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.

Talking to the Dead - I Mean FoxNews PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

This week, beacon of truth FoxNews had an interview with two champions of reason: John Edward and Sean Hannity. Removing tongue from cheek, I present to you an interview that demonstrates two things: 1) it’s still cool to be “the skeptic” and 2) to quote Southpark, “John Edward is the biggest douche in the universe.”

Note that the article is entitled “Medium John Edward Explains Ability.” Really? Did whoever titled this piece actually read or see the interview?

John Edward, when asked why he doesn’t defend what he does, had this to say:

Because as soon as — as soon as you have to defend something, then you're admitting that something needs defense. So I kind of, like — I come from a place of I'm a spiritual person. I believe in God. I would never defend my belief in God. People either do believe or they don't believe, and that's OK. That's their choice.

So I feel the same way about this. As soon as I go to a place I have to defend it, I feel like you immediately lose. I have no problem explaining it, though, or trying to teach about it.

Well, guess what John… if you want us to believe that you can TALK TO THE DEAD, yes, you’re going to have to defend it. Do so succesfully, and we'll give you $1,000,000. This "non-answering" is a favorite technique of so-called psychics and mediums, as it puts all the pressure on the person who has questions, and make them feel guilty for somehow doubting such an esteemed individual. Alas, we skeptics are like that.

 
MSNBC Jumps on the Anti-Alt Med Wagon PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

In the latest of a series of articles critical of "alternative" medicine, MSNBC proclaims that Zicam is not the only remedy that may harm your health. From the article:

an Associated Press analysis of the Food and Drug Administration's side effect reports found that more than 800 homeopathic ingredients were potentially implicated in health problems last year. Complaints ranged from vomiting to attempted suicide.

So once again, we're happy to see alternative medicine getting negative press. But hold on... homeopathy has no ingredients. How can they be harmful? Well, they can't.

 
Zicam Removed From Shelves by FDA PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

ziscamIn a far too infrequent moment of proaction (or is that proactivity?), the FDA announced that they have

issued Matrixx Initiatives, maker of these Zicam products, a warning letter telling it that these products cannot be marketed without FDA approval.

What’s the problem? Oh, nothing much… it just seems that using their product even once can permanently remove your sense of smell. And while we’re not canines, and rely mostly on our visual sense, losing your sense of smell is a great way to increase your risk of death through fire, food contamination, or the over-consumption of durian.

 
"Psychic" Rosemary Altea Scammed PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Sometimes you have to ask: what good is it being psychic? As I'm not psychic, I will probably never know the answer to that question, but being psychic apparently doesn't protect you from having your accountant run off with $200,000 of your "hard-earned" money. Such a fate has befallen self-proclaimed psychic Rosemary Altea, who was exposed on Penn & Teller's Bullshit! as having a stacked audience for her reading.

From the Rutland Herald article:

Denise Hall of East Arlington faces one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return after investigators with the U.S. Attorney's office say she stole money from self-proclaimed spiritual medium Rosemary Altea - using four credit cards to obtain cash advances, forging checks and giving herself unauthorized electronic paychecks all under Altea's name for the past seven years, according to court records.

So, for seven years, a bookkeeper was able to swindle money from Rosemary in ways that most of us would detect simply balancing our checkbooks.

 
Book Review: Science Under Siege PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

tamyspeakerA new book has just come out that will be of interest to skeptics everywhere. Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience. Edited by Kendrick Frazier, it is a collection of some of the best writing from Skeptical Inquirer from the last few years:

Some of the gems it contains:

  • Carl Sagan’s last Q & A on science and skeptical inquiry.
  • A paean to the wonder and awe of real science by Sagan’s wife, Ann Druyan.
  • An article explaining Ray Hyman’s Categorical Directive: “before we try to explain something, we should make sure it actually happened.”
  • John E. Jones, III’s eloquent decision in the Dover “Intelligent Design” case.
  • An article on AIDS denialism by Nicoli Nattrass, who is director of an AIDS research unit in South Africa and can testify to the incalculable harm denialism has caused her compatriots.
 
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