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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.

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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TAM London website now open! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   

tamlondonlogo.pngAs we recently announced, The Amaz!ng Meetings are going international: On 3-4 October 2009 we'll be holding TAM London, our first overseas meeting.

We're now very excited to announce the launch of the official TAM London website! It has a list of confirmed speakers, including (of course) Randi, Phil Plait, Adam Savage, Richard Dawkins, Professor Brian Cox, Ariane Sherine... and you can expect to see more listed soon! The website also has information on the venue, and much more.

If you want to keep up with the latest TAM London news there's a blog, a Twitter feed, and a Facebook group... and more coming, too.

Please note that registration for TAM London is not yet open; that's coming soon. But until then take a look around the site, and make sure you mark the dates!

It'll be a... it'll be a... no... can't make ... jolly good time reference...

It'll be brilliant.

 
An Open Letter to Open Minds PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Richard Saunders   

Some time ago I had an idea. Well, I have many ideas but most just come and go. This time, however, the idea sort of stuck in my head.

The idea was to somehow alert the general public here in Australia about some of our concerns as skeptics. The normal press release is all very good but with hundreds of companies and organizations issuing press releases everyday, ours can get lost in the wash. So, what to do?

Why not write a letter to the very people and/or institutions with which we have a concern? Again, would that mean anything really, would they care? Okay, one more step. Aim the message not so much at them, but at the general public. An open letter was the answer.

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A U. N. Victory For Reason PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Proposals that would have banned "defamation of religion" were formally rejected by United Nations international bodies this week. The  contentious "blasphemy" resolution presented by Pakistan, introduced at the UN and supported by some of the Middle East regimes, called upon all governments to forbid critical, insulting or defamatory statements about religion, especially the Islamic faith. The proposal failed to earn sufficient votes in the UN General Assembly to become a binding resolution, and it will not be on the agenda at the next conference, slated for Geneva in April. Doubtless, it will be again proposed in the future, as zealots seek to promote their discriminatory agendas.

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