Oakland North reports on area psychics

At Oakland North, a project of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, reporter Alyssa Fetini asks the pressing question: "Psychics are ubiquitous in Oakland, but are they for real?." Fetini interviews several store-front "psychics," as well as the proprietor of the Berkeley Psychic Institute, which purports to train anyone to exercise psychic powers. After allowing the psychics to offer their own claims, she gives UC Berkeley psychologist Kyle Jennings a chance to respond. "Psychologists," Jennings explains, "would not believe that a person was actually psychic." Fetini then reviews some of the recent reports of psychics defrauding customers (as previously reported at BAS). Director of the Berkeley Psychic Institute Richard Pozzuto gets the last word, denying that his trainees have anything to do with such scams, insisting "we train people to find their own answers." The Institute's website refers to its programs as "psychic kinde

 A New Living Expo treatmentFrom sfgate.com: A New Living Expo treatment San Francisco Chronicle reporter Steve Rubenstein gets the tone perfectly right in his review of the New Living Expo taking place in San Francisco this week. He points out the unlikeliness of any of the cures actually being efficacious -- though definitely beneficial to the bank accounts of the purveyors. "A whole wonderful building full of miracles. Major credit cards accepted." http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/12/DDLE1DAK3U.DTL

Agavalicious

Bottles of organic agave nectarOh, Apartment Therapy, your credulousness is the gift that keeps on giving (specifically, giving me things to write about in blog posts). This time, someone discovered an article that says, oh my god, agave nectar is not a magical health food: it is actually sugar! And just as bad for you as some other types of sugar, like, for example, sugar. Or even, maybe, high fructose corn syrup, which we all know is basically heroin because it will addict you and then kill you. This basically shot the puppy of some of the commenters, who had been so sure that agave syrup -- I refuse to call something nectar unless it is actually flower juice -- was super healthy.
UGH! Seriously? I may be pouring mine down the drain. I just bought a HUGE bottle when it was on sale at whole foods.
I'm shocked. I had no idea that agave was not healthy for you. Like spookiefish, I feel somewhat betrayed. I stopped buying it because it was so expensive. Now I have another key reason to not buy it again i

Readers of stories about Berkeley Unified School District considering scrapping before and after school science laboratories should not misconstrue these deliberations as anti-science activities. As with almost everything else, we can't understand the present unless we understand the history. For many years, science education at Berkeley High School took place in long, double period science classes, where students could benefit from integrated lecture and laboratory experiences, practice inquiry learning, etc. These double period classes, however created problems in scheduling classes in non-science subjects that didn't require double periods, as well as some other problems with staffing. In 2002 - 03, double-periods were abandoned; BHS was reorganized into a 6-period day with standard-length classes. According to the recollection of a person we spoke to in the administration at BUSD, the before and after school science labs were added approximately at the time the district moved away from the double period science classes. It is these laboratories--scheduled outside of the regular school day--that are being considered for elimination. All science laboratories will not be elimina

At the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific this week, BAS member Dr. David Morrison, who writes the NASA "Ask an Astrobiologist" column, reported that the number of questions about the "killer planet" Niburu and "doomsday 2012" questions have expanded astronomically, so to speak. David read some of the emails he has received, and they indicate a portion of the public is being seriously alarmed by the hype about these alleged future disasters allegedly about to impact Earth. Some have written about committing suicide, others have mentioned panic and anxiety attacks, and many have expressed great concern over whether the government is lying to them about the coming disaster. Take a look at the column for an eye-opening view of some of the fears and misconceptions held by our fellow citizens -- and Morrison's clear-headed and informative responses. Like Dave, I am outraged at the hucksters on cable TV and from Hollywood who are trying to make a buck out of scaring the daylights out of people with half-baked pseudoscience. At the conference, Dave used fear of Niburu and 2012 disaster scenarios as examples of why scientists and other knowledgeable people should step up to the plate to help educate the public about these issues. Pseudoscience DOES matter. Ignorance hurts people.
Skeptoid publisher Brian Dunning has instituted a new Youtube series of skeptical analyses of popular claims -- which are pseudoscientific. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/user/volleybrian The first three posts include an analysis of the health values of wheatgrass, a discussion of the Pacific garbage patch (serious, but lots of misinformation out there), and the "2021 apocolypse". Spread the word.

Edmund Scientific, a normally respected provider of science-related laboratory supplies widely used for teaching at all levels, just lost its crediblity bigtime by offering for sale a "3-in-1 Paranormal Research Instrument". Read about it here: http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp?pn=3151280&cmss=paranormal&bhcd... "Designed exclusively for paranormal investigators, this incredible tool has everything you need to track and detect the presence of ghosts" Cost is $149.

It's been a busy time for Bay Area Skeptics. There was a large San Francisco Bay Area skeptics contingent at the recent The Amaz!ng Meeting. This is the critical thinking conference hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation held annually in Las Vegas. We have also revived our SF Bay Area Skeptics lecture series. This commenced with "Are We Alone?", a fascinating talk by Dan Werthimer, Chief Scientist of the SETI@home project at the University of California, Berkeley. We've also been holding regular Skeptics in the Pub events throughout the Bay Area; including a night with Skeptics' Guide to the Universe's Jay Novella, and Skeptical Inquirer's Ben Radford. We're planning some exciting guests for our future events. Visit this site and check out our Facebook group for upcoming talks and pub nights. See you at one of our lectures or Skeptics in the Pub events soon!

There are still signs posted on telegraph poles throughout the Bay Area, seeking information about missing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu who disappeared from outside her home in Tracy, CA, on March, 27. Tragically, we now know that the little girl was murdered. As reported in Inside Bay Area, Los Angeles-based psychic Dani Pedlow claims that she assisted Tracy police in solving the case. Pedlow asserts that she predicted the location where the little girl's body would be found. For this supposed assistance, she believes she is entitled to a portion of a $30,000 reward. Pedlow sent a letter to the Tracy Police Department, telling them so. However, Tracy Police deny that Pedlow contacted them for anything more than the reward, "We never reviewed or utilized any information from a psychic during this investigation," Tracy police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said. This is fortunate, since there is no historical evidence to suggest that psychic detectives

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