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November 7, 2009

200C idiocy continues (7/11/2009)
The weather has been miserable this week, but I was cheered up by a legal threat related to last week's unhinged lunatic homeopath. Here is what the threat said:

Dr Charlene Werner

Hi Peter,

I thought I would let you know that you will be contacted by Dr Werner's Attorney shortly. I suggest you delete this video as it is in violation of copyright laws.

Jayson Perreault

I loved the formality of "Hi Peter". Notice how, yet again, quacks cannot respond with facts but instead hide inside the intellectual property cave. (I know, using the word "intellectual" in any context involving the gibbering Dr Werner can look like an oxymoron.) I carefully considered removing the video from YouTube and finally decided that my response would be:


Tim's new love (7/11/2009)
I didn't take long for Tim Bolen, spokeswhore for quackery, to forget his very best friend Hulda Clark and find someone else to follow. Here is a newsflash from his newsletter to "millions of health freedom fighters":

TimmyWill Suzanne Somers New Book on Alternative Cancer Therapies Start the Cancer Revolt?...

October 19th, 2009 – Watch Larry King Friday night, October 23, 2009. He's interviewing Suzanne Somers about her new book "Knockout," which talks about REAL treatments, ones that actually work, for cancer.

This was an obvious opportunity to contact Tim and ask him for clarification, so I sent him the following Kind and Gentle email:

Hello Tim,

I see from your newsletter and web site that you now believe that Suzanne Somers has revealed "REAL treatments, ones that actually work, for cancer". Does this mean that you have finally woken up to the fact that your best friend Hulda Clark didn't really have "The Cure For All Cancers" or does it mean that you are just opportunistically jumping on the next bandwagon to come along? Still, seven weeks was long enough to grieve over Hulda's death before moving on, and with her gone you need another trough to feed at.

I have a couple more questions for you while I have the emailer out.

Was it difficult getting approval from the authorities for the release of toxic waste so that the charred remains of the dead Hulda could be dumped into the ocean?

How is your lawsuit against Google, Webring and Wikipedia going? It's coming up to two years now (708 days, actually) since you told me that I was to be engulfed in the legal tsunami involving these organisations and the quackbuster conspiracy. The head of the RatbagsDotCom legal support team at Farr, Gough and Dye has been nagging me about this because she needs to work on budgeting and staffing for next year.

Guest author (7/11/2009)
It's time to bring in another guest author to take some of the load off me. This week it's Robert Ingersoll and his paper Why I am an Agnostic. Here is an extract:

Robert IngersollThis God must be, if he exists, a person -- a conscious being. Who can imagine an infinite personality? This God must have force, and we cannot conceive of force apart from matter. This God must be material. He must have the means by which he changes force to what we call thought. When he thinks he uses force, force that must be replaced. Yet we are told that he is infinitely wise. If he is, he does not think. Thought is a ladder -- a process by which we reach a conclusion. He who knows all conclusions cannot think. He cannot hope or fear. When knowledge is perfect there can be no passion, no emotion. If God is infinite he does not want. He has all. He who does not want does not act. The infinite must dwell in eternal calm.

It is as impossible to conceive of such a being as to imagine a square triangle, or to think of a circle without a diameter.

Yet we are told that it is our duty to love this God. Can we love the unknown, the inconceivable? Can it be our duty to love anybody? It is our duty to act justly, honestly, but it cannot be our duty to love. We cannot be under obligation to admire a painting -- to be charmed with a poem -- or thrilled with music. Admiration cannot be controlled. Taste and love are not the servants of the will. Love is, and must be free. It rises from the heart like perfume from a flower.

You can read the entire article here.

MindBody$pirit Festival (7/11/2009)
The sacrifices I make for you! This week I took myself off to the Sydney MindBodySpirit Festival, the semiannual celebration of everything woowoo, paranormal and nonsensical.


A lot of the stuff at these fairs pretends to have something to do with spirituality. This is inevitable, given the Newage origins of the event, and all the usual suspects were there – clairvoyants, psychics, astrologers, aura photographers, spirit guide artists, channelers, talkers-to-the-dead, Native American/Australian/Various medicine men (some with gongs and feathers and magic artefacts) and various forms of religion, some of them even recognisable. My favourite religious effort went under the confusing name "Happy Science" and had this news for Christians in their pamphlet:

Who is El Cantare? He is the Supreme God whose name means, The Beautiful Land of Light, Earth. He is the God of Love who is the source of all life and embraces humanity and life on earth.

El Cantare is the Supreme God of the terrestrial spirit group. He is born on earth when a new civilization is to be created, and to lead humanity to happiness.

El Cantare is from the 9th dimensional heavenly realm. His light is too big to enter a human form, so, usually only a portion of his light descends to earth.

El Cantare is the being whom Jesus called, "my father". El Cantare is the God of Love. It was Hermes' teachings of love that guided Jesus on earth.

CitrineWow! Just in case you want to meet the current incarnation of El Cantare, he lives in Japan and goes by the name of Ryuho Okawa.

Of course no festival of Newage spirituality can get too far away from crystals. I bought myself a citrine pendant. As everyone knows, citrine has the following properties:

Apparently it doesn't improve manufacturing quality, because the clasp on the neck thong fell apart as I took it out of the packaging. This is probably not a real problem, however, as the "wealth stone" should mean that I will soon be able to afford to buy a new string.


There are three aspects to body – dressing and presenting the body, feeding the body and healing the body. I have no problem with the first of these and I even bought a wonderfully comfortable shirt made from bamboo fibre. As well as clothes there were people selling jewellery, scented soaps and body lotions and other harmless diversions. Sure, this stuff is all a bit more colourful and esoteric than the range at Target or K-Mart but that is part of the fun of the MBS festival. I go there to get things that are hard to find elsewhere.

Feeding the body is again not much of a problem, provide you ignore the religiosity of some of the vegetarians (no, Jesus was not a vegetarian). The food on offer is usually tasty and relatively healthy, although I had to draw the line at the pumpkin and tofu curry. The number of stands selling foods seemed to be down this year and I certainly missed my usual opportunity to replenish my stocks of fiery chilli sauces, but the herbal teas were refreshing, the popcorn was nice and the Mayan coffee beans could be kept fresh beyond 2012.

The real downside of these festivals is the quack medicine (and I include the "foods" sold through pyramids such as goji and acai berries in this category). This has been reducing over the years but there is still too much of it. There were no homeopaths this time and I only saw a couple of chiropractors, but a proportion of the "spiritual" exhibitors come perilously close to claims of faith healing and there appeared to be an abundance of Asian people waving their hands over prone subjects. Of course the reflexologists, kinesiologists and reiki hand flappers were there, but mercifully absent this time were ear candlers, the clown with the $140 allergy tests and Dr Trademark (whose name I can't mention because she hates publicity). Unfortunately, nobody had an immediate cure for diabetes so I will have to keep up the finger-pricking, restricted diet, exercise and medication for another six months. (Dr Trademark has a book telling how to cure diabetes but as I said, she wasn't there.)


The main mind related issue at any MBS festival is ensuring that your mind is not so open that your brains fall out. The two big woowoo magazines, Nexus and New Dawn, weren't at this show but their absence was balanced by a couple of free weekly magazines of such consummate awfulness that the big names were not really missed. One plus was that the missing Nexus stand was usually the place selling the more absurd quackery and anti-vaccination books and the bookshops that were represented were mainly stocked with Newage drivel where the only health risk is generally brain explosion from nonsense overload. There were NLP practitioners, of course, and many stands offering stress relief to cope with the problems of life (including the Scientologists), but the main effect on the mind from festivals like these is overexposure to nonsense leading to fatigue, desensitisation and eventual brain death. The upside to this outcome is that this would qualify you to work on stands at the MBS festival, particularly those where you have to answer questions such as "What is the science that makes this work?" or "Did Jesus really say that?"


Yes, I know this isn't in the name of the festival, but where else would you put the pyramid scheme promoters, the stands offering tooth whitening, the health insurance company, the stand with the shoes worn by the Masai tribe (yes, really!), etc. It could be that some of the Newage and healing sites fit here because they were at the festival simply to make a dollar from the gullible and the stall owners didn't believe a word of what they were saying, but as I am not a mind reader this can only be a suspicion.


I always enjoy a MindBodySpirit Festival as the fun parts usually manage to outweigh the badness, although I would never oppose a reduction in badness. My favourite stand at this show had to be Happy High Herbs, a stand unashamedly devoted to the promotion of amusing irresponsibility. (One of their products is called "Stop Pot Mix" and is apparently useful for people who want to give up smoking marijuana. Potential for the discussion of the pros and cons of weed with the stall operator was limited as I couldn't do it in front of my daughter and Belinda couldn't do it in front of me.) I bought a packet of Guarana Lime sweets which I could safely assume were suitable for people with diabetes as, by weight, they contained more caffeine and guarana than sugar. The only problem with them is that if you eat more than two you might need surgical intervention to close your eyes. I reserve the right to unfavourite Happy High Herbs if they come to the next MBS with the ear candles and other crap that is mentioned on their web site.

My least favourite stand was a dead heat between the Scientologists and all the pyramid scheme promoters. I don't care what product is being used as a stage prop for the scheme, all multi-level marketing is fraud and the promoters know that.

Of course everyone is asking whether my natural skepticism was influenced by the heavy fog of weirdness and woowoo. Two incidents suggest that it was not. The first was that the very first words said to me by the hippie on the Happy High Herbs stand was "There's some weird shit around here". I don't know how he identified me as someone who thought that the venue contained weirdness, but perhaps my aura was looking a bit tattered. The second was when a lady in a very woowooish bookshop asked me to select a card from the fan in her hand to determine my fortune. The card appears below and I offer it without further comment.

My fortune

Weekly homeopathetic whackiness (14/11/2009)
It Waterseems that each week brings a new example of the insanity of homeopathy. Here is the complete text of some instructions on how to use a homeopathic "remedy", written by someone who not only practises the fraud but teaches it as well. The writer is a native English speaker but appears here to be writing in a foreign language. Perhaps it makes sense to a homeopath.

Administering Homeopathic Remedies
Administering Remedies

put your dry pillule, tablet, in water to administer – see below

Best not to take them dry. The VF does better if you put them in water and then raise the potency a little each time. The VF doesn't do as well with the same potency over and over and that is the way you would do it if you used them dry


MISC: Administering Remedies

PRINT this out and keep handy with your remedies.

Administering Remedies

Generally I suggest you use 30C if you have not completed the course with me

30c for minor acute and first aid – do NOT use for recurring things that seem acute but are part of a chronic state or for anything else chronic

Do not treat for chronic or recurring things on your own or with 30C.

DO NOT go by what is on the bottle (heaven only knows why fda or whatever makes them say that stuff)

A. You can give just a dry pillule, but it appears to work better to give in water (aqueous solution) and be able to succuss it between doses – but in a pinch, give as dry. (for an infant crush if possible or just put in a little water in a cup and let melt and then give.)

B. BEST to give as an aqueous solution – one pillule in water

  1. Put ONE pillule or tablet in 6 oz of water (use purified, filtered water if possible) in a water bottle used only for this
  2. Let dissolve or sit for at least 5 minutes (the remedy coats the pillule which is sucrose or the tablet which is lactose)
  3. Shake just a little
  4. Take one teaspoon out of water bottle and give to the person. Have person hold in their mouth for a few seconds if possible.

    Wait. Use a plastic spoon (if you use a metal spoon boil it in water for 5 minutes before it is washed and used for other things)
  5. You basically give 1 dose of 1 remedy and wait........
  6. If improvement, don't give anymore
  7. If improvement and then same symptoms come back – give another dose of same
  8.  to give another dose, take the water bottle you have and succuss it – this is strong downward thrusts from about 2 feet up – like a judge hitting a gavel do this 10 times on a book or something (you are succussing to slight raise the potency of what you have started with – it seems that the VF does better with a little higher potency each time, than the same potency
  9.  give another teaspoon out of this
  10.  if using a cup and not a water bottle – better to use water bottle though – stir briskly 10 times and give one teaspon
  11.  If improvement and new symptoms that are really a problem and body can't deal with itself – research and find what the new remedy should be (will sometimes use one remedy and shift things and then need a different to finish up)
  12. If no improvement on one dose of 30c in water, repeat it in 20-30 minutes; can do this 2 or 3 times with 200C or 30C if no improvement after that probably wrong remedy

    Improvement you may see first is in mental/emotional symptoms, or sleep, or general well being, or thirst or appetite – then the physical symptoms may improve later If you are using 6X or something, may have to repeat oftener than a 30 C asthe energy 'gets used up' in a way.
  13. If you get near the end of the bottle, keep at least one teaspoon in there and add 6 ozs more of water to keep it going, as you have been raising the potency each time and don't want to start over. Mostly you will never get to this point as you will only be repeating 3 or 4 times. Don't need to refrigerate unless keeping overnight and usually this will not be the case.
  14. Throw all away at the end.

I am tempted to suggest that all of the steps up to 6 could be discarded and Step 7 modified to read "Throw all away at the beginning", but that would be churlish of me so I will make some constructive comments. The first is that Step 6 reminds me of this for some reason:

See more cartoons by Prasad Golla at the North Texas Skeptics site.

PillulesThe other point refers to "pillules". To non-homeopaths these appear identical to those tiny balls of sugar (called "hundreds and thousands" or "non-pareils", depending on where you live) that you find on the tops of cakes at children's parties. In fact, that is exactly what they are, and I know this because I was sent a bottle of them once by a homeopath so that I could demonstrate to myself the efficacy of the magic. (You can see the result here.)

People sometimes tell me that alternative medicine practitioners are well-intentioned folk who just want to help others. I found some of these pillules in a (sadly, real) pharmacy with suggestions that they could be used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. They were selling for $12.95 for a bottle of 125 pillules, or just over 10 cents per sugar ball. About five minutes with Google gave me a catering wholesaler who will sell me 8 pounds of the pillules for $US20 (plus delivery). Now tell me that the people selling these things aren't aware of the fraud that they are committing.

Blogging onwards (14/11/2009)
Yahoo! 7The latest edition of my Yahoo!7 blog is about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. For some reason or other the proponents of magical thinking preferred to respond by attacking me in the Usenet newsgroup rather than by making comments on the Yahoo!7 site. They did this once before, so perhaps they still think I own Yahoo! (yes, someone did actually say that he would not click on a link I provided to Yahoo! because he didn't go to sites owned by pharmanuts).

Anti-vaxxer misrepresents the truth. So what's new? (14/11/2009)
I was wrong about something! There, I've said it. Her Majesty told me that there was a letter by not-a-medical-Dr Viera Scheibner in the local paper and I said that there would be five lies in it. I was very wrong, because there were more than five. For those who might not have met Dr Scheibner, she is not a medical doctor although people reading a letter from her in the paper might come to this misapprehension when she uses the honorific "Dr" while commenting on medical matters. Her doctorate is in micropaleontology, and while tiny fossils are very interesting things, knowledge of them doesn't qualify someone to claim that vaccines cause SIDS or Shaken Baby Syndrome. Dr Scheibner was the very first winner of a Millenium Anus Maximus Award, and you can see some more about her here.

Scheibner in the paper   Scheibner in the paper

I need to assemble some facts before I write to the paper in response, so I have sent the following email to the editor of Australian Doctor. With luck, I will have an update to this story next week.

In a letter to my local paper anti-vaccination campaigner not-a-medical-Dr Viera Scheibner made the following claim:

"An online poll on Australian Doctor website (September 4, 2009) disclosed that 46 percent of GPs will not take the swine flu vaccine themselves, 25 percent were unsure and only 29 percent agreed to get it, the reasons given being prior exposure to the virus, concerns about side effects, and the use of multi-dose vials".

I'm preparing a response to the letter and I would like to confirm what not-a-medical-Dr Scheibner said. There are several other "inaccuracies" in the letter and I would like to establish whether her reporting of the Australian Doctor poll is more accurate that some of her citings that I have seen in the past.

Thank you.

Tough week at the Australian Vaccination Network (14/11/2009)
Everyone at AVN has been busy this week, misrepresenting government statements, repeating old lies about the Vatican and vaccines and annoying charity workers and advertisers.

First, remember how AVN had been reported to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. The official line from AVN, as expressed on their Wikipedia page (before edits were closed off):

The commission agreed to look into the complaint, but a spokesperson admitted that they "did not have power to shut down or gag the Australian Vaccination Network."

He left open the possibility of pursing action against individual members of the AVN or making a public statement against the group's activities. As of November 2009, no official action had been taken.

Here is what the HCCC actually said (you can see the full letter here):

Following preliminary gathering of information, on 23 September 2009, the Commission, has determined that your complaint should be investigated as it raises significant questions of public health and safety.

The purpose of the investigation is to obtain further information in order to determine, what, if any, further action is required. The possible outcomes of an investigation into a health service could include making comments and / or recommendations to the Australian Vaccination Network or terminating the investigation with no further action.

Given that Ms Dorey is not a registered health practitioner, in accordance with section 39 of the Health Care Complaints Act, 1993 (the Act), at the conclusion of the Commission's investigation, the possible outcomes of this investigation are:

  • making comments to Ms Dorey;
  • taking action under section 41 A of the Act;
  • referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions;
  • or terminating the investigation.

The Commission is currently seeking information. You will be advised of progress with the investigation and you may also be contacted to provide further information if it is required.

Next, that old lie about how the Vatican had ruled that Catholics shouldn't vaccinate their children because of the aborted foetuses in vaccines was rolled out again. You can see where I pointed out the truth in 2005 here. I posted a correction on the AVN blog, but I very much doubt that it will ever pass moderation and be released so that sensible people can read it.

AVN forum

According to the Internet Archive, the web page at has contained the following words since at least February 2007:

As a volunteer run charity organisation the AVN relies on the support of others. No matter how small the contribution it all adds up to help keep us in operation.

What your donation will go towards-

  • Lobbying Federal Parliment (sic) for changes to legislation, taking away the need for parents to see doctors in order to register as conscientious objectors to vaccination.
  • Ability to offer our services and our magazine in the Bounty Bag which is given to every woman who births in hospital.

New mother Bounty BagYes, the misspelling of "Parliament" has been there since 2007, but that is not the real problem. First, as AVN's public accounts show salaries, wages and consultants' fees it is stretching things a bit to say that it is "a volunteer run charity organisation", not to mention the fact that for a large part of the last two years AVN has been operating without the benefit of registration as a charitable organisation.

The second thing is the soliciting of donations for the purpose of "offer[ing] our services and our magazine in the Bounty Bag". Remember that this has been on the AVN site since the start of 2007. The people who run the Bounty Bag program have never heard of the Australian Vaccination Network and have stated categorically that they would in no circumstances allow anti-vaccination literature to be included in the bags. So where have those donations been going?

Baby BeehindsThe next people to be alienated were the folks at Baby BeeHinds, who distribute those things our mothers told us about – recyclable, washable nappies (or even diapers, for you non-Australians). They had been encouraged to advertise in the AVN's magazine which is called Living Wisdom this week (the name changes frequently for no apparent reason). There was no mention in the media kit or advertising rate card of the AVN's anti-vaccination activities and the people at Baby BeeHind were appalled when they found out that their name had been associated with activities that they wonderfully described as "deranged".

So let's sum up the week. AVN misreported the progress of the HCCC inquiry, repeated something that they had been told was a lie in 2005, used the name of Bounty Bags to solicit donations which never reached the intended target and annoyed an advertiser by hiding the truth. All in all, a very good week.

And speaking of hiding the truth, AVN is very shy about who can and can't communicate with them. I have been told that someone who is a member of their Yahoo! mailing list was refused permission to join the AVN Facebook page. He had only been using Facebook for a couple, of weeks and the reason given for blocking his access to the group was that his Facebook profile didn't show enough friends. In a beautiful confluence of irony and hypocrisy, the person who refused his permission has a completely private Facebook profile and reveals nothing except her name (and maybe not even that is real).

Irony Meter

November 14, 2009

Dogged determination (14/11/2009)
Like all good atheist canines, Cody The Religion Hating Dog has his own Facebook page. Here is something he asked me to share with you.


A bit of fun (14/11/2009)

Which religion?

November 21, 2009

First up, an apology (21/11/2009)
I probably won't be doing an update to this site next week because I will be at the Australian Skeptics convention in Brisbane. I have found from long experience that even with the bestest of intentions the socialising and networking at these events takes up all available spare time. plus some more.

Australian Skeptics 2009 Convention

I was originally going to be a speaker at the convention, but I have been bumped to a reserve by someone promoting his book with the latest fad diet advice based on the danger of a single chemical compound. His particular bête noire is fructose. I found it interesting that a book with the same name, Sweet Poison, was published ten years earlier warning of the terrible dangers of aspartame. Perhaps there will be a third book with the same name but by a different author coming out in 2018 telling everyone about how the sweetener stevia causes everything from dandruff to dysmenorrhoea to dissociative disorder.

Another thing I found interesting was a comparison with Bob Park's seven signs of pseudoscience.

I haven't finished reading the book yet so perhaps signs number 3 and 7 aren't there, but the other five certainly are. I look forward to the question session after this talk when I might have to ask some probing questions.

As a reserve speaker I might still make it onto the stage if one of the other scheduled speakers doesn't turn up. The talk I am preparing is about how misapprehension of relative risks drives much of the pseudoscientific nonsense that skeptics have to work against, and I will be adding something about how fad diets are generally based on manufactured or exaggerated risk of serious illness if the suggestions of the diet guru are ignored.

Speaking of tortured statistics … (21/11/2009)
A believer in homeopathy informed me that a scientific paper had conclusively proved that water has a memory and therefore homeopathy must work as claimed because skeptics can no longer deny scientific plausibility. Here are some graphs from the paper which apparently show very strong correlations between certain measurements.

Scatter plots

I invite anyone who has ever taught or studied introductory statistics to explain to me how these scatter plots support the claims of strong correlation. (Just look at those p values!) Write on one side of the email only and pay particular attention to explaining the number of points lying outside the 95% confidence range. You can see the paper here.

This is science, folks.


What were they thinking? (21/11/2009)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have a blog. Perhaps someone should have thought of a better name.

PETA Files

Weekly dose of anti-vax idiocy (21/11/2009)
In marketing there is the concept of "brand extension" where a well-known brand identity is expanded and used on a range of products. Sometimes this can be varieties of the original product (the various different types of Coca Cola) or related products (toothpaste makers selling toothbrushes. insurance companies going into mortgage broking or banking). Sometimes the link can be quite tenuous where it is assumed that the cachet of the brand name is all that is important (Porsche sunglasses, anyone?).

AIDS DayIt looks like some brand extension is going on at the Australian Vaccination Network and they have now branched out into AIDS denial. Their Internet email list this week has been carrying a conversation with the usual idiocies – there is no such thing as HIV and even if there were, it wouldn't cause AIDS. This is inconsistent with claims on the AVN web site that vaccines can activate HIV to cause AIDS and that the MMR vaccine is being used in Africa to spread AIDS as a form of genocide, but nobody ever said that mad people have to make sense.

I felt that this justified a Kind and Gentle email, but this time it was merely copied to the President of the AVN rather than being sent directly. The principle addressee of the email was the AIDS Council of New South Wales:

Something that might interest the AIDS Council -

It seems that another organisation has climbed on the AIDS denial bandwagon.

The Australian Vaccination Network is apparently no longer content with spreading misinformation about vaccines and now appears to be spreading the standard lies about HIV and AIDS. All the usual stuff is there – there is no such thing as HIV and even if there were it couldn't cause AIDS, homeopathy and other forms of quackery are effective treatments (for something they say doesn't exist, but who ever accused them of consistency or logical thinking?), and so on.

Not content with containing this idiocy to private conversations on their internet mailing list, the president of AVN, Meryl Dorey, is publicly listed along with such people as Peter Duesberg and Matthias Rath as signatories to a statement denying the reality of HIV and AIDS. (A link check in early 2019 couldn't find the list from that date, and as it was generated in real time from a database the Internet Archive couldn't grab a copy. Ms Dorey isn't listed with the current group of AIDS liars. You will just have to believe me. PB 22/1/2019)

There is also a claim on the AVN web site that certain vaccines can cause AIDS ( – Item 3). Bizarrely, they claim in the same article that a vaccine can "switch on the HIV virus and cause it to become AIDS in humans". But I thought that there was no connection ... (I did mention their lack of consistency and logic.)

The AVN has a reasonably high media profile and are often consulted on news stories related to vaccination. It disturbs me to think that they might be given credence in the spurious "debate" about HIV and AIDS. They put enough people's lives at risk with their irrational scare stories about vaccines without also becoming a voice for AIDS denial.

AVN is currently under investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission for offering medical advice as part of their anti-vaccination activities. It seems that such advice has now extended to denying the reality of AIDS, just as they deny the seriousness of diseases such as measles, pertussis and polio.

As I commented after attending an AVN seminar where the claim was made that there is a deliberate policy by the World Health Organisation and others to spread AIDS in Africa through the medium of the MMR vaccine, there is madness about and it is manifested greatly in the anti-vaccination movement. Please do whatever you can to limit their attempt to spread the infection of their unscientific and dangerous ideas.

Thank you.

The new physics (21/11/2009)
Scientists at the Ratbags High Energy Physics Laboratory have postulated the existence of a new subatomic particle. It has four times the mass of the neutron and can replace the neutron in the nucleus of atoms, making the elements (and compounds of those elements) much denser. The Ratbags physicists have booked time on the Large Hadron Collider (whenever it gets working again after the bird sabotage) to test the theory, which requires colliding streams of protons and electrons at 98.6% of the speed of light.

We all know that one of the fundamental constants of our universe is the number e, which is approximately 2.718281828459045235360287471352662497757247093699959574966. It was the irrational nature of e that provided the first clue to the possible existence of the moron, the postulated neutron replacement particle. According to the hypothesis, four protons can combine with 2e electrons creating the extremely short-lived Schipp's Boson which immediately decays into a stable moron by emitting an electron and an extremely energetic photon of blinding stupid. This electron/photon pair will replace J. J. Thompson's definition to become the standard concept of delta radiation, which is particularly appropriate given that objects and persons containing a measurable proportion of moron particles exhibit significant measurement on the scale of dumbth.

There is evidence that the reaction can happen at the temperature inside a human body, as shown by the fact that there are people exhibiting moron properties while simultaneously radiating stupid, but if science learnt anything from the cold fusion fiasco it was to wait until the basic science was in place before calling the press conference.

If this hypothesis is supported it is obvious Nobel Prize material. If it turns out not to work we are planning to license the concept to Dan Brown for his next book.

That terrible swine flu vaccine (21/11/2009)
This is my full response to Dr Viera Scheibner's letter to my local paper, as mentioned last week. It will be sent off shortly with a covering letter giving some of the background of my long battle with the anti-vaccinators. I suspect that it will be too long for the letters page, but maybe I will get a feature article. I can only hope.

Worrying issues
Swine flu vaccine in hands of GPs (7.10.09).

An online poll on Australian Doctor web-site (September 4. 1009:1) disclosed that 46 per cent of GPs will not take the swine flu vaccine themselves, 25 per cent were unsure and only 29 per cent agreed to get it, the reasons given being prior exposure to the virus, concerns about side effects, and the use of multidose vials.

There are about 24,000 general practitioners in Australia. At the time the poll results were published in Australian Doctor there had been 222 responses to the online poll (the number increased slightly before voting was stopped). There was no way of restricting the poll so that only doctors voted and I can think of several ways that people could vote more than once (this wouldn't matter as much if there had been thousands of votes). Here is the poll as it appeared:

Australian Doctor poll

Respondents were not asked to give their reasons for how they voted, and the reasons suggested by Dr Scheibner appeared elsewhere in the Australian Doctor article and did not relate to this poll.

The results mirror polls of UK GPs which found as many as 60 per cent would refuse to be vaccinated, with some feeling that the vaccine trials had been rushed.

Apart from anti-vaccination web sites, the only references to polling GPs in the UK I could find were to a poll in Pulse magazine which suggested 49% of GPs might not get vaccinated (I have no way of establishing the validity of the poll) and a poll in GP Magazine in which 29% of respondents said they would definitely opt out. I'm not sure how you can honestly use the expression "as many as 60 percent" when referring to either 49% or 29%. Also, the wide range of results would cause a statistician to be quite suspicious of the findings.

The vaccine should just stay in GPs hands and not end up being injected in their patients, while the GPs would not get it themselves. Indeed, GPs should advise their patients not to get it;

Come on Dr Scheibner, why don't you just come right out and say that the vaccine should not be used in any circumstances?

the US swine flu vaccination debacle in 1976 resulted in a great number of deaths and Guillain-Barre ascending paralysis and other serious reactions, and cost the US Government some six billion dollars in compensation.

It is 33 years since 1976 and the vaccine proposed in 2009 is nothing like the one used back then. There were twenty-five deaths from Guillain-Barre in 1976 attributed to the vaccine. The rate of occurrence of GBS was about 1 in 100,000 people vaccinated and the vaccination program was stopped as soon as the problem was identified. I have no idea where Dr Scheibner got the figure of "some six billion dollars" from but I suspect that its source is, like much of the information coming from anti-vaccination campaigners, either myth or thin air.

The biggest medical insurance company in Ireland advised doctors not to administer the swine flu vaccine with so many unanswered question marks about its lack of safety and ineffectiveness.

I can find no reference on the web to any Irish insurance company giving any such advice. In fact, the only references I could find relating to swine flu and Ireland showed overwhelming support for vaccination. Perhaps Dr Scheibner should provide actual names of companies when she is making such claims.

The disease (whatever it is) is mild and eminently treatable with sufficiently large doses of sodium ascorbate and the benefit of acquiring natural immunity.

The disease is a form of influenza caused by a new strain of the H1N1 virus. There you are Dr Scheibner, now you know what it is. I am sure that the relatives and friends of the several thousand people who have been killed by it would dispute the claim that it is "mild". The idea that it can be treated with Vitamin C is absurd and irresponsible.

Tamiflu and other antivirals even according to their product information (MIMS Annual) carry the risk of many serious side effects, including death.

I don't know why Dr Scheibner feels the need to mention Tamiflu here as it is an antiviral treatment for the flu, not a vaccine. In fact, vaccination will reduce the need for medications such as Tamiflu.

But let's look at some facts about Tamiflu. I'm not about to pay $330 for a look at MIMS, so I found a place that uses MIMS data as a source. The web site lists the following side effects of Tamiflu:

Common side effects are those that occur in more than 1% of patients given Tamiflu. These include:
Abdominal pain
Upper respiratory tract infections
Uncommon side effects of Tamiflu:
Side effects that occur in less than 1% of patients given Tamiflu are considered rare. Patients do not necessarily experience any of these side effects, so do not become alarmed by this list:
Allergic reactions
Neuropsychiatric symptoms, mainly occurring in children (e.g. abnormal behaviour, hallucinations, delirium)
Raised liver enzymes
Aggravation of asthma
Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
Tympanic membrane (eardrum) disorders
Bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract
Very rare side effects associated with Tamiflu use include:
Stevens-Johnson syndrome
Erythema multiforme
Toxic epidermal necrolysis

Pretty scary, but remember that anything reported during clinical trials can be listed as a possible adverse reaction. What is missing from the list is death. Another source of data is the documentation filed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration by the manufacturer Roche which describes the clinical testing and after market surveillance of Tamiflu. Again, no deaths are reported.

I realise that there was an attempt once by Australian anti-vaccination campaigners to have all deaths in Australia notified as possible adverse vaccine reactions if the person dying had ever been vaccinated for anything at any time in the past. Thankfully, this idiocy was ignored by the authorities, but perhaps the suggestion that deaths can be attributed to Tamiflu is a subtle way of reviving the campaign.

I refer the BM Gazette's readers to a great number of Rapid Responses in British Medical Journal (; 339: b2879 October 16, 2009 is a good start) on the many worrying issues surrounding the swine flu vaccination project.

Dr Scheibner is somewhat notorious for the quality of her citations and references, and this is no exception. Firstly, the referenced paper was in the BMJ on July 15, not October 16. Its title was "GPs will lead UK's swine flu vaccination campaign" (which is strange if "as many as 60 percent" reject it, but I will let that one pass). There were four Rapid Responses, which is hardly a "great number", and of those, two were not about the vaccine but were about the use of ibuprofen to treat fever. Of the other two, one said very little and the other came from someone who runs an anti-vaccination web site that still perpetuates the lie that vaccines cause autism (and offers cures for autism, of course). These are hardly a "good start" and the only "worrying issues" addressed are those spouted by innumerable anti-vaccination campaigners and web sites.

Dr Viera Scheibner PhD

It is not the usual etiquette to put "Dr" in front of a name and "PhD" behind. The convention is to use the form "Dr Scheibner" when introducing someone or referring to them (as I have throughout this piece) and "Viera Scheibner PhD" in a signature or when the actual qualifications are relevant (as in formal publications). In our society, "Dr" in front of a name in print is assumed to mean medical doctor. Dr Scheibner has a PhD in micropaleontology, and while she might know a lot about very small fossils this does not qualify her to give medical advice.

Which reminds me ... (21/11/2009)
Here's something from the past which just popped into my head for some reason.

Speaking of references and citations ... (22/9/2007)
I have had long experience with the opponents of real medicine and I am always suspicious when they start citing the medical literature. Almost universally, the citations fall into one or more of the following categories:

The intention is to impress people who might not have scientific training, and even if they did, might not be able to locate the cited research. Put another way, the intention is to deceive.

Emails of the week (21/11/2009)
This came in to the inbox of my employer, a computer consultancy company. I am mystified.

Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2009 13:06:45 +0000
From: "Mr. David Perkins"


I want to make a reservation in your facility for Six (6) newly ordained priest from Greece they will be visiting your country for a seven (7) days religious program in the month of February 2010.

Arrival Date : 7th February.2010
Departure Date:14th February.2010
Number of guest:6
Number of rooms:3

Kindly confirm availability and get back to me with the cost, so that we can pay a deposit for the rooms to be reserved for them, am waiting for your swift response.

Mr David Perkins

And how could I be so careless?

From: Gayla Groom
Subject: two n's
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2009 16:35:58 -0600

just so's you know -- millennium has 2 "n"s.

Ummm, yes I do know that. It is even mentioned on the front page of the site, just below the masthead at the top of the page.


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