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February 6, 2010

What a week it's been! (6/2/2010)
We all knew that the UK General Medical Council was about to hand down its findings on Dr Andrew Wakefield, but we didn't expect the events that followed. The GMC result was as predicted, that is, Wakefield was found to have acted unethically, but we didn't think that this would provide the excuse that The Lancet needed to retract Wakefield's 1998 paper, the one that started the rot in the first place. Then, just as we were all aTwitter about the retraction the Australian Vaccination Network announced that it is circling the plughole. Now read on.


Wakefield's woes (6/2/2010)
After too many years and too many children dying unnecessarily from measles, the UK General Medical Council has finally released it's findings into the conduct of Dr Andrew Wakefield in relation to supposed research published in The Lancet in 1998. Publication of this paper, which seemed to indicate a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, was a direct cause of a drop in the rate of MMR vaccination in the UK (leading to deaths) and provided an effective propaganda weapon for people opposed to vaccines. The reason I say too many years is that as far back as 2002 I knew that the research was suspect, and by 2004 it was obvious that Wakefield not only had conflicts of interest (he was attempting to patent a replacement for the MMR vaccine and he was being paid by lawyers acting on behalf of the parents of some of the experimental subjects who wanted to sue vaccine manufacturers), but that the research was so seriously flawed that it positively reeked of either incompetence or dishonesty. You can see what I wrote in 2004 here, and if I knew these things from 20,000 kilometres away then they couldn't have been a secret. In fact it was comprehensively reported in the UK media by journalist Brian Deer and others.

The reaction of the anti-vaccination liar community to the 2004 information about Wakefield was completely predictable. He was elevated to hero status immediately, and ad hominem attacks were launched on Brian Deer and anyone else who dared to commit the blasphemy of saying that Wakefield was not being honest about his intentions. As I said in 2004, when I heard him speak at a conference promoted by the National Vaccine Information Center I was left in no doubt about his attitude to vaccination. You don't get invited by the NVIC if you have even the slightest suspicion that vaccines might be worthwhile.

The controversy over the Lancet paper could not be ignored by the relevant authorities, specially after ten of the original thirteen authors of the paper asked to have their names withdrawn. (Thirteen authors for 12 subjects seems rather unbalanced.) The UK General Medical Council eventually got around to investigating the matter and they released their first report on January 28. You can read the full findings here. Unfortunately there isn't a summary of the things they found that Dr Wakefield had done wrong, but they did have this to say:

Having made the above findings of fact, the Panel went on to consider whether those facts found proved or admitted, were insufficient to amount to a finding of serious professional misconduct. The Panel concluded that these findings, which include those of dishonesty and misleading conduct, would not be insufficient to support a finding of serious professional misconduct.

In the next session, commencing 7 April 2010, the Panel, under Rule 28, will hear evidence to be adduced and submissions from prosecution counsel then Dr Wakefield’s own counsel as to whether the facts as found proved do amount to serious professional misconduct, and if so, what sanction, if any, should be imposed on his registration.

I was taught at an early age to avoid double negatives so I would have finished the first paragraph by saying "would be sufficient to support a finding of serious professional misconduct", but at least the meaning is there. It is almost inevitable that Wakefield will have his medical registration cancelled, but don't think that the date "7 April 2010" means that it will happen soon. If the enquiry proceeds at the same glacial pace as the original panel investigation then Wakefield might have his licence yanked sometime in 2013. This is of no concern to him anyway, as he no longer practises medicine in the UK but has instead found a very lucrative career in the US selling quackery and bad medical advice.

The Lancet should have withdrawn the paper in 2004 when the problems became obvious, but unfortunately they stuck with tradition (only a small handful of scientific papers are ever retracted). Following the GMC announcement, however, they could proceed while still retaining a bit of dignity, so on February 2 they announced that the paper had been retracted. This means that it was effectively never published, so it cannot be cited in other published research. Too late, but not too little

And what has been the reaction of the anti-vaccination liars to all this? Well, it has been outrage and has resulted in an outpouring of lies and conspiracy theories the like of which hasn't been seen for years. It is a witch hunt, of course, and Wakefield has been promoted from hero to minor deity. There have been attacks on the publishers of The Lancet and the members of the GMC panel, Big Pharma has been identified as the funding source behind it all, as has Rupert Murdoch (?). Rumours of copious research confirming Wakefield have appeared, although locating the actual published papers in reputable journals has proved elusive. The best response I have seen, though, was someone who pointed out that The Lancet was named after a piece of medical equipment which had caused millions of deaths by transferring germs between patients. I should mention that the person who told me that is on record as denying that germs cause disease, but when people are foaming at the mouth then sometimes what comes out is not well thought out. There was the obligatory web site set up so that people could sign a petition supporting soon-to-be-ex-Dr Wakefield. I found the two signatures below, and they sum up perfectly my feelings about Wakefield and his work.

 


Not flush with cash, AVN is flushed (6/2/2010)
All Where the AVN is going. Click for a song.the hard work might have finally paid off. You can see the wonderful news here, where Meryl Dorey announced that she was resigning as President of the Australian Vaccination Network at the end of February. If nobody can be found to take on the job the AVN will fold, die and disappear. In order to help out, I have applied for the job.

Dear Ms Dorey,

I am sorry to hear that you are resigning as President of AVN. I have enjoyed our communication over the last decade and I will miss you, as will all the other supporters and members of AVN.

I would like to formally apply for the position of President of the Australian Vaccination Network. I have extensive knowledge of the arguments used to oppose vaccinations, I am well known in the anti-vaccination movement, and I have written widely on the matter. I have had experience on the boards of several non-profit organisations and have held the position of President of Australian Skeptics Inc.

I feel that I have a lot to offer to AVN and look forward to helping the organisation to get its message to all the people who need to hear it.

As time is short and I will need to make arrangements with my current clients and adjust my TAFE teaching load in order to take on the AVN duties, an early response would be appreciated. As you are in Bangalow and I am in Wentworth Falls it would probably be more efficient if interviews were to be conducted by telephone or Skype.

Thank you.
Peter Bowditch.

For some reason, however, the story seems to change from day to day. Sometimes Ms Dorey is leaving because she wants to spend more time with her family, and sometimes the AVN is folding because it has run out of money, and sometimes it is the horrible "septics" who have been disrupting its activities and wasting its time. (The reason is never that the AVN has been getting so much bad publicity over the last year that it is time to fold the tents and run away.) There is a fire sale going on and donations are being sought, so perhaps there will still be an AVN next month, and there might even be a Meryl Dorey at the helm. This sort of "we're about to close" appeal has gone out before, so I won't be breaking out the Moët until I hear the really good news - that the death is true.

If the AVN finally goes into the cesspit where it belongs there are some people who need a special mention for their part in its decline. Daniel Raffaele set up the Facebook group "Stop the Australian Vaccination Network" which provided a meeting place and information exchange, Christine Bayne and Peter Tierney monitored the AVN's rantings and brought them to a wider audience so that more people could see the idiocy of their agenda. Ken McLeod took the time to file a complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. A special thanks must go to my anonymous friend who frequents a large number of anti-vaccination liar mailing lists and forums and passes on information from places where I am not allowed to go. There were others who helped as well - you know who you are.

The highest level of thanks and respect, though, goes to Toni and David McCaffrey. The death of their daughter Dana from whooping cough and their willingness to take this tragedy to the media and demand change was the catalyst which turned the media away from being unwitting mouthpieces for Meryl Dorey and her child-endangering behaviour and caused them to start questioning what she had to say. Two years ago, any story in the media about vaccination seemed to require an unchallenged comment from Meryl Dorey. Now, if she is asked at all there is usually someone talking sense brought along as well. Even if the AVN survives they will no longer be seen as the sole authority on vaccine safety, but will be recognised for what they are. In fact Meryl Dorey even provided the description herself- "rabid idiotic fringe dwellers".


Who's a clever little web site, then? (6/2/2010)

Pandora

NLAWhat could I add to what the National Library of Australia had to say?

Millenium Project
Millenium Project was selected for preservation by the National Library of Australia. This title is scheduled to be re-archived regularly. The publisher's site may provide more current information.

You can see the notice here.


Anti-vaccination conversation continues (6/2/2010)
The public conversation between me and anti-vaccination campaigner Bronwyn Hancock in my local paper, the Blue Mountains Gazette, keeps rolling on. LetterMs Hancock has responded to the letter I mentioned in January.

Erroneous claims

More embarrassingly than Richard Neville, Peter Bowditch (BMG 6 1 10) failed to even find the right study to which I had referred (BMG 23 11 09) by Mitchell et al on SIDS and vaccination, and erroneously referring to an obviously irrelevant study.

The significance also oddly escaped him of the CDC In 1958, a few years after the vaccine's introduction, no longer counting as polio "cases of nonparalytic poliomyelitis (aseptic meningitis due to poliovirus)" (J Infect Dis 1982), reclassifying nonparalytic (i.e. almost al1) cases as "aseptic meningitis". The CDC manual reveals significant narrowing of the definition of paralytic polio also.

Orthodox medical research documenting vaccine damage has saved many innocent carers from convictions of factitious "shaken baby'' syndrome and also indicate that the little baby that Peter refers to, was very likely the victim of hepatitis B vaccination at birth and the lack of transplacentally-transmitted immunity (in babies born to mothers vaccinated as children), the latter making young babies susceptible to whooping cough.

That and the effect of the antibiotics administered caused the 1996-1997 deaths inappropriately blamed on whooping cough. Furthermore, those young infants contracted it from their fully vaccinated siblings and/or mothers themselves suffering pertussis at the crucial time (MJA 1998).

Bronwyn Hancock, BSc
Vaccination Information Service

LetterHere is my reply:

Bronwyn Hancock's response to my letter (BMG 27/1/09) raises some interesting points. I will address the paragraphs in order.

In her first paragraph Ms Hancock suggests that I should be embarrassed by locating the wrong scientific paper. I am not embarrassed and I simply point out that this is a common error when the paper is not cited correctly. In any case, Richard Neville in his letter (BMG 6/1/09) quoted the correct paper which, far from supporting Ms Hancock's claim that it showed a relationship between vaccination and SIDS, actually said "Immunisation does not increase the risk of SIDS and may even lower the risk".

In her second paragraph she again claims that the name of polio was changed to hide the fact that the vaccine was ineffective. The facts are that in 1958 the definition of "paralytic polio" was clarified so that statistics of the disease only included cases where paralysis persisted beyond 60 days. There was no reclassification of polio as aseptic meningitis - that is a different disease altogether. The clarification meant that infections which cause paralysis lasting for less than 60 days (which include both poliomyelitis and aseptic meningitis) would not be counted as "paralytic poliomyelitis". Note the word "paralytic". The journal article that Ms Hancock cites states this quite clearly, so she either misunderstands it or misrepresents it. By the way, the paper reports a 99.98% reduction in cases of poliomyelitis following the introduction of the vaccine, so so much for the vaccine being ineffective.

The third paragraph is yet another attack on Dana McCaffery and her parents in order to denigrate vaccination. Dana did not die as a result of a HepB injection, she died of whooping cough, contracted because she was exposed to the infection by living in an area with very low vaccination rates. The low vaccination rate is a direct result of the actions of anti-vaccination campaigners like Ms Hancock, some of whom also attempted to exploit Dana's death for propaganda purposes. By her use of the word "factitious" Ms Hancock again presents the idea that babies cannot be harmed by shaking, an idea which highlights the irresponsibility of the anti-vaccine movement. There is no "orthodox medical research" supporting either this absurdity or the possibility that Dana McCaffery was harmed by a vaccine.

The fourth paragraph makes no sense, and again contains an almost meaningless citation of medical literature. I can only assume (but I might be wrong) that she is referring to "Infant pertussis deaths in New South Wales 1996-1997", Williams et al, Med J Aust. 1998 Mar 16;168(6):281-3. If she is using that paper to support her claim that "the effect of the antibiotics administered caused the 1996-1997 deaths inappropriately blamed on whooping cough" she must have missed where the authors said "This excessive infant mortality from a preventable disease demonstrates the need for better pertussis immunity in the community and for erythromycin treatment of all suspected cases and family contacts, especially infants". Or put another way, another paper supporting vaccination is being cited as though it said something different. As Ms Hancock has a science degree I am surprised at her apparent inability to both correctly cite the literature and to comprehend the content of the papers she cites.


Where will you be on March 7? (6/2/2010)

A ticket


Another one nibbles at the dust (6/2/2010)
It hasn't quite bitten the dust yet, but there is always hope. You know that old riddle: "What have you got when a multi-level marketing company goes broke? A good start". Here is a letter sent to Arbonne International's "Independent Consultants":

Important Information From Arbonne
01/31/2010 09:43 PM
legalnotice@arbonne.com

January 29, 2010

Dear Arbonne Independent Consultant,

You are a valued member of the Arbonne family, and we want to make you aware of an important action we have taken to strengthen Arbonne financially and ensure that our company is well-positioned for the future.

On January 27, 2010, Arbonne, along with our parent company, Natural Products Group, LLC, and related entities, filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to implement a "pre-packaged" debt restructuring plan. This plan will reduce our outstanding debt obligations by more than 80%, which will lower significantly the amount of cash we spend on principal and interest payments. We can use this cash to invest in building our business.

You can fully expect Arbonne to maintain normal business operations throughout the restructuring process, with no disruptions to our relationships with our Independent Consultants, employees, or suppliers. Likewise, you and your fellow Independent Consultants can be confident that your compensation from commissions and overrides is secure.

Our practices in the field remain the same. We will continue to provide you with innovative programs and incentives as well as state-of-the-art product technology, the very latest training methods and the most advanced support tools available today.

As numerous companies have demonstrated during this difficult economic cycle, using this type of legal process can be an effective way of achieving a fast and efficient debt restructuring with minimal disruption to the business. In fact, because we have already received the approvals needed from the Company's lenders for this plan, we expect to complete this process within 45 to 60 days.

As part of this process, the Company has prepared a legal document known as a Notice of Commencement. The distribution of this Notice to a wide range of parties is customary. We are required to send it to anyone who may have a claim in the Company's reorganization proceedings. This Notice includes important information about the restructuring, including key dates and deadlines. To view this Notice and related information, please go to www.NPGInfo.com/Notice. If you are unable to access these materials on the Internet, please call (877) 788-2814, toll free in the U.S. and Canada, for further assistance.

Additional information about the reorganization is available in "The Company" section of www.arbonne.com. Videos and written materials are available for registered Independent Consultants and Preferred Clients within the "Internet Consultants" section of www.arbonne.com. We will continue to update this information as we move through this process.

Sincerely,

Kay Napier CEO,
Arbonne International, LLC


Customer relations (6/2/2010)
You know how it is when you ring some company and get put on interminable hold, listening to the same Kenny G music over and over (but played by someone with less skill on the sax than Kenny, and with the high notes specially sharpened to allow for the dynamic range of your mobile phone speaker)? You know how every few minutes some recorded voice butts in to say "Your call is important to us" and you think "But not important enough to have enough staff to answer the phone"? It looks like real estate intelligence company RPData has extended this principle to online contact. Perhaps they employ deaf people in the call centre, too.

Customer relations


Writing (6/2/2010)
TheYahoo! 7 latest article for Yahoo!7 News went up this week. It's about the power of coincidence and you can read it here and even join in the commenting No truth! No courage! No value!fun.

Speaking of the Yahoo!7 News blog, it attracted the attention of our old friend GAL. Its contributions were gutless, anonymous and full of lies, but that is why we affectionately call it the Gutless Anonymous Liar. You can see its Wildean wit here.


More homeopathic nonsense (6/2/2010)
In December I mentioned that I had forced myself to sit through a presentation by a homeopath who was opposed to vaccinations. Could that be because she wants parents to buy stuff from her rather than go to a real doctor? You can go here to see a brochure promoting homeopathic immunisation, as if there really is such a thing. It's one thing to sell useless water and sugar pill "cures" to the worried well, but when you start pretending that your snake oil can prevent children catching disabling and deadly diseases you have crossed the line from just a scam to become a risk to public health. Like cholera, which is also caused by the consumption of fecal matter.

February 20, 2010
 

Lithgow TAFE CollegeSo where has he been? (20/2/2010)
I have two real-life jobs that put food on the table, pay the rent and give me some spare money to spend on things like hosting this web site. One of these jobs is a computer consultancy based on selling and supporting a specific software package and the other is teaching at TAFE NSW. Over the last couple of weeks I've had to do the annual recertification examination to remain an accredited consultant for the software product and I have also had to refresh my teaching qualifications. I am not sure how I organised to have both of these things happen at the same time, but that's the way the universe works. To make sure that I have the minimum of spare time, one of the other TAFE teachers became unavailable just before the year's classes commenced and I had to take on his load or the course would have to have been cancelled. Things might be a bit sporadic around here over the next few weeks while I adjust to a fifty percent increase in the time needed for lesson preparation and teaching and a twenty percent reduction in the time available to do anything else.


More about Dr Wakefield (20/2/2010)
Following Soon-to-be-ex-DrWakefieldup on the recent story about Dr Andrew Wakefield's woes, I wrote an update to my 2004 article about him for the Yahoo!7 News site. You can read it and the comments here. I love the way that the fifth person to comment told me about research showing that measles vaccine virus particles could be found in the gut of autistic kids. The commenter had apparently missed the article where I mentioned that the particular piece of research had just been retracted by the journal that published it. Wakefield must be right because research by Wakefield says so. Quackonaut logic at its best.

Despite the canonisation of Wakefield by the usual anti-vaccination liars groups, it seems that his employer decided that paying someone a quarter of a million dollars a year to attract bad publicity was no longer a good idea and Dr Wakefield was reluctantly let go by Thoughtful House. As he had set this outfit up in the first place and it was funded by the huge amounts of money that he secretly received from the lawyers in the UK I am a bit surprised that they were able to sack him. If I were the suspicious kind I might even suspect that his "resignation" might be a form of damage control and he will quietly slip back in to his Texas office when all the noise about the GMC and The Lancet has quietened down, and it will be business as usual.

If he can't get his old job back there is an opportunity in Tijuana. The death of überquack Hulda Clark has left an enormous hole in the Mexican quackery fraud business and her clinic in Tijuana is conveniently close to the border. Accommodation in the area shouldn't be a problem as Clark also left behind a rather nice house in a cul-de-sac in Chula Vista, and it's only a short drive south from there to get to work in a place free of the FDA and other pesky rule makers. As one of the services provided by Thoughtful House is chelation to cure autism, Dr Wakefield could start by offering that to the millions of parents of autistic children caught in the autism epidemic in California. I am sure that with his research skills he could soon prove that chelation was also useful in the treatment of cancer and thereby gain access to all those poor people with cancer who have been sent home to die by their doctors and have had nowhere to go since Clark died. Of cancer. (I should note that when I used the word "poor" above I wasn't referring to people with no money. Such people are of no interest to Tijuana clinic operators.)


Speaking of canonisation ... (20/2/2010)
When Mary MacKillopthe night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me, and it will shine a little brighter after October 17 this year when the canonisation of Australia's first Catholic saint, Mary MacKillop, becomes final. I won't write too much about Mary's sainthood here right now because it will be the subject of my next column for Australasian Science magazine, but I will make a couple of points. The first is that Mary did a whole lot of good work while she was alive and it is perfectly legitimate to honour her memory and celebrate her life. The fact that she supposedly did her good work because God told her to is irrelevant. Much of her biography suggests that she would have expressed her compassion in a productive manner without the church had she lived in a different period of history, and it devalues her life's work by setting up a situation where she is celebrated for performing (or more correctly, facilitating) miracles after she died.

The second point is the danger of encouraging people with serious illnesses to expect miracles to come from a deity rather than from reality. I have no problem with people praying for a cure as long as they don't give up their treatment while waiting for God to answer the prayers, but the the publicity given to miracles could convince some people that prayer is a viable alternative to taking nasty medicine and undergoing uncomfortable procedures.

The third point is that some people (not, I might add, most of the people actually doing the work) have tried to claim that the investigative process involved in canonisation is somehow scientific. It looks like science only in the way that there is a hypothesis (if you ask someone nicely and often enough they can persuade God to break the rules He set for the universe) and strenuous effort is made to refute any supposed supporting evidence. The science starts after a miracle is established, by trying to find out what really happened, but that next step is never taken. In any case, the whole procedure became much less fun after the position of Devil's Advocate was renamed to something more compliant with modern management principles. I would take a job in the Vatican myself if I could have that title on my business cards.


A lawyer is defended (20/2/2010)
Lawyer Jonathon Emord was Highly Commended in the 2009 Millenium Awards for his ability to be totally committed to absolute, universal freedom of speech while simultaneously getting ready to argue in court that some people should not have freedom of speech. He is the tame lawyer for the National Vaccination (dis)Information Center, an organisation which shares his ambiguous attitude to free speech. Someone mentioned the awards on the Australian Vaccination Network's mailing list and one of the responses is an excellent example of how people will believe anything if it fits their agenda and ideology. I replied to the poster (directly, of course, because I am banned from the list) but I have not yet received a reply. Somehow I don't expect to ever get a reply.

From: Eileen Landies
Sent: Sat, 13 February, 2010 9:36:49 AM
Subject: [AVN] Re:Ratbags goes too far

For those of your unfamiliar with him, I met Jonathan Emord at the NVIC conference back in October. He gave a phenomenal talk and I have recommended his book (The Rise of Tyranny: How federal agencies abuse power and pose risks to your life and liberty) to many people. He was successful in suing the FDA regarding their suppression of information regarding folic acid and birth defects. He is a strong supporter of health freedoms.

Hello Eileen,

Did he happen to mention when this suppression of the information about folic acid and birth defects took place? As there are papers indexed in PubMed going back more than 60 years dealing with this matter either Emord is close to 90 years old (to allow time to get established as a lawyer by 1958), he was a child prodigy who was able to conduct a complex legal battle as an infant, or he is a liar.

But don't let the facts interfere with a good story.


A journey of a thousand miles starts ... (20/2/2010)
The following article appeared in several of my local papers. I haven't been able to find out any more, but it could be very good news indeed. The reaction in some anti-medicine forums was interesting. They welcomed the news because they thought that it meant that the government was going to crack down on real doctors who are responsible for all those deaths caused by medicine. I was glad I hadn't switched on my irony meter or it would have shattered.

Crackdown on quacks
February 13, 2010

CHARLATAN healers who exploit vulnerable sick people by selling fake balms and rituals will face stiff penalties under new national laws.

The laws may also compel some alternative health practitioners to admit they cannot prove that their "treatment" will make a difference to a patient's health.

The crackdown on sham healers was proposed by the Victorian government and won national approval and a budget for further development at yesterday's Health Ministers' Conference in Melbourne.

Under the scheme, unregistered health practitioners - those who do not fall under registration schemes such as those for doctors, nurses or pharmacists - will have to abide by a code of conduct or face restrictions, bans or even jail for repeat offenders.

The code of conduct will catch out people who: claim training that they don't have; behave inappropriately, for instance in sexual contact; do not inform their clients of any risks involved in the treatment; or do not get informed consent.


Weeping walls (20/2/2010)
In April 2007 I appeared on a television current affairs show to talk about what was being called "the miracle house", a place where oil was seeping from the walls creating an instant shrine for a dead schoolboy. I forgot about it afterwards because I thought that it was something that would just fade away. I was a bit surprised when the same program ran a reprise of the story in late 2009 which showed that the thing was still running strongly. The show brought in some scientists to test the oil (a combination of rose and olive oils) and, in the fashion of such shows, followed the scientists' debunking by saying how it was still a mystery. The mystery became a little clearer a few weeks later when the father of the dead boy was revealed as a con man, although the particular fraud was not related to weeping walls. It did suggest a pattern of behaviour, though.

Here's the 2007 item from Today Tonight.

And this is what reminded me:

Red Meat
See more of Red Meat here


Mardi GrasWhere will he be next week? (20/2/2010)
You might remember that I played the Pope in last year's Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. If you don't remember, you can go here to be reminded. The Pope won't be parading this year but I will, supporting the Sydney Queer Atheists. I am not, in fact, a Sydney queer atheist, but as Meatloaf used to tell us interminably on radio in the late 1970s "Two out of three ain't bad". The Mardi Gras parade is one of the highlights of the Sydney social calendar and I had so much fun last year that there is no way I wasn't going to be in the show somehow this year. The parade is on Saturday, February 27, so I won't be doing any web site updating that day, but if everything goes to plan I should have some spectacular pictures to put up in the following days. If you will be watching the parade look out for me. I will be one of the three (or maybe four) straight guys.

February 22, 2010

I knew it was too good to be true! (22/2/2010)
I The Thing is alive!!go to all the trouble to build the AVN Deathwatch Countdown counter, I fill the refrigerator with expensive French champagne, I invite all my friends around to celebrate, and what happens? The Australian Vaccination Network carcass gives a twitch and then someone detects a pulse. The thing is still alive! You can read the awful news here.

You might notice where Ms Dorey says:

Well, no sooner had I sent out the email from Sam Statham offering a case of organic wine to the first person to donate $1,000 to the AVN, then (sic) he started to get threatening emails and phone calls.

One email was from a known member of the incorrectly-named Australian Skeptics who has posted many angry messages on boards across the internet - messages whose intent is the denigrate the AVN and myself.

Well, here's a fact for you, Ms Dorey. No member of Australian Skeptics contacted Mr Satham at Rosnay Wines. None, zero, zilch. The person who did contact him is not a member of AS, although he probably shares some of the ideals and principles of the organisation. Also, he did not threaten Mr Statham - he asked him politely if he was aware of the nefarious activities of the AVN. And, Ms Dorey, there was no need for him to denigrate the AVN. You do that yourself every time you spread misinformation about vaccines and medicine.

I also notice that Ms Dorey is standing down from the position of AVN President. I still haven't heard anything back about my application for the job, and I even found someone to fund the entire AVN operation if I became President. I suppose the answer and its accompanying employment-related paperwork has been caught up in the rush of activity at AVN HQ. I hope I hear about it soon because I am settling in to teaching and it becomes harder to reorganise my time as each week passes.

But is the AVN ever really going to fail? I have seen the stories before about its imminent collapse and there always seems to be a saviour who comes along at the last minute. I'll believe it's dead when I hear the clods of earth hitting the coffin.

And one final thing. Ms Dorey said:

I foresee some wonderful additions to the AVN's already impressive range of vaccination information as well as the beginning of scientific research which we have been planning for years.

Elsewhere in the release she mentions that she has tears in her eyes. That statement above brought tears to my eyes. Tears of laughter. They provide an "impressive range of vaccination information"? They are going to do scientific research? I will have to stop now before the laughter triggers an asthma attack.


But the news is not all bad (22/2/2010)
On the other side of the world there are signs of a breakout of common sense. I probably don't have to comment about this news story from the UK Daily Mail. I just hope that the Parliament goes beyond just talking about and does something about it. Taxes should not be paying for idiocy like homeopathy.

Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS, say MPs

By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 2:46 PM on 21st February 2010

Homeopathy should no longer be funded on the NHS because there is absolutely no evidence that it works, MPs will say today.

The cash-strapped Health Service spends millions of pounds every year on the complementary medicine - at a time when it is restricting proven life-saving drugs for people with cancer.

But experts say there is no way known to science that homeopathic medicines could possibly be effective beyond being a placebo.

MPs on the Commons science and technology committee will also conclude that homeopathic medicines should be banned from using phrases like 'used to treat' in their marketing - as it could lead consumers to believe there is clinical evidence that they work.

Homeopathy, which counts Prince Charles among its fans, claims to treat and prevent disease by using greatly diluted forms of herbs and minerals.

It is based on the principle that 'like cures like' - that an illness can be treated by substances that produce similar symptoms. For example, homeopaths claim onions, which make eyes itchy and tearful, can be used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.

But scientists point to the fact that the 'cures' are so diluted that the cannot possibly contain even a single molecule of the original substance.

The homeopathic industry, worth £40million in the UK, does not dispute this, saying that their remedies retain a 'memory' of the original ingredient. But they are unable to say how this could happen given the laws of physics and chemistry.

Some 54,000 patients are treated each year at four homeopathic hospitals in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Liverpool - taking around £4million of taxpayers' NHS funding away from conventional medicine.

A fifth hospital in Tunbridge Wells in Kent was forced to close last year when the local NHS stopped paying for treatments.

During the MPs' inquiry, the British Medical Association said the use of homeopathic medicine could not be justified on the current evidence, while the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain said there was no way it could work.

And Paul Bennett, from Boots, admitted there was no evidence homeopathic drugs were 'efficacious' - despite the fact that the chemist sells the medicines.

Since 2006, manufacturers have been allowed to claim their products can treat specific ailments, without providing proof. The MPs are expected to conclude that these rules should change.

Critics fear the sue of homeopathic medicines could lead to life-threatening illnesses going undiagnosed, or to patients binning tablets provided by their GP in favour of an unproven alternative.

David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, said: 'It really is very simple - there is nothing in the pills. The danger is that people get diverted from the actual medicine which could cure them.'

Last year an Australian homeopath and his wife were found guilty of the manslaughter of their baby daughter because they did not seek conventional medical treatment for the nine-month-old, who died of septicaemia.

Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association, said: 'We feel the select committee inquiry was too narrow in its remit. There is plenty of evidence to support homeopathy, with 100 randomised controlled trials, and many more on outcome measures, which reflect how patients say they feel.'

The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, which promotes the use of alternative medicines, urged the government not to restrict the use of homeopathy, which would mean 'abandoning patients'.

Medical director Dr Michael Dixon, a GP, said: 'For all those people with long term conditions for whom there is no evidence-based medicine, it doesn't matter how it works, what matters is what helps them get better.'




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