Welcome to the first edition of Global Quickies! They’re like regular Quickies, only slightly longer, with a less regular schedule, and will probably include weird phrasing and spelling mistakes due to my less-than-perfect English skills. So, yeah, not very much like regular Quickies.
Many of you said you wanted to see more international skeptical news on Skepchick and this is what we came up with: I’ll post 3-5 news items from around the world (i.e. not the US, light on other English-speaking countries) and I will comment a bit on each one. Since I’m a Latin-American living in southern Europe, most of the news items that find their way to my browser are from those regions, so please help me out and send me links to things you would like to see featured in the Global Quickies through the Skepchick contact form.
Today I’ll start with easy ones:
Remember how back in the 1990’s Randi debunked “substance detectors” that were supposed to find bombs, drugs, ivory, laundered money, illegal immigrants (really), etc, and it turned out they where just empty boxes with an antenna and no functioning parts? And how the maker of a similar product was arrested for fraud in the UK in 2010? Well, several security forces in Mexico (the army, local police, even the national oil company) have spent over $20 million on these “molecular detectors” and are still using them despite warnings from the British government about their ineffectiveness, pleas from local scientists to do double-blind tests on the devices, and the Human Rights Commission denouncing their use in searches. Why the Human Rights Commission? Because false positives of these dowsing rods are getting people arrested, and the device’s results are being used as evidence in trials. (This is not really a new item, but I’ve been meaning to talk about it here for a long time).
Pierre Dukan, creator of the protein-rich Dukan diet, faces ethics hearings following complaints by the French College of Physicians. The Dukan diet is a multimillion dollar business and it’s a favorite among celebrities (and all of my coworkers). The complaints being made are for practicing medicine like a business and making remarks that could harm teenagers with weight issues. In January, Dukan suggested that teenagers get extra points in their Baccalaureate exams for being within the recommended weight ranges. The French medical guidelines say doctors must consider the impact of their comments on the public.
(Also not so new item).
In March, Argentina decriminalized abortion in all cases of rape. The ruling by the supreme court upheld the decision made last year by a lower court in the case of a 15-year old girl who became pregnant after her stepfather raped her.
It is actually not a new law, but a clarification on the existing law that allowed abortion in cases where the health of the mother was at risk, or when “the pregnancy comes from rape or the assault on the modesty of an idiot or demented woman”. Hmm, yeah. Due to that strange wording, it had never been clear if the law meant that only “idiot or demented” rape victims where allowed access to abortions, or if it included all rape victims. Just to be on the safe side, it was generally interpreted that it did not include all victims. Doctors, afraid of being prosecuted, often only performed legal abortions if presented with court documents. With this ruling, a rape victim now only needs to state the fact that she’s been raped to have access to an abortion.
The severe economic troubles of Spain are hitting science more than other areas. Back in February, an article published in Nature already called these cuts “scientific suicide” . But when the actual budget was announced, it turned out that the cuts are even harsher than anticipated , and higher than the average cuts in other ministries. Lay-offs in labs are already a reality, research animals are being put down, and young scientists are looking for jobs in other countries. The long-term consequences could be devastating for the scientific future of the country. Spanish scientists and skeptics are putting together short videos called “Sin ciencia no hay futuro” (Without Science There’s No Future). You can find them on Twitter and Youtube under the hashtag #SinCiencia, including a couple by Esceptica.org contributors.
On a lighter note, next Sunday, during the Gastrocanarias food festival in Spain, artist Oliver Behrmann and the cook Carlos Gamonal will perform an autopsy on a 60kg green alien made out of jelly and candy. The performance is based on this famous Ray Santilli hoax video of a supposed autopsy of an alien from the Roswell crash. The candy will be later served to the public.
If you can’t make it to the Canary Islands in time to watch this, here’s the promotional video.
I’ll try to make this feature a regular one, and I’ll try to touch on more recent news items and less “things I’ve been meaning to talk about on Skepchick” items, but it will depend a lot on your interest and the links you wonderful readers send in.
Featured image from the Alienatthehotel Facebook page. Check out all the awesome pics they have there.