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Targeting the susceptible (7/12/2002)
The birth of a new baby is a time for celebration and joy, but the good feelings can be tempered by new things to worry about.
(See the rest of this article here.)
Speaking of advertisements ... (7/12/2002)
Anyone who uses any of the services at Yahoo! will be familiar with the ads that pay for it all. On Thursday, 5 December, people reading the messages sent to some of the anti-vaccination mailing lists at Yahoo! Groups were given an extra special treat. You can see it here.
A quack ends up where a quack belongs
When I did my regular link check this week I found that the site belonging to the Royal Rife Research Society had disappeared. Because the Rife machine is a classic in medical quackery, I went looking to see where this site had gone to. Imagine my surprise to find that the owner of the site was spending some time as a guest of the government. John Bryon Krueger is doing 30 months inside for selling fraudulent medical devices, although he probably won't notice the sentence because he is doing it concurrently with 12 years for conspiracy to kidnap and murder someone. This is consistent behaviour, because anyone selling or promoting the use of Rife machines is actively participating in an activity which has the potential to deprive people of their liberty (by keeping them sick when they could be well) and to kill them by convincing them that useless treatments can work for terminal diseases.
See the John Bryon Krueger story here.
It's all over - but is it? (7/12/2002)
Ray Wallace, the man who invented Bigfoot, has died. His family have revealed that they knew all along about the special wooden feet he had made to start the hoax back in 1958. They also hinted at (but will not say) who was wearing the furry suit in the famous 1967 Roger Patterson film of the "creature". Now that the hoaxers have revealed the hoax, I suppose that all the Bigfoot believers will have a good laugh at themselves and wonder how they were fooled for so long. They could compare notes with the people who knew that crop circles could not be produced by humans, and the erstwhile fans of Uri Geller who stopped believing in his paranormal powers when James Randi showed that he could do all of Geller's tricks. Maybe they could get together with former anti-vaccinationists who have finally figured out where polio and smallpox went to, and with ex-creationists who have pondered about how the koalas got from Turkey to Turramurra. And pigs might fly, too.
Email can be so much fun (7/12/2002)
The constant stream of spam which flows through the email systems of the world can be a bit wearing, but occasionally something pops up which makes it all worthwhile. Well, it doesn't really make it worthwhile, but it can make you smile for a minute. Here are some strange messages I've received lately.
|I am not sure why I was invited to
The Science of Mold Conference
Here's someone who wants to do business with my computer company:
This one isn't spam, but I am not sure what info is required. This is the entire message:
Hi can u plse send me more info thanks.
The screeching of quacks is like fine music to my ears
In the continuing saga of the snake oil sellers versus the people of New South Wales, the quacks continue their ad hominem, strawman and outright lying opposition to the NSW anti-quackery committee. In this week's activity a few more useless politicians have come on board, and I have been assured that quoting from unreleased draft versions of documents is just as good (and truthful) as using the real thing and that 14,000 is the same as 10,000. Some of the leaders of the quack brigade have temporarily closed their web sites, presumably so that the people they are lying to can't see what egregious charlatans they are. My advice to the quacks still stands - just produce the goods and everything will be fine. The committee will go home satisfied and you will still be in business. What's that you say? You can't produce evidence that your products and machines work? I didn't think so.
You can see the blossoming archive here.
Ohio gets it right (14/12/2002)
I would like to congratulate the authorities in Ohio who have mandated the teaching of evolution and effectively banned the teaching of religion under the disguise of science. What makes this decision even better is that it has removed the threat of the latest attempt of the creationists to get their anti-science claptrap taught in schools, the nonsense of "Intelligent Design". This was an attempt to subvert the rules against religious instruction by pretending that saying that there had to be an ultimate designer of all forms of life is somehow different from saying that there had to be a creator. Supposedly everyone was to think that the word "creator" was what made it religion, and removing that word made it science. It didn't. In fact, the concept of "Intelligent Design" is the semantic equivalent of special creation unless its proponents want to diminish the power of God (God can only suggest how things should happen, rather than make them happen). I don't think that this is their intention, so I can only assume that they know what they were trying to do and were just being deceitful about it. I believe that there are admonitions in the Bible against such deceptive behaviour.
Free speech? (14/12/2002)
There has been much talk over the last few days about a decision of the High Court of Australia to allow an Australian citizen to sue in an Australian court for defamation where the alleged defamation occurred on a web site hosted in New Jersey. The argument is that the defamatory material could be accessed in Victoria, so that is the appropriate jurisdiction in which to take legal action. At first glance, this appears to be an absurd attack on the freedom of speech and an extension of Australia's already oppressive defamation laws to cover actions in other countries. I don't think it is as simple as this, and I don't see it as an opening of the floodgates to allow jurisdiction shopping by vindictive people. There is, in any case, already an international precedent for this which was demonstrated when Australian holocaust denier Dr Frederic Toben was imprisoned in Germany for material published on a web site hosted in Australia. I disagreed with the German action in that case, and I would not really like to see Diamond Joe Gutnick win this one. Even if he does win, however, the effect on Internet activity might be constrained anyway, as the material that Mr Gutnick objected to was not freely promulgated but was only available to subscribers of Barron's. I can see how a Victorian court could limit the ramifications of any successful action by Mr Gutnick simply because the offending material was only distributed to a tiny number of identifiable people in that state, most, if not all, of whom would be the sort of people who would move in Mr Gutnick's business circles. Mr Gutnick has, in any case, stipulated that his claim for damages will be limited to the effects of the publication in Victoria only and he has no intention to pursue any claim outside that jurisdiction.
I achieve a sort of fame, and the quacks still squeal
In the battle of the peddlers of medical fraud versus the people of New South Wales, a parting shot was aimed at NSW anti-quackery committee by retiring politician Mr Richard Jones MLC, a man who will assume an even greater irrelevancy next year when he is no longer in parliament. Mr Jones paid me the honour of mentioning me by name when he demanded that all sorts of documentation be made available to the Legislative Council. He also showed a fine disdain for convention by using his final speech in the House to defend all sorts of medical nonsense, some of which has been around for thousands of years without ever achieving what medical science has in the past hundred. You can read what Mr Jones had to say here. I still offer the same advice to alternative practitioners - just do what you say you can do and everything will be fine. The committee will go home satisfied and you will still be in business. What's that I hear? It's too hard to produce evidence that your products and machines work? Isn't that sad?
You can see the continuing story here.
Speaking of traditional medical systems ...
Much is being made in the attacks on the NSW anti-quackery committee of the number of Chinese people in NSW and how they all want to use something called "Traditional Chinese Medicine". It is tempting to think that one of the reasons for migration is to get away from whatever goes on in someone's home country and to go to somewhere where things are better. It seems odd to me to believe that a person's ethnic background should have some bearing on the type of medical care that should be available to them. The idea that people should be expected to want sub-standard, unscientific health care because such witchcraft was a traditional part of the cultures in the countries that their forebears escaped from is racist, but I would not expect any proponent of this philosophy to admit that.
Doing the Hokey Pokey (14/12/2002)
Some people want it in, and some want it out. During the week I received an email from someone wanting her site included in the list here and one from someone who couldn't figure out why (or even where) his site was included. The one that wanted to be in claims to present a balanced view about vaccination so that parents can make informed decisions. All the anti-vaccination liars say that, but this one is worse than many of the others. You can read the email and my reply here. The person who couldn't work out why he was here is a researcher, so it was surprising that he didn't seem to know which page he was looking at. Maybe the magnets that can cure cataracts didn't work for him. You can read his email and my response here.
Advance apology (21/12/2002)
There will probably be no update to this site next weekend, as I plan to update on 31 December and I don't want to overwhelm everyone with excitement by providing two sets of changes a couple of days apart. The end-of-year update will contain the 2002 Millenium Awards announcements (bribes must be in my bank by 30 December at the latest). I will also have a retrospective look backwards at the year that has just passed, or, if I am feeling lazy, I will just republish some old stuff. Highly perceptive people are invited to spot the difference between the two.
More work coming up (21/12/2002)
People often write to me with the reasonable question that if I have a list of places I don't like or which contain bad information, why don't I tell people where to get good information? This question will be answered in 2003 by a new RatbagsDotCom site which currently has the working title of "The Green Light". (This is very likely to be the final title, as there is not much time left to get creative.) This new site will follow the pattern of categories used here in The Millenium Project. It won't just list sites which directly counter the nonsense in the sites listed here, but will list reference sites and places where useful (and factual) information which relates to the various categories can be found. I expect to have about 100 sites in the initial listing when the site is launched in early January, and new listings will be added approximately weekly. Most of the listings will be accompanied by a short description saying why they have been included.
They just can't help themselves, can they? (21/12/2002)
The Australian Vaccination Network won the Anus Maximus Award in the 2001 Millenium Awards, thus rendering them ineligible for the award this year despite their site containing some wonderfully egregious lying about the Health Claims and Consumer Protection Advisory Committee. To give you some indication of what it takes to win such an award, consider this from a message posted by the president of AVN to the AVN's mailing list on 5 December, 2002:
I just wanted to let you know that in Australia, the package inserts are almost always removed before the bottles of vaccines are sent to the doctors. Vaccines that are part of the Australian Schedule are generally ordered from the state health dept. Someone there must have the job of removing them before the docs get to see them. I know this because we regularly get calls here at the AVN from doctors asking us questions about vaccine ingredients and I've asked them about the package inserts and they say they never get them with the vaccine bottles!
I have in front of me the package inserts for the DTPa, HepB and Hib vaccinations which the World's Finest Grandson will receive shortly. To get these secret documents, I asked his doctor. When I told the doctor that I had heard that the inserts were removed before the vaccines were sent to doctors, he looked at me as if I had gone mad and told me that the inserts were always there. He then pointed to his waste paper basket and asked if I wanted to look at the package inserts from the vaccines he had administered that day.
Mea culpa (21/12/2002)
If you combine leaving out words with acting on incorrect information, it is possible to appear quite foolish. In an article published on this site and in the magazine of the Australian Skeptics, I said "Cervical cancer is the second largest killer of women in the USA (and probably Australia as well)". I left out a word, but I had been misinformed by my source anyway (there is a limit to how deep source checking can go). What I meant to write was "second largest cancer killer", but even that is not correct for the USA. It is, however, correct for the world, and, in fact, cervical cancer is "the foremost cause of cancer mortality among women in [the] developing world" according to the WHO, and is only pushed into second place worldwide by the high incidence of "lifestyle" cancers like lung and colorectal in developed countries. (All those poor people don't smoke or eat fatty foods.) I have changed the copy of the article on this site to say "Cervical cancer is the second most lethal cancer for women in the world (and the leading cancer killer of women in developing countries)", but my error will live on in the printed magazine for three months until the erratum (which nobody will read) can be printed.