Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Urine injection kills Bolivian woman

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

LA PAZ, Bolivia – A Bolivian woman has died from an injection of urine allegedly administered by her friend as a form of health therapy, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Investigating prosecutor Oscar Flores told The Associated Press that 35-year-old Gabriela Ascarrunz died Saturday of an “infection caused by urine that was injected by fashion designer Monica Schultz.”

Local newspapers reported that Schultz, who is known across Bolivia for her clothing lines, is a practitioner of urine therapy — a form of alternative medicine using human urine for cosmetic purposes or to treat various diseases. Some people rub it on their skin, while others inject or drink it.


Herbal remedies for arthritis mostly ineffective, says study

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

Many herbal medicines and other complementary therapies do nothing to help people with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a report published today.

A review of published data on natural remedies found the majority were completely ineffective at relieving patients’ symptoms, or had only tentative evidence to suggest they worked.

Almost half of the UK population tries complementary medicine at some point in their lives, and more than £450m a year is spent on herbal remedies, homeopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and similar treatments. Among people with arthritis and similar conditions, the figure is nearer 60%, doctors said.

In the report, compiled by the charity Arthritis Research Campaign, doctors reviewed medical research on more than 50 remedies sold as treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain in the muscles and connective tissues.

Each therapy was ranked from one to five, with one indicating the treatment has no effect, and five meaning there is good evidence that it works. Only fish oil, which is sold for rheumatoid arthritis, received the top ranking of five, while 17 of the remaining 20 treatments were deemed completely ineffective or had too little evidence to support their efficacy. Among them were extracts of elk antler velvet and green-lipped mussels.


Psychic pleads no contest to bilking old woman

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

The victim began visiting Adams’ Psychic and Crystal Vision shop in the Laurelwood Shopping Center in San Mateo in January 2008, prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe said.

On her third visit, Adams began to shake and cry, telling the woman that her husband would die of a heart attack if she didn’t immediately pay $13,000 for “special prayers,” Wagstaffe said.

The woman promptly went to the bank and got the money, authorities said.

At the woman’s next visit, Adams told her that her own husband needed money for treatment or would die, Wagstaffe said. The woman gave her $9,000.


Uh, O!

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

Why medical experts were shocked by Oprah Winfrey’s take on hormone replacement and Suzanne Somers’s controversial theories on aging.

When Dr. Lauren Streicher, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school in Chicago, got a call from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” inviting her to discuss menopausal hormones with actress Suzanne Somers, she figured she’d better read Somers’s best-selling books on the subject. As Streicher worked her way through the first chapter, she started underlining every sentence she felt was inaccurate. “But pretty soon, I had to stop,” Streicher says, “because I was underlining almost everything.”The taping of the show, which aired Jan. 29, proved equally disconcerting. Somers, a self-styled hormone and anti-aging expert whose controversial books promise midlife women that they will feel young and sexy if they take unregulated hormone therapy (HT) in much higher doses and for much longer time periods than most experts recommend, was literally given center stage. She was seated next to Winfrey, the newly proclaimed convert to the so-called bio-identical hormones promoted by the 62-year-old Somers. (Bio-identical generally refers to products that are chemically identical to hormones produced by a woman’s body.) While Winfrey, 55, encouraged “every woman” to read Somers’s book, the guests with actual medical degrees were relegated to seats in the audience, where they had to sit quietly unless called upon. Interspersed were taped segments of Somers smearing her arms with hormone cream, standing on her head and lining up the 40 dietary supplements she takes with her morning smoothie. The whole setup seemed to give the drugs that Somers uses the same enthusiastic endorsement that turns everything Winfrey promotes into a blockbuster.

The resulting spectacle disappointed many doctors who thought Winfrey had higher standards for the quality of medical information she dispersed—or, at least, more of a commitment to balance. Some said they were particularly upset because doctors had complained to Winfrey’s production company about what they saw as misinformation disseminated during the show she did on hormone therapy two weeks before that featured Dr. Phil McGraw’s wife, Robin.

Some experts are far more than disappointed: “I found the program to be quite shocking, and full of audacious claims, not substantiated by evidence,” says Dr. Wulf Utian, a gynecologist and consultant at the Cleveland Clinic and founder of the North American Menopause Society, who has also worked as a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. “Oprah is the most influential woman in the world, and I don’t think she comprehends the amount of damage she has done to women’s health. I came away feeling like Oprah really didn’t understand the issue. Personally, I feel like she has set us back 100 years.”


Measles on the rise in Australia and Switzerland, too

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

At what point do start to hold antivaxxers responsible? I ask, because we’re on the verge of a record year for measles in Australia: in Victoria, 11 cases have been reported in 2009 so far. That’s far more more than in 2006 and 2007 combined, and under extrapolation is as bad as an outbreak in 1999 where over 100 cases were reported.

As if that weren’t enough, Switzerland has had 22 cases reported in two days.

Is antivax rhetoric to blame here? The Australian article doesn’t say how many of these people were not vaccinated; several were adults, so they should have been vaccinated well before this craze of linking vaccines to health problems started up. But some kids were on that list, and I wonder if they were vaccinated, and if not, why not.

However, for the outbreak in Switzerland, it does look like antivaccination insanity is to blame


Oh Just Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut UP, Catch The Fire Ministries!

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on February 10, 2009


This depiction featured is NOT my Australia. And this is NOT what religion should be. And this should NOT be happening.

Any questions? No? Good. Then let’s just do something proactive about it and not put up with any more of this time-wasting insanity.
Go donate blood, donate money, donate time and donate something better than this garbage. And for sod’s sake, don’t vote for them or their ilk, whatever you do.


Extremists Exploit Disaster

Posted in Skepbitch by Skepdude on February 10, 2009


Wrath of God or fucking arsonists?

I was working with Richard Saunders on layout of the next issue of The Skeptic magazine when Richard gasped so loudly that I was sure he’d found out that I once slept with John Edward.

Then I found out what really happened, and it was much, much worse…

wwwabccomauHeard about the current bushfires in Australia?

A group of Christian Fundamentalists, aptly named Catch the Fire Ministries, posted a media release on their site, wherein they irrationally blame a new pro-choice abortion law for the bushfires..

Not arsonists, not summer, not extremely high temperatures, but a law that allows abortion in the state of Victoria, where the fires are occurring…

Tragically, almost one thousand houses have burned to the ground, hundreds of people have died…and these assholes think that abortion is to blame, that the fires are God’s punishment, and that prayer is the answer…

This reminded me of those who blamed Hurricane Katrina on the licentiousness and debauchery of New Orleans.

I promptly issued the following press release to a range of sites:

Christians Exploit Catastrophe

Australia has been in shock since the Victorian bushfires in early February, resulting in the destruction of almost one thousand homes and the deaths of hundreds of people.

While some offer practical relief in the form of food and clothing donations, others look for someone to blame.

Catch the Fire Ministries (CTFM) in Dandenong, Victoria, published a media release today, blaming a new Australian law for the devastating bushfires, and further claim that the fires were foretold in a spiritual vision.

The CTFM leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah, announced that he had predicted the bushfires in a dream he had in October 2008. In this dream, he had a prophesy that the fires would occur, as divine retribution for an abortion decriminalization bill that passed in Victoria in 2008. Nalliah calls Victoria the “baby killing state of Australia.”

The Ministry’s response is to petition God for forgiveness, and to commence a seven day prayer and fasting campaign. “In our prayer and fasting campaign, we are particularly repenting for the passing of the “Decriminalization of Abortion Laws of Victoria” in addition to other unrighteous, ungodly, and unjust laws and practices which have seen a holocaust of some of the most helpless members of the human race, the unborn.”

“Can we stop the fires? Yes we can! But it will take God’s children to rally together and repent and cry unto Him as in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (The Holy Bible). We at CTFM have seen this happen several times in the past in Australia, which was also covered by many mainstream media outlets.”

The CTFM website calls upon the “Australian Bible-believing God-fearing Christians to repent and call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for His mercy and protection over Australia once again.”

Visitors to the CTFM website can comment on the media release. However, skeptical replies are immediately deleted.

Representatives of the Australian Skeptics condemn the Catch the Fire Ministry for their uncritical, discriminatory beliefs and exploitation of the tragic events to promote their ministry.

Richard and I spent the afternoon submitting comments to their site, which were promptly censored.

So we started spreading the news…


Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

Stories like this make us feel good, hell they even make these into movies. But how much of this is real? How much is just retrofitting? I don’t know and I will actually refrain from voicing an opinion, as I don’t think we have enough information.

The one thing that’s missing, that makes me very suspicious, is interviews with the doctors that were actually treating the kid. Why are the baffled doctors not contacted by the press? They went to the kid’s teacher, but not his doctor? Sure they went to some doctor who is going to study these supplements, but from what he said it does not sound like he was the baffled doctor who was treating the kid.

Something smells here. Was the journalist too afraid they may actually say something to deflate his wonderful story? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. As far as I am concerned the solution sounds too simplistic. He misses 2 aminoacids, give him a few pill containing them and problem solved. On the other hand it is true that sometimes the most obvious solution escapes us, so I guess I will keep the door open to that possibility. But boy, this story has all the red flags of quackery in action if you ask me.

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Randi’s horoscope

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Rodibidably on February 10, 2009

[Originally posted at: Bad Astronomy]

OK folks, strap yourselves in. This is a good one.

So, an astrologer has cast a horoscope for Randi and found he makes a good skeptic.

Wait, what?

I know, this sort of thing has a potential for causing a catastrophic collapse of the space-irony continuum, but, assuming this is not satire, then prepare yourself for what must be the absolute, 100%, guaranteed rock-solid most ridiculous thing ever to have been attempted ever in the history of our Universe or any other.

[Read the rest of this post at: Bad Astronomy]