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

CICAP-FEST2017 events and registration

The agenda of the first edition of CICAP-FEST is finally online, and registrations are now open.
The event will take place in Cesena from September 29 to October 01, 2017.

CICAP-FEST is a new national and international event for the promotion of the understanding of science. The event, along with some of the most prominent players in research, public understanding of science, and entertainment, focuses on current issues such as fake-news, pseudosciences, hoaxes and scientific disinformation, while at the same it puts on stage some authentic wonders, research, science and art, to generate genuine amazement.

Three days of events dedicated to adults, students and children will make Cesena the “capital” city of critical thinking and curiosity for a full weekend.

75 speakers will be on stage, including Piero Angela, Silvio Garattini, Antonella Viola, Enrico Mentana, Giacomo Rizzolatti, Marco Malvaldi and many others, as well as artists such as Silvan, Banda Osiris and Raul Cremona. Over 100 events that will include meetings, debates, performances, shows, reading, workshops, exhibitions, surprises and wonders of all kinds.

The CICAP-FEST, which for this first edition has the title “The Value of Facts in the Age of Post-Truth”, is a show dedicated to all curious people and all those who love science and are fascinated by the unusual and wondrous. A new way to stimulate curiosity through science, art, music and performances.

UK Foreign Secretary’s false claims

With a general election campaign raging, the British public are having to put up with more than the usual level of dishonesty from their politicians. Following a recent radio interview of UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘More or Less’ had a close look at some of his extraordinary statistical claims. Noteworthy was his boasting that that when he was London’s mayor it was ‘the fourth biggest French city in the world’ on account of their being 400,000 French residents there. There were actually 90,000 which wouldn’t put London in the top 40. Questionable also was his claim that ‘Of all the kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers in the world, 1 in 7 were educated at British universities’ and this is of ‘enormous practical economic value to the UK’. In reality the figure is about 1 in 9 and includes only 3 of the 50 most populous countries of the world, the largest being Iran. Other countries include Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe) and Syria (Bashar al-Assad). The programme can still be heard at the link provided.

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Science facing up to religious beliefs

On the 4th of May at the University of Granada, the biochemist Juan Antonio Mochón, will be giving the talk “Science facing up to religious beliefs” as part of the monthly series of talks Knowledge, rationality and secularism that is running till June of this year.

The talk will be followed by a discussion among the attendees.

Romania taking a stand against anti-vaccination with a new law

In recent years, Romania’s vaccination rates for MMR have dropped dramatically. The causes for this are multifactorial, however, one of the main reasons is parents refusing vaccinations under the influence of antivaccine propaganda. Other issues include lack of access to medical services and lack of vaccines (though not relevant for MMR)

As a consequence, a measles epidemic has broken out in 2016 and last week it reached almost 5000 cases. There have also been 21 deaths, all of them in unvaccinated children.

Following multiple years of work, the Health Ministry has now proposed a new Vaccination Law which tries to cover multiple issues facing the country.

The law would make vaccination mandatory for school access, it would guarantee that the Ministry of Health buys sufficient doses of vaccines for 1 year of stock and it would also compensate in cases of vaccine injury. It also creates commissions where those that refuse vaccinations could go and discuss their decision with medical doctors.

The law is currently in the public debate part of the process, it will then follow the parliamentary course of review and vote before being signed into law by the president.

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NHS England boss slams spending on homeopathy

Responding to concerns that NHS England’s plans to stop prescribing some medicines as part of cost-cutting measures, but still spends £4 million on homeopathic medicine, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 31.3.17 that homeopathic medicine is ‘placebo at best’ and it is ‘absurd’ for doctors to prescribe it. The online recording of the interview is available for the next month on Radio 4’s website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08k1b4s).

Talk in Malaga about CRISPR

On the 1st April 2017, at the University of Malaga, the researcher Enrique Viguera will give a talk about the gene editing technique CRISPR under the title “Is the limit in ethics?

This is part of a series of talks called UCIENCIA that are aimed at the general public and, in this case, is timed to coincide with the annual general meeting of ARP-Sociedad para el Avance del Pensamiento Critico (Spanish Skeptics).

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Princess Anne backs GM crops

Princess Anne has said genetically-modified crops have important benefits for providing food and she would be open to growing them on her own land. She told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today “we have to accept” the process could help production and livestock health. Her brother, the Prince of Wales, has previously warned GM crops could cause an environmental disaster. But Princess Anne said: “To say we mustn’t go there ‘just in case’ is probably not a practical argument.”

“Learning styles” under attack

Teaching children according to their individual “learning style” does not achieve better results and should be ditched by schools in favour of evidence-based practice, according to leading scientists. Thirty eminent academics from the worlds of neuroscience, education and psychology have signed a letter to the Guardian voicing their concern about the popularity of the learning style approach among some teachers. They say it is ineffective, a waste of resources and potentially even damaging as it can lead to a fixed approach that could impair pupils’ potential to apply or adapt themselves to different ways of learning.

 

MEDICAMENTALIA –Vaccine information

The CIVIO Foundation, an organization dedicated to data transparency as a means to strengthen democracy, has produced a highly detailed and accessible web page with quality information about vaccination called MEDICAMENTALIA.

Available in both Spanish and English this is a great resource available to everyone.