Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Shadow of a Doubt - December 2019

December 2019

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Will DNA Testing Help My Family History Research?

John M. Butler, PhD
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 PhD 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.

Refreshments will be available.

Happy Friday the 13th!
NCAS has no events planned for Friday, December 13, but encourages our members to celebrate the silliness of superstition responsibly.  Wear eye protection if you smash a mirror, be careful when walking under a ladder, etc!

January NCAS Lecture, in Arlington, Virginia!
On Saturday, January 11, 2020, NCAS will be back in Arlington for the first time in nearly three years.  See Nick Little, Vice President, General Counsel, and Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry present "The Little Non-Profit That Could – CFI's challenge to pseudoscience and alternative medicine through consumer protection laws."  1:30 PM at Arlington Central Library's Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium.

FDA Call for Public Comments on Revised Draft Guidance for FDA Staff and Industry Entitled "Drug Products Labeled as Homeopathic"

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 by January 23, 2020 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 National Archives Commemorates Project Blue Book
On November 20, the National Archives issued a press release about a new display in the East Rotunda Gallery of its museum in Washington: "To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Project Blue Book, the National Archives will display records from the Air Force's unidentified flying objects (UFOs)  investigations. The documents display opens on December 5, 2019, and runs through January 8, 2020."

See also:

DCist, the Washington news blog operated by WAMU, the NPR station at American University, took the opportunity to write about the new exhibit and the radar UFOs reported over the Washington area in the summer of 1952:

One would hope that an NPR station-operated news blog would have high standards for accuracy, but the article falls short in a few places.  Describing the 1952 radar incidents as occurring "...just five years after the now-legendary incident in Roswell, New Mexico," readers might assume that the Roswell incident was always a famous case, though actually it quickly fell into obscurity and was ignored by UFOlogists from 1947 until 1980.

The article also distorts what the CIA did after the radar incidents: "A few months [later, the CIA] was ready to explain what had happened. In January 1953, the agency sponsored a panel to announce their findings.  The official explanation? Temperature inversions..."

The CIA did convene a panel of scientists (the "Robertson Panel") to review, not investigate, a number of UFO cases, including the Washington radar case.  But the panel and its work were announcement/"official explanation" was issued.

Not the CIA, but instead the CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration, forerunner of today's Federal Aviation Administration) investigated the Washington radar case.  Its report supported the temperature-inversion explanation offered by the Air Force soon after the incidents.

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 third quarter of 2019 came to $13.51, meaning that over $2700 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover a half hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

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