1.30.2015

Paying The Toll For Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric

The anti-vaccination movement has run a two-decade-long campaign of fear-mongering. It’s a well-funded campaign with a provocative narrative. They warn anyone who will listen that vaccines are dangerous, useless, and that they may cause autism. They spread propaganda originating from a fabricated 1998 study by ex-medical doctor Andrew Wakefield. It continues to be a difficult misinformation campaign to blunt. Wakefield’s proposed autism-vaccine link is now completely debunked, yet the anti-vaccine movement finds new reasons to fight vaccinations. The movement has responded with disdain to the mountain of evidence showing safety and efficacy. What began as fear surrounding autism has become a more generalized and less specific narrative. Whenever a specific objection has been disproven they change the argument, consistently, ideologically, skewing or even replacing the facts to fit their preferred narrative that vaccines and vaccination schedules are unnecessary and dangerous. Despite vitriolic rhetoric from the anti-vaccine community, the science clearly shows that vaccines are low risk and high reward—a consensus shared by the vast majority of medical and public health organizations. Now, a measles outbreak in the state of California presents a scenario that epidemiologists have feared for years: the decline of herd immunity and the return of vaccine-preventable diseases with all their fury.  / read more…

1.28.2015

Finally! Real Research On Curing Autism!

Temple_Grandin_at_TEDOK, not really. For those of us in the skeptic community, we understand Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a complex set of brain-based disorders that share some common traits but can vary greatly in severity. In many cases, autism isn’t necessarily something that needs a cure, but instead just requires training for both the autistic person and the people interacting with the autistic person. These traits often convey benefits in their different way of thinking. Famous examples of the immense benefit of seeing the world differently, and consequently leading to major scientific contributions, include Temple Grandin and Albert Einstein. [Note: Yes, I know Einstein wasn’t diagnosed, and it is just a hypothesis. I’m not arguing the details of that here.]

I also know many of us in the skeptic community are tired of having to repeat ourselves about the state of science regarding autism and vaccines, diets, contrails, detox, and just about every other nonsense “cure” that comes along every other week. So forgive me for needing to let off a little steam as I tackle yet another couple pieces of nonsense floating around social media. / read more…

1.21.2015

Those UFO Files

UFOYou may have already heard the news, however, in case you haven’t, a massive amount of US Government UFO files—from Projects Blue Book, Sign, and Grudge—has recently gone live on the web. Fox News has reported on the information, citing an article at MilitaryTimes.com/ read more…

1.20.2015

What the Swiss Franc Means for the Iraqi Dinar (Spoiler Alert: Nothing)

On January 15, Switzerland shocked the financial world by removing its self-imposed cap on the value of its currency, the Swiss franc. The cap had been put in place in 2011 to prevent the overvaluing of the franc against the Euro, as many foreign investors had been parking their money in Switzerland to avoid getting entangled with Europe’s debt crisis.

The reasons why Switzerland capped the exchange rate of its currency, then removed the cap, are complicated, and good explanations can be found on a variety of financial websites, written by people who understand this stuff much more than I do. But it boils down to bringing the franc back in line with its natural value / read more…

1.19.2015

Birch Water is the New Overpriced Woo Water

birchtreeSo just a week after I wrote an article on food woo trends of 2015, someone shared this link on my Twitter feed: a report from Good Morning America on birch water, the “new coconut water.” While I am one who enjoys a good birch beer now and then, I had never heard of drinking birch water before (or birch sap, as it’s probably more properly called). So of course I had to click through. I found the GMA segment to strike a surprisingly dubious tone on birch water.

Perhaps their producers saw, as I did, the high level of nonsense claims being made. A quick search of the Internet yielded many websites of questionable research, each one claiming that birch water is the next big thing that we should all be drinking. Like coconut water before it, the claims about birch water raise a lot of health woo red flags.

/ read more…

1.18.2015

The Mysterious Origins of Vaginal Steaming

Hey, gals. Ever worry about your yoni, that nasty, carcinogen-ridden creature that lives between your legs? I know I do. After all, that thing must be loaded with toxins. Well, I have good news. For only $75 you can steam your troubles away, along with those pesky toxins.

Don’t have time to go to the spa and your vagina is overflowing with radioactive sludge now? Purchase a home kit for $150. Or make your toilet into an impromptu health and relaxation station for the price a few varieties of herbs and a scalded butt cheek or two. / read more…

1.17.2015

Is Your Birth Control Contributing to the Spread of HIV?

Recent research about injectable long-acting hormone contraceptive suggests it may be increasing the risk of acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Research with scary compelling narratives always get media exposure. This research is no different. Science reporting has become a lost art, and it is no surprise that facts and meaning seem to be displaced by catchy headlines. Let’s take a close look at injectable hormonal contraceptives and the risk for developing HIV. How strong is this link, and how concerned should you be?

Injectable birth control (Depo Provera), with needle. Via Wikimedia.

/ read more…

2014 Predictions in Technology: Getting Better

Each year in January, I make a roundup of one particular set of predictions in technology. They are written by Mark Anderson from Strategic News Service. Over the years, I’ve come to realise he’s not a psychic (he doesn’t claim to be one), but that he seems to be a good listener and can connect the dots. Indeed, I assume from his writings that he interviews C-level executives of tech companies, and is able to catch whatever is buzzing in the industry. Coupled with some good guessing and vague wording, it is claimed he has a 94% success rate, according to Alley Watch.

/ read more…

1.14.2015

Was There a Ghost at Pocatello High School?

A video posted on December 19th of last year has been reported by several news outlets to show a ghost at Idaho’s Pocatello High School. Some of the most entertaining reports come from the New York Daily NewsInquisitr, and Q13, Seattle’s local Fox affiliate. The video was posted by on the YouTube channel of the school newspaper, The Chieftain. Finally, and they published an edited video report of the alleged ghost sighting. Let’s take a look! / read more…

1.9.2015

The Glyphosate Zombie… Again

The sad truth of reading my social media feeds is that I see at least one article a day on glyphosate. Glyphosate, aka RoundUp, is an over 40-year-old herbicide that has the advantage of being toxic to plants in low amounts while having a low toxicity in humans. Plants have been genetically modified to be resistant to the effects of glyphosate, so it can be applied to fields to control weeds while sparing the crops, which dramatically increases yields. However, because of its wide use, there are those that rally against it and do so with very little scientific basis.

An article came up on my social media feeds claiming hospitals are poisoning children with feeding tubes by feeding them PediaSure. Warning! Woo links ahead! The site and the original source claim a study was done that shows “high levels of glyphosate” in the drink due to the use of genetically modified (GM) crop products.  Let’s point out a few problems with these statements. / read more…