Skeptical Reporter @ 2013-08-30

Skeptical Reporter for August 30th, 2013

A bleeding disorder in babies so rare that it typically affects fewer than one in 100,000 is becoming more common in Tennessee. The illness is occurring more frequently because parents are refusing vitamin K injections at birth, according to pediatric specialists. Since February, four babies with no signs of injury or abuse have been sent to one children’s hospital with either brain hemorrhages or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. They were all diagnosed with vitamin K deficiency bleeding. All four had not received the preventive treatment, which doctors have been giving to newborns since the 1960s. Pediatricians believe that parents are increasingly refusing consent because of concerns based on misinformation or the goal of having natural childbirths. All four children survived, but the three who suffered brain bleeds face challenges. Years ago there was no problem in administering vaccines to newborn babies. But these days parents are also refusing a hepatitis B vaccine, which is given to the babies to protect them from possible exposure from the mother. The doctors blame “debunked” studies — reports that have not stood up to scientific scrutiny — still floating around on the Internet that have linked vaccine ingredients to autism and vitamin K injections to leukemia.

Shakhter Karagandy boss Viktor Kumykov plans to continue the Kazakh club's sheep-sacrificing ritual ahead of their Champions League play-off second-leg tie against Celtic. The Kazakh champions caused a stir when they killed a sheep at the Astana Arena the last time they won a game. Animal rights group Peta expressed their outrage in a strongly-worded letter to UEFA president urging Michel Platini to punish Shakhter. Kumykov explained the practice during the pre-match press conference: "All I can say is that every team and every club has its own pre-match traditions and rituals. Celtic must have their own. We will try to respect our traditions and those traditions have been in place even before we came to the club." He added that the ritual will probably be carried out. Police Scotland said sacrificing a sheep in a football stadium would breach Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006. A spokesperson added: "Only professional slaughterhouses or people under licence may lawfully kill a protected animal."

A steak house might not be the place you’d expect to go for a pitch on curing diabetes. But a company continues offering free dinners to lure people into diabetes seminars even as one of its charter members awaits trial in two states, including Arizona, on charges ranging from operating without a license to fraud and bilking the elderly. Diabetic Solutions MD promises it can help cure diabetes through a step-by-step process and nutritional supplements that could cost you thousands. Don’t be misled by the MD in the title. The doctors pitching the supplements are licensed chiropractors whose practices revolve around marketing supplements and diet plans. Diabetic Solutions has some close ties to another company that has recently caught the attention of law enforcement. It is called Diabetes Solutions, based in Utah. Most medical experts agree that the most important way to control diabetes is through diet and exercise. That could be something to consider when promise of a cure comes with a free steak-house luncheon.

Congress is on holiday this month, but the lobbyists are baiting their hooks, planning their strategies for how to get more money for themselves. A growing lobby is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM ) providers, who have discovered a new opportunity to extract even more money from patients than they do already. They want the government to force insurance providers to pay for quack treatments, regardless of whether or not the treatments work. Any attempt to require evidence, they argue, amounts to discrimination. The strategy is simple: require the government to fund any treatment that a patient wants, and dress this up as “patient choice.”  Then if insurance companies resist paying for ineffective treatments, accuse them of discriminating against the poor, hapless “integrative medicine” providers.

And now let’s look at some news in science.

One of the biggest canyons in the world has been found beneath the ice sheet that smothers most of Greenland. The canyon - which is 800 kilometers long and up to 800 meters deep - was carved out by a great river more than four million years ago, before the ice arrived. It was discovered by accident as scientists researching climate change mapped Greenland’s bedrock by radar. The British Antarctic Survey said it was remarkable to find so huge a geographical feature previously unseen. The hidden valley is longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The ice sheet, up to 3 kilometers thick, is now so heavy that it makes the island sag in the middle (central Greenland was previously about 500m above sea level, now it is 200m below sea level). Glaciologists think the canyon plays an important role in transporting sub-glacial meltwater produced at the bed towards the ocean.

Miniature "human brains" have been grown in a lab in a feat scientists hope will transform the understanding of neurological disorders. The pea-sized structures reached the same level of development as in a nine-week-old foetus, but are incapable of thought. The study has already been used to gain insight into rare diseases. Neuroscientists have described the findings as astounding and fascinating. One of the researchers, Dr Juergen Knoblich, said: "What our organoids are good for is to model development of the brain and to study anything that causes a defect in development. Ultimately we would like to move towards more common disorders like schizophrenia or autism”. The technique could also be used to replace mice and rats in drug research as new treatments could be tested on actual brain tissue.

A team of researchers claims to have created the world's fastest spinning man-made object. They were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere at speeds of up to 600 million revolutions per minute. This spin speed is half a million times faster than a domestic washing machine and more than a thousand times faster than a dental drill. Although there is much international research exploring what happens at the boundary between classical physics and quantum physics, most of this experimental work uses atoms or molecules. The St Andrews team aimed to understand what happened for larger objects containing a million million atoms or more. Dr Yoshihiko Arita of the university's School of Physics and Astronomy said: "This is an exciting, thought-provoking experiment that pushes the boundary of our understanding of rotating bodies”. The researchers have managed to examine the rotating sphere and hope to gain more information from the experiment.

Scientists have presented new evidence for the existence of an unconfirmed element with atomic number 115. The element is highly radioactive and exists for less than a second before decaying into lighter atoms. First proposed by Russian scientists in 2004, the super-heavy element has yet to be verified by the governing body of chemistry and physics. A Swedish team has managed to create the element. "This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years", said Dirk Rudolph, professor at the division of atomic physics at Lund University, who led the research. After the discovery of element 115, independent confirmation to measure the exact proton number was required. The potential new element will now be reviewed by a committee which consists of members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry. They will decide whether to recommend further experiments before the discovery of the new element is acknowledged.

And, now, in local news from Romania, we learn that

Over 6.000 students from 506 schools in five Romanian counties have had the opportunity to learn more about science. Their teachers managed to access the MaST European funds for science and math three years ago and since then, students have been taught the difficult subjects in innovative ways. The program’s purpose is to make math and science education more accessible to students.

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