Archive for January, 2015

Get out of debt free… or, not

Guest post from Emma, an MSS member.

I and my partner recently moved to a new house. It went relatively smoothly aside from the usual stress of packing, unpacking and remembering what addresses to change, that sort of thing. After the move a large volume of post for the previous owner kept arriving at our address. At first I diligently gave it to the estate agent to forward on as we didn’t have a forwarding address. After a while this became irksome so we began just returning to sender. Alas the deluge of post continued and I began to recognise some of the return addresses and some worrying looking ones (with red ink) didn’t have a return address.

I found that most of the letters were from creditors of the previous owner seeking repayment of various debts. They were threatening and I must admit I would have been scared to receive them if they were addressed to me. The previous owner is apparently in some financial distress and I found myself feeling quite sorry for them and the difficulties they were presumably having.

Following the financial crisis more and more people have found themselves in this position and there are fewer and fewer places where people can get help and advice given cuts to public services and legal aid.

BTBATBJMU

People receiving debt letters can turn to social media for answers – unfortunately, not always good answers.

For example, in 2013 all legal aid for debt matters was taken out of scope – meaning that it is very difficult to get professional advice with debt matters. In the same way that we see people given a terminal diagnosis turning to miracle cure peddlers in the form of Burzynksi or ‘Yes to Life’, in the debt world the equivalent is the Facebook page and website ‘Beat the Bailiffs and the Banks’ (BTBATB). At the time of writing this group has over 20,000 members. Every day there are dozens of requests for help from people who have received letters similar to those being sent to the previous owner of my house. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #140

Oxidative stress, topical urine, imprinted silica, and free radicals. Plus crashed vans, cloning, growing cress, and spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Really, spoiler alert. There are spoilers. Probably not using more than 10% of our brains, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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Reasoning with the Unreasonable – by Harriet Hall

*Note: This talk does not take place on our usual date in the month, but instead takes place on the FIFTH Thursday of the month*

When:  Thursday, April 30th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

harriet-hall

Dr. Hall will relate her always frustrating and often hilarious experiences as the token skeptic in a local community discussion group, and will follow up with a useful list of anti-science memes that refuse to die (like “science doesn’t know everything”) and will show how skeptics can answer them effectively.

Dr Harriet Hall is a retired family physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who writes about medicine, alternative medicine, science, quackery, and critical thinking. She is one of the founders and editors of the Science-Based Medicine blog, a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and co-author of the textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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InKredulous: Episode #032

Episode 32 of our satirical comedy podcast.

Your host is Andy Wilson (@InKredulosi) of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and co-organiser of QED conference.

Appearing this time are:

Thanks for listening.

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Be Reasonable: Episode #025 – Leo Rebello

On this episode, Marsh speaks with Dr. Leo Rebello. Leo has been the Director of Natural Health Centre, in Bombay, since 1978. He claims to have delivered over 15,000 lectures in 65 countries and written fifty books. Amongst his recent work is Aids Scare, which argues that HIV doesn’t exist, and that AIDS should be treated with homeopathy and yoga.

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Do Computer Scientists Dream of Electric Sleep? – Katie Atkinson

When:  Thursday, May 21st, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

Dr Katie Atkinson

In this talk Katie will provide an insight into the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to show how current research on the topic breaks many of the moulds found in numerous depictions of AI in sci-fi literature and films. She will provide an overview of the main techniques used to represent aspects of intelligent thought and behaviour, and discuss some of the landmark success stories and current state-of-the-art. Katie will further pinpoint some of the challenges that AI researchers face, covering technological, legal and ethical aspects.

Dr Katie Atkinson is a Reader in the Agent Applications, Research, and Technology (Agent ART) Group of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool. The Agent ART Group carries out both pure and applied research in the area of autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the Computer Science department was ranked 1st in the UK for 4* and 3* research, with 97% of their research being rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Her research concerns computational models of argument, with a particular focus on persuasive argumentation in practical reasoning and how this can be applied in domains such as e-Democracy, law and agent systems. She has published over one hundred articles on these, and closely related, subjects. She received her PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2005.

Our speaker events have wheelchair access, via a portable ramp which can be installed on-demand. If possible, please let us know you’re coming through contact@merseysideskeptics.org.uk or on 07534 418 218 so we can make sure the ramp is ready.

 

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