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March 8, 2008

Mannatech maintains madness (8/3/2008)
A couple of weeks ago I Magic sugarMagic sugarmentioned that Mannatech, purveyors of useless sugar pills sold by multi-level marketing, had complained that I was misrepresenting their products by claiming that they served some purpose other than moving money from where it belonged to the pockets of scamsters. I pointed out that I would never make such a claim because it would not be true and thanked them for admitting that the products did nothing.

The original communication from Mannatech implied that they could not read for comprehension, and this has been confirmed by the fact that they have again written to me demanding that I stop making claims that Mannatech products are in any way useful in the treatment or management of medical conditions. I am not sure how I can word a response so that it can be understood by people who apparently cannot read, but this is the latest exchange:

Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2008 13:09:12 -0500
From: webcompliance@mannatech.com
Subject: Cease and Desist

TO: Peter Bowditch

RE: Impermissible Use of Health Claims Attributed to Mannatech Products 1.5.47
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/mannatech.htm

Dear Peter Bowditch:

We previously contacted you requesting your assistance on a critical issue concerning your website. We have requested and made formal demand that you immediately remove any statements from your website which are or could be construed to be unauthorized health claims which go beyond stating that Mannatech nutritional products promote the maintenance of health and general well-being. The statements made on your website are contrary to Mannatech policy.

Demand is hereby made that you immediately remove from your website any statement or reference which (i) states, suggests or implies that Mannatech nutritional products prevent, treat or cure disease, (ii) states, suggests or implies that Mannatech nutritional products are a substitute for a doctor's standard of care, and/or (iii) is in any manner in contradiction with Mannatech's existing policies and procedures. Demand is further made that you refrain from engaging in this activity in the future.

We remain confident you understand our concerns and also appreciate that it is imperative that you promptly comply with the demand to cease and desist, and to document your compliance in writing within five (5) business days of the receipt of this letter. If you have already complied with this demand, we thank you and appreciate your cooperation.

Nothing herein shall be construed as a waiver of any rights Mannatech has at law or in equity, all of which are expressly reserved.

Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

Respectfully,
Mannatech Legal, Ethics & Compliance Department

I replied:

I am not sure why you didn't receive my response to your earlier Cease and Desist demand, but as it appears on the page in question and I assume you have checked that page before sending the current email I am at a loss as to why you do not seem to understand my position on this matter. For reference, here is my previous response:

I am rather puzzled by your Cease and Desist demand as I can guarantee that I have never made any claim for the effectiveness of Mannatech products in the treatment or management of any disease or ailment, human, veterinary or agricultural. I would not make such a claim as I would not believe it to be true, and truth is important to me. If you read the web page you objected to you will see that the only claims of effectiveness for anything from Mannatech are made by people extolling (and presumably selling) the products. In fact you might even see where I took someone to task for claiming that sugar pills were an effective treatment for Parkinson's Disease.

I must thank you, however, for your clearly implied admission that Mannatech products are useless in the treatment or management of any disease. I will quote you in future when Mannatech distributors abuse me for not recognising the amazing curative properties of the products.

I will, of course, be removing nothing from my site and will be making no changes to the way I comment about Mannatech in the future. As is my usual policy, your email and this reply will be featured prominently on my site.

Thank you.

To make matters quite clear, the following statements describe my position:

  • I am not a Mannatech distributor, so your rules do not apply to me.
  • At no place on my site do I state, suggest or imply "that Mannatech nutritional products prevent, treat or cure disease".
  • At no place on my site do I state, suggest or imply "that Mannatech nutritional products are a substitute for a doctor's standard of care".
  • I don't do either of these things because I have no reason to believe that "Mannatech nutritional products prevent, treat or cure disease" or "Mannatech nutritional products are a substitute for a doctor's standard of care". I fact, I believe quite the opposite.
  • If you do not want me to publish such claims made by Mannatech distributors then you should instruct Mannatech distributors not to email people with such claims.

Once again I must thank you for your admission that claims for any medical usefulness of Mannatech products are baseless.

As always, your email and this response will be published prominently on my web site.

Thank you.


Some good news (8/3/2008)
In an outbreak of sanity and resistance to popular demand for people to be deceived, the BBC has closed down its complementary medicine web site. This is upsetting purveyors of quackery, of course, who believe in the untrammelled right to lie to people about "cures" using unproven (and often unprovable) potions and techniques. My view is that a day spent upsetting snake oil salesmen is not a wasted day, and I must congratulate the BBC for taking corrective action. You can go here to see the sad story as told by a site promoting fraud. Hey, Natural News, do you want some cheese with that whine?


Vaccines guilty? Not really. (8/3/2008)
This is an example of the gloating taking place in the anti-vaccination cesspool about a recent court decision in the US.

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2008 14:47:11 -0800
From: "Francois Tremblay"
Subject: Anti-vaccination court case

Have you heard about the recent court case where the US government admitted that children with mitochondrial disorders can get autism from vaccines, on the basis of scientific data?

Of course, I don't expect you to recant anything... but it would be nice if you'd at least acknowledge it on your site.

--
Yours in Reason,
Francois Tremblay

I will certainly acknowledge it. When it happens. I will recant. When given reason to do so.

It is almost inevitable that anti-vaccination liars will try to spin anything to their advantage, but it takes real gall to claim that vaccines caused autism in a child who is not autistic. The same sort of gall it takes to declare that a government has admitted something when it has admitted nothing of the sort. A child with a possible genetic disorder suffered some health problems which coincided with receiving vaccinations. The court acted out of sympathy and ruled that some compensation could be appropriate, but made no ruling on any scientific claims about any connection between vaccines and autism.

The court decision and the subsequent anti-vaccination liefest have been discussed in several places, but a reasonable coverage can be found at NeuroLogica Blog, Respectful Insolence and New Scientist.


Remembering the departed (8/3/2008)
On March 2, 2000, Canadian curling champion Sandra Schmirler died of cancer. Her life was shortened significantly by a decision to reject medical treatment and to rely on snake oil and quackery. The person responsible for her early death was Mr William P O'Neill of an outfit called the Canadian Cancer Research Group. Mr O'Neill commemorated the anniversary of her death by posting the following message to Usenet. The content of the message and the fact that Mr O'Neill felt the need to post it anonymously should be sufficient evidence to demonstrate the quality of care and service that can be expected at Mr O'Neill's clinic.

Every time Tim Bolen posts facts about CrazyTerry Polevoy, IncontinentStephen Barrett, Or CrankyBobby Baratz, poor unfortunate PeterPhile Bowditch (having recently moved from one rental in the city to another rental in the middle of nowhere,and now can truly boast that he is the backwoodsass- countryfuck he is known to be)jumps in with usual bullshit pretending he actually knows something. Most recent is his response to Bolen's query of Ilena Rosenthal concerning payments she has received from Barrett as part of her settlement in her court victory.

Like most things, Bowditch pretends he actually knows what's going on. And of course in most instances he lies...He lies about Ilena Rosenthal, he lies about the safety of vaccines, he lies about his criminal record, he lies about restraining orders his children have filed against him.....everything that comes out of his piehole is a lie.....

And of course BlowDitch will respond with more lies..and his usual buttplugg aupporters will line up to defend his greatness.....

Thank you, Mr O'Neill. Your words say more about you than I ever could.


Quintessence Nook (8/3/2008)
More amusement from the archives.

The four corners of the earth.Time Cube added 17 March 1999
Science simplifies things. That's what Ockham's Razor is all about. Newton looked at the way the universe worked and summarised a lot of truth into three laws. Einstein looked at things Newton didn't see and came up with "E=mc˛". Gene Ray goes the other way. He notices that the time is different in different places and expands out from there. What is this man talking about? God knows (but Gene knows better).


What is this boat's name?Renaming A Boat added 10 August 1999
Ah, Jim lad. I be thinkin' that we've seen no clear skies since we changed the name of the good ship "Armadillo's Cutlass" to "The Haranguer". It be bad luck to change without askin' the boat first. I well remember the words of old Blind Panick when he told the White Star people: 'Don't change the name from "Anorexia Nervosa". No good will come of callin' a ship "Titanic"'.


DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Expose of Bizarre Influence added 2 June 1999
The roads and runways at DIA are arranged at right Whetever does this picture mean?angles, and you can draw a swastika on them. There are three buildings in Washington which coincide with the corners of a triangle. The Masons left a time capsule at the airport. There are strange murals on the walls. The Queen has bought some land in Colorado. The food at the Denver airport is cheap and tasty. (I made that last bit up.)

Well, I'm convinced that something is going on at Denver. Actually, it's going on underneath. Those aren't runways you see, they're lids.

March 29, 2008

Then and when (29/3/2008)
I'm gradually getting the hang of living in two places, and every time I travel I seem to have to pack less stuff. One problem has been the intransigence of the technology, a matter of some embarrassment to a person who sells computer expertise for a living. I now think I have figured out how to keep two installations of Microsoft FrontPage in synchronisation on two computers so that I don't have to close my eyes and tap on wood with a rabbit's foot whenever I click the "Upload" button. (Yes, it was one of these events which caused the front page of this site to be erroneously updated with incomplete information during the week. Sorry about that.) Also, I have now discovered which piece of the hardware configuration at the country retreat was causing my keyboard and mouse to manifest free will. It looks as if I will be able to return to regular weekly updates of this site soon, but I won't promise anything until it happens. As a side note, it seems that the ChangeDetection people have changed their software (the messages are certainly different) and it now ignores the hidden commands telling it which parts of the page to monitor for changes. I have it set to only report changes to the list of pieces which change every week, but it now looks like it will tell everyone that the page has changed if I do nothing other than simply reload it to the server. Progress, they call this sort of thing.

What I do know is that there will probably be no update next weekend because I will be at the great Australian Skeptics gabfest in the lovely inland town of Wagga Wagga. The gathering will bring together members of skeptics groups from all over the country so that we can do some socialising, put some faces to screen names, and work on ways to cooperate to spread the gospel of critical thinking. The date was chosen because of its astrological auspiciousness and we are are crossing our fingers and hoping for a good result. As a bona fide country town dweller I have to recognise that the drought is still with us so I will be abstaining from the group prayer session when they ask for fine weather over the weekend.


Silver linings and all that (29/3/2008)
I have two cars. On one recent day, both of them spent some time on the backs of trucks, one being brought in from the boondocks to have a new engine fitted and the other being taken to the repair shop to have some accident damage fixed. Being carless and having appointments a long way from home, I was sentenced to a six-hour trip by train and coach. Remembering the words of the philosopher Montague P'Ython, I was encouraged to always look on the bright side of life and saw this as an opportunity to do some uninterrupted podcast listening. I loaded up the iPod with several hours of interesting stuff and off I went on the great adventure. One thing I added to the playlist was the complete set of Quackcast podcasts as I felt that a second listen to them wouldn't do me any harm. They are produced by Dr Mark Crislip and you can find them all at www.quackcast.com. Dr Crislip shares my opinion about the worthlessness of the collection of rubbish generally known as Supplementary, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (or SCAM for short) and describes his approach as "evidence based ridicule". Of course the quacks can dismiss him easily as he is an infectious disease specialist and would therefore know nothing about diseases and infection. He simply doesn't have the mindset to understand how people can honestly imagine that homeopathy or iridology work, but then neither do I so it is no surprise that I agree with him. Quackcast is highly recommended, so go there and get downloading.


The writing skeptic moves, and having moved writes on (29/3/2008)
I Australasian Sciencewill be making another appearance as the Naked Skeptic in the May edition of the excellent Australasian Science magazine. It has been a little cold in Grenfell to go around naked and as a newcomer to the town I don't want the natives to jump to conclusions about me, so I actually wore clothes while writing the piece. I assume that the editor will forgive me on this occasion, but I promise to wear less each time I write a column until I have reached a suitable state of nakedness again. The article was a rehash of something I had done a couple of years back and while you are waiting for the magazine to hit the newsstands you can read an approximation here.


I enter a woowooo vortex (29/3/2008)
I was riding along in my automobile, the missus beside me at the wheel, listening to some radio station which was playing a very strange and eclectic collection of songs. Three successive songs gave me reason to think. The first song was "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon. The third was "Island in the Sun" by Harry Belafonte. I had not heard either song for a very long time.

We pulled up at a set of traffic lights as Harry was doing his stuff and Her Majesty pointed out a poster advertising a singer who was about to appear at a local night spot.

His name: Sean Kingston.

The song between those two was "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. (I had remarked on how even when you combine two of the greatest creative talents in the last 40 years of popular music you can still get drivel.) That song is about how people of different skin colours should be able to live together in one world.

What was the name of the place where Sean Kingston was going to be singing? Oneworld.

Sean Kingston and Harry Belafonte both have dark skin, and the poster was under a road sign pointing to Blacktown.

Explain all that, skeptics.


This week's good news (29/3/2008)
I received a media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. It started off:

Jail for discredited cancer therapist following ACCC action

Mr Paul John Rana has been sentenced in the Federal Court, Melbourne to six months imprisonment following conviction for offences under the Trade Practices Act 1974. The offences relate to Mr Rana's failure and his involvement in the failure by other parties to comply with notices issued under section 155 of the Trade Practices Act* requiring production of certain information and documents to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

In late 2006 the ACCC issued a number of notices to Mr Paul Rana and certain NuEra companies with which Mr Rana was associated in relation to alleged contraventions by them of the Act concerning false, misleading and unconscionable conduct towards persons suffering terminal illness (primarily cancer). Mr Rana and the NuEra companies did not comply with these ACCC notices.

...

You can read the full saga here. Unfortunately, the quacks couldn't be imprisoned for quackery, but a good result is a good result. If I had my druthers, they could empty out a few cells in prisons by releasing people in there for minor drug possession and non-payment of fines and use the space to lock up more charlatans and thieves who hide behind badges like "naturopath" and "homeopath" and "natural healer". In a truly just world they would all have to share their cells with very large men with lots of home-made tattoos and they could spend their time explaining to Bubba how they weren't worried about AIDS because it is a myth and, anyway, nobody ever gets sick from a virus.


The mail keeps coming and I love a challenge (29/3/2008)

From: "Dee Dee"
Subject: I notice...
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2008 22:49:26 -0500

You've still got the name Stan Burzynski in a rant about cancer frauds. Given the fact that the AMA and ACS, and even MD Anderson Cancer Institute in Houston (his major haters) have been sucking up to him for a LONG time now, maybe you ought to amend that so people Googling him don't run onto your Y2Kish rant about a man who has been vindicated.

Just a FYI.

So the old fraud has cured someone now, has he, after 8,000+ failed attempts?

There is one and only one mention of the quack on the AMA web site (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/13638.html) where, in 1997, they said:

Some methods proposed for study and further dissemination have been associated with proponents using questionable methods and possibly fraudulent research. Several of these are cancer therapies, including "antineoplastons," popularized by a physician named Burzynski who claims he can "normalize" tumor cells by shutting off their undifferentiated growth using peptides extracted from urine. A review of this method in JAMA concludes that no objective evidence exists to support the experimental claims.

That's some "sucking up". And so recent too.

There is one and only one mention of the quack on the ACS web site (http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_5_3X_Antineoplaston_Therapy.asp?sitearea=ETO) where they say:

Although some proponents of antineoplaston therapy have suggested that the reviews of this treatment by conventional cancer specialists are biased by mistrust of alternative therapies, even some prominent figures in alternative medicine have reservations about antineoplastons. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, author and physician, founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona ,"Over the years, Dr. Burzynski claims to have treated more than 8,000 patients, but his success rates are unknown. His Web site states only that he has helped "many" people. If antineoplaston therapy works, we should have scientific studies showing what percentage of patients treated have survived and for how long, as well as evidence showing how Dr. Burzynski's method stacks up against conventional cancer treatment. … Until we have credible scientific evidence showing what antineoplastons are, how they act in the body, and what realistic expectations of treatment with them might be, I see no reason for any cancer patient to take this route."

That's some "sucking up" And note how a supporter of quackery is quoted by the ACS. Even quacks think that Burzynski is a fraud.

The only people sucking up to Burzynski and his ilk are those who believe that any lie told to someone with cancer is acceptable as long as it assists the flow of money from patient to charlatan.

And you misspelled "exposed as a fraud". That is not what "vindicated" means.

Just a FYI.


There's a time for every purpose under Heaven, even insulting. (29/3/2008)
During the last week or so Osama bin Laden has been hiding in his cave and cowardly issuing videos containing idiotic threats about those cartoons published in 2006; the King of Saudi Arabia (where women can't drive but can be flogged for being raped and nobody can build a church) has called on the monotheistic religions to unite in a jihad against atheists; the Indonesian spawn of a noseless whore and general all-round porcine rectal structure Bakar Bashir (responsible for the murder of more than 200 people in Bali in October 2002) has called for violence against infidel tourists to Bali. To balance this out, Geert Wilders has made a film, Fitna, highlighting some verses from the Koran. The video was originally distributed online by LiveLeak, but they have received the usual death threats and have unfortunately decided to fold in the face of bullying. So far YouTube have not managed to remove the many copies loaded there (I don't know if they have even tried). Be warned, however, that you need a strong stomach. YouTube has an "adults only" warning on at least one copy and requires a statement of age before allowing people to see it.



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