Skeptics in the Pub Online
Things are on the move again and some live meetings are now being
held. Check with your local group. Meanwhile, Skeptics in the Pub Online is the result of the collaborative efforts of several
SitP groups and hosts Thursday evening talks present by authoritative speakers on topics of
skeptical interest. Regularly check their Facebook page for upcoming talks.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
recent report on an upsurge in the demand for donkey hide has exposed yet again the egregious practices of traditional Chinese medicine, a vast lucrative industry
based on pseudoscientific beliefs and claims for which little evidence of efficacy exists. The reports estimates that 'more than 4.8 million donkeys are trafficked and
slaughtered for their skins each year. The donkeys suffer at every point of this process, from source to slaughter, under the brutal and inhumane conditions that are a
hallmark of this industry. Even the most vulnerable donkeys, including pregnant mares, young foals, and the sick and injured are taken and traded without consideration for
their welfare or their pain'. The trafficking feeds a rising demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy that uses donkey skins to produce a form of gelatine.
A study in China has found that among patients with obesity, a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more successful in reducing body weight, body fat,
or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction.
'Measles cases have surged nearly 80% worldwide this year amid disruption caused by Covid-19, the UN has said, warning that the rise of the "canary in a coalmine"
illness indicated that outbreaks of other diseases were likely to be on the way. The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted vaccination campaigns for non-Covid diseases
around the world, creating a "perfect storm" that could put millions of children's lives at risk, the UN's children's agency Unicef and the World Health Organization
(WHO) said in a statement.'
Climate Change Denial
'Flood victims from Australia's north-east coast, who in droves now self-identify as "climate refugees", have converged on a grab-bag of Facebook
groups and community message boards to condemn some Byron Bay locals who have taken to calling recent flooding a "manmade" weather event that
"definitely isn't" linked to climate change.'
Autism Charity Linked to Anti-Vaccine Movement
'A British autism charity that received hundreds of thousands of pounds in national lottery funding has links to the and is being jointly run by a campaigner
who likened the Covid-19 jab rollout to a Nazi war crime. Thinking Autism also promoted unproven autism treatments in testimonials on its website and directed
families to clinicians linked to the disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield, an investigation has found. The Charity Commission said it had opened a case into the
charity and was assessing evidence passed to it by the Observer.'
Indian Traditional Medicine
Despite the lack of any objective evidence 'The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India today signed an agreement
to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine. This global knowledge centre for traditional medicine,
supported by an investment of USD 250 million from the Government of India, aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across
the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.'
Gerson Support Group
The Charity HealthSense has been successful in its two-year campaign to end the charitable status of the Gerson Support Group. HealthSense (previously
HealthWatch) had complained to the Charity Commission that this organisation was actively promoting
unproven treatment for cancer and other serious conditions. Details of the outcome of HealthSense's campaign were reported in Private Eye (No. 1,568, 4-17 March,
2022) in an article headed 'Quack Exit'. It has also been reported that the Gerson Support Group had over £300,000 in newly acquired assets and this income is to be
distributed amongst other charities.
Covid: Social Distancing and Face Masks
'An international research team
from universities including Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, the University of Padua and the University of Udine in Italy, and the University of Vienna,
Austria, has developed a new theoretical model to better assess the risks of spreading viruses such as COVID-19-with and without a face mask. The results show how the
standard 'safe' distance of two meters does not always apply but varies greatly depending on a range of environmental factors, and that face masks can indeed play a
'New Zealand has banned conversion practices,
with near unanimity, after all but eight National party members voted in favour of the law. Conversion "therapy" refers to the practice, often by religious groups, of
trying to cure" people of their sexuality, gender expression or LGBTQI identity.'
Misuse of Charitable Status?
'The National Secular Society has referred
charity to the regulator after finding anti-vaccine and homophobic posts on its Facebook page. East Kilbride Christadelphians made dozens of posts on its Facebook
page that may undermine public health messages, despite charities being required to serve a public benefit.'
'A subsidiary of Israeli AI company Cortica,
called Corsight AI, claims it can create a model of a face using a person's DNA that can then be fed into a facial recognition system, a highly dubious - not to
mention ethically fraught - claim that has experts calling foul.'
'In the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology", Rachel
Neale and colleagues present their findings from D-Health, a population-based, double-blind, placebo-controlled vitamin D3 intervention trial in older Australian adults
(n=21?315). It is the largest study to date to assess the effect of vitamin D supplementation on mortality as the primary outcome. No significant reduction in all-cause
mortality or from cancer and cardiovascular disease was found.'
Covid Jab Adverse Effects
Placebo (i.e. dummy) injections
in Covid vaccination trials give a high rate of reported adverse effects.
'Most cases of a mysterious illness striking US officials dubbed "Havana syndrome"
were not caused by a foreign power, CIA officials say. Since 2016, US diplomats around the world have reported symptoms - sparking suggestions Russia, China or
another adversary could be responsible. But a majority of 1,000 cases looked at by the CIA can be explained by stress or natural causes, officials say.' (See announcemnt
fact checkers around the world, including Full Fact, are publishing an open letter calling on
YouTube to take effective action against disinformation and misinformation. The company has up
until now largely escaped criticism despite fact checkers seeing problematic content daily on the
Holmes, founder of Theranos, has been found guilty on four of 11 charges of fraud, concluding a
high-profile trial that captivated Silicon Valley and chronicled the missteps of the now-defunct
blood testing startup. The jury found Holmes guilty of several charges - including conspiracy to
defraud investors - following a dramatic day in which jurors said they remained deadlocked on three
of the criminal counts she faced. Holmes founded the company after dropping out of Stanford at 19
years old, promising a revolutionary technology that could run hundreds of health tests on just a
drop of blood. But the company ultimately fell short of its ambitious pledge.'
'Fighting lunacy with lunacy'
instigator of a conspiracy theory that birds are really drone replicas built by the US
intelligence service to spy on the public, which has caused mass protests, has now announced that
he made the whole thing up. (Isn't this what a conspiracy theory is anyway?-Ed.).
Dutch Skeptics Win in Defamation Case
From SKEPP, the Belgian skeptics society: 'It has taken quite some time but today the
Appeals Court in Belgium judged that free speech and well-founded criticism are more important than
the perceived wrongs of the commercial organization being criticized. The claim of our adversaries
was soundly rejected by the court.'…. 'On December 9 the Appeals Court in Belgium
soundly rejected the claims as unfounded of Carl Van de Velde against our
authors Patrick Vermeren and Bart Van de Ven. 'Our authors wrote a skeptical article in the
Belgian SKEPP magazine about two companies active in the field of human resources that use dubious
theories such as NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and characterization of people based on their
skull (phrenology) and physiognomy (interpretation of outward appearance, in this case of face and
hair). One of the two companies discussed in the article was the Carl Van de Velde Training
Institute….Bart and Patrick have - based on careful research of multiple sources - criticized the
content of the pseudo-scientific master classes as well as the marketing tricks Van de Velde uses
to attract participants.'
Traditional Chinese Medicine (Again)
'The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has called on African governments
to increase awareness and dissuade local producers and retailers of trade specifically in
Chinese medicine that contains wildlife species that are already under threat. … "Our very
real concern is that such a huge expansion of TCM in Africa, as is happening under China's Belt
and Road Initiative, will have the knock-on effect of drastically increasing demand for treatments
containing wildlife and, in turn, cause more species to become threatened or extinct".'
Sugar and Children's Behaviour
'How often have you heard a parent say that their children were bouncing off the walls after
a sugary snack? The connection was first suggested in 1922 but it was in the 1970s that the lay
literature took up the cause with "functional reactive hypoglycemia." Could it not be
that children eat more sugary foods during activities that are prone to adverse behaviour, such as
birthday parties? And that sugar does not cause the problem? Studies tell us that this is indeed
the case. When
researchers challenge children with sugar or a placebo, they find that not only does sugar not
cause hyperactivity, it can have a calming effect!'
the Guardian 'The fossil fuel industry has perpetrated a multi-decade, multibillion
dollar disinformation, propaganda and lobbying campaign to delay climate action by confusing the
public and policymakers about the climate crisis and its solutions. This has involved a remarkable
array of advertisements - with headlines ranging from "Lies they tell our children" to
"Oil pumps life" - seeking to convince the public that the climate crisis is not real,
not human-made, not serious and not solvable. The campaign continues to this day.'
UFO Task force
'US defence officials have announced the launch of
a task force to investigate
reports of unidentified flying objects in restricted airspace. The group will assess objects of
interest and "mitigate any associated threats", the Pentagon said on Tuesday. A highly
anticipated military report in June failed to explain dozens of reported UFO sightings and warned
of possible national security risks. The new group will be overseen by top military and
Sham Journal Papers
'Hundreds of articles
published in peer-reviewed journals are being retracted after scammers exploited the processes for
publishing special issues to get poor-quality papers - sometimes consisting of complete gibberish -
into established journals. In some cases, fraudsters posed as scientists and offered to guest-edit
issues that they then filled with sham papers.'
Cervical Cancer Vaccination
From the Daily Mail, 25.09.2008:
school bans girls from having cervical cancer jabs over fears it might "promote sexual
promiscuity". Monsignor John Allen of St Monica's RC High School in Bury, Greater
Manchester, said: "Morally it seems to be a sticking plaster response. Parents must consider
the knock-on effect of encouraging sexual promiscuity." With the approval of headmaster Frank
McCarron, the governors of the 1,200 pupil school have drafted a letter to parents outlining their
objections to the vaccine.'
From the Daily Mail, 04.11.2021:
cancer has been virtually eradicated in young women because of the HPV vaccine's
'remarkable' success, a major study has found. Cases of the disease have plummeted by 87
per cent as a result of the NHS vaccine programme. Among women now in their twenties - the first
generation to get the jab - cases have now dropped from about 50 per year to just five.'
Traditional Chinese Medicine
'Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) has decided
to exclude four Chinese companies due to what is described as an unacceptable risk that the
companies contribute to serious environmental damage, Norway's giant sovereign wealth Fund
states. ….These companies are engaged in traditional Chinese medicine, and also use parts from
endangered species in production, such as pangolins, musk deer and leopards.'
Clinical Trials Registration
'Clinical trials run in the UK will be
automatically registered from 2022, the country's Health Research Authority announced
today. The new system seeks to ensure that every single clinical trial will be listed on a trial
registry from the outset. UK researchers have been formally required to register trials since 2013,
but that rule was never enforced, and many trials remained unregistered.' Also see this report.
Man Suing Psychic
A California man is suing a "psychic love specialist" who allegedly promised to
remove a curse placed on him by an ex-girlfriend-provided he paid her $5,100. According to a Fox 11
report on Tuesday, a fraud suit filed by Mauro Restrepo with Torrance Superior Court says psychic
Sophia Adams said she could save his marriage provided he paid the necessary fee to exorcise the
spell. She also allegedly warned Restrepo he and his family would be "unhappy and in
danger" unless the curse was lifted.'
'UFO' sighting in Wales
'Panic-buying aliens were among the online quips after
a strange cone-shaped light was seen in the night skies above north east Wales. …. Scores of
people witnessed the soundless light hovering overhead, descending slowly and, in some cases,
"shooting off northwards". "Space ship, deffo," said one person. … The object
was soon revealed to be an Atlas V rocket, carrying Nasa's Landsat-9 satellite, which launched
from Vandenberg Space Force Base, USA, just after 7pm last Monday. Some two hours later it
performed a reversing manoeuvre, releasing glowing clouds of vapour.'
Government-commissioned review 'estimates 10% of items dispensed in primary care are
overprescribed with 15% of people taking 5 or more medicines a day, increasing the risk of adverse
effects. Around 1 in 5 hospital admissions in over-65s are caused by the adverse effects of
medicines. Ministers accept all recommendations including introducing a new national clinical
director for prescribing, increased use of social prescribing and better handovers between
hospitals and the community'.
Covid Vaccination: False but Viral Story
claims went viral on Friday about Air Force pilots and the Pentagon's Covid-19 vaccine
mandate for members of the military. In a video monologue that has been viewed more than 1.1
million times on Twitter, a bodybuilder named Justin Y. O'Donnell claimed that "my dad
just let me know" that the secretary of defense had sent a nighttime text message to all
active members of the military demanding that they get a Covid-19 vaccination by 10 a.m. the next
day or face a court martial. After receiving this text, O'Donnell claimed, "Twelve F-22
pilots, the most highly trained pilots in the world, walked off the job." He added that
"16 crew members for B-52 bombers walked off the job." The viral story is thoroughly
false. In fact, it originated on a misinformation website that publishes ridiculous fiction written
to read like actual news.'
No Evidence that Ivermectin is Effective against Covid-19
'An Ohio judge has
reversed a court order that forced a local hospital to treat a Covid-19 patient with the
anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. On Monday, Judge Michael Oster of Butler county issued an order
that sided with West Chester Hospital, citing a lack of "convincing evidence" that the
drug - used in small doses in humans against external parasites such as headlice, and in larger
doses for animals including cows and horses - could significantly improve the patient's
condition. The patient, Jeffrey Smith, was admitted to intensive care on 15 July. He has been on a
ventilator since 1 August. At a hearing on Thursday, Julie Smith, his wife, testified that neither
she nor her husband were vaccinated against Covid-19.'
When is a New Hospital a New Hospital?
A communications 'playbook' for the government's NHS building programme instructs
that major refurbishments and new wings/units by trusts 'must always be referred to as a new
hospital'. The instructions also state that trusts should reiterate ministers' commitment
to open '48 new hospitals by the end of the decade'. Questions have been raised about how
many new hospitals will be delivered in reality, and the fact that many of those planned are not
full hospital builds. Sajid Javid has been criticised for describing the Northern Centre for Cancer
Care - which is part of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the first of the 48 schemes to
open - as 'a new hospital'. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust did not describe
it as a hospital. Listen to the
Health Service Journal podcast.
'US Vice-president Kamala Harris's tour of Asia was impacted by reports of Havana
syndrome on 24.8.21. A trip from Singapore to Vietnam
was delayed by several hours amid an investigation into two possible cases in Hanoi,
administration officials said….Havana syndrome is the name for a series of mysterious health claims
first reported by American diplomats and other government employees in the Cuban capital in 2016.
Some reported hearing a loud piercing sound and feeling intense pressure in the face. Pain, nausea,
and dizziness sometimes followed. Similar, unexplained ailments have since been reported by
Americans in other countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia and China. A number of theories
have been floated to explain it, including targeted microwave or sonic attacks, perhaps as part of
an espionage or hacking effort.'
'A gang of people kidnapped a child after one of them believed the infant had been the victim of satanic abuse. Three people have
been found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap the child on Anglesey in November 2020 while three others
admitted the charge.'
'Doctors will be told this week to
stop recommending two controversial treatments for the debilitating condition myalgic
encephalomyelitis (ME) in a move which will provoke an angry backlash from the medical profession.
The Times has learnt that new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care
Excellence (NICE) will say graded exercise therapy (Get) should no longer be offered to people with
ME. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a talking therapy previously seen as having a curative
role, should only be offered to support patients in dealing with the anxiety of being ill.'
Stop press: On August 17, NICE took the decision to
pause publication of its updated guidelines after the resignation of four members of the guideline
development committee. However, on October 20 NICE announced that
it will publish the guideline following a meeting of its Guidance Executive