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CSICOP in the News

Matt Nisbet

Skeptical Briefs Volume 7.3, September 1997

Media Stock Fund Launch Successful

In the spring, CSICOP launched the Media Stock Fund to provide leverage for the entertainment industry’s lucrative commercial marketing of fringe-science and pseudoscience. CSICOP is asking friends and supporters to help it acquire common stock in media conglomerate companies. The Fund will allow CSICOP to take part in shareholder meetings, and create an endowment for the Council for Media Integrity.

Author/entertainer Steve Allen is one of several recent donors. The Media Stock Fund has been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and in other newspapers across the country. It has also appeared on CNBC, the cable business news network. The Fund includes shares in Disney, Time-Warner, Westinghouse, General Electric, and NewsCorp.

Weeping Icon in Toronto

On August 27, CSICOP Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell and Press Officer Matt Nisbet traveled to Toronto to investigate an alleged weeping icon at a Greek Orthodox church. In front of a dozen television, newspaper, and radio reporters, Nickell collected samples of the “tears” for Toronto police lab analysis. (Nickell had originally visited the icon in September of last year, but was not allowed to do an analysis. Nickell reported on this visit in the March/April 1997 Skeptical Inquirer.) Following completion of his examination, Nickell termed the icon “consistent with a fraud” and, pending lab testing, concluded that the substance of the “tears” was little more than olive oil. Last fall, over 20,000 people visited the church to witness the “miracle,” donating an estimated $500,000 in money and gifts. The ousted priest of the church has been accused of perpetrating the hoax and stealing the money from the church’s coffers.

Council for Scientific Medicine Establishes New Journal

Several prominent fellows of CSICOP have joined to form the Council for Scientific Medicine and launch a scientific journal devoted exclusively to objectively evaluating the claims of “alternative medicine.” Named The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, it is the only peer-reviewed medical journal of its kind. “The new journal will consider each claim on its merits,” says Review Editor Wallace Sampson, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine at Stanford and long-time CSICOP fellow. “It will reject no claim because it fits, or fails to fit, some paradigm. It will simply seek justified answers to two questions: ‘Is it true?’ and ‘Does this treatment work?'” The Council includes nearly sixty prominent physicians and scientists and five Nobel laureates. The official debut of the Review will be October 14, at a press conference in the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Council for Media Integrity and Steve Allen Ask for Horoscope Disclaimer

In August, the Council for Media Integrity and Steve Allen sent a letter to U.S. newspaper editors asking that they run an advisory next to horoscope columns. The advisory warns readers that astrology is "for entertainment value only; it has no reliable basis in scientific fact.” CSICOP’s efforts to get newspapers to run such an advisory go back to 1986. As a result of this most recent effort, at least five more newspapers have adopted disclaimers, bringing the total to sixty-five nationwide. An editorial by CSICOP chair Paul Kurtz and astronomer Andrew Fraknoi was carried by the Buffalo News, and several other newspapers across the country.

Skeptical Inquirer Editor on Science Friday

On June 27, National Public Radio’s Science Friday program, hosted by Ira Flatow, aired a one-hour segment on the Roswell crashed-saucer incident. Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier and new SI consulting editor Dave Thomas were on the program along with Don Berliner, co-author of Crash at Corona, and Jim Wilson, author of the July 1997 Popular Mechanics cover story on Roswell.

Matt Nisbet

Matthew Nisbet is Associate Professor of Communication at Northeastern University and a CSI technical consultant.