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


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.

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.

Rolf Luneng´s medical license still withheld

Doctor Rolf Luneng lost his medical license in 2013. The norwegian health directory found his treatment of lyme disease unsatisfactory. Rolf Luneng ran his own center of lyme disease.

Luneng´s treatment consisted largely of great doses of antibiotics, and he claimed that 70% of his patients got well, or better.

The local neurological ward, and other general practitioners voiced concerns over Luneng´s methods after a patient developed liver failure and other complications.

Rolf Luneng still has the right to an appeal.

Dutch vet society wins quack award

Logo of the Royal Dutch Society for Veterinary Medicine.

Last Saturday, the Dutch Society against Quackery (Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij, VtdK) has given the Master Quack Award (Meester Kackadorisprijs) to the Royal Dutch Society for Veterinary Medicine (KNMvD). Out of five nominees, the july ruled that the vet society promoted quackery in the Netherlands the most last year.

It had given the non-accredited Study Group for Complementarily Operating Vets (SCwD) too much room to practice freely, ‘shamelessly’ granting it a seemingly official status, on top of the fact that the SCwD makes ‘unjustified health claims’. According to the jury, Utrecht University’s Faculty for Veterinary Medicine, that offers the only accredited training for veterinary surgeons in the country, has – unlike the KNMvD – always clearly rejected alternative medicine as unscientific.

KNMvD president Dirk Willink was personally present to receive the ironic award, which he did ‘not regard as a reprimand, but as an open invitation to begin a discussion with people who think differently’. He opined that there is much science doesn’t know yet, and there should be tolerance for alternative therapies, even if it is unknown if they even work, and if so, how. Piet Borst, a renowned Dutch skeptical physician, urged Willink to check whether the KNMvD was correctly applying a 2008 Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) guideline, that rules that ‘physicians may only practice irregular treatments under strict conditions’; Willink promised they would.