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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.

Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
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.

An update on the case of Sarah Hershberger: Parental rights trump the right of a child with cancer to live (David Gorski) The family of the Amish girl who stopped chemotherapy fled with her to Central America where she was treated with laetrile, chelation, detoxification, and natural supplements and is reportedly doing well. The court-appointed guardian has bowed out, arguing that she is not likely to see the child again and that it may already be too late for chemotherapy to help her. Her parents have traded an 85% chance of cure for a high likelihood of a painful death.

Chiropractic Reform: Myth or Reality? (Harriet Hall) The facts behind the accusation that a chiropractor broke a baby’s neck in Australia remain unclear, but there is no evidence to support chiropractic treatment of children. A recent survey of chiropractic practices in that country shed some light on the claim that chiropractic is “reforming” and becoming science-based. A substantial number of chiropractors are clearly still using quack methods.

There's a lack of reason this season: This week in Doubtful News for December 10, 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sharon Hill   

There's a lack of reason this season: This week in Doubtful News for December 10, 2013

Here is a rundown of the anti-science, pro-superstition stories of the week courtesy of Doubtful News.

A number of themes emerged in the news this week in the U.S. and around the world. First, vaccines. As the CDC released a statement about the return of measles in the U.S. a new study estimated that the country experienced 103 million fewer cases of preventable illnesses thanks to vaccines. Meanwhile, chalk this up to ignorance or need to revive ratings with sensationalism, Katie Couric gets backlash for anti-vaccine program.

Treatment of serious illness is hampered in areas of Africa due to superstition. Pentecostal ministers are advising patients to reject their HIV medicines for prayer.  Doctors in Tanzania are seeing religious beliefs interfere with medical treatments as well.

Two examples of how NOT to do inquiry. Two amateur archaeologists attempt to prove their silly theory by vandalizing an Egyptian pyramid  

Ghost hunters in Gettysburg are detained by police when they are caught poking around a business at night.

Gettysburg is one of the most "haunted" places in the U.S. but it will soon be usurped by Ground Zero in NYC. TheFreedom Tower moans in the wind with a ghostly sound And the twisted metal even has a frozen face. Creepy.

Exorcism preys on the innocent as seen in these two stories: The death of a 2 yr old in Malaysia earns perpetrators jail time. A rapist in France is jailed for crimes described to be part of an exorcism. Horrendous stuff.

Paranormal writer and prolific author Colin Wilson died at the age of 82.

The media loves stories about aliens, even if they have to hype it as a completely off-base idea having to do with grey big headed spindly creatures. Because bacteria is boring, I guess.

The biggest weird hoax of the week was played on people in Bristol harbor in the U.K. as they filmed a luminescent underwater creature. Anymore, we always must consider that it may be for a TV show.

Finally, you can do your part in rebutting bad info on the internet with this browser plugin

What was the biggest Doubtful News story of the year? You can help pick. Vote on the stories you thought were the most important of 2013 on our online poll

Hey, it's the holiday season. What better gift to give then books! We have a book recommendations page for a selection of the best skeptical picks to add to your library or give to others.

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

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.


 Vaccines work. Period. (David Gorski)  Anti-vaccinationists exaggerate the risks of vaccines and downplay the beneficial effects. A recent study collected an unprecedented amount of historical data (88 million cases) and estimated that vaccines have prevented 103 million cases of contagious disease since 1924 and 26 million in the last decade alone. It offers interactive graphs for each disease. 


Philosophy Meets Medicine (Harriet Hall)  In a new book, Mario Bunge shows that medicine is firmly based on the philosophical principles of materialism, systemism, realism, scientism, and humanism; without these principles, it would be useless. He provides insights about the scientific method and the flaws of both evidence-based medicine and alternative medicine. He proposes a systemic approach to solving problems at the intersection between medicine and politics.


The Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients need your help (David Gorski) A plea to join the campaign to alert Congress to the horrendous research practices of the Burzynski Clinic that were uncovered by the FDA and to call for an inquiry into how Burzynski got away with it for so many years. 


The Seralini GMO Study – Retraction and Response to Critics (Steven Novella)  The Seralini study claimed to show that GMO corn causes cancer in laboratory rats. It was flawed by small sample size, lack of statistical analysis, ambiguous results, a questionable selection of rat strain, and dubious ethical treatment of animals. After an avalanche of criticism, the journal has decided to retract the study.


Beyond the flu shot: A closer look at the alternatives (Scott Gavura) As many as half the population may be using products touted as influenza preventatives or treatments. Most of these are useless or unlikely to be effective. Vaccines are the most effective means of protecting yourself and the community.


Separating Fact from Fiction in the Not-So-Normal Newborn Nursery: Vitamin K Shots… (Clay Jones)  Recently several infants at Vanderbilt University suffered brain damage from hemorrhages because parents had rejected the vitamin K shot normally given to all newborns on the first day of life. A review of the role of vitamin K shows that newborns are deficient in vitamin K and explains why supplementing it is essential to protect them from life-threatening bleeding complications. A single vitamin K shot at birth is effective and safe.


Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Steve Novella   

Skeptical activism has several simultaneous goals - to educate skeptics to improve their expertise in critical thinking and the details of specific pseudosciences and uncritical claims, to educate the general public about science and skepticism, and to take specific action to protect consumers, fight against fraudsters, lobby for better regulation, and other good works.  The latter goal is often the most difficult, but has the potential of being the most immediately satisfying.

The skeptical movement's social media infrastructure allows us to mobilize tens of thousands of critical thinkers to apply public pressure where necessary - to defend from attacks on free speech, to focus attention on a particular scoundrel, or to pressure politicians into doing the right thing. While such activity is a constant background in skeptical activism, there are moments when opportunities arise for a focused concerted effort. I believe we are at a critical point of one such opportunity.

Stanislaw Burzynski has been exploiting desperate cancer patients for 37 years with his dubious "antineoplaston" treatment. Why his treatment is dubious has been well covered by David Gorski in multiple posts at Science-Based Medicine.
Essentially Burzynski is offering unapproved chemotherapy for cancer patients, claiming that it is "natural" and that he is curing cancer patients who are not responding to standard treatment. He has also moved into the "personalized cancer treatment" realm.


The “Haunted” Francisco Fort Museum PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   

 La Veta, Colorado, is located three hours south of Denver. The heart of this tiny townThe Haunted Piano - Francisco Fort of 800 people is the Francisco Fort Museum, an original adobe plaza built in 1862. The plaza contains an 1880s saloon, a school built in 1876, a blacksmith shop, adobe ovens, and a large collection of artifacts from local Native Americans, Hispanic settlers, and farmers, ranchers and miners; not to mention a resident black bear called Barnaby.

Of course, the Fort Francisco Museum is said to be very haunted. Its most famous ghost is the “floating lady” who is seen dressed in white as she glides through the west wing. There are reports of flickering lights and another ghostly woman who carries candles as she wanders the halls. When people walk by an old piano it plays music although there is no visible pianist, and an antique rocking chair has been seen swaying back and forth without anyone siting in it.

A local ghost-hunting group approached Kim, the Director of the Museum, asking if they could investigate the premises. Her committee provided permission with one condition: she must supervise their investigation. Kim was annoyed that the group did a stakeout of the premises well into the wee hours while she was forced to babysit them as they “ran around doing goofy stuff”. Their findings included high EMF readings where one of the phantom women has been seen, a video of a mysterious light, and recordings of alleged voices of the dead (Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVPs). Kim wasn’t very impressed.

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