With Friends Like These PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sean Sturgeon   
Sunday, 15 November 2009 00:02

"Thy friendship oft has made my heart to ache: do be my enemy for friendship's sake." - William Blake1._phil_and_his_shuttle

I'm not the smartest person in the world. I may not even be the smartest person in my living room right now, because the cat walked in and one of the Angry White Men from MSNBC just came on. I'm certainly not the smartest person on this webpage. There's Randi -- he's so wicked smart that his nickname is actually "The Amazing." How many games of Trivial Pursuit do you have to win before you get that moniker slapped on you? JREF President Phil Plait is an actual astronomer with an actual degree in nuclear telescopes or something. All I have going for me is several years of drinking away a scholarship.

But even I, just by reading books and arguing with the neighborhood kids about moral relativism, know that saying a thing does not make it so.

Yes, friendsofscience.org. I'm looking at you.

Plunder Unto God PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matt Fiore   
Friday, 13 November 2009 16:14

The Apocalypse has arrived for the second year in a row. In God's corner is a swarm of angry churches led by a group called the Alliance Defense Fund. In Satan's corner is, of course, the Internal Revenue Service. September 27, 2009 was "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" and it has caused churches across the nation risk their tax exempt status by making political statements and even explicitly endorse political candidates in open violation of tax law.

The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal organization unafraid of controversy, so their civil disobedience is hardly surprising. Its list of founders includes people like James Dobson (Focus on the Family) and Bill Bright, winner of the infamous $1.1 million Templeton Prize. On their website they tell prospective employees that they must "be ready, willing, and able to participate in public and private prayer" both "during working and non-working hours."

The Alliance Defense Fund is arguing that churches in America are being persecuted. They believe (without good legal precedent) that the IRS restrictions on churches amount to an unconstitutional limitation on their freedom of speech and need to be repealed. In response, they've organized a movement called the "Pulpit Freedom Initiative" and enlisted 83 churches in 30 states to help them in their cause. The initiative encourages pastors of all denominations to give political sermons from their pulpit as a form of civil disobedience. The ultimate goal is the provocation of a test case. If the IRS decides to drop the hammer on a rebelling church, the ADF will swoop in and attempt to take it all the way to the Supreme Court in hopes of getting the laws overturned on a national scale. Does the ADF have realistic chance? Do their claims hold water? The short answer is "no." The long answer requires a crash course in tax law.

Heavy Metal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Naomi Baker   
Thursday, 12 November 2009 09:59

The October 27th edition of The Wall Street Journal ran a story called "Metals: Panacea or Placebo?aurasol" by science reporter Melinda Beck that put a skeptical eye on claims of medical and health benefits to the use of metals (copper, silver, gold, titanium, and magnetic items) as adornments and "dietary ‘supplements." The same week, a blog post by Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine discussed the recently published "Therapeutic effects of magnetic and copper bracelets in osteoarthritis: A randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial" from Complementary Therapies in Medicine (abstract), which documented a controlled test on the efficacy of magnetic or copper bracelets to help arthritis and other ailments. Unsurprisingly, any benefits from the different bracelets were no better than placebo. Readers are referred to his excellent write-up for a discussion of the study and links to other peer-reviewed work. In it, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a dollar-sucking entity foisted on the taxpayers by Congress, admits that it has found no evidence for beneficial effects on fibromyalgia, migraines, or other painful conditions, from the use of metal bracelets. The idea of people volunteering to put large amounts of metal and metal solutions into their bodies intrigued me, so I reviewed the current state of Metal Medicine.

A couple years ago, Paul Karason became briefly famous as the "blue man" whose skin turned blue due to argyria -- a condition where silver collects in the skin and organs and reacts with light, much as the silver emulsion on film. He dosed himself with silver solutions that he created in his home, a procedure easy for anyone who has taken a basic high school chemistry class. "I did it all on my own," he said. "Originally, I just saw an ad for a colloidal silver generator in a magazine and the picture stuck in my head like a song might stick in your head. I had a friend who had severe petroleum poisoning, and I heard colloidal silver was helpful for that, and that's how I started." In the same interview, he admitted that his original health problem, dermatitis, was not cured by ingesting silver, although he continued to drink silver solutions daily. Proponents of colloidal silver claim that ingesting silver can cure or treat colds, flu, cancer, diabetes, herpes, shingles, and HIV/AIDS, among other ailments. Silver solutions, such as silver nitrate, have been used as anti-microbial disinfectants for many years, and frequently used as eyedrops for newborns to prevent conjunctivitis (although most former uses have been supplanted by newer, less toxic treatments). The FDA has repeatedly stated that ingesting silver is not beneficial, is not even safe, and can cause kidney damage.

James Randi Takes to the High Seas! PDF Print E-mail
Latest JREF News
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 12:11

randicruiseJames Randi, with a little help from modern medicine, has been deemed fit to join us on our March voyage into the Bermuda Triangle. No stranger to this voyage, Randi is confident that we will once again return triumphant from our journey over the same seas that once carried the likes of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, and hopefully with fewer casualties.

If you haven't already, please join us and experience the joys of the Caribbean this March. Our Italian ship, the Costa Fortuna, promises to ply the waters in luxury, and our speakers are unsurpassed. In fact, you may be one of them.

More details can be found at The Amaz!ng Adventure 5: Skeptics of the Caribbean.

Off The Wall PDF Print E-mail
Written by Luke Doug Haines   
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 16:03

Penn and Teller once predicted -- with a lot more accuracy than your average psychic -- that, soon after the September 11th attacks, someone, somewhere, would hold a séance on national TV to contact the victims. When someone did indeed try to do this (take a bow, John Edward) network executives balked at the idea as being too tacky and exploitative even for modern TV audiences.

British TV, apparently, works a little differently.

Sky One, one of the leading UK satellite channels, has decided that whilst exploiting the recent deaths of thousands for viewing figures mightn't be terribly sensitive, exploiting the recent death of one extremely famous person for viewing figures is a-okay.

So we arrive at last Friday night's televised séance, in which spiritual medium Derek Acorah attempted to contact the ghost of the Michael Jackson. Why he chose November 6th as a date for this endeavour is unclear; it was not Jackson's birthday, nor, obviously, his date of death, so we're left to wonder why the more obvious idea of a Halloween séance wasn't used. (Perhaps a holiday associated with giving candy to children and wearing scary rubber faces was a little too close to the bone when dealing with The King of Pop.)

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