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Of animal attacks and cheesy symbolism: This week in Doubtful News for December 31, 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sharon Hill   
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 09:00

Here is a rundown of the anomalous and credulous stories of the week courtesy of Doubtful News.

Strange news is a little light in the last two weeks of the year but there was no lack of interesting things to think about that  came our of the media feed. We saw several curious natural phenomena explained. 

There was a Christmas ice quake in the Toronto area. Cryoseisms are real things! Check it out. 

What made those tiny picket fence and tower structures on trees in the Amazon? We sort of know now but don't know why…   

Red rain deposited dust over south Texas spawning some very alien speculation. A meteorologist figures it out. 

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Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Harriet Hall   
Monday, 30 December 2013 09:00

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 experiment in paying through the nose for “unnecessary care” (David Gorski)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/an-experiment-in-paying-through-the-nose-for-unnecessary-care/ To control the cost of medical care we must find ways to discourage the use of unnecessary procedures. In “value-based insurance,” if patients insist on medical procedures that science shows to be ineffective or unnecessary, they have to pay for it. The American Board of Internal Medicine’s “Choosing Wisely” program is another initiative that hits doctors and patients over the head with data indicating which treatments are not supported by evidence.

Garcinia Probably Works But Is Far From a Weight Loss Miracle (Harriet Hall)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/garcinia-probably-works-but-is-far-from-a-weight-loss-miracle/ Garcinia cambogia is the latest in a series of “weight loss miracles” hyped by Dr. Oz. The scientific evidence is conflicting as to whether it works at all; and studies showing that it does work show only a small effect that is of questionable clinical relevance.

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The “Sign Language Interpreter” at Mandela’s Memorial PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 16:52

mandela-interpreterLike Frank Abanagle in the movie Catch Me If You Can, we’re used to the occasional story of a layperson who pretends to be a doctor or a pilot, but what about a sign language interpreter? The Telegraph (12/11/2013) reported that at Nelson Mandela’s recent memorial service in Johannesburg, things were not what they seemed to be. The man standing behind Barak Obama and making gestures was not a sign language interpreter, but a fraud. 

Thamsanqa Jantjie was not signing in South African sign language or any other known sign languages. Bruno Druchen, the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said to the Associated Press, “there was no meaning in what he used his hands for”. It was further revealed that Jantjie has a history of passing himself off as a fake sign language interpreter. He had “interpreted” at an event held last year with the South African President Jacob Zuma in attendance. A bemused audience member recorded his performance and submitted it to the Deaf Federation. The organization analyzed the tape and lodged a complaint with the government. This didn’t stop Jantjie from performing at Mandela’s memorial. 

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Will you join the battle against unreason? PDF Print E-mail
Latest JREF News
Written by D.J. Grothe   
Friday, 27 December 2013 15:36

Friends,

Believing in nonsense hurts people, and that's why James Randi and The James Randi Educational Foundation work hard to promote critical thinking and skepticism as a form of intellectual self defense. 

2013 — the last twelve months were our most productive ever — is quickly coming to an end, and as you would expect, we are busy with our plans for 2014. But only with your help will we be able to continue battling unreason into the New Year.

We have only a few days left in our Season of Reason campaign to raise the support we’ll need to continue fighting the fakers and enabling people to defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific scams. Please join with Randi and our team at the JREF as we stand up for reason and continue battling for you and other science-minded folks in the coming year.

Your contribution will enable us to:

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In Memoriam for 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Tim Farley   
Friday, 27 December 2013 09:00

 For the last four years I've compiled an "In Memoriam" presentation for The Amazing Meeting each July. I think it is importanthat the skeptical community remember the people we've lost and the work they've done to make the world a more rational place. (You can watch the presentation from the most recent TAM 2013 online here).

I started doing this because I thought it was a good idea that no one else had taken up. It is important to record our history, and many of these people toil in relative obscurity and thus do not receive prominent obituaries in the news, or sometimes even notice in the skeptic blogs.

 

I was reminded of that this year when I discovered two deaths that had occurred in the spring of 2011 - one a prominent skeptic, the other a pseudoscience promoter - that had gone largely unnoticed in our community for two years. The skeptic was C.E.M. Hansel, a British psychologist and critic of parapsychology who was among the early supporters of CSICOP. He wrote for Skeptical Inquirer and was until recently listed as a CSI Fellow, though he had died in March 2011. The pseudoscience promoter was Max Toth, a devotee of "pyramid power" in the 1970s.  Daniel Loxton remembered Toth in a blog post recently when he discovered the man had died in April 2011. That these obituaries have eluded my searches back in 2011 underscored how difficult it can be to record the history of skepticism.

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