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June 4, 2011

Those phones again (4/6/2011)
One of the predictions I made in January as part of my psychic forecasts for 2011 was:

  1. Newspapers and tabloid television current affairs shows will carry stories warning of the danger of radiation from mobile phones. Physicists referring to Einstein's 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect will be ignored.

Yahoo!7 NewsI'll report progress on my predictions at the end of June (it looks like I've got 6 right so far, or 50%), but this one has been in the news this week with the release of a WHO report which suggested that there might be a connection although you couldn't really tell from the data but some scientists who have been screaming for years about mobile phone dangers had been asked and you can't prove a negative so maybe it's true. Or something like that. I wrote something about it for Yahoo!7 and you can read it here.

I noted that it took less than 30 minutes from the time the article was loaded up to the Yahoo!7 site for someone to accuse me of being in the pay of Big Telco. I can't wait for the money to start rolling in to add to the cash flow from Big Pharma and Mossad. Yes, I have been accused of being an Israeli agent. But seriously, why can't people believe that someone can express an opinion without being paid for it? (Although if anyone wants to pay me for my opinions I am open to negotiations.)

See more Jesus and Mo here

Fraud makes me itchy (4/6/2011)
Finally, someone in authority is going after quacks and applying real penalties. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been working its way through the "As" in the fraud list and can add this victory over allergy testers and treaters to others over the last few months such as Allergy Pathway (formerly Advanced Allergy Elimination) and a few they jumped on back in March. You can read the official ACCC media release here.

$185,000 penalty for misleading allergy treatment claims

The Federal Court has imposed penalties totalling $185,000 against two companies and two individuals for making false claims and misleading consumers about their ability to test for and treat allergies.

"This outcome again demonstrates the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's commitment to clamp down on unsubstantiated claims which put the health of consumers at risk," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

The findings conclude proceedings brought by the ACCC against:

  • Newlife Publishing and Marketing Pty Ltd
  • Renew You Centre for Wellbeing and Longevity Pty Ltd
  • Bojan Schianetz
  • Dzung Kieu Price.

Each respondent claimed they could diagnose, treat and/or cure allergies using the 'BioFast allergy elimination program'. This program involves identifying allergens by testing muscle resistance to pressure applied while holding a vial of the suspected allergen. The purported treatment then involves the application of pressure or needles to points on the customer's body, while the customer is exposed to the potential allergen. Other techniques including 'detoxification salts' and 'sublingual desensitising drops' are also used.

The program's proponents believe this process clears 'energy blockages' caused by the allergen, thereby desensitising the customer to the allergen.

The court declared by consent that the companies and individuals engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct by representing that:

  • that they could test for, identify and treat a person's allergies or allergic reactions, when they could not
  • that they could cure or eliminate all or virtually all allergies, or allergic reactions, when they could not
  • That they could instruct parents and carers of children to test for, identify, treat and cure or eliminate allergies for a child, when they could not
  • that after receiving treatment it would then be safe or low risk for a person to have contact with the substance or allergen to which they had previously suffered adverse reaction, when none of their treatments could achieve this result.

"The ACCC was particularly concerned that the respondents purported to teach parents how to treat their own children, and told them that following 'treatment' their children could then be safely exposed to an allergen," Mr Samuel said.

Each of the respondents is restrained by an undertaking to the court from engaging in similar conduct for a period of three years.

The court ordered the respondents to display corrective notices on their websites, in their clinics, in various printed magazines, and in a first for the ACCC, to place a corrective video on YouTube and other popular video-streaming websites.

The respondents must also send letters or emails to current and former customers explaining that they engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, apologising for that conduct and outlining the remedies obtained by the ACCC.

The two companies were ordered to pay a combined total of $125,000 in pecuniary penalties, and each individual respondent must pay $30,000. Each of the respondents is also required to pay a contribution to the ACCC's costs of the proceeding.

On 10 March 2011, the court made orders in respect of five other corporate and individual respondents to the same proceedings. For further information on these court orders please see the related news release.

Release # NR 088/11
Issued: 2nd June 2011

Signs of the times (4/6/2011)
I can imagine that there might be cash inside a homeopath's office, but surely there would not be any drugs ever, at any time. It almost goes without saying, of course, that there would be nothing of value in there. (Thanks to reader Steve Rayner for the photograph.) And what sort of university grants a Bachelor of Science with a major in homeopathy? I'm embarrassed enough that my university was the first real university in the world with a school of chiropractic but at least they have the decency to call the degree Bachelor of Chiropractic Science, thereby indicating that it isn't a real science degree.

Health gets better (4/6/2011)
One of the constant mantras that you hear from the quackery industry is that despite all the research money that goes into real medicine no progress is ever made. I regularly get told that there is no incentive to find cures or better treatments because these would just lower the profits of pharmaceutical companies. In extremes of paranoia I get told that in fact medical research is simply a money-laundering operation to move cash into the pockets of researchers.

Real scientists beg to differ, and the CDC has recently announced a list of ten achievement in public health during the decade 2001-2010. What it calls "Ten Great Public Health Achievements --- United States, 2001--2010" includes:

It goes on to say:

From 1999 to 2009, the age-adjusted death rate in the United States declined from 881.9 per 100,000 population to 741.0, a record low and a continuation of a steady downward trend that began during the last century. Advances in public health contributed significantly to this decline; seven of the 10 achievements described in this report targeted one or more of the 15 leading causes of death.

Quackery promoters and their acolytes will ignore all this of course. I expect that if they mention it at all it will be in conjunction with the old lie about medicine being one of the leading causes of death. This one never goes away, and you can see where I have talked about it here and here.

Speaking of paranoia ... (4/6/2011)
During the week I came across an excellent article titled "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" by Professor Richard Hofstadter. It was adapted from the Herbert Spencer Lecture delivered at Oxford University in November 1963 and published in Harper's Magazine in November 1964. It's not all about politics and it's not out of date. Many of the things said in it apply to the conspiracy theorists who pester us today with their delusions about moon landings, 9/11, Big Pharma and other forms of madness almost too numerous to count. Read it here.

See more Red Meat here

June 11, 2011

Anti-vaxxers on the TV (11/6/2011)

The Parsnips!reason I'm a bit late getting this week's update out is that I had to wait for the Sunday night showing of the program 60 Minutes on my local television. I had been engaged in conversation with some of the people involved in making the show and I knew it was not going to be very favourable to anti-vaccination liars. Until I watched it I didn't know how unfavourable it was going to be, but I have to say I heartily enjoyed it. Two of my favourite people, David and Toni McCaffrey, were on it, but the real jewel was two other people I have had dealings with in the past – Viera Scheibner and Bronwyn Hancock. Watch for Dr Scheibner's melt-down and the way she turns on poor Ms Hancock. I almost felt sorry for the target. Almost, but then I remembered that Bronwyn Hancock has said that it is impossible to harm a child by shaking it so all cases of SBS are vaccine damage.

Enjoy! And see if you can work out why the word "parsnips" became an integral part of the Twitter discussion which followed the show.

(The video was removed from YouTube following a spurious copyright claim from some using an obviously false name. The same "person" also made a claim against a second video on the same day. Not only was the name obviously false, but the liar claimed to be acting on behalf of two different TV networks. Attempts to sort this out with YouTube simply resulted in a warning that the next copyright "violation" would see my account deleted.)

Suck on this, YouTube and the anonymous and gutless "Gold tv Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Steinrück".

The Atheist Cartoons site disappeared in 2014.

Speaking of television ... (11/6/2011)
Here is me on television admitting to my part in a coverup.

(The video was removed from YouTube following a spurious copyright claim from some using an obviously false name. The same "person" also made a claim against a second video on the same day. Not only was the name obviously false, but the liar claimed to be acting on behalf of two different TV networks. Attempts to sort this out with YouTube simply resulted in a warning that the next copyright "violation" would see my account deleted.)

Suck on this, YouTube and the anonymous and gutless "Gold tv Prof. Dr. Hans-peter Steinrück".

Being interviewed by TV is always an adventure (it took four days to record a three minute segment on cancer quackery once because the producer kept thinking of new things for me to do). I've seen people complain that they get edited, but a wise journalist once told me that the only way to avoid editing is to speak for the exact number of seconds that will go to air or say only the exact number of words that will be printed. This is never possible, but except for two cases I've never been edited to wreck my message (and I don't do anything for those two outlets any more). Otherwise, I have always been treated fairly and I expect that any prerecording will be cut down to the essentials.

Live TV and radio is of course different, so mistakes and shows of ignorance go straight out into Embarrassment Land. This was going to be a live show and I appreciated the fact that both Bill Chalker and I (and I assume the man in Melbourne) were give a list of questions and topics the day before so that we could come prepared. We were also told that we would be the first thing on the show after the 9am news bulletin. I don't know about the man in Melbourne but Bill and I were required at the studio at 8:30am for makeup. I lived a two-hour train trip from Sydney at the time and Bill had to be on a train for at least an hour, so we were both up nice and early.

When we got there we were told that everything had changed. Our segment would now be much shorter and would happen much later in the show because a major news story had broken and had to be covered. We finally sat down with the hosts at about 10am for our three and a half minutes of fame.

Did I mention that the major breaking news story that caused panic in the studio and caused more disruption to our lives had already been exposed as fake news (it was about a riot at some US university that had never happened) well before the start of the program at 9am? But that's TV and the 24-hour news cycle for you.

AVN broke again! (11/6/2011)
Perhaps that should end with a question mark rather than an exclamation point, because we have heard on many occasions how the Australian Vaccination Network is down to the last few dollars in the till and is about to go under. Somehow a benefactor always seems to come along just in time. Here is the latest begging letter to members:

Please do not ignore this message or delay your assistance!

It has been almost 18 months since our last fund raising drive and you all gave so generously that we were able to keep it going for all this time without any new members or donations from the general public and in spite of the best efforts of certain government departments and private-sector organisations to force us to close. (See the rest here)

Over the years I have become accustomed to a certain lack of precision in statements made by Meryl Dorey, once President of the AVN, and this is no exception. No government department is trying to force the AVN to close. The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission asked them to display a message on their web site and when they refused the HCCC issued a warning to the public. (One of the reasons that the AVN is short of cash is that they are fighting the HCCC in court, not to get the warning withdrawn but because they claim the HCCC is somehow corrupt.) You can see the HCCC report here and the warning about the AVN here. Because they forgot to renew their registration as a charity, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing has also been giving them grief. Again, they are getting ready to fight the OLG&R in court. Neither of these government bodies is trying to shut the AVN down; they are simply asking the organisation to comply with the law.

And as for "private sector organisations" trying to shut the AVN down, I assume Ms Dorey means the loose coalition of people who are members of the Facebook group "Stop the AVN". It is not an organisation of any kind, just a collection of people who communicate through social networking sites. Feel free to click on the picture at right and join in the fun.

Schadenfreude Corner. (11/6/2011)
Remember those Power Balance magic rubber bands which made you strong and balanced when you wear them? Remember how they were going to revolutionise sport by giving great advantages to wearers? Remember the impressive web site that the company had, extolling the virtues and powers of $60 rubber bands that cost a few cents wholesale? (The last offer I got from Hong Kong was about 60 cents each. How could you not make money at a 10,000% markup?)

Here is the Power Balance web site this week.

I don't know how long I laughed, but I was breathless at the finish.

Kook resurgence (11/6/2011)
Among the delights of the Internet is the collection of kooks who inhabit it. One of the older parts of the 'net is Usenet, a collection of thousands of discussion forums. Although its major function now seems to be the distribution of pornography and "stolen" music and videos, there is still a small subset of it which is useful for discerning and honest people like me. Usenet used to be the native environment of kooks, which is why much kookology refers to it. (See "What is a kook?", for example.) There is even a discussion group, alt.usenet.kooks, devoted to examining and commenting on extreme examples of kookiness.

Some kooks become legends. A few weeks ago I mentioned David Mabus, famous for incoherent death threats against just about everybody. Other legends are Ed Conrad, who claims that humans have been around for 300 million years because he has found fossils in coal seams, Todd Gastaldo, a chiropractor who handed in his licence because chiropractors aren't ethical (you might think this is laudatory, but his objection was that they wouldn't join his obsession to stop women lying down while giving birth), Graham Cooper (who calls himself |-|erc and claims to be in direct communication with God when he isn't having his life broadcast like The Truman Show). One of my favourites, however, is George Hammond, who has discovered a Scientific Proof of God. George is apparently the smartest person alive (Stephen Hawking could not understand George's work), but he reacts badly to criticism, even when none is implied. Here is a recent exchange between me and George.

Welcome back, George. With the recent reappearance of Todd Gastaldo in and now you in sci.skeptic and the occasional craziness from Ed Conrad and David Mabus, Usenet is returning to its kook-filled days of yore.

And George's reply:

Look, Bowditch, don't even think about starting with me. Don't think for a minute we don't know you're a right wing prick masqurading as a do-gooder by chasing cranks and frauds on the Internet. Problem is that in your case this is obviously a cover up and a smoke screen for you're real agenda, which is to attack and suppress serious productive and dedicated scientists like me who among other things are capable of exposiing aggravated right wing phoneys like you who are mainly interested in suppressing scientific discoveries that might otherwise empower the oppressed and embondaged who you are interested in exploiting under the cover of being a do-gooder. Naturally supressing the world's first scientific proof of God would be at the top of your hit list. Go chase some more cranks golden boy and forget about me, I happen to be the real McCoy. And if you don't think so Mr Do Gooder, just try me!

Sharp sticks are such useful implements, aren't they?

See more XKCD here

What will it take? (11/6/2011)
How many stakes have to be driven through the heart of the Advanced Medical Institute SCAM before it dies? Here is a media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

ACCC institutes further proceedings against AMI

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted new proceedings in the Federal Court against Advanced Medical Institute Pty Limited (administrators appointed) and AMI Australia Holdings Pty Ltd (administrators appointed) (collectively referred to as AMI).

The ACCC alleges AMI has failed to advise existing and potential patients that it is in administration, is insolvent and may not be able to provide goods and services after determination of the administration period.

The ACCC further alleges that AMI has wrongly accepted payments in advance for treatments when there is a real risk that AMI will not be able to continue to supply its treatments to patients and that patients will not receive refunds claimed by them, after the conclusion of its administration.

AMI was placed into administration on 22 December 2010, the day after the ACCC instituted proceedings alleging the companies had engaged in unconscionable conduct towards consumers. Those proceedings are separate and still on foot.

Since December 2010, the period of administration has been extended by the court on two occasions. Additionally, on 17 May 2011, at the second meeting of creditors, the creditors extended the administration to 20 July 2011.

An interlocutory hearing has been scheduled for Friday, 10 June 2011 before Justice North in the Federal Court in Melbourne to hear the ACCC's application for leave to proceed and for interlocutory injunctions. The ACCC is seeking injunctions:

  • requiring disclosure by AMI of the administration status of the companies and its potential impact on contractual arrangements to consumers and patients, and
  • to restrain AMI from accepting payment for goods and services which are to be provided by AMI or a related person after 20 July 2011, or the date upon which AMI's second meeting of creditors is reconvened, whichever is the sooner.

Release # NR 091/11
Issued: 8th June 2011

And the followup:

ACCC obtains limits on AMI contracts

Today, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission obtained interim orders by consent against Advanced Medical Institute Pty Limited (administrators appointed) and AMI Australia Holdings Pty Ltd (administrators appointed) – collectively referred to as AMI.

In proceedings filed on Wednesday, the ACCC alleged that AMI failed to advise existing and potential clients that it is in administration, is insolvent and may not be able to provide goods and services after determination of the administration period.

The ACCC also claimed that AMI had wrongly accepted payments in advance for treatments when there is a real risk that AMI will not be able to continue to supply its treatments, and that clients will not receive refunds claimed by them, after the conclusion of its administration.

Today the ACCC obtained orders by consent that AMI will disclose to clients that:

  • AMI is in administration
  • AMI is, in the opinion of its administrators, insolvent, and
  • there is a real risk that AMI will not be able to continue to supply its treatments to patients and that patients may not receive refunds claimed by them, after the conclusion of its Administration.

The orders also require that AMI:

  • over the next two weeks inform all existing clients who entered into or renewed a contract with AMI between 22 December 2010 and today
  • post a prominent notice on each webpage which it operates or controls,
  • add to each of its contractual documents clear notice of their insolvency and its risks for delivery of goods or services.

In addition, AMI is not permitted to enter into agreement or take any payment for delivery of goods and services beyond the date of administration, which is currently 20 July 2011.

"In these circumstances, the ACCC considered it vital to ensure that potential customers of AMI were clearly informed about the situation the company is in before they bought into any agreements," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

"This case underlines the fact that companies under administration are not exempt from their obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act."

AMI was placed into administration on 22 December 2010, the day after the ACCC instituted proceedings alleging the companies had engaged in unconscionable conduct towards consumers. Those proceedings are separate and still on foot.

Release # NR 096/11
Issued: 10th June 2011

Those quotes (11/6/2011)
There have been a couple of independent enquiries posted to Twitter over the last week or so asking for anybody that has a collection of skeptical quotes. I would like to remind everyone that such quotes can be found here.

A Random Quote:

See more SMBC here

June 25, 2011

An exercise in vileness (25/6/2011)
A friend of mine sent me this photograph, taken at an exhibition directed at parents-to-be and parents of young children. It shows an anti-vaccination liar outfit that had somehow escaped my notice and which had decided to spread lies and misinformation to concerned and receptive parents.

I felt dirty and polluted just looking at it and thinking that the parents of even one child might have been deceived into endangering their children (and other children too, of course) by accepting even an iota of the lies in the literature being handed out by these vile people.

I decided a Kind & Gentle email was required so I sent the following to the expo organisers, copied of course to VAIS. I wouldn't want them to think I was talking behind their backs.

Organization: The RatbagsDotCom Empire
Date: Sun, 26 Jun 2011 15:32:23 +1000
Subject: Anti-vaccination "information" at the Brisbane Expo

A friend sent me the attached photograph, apparently taken at this weekend's Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo in Brisbane.

I find it quite disturbing that an organisation whose sole purpose in life is to spread misinformation about vaccines and thereby endanger the lives of children should be given a voice at an expo dedicated to educating parents. A brief perusal of the VAIS web site shows the standard list of lies about vaccines that appears on many sites run by people and organisations promoting the anti-vaccination agenda, and there are also many links on the site to these other places, as if repetition of a lie can make it true.

Children are dying in Australia now from vaccine-preventable diseases, diseases that we thought we had seen the last of. A significant reason for the re-emergence of these diseases is the activity of organisations like the deceptively-named "Vaccination Answers Informed Sources" and the Australian Vaccination Network.

Please do not allow VAIS or similar organisations to take space at future expos.

Parents who attend your expos deserve better than to be confronted with people offering advice that will put their children in danger of serious illness and even death. The children deserve better than having the greatest advance in children's health in the history of medicine denigrated and lied about by people with some inexplicable agenda against child and public health.

Vaccines save lives. Anybody who says otherwise has as much credibility as someone who insists that the Earth is flat. The difference is that belief in a flat Earth doesn't kill children.

Thank you.

Perhaps these people really are mad (25/6/2011)
One of the lies told by anti-vaccination liars is that they are not opposed to vaccination and real medicine, but they just want everyone to be properly informed. We know this is a lie because they continually do and say things that reveal their true agenda and prejudices.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Dr Viera Scheibner, doyen of Australian anti-vaccination researchers. Dr Scheibner holds a PhD in micropaleontology so the "Dr" in front of her name has nothing to do with medicine (or even anything human), but it is always included to add credibility to her utterances on medical matters. She achieved a certain amount of transient fame for the bizarre meltdown she had on television when her views were challenged. The meltdown included a savage and unprovoked attack on her best friend who was left dazed and wondering what she had done wrong.

Dr Scheibner has several web sites which each take a slightly different approach to lying about vaccines and health, and one of them is currently displaying the survey at left. As you can see this is a balanced poll attempting to obtain scientific data about people's use of and attitude to real medicine.

This is just the sort of thing that gets me going when I hear some supporter of quackery start on about "complementary medicine". I've been told that nobody uses the expression "alternative medicine" any more because it is really "complementary". No, it is not. When you see things like the "survey" over there or hear people ranting on about "Big Pharma" and the "needless deaths in hospitals" and how real medicine is the leading cause of death you know that they have no intention of complementing or working with real doctors and manufacturers of real medicines. They lie. They want us to return to the days before medicine, back to the time when the leading cause of death in women was childbirth, when a large proportion of children never reached puberty because they died before that of now-preventable diseases, when surgery was performed by the local barber, and when witchcraft was the only treatment for disease. I would say a pox on them, but the most appropriate pox would be smallpox and real medicine has removed that scourge from the world. Real medicine, done by real scientists, not magic spells cast by any alternative.

A challenge (25/6/2011)
This advertisement appeared in my local paper:

One of the hallmarks of kookdom is claiming that famous people got it wrong. Sometimes this takes the form of declaring that someone made a death bed recantation of their life's works, as has happened with Pasteur and Darwin. Mathematicians, however, (and I include physicists) seem to hold a special attraction for amateurs who like to whip up a few equations to show that these fancy-pants professors with their blackboards and fluffy hairstyles have got it all wrong. After all, if they hadn't got it wrong we would have free energy and limitless food. And if you are going to show that someone's maths are all wrong then what better place to start than with possibly the most famous scientist of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein.

I had a look at Dr Corbett's web site and I have to admit that I ran out of my mathematical ability just after I read "Einstein's Relativistic Equations (relating to contraction of rods and dilatation of time with increasing speed) are derived from the Lorentz Transform. Unfortunately, the Lorentz Transform itself is derived on the basis of a number of fundamental mathematical blunders". I could probably understand it if he just told me where Einstein was wrong, but once he headed back to the Lorentz Transform I was really out of my depth.

I wondered for a moment at Dr Corbett's confidence in offering a reward for proving him wrong, but I can only assume that he has the money to spare. After all, anyone who has completely refuted relativity must surely have won a Nobel Prize at some time, although there appears to be some oversight as he is not mentioned on the Nobel Prize web site.

Did I mention that Dr Corbett has also refuted all those scientists who claim that the climate is changing? The man is a polymath.

A cautionary tale (25/6/2011)
One of the mantras used by promoters of nonsense such as medical quackery, psychic fraud, astrology and so on is that a lot of educated people believe it so it must be true. As every psychologist or magician knows, however, sometimes smart people are the easiest to fool simply because they think that being smart gives them immunity to deception. Consider the familiar optical illusion below.

The trick to it is that the squares labelled "A" and "B" are the same displayed colour but are perceived as different. I spent a lot of time at university studying perception and illusions but there is no way that I can see this picture as anything other than what my experience tells me is true. I know what is happening here and for many of the popular illusions I can actually force myself to see beyond the illusion, but not this one.

So remember. Just because you have expertise in something or are just generally smart doesn't mean that you can't be deceived by your senses or something you are told.


See more from Randy Glasbergen here.


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