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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.

We're full of surprises: This week in Doubtful News for March 11, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sharon Hill   

Here is a rundown of fringe news stories of the week courtesy of Doubtful News.

As usual, there are plenty of headlines this week. We start out with the sentencing phase of the criminal case against so-called "psychic" Rose Marks. She did not receive the maximum sentence as the matriarch of the family who seem to constantly be in trouble with the law, but she gets 10 years in prison.

Bobby Drinnon, a psychic who chose to be known as an "intuitive" or "sensitive," has passed away from illness.

The craziest news story last week was the linkage between a questionable archaeological find, pyramids, with the conflict in the Ukraine. Never underestimate imagination.

Amazing what you might find just walking your dog in an NYC park. Eww.

This guy claims a monster bat was attacking his dog. He looks too gleeful now that this furry fruit eater is very dead. 

A woman is surprised that not everyone can deliberately imagine themselves outside their body.

I'm surprised that anyone thought these fake arrests were a good idea.

But it's NOT a surprise that many Americans are not literate when it comes to technical terms.

The staff of Bryan College is asked to promote scientifically illiteracy by affirming the Genesis story. 

With the desperate drought situation in California, water witching is becoming more prominent. It still doesn't work no matter how hard dowsers advocate that it does.

That pesky golf-ball finder, drug dowser, bomb-detector, Aids-Hepatitis curing thingy JUST won't DIE. There is now a patent in Romania to continue to produce it.

An infamous anti-vaccination group in Australia tries to best the skeptics by picking a new, controversial name. 

Finally, there are endless questions swirling about the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Where ever missing information occurs, mystery mongers will be sure to fill the gap with some outrageous idea. Watch as we track the fringe ideas being the plane's disappearance.

Come visit for more stories like this every day. Check out our twitter feed @doubtfulnews and our Facebook page. Send your story tips to

Premiere PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   

d42c684b4d81bdbe6c50ec6c0e61a041-1Folks, I sat with some twenty people last night at the home of a good friend and watched the astonishing revival of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”.

Many months ago I’d mentioned to Neil DeGrasse Tyson that I thought it would be a proper gesture to recognize Carl's wonderful contributions to reason and truth in some appropriate way, but Dr. Tyson met and exceeded my most ambitious expectations in that regard.

I sat there with tears in my eyes as his tribute to Carl was delivered, as I'm sure millions across the country did. Surely there can be now be no doubt that the New Cosmos will continue to reinforce the cause of science in very much the way that Carl did, that skepticism about the nonsense which meets us at every turn in the commercial world to which – in particular – young people are exposed, will be extolled and encouraged, has now been met, and a new battlefield is before us. This program burst upon us like a fireworks display never before seen. I was transfixed, transported, and shaken as Dr. Tyson and the Fox network took us on this wonderful adventure.

Seeing – at last – the tragedy of Giordano Bruno recounted properly and without fear of demands for censorship from religious zealots, I was more than pleased. Mind you, I expect heavy reaction from the “other side” of rationality, but I have great confidence in Dr. Tyson’s ability to look past that bickering to even greater things that the New Cosmos will achieve.

Wow…! I hope that you, too, were pleased with this tour de force and that you’ll join me in dropping a note to Fox network. The premiere was shown on all Fox affiliates, as well as National Geographic, and National Geographic WILD. With Ann Druyan – Carl’s widow – and Seth MacFarlane in charge, how can it lose…!

Again, WOW!

James Randi.

Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harriet Hall   

Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.

Eric Merola and Ralph Moss try to exhume the rotting corpse of Laetrile in a new movie  (David Gorski)
Eric Merola has found a new hero to worship. After two movies promoting the infamous Burzynski, he is making a new movie about Laetrile promoter Ralph Moss, who alleges that Laetrile was an effective anti-cancer drug that was suppressed. There was nothing to suppress: testing showed it didn’t work.

Depression Re-examined: A New Way to Look at an Old Puzzle (Harriet Hall)
Jonathan Rottenberg proposes an evolutionary explanation for depressive illnesses. Rather than a defect in brain chemicals, thoughts, or childhood experiences, he suggests it is not a defect at all, but a survival trait that has become maladaptive in the modern environment. His thought-provoking insights are based on recent animal and human research studies.

Open Data (Steven Novella)
 The Public Library of Science (PLOS) has announced that all articles published in a PLOS journal must submit their original data so anyone can access and analyze it for themselves. This experiment in open access to data sets an example that print journals should follow. Complete transparency facilitates the self-corrective scientific process.

The Diet Fix (Scott Gavura)
Yoni Freedhoff’s new book The Diet Fix explains why diets fail and proposes a 10-day plan to get the best out of any diet. He debunks common myths and is adamant that there is no one perfect diet for everyone. He recommends behaviors and skills to support a life-long approach to healthy living and sustainable weight loss.

Measles gets a helping hand (John Snyder)
 The measles vaccine was successful in eliminating measles in the United States and is making great progress in other countries, but enlarging pockets of under-immunization threaten to derail those efforts. Antiscientific parental vaccine refusal was largely responsible for the 189 cases of measles in the US in 2013 (the highest rate in 17 years). Unvaccinated travellers bring measles into the US and it spreads to other unimmunized people. The problem is even worse in the UK.

This week in Doubtful News for March 4, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sharon Hill   

Here is a rundown of the news stories of the week, fueled by archaic thinking, courtesy of Doubtful News.

Two of the best known Creationists are made waves this week with some rather dubious claims. Did the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate provide the impetus to fund the boondoggle Ark park? If you believe Ham it did. But would you believe Ham? The numbers don't add up.

JREF Gets Mail: Randi's Response to a Catholic Priest PDF Print E-mail
Written by JREF Staff   
1798440 10152219191390856 1668558611 nWe get mail: a Catholic Priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago recently sent a veritable love letter to Randi for his decades of good work exposing supernatural fraudsters. It ends with an appeal for JREF staff to convert to Catholicism immediately. he included two objects with the letter: 1. An "Image of the Divine Mercy" (which we are told Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska in pre-WWII Poland) and 2. a medal that he says the Blessed Mother gave to St. Catherine Laboure in LaSallette, France in 1832.
The priest's big point: "The Lord created the you without your consent, but he will not save you without your consent." 
Especially interesting was the talk of Randi's age and how right now is surely the best time for him to finally convert: "Mr. Randi, you doubt so much that I know you must want to believe!"
He also provides some helpful instruction: "Go into a nearby Catholic Church, sit before the Tabernacle (which Catholics believe the Risen Lord Jesus IS Truly, Really, Substantially Present in the Eucharist Host) and open your heart, saying "Lord Jesus, if You are real, give me the grace to believe." Then we are told we can "enter into the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity!"
Our question is Since when have Catholics become so evangelizing?
We thought you might enjoy reading Randi's response: 
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