News headlines from Europe about skeptical activism, mythbusting, science related policy decisions, consumer protection, frauds, health scams, alternative medicine, bad scientific practices, pseudoscience etc.

Quack scandal in Swedish Public Health Service

A psychologist employed by the Swedish Public Health Service has privately offered and sold healing treatments to patients who she was treating in the public clinic. The treatments have been following the teachings of “Access Consciousness”, a sect-like movement founded in the eighties by a former Scientology member called Gary Douglas.

The situation was revealed on 7 December by an investigative journalist in the TV program “SVT Dold” (SVT Hidden) at SVT, the Swedish public service broadcasting company.

The Swedish Skeptics Association (aka VoF) published a highly critical debate article on 8 December (http://www.svt.se/opinion/vof-om-sekter), explaining how important it is that the Swedish Health services take every step to not expose patients to quackery, and that they have to ensure that dangerous sects and other scams are kept out of public health care.

Debate: What Role Should Nuclear Power Have in Mitigating Climate Change?

Skepsis ry from Finland is organizing a debate titled: What Role Should Nuclear Power Have in Mitigating Climate Change? Should The World Build More Nuclear Power or Not?

Speakers of the debate are Rauli Partanen, an independent science writer and energy-analyst for the Ecomodernist Society of Finland and professor Jouko Korppi-Tommola, the founder and director of the centre for renewable energy at the University of Jyväskylä.

The debate will be held at the House of Sciences in Helsinki, first wednesday of December (7.12.2016) at 18:00. Entry is free, and everyone is welcome.

Non-GMO GMO news

Activists in France destroyed a farm of non-GMO plant that was most probably created using mutation breeding. This technology is used since the 30th and some of the plants and plants created this way had not been the target of anti-GMO activists so far. Those had even been used in organic farming and product created from them had been sold as “natural” or “organic”. See for example here: Delicious mutant foods: Mutagenesis and the genetic modification controversy

Anti GMO activists now widen the definition of the enemy into such a scale that would practically include all plants and animals – including us.

English translation of the French news: Activists destroy conventional rapeseed (canola) fields in France, claiming they are GMOs

Lack of evidence to support ‘add-on’ fertility treatments

Many claims made by UK fertility clinics about the benefits of treatments that are offered in addition to standard IVF procedures are not backed up by evidence according to a study published in the online journal BMJ Open.  The findings were featured in a Panorama undercover investigation broadcast on 28.11.16 on BBC One television.

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Society of Homeopaths and advertising

In the UK, advertisements thought to be misleading may be reported to the Advertising Standards Agency.  The ASA will investigate them and may instruct that the advert must be amended or withdrawn.   ‘The Society of Homeopaths seemed to be taking responsible action to curb the claims of their members. But what’s been going on behind the scenes?’  The Nightingale Collaboration investigates.

Skeptics in Russia hold 3rd Skepticon

This weekend, the Russian-speaking Skeptic Society (Общество скептиков, Óbščestvo skeptikov) holds its 3rd Skepticon (Скептикон) in Moscow. Based on the number of tickets sold, about 350 attendees have joined the conference, which centres around Health Myths this year.

      Speakers are:
Alexander Sergeyev.
          • Alexander Sergeyev, science journalist and member of the Commission to Fight Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research, on ‘Pseudoscience under the guise of fighting against pseudoscience’.
          • Vasily Vlasov, MD, professor of School of Economics, editor of several scientific medical journals, on ‘Myths about evidence-based medicine’.
          • Natalia Zakharova, psychiatrist, PhD, at the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology of the Russian National Research Medical University, on ‘Recovery from depression’.
          • Sergey Velkov, chemical engineer and blogger, on ‘Placebos without deception’.
          • Anton Zakharov, psychologist and populariser of science, on ‘Genetics of sex’.
14264120_1141047562640986_4605935236252775202_n
Elena Rydkina.
        • Elena Rydkina, sex education
          author and co-founder of the Sexprosvet18+
          conferences, on ‘Myths about sexuality’.
        • Alexey Payevsky, science journalist and editor-in-chief of the portal Neuron, on ‘What we have learned about the brain in the last half century?’
        • Katya Zvereva, co-founder and coordinator of Obscestvo skeptikov, on ‘But it works for me!’ Logical fallacies in defence of alt med.
        • Boris Tsatsulin, author and presenter of videoblog CMT. Scientific approach, on ‘The benefits and dangers of vitamins’.
        • Alisa Kuznetsova, good cop in the Prize named after Harry Houdini, and massage therapist, on ‘Alternative Medicine: Insights’.

          TIm Skorenko.
        • Tim Skorenko, editor of the magazine Популярная механика (Popular Mechanics) and the website popmech.ru, on ‘Technical quackery: bio proofreaders, the healing power of the Egyptian techniques and other amazing devices’.
        • Konstantin Kunakh, practicing psychologist-consultant, on ‘Psychotherapy: Can something that has not been proven scientifically actually work?’
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Skeptican 2016 programme in Russian.
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Death from acupuncture

Norway´s national broadcaster NRK this week featured a case about a death related to acupuncture.

In February of 2015 a man died of infection shortly after visiting an acupuncture clinic. He had been there for treatment many times before, as this was a training clinic for new acupuncturists.

This time the student inserted the needle, discovered that the needle was placed wrong and proceeded to extract the needle before reinserting the same needle.

Four days after the treatment, the man fell ill. He was quickly committed to hospital, where the doctors could conclude that he had a blood infection. In the following four days he gained 20 kg from swelling and after 2 cardiac arrests his body could tolerate no more.

Eight days after the acupuncture treatment he was dead and his wife of 15 years marriage left a widow.

The autopsy never clearly stated that the death was caused by acupuncture, but no other reason for the rapid blood infection was found.

Why fact-checking news reports is important

Viralgranskaren (‘The Viral Monitor’) is a standing column of the Swedish branch of the international freesheet newspaper Metro (that is also originally from Sweden). They specialise in finding out whether viral videos and stories are actually true, and encourage people to fact-check before sharing something on social media.

On 18 November 2016, they created both a Swedish and an English version of a video explaining why fact-checking news reports is important.

The example they give is of a story that went viral in late October 2016. It was based on a real news article from Sveriges Television (SVT). However, xenophobic conspiracy right-wing websites, blogs, shock-logs etc., especially outside Sweden (e.g. Infowars), seized upon the article – that didn’t even mention Islam, Muslims or refugees – to claim that decorative Christmas lights were ‘banned to avoid offending Muslim migrants’. (more…)

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Official statement issued by the Hungarian Skeptic Society reflecting on an anti GMO article

HSS press release

Head of the Department of Ecotoxicology of Agro-Enviromental Research Institute (AERI) Béla Darvas recently wrote an article on Átlátszó.hu – a Hungarian watchdog portal – discussing GM organisms. In his piece, Darvas – a prominent anti-GMO advocate – refers specifically to the Hungarian Skeptic Society (HSS) and various scientists as promoters of GMOs, claiming that for these “pro-GMO” organizations and individuals “GMO is beyond any scientific criticism and is the only viable way, providing the perfect solution”. Apart from the logical fallacies applied, including that of a straw man argument, there are several elements of his claims that should not be left unanswered. Thus, yesterday, the board of the Hungarian Skeptic Society issued a statement with regards to these claims. (more…)