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

Lighthouse vs. aircraft carrier hoax resurfaces in Holland

A Canadian lighthouse. Travis D (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

This urban legend is so old and has so many variations that it’s gotten a Wikipedia page in five languages. Snopes.com traces the earliest and most primitive version back as far as 1931, and just like Wikipedia it mentions the more elaborate 1995 Canadian version as the most common. The basic story is that a marconist warns a ship, redirecting it a few degrees to avoid collision. The captain angrily and arrogantly replies he won’t change course, and the marconist should change his ship’s course. The latter then reveals he’s not on a ship himself, but in a lighthouse, and he’s telling the ship to steer clear from the coast. However, a recent video shows a more sinister story. (more…)

Sense and Nonsense about the Sign of the Cross

While spending his summer in Poland, someone brought an interesting article to Dutch physicist and skeptic Martin Bier’s attention. It has now been scientifically proven that making the sign of the cross over an amount of water significantly diminishes the amount of bacterial pathogens in that water. Is the making of the sign of the cross a matter of antibacterial hygiene just as much as it is a matter of piety? Bier decided to inquire…

Read article in English – Lees artikel in het Nederlands

Orgasm injections are rubbish, say Dutch skeptics

A sexual hype from America has crossed the Atlantic and is finding fertile ground in European countries such as the Netherlands. The so-called ‘orgasm injection’ is claimed to increase sexual excitement, deliver better orgasms, give women a tighter vagina and men a larger penis, prevent incontinence and solve erectile dysfunction. The first clinic on Dutch soil, Artz Medical in Rotterdam, is run by physician Olivier Groh, who says it ‘really works’. However, at €1000,- per treatment it’s not exactly cheap, and effects are said to last only temporary. Moreover, these amazing promises are not backed by any scientific evidence, according to many critical physicians and sexologists.

The Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Society against Quackery) is skeptical. “It makes no sense at all”, says Cees Renckens, a former gynaecologist and board member of the society. “It takes blood, tinkers a bit with it and then injects it back in. And that is supposed to make your penis longer and your vagina more flexible? It’s quackery, I’m convinced of that.”

Gynaecologist Cees Renckens (Vera de Kok CC-BY-SA 4.0)

He calls it ‘absolutely repulsive’ that the clinic is making boatloads of money off a treatment which hasn’t been demonstrated scientifically to work. “It’s a scandal that this man is still a GP. He should know better than to trick people out of their money with false hope. There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to sexual dysfunctions and complaints, those often involve complex problems. This treatment cannot be distinguished from fraud. The Health Care Inspectorate should take measures against the clinic.”

When inquired, the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate responded they are currently conducting an investigation into the practice.

Evil barcodes!

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier…. conspiracists are able to surprise you.

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In Germany, some companies have started printing a horizontal bar through the barcodes of their products. According to a group of conspiracists, barcodes are a kind of radiation antennas, and the number ‘666’ is hidden in it. Scanning the barcode would also bundle negative energy, and influence the product in question. There are videos on YouTube of people who, using dowsing rods, are trying to demonstrate how a barcode affects one’s aura. Since 2013, the Lammsbräu firm has been printing a horizontal bar through the barcode of its mineral water to ‘undisrupt’ the water.

Klaus Ross clinic deaths ‘due to bad regulations’

Klaus Ross’ now closed clinic. (Käthe und Bernd Limburg, www.limburg-bernd.de / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The alternative cancer treatment clinic of Klaus Ross in Bracht, Germany was recently closed after one Flemish and two Dutch cancer patients received fatal injections. Two Dutch women who were hospitalised are still recovering.

According to Menso Westerouen van Meeteren, former inspector at the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate and currently working for the Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Society against Quackery), this and similar incidents involving German Heilpraktiker (alternative healers) could have been prevented if Germany had put more rigorous regulations on alternative medicine. The Netherlands passed strict laws on healers three years ago, in the wake of the tragic death of famous actress Sylvia Millecam. ‘For example, since then, alternative therapists are obliged to inform their patients if there is a better regular treatment, and if the patient rejects that treatment, they are forced to break off contact.’

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Can calcium preparations cure allergies? No, Hungarian doctors say

In some European countries there is a common belief that calcium preparations have beneficial effect in curing allergic reactions of any origin. However there is no evidence-based data to justify this procedure. Now Hungarian doctor Dr. Hunor Novák – who is rather actively promoting evidence based medicine in wide range of media – launched an petition on his Facebook page against using calcium for these conditions. Many well known doctors and researchers joined so there is a good chance that this old will disappear soon in Hungary.

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Swiss Skeptics Discussion Paper on CAM

The Swiss skeptics have published their second discussion paper about CAM: “Evidence-based vs. complementary and alternative medicine: It’s about epistemology (not about evidence)”. In the document they present the argument that the problem with CAM is not a lack of evidence – but the defective epistemology of CAM.

Alternative healer Brian Clement’s venue has been cancelled in Stockholm

This June/July, American alternative cancer healer Brian Clement is touring Europe to give talks about how cancer can be cured with diet and various other things. His venue has cancelled the booking in Stockholm after a major Swedish news paper today posted an article: “Allegedly fraudulent health speaker stopped”.