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December 3, 2011

This week's Burzynski news (3/12/2011)
Cancer Rattlesnake oil. How appropriate.quack Dr Stanislaw Burzynski finally noticed that people were talking about him. His response was to throw PR man Marc Stephens overboard and threaten to sue everyone who had being saying bad things about him. You can read his amusing media release here. It seems that Dr Burzynski's grasp of geography is right down there with his ethics and knowledge of medicine because apparently he thinks that only "UK bloggers" were bad mouthing him, but I know for a fact that at least one person in Australia thinks (and has said) that he is an outrageous crook and there were some prominent US bloggers expressing the same sentiments.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the media release, with my comments in italics.

The Burzynski Clinic is issuing the following public statement regarding recent internet activity between U.K. bloggers who have provided inaccurate factual information regarding the Clinic and Marc Stephens.

It wasn't just "UK bloggers" and no "inaccurate factual information" was provided about Marc Stephens. All anybody did was reproduce his foam-flecked, hysterical rants and threats.

Marc Stephens was recently hired by the Burzynski Clinic as an independent contractor to provide web optimization services and to attempt to stop the dissemination of false and inaccurate information concerning Dr. Burzynski and the Clinic.

That worked out well, didn't it?

We understand that Marc Stephens sent a google map picture of a blogger's house to the blogger and made personal comments to bloggers. Dr. Burzynski and the Clinic feel that such actions were not appropriate. Dr. Burzynski and the Burzynski Clinic apologize for these comments. Marc Stephens no longer has a professional relationship with the Burzynski Clinic.

Don't apologise to me, Dr Burzynski - apologise to the people you stole money from with your promises of a cure for cancer.

These bloggers will be contacted by attorneys representing the Clinic informing them of the specific factual statements contained in these blogs which the Clinic believes are false and defamatory, including the following:

A. Antineoplastons are made from urine. False- Antineoplastons are synthesized from chemicals.

So what? The very first synthetic organic compound was urea, which was originally extracted from urine but is now made "from chemicals" in factories. Most of us know that chemistry has progressed since 1828. Unfortunately the practice of selling snake oil to desperate people as a pretence of curing cancer has not.

B. That Dr. Burzynski falsely claims to have a PhD.- False ln fact, Dr. Burzynski has a Ph.D. from the Medical Academy of Lublin and a copy of an official affidavit will be put up on the Burzynski Clinic web site (www.cancermed.com).

Well, that isn't the current Burzynski Clinic web site, although it does immediately redirect to the real site. I assume the wrong URL was included to maintain the lie quotient. The obvious questions are "Why display an affidavit? Why not a copy of the testamur?" The answer is obvious - an affidavit is only evidence that an affidavit has been sworn: "I solemnly swear that I have a PhD. You can believe me". Perhaps while Dr Burzynski is thinking about his affidavit he might like to come up with an explanation of why he was only claiming DMsc in a grant application in 1973, five years after he now says he earned a PhD.

Even better would be something official from the university (who stated in 1996 that they did not grand PhDs in 1968). If you go to the Macquarie University Graduate Register you can find me in two places (1981-1990 and 1991-2000 lists). There is no reason why any reputable university should hesitate in confirming the status of someone claiming to be a graduate, but a friend of mine has been told by the Medical University of Lublin that they will only provide confirmation if given a copy of the degree testamur!

C. There are no scientific studies supporting antineoplaston treatment since 2006. False- below is a list of publications and abstracts providing the results of the FDA approved clinical trials since 2006 which demonstrate the treatment's efficacy on a wide variety of brain tumors.

I won't examine these claims myself because several people have bothered to check and nothing has changed. Apparently only one of the clinical trials that Dr Burzynski has been conducting over the last few decades has been completed but the results have not been published. Most of the papers in the list provided with the press release are either meaningless or irrelevant.

I'll wrap this up next week with links to a couple of sites that have been keeping track of all the things people have been saying about Dr Burzynski. Meanwhile I'll just keep watching my letter box for all those legal papers. They could come in very handy because I need to change the contents of the cat's litter box.

Did I mention that Dr Burzynski is a crook who makes a living stealing the life savings of desperate cancer sufferers and the parents of sick children? I hope I did. I also must mention that he has no cure for cancer and has never cured anyone. Apparently he is now branching out into the anti-aging quackery business, but that is a story for another day.



Another scam down - for the time being (3/12/2011)
If history is any guide, the promoters of the TVI Express pyramid scheme will disappear for a while and then pop up with another scam, but at least they are getting some grief now. Not as much grief as their victims would have experienced, but that's the way of parasitic schemes like multi-level marketing. I probably should clarify my position here - all multi-level marketing schemes are parasitic frauds, whether they manage to climb through the loopholes in black-letter law or not, and the people who invent and promote them know this. That is why they have to resort to legal action to close down any criticism in case potential victims get to know how implausible these schemes are for anyone wanting to make money, except the people at the top of course. (See here and here.)

Here is the good news from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The media release says:

Court finds TVI Express a pyramid selling scheme

The Federal Court of Australia has found TVI Express to be a pyramid selling scheme following action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Lualhati Jutsen (also known as Teddi Jutsen), Tina Brownlee and David Scanlon were also found to have breached the law by participating in the TVI Express scheme.

The court accepted evidence that Ms Jutsen transferred $296,985 out of Australia between February and May 2010. Justice Nicholas inferred that this represented the proceeds of membership fees collected from new members.

"It is beyond question that new participants in the TVI Express System are lead to believe that they will receive payments for the introduction of further new participants," Justice Nicholas said.

"Indeed, the only way a participant can earn any income in the TVI Express System is through the introduction of new members to the scheme."

A pyramid selling scheme may be defined by new members being required to make a participation payment to another participant in the scheme. This payment must also be entirely or substantially induced by the prospect that new members will be able to earn payments in relation to the recruitment of new members to the scheme.

People who wished to participate in the scheme were required to pay a membership fee of $330. Once an individual had paid the $330, they received a ‘travel certificate’ and the opportunity to receive commission payments for recruiting other people into the scheme.

Pyramid schemes may be identified, in part, by the extent to which the membership fee, or participant payment, bears a reasonable relationship to the value of goods or services that participants are entitled to be supplied under the scheme.

"The scheme has been designed to be operated in a way that makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for people to redeem their travel certificate for the purpose of taking such a holiday. For that reason, travel certificates which may be downloaded by new members are likely to be of little or no value to them," Justice Nicholas said.

The TVI Express scheme was promoted through various websites including the site www.tviteamoz.com and the TVI Express Oz group on facebook.com. The TVI Express scheme extended throughout Australia and internationally.

The Court also found that the three respondents had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by making representations that TVI Express was associated with certain companies in the travel industry when it was in fact not.

The proceedings have been stood over, with the court yet to hear submissions in relation to the declarations, other relief and pecuniary penalties sought by the ACCC against the three respondents.

Release # NR 221/11
Issued: 30th November 2011



See more Cectic here


A sad loss (3/12/2011)
On June 26, 1998, Earl Gordon Curley died. This would not be remarkable, except that Earl billed himself as the world's greatest psychic. He had predicted that the death of Pope John Paul II would occur during that year, but it didn't. He did not predict that Earl Gordon Curley would die during 1998, but he did. This is the sort of record that any psychic would be proud of. Earl was also famous for the vicious way that he attacked anybody who disagreed with him, usually expressing his dissatisfaction in language that would make a drunken sailor blush. Since 1998, June 26 has been celebrated as International Kooks' Day in memory of Earl.

What reminded me of this was that until recently Earl's web site had remained online, untouched since his death, existing as a monument to his talent and erudition. When I did my link check for this site this month I found that his site had gone, thrown away like so much garbage by free hosting company Tripod. I suppose you can only rely on a free service for so long before the supplier decides to move you on, but I think that Earl's site deserved to be preserved in perpetuity. The Wayback Machine has a copy, but I have grabbed what I could and will have a copy here for all to see. Here is what Earl's site looked like when he left us.


Speaking of psychic predictions ... (3/12/2011)
In January I made some psychic predictions for the year, hoping to beat the professional psychics at their game. Last year I had an accuracy of 81.5% compared to 7% for the experts, so I will have to get a lot worse and they a lot better before I have to worry. As we are approaching the end of the year, I thought I would have a progress check. Here are my predictions and the results so far.

1. Everybody knows there will be a state election in NSW in March. The incoming government (of whatever flavour that wins) will announce that things are much worse than they knew before the election and consequently railway projects first announced as far back as the 1930s will have to be delayed
The North West Railway, probably the most important infrastructure need for Sydney, will not connect to the existing rail network in the way that was intended. The change will mean that it will only be capable of carrying half the passenger load that is needed and there will be no direct connection to the centre of Sydney.  
2. The 2011 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology will be awarded for an achievement which will not be a cure for all forms of cancer. The winner will not be a homeopath, chiropractor or naturopath.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011 was divided, one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann "for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity" and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity". http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2011/

 
3. At least three people will announce that they will be running for President of the USA in 2012. One of these potential candidates will be barking mad.
Need I say more than "Donald Trump"? And he was just the start. 
4. There will be a sex scandal involving a football team and a girl with a Twitter account.½

A British footballer who preferred to remain anonymous sued Twitter because somehow his affair with someone famous for being on Big Brother managed to become public. He didn't want his wife to know, although how he explained the court visits and the lawyers' bills to her is a mystery. Note - he didn't deny hopping into the cot with the Big Brotherer, he just didn't like people talking about it. I'm only claiming half-points for this one because it is all too confusing. The affair did, however, add the word "superinjunction" to the legal lexicon.

 
5. To avoid spoiling William and Kate’s special day, Prince Charles and Camilla will not announce before the wedding that they are about disrupt the succession to the throne because Camilla is pregnant.
William and Kate are married. Camilla is not yet pregnant. 
6. A highly-paid Sydney radio announcer will say something terribly stupid on air and will be suspended until the outrage dies away. Then he will be reinstated.½
Kyle Sandilands of 2DayFM made a television show of almost immeasurable awfulness. He responded to a less-than-enthusiastic review by calling the reviewer a "fat slag", commenting on her dress sense by saying "You haven’t got that much titty to be wearing that low cut a blouse" and summing it up with "You're a piece of shit". After these remarks went to air - yes, he actually said this on the radio - he managed to keep his job without even a suspension, but a large number of big-name sponsors withdrew their money from his radio program. I'm claiming half points for this one. 
7. Petrol prices will reach peaks just before holiday weekends. This will be blamed on the price of Tapis crude, the cost of refining in Singapore, the high value of the Australian dollar, the low value of the Australian dollar, and possibly the phase of the moon (at Easter).
The price of petrol rose by 20 cents per litre (16%) on the Thursday before the June long weekend. Enough said. 
8. The Australian cricket team will score more than 300 runs in a test match.
I was sure that the team's form couldn't get worse than last year, and they managed to come good with a first-innings score of 427 in the December test match against New Zealand. 
9. Newspapers and tabloid television current affairs shows will carry stories warning of the danger of radiation from mobile phones. Physicists referring to Einstein’s 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect will be ignored.
Happened all over the newspapers in June. See here and here. 
10. A major musical act will announce retirement. This will be reconsidered following the success of the "Farewell Forever, I’m Not Coming Back" tour. 
The Eagles? John Farnham? Anyone? Anyone? 
11. There will be floods, droughts, blizzards, landslides, tsunamis or earthquakes affecting nine countries with an "A" in their names.
Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, United States, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Canada 
12. Scientists and environmental groups will claim that the floods, droughts, blizzards, landslides, tsunamis or earthquakes are evidence of climate change. Climate change will be denied in response.
See any scientific site about climate, any dark green environmentalist site or any climate change denial site. It's all there. 
13. A prominent sporting identity will be caught out having extramarital affairs. Evidence will be something stupid done by the identity, such as leaving lewd text messages on his phone for his wife or girlfriend to see

"Sex Scandal Puts Australian Football Agent Ricky Nixon In Hot Water" - The most prominent player agent in the country, 40-something Ricky Nixon, managed to let a 17-year-old girl video him on a motel bed in his underpants. YouTube inevitably followed. It was apparently not a sexual encounter, but you have to take your clothes off when you are snorting cocaine in a motel with an attractive school-aged girl.

 
    

So my score so far is 11/13 or 84.6%. On the one remaining prediction I am prepared to admit that it might not come true. Cold Chisel started doing shows again following their "once only" reunion for the Sydney V8 Supercar race meeting a year or so back. This year the headline act was Hunters and Collectors doing a "once only" show. If they announce a 2012 reunion tour before December 31 I'm claiming the point.

December 10, 2011

Anti-vaccination propaganda at the Folk Festival (10/12/2011)
In 2010, Meryl Dorey, once (and maybe still) President of the Australian Vaccination Network, appeared as a speaker at the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland. I wondered at the time why a festival devoted to community spirit and enjoyment should provide a platform for someone to preach a philosophy that can only cause harm to children, and I wrote to the organisers with my concern. I didn't receive an answer, but Ms Dorey wasn't pleased that I had written and in her usual "just missing the truth" style she claimed that I had asked them not to let her speak. I had done nothing of the sort, just said that I didn't think that what she would inevitably say was the sort of thing I would expect to hear at a folk festival. She can say what she likes where she likes as long as people are aware of her agenda.

She didn't appear at the 2011 festival, but she is booked in to give two talks at the 2012 event in January. I suppose this means that the festival organisers aren't concerned about her message, and the presence of various other practitioners of weird science and ideas on the same stage just confirms this impression. I have no idea why anyone would associate folk music with the sort of things one would expect to see at a Mind Body Spirit Festival or even why there would be an overlap of audiences, but maybe things have changed since my Kings Cross troubadour days. Or, as someone once said, the answers are blowing in the wind.

You can read the rest of this article here.


This article appeared in MamaMia on December 13, 2011


You have to be careful (10/12/2011)
A few months ago I wrote an article for Australasian Science about confirmation bias. That's the temptation to see what you want to see and is a constant worry for researchers. Anybody reading here for the last few weeks will be aware that there has been a world-wide attack on cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski, and we haven't just been fighting him and his manic PR man but also people who claim that they know other people who have been cured by the charlatan. Then during the week, I and several bloggers in different countries received the following harrowing tale of desperation and deceit. (The writer apologised for a large slab in capital letters. I have converted it to make it easier to read. No other editing has been done.)

Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2011 09:20:19 -0800
From: Michael Amento
Subject: i AM A RECENT BURZYNSKI PATIENT OF 3 MONTHS

Hi I have been reading your blog.
I agree with you pretty much in everything.
I dont believe in his therapies but in my opinion he is definately a crook.
I am now back home in Florida and trying to sort through billing and all the particulars. There is so much I am getting overwhelmed. I feel that I have been physically harmed by them as well as financially screwed out of $100K.
I only wish I had been well enought before to do more reasearch on this guy before I went there.
Just to fill you in a bit I have this posted on a couple of other blogs today looking for some help.
"
Hi
I just came from the Burzynski clinical treatment. I feel I was defrauded. I was there three months (supposed to be 3 weeks)
I was given chemo. All kinds of drugs, pain killers, valiums etc. When I first called them they said no chemo.
Everyone I saw had chemo. They trained people in the infusion room to use the antineoplastons via ports they had in their body and then sent them home. Most were Europeans. Very few Americans that I saw.
I agree with most all assessments here and then some.
I would like to discuss further what can be done I want to shut this guy down. I befriended several people at the clinic who have told me things that are making my hair curl.
Unbelievable stuff. This needs to get out to the public.
Sorry for the caps the chemo makes it hard to type, read etch along with pills I am current taking.
He charged my credit card over $85,000 and in addition billed my insurance company. To me this is getting paid twice.
I am in dispute with cc company of course but my insurance is still paying claims he filed, several duplicates, wrong dates etc. Lots of misinforation I need to sort thru.
I saw the guy twice, saw my supposed doctor for a total of 18 minutes was given a dr who I found out was not even licensed in Texas to practice medicine.
I was given a prescription for $30000 that I was told I had to buy at the clinics pharmacy, then find out the clinic owns it. The drug was never aproved by FDA for my situation yet they gave it anyway. I was told they give it to everyone no matter what they have by the CFO.
There is so much to tell. I need help putting this all together. I filed police reports, complaints w/med and pharmacy boards in Texas.
I would love to put all the bills online for everyone to see
They refused me further treatment when the found about my dispute with credit card company.
I then went to md Anderson and you wont believe what they told me about Burzynski. I am now back home doing regular chemo and monitored by Anderson in Houston.
Please if anyone can offer some help.
All the evidence I heard and saw suggests the % of help is only with brain tumors in children.
But you have to remember he uses conventional therapy so you will never know what worked. The bad part in my mind is that he also used on me anyway drugs that had nothing to do with my situation but have horrible potential effects and one therapy he prescriped cost $30,000 for 60 pills alone
I am more than willing to hire an attorney to get this guy out of medicine."
If you have the time or an interest drop me a line. I susupect there are many like ,me out there who have been defrauded. Many may have passed on or be too embarassed to admit what went on but I think if people can come to together, pool their stories we can get this guy out of the medical/snakeoil business.
I saw a little 7 month old baby with a hole in her stomach have to put that poisin into her by her mommy who was taking her home the next day. It just about broke my heart escpecially when I understand now the chances for that baby being cured.
Thanks

As soon as this hit inboxes there was a flurry of "Did you get this" emails between the main Burzynski critics. The initial reaction was "Wow! What a damning story", but then the reality of confirmation bias hit us. This was just the sort of thing we all wanted to read and believe, but the problem was that it is an unverifiable anecdote, or at least unverifiable without a lot of work. It is, in fact, no better evidence that Burzynski is really a crook than the laudatory emails from his supporters are evidence that his "cure" works. It is a data point, and while it fits what we know about Burzynski it could very well have been invented using things we had been saying about him for the last few weeks. I don't like to sound paranoid, but all it would take is one faked horror story getting wide publicity and then being exposed as a hoax to damage the entire campaign against Burzynski. Remember that true believers believe everything he says and are looking for their own confirming "evidence". Evidence that critics had been relying on a hoax could only work to his advantage.

I don't know whether to believe it or not, but what I am not going to do is say "Look, here's a victim".


And here's the PhD. Or is it? (10/12/2011)
One constant criticism of Dr Burzynski is that he claims to have a PhD awarded in 1968 after one year of study. This seems to be at odds with the qualifications he claimed on a grant application in 1973, where he said he had earned DMsc in that year. Enquiries in the 1990s to the university which he attended elicited a response saying that the institution didn't grant doctorates in 1968. So he was either mistaken in 1973, although how anybody could forget having a PhD is a mystery, or he is lying now. His response to recent request is to promise an affidavit, not a copy of his certificate or details of his thesis. The affidavit has finally turned up (although the promised link from the front page of the Burzynski Clinic web site hasn't), and here it is.

The first thing I noticed was the date. If Dr Burzynski had this in 1990, why didn't he give it to Dr Saul Green in 1996 when he was querying Dr Burzynski's qualifications? The second is a legal question. In most places, a witness to a signature, particularly one on a legal document such as an affidavit, must be present and actually see the signatory add the signature. In this case the witness is saying that the signature looks like one he has seen someone sign before. Perhaps Poland has vastly different testimony laws than the rest of the world, but that would not be a valid affidavit in Australia and probably not in the US either.

So where's the certificate, Dr Burzynski? You can find out about my university qualifications at the Macquarie University Graduate Register, and here are pictures. Why can't you do the same?

BA 1988  Postgraduate Diploma 1992


Slip, slipping away (10/12/2011)
I mentioned last week that pyramid scam TVI Express had run foul of the regulatory authorities. Reader Graham Carter noticed something that had happened after I did my regular link check for the month. Here is the current state of the Australian web site. Unfortunately the international one is still there to attract unsuspecting victims.



See more Abstruse Goose here


Radio Ratbags news (10/12/2011)
Radio RatbagsThere was a special bonus edition of Radio Ratbags this week. It was the talk I gave at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas in 2004. The Christmas Special is coming up next week (and maybe the week after if I have too much to say), so get yourself over there and subscribe.

In other news, the podcast has been accepted into the iTunes Store so hopefully it will reach an audience who don't read this site or know me elsewhere.


For the man who has everything (10/12/2011)

No, this is not a joke. It is a Louis Vuitton condom, and they sell for $68. Each. According to a brothel web site I found through Google (yes, they do advertise) you can get a prostitute for not much more than this and they will bring their own condom. I wonder if they are sold through toilet vending machines in exclusive clubs, the sort of clubs that I can't afford to drink at. I suppose you could drop one on the bar to attract shallow-minded sexual partners, but surely a Ferrari keyring would work just as well and you can get one of those for only $41 from the official Ferrari store. Not only is it cheaper but you can use it more than once and it has a built-in USB disk.


A note to spammers and other vermin (10/12/2011)
I had to change the email address on the bottom of all the pages here during the week because a spammer found it. The change process takes me about five minutes from the moment I detect the problem but it is still time that would be better spent doing something else.

And here's a question for the person who used the donation form here to send me vile words about my mother (in a style highly reminiscent of the Gutless Anonymous Liar): Do you know your IP address? I do.

December 24, 2011

It's holiday time! (24/12/2011)
As the next two weekends are significant partying and celebrating times, The Millenium Project will be taking a short holiday. We will be back on January 7, refreshed and ready to take on the world of woowoo again. I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (complaints from fundamentalist atheists should be addressed to devnul@ratbags.com where they will receive the attention they deserve) and a Happy New Year. Enjoy yourselves but if you plan on driving please moderate the enjoying. I want you all back next year.

I would like to thank all the people who visited the site during the year and everyone who emailed me with compliments, suggestions and the names of cartoonists (when I stole stuff from Facebook and didn't know the original source). I try to answer email but sometimes I get behind. If you emailed me and I didn't reply I apologise, but be assured I read them all. I would also like to thank the people who emailed me to express their displeasure. At least you are reading it, and if we all agreed on everything then the world would be a very dull place.


Vale Christopher Hitchens (24/12/2011)
The closest I ever got to Christopher Hitchens was a few rows back from the stage in the Sydney Opera House when he was a speaker at the 2009 Festival of Dangerous Ideas. (This inspired me to write an article about atheism. You can read it here.) That's physical closeness, but I also had a closeness to him through the books and essays he wrote.

I'm not going to attempt to write an obituary, because many people who knew him better and are much better writers than me have done that. The list displayed at the excellent Arts & Letters Daily gives an indication of the esteem that Hitchens was held in. Yes, he had his faults. He smoked and drank too much (and those who suggest that these had any bearing on his ability as a writer were wrong) and he didn't try to hide his intellectual superiority, but we all have faults and any he had were compensated for by the quality of his work. I will miss him.
Thank you to Jesus & Mo for this picture


Meryl Dorey at Woodford Folk Festival (24/12/2011)
I opened an enormous can of worms with my article in MamaMia two weeks ago about Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network speaking at the Woodford Folk Festival. Newspapers, television and radio programs and everyone else who seemed to care became involved, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation asked for their name and logos to be removed from the list of sponsors (they make a distinction between active sponsorship and support for cultural activities), politicians expressed dismay and everyone involved either ran away or made excuses. The event organiser was unrepentant and Ms Dorey, as expected ran around screeching about censorship and freedom of speech. The best response came in a media release from the QLD Minister for Health (his department had also been listed as a sponsor):

Health
The Honourable Geoff Wilson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND THE CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER

Parents should vaccinate themselves and their children, Minister for Health Geoff Wilson said today.

Mr Wilson said fringe groups like the misleadingly named ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ are wrong to discourage people from getting vaccinated.

"I love Woodford Folk Festival. I’ve been numerous times. There’s great music, great food and great folk entertainment. Fortunately, there’s enough wonderful things to do at Woodford that patrons have plenty of alternatives rather than sitting through the nonsense Meryl Dorey spouts about vaccination dangers", Mr Wilson said.

"For the small number of people who might be entertained by what Ms Dorey has to say, Woodford Folk Festival has a place for everyone. Just don’t take her nonsense too seriously."

"The fact is vaccinations have saved millions of lives. Their invention was a miracle of scientific achievement."

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer said Queensland Health remained absolutely committed to delivering its immunisation program to as many Queenslanders as possible.

"In the past year hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders have been protected against deadly diseases such as whooping cough, cervical cancer, diphtheria and measles, as well as influenza." she said.

"The benefits of vaccination are obvious. Between 1930 and 1988, around 40,000 Australians developed paralytic Polio. Now Australia is Polio free."

"Vaccination prevents potentially fatal conditions like measles, diphtheria and whooping cough."

"This program saves lives, and we will continue to urge Queenslanders to vaccinate their children against life-threatening illnesses," Dr Young said.

"Queensland’s vaccination program is extremely safe and is the most effective way to prevent illness and death from vaccine preventable diseases," she said.

There will be more to report about Ms Dorey's appearance at the festival in January, after she speaks. In the meantime she is being asked on a daily basis why she keeps saying she is not opposed to vaccines. The asking has to happen on Twitter, because in the spirit of free speech that she constantly whines about she doesn't allow any critics to ask her questions by email or on the ANV's Facebook page.

But wait, there's more ...


Meryl Dorey on indigenous radio (24/12/2011)
On Monday, December 19, 2011, Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network appeared on radio station 98.9FM in Brisbane. The station is specifically targeted at indigenous listeners, members of the population group with the worst health conditions in Australia. The interviewer was Tiga Bayles. Feel free to count the lies and misrepresentations. I have highlighted as many as I can stand reading again - I sat through the radio broadcast with an ever-increasing urge to throw something. Pay particular attention to where Ms Dorey advises the people with the worst health in the country to avoid doctors and rely on witchcraft like homeopathy.

You can see the transcript (and even listen to the program) here.



See more Jesus and Mo here


He writes (24/12/2011)
Some more of the things I write have appeared in print. The latest editions of Issues magazine and the Skeptic are either in or on their way to subscribers' mailboxes. I suggest that you subscribe to both magazines, because there's a lot more than me there and both provide an excellent assortment of thoughtful material in each of their quarterly issues.

Getting risk wrong
People are notoriously bad at assessing risk. That is, at correctly distinguishing between decisions based on fact and those based on opinion, or to put it another way, decisions based on the head and those on the gut. We tend to overrate some risks and underrate others, often without any apparent logical basis. Much of the work of skeptical organisations and campaigners for critical thinking is generated by this inability to separate emotion from cold hard analysis.

I live in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, an area at high risk of bush fires. While the gut tells us that this is a dangerous place to live the heart tells us to look at the views and breathe the clean air. If a serious fire broke out in the valley at the end of my street and a southerly wind happened at the same time there is a real possibility that large parts of at least three towns would face the potential of evacuation, even if only to get away from smoke and flying ash. The evacuation of several thousand people would have to be done over single-lane roads which themselves pass through fire-endangered areas. It is interesting to read the letters to editors of the local papers to see that many people seem to ignore the fire risk and are more worried ...

Read the rest here

Blackmore's and the Pharmacy Guild - a marriage made in Hell
Many years ago I did some stage acting, and one of the plays we performed was Rhinocéros by Eugene Ionesco which was part of what was known as "The Theatre of the absurd", a sort of literary equivalent to surrealist art, where what was happening was challenging to the senses and the observer's perception of reality. I thought I had fallen into another Ionesco play in September this year when I read that an arrangement had been made between the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (the professional body for retail pharmacists) and Blackmore's (the country's leading manufacturer of supplements and "alternative" medicines). The proposal was that when people had prescriptions filled for certain classes of medications the pharmacist would advise them of "complementary" Blackmore's products to counter the side effects of the medications.

I suppose that I shouldn’t have been too surprised, because The Pharmacy Guild has form on this. In 2005 they joined forces with the Complementary Health Care Council of Australia (the professional body for snake oil manufacturers and distributors) to ...

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And he talks (24/12/2011)
The Radio Ratbags Christmas Special is waiting for you to listen to it. There is music and there is noise pretending to be music as I search for the worst rendition of a traditional Christmas carol. The competition was fierce, but an eventual winner was found. Perhaps that should be "loser" ... You can listen here.

In a related story, because I use short clips from songs in the podcast I thought I would keep the copyright gods happy by allowing people to buy the individual songs. The obvious place to do this is Apple's iTunes Store. I applied to be an affiliate and was referred to an Australian affiliate specialist company who do the work for Apple here. My application was refused with the following question: "Please provide further clarification on how you plan to optimise our advertiser's campaigns". Well, it's like this - I plan to do that by putting links to products on web pages so that people can buy them. That's the way web sales affiliate programs work. I intend to negotiate further, but I suppose I should refrain from pointing out the obvious, calling them names and mentioning Amazon's affiliate program (which accepted me without question).

Here are the five songs sampled in the podcast. At Apple, these can be referred to as "Lost sales".



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December 29, 2011

Speech cancelled, but she still has a platform (29/12/2011)
Here is a media release from the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network group:

Vaccination advocates urge Woodfordians, "Look to the heavens for inspiration during Dorey speech"

Following two weeks of intense public pressure, the Woodford Folk Festival has cancelled a solo appearance by Meryl Dorey of the Australian [anti] Vaccination Network. In its place will be a panel discussion between Ms Dorey and Professor Andreas Suhrbier, head of the immunovirology laboratory at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. The discussion will be moderated by Dr John Parker, a veteran of Doctors without Borders.

While unhappy that Ms Dorey will still be speaking at Woodford, the Stop the AVN Facebook group, a loose-knit consortium of concerned citizens, scientists, doctors and nurses, decided to use a little humour in order to have ‘the last word’.

The group has hired an aircraft to fly over the Woodford Folk Festival site during the two hours surrounding Ms Dorey’s appearance.

Between 1.45 and 3.45pm on Thursday, 29 December, the plane will tow a banner with the message: VACCINATION SAVES LIVES.

Volunteers will be on the ground to hand out flyers after Ms Dorey’s appearance. The flyer addresses some of the myths about vaccination and counters them with facts.

Despite her claims to the contrary, Ms Dorey is not an expert, nor does she hold any qualification in medicine, science, statistics or immunology.

There is no debate about the safety or efficacy of vaccines within the mainstream medical and scientific community – that is, among experts in the field. 

The allegation that vaccines are not safe or effective is discredited by scientific evidence and relates to a wider set of new age conspiracy theories involving concerns about ‘one world government’, the Illuminati, chemtrails and AIDS denialism. This is the kind of ideology which informs Ms Dorey’s creative reinterpretation of the scientific data.

Ms Dorey plays down this aspect of her beliefs in her public appearances, explaining to her Facebook followers in 2009:

"While we are already seen as rabid, idiotic fringe-dwellers by so many in the mainstream, it does our argument no good at all to bring in conspiracy theories which, though we may subscribe to them, are unprovable." (Emphasis added.)

While almost every medication has the potential to create adverse reactions in certain individuals, the risk of a reaction more serious than a little localised pain and swelling and a slight fever after a vaccination is exceedingly small. The medical and scientific communities overwhelmingly agree that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any small risk.

You can read more about the Australian Vaccination Network here.




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