Wednesday, May 06, 2020

April 2020 - Evaluating News Media Coverage of Health Risk

  • April 18, 2020 - Evaluating News Media Coverage of Health Risk, Zoom talk
  • Prez Sez
  • March lecture canceled due to corona virus
  • Crowdsourcing Request for NCAS Members
  • NCAS Board elections
  • Amazon Smile
  • Shadow Lite
  • Time to renew

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Shadow of a Doubt - April 2020

April 2020

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Wine and Roses:
Safe or Carcinogenic?

Evaluating News Media Coverage of Health Risk

  YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Saturday, April 18, 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-04:00)
NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).

We've all heard reports that red wine is protective against cancer, while other studies find it to be carcinogenic. Similarly, some say herbicides such as glyphosate are safe to use (but not on your rose bush!) while others say it’s carcinogenic. Which is true? There are many opportunities for scientific information to become biased on the pathway from scientists to the public.  In this talk, Dr. Bodnar will describe how to effectively talk about risk and how to identify reliable sources.

Originally from Florida, Anastasia Bodnar has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Maryland and a Doctorate in Genetics, with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture, from Iowa State University.  Dr. Bodnar is the Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc., a non-profit organization that fosters conversation about issues in food and agriculture. She is also a founding member of SciMoms, and starred in the Science Moms documentary. She started her career in the US Army, working in public health and integrated pest management. As a Presidential Management Fellow, she worked at the National Institutes of Health, where she conducted special projects in science policy, science communication, and legislative affairs. She then worked in risk assessment and risk management at the US Department of Agriculture and served as a Senior Science Advisor at the Foreign Agricultural Service. Dr. Bodnar now works in risk assessment in the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy.

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.

How to Watch and Participate in the First Online Event in the 33-Year History of NCAS:

1) Use a supported browser...
2) Use the link .  If typing the link, use capital "I" and "0" (zero).
3) The live stream begins shortly before 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-04:00) on Saturday, April 18, 2020.
4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.
5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.
6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.

Prez Sez
By Scott Snell

I hope all of you are well, in both health and livelihood.  These are uncharted waters that our civilization has been drawn into.  Each nation is trying to steer a safe course between a modern-day Scylla and Charybdis of deadly pandemic and economic ruin.

I've found some solace in watching how well our nations and communities quickly learned what they needed to do, and accomplished it.  No one prepared us for this in our childhood education, or even in fiction.  If there are one or more science fiction books or movies about a pandemic, and what steps have to be taken in response, none of them became widely known in our culture.

Yet within a matter of days, people learned new habits, changed their way of life, and made huge sacrifices to protect the most vulnerable among us.  Some nations and communities did better or worse at it, but the graphs of infections and deaths are showing the response of ordinary people generally following scientifically based guidelines.  As of today, April 15, New York and New Jersey appear to have moved past the worst of the onslaught.  Unfortunately the National Capital Region is still worsening, but will likely get through its peak in the near future.

Scientists are steering us away from "Scylla."  I'm hard-pressed to think of a time when scientists were so prominently and continually at the center of international attention.  Meteorologists have a lot of on-screen time when a particular hurricane or other storm is heading for populated areas, but that only lasts for a few days.  The COVID crisis has brought Doctors Birx and Fauci into the public spotlight, day after day, for over a month, and that's likely to continue for weeks or even longer.

The details of what went wrong and what went right are being (or better yet, in my opinion, will be) sorted out.  But I offer here a very quick and definitive few milestones for anyone to calibrate what is being hashed out in the news media and blogs:

World Health Organization. (2020, January 14). Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus...

United Nations. (2020, January 30).  NEWS: #Coronavirus declared a public health emergency of international concern by @WHO. Global outbreak includes 98 cases in 18 countries, outside China.

NBC Today.  (2020, February 29).  Dr. Fauci: "No, right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you're doing on a day by day basis.  Right now, the risk is still low, but this could change.  I've said that, many times, even on this program.  You've got to watch out, because although the risk is low now, you don't need to change anything you're doing.  When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread."

US House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, "Coronavirus Preparedness and Response."  (2020, March 11, 10:47 AM ET).  Dr. Fauci: "We would recommend that there not be large crowds."

World Health Organization. (2020, March 11, 12:26 PM ET). We have therefore made the assessment that #COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

March NCAS Lecture
The March 15 NCAS lecture of biologist Adam Ruben (co-host of the "Outrageous Acts of Science" series on Science Channel) was canceled due to the health risks of public gatherings.  We hope to reschedule it later this year.

Crowdsourcing Request for NCAS Members
What can ordinary skeptics (if there is such a thing!) do to help our nation and communities, as skeptics?  Some of our members may be career health scientists, or know someone who is.  But the general skill set of a skeptic is probably good enough to help a little...particularly the ability to identify contradictory information and the ability to ask good questions.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web page for COVID-19:

Do you see any information that is contradicted by other information at the site?  Do you see any information that isn't clearly presented?

I assume people at CDC are carefully reviewing all new content, but they might make mistakes.

Do you have a suggestion for a new FAQ?

If you find anything in any of these categories, email it for peer review to  Please include your name, and relevant expertise, if any.  Our board of directors will review your finding(s) and will contact you for final submission to the CDC, with proper attribution, of course.

NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting
The upcoming 2020 NCAS election will use electronic voting.  When voting begins, each member will receive an email from NCAS (via containing a unique web address usable as a single-cast secret ballot.  (NCAS will receive information indicating who voted, but nothing to indicate who cast each ballot.)

Note that voters will not be at risk for spamming as a result of participating...SurveyMonkey has a zero-tolerance spam policy:

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 fourth quarter of 2019 came to $20.75, meaning that over $4100 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's enough to cover an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

For more information:

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