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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.

Devilish doings: This week in Doubtful News for February 4, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sharon Hill   

 For reals, it is the 21st century!  But, some are still blaming Satan for everything. Here is a rundown of the weekly weird news courtesy of Doubtful News.

It was a huge week on Doubtful News. There was a demonic invasion.

The story of LaToya Ammons demonic possession and life in the "portal to hell" house was posted on the Indianapolis Star website and then exploded two days later. The story was, on its face, unbelievable and full of holes. Doubtful News readers were able to produce a mock up of the fakey photo. Then, Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans, who takes his paranormal investigation awfully seriously, purchased the house. No word on whether only the paranormal believers will be allowed in but it does appear that only pro-paranormal people are invited. No skeptics allowed. This story is a circle of reinforcing feedback. 

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Dowsing For Murder PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Romeo Vitelli   

It began with a brutal double murder on July 5, 1692.  A wine merchant and his wife were killed in the cellar of their shop in Lyons, France. Since the money known to be in the shop was missing, authorities concluded that the couple had been robbed and murdered using the bloody billhook that had been left behind.  Forensic science was virtually non-existent at the time and the magistrates had no idea about who might have committed the crime.

Rather than letting the crime remain unsolved however, the magistrates were urged to consult Jacques Aymar. Though actually a stonemason, Aymar had become fairly famous in the area for his skill as a dowser. While dowsing had largely faded into obscurity by the 17th century, local stories quickly spread over Aymar’s success in locating underground springs and other lost items. 

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Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. 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.

pH Miracle Living “Dr.” Robert O. Young is finally arrested, but will it stop him? (David Gorski)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ph-miracle-living-dr-robert-o-young-finally-arrested-but-will-it-stop-him/ Robert O. Young is famous for promoting quack cancer cures and claiming that “the over-acidification of the body is the single underlying cause of all disease.” His answer to everything is to alkalinize. California law permits licensed healthcare providers to practice this kind of harmful pseudoscientific nonsense and Young was only arrested because he was practicing medicine without a license.

Washington State’s Unconscionable, Unconstitutional Child Protection Law (Harriet Hall)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/washington-states-unconscionable-unconstitutional-child-protection-law/ Washington law mandates reporting of child abuse and neglect and allows parents to be prosecuted for denying essential medical care to a child – unless they are Christian Scientists! The law is clearly unconstitutional, since it gives preference to only one of the many faith-healing religions. And it is clearly immoral, because it denies some children the protection of law and allows manslaughter to go unpunished.

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A Relic of A Practice PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   

As of August 30, 2012, eBay discontinued auctions for witchcraft, psychics, and other metaphysical services. This decision was made in light of the difficulty in resolving disputes regarding these transactions, not because they don’t work! At any rate, this project hasn’t been entirely successful, and eBay continues to sell objects used in these rituals, such as crystals, herbs, incense and jewelry. One category that also survived is Collectibles - Religion & Spirituality, which is legitimate for the sales of medals and statues but is also an avenue for the sale of relics connected to Christian mystics. Current listings include a locket of hair supposedly from Saint Bernadette, to whom the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared at Lourdes in 1858. For a mere $3,600 you can buy a bandage that apparently bound Padre Pio’s stigmata.

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I Doubt That - The Media Guide to Skepticism PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by JREF Staff   

A JREF workshop presented by Sharon Hill and Barbara Drescher.

The common notion about being a "skeptic" is that you hold a generally questioning attitude or have a dubious opinion on a certain topic. At the extreme, terms like "climate skeptic" or "truther" express distrust and denial of scientific conclusions. Scientific skepticism, however, is an approach that emphasizes evaluating claims based on evidence. The process of skepticism is of great value to society to lessen the potential of believing or investing in something that isn't all it appears to be, which may have social, financial or even tragic consequences.

This presentation will provide a look into organized skepticism -- what it is, what it means to be a skeptic, what skepticism isn't, and why it's important for everyone to know how to apply it in a world overloaded with questionable information. Come visit with some friendly neighborhood skeptics who can help you sort through the nonsense and critically evaluate some extraordinary claims. Find out the difference between merely saying "I'm skeptical" and REALLY applying skepticism.

 
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