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December 5, 2009

Backness, briefness and brevity (5/12/2009)
I'm back from the wilds of Brisbane. I even endured a fourteen hour train trip without developing the dread deep vein thrombosis so feared by airline passengers. I was a little disappointed that my overnight train trip was nothing like what I had come to expect from reading Agatha Christie novels, as there wasn't a single murder or exposure of an international spy ring. There may have been some illicit sexual liaisons but they weren't happening near me. I'm now catching up on all the things that didn't get done while I was away (and I have also been celebrating my daughter's 21st birthday) so this week's update is a short one.

I will have more to say about the conference next week but for the time being I would like to congratulate David and Toni McCaffrey for winning the inaugural Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason. The McCaffreys lost their daughter to whooping cough earlier this year and have turned this tragedy to some good use by promoting the need for vaccination. Needless to say these fine people were attacked by anti-vaccination liars when they first went public, but that just raised my esteem for them.

One reason I want to wait to provide a full report is that another winner was Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network who won the annual Bent Spoon Award for the promotion of preposterous pseudoscientific piffle. Ms Dorey has responded with media releases, letters to newspapers and radio interviews which indicated that she didn't get the point of the award and thinks that people calling her a fool are actually supporting her. I need some time to analyse and respond to all her ludicrous responses to the award.

See more XKCD here
And, yes, this is cartoon number 666. Explain that, skeptics.

Are you smarter than an anti-vaxxer? (5/12/2009)
The claims made by anti-vaccination liars are often farcical, but as they are intended to frighten people away from vaccination the truth or even plausibility of the claims is irrelevant. Last month I mentioned that the old lie about the Vatican's concern about aborted foetuses in vaccines was being recycled, despite the story tellers knowing that it is false. I have now come across a similar case where suggestions are being made that an outside organisation might like to join the fight against vaccines.

In this case the organisation is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the reason that PETA would be interested is that female cocker spaniels are being used as vaccine ingredients. Imagine the terror in those big brown eyes as these lovely flop-eared puppies are thrown into the mincers at the vaccine factories, sacrificing their lives so that the children of the world can experience more autism, SIDS and Shaken Baby Syndrome. It's dreadful to contemplate, or it would be if it were true.

You might wonder how many cuddly puppies it would take to make all those vaccines, and it turns out that the number is one, and that dog died in 1958. Yes, folks, yet again we have anti-vaccination liars being either too stupid or too mendacious to admit that a cell line descended from cells taken from the kidney of a female cocker spaniel in 1958 is not a dog. I know that the supposed scientists who oppose vaccines know the truth, but lying is what they do for a living.

Here is an aptitude test for employment. One of the pictures below shows a dog. If you can't tell which picture that is you should immediately send off your CV to the nearest anti-vaccination liar organisation and offer to manage their media relations.

Is this a dog?   Is this a dog?

[For the technically-minded, you can go here for a useful description of the history of the Madin-Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cell line.]

Misplaced marketing (5/12/2009)
I don't talk about my real life business here on The Millenium Project because this is my hobby and has nothing to do with what I do for a living, except vicariously in that in my day job I do web work and search engine optimisation. I will mention here, however, that much of my time is spent with software for customer relationship management, where I configure databases which allow my clients to keep in touch with their customers. I also teach people how to use the database software and, of course, I use it in my own business.

Given what I do with The Millenium Project and what I do at work, I was rather surprised to receive the following unsolicited marketing email:

Church Tracer

Of course I now have a new idea for a potential market for my software and services. Their money is as good as anyone's.

No, thanks. I don't need any censorship. (5/12/2009)
In October 2007 I wrote about the free software that was being supplied by the then Australian Federal Government to enable people to filter the filth out of the Internet. I expressed some displeasure with it as it seemed to want to filter far too much, including most of this site. Apparently I must have registered the software at the time, because I have now received a polite statement saying that there might be some future payment if I want to continue using it. As I have neither the need nor the desire to filter my Internet feed and the software was broken to the point of uselessness, I feel that even when it was free it was overpriced so I think I will save my money and spend it on something that will provide at least a modicum of value for money.


The moving finger writes ... (5/12/2009)
It'sYahoo! 7 writing time again. The fun continues at the Yahoo!7 News blog, where the latest entry generated some of the same old clichés we have been hearing for many years from creationists. You can read the article here and see the readers' reactions. As with the anti-vaccinators, I wish the creationists could come up with some new arguments. I know that we are all supposed to recycle as much as possible to save the fragile environment but dealing with these people is like picking up after someone who always drops the same piece of litter. Just for once, couldn't they drop a Coke can instead of a Pepsi one or a newspaper instead of a Big Mac wrapper?

I didn't get to speak at the 2009 Australian Skeptics conference so I have done some recycling of my own. I made an apron of fig leaves to cover my nakedness and the next Naked Skeptic column in Australasian Science magazine will be a truncated version of my intended conference presentation. It's about the lack of logic in the way people react to risk and you can get a sneak preview here.

HONcode (5/12/2009)
The Health On the Net Foundation operates a system of certification of web sites based on the quality of the medical information they contain. This site is certified, and it is not simply a matter of filling in a form and asking for certification. I had to make some of my statements about funding, advertising and medical qualifications more clear before I was able to get certification, and sites are checked each year by the HONcode people before certification is renewed.

I was rather surprised, then, to see some anti-vaccination liars gloating about a site called Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center getting its HONcode certification. This news generated an immediate Kind and Gentle email from me to HONcode. I will report the results as soon as I hear something.

From: "Peter Bowditch"
Date: Sun, 06 Dec 2009 15:38:56 +1100
Subject: Anti-vaccination web site gains HONcode accreditation

Various anti-vaccination campaigners have been gloating that the web site "Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center" at has become HONcode certified.

> Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center
> Your personal HONcode ID number is: HONConduct385376

As this site exists solely to oppose vaccination and to both deny the effectiveness and safety of vaccines and to spread fear and lies about vaccines I feel that it is not an appropriate holder of HONcode certification. I notice that the site is not displaying the HONcode logo on its front page, so perhaps they feel that talking about it is all that is necessary.

I proudly display the HONcode logo on two of my sites and I do not like the idea that the logo and HONcode should be tainted by being associated with a site devoted to opposing one of the greatest life-saving medical advances of the last two centuries.

Please revoke the HONcode certification for Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center.

Thank you.

December 12, 2009

The AVN's Bent Spoon (12/12/2009)
Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network was the 2009 winner of Australian Skeptics' Bent Spoon Award, given for the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle observed during the year. This is not the sort of award that most people would be proud to receive. Ms Dorey, however, completely missed the point and issued the following media release. My comments are interspersed in italics.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009 – For Immediate Release:

Meryl Dorey, President of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), Australia's vaccine safety watchdog, is very proud to have won the Australian Skeptics' bent spoon award for 2009. She joins such prestigious former winners as Dr Kerryn Phelps (2008), former head of the Australian Medical Association, every pharmacist in Australia (2006) who won because they chose to offer their customers the option to purchase vitamins, minerals and other nutritional supplements in store, journalist, Mike Willesee (1999) and vaccine safety researcher, Dr Viera Scheibner (1997).

Dr Phelps was not head of the AMA when she won the Bent Spoon, but had retired to a life selling "medications" that violate all the science she learnt as a doctor; the pharmacists won for a similar reason, as they continue to stock and sell such nonsense as homeopathy which their training must tell them is fraudulent (not "because they chose to offer their customers the option to purchase vitamins, minerals and other nutritional supplements"); Mike Willesee was a respected journalist (and previous winner of Skeptic of the Year!) who found religion and consequently forgot what "evidence" meant. Dr Scheibner won for the same reason that Ms Dorey did – promoting dangerous pseudoscience which puts the lives of children at risk.

In subsequent comments to radio and newspapers, Ms Dorey added the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to the list of previous winners. Australian Skeptics has had a long standing friendship and respect for the ABC, but occasionally they fall from grace by transmitting programs which are below their normal high standard. They won their awards for programs sympathetic to psychic "detectives" and medical quackery which stood out just because of the quality of the programs around them.

Ms Dorey took the prize despite some formidable competition from the likes of News Limited, Senator Stephen Fielding, philosophy and bioethics writer Peter Singer and the University of QLD, all of whom were also nominated.

Lots of people get nominated for lots of different reasons and Australian Skeptics accept all nominations that come in through their web site. Tim Flannery and Ian Plimer were both nominated for their positions on climate change but they are at opposite ends of the spectrum on the issue. Australian Skeptics was also nominated, and I am surprised that Ms Dorey doesn't mention this in her list of people she would like to be aligned with.

"I am very grateful for the recognition of an organisation such as the Skeptics." says Ms Dorey. "It will inspire me to try even harder to continue promoting the message of free, informed and scientifically-based health choice."

Ms Dorey would have to start "promoting the message of free, informed and scientifically-based health choice" before she could continue doing it.

For those who have never heard of it, the Australian Skeptics is an organisation whose religious belief is that anything Western medicine approves of is always right and anyone who questions the safety or efficacy of drugs, vaccines, or surgery is always wrong.

As science always questions everything, Ms Dorey is displaying her ignorance of what science is. Australian Skeptics can speak for themselves, but nobody that I have ever met in the decade I have been involved with them has ever said that all "Western" medicine is right or that questioning science is wrong. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard anybody ever use the ridiculous term "Western medicine" unless telling a joke or pointing out the idiocy of the expression. Ms Dorey might like to consider that homeopathy originated in Germany and chiropractic in the USA, and both must therefore qualify as "Western" medicine.

They hide behind terms such as pseudo-science despite being offered copious quantities of peer-reviewed research to show that not every medical procedure is safe – not every drug or vaccine is effective.

Nobody has ever claimed absolute safety for every medical procedure or absolute efficacy for every drug or vaccine. Science does not deal in absolutes. Ms Dorey is employing the logical fallacy called "Straw Man" here, but when you don't have the science logical fallacies make a useful fallback position (and when they don't work there is always abuse and vilification). By the way, when Ms Dorey and her ilk are referred to the tens of thousands of scientific papers dealing with vaccine safety and efficacy they employ another logical fallacy, non sequitur, to change the subject back to their denial of such evidence.

Much like the medieval church, their main tactics are to ridicule and try to silence anyone who speaks out against their blind beliefs.

As Ms Dorey is so against silencing contrary views I must wonder when I can expect to be allowed to join the AVN's mailing list and Facebook groups, to have my comments published on AVN Internet forums and to be able to follow her on Twitter. I can't do any of these things now.

"I could almost wish that an honourary membership to the Skeptics came along with the award. But then again, I don't feel that I have the necessary unquestioning, single-minded zealotry such membership requires." Ms Dorey concluded.

I will suggest to the committee of Australian Skeptics Inc that they add Ms Dorey to the magazine subscribers' free list. In radio and press interviews Ms Dorey also complained that nobody would actually present the trophy to her. It is a perpetual trophy so no winner ever gets to keep it, but I offered on the night of the award presentation to take it to her, so the next time she is in Sydney I will be happy to have a photograph session with her and the trophy.

Ms Dorey is now trying to claim that her media release was disguised sarcasm, and the following email exchange took place in forums that I am prohibited from participating in.

From: Sheri Nakken
Subject: Meyrl on ratbags front page

Meryl, I guess you fooled him – he didn't understand your sacrasm, I guess, did he

Meryl, director of AVN in Australia just won one of their awards – The Bent Spoon Award.................
"One reason I want to wait to provide a full report is that another winner was Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network who won the annual Bent Spoon Award for the promotion of preposterous pseudoscientific piffle. Ms Dorey has responded with media releases, letters to newspapers and radio interviews which indicated that she didn't get the point of the award and thinks that people calling her a fool are actually supporting her. I need some time to analyse and respond to all her ludicrous responses to the award. "

He didn't understand her sacrasm, I guess, did he

From: Meryl Dorey

Well, this is just my opinion, but I don't necessarily feel that he is the sharpest stick in the woodpile :-) I mean, anyone who calls himself a ratbag must not be very familiar with irony or sarcasm...

Perhaps next time I put out a release like this, I should put in a translation for the skeptics and those who are just a wee bit slow on the uptake... do you think? :-)

Notice how Ms Dorey says that I am not "the sharpest stick in the woodpile" and "a wee bit slow on the uptake" and says them somewhere where she forbids me to be able to respond? What was that she was saying about "their main tactics are to ridicule and try to silence anyone"? When can I join the AVN mailing list, Ms Dorey? Oh, and by the way, I have never called myself a ratbag and I simply don't believe that a media release is ever supposed to be sarcasm (or even sacrasm, as Ms Nakken said twice).

Ms Dorey might be somewhat hypocritical in the way that she implements "free speech" in places she controls, but nothing stops her exploiting the freedoms granted by others. The event that triggered media scrutiny of the AVN this year was the death from whooping cough of a baby. Ms Dorey posted a version of her "sarcastic" media release to a Facebook group set up as a memorial to the child. While other group members were horrified at this lapse of good taste (although not surprised by it) there was no attempt to censor Ms Dorey or remove her message. (The AVN has contracted its Facebook presence to a page where I'm banned from comment (of course) and any pro-vaccination messages are immediately removed.) Both of the baby's parent asked Ms Dorey to go away and leave them alone but she persisted in posting more of her version of events surrounding the child's death to the group. She was allowed to do this because the people running the group have a commitment to free speech, no matter how offensive that speech is to them.

The AVN has been progressively turning inwards and restricting their conversation to their own little group. The mailing list that had about 750 members was purged and now has just slightly more than 50. At least two Facebook groups were closed to outside scrutiny and now appear to have been gutted of all members, and the remaining Facebook page is simply a one-way conduit for Ms Dorey to spout nonsense, with nobody given the right of reply or critical comment. Their web site is a mess, although this is supposed to be fixed shortly (one rule of web site development is that you don't mix a radical new design with the old stuff), and it looks like their magazine is coming out of newsagents and going to mainly electronic subscription only (which means no paper copies for naturopaths' waiting rooms). Some of the magazine advertisers have been less than happy with being in it, once they found out that it was produced by an anti-vaccination organisation.

With the Health Care Complaints Commission investigating their health advice and the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing taking interest in their claimed charitable activities I expect to see many more "sarcastic" media releases from the AVN over the next few months. With any luck the media will stop treating them as if they have anything worthwhile to say about vaccination and commit them to the obscurity they so richly deserve. As Ms Dorey said herself, they are "rabid idiotic fringe dwellers" and the fringe is where they should stay.

Chiropractic crushed. Yeah, right! (12/12/2009)
An article titled "An epidemiological examination of the subluxation construct using Hill's criteria of causation" was published in the December 2009 edition of the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy (2009, 17:13doi:10.1186/1746-1340-17-13). The abstract says:


Chiropractors claim to locate, analyze and diagnose a putative spinal lesion known as subluxation and apply the mode of spinal manipulation (adjustment) for the correction of this lesion. AIM: The purpose of this examination is to review the current evidence on the epidemiology of the subluxation construct and to evaluate the subluxation by applying epidemiologic criteria for it's significance as a causal factor.


The databases of PubMed, Cinahl, and Mantis were searched for studies using the keywords subluxation, epidemiology, manipulation, dose-response, temporality, odds ratio, relative risk, biological plausibility, coherence, and analogy.


The criteria for causation in epidemiology are strength (strength of association), consistency, specificity, temporality (temporal sequence), dose response, experimental evidence, biological plausibility, coherence, and analogy. Applied to the subluxation all of these criteria remain for the most part unfulfilled.


There is a significant lack of evidence to fulfill the basic criteria of causation. This lack of crucial supportive epidemiologic evidence prohibits the accurate promulgation of the chiropractic subluxation.

In layman's terms, this says that a scientific study was done to try to identify the basis of chiropractic, the subluxation, but it couldn't be found. Or, put another way, chiropractors have been happy to offer a bogus treatment for about 120 years.

The real question is, however, whether this will stop chiropractors pretending to see subluxations on x-rays and going on to adjust them to relieve dis-ease. As the existence of subluxations has never been proven and chiropractors have got around this small but fundamental problem in the past by clever definitions of the phenomenon, I suspect that it will be business as usual. Sure, some new definition of what the word "subluxation" means will have to be minted, but that shouldn't take long. It might have to wait until the rubbishing of this paper and the denigration of its authors are underway, but that shouldn't take long either. I have posted the news to an active alternative medicine forum and will report back next week on how long it takes to get a dismissive reply.

Hovind hysteria (12/12/2009)
Something old became new again this week when Wikileaks breathlessly reported that the PhD thesis of creationist Mr Kent Hovind had finally been made available to the world. When talking about UFOs back in June I mentioned the phenomenon of things being suddenly discovered after many years of existence simply because somebody had posted something about them to the web. This is a similar case, because the secret PhD thesis has been available and been commented on for a decade. Someone called Skip Evans acquired a copy in 1999 by the simple process of asking the awarding university for a copy, and academic Dr Karen Bartelt published a comprehensive analysis of it in about 2001 or 2002. You can see the analysis (and read the thesis) here.

None of this misplaced hysteria detracts from the wonder of the thesis, of course. I can only recommend that you read Dr Bartelt's comments while having a copy of the thesis open in another window for comparison. I must warn you, however, that if you suffer from asthma or a weak heart you should keep your medication handy while you are reading. You should also go to the toilet before starting. The sort of laughter that can be triggered by reading "Dr" Hovind's "thesis" can have results ranging from embarrassing to serious if you go in unprepared.

A homeopath speaks, and drivel comes out (12/12/2009)
I make sacrifices for you. This week I sat though a web presentation about the use of homeopathy to treat autism. Sorry, it doesn't treat autism, it treats the autistic child. Except when it's treating autism. The presentation was a webinar organised by the Australian Vaccination Network and featured a homeopath named Fran Sheffield. All the usual buttons were pressed – homeopathy works (it really, really does!), anecdotes and testimonials are evidence, chelation can be used to get the heavy metals out so that the homeopathy can get in there and do its curing, autism is related to vaccination, … . A welding mask to protect against burning stupidI think that web sites promoting sessions like this should be required by law to display a sign like that at the right so that viewers can be warned that they might suffer damage from the intensely hot sparks of burning stupid.

The AVN has promised to make the entire webinar, with sound and all slides, available on their web site for free download, but I can't see if it is available yet. Some previous webinars are supposed to be available but they don't have links either. The AVN's web site is in a state of reconstruction at the moment and could politely be described as a dog's breakfast, with broken links, unreachable pages, conflicting styles and general messitude. As a professional websmith I could offer to help them to fix it up. Only joking, no I couldn't.

I will have the full awfulness of the webinar up here as soon as someone at the AVN gets around to providing a link. In the meantime, here is a sequence of screen shots of the slide show. Even without the sound the idiocy shines through. Don't forget your welding mask.

A lucky escape (12/12/2009)
I was lucky enough to be too busy to attend a creationist presentation last weekend, although I did drop in for a few minutes when I had cause to drive past the venue. I knew a few of my friends from Western Sydney Freethinkers would be there so I really just stopped to say "Hello", but they insisted I stay for a while. Luckily, as I said, I had a lot to do that day so I was able to make my escape after a short time in a polite fashion before I suffered too much brain damage from the ridiculosity. My friends apparently survived but we are yet to determine if there have been any long-term effects on their psyches, neurons or critical thinking processes. All of them have assured me that they are still true to the evolutionist dogma, but they would say that, wouldn't they?

The speaker at the event was John Mackay from an outfit called Creation Research. To give you an idea of what sitting through a day's lectures by Mr Mackay would be like, here are two videos of him chatting with Richard Dawkins. There is an expression in boxing: Fighting above his weight. John Mackay might like to think of this the next time he decides to take on someone who might know something about how the world works.

And while we're at it:

See more SMBC here

They are just filth (12/12/2009)
It doesn't seem to matter how many times anti-vaccination liars are told the truth, they just wait a few days or weeks and repeat the lies. This cartoon was distributed to an anti-vaccination forum this week. As you can see from the web address near the title it was originally published on a web site devoted to praising and assisting a career criminal who had been virtually canonised for savagely beating a ten-week-old baby to death.

Someone's idea of a joke

December 19, 2009

Reason's Greetings (19/12/2009)
I make no apology for wishing you all a Merry Christmas. I neither know nor care about the religious persuasions of people visiting this site, although I would be prepared to place a small bet that a poll would reveal that a significant proportion of you are faithless. I don't think it's any secret that I'm an atheist, but that doesn't stop me being tolerant of others' beliefs as long as those beliefs don't cause harm to anyone and nobody tries to convert or save me. Christmas is a secular holiday around my place and a time for getting together with those members of the family that don't meet often enough, although I might go near a church to listen to some carol singing. (I make a clear distinction between Christmas carols, which are generally religious in nature and pleasant to listen to, and Christmas songs, which are generally rubbish by nature. There are exceptions in both categories, of course.)

Political correctness, or "being polite so that thin-skinned people don't get offended", is a plague on our language and culture. If anyone is offended by an atheist wishing his friends Merry Christmas then he or even she is welcome to complain, and all such complaints will be ignored. If this isn't your religious holiday or you celebrate a similar thing at another time of the year then you should enjoy the days off from work and thank your deity that you get two holidays.


Unless an emergency comes up (like anti-vaccination liars recanting their evil, a genuine UFO full of genuine aliens landing in my street, a dowser waving some coathanger wires finding oil in my back yard, a homeopath finding a cure for breast cancer or a conspiracy theorist saying "I was wrong") the Millenium Project will be taking the next two weekends off, returning on January 9. I'll still be out there on email, Usenet, Twitter and Facebook and anybody is welcome to keep the conversation going. Enjoy yourselves over the holiday season (with the enjoyment in moderation, of course) and I'll see you all here again next year.

Speaking of Christmas songs … (19/12/2009)
The good folks at Westboro Baptist Church have got together again to record a song for Christmas. Here it is.

Cancel Christmas for some kids (19/12/2009)
The Australian Vaccination Network is planning to run some advertisements on television. If they were to get their way there would be a much reduced need for Christmas presents as there would be fewer live children. There would be a boost to the economy, though, as funerals generally cost more than birthday parties. Here is the proposed advertisement. Notice how, in the tradition of professionalism being shown with the redevelopment of the AVN web site, the agency data has not been edited from the front of the video.

Get a bucket ready to catch the vomit and lock any dangerous weapons away in case your rage makes you want to hurt someone.

Did you catch the list of reactions reported by vaccine manufacturers? SIDS? Autism? I think I might have to call this lying. No, I'll go beyond thinking it and say it. This advertisement contains outright lies, and the people responsible know that they are lying.

ASBIf you see this advertisement on television and feel the need to complain (and why wouldn't you?) the people to complain to are at the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau. They take complaints about advertisements very seriously, and as the total number of complaints is quite small it doesn't take much action to get a reaction. (I was an extra in an advertisement which received special attention because people felt that it showed a child in distress. It was the fifth most complained about advertisement in 2008 but only generated about 65 complaints.) To lodge a complaint, go to the ASB web site and follow the obvious links. While you are there it is worth spending some time looking at the complaints which have been upheld and wondering at the sort of things that people find offensive. And yes, I agree with some of them and I am hardly a prude.

Ah, yes, the AVN … (19/12/2009)
The Australian Vaccination Network seems to have lost one of its erstwhile supporters. The local paper in the area surrounding the AVN's headquarters, The Northern Star, used to be somewhat sympathetic (there are very many woowoo believers in the north of New South Wales and papers like circulation) but now seems more aligned with rationality. Here is a recent story:

Northern StarVaccination group investigation

Mel Mcmillan | 18th December 2009

The Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and its founder, Meryl Dorey, are the subjects of an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.

The AVN is accused of 'engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct with the intent of persuading parents not to vaccinate their children,' by Ken McLeod, a member of a group known as Stop the AVN.

When Mr McLeod first filed his 20-page complaint in July it was unclear whether the AVN or Mrs Dorey would fall under the commission's jurisdiction and complaints process, as neither were registered health-care providers.

However, the complaint was referred to the Health Commissioner, who decided an investigation should proceed.

Mr McLeod's complaint lists instances in which he claims the AVN has provided false and misleading information about whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, the Gardasil vaccine and the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, MMR.

And while the commission may take several more months to complete its investigation, the ABC last month released a statement to say that information supplied by Mrs Dorey which was broadcast on ABC Mid-North Coast local radio in September was found to be misleading.

The presenter of the morning program, on which Mrs Dorey and Lismore obstetrician Dr Chris Ingall were guests, referred to statistics supplied by Mrs Dorey.

The investigation found the use of these statistics, about whooping cough, was misleading as they were 'drawn from different data sets and related to different groups of children'.

The statistics were also presented as vaccination rates for 1991, when they were, in fact, for 2001, the ABC said.

The broadcaster received two complaints about the statistics used during the segment.

The use of the data was found to be in breach of the ABC's editorial requirements for accuracy and context in factual content.

Professor Peter McIntyre, from the National Centre for Immunisation and Surveillance, said better reporting and diagnosis of whooping cough had lead to an increase in the number of cases reported each year.

Prof McIntyre said it was wrong to suggest the prevalence of whooping cough had increased and that vaccination did not work.

He said the five per cent of children who were not vaccinated accounted for 30 per cent of all reported cases of whooping cough.

"They have around seven to eight times the chance of contracting whooping cough than vaccinated children," Prof McIntyre said.

Mrs Dorey said the network sourced its information directly from the Australian Government and peer reviewed medical journals, and that it was the ABC which got it wrong.

"I believe they have misunderstood what was on the graphs," she said.

Mrs Dorey is currently having her information verified by the editor of a peer-reviewed medical journal in the United States and would be filing her own complaint with the ABC should her interpretation of the data be verified.

I eagerly await the report from "the editor of a peer-reviewed medical journal in the United States". I'm reasonably certain that the journal will not be JAMA or NEJM. I would not be surprised, however, if it turns out to be a rag drawn from the likes of The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons or Medical Veritas, both fully committed to the extinction of vaccines (and therefore children, I presume).

Letter of the week (19/12/2009)
The following email came in during the week. It could hardly be called hate mail as the writer seems to be congratulating me, but the words below the signature provide a list of anti-fluoride and anti-vaccination sites ranging from merely stupid to "red alert moon bat crazy", so I assume that Diana has missed the point of The Millenium Project completely and thinks that somehow I am opposed to two of the best public health initiatives in the history of medicine. I may very well want to add at least some of these sites to the lists here, but not for any reason that would please Ms Buckland. Ms Buckland's own web site was added immediately, of course, especially as it also rants about MCS and vaccines.

Dear Owner of the Millenium Project website,

You do have extensive information on your website  and I was wondering if you wished to add the following information websites.

Thank you and kind regards,  Diana Buckland

Institute of Science in Society

Report from FLUORIDE RESEARCH on Water Fluoridation & Crime in the United States of America


Professor of Chemistry Joel Kauffman University of Philadelpha

Mary Sparrowdancer Battle of Darkness & Light

Another Dentist speaking out about the absolute dangers of "fluorides".

Fluoride compounds – 3 of the 6 worst air pollutants

corruption & conflicts of interests


Water Crimes – "Fluoridation" song by Trillion

See more extensive information on these websites also:-

CALLING ON THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD to demand an immediate, permanent & irrevocable


Deadly fluoride
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins


Speaking of anti-fluoride loons … (19/12/2009)
If you do a web search for "Darlene Sherrell" you get lots of pages praising her for her fight against the evil of fluoridation, plus many more crowing about how she defeated Dr Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch in a court action. She was an absolute hero to the quack medicine crowd and they couldn't sing her praises enough, especially as she had vanquished the hated Dr Barrett. Then she died. Here is her memorial website, and you can see that not one of her supporters could find the time to post even the shortest message of condolence. Even the person who created the site couldn't be bothered writing anything about her. She's dead, so everyone can move on to find a new hero to fight medicine.

Another dead quack!

That old black magic (19/12/2009)
It was breathlessly announced in a promotion for the television "current affairs" show Today Tonight that the show was going to feature someone with a special bracelet that "a skeptic could not explain". Here is a transcript of what went to air:

The braceletBracelet claims balance improvement
Reporter: Frank Pangallo
Broadcast Date: December 15, 2009

It is called a Power Balance Bracelet and whatever some people claim to feel when wearing one defies their belief and logic.

Tom O'Dowd has the Australian rights for the bracelet which sells for around $60.

The secret, he claims, is embedded in the hologram on the band and so-called Mylar technology.

"In the Mylar hologram is a frequency and the frequency as soon as it comes into contact with the electrical field of your body basically works with your body's electrical field that gives you a feeling of wellness," Tom claims.

Tom alleges he can demonstrate straight away that it improves balance, strength and flexibility.

Mylar technology supposedly restores the body's frequency to somewhere near the 7.83 hertz required.

"This will make you the best you can be, it won't turn you into Tiger Woods let's put it that way, but it will make you the best you can be," Tom claims.


Well, this skeptic had an explanation, and here is the letter I sent to Today Tonight:

Immediately following the story tonight about the magic bracelet fraud, I picked up the first object near my hand (my reading glasses) and showed my wife how they are just as effective as the $60 wristband.

It took me about five minutes to learn the tricks of applied kinesiology (pushing arms to test for allergies), and it would take me about as long to learn how to do this evolution of that old scam.

$60 for a wristband! I wish I'd thought of it, but, then, my conscience doesn't let me rob people.

I do a demonstration of applied kinesiology in my stage shows about quackery, and I will add the variations used by this quack as soon as I have five minutes to perfect the techniques.

Who will tend the harlots now? (19/12/2009)
In January I mentioned an organisation called Mercy Ministries that appeared to be part of the Hillsong Church. It supposedly offered assistance to wayward young girls in exchange for them assigning over all welfare payments. When stories of exorcisms and other nonsenses started trickling out of Mercy Ministries the outfit became an embarrassment to Hillsong. The first action taken was for the Gloria Jeans coffee shop chain to withdraw sponsorship of Mercy Ministries. (Hillsong deny anything other than a coincidental and informal relationship with Gloria Jeans but it would be difficult to slip a cigarette paper between them.) The embarrassment became too much when it became obvious that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was taking an interest in the way that Mercy Ministries had redefined the word "free" to imply the words "after you give us all your income".

Here is Hillsong cutting Mercy Ministries loose:

Statement Regarding Mercy Ministries
27 October 2009

I want to inform you of issues that have become increasingly clear in recent days, which have left me personally devastated.

Mercy Ministries Inc. have informed us that they are ceasing operations in Australia.

Some of you are aware of Mercy Ministries, an organisation set up to rehabilitate and reach out to young women in need. It has come to my attention in recent days, that investigations into Mercy Ministries Inc. have been ongoing, over what is essentially unclear or misguided communication in relation to their funding and services.

In the past, Hillsong Church has supported Mercy Ministries through financial donations. A number of individuals involved with our church have also served on the board and/or staff of this ministry, of their own volition.

Unfortunately, we believe that in the case of Mercy Ministries, concern about the way they delivered their message and services has unfairly affected Hillsong Church by association.

It is not my place to defend or try to explain what Mercy Ministries has or hasn't done. Hillsong has done nothing wrong. Hillsong is not under investigation, but a number of key people from Hillsong Church over the years, have been involved in Mercy Ministries.

It is wrong that anything Mercy Ministries may or may not have done could overshadow so much of what we as a church stand for: Loving God and Helping People.

To ensure that this does not happen again it is important that we take immediate action to protect the reputation of our church moving forward.

We will undertake an internal audit of Hillsong staff to identify what organisations or boards they are currently associated with.

From there, we will be strongly recommending that our executive level staff no longer participate on other not-for-profit boards.

We will also examine some future guidelines and boundaries for Hillsong staff in regards to their involvement in external boards.

It is so important that we continue to support and work in cooperation with organisations doing great things in our community and around the world.

Despite the numerous positive achievements of Mercy Ministries, Hillsong Church will no longer support, or be associated with this ministry.

Further, we sever any affiliation with Mercy Ministries internationally, and would not be associated with any attempt by Mercy Ministries Inc or Mercy Ministries Ltd, to recommence within Australia, under that or any other name.

We would encourage those, that any investigation involves, to cooperate fully.

We will continue to keep the church informed as to any new developments with this situation, and would ask you to continue to keep this in your prayers.
- Brian Houston, Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church

And here is the ACCC nailing the coffin shut, wrapping it in chains and tossing it into the ocean:

Undertakings remedy Mercy Ministries misleading conduct

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has obtained court enforceable undertakings, which includes payment, from seven former directors of Mercy Ministries Incorporated and/or Mercy Ministries Limited in relation to misrepresentations by those entities.

The undertakings include an apology and a voluntary payment of $1050 to those people affected by the conduct. These are made by former directors Mark Zschech, Peter Irvine, Mark Caldwell, Stephen Crouch, Young Pil (Phil) Sohn, Darlene Zschech and Clark Pearson.

Mercy Ministries is a not-for-profit Christian based charitable organisation which offered a residential counselling program to young women affected by issues such as eating disorders, depression, self harm, unplanned pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and the effects of sexual or physical abuse. The program was offered whilst the young women resided in a Mercy Ministries home.

The ACCC was concerned that in a period between January 2005 and June 2008, Mercy Ministries misrepresented in brochures and on its website that its services were provided for free, when the majority of residents were required to assign their Centrelink payments to Mercy Ministries for the duration of their stay.

The ACCC was also concerned that during this period, Mercy Ministries misrepresented that it offered professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers and counsellors, when the level of professional support was not available as represented. Mercy Ministries did not employ this range of professionals. It did facilitate access to external professionals upon request from residents.

To address these concerns, as part of the undertaking, the former directors:

  • acknowledge that they were persons ultimately responsible for the conduct of Mercy Ministries, and admit its conduct was false, misleading and deceptive, and likely to contravene sections 52, 53(aa) and 53(e) of the Trade Practices Act 1974
  • signed a joint letter of apology to past residents in the relevant period
  • offer a payment of $1050 to each of the past residents in the relevant period, and
  • undertake to attend annual trade practices compliance training for three years.

Mercy Ministries operated its program in two homes, one located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and the other in Sydney. Both of these homes have now closed. Mercy Ministries has ceased trading and has advised the ACCC it is in the process of being wound up.

"Given the vital role charitable organisations have in our society, and the trust placed in them, it is imperative that their conduct is of the highest standard, especially in their dealings with vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said today. "The utmost integrity is expected from charities – by the ACCC and the public at large – and it should be delivered.  "Misleading conduct of this kind is a matter of serious concern, and I am pleased that those directors ultimately responsible for the conduct have offered both an apology and payment to the young women affected."

Section 52 of the Act prohibits corporations from engaging in conduct that is misleading and deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive. Section 53(aa) prohibits corporations from falsely representing that services are of a particular standard, quality, value or grade. Section 53(e) prohibits corporations from making false or misleading representations with respect to the price of goods or services. Individuals responsible for the conduct or management of a corporation are also prohibited from knowingly causing or permitting the corporations to engage in such conduct.

And one last thing (19/12/2009)

Lola, El Oh El Ay, Lola
See more Lola here


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