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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.

No, JAMA, You're Doing It Wrong PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Joe Albietz   

Conflicts of interest are a major point of concern within modern medicine. Ideally, physicians and patients want to make decisions based solely upon what is right for the patient; it is what we strive for. In the past it was commonplace for physicians to accept gifts from drug companies, some were small, a pen or a lunch, others were far more substantial. Many physicians thought they could benefit from the drug companies’ attention while remaining unaffected in their medical decision making. They were wrong.

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Some Interesting Details PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

In this May '04 Swift, you'll find a rather comprehensive item about Carla Baron, who owes the cupidity - if not the stupidity - of the media, for her continued success. Renata Galvan, who was a victim of this reckless endorsement of psychic powers, has some interesting news on the actual facts about Baron's involvement in the investigation of the murder of her son Tim:

I am writing you concerning so called psychic Carla Baron. I think you guys were absolutely correct that she is all out for the publicity. My son's case was featured on "Haunting Evidence" as its second episode.

Carla claims she was going in blind on the case, and that was so far from the truth. She talked to me EVERY DAY for several months, pretending to be my friend and to help me. All the while she would direct me to bulletin boards to praise her efforts and defend her when skeptics would write about her.

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Science and Skepticism a Growing Trend? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

scienceShows based on mysterious investigations have been a staple of American television for years, and have had the public entranced by the logical explanations of Mr. Spock , fascinated by the resourcefulness of MacGyver, and wondering at the possibilities rattled off by Agent Fox Mulder.

But until this point, television wasn’t necessarily concerned with the accuracy of what was represented, leading to episodes of Star Trek that made viewers pause and wonder at the plausibility of a giant hand in space. We are at a strange point in time – one where what the public finds entertaining happens to be logic and science, even if the edges of the scientific accuracy are blurred.

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Hyperbaric Oxygen for Autism? Not so fast PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Joe Albietz   

Treating children with autism can be remarkably frustrating for everyone involved. Its impact on children and their families is life-altering, its cause is unclear, and its therapies are minimally effective at best and costly, dangerous, or exploitative at worst. It is easy to understand how studies which may show a benefit for afflicted children will rapidly draw attention and proponents, regardless of its plausibility.

One such therapy is hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment. There have been some reports that a minority of children with autism have abnormal blood vessels feeding various areas of their brain, potentially limiting the amount of oxygen available to that area of the brain and possibly causing dysfunction of the affected neurons. Notice the hedge terms I use; the evidence is quite weak at this point. Regardless, if this is true, one might expect better functioning of the oxygen deficient neurons with more oxygen delivered. Anecdotes exist describing such a response, but until recently no well designed studies had evaluated the claim.

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High Woo-Woo at Work PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Reader Mack Hitch sent us a news item from Denver, where the rarified high-altitude atmosphere seems to be getting to some citizens. A woo-woo vendor named David Stevens is a "Home clearer" who helps real-estate agents by erasing those dreaded negative vibes from properties that aren't selling... Last Monday, Re/Max City Horizon broker Steve Kinney, in his experienced wisdom, summoned guru Stevens to dissipate the negative energy from a new home in the Berkeley neighborhood, vibes that came from the "resentment seeping in from the older property next door." Makes perfect sense, don'tcha think...?

Stevens is the owner of "Yoga of the Mind." He mystically waved his hands, clearing the way for the house to sell. The home had been completed in November, and the developer hadn't had a single offer on it, a sure sign of clogged-up evil vibes. Broker Kinney had purchased these magical gestures several times previously, paying the hand-waver $100 to $200 to have a home "cleared."

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