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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

Every Outbreak has a Silver Lining PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Joe Albietz   

Every time we have an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness, medical journals, the skeptical blogosphere, and even one oddball astronomy site seize the opportunity to re-iterate two related points: 1) Vaccines are safe, and they are unrelated to autism. 2) When rates of vaccinations drop, diseases return.  These incidents are exceedingly salient to the current public debate surrounding vaccination and more than worthy of the attention they receive.

And yet, in spite of the evidence, in spite of our vigilance, people still fear vaccines and outbreaks continue.  Faced with a frustrating and seemingly perpetual battle, it is easy for skeptics to become jaded and cynical, feeling as though we are either preaching to a silent choir or an unfortunately vocal brick wall.  That’s why I think it is worth taking another look at the most recent measles outbreak to have gained skeptical attention because the situation may not be as bleak as it sometimes appears.1

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Science: 1, Antivaxers: 0 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Hooray! Newsweek reports that Alison Singer, executive vice president of communications and awareness at Autism Speaks, has determined that the question of whether or not there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism has been answered. And that answer is no. Faced with disagreement from others in the organization, Ms. Singer chose to step down from her post. There are a few things to discuss here.

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Calling Noel Coward PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward is a comedic play about a man who goes to a seance and is visited by his dead wife... who then refuses to leave. She causes trouble and tries to get him to leave his second wife. In the real world, the only people that refuse to leave are the so-called psychics themselves, who continue to bilk the public and mislead the curious.

There is a new production of Blithe Spirit, one with a bit of a twist: they're holding auditions for actual psychic to join the cast.

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Understanding What Science Is PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   

The United States is a funny place, full of self-contradictions. We know that science education is getting slammed, and has been for years. Yet in surveys (admittedly from a few years back) we also know that people love science news, and want to hear more about it. Many people understand that science has a big impact on their lives, but have a limited understanding of how science works, or even what it is.

And, of course, the past few years we've seen an unprecedented attack on it, both from government and from self-styled "think tanks" where thinking appears to be the last thing on their minds.

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WOO IN REVIEW: CSI - One to Go PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

WOO IN REVIEW: CSI – One to Go
(CBS)


I have held off on berating CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for quite some time, mostly because it, at the very least, promotes science and the evidence obtained from scientific practices as the best way to solve crimes. Whether or not they were totally accurate in their views on science was inconsequential – the CSI writers went forth armed with fingerprintingcsiopentitle kits and computer displays that for some reason show an image of every single fingerprint in the entire database when matching a comparison, running the CPU so hard that the computer itself would, quite possibly, burst into flames, leading the CSIs to wonder if they had a case of arson on their hands and take fingerprints and feed them into a computer and... well, you see what I'm saying here. It's weird that every computer in CSI has not already been reduced to charred rubble.

And CSI has taken a few hard hits in the past couple of seasons. Sara Sidle, my least favorite character, did not die horribly at the hands of The Miniature Killer, who turned out to be incredibly lame. Gary Dourdan, who played Warrick Brown, was caught with a veritable pharmacy of illegal drugs leading to his character's untimely death. They introduced the character Riley Adams to re-up the annoyance gap that Sara Sidle's departure left. 

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