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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.

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.

 
I know this stuff sounds ridiculous: This week in Doubtful News for January 28, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sharon Hill   

 Here is a rundown of the strange stories that are causing harm or are just downright bizarre courtesy of Doubtful News.

Sadly, we continue on with flu season as more tragedies come to light. Get your vaccination!   

Attacks on vaccination teams in Pakistan continue as a security team for polio workers was killed.

In more promising news, a promoter of a quack cancer treatment faces felony charges.    

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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.

Stanislaw Burzynski: Using 1990s techniques to battle the FDA today (David Gorski)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/stanislaw-burzynski-trying-to-relive-his-success-beating-the-rap-in-the-1990s/ In the 1990s, Burzynski got cancer patients to lobby Congress to force the FDA to allow him to use antineoplastons. The strategy worked that time, and his supporters are trying it again. Change.org petitions, the ANP Coalition, and other efforts rely on emotional appeals and rhetoric rather than science. How can we counter their influence?

Top 10 Chiropractic Studies of 2013 (Harriet Hall)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/top-10-chiropractic-studies-of-2013/ ChiroNexus listed the top 10 studies of 2013. One isn’t a study at all, one is a negative study misrepresented as positive, and the rest are poorly designed small studies without control groups or with inadequate controls, with evidence of bias and with questionable clinical relevance. If these are the top 10, the rest must be truly terrible.

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Another One Bites the Dust PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jamy Ian Swiss   

Many skeptics like myself have been closely following the recent run of criminal prosecutions of professional psychics. Notable among these cases has been that of the Rose Marks family clan that was prosecuted in South Florida. I have written about various developments in the story, including here:

Inhuman Predators

And about Marks’ conviction here:

The latest installment of Real Life Karma, or what goes around sometimes comes around when prosecutors decide to do their jobs, was in the news last week when 44-year-old Nancy Marks, sister-in-law of psychic racketeer Rose Marks, was sentenced to a prison term of three years and nine months, and ordered to repay more than 2.2 million dollars to her victims.

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