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The Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter

Volume 10 No. 2

7 Feb 2011

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" --Ronald Reagan

In this issue

What's New
Homeopathic suicide
Salon.com pulls RFK Jr's conspiratorial rant
More Q-Link paratrinkets
Secular Coalition internship opportunity
Scum of the Minute
Quacksalver of the Month

What's New?

SD App for the iPhone & the iPad

sd app iconThe Skeptic's Dictionary app is now available from iTunes. The SD app was developed by David Knobel and makes access to the core terms listed on the Contents page of the website a breeze. With the SD app you can scroll the contents list from A to Z or search directly for a name or term from among more than 700 items. There are no ads or other distractions, just links to Dictionary entries presented in a font size you can read easily on your phone's screen. The app also works on the iPad.

The app will load the contents list the first time you use it. After that, you have the option of uploading the latest list or not. A History file will keep track of list items you've visited.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

sd iconFor those who prefer access to all the files on the website, you can add a customized SD icon to your iPhone or iPad. Use Safari to go the skepdic.com site, click the right-aiming arrow in the box (at the bottom center of the screen on the iPhone and left of the url window on the iPad) and select "Add to Home Screen." I recommend keeping the name of the link short, e.g. SkepDic.

Thank you, David!

New Dictionary entries: fluoridation, zenreiki, psychometry, sarcognomy, and Poe's Law.

New book reviews: The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin and Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin.

New Skeptimedia posts: Contrary-to-fact Conditionals & Media Vultures in my Crosshairs (murder in Arizona), Science is fine, but we're not (Jonathan Lehrer on science), and Wakefield's Warriors (a deceptive website appears to defend the deceptive doctor).

New reader comments: Editor's Notes on King Abdullah, Contrary-to-fact Conditionals & Media Vultures in my Crosshairs, King Abdullah & Saudi Arabia, organic farming, psychometry, and reiki.

New What's the harm posts: Danish psychic brings hope and superstition to Ireland
-Facilitated communication ruins lives and costs township $1.8 million

-Nuns who crucified woman during exorcism released early from prison for good behavior
-UK govt helped sell dowsing rod "bomb detector"
-Irish massage therapist dies in African spiritual ceremony
-Child abuse and Biblical childrearing
(by Russian immigrants)
-Faith-healing killers sentenced to probation and made to promise not to kill any of their remaining seven children.

New suburban myth: # 99: the cone of learning.

Many files were updated. A complete list with links to the updates may be found at skepdic.com/updates.html. Some updates of note include: Mass Media Bunk: Robert F. Kennedy's rant withdrawn from Salon.com; placebo jewelry (soon after it was announced that a sports arena in Sacramento would be renamed "Power Balance Pavilion," Power Balance was hit with a class action suit in the U.S.); and 2012 Maya Prophecy (to announce Liam McDaid's astronomy-oriented and skeptical page 2010: Are We All Going to Die?).

Mass suicide by homeopathic overdose fails again

homeopathic overdose in BrusselsHerman Boel, our European correspondent in Brussels, took part in the European 10:23 2011 Challenge over the weekend of Feb 5-6. Participants in 10 countries and more than 23 cities took an overdose of a homeopathic arsenicum in order to make a simple statement: Homeopathy - There's Nothing In It.

Herman attended the event carrying a copy of his Dutch translation of The Skeptic's Dictionary. He writes: "the activity was a success and we hope that the European Union will soon discard the exception it has granted homeopathy." At present, the European Union requires water bottlers and pharmaceutical companies to list their ingredients, but homeopathic remedies are exempt. You'd think the rules would be the same for homeopathic potions and bottled water.

RFK Jr.'s rant on a government conspiracy to harm our children pulled from Salon.com

Following in the footsteps of Rolling Stone magazine and website, Salon.com has pulled the 2005 article they published in which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed there was a government/Big Pharma conspiracy to harm our children by infecting them during routine vaccinations. According to Kennedy, there was also a conspiracy to hide the known connection between the thimerosal in vaccines and autism. Rolling Stone pulled the story about nine months ago. In his book The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin details the extent of Kennedy's falsification of data, misrepresentation of positions, and general butchery of facts in favor of promoting his delusional view of things based on his many years as an environmentalist and self-righteous screwball. I find it interesting that Salon.com didn't get around to removing the Kennedy rant from its pages until after the publication of Mnookin's book. Is Salon.com like the Huffington post: it publishes whatever crap it thinks will appeal to a large audience and let's others do the fact checking? Even so, why didn't it follow immediately in Rolling Stone's footsteps and remove the piece last spring?

Kennedy, by the way, still has the offensive article posted on his website.

Tinfoil caps and other Junk Tools

Bob Park frequently rants about the anti-cell phone lobby. In his latest rant, he mentioned the Q-Link Diode For Cell Phone & EMF Protection. Q-Link? Not the Q-Link again? Yep. Still going strong. Now "programmed with over 100 natural frequencies known to support the biofield." Guaranteed not to cause you to soil your undergarments.

SCA Summer 2011 Internship Program

The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) has a paid internship position for summer 2011. SCA is seeking a highly motivated undergraduate (junior or senior) student with a demonstrated interest in being active in the nontheistic movement. The student must live and attend school more than 50 miles outside of the District of Columbia.

SCA will provide housing through the Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH) (www.internsdc.com). The intern will be required to share a townhome or apartment with up to three people of the same gender. The group living situation will allow the intern to meet other interns working in D.C. as well as provide social opportunities. WISH provides all housing necessities except a computer, personal items, cell phone, bedding, towels, and clothing.

The internship will be a 12-week program and will run from Monday, May 30, 2011, through Friday, August 13, 2011; work hours will generally be Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Occasional weekend and evening hours may be expected. The internship will pay $500/week = $6,000 for the summer (minus required district and federal taxes). Transportation costs to and from Washington, D.C. will not be provided.

To apply for the SCA Summer 2011 Internship Program, please fill out the following application and send the following documents to internship@secular.org. To learn more about SCA, visit www.secular.org.

Scum of the minute

HCG weight-loss products wins hands down. HCG is human hgc bottleschorionic gonadotropin, a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. It's been approved for treatment of infertility and other conditions. Taken orally, HGC drops or tablets couldn't be of much use to weight watchers. HCG is a peptide hormone and would be broken down by the stomach and rendered ineffective, according to Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch. In any case, the weigh-loss products are homeopathic and there's no evidence they have any effect on anything. At least they're not likely to be harmful in themselves.

You can buy various dilutions of HGC: 6x, 12x, 30x, and 60x. 60x means diluted by a factor of 10 sixty times. The amount of active ingredient even in the strongest solution is miniscule. Even so, the FDA has deemed the product fraudulent.

HCG weight-loss products that promise dramatic results and claim to be homeopathic are sold as drops, pellets and sprays on the Web, in drugstores and at General Nutrition Centers. They are supposed to be used in combination with a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories a day.

Yes, if you stuck to the 500-calorie diet, you probably lost weight, no thanks to HGC however.

According to StupidEvilBastard, a "simple Google Shopping search reveals that there are still plenty of sites out there offering this product with prices ranging from $10 a bottle to $600 for multi-person diet kits." You better act fast, though, because manufacturers of the useless stuff may soon follow the lead of HGC Platinum, which took the product off the market about two months ago because "it found a formula that doesn't use the hormone." The little bottles of mostly water were selling for $70 an ounce. The really sophisticated weight losers, however, go for injections at clinics--for a much higher price I'm sure.

Another weight loss product to avoid is Herbal Flos Lonicerae (Herbal Xenicol). According to BBC News, the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises that anyone taking the product, made in China, should stop immediately and contact a doctor.

Then there's the brain loss product, HeartMath, which wants you to believe that with biofeedback you can bring breathing, heart, and brain in synch, thereby achieving mental clarity and enhancement of productivity. According to someone who has toured the HeartMath research facility, these folks believe that the heart regulates mental health and well-being "far beyond what current science understands," and has the power of precognition.

Finally, there are all those wonderful folks who are selling water ionizers to the terminally suckered, including Waterworks4U as seen on YouTube. With these devices, you can turn tap water into drain cleaner and bleach. The purveyors of these "health aids" advise you to drink the potion to prevent any and all disease. Why aren't they required under Obama's health plan?

The Quacksalver of the Month

Issam Nemeh, M.D., faith healer as featured on the Dr. Oz show, deserves special mention. He prescribes no drugs and does no surgery, but he does provide a hodgepodge of woo and a heaping helping of selective thinking and post hoc reasoning. Outliers are "miracles" and non-miraculous explanations are rejected in favor of miraculous ones. (Maybe that PET scan showed an infection, not a tumor. No biopsy was done. So? I'm telling you it was a tumor and now it's gone. It's a miracle.) Where are the paralyzed who now walk? the deaf who now hear? the amputees with new limbs that appeared during the night? How does it work? Love is all you need. Hey, I've heard that before. Dr. Oz was made in the image of his creator, Oprah.


Written by Bob Carroll
with the assistance of John Renish
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