It's not a contest PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 16:45

While I'm very pleased that the Czech skeptic club Sisyphus, the Belgian SKEPP club, and the European skeptical group ECSO have recognized the James Randi Educational Foundation, I must correct the use of the term "contest" to describe the JREF's million-dollar prize. (See the article here: )

It is simply a prize, not a competition, that can be won by any person who can prove the existence of any paranormal ability of any kind.

We at the JREF will follow this situation with great interest, but our experience has shown that the "psychics" will remain shy and often fail to show up to be tested...

Gee, a million dollars, and they're so reluctant? But we know why, don't we...?

James Randi, JREF founder.

A silly start: This week in Doubtful News for January 7, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sharon Hill   
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 09:00

 Off to a rollicking start for 2014. Here is a rundown of the strange stories that the media fed to us for this past week courtesy of Doubtful News.

What's one of the first stories from New Years Eve? A ghost along the Thames. It's unimpressive.

Also unimpressive but really laughable, as usual, are the "top psychic" predictions for 2014. Have a look and a chuckle.

Right before New Year's Eve, we posted a story about a UFO group in Sweden expecting an increase in calls regarding lights in the sky that were actually Chinese Lanterns - floating luminaries.

The day after the New Year, the California media (who obviously don't keep up with Doubtful News, haha), went overboard for UFO stories of what were OBVIOUSLY Chinese Lanterns across Sacramento. They appeared to do ZERO checking on the story.

Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Harriet Hall   
Monday, 06 January 2014 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.

Science-based medicine throughout time (David Gorski) A review of medical history shows how modern medicine has benefited from painstaking scientific discoveries, mainly in the last 150 years. Medicine 300 years ago resembled much of today’s “alternative” medicine. The ideas of alternative medicine don’t change, while the practices of science-based medicine give way as new discoveries are made. Today’s science-based medicine may look primitive to doctors of the future, but that’s not a reason for shame or for abandoning it in favor of any non-science-based system.

Doctors Are Not “Only Out to Make Money” (Harriet Hall) accusation that doctors are motivated solely by money is demonstrably untrue. Most doctors are committed to doing what is in the best interests of the patient regardless of the effect on their income. As new evidence becomes available, they are constantly changing their practices to eliminate the unnecessary and the ineffective even if it is lucrative. The contrast with CAM providers is striking.

The Politics of Abolishing Witch Camps in Ghana PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leo Igwe   
Saturday, 04 January 2014 09:00

The government of Ghana has announced plans to close down the ‘witch’ camps in the northern part of the country. The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur stated this recently while inaugurating a committee with a mandate to eradicate witchcraft in the northern region. The minister pledged to support victims of witchcraft accusation through the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and get them to register with the state health insurance scheme. The Minister stated that the support and empowerment scheme would enable victims to “flee(sic) their minds from the act.”. Nana Oye Lithur did not really explain what she meant by “the act”.

This is not the first time the government of Ghana has proposed closing the witch camps as a measure to eradicate witchcraft-related abuse in the country. In 2011, the Deputy Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs Hajia Hawawu Boya Gariba announced plans to close down the camps and reintegrate the victims with their families. She described the existence and operation of a witch camp as ‘an indictment on the conscience of the society’. These declarations are not unconnected with pressures on state authorities.

What’s The Scoop on Brain Training? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Steve Novella   
Friday, 03 January 2014 10:11

There is now a proliferation of products and services promising to “train your brain.” In the past we used to call this, “learning.” The term “brain training” has a certain connotation that implies something more is happening.

For example, on the website they claim:

“You will find some brain fitness workouts that can help your mind process information more quickly, and more efficiently, as well as the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time.”

The implication, if not explicit claim, is that brain training is somehow more than just practicing a particular task in order to become better at that task. Lumosity, for example, promises “scientifically designed training” with a “personalized training program.” The advertising is very clever – they say, “discover what your brain can do,” instead of simply, “discover what you can do.”

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