Friday, January 03, 2014

Shadow of a Doubt - January 2014

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics
  • Jan 11 NCAS Lecture: Moses Schanfield, PhD,Where Did We All Come From?
    Tracing Human Migration Using Genetic Markers
  • Torn from today's headlines: UFO Activist Joins White House Staff as a Counselor to the President
  • Feb 8 NCAS Lecture: Professor Steven Salzberg,
    Bad Medicine: How Alternative Medicine has Infiltrated U.S. Medical Schools.
  • Jan 8 Drinking Skeptically - New Maryland Location
NCAS Public Lecture Series
Where Did We All Come From?
Tracing Human Migration Using Genetic Markers

Moses Schanfield, PhD
Department of Forensic Sciences
The George Washington University

Saturday, January 11, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
(Ballston-Marymount University Metro stop)
Enter NSF from the corner of 9th N & N Stuart Streets.
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

Of all species on the face of the earth, humans are the most disperse, in that they occupy the most diverse eco-systems present on all large land masses and most large islands.  In recent time, much work has been done using maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA, and non-recombinant Y (NRY) chromosome markers to map human migration and ancestry.  In addition, large numbers of other DNA based markers have been used for similar purposes.  However, anthropological geneticists have been looking at human migration and ancestry for as long as there have been genetic markers, starting with the ABO blood groups.

This talk will review some of the realities and unrealities of ancestry testing, as done by commercial laboratories such as, as well as the overall patterns of human migration and conclusions that can be made about modern humans in the last 100,000 years.

Professor Schanfield is a world authority on the genetic markers on antibodies, and has applied genetic marker testing, both protein- and DNA-based, to the study of anthropologic and forensic genetics. He was involved in some of the earliest forensic DNA cases, and has been involved in some famous forensic cases including the OJ Simpson case and the JonBenét Ramsey case. Professor Schanfield is a co-editor of the book Forensic DNA Applications: An Interdisciplinary Perspective with Professor Dragan Primorac which will be released in February 2014 by Taylor and Francis. He is currently Professor of Forensic Science and Anthropology at George Washington University.

Professor Schanfield has undergraduate and Masters Degrees in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota and Harvard University, respectively and a Ph.D in Human Genetics from the University of Michigan.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
UFO Activist Joins White House Staff as a Counselor to the President
On December 9, 2013, the New York Times reported that John D. Podesta had agreed to serve as a counselor to President Obama, for a period of one year, "on matters related to the health care law, administration organization and executive actions."  The next day, White House press secretary Jay Carney provided additional details: that Podesta would "advise on a range of issues with a particular focus on issues of energy and climate change."

Podesta, co-Chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Project in 2008 and 2009, and Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001, is also well-known for calling on the U.S. government to reveal all it knows about UFOs.  A 1998 Washington Post profile of Podesta quoted White House press secretary Mike McCurry: "John can get totally maniacal and phobic on certain subjects.  He's been known to pick up the phone to call the Air Force and ask them what's going on in Area 51 [a Nevada military base, prominent in UFO folklore]."

Podesta has never flatly stated that he believes UFOs are ETs, but apparently he thinks the government has something to hide.  "I think it's time to open the books on questions that have remained in the dark on the question of government investigations of UFOs," Podesta said at a 2002 press conference that announced the founding of the Sci-Fi Channel's Coalition for Freedom of Information, consisting of very pro-ETH (extraterrestrial hypothesis) UFO advocates. "It's time to find out what the truth really is that's out there...the American people quite frankly can...handle the truth."  (In 2010, his foreword to Leslie Kean's bestselling book,
UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record, conveyed a similar message.)

Coincidentally (and there's no evidence indicating otherwise!), on December 8, the day before the New York Times story about Podesta's agreement to join the White House official staff, Obama became the first US president to publicly mention Area 51 by name, during his remarks at the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Reception.  (Honorees are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.  Among those honored was actress Shirley MacLaine, who's also a bestselling author of "New Age" books.)

President Obama said (jokingly), "Now, when you first become President, one of the questions that people ask you is, what's really going on in Area 51?  [Laughter.]  When I wanted to know, I'd call Shirley MacLaine.  [Laughter.]  I think I just became the first President to ever publicly mention Area 51.  How's that, Shirley?"  [Laughter and applause.]

Podesta press conference excerpt (October 22, 2002):
Foreword to Kean's 2010 book:

February NCAS Lecture
Dr. Steven Salzberg, Professor of Medicine and Biostatistics in the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he is also Director of the Center for Computational Biology, will speak on "Bad Medicine: How Alternative Medicine has Infiltrated U.S. Medical Schools."  Saturday, February 8 at 1:30 pm at National Science Foundation.

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Drinking Skeptically, now in MD and VA!

On Wednesday, January 8 at 7:00 p.m., please join fellow NCASers at either of our simultaneous DC-area Drinking Skeptically events:
                                    Skeptically Bottle Cap LogoNew Location: McGinty's Public House
Upstairs bar
911 Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring, MD

The Front Page Arlington
Rear patio / National Science Foundation atrium
4201 Wilson Blvd (across from Ballston Common Mall) in Arlington, VA
(703) 248-9990

Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, critical-thinkers, and like-minded individuals. There's no cover charge and all are welcome. Don't drink? Don't let that stop you from joining us! Some of the world's most famous skeptics are teetotalers, and we are happy to have you! Remember that drinking skeptically means drinking responsibly. If there's one thing science has taught us, it's the effects of alcohol on the human body.

New Skeptic Line Number
As of March 2013, NCAS has switched telephone numbers, from 301-587-3827 to 240-670-NCAS (6227).

Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to Use the online membership form to renew.