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June 2, 2007

I'm back!! (2/6/2007)
Like most good intentions, a lot of what I was planning to do over the last month is still waiting to be done, but I have made some progress. The job changes are becoming more familiar, the weather in Sydney is not too intolerable just before sunrise this time of year (but winter is yet to come) so getting up in the dark is not too bad, and the people who said they would pay me on certain dates have actually been doing it. I installed some new computer equipment (always a risky business), and I would like to offer special thanks to the office supply company Officeworks who were able to get me a copy of Windows XP Pro when Dell, Microsoft and my normal software wholesalers could not. (The software that I make a living with doesn't work with Vista yet and my computer was delivered with XP Home instead of an operating system.) I would also like to thank Samsung for leaking software to the hacker community which allowed me to remove the despicable region coding from the DVD player so that I can play the DVDs that I have paid for.

I normally do a link check across this site every two weeks but it seems that the number of broken and moved links increases by some exponential functions rather than linearly, so I had a lot of fixing to do when I came back. Special mention goes to the US Federal Trade Commission for making a subtle change to their site rendering all inward links useless.

A couple of matters came up while was away which need some more work before I want to comment comprehensively. The panic and fear mongering about the vaccine against cervical cancer continues, with hysteria increasing on almost a daily basis. I want to examine the phenomenon in some detail, because it is a classic case of manufactured resistance without rational foundation. The second matter is that someone I know could not be dissuaded from signing up with the USANA pyramid scheme, and I have been given a lot of useful information about this particular scam which needs some editing and collating for a magazine article (and some checking by lawyers, of course).

Benny, YouTube and me (2/6/2007)
In April I mentioned that YouTube had removed a video of mine because faith healer Benny Hinn had falsely informed them that it breached his copyright. There was not one pixel in it which was not produced by either my friend Richard Saunders or me and it featured no images of Hinn or anything which could be considered his intellectual property. I complained to YouTube using the procedures set out on their web site and I received a reply saying that I should go to a particular web page to find out how to make a formal complaint about Hinn's false claim. The page I was sent to was the one I had used to register my complaint in the first place. I wrote back to YouTube pointing out this fact and received another nice personalised reply telling me that they couldn't do anything unless I submitted a complaint to them using the procedures set out on a certain web page. You might be able to guess which page that was. I think I will give up.

I would not like Pastor Benny to think that he had managed to remove my copyrighted creation from the web by telling untruths to YouTube, so:

Daily Motion

Any publicity is good publicity (2/6/2007)
Well, that is how the cliché goes. In July 2006 I appeared on the television program Today Tonight as part of a story about a reincarnation of the old bioresonance quackery scam. As the edition of the show I was on appeared in another state from that in which I live I didn't get a chance to see the program when it went to air. While looking for something else recently I came across a transcript of the episode. It isn't on the Today Tonight web site - it is on a site promoting the scam! Knowing what I do about quacks as a class, I assume that it was included there to support the claim "As seen on Today Tonight" in the almost certainty that the scamsters' victims won't bother to read it. Here is the transcript:

Today Tonight

Miracle Machine

Reporter: Vassil Malandris
Broadcast Date: 24 Jul 2006

It may look like something out of Dr Who, but this Adelaide practitioner reckons he could be onto a medical breakthrough.

No magic potions, no pill popping, no joke.

Dr Andy Barrie believes a single machine called the BICOM 2000 is diagnosing and treating serious illnesses and allergies, but is it all just too good to be true?

Well according child psychologist Louise Porter who was struck down by Fibromyalgia 4 years ago, there’s no doubt in her mind. "I was fairly sceptical but after I gained back the mobility and the pain started to recede I became a convert" Louise says.

She even brought her daughter Hannah, a long time sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome and after a few treatments later at a hundred dollars a pop... "I'm now able to ride my horse again and play the flute and I'm able to go out and run around without becoming breathless and that type of thing" Hannah says

But no one has astounded Andy more from the treatment than Adelaide mum Ursula Weatherly who spent the last 35 years suffering from a life - threatening allergy to eggs and chicken products. That is until… "Where I work one of the volunteers mentioned energy waves and she explained it to me and I thought gee that sounds good won't hurt to have a go on it. I had 12 treatments and finally I can actually eat eggs and chicken after 35 years no problems and it tastes good!"

So how does the technology work? According to Andy it's all based on a science called Bioresonance, where all the cells in our body supposedly communicate with each other via electric signals

"What the machine's doing is separating the healthy signals from the unhealthy signals, the unhealthy signals are then put through what's called a mirror circuit so the waves are turned upside down and fed back to the body" Take for example Louise's allergy to milk and cheese. "What the machine does is pick up the signal from the cheese and inverts it"

But how does the machine know what is causing the allergic reaction - well it's a matter of elimination Dr Barrie puts the suspect substance into the machine and hey presto! The electric waves pass through the cheese and within minutes the machine starts to reverse Louise's symptoms.

After a few sessions your allergy, virus or ailment is cured - you can even use it on the family dog!

However Andy's at pains to point out the therapy can’t cure the incurable.

"Well we don't use the word 'cure' we talk about symptom free and Peter Schumacher the Austrian paediatrician who developed this method, his studies show over 80% of patients were symptom free after a course of treatment."

With statistics like these, and a waiting list of up to 5 months, you must be wondering how Andy keeps up with demand? Simple, he’s now recruiting the next generation of BICOM therapists.

But despite the testimonials, not everyone is convinced by the BICOM 2000. Peter Bowditch is the Vice President of the Sceptics society. He says the technology is false and there's nothing new about it. The machines just keep getting reinvented every few years.

"They're just a way of extracting money out of the wallets of desperate people. They generally operate in Tijuana in Mexico outside of the reach of the Federal Drug Administration … many of them are multi purpose and so I've got a zapper here which you can set it at one frequency and it cures aids, you set it at another it cures cancer - all cancers of course, for quackery all cancer is the same thing." Peter says.

Peter also wonders if Dr Andy Barrie’s patients know that he is not a medical doctor, but instead holds a PhD in Atomic physics.

"There's no pretence, there's no attempt to mislead people" responds Andy.

Certainly Andy's patients didn't seem to feel misled when swearing by the treatment. It’s just that the practitioners can't actually prove they've cured or treated their patients for anything as a disclaimer on their DVD illustrates: 'The success stories of therapists and patients do not present any basis for 'scientific proof' in today's medicine"

With the BICOM 2000 now in the hands of our health authorities awaiting approval by the TGA, Louise Porter says it's up to the individual to be open to the technology and try it before you knock it.

Books I won't be bothered reviewing (2/6/2007)
I have been given two books to review for a magazine, but both of them are the sort which encourage activities other than reading.

The first is Secrets of the Psychics by Massimo Polidoro, a regular contributor to Skeptical Inquirer magazine. This is printed in a typeface of such distracting and ornate awfulness that I really couldn't be bothered to read beyond the first chapter or two. Even if the words could be read without grimacing at the curlicues it still wouldn't be worth buying. From what I read and saw in the table of contents there is nothing there which hasn't been said before and said better by people like Martin Gardner.

The second book is The Paranormal and the Politics of Truth: A sociological Account, by Jeremy Northcote. From the title one might assume that this is an analogue of C. P. Snow's Two Cultures applied to what I do and what kooks do. The following two paragraphs from the preface to the book are almost as far as you have to read to know that many thousands of words of badly-written drivel are coming.

A major aim of this book is to provide a sociological account of the processes that underlie this debate. Through a detailed examination of the participants, issues, strategies and underlying factors that constitute the politics of disputes over the paranormal, I show how the debate is inextricably bound to wider discursive formations that underlie Western thinking generally. These discursive formations constitute the "truths" that define knowledge of ourselves, of the reality that we experience, and the values that guide us. I also show how participants involved in such disputes serve as vehicles for the expression and proliferation of these wider discourses, and how the debate as a whole functions in terms of processes of wider sociocultural continuity and change.

The intention of this book is to help the reader understand why certain phenomena - and those who study them - come to be viewed as deviant. There is, however, no attempt to persuade the reader to accept one version of reality over another, for this would be to serve as an agent of the discourses that define the ideological positions of the paranormal debate. What this book ultimately hopes to achieve is to assist in nullifying the destructive politics of truth that continually thwarts a healthy debate on this matter - or indeed any controversial topic - through the achievement of such an understanding. Having said that, overcoming such a negative form. of politics is, as this book demonstrates, no easy matter.

Do yourself a favour. If you see either of these books in your local book shop, buy something else.

Schadenfreude corner (2/6/2007)
This is what you see when you go to a website called Vaccination Debate, where lies used to be told while trying to pretend that there is any sort of real debate about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. It is always a good day when an anti-vaccination liar is silenced, especially when they do it to themselves.

Hah, Hah, Hah!

Who could this be referring to? (2/6/2007)
Someone sent me this cartoon. Unfortunately I can't read the copyright notice and it doesn't seem to be anything which runs in the papers I get, so I can't acknowledge the creator. If anyone knows where it came from, please let me know. I wonder which religion it is applicable to. I suppose some people would say "All of them, given enough time".

Speaking of whackos ... (2/6/2007)
I'm not sure what I did to attract this email, but it certainly gave me something to think about. It came in Arial Black Size 4 font, but I will spare you the eyestrain.


Birth Defects Researchers: You are absolutely looking in the WRONG places to find your Answers to Birth Defects. They are NOT in Lab Test Tubes, but rather, ARE in My Theory, which involves Biologically-Matched people procreating children at Predictably-Correct BIOLOGICAL TIMES and also AVOIDING the Predictable WRONG Biological TIMES to Reproduce. It's ALL just THAT simple. Everyone has the SAME Set of Good, or Bad Days to Reproduce; they just START at Different Times, for Different People, depending on WHEN a Person is BORN.

To prove this Theory is EASY. For ANY Medical Problem, Defect, Illness, Disease or Condition, simply calculate how many DAYS old each Biological Parent is, on the VERY DAY, MONTH and YEAR their afflicted Child is born to them. Then compare the Numbers that you get, with those Numbers of OTHER Biological Parents for the Dates that THEIR similarly-afflicted child was born and you will dicover that these SAME numbers REPEAT from Case to Case, for the SAME Defect, EACH time! It's the "how many DAYS old" the Biological PARENTS are when a Child is born to them.

Typical Example: 10,879. If either Biological Parent is 10,879 DAYS old on the DAY a child is born to ANY Biological Couple, they AUTOMATICALLY get a DOWNS SYNDROME Child, EVERY time! This same Theory PREVAILS for EVERY Medical Problem, only different, specific, repeating Sets of Numbers for EACH Different Medical Problem.

The Offending Numbers can be "off" by one day in either Direction, due to the Times of Day that both the Biological Parents AND their Biological Children were born. A BIOLOGICAL Day begins at whatever moment of a day that A Child is BORN and runs until one second before the same time on the overlapping. following day, while a Chronological Day runs from one second after Midnight and ends at one second BEFORE the next Midnight.

When Correct Data is provided, this Phenomenon prevails, EVERY Time, from Test-Case to Test-Case and it is called "The Julian Coincidence"(c) which I discovered on February 21st of 1977 and its Name is Copyrighted.

There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of Research Data on all this, just waiting for someone to inquire about and work with it, FREE.

And of course, in This Unknown Area of Research, this is only the "Beginning" of the entire large Body of Information I have amassed on this Subject, in my over-30 years of Intense Computer Study and Positive Findings and Discoveries I have made. Fully understanding HOW the Theory WORKS is rather simple, once a person grasps the Original Idea of "matched couples making their babies at RIGHT times; I KNOW WHEN the RIGHT and WRONG Times ARE and HOW to MATCH UP Couples so they produce near-perfect children together, EVERY Time!

I am open to hearing from just about anyone who is interested in Producing "Super Healthy Children!" I'll even show you how to set up your OWN Double-Blind Study, using YOUR Cases.

Alan F. Hunt

June 9, 2007

Mystery still unsolved (9/6/2007)
Wiley MillerLast week I displayed a comic strip and said that I didn't know where it came from. I would like to thank all the people who wrote to me with suggestions about its origin. The majority of voters favoured Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller, with a minority suggesting something from the comic collections at either the Washington City Paper or the Washington Post Writers Group. I had originally suspected Non Sequitur, but a check through the last few months' archives of the strip didn't turn it up. In any case, each strip contains Wiley's logo, and this one didn't have it. I spent some time looking through the comic archives at the other two places but I couldn't find the strip in question, or even anything in the same style. I guess this will have to remain one of life's little mysteries.

Pure filth! (9/6/2007)
Whenever the MLM and quackery scam of Mannatech is given some critical examination, Mannacreeps start oozing out of the woodwork to offer defence of the scam. On June 1 the ABC's 20/20 program pointed a spotlight at the scam and the results were predictable, with the ooze quickly developing into a flood. You can read about the investigation here, and when I last looked there were almost 800 comments. I have much better things to do with my time than read glowing testimonials for expensive sugar pills, but I looked at the first few and there were the obvious ones written by the Mannatech public relations agency. (You can buy a lot of PR with the proceeds of $400+ million sales, especially when the product costs almost nothing to make and the sellers do the advertising and pay for the distribution.)

I get my share of these ludicrous testimonials as well, with many of them pushing the "I don't sell it but I know it works" line. Yeah, right! Here's an email sent to me by an "alternative health practioner (sic)" (who would be a medical expert, of course):

Hi, I have just been reading about your opinions about Glyconutients and in particular Mannatech. Just to explain who I am, I am an alternative health practioner and have been for over 20 years. My aim is to help my clients become well and fit again, I do use often herbal remedies that are effective at helping cure ailments. Just recently however A client of mine who was suffering from Parkinson's disease tried to come of her medication that she had been given and has been taking for many years. As she knew that it was her medication that was giving her more trouble than her disease. Well, I will not recommend anything to a client without it being scientifically proven to be safe and free of any side effects,as it would mean that I would go into prison for a very long time, whereas a Qualified medical doctor can give chemotherapy to a patient and poison them and yes, even kill them without any repercussions on their part.

I am more interested in healing my clients than wanting to slagg off other products or procedures so in my field it is results that count not scientific drivel from a medical profession that cannot even agree amongst itself what, is or is not, acceptable as a treatment. I tell all of my clients to educate themselves as it is ignorance that will keep them stuck where they are now.

I recently did a survey in my home town and asked one simple question and that question was, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR HEALTH? Is It
A: The Governerment
B: The National Health Service
C: Your GP
D: Yourself.

The results were far worse than I had expected, out of 250 people questioned only 17 answered correctly "D" the remainder were fairly evenly distributed amongst the other three with the government coming out just ahead with 81.

The Lady in question above decided to try out Glyconutrients and within 2 weeks, was completely free from any symptoms of Parkinson's.This was further confirmed when she went to London to see the specialists who were a little perplexed to find also there were no symptoms that they could find. If you are a medical Doctor then your first priority is toward your patient and not your own personal prejudices. As for Mannatech, like the man said they legally cannot claim that this is a medical cure and that is the only reason why they, or any other company selling Glyconutrients claim that they are simple sugars and nothing else. In respect to MLM this is being taught in your own Universities as a business tool and all businesses want to make profits so why not take some profits away from the greedy corrupt drugs companies who make billions from research and give little back in return.

To any one who reads this I would say the same as I do to all my clients, Get yourself educated it could save your life.

Parkinson's Disease is an irreversible, degenerative disease of the nervous system. Like many such diseases, the symptoms fluctuate over time. Nobody in the history of the world has ever been cured of Parkinson's by eating a few cents worth of sugars, even if the sugars come at a price many hundreds of times greater than the cost of packaging and distribution. To even suggest that Mannatech can be of benefit to Parkinson's sufferers shows a level of morality which would not be detectable by anyone with a conscience. I don't care if the person saying it is deluded or (as seems to be the case with this correspondent) prepared to believe anything if it contradicts scientific medicine. Saying it is lying and an attempt to deceive gullible and desperate people and steal their money.

Some things never change (9/6/2007)
This Betty Boop cartoon from 1932 still makes sense today when you look at the claims of wonder cures from "alternative" medicine. There's even a hint that the wonderfully named elixir, Jippo, is actually a homeopathic preparation. Perhaps it contained sugar.

Will we be here next week? (9/6/2007)
If it wasn't bad enough that the drought broke around my place last week and there are floods everywhere, but it seems that we are facing an imminent nuclear war. If I had known that I wouldn't have spent a holiday weekend helping my daughter to move into her new home - what's the point of carrying furniture up the stairs if it is all going to be ashes in a short time.

You might wonder why I am so pessimistic. It is because someone has told me that the world faces nuclear annihilation on Tuesday, June 12, 2007. That's next Tuesday!! I had been having discussions with this person for some time over a claim that eating pond scum could liberate swarms of stem cells into the body, therefore curing all ailments known to man (including, of course, all those cured by Mannatech sugars). I had been somewhat skeptical of this claim, and the person in question had accused me of being impolite when I suggested that he should (euphemistically) make love elsewhere and then expire. I was made aware of another side to this person's personality, a side where he is a follower of the prophet Yisrayl Hawkins. (You can read more about this prophet here.) The prophet has declared that Tuesday, June 12, is when nuclear war will engulf the world.

I am worried about time zones. Will the bombs start going off as soon as June 12 starts anywhere in the world? This particularly worrying to me as Sydney is one of the early adopters of dates. Will it only start when everywhere has experienced the date? If so, and the war starts in Hawaii, will the fallout take time to spread and will Australia be the last place to go, like in On the Beach? Should I wear a Hawaiian shirt or lots of sunblock? Should I pay my Visa bill or use the card to buy a Ferrari and drive around in an irresponsible manner until the mushroom clouds start mushrooming?

A question. Why is it that people who are convinced that the world is about to end are not prepared to give me all their money and possessions? Surely they aren't going to need these things after the end of time

You can't hide all the time.Behind the curtain (9/6/2007)
What's that booming voice telling you to ignore the man behind the curtain? Is that the man who is secretly managing this web site and doing things that you can't see in order to keep up appearances? Yes, it is, and this week he has been doing some changes to the substrate which should make it all work better in the future. One visible change is that some new typographical styles are being tested (or should that be screenographical?). Others are more subtle and invisible, and have to do with the technology which builds parts of the site and keeps various parts of it up to date. One day everything will be revealed. (Actually, it won't, but that's what the cliché says.)

June 16, 2007

Mystery solved! (16/6/2007)
It was Non Sequitur after all. That cartoon that was causing me such misery has been identified as the Non Sequitur edition of May 19, 1997. Nineteen-ninety-seven! The date goes someway towards explaining why I couldn't locate it. I have to thank Ester Hopkins for the detective work. When it was sent to me anonymously I assumed that it must have been published recently, but it seems that I was dealing with someone who had been cleaning the attic. I must also thank Andrew Eddinger who wrote to Wiley Miller to ask him about it. I was composing my own email to Wiley when Andrew's news came in, so that was one less job I had to do. It seems that Wiley has changed publishers in the last decade, but he has also changed his logo that he uses as a signature. When you look at the comic with hindsight you can see his name, but I think I am square with Wiley in the unobservant stakes, because while I couldn't see his name in the comic he couldn't find an email link on this page to reach me.

And to make it up to Wiley, I'm going to suggest that everyone buys some of his books

Extraordinary Adventures Of Ordinary Basil
Extraordinary Adventures Of Ordinary Basil
The Non Sequitur Survival Guide for the Nineties
The Non Sequitur Survival Guide for the Nineties
Lucy and Danae: Something Silly This Way Comes
Lucy and Danae: Something Silly This Way Comes
Non Sequitur's Sunday Color Treasury
Non Sequitur's Sunday Color Treasury
Why We'll Never Understand Each Other : A Non-Sequitur Look At Relationships
Why We'll Never Understand Each Other : A Non-Sequitur Look At Relationships

Amway in UK (16/6/2007)
I have sad news. Amway in the UK have been ordered to stop recruiting until they can clean up the organisation and demonstrate that the real business is selling soap powder, not recruiting more suckers and selling them tapes and meetings. Everyone knows that J.O.B. means "Just Over Broke", but with any sort of luck it will now mean "Just Out of Business" for at least one Amway pyramid. Read the good news here in Amway's own convoluted words. And notice how it mentions Network 21? Every time I have had someone from Network 21 show me the plan, he has denied any connection with Amway other than to say something like "Amway is one of our suppliers". But I always knew they were lying.

Vaccine Omnibus Case (16/6/2007)
The trial of the century has started, the one where 4,800 unfortunate children are being used to abuse the legal and scientific processes by claiming that they have been damaged by vaccines. It is instructive to go to page 117 of the first day's transcript to see a comprehensive destruction of the first "expert" witness brought in by the plaintiffs. After spending the morning telling the court about the evils of mercury, the witness was subjected to an examination which revealed how little he knew about chemistry or medicine. Still, ignorance of both of these have been necessary qualifications for being an expert in the area for some time. Just ask Professor Boyd Haley (who, I believe, has been rejected as an expert witness in this case).

End of the world update (16/6/2007)
It seems that the nuclear war predicted by Yisrayl Hawkins didn't happen on Tuesday, or if it did the fierce heat must have been quenched by the torrential rain that has been falling around my place over the last week. There is actually some confusion about the date anyway, as Guru Hawkins seemed at one time to be predicting the conflagration for September 12, 2006, with a nuclear baby being conceived on that date to be born on June 12, 2007. Strangely, he seemed to be working backwards from October 13, 2007, when things might really happen. Or maybe I am just misreading the prophecies. Whatever the case, his web site is saying at the time of writing:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

-5 days remaining before the due date for the birth of the Nuclear Baby!

118 days remaining before 4/5 of the Earth's population is dead because of nuclear war, famine, disease, and other curses of sin.

Minus five days!! And there's October 13 again. Should I risk it and pay for my airline tickets to go to the Australian Skeptics convention in November? Will Qantas give me a refund if the flight is cancelled because the world is on fire?

June 23, 2007

My bookshelf (23/6/2007)
I God is not Greathave been reading God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. I will write a review when I have finished reading it, but what I have seen so far looks good, if a little hysterical in places.

This is another in the succession of books about religion that have been occupying the best-seller lists lately, and each one I read seems to be less compromising than the last. When I read The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris I commented that Harris made Richard Dawkins look like a wimp. Dawkins responded with The God Delusion in an attempt to regain the position of Atheist Alpha Male. Now Hitchens has taken the gloves off and taken up a machete. I will be getting Michel Onfray's Atheist Manifesto as soon as Amazon get more stock, and if the progression continues I would expect Onfray to replace the machete with a chainsaw. Or perhaps une tronçonneuse.

Hitchens mentions some other books which I felt might be worth reading, and so far I have come across The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud and Treatise on the Gods by H. L. Mencken. Demonstrating the power of well-managed estates, neither of these works is available for free despite the authors having been dead for many years. You can buy these books from the links below (it is better value for money to buy the Mencken work as part of an anthology). One book which Hitchens refers to (but not, apparently, by name) is The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, and you can read that for free here (or get a bound copy here). To keep up the supply of free stuff (and to provide an example of a segue), you can read H.L. Mencken's translation of Nietzsche's The Antichrist here.

The Future of an Illusion
The Future of an Illusion

by Sigmund Freud
Second Mencken Chrestomathy
Second Mencken Chrestomathy

by H. L. Mencken
Age of Reason
The Age of Reason
by Thomas Paine

And who says that religion is always useless? (23/6/2007)
Polio was scheduled to be eliminated from the world in 2003 but is is still around crippling and killing children. One of the reasons for the non-extinction is that anti-vaccination liars have combined with religious loons to frighten parents. One consequence of this was an outbreak of polio in Nigeria where the vaccination campaign was disrupted by lies about the vaccine being a form of government birth control. Travellers from Nigeria to Mecca for the Hajj took the virus with them in 2005, and this led directly to an outbreak in Indonesia. (I found one anti-vaccination liar who was pleased that almost 800 Indonesian children had become paralysed. Apparently this demonstrated that the vaccine didn't work.)

The good news is that Hindu priests in India have been encouraging polio vaccination by telling parents and children that the oral vaccine drops are some sort of holy water. Without going into an examination of the philosophical issues raised by priests not telling the truth, this might just be one of those rare instances where the end really does justify the means. You can read the story here.

I must be an expert! (23/6/2007)
IA suitable anti-vaccine witness? mentioned last week that The Trial of The Century had started, where the parents of 4,800 autistic children are being encouraged to abuse the legal process in order to bolster the claims of the anti-vaccination liars. The witness for the plaintiffs called on the fourth day was brilliant, and she has decided that the first case was definitely caused by the MMR vaccine, plus thimerosal for good measure. Her name is Vera Byers, and the fun started when opposing counsel started asking her about her CV. It seems that she is "board eligible" as an allergist with the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, but unfortunately the board doesn't recognise the term "board eligible". Strike one. She says she is on the faculty of Nottingham University, but the University says this is not so. Dr Byers says "I think I dropped off". Strike two. She claims to have been the medical director at Immunex for the Biological License Application for the drug Emberel, but sadly her name does not appear on any documentation filed with the FDA. Strike three. The best, however, is her justification for including an affiliation with the University of California - San Francisco on her CV. I can do no better than to quote the words she said on the stand: "I use their library and I go to their parties". Is this woman a good witness or is she a joke? Even Dr Boyd Haley couldn't be as silly as this one. Read and enjoy here.

I checked my wallet and I found that I have the qualifications to be an expert witness in court cases such as this. The Westmead Hospital library is actually part of the University of Sydney's medical school, so all I need now to call myself "Doctor" is to go to a few parties.

PB's an expert

Congratulations are due (23/6/2007)
Author Salman Rushdie was awarded a knighthood in the recent Queen's Birthday honours list. The best part of this is that lunatics all over the world have started frothing at the mouth, claiming that honouring Rushdie is a deliberate affront to Islam. The protests have not been limited to the usual theatres of the deranged in places like Pakistan, but have even been seen in England, where a group of "moderate" Muslims made what can only be construed as death threats against outgoing PM Tony Blair as well as declaring the Queen to be an object of hatred. I would like to offer my congratulations to Sir Salman, and I have added The Satanic Verses to the shelves in the bookshop.

Jesus and Mo
See the excellent Jesus and Mo here.

Alternative spruikers not truthful? Say it isn't so. (23/6/2007)
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been busy lately with people making claims which did not stand scrutiny. One was a company selling "organic" eggs which turned out to be simply "free-range" eggs. This sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated as it would tarnish the brand "organic". Anyone can see that chickens just left to roam about might not exclusively dine on healthy, non-fertilised and non-pesticided food, thereby forcing consumers to unwittingly eat inorganic eggs. The fine imposed on the company will be wasted by the organic industry to develop standards about what "organic" means. And it will still just be a brand name when they have finished. Read the story here.

The second case is of two companies who were selling nostrums in Australia which were proudly labelled "Made in Australia". One of the companies even claimed research and development facilities in the country. The only problem was that they had no such laboratories or factories and the potions containing ground-up honey bees and other bits of hive that they were selling had actually been made in New Zealand. Well, it is in the Southern Hemisphere and most of the people there speak English, so perhaps near enough is good enough. It certainly is when it comes to testing these quack products for safety and usefulness. Read the press release here.

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