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

New leadership of the Hungarian Skeptic Society

Over the weekend, a new board has been elected to lead the Hungarian Skeptic Society (HSS) in the next 5 years. Gábor Hraskó, who was also chair of ECSO between 2013 and 2017, has headed the organisation since 2009, but he decided not to run again this time. András Gábor Pintér has been elected as his successor as the chair of the association.
András has been very active in the international skeptic movement, both as the initiator, producer and co-host of the award-winning European Skeptics Podcast and a board member of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO) since 2017.

Other newly elected board members of the HSS are police officer Laura Csécsi, IT-specialist Dániel Péterfi and plant biologist/biotechnology expert János Györgyey.

Date: 23rd November 2020

Countries:
Original news: link

Thermographic imaging: a risk to cancer patients

Via: The Skeptic

By: Dr. Alice Howarth

Recently, across Europe we have seen a rise in alternative health practitioners promoting thermographic imaging as an alternative to conventional cancer screening techniques such as X-rays and mammograms. 

Dr Alice Howarth, a PhD cancer researcher from the University of Liverpool and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society explains what thermography is, and whether the claims made for its effectiveness are backed up by evidence.

What is thermographic imaging?

Thermographic imaging is the detection of “hot spots” using infrared thermographic technology. Infrared is emitted by all objects that are above absolute zero (-273°C) in temperature. Thermography cameras detect the intensity of that radiation in order to identify variations in heat. They are used to detect the bodies of humans and animals at night by the military and wildlife researchers. 

Thermography has been applied in the detection of cancer since the late 1950s when it was first proposed to detect breast cancer. 

What is the mechanism for thermography in cancer?

 When a tumour grows in the body, it requires a supply of nutrients in order for the tumour to survive and grow. In order to bring oxygen and nutrients inside the tumour, the tumour generates its own blood vessels. This process creates heat; therefore, it has been suggested that “active” (growing) tumours can be detected as “hot spots” in the body using thermal imaging. 

Does thermography work?

Thermography can detect heat. Tumours are sometimes warmer than the surrounding tissue. Therefore, sometimes thermography can detect a tumour. However, thermography cannot say that a “hot spot” is hot because it is cancer. Nor can it detect a tumour that is not hot. So in many cases thermography will “diagnose” a cancer that isn’t really cancer – this is called a false positive. Thermography can also frequently miss the detection of a cancer – this is called a false negative. It is for this reason that thermography is not recommended as an adequate test for cancer. 

False positives and false negatives are so common with thermography, that many medical experts and bodies do not recommend them for use in isolation when detecting cancer. The UK’s National Health Service do not provide thermography for the detection of cancer. 

In 2017 the FDA published an update stating that thermography was not a substitute for mammography. They stated that “thermography has not been shown to be effective as a standalone test for either breast cancer screening or diagnosis in detecting early stage breast cancer”. 

In 2019 the FDA warned that “Thermography Should Not Be Used in Place of Mammography to Detect, Diagnose, or Screen for Breast Cancer”. The CDC does not recommend thermography for breast cancer screening. 

Who uses thermography?

Thermal imaging might be valuable for the detection of other health concerns and is even being used to detect fevers in patients with symptoms of COVID-19. However no reliable medical body uses thermography for the detection of cancer. Proponents of thermal imaging for the detection and diagnosis of cancer is only recommended by alternative practitioners. 

Alternative practitioners might recommend thermography because it is non-invasive and it does not use any sort of radiation, nor is it as uncomfortable as mammograms can be. However, thermography cannot accurately detect or diagnose cancer and should not be used in place of mammography.  

Is thermography safer than mammography?

Some proponents of thermography claim that it is safer than mammography. They claim that because the breast tissue is “squashed” in order to take a mammogram, a tumour might be damaged and therefore be more likely to spread around the body. There is no evidence that tumours can be damaged in this way, or that any damage can lead to spreading of the tumour. 

Mammography has been used safely since the 1930s with the compression technique added in the 1950s. The method uses low levels of x-ray radiation to detect tumours in the breast tissue. 

There is no evidence of harm in patients with breast tumours and no evidence to support the claim that mammograms increase the risk of the cancer spreading. 

Date: 13th November 2020

Original news: link

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In Memoriam of The Amaz!ng Randi

On October 20th, 2020, we all had to say a final Good-Bye to James Randi, one of the most influential personalities of our skeptical movement, the creator of the modern One Million Challenge, the communicator of the scientific method and the uncoverer of frauds.

The Amaz!ng Randi touched the lives of many skeptics, for some, he was the eye-opener, the one to put them on the skeptic track, for others, he was the powerhouse that kept them on their skeptic toes. For us all, he was a legend.

Here are the wonderful stories and memories we have of him:

He has inspired me since I was 16. Seeing him live in 2010 in London, interviewing him for the ESP and meeting him in person in 2017 were among the highlights of my skeptical activism. He was truly Amaz!ng!

 

 

 

Claire Klingenberg, ECSO, Czech Skeptics
The first time I met him was in 2016 in Las Vegas. He seemed larger than life! He was a hero I will never regret meeting. Randi truly was, and still is, with his questioning eyebrow, the spirit of skepticism.

Pontus Böckman, The European Skeptics Podcast, Swedish Skeptics
I had the great privilege and luck to meet up with Randi on his final trip to Europe. It was during the European Skeptics Congress in Poland 2017 and he couldn’t have been more generous with his time. He showed sincere interest in my opinions, freely shared his own, joked around and even performed some magic tricks just for me, personally. This selfie is with Jelena Levin and myself just after he made a napkin disappear right in front of my eyes. I consider myself so lucky for having met him. A true legend of our time.

Per Johan Råsmark, Mentalist, Swedish Skeptics
No, James Randi was not my hero, I simply do not have heros. But I do think he did some amazing things for the sceptical movement. (Of course “amazing”.) That said I realise that few people have had more of an impact on my life. When I began taking an interest in critical thinking Randi was one of the big stars and I enjoyed his debunking of paranormal claims. At a moment in my life when I had too much time on my hands (I was just doing a Ph.D.) and had a sufficient amount of money I went to The Amazing Meeting 2 in Las Vegas. A conference for sceptics and arranged by the JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation). I just thought it might be fun. At that conference I met some of the most wonderful people that I am happy to be able to call my friends. I did get to speak to Randi himself since he was very accessible at the conference. There were only a small number of us, perhaps 200-250. Without Randi I would not have ventured to Vegas, and never met all those then new, and now old, friends. Without Randi I would not have met those other people as well, the liars and cheats that made me so frustrated. People who challenged my idea of how the world works. That was when I picked up some books from a Las Vegas magic store. The amount of books have grown and I am even known to perform things from them now and again. During my time as a post doc in Prague I had an opportunity to frequent some magic clubs because of my new interest, I got to know people in the magic community and I got even more friends, also thanks to Randi but in a round about way. I did also go to the meetings of the Czech sceptics and tried to understand as much as possible (Czech is a weird language), but I might have done that even without Randi’s influence on my life. So thanks to Randi I have sceptic friends all over the world, and magic friends all over the world and a very weird life involved in both these communities, instead of doing some well paid research somewhere. Among the many voices praising the man and his work today there will be some trying to tear him down. James Randi was human, he was not perfect and some people seem unable to understand that a person need not be perfect to deserve respect, fame, and even praise. There may also be some made up allegations from a certain litigious individual. Those few voices are drowned by those who were influenced by him, or the person they saw on stage, in a positive way. He was absolutely a showman and knew how to get publicity but his great-psychic-investigator-persona never felt out of tune, it was him, an exaggerated version of him, but still him. I think that his humanity is well represented in what I consider the most important advice I associate with him. I phrase it thus since I do not think he was the first to give it and I cannot say why I associate it with him I think it comes from an interview with Penn Jillette. It does not have anything to do with science or scepticism, nor with magical effects. It’s a piece of advice that anyone who stands on a stage should bear in mind, always stay after the show for the fans; it is because of them that you are on stage, they are the most important part of the show, not you.

Michael Heap, Psychologist, ASKE
This one was taken in London in 2002 when Randi came to record a BBC Horizon programme reporting a non-clinical test of homeopathy involving the combined efforts of five medical centres. Had the test been successful his organisation would have paid a million dollars to the researchers. They didn’t have to. On the night the photo was taken he was due to give a lecture either at Oxford or Cambridge Uni (can’t recall which) but they cancelled it at the last minute (they discovered he was not an academic). I was able to book a lecture room at UCL which, despite the short notice, was packed. A few of us went to a restaurant afterwards (see photo) and he entertained us with lots of magic tricks.
He was a real gentleman and had an extraordinary life.

Paola De Gobbi, CICAPItalian Skeptics
“She’ll miss me!” We will all miss you…  ♡
I have a photo of the first event in which I’ve known him better. It was taken at the World Skeptic Congress in Italy (a huge work to organize it, and the days I became one of the thirteen effective members of CICAP). We were in the end after people went away. I was really tired and happy, sitting on a table. He comes close to me and said to Massimo, “she will miss me!” and Alejandro Borgo took the shot, it is so tender his smile… 🙂

Kirill Alferov (Louigi Verona), founder of a Russian-speaking Skeptics Society
I first met Randi at TAM 2014. He immediately insisted that I speak at one of the workshops and tell people about the situation in Russia. So, imagine the honor of not only having visited TAM, but also having participated in one!
And later that day we were showing magic tricks to each other, and people gathered around… It was such a memorable day. When I was no longer involved in skeptical activism and living in Berlin, I heard that there is a 2017 European Skeptics’ Congress in Poland. I realized that this could be my last chance to see Randi and I went there. It was a wonderful time, more magic tricks, and I also connected with many European skeptics. Randi was an incredible magician and entertainer. But what he also added to the skeptical movement was his genuine concern for victims of pseudoscience. He wasn’t in it for laughs or arguments, he really cared. And it showed in everything he said and did. He was a huge influence on me and he will be greatly missed.

First worldwide manifesto against pseudosciences in health

A group of 2750 international experts from 44 countries have signed a manifesto against pseudotherapies.

The manifesto was organized with the help of people who belong to more than thirty worldwide scientific or skeptical associations from more than twenty countries. The organizations who help to coordinate the manifesto are:
• Association to Protect the Sick of Pseudoscientific Therapies: APETP – Spain
• Association of Pharmacists in Favor of Scientific Evidence – Spain
• Collectif Fakemed – France
• Comunidade Céptica Portuguesa: COMCEPT – Portugal
• Good Thinking Society – United Kingdom
• Red UNE – Spain
• Society for the Advancement of Critical Thinking: ARP-SAPC– Spain
• Skeptical Circle of Spain – Spain
• Healthwatch United – Kingdom
• Skeptica – Denmark
• Vetenskap och Folkbildning (VoF) – Sweden

The complete manifesto can be viewed here:
First worldwide manifesto against pseudosciences in health

For more information or to get in touch with some of the organizers worldwide, you can contact with Fernando Cervera Rodríguez at: fernando.cervera.87@gmail.com

Date: 19th October 2020

Countries:
Original news: link

Coronavirus: CICAP asks news media to fact-check and to be responsible

by Andrea Ferrero

The emergency caused by the spread Covid-19 is putting a strain on our health system and demands everyone’s collaboration to limit undesirable consequences.

CICAP, in accordance with its mandate, focuses on the role of information, which now more than ever has to be both clear and accurate. In recent days the dissemination of non fact-checked news, which then proved to be false, spanning from alleged miraculous cures to pure alarmism, has fuelled confusion and hindered efforts to deal with the epidemic.

CICAP asks the news media to honour their vital social responsibility and to exercise the utmost care in verifying news. In this crucial phase, going for the big headline and spreading unverified news is more than ever counter-productive.

Some advice:

  • avoid interviewing people without a specific scientific background (such as show business, industry or sports personalities) on virus or lockdown-related issues
  • entrust expert science journalists to verify research sources, to prevent the spread of unverified news such as the airborne transmission of the virus or the healing properties of vitamin C
  • keep to the facts and avoid unnecessarily dramatic language: don’t use words such as “panic” or “hysteria” to describe people’s behaviour or use extreme language such as “massacre”, “lazaret” and so on
  • don’t give space to conspiracy narratives not supported by solid evidence
    oppose the spread of unverified audio messages.

We understand that journalism has an ethical obligation to timely reporting, but this must not be at the expense of fact-checking and contextualization that would allow for an autonomous and objective evaluation by the reader.

Skepticism in the Time of the Coronavirus

Dear skeptical friends,

in accordance with the advisements of the World Health Organization (though we still disagree on CAM issues) and national officials, skeptical organisations across Europe are temporarily closing their doors.

However, please do check out your local organisation’s website – there is enough content to hold you over for at least a month.

If you are interested in knowing updates concerning the virus, check the following websites and remember, WASH YOUR HANDS:

World Health Organization
World Health Organization


Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University

Surrounded by Idiots: Swedish Pseudoscience Now on Export to the World

In the article linked on the left, Dan Katz, licensed psychologist and psychotherapist, and member of the board of VoF (aka the Swedish Skeptics Society), explains why Thomas Erikson’s success with his book “Surrounded by Idiots” is one of the biggest pseudoscience scandals in recent history. The article has been translated from Swedish to English.

The book and its successors in the “Surrounded by…” series is based on the personality test known as DISC (or DISA) which has no scientific background whatsoever. In spite of this, the books have sold in huge numbers and are now translated to several other languages, including English. They are currently being promoted abroad in the US, the UK, Australia and elsewhere.

VoF urges Skeptics around the world to read the linked article and create awareness locally that the books and the theory they describe are utter nonsense. Actions that can be taken are contacting the media and local publishers and book sellers to make them aware that this is not scientific, and that Thomas Erikson has no academic credentials even though for example Amazon calls him a “behavioral scientist”.

Thomas Erikson was awarded the Swedish Skeptics’ satirical “Confounderer of the Year” award for 2018.

For more info, please contact the Swedish Skeptics at info(at)vof.se

UPDATE: The day after this was posted, the topic was picked up by neurologist Dr Steve Novella on his Neurologica blog, based on this article. His input can be found here.

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Anthroposophical Remedies No Longer Allowed in Sweden

As of 1 September 2019, the exception for Anthroposophical remedies in Sweden is history.

In November of 2017 the Swedish government published their decision to phase out an exception from 1993. The exception allowed one Anthroposophical hospital called ‘Vidarkliniken’ (also known as ‘Vidar Rehab’), to use Anthroposophical remedies as a complement to evidence-based treatment. Vidarkliniken has up until now been located in the city of Järna, just south of Stockholm.

As of 1 September, the transition period is over and the former exception is no longer in effect. The Swedish government had stipulated that in order for continued use of Anthroposophical remedies, Vidarkliniken would have to file for approval of their treatments according to the same regulations and rules as other medical treatments. No such applications has been registered.

Vidarstiftelsen, the foundation behind Vidarkliniken and its related activities has recently applied for voluntary liquidation, stating that without public support and permission, their activities are no longer financially sustainable. A local Anthroposophical pharmacy in Järna run by the international company Weleda has now also declared that they are closing as of 1 September due to financial reasons.

Link to article, see left.
Additional link: The Swedish government press release in 2017.

The Joy of Skepticism – 18th European Skeptics Congress

August 30th – September 1st, Ghent, Belgium

Every other year skeptics from all over Europe come together to meet at the European Skeptics Congress. 
They listen to talks about a variety of subjects, participate in debates, 
exchange experiences with colleagues from abroad while having a great time together. 
This year we are meeting in Ghent, one of the great historical cities of Belgium, 
home to one of its main universities, with a pre-program ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ event in the center of Brussels. 
Come and join us for 3-4 days of fun and learning with Edzard Ernst and Kavin Senapathy, 
and don’t forget to sample Belgium’s fine beers and chocolates while you’re here. 
All information on www.esc2019.be
 
 
Register on our website. 
Special discounts for members of skeptical organizations and students.



Join the banquet on Saturday night in the company of the finest selection of skeptics in Europe (separate ticket).
 

 

Teaching critical thinking

Michael Marshall Project Director of UK’s Good Thinking recently visited King Alfred’s Academy in Oxfordshire on an unusual mission: to highlight proofs that the Earth is actually flat, and to encourage students to question the shape of their world. The goal of the talk was actually to encourage critical thinking, and to get students to question what sources they can trust and what arguments can be taken as credible.