Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

The Australian Newspaper – Page Nine Today

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on August 6, 2009

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I think I can let these pictures pretty much tell the main story. Here is the text of the advert (pdf).

Yes, that’s Richard Saunders. He has a habit of photographing everything with his phone. And after he’s photographed it? I get an email and Dr Rachie gets an email. And we usually try to fire back some sharp comment about the food he’s got a snap of, or the scenery or how he’s clearly got himself into another pickle of some sort.

One of these days he’ll get lost in some weird circumstances and only she and I will have the ability to trace back his steps over the past few hours and alert the authorities.

Oh, look! That’s me! I has paper too! Must be a national publication, because he’s in Sydney and I’m in Perth.

Heee!!! And to think that today started with someone trying to make me feel like I contribute nothing to the world. With friends like these and times like this – I think that maybe being a skeptically-minded person isn’t a completely divisive thing to be. A refreshing change and always welcomed.

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Acting Against The Anti-Vaccination Network – Complaint Lodged With NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC)

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on August 3, 2009

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Now being passed around on Twitter – new news about the AVN and Meryl Dorey being challenged for their posing as “health service providers” who “provid(e) health education services to the public” for the purposes of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (NSW).

The document, which can be found as a pdf – ‘Complaint to HCCC‘ – here, includes:

In Division 1 of the Act, we find that a complaint may be made by any person against a health service provider even though, at the time the complaint is made, the health service provider is not qualified or entitled to provide the health service concerned.

The Act defines a “health practitioner” as “a natural person who provides a health service (whether or not the person is registered under a health registration Act).” It defines a “health service provider” as a “person who provides a health service (being a health practitioner or a health organisation).”

The Act defines a “health service” as including the following services, inter alia, whether provided as public or private services:

“(f) community health services,
(g) health education services,
(k) services provided in other alternative health care fields.”

Clearly therefore, both the AVN, (being a health service provider), and Meryl Dorey (being a health service provider and health practitioner), fall within the jurisdiction of The Health Care Complaints Act 1993, via these three sub-paragraphs and their claims to provide “ counselling,” “information,” and “support,” and their activities in providing technical medical information and medical advice.

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From Clever Hans To Harass II – Supernatural Crime Solving Goes To The Dogs

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on June 17, 2009

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Just in from Orlando Sentinal! You can’t keep a shaggy dog story down… especially when it’s one that ends up having people put in jail unfairly – wha? Hang on?

News item from Central Florida, where apparently people were being convicted of violent crimes, based almost exclusively on the “testimony” of a police dog – because his owner claimed he had powers to spot criminals?

Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free…

At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.

Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.

Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.

It all came to a conclusion when Judge Gilbert Goshorn requested a tracking test after a case where the dog supposedly discovered a scent at a scene six months after a murder. And the dog got a big FAIL.

I would suggest that people check out the marvellous blog of ICBS Everywhere where you can learn about Clever Dave, the not-so-mathematically-literate dog and the history of Clever Hans, the horse that also couldn’t actually do math:

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

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

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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.

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Airborne – Crashing Down! Skeptic Zone – Number One!

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on December 18, 2008

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Yeah, ‘created by a school teacher’. Bye-bye Airborne; thankfully you never made it to our shores!

You can see Dr Pamela Gay (who will be featured in an interview tomorrow for the Skeptic Zone podcast! Today we discovered we’ve hit ratings for number one podcast for Science and Medicine in Australia!!) talk about it in her presentation at Dragon*Con in this short video, around the two-minute, thirty-second mark:

From UPI.com: Airborne agrees to pay $7M settlement

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) — The maker of the cold remedy Airborne has agreed to pay $7 million to settle allegations by 32 attorneys general that it made false claims about its products. As a part of its multistate settlement, Airborne Health Inc. agreed to discontinue claims about the “health benefit, performance, efficacy or safety” of its products in preventing and treating ailments, Legal Newsline reported Tuesday.

“Consumers who purchased Airborne to treat their colds were not getting their money’s worth as there is no proof that Airborne can lessen your cold symptoms,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

I’m certain that Digital Cuttlefish will have something to say about this one. In the meantime, I hope those in the northern hemisphere are checking out something more effective (or at least more comforting than a scam-dietary supplement!) for the illnesses of the season.

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My Interview With Mark And Mark on 9/11 Myths

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Plait’s Death From The Skies – Want A Copy?

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on October 6, 2008

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Yes, it’s been released. Here’s a photo I got of Michael Stackpole enjoying his copy – but mine has been edited, ha ha ha!

And I’m thinking I might just donate my copy that I got (ah, Amazon.com, you are so nice to send on zippy post!) mine to whoever wants to send in what we judge to be the best idea for a new shirt logo and slogan to the Skeptic Zone Podcast…

First, check out the range of shirts and things we already have featured on Zazzle!

Then, go have a listen to the second episode of the Skeptic Zone, that was just released – at the Official Skeptic Zone Site and here’s the iTunes Link For Subscription.

It’s kind of a mini-episode, featuring on the Skeptics in the Pub over in Sydney, with Rachael, Richard and a lot of the skeptic gang enjoying a good time. There may or may not be references to ghosts wearing ‘Choose Life!’ 80s shirts and perhaps the Goodies. I cannot give too much away.

As for giving away what I think about Plait’s book? Well, from my first read that has taken me from writing much over the past day or so - bugger space. Save me from prions: progressive neurodegenerative disorders suck far, far worse than black holes and at least in your last few minutes you can actually think ‘cool!’ if it really was the highly unlikely cannibal galaxies. ‘Death From the Skies’ is probably better for Arthur Dent than a big guide with ‘Don’t Panic’ written in large, friendly letters on the cover. Because it actually does show why ‘don’t panic’.

I first gave a copy of Plait’s first book, Bad Astronomy, to a student who completed an investigation into moon hoaxes as a part of her submission to a skeptic report writing contest. The amount of detail she went into led to her asking on Dr Plait’s BAUT board about the Van Allen belts.

His response: “…they were in the belts for just a few minutes. Inner, outer, it doesn’t matter. Since they weren’t in them for long, they didn’t get a lethal dose of radiation. Elevated levels, yes,; lethal, no.If you sat in the belts long enough, you’d die from radiation, but that would take hours or days, so it wasn’t a concern for Apollo. As I like to tell people: of course the van Allen belts are deadly– there’s no air in them!”

That same sort of matter-of-fact breakdown is evident in Death From The Skies: These Are The Ways The World Will End and in fact I think it’s a little better this time around. It reminds me more ofTrick Or Treatment: Alternative Medicine On Trial in the breakdown of chapters.

Since Bad Astronomy was published, I’ve been quietly moving the few rare copies that I can find left, into the ‘horoscope’ section of the bookstores I go into (there’s all sorts of things you can do with multiple copies on the shelves – I’ve had Lynne Kelly’sSkeptics Guide to the Paranormal fit quite nicely next to the latest Sylvia Browne and the like – another book that deserves your support and a republish!). I would therefore suggest that ‘Death From the Skies’ would go quite nicely next to anything by a certain William E Burrows regarding “Teh deadly space!!” and does fit neatly on a shelf in any of the young teen reference sections in the bookstore. I’ve done enough poking around the bumper editions by DK Publishing, Usborn, Wiley and the like to see that, like Bad Astronomy, it can certainly get a good audience.

Anyway – I’m donating mine, start sending in some suggestions for t-shirt logos and slogans (you can get an idea of our style already, from the picture I have here of Plait holding one) – to richard (at) skepticzone.tv and we’ll see about the winner on a future ep!

And you can catch Plait talking about his book on the THIRD episode of Skeptic Zone, next week! Head to www.skepticzone.tv to prepare for your downloading pleasure.

By the way - last call for the Linneaus Legacy Blog carnival at podblack at gmail - it’ll be out on Monday!

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Psychics Harrass Father Of Disappeared Claremont Girl

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on August 31, 2008

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Yes, I’m still at Dragon*Con, actually missing Phil Plait’s speech all about his new book. Just got back from manning the table at the other hotel, for Skepticality.

Since I’ve seen enough of Plait around the conference already (even observed him giving Michael Stackpole a copy of his ’still got a few edits’ new book!) – meh. I’ll ask Richard Saunders for the rundown, as he’s attending. I need a coffee more.

Especially after reading this. I used to work in the same town where the serial killer operated – many thanks to Andy D for the tip – From The Western Australian Newspaper:

The father of Claremont serial killer victim Sarah Spiers has described how he fell into chronic depression because of harassment by clairvoyants who demanded money to help find his daughter.

Don Spiers detailed his harrowing experience yesterday as police continued to field phone calls from the public after the release on Thursday of security footage of another victim, Jane Rimmer, speaking to an unidentified man moments before she disappeared.

Mr Spiers, who has long been reluctant to speak to the media, was candid yesterday about his emotional and mental trauma.

He said up to 400 psychics and clairvoyants from across the world had contacted him since Sarah disappeared on January 27, 1996.

He said they were offering false information and “looking to make a name for themselves or get money”.

He had been so desperate to find his daughter in the first six months after she disappeared that he had listened to the “shysters” and often followed their instructions.

“They hounded me to death,” Mr Spiers said.

“I’d be getting it every day. It was just an onslaught.

“They were sending me to certain locations, just running me around. They were telling me all sorts of things. They’d give me cryptic clues.

“They had my emotions on a rollercoaster. You’d be full of hope and you’d be out (searching) and there’d be nothing and then you’d go down (in emotion) again.

“I can’t understand why anyone would do this to someone in my situation. Why would they want to make it worse for me?

“They probably all wanted to be recognised as being high-profile clairvoyants. They are shysters, there’s no question about it.”

He said the relentless approaches from clairvoyants and the false hope they created had led him to have a breakdown late in 1996, when he found himself sitting in an armchair at his home ripping chunks of hair from his scalp.

…As he struggled with depression, he continued to fend off clairvoyants and psychics and was even abused over the phone by members of the public. “We had phone calls from people saying we are the perpetrators or saying that we deserve it,” he said.

If people wish to know more about the case, I highly recommend the book ‘Devil’s Garden: The Claremont Serial Killings’, which features an excellent interview that emphasises the media and the police force stance, refusing to engage psychics in the cases.

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Bloggers Behind Simon Singh – Where The News Is At

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on August 20, 2008

My fellow Translucent Science bloggers, who have long been keeping a keen eye on the Dore developments

whilst I’ve been busy travelling for research purposes, have all the buzz for you on what’s going on with the British Chiropractic Association vs Simon Singh.

But first – there’s a brand new review out in the Wall Street Journal on Trick or Treatment today, all about the history and trends regarding alternative medicines, by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst:

…Based at the University of Exeter in England, [Dr. Ernst] leads a research group that has spent 15 years studying alternative remedies, trying to separate snake oil from science. Mr. Singh, his co-author, is a science journalist whose books include “Fermat’s Enigma” and “Big Bang.” Together they conclude, after cataloging the evidence, that most of the popular forms of alternative medicine are “a throwback to the dark ages.” Too many alternative practitioners, they say, are “uninterested in determining the safety and efficacy of their interventions.”

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