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.

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Swedish Humanists criticizes the visit of Pope Francis

The Swedish Humanist society protested the current visit of Pope Francis in Sweden. Hours before a sermon held by Pope Francis at the Cathedral of Lund, Sweden on October 31, activists posted a poster containing ten theses on the Cathedral door, mimicking Martin Luther’s protest 500 years ago. The poster was swiftly removed by church officials, but contained a call for reforming the Catholic church regarding:

  1. Equality for Women
  2. Equality for LBTQ persons
  3. Freedom of religion for children
  4. Full right for women to decide about their own bodies
  5. A stop for the opposition to contraceptives
  6. Every human’s right to euthanasia
  7. All child abuse to be reported to the authorities
  8. A stop for blocking certain scientific research, especially stem cell research
  9. A stop for the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope
  10. Each person’s right to define their own moral code.

Members are leaving the Swedish church, just like in Norway and Denmark

Both the Norwegian and Danish national churches have lost a lot of members over the last couple of months. In Norway this started with a web service that facilitated for anyone to leave the church and in Denmark a secular campaign over the summer has driven many to cancel their membership.

Now the turn has apparently come to Sweden. In Sweden the national church has been separated from the state since 2000, but still has some special privileges. The most important one is that the membership fee, which used to be a tax, is still collected via the income tax return. The membership fee is based on your taxable income and averages at about 300 euros per year.

Just like in Norway, the Swedish church recently published a webpage where you can easily leave the church, the only thing required is the digital signature according to a system used by all Swedish banks . Earlier you would have to acquire a physical form to sign and send back to your local church administration centre. Apparently this new way of leaving is a service that people appreciate, because after less than two weeks about 10000 people have decided to opt out of the church.

With Norway and Denmark losing tens of thousands of members over the last couple of months, and now the same in Sweden, it seems we are witnessing a crisis for the old national churches in Scandinavia.

Prominent Swedish Skeptic gets prestigious award

Dan Larhammar, current board member and former President of VoF (aka the Swedish Skeptics Association) has been appointed “Pharmacist of the year 2016” by the organisation Svensk Farmaci (Swedish Pharmacy). The prize is awarded every year to a “phamacist in Sweden who through his/her actions has contributed to strenghten, develop or confirm the role of pharmacy in society”.

Dan Larhammar pharmacist

Dan Larhammar is a pharmacist and a professor of molecular cell biology at the University of Uppsala. He is also a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and is a long time member of the board of VoF, where he served as President 1998-2004. His research includes functional studies of neuropeptides and peptide hormones. His research in the 1990s was the first to be able to clone receptors for the neurotransmitter neuropeptide Y (NPY), which among other things are associated with obesity, memory and learning.