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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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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The GMO debate and the rise of anti-science

Guest post from Dr Geraint Parry.

Over the past few days, the EU passed legislation that changes the ability of member states to grow genetically modified (GM) crops. As with most EU legislative documents this new declaration is not light reading but essentially reports that member states will have more power to decide whether they individually wish to grow GM crops in their territories. This alters the present situation where any GM crop needs EU-wide approval. Currently only a few GM crop varieties are approved including an insect resistance maize/corn called MON810. However many members states including France, Germany and Italy have individually banned MON810 and so it is only grown in warmer climates, the majority of which in Spain.

The new ruling will allow countries to develop crops that are more appropriate for their climates as long as, importantly, all the necessary safety checks are carried out and contingencies are put in place to ensure no unintended spread of these GM plants. In some countries this new ruling will make little difference as there currently is little political will in France or Germany to accept this technology and it will be difficult in countries surrounding these European powerhouses to make a strong case that there will be no spread across land-locked borders. Read the rest of this entry »

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Yes to life Chief Executive responds to criticism

In November 2014, myself and two other Merseyside Skeptics Society members attended a seminar hosted by the charity Yes to Life in Manchester. Yes to Life is an organisation that offers advice to people diagnosed with cancer with a focus on “integrative therapies” – that is, a combination of conventional therapies with alternative therapies including diet, detox and lifestyle modification. Despite the latter being supported by little to no evidence, the talks at the seminar suggested a scientific basis for a number of alternative therapies to an audience of cancer sufferers and their loved ones.

I wrote of my concern about this for the Guardian Science Blog, which elicited an email response from Sue De Cesare, Executive Director of Yes to Life. I reproduce the email in full below Read the rest of this entry »

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