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Austin’s “Haunted” Driskill Hotel PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 16:02

The Driskill Hotel is an historic building in downtown Austin, Texas. Opened in 1886 by Civil War Colonel Jesse Driskill, the compulsive gambler promptly lost the hotel in a high-stakes poker game the following year. In 1890, Driskill died a broken man, and is believed to haunt the hotel to this day. It is said that he makes his presence known by the scent of his cigar smoke and the occasional appearance in a guest’s room, and especially to the ladies. 

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Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   
Monday, 19 May 2014 16:45

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.

A formal request for retraction of a Cancer article (James Coyne)
A plea for Cancer to retract an article claiming that psychotherapy delays recurrence and extends survival for breast cancer patients. It’s just another poorly conceived attempt to validate fanciful ideas about “mind over matter” in cancer treatment. Its conclusions are not supported by simple analyses, but only by the authors’ inappropriate multivariate analyses. The research design was flawed, there is no plausible mechanism to explain their results, it is essentially a negative study misrepresented as positive, and the authors attempted to block publication of criticisms.

Gary Taubes and the Cause of Obesity (Harriet Hall)
Gary Taubes wants everyone to adopt a low-carb diet. He offers a plausible rationale but admits that the evidence isn’t in yet. Whatever the underlying cause of obesity, there are practical ways to achieve weight loss by reducing calorie intake below expenditure while we wait for better evidence. Strict low-carb diets are one way to achieve lower total calorie intake and may be somewhat more effective than other diets in the short term, but they have not proven more effective in the long term. 

Dialogue on “Alternative Therapies”  (Steven Novella)
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, James Gordon represents many common misconceptions about mainstream medicine and CAM. Mainstream medicine does not “dictate” drugs and surgery, and nutrition and exercise are mainstream, not “alternative.” It is mainstream medicine, not CAM, that addresses underlying causes. The rising costs of health care can be best addressed by not wasting money on dubious treatments.

Legislative Alchemy 2014 (so far) (Jann Bellamy)
Legislative alchemy is the process by which legislators turn practitioners of pseudoscience into state-licensed health care professionals, unleashing quackery on the public. Recently, chiropractors have suffered some defeats; naturopaths have achieved licensing in two more states; acupuncture bills are pending; and Vermont has passed a “chronic Lyme disease” bill. You can track CAM-related bills in your state through a list maintained on the Society for Science-Based Medicine website.

More Dialogs (Mark Crislip)
Another response to Gordon’s opinions in The New York Times. Medicine has issues, but the solution is not to turn to therapies based on fantasy and magic. Dr. Crislip distinguishes 4 categories of SCAMS: magic, plausible, inadequately tested, and things that are not CAM at all, like diet and exercise. Gordon’s call for a dialog on CAM is only a distraction from effective efforts to improve reality-based practice.

 
THE LIQUEFYING "BLOOD" OF ST. JANUARIUS PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   
Friday, 09 May 2014 15:32

It’s said that in the year 305C.E, an Italian now known as Saint Januarius, was martyred by decapitation. We're told that some enterprising bystander witnessing this festive event had the foresight to not only bottle some of the resulting blood but also to save the head of the unfortunate man.

In 1337, just about the time when relics-of-the-saints were becoming very popular among competing archbishops – the famous Shroud of Turin popped up at about that time, too – the Cathedral of Naples announced that the head of Januarius and the vial of his blood, recently rediscovered, were going on display. Mind you, the head was not actually shown. A silver urn said to contain it was displayed, as it is even to this day. It seems no one has ever troubled, dared, or cared – to look inside the urn. But faith is a wonderful thing.

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Teachers: Get Free Registration to The Amaz!ng Meeting with an Educator Grant PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Barbara Drescher   
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 14:35

If you are not an educator, please help us spread the word about this wonderful opportunity. 

Are you an educator who would like to bring more skepticism and critical thinking into your classroom? Would you like to be inspired, energized, and informed? The Amaz!ng Meeting 2014 is a great place to meet other educators, gather materials (including printed copies of the JREF’s education modules for classroom use), pick up tips, and be inspired. 

In addition to three days of superb talks and panel discussions, TAM 2014 offers a full day of workshops, including two which will focus on incorporating skeptical thinking lessons into classrooms. This year’s theme, “Skepticism and the Brain” promises to be especially valuable to educators.

The Amaz!ng Meeting is attended by people from all walks of life and all over the globe. Speakers include scientists, philosophers, journalists, educators, activists, and even entertainers. Simply put, The Amaz!ng Meeting is James Randi Educational Foundation’s yearly celebration of science, education, and critical thinking.  Educators who attend TAM will be able to bring what they have learned into the classroom. 

And we would like to help you join us!

In an effort to expand our promotion of education and the development of future critical thinkers, the JREF established the TAM Teacher Scholarship Fund in 2013. The fund will pay the registration fees for a limited number (to be determined by donations received by June 15, 2014) of educators to attend The Amaz!ng Meeting 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 10-13. 

The best news is that due to the generosity of the skeptical community, we are already on our way to awarding grants and we have a pledge from one donor, Brian Walker, to send at least TEN more teachers to TAM 2014!

Details regarding eligibility, how to apply, and what to expect can be found here

If you would like to help send teachers to TAM 2014, you can do so here. Every little bit helps! Donations made after June 15, 2014 will be distributed to TAM 2015 grant recipients. 

 
Ghost sex, a possessed mongoose and a killer drink: This week in Doubtful News for May 6, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sharon Hill   
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 15:39

Here is a rundown of the disturbing news that made your jaw drop courtesy of Doubtful News.

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