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PreviousNextUpdates made to The Millenium Project in March 2010

March 6, 2010

Hypocrisy corner (6/3/2010)
It looks like nothing has changed at the resuscitated Australian Vaccination Network. One of the first announcements to come out of the outfit following its almost miraculous reprieve from collapse was this reiteration of their commitment to free speech and open comment.

This is the discussion list that has banned me from participation since 2001, although there is no ban on discussing me. That discussion of me can apparently go too far, it seems, because someone was banned from the list recently despite calling me an arsehole. His problem was that he then provided a link to what I had said that annoyed him. The inference is that talking about me and what I say and do is acceptable provided that nothing is done which might allow denizens of the AVN mailing list to actually see what it is that I say and do.

A cynic might also comment that if all messages which "make broad statements about vaccination or disease without backing it (sic) up with references" were to be eliminated then the list would be very bare indeed. As for not welcoming "those who behave in an abusive or dismissive manner towards those whose views do not match their own" and "The list is about intelligent and referenced discussions on vaccination issues", all I can say is that I am glad that my irony meter is still away being repaired after the last whopping lie from the AVN otherwise it would have exploded and I would have had to pay to get it fixed again.

Christopher Hitchens on the Ten Commandments (6/3/2010)

In an article in the April edition of Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens considered the relevance of the Ten
Commandments to today's life. Here is the man himself talking about this.

Part 1

So that this page doesn't load too slowly because of lots of videos, you can see all six parts of the talk here.

Oh no, they do not! (6/3/2010)

Cripple those kids!

A good way to spend a Sunday (6/3/2010)
I know the dateline on this article says March 6, but really I had to wait until the next day to write it. This is why:

A ticket

You can see a report of the speech here, and even watch a short extract. A video of the full speech is
supposed to be up on the 'net shortly and as soon as it is I will let you know. Dawkins didn't say
anything that was startling to anybody who had read his books, particularly The Greatest Show on
, but like the people who have all the AC/DC records but still went to see them in concert last
week, you attend events like this because of the sense of occasion (and the chance to down some
beers with friends and like-thinkers afterwards).

While we're waiting for the Dawkins speech (and the one preceding it by Professor Grayling) to
appear in full on the web, here is a conversation between Richard Dawkins and George Negus on
the SBS Dateline program.

And here is him being interviewed by Richard Glover on my local ABC radio station. I sent a message to Mr Glover afterwards about the comments from listeners that he read out after the interview. In my message I pointed him to the video below about creationist arguments, because almost every one of them had popped up. The last one he read out even said "it's only a theory".

Writing stuff (6/3/2010)
I'm like Yahoo! 7that person referred to by Omar Khayyam, you know the one whose "moving finger writes and having written, moves on". My fingers seem to be writing all the time and the results keep appearing in various places. One of those places is the Yahoo!7 News opinion page, and you can see the latest effort here. The standard of comments has been maintained for this edition, and I particularly like the way that some of them illustrate quite well the idea expressed in the article, which is that there are some people who are not worth debating. There are two people who post anonymous comments to every article whining about how I get to speak and they don't. Apparently they have never thought of putting a few hundred words together and submitting it for publication. Perhaps they are frightened that someone might require them to reveal their names. As for whether they are going to get me to write something different, I refer them again to Omar Khayyam. "Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it".

And while I'm thinking about debating people, here are some things to think about if you ever have to debate a creationist.

Australasian ScienceAnother piece of my writing that has come out since we last met is my regular Naked Skeptic column for Australasian Science. I will refrain from making any nakedness jokes this month because I almost missed the deadline and barely got it finished in time. It was about UFOs, and it generated the following comment on some UFO enthusiast's blog called UFOs – scientific research:

The March 2010 issue of the "Australasian Science" magazine, Volume 31:2 page 44 has an article "What's that up in the sky?" by Peter Bowditch, immediate past president of the Australian Skeptics Inc.

It discusses the December 2009 Norway light show. It comments about "experts" who pronounced the light display due to aliens; a wormhole; or a black hole from the Large Hadron Collider. The Russians then said that it was actually a failed missile launch of theirs.

Bowditch went on to state "...problems can arise if we approach anomalies or novelties with a predetermined context or a standardised explanation." He comments that "UFO believers apply a different error...There is something in the sky that they don't understand so again they see what they want to see..."

That's it! I'm not sure if the blog owner agreed with me, disagreed or is an expert in non sequitur. All three, perhaps.

Speaking of writing and deadlines ... (6/3/2010)

See more of PHD Comics here

March 13, 2010

Here comes de judge! There go the anti-vaccination liars (13/3/2010)
In January I reported that Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine (dis)Information Center had sued Dr Paul Offit, journalist Amy Wallace and publisher Condé Nast because an article in Wired magazine had hurt her feelings by suggesting that when she tells lies she is not telling the truth. To make her point more forcibly she followed up three weeks later by calling for a free discussion of vaccination issues in an apparent attempt to redefine the meaning of the word "free" in the context of free speech. These actions led directly to NVIC and her sharing the Anus Maximus Award in the 2009 Millenium Awards. She was ably assisted in her attempt to stifle Dr Offit's and Ms Wallace's freedom of speech by absolute free speech advocate Jonathon Emord, who also picked up a Millenium Award for his efforts.

Well, here it is only half-way through March and the legal system has moved with unusual alacrity and tossed Ms Fisher's suit into the garbage where it belongs. You can read the full opinion of the Judge here, and note that the case was dismissed because Fisher and her powerful lawyer were not able to even establish that any cause for the suit existed. In lawyer speak they "Failed to make a claim". As I had suggested to Ms Fisher that she might like to produce some proof that she wasn't lying, such as some science, I particularly liked the final paragraph in the opinion:

Plaintiff may wish to defend in court the credibility of her conclusions about the dangers of vaccines, the validity of the evidence she offers in support of those theories, and the policy choices that flow from those views – as well as her own credibility for having advanced those positions. These, however, are academic questions that are not the sort of thing that courts or juries resolve in the context of a defamation action. Rather, an actual statement of fact that is capable of being proven true or false is required as a matter of law. In this context, Plaintiff has not alleged such a statement and has therefore failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An appropriate Order shall issue.

She couldn't produce a "statement of fact that is capable of being proven true or false". Perhaps she needs to get a new lawyer.

In the sprit of generosity that I like to show even to people with whom I disagree, I sent the following Kind and Gentle email to Ms Fisher and Mr Emord.

Dear Ms Fisher and Mr Emord,

I was teaching a class today and the matter of people suing other people to shut them up arose. I immediately thought of the frivolous action that Ms Fisher had brought against Dr Paul Offit, Amy Wallace and Condé Nast. You can imagine my surprise when I got home and checked my email to find that Judge Hilton had thrown the suit into the rubbish bin where it belonged. People often say that the legal system moves at glacial speed, but in this case the court obviously felt that having a case as transparently silly as this one on the active list was an embarrassment to the law.

I assume that the judge's opinion will be given prominence on the web sites of both the NVIC and Mr Emord's law firm, as it will be on my site. Perhaps the opinion could be featured next to the awards that both of you won in the 2009 Millenium Awards.

As is my normal policy, this email and any reply will be published on my web site at

Thank you.

Cancer "curer" gets cured. Like bacon. (13/3/2010)
Schadenfreude is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and it is especially tasty when the person feeling pain is a cancer quack. Just look at this excellent media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission:


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has obtained interlocutory injunctions in the Brisbane Federal Court against Darryl Jones, principal of the Darryl Jones Health Resolution Centre on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, over alleged misleading or deceptive conduct in connection with a cancer treatment program.

The ACCC alleges that Mr Jones represented on the Centre's website and in an e-book he wrote that he had reasonable grounds and a reliable and current scientific or medical basis to assert that:

  • the reduction or elimination of glucose in the diet; and
  • taking laetrile, also known as amygdalin or "B17",

were effective to treat or prevent cancers or, together with an exercise regime recommended by Mr Jones, preferable to conventional medical treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy.

The injunctions stop Mr Jones, until the court makes further orders, from making claims that his treatments can prevent or treat the growth of cancer, or any medical condition. Mr Jones must first obtain written advice from an appropriately qualified professional certifying that the proposed treatment is, in the opinion of that person, supported by reliable scientific or expert medical opinion and is believed to be effective and safe. That advice must be disclosed to his clients, customers and the ACCC.

Other orders require Mr Jones to write to his clients and customers and also display a notice on any websites he controls, owns or maintains, advising of the interlocutory injunctions.

The ACCC urges anyone suffering from cancer or seeking to prevent it to seek advice from a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

A directions hearing has been set down for 16 April 2010.

NR 41/10
9 March 2010

Here is the notice that poor Darryl has been forced to run on his now-closed web site.

Note to Darryl: When the Court orders you to display a notice, you are supposed to replace the word "[date]" with a date. It would also help if you gave a real URL for where people can find the order on the Court's web site. I am prepared to help out, so people can read the court order here. Also, it would be useful to publish the actual text instead of a picture so that the search engines can find the notice and index the words. Again, I am prepared to help (and see how easy it is to include the date?).:



The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Darryl Jones alleging that certain of his representations are misleading or deceptive under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA).

On 5 March 2010 the Federal Court of Australia issued interim injunctions in relation to cancer treatment claims promoted by Mr Jones under The Darryl Jones Health Resolution Centre Program.

Those injunctions can be found at and remain in effect until such time as the Court makes further orders.

Those injunctions restrain Mr Jones, until further order of the Court, from making any claims that treatments can prevent the occurrence or treat the growth of cancer or any medical condition unless he has first obtained written medical or scientific advice to support that claim.

The ACCC urges anyone who is suffering from cancer, or who wishes to take steps to prevent it, to seek advice from a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

Speaking of Schadenfreude ... (13/3/2010)
Look what I found on the web.

My first assumption was that the Australian Vaccination Network office had simply forgotten to pay their web hosting bill in all the excitement that has been going on there lately. I made the same mistake myself once and, of course, the suspension of my sites happened on Friday and could not be rectified until the ISP's accounts staff came to work on Monday. It's a great law, that Murphy's Law.

You might find this hard to believe, but I was wrong. The site has been closed by the hosting organisation because of some unspecified "legal complaint". This has caused an outbreak of paranoia and conspiracy theory at the AVN the like of which hasn't been seen since Meryl Dorey published a blog post suggesting that the swine flu vaccine contained microchips and was a tactic in a plan to kill more than 90% of the world's population and control the minds of the rest. Here is a sample of the hysteria.

As soon as I hung up the phone with the web hosting company, I received a phone call from a friend who works in the Australian media. This person warned me that a media smear campaign against the AVN is about to start. They said that this campaign has been planned for some time and that it will involve trying to link the AVN with pornographic material.

We will be speaking with legal counsel as soon as we are able to (it is hard when these things take place on the weekend since it is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone over the weekend) and will be taking whatever actions are necessary to get our website back up and to oppose this attack against our right to communication and freedom which should be guaranteed under our democracy

Hey, Meryl – there was no attempt to link you with pornography. You did that yourself when you chose the same abbreviation for your organisation (and a very similar domain name) to that of Adult Video News.

Here's the joke though. On the tenth anniversary of starting The Millenium Project I wrote:

Where it started (14/3/2009)
InHow to connect to the Internet 1996 I wrote a book about the Internet. (It was published in early 1997 and modesty forbids me mentioning the name of the author of the biggest-selling non-fiction book in Australia that year.) One of the distasteful things I had to do while researching the book was to examine how easy it could be to find and look at pornography, because that was (as it is now) a concern for some parents and I assumed, rightly as it turned out, that the subject would be raised in almost every interview I did while promoting the book. While doing other research I came across a site from a crowd calling itself the Vaccination Awareness Network, and I remember saying at the time that none of the porn sites I looked at were anywhere near as offensive as this pile of garbage from a pack of child haters.

In 1999 I discovered that the group of clowns had changed their name to make their opposition to vaccination less obvious to the casual observer. They were now called the Australian Vaccination Network, and this change of name to something deceitfully inoffensive made me think that there were people who needed to be offended and offended often. I was looking for a name for my new project, and that was 1999 so everyone was talking about the millennium except those that were talking about the millenium. A metaphorical light bulb flashed over my head and I thought "millenium – a thousand arseholes". The rest is history. What started as just a list of the first hundred offensive sites on March 14, 1999, has turned into what you see today. Unfortunately, the Australian Vaccination Network is also still with us and they are just as offensive to sane and rational people as they were back then, so I have been paying them some attention in this anniversary week.

So the link to pornography has been there, in my mind at least, for over a decade. And I haven't changed my mind a single bit. The Australian Vaccination Network is still more offensive than any legal pornography site that I can imagine. The worst that most porn sites can do is cause a feeling of inadequacy and raise some false expectations. They don't suggest that you should endanger the lives of children, or lie about collecting money for charity, or offer dangerous medical advice that can cause people to avoid real medical care.

You can read Meryl Dorey's snivelling nonsense about the web site problems here. Note the list of defamatory accusations she makes when listing the AVN's problems. Maybe one day she will be asked by a court to justify her paranoid claims.

Australian Vaccination Network and the HCCC (13/3/2010)
As part of the ongoing investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission into the activities of the Australian Vaccination Network, submissions have been solicited from anyone with an interest. My friend Tom Sidwell went that extra step and not only submitted a complaint but included three excellent analyses of the nature and quality of the AVN's medical advice. These need a wider distribution than just some bureaucrat's in-tray, so with Tom's permission you can read them here.

And the courts just keep getting more sensible (13/3/2010)
In another case of the law moving faster than anyone expected, decisions were handed down this week in the United States Court of Federal Claims – Office of Special Masters related to three rulings made by Special Masters in February 2009. The cases involved almost 5,000 claims for compensation for damage caused by vaccination.

The huge number of claims lodged had three objectives. The first was obviously to enrich some lawyers, although any competent lawyer could have predicted the reaction of the court to the other two objectives. The second was to tie the courts up for years, during which time anti-vaccination liars could continually bleat about how the evil pharmaceutical companies were being sued. The third objective was based on the assumption that the courts would be influenced by sad tales of broken children and would award huge amounts of compensation, further enriching lawyers while simultaneously bankrupting the US vaccine compensation scheme (and providing much fodder for lying media campaigns).

The courts saw through these objectives, and in what became known as the Autism Omnibus Case, asked the lawyers to nominate the three best cases they had, the three cases which were so obviously winners that the courts would accept them. These three cases were then assigned to a Special Master each, with the understanding that these test cases must be found to show evidence of a connection between vaccination and autism before any other case would be heard. In February 2009 all three test cases were rejected by the Special Masters, for all purposes therefore ending the attempt to abuse the courts to further the deranged agenda of the anti-vaccination industry. Special mention was made of the incompetence and mendacity of several of the witnesses proposed and called by the claimants, with several heroes of the anti-vaccination movement declared to be deceitful and/or acting well outside their areas of expertise and competence.

The reaction of the ant-vaccination liars was predictable, and ranged from ridiculing and defaming the Special Masters to simply ignoring the fact that any rulings had been made or any criticism of the "scientific" heroes offered. It was business as usual in the anti-vaccination liar trade. The lawyers, noting that lawyers get paid for appeals as well as initial court appearances, fronted the trough again and lodged appeals. This week all appeals were rejected. The Autism Omnibus Case is dead. If people want to prove that vaccinations cause autism they have to produce a lot more scientific evidence than they brought into these court sessions. Remember that courts are often influenced by sentiment and public opinion in cases involving sick children. In these three cases the courts ruled that the kids might have problems but nobody was going to get any money by claiming that the vaccinations caused the problems.

You can read the 2009 decisions and the results of the appeals here. There is some tough reading there for non-lawyers, but if you just read the final paragraph of each document you will see the unequivocal findings of the court.

And what are the anti-vaccination liars saying about this latest slap-down? Well, so far I have been told that the courts are obviously in the pay of Big Pharma and that anybody who trusts the government is a fool because everybody knows that mercury in vaccines causes autism. Like I said above, business as usual, but that's what happens when people don't care even a little bit about the truth.

Time for some light relief ... (13/3/2010)

March 27, 2010

How many times do I have to say it? (27/3/2010)
Remember how your mother used to say that when you committed a sin of omission or commission? The difference between then and now is that you were a child then and you are not now. Now when you are told something you usually remember it, and when you are corrected about some fact that you have got wrong you absorb the truth and don't repeat the error. Unless you are a pathological liar, of course, or you think that by repeating an untruth you can make it true.

Here is a message posted to the Australian Vaccination Network's Facebook page last week. (I can read the page because Facebook don't allow selective banning from pages, but I can't post there even if I join as a fan and in any case my fandom is always cancelled within minutes of my clicking on the "Become a Fan" button.) One of the vagaries of Facebook is that all administrators of a page are anonymised by the software, so the convention is to put an identifying signature on posts. "B52" is Meryl Dorey, who used to be the President of AVN and might still even be, although they have gone very quiet about the reconstruction that was supposed to be imminent.

As I am banned from correcting the falsehoods in this message in the place where they were published I will have to do it here. So that Ms Dorey can never again claim that she doesn't know that what she said is not true, I have informed her by email:

Dear Ms Dorey,

In a message posted to the AVN's Facebook page on Saturday, March 20, 2010, you made certain statements which do not accord with the known state of the world.

  1. You say that "there is room for both sides of this debate as long as there is respect". I have always shown you respect, as evidenced by the fact that I address you as "Ms Dorey" and not as something like "total slime", words you once used to refer to me. If you really believe what you say and are not just mouthing empty rhetoric you should immediately allow me to follow you on Twitter, comment on your blog, become (and remain) a fan of the AVN's Facebook page (with commenting rights) and, of course, join the AVN's mailing list at Yahoo!.
  2. You say of the discredited Dr Wakefield: "Nor have any of his published articles been shown to be anything less than perfect in their science". I know that you know this not to be true, because I know that you are very well aware of the retraction of his 1998 article by The Lancet, the findings by the GMC of his unethical conduct in the collection of samples for research, and also of the evidence produced during the Autism Omnibus action showing how the data he used for his research was manipulated to suit his intended outcome. You might say that all of these are just attacks by Big Pharma on an honest man, but you would be wrong. The expression "less than perfect in their science" does not even approach a description of Dr Wakefield's fraudulent publications.
  3. You say "Autism has been shown in the American vaccine courts to be linked with vaccination". As you could not possibly be unaware of the resolution of the Autism Omnibus case I am amazed that you can make this statement. No court has ever found any connection between autism and vaccination. Some courts might have awarded compensation, but that is not evidence of a link, only evidence that some judges can be influenced by emotion rather than science. Given almost five thousand autistic children to choose from and asked to find the three strongest cases demonstrating a link, proponents of the link could not find even one which passed scientific scrutiny.
  4. Finally, you tell Janelle "My choice does not affect you or your children". The choices you make and the choices made by people who follow your advice certainly do affect the children of others. You might remember David and Toni McCaffrey, whose daughter died from whooping cough as a result of coming into contact with the pox-ridden, unvaccinated children of parents who chose to do what you say everybody should choose to do. They were affected by someone else's choice. The children who died of measles in the UK in the last few years were certainly affected (as were their parents) by the choice that Andrew Wakefield made to put his own financial interests (fees from lawyers and potential royalties from a vaccine) ahead of science and truth. I know it's easy to say "But THOSE aren't MY children", but as the Vatican said in the ruling about vaccination that you occasionally misrepresent, vaccination is "morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for the good of one's children and of the people who come in contact with the children".

Respectfully yours,
Peter Bowditch

But wait, there's more ... (27/3/2010)

Most people would prefer not to be associated with the Church of Scientology, or at least want to know something about it before selling its products and promoting its teachings. Not so the Australian Vaccination Network. When the matter of Scientology was raised in some online forum recently, Meryl Dorey of AVN posted the following message to Facebook. You will note that she doesn't know anything about Scientology and doesn't even know the name of the Scientology group that produces the video she sells (despite having a review of the video on the AVN site), but she knows they must be good because they oppose psychiatry which is "almost as big an issue as vaccines". Some would call this a "knee-jerk reaction", but I think it's more likely to be an example of the philosophically and morally bankrupt principles of "the end justifies the means" and "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". It is no coincidence that the latter of these was used by anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz to defend his role in the establishment of CCHR. Which, Ms Dorey, stands for Citizen Commission on Human Rights. I'm surprised that Ms Dorey didn't know this, because AVN and CCHR share the dubious honour of being recipients at different times of the Anus Maximus Award in the annual Millenium Awards.

And just to show the AVN's commitment to good medical advice (which they don't give, according to their submissions to various investigating authorities), here is an advertisement appearing on the front page of their web site.

See more Jesus and Mo here

And it doesn't end there ... (27/3/2010)
I apologise for so much AVN stuff this week, but this was too good to pass up. It seems that Meryl Dorey of the AVN is getting ready for a new career once she finds someone to take her place as the President of the Australian Vaccination Network. (I have applied for the position of AVN President and have even found a sponsor prepared to completely fund the organisation if I get the job, but I haven't heard back from the selection committee yet).

It could be that Ms Dorey is planning to cross over from the Forces of Darkness to the side occupied by sensible people. On October 30, 2009, when AVN was going broke and she was too busy for words, she managed to find the time and budget to register the following domain names:

As she always uses the spelling "septics" when disagreeing with people she assumes have something to do with Australian Skeptics Inc (and how I love that joke, which retains its humorous quality even unto the millionth repetition) and as Australian Skeptics always use the spelling "skeptics" (to retain a connection with the original Greek root of the word), the only inference that can be drawn is that she is planning to start a competing (or perhaps complementary) organisation to promote skepticism and critical thinking in Australia. After all, as she said to Mike Munro on television when asked for her scientific qualifications "I have a brain" and perhaps she has decided to put that brain to good use.

This situation demands a Kind and Gentle email to Ms Dorey.

Dear Ms Dorey,

You have no idea how pleased I was to find that you had registered various Internet domain names which include the word "australiansceptics". I knew that you were looking for something to do after you stepped down as President of AVN, but I never suspected that you would be planning to join me and my friends over here in skeptic land. As you usually use the spelling "septics" (a joke which is still funny after a million repetitions) and Australian Skeptics Inc use "skeptics", it seems obvious that you are planning your own skeptical organisation.

This can only be good news as the country needs as many supporters of skepticism and scientific and critical thinking as it can get to fight the forces of evil and nonsense. Sometimes it's difficult to convince sensible people that, for example, there are those who oppose vaccination, and it would be immensely useful to have someone with inside knowledge of organised insanity to help get the message of truth out.

As you are well aware, I do not speak for Australian Skeptics unless I specifically say so and in this case I am expressing my personal view. Australian Skeptics Inc might have an opinion on the matter but I will leave it up to them to comment.

I am sure that we can put aside the differences we have had in the past and I look forward to working with you to educate the population to recognise and accept medicine, science, rational thought and truth rather than quackery, magic, superstition and lies.

Your friend

And apropos of nothing much at all (27/3/2010)

Advertising (27/3/2010)
I have very little control over the advertisements that appear on these pages, and this is recognised in the disclaimer which appears near the Google advertisements. Every now and then, though, I see an advertisement that almost makes me think that the money raised for the Australian Council Against Health Fraud isn't enough to compensate for the disgust I feel when I see certain ads. Here is one that appeared this week:

Oasis of Fraud

When I visited Tijuana in 2004 I was offered a half-day tour of this place, but I had to decline. I had used up all my luck with the Mexican police and I felt that I might become a little disruptive if trapped in a building devoted to stealing the last days and dollars from sick people.

The luck with the police was one of those adventures that all tourists should experience. I was being escorted back to the police station to receive a suitable punishment for running a red light (which just happened to have had a policeman on a motorcycle stopped at it at the time). Suddenly, a small grey van lurched out of a side street and almost knocked the copper off his bike. The officer gave a couple of siren blasts to stop the van, indicated to me that I should stop and say where I was, and then went to the van to express his displeasure. After a short chat with the driver he reached through the window and picked something up. He then walked back to my car, idly flapping a small plastic bag of white powder that he had retrieved from the van. He gave me my driver's licence back and told me to be more careful in the future and then got back on the bike to escort the van to the station. I assume that a) it was a more amusing story for his mates that an idiot with drugs on the seat had forgotten to look for approaching police than that a dopey Australian had driven into a pedestrian crossing, b) catching someone with drugs garners more kudos with the bosses that catching red light jumpers, and c) a bribe is more likely from someone caught red-handed (white-nosed?) with drugs than from someone who just endangered some buskers wandering across the road.

Someone had to do it (27/3/2010)

Writing stuff (27/3/2010)
As usual I have been busy writing articles for places other than this. With the creation of Australia's first Catholic saint rapidly approaching I turned my attention to Mary Mackillop for my latest Naked Skeptic column in Australasian Science magazine. Of course, out of respect for Mother Mary I refrained from nakedness while writing the story, but the editor decided not to temporarily rename the column to something like "Modestly Attired Skeptic". You can read the article here and you can subscribe to the excellent magazine here.

Yahoo! 7Then there's my regular column on the Yahoo!7 News web site. The latest one was about the idiotic way that quackery supporters blather on about how real medicines aren't tested in infinite ways while simultaneously wanting to sell untested magic potions to gullible customers. The article attracted the usual clutch of illiterate and abusive cretins (including an appearance by the Gutless Anonymous Liar and the outing of another of GAL's aliases). You can follow the fun here.

Authorities wake up to snoring scam (27/3/2010)
If someone offered you a special device to stop snoring, where would you expect to wear it? On your ear, perhaps, or maybe even your nose. You would be wrong, because this scam offers a ring you wear on your finger. Apparently it works by acupuncture. Well, actually, it doesn't work at all, which is why the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had this to say in a media release issued on March 25, 2010.

'Anti-snoring' ring found wanting

Misleading advertising claims about an alleged anti-snoring ring have been withdrawn by the manufacturer and supplier after Australian Competition and Consumer Commission intervention.

More than 200,000 consumers worldwide are understood to have sought relief from the Anti Snor Therapeutic Ring which the supplier, ATQOL Pty Ltd, claimed used acupressure to stop a person from snoring and provide a relief from sinus, restless sleep and insomnia.

The ring was sold at most major chemist and health store chains in Australia and promoted through national television advertising and the company's website.

Additionally, the company's website,, claimed the ring had a 'proven history of successful drug free treatment of snoring' and was 'Tested and recommended by a Physician'.

The ACCC raised concerns that these claims were likely to mislead consumers to believe that the product had proven medical outcomes in treating snoring, sinus, restless sleep and insomnia when this was not so.  "When a product is heavily marketed and sold at major retail chains, consumers tend to give a certain legitimacy to the product and the representations being made," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said today.

"Suppliers of alternative health services and products must ensure that they are not overstating their supposed benefits while skirting around the fact that there is little or no supportive medical or scientific evidence."

ATQOL has acknowledged that its conduct may have contravened the misleading representations sections of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

It has provided the ACCC with court-enforceable undertakings that it will:

not make absolute representations that the Anti-Snor Ring will stop snoring or relieve sinus problems, restless sleep or insomnia not represent that the ring has a 'proven history of successful drug free treatment of snoring' unless it has caused clinical trials to be undertaken to prove such a history not make any representation that the ring has been tested, approved or recommended by a health professional unless that health professional has undertaken testing in accordance with accepted standards for the design, conduct, records and reporting of clinical trials amend the ATQOL website and any current and/or future advertisements or publications to remove the incorrect representations ensure that all future representations made in the promotion and/or sale of the ring comply with the Act, and implement a trade practices law compliance program.

The ACCC has previously taken court action against a number of alternative health providers, including Advanced Allergy Elimination and NuEra, for misleading and deceptive conduct.

A copy of the undertaking will be available on the ACCC's website, via the undertaking public register.

Release # NR 054/10
Issued: 25th March 2010


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