Victorian edition of the newspaper The Age. “We expect all community members to act respectfully and with tolerance when interacting with other parents and carers who may have a differing opinion to their own.”

The same newsletter conceded that the school’s vaccination rate was only 73.2%—far below the level needed to ensure herd immunity (generally over 90%), which protects the few people in any community who can’t be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons. That made the school a target-rich opportunity for the chicken pox virus. Across the local postal code the vaccine rate is 92%; it’s a slightly lower 90.2 in the entire state of Victoria.



Anti-vaxxer's baby hospitalised with whooping cough (then lies to docs to get the kid released)

"The 11-week-old daughter of an anti-vaccination activist has been hospitalised for two nights with whooping cough, a week after a maternal health nurse told child protection authorities of her concerns for the unvaccinated baby girl.

But hours after being discharged from hospital on Friday, the Melbourne woman struck a defiant note, hinting to other members of the Facebook group Unvaccinated Australia that she had lied to hospital doctors in order to leave the hospital.

Doctors had urged her to immunise the baby because having had the disease only gives a child immunity for five years, and the vaccine contains immunisations in addition to pertussis.

"I ended up sayIng I would be talking to GP about it juto [sic] shut them up," she told supporters.



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