The Amazing Meeting 2014

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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.

Flim-Flam in the UK? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

It just never stops. Otherwise intelligent people still turn to woo-woo to solve their problems. One of the latest is Simon Trussell, 41, of London, UK, a lovesick restaurant owner who was estranged from his lady friend Mary Pratt. He feverishly consulted Psychic TV, a Sky and Freeview channel in the UK serving mediums and spiritualists, and was given a phone number to call and speak with a "psychic" advisor, George Lavery, 42, who uses the professional name Simon Lavery. The con man assured his victim that all would be well after his awesome powers were unleashed. To begin, he told Trussell to purchase a cell phone which he said he would pass to his ex. This was done, and Trussell began receiving dozens of text messages on his own cell phone in which Mary asked for cash and gifts - to be sent through Lavery.

He naturally complied. Over the next eight months, Trussell, 41, handed over as much as £6,000 cash, £800 of naughty leather fetish gear, a sofa, and even a £6,000 engagement ring - a total of £12,800 [US$21,000].

 
Make Way for the Anti-Ghost-Whisperers PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jennifer Ouelette   

oulette tamyspeaker At a symposium last November to launch the National Academy of Sciences' new program, the Science and Entertainment Exchange, host Seth McFarlane (The Family Guy) - perhaps Hollywood's most powerful atheist -bemoaned the dominance of "comic book spiritualism" in film and television in recent years.

"I grew up watching Star Trek and I remember we used to be so excited about NASA and what they were doing," he told a rapt audience of prominent scientists and leaders in the entertainment industry. "Now we have The Ghost Whisperer. I don't know why I chose to crap on that show specifically, but the point is that the realism is gone, and the believability is gone. We need to get people excited about science again."

McFarlane makes a valid point. But there are signs that the TV times, they are a-changin' - science and rational thinking are making a comeback on the airwaves, if a quick survey of the top TV shows of the last few years is any indication.

 
2.5 BILLION Spent on CAM Testing. Result? It Doesn't Work. PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Right on the heels of my ChOPRAH article comes this article from MSNBC. $2.5B study on how "alternative medicine" shows virtually no effectiveness. A waste of money? Not necessarily.

From the article:

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

 
ChOPRAH PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

34i1y0jSigh. This is ugly. Really really ugly. The Huffington Post has been getting bashed by skeptics lately for being credulous at best and downright silly at worst. And now I can see why.

Most of you know that Oprah was called to task in Newsweek recently. I was going to mention it in Swift, but I  stopped myself for two reasons: 1) everyone else mentioned it, and 2) it lauded Dr. Mehmet Oz as a voice of reason on Oprah's show. He's not, and it doesn't take much research to see that.

Anyway, today, Deepak ChOPRAH weighed in on Oprah's side. Yes, I'm going to spell his name like that. Deal with it.

So here's the article. Please read it if you can. I won't blame you if you can't. I'm going to go through it here anyway.

ChOPRAH says:

The (Newsweek) story failed to gain traction for obvious reasons. Oprah has aired innumerable shows on health, of which the controversial ones are a tiny minority. Her intention to improve women's lives on all fronts is so obvious as to be almost above criticism. The credibility for women's well-being and welfare she has earned day after day over the past two decades will not be undone with a story that cherry-picks the guests who can be made easy targets of ridicule by the medical establishment. And the fact that she has celebrity guests who have causes and crusades in the area of health, such as Jenny McCarthy or Suzanne Somers, is not the same as Oprah herself endorsing what they say.

Ok, please. Deepak, spare us your manipulative rhetoric.

 
"Champ" Visits Again PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

I am fortunate to live very near a lake with its own lake monster. With the exception of the well-debunked Loch Ness Monster, "Champ" or the Lake Champlain Monster in Vermont is probably the most well known "cryptid" of its kind. Of course, I don't believe there actually is a lake monster, with the exception of this one.

Last week, a gentleman by the name of Eric Olsen posted a video to YouTube which shows a shape moving in the early-morning waters of Lake Champlain just off of Oak Ledge Park in Burlington. It's interesting footage, and well worth a look.

As with any unusual video of something moving in the water, people were quick to shout "There's Champ!" But noted-skeptic Ben Radford, co-author of the book Lake Monster Mysteries is an expert on Champ, and posted his analysis at livescience.com.

From Ben's article:

The video holds several clues about the creature's identity. The form resembles the back and head of a swimming deer, and moves toward the near shore past what appears to be a buoy, which might suggest shallow water.

 
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