Prof. Hans Rosling dies at the age of 68

Swedish professor Hans Rosling has died on 7 February 2017, a year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 68 years old.

Hans Rosling

Professor Rosling made a name for himself internationally as an outspoken promotor of a factual approach to looking at the state of the world. Celebrated by the Swedish and international public for his dedication to demonstrate how the public world view is often inaccurate, Prof. Rosling was highly regarded by the skeptical movement, among other things giving a superb talk at the European Skeptics Congress 2013 in Stockholm, as well as several TED talks.

Prof. Hans Rosling received the award “Enlightener of the Year” 2006 by the Swedish Skeptics Association (VoF).

Over the last couple of years he continued to work relentlessly to show the true facts about the immigration crises in Europe among other things, and during the Ebola epidemic 2015 he personally flew down to Liberia and spent several months there helping out as a volonteer, while constantly keeping the public at large informed of the extent of the disaster. Often controversial in his approach, he resented the focus on him as a person while insisting that the facts are what is important.

Swedish Skeptics announce the awards for 2016

The Swedish Skeptics Association (aka Vetenskap och Folkbildning, or VoF) has awarded science editor Maria Gunther and medical journalist Amina Manzoor of the science editorial at DN (Dagens Nyheter) with the prize Enlightener of the Year 2016 (DN is the largest morning paper in Sweden). The Swedish Skeptics Association hereby wants to emphasize the importance of leading media understanding the value of maintaining a permanent and accurate reporting of current scientific research.

Says Dan Katz, Press Officer at VoF: “It is imperative that the established media helps the public to navigate the arbitrary flow of information which bombards us all on-line. In this turmoil the science editorial of DN are shining like beacon of facts in the dark.”

The award for Obscurantist of the Year 2016 goes to former head of Karolinska Institutet (KI), Anders Hamsten, together with others in the management of KI who helped to cover up the fraudulent research performed by surgeon Paolo Macchiarini.

Says Peter Olausson, acting president of VoF: “It is particularly severe that the management totally disregarded the investigation that pointed out what had happened. It is a mockery of the patients concerned and of all serious science researchers who cannot, and will not, compromise ethics and good science.”

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.

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…)

Swedish antroposophical clinic to cut staff

The Swedish only antroposophical clinic “Vidarkliniken” has announced plans to lay off up to 17 out of 100 employees. Vidarkliniken is the only clinic or hospital in Sweden that has permission to use antroposophical “medicine” as a complement to evidence based treatments. The Swedish government decided in July to phase out this permission over five years.

The news of cutting staff also follows the clinic having received scathing criticism after an audit pointed out severe problems with documenting patient records and failure to advocate conventional medicine to patients. This in turn led to the clinic recently losing three important public contracts, which is cited as the direct reason for the cut back.