Skeptical Reporter for March 22nd, 2013
Three “male enhancement” products being sold online say they’re all herbal, but they contain hidden prescription drug ingredients and could be dangerous, the Food and Drug Administration warned. The three contain compounds similar to the active ingredients in the erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis and can cause serious problems in men being treated for heart disease. They should not be taken without a doctor’s supervision. The names of the three products -- “Rock-It Man”, “Libido Sexual Enhancer” and “Stiff Days” -- leave little doubt what they are supposed to be used for. But while they are marketed as alternatives to the prescription drugs to be used without the guidance of a doctor, they are in fact virtual copies, without any oversight to ensure they are safe. Anyone who has bought any of the products should just toss them, the FDA advises. “Consumers who have experienced any negative side effects should consult a health care professional as soon as possible,” it adds.
The Psychic Access organization is warning the public about the possibility of being conned by psychic scammers. Normally they explain that their organization can provide people with legitimate psychic services while others may take advantage of people without offering “professional” advice. This is what an announcement for Psychic Access has to say: “Psychic Scams conjured up by fake fortune-tellers continue to be a major concern for legitimate, professional psychic companies. Every day unsuspecting members of the public are conned into forking out ridiculous amounts of money to line the pockets of con artists, despite the fact that potential victims have access to online information on the subject. Phony psychics not only damage the reputation of other legitimate psychic services, but they also wreak havoc in the lives of innocent, vulnerable people”. In an effort to combat the prevalence of online psychic fraud and swindles, Psychic Access has now published a set of tips and guidelines on their website.
Dr. Oz is being sued by a man who suffered severe injuries after taking the advice promoted on Oz’s show in order to help him sleep. Frank Dietl was watching an episode of Dr. Oz that recommended viewers warm their socks in the microwave with rice inside. Dietl is suing Dr. Oz, his production company and NBC Studios for recommending on television a cure for insomnia with an Oz remedy, called the knapsack heated rice footsie. The only warning he offered was to not get the socks too hot in the microwave. Oz capped the segment by telling viewers, “If you do this the right way, you’ll be thanking me for years to come”. But Dietl revealed he suffers from neuropathy, or numbness in his feet, due to diabetes — a condition Oz did not address. “There were no proper instructions or proper warnings,” Dietl’s lawyer explained. The man didn't realize how hot the socks were until he got up in the middle of the night and tried to walk. Tim Sullivan, a spokesman for Harpo Productions, which produces “The Dr. Oz Show,” said the company could not comment until it had reviewed the lawsuit. “However, we stand by the content in our program as safe and educational for our viewers,” Sullivan said.
The Australian Vaccination Network has to come up with a new name for the group in a short amount of time. Last year, the New South Wales Department of Fair Trading ordered the organisation to come up with a new title that accurately describes its position on immunisation. This follows complaints from medical groups that the network's name was misleading to the public. The Australian Medical Association said the name gave the impression that the Network provided unbiased information for and against immunisation. The Fair Trading Assistant Commissioner, Robert Vellar, says a more appropriate title is needed for the organisation. "We had a look at the Australian Vaccination Network's name and thought their name should reflect something more in line with the anti-vaccination stance they take," said Vellar. "It is not the responsibility of the Department of Fair Trading to pick a name for them." he said.
And now let’s look at some news in science.
The UK has moved closer to becoming the first country to allow the creation of babies from three people. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised the government that there is no evidence the advanced forms of IVF were unsafe. The fertility regulator's public consultation also showed "general support" for the idea as the benefits outweighed the risks. A final decision on whether to press ahead rests with ministers. If the techniques were approved it could help a handful of families each year. Around one in 6,500 children develop serious "mitochondrial disorders" which are debilitating and fatal. Research suggests that using mitochondria from a donor egg can prevent the diseases. However, it would result in babies having DNA from two parents and a tiny amount from a third donor. Concerns have been raised both about the safety and the ethics of creating such babies. The results of a public consultation at the end of 2012 showed there was support for the idea. Professor Neva Haites, who was on the expert panel supervising the consultation, said: "Broadly speaking the public was in favour of these novel techniques being translated into treatments”.
Fossil trees that approached the heights of today’s tallest redwoods have been found in northern Thailand. The longest petrified log measures 72.2 meters, which suggest the original tree towered to more than 100 meters in a wet tropical forest some 800,000 years ago. The trees appear to have been closely related to a species alive today called Koompassia elegans, which belongs to the same family as beans, peas and black locust trees, explained lead author of the study, Marc Philippe of France’s University of Lyon. That is to say, the ancient trees are not closely related to today’s tallest trees, which are the Eucalyptus (gum trees) of Australia and Sequoia (redwoods) of California. Both of those living trees can reach about 130 meters in height. Interestingly, there are no trees living today in Thailand that approach the size of the ancients. The sediments in which the fossil trees were found suggest that they lived in a wet forest at the edge of a lowland plain. In 2006, the name of the park were the trees were found was changed to the Petrified Forest Park because of the fascinating discoveries. As to why there were big trees in the past that are unrelated to today’s giant trees, it appears to be just another case of what’s called convergent evolution. That’s where similar environmental factors lead to traits that are similar in unrelated species.
Chimps who work together know what their partners need to achieve a goal, and they're happy to lend a helping hand, recent research finds. The study demonstrates that humans' close primate relatives are true team players, perhaps revealing the evolutionary roots of human cooperation, said study leader Alicia Melis, a behavioral scientist at Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom. "This study provides the first evidence that one of our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees, not only intentionally coordinate actions with each other, but that they even understand the necessity to help a partner performing her role," Melis said in a statement. The chimpanzees in the the experiment had to share tools they were given in order to be able to reach grapes that they could eat. Ten out of the 12 chimpanzees figured out that they had to give one of the tools to their partner to successfully get the grapes. In 73 percent of attempts, the chimp chose the right tool to hand over to get the job done. "There were great individual differences regarding how quickly they started transferring tools to their partner," Melis said. "However, after transferring a tool once, they subsequently transferred tools in 97 percent of trials and successfully worked together to get the grapes in 86 percent of trials." The study reveals that chimps are savvy strategizers, Melis said, adding that the chimps understand when they need a partner for a task and which tools that partner needs.
Think about energy development in the Middle East, and you'll probably think of oil. But the petroleum-rich region is also home to the world's largest solar power facility, which started producing electricity this month. The Shams 1 solar plant outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates will produce 100 megawatts of electricity at full capacity. That's enough energy to electrify 20,000 homes and could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 175,000 tons each year — roughly the equivalent of taking 35,000 cars off the road. The Shams 1 plant is just one of several ambitious solar projects in the Middle East: Noor-1, a 100-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility planned for the UAE, is expected to begin development later this year. And Saudi Arabia plans to generate 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2032, while Qatar's renewable energy target is 1.8 gigawatts by 2014.
And, now, in local news from Romania, we learn that
There are great concerns over the students’ results in the upcoming baccalaureate exam later this year. In a simulation, in the district of Arad, 95% of students were unable to get a passing grade in mathematics and 83% were in the same situation when it came to the Romanian language examinations. Last year, a lot of university programs could not attract a sufficient number of students because many had failed the baccalaureate exam. The authorities have noted that students are simply not prepared for the examinations.