Sunday, November 24, 2019

December 14 - Will DNA Testing Help My Family History Research?

Presented by John M. Butler, Ph.D.

National Institute of Standards and Technology 

NIST Fellow & Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science

Genetic ancestry testing is a growing market with over 26 million people examining their DNA in recent years. DNA testing will not solve all your family history questions but can provide helpful associations in some cases. Tests provided by FamilyTree DNA, Ancestry, and 23andMe will be discussed. Using a case study, we will examine the capabilities and limitations of advancing your family history research with DNA testing. We will also discuss the recent use of investigative genealogical testing by law enforcement to capture the Golden State Killer.

John M. Butler has a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Virginia. He did his graduate work in the FBI Laboratory’s Forensic Science Research Unit at Quantico, Virginia, where he pioneered the techniques now used worldwide for forensic DNA testing. Dr. Butler has written over 175 scientific research articles and five textbooks on Forensic DNA Typing and has given hundreds of presentations on the subject across the U.S. and in 26 other countries. He and his wife are parents of six children, all of whom have been proven to be theirs through the power of DNA testing.

Saturday, December 14, 2019
1:30 pm 
B-CC Regional Services Center 
4805 Edgemoor Lane 
2nd Floor (West Room) 
Bethesda, MD 


Shadow of a Doubt - November 2019

November 2019 
  • Bizarre Psychological Disorders presented by Brian A. Sharpless
  • December lecture-  John M. Butler, Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science at NIST, presents "Will DNA Testing Help My Family History Research?"
  • FDA Call for Public Comments on Revised Draft Guidance for FDA Staff and Industry Entitled "Drug Products Labeled as Homeopathic"
  • Torn From Today's Headlines By Scott Snell - The Transit of Mercury
  •  AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to Renew?

Click to see Shadow.

Shadow of a Doubt - November 2019

Bizarre Psychological Disorders

Brian A. Sharpless
Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London
Adjunct Professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Saturday, November 9, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
2nd Floor (West Room)
4805 Edgemoor Lane
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

Have you ever believed that you were abducted by aliens? Do you ever wake up to the sound of explosions, only to discover that everything is fine? Are you convinced that you can transform yourself into a different species of animal? What about having sex while you’re sound asleep?

People are nothing if not confusingly complex, and some end up thinking, acting, and behaving in unusual, odd, and extreme ways. Some of the strangest psychological disorders that they can acquire are not well-known to the public or even many mental health professionals, despite some – such as isolated sleep paralysis – actually being fairly common in the general population.

Brian A. Sharpless will focus on five interesting conditions. He'll place them in historical or cultural context and will summarize their scientific literatures. You'll learn, for example, how sexsomnia has complicated criminal proceedings.  You will learn how those afflicted with clinical zoanthropy might have been involved in Medieval werewolf panics. You will also learn how “exploding head syndrome” is associated with a popular conspiracy theory.

Currently a visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London and adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Washington DC Campus, Dr. Sharpless was formerly on faculty at Pennsylvania State University, Washington State University, and the American School of Professional Psychology.  He received his PhD in clinical psychology and MA in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Sharpless has broad interests in abnormal psychology and psychotherapy.  He has over 45 publications on common and lesser-known disorders, psychodynamic therapy, professional issues, and the history/philosophy of clinical psychology.  His three books, Sleep Paralysis: Historical, Psychological, and Medical Perspectives (co-authored with Dr. Karl Doghramji), Unusual and Rare Psychological Disorders: A Handbook for Clinical Practice and Research, and Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques:  A Guide to Expressive and Supportive Interventions are all available through Oxford University Press.  This research been featured on TV, radio, and in other media outlets, and he is a frequent speaker at conferences and public events in the United States and abroad.  Along with his scholarly interests, Dr. Sharpless also maintains a small private practice in the DC area.

Refreshments will be available.

At the speaker's request, this event will not be recorded for the NCAS YouTube channel.

December NCAS Lecture
John M. Butler, Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science at NIST, presents "Will DNA Testing Help My Family History Research?"  Saturday, December 14 at 1:30 PM at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

FDA Call for Public Comments on Revised Draft Guidance for FDA Staff and Industry Entitled "Drug Products Labeled as Homeopathic"

The NCAS lecture of Saturday, January 11, 2020 (location TBD) will be presented by Nick Little, Vice President, General Counsel, and Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry on "The Little Non-Profit That Could – CFI’s challenge to pseudoscience and alternative medicine through consumer protection laws."

The following is an excerpt of Cause & Effect No. 142, November 6, 2019. (Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community.)

Call to Experts: Tell the FDA to Get Tougher on Homeopathy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling for public comments on its final version of new enforcement guidance for homeopathic “drug” manufacturers, replacing Compliance Policy Guidance (CPG) 400.400, which the agency last updated in March 1995. This new guidance espouses a “risk-based approach” to regulatory enforcement, which, while sounding sensible, comes at a time when we are seeing an across-the-board decline in FDA enforcement actions.
Homeopathic manufacturers may well interpret the “risk-based approach” as carte blanche to sell any product and make any health claim as long as they avoid only the most severe violations, such as claiming to cure terminal diseases or deliberately selling products with lethal quantities of toxic (i.e., “active”) ingredients. (And of course, homeopathy is premised on the dilution of said ingredients into virtual non-existence.)
The new guidance also completely omits the requirement for manufacturers to translate ingredient names from Latin to English. The previous guidance required manufacturers to do so no later than June 11, 1990, and went almost entirely ignored.
Homeopathy does not and cannot work, and the FDA should be placing more scrutiny on these products, not less. This is an opportunity to make your voice heard! If you are a scientist, doctor, health care professional, or if you possess other relevant expertise, we highly encourage you to submit a public comment to the FDA. 
We would also love to hear about your comment. Please consider sending us a brief email at to let us know that you chimed in with the FDA.

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
The Transit of Mercury
Instead of its usual orbital passage somewhat north or south of the Sun's disk as seen from Earth, Mercury will pass directly in front of the Sun on November 11.  It's the last time this event (a "transit of Mercury") will occur until 2032.  But not until 2049 will a Mercury transit be visible again from the US.

The transit starts at 7:35 AM EST and ends at 1:04 PM.  So far, the DC-area weather forecast for Monday is looking good ("mostly sunny").

A telescope or binoculars are required to see the planet's tiny silhouette.  There isn't a safe way to combine eclipse glasses with either of those, so attend a viewing event hosted by the Smithsonian, local university astronomy departments, or amateur astronomy groups, some of which are listed below.

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second quarter of 2019 came to $19.28, meaning that over $3800 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's nearly enough to cover an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

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