The Olympics are a good reminder that there are a lot of countries out there. If watching them has made you curious of what goes on in such exotic locations as Haiti, Nauru, or Ireland when they’re no trying to win medals in… something (I’m not a sports fan), here are the Global Quickies to help you out:
Homeopathy around the World
Homeopaths can’t say they’re not living in interesting times. Legislation in the Netherlands now prohibits homeopathic preparations to list the illnesses they’re supposed to cure unless they have scientifically proven their effectiveness… Good luck with that! Meanwhile, Nelson’s, the largest manufacturer of homeopathy and other alt remedies in the UK, is closing its doors in Ireland, and in Germany alt-med manufacturers have been exposed for paying a journalist to run websites and write articles to discredit Prof. Edzard Ernst. Also, the UK is planning to enforce existing legislation that makes it illegal to buy unlicensed homeopathic preparations online or over the phone, and for homeopaths to dispense or prescribe them. With the enforcement of this law, Brits will only be able to choose from about 50 licensed remedies, get specific ones made, face-to-face, at a handful of licensed homeopathic pharmacies, or buy homeopathy branded as confectionery.
Great news, right? Not so fast:
On the other side of the coin, the Supreme Court in India is ordering the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to hold a clinical trial for a homeopathic remedy meant to cure cancer. The remedy has already been rejected by the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (yes, that is a thing, and a part of the Health Ministry) as they do not promote inventions by doctors in private practice. Basically, this remedy is so implausible, even the quack branch of the health ministry rejects it. One would hope the clinical trial results would shut this one down, but since it will be conducted by a center already invested in Alt-med, who knows. Oh, and do you remember how German Catholic Doctors were recommending taking homeopathy to cure homosexuality? They’re still promoting that. Apparently, 1 to 1.5 years of homeopathy will cure you of the gay.
A witchdoctor and his brother beat 4 children to death in an exorcism ritual. The supposed sorcerer had convinced the mother that her children, ages 15mo through 7, were possessed by demons and consented to the exorcism to try to cure them. The witchdoctor and his brothers have fled and the mother has been arrested.
About 50% of the population in Haiti practices Voodoo and witchdoctors have found themselves in both sides of murderous rituals. During the 2010 cholera outbreak in this country, 45 witchdoctors were killed after being accused of causing the epidemic by using spells.
Lal Bibi was abducted and raped because a member of the local police felt snubbed by her cousin. According to her tribe’s customs (Kuchi Pashtun nomads), she should commit suicide or be killed by her relatives to preserve the family honor. Yet this time, her family and her village, even the local cleric, are standing with her to ask for justice so that she doesn’t have to die. The central government has been pressured into taking an interest in her case, but the fact that her abductors were local police politicizes process. Since the arrest, the main suspect is claiming he forced her into marriage right before intercourse, changing the crime to a family matter, not rape and abduction. Lal Bibi and her family tragically plan to keep to tradition if her abductors are not brought to justice.
Turkey (via Jacqueline)
On the last Global Quickies I briefly talked about how the Prime Minister of Turkey is trying to increase the religious influence on education, even though Turkey is a constitutionally secular country. That effort seems to be behind the arrest of Kemal Gürüz, a retired chemical engineer and former president of the Turkish Council of Higher Education and of the Turkish science-funding agency. During Gürüz’s term as president of the Higher Education Council, from 1997 to 2003, he promoted secular reforms. His family believes this arrest is payback for that.
The Prime Minister has also decided to take more control of the Turkish Academy of Sciences and to appoint around 80 scientists as members of this institution, which has traditionally chosen its own members. 60 out of the 138 members have resigned since.
This is not really news, just a recommendation. If you find yourself in Florence, you’ll probably visit the Galileo (Science) Museum, and you should. But you should also make time to visit a less well known (to tourists) museum called La Specola. It’s not far from the city center but is almost empty and totally worth the visit. It’s the oldest science museum in Europe, built to hold and exhibit the scientific artifacts of the Medici. Now it houses a huge collection of fossils, plants and weird taxidermy, including some extinct animals and a highly suspect hippo that was gifted to the Medici in the 17th century and stuffed by a taxidermist who never saw it alive. It also has an amazing collection of 17th and 18th century wax anatomical models which were used to teach anatomy without the need of cadavers. Here are a couple of pics, but you can find more here, here and here.
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