Friday, August 26, 2016

Voter Fraud

    Again, the fear of voter fraud, significant enough to affect an election, has been raised in the upcoming U.S. National election.
     Is voter fraud as widespread as some politicians want us to believe.  They want to push Voter ID laws.  Actually according to several studies, cases of "voter impersonation," against which these laws would protect, are virtually NON-EXISTENT. Study Finds No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud
      So why is there so much paranoia about voter fraud?  In Texas the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that African-Americans were 1.79 times more likely -- and Latinos 2.42 times more likely -- than whites to lack the required identification.  Therefore, whom do these Voter ID laws target?  And for whom are these groups likely vote?  Voter ID is not just another conspiracy theory, it is a nothing more than an outright illegal attempt to violate the right of citizens.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympians Unintentionally Endorse Pseudo-Science

There is no better image for the promotion of quack remedies than athletes.  Many are easy targets for lucky gizmos and are willing to try anything that might provide that tiny edge that makes the difference between coming in first versus second.  In the process they send the wrong message to an adoring fan base that want to be like they in terms of health and physical fitness.

This year the most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps showed up with a lot of large, circular bruises from alt-med practice known as “cupping.” The NBC announcer explain that suction of heated glass bowls applied to the skin was reported to increase blood flow in the area thereby improving healing. 

Unfortunately, not only does this practice have no medical or scientific basis, but it can be quite dangerous, causing burns and infections. See this post from David Gorski

In some of the coverage during the run-up to the games, some athletes have been extolling what they see as the benefits of other pseudo-scientific treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture, etc. 

For more read 

Science Questions for Presidential Candidates

The Challenge to the Presidential Candidates and to the Press

Science, engineering, technology, health and environmental issues now affect voters’ lives at least as much as the foreign policy, economic policy, and faith and values views that candidates traditionally share with journalists on the campaign trail. America’s leading science and engineering organizations are urging the candidates and the press to give equal priority to discussion of these important issues in the national dialogue, so that well-informed voters may continue to guide the democratic process.  asks the major political party candidates to provide responses, as they did in 2008 and 2012.

The website Right Wing Watch recently spotlighted a 2002 video of then- Representative Pence delivering an impassioned speech on the House floor in favor of teaching “intelligent design” in public school science classes, and challenging the scientific consensus on evolution by natural selection, demonstrating his ignorance of what is meant by the word “theory” in a scientific context.  Advocating that school children be religiously indoctrinated rather than be taught real science will handicap generations of students.

Years later on MSNBC  Pence was asked to restate his views on science and evolution. He resorted to the “teach the controversy” cliché. Pence’s other anti-scientific views consists of climate change denial and cigarettes do not cause cancer. These views can be disastrous for education and public health. 

Separating scientific fact from superstition is crucial when it comes to national policy and the education of our children. The electorate needs to know whether Pense would subordinate science to religion and cling to views that conflict with reality. Would he use his office to promote an anti-scientific agenda.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lecture Series in Science-based Medicine

      Hardly a person alive has not relied on some cure or 'medical' treatment not yet or never-to-be approved by established medicine.  Be it vitamin supplements, chiropractic, fad diets, bio-magnets, or the like, it is all what used to be called "snake oil."  Most people consider such uses as harmless.  In many cases that is true, but in all cases the use of "snake oil" delays the use of real medical treatment - sometimes until it is too late.
      Since most people are likely to succumb to the promises of non-proven medical treatments in the hopes of that 'miracle', especially in non-curable and life-threatening diseases, identifying what is "real" versus what is "sham" is vital.
      The James Randi Educational Foundation has produced a superb 10-part video lecture series in which Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The topics include: What is CAM?; acupuncture; chiropractic; energy medicine; homeopathy; miscellaneous “alternatives”; naturopathy and herbal medicines; pitfalls in research; science based medicine vs. evidence-based medicine; science-based medicine in the media and politics. The lectures range from 32 to 45 minutes.She has also prepared the following course-guide:  

Here is the link to the videos on the various topics:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Future War Abated?

      Many futurists have predicted that the next war would not be found over oil, but over fresh water.  Again, Israel defies the "experts." One of the driest countries on Earth now makes more freshwater than it needs. 
      The new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, is Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

New Research Suggest Potential for Significant Global COOLING

      Recent research by Professor Valentina Zharkova (Northumbria University) and colleagues has shed new light on the inner workings of the Sun. If correct, the research suggests that the next three solar cycles will see solar activity reduce significantly into the middle of the century, producing conditions similar to those last seen in the 1600s – during the Maunder Minimum. This may have implications for temperatures here on Earth. Future solar cycles will serve as a test of the astrophysicists’ work, but some climate scientists have not welcomed the research and even tried to suppress the new findings.