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Catching up (2/3/2005)
As everything is late and rushed this week, I will report progress on some matters which have been discussed here recently and leave all the big stuff for next weekend's update. In the good news department, I have a brand new uninterruptible power supply for my computer, so, as the remarkably well-preserved Grace Slick sang in 1987, "Nothing's gonna stop us now".
Autism "research" (2/3/2005)
At 11:00am on March 3, the results of the MSN poll about the causes of autism looked like this:
You will notice that there has been an additional choice added since the original poll was started. The anti-vaccination liars immediately smelled conspiracy. My reaction was that it made the poll even less scientific and valid than it was before, as the additional choice ("A combination of factors listed above") is effectively a "Don't know" response and therefore is the same as the existing "Not sure" option. Also, if I remember my Introductory Statistics course correctly, you don't change the questions in a survey half-way through and then call it the same survey.
The anti-vaccine nurse (2/3/2005)
I received no answer from the nurse at Perth's Princess Margaret Hospital about her anti-vaccine activities, so I wrote to the hospital. If Rochelle wants to check on the progress of my complaint, the reference number is PET2005-0302085659. Here is what I said to her boss:
The message below is an edited version of something which was posted to a mailing list belonging to the Australian Vaccination Network, Australia's leading anti-vaccination organisation. I have removed information which identifies the writer, but this can be provided if necessary.
I feel that you should be aware that a nurse in the children's hospital is not only advising patients not to vaccinate their children and is referring them to very doubtful sources of information, but is laughing at the recommendations made by doctors about vaccination.
My view is that anyone working against the health of children has no place in an institution dedicated to children's health. Surely any employee who is actively promoting the lies told by the anti-vaccination campaigners is violating her employment responsibilities and requires a reprimand, if not outright dismissal.
And her boss said ... (12/3/2005)
Dear Mr Bowditch
We have received information from you with regards to a Registered Nurse who has posted an anti immunisation message to the AVN mailing list. Thank you for this information. We would like to contact this nurse. We appreciate your assistance in providing us with her name. I refer to the email you sent 2nd March, 2005.
thank you for your assistance and attention to this matter.
Hillsong and charity (2/3/2005)
Parishioners of this pretend church keep writing to me to tell me about the great charitable works performed with the $30 million extracted from the faithful each year. Now we find that this great charitable organisation has been firmly locked on to the public teat in order to pay for the charity. Since 1999, Hillsong has received almost $800,000 from Australian taxpayers to fund the things the "church" would be paying for itself if it was not just a business to collect unaccountable and tax-free cash. In the last financial year, Hillsong received $300,000 from a federal department which is supposed to be responsible for industrial relations. It was mere coincidence, of course, that the "church" openly sponsored a candidate in the latest federal election and that that candidate just happened to belong to the party in government at the time. I suppose you could say that the $300,000 had something to do with workplace relations. It allowed Hillsong to save that amount of money and to spend it elsewhere and someone got a nice new workplace in Parliament House, Canberra. As I said, pure coincidence.
Tim is wrong. Again. (2/3/2005)
Spokesloon for the quackery industry, Tim Bolen, has again stated that this web site is owned by Dr Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch. Tim revealed this colossal piece of ignorance in a letter to a newspaper. Rational people will realise that anything that Tim says is almost certainly untrue, so Dr Barrett will not be getting an invoice from me for my hosting costs. Tim first made this strange claim more than a year ago and I was going to ask him about it when I dropped in to his post-box office for a coffee when I was passing through San Juan Capistrano. Unfortunately, Tim wasn't in when I called.
The Ottawan is mad. Again. Or is that "still"? (2/3/2005)
The full moon last week didn't disappoint, and the Gutless Anonymous Liar managed to get to the computer at the GAL Home for the Terminally Useless to post some rants about me to someone's Blog. As usual, all of the fun can be found in The GAL Chronicles. One of the funniest bits was when it accused me of hiding. It made the accusation anonymously!
One of the way people without facts on their side try to gain credibility is to make claims that some of their significant opponents have recanted and now see the truth. Often these are supposed death-bed conversions. One example of this is the continual claim made by supporters of medical quackery that Louis Pasteur admitted on his death-bed that diseases were not caused by the germs which he had discovered but by dirt. You can read about this nonsense here. Another one I have always liked was the claim that Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the founder of the American Atheists organisation, had recanted on her death-bed and told everyone present that there really is a god. The wonderful thing about this story is that she disappeared, presumed murdered, with her son and granddaughter in 1995. Her remains were discovered in 2001. The only person who would have been a witness to any last-minute conversion would have been her killer. (I have to admit that faced with the prospect of being hacked to death, I would probably convert if that was what was wanted.)
In 1950, atheist Antony Flew wrote Theology and Falsification, which has been described as the most-read philosophical work of the late twentieth century. In 2001, 2003 and again in 2004 it was reported that Flew had recanted and had even converted to Christianity. Such reports came from people of such little faith that they felt the need to distort the views of someone famous. My view is that it would not invalidate Flew's 1950 thoughts if he went mad later. In any case, this is what Sanal Edamaruku of Rationalist International had to say about Flew's "conversion".
On 16th December 2004, Professor Antony Flew, British philosopher, well known rationalist, atheist and an Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, telephoned me and informed that the wild rumours about his changed views are baseless. He expressed surprise over the confusion some people have spread and asserted that his position about the belief in god remains unchanged and is the same as it was expressed in his famous speech "Theology and Falsification". "I find no new reason to change my views", Professor Flew said. ...
During the conversation with me, Professor Antony Flew expressed desire to publicise this paper as it represented his views till this moment. "There is no change", Professor Antony Flew asserted. "Some people argue that I changed my views. It is simply not correct."
Source: Rationalist International Bulletin # 138. Copyright © 2004 Rationalist International
Explain this, skeptics! (5/3/2005)
As part of writing the piece above, I did some research on the 'net on Madalyn Murray O'Hair. I wanted to check some facts (including the spelling of her name, which seems to be "O'Hare" in many places), because I hadn't thought about her for some time. After doing the research I went out to dinner with some friends. I told them I wanted to be home in time to watch Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which is one of the few things I religiously (if I can use that word) watch on television. I had not looked at the program guide, so I had no idea what this particular episode would be about. It was the episode named "Eosphoros" (Series 4 Episode E5401), and it dealt with the case of the leader of an atheist organisation who was kidnapped with some members of her family and murdered as part of a plot to steal money from the organisation. At one point it was mentioned that the woman had made many enemies when she was active in the campaign to stop prayers in schools. The story seemed vary familiar. Spooky, isn't it?
Amway and tax (5/3/2005)
One of the lies that used to be told to potential recruits into multi-level marketing schemes was that as they would be running a business they would be able to claim all sorts of tax deductions against income from other sources. In 1996, the Australian Taxation Office put a stop to this nonsense by defining a business and stating quite clearly why being an IBO was not one. Of course, you could and still can claim deductions up to the total amount of income from that source, but this wasn't what the uplines were saying. I particularly liked the case of one person who was trying to claim about $12,000 per year in lease payments on a BMW because he was selling about $250 worth of Nu Skin products. What was really impressive was his tremendous optimism, because at the same time he was claiming even more deductions for the car because he said he needed it to transport his tool box to his job as an aircraft mechanic. The judge did not reward his optimism.
Two multi-level marketing organisations, Amway and Omegatrend, have reached agreements with the ATO about the tax positions of distributors. I have no doubt that the existence of these agreements is used in the sales pitch to prospects, but I also have no doubt that the actual wording of these agreements is never provided, nor is any idea of where anyone could go to read them. Yes, there are such agreements, but all they talk about is how high you have to get in the matrix before you can convince the tax office that what you are doing looks something like a business, and all they talk about is losses. Losses - those things you get when it costs you more to run the business than the business brings in. If 10% of the lies told by MLM spruikers were true, who would be worrying about the tax accounting for losses after the first few weeks?
I am gathering some information about what it really means to be at certain rebate levels in Amway and Omegatrend, and I will have an analysis of how impossible it is to make money (or to be able to deduct losses against other income) here one day. If anyone has any current or recent information about the compensation plans of either organisation, please contact me.
The AntiBio scam (5/3/2005)
Each year, Australian Skeptics presents the Bent Spoon Award to "the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle". The 2004 award went to a television show which had uncritically promoted a pseudoscientific electrical device which was supposed to clean the water in swimming pools using principles unknown to science. One of the things I do in my spare time is manage the web site for Australian Skeptics, and a complaint was received about the site this week. The complaint came from the Chief Executive Officer of AntiBio Technologies Pty Ltd. His objection was to the following words, which appear on the Bent Spoon Award page:
The winners for 2004 were the producers of the ABC television show The New Inventors, principally for giving consideration to an obvious piece of pseudoscience, the AntiBio water water conditioning system.
According to the CEO, the statement is preposterous and damaging to his business and unless it is removed from the site his company will take serious action. I have suggested that as soon as he supplies AS with the scientific studies demonstrating the power of a speaker driven by one of those little transformers you use to charge your mobile phone battery to a) sterilise an entire Olympic-sized swimming pool by using sound to disrupt the breeding cycles of pathogenic organisms and b) strip electrons from calcium molecules (sic) then something might be done about people saying bad things about his company on the web. As his company claims to have received several grants of taxpayers' money from the government, I feel that the appropriate parliamentary audit and oversight committees will have to be notified that someone is using bluff and unscientific nonsense to rifle the cash box.
You can read some more about the AntiBio scam here. Did I say "scam"? Well, what else would you call selling a box of wires and saying that it can do impossible things?
[Note: I stopped managing the web site for Australian Skeptics in early 2009, but I have left the mention in this article for historical accuracy.]
Complaints Policy (5/3/2005)
The whine from the AntiBio executive encouraged me to strengthen the language in my own complaints policy. I have updated the policy and complainers should now be in no doubt about what will happen. That is, if they bother to read the "About this site" page, which they never do.
Complaints - what we do about them
My ISP and I receive the occasional complaint about this site, and I suppose I would be disappointed if this were not so. Anonymous complaints are ridiculed, laughed at, mocked and ignored. Complaints from real people are read, filed, published on this site and ignored unless evidence is offered of inaccuracy in something appearing on the site. Letters from lawyers (there has only been a very small number of these) are photocopied, read, filed, published on this site and ignored, again unless evidence is offered of inaccuracy in something appearing on the site. Details of Cease & Desist orders or any other requests by lawyers for the removal of content from this site are submitted to the Chilling Effect Clearinghouse. I could not ignore a court order, just as I could not ignore winning $20 million in the lottery (a much more likely event). Of course, anyone initiating court action would not want to have have called me rude names, used twenty different identities, pretended to be me or threatened to harass my clients, otherwise they might look a bit foolish to the judge.
I have no desire to publish inaccuracies, but unless it can be demonstrated that something is clearly in error material will only be removed from this site upon the direct instructions of a court having proper and enforceable jurisdiction. Please note that the policy here is to NEVER settle without going to court, and any legal action will be given wide and embarrassing publicity. Do not threaten legal action in the hope of getting a reaction favourable to you in advance of court proceedings or you will be disappointed.
People who want to waste their time complaining to government regulatory authorities about The Millenium Project should contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Details can be found under the heading "Online services content regulation".
Speaking of complaints ... (5/3/2005)
Nobody has threatened to sue me for several months. I must be doing something wrong. I promise to try harder in the next few months. You can click here to be reminded of past threats and their resolution.
The Bear's Progress (5/3/2005)
In January 2004, Alynda Brown, SkeptoBear and I travelled a long way to represent Australian Skeptics at James Randi's Amazing Meeting. The story can finally be told, and will be serialised here over the next few weeks. You can read the first chapter here.
Corporate stupidity (12/3/2005)
A few years ago, McDonalds made themselves look extremely foolish when they took defamation action against two loopy vegetarian critics in Britain. The court case cost McDonalds an enormous amount of money with no hope of ever getting any of it back as damages, and in the process their disgusting employment practices were written into the public record. I have met people who work in the corporate offices of McDonalds, and one of their outstanding characteristics is that they take the company too seriously and cannot imagine that everyone else doesn't feel the same way. As an example, I spent some time at graduate school working on a project related to McDonalds' workplace relations policies. One of the people on the team worked for McDonalds and she told us that we obviously didn't respect our employers enough because we didn't wear clothes and watches with corporate logos every day. Another example was a product sold in Australia named "McWrap". From day one, everyone laughed and called it "mc-crap", but presumably nobody inside McDonalds had ever considered this possibility. (It is not only McDonalds which takes itself too seriously. I had a personal moratorium for a year on the purchase of Coca Cola after an executive of the company told me that the plural of "Coke" is "Coke" and only an ignoramus or an Australian, or both, would ask for "Two Cokes". Have I mentioned Apple Computers?)
In their latest episode of commercial stupidity, McDonalds in Australia have taken on an amateur football team. The team is sponsored by a local solicitor named Malcolm McBratney, and the teams have "McBrat" emblazoned across the back of their uniforms. McDonalds have claimed that this is a breach of their trademark rights because everything starting with "Mc" or "Mac" belongs to them. (It should be an interesting fight, because Mr McBratney's specialty is intellectual property law.) Apparently they think that there is some confusion in the public mind between rugby union and hamburgers. Perhaps they are right. Whenever the forwards pack down for a scrum the spectators will think "What a pack of arses", which will immediately remind them of the idiots at McDonalds headquarters.
The anti-amalgamists find another "chemist" (12/3/2005)
Last year I had an exchange of emails with Professor Boyd Haley, chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, in which he demonstrated either that he had forgotten a lot of chemistry or the U of K should have a close look at both its recruitment and tenure policies. Put bluntly, the man talks nonsense and appears to be confused about the difference between different chemical compounds and even between compounds and their component elements. He is, of course, loved by both the anti-vaccination liars and the anti-amalgam fools because he says bad things about mercury.
It now seems that Dr Haley has a challenger in the mad scientist field, and a paper written by someone who describes himself as "Independent Chemist, M.Sc., retired 08.06.2003. Speciality: Amalgam and Chronic Diseases" has been thrown into the mix. Apparently this paper was peer-reviewed (it must be true - it says so in the paper) and was presented to Representative Dan Burton's crazy anti-mercury witch hunt hearings. A statement from the paper bears closer analysis: "[amalgam] is highly unstable above the melting point of Hg, 39°C". When it was pointed out to the person quoting the paper that this was obvious nonsense, the response was to quote another anti-amalgam paper which said of mercury: "Physical properties are: melting point 39°C, boiling point 357°C". Now, leaving out the minus sign is a mistake, but when the mistake is identified and the response is to give the same answer then stupidity and obtuseness can be assumed. It might be different if this wasn't a case where it is so easy to demonstrate the truth, but when I said that the temperature inside a human body is about 37°C and this was obviously above the melting point of mercury I was asked what qualifications I had to challenge the opinions of professional chemists. I doubted that my reply, "high school chemistry", would be considered satisfactory, and I was proved correct because the response was to ask the question again and repeat the original nonsense (plus some nonsense from Dr Haley about how dangerous mercury is, as if that was going to convince me that I was wrong about the melting point of mercury).
Yet again the supporters of non-medicine exhibit their lack of faith. Their heroes and authority figures (even anonymous ones) are not allowed to be anything except perfect, and any attempt to correct mistakes threatens the house of cards. What is so hard about saying "Oops! I was wrong"? Scientists do it every day.
I just thought - maybe the ban on thermometers containing mercury was because the mercury in them froze when they were put in people's mouths, making the readings suspect. No, that couldn't be right, could it?
Their madness knows no bounds (12/3/2005)
This is from an anti-vaccination liar mailing list. I thought I had heard every possible sort of idiocy that these people could come up with, but they are more inventive than I could ever imagine.
I just got some rather sad news. I just heard from an old friend (I have not seen for several years) whose daughter was diagnosed with autism (when she was about 1-1/2). Now she is almost three. Their daughter was severely autistic at birth. They were conservative with her vaccinations especially as it became apparent that something was wrong.
I quizzed her about her pregnancy -- no shots. I then remembered her husband was a doctor. As it turns out, her husband (a psychiatrist at a county hospital) was required to have a HEP B shot. It was just before their daughter was conceived in 2001. It never dawned on me, but I wonder if the father's having received mercury in a shot before conception could affect the baby? It probably can. They do not know if there was thimerasol in the HEP B vaccine -- but it makes me wonder.
Yurko update (12/3/2005)
The Ohio corrections department was recently quite embarrassed by the news that thousands of prisoners who should have been released on parole were still locked up. Not only was this depriving these people of their freedom, but it was costing the state many tens of millions of dollars to feed and guard them. Yurko was a beneficiary of the backlash.
According to his web site, baby slaughterer Alan Yurko was supposed to be released from prison on March 7 but the parole officer forgot to turn up and his release date has been postponed until March 15. The Ohio Department of Corrections web site still shows him as incarcerated. I wrote to the department during the week:
I wrote to you last year about a prisoner, Alan Yurko, who was at that time a parole violator. I would like to inquire about his current status.
The DRC web site currently shows him as Offender Number A216942. A few days ago the site showed that he had a parole hearing scheduled for March 1, but there is no parole hearing date there now and his status is shown as "incarcerated".
His supporters were claiming in January that he was to be released in March and would be treated as if he had completed his various sentences. As they have lied comprehensively and often about this man in the past and as they have called me some very nasty names for taking an interest in his lethal activities in Florida, I like to keep up-to-date with where and if he is locked up.
Is he inside or outside at the moment, and if he is inside, what are his prospects for the near future?
I have now received two replies from different people inside the department, both telling me that I have to ring up to find out what I want to know. I live on the other side of the world and many time zones away from Ohio and when I read the last email from the department it was already after 5pm on Friday in Ohio, so I decided that an international call to some bureaucrat's voice mail was probably going to be a waste of time and money. I will ring when a warm body is likely to be in the office, and we should all know the good or bad news next week. I wonder how he will earn a living if he gets out. If you believe the mythology, he could become a paid public speaker or could return to his old trades of landscape gardener or medical student. If you believe his criminal record, he could go back to burglary.
Speaking of the Yurko mythology, there has always been the sob story about how much he missed his daughter while he was in prison. On the Free Yurko web site, his wife says that she met him for the first time after he was paroled in Ohio. That would make someone else the father of the girl. As the record shows that he was paroled in April and the baby he killed was born in September, you can make your own guess about who was the father of "his" son.
The Bear's Progress (12/3/2005)
In January 2004, Alynda Brown, SkeptoBear and I travelled a long way to represent Australian Skeptics at James Randi's Amazing Meeting. The story can finally be told, and will be serialised here over the next few weeks. You can read the second chapter here.
Sad news (19/3/2005)
On Sunday, March 13, the president of the Australian Vaccination Network, Australia's leading anti-vaccination liar outfit, announced that the organisation would be going out of business within a week if money could not be found to pay some debts. I might have had a certain amount (a tiny amount) of sympathy if the announcement had not contained the sentence: "No doubt, the Australian Sceptics (sic) will be declaring a national week of celebration at the death of the 'Anti-Vaccine Liars'". Indeed we will, but it is early days yet and the corpse is still twitching. We can't use lack of brain activity as a sign of final demise because this crowd have been brain-dead for years, so we are containing our celebrations to a quite acceptable Seaview Brut until we see the dirt going into the hole and onto the coffin. Then we break out the Moët.
AS committee members Peter, John, Richard and Ian
do some celebrating at Sydney's Skeptics in the Pub
You may wonder why I headed this item "Sad news" when all about should be rejoicing and declaring days of festivities. Unfortunately, it now seems that enough people have kicked the can to pay off the debts and the AVN will stagger on for a while yet. Many of the donations were given as pledges, so the real test will come when the pledgers are asked to produce actual cash. I won't take the champagne out of the refrigerator and put it back in the cellar just yet, and I will keep the flute glasses handy. You never know when good news might arrive.
More sad news (19/3/2005)
It's true! Baby slaughterer Alan Yurko is out of prison. When I hadn't heard anything two days after he was supposed to be released I wrote to Mrs Yurko to find out what was going on. She was quite polite to me and didn't even suggest that I should kill myself (as she did the last time she wrote to me). Strangely, nothing has appeared on the anti-vaccination liar mailing lists yet. Maybe they don't think the news is good, as it is very hard to rally around a martyr when the martyring is over. The Ohio Department of Corrections web site is still showing him as incarcerated at the time of writing (late Saturday night, March 19), but that could just represent slackness of public servants. Maybe I should take down my Yurko Kidney Auction page and replace it with a page running a book on how long he will stay out.
Kind and gentle letter (19/3/2005)
I sent the following email to Raymond Gallup of The Autism Autoimmunity Project. Mr Gallup once announced that not only did he know for certain that I was in the pay of pharmaceutical companies but he even knew for sure what form the payment took (holidays at luxury resorts). Mr Gallup's aim is to leverage his son's misery to ensure that many more children get sick and die. As there are now at least four competing theories about the origins of autism (mercury in thimerosal, gut bugs in MMR, Mercola's pasteurisation idiocy, and a new one this week - monkey viruses in polio shots) it is interesting to see how the anti-vaccination liars can believe them all simultaneously. I predict that Mr Gallup's response will be vitriolic, vacuous and will miss the point completely.
Dear Mr Gallup,
I notice that in a recent letter to a newspaper you said:
It is time to do real science and replicate the science done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Dr. Vijendra Singh. The autism pandemic is not genetic but due to the vaccine assault on our children. Denying the science won't make it go away. Denying that we are having an autism pandemic will not make our children go away. Denying that we have a problem won't make families go away and it certainly won't make us less vocal about what happened to our children.
My son, Eric tested positive for myelin basic protein antibodies, he has elevated measles antibody titers and colitis. Those that deny that the MMR vaccine did this to my son (and thousands of other Eric's), please explain to me what did? Don't deny it but produce science to explain it!!! To date I have not seen or heard of any science that could tell me something different.
I assume from your words above that you reject the idea that the thimerosal preservative which used to be used in some vaccines is the cause of autism. After all, you ask the question "Those that deny that the MMR vaccine did this to my son (and thousands of other Eric's), please explain to me what did?"
As you and I both know that there has never been any thimerosal in the MMR vaccine, and as you seem to think that the only possible cause of autism is the reaction in the gut to MMR, I expect that you will soon be campaigning to stop people wasting their time bleating about mercury and to get them to address the real cause of autism.
You could start by writing to Professor Boyd Haley to tell him to stop talking nonsense and diverting the parents of autistic children from addressing the real issues. He seems to be the leading speaker against what you believe to be the truth. Perhaps you could write to Dr Joseph Mercola and tell him that his idea that autism is caused by pasteurised milk is also nonsense, but it would probably be a waste of time as we both know that Dr Mercola is barking mad.
McDonalds update (19/3/2005)
Reader Simon wrote to me with a comment about the piece I did last week about McDonalds and the rugby union team. He had read an article in his local paper which disagreed with what I had said and he wanted some clarification. The article in the paper had said:
...McDonalds had long before registered the name McBrat for whatever reason and the issue came up when the team tried to claim this already registered name. A spokesperson for McDonalds is quoted as saying that they didn't mind the team using the McBrats name on their shirts, they just couldn't register it.
When I saw this my first thought was that if this were true then there was no story. This was "dog bites man", not "man bites dog". I like things on this site to be correct, so I decided to check with IP Australia where the register of all Australian trademarks is available. To not much surprise I found that the word "mcbrat" is covered by trademark number 992932 and is owned by McBratney Services Pty Ltd. It was applied for on March 11, 2004, and approved on July 15, 2004. It is currently being opposed, but the records do not say by whom. It covers the use of the word for clothing, footwear and headgear. You can see the full details from the IP Australia register here.
I have commented before about the sloppiness of some members of the press and other media. In this case it would have only taken a few minutes to check the facts, but the reporter for the West Australian was too lazy and chose to take the word of one side, even though what was said made little sense. (That side is a large advertiser in the paper, but I am sure that this fact is irrelevant.) As for the "spokesperson for McDonalds", Australia's draconian defamation laws prevent me from too much speculation about why he said something which is not true so the best I can do is to assume that he was "mistaken".
(Trial of conscience - driving home from Canberra late last Sunday night, the only convenient place I could get a cup of coffee was at McDonalds at Goulburn. I made sure I used a long spoon, of the kind recommended for supping with the Devil.)
Hear him speak (19/3/2005)
I will be speaking at a couple of functions for Australian Skeptics over the next few months, and everyone is welcome to come along, even if it is just to serve writs or to see for yourself if I have cloven hooves. Here are the dates and locations:
Every generation believes that it has invented everything, and the Internet generation is no exception. Scams like the Nigerian letters, snake oil sales, pyramid schemes, credit card fraud and even phishing (using false documents to get sensitive information) have been around for decades, if not centuries. The Internet just makes it easier for some scamsters to go about their business. On the other hand, it has also made it easier to expose some of them. This talk will be about how to identify scams, how to fight them, and how to laugh at how transparent some of them are.
A museum dedicated to the history of Australia might seem like a strange place to discuss herbal and natural medicines, but the Australia we know today only exists because of a natural medicine. The entire 207 years of the development of modern Australia is contingent upon one natural treatment for one disease. The use of natural medicines probably predates even the evolution of modern man (cats can only digest meat, which is why they eat grass to clean their insides out when they are sick). This talk will look at some of the myths about herbal medicine - that a long history of use proves efficacy, that natural is always better - and also how it integrates with, competes with and even conflicts with the reality of medical science.
SkeptoBear's World Tour - Day Three (19/3/2005)
The third day meant business and a trip to not-a-medical-Dr Hulda Clark's Tijuana quackery clinic. The rest of the day contained some disappointments because SkeptoBear could not get his fortune told and also came out on the wrong side of the dress regulations at The Magic Castle in Hollywood. His disappointment was partially overcome by the hilarious memories of watching a certain web site owner trying to explain to a Mexican pharmacist that the Viagra he was buying was a present for his wife who was not the lady he was travelling with but everyone's spouses knew where everybody was so everything was above board. Read more of the serialisation here.
Autism update (26/3/2005)
There are twelve vaccines on the Australian list for regular vaccination of people of different ages. According to the latest information from anti-vaccination liars, these are the ways in which these vaccines cause autism. Some vaccines have been listed more than once as there are different formulations for different ages or ethnicities and some combination vaccines may have more than one dangerous component. (Note - I have not necessarily used the exact words of anti-vaccination liars, but I have seen everything below hinted at or suggested at one time or another.)
|Hepatitis B||Hepatitis B vaccine||Autism caused by the mercury preservative. In any case, babies aren't promiscuous and parents should wait until their children come home and say "Mum, I am planning to become sexually active. Please book me into the doctor for a vaccination".|
|DTPa||Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis infant/child formulation||Autism caused by the mercury preservative which used to be in the vaccine but isn't now. The effect is possibly a homeopathic one arising from the manufacturing plants having a memory of the mercury which was once there.|
|dTpa||Adult/adolescent formulation diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine||Autism caused by the mercury preservative, although sudden-onset autism in adults getting this vaccine seems to be rare. There is a possibility that a man might cause autism in his children by passing on the damage through his sperm.|
|Hib - 4 dose version||Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine PRP-OMP, PRP-T, HbOC (as monovalent or in combination)||Probably causes autism, but as nobody has ever heard of the disease it is better to be safe and not vaccinate. Isn't it just a fancy name for the flu?|
|Hib - 3 dose version||This is the version of the vaccine recommended for indigenous children living in the bush. Autism rates are lower among these children, which may have something to do with fewer Hib shots, but it is still best to be safe and not vaccinate at all.|
|IPV||Inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine (in combination)||Autism caused by a monkey virus. (This is not the SV40 monkey virus which caused every person who was vaccinated for polio in the early 1950s to be dead from cancer today. This is a different monkey virus.)|
|MMR||Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine||Autism caused by the measles component leaking through the gut wall and causing demyelination of nerve cells. (That's how it causes cerebral palsy as well as autism.)|
|MMR||Autism caused indirectly by the rubella component which causes autism in children whose mothers have been vaccinated before they became pregnant. As congenital rubella is not a problem, women planning to become pregnant should not worry about rubella as it will not make them very sick.|
|MMR||Autism caused by the mercury in the preservative which has never been used in the MMR vaccine.|
|VZV||Varicella-zoster vaccine||Not enough information yet, but as chicken pox is harmless it is best to avoid the risk.|
|7vPCV||7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine||The word "conjugate" might mean "adjuvant" and we all know that "adjuvant" means aluminium and we all know that heavy metals cause autism.|
|23vPPV||23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine||Anything with 23 things in it is such an assault on the immune system that it is no wonder that children become autistic, particularly as autism is an auto-immune disease. "Polysaccharide" suggests sugar and Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, so what more proof is needed?|
|MenCCV||Meningococcal C conjugate vaccine||Another conjugate vaccine - see above. This is another case where caution is the best approach, as only about twenty people die of this each year and some take more than 24 hours to die.|
|Influenza||Influenza vaccine||Autism caused by the mercury preservative.|
|dT||Adult diphtheria-tetanus vaccine.||Autism caused by the mercury preservative.|
SkeptoBear's World Tour - Day Four (26/3/2005)
If you had only one day to be a tourist in Los Angeles, where would you go? Wrong choice! SkeptoBear and his companions found places to go which cost less and are much more fun and educational. How big was a mammoth? How expensive can a shirt be? How fancy can a restaurant be and still allow someone to ask for a doggy bag? Forget fun rides. Join SkeptoBear's wild ride, and not a movie star's house in sight. Read the next chapter in the saga here.
Should I be frightened? (26/3/2005)
On January 15 this year, Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group, writing in Gutless Anonymous Liar mode, told me that: "there is nothing to stop us.... the payback has started and you will pay......". As yet, nothing has happened and I haven't had to pay anything. Perhaps this threat was impotent. Speaking of which, I wonder if Mr O'Neill has been able to get any treatment for his sexual disfunction, because he told me once that he needed to use a broom handle. I offered to give him the packet of Viagra which I bought as a souvenir in Tijuana. I don't need it.
There have been suggestions that something said in last week's update may have been defamatory of the Australian Vaccination Network. When the President of the AVN recently described me as "total slime", it reminded me that at a seminar conducted by the AVN in October 2002 six speakers took the stage to tell the audience that:
A woman with an autistic son (4) and another son (2) who was not autistic once asked the AVN for advice. She was told about the following services offered by the AVN to anyone who needs them:
It would be difficult to defame an organisation which does such a good job of defaming itself.
See him speak! (26/3/2005)
My good friend Richard Saunders of the Mystery Investigators has a day job as a video producer, and he has put together a DVD containing two talks I have given on the topic of medical quackery. All the tenants on the campus of Northmead Technology Park have joined efforts for this project, with publicity being done through the RatgabsDotCom sites, secure server and credit card processing by Gebesse Computer Consultants, and the Australian Council Against Health Fraud getting all the proceeds.
[The DVD was withdrawn from sale in January 2009]
While I am talking about DVDs, The DVD of James Randi's Amazing Meeting 2 from 2004 is available. As well as my presentation there are also talks by Michael Shermer, Bob Park, Phil Plait, Eugenie Scott, Julia Sweeney and others, plus appearances by Penn & Teller, Banachek, Lance Burton and other magicians.