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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.

Those Were the Days... PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

No matter how much we write, lecture, or complain, it's easy to think that we've made little progress. Do you remember 1981? I do. I was as sophomore in High School, and I loved the occult. There was a little shop in Salem, MA where I grew up called Crow Haven Corner. It was run by the "Official Witch of Salem," Laurie Cabot. Yes, that Salem. I grew up near where the witches were hanged and attended Witchcraft Heights Elementary School.

They sold potions, amulets books, etc. It was the only shop of its kind in town, right across from the Witch House, which is the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges during the witch trials.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Salem has become witch and psychic mecca. Crow Haven Corner has moved to a bigger location, and faces competition from a dozen or more similar shops.

Read more...
 
Woo In Review: Lost Time Travel Contest Finalists PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

WOO IN REVIEW: Lost Time Travel Contest Finalistsdeathfromtheskies

The Lost Time Travel Contest now closed for entries, but it's not over yet! Read over these three entries and vote in the comments (with words, not with the Vote Up/Vote Down button) for your favorite explanation of time travel. The winner of the contest will be announced at 12:00pm tomorrow, and that lucky individual will receive an autographed copy of Phil Plait's Death From the Skies!

ENTRY 1:

written by jpedigo, January 23, 2009
I'm going with option two: "If you believe that time travel is possible in reality, write a comment explaining how, why, under what circumstances, and what would be possible."

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An unvaccinated child has died from a preventable disease PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   

This story is so sad, and what makes it worse is that it was preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control has put out an alert: in Minnesota in 2008, there were five confirmed cases of Haemophilus influenzae type b (or Hib) among children younger than five years old. Of these five cases, three of the children were unvaccinated, one had started the series of vaccines but did not complete the series due to shortages, and the fifth -- who had been fully vaccinated -- had an immune deficiency.

Five cases may not sound like a lot... until you learn that one of the unvaccinated children died. This was a baby, just a seven-month-old infant.

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Questioning Quackery PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

From reader Nathan Grange in New Zealand comes news that there is concern in New Zealand about more extensive government spending on what's now called "Complementary and Alternative Medicine" [CAM], a situation that is currently being reviewed, along with appropriate concerns about the efficacy of the treatments. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) reports that it spent NZ$37 million [US$20 million] on CAM in the 2007-2008 year up from NZ$18.4 million [US$9.8 million] in 2003-2004. It was decided that there were "legitimate questions" about the effectiveness of some alternative treatments, and the issue is being looked at as part of a broader ACC review. In the past year, the ACC spent $14 million [US$7.4 million] on acupuncture alone, and NZ$12.7 million [US$6.8 million] on chiropractic treatment.

New Zealand doctors have wisely said that any treatment receiving government funding should be subject to the same rigorous standards as conventional medicine, though some alternative therapies for disability-allowance clients are approved by "registered medical practitioners," which includes chiropractors. One NZ MD, Dr. John Welch, said the idea of integrating conventional and complementary medicine was a

...fake proposition. There can only be one sort of medicine that's shown to be effective and works and should be publicly funded.

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"20/20" Vision Less than Acute: Media Perpetuate Myths About Child Mental Health PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jean Mercer   

childdevThe ABC program 20/20 did the public no service in its recent myopic support of pseudoscience. Aired in late November, 2008, the presentation "The Toughest Call" emphasized common "alternative" approaches to adoption issues, rather than citing excellent empirical research from investigators such as Sir Michael Rutter. "The Toughest Call" (Nov. 28, 2008, Parts 1-5; http://abcnews.go.com/2020) encouraged the public to accept myths about adoption, including the idea that adopted children have many unpredictable mental health risks. The program suggested that the children they discussed were cases of Reactive Attachment Disorder, a legitimate diagnosis-- but in fact the symptoms described were not those conventionally considered for diagnosis of this disorder, but another, more frightening set of behaviors advertised by the cult-like "Attachment Therapy" community.

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