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Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Steve Novella   
Friday, 06 December 2013 12:00

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.

 

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The “Haunted” Francisco Fort Museum PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   
Thursday, 05 December 2013 09:00

 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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Skills of Selection PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jamy Ian Swiss   
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 09:00

In the days since Thanksgiving, perhaps you’ve heard the tale of “Diane in 7A,” a story first tweeted in installments on Thanksgiving day by television producer Evan Gale of “The Bachelor.” The tale was told, according to him, of an obnoxious airline passenger who shared a flight he was on, who was rude to the airline staff and complained noisily about delays and the importance of reaching her destination on Thanksgiving, as if nobody else shared similar pressures.

According to Gale, he began by hand-delivering to her a couple of small bottles of vodka, and then continued a dialogue of sorts by sending notes to her – they were not in adjacent seats – written on cocktail coasters. This then turned into a contest of words, with both the woman and Gale becoming increasingly obnoxious. When they eventually encountered one another in the course of exiting the flight, she slapped him.

The story was covered in various news outlets, including this piece on Huffington Post.

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Retracted, hoaxed or knocked out? This week in Doubtful News for December 3, 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sharon Hill   
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 09:00

 There were SO many wild and wacky stories this past week. Here is a rundown of a cross-section of them courtesy of Doubtful News.

The most important science story of the week was the retraction of the paper that claimed Monsanto herbicide and genetically modified maize was to blame for cancerous tumors in rats. From the first, this study was steeped in controversy and that debate continues.

The World Health Organization made a major mistake in a report regarding HIV infection in the population.They publicly acknowledged their error.

In Mexico, the Catholic Church is fighting a rising tide of violent drug-related activity with… exorcism. Wonder how that's going to work out? 

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Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Harriet Hall   
Monday, 02 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.

“Low T”: The triumph of marketing over science (David Gorski)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/low-t-the-triumph-of-marketing-over-science/. When sexual dysfunction is caused by true hypogonadism, testosterone therapy is therapeutic. Unfortunately, clever marketing has convinced thousands of men with a laundry list of unrelated symptoms that they need testosterone for “Low T.” There is no evidence that it can relieve those symptoms, and it can cause adverse effects such as sleep apnea, shrinkage of the testicles, heart attacks, and increased mortality. “Low T” is sales, not science.

New Cholesterol Guidelines (Harriet Hall)  http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/new-cholesterol-guidelines/ The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have issued new guidelines for the use of statins. Based on the best current evidence, they have discarded “target” levels for LDL cholesterol in favor of a better approach based on risk level and intensity of statin dose. They offer a calculator to measure an individual’s risk of a cardiovascular event over the next 10 years. The changes have led to controversy and misunderstandings.

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