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I don't think so ... (2/10/2010)
I received the following email during the week. As I don't play video games I think I'll pass.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this email. It is our understanding that you may be interested in receiving coupons and discounts on our quality PC-based Christian video games for children, teens and adults.
Our games are supported by Focus on the Family, the Billy Graham Center and numerous evangelical preachers who appreciate that our games provide a healthy alternative to other violent games.
"Other violent games"? Am I misunderstanding something here? I am reminded of some religious writer who commented on the amount of violence in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. I just had to ask him if he had ever read the book.
Lock up your children (2/10/2010)
Look who's doing a tour, lying to parents and putting their children at risk.
Yes, ex-Dr Wakefield, the uproar is over, and is only being maintained by people like you.
Let's look at the claims made in the poster.
"33% of Healthcare Workers surveyed questioned the safety of the H1N1 vaccine! - National Health Interview Survey reported by CDC, 4/2/10. Why?"
I had look at the NHIS web site and I can't see anything about a survey of "Healthcare Workers" in April 2010 or any other year. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong place, so maybe ex-Dr Wakefield might like to give a reference so that people don't think he's lying.
"Ranked brainiest city in the country, only 60% of Boulder County's children were up to date on all recommended vaccinations in 2007! Why?"
There are no stories about vaccination archived on the Daily Camera site for either of the days cited, but there are many stories about the County's total commitment to vaccination and the free campaigns, just as there are on the County's own site. Maybe ex-Dr Wakefield might like to give some actual references so that people don't think he's lying.
"Time Magazine - ... It has been hard not to wonder if the FDA regulators have not been captured by the drug industry!"
At last, something that actually exists, but what we have is a classic of quote mining. The article wasn't about vaccines and the quoted words were embedded in "Over the past two decades, as drug after drug has been recalled after winning FDA approval, it has been hard not to wonder if FDA regulators have been captured by the drug industry. FDA critics and industry monitors charge that the drug-approval process is too easy for pharmaceutical companies to game. It is in some ways an unsurprising development. The FDA serves a public insatiably hungry for new medicines. Yet the agency does not have responsibility for performing safety testing. It relies on drug companies to perform all premarket testing on drugs for safety and efficacy". Valid criticism of industry regulators the world over, but I would be much more impressed if the makers of quack potions were prepared to subject their products to the same regulatory process as applies to real medicines and vaccines. So, not a lie this time from ex-Dr Wakefield but a bending of the truth that can only be considered to be deliberate dishonesty.
"Dr Andrew Wakefield's controversial research, which suggested a potential link between MMR and autism in some children, has now been replicated in five countries"
Well, the "research" certainly was controversial, but the main controversy was over how such obvious fraud got published in the first place, and it wasn't the "research" which suggested an MMR-autism link, it was ex-Dr Wakefield and his paymasters. As for the five replications, perhaps ex-Dr Wakefield might again like to provide references, because all I can find in PubMed are articles confirming that there is no link and other articles pointing out how Wakefield was discredited. Of course, now that his paper with fabricated results has been withdrawn by The Lancet it can't be cited by any reputable researcher, so perhaps this "confirming research" has been forced into non-peer-reviewed "journals" with the rest of quackery.
"Andrew Wakefield, a UK gastroenterologist and surgeon, was barred from practice by the British Medical Council after daring to suggest the safety of childhood vaccines needed more comprehensive research"
Well it was the UK General Medical Council, but what's a little matter of getting the name wrong? And he wasn't barred for questioning vaccines, he was barred for unethical conduct which included lying about where experimental subjects came from, hiding an enormous conflict of interest, taking biological samples without proper consent, and generally behaving in an unprofessional manner for someone who should take medicine and being a doctor seriously.
At least Wakefield got one thing right - the title of his book is a good reminder of his callous disregard of professional ethics and the safety of children. He probably needs the book and lecture tour to raise some money. I don't imagine it's cheap to set up a clinic in Tijuana.
Jock's gone. How sad. (2/10/2010)
When I did my regular link check this month I found that Jock Doubleday's ludicrous vaccine "challenge" has finally disappeared. Jock is a lying sack of steaming excrement who wouldn't recognise a fact if it bit him on the face, but I won't say anything unkind about him. He used to pretend that he had an unanswerable challenge that demonstrated that doctors knew how very dangerous vaccines are, and he got very upset with people like me who called him on it. You can read the saga of my experience with Jock here, but one thing is guaranteed - Jock might have folded his tent and slipped off into the night but I will continue to be told by anti-vaccination liars that there is this challenge to drink vaccine ingredients that no doctor will accept. It will be a lie now, just as it has been a lie for the last decade, but since when have anti-vaccination liars cared about the truth.
Check your gag reflex (2/10/2010)
The following conversation took place on the Australian Vaccination Network's Facebook page (from which I am banned, of course). "Australian Vaccination Network" is Meryl Dorey, once the president of AVN and Dear Leader to the membership. You will notice the complete lack of morals and ethics exhibited by the writers, whose only concern is how efficiently they can spread lies.
The flier they want to distribute by deceitfully putting it in magazines and doctors' offices is one of the most unhinged documents I have ever seen out of the anti-vaccination liar movement. Its one advantage is that it condenses into two pages almost all of the standard lies and misquotations. It is a wonderful example of how deranged these people are, but that is of no use if it gets into the hands of new parents in hospitals and other places where people can reasonably expect to find truthful material about medicine. You can see the flier by clicking on the image below but beware - don't wear good clothes, put the animals outside so you don't kick them and read it in the bathroom because it's easier to get vomit off tiles than it is off carpet.
You will notice that the final suggestion is to slip the garbage inside copies of the free parents' newspaper Sydney's Child. This magazine caused Ms Dorey much angst and paranoia last April by refusing to run an advertisement for the AVN.
Of course I couldn't help myself, and the following email went off to the paper. It was copied to Ms Dorey in case she thought that I had forgotten her.
Subject: Possible attempt to pervert your message
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2010 13:59:31 +1000
You might be interested in the attached flier, not because of its content (which goes against everything that Sydney's Child stands for) but because a suggestion was made today on the Australian Vaccination Network's Facebook page that people should print out copies and insert them into copies of Sydney's Child at distribution points. (I have also attached a screen shot of the AVN Facebook entry.)
As the paper has refused to carry advertising for the AVN I am sure you would be outraged at this attempt to pervert your paper and use it as a means of distributing propaganda aimed at endangering the lives of children.
Court orders are not to be sneezed at (2/10/2010)
It has taken a few years but it looks like some real legal action can be taken against the promoters of the obvious financial and medical fraud, Allergy Pathway (née Advanced Allergy Elimination). You would have thought that when ordered by a court to stop telling lies or else you would stop telling lies. In the arrogant fashion we have come to expect from quacks, this one just kept on with business. The difference, however, between the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and other bodies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission is that the ACCC has the force of the Trade Practices Act behind it and can actually take court action which might result in a penalty. The difference between the Federal Court of Australia and all of those organisations is that when judges of the Court says "Do something" they really mean it, and they don't care why you were told to do it. (An organisation that had been found by the Federal Court to be operating an illegal pyramid scheme tried to have the Court find me in contempt. I can assure you that it is not something to take lightly, although in that case the Court was much more unhappy about the time wasting actions of the complainers than it was about what I had done.)
Here is what the ACCC's media release said:
ACCC issues contempt proceedings against Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd and Paul Keir
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has applied for orders in the Federal Court, Melbourne, against Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd (formerly known as Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd) and its sole director, Mr Paul Keir, for alleged contempt of court.
On 27 August 2009 Justice Finkelstein of the Federal Court in Melbourne declared that Allergy Pathway had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct in making certain representations made about its allergy treatments (see previous news release 210/09). The court also declared that Mr Keir was knowingly concerned in, or a party to, Allergy Pathway's contraventions.
As part of the resolution of that proceeding, Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir gave undertakings to the court. Allergy Pathway undertook not to represent that:
Mr Keir undertook not to be directly or indirectly involved in the publication of any representations of the type outlined above.
The ACCC is alleging that Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir have breached their undertakings by making representations of the type outlined above on Allergy Pathway's website at www.allergypathway.com.au and on Allergy Pathway's Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The ACCC is seeking that Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir be fined for contempt, be restrained from engaging in similar conduct for a period of five years and pay the ACCC's costs of this proceeding. The ACCC is also seeking orders requiring Allergy Pathway to publish corrective notices and send corrective letters to its customers.
The matter is returnable at 9.30 a.m. on 5 October 2010 at the Federal Court in Melbourne.
Release # NR 204/10
Issued: 30th September 2010
Which book? (2/10/2010)
Here are two books about religion and getting rich. One comes from Hillsong and one comes from Landover Baptist Church. Which do you think is more in tune with the teachings of Jesus? Which do you think could be a parody of the prosperity gospel movement?
The article at the right appeared in the New York Times on October 4, 1960. The first mention of the disease in the paper was on October 14, 1851, and in the intervening 109 years millions of people, the vast majority of them children, had died or been rendered severely disabled by the disease.
Like smallpox, it is possible to completely eradicate measles because it can only be transmitted to humans by humans. Once the last case is gone the disease is gone. It almost beggars belief that sixty years after the announcement of the vaccine the disease is still killing and maiming children on a daily basis. Current estimates are about 450 deaths per day, and while this shows a significant improvement over the last few years (on September 11, 2001, more children died from measles around the world than the death toll in the World Trade Center atrocity) it is still 450 too high.
There are two things standing in the way of the complete eradication of measles. The first is a combination of money and logistics. Money to pay for vaccines and surveillance and the logistical problem of delivering those vaccines and collecting statistics in the places where they are needed. These problems are being worked on, and there have been significant successes. (The target to halve the 1999 death rate by 2005 was exceeded.) There is still a long way to go but there is a real possibility that measles will join smallpox as something only seen in old photographs. It might not happen in my lifetime (although I hope it does for the two obvious reasons) but it should almost certainly happen in the lifetime of my children.
The second hurdle to the elimination of measles is the insanity of the anti-vaccination movement. I have been criticised in the past for suggesting that anti-vaccination liars are mentally ill (the objection was that it devalued the problems of people with real mental illnesses) but how else can you interpret behaviour which rejects all science in favour of a bizarre ideology which sees infection with deadly and crippling diseases as preferable to temporary, mild discomfort and needs to invent a universe of paranoia and conspiracy to support irrational beliefs? Countries that haven't had deaths from measles for years have had fatalities as a direct result of the anti-MMR claims of these verminous creatures. If I wasn't aware of their total ignorance of Internet memes and therefore fearful of being accused of issuing death threats (and yes, Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network claims that this was a death threat to her, although not enough of a threat to go to the police) I would display the following picture and recommend it to the leaders of anti-vaccination organisations.
I write stuff (9/10/2010)
I first started writing for Australasian Science magazine in 2003, and I now write a column called The Naked Skeptic for every issue. I thoroughly recommend this magazine to anyone who wants to read articles about science which are written by experts but in a language and style that makes them accessible to anyone with a reasonable level of education and literacy. It's not a scientific journal, but it doesn't pander to populism and print pseudoscience. (I remember when New Scientist was like that, but I digress ...) If you live in Australia you should be able to get it from your newsagent (ask him to get it in if he doesn't), and if he is sensible (like my local one) it won't be on the shelf next to Nexus, New Dawn and UFOlogist. (Yes, I have seen all of these rags in the magazine section headed "Science"!) If you live outside the island paradise or just don't fancy the monthly walk to the shops you can subscribe at the magazine's web site.
And no, despite the name of the column I usually wear clothes when I write it. I tried working in character once but Cody The Religion Hating Dog would not stop howling and went off his food for a day and my wife kept breaking into fits of giggles in between asking me how to get pictures out of the camera and up onto Facebook.
Speaking of UFO nuts and other whackos ... (9/10/2010)
Suppressed ideas (9/10/2010)
Every now and then I get into a conversation with someone who tells me that all sorts of good ideas are suppressed by the orthodoxy. In extreme cases these people will say that, for example, all advances in medicine are suppressed to protect the profits of Big Pharma or that the principles of perpetual motion, sorry, free energy are kept hidden so that oil companies can stay in business. If you try to point out to these people that the first person to come up with a guaranteed, safe, non-invasive cure for breast or prostate cancer would own all parts of the world not already owned by the engineer who developed a car engine that really could run on water they retreat into a fantasy world of conspiracy theories and paranoia. The Illuminati, the Jews, the Masons and the Rockefellers get mentioned. When you ask how is it that they are allowed to know this secret, suppressed information there is never an answer.
The two pictures below are of the famous Area 51 in Nevada. I particularly like the one on the left, because the first place I saw it was on a conspiracy web site which declared that Area 51 is the most secret place in the USA and anyone taking photographs of it is risking almost certain death. For some reason the web site owner wasn't able to explain to me how he had the photograph and was still alive. The other picture was obtained by me using special secret-gathering spy software called Google Earth.
You actually can't win an argument against an eclectic conspiracy believer. Any explanation you offer will be met with a deeper conspiracy. As an example, I mentioned in August that one of Royal Raymond Rife's microscopes had been offered for auction, despite the claims that all of his notes and microscopes had been destroyed either to protect the microscope industry or in a fit of pique by the evil Morris Fishbein because Rife refused to sell his designs to him (the reason changes daily). The response from the person making the "they were all destroyed" claim was that the auction house Bonham's of London was just part of the cover-up. (At least she didn't say that because they were auctioneers they must have been Jewish.)
I was once told in the same communication about conspiracies involving Wilhelm Reich and Nicola Tesla, patron saints of conspiracy theory. One claim was that all the works of Wilhelm Reich had been suppressed and destroyed so that the truth about psychiatry could be hidden and the value of orgone denied to the world. (A lady conspiracist was once rattling on to me about Reich. I pointed out that orgone is blue and draws its name from "orgasm", something else which is also supposedly coloured blue. I told her that I was not available to do tests of the orgasm theory with her as I am married. I expected that she would be either offended or disappointed, but she was neither. She simply didn't understand what I was talking about.) I offered the following list of Reich's books available from Amazon:
The response: Amazon are part of the conspiracy and only list these books to pretend that they are available. Because of the suppression nobody even knows the titles of the books that Reich wrote, so nobody can prove this is a complete list anyway.
The claim about Tesla was that all of his patents had been suppressed and destroyed so that nobody could know the secrets that he had discovered because society would collapse if we didn't have to pay for energy. I went to the US Patent Office and came back with:
|Mar. 30, 1886 Thermo-Magnetic Motor||#396,121 5|
|Jan. 14, 1886 Dynamo-Electric Machine||#359,748 9|
|May 26, 1887 Pyromagneto-Electric Generator||#428,057 14|
|Oct. 12, 1887 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#381,968 17|
|Oct. 12, 1887 Electrical Transmission of Power||#382,280 26|
|Nov. 30, 1887 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#381,969 35|
|Nov. 30, 1887 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#382,279 39|
|Nov. 30, 1887 Electrical Transmission of Power||#382,281 44|
|Apr. 23, 1888 Dynamo-Electric Machine||#390,414 48|
|Apr. 28, 1888 Dynamo-Electric Machine||#390,721 52|
|May 15, 1888 Dynamo-Electric Machine or Motor||#390,415 56|
|May 15, 1888 System of Electrical Transmission of Power||#487,796 58|
|May 15, 1888 Electrical Transmission of Power||#511,915 64|
|May 15, 1888 Alternating Motor||#555,190 67|
|Oct. 20, 1888 Electromagnetic Motor||#524,426 71|
|Dec. 8, 1888 Electrical Transmission of Power||#511,559 74|
|Dec. 8, 1888 System of Electrical Power Transmission||#511,560 77|
|Jan. 8, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#405,858 84|
|Feb. 18, 1889 Method of Operating Electro-Magnetic Motors||#401,520 87|
|Mar. 14, 1889 Method of Electrical Power Transmission||#405,859 91|
|Mar. 23, 1889 Dynamo-Electric Machine||#406,968 94|
|Apr. 6, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#459,772 97|
|May 20, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#416,191 102|
|May 20, 1889 Method of Operating Electro-Magnetic Motors||#416,192 106|
|May 20, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#416,193 110|
|May 20, 1889 Electric Motor||#416,194 113|
|May 20, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#416,195 116|
|May 20, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#418,248 122|
|May 20, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#424,036 125|
|May 20, 1889 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#445,207 129|
|Mar. 26, 1890 Alternating-Current Electro-Magnetic Motor||#433,700 132|
|Mar. 26, 1890 Alternating-Current Motor||#433,701 135|
|Apr. 4, 1890 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#433,703 138|
|Jan. 27, 1891 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#455,067 141|
|July 13, 1891 Electro-Magnetic Motor||#464,666 145|
|Aug. 19, 1893 Electric Generator||#511,916 148|
|May 6, 1885 Commutator for Dynamo-Electric Machines||#334,823 159|
|May 18, 1885 Regulator for Dynamo-Electric Machines||#336,961 161|
|June 1, 1885 Regulator for Dynamo-Electric Machines||#336,962 165|
|Jan. 14, 1886 Regulator for Dynamo-Electric Machines||#350,954 169|
|Apr. 30, 1887 Commutator for Dynamo-Electric Machines||#382,845 172|
|Dec. 23, 1887 System of Electrical Distribution||#381,970 177|
|Dec. 23, 1887 Method of Converting and Distributing Electric Currents||#382,282 182|
|Apr. 10, 1888 System of Electrical Distribution||#390,413 187|
|Apr. 24, 1888 Regulator for Alternate-Current Motors||#390,820 192|
|June 12, 1889 Method of Obtaining Direct from Alternating Currents||#413,353 197|
|June 28, 1889 Armature for Electric Machines (Tesla-Schmid, co-inventors)||#417,794 204|
|Mar. 26, 1890 Electrical Transformer or Induction Device||#433,702 208|
|Aug. 1, 1891 Electrical Condenser||#464,667 211|
|Jan. 2, 1892 Electrical Conductor||#514,167 213|
|July 7, 1893 Coil for Electro-Magnets||#512,340 216|
|June 17, 1896 Electrical Condenser||#567,818 219|
|Nov. 5, 1896 Man. of Electrical Condensers, Coils, &c.||#577,671 222|
|Mar. 20, 1897 Electrical Transformer||#593,138 225|
|Nov. 15, 1890 Alternating-Electric-Current Generator||#447,921 233|
|Feb. 4, 1891 Method of and Apparatus for Electrical Conversion and Distribution||#462,418 238|
|Apr. 22, 1896 Apparatus for Producing Electric Currents of High Frequency and Potential||#568,176 245|
|June 20, 1896 Method of Regulating Apparatus for Producing Currents of High Frequency||#568,178 249|
|July 6, 1896 Method of and Apparatus for Producing Currents of High Frequency||#568,179 254|
|July 9, 1896 Apparatus for Producing Electrical Currents High Frequency||#568,180 258|
|Sept. 3, 1896 Apparatus for Producing Electric Currents of High Frequency||#577,670 262|
|Oct. 19, 1896 Apparatus for Producing Currents of High Frequency||#583,953 266|
|June 3, 1897 Electric-Circuit Controller||#609,251 269|
|Dec. 2, 1897 Electrical-Circuit Controller||#609,245 275|
|Dec. 10, 1897 Electrical-Circuit Controller||#611,719 280|
|Feb. 28, 1898 Electric-Circuit Controller||#609,246 285|
|Mar. 12, 1898 Electric-Circuit Controller||#609,247 289|
|Mar. 12, 1898 Electric-Circuit Controller||#609,248 292|
|Mar. 12, 1898 Electric-Circuit Controller||#609,249 295|
|Apr. 19, 1898 Electric-Circuit Controller||#613,735 298|
|Sept. 2, 1897 System of Transmission of Electrical Energy||#645,576 307|
|Sept. 2, 1897 Apparatus for Transmission of Electrical Energy||#649,621 314|
|July 1, 1898 Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles||#613,809 318|
|June 24, 1899 Apparatus for Utilizing Effects Transmitted from a Distance to a Receiving Device Through Natural Media||#685,955|
|June 24, 1899 Method of Intensifying and Utilizing Effects Transmitted Through Natural Media||#685,953 338|
|Aug. 1, 1899 Method of Utilizing Effects Transmitted Through Natural Media||#685,954 344|
|Aug. 1, 1899 Apparatus for Utilizing Effects Transmitted Through Natural Media||#685,956 353|
|May 16, 1900 Art of Transmitting Electrical Energy Through the Natural Mediums||#787,412 361|
|July 16, 1900 Method of Signaling||#723,188 367|
|July 16, 1900 System of Signaling||#725,605 372|
|Jan. 18, 1902 Apparatus for Transmitting Electrical Energy||#1,119,732 378|
|Mar. 30, 1885 Electric-Arc Lamp||#335,786 387|
|July 13, 1886 Electric-Arc Lamp||#335,787 392|
|Oct. 1, 1890 Method of Operating Arc Lamps||#447,920 397|
|Apr. 25, 1891 System of Electric Lighting||#454,622 400|
|May 14, 1891 Electric Incandescent Lamp||#455,069 405|
|Jan. 2, 1892 Incandescent Electric Light||#514,170 408|
|Mar. 27, 1891 Electrical Meter||#455,068 415|
|Dec. 15, 1893 Electrical Meter||#514,973 418|
|May 29, 1914 Speed-Indicator||#1,209,359 421|
|Dec. 18, 1916 Speed-Indicator||#1,274,816 429|
|Dec. 18, 1916 Ship's Log||#1,314,718 434|
|Dec. 18, 1916 Flow-Meter||#1,365,547 437|
|Dec. 18, 1916 Frequency Meter||#1,402,025 440|
|Jan. 2, 1892 Electric-Railway System||#514,972 449|
|Aug. 19, 1893 Reciprocating Engine||#514,169 452|
|Dec. 29, 1893 Steam-Engine||#517,900 456|
|Oct. 21, 1909 Fluid Propulsion||#1,061,142 461|
|Oct. 21, 1909 Turbine||#1,061,206 465|
|Sept. 9, 1921 Method of Aerial Transportation||#1,655,113 470|
|Oct. 4, 1927 Apparatus for Aerial Transportation||#1,655,114 476|
|June 17, 1896 Apparatus for Producing Ozone||#568,177 489|
|Feb. 17, 1897 Electrical Igniter for Gas-Engines||#609,250 493|
|Mar. 21, 1900 Means for Increasing the Intensity of Electrical Oscillations||#685,012 496|
|June 15, 1900 Method of Insulating Electric Conductors||#655,838 500|
|Sept.21, 1900 Method of Insulating Electric Conductors (reissue of #655,838)||#11,865 506|
|Mar. 21, 1901 Apparatus for the Utilization of Radiant Energy||#685,957 512|
|Mar. 21, 1901 Method of Utilizing Radiant Energy||#685,958 517|
|Oct. 28, 1913 Fountain||#1,113,716 521|
|Feb. 21, 1916 Vaivular Conduit||#1,329,559 525|
|May 6, 1916 Lightning-Protector||#1,266,175 531|
And what response did I get to this. The US Patent office is part of the conspiracy to suppress Tesla's work, this list means nothing, and can I prove that it is a complete list? Remember that the claim was that ALL of his patents had been suppressed and hidden.
Like I said, you can't win. That doesn't mean you should give up, though.
Old news? (9/10/2010)
Here is a picture from 1915 showing a warning sign. The language might be a bit more hysterical than you would expect to find today, but it does show that some of the dangers of tobacco were known even then. Anti-vaccination liars have suggested that their similar claims made today will be common knowledge in the future, but there are three differences between anti-tobacco campaigners a century ago and ant-vaccination campaigners today. One is that the claims about the dangers of tobacco were justified (even if most of the opposition then was wowserising religion trying to take the fun out of life) whereas the lies about vaccination are simply scaremongering. A second is that the anti-tobacco campaigners didn't feel a compulsion to resort to lies and deception. The third is that anti-vaccination liars are far more hysterical than even the most ardent opponents of tobacco.
Free speech under attack (9/10/2010)
The Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders is on trial for upsetting Muslims with some remarks he made and a film he produced. Some would say that he brought his troubles on himself, because nobody these days could be unaware of how thin Muslim skins are and how easily they are offended by the slightest things, especially if those things are done by kaffirs. Oops, did I just use a word intended to show offense to non-Muslims who are of course not allowed to be offended? Offence can only go one way in this politically correct world. Mr Wilders apparently committed three really dreadful sins among a host of offensive actions. Two of the sins were speech, where he described Islam as "fascist" and "the sick ideology of Allah and Muhammad" and then described the Qur'an as ''the Mein Kampf of a religion that seeks to eliminate others''. It's hard not to agree with the first statements and as for the second it could probably survive an application of Godwin's Law on the basis that mentioning the Nazis was relevant to the discussion. Neither of these statements would cause any sensible person a moment's difficulty as they can be easily written of as comments by a person who doesn't know what he is talking about. I did say "sensible people".
Then there's the film Fitna. This is highly offensive to Muslims because it illustrates quotations from the Qur'an with images of atrocities perpetrated by followers of the religion of peace. Just in case you missed it:
Freedom of speech and expression is the fundamental freedom. Without that, all other human rights and freedoms mean nothing. Freedom of speech implies the freedom to be offensive. Nothing implies a right not to be offended.
Someone tried to offend me this week by posting Islamist diatribes to a forum about alternative medicine. He has a perfect right to do that even though it is inappropriate and a nuisance to everybody else. One of the articles asked the question "Who is she?" and then went on to talk about "Lady Aisha". I answered his question as honestly as I could before I asked him to go away and stop bothering us. My answer was "A child who was raped by a pedophile". I hope he doesn't get offended by this truth. I'm too busy to deal with death threats right now.
On Sunday, October 24, there is somewhere you should be if you are in or near Sydney.
Abuse in the Catholic Church with John Ellis of Broken Rites
John Ellis is a Solicitor who has been involved in the litigation against the Catholic Church in regards to the sexual abuse committed by that institution.
An abused child himself, John will offer an insight into his experience and subsequent journey in dealing with the abuse and facing his attackers.
The presentation will be informative and interesting, and will demonstrate the courage that is being shown by victims of child sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church in Australia today.
John is member of Broken Rites, a volunteer organisation that has bought forward the abuse by the church and leads the fight for justice of these victims.
This is a presentation that should not be missed!
4pm at the Penrith School of Arts, Castlereagh Stret, and afterwards at Penrith RSL Club for a meal, refreshments and good conversation. Be there.
All in all it's just another kick in the nuts (16/10/2010)
No, I'm not being rude. The nutcases at the Australian Vaccination Network have been kicked to the kerb by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, who have revoked the AVN's status as a charity. The whining coming from the AVN sounds like a test cell at the Rolls Royce jet engine factory, but where I am it's being drowned out by applause, laughter and the clinking of glasses. Here is how the OLG&R announced the decision in the Government Gazette (and you don't get any more official with an announcement than that):
CHARITABLE FUNDRAISING ACT 1991
Instrument of Revocation
Australian Vaccination Network Inc
I, the Hon. KEVIN GREENE, M.P., the responsible Minister for the purposes of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991, do hereby revoke the authority to fundraise issued to Australian Vaccination Network Inc on the following grounds as set out in section 31 (1) of that Act:
KEVIN GREENE, M.P.,
Minister for Gaming and Racing,
Minister for Major Events
and Minister for Sport and Recreation
And here's the letter to the AVN telling them the bad news.
The important portions are the reasons given for revocation (the letters relate to the clauses in the relevant legislation)
The Organisation has failed to publish a disclaimer on its website as recommended by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). This has resulted in an unacceptable risk of potential donors to the Organisation being misled when making a decision whether or not to make a donation, which has led to appeals not being conducted in good faith.
The Organisation's website is misleading in that it may lead people making donations to believe that they are donating to a cause which promotes vaccination whereas the Organisation adopts an anti-vaccination position. When requested by the HCCC to publish a disclaimer on its website the Organisation failed to do so.
The failure of the Organisation to comply with the HCCC recommendation resulted in the Commission publishing a Public Warning on 26 July 2010 advising that this failure "poses a risk to public health and safety". In this circumstance it is in the public interest to not permit the Organisation to conduct fund raising appeals under the Act.
It would be unfair of me not to let Meryl Dorey put her point of view (a privilege she denies to me in any forum she controls), and you can read her comments and media release here.
In a later correspondence, Ms Dorey claimed that she had several lawyers lined up to take on the authorities. Perhaps one of them could explain to her that there is no proposed ban on the AVN accepting donations, but they can no longer claim to be a charity. She should also get the lawyers to explain the ramifications of issuing a media release which makes the following claims about people who are easily identified:
Australia still has some dangerous defamation laws and if you are going to go around accusing people of making death threats or attacking advertisers then you should either have some very good evidence, a large amount of money or a desire to sell your house and live in your car. There were no attacks on advertisers, there were no threats made against advertisers, there were no death threats (if there were, why have the police not become involved?), hate mail is free speech (have a look at what AVN members have sent me, Ms Dorey), you hang up on abusive phone calls and killfile abusive emailers (Ms Dorey has stated that emails from me go unread) and it is the right of any citizen in a democracy to complain to government agencies. In this case, those complaints were upheld.
And I just had to write:
Subject: The OLGR! Oh, what a day.
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2010 23:53:10 +1100
Dear Ms Dorey,
Thank you for making my day. I had been feeling a bit down, too much work, not enough time, you know how it is.
Then I heard the news. Imagine how easy it would have been for you to run the HCCC notice and respond to the OLG&R when they asked, but, no, you stood your ground, and look where it got you.
I have to admit that one of my proudest moments last year was when I first advised the OLG&R of your lapsed charity registration. I'll just go back and have a look at it again.
Here it is at https://ratbags.com/rsoles/history/2009/05may.htm#30avn
Isn't that nice? Doesn't it make you feel good? I know it makes me feel good.
As well as making me feel good, I have to thank you for saving me some time. The Millenium Project is writing itself this week and the many thousands of people who read the site each day will have an extra frisson of glee next week when they read about the latest adventures of the AVN.
By the way - if you aren't "anti-vaccine" could you please tell me which vaccines in the current schedule should be given to children. Only someone who is "anti-vaccine" would say "None of them", so let's see how honest you are when you say that you do not oppose all vaccines against all diseases when given to any person at any age. Come on, you can be honest, can't you?
Your happy friend,
How do you solve a problem like Saint Mary?
Newspapers and the electronic news media around my place have been agog all week with the news that Australia will be getting its first Catholic saint (is there any other sort of saint?) on October 17, when the Pope will make the final announcement promoting Mary Mackillop from reserve into the first-grade team. I don't begrudge the excitement and sense of fulfilment that is being experienced by the people who have worked for so long to achieve Mary's canonisation, but I have to express my agreement with some curmudgeon who pointed out that the money donated by taxpayers to assist with the cost of celebrations would have saved the sight of about 20,000 people if it had instead been given to the Fred Hollows Foundation. Now, that would have been miraculous. (The Hollows Foundation wasn't chosen at random for this comparison. World Sight Day was October 14.) I somehow doubt that Fred Hollows will ever be considered for sainthood despite the thousands of "miracles" that could be attributed to him. Fred had a certain way with words and I can just imagine him telling someone what they could do with their canon. But I digress ...
My opinion about Mary Mackillop and her ascension to sainthood hasn't changed since I wrote an article for Australasian Science about the matter earlier this year, and you can read it here. As Mary's two qualifying miracles were cures from cancer, however, it is probably worthwhile to quote the first paragraph again.
The Scottish philosopher David Hume said: "no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish". Thomas Hobbes put it a little differently and much less succinctly when he wrote "To understand therefore what is a miracle, we must first understand what works they are which men wonder at and call admirable. And there be but two things which make men wonder at any event: the one is if it be strange, that is to say, such as the like of it hath never or very rarely been produced; the other is if when it is produced, we cannot imagine it to have been done by natural means, but only by the immediate hand of God. But when we see some possible natural cause of it, how rarely soever the like has been done; or if the like have been often done, how impossible soever it be to imagine a natural means thereof, we no more wonder, nor esteem it for a miracle".
I have to thank one of my Facebook friends for this, but I've forgotten which one. Sorry.
My eyes are watering with joy, not hayfever
The good news out of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week has been a crackdown on allergy scammers. I see these thieves every time I go to a Mind Body Sprit Festival, charging large amounts of money to detect skin conductivity and then having just the right "cure" available on the shelf behind the operator. A really good start was made when one of the big guns of allergy, Allergy Pathway (formerly Advanced Allergy Elimination) was brought before a court earlier this month, but now a whole cluster of these crooks has been jumped upon. Here is the media release from the ACCC:
ACCC institutes action against nine traders for false, misleading allergy claims
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted a joint proceeding in the fast track list in the Federal Court, Melbourne, against five companies and four individuals for alleged false and misleading claims about allergy treatments.
The respondents are:
The ACCC alleges that all the respondents have made false and misleading representations in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
The respondents are alleged to have represented that they could test for and identify a substance to which a person is allergic and successfully treat, cure or eliminate a person's allergy.
Renew You, Newlife, Schianetz and Price are further alleged to have falsely and misleadingly represented that they could teach parents and carers of children to test for and identify a substance to which a child is allergic and to successfully treat, cure or eliminate a child's allergy.
The ACCC is seeking various orders including declarations, injunctions, corrective advertisements and costs. The ACCC is also seeking civil pecuniary penalties against Renew You, Newlife, Schianetz and Price for representations made after 14 April 2010, taking advantage of recent amendments to the law. Additionally, the ACCC is seeking orders to disqualify Schianetz and Price from managing corporations for a period of three years.
A directions hearing is listed before Justice Finkelstein 23 November at 11 a.m. in the Federal Court, Melbourne.
Release # NR 224/10
Issued: 12th October 2010
FDA says: Stop extracting money from blood
Regulators have been busy on both sides of the Pacific. The US Federal Drug Administration has finally cracked down on quacks offering chelation services to "cure" such ailments as autism. If the FDA can shut these quacks down it will have a knock-on effect, removing business from crooked testing laboratories like Doctors' Data and reducing the income of commercial anti-vaccination outfits like Generation Rescue. Quacks and their supporters will be screaming, of course, but the sound of their screeching in disappointment and pain gives pleasure like listening to a Bach chorale. Here is the FDA's media release:
FDA issues warnings to marketers of unapproved ‘chelation' products
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today warned eight companies that their over-the-counter (OTC) chelation products are unapproved drugs and devices and that it is a violation of federal law to make unproven claims about these products.
There are no FDA-approved OTC chelation products. The companies that received the warning letters claim that their products treat a range of diseases by removing toxic metals from the body. Some also claim to treat autism spectrum disorder, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration, and other serious conditions. Some companies that received the warning letters also claim their products will detect the presence of heavy metals to justify the need for chelation therapy.
The drug products involved have not been evaluated by the FDA for treatment of these diseases, and violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Despite the claims of the companies that received warning letters, the effectiveness in treating any of the diseases listed is unsubstantiated. Depending on the condition, when relying on unproven OTC chelation products to treat serious conditions, patients may delay seeking effective medical care.
In addition, there are serious safety issues associated with chelation products, which can alter the levels of certain substances in the blood. Even when used under medical supervision, these products can cause serious harm, including dehydration, kidney failure, and death.
"These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options," said Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief."
The agency advises consumers to avoid non-prescription products offered for chelation or detoxification. The only FDA-approved chelating agents are available by prescription only and are approved for use in specific indications such as lead poisoning and iron overload. Procedures involving these agents carry significant risks and should be performed only under medical supervision.
The FDA has noted an increase in "chelation therapy" products marketed on the Internet that claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Although some of the products are marketed as dietary supplements, they are unapproved drugs because they claim to treat, mitigate, prevent, or diagnose disease. The products come in various dosage forms, including transmucosal sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops, and clay baths.
Some of the companies also sell unapproved screening tests that claim to detect the presence of heavy metals in urine to justify the need for chelation therapy.
"FDA will seek enforcement action against companies that promote therapeutic benefits of products not yet evaluated by the agency for safety and effectiveness." said Dara A. Corrigan, associate commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.
Under the FFDCA, companies that market products that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure diseases must file an application with the FDA and provide data that demonstrate their products' safety and effectiveness.
The companies must take prompt action to correct the legal violations cited in the warnings letters or face possible legal action, including seizure and injunction. The FDA issued warning letters to the following companies:
Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:
Strange email indeed (16/10/2010)
Somehow I think this person (who appears to be in Italy) misunderstands what I do here.
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2010 19:26:34 +0100
From: Hellen Maputo
Can you supply Animal Vaccine?, precisely SB432 contact me for more details\
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in many parts of the world, and each year quacks and medicine-deniers crawl out of the slime to express their hared of women. I suddenly found my self on the mailing list of a particularly disgusting example of the species, a thing called Mayer Eisenstein. The first email to come in had the subject line "Mammogram or Should I Say Mammoscam" and contained a link to a place to buy some natural crap that prevents (or maybe cures) cancer. The only other thing in the email was a link to an almost unintelligible video in which Eisenstein was apparently telling women not to get mammograms because of the danger. (I didn't listen to all of it because the sound quality was so poor as to be laughable. This didn't stop his fans making fawning congratulatory comments at YouTube.) The second email had the subject "Breast Cancer Awareness Special Sale - Vitamin D, Vitamin D and more Vitamin D" and had the same link to the stuff described as "Simple and easy way to lower your probability of developing breast cancer".
Where are the angry mobs with pitchforks and torches when we need them?
Panic stations! (30/10/2010)
I was MIA last week, because real life got in the way. I suddenly found out that I might have to update (yet again) my teaching qualifications, so I had to look at what is required and how much work needs to be done and when, and make a quick decision about doing it. I had to prepare a talk for a business group to be delivered on Friday (with several potential clients in the audience). A software installation for a client is not going as smoothly as everyone would like it to (and I need people like that to pay the bills that let me do things like this site), and to top it all off, a system I was evaluating for this client reached the end of its trial period and instead of gracefully stopping working and telling me to pay money or else it nicely took down the software that I make a living with and seemed to have done that by destroying some vital component of Windows. I managed to get everything back to where it should be (I am in the unfortunate position of being both a consultant in and a teacher of IT, so asking for help can be a little embarrassing). A few very sharp hacker tools were required, but now I have my client database and my diary nicely synchronised across three computers, my smartphone and my email system. I can smile now, but that's a lot of hours that I am never going to get back. The bright side is that the next time a potential client asks me about the software I was evaluating I can very quickly tell them to either buy something else or be prepared to come up with the fees that will buy me that BMW M5. The yellow one.
Oh, and the latest upgrade to the software I use to load web site updates to the server has a small problem - it can't tell if files at this end are newer or older than the ones on the server so it sends the lot every time. The Millenium Project is about 800 megabytes big, so when I made a couple of minor edits and hit the "publish" button I initiated a 6+ hour process of uploading, and interrupting can cause file corruption at the receiving end. Luckily I could revert to the previous version of the software, because the way that this site is updated by a database means that it is very difficult to know all of the pages that have changed so that they can be uploaded manually. I have to congratulate the tech support staff at the vendor, though. Four minutes between logging a support request and getting a personalised apology is some sort of record. They have their best people working on it.
To add to that I have decided to bite the bullet, take the bull by the horns, leap into the unknown, go with the flow and polish my clichés. I have been using Paint Shop Pro for many years for image manipulation but I have finally decided to join the majority and learn Photoshop. There are three reasons for this - PSP has developed some sort of bit rot and keeps crashing (and the reinstallation process is mind-numbing), I might have to teach Photoshop at TAFE, and as a teacher I got it for almost nothing. (The cost to me of the complete Adobe CS4 suite was about 50% of a Paint Shop Pro upgrade.) The learning curve is one of those famous "hockey sticks", which in this case goes straight up for a while and then curls back over your head, but I'm smart and adaptable. It's all good, mate. As a bonus I now have Adobe Soundbooth, so the long-awaited return to podcasting is now a strong light at the end of the tunnel.
A new synthesis of evolution and creation..
From Science Made Stupid by Tom Weller
About those cartoons ...
When I display cartoons here I always try to acknowledge the artist and link back to the relevant web site. Sometimes, however, as in the case of the one above, I come across them in places where no origin or artist can be determined. In these case I apologise to the artists involved and say that if anyone can tell me who created the works I will give full credit.
The edition of Australasian Science magazine containing my latest Naked Skeptic article is now on the newsstands. It's about my opinion of chiropractic and includes as one of my recommendations to the relevant authorities "Discourage health insurers from providing benefits for chiropractic care, other than for treatment of lower back pain". It was written some time ago to allow for magazine deadlines, but by coincidence a health insurer is currently running television advertisements offering "chiro" as a benefit. (They always call it "chiro", it sounds so friendly when it's given a nickname.) In the advertisement it shows someone being treated to a sudden and unexpected 90° neck twist, the most dangerous (and useless) thing that chiropractors do. I just hope that along with the "chiro" benefits the fund provides for surgery to repair torn arteries in the neck, neurosurgery for treatment of stroke, and long-term hospital stays for members recovering from "chiro" damage. The fund has a life insurance arm; I wonder if insuring for "chiro" includes mandatory life insurance.
I wouldn't be so annoyed by this if people who only wanted real medical care could opt out of the quackery insurance and pay lower premiums, but that is not possible. You can read the article here.
I feel threatened. (30/10/2010)
The following exchange occurred on the Australian Vaccination Network's Facebook page this week. I had to read it vicariously, of course, as I am banned from participation.
Sulphuric acid to the face I can take, but those televisions being thrown into thoraxes. Now there's something to worry about. By the way, have I mentioned recently that members of the AVN have been complaining about death threats? I gave up buying irony meters long ago because I live in a rented house and the landlord kept complaining about damage to the walls when the meters exploded.
Why I hate faith healers (30/10/2010)
This email just came in:
Hello pastor benny,
My name is Umamaheswara Rao. I was converted into Christianity in the year 2006 and now my name is John Matthews. I am suffering from diabetes. Could you please pray for me to heal the disease? I would like to give my information as follows.
I don't have the healing power that the fraud Benny Hinn claims to have, so there is not much I can do for this unfortunate person. If I knew how to cure diabetes I would be doing it to myself. Benny could think that I am competition, though, as he whined and lied to YouTube to have this video removed. He claimed copyright violation, despite there being not a single pixel of his in it.
Proving how easy it is to duplicate Hinn's act, the Millenial Power
is used to heal a woman of the sin of lust in a bar
across the road from the Benny Hinn Show.
I am soundly rebuked (30/10/2010)
I haven't been getting much hate mail recently. I must lift my game.
From: (Neil Reinhardt)
Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2010 20:16:07 -0700
Too bad the Millennium Project keeps putting out FALSE information!
A. The odds of whomever puts out this site being, and/or even knowing anyone who is MORE Honest and Truthful than I am IS ZERO.
B. The odds of them being more generally experienced than I am are so close to zero, it may as well be zero. (I am much more experienced than most my age and I am 75.)
I've most probably forgotten many times more about Network Marketing than the ding bat who writes it in that site will ever learn! IT is a shame IGNORANT people shoot down things it is certainly very, very obvious to any knowledgeable people they have NO damn clue about!
People who are either too lazy to get the facts and/or so stupid they are unable to comprehend what the facts mean, should keep their mouths closed!
Anyone who says all network marketing companies are scams is a close minded retarded idiot who would not know what eiither facts or the truth is were it a sharp pointed cactus they sat on while naked!
Neil C. Reinhardt
"A Pro Iraq War Agnostic Atheist Activist, 101st Vet & Iconoclastic, Philosophizing, Beach VolleyBall Playing Grumpy Old Son Of A Beach!"
I really love Nature's Immune Boosting (over 150%) Healing "miracle" which I've been drinking and/or using topically since September of 1979 when I was only 62 years old. (And it STILL AMAZES ME! )
GET THAT? THIRTEEN YEARS!
A Proud Supporter of the TEA PARTY Movement
Neil is not only a Tea Bagger, but he is also a proud member of a couple of atheists organisations and the National Rifle Association. A rightard atheist gun nut who believes in a pyramid scheme selling a fake cure-all. It's not every day you meet a combination like that! He does have one thing over me though - he has been sucking down Tahitian Noni Juice for thirteen years but I have only had that particular scam at tni.com listed here since June 1999.
From: Michael Augenstein
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2010 13:44:45 -0600
Subject: healing and other phenomena
As you know, throughout history there have been numerous healings and other phenomena. Some prayed for and others just "miraculous". The scientific community is sometimes at a loss to explain these incidents. It is believed by many health professionals that a positive mental state can accelerate healing. In Religious Science we use "spiritual mind treatments", affirmative prayer to elicit a little help from the universe. Along with the treatment we actively work at /believe that which we are treating for. We "treat and move our feet". There have been an awful lot of people throughout the years who have believed that we have the ability to change our circumstances through changing our thinking, "new thought". How does this fit in with your attitude towards scientific methodology? And lastly, now that the scientific community has pretty much agreed that the most abundant energy in the universe is the so-called "dark energy" (God?), and none of the current scientific methods can actually prove it's there, how can it be so hard to believe that there are ways of healing that can't be explained or in some instances, re-created?
Michael Augenstein, RScP
Subject: You are FULL of Shit!
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 2010 18:16:03 +1100
Who are you working for Rat Bag?
Don't you know that all synthetic medicine is useless, and is toxic to the human body.
Allopathic medicine contains no nutrients, and no electro-magnetic properties for proper healing of the body to take place. We are electro-chemical in nature.
Synthetic medicine is QUACKERY, as it copies from the true healer, NATURE and tries to outbeat it, which it never will. You cannot compete with the Creator who placed everything in nature to cure us, nature;s own medicine cabinet.
Keep taking the drugs idiot, that is why you can't think straight! Bet you look older than what you really are, and ugly. That is what allopathic medicine does to you, it takes the lifeforce out. Satan's work.
I just had to leave the Comic Sans, the world's most ridiculed typeface.
Alt Med Flow Chart (30/10/2010)
I know, it's all over the 'net, but who am I to resist. Here is the famous alternative medicine flowchart, stolen, sorry, borrowed from Crispian Jago's blog. Click on the picture to see it at a readable size.