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

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The universe in one minute

This series of short, informative videos go into a wide range of topics such as “What’s the Milky Way like?”, “How did the continents form?” or “What use is cloning?” among many others. Each video is complimented by free teaching material and distributed under a creative commons licence making them available to all.

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Blasphemy laws repealed in Denmark

On June 2, the Danish parliament (“Folketinget”) repealed the 334 year old blasphemy law.

The debates about repeal where among other things shadowed by the Muhammad cartoons controversy in 2005, and also came to the rescue for one individual who in December 2015 published a video on-line showing the burning of a copy of the Quran. These charges were now dropped due to the change in legislation.

Promotion of alternative medicine by charities

The UK’s National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) ‘has urged the Charity Commission to improve its registration processes as part of its response to the consultation on charities providing complementary and alternative medicines’. The Charity Commission’s consultation closed earlier this month ‘with the regulator receiving more than 300 responses. It plans to set out a revised approach to registration in the autumn. This could result in the removal of hundreds of charities and was prompted by the Good Thinking Society, which is a charity set up to promote scientific thinking’.

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).