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’.

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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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).

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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.