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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Fake news enquiry

A UK parliamentary committee has published a preliminary report highlighting what it describes as ‘significant concerns’ over the risks to ‘shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions’. It calls for ‘urgent action’ from government and regulatory bodies to ‘build resilience against misinformation and disinformation into our democratic system’: “People are increasingly finding out about what is happening in this country, in their local communities, and across the wider world, through social media, rather than through more traditional forms of communication, such as television, print media, or the radio. Social media has become hugely influential in our lives. Research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shown that not only are huge numbers of people accessing news and information worldwide through Facebook, in particular, but also through social messaging software such as WhatsApp. When such media are used to spread rumours and ‘fake news’, the consequences can be devastating.”

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Report on Research Integrity

The UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has issued its latest report on Research Integrity (Sixth Report of Session 2017–19).  “This inquiry looks at trends and developments in fraud, misconduct and mistakes in research and the publication of research results. Research by Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology indicates the trend in misconduct/mistakes in publishing is still upwards. There has also been a so-called ‘crisis in reproducibility’ of research. The Committee continues the previous Committee’s inquiry, taking forward the evidence it had received before the General Election.”

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Hans Rosling to be commemorated by annual day

World renowned Swedish medic and professor, Hans Rosling, known for his popular adult education talks at TED and other places, will be celebrated with an annual popular adult education day. The theme of the first Hans Rosling day will be ”Factfulness”, named after the book released earlier this year.
The founders are Gapminder Foundation, Nobel Foundation and Nobel Center.

Date: 10th June 2018

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Original news: link

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Sale of MMS banned in the Netherlands

Very good news: the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has issued a ban on the sale of MMS.

Miracle Mineral Supplement, also known as Miracle Mineral Solution or Master Mineral Solution, is frequently sold on the Internet as an alleged cure for numerous diseases. However, research has shown that the use of MMS can lead to serious health risks, including burns in the digestive tract, breathing problems and kidney and liver failure.

In 2010, MMS caused controversy in countries around the world. At the time, the NVWA warned against the product, but this did not result in a decrease of MMS sales. After stuyding its effects, the Authority concluded it was too dangerous to be available. The NVWA has also advised the Dutch health minister to encourage stricter regulation of MMS throughout the European Union.

 

#ProVaxChallenge

Dear skeptics (not only) in Europe!

As many of you know, the lack of vaccinating is becoming a serious issue (again, not only) in Europe. That is why the Czech Skeptics Club Sisyfos has created the #ProVaxChallenge.

“It is a challenge for all, who are not afraid of needles. And an even bigger challenge for those, who are. Join MUDr. Jaromir Sramek, the chairman of the Czech Skeptics Club Sisyfos, in a 2018 vaxathon. Immortalize yourself either while getting a vaccination or with a post-vax band-aid. Take photos of your vaccination cards. Don’t be afraid to involve your kids and pets. Share your photos on social media with the #ProVaxChallenge.

The goal of this challenge is to show people that vaccinating is a part of life in the 21st century. The first compulsory vaccinations were introduced in the half of the 19th century. One of the most significant accomplishments of preventive vaccinations was the eradication of variola in 1980. Many other diseases, for which vaccinations do exist, have not been eradicated. A new wave of, an already numerously overcome, fear of vaccinating is causing a resurgence of diseases, which doctors, until recently, saw only sporadically.

In 2016, almost 10% of newborns worldwide were not vaccinated. What’s alarming is that nearly one-half of these newborns live in countries, where medical care is available, but their parents refuse to vaccinate, many times for irrational reasons. That is why the number of unvaccinated children in developed countries is growing.

The ECDC reported 4,643 cases of measles in 2016. In 2017 there were more than 20,000 with 35 deaths. The pathogen is not picky about where its focal point is, so there were measle hotspots not only in Romania (10,623), Italy (4,991) or Greece (1,463), but also in Germany (926), Czech Republic (146), France, Great Britain, and Sweden. No one can come up with an estimate of how many people will succumb to measles in 2018.

The USA is suffering from exponential growth in cases of mumps.

Europe as a whole is suffering from growth in cases of hepatitis A.

257 million people are living with hepatitis B, which managed to take the lives of 887,000 lives in 2015. Even though children can be protected from this disease by vaccinating.

There are vaccinations available for all of the diseases mentioned above. However, most of these cases manifested in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals. According to WHO, in 2016 the vaccination coverage of the second dose of the measles vaccine has dropped under the needed 95% in twenty of the twenty-seven EU countries. The WHO also reports that the vaccination coverage of DTP3 fell under 50% in the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, as well as Ukraine.

Though it is slowly changing, vaccinations remain voluntary in many European countries. Due to the lack of experience with diseases, due to relying on lies and myths propagated by “alternative” experts and under the emotional duress brought on by antivaxx activists, their active suppression of facts and fearmongering, many people are afraid to vaccinate, especially when it comes to their children. Then they, in good faith, endanger herd immunity and thus are endangering not only themselves but also those, who cannot be vaccinated for valid reasons.

Let’s lead by example and practically show that vaccines are safe, apart from sharing scientific data and statistics. Let’s show that we are not afraid of vaccines, we do get vaccinated, and vaccines don’t harm us!

Help us, in 2018, raise awareness of the number of adults and children, who are protected by vaccines.”

Aneta   Pierzyna

#ProVaxChallenge

Skepticism Reloaded

My take on the cause and priorities of contemporaty skepticism. We need to make clear why we exist, our commitment to science and critical thinking, and how we set our priorities. I am looking forward to the discussion around my article.

Amardeo Sarma

Date: 6th March 2018

Original news: link

Some problems of the skeptic movement

Many amazing people put a lot of effort into rational skepticism. Overall, however, the movement remains rather ineffective. In a new blog post, we try to understand why that is the case.

There are, we argue, several big problems in the skeptic movement, and we need to address them if we want the movement to become more effective and more efficient. It is not going to be easy, but it is far from impossible.

Read the full article here:
https://www.skeptiker.ch/some-problems-of-the-skeptic-movement/

Transparency of evidence of government policy

Sense About Science has published a report with the title Transparency of evidence; a spot check of government policy proposals July 2016 to July 2017.  The report ‘scores 94 government policies produced by 12 departments, to assess how transparent they were about the evidence behind the policy. It is designed to show where departments are on transparency, and shows how they can improve further’. The research was conducted in partnership with the Institute for Government and funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Alliance for Useful Evidence.