Home > History > Front page updates August 2010
AVN near death? Children feel safer already. (7/8/2010)
Time appears to be running out for the Australian Vaccination Network. They might be able to ignore the Health Care Complaints Commission, but it is doubtful that they can ignore the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing who oversee charities in the state.
It gave me enormous satisfaction in May, 2009, to be the first person to notify OLG&R that the AVN was quoting an expired charity authority registration code on their web site.
The registration had expired almost two years previously and in the arrogant fashion we have come to expect from the AVN they just kept on asking for money. To justify asking for money they said:
As a volunteer run charity organisation the AVN relies on the support of others. No matter how small the contribution it all adds up to help keep us in operation.
What your donation will go towards-
The second item listed is the soliciting of donations for the purpose of "offer[ing] our services and our magazine in the Bounty Bag". Remember that this had been on the AVN site since the start of 2007. The people who run the Bounty Bag program had never heard of the Australian Vaccination Network and have stated categorically that they would in no circumstances allow anti-vaccination literature to be included in the bags. So where have those donations been going?
The OLG&R is now asking the same question, and they can ask with the force of the law behind them. Here is how the local newspaperin the AVN's region, the Northern Star, reported the news. It is worth pointing out that until recently this paper appeared to be a strong supporter of the AVN. Not any more, it seems.
Ava Benny-Morrison | 6th August 2010
THE Australian Vaccination Network Inc is being investigated after claims it engaged in unauthorised fundraising.
The Bangalow-based anti-vaccination group has three weeks to prove why its charity fundraising authority should not be revoked after an audit by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) found alleged breaches of legislation.
Possible breaches of the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 also have been referred to the Department of Justice and the Attorney-General.
The OLGR recently visited the non-profit company's offices where its officers examined records and interviewed staff.
According to the OLGR, the audit revealed breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991, including alleged incidents of fund-raising without authority, unauthorised expenditure and failure to keep proper records of income and expenditure.
The AVN now has 28 days to prove otherwise, an OLGR spokesman said.
"We are asking them to address the breaches identified," he said.
"They may want to put forward evidence defying these breaches or any sort of arguments for their future."
Breaches of charitable fundraising legislation can lead to an organisation or company being prosecuted in court, although the OLGR spokesman said whether the AVN would be prosecuted or not ‘relies on what they receive from them and what their final determination is'.
The AVN was granted a fundraising authority from July 5, 2002, to July 4, 2007. The authority was renewed on June 2 last year following a two-year lapse.
The allegations of unauthorised fundraising fall between the two-year lapse period of July 4, 2007, and June 2, 2009, when the AVN did not have an updated fund-raising authority.
It is claimed that during that time the AVN asked for contributions to fund a pamphlet to be inserted in maternity gift bags called Bounty Bags. But the organiser of the gift bags knew nothing about the pamphlets.
Additionally, one of AVN's opponents, the Vaccination Awareness and Information Service, claimed the AVN received donations in 2006 to conduct a vaccination testing program that never occurred.
AVN released a statement yesterday saying it followed the audit process to the best of its capability and had co-operated with the OLGR ‘each step of the way'.
The statement also said AVN was ‘confident at the end of the auditing process they will be able to retain their charitable process' and at ‘no time throughout the due process have there been suggestions of fraud'.
AVN president Meryl Dorey declined to comment further.
Earlier this month the Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning against the AVN.
The commission found selective information on the AVN website may be dangerous and, by omitting a warning on their website of their nature, poses a public and safety risk.
The OLGR said it was taking this public warning ‘into consideration' as part of its audit as it related to allegations of ‘misleading the public'.
Similar stories appeared in many newspapers, so it looks like the very extended honeymoon period during which Meryl Dorey and the AVN were seen as the "go-to" people when stories were being written about vaccination is over. Not a second too soon. Here is a story on Lateline, one of Australia's most respected news commentary programs.
Meryl Dorey loves to whine about censorship and suppression, so I am only too happy to publish her media release about the OLG&R here. Feel free to be soundly amused at the claim that the purpose of the AVN is "to provide referenced information to the Australian public regarding the benefits and risks of vaccination". When are the references to real science going to start, Ms Dorey? And please tell us the benefits of vaccination.
A UFO hit the World Trade Center? Really? (7/8/2010)
OK, folks. It's settled. No longer do we have to worry about the events of September 11, 2001, in New York. Scientific research has determined that no planes flew into the World Trade Center. All the video showing planes was fabricated to hide the fact that a ball-shaped object did the flying and the hitting. The truly remarkable thing was that even live-to-air footage was manipulated in real time to show aircraft instead of the mysterious ball. You might not think that this would be possible, but as the ball was obviously a UFO and UFOs are created and controlled by beings with far greater knowledge than us there can be no doubt that what you see in the video below is the truth. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth.
Or the ravings of some lunatic who should be ridiculed unto the ends of the Earth. Richard Hall - we are laughing at you, not with you. And some New York firemen would like you to come around one Friday night and show them your film.
Speaking of 9/11 ... (7/8/2010)
Of all the articles I have written over the last year for Yahoo!7, the one about the idiocy of 9/11 Truthers got the best response from the unhinged and brain dead. Read the article and comments here, and wonder at the strange pathways that the human mind can follow.
Numbers redefined (7/8/2010)
The old lie about the profitability of pharmaceutical companies and how they make more profit than everyone else combined has resurfaced. I was confronted with the following quote during the week as evidence of pharma perfidy:
"The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion) [in 2002]. Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself."
-- Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine
There has been evidence for some time that Dr Angell has been suffering from what could be called LinusPaulingitis - the tendency to veer away from reality in later years. I asked the person offering the quote for a citation and I was told nothing more than that it was in a review of Dr Angell's own book in the New York Review of Books. That wasn't really satisfactory, so I set off for the NYRB web site and tracked the quote down. I was not surprised to find that it wasn't in a review of any of Dr Angell's books, although the lady herself did write the words. You would expect a former editor-in-chief of NEJM to be rather particular about sources and citations so I was eager to find where Dr Angell had got the figures from. (I should point out that the $33.7 billion for 490 companies was so ludicrous that I assumed she had been misquoted. She hadn't.) Did she go to the SEC, or look at some company reports? No - she sourced the numbers from a publication by a major financial research think tank - an anti-business outfit called Families USA.
I thought it was time to check some facts, so I went to an obscure place that no anti-medicine researcher would think to look - the web site of Fortune magazine. Guess what I found. Here are the top ten companies in the 2002 Fortune 500 (numbers are in millions of dollars, Enron is shown as zero because nobody knew what was going on there):
|9||Intl. Business Machines||85,866||7,723|
Hmmm. So where's that $33.7 billion profit made by 490 non-pharma companies? It looks to me like the top ten made almost twice that much by themselves (and more than twice as much if Ford's $5.4 billion loss is taken out). I think therefore it is safe to say that the claim that the ten pharmaceutical companies (none of which were in the top ten) made more profit than the total of the other 490 companies in the list is untrue. You could even say that it is a lie.
By the way, the total profit for all 500 companies in 2002 was $206.21 billion ( or $262.33 billion if you take out the bizarre outlier, JDS Uniphase, which lost $56.12 billion all by itself). If you take out all the companies that made a loss (the Fortune 500 is a ranking by sales, not profit) then the gross amount of profit was $354.74 billion. About ten times the amount that the quacks love to tell us the pharmaceutical companies made while they were making more than half.
And how did the pharmaceutical companies actually perform? One intriguing matter is that it seems that there are only nine pharmaceutical companies in the 2002 Fortune 500.
|Johnson & Johnson||33,004||5,668|
Yes, pharmaceutical companies are profitable, but so what? They are big companies with billions of dollars in sales. It would be a surprise if they weren't making good money. And to put things into perspective, the sales figure for the largest, Pfizer, is about the same as the amount spent on snake oil and alternative medicine in the USA in a year. Pfizer could be even more profitable if they didn't have to test anything to see if it works, didn't have to do any post-sales monitoring, didn't have to do any research and could blame someone else for their failures. (I would like to thank Microsoft (2002 sales $25.3 billion, profit $7.35 billion) for inventing Excel which made doing all those calculations easy.)
So, in summary, quacks claim that ten pharmaceutical companies make more profit in total than 490 other large companies combined. The people who actually make the list used as a source say that nine pharmaceutical companies make about 10 percent of the total for all companies. This indicates that the quacks and their supporters either can't can't count, can't do arithmetic or tell lies. It is quite possible that all three apply.
Here's a prediction. Within six months someone will tell me that the combined profit of ten pharmaceutical companies is more than the total for the other 490 companies in the Fortune 500. I first heard it in 2006, and some lies never die.
Now, this is serious (7/8/2010)
OK, the final straw has been added to this camel's back. I'm about to join the clique of Dawkins, Hitchens, Condell and Myers and reject religion totally. The outrage reported below should be enough to convince anybody that religion sends people mad.
Islamic police smash 80,000 beer bottles in Nigeria
Tue Aug 3, 4:24 pm ET
KANO, Nigeria (AFP) – Islamic police smashed 80,000 bottles of beer in the Nigerian city of Kano on Tuesday to enforce a sharia law ban on consumption of alcohol that exists in much of the country's north.
Over a dozen veiled female sharia police, called Hisbah, destroyed the beer bottles with sticks amid shouts of "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) on the outskirts of the northern city in a ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by government officials as part of "efforts to rid the state of immorality," said Kano state Hisbah chief Saidu Dukawa. Kano city is the capital of the state by the same name.
"The sale and consumption of alcohol, like all forms of drugs and intoxicants, is illegal in Kano state, which practices sharia law and by this event we are enforcing that ban," Dukawa told AFP.
Thirteen trucks brought the bottles of beer to the venue.
The alcohol had been seized at the weekend by sharia police as the bottles were being delivered to the city from the mainly Christian south, where most of the country's breweries are located, Dukawa said.
Although the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in Kano state, beer trucks find their way to taverns in the predominantly Christian Sabongari neighbourhood, which is practically exempt from sharia law.
Since 1999, when Nigeria returned to civilian rule after years of military dictatorship, around a dozen states in the predominantly Muslim north have reintroduced Islamic sharia law, though it has been selectively applied in many cases.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, and roughly half of the 150 million population is Muslim.
Another week, another scam (7/8/2010)
I received a fax addressed to my business this week offering to arrange my Yellow Pages listing and, as a bonus, give me a free Google listing. Free submission to Google - how could I resist that? Easily, as it turns out. Apart from the fact that submission to Google is free anyway (and I have an automated process which reminds Google each month about all sites I have anything to do with), I noticed a couple of very large red flags waving.
The first was the logo and organisation name at the top of the fax:
A telephone directory usually has more than one page, so I was intrigued by the name "Yellow Page". Surely it should be "Yellow Pages". And why was the logo giving me a two-finger salute, something which is offensive in many cultures? Perhaps I should go and look at what appears on the Yellow Pages web site. Hmmm. It looks a bit different, doesn't it?
Telephone directories are usually produced by your local telephone company, and in the case of Australia they come from a company named Sensis, which is a subsidiary of the biggest telecommunications company, Telstra. (Telstra actually owns the trademarks.) The third red flag was that the fax had come from someone in Manchester, UK. Now while Manchester might be famous for its soccer team, I don't think that Sensis or Telstra have moved their offices to that wonderful smoky paradise.
What amazes me is that anyone can fall for such a transparent scam, but there must be a significant number. Unlike email spam, sending faxes isn't free so whoever thought this one up must have thought that an investment of real money was worth it. The fine print includes agreeing to payments totalling $3096.00 so even a 0.1% response rate would be highly profitable. And you can't get out of the contract!
I think I have found the reason for the logo with two fingers pointing upwards. It's not to get around trademark law, it's to show contempt for anyone who deals with the crooks. They just give you the sign before they steal your money. Oh, and how does $129 per month compare to the cost of having a listing in the real Yellow Pages? It doesn't actually, because there is no cost to be in the local book other than the cost of line rental and you sort of have to have that anyway to have a telephone number. Or put another way, free beats $129 per month every time.
If the scamsters want to take me on for displaying their logo and calling them names they should be aware that the owners of the real name and trademarks have deep pockets and very vicious lawyers. And they have been told about the scam.
Update April 16, 2011
$2.7 million penalty for fake "Yellow Pages" directory scam
The Federal Court in Melbourne has imposed penalties totalling $2.7 million against two overseas companies, Yellow Page Marketing BV (YPM) and Yellow Publishing Limited (YPL), for sending thousands of Australian businesses misleading faxes and invoices in an attempt to obtain subscriptions to their online business directories.
The ACCC alleged that between May 2010 and November 2010, YPM and YPL misled thousands of businesses into thinking they were dealing with Sensis Pty Ltd Yellow Pages®, a business well known around Australia. The YPM and YPL companies sent faxes and invoices that contained the words 'Yellow Page' and a 'Walking Fingers' logo.
"This is a significant outcome and represents the highest penalty to be handed down since civil pecuniary penalties were introduced as part of the Australian Consumer Law," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel said.
"These proceedings are a warning to companies both here and overseas that the ACCC will not tolerate this type of conduct and will seek substantial penalties," Mr Samuel said.
In her reasons for judgment, Justice Gordon noted that the traders involved in this directory scam had hectored businesses, demanding payment of invoices and threatening the imposition of late fees.
It is important that businesses affected by this scam understand that the court's orders (described below) mean that they can now ignore any demand for payment and stop making payments to these companies.
While making orders as to refunds the court did note the real possibility that the parties may not comply. This is because the case reveals this directory to be a scam run by overseas entities, and it is therefore unlikely that any real assets can be tracked down.
The court declared that YPM and YPL had contravened sections 52 and 53 of the Trade Practices Act 1974* as neither of the companies are in any way affiliated with Sensis Pty Ltd Yellow Pages®.
The court's final orders also included:
On 1 January 2011 as part of Australian Consumer Law amendments the Trade Practices Act 1974 was renamed the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Release # NR 066/11
Issued: 14th April 2011
Conservapedia gets even better! (14/8/2010)
In the 2009 Millenium Awards the Conservapedia site received an encouragement award. I am pleased to see that its founder, illiterate lawyer Andy Schlafly, has actually been encouraged to improve the information available from the site. The buzz this week has been about the Conservapedia entry Named "Counterexamples to Relativity". It seems that relativity as espoused by Einstein (and corroborated by every scientist who has ever devised an experiment that tested the theory) is not really true. Here are the reasons given to explain why one of the most productive scientific theories in physics of the 20th century is not reliable.
The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world. Here is a list of 28 counterexamples: any one of them shows that the theory is incorrect.
I will leave it up to people who know more about physics than I do (a set which I sometimes feel includes Cody The Religion Hating Dog) to provide scientific responses, but the very idea that a scientific theory can be rejected because it supports one side of politics over another is ludicrous. Does the name Trofim Lysenko ring any bells?
Still, I suppose the Conservapedia objection to relativity isn't as silly as one I once saw drawn from "feminist science". In that universe the equation E=mc2 had to be rejected because of its patriarchal origin, placing as it does the speed of light in a superior position over all other physical constants and thereby signifying the oppression of women and condoning rape where the man is always on top of the woman. Or some such bullshit.
Speaking of physics ... (14/8/2010)
Perhaps it's time to remind people of a major theory in physics that was first revealed here on this very web site:
The new physics (21/11/2009)
Scientists at the Ratbags High Energy Physics Laboratory have postulated the existence of a new subatomic particle. It has four times the mass of the neutron and can replace the neutron in the nucleus of atoms, making the elements (and compounds of those elements) much denser. The Ratbags physicists have booked time on the Large Hadron Collider (whenever it gets working again after the bird sabotage) to test the theory, which requires colliding streams of protons and electrons at 98.6% of the speed of light.
We all know that one of the fundamental constants of our universe is the number e, which is approximately 2.718281828459045235360287471352662497757247093699959574966. It was the irrational nature of e that provided the first clue to the possible existence of the moron, the postulated neutron replacement particle. According to the hypothesis, four protons can combine with 2e electrons creating the extremely short-lived Schipp's Boson which immediately decays into a stable moron by emitting an electron and an extremely energetic photon of blinding stupid. This electron/photon pair will replace J. J. Thompson's definition to become the standard concept of delta radiation, which is particularly appropriate given that objects and persons containing a measurable proportion of moron particles exhibit significant measurement on the scale of dumbth.
There is evidence that the reaction can happen at the temperature inside a human body, as shown by the fact that there are people exhibiting moron properties while simultaneously radiating stupid, but if science learnt anything from the cold fusion fiasco it was to wait until the basic science was in place before calling the press conference.
If this hypothesis is supported it is obvious Nobel Prize material. If it turns out not to work we are planning to license the concept to Dan Brown for his next book.
AVN bleats on (14/8/2010)
The Australian Vaccination Network's erstwhile president, Meryl Dorey, has been publishing a stream of whines on her blog attacking everyone in sight over the attention that the AVN has been getting lately from government organisations. It would seem to be a simple matter to post a requested notice on the AVN web site and then get back to the business of endangering children, because the true believers who orbit the AVN can be told that it is a formality and therefore inconsequential. That is not the Dorey way, however, so instead there has been a series of increasingly hysterical blog posts describing the witch hunt. Any day now I expect to see mentions of the Illuminati and the Rockefellers or perhaps even David Icke's lizard people. (Ms Dorey once famously republished an article by Icke which said that the swine flu vaccine was designed to kill almost all of the world's population and implant mind-control microchips in the rest. She has been trying to deny this ever since, but is always immediately directed to the blog post in which it appeared.)
In her latest rant she has decided that anybody who criticises the AVN is thereby practising medicine or giving medical advice and should be reported to the Health Care Complaints Commission, as if this exonerates the AVN's activities. I rated a mention, but as usual what Ms Dorey said about me contained several examples of what could politely be called "inaccuracies". I posted the following reply. The probability of it being published is less than that of me winning lotto two weeks in a row.
I know Ms Dorey is very busy ducking and weaving, so just in case she hasn't had time to moderate messages to the blog I sent her the following Kind and Gentle email.
Dear Ms Dorey,
In your blog post "The HCCC – don’t confuse them with logic #1 – Health Education" of August 9,You say:
"Peter Bowditch from the Australian Skeptics, has several websites, one of which is dedicated exclusively to vaccination. On this site, not only does Bowditch link to many media stories and articles about vaccination, but he specifically gives medical advice to all who come to view his page. His advice is that everyone MUST vaccinate in no uncertain terms and his lack of information on either the necessity of vaccination for every person and his refusal to inform about any potential side effects is in opposition to the NH&MRC’s rules governing the responsibility to allow for fully informed choice regarding this issue".
I am not the Australian Skeptics. Yes, I started The Millenium Project as a reaction to your vile organisation but I did it several months before I ever knowingly met anyone from Australian Skeptics. You have been told this before, so why do you keep repeating the lie?
I have only one web site, and a part of it is devoted to pointing out the lies told by anti-vaccination campaigners.
Nowhere do I say that everyone must vaccinate.
There are several links on my site to Australian Government literature mentioning possible adverse reactions to vaccines.
But why go on enumerating the untruths? It is obvious that you could not tell the truth under torture, so pointing out your lies about me is useless. Still, that won't stop me in the future.
I posted this reply to the blog but my words have not yet appeared. I assume that this is an oversight and you will allow the comment to appear, in accordance with your often stated commitment to free speech.
I think I've annoyed some people (14/8/2010)
From this week's email:
Date: Mon, 09 Aug 2010 03:22:59 -0400
aaaaaaaaasssssssssssssdddddddddfffffffuck you mother
fuckerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsuck my ballsssss go fuck yourself you
retard how would you like to meet one of your or your cronie's victims
face to face well I'm one of them you ratfucker rapist shit shit shit
balls balls balls
From: Jared Levine
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2010 22:02:56 +0000
You're a money hungry douche that is partially responsible for a holocaust in the US.
Liars don't give up (14/8/2010)
Anti-vaccination liars are like toadstools, when you remove the poisonous fruit the corruption continues under ground and unseen. In December last year I complained about an anti-vaccination outfit called Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center which was claiming HONCode certification in clear violation of HONCode principles. Shortly afterwards they changed the name to the much more innocuous International Medical Council on Vaccination and all mentions of HONCode seemed to disappear. Now I find that fungus caps have been popping up in various places and at least one of them, the Wisconsin outlet, is showing the HONCode symbol.
It seems that my work here is never done, but that's that freedom and eternal vigilance thing again. I have submitted a complaint to HONCode which you can read here. I hope I have as much success as I did the last time I had to complain to HONCode about this execrable group, but somehow I think that the anti-vaccinators will just keep on trying to attach themselves to the credibility of sites which actually deserve the HONCode certification. There is nothing a quack likes more than being seen standing beside someone reputable, waiting for the credibility to rub off on them.
Why me? (21/8/2010)
You know those $60 rubber bands that crooks tell you will increase your strength and balance? I might have to go into business selling them, because they look even more profitable than being a homeopath writing labels for bottles of water. For some reason I have been receiving emails from a manufacturer offering these things to me wholesale.
Here are some examples. (I apologise for the large images, but that is how the emails were sent to me - great big pictures instead of text.)
The first one - wholesale price of the $60 rubber bands - $1.17.
Number 2 - Lovely necklaces for $1.19 each (including a pretty box)
Number 3 - Even lovelier necklaces (I do like the necklace/bracelet combination for $2.35 - I could sell that for at least $120.)
And do any of these things work? Well, they certainly improve the strength of the retailer's bank balance, so I guess they do have an effect on both strength and balance. What they do for the purchaser is make them feel stronger and more balanced because their wallets will feel easier to pick up and won't pull down on one side of the body as much.
Have I mentioned that selling these things is committing fraud?
Do I have to say it 17,000 times? (21/8/2010)
Royal Raymond Rife made a microscope that could magnify 17,000 times. Or maybe 60,000 times. It depends on which of Rife's true believers you are listening to at the time. The fact that the wavelength of visible light does not allow magnification beyond about 1,250 times is dismissed by true believers as an excuse given by orthodox physicists and lens makers for their failure to reproduce Rife's work. The next thing you get told is that all of Rife's notes were destroyed (sometimes even by Morris Fishbein, evil editor of JAMA) and his microscopes trashed to protect the conventional microscope industry. When you point out that Rife's notes are available on the web you get told that everything is suppressed and that is why you can't buy books setting out Rife's designs. When you give them the titles of the books and the prices at Amazon they revert to telling you about how nobody knows how Rife managed to get magnification with visible light beyond that achievable by electron microscopy because all his notes and his microscope were destroyed by the Fishbeinites. If you get lucky, as I did this week, you can be told in the same message that there was only one microscope and it was destroyed but there were five microscopes and two of them still exist, hidden away so Zeiss and Olympus can't copy them.
Sadly, I didn't have the £14,400 needed to buy one of the trashed and destroyed microscopes when it came up for auction at Bonhams of London in November 2009. I've always wanted to own something of which only one existed and was destroyed except that five were made and two still exist. But does it magnify 60,000 times? I'm afraid that information is suppressed, like the existence of the microscope itself and its design.
Do you get the feeling that I find conspiracy theorists tiresome?
MLM scamsters beware (21/8/2010)
The days of pyramid scheme operators and other scamsters promising great wealth to scheme participants could be coming to an end in Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has just issued its first ever public warning about "business opportunities", following an investigation into a scheme to distribute products to supermarkets. Of course the MLM companies with competent legal advice will not be affected, as they will continue to claim plausible deniability and only make grandiose claims through their "representatives", "distributors" and "independent business operators" (who are, of course, not representatives, not distributors and nothing like independent at all).
The story started in 2006, and here is how it was reported in The Border Mail:
Putting hearts into charities
30 Mar, 2006 08:00 AM
A group of retirees have put their hearts into charity to benefit the Border and surrounding community.
HeartLink Australia, a not for profit organisation, launched a range of cheap products at the East Albury IGA yesterday.
The products, including household, gardening, hardware and pet food, are made by volunteer retirees and any sale profits are given to local community groups.
HeartLink executive director Vicki Lowe said the products were already being sold around Victoria and were now crossing borders to NSW and South Australia.
"We'll start in Albury by introducing six products to the East Albury IGA, but eventually this will expand to include about 25 products," she said.
HeartLink gave the Albury Meals on Wheels group a cheque for $300 as part of its official launch
Fast-forward to April 2010, and the Victorian Consumer Affairs office had this to say:
Laurence Glynne Hann and Vicki Ann Lowe – Court action – 30 April 2010
Court action by Consumer Affairs Victoria against two promoters of a bogus business opportunity which claimed to raise funds for charity, has secured more than $45,000 compensation for four Victorian consumers.
The Ballarat Magistrates’ Court ordered Laurence Glynne Hann, 69, of Henty, and Vicki Ann Lowe, 54, of Maryborough, to compensate investors a total of $45,500 for breaches of the Fair Trading Act 1999.
The court found Mr Hann and Ms Lowe made false, misleading or deceptive claims in regional newspaper advertisements about the benefits of participating in a business opportunity they promoted.
Mr Hann was also found to have made false or misleading claims about the profitability of the venture and both were found to have breached the Fundraising Act 1998 and the Business Names Act 1962.
The scheme used a series of unregistered business names, including "Heartlink", "Heartlink Australia", and "The Retiree Group."
Investors were asked to buy $5000 contracts for the packaging or distribution of household and domestic products, including shampoo and conditioner, cleaners, confectionery, pet care goods, gardening and automotive products.
Mr Hann and Ms Lowe misrepresented that the proceeds of sales of Heartlink products would go to charities and falsely claimed that Heartlink was a non-profit organisation. The couple were not registered fundraisers or associated with a registered fundraiser.
The four investors paid up to $22,000 to participate in the scheme, which Mr Hann and Ms Lowe claimed to have the potential to earn investors up to $2000 for 3-4 days work per week.
Investors did not derive the advertised benefits because Mr Hann and Ms Lowe:
In addition to compensating investors, Mr Hann and Ms Lowe were ordered to publish a public notice detailing the court orders in the Ballarat Courier and Swan Hill Guardian newspapers.
Hmm. They "misrepresented that the proceeds ... would go to charities". That should be a warning to the Australian Vaccination Network, who at the time of writing this have six days to explain to the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing why they were claiming to be a charity when not registered and were collecting money for a specified purpose and not passing the money along.
Now to the ACCC warning, which applies to anyone offering a "business opportunity".
Distribution scheme 'business opportunity' draws ACCC's first public warning
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today issued its first Public Warning Notice.
The Notice has been issued concerning the conduct of the following corporations:
The ACCC can issue a Notice if it has reasonable grounds to suspect the conduct may breach certain provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974; is satisfied that one or more persons has suffered, or is likely to suffer, detriment as a result of the conduct; and is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so. A key consideration for the ACCC in issuing a Notice is whether it considers there is an imminent need to inform consumers so they can avoid suffering detriment.
In this matter, the ACCC suspects the companies breached the Act by making misleading claims about the income from the business opportunity the companies promote, that is, delivering Heartlink-branded household products to independent supermarkets.
The 'part time delivery business' is advertised in rural, regional and metropolitan newspapers and claims earnings of between $900 and $2,000 per week for between three to four days' work. The ACCC considers the companies have no reasonable basis on which to claim these income projections and the conduct may constitute contraventions of the Act.
The Public Warning Notice follows complaints from individuals who paid between $10,000 and $30,000 for a business. The majority have earned no income and none have reached the projected figure.
An example advertisement is shown:
The ACCC is warning the public that the advertisements may be misleading and that individuals who pay money for the advertised business opportunity may derive no earnings from the business.
Release # NR 170/10
Issued: 20th August 2010
I don't suppose this will stop those annoying notices which don't mention Herbalife but give a phone number to call for great riches that I see on power poles and traffic light poles, but at least the ACCC is starting to get proactive and issue warnings. This follows the first public warning issued by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission about the Australian Vaccination Network earlier this year. It's about time that people who make outrageous claims are exposed and the public officially warned to think before opening their wallets to these charlatans. I would still like to see some of these crooks locked up, but putting them out of business is a good start.
Gettin' nekkid (21/8/2010)
There has been another optimistic breakthrough in the scientific proof of acupuncture. Or has there? The latest edition of that fine magazine Australasian Science is on the newsstands and winging its way to subscribers even as we type. As usual it contains the Naked Skeptic column written by me, and this time it looks at a study published in Nature Neuroscience purporting to demonstrate that acupuncture works in mice to reduce pain perception. I was rather underwhelmed by the research, and you can read my comments here.
I'm not the only writer for the magazine and each issue is filled with interesting and useful articles written by experts in a style which allows non-scientists to understand the issues. If your local newsagent doesn't carry it you should pester him to get it in (if you live in Australia, of course) or you can subscribe through the magazine's web site.
John Edward isn't psychic? (21/8/2010)
Someone felt the need to correct my statements about the claimed powers of that fraud John Edward.
From: "Raul daSilva"
Subject: Not in debate but for clarity
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 14:13:57 -0400
I have not known John Edward to declare himself a "psychic" but as a "spirit medium". Since I have had ample personal evidence of this phenomenon as evidential I have no arguments with anyone who claims they have extradimensional contact then prove it beyond any doubt.
Do not confuse the term "psychic" with "spirit medium". Spirit mediums are not prophets (nearly no one is) nor are the average people they contact who are no longer in this wavelength frequency.
But what did I find on Edward's own web site?
It looks like Edward thinks that Edward is a psychic.
Your immediate task is to go to the UNICEF web site and donate some money to the appeal for those affected by the floods in Pakistan. Off you go. We'll still be here when you get back.
It is interesting to note how various religious organisations have reacted to the disaster. Of the eleven charities recommended by the Australian Council for International Development as recipients of donations for this event, four are explicitly Christian and a couple of others were started as Christian charities but have since moved to being fully secular. All of them are working to help Muslims. Contrast this to the Pakistan Taliban who have announced that they intend to attack and kill aid workers trying to help Muslims. I might be an atheist, but I can respect religious organisations when they do good work, whatever their motivations. There are however some religions which are worse than others and some which have no right to exist at all.
AVN and OLG&R (28/8/2010)
Do you remember how the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing had asked the Australian Vaccination Network to show cause why OLG&R should not take action over the AVN operating without a valid charity registration and collecting funds which were not passed on to where they were supposed to go? AVN were given 28 days to respond, but they have apparently been too busy lying about the benefits of influenza, measles and chickenpox to get the paperwork done.
I always try to be helpful, so I sent this kind and gentle reminder email to Meryl Dorey at AVN:
Dear Ms Dorey,
This is just a reminder in case you have been busy and forgot, but your response to the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing was due last week. You know, where you had to explain why AVN kept asking for charitable donations for two years after your registration had expired and why you said that you were collecting for Bounty Bags when the people who distribute the bags had never heard of AVN and wouldn't want your propaganda in them anyway.
Just as an aside, the charities collecting for flood victims in Pakistan have put a very high priority on vaccination. Are you going to issue a media release criticising this approach and suggesting that donations only be made to organisations which promise not to vaccinate children. You did this for both the Aceh tsunami and the Haiti earthquake, so I look forward to you being consistent in your attempts to deny life-saving assistance to the victims of natural disasters.
Homeopathy "research" (28/8/2010)
Yet another person has informed me about the prolific research demonstrating the efficacy of homeopathy. I wasn't sent to the original published papers, of course, but instead I was sent to a homeopathy web site which listed successes. One which caught my eye was a 1999 report of a study done in 1974 (yes, 1974, and apparently never replicated) showing the benefit of Staphysagria in the treatment of postcoital cystitis.
A clinical trial of Staphysagria in postcoital cystitis
Homoeopathica November 1999
by P A Ustianowski
Honeymoon or postcoital cystitis is a condition where there is a disturbance of bladder function in women who have recently started or restarted heterosexual intercourse, or altered their technique.
The symptoms of the condition are several, if not all, of the following:
Research over the years has not shown any higher incidence of frank urinary tract infection, or anatomical deformity of the genitourinary tract, in women prone to postcoital cystitis compared to those not so afflicted.
In my capacity as Medical Director of London Nursing Homes Birth Control and Pregnancy Counselling division, I have had ample opportunity to study the pathogenesis and treatment of this debilitating condition.
The series consists of 200 women, between the ages of 16 years and 30 years, 25 per cent of whom were married. All the patients had started having regular sexual intercourse for the first time, or restarted it after a lengthy gap, during the last three months.
All the women who complained of symptoms of cystitis were examined clinically for possible foci of infection-especially in the respiratory tract and the pelvic organs, and their urine was examined chemically and microscopically. There was no sign of intercurrent disease in any of the affected individuals. In none of the cases was there any significant proteinuria, hæmaturia or bacteriuria.
The patients in the trial were all requested to empty their bladders as completely as possible within an hour before intercourse and half an hour after it.
Fifty percent of randomly selected patients were given individually wrapped doses of powder of Staphysagria 30c, and the other 50 per cent were given similar packages of powders of Sac lac (lactose)- indistinguishable in texture, colour and taste from the other powder-as a placebo. The patients were requested to dissolve their powders on the tongue every morning and evening daily for a month, at which time they were all seen by me.
At that stage, of the cases who had been supplied with Staphysagria 90% had completely lost all symptoms of postcoital cystitis, 8% were very much better, while 2% were unchanged. In the cases who were given the Sac lac placebo, 40% had completely lost all symptoms, 10% were very much better, and 50% were unchanged.
In some cases improvement would be anticipated after a month without any treatment whatsoever. Several investigators in this field are convinced that bladder emptying before and after intercourse is an all-important cornerstone of the treatment of this condition.
The statistics available above show a very significant difference in the results of treatment with Staphysagria as against Sac lac placebo. The only person who was aware of what the patients were supplied with was myself, and I was at pains not to disclose the treatment to the patients, or the nursing staff.
The family Ranunculaceæ in the plant kingdom contains several genera of great use in homœopathic medicine -such as Staphysagria, Pulsatilla and Aconitum. Most of the Ranunculuceæ used in homœopathic dilution have an effect on the balance between the psychic and physical spheres - restoring equilibrium in conditions of oversensitiveness and emotional lability. Staphysagria, or the wild delphinium, has for long been known as a remedy for frustrations, resentments, and the hypersensitivity consequent on them. Sexual intercourse can be construed, in some cases, as an insult or assault upon the woman. In many cases of postcoital cystitis, on close questioning the patient expresses her frustrations and resentments regarding intercourse. This is what led me in the first place to selecting this remedy for a trial.
This report on Dr Ustianowski’s trial first appeared in the British Homœopathic Journal of October 1974.
So, let's see what is wrong with this:
That will do for a start, but the real clue to the uselessness of this "research" is in the second sentence of the final paragraph: "Most of the Ranunculuceæ used in homœopathic dilution have an effect on the balance between the psychic and physical spheres - restoring equilibrium in conditions of oversensitiveness and emotional lability". The "balance between the psychic and physical spheres"? Put another way, this means that the experimenter has no clue about how psychological factors might influence the outcome. And this is in a study to do with a problem that is highly personal, quite distressing, embarrassing to talk about and can cause feelings of diminished self-worth.
If this is a good example of research in the field of homeopathy then I don't want to see a bad example.
Something to make you vomit (28/8/2010)
I've just bought a new television set with a built-in HD tuner. When I installed it, the first channel I looked at to see if it was working was the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 24 hour news program. Almost at once I was exposed to a polished turd named Glen Beck defiling the memory of Martin Luther King by preaching hate and bigotry to a crowd of rightards. The date chosen was the anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech and the location was the Lincoln Memorial, the site of King's speech in 1963. Beck claims that this was just an accident and a coincidence. Yeah, right. It was a calculated insult by someone who will be forgotten ten minutes after he is dead (except by those celebrating his death).
One nice thing is that Beck was only able to attract a crowd about one third the size of the one which heard King, and the population was a lot smaller in 1963. The crowd was still too big, though, and it is worrying that the USA can have so many lunatics who are free to roam the streets.
Here's what I said in 2003 on the 40th anniversary of King's speech:
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (30/8/2003)
In 1963 I was studying French in high school, although I don't particularly remember spending any time thinking about the above quote. As everyone knows (because it's a cliché), it means "The more things change, the more they remain the same". As a bona fide baby boomer I am not supposed to remember much of the 1960s at all, but I do remember some things from 1963. I remember the pessimism about the state of the world and I remember the optimism that we relative youngsters felt about our ability to change things. This week saw the 40th anniversary of one of the most significant events of that year, an occasion when optimism was at its peak and real progress seemed imminent. It was on August 28, 1963, that Martin Luther King stood in front of a statue of Abraham Lincoln and told the quarter of a million people gathered there, and the rest of the world, about his dream. You can read the full speech here, but I would like to quote two passages which summarise its meaning for me.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Unfortunately, King did not live to see the fulfilment of his dream. Unfortunately, neither did anyone else. The evil, the hatreds, the religious and racial bigotries, the wars are still with us. The French journalist Ambrose Karr might not have thought that he was writing philosophy when he coined the title to this article back in 1849, but the forty years since King spoke in Washington have proved Karr right. The methods may have changed and the discrimination may take other forms, but there are still real gulfs built on imaginary differences, on who one chose for parents, or on which superstition is better than which form of witchcraft. Things have changed, but they are still the same.