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


Doctors campaign against ineffective mainstream medical procedures

Skeptics in the UK rightly campaign against money being wasted by the National Health Service on alternative medicine.  But it seems that much more money is being spent on ineffective treatments and procedures that come from within mainstream medicine. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) has announced that dozens of treatments for ailments ranging from small wounds to cancer make little or no difference compared with no treatment at all, while also potentially incurring side effects. The organisation, which represents 22 royal medical colleges, has called for doctors to think more carefully and critically before they prescribe the treatments, warning that ‘more doesn’t always mean better’. The AMRC has previously estimated that up to £2bn per year may be wasted on pointless treatments.

Skeptics’ Mass Suicide Attempt

Skeptics in several European cities have taken homeopathic overdoses today to show there’s nothing in it. Despite the lack of any active ingredients, manufacturers and homeopaths claim it becomes dangerous if the prescribed dosage of a homeopathically diluted and shaken remedy is consumed several times. But that’s a myth, the skeptics say, which they’ve gone to prove today.

The events are the latest edition of the 10:23 Campaign, first held by SKEPP in Ghent, Belgium in 2004. In 2010, the event was reinvented by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and first named 10:23 after Avogadro’s number, in several British cities. In 2011, the campaign expanded to a worldwide protest against homeopathy, with people on all seven continents (yes, that includes Antarctica) across 30 countries in 70 cities, with at least 30 participants per city attempting to commit homeopathic suicide.

This video (German) was recorded by the GWUP skeptics in Hamburg, Germany. Simultaneous events happened in Prague (about 100 participants) and other Czech cities (Brno, Ostrava) and in Bratislava (about 60 participants), Slovakia. Everyone survived, just like in previous years.
An interview with the Czech Skeptics’ Club Sisyfos chairman Leoš Kyša can be read here (Czech).
This year’s event in the Prague took place in front of the Czech Ministry of Health.
Apart from the usual skeptic crowd, the event welcomed members of the Atheist of the Czech Republic, including their chairman Petr Tomek.

Other interesting participants were the three pro-homeopathy demonstrators, who were disgusted with the whole lot, and left soon after they found out none of the media – TV stations and newspeople – paid them any attention. Pets, cats and dogs, could have been spotted in the crowd, being given homeopathic remedies by their owners.

To make things a little more interesting, the Prague skeptics demonstrated the making of a homeopathic remedy, using rum as the original substance to be diluted.
In the end, even small children, participating in the even with their parents, were allowed to drink the homeopathic rum.
Outrageous?! Why? There’s nothing in it.

More photos: Lidovky

Article photos credits: Vendy



Keshe foundation claims to heal cancer

Keshe foundations claims to heal cancer in an interview with local newspaper “Itromsø“.

The foundation claims to have made a machine that uses “plasma” to balance the body and therefore cure cancer. The interview was held in a local alternative fair and Keshe foundation had a stand at this fair.

In Norway, such claims are forbidden by law, and norwegian consumer authorities will investigate the foundation.

The people behind the foundation are also associated with the Magrav Power Plasma generator which claims to provide free energy and the norwegian alternative website “nyhetsspeilet”.

One can suspect that the claims are a calculated risk, because the norwegian laws are quite clear regarding such claims, but the penalty is not very severe.


Telepathy: CICAP performs tests on two Italian women the newspapers claimed to have telepathic powers.

In north Italy, Massimo Polidoro and Luigi Garlaschelli have conducted tests with two women, mother and daughter, that some newspapers had called “telepathic”.

Newspapers were reporting an extraordinary rate of success (an average of 25 correct cards guessed out of 25 attempts). It was therefore important to verify the validity of tests.

Tests performed by CICAP have shown that, by adjusting the conditions to eliminate any chance of sending visual or sound signals, the rate of correct guesses dropped to the expected average for random guesses.

The monthly magazine Focus has published an article with an account of the test carried out by CICAP on the two women in recent weeks.

If you trust Facebook more than Wikipedia…

Freemasonry symbol.

A conversation between German pupils (translated by Leon Korteweg).

Apparently, René has a school assignment to write about freemasonry, but he is a bit lazy, so he asks his Facebook friends.

René: “Can anyone say something about the Freemasons? What they are what they do etc”
Christine: “How about checking Wikipedia?”
René: “Thanks Mrs Clever but [the teacher] said we couldn’t copy from Wikipedia.”
Jan: “Then read it through and summarise it.”
René: “Nah too much text, I already got bored at the first sentence.”
Jan: “Ok then I won’t be like that for once. Freemasons are former East Germans that we’ve got the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall to thank for. Namely, they tore down the Wall with hammer and sickle. Hence the name Freemasons [Freimaurer, lit. ‘Free-Wallers’]. Today, they are a kind of secret society. In the winter, they live in the mountains and dig for Christmas bread, in the summer they bend bananas straight to conform to EU standards.”
René: “Wtf? Would you be angry if I would just copypaste this from you?”
Jan: “Oh no, not at all. Don’t worry.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung (South German Times) got hold of this conversation, where Jan successfully jokingly fooled René, who ignored Christine’s and Jan’s rather good idea to read Wikipedia for basic –and generally reliable– information. The Zeitung comments: ‘We couldn’t have explained it better’, referring to Jan’s fictional summary of freemasonry.

Skeptics in the pub, Bergen

We are happy to see that Skeptics in the pub has been started in Bergen.

If you are visiting Bergen and wish to meet fellow skeptics, click the link and see if something is happening, or send a message

Half of health research reaches public

Norwegian psychologist and scientis Jan Ola Hesselberg claims in this article that half of all health research does not get published.

The problem stems from publication bias and sees researchers only publishing positive reports or surprising findings. The norwegian foundation Extrastiftelsen works together with 18 norwegian health organisations to sign the petition alltrials.

Hopefully this will start a trend where research generally and health research especially is registered and will show more than clickbait headlines.

Severe hypercalcaemia in a child due to alternative medicine

Police were called to investigate a naturopath who had advised the family of a 4-year-old boy to give their son a combination of 12 different supplements and ‘natural therapies’ including calcium, vitamin D, camel milk and zinc. The boy had been vomiting and constipated for three weeks and lost 6lb (3kg) in weight before he was taken to accident and emergency and diagnosed with severe hypercalcaemia – very high calcium levels in his blood. Writing in the British Medical Journal’s Case Reports, doctors from Barts Health NHS Trust in London said, “Many families view these therapies as safer ‘natural’ options. But as this case demonstrates, there can be significant adverse effects which may go unrecognised due to lack of monitoring, recognition and experience with these therapies.”

The boy made a full recovery two weeks later.

And the Golden Board 2016 goes to…!

The German-speaking skeptical society GWUP nominated three people/institutions for “the most bizarre, most outrageous, brashest pseudoscientific nonsense contribution” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland of 2016: Ryke Geerd Hamer (founder of the dangerous Germanische Neue Medizin), Roland Düringer (comedian turned politician who spreads lots of conspiracy theories) and Krebszentrum Brüggen-Bracht (alternative cancer clinic of Heilpraktiker Klaus Ross). The award is called the ‘Golden Board in Front of the Face’, to rebuke purveyors of pseudoscience who don’t see the harm they’re doing.

The award ceremony was held on 11 October in Vienna, co-organised by the Viennese regional GWUP group Society for Critical Thinking (Gesellschaft für kritisches Denken) and the Freethinkers League of Austria (Freidenkerbund Österreich). A side-event was held in Hamburg Skeptics in the Pub with a livestream of the Viennese ceremony.