Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Journal prints rejected paper - as ad

The Scientist
April 29, 2005

Journal prints rejected paper - as ad

Incident raises questions of editors' and publishers' corporate connections

By Alison McCook

If you don't like getting your paper rejected before it even reaches peer review, ask David Egilman how to get around the process: In what may be an unprecedented move, when the Brown University researcher's paper was recently rejected from an occupational medicine journal, he simply bought two pages of ad space and printed the entire article in the same journal.

Two years ago, Egilman submitted an editorial to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) that critiqued a 2003 Dow-funded paper in Texas Medicine that said 11 cases of mesothelioma among Dow workers exposed to asbestos did not "suggest an occupational etiology"—even though mesothelioma typically strikes only 1 to 2 people per million, Egilman said.

He received an E-mail with comments from editor Paul Brandt-Rauf, who said the material was "not likely to be a high priority for the majority of JOEM readers."

Egilman told The Scientist he believed the article was rejected unfairly, and he wanted to "see what would happen" if he submitted the rejected paper as an advertisement. When he did, it was published in its entirety as a two-page ad in JOEM, along with his survey asking if readers believed this material was a "priority" to them. Egilman said he chose to publish the paper as an advertisement in JOEM, rather than get it peer reviewed at another journal, because he became more interested in finding out if the paper was interesting to JOEM readers.

Egilman said he received 33 responses to the survey, all saying the material was of interest. "I was testing [Brandt-Rauf's] assertion, in a semi-scientific way," he said.

Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, said he had never heard of a researcher who published a paper as an ad in the journal that rejected it. He told The Scientist the incident raises a number of issues, such as only the "haves" being able to publish their work. "And if it's an ad, what's it an ad for?" asked Rennie, also a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "The research? The idea? The author?"

Brandt-Rauf, who is based at Columbia University in New York, told The Scientist that the paper was rejected on its own lack of merits and not out of any allegiance to Dow. He said that his note saying the material was not a "priority" was a stock rejection response and that the journal gives preference to original research. Approximately 25% of JOEM submissions are rejected before peer review, he said. Brandt-Rauf added he was surprised by Egilman's reaction.

"I don't know where he gets this idea that he gets to publish anything he wants in the journal of his choice," Brandt-Rauf said. "If that were true, I'd publish all of my pieces in Nature and Science."

Brandt-Rauf noted that he normally reviews advertisements before they are published, but could not in this instance because Egilman's paper replaced another ad that was cancelled at the last minute. If he had, he would have removed the ad—but not out of allegiance to Dow, which, to his knowledge, has never given money to him or the journal.

However, according to an editorial in the April/June 2005 issue of another journal, the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, Brandt-Rauf and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), for which the JOEM is the official journal, have indirect ties to Dow Chemical and its strategic partner, GlaxoSmithKline. The ACOEM gave Dow Chemical the "Corporate Health Achievement Award" in 2000, for which Brandt-Rauf has been a reviewer. The award is funded by GlaxoSmithKline, Dow Chemical's strategic partner. And Columbia University, Brandt-Rauf's employer, receives "significant funds" from GlaxoSmithKline, according to the editorial.

Editorial coauthor Lee Friedman cautioned that practically every researcher and professional organization has ties—at least, indirect ones—to corporate sponsors, but "just the fact that there is an association raises concerns," he told The Scientist.

Dow did not respond to requests for an interview.

While many worry about researchers' funding sources, relatively few investigate corporate connections to editors, publishers, and journal parent organizations, Friedman said. "There is a need for greater transparency," he added.

Friedman, director of the Social Policy Research Institute in Illinois, cited a 2002 study in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics showing that 42% of the editors of 33 medical journals owned by professional associations said they had recently received pressure from the association's leadership over content.

Furthermore, editors are not supposed to be able to veto ads, Friedman added. At many major biomedical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, editors are "blinded" to which ads are going into which issue, to separate editorial from advertising.

Links for this article

David Egilman

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

C.J. Burns et al., "Cause-specific mortality among employees of a Texas-based chemical manufacturing facility, 1940 through 1996," Tex Med, 99:66-73, April 2003.
[PubMed Abstract]

International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health

Social Policy Research Institute

R.M. Davis, M. Mullner, "Editorial independence at medical journals owned by professional associations: a survey of editors," Sci Eng Ethics, 8:513-28, October 2002.
[PubMed Abstract]

Characteristics of Pediatric and Adolescent Patients Attending a Naturopathic College Clinic in Canada

PEDIATRICS Vol. 115 No. 3 March 2005, pp. e338-e343 (doi:10.1542/peds.2004-1901)

Characteristics of Pediatric and Adolescent Patients Attending a Naturopathic College Clinic in Canada


Objectives. The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has grown substantially in North America and has drawn the attention of conventional-medicine practitioners. Conventional-medicine practitioners have expressed concern about the potential for unregulated CAM therapies to cause harm, the sometimes-uncertain cost-benefit ratios associated with these therapies, and the possibility that some CAM providers might advise against established conventional therapies, such as vaccination. These concerns are heightened with respect to the pediatric use of CAM products. To address this issue, we conducted a systematic audit of pediatric and adolescent case files at a large, college-based, Canadian naturopathic teaching clinic. We specifically sought to describe the demographic characteristics, reasons for presentation, use of CAM products, and vaccinations status of children presenting for naturopathic assessment. We also determined factors associated with the use of CAM products and vaccination status.

Methods. We identified all charts for children (<18 years of age) who presented to the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic, the teaching clinic of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, between February 1 and May 31, 2002. Data were abstracted directly from the standardized patient intake forms and from clinical notes recorded during the patient’s initial visit to the clinic. The following data were obtained: age, gender, chief presenting complaints reported by parents, CAM product use at presentation, vaccination status, and reactions to vaccination. We conducted logistic regression analyses to identify factors associated with both CAM product use and vaccination status.

Results. A total of 482 charts were identified. The mean age of patients was 6.5 years (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.6–11.4 years). The ratio of female subjects to male subjects was 1.09:1 (248:227). The most common reasons for presentation were skin disorders (23%), gastrointestinal complaints (17%), and psychiatric/behavioral disorders (15%). Thirty-five percent of children were using CAM products at presentation (21.2% when both vitamins and minerals were excluded). Vitamins were the most commonly used products (34.6%), followed by herbal remedies (14.9%), oil blends/fats (7.2%), minerals (5.6%), probiotics (4.5%), and homeopathic remedies (3.7%). Of charts with vaccination information, 8.9% indicated that children had not been vaccinated; possible vaccine-associated adverse events were reported for 27% of those who had been vaccinated. Partial or unvaccinated status was associated with younger age, attending the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine for advice regarding vaccination, and greater use of CAM products. CAM product use was associated with unvaccinated or partially vaccinated status (odds ratio [OR]: 2.86; 95% CI: 1.46–5.63), presenting with poor energy or fatigue (OR: 3.36; 95% CI: 1.00–11.26), or presenting with throat or sinus infections (OR: 4.06; 95% CI: 1.23–13.04).

Conclusions. Children present for naturopathic assessment for diverse reasons, are high-level consumers of CAM products, and have lower rates of vaccination than population averages. The conventional-medicine community should work with naturopaths to address public health concerns in this population.


Key Words: naturopathy • pediatrics • medical records • complementary and alternative medicine • vaccination

Lower Vaccination Rates Put Children At Risk

Lower Vaccination Rates Put Children At Risk

A study done in part by the University of Alberta shows that children
treated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have lower
vaccination rates than the general population, exposing them to added
risk from preventable illnesses such as mumps and measles.

A review of 482 pediatric charts at a teaching clinic in a naturopathic
college showed that 35 per cent of the children presenting to the clinic
for ailments such as skin disorders, stomach problems or psychiatric
concerns, were already using CAM therapies (including vitamins, herbal
remedies, probiotics and homeopathic remedies). As well, 8.9 per cent of
the children were not vaccinated for diseases like measles, mumps and
rubella. This was associated with younger age, greater use of CAM
products and with parents unsure about the safety of vaccines.

Results of the study, which was conducted with the University of
Toronto, McMaster University and the Canadian College of Naturopathic
Medicine, are published in the March, 2005 issue of Pediatrics.

"Parents must be encouraged to tell their physician about any
alternative treatment, and health-care providers need to ask about CAM
use in taking the medical history of a child," said Dr. Sunita Vohra,
professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, and one of the
study's co-authors.

Physicians may not realize what a growing phenomenon CAM has become over
the past few years. Nor do parents necessarily understand the importance
of sharing information about their child's alternative therapy, said Dr.
Vohra, who is also director of the CARE program (Complementary and
Alternative Research and Education) at the Stollery Children's Hospital.

"There is an assumption that 'natural equals safe', and if it's safe,
why should I tell the doctor about it," Dr. Vohra said. "But anything
that can have an effect, can have a side effect. Parents need to treat
CAM products and therapies with appropriate caution."

It is especially important, Dr. Vohra said, that physicians ask parents
about concerns they may have with vaccinations for children, in order to
deal with misconceptions. The study showed that 27 per cent of parents
whose children had been vaccinated blamed that for adverse events with
their children. In one case, a parent blamed the measles vaccination for
autism that was later diagnosed in a child.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fired Santana aide blames guru's 'test'

This "Dr. Dan" character sounds like a chiropractor, or someone who uses chiropractic techniques. I'll place my critical comments in the appropriate places.

Fired Santana aide blames guru's 'test'
Suit claims job lost over 'consciousness level'

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- A former employee of the New Santana Band has accused musician Carlos Santana and his wife of firing him for not being "closer to God," according to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed in California.

Bruce Kuhlman, 59, said Santana's wife, Deborah, went on a campaign to terminate him after her spiritual guru, "Dr. Dan," determined through "calibration" tests that Kuhlman was too old to become enlightened, the lawsuit, filed on April 13, said.

Kuhlman, who began working with Carlos Santana as a personal assistant in 1988, was running the band's licensing operation, River of Colors, when he was fired in 2004.

Kuhlman seeks more than $100,000 and punitive damages against the couple and their businesses, and his lawsuit asks a judge to stop them from using Dr. Dan's Neuro-Emotional Technique to "test" or "calibrate" employees.

NET, a technique developed by Scott Walker, a chiropractor:

Skeptical exposé of it and other questionable techniques:

A lawyer for Santana, a Mexican-born guitarist known for hits such as "Smooth," said on Wednesday he would have no comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit said Dr. Dan informed Kuhlman during a series of meetings that his "enlightenment/consciousness level" was low because of his age, and "that the more enlightened a person was, the closer to God he was and the better employee he was."

He also accused Deborah Santana of constantly slurring male employees.

Kuhlman said Deborah Santana hired three new employees -- all of them female -- after asking Dr. Dan to "calibrate" them over the telephone.

"Dr. Dan would use his wife as a proxy and push down on her arm while Deborah told her the person's name and certain things from the resume and interview," the lawsuit said.

This is the classic Applied Kinesiology (AK) scam. It is a pseudoscientific system of muscle-testing and therapy. It was initiated in 1964 by George J. Goodheart, Jr., DC:

"Based on this evaluation by Dr. Dan and his measure of the applicant's 'consciousness level,' Deborah would decide whether to hire them," the suit said.

Kuhlman was fired after he missed an appointment with Dr. Dan in April 2004, and believes he was cut out of about $250,000 in performance bonuses from the licensing operation he directed.

Santana, a rock music legend, has toured and recorded since the late 1960s when he shot to fame during the Woodstock festival. The Grammy-winning guitarist is best known for recording classic tracks such as "Oye Como Va" and the recent pop smash "Maria Maria" with guest artists.


Ex-Santana Employee Sues Over Firing

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Two Cows: Humor


You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful.
Barbara Streisand sings for you.

You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.

You have two cows.
The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.

You have two cows.
The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.

You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

You have two cows.
Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the
other, and then pours the milk down the drain.

You have two cows.
You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one.
You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised
when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you
have downsized and are reducing expenses.
Your stock goes up.

You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.
You go to lunch and drink wine.
Life is good.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and
produce twenty times the milk.
They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains.
Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

You have two cows.
You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent
quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour.
Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.

You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
You break for lunch.
Life is good.

You have two cows.
You have some vodka.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You have some more vodka.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two.
You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature' private parts.
You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to
milk production but use the money to buy weapons.

You have two cows.
They go into hiding.
They send radio tapes of their mooing.

You have two bulls.
Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.

You have one cow.
The cow is schizophrenic.
Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish.
The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow.
The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk.
The cow asks permission to be cut in half.
The cow dies happy.

You have a black cow and a brown cow.
Everyone votes for the best looking one.
Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote
for the black one.
Some people vote for both.
Some people vote for neither.
Some people can't figure out how to vote at all.
Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is
the best-looking cow.

You have millions of cows.
They make real California cheese.
Only five speak English.
Most are illegals.

Arnold likes the ones with the big udders.



You have two cows

Consumer Health Digest #05-17, April 26, 2005.

Consumer Health Digest #05-17
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 26, 2005
Current # of subscribers: 10,236
Subscribe to Consumer Health Digest

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by
Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It
summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement
actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and
nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer
protection and consumer decision-making.


AB Energizer marketers agree to pay $2+ million penalty.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed two proposed stipulated orders
in federal court resolving charges that the marketers of AB
Energizer, an electronic abdominal exercise belt, falsely advertised
that using the device caused weight loss, inch loss, and well-defined
"six-pack abs" without exercise. These orders are part of a global
settlement resolving an FTC lawsuit and related actions brought by
county and city prosecutors in California. The settlements call for
payment of more than $2 million. Over $1.4 million of this amount
will be for consumer redress. The balance will go to the California
prosecutors for costs and civil penalties. The defendants are based
in Southern California, with most located in San Diego. They include
Electronic Products Distribution, L.L.C.; AB Energizer Products,
Inc.; Abflex USA, Inc.; AB Energizer, L.L.C.; Thomas C. Nelson;
Martin Van Der Hoeven; Douglas Gravink; and Gary Hewitt. The orders
bar all of them from making the challenged claims for the AB
Energizer or any similar device. The consumer redress total includes
money from separate settlements between the California agencies and
Wal-Mart, Walgreen's, and Target, which marketed the device. [FTC
flexes its muscles in Ab Energizer Case: FTC and California get over
$1.4 million for consumers. FTC news release, April 22, 2005]


N.C. chiropractor imprisoned for insurance fraud.

Steven Ira Cohen, 53, who practiced in Greenville, North Carolina,
has been sentenced to 28 months in prison plus three years of
supervised release and has been ordered to pay $371,000 in
restitution to four insurance companies. Last year, Cohen was
indicted on 527 counts of health care fraud, 21 counts of mail fraud,
two counts of obstruction and one count each of conspiracy to commit
health care fraud and money laundering in connection with incidents
between 1999 and 2002. The charges stem from insurance claims
submitted for treatments that were never performed and from claims
that used provider numbers of doctors who had not provided the
services. In July 2004, Cohen pleaded guilty to two counts of mail
fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and the
other charges were dropped. [Karr A. Cohen gets 2 years, 4 months.
The Daily Reflector, April 22, 2005]


Stephen Edelson "retires."

Apparently in response to lawsuits and regulatory actions, Stephen B.
Edelson, M.D., has closed his Edelson Center for Environmental and
Preventive Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. The suits were brought by
parents of autistic children that he improperly diagnosed as
suffering from heavy metal toxicity and treated with chelation
therapy. The first suit was settled in 2002 for $180,000, and the
others were settled later for undisclosed sums. In 1995, the Georgia
Board of Medical Examiners settled charges against Edelson with a
consent agreement under which he was fined $5,000 and placed on two
years' probation with a condition that he not perform chelation
therapy except in documented (real) cases of heavy metal poisoning.
In April 2004, the Board reprimanded Edelson, fined him $1,000, and
placed him on 3 years' probation after concluding that he had been
inappropriately self-medicating and had become addicted to
benzodiazepine sleeping pills. In October 2004, Edelson posted a
letter to his Web site stating:

"Because I do not practice 'standard medicine,' it is easy for the
FDA, the Georgia Medical Board, and patients who do not see immediate
results, or the extent of the results we had hoped for, to attack me.
All of this has taken a tremendous toll on me and my family. . . . I
have begun the process of closing my clinic and transitioning into

Not long afterward, his Web site was shut down. For additional
details and links to the documents, see

Archived versions of Edelson's former site can be inspected at*/


Gerontology group issues anti-quackery book.

The Gerontological Society of America has published "Anti-Aging
Medicine: The Hype and the Reality," which contains 21 articles
published during 2004 in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological
Sciences. The price is $20 postpaid. Additional details and ordering
information are available at


Other issues of the Digest are accessible through For
information about the National Council Against Health Fraud, see If you enjoy the newsletter,
please recommend it to your friends.

To unsubscribe, send a blank message to


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Board Chairman, Quackwatch, Inc.
NCAHF Vice President and Director of Internet Operations
P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105
Telephone: (610) 437-1795 (health fraud and quackery) (under construction) (guide to autism) (legal archive) (under construction) (guide to chiropractic) (under construction) (guide to dental care) (under construction) (under construction) (guide to homeopathy) (under construction) (guide to infomercials) (under construction) (multi-level marketing) (naturopathy) (nutrition facts and fallacies) (National Council Against Health Fraud) (consumer health sourcebook)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Some Activist Groups Exhibit a "Pathological Scientific" Stance

Some Activist Groups Exhibit a "Pathological Scientific" Stance
by: Henry I. Miller, Genetic Engineering News

Chemistry Nobel Laureate Irving Langmuir related in a landmark 1953 speech his visit to the laboratory of J.B. Rhine at Duke University where Rhine was claiming results of ESP experiments that could not be predicted by chance, and which he ascribed to psychic phenomena.

Langmuir discovered that Rhine was only selectively counting the data in his experiments, omitting the scores of those he believed were guessing in order to humiliate him. The evidence? Rhine felt that some of scores were too low to have occurred by chance, and that it would, therefore, actually be misleading to include them.

Langmuir dubbed this deviation from the principles of the scientific method pathological science, the science of things that arent so. This sort of chicanery is increasingly common among certain self-styled public interest groups, who are, however, less devoted to fudging data to get the right answer than to grossly misrepresenting the results in order to achieve some hidden agenda.

Most often, that agenda is not the protection of public health or the environment, but intractable opposition to, and obstruction of, whatever research, product, or technology the activists happen to dislike. Often, it turns out, the activists targets are socially beneficial and highly cost-effective products or processes.

Activists often try to stigmatize whatever they dislike via guilt by association with greedy or irresponsible corporate interests. But for several reasons, including the importance of corporate branding, avoidance of liability, and a desire to succeed in the marketplace, industrial research most often adheres to high professional and legal standards, including peer-review.

When it doesnt, the scientific method and market forces collaborate to ensure that, ultimately, dishonesty is exposed and punished. By contrast, activist-funded research is commonly held to a far lower standard. Their claims are invariably promoted by alarmist press releases and reported by the media, but seldom are they independently peer-reviewed or published in scientific journals. Sadly, policy makers, the media, and the public have come to accept this pathological science as credible, especially after it is repeated again and again.

Examples have become more frequent as special interests promote health scares as a way to support litigation. The distortion of science has given rise to flawed policies and regulations, interference with research that offers potential benefits to society, increased public health risks, unwarranted scares, frivolous lawsuits, and higher costs of R&D.

MMR and Autism In 1998, British researchers published a study that suggested an association, but not causation, between the administration of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine and an increased risk of autism. In spite of the fact that that initial study was based on only 12 children, its results were widely publicized, causing some parents and hospitals to stop or delay vaccinations for newborns and children.

Subsequent studies of much larger groups of children have not confirmed such an association, however, and the overwhelming consensus among scientists and physicians is that no such link exists. Nevertheless, this incident inflicted incalculable damage on the publics confidence in vaccination, and on individual children deprived of protection from life-threatening diseases.

Video Display Terminals In 1980, a Canadian newspaper reported that four women in the classified ad department of another newspaper had given birth to children with birth defects, including a cleft palate, underdeveloped eye, club foot, and heart defects.

The fact that all the women had worked with video display terminals during the early stages of their pregnancies gave rise to speculation that radiation from such terminals, most of which are based on common television technology, was responsible.

Other such clusters of birth defects came to light, leading to aggressive anti-VDT activism that in both North America and Europe caused management to be pitted against workers. In Canada and Sweden, merely the belief that harm could be caused by VDTs was considered to be grounds for refusal to use them.

Over the next two decades, several large studies and repeated analyses concluded that the use of VDTs is not associated with birth defects or spontaneous abortions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the clusters were random occurrences that is, the function of probability.

(If you flip a coin a million times, youll likely come close to half a million heads and half a million tails, but along the way, there will be occasional long runs, or clusters, of heads or tails.)

Electromagnetic Radiation Supposed hazards of electromagnetic radiation, which is emitted from a variety of sources including overhead power lines, electric blankets, computer terminals, and electric razors, has excited the imagination of many.

For example, after a Florida woman developed a brain tumor behind her right ear, where she usually placed her cell phone, her husband blamed her illness (and subsequent death) on radiation from the cell phone and filed suit against the phones manufacturer. After his 1993 appearance on CNNs Larry King show, other, similar lawsuits followed. None were successful and within several months the scare was forgotten.

This kind of health scare is an example of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy (believing that because two events are temporally related, they must be causally related). Fallacy it might be, but it lends itself well to the way that Americans these days often learn about safety and risk: Could your cell phone give you cancer? Details at 11!

In fact, at the current rate of occurrence of brain cancers, about 3,600 cases would be expected to occur among 60 million owners of cell phones whether or not they use them.

Environmental Working Group In 2003, a nebulous entity called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) claimed to have evidence that the farm-raised salmon eaten regularly by millions of Americans contains high levels of PCBs. PCBs were identified in the press coverage as a toxin, probable human carcinogen, or a cause of cancer and nervous system damage.

These reports were grossly misleading. At levels of environmental exposure, PCBs have not been shown to cause cancer or any other disease in humans. The study, which was based on a sample of only ten fish, was condemned by genuine experts at a variety of institutions, including the Harvard School of Public Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the highly respected American Council on Science and Health.

Unfortunately, the criticisms came only after EWGs report had generated national media coverage, and received little attention from the media. On its website, the EWG makes no pretense about its possessing scientific credentials or expertise, and its president once admitted to a journalist that there was not a single physician or scientist on its staff.

Genetic Modification Environmental activists lately have taken to claiming that conventional crops have been contaminated by the finding of minuscule amounts of DNA from genetically modifiedby which they mean gene-splicedvarieties. Their methodology is flawed, but even if the claims were accurate, they should elicit from the public nothing more than a collective yawn.

Genetic modification is not new. Virtually all of the 200 major crops in Canada and the United States have been genetically improved, or modified, in some way. Plant breeders, not nature, gave us seedless grapes and watermelons, the tangelo (a tangerine-grapefruit hybrid), the canola variety of rapeseed, and fungus-resistant strawberries.

In North American and European diets, only fish and wild game, berries, and mushrooms may be said not to have been genetically engineered in some fashion. North Americans have consumed more than a trillion servings of foods that contain gene-spliced ingredients, with not a single untoward reaction. In fact, when conventional and gene-spliced seed materials are mixed, arguably the former should be thought of as contaminating the latter.

What makes false alarms hard to expose is the virtual impossibility of demonstrating the absolute safety of any activity or product: There is always the possibility that we havent yet gotten to the nth hypothetical risk or to the nth dose or the nth year of exposure, when the risk will finally be demonstrated. It is logically impossible to prove a negative, and all activities pose some nonzero risk of adverse effects.

Moral Equivalence Pathological science may confuse not only the public but also policy makers, who may themselves be scientifically challenged. Donald Kennedy, the editor of Science, president emeritus of Stanford University, and former FDA commissioner, chides bureaucrats: Frequently decision-makers give up the difficult task of finding out where the weight of scientific opinion lies, and instead attach equal value to each side in an effort to approximate fairness. In this way extraordinary opinions are promoted to a form of respectability that approaches equal status.

This kind of undeserved moral equivalence frequently compromises governmental decision-making and has given rise to unscientific and inconsistent regulation of pesticides, biotechnology applied to agriculture, silicone breast implants, herbal dietary supplements, and innumerable other products and technologies.

No one should mistake activists misdemeanors for naive exuberance or excessive zeal in a good cause. Their motives are self-serving and their tactics callous, an ongoing example of the sentiments expressed by a character in the Peanuts comic strip, I love humanity; its people I cant stand.

People who understand these issues need to do a better job of educating the large segment of the public that is uninformed, not only about the science, but also about the sophistry of those who would abuse it.

This article can be viewed at:
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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain (Cochrane Review)

Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain (Cochrane Review)
Furlan AD, van Tulder MW, Cherkin DC, Tsukayama H, Lao L, Koes BW, Berman BM



A substantive amendment to this systematic review was last made on 20 September 2004. Cochrane reviews are regularly checked and updated if necessary.

Background: Although low-back pain is usually a self-limiting and benign disease that tends to improve spontaneously over time, a large variety of therapeutic interventions are available for its treatment.

Objectives: To assess the effects of acupuncture for the treatment of non-specific low-back pain and dry-needling for myofascial pain syndrome in the low-back region.

Search strategy: We updated the searches from 1996 to February 2003 in CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE. We also searched the Chinese Cochrane Centre database of clinical trials and Japanese databases to February 2003.

Selection criteria: Randomized trials of acupuncture (that involves needling) for adults with non-specific (sub)acute or chronic low-back pain, or dry-needling for myofascial pain syndrome in the low-back region.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently assessed methodological quality (using the criteria recommended by the Cochrane Back Review Group) and extracted data. The trials were combined using meta-analyses methods or levels of evidence when the data reported did not allow statistical pooling.

Main results: Thirty-five RCTs were included; 20 were published in English, seven in Japanese, five in Chinese and one each in Norwegian, Polish and German. There were only three trials of acupuncture for acute low-back pain. They did not justify firm conclusions, because of small sample sizes and low methodological quality of the studies. For chronic low-back pain there is evidence of pain relief and functional improvement for acupuncture, compared to no treatment or sham therapy. These effects were only observed immediately after the end of the sessions and at short-term follow-up. There is evidence that acupuncture, added to other conventional therapies, relieves pain and improves function better than the conventional therapies alone. However, effects are only small. Dry-needling appears to be a useful adjunct to other therapies for chronic low-back pain. No clear recommendations could be made about the most effective acupuncture technique.

Authors' conclusions: The data do not allow firm conclusions about the effectiveness of acupuncture for acute low-back pain. For chronic low-back pain, acupuncture is more effective for pain relief and functional improvement than no treatment or sham treatment immediately after treatment and in the short-term only. Acupuncture is not more effective than other conventional and "alternative" treatments. The data suggest that acupuncture and dry-needling may be useful adjuncts to other therapies for chronic low-back pain. Because most of the studies were of lower methodological quality, there certainly is a further need for higher quality trials in this area.

Citation: Furlan AD, van Tulder MW, Cherkin DC, Tsukayama H, Lao L, Koes BW, Berman BM. Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001351.pub2. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001351.pub2.

AIDS, flu, pesticide,cell phone reassurances -- and then flour

On, blog of the American Council on Science and Health:

Josh Bloom asks "Whatever Happened to AIDS?" and answers -- pharmaceuticals:

Michal Raucher says when all else fails, pesticides are blamed:

Jeff Stier finds enough coverage of cell phone safety to maybe just maybe settle the issue:

Thomas DeGregori notices the absence of activist/media uproar over flour allergies:

Gilbert Ross, M.D., isn't freaking out over the flu:


_Personalized_ e-updates, purchasing/tracking of ACSH publications, and the option of posting comments about our articles are yours at:

State medical board suspends license of Dr. James Shortt

State medical board suspends license of W. Columbia alternative medicine doctor

(Columbia-AP) April 15, 2005 - A doctor at the center of a steroid investigation involving Carolina Panthers players has been suspended by the state medical board.

The board called Doctor James Shortt of West Columbia a "serious threat" to public health. The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners says he prescribed the steroid testosterone to four male patients for reasons that are unlikely to be legitimate.

An accompanying document from a state Labor Licensing Department investigator says the dosage and refill levels for the testosterone "provide a strong indication" that they were used for medically unnecessary purposes such as increasing muscle mass.

A medical board spokesman declined to say whether any of the four males cited in the suspension order were Panthers players. The order also cited the 2004 deaths of two patients whose families have filed malpractice lawsuits.

Along with the investigation into illegal steroid prescriptions and controversial intravenous hydrogen peroxide treatments, Doctor Shortt faces accusations of questionable diagnoses of Lyme disease.

The order of temporary suspension by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners says Shortt diagnosed and treated patients for Lyme disease "based only on the results of tests by an unaccredited out-of-state laboratory with a 100 percent positive rate for Lyme disease."

The order says the alternative medicine physician also did not report the alleged cases of Lyme disease to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control as required by law. His attorney Ward Bradley says Shortt was unaware that he was required to report the cases to DHEC.

Shortt told a Charlotte, North Carolina, newspaper he's done nothing wrong.

Posted 8:20pm by Chantelle Janelle

Foolish not to vaccinate

EDITORIAL: Foolish not to vaccinate


Paul Taggart

As the meningococcal-B vaccination campaign is rolled out through the region, the thoughts of the anti-vaccination lobby have begun to appear in the letters to the editor column once again.

The plan is to vaccinate more than a million young people against the disease in New Zealand's biggest ever mass immunisation programme.

Last year, when the campaign was beginning, the Immunisation Awareness Society's researcher, Sue Claridge, said vaccinating would not address underlying problems. Instead, she pointed to overcrowding, poor living standards and poverty.

While such factors do have an impact on the development and spread of illness, including meningococcal disease, to raise them as a mass vaccination campaign was just beginning to get under way could only have been intended to muddy the water.

There has long been an anti-immunisation lobby, driven by a variety of motives.

They have a right to their opinions, but the overwhelming evidence is that existing vaccination programmes, for a range of illnesses that formerly proved fatal or seriously debilitating, have saved countless lives and prevented untold suffering.

There have been more than 5000 cases since the current epidemic began, with about 200 deaths a year.

Not surprisingly, parents who have lost children to the disease, or who are fortunate enough to have children survive a close call with the disease, generally support the campaign unreservedly.

Meningococcal-B has been at epidemic proportions since 1991 in this country. Since then, 220 people have died as a result of contracting it and more than 5000 have caught it, most of them young people.

Those bald statistics are enough to steamroller any anxiety the anti-vaccination lobby may have about the mass immunisation campaign.

After all, there are some diseases and illnesses we cannot yet vaccinate against, but it would be foolish not to do so for those we can.

The sooner all the children in the region whose parents consent, are vaccinated, the safer all of us will be.

Codex won’t affect US law, say associations

Codex won’t affect US law, say associations

4/18/2005 - Industry assocations are seeking to dispel myths that the impending Codex Alimentarius international guidelines for vitamin and mineral food supplements, expected to be adopted in July, will force a change in US law to bring regulation of dietary supplements in line with Europe, writes Jess Halliday.

The American Herbal Products Association (APHA) published a document last week to address concerns from its members and consumers that access to supplements containing vitamins, minerals and herbs will be affected by the guidelines.
All 165 Codex member countries will be required to allow the import of vitamin and mineral supplements that meet the new guidelines, it said.

But since US law on dietary supplements (the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, or DSHEA) is less restrictive than the guidelines, logic dictates that imports which meeting the guidelines’ requirements will also meet those of DHSEA.

However countries whose laws are more restrictive than the guidelines will have to relax their regulations for incoming trade.

The flip-side of the guidelines, as John Hathcock, VP scientific & international affairs at the Council For Responsible Nutrition (CRN), explained to, is that other Codex countries could reject US products that do not meet the regulatory standards of the guidelines.

Whilst the regulations will not force them to reject such products, Hathcock noted that a country is unlikely to be more lenient on foreign imports than it is on products produced domestically.

He added that whilst the primary purpose of Codex is to “protect exporters against whimsical importers,” a country’s government could choose to use Codex as a national policy if it so wished. This option is most likely to be exercised by countries which do not have large budgets to develop their own.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was set up in 1963 by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization to develop guidelines that protect consumer health and ensure fair trade practices. It has adopted almost 250 standards covering different aspects of the food industry to date.

The Draft Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements were first proposed in 1993 and are currently at step 8 of the Codex process, the final stage prior to adoption.

The discussions surrounding the new guidelines coincides with industry concern over the 2002 food supplements directive, due to come into force in August.

Earlier this month Advocate General Geelhoed of the European Court of Justice ruled that the directive, which would limit vitamin and mineral supplements to an approved list and see hundreds of widely-used ingredients withdrawn as of August 2005, infringes basic principles of European law and should be rewritten.

The opinion was given after two parallel cases brought by trade associations (the Health Food Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Health Stores) and a consumer health campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), argued that the directive infringes EU constitutional law and basic principles of free trade.

Although not legally binding, in the majority of cases the Advocate General’s opinion reflects that of the senior judge in the final ruling, which is expected in July.

Mark LeDoux, chairman of CRN’s international trade and market development committee, said that the ruling “means that the Draft Standard for Vitamin and Mineral Supplements…is substantively vindicated, and any effort to amend this draft standard at the upcoming Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in July would not only violate Codex’s fundamental tenets, it would run counter to what the European Union’s own jurists…opined.”

In urging CRN members to support the Codex guidelines, Hathcock called them “consistent with sound scientific principles, public policy and now, developing EU law.”

Monday, April 18, 2005

Deadly bug risk to 43% of toddlers

"It also appeared that the anti-immunisation lobby was scaring off some parents through misleading and inaccurate information about the safety of the vaccination, said Mr McRae."

Deadly bug risk to 43% of toddlers

By Ruth Woodward
The lives of almost half the Bay's youngest children are at risk from meningococcal disease because they have not yet been vaccinated.

Ten weeks into the region's immunisation programme, the number of children aged under five being vaccinated has flattened out to 57 per cent - leaving more than 40 per cent of youngsters at risk of catching the potentially fatal disease.

Western Bay Primary Health Organisation general manager Roger Taylor said this level must be lifted to 90 per cent or more.

"If we don't reach 90 per cent we have to really question how seriously we are taking the health of our children," said Mr Taylor. "The ultimate measure of success for the programme is what the final rate of immunisation is.

"Practices are reporting many undecided parents who want to wait and see what happens. Some have been misled to believe they can hold off until they see whether claims about the safety of the vaccine or the extent of the epidemic are true."

Mr Taylor said the slowest group to accept the programme were non-Maori middle New Zealanders - a sub-group who seemed to think they were safe from the disease.

"The most horrific (meningococcal) stories are from middle New Zealand kids. This (disease) has really shocked the hell out of those families," he said.

"Up to 20 per cent of people carry the bacteria in their noses and throats. The risk is high for all children under five and especially for those aged under one."

Maori parents had been far more responsive than non-Maori parents to the programme with a steady uptake of Maori children being vaccinated across the Western Bay.

Immunisation programme project manager John McRae said there appeared to be a false sense of security amongst some parents.

"It is most important for parents to realise that meningococcal knows no boundaries between Maori, non-Maori and deprivation."

Holding back could also mean no second chance for vaccination. The $200 million immunisation programme ends in October and Government has made no decision about including the vaccine in the regular immunisation schedule for young children in the future.

Mr McRae said this increased the urgency for parents to take the opportunity while the vaccination was free and available.

There was also a group of parents (about five per cent) who had declined to join the programme for personal reasons.

It also appeared that the anti-immunisation lobby was scaring off some parents through misleading and inaccurate information about the safety of the vaccination, said Mr McRae.

Other children were missing out on the vaccination due to confusion about where they can and cannot be vaccinated. Vaccinations could only be given in the schools, unless there was a clinical reason for the child to be vaccinated in a GP setting.

Medical officer of health, Dr Phil Shoemack, scotched claims the Government was "frightening" parents into getting their children vaccinated. "Meningococcal disease is frightening and medical authorities have a duty to put the facts in front of people."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sixth Skeptics' Circle

The Sixth Skeptics' Circle has just been hosted by SocraticGadfly. Excellent reading and a nice - easy to read - layout!

The archives for the Skeptics’ Circle (Circular Reasoning) are here:

Mysteries of the magic water man

Another snake oil salesman exposed.....

Mysteries of the magic water man

April 16, 2005

Unique water seemed too good to be true to begin with - and the story just keeps getting stranger. Ben Hills reports.

Cristina Marcon says her eczema has cleared up. Mark Fitzharris believes his multiple sclerosis is much better. Milton (Mickey) Macdonald declares that his arthritis pain has gone away.

Three people scattered across the mid-Canadian province of Ontario with one thing in common: their belief that a brand of bottled mineral water invented by an Australian can cure all manner of ailments, and their use of the internet to promote it.

Their emails can be accessed from the websites of Aqua Gilgamesh - named after the mythological Babylonian god-king of Uruk, slayer of Humbaba the Terrible and the Bull of Heaven - whose properties, if one believes the publicity, are equally awesome.

For $C50 ($52) a carton, one can obtain a supply of this water. The website - which notes it has no scientific trials on which to base any therapeutic or nutritional claims - lists dozens of conditions for which the water should be of benefit, from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases to diabetes, arthritis and psoriasis.

Ring a bell?

It should, because in April 2002 the same water featured on the cover of the Herald's Good Weekend magazine (claimed readership 1.8 million) under the headline "Miracle Water? Can something as simple as this mineral-rich water really combat arthritis, fatigue and osteoporosis ... help you live longer?"

That article, by Paul Sheehan, a devotee of the water who believes it helped him to health after suffering from a "constellation of auto-immune diseases", still features prominently on the Aqua Gilgamesh website.

Although it did caution that no medical trials had been conducted to test the efficacy of the water, that endorsement by Sheehan - and the five other people, one dog and one cat (deceased) whom he cited in the article as having benefited from the water - was picked up by the TV networks and triggered a gold rush for the manufacturer of what was then called Unique Water.

Queues of up to 600 sick people - some of them in wheelchairs, some using walking-sticks - formed outside the premises of Bert's Soft Drinks in the southern Sydney bayside suburb of Taren Point, then the only place the water could be obtained.

In the hysteria, people drove from Melbourne to obtain supplies. Customers were rationed to three cases each (a case, then costing $30, contains 24 600ml plastic bottles). Dennis Shelley, a director of the family-owned bottling company, was quoted in the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader as saying that 10,000 cases had been sold in a single day, $300,000 worth.

The success of the water must have brought a smile to the face of its inventor, a 54-year-old veterinarian named Russell John Beckett, who was quoted copiously, largely uncritically, throughout the article. Sheehan says he spent two months fact-checking the article, producing an 8000-word commentary containing 42 sources, to satisfy his editors on the credibility of Beckett's claims.

However, much appears to have been overlooked.

Beckett told interviewers he had stumbled over the "miracle water" as a result of decades of research he had conducted into long-lived sheep and cattle on properties in the Monaro region of NSW.

He somehow concluded that they lived longer because there was naturally occurring magnesium carbonate (a chemical commonly used in medicine for upset stomachs) in the creek water, rather than because of their genes or good husbandry.

What made his views more credible were the scientific qualifications Beckett said he had. Beckett was described as "a former practising vet with an honours degree in veterinary science and a doctorate in biochemical pathology from Sydney University".

Sydney University does not offer such a doctorate. It says that Beckett's PhD is in veterinary science.

Nor does his claim that he had spent most of his life researching how life may be prolonged bear scrutiny. His master's and PhD theses are both available from the university's Fisher Library.

They show he was more interested in the dead than the living. He was awarded his doctorate in 1985 for experiments in which he poisoned sheep and cattle with dried, ground-up rock ferns, autopsied them and published gory pictures of their dissected organs.

As another boost to his believability, Beckett claimed the CSIRO had also been studying the phenomenon of "supersheep" in the Monaro region since 1955. However, the research was on identifying a gene associated with fecundity, the number of offspring a sheep can have, not the number of years it will live, said a spokesperson.

Beckett also said that he was working with the University of Canberra on a scientific paper on the water to be submitted to New Scientist magazine.

No such research had been done, and no paper was ever published, said a university spokesperson - its only contact with Beckett had been providing him with geological data on the Monaro region.

The magazine also reported that the amount of "actual clinical trialling" had been "limited". In fact there has been none at all, as Aqua Gilgamesh's latest websites make clear: "Conducting high-quality, professional clinical trials for the treatment of specific diseases is a very expensive and time-consuming process. Aqua G [another name for the water] is currently negotiating and researching [this]."

Beckett has been talking almost since the day his water was launched on an unsuspecting public about conducting proper "double-blind" trials (in which neither the patient nor the researcher knows who is getting the real thing, and who is getting the placebo) to be peer-reviewed and published in a reputable scientific journal - the only kind of science the regulatory authorities will accept or the public should believe.

Dr Daniel Lewis, an expert in rheumatoid arthritis and director of the Lewis Institute for Health and Wellbeing in Melbourne wishes he would hurry up. Lewis has been waiting for two years for $200,000 Beckett led him to believe would be forthcoming for clinical trials to be conducted in conjunction with Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Lewis conducted a pilot study with the water on 50 arthritis patients, and found that about one-third of them reported feeling better.

However, he says this could be because when patients are paying for their own treatment, up to half of them report their condition has improved even when they have been taking the useless placebo.

Lewis is angry because some of his patients are still spending a small fortune on Unique Water (the recommended "dose" is two litres a day, about $5 worth) eating up their budget for other treatments that may be effective. "I believe it is garbage, but we need clinical trials to show that it is garbage - that is a fabulous and important health message that needs to get out," Lewis said.

Beckett told Sheehan that rather than pay for clinical trials he had chosen to pay for his water to be patented in Australasia and the US.

Although Sheehan acknowledged that the patent process did not involve testing the product, much was made in the article about how the patenting process involved "scientific review" and "peer review" and how this was the first patent granted in the world for "slowing the ageing process and increasing our length of life".

If any media had contacted IP Australia (the patent-granting body) they would have been told, as this reporter was, by Malcolm Royal, president of the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia, that "patents are generally granted without any examination of whether or not the invention works - the only exception I am aware of is perpetual motion machines".

He said patents had been granted for preposterous products such as cheese which it was claimed would never go rotten and a vacuum cleaner which was operated by the motion of a rocking-chair. "Particularly with pharmaceutical drugs there is frequently charlatan-type behaviour in patenting products that don't work as a selling point," Royal said.

It's not as if Beckett does not have the money to fund proper clinical trials.

A month after the Good Weekend article was published, a company was formed, Unique Water Australia Pty Ltd, one of six companies with which Beckett is associated. The directors and shareholders are Beckett and his son Lachlan, and Dennis Shelley and his brother Arthur - however, there is no record of its income, or how it was split.

Since those first few heady weeks, sales of Unique Water appear to have slowed - some BP service stations have stopped stocking it. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the product came under a three-pronged investigation - by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and finally the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which forced Beckett to remove the more outrageous therapeutic claims from his website.

(The water is now, incidentally, marketed under the slogan "Too Good to be True" - the same marketing spiel used by Christopher Skase to sell his Mirage resorts at Port Douglas and the Gold Coast before his empire imploded in a billion dollars' worth of debt).

Whatever the current sales, the water is fabulously profitable, if nothing else. A box of 24 600 millilitre bottles (14.4 litres) costs $30 from Bert's today - $2.08 a litre. 15 litres of a brand of spring water such as JustPure costs $9, or 60 cents a litre. So for the addition of a few cents' worth of magnesium bicarbonate there should be nearly $1.50 a litre pure profit in Unique Water - about $200,000 for that single day when 10,000 cases were sold.

It is therefore curious that Dennis Shelley should have told the Herald after the original article appeared (he would not comment for this article) that he had spent more than $1 million on a new bottling plant for the water and had not recouped his money. Perhaps he was unhappy that his daughter, Tanya, had departed with Beckett for North America - and that Sheehan recently resurrected unproven allegations about the suspected suicide of Beckett's first wife, Robyn.

In fact, the whereabouts of Russell Beckett is as mysterious as the miracles wrought by his water. Neither phone calls to the house in Red Hill, Canberra, where he has been living - which appears to be empty - nor emails to an address shared by him and his son, were answered.

His friend, Jim Watts, ran into him in Canberra last October and got the impression he was moving to Canada - and, indeed, that is where he had launched Unique Water in its new incarnation as Aqua Gilgamesh.

The Aqua G website turned out to be registered to Tanya Shelley, of Unique Global Possibilities, who gave an address care of a law firm in Sacramento, California. She did not respond to telephone calls, emails, or a request passed on through the law firm to discuss the water.

Gilgamesh gives an address in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario, where Beckett's miracle water was being produced by a company called Iroquois Water on a Mohawk reserve - the company is jointly owned by native Canadians and the large Canadian bottling company, Cott Corporation.

However, the company has been closed for some time, and the only stocks seem to be owned by a Toronto distribution company called HanTech. A man who identified himself as Jay You (Gilgamesh has a Korean-language option on its website) said he owned the company but had not received fresh supplies for six months. He had been trying with no success to locate Beckett.

Beckett's last media romp was early last year when he did an interview with a local indigenous TV station in which he again said that clinical trials were to be conducted - this time at "Berkley". Needless to say, the University of California's Berkeley campus had never heard of Dr Beckett.

And there the trail grows cold.

There is one final curiosity. In the 4000-word article, Good Weekend did not quote one independent scientist as either endorsing or cautioning against Unique Water. The closest it got was Beckett's friend Watts, who is also a disciple of the water.

Paul Sheehan says this was because in two months' research he could not find a scientist who was willing to be quoted.

Well, here are three:

Dr Hayden Lloyd Davies, former dean of the faculty of veterinary science at Sydney University, who knew Beckett as an undergraduate: "It's pure, unqualified bullshit. The man is genuinely self-deluded."

Dr Richard Gordon, medical spokesman for Australian Skeptics, which shortlisted Unique Water for its Bent Spoon award, named after the Israeli illusionist Uri Geller: "There is a well-known saying: the plural of anecdote is not evidence. All journalists should be required to read two books, How We Know What Isn't So by Thomas Gilovich and Why People Believe Weird Things - Pseudoscience, Superstition and other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer. If they did there would not be so many funny articles [written]."

Dr Mark Wahlquist, world-renowned nutritionist at Monash University, interviewed on ABC TV's Catalyst program: "My first instinct on reading about the work of Russell Beckett was it's another silly story. (but now) I think that it's worth pursuing further."

But perhaps the last word should go to Beckett, speaking on the same program: "Because I didn't go through conventional gateways, therefore I could be put into the category of being a snake oil salesman."

Things To Ponder

Things To Ponder

A good time to keep your mouth shut is when you're in deep water.

How come it takes so little time for a child who is afraid of the dark to become a teenager who wants to stay out all night?

Work Conventions in distant places are important because they demonstrate how many people the company can operate without.

Why is it that at class reunions you feel younger than everyone else looks?

Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job.

No one has more driving ambition than the boy who wants to buy a car.

There are no new sins....the old ones just get more publicity.

There are worse things than getting a call for a wrong number at 4 AM. It could be a right number.

Think about this: No one ever says "It's only a game" when his team is winning.

Money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail.

The nicest thing about the future is that it always starts tomorrow.

If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.

If you have the vain illusion that you are a good driver, ponder this: seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs.

I've reached the age where the happy hour is a nap.

Be careful reading the fine print. There's no way you're going to like it.

The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket.

Do you realize that in about 40 years, we'll have millions of old ladies running around with tattoos?

Money can't buy happiness -- but somehow it's more comfortable to cry in a Rolls Royce than in a Moskvitch..

After a certain age, if you don't wake up aching in every joint, you are probably dead.

Alternative medicine doctor has license suspended

Article published Apr 15, 2005

Alternative medicine doctor has license suspended

The Associated Press

A doctor at the center of a steroid investigation involving Carolina Panthers players was suspended by the state medical board, which called the practitioner a "serious threat" to public health.

The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners said Dr. James Shortt prescribed the steroid testosterone to four unidentified male patients "in doses and frequencies that were extremely unlikely to have been prescribed with any legitimate medical justification."

An accompanying document from a state Labor Licensing Department investigator said the dosage and refill levels for the testosterone "provide a strong indication" that they were used for medically unnecessary purposes such as increasing muscle mass.

A medical board spokesman declined to say whether any of the four males cited in the suspension order were Panthers players.

The order, announced Thursday after a secret vote a day earlier, also cited the 2004 deaths of two patients whose families have filed malpractice lawsuits.

Katherine Bibeau, who had multiple sclerosis, died three days after receiving intravenous hydrogen peroxide. Michael Bate, who died of prostate cancer, also received the peroxide injections and was allegedly told by Shortt how to get and take an illegal cancer drug.

Bate's doctor determined his cause of death was cancer. But Richland County Coroner Gary Watts ruled Bibeau's death a homicide. No charges have been filed in the case. The State Law Enforcement Division and federal Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating.

"There is no doubt in my mind Katherine Bibeau died as a result of something Dr. Shortt did," Watts said Friday.

Shortt, a traditionally trained M.D. who turned to alternative medicine, has been under investigation for nearly a year by state and federal authorities probing illegal steroid prescriptions.

Shortt denied any wrongdoing. "I'm annoyed," he told The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer for Friday editions. "I haven't done anything wrong, I haven't done anything different, I haven't done anything since all this foolishness started a year ago."

CBS News reported last month that three Carolina Panthers players filled prescriptions from Shortt for banned steroids less than two weeks before the team played in the 2004 Super Bowl.

The suspension order said Shortt's actions, including the intravenous hydrogen peroxide infusions, "render him unfit to practice medicine and constitute a serious threat to the public health, safety or welfare."

"Suspension of a license is supposed to be to protect the public. Ain't nobody dead, except for one person, and I still can't figure that one out."

"And the second one," referring to Bate, a cancer patient, "was terminal the day that person walked into some other doctor's office six months before they saw me."

Katherine Bibeau's widower, David Bibeau, said the suspension gave him a sense of vindication.

"It's taken too long, but I am relieved that finally the public is being protected," he said.

Richard Gergel, the attorney representing Bibeau and Bate, praised the action of the board.

"I think it was a long overdue step," Gergel said Friday. "But in the end, they got to the right place."

Gergel said the case should be an example to the state medical board that physician complaints need to be made public. "This culture of secrecy of the medical board is not in the best interest of the public."

It's important not to trample on the due process rights of physicians, said South Carolina Medical Association chief executive Todd Atwater. But in this case, the association supports the board's decision to pull Shortt's license, he said.

"If physicians have done wrong, patients need to know," Atwater said, noting Shortt is not a member of the South Carolina Medical Association.

Shortt has not decided whether to contest the suspension, his lawyer Ward Bradley said.

Meanwhile, the board will continue its investigation and decide whether to permanently revoke his license, medical board spokesman Jim Knight said.

Friday, April 15, 2005

666 Number of the beast

666 Number of the beast (Revelation 13:18)
668 Neighbor of the beast
660 Approximate number of the beast
DCLXVI Roman numeral of the beast
666.0000 Number of the high-precision beast
0.666 Number of the millibeast
1/666 Common denominator of the beast
666[-/(-1)] Imaginary number of the beast
1010011010 Binary number of the beast
29A Hexidecimal number of the beast
-666 Negative number of the beast
00666 Zip code of the beast
$665.95 Retail price of the beast
$699.25 Price of the beast plus 5% state sales tax
$769.95 Price of the beast with all accessories and replacements
$656.66 Wal-Mart price of the beast
$646.66 Next week's Wal-Mart price of the beast
$333.00 After-Christmas sale price of the beast
$222.00 Going-out of business liquidation price of the beast
Phillips 666 Gasoline of the beast
Route 666 Way of the beast
665 Older brother of the beast
667 Younger brother of the beast
666 UP Soft drink of the beast
666lb cap Weight limit of the beast
666 F Oven temperature for cooking roast "beast"
666k Retirement plan of the beast
666 mg Recommended minimum daily requirement of the beast
6.66% 5-year CD rate at First Beast of Hell, $666 minimum deposit
20/666 Vision of the beast
1-800-666-6666 Toll-free number of the beast
999 Australian number of the beast
6"X 6"X 6" Lumber of the beast
66.6 GHZ Computer processor of the beast
666i BMW of the beast
666-66-6666 Social security number of the beast
6/6/66 Birth date of the beast URL of the beast
IAM 666 License plate number of the beast
Formula 666 All-purpose cleaner of the beast
666 calories Diet of the beast
969 Dyslexic number of the beast
WD-666 Spray lubricant of the beast
66.6 MHz FM radio station of the beast
666 KHz AM radio station of the beast
Chanel No. 666 The beast's favorite perfume
666% What the beast gives in his game

2092.300707 Beast pi
666C Homeopathic recipe for a beast cure

List of mangled measurements

List of mangled measurements

1. Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi

2. 2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton

3. 1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope

4. Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecond

5. Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram

6. Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour = Knotfurlong

7. 365.25 days of drinking low calorie beer = 1 Lite year

8. 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

9. Half a large intestine = 1 semicolon

10. 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz

11. Basic unit of laryngitis - 1 hoarsepower

12. Shortest distance between two jokes - a straight line

13. 453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake

14. 1 million microphones = 1 megaphone

15. 1 million bicycles = 1 megacycles

16. 365.25 days = 1 unicycle

17. 2000 mockingbirds = two kilomockingbirds

18. 10 cards = 1 decacard

19. 52 cards = 1 deckacard

20. 1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 fig Newton

21. 1000 grams of wet socks = 1 literhosen

22. 1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche

23. 1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin

24. 10 rations = 1 decaration

25. 100 rations = 1 C-ration

26. 2 monograms = 1 diagram

27. 8 nickels = 2 paradigms

28. 2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 I.V. League

El computer

El computer

A Spanish teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

"House," for instance, is feminine: "la casa"
"Pencil," however, is masculine: "el lapiz"

A student asked, "What gender is 'computer'?"

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether "computer" should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that "computer" should definitely be of the feminine gender ("la computer"), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;
3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and
4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your pay on accessories for it.

No chuckling... this gets better!)

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ("el computer"), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;
2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;
3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have found a better model.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Beware of Health fraud

Beware of Health fraud

Dr KK Aggarwal

April 12, 2005

The word ‘quackery’ comes from the word ‘quacksliver’ (someone who goes about his salves). The literal dictionary meaning of quacks is “pretender to medical skill, a charlatan” and “one who talks pretentiously without sound knowledge of the subject discussed”. US FDA defines health fraud as “the promotion, for providing a medical remedy, known to be false or unproven”. Quackery, therefore, has to be differentiated from the word ‘fraud’. Quackery's paramount characteristic is promotion rather than fraud, greed, or misinformation.

In simpler and broader terms, quackery can be defined as “anything involving for over promotion in the field of health”. This definition includes questionable ideas as well as questionable products and service regardless of the sincerity of their promoters. The word fraud should be reserved only for situations in which deliberate deception is involved.

Unproven methods are not necessarily quackery. Many of them may be consistent with established scientific concepts and should be labelled experimental. Legitimate researchers would convert them into properly designed studies. In the Indian context, as far as government is concerned, quack is defined as a person who is practicing a particular system of medicine without a recognised medical degree or registration.

Quackery is rampant in Indian society. For every one qualified doctor there are two practicing quacks. One of the reasons is inhuman behaviour of the qualified medical doctors. A classical example of a quack is in the movie “Munnabhai MBBS” where a healer wins the game over the qualified medical allopathic practitioners. A quack pays more attention to the person than to the ailment. Quackery basically is a triad of creating fear, utilizing tenderness and building patient's confidence. Most quacks have superb bedside manners. They cannot provide cure of major diseases present in a person, but they can make promises, give sympathy, show consideration, show concern and give repeated re-assurances to the patient and the family.

Most patients will respond to such attention. Unless the medical doctors adopt this type of healing in their conventional healing quackery can never be eradicated.

All doctors should improve their communication skills. Most qualified physicians help their patients if they can, but at most occasions they also confess when they can’t. Quacks do not make such confessions. A quack can promise anything starting from a cure to a miracle. Quacks utilize prevalent myths in the society and use them to their advantage. They have a fair knowledge of tantras and totkas.

You are what your deep-rooted desires are. In a state of silence whatever is your intent, the body produces the same through a chemical. If you have a positive desire the body produces a placebo and if you have negative desires, the body produces a nacebo. Most diseases are self-limiting. By a positive frame of mind and positive thinking even cancers have been known to regress. Most quacks utilize the same in their practice. A quack, therefore, is an intelligent person who is playing with the weaknesses of the human mind. They will continue to flourish unless a medical doctor apart from being a physical healer also becomes a mental and a spiritual healer.

A quack can be dangerous for our life. When we approach a doctor we must make sure that he or she is registered with the state medical council. Just the word doctor would not suffice. Most quacks write the word RMP or “registered medical practitioner”. We must see to it that the doctor has the medical registration number on the letterhead, which is a statutory legal requirement.

Even a delayed diagnosis can be dangerous. Most quacks give a cocktail therapy, which only suppresses the symptoms. The same will come back after a few days, but by that time it may be too late.

(The writer is a senior Physician, Head Department of Cardiology and Deputy Dean Board of Medical Education-Moolchand Hospital, President-Heart Care Foundation of India, President Elect-Delhi Medical Association and Member-Delhi Medical Council.)

Homeopathy - Undiluted Tosh!

Daily Mail
12/04/05 - Health section

Homeopathy - Undiluted Tosh!

Witchdoctors have never been more popular. The Queen swears by them and even uses them for her sick horses. And witchcraft is one of the biggest growth industries in the world, worth more than £1billion a year in Britain alone.

We are talking, of course, about alternative medicine - and in particular homeopathy, which this week celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who rebelled against the orthodox medicine of his day.

It comes at a time when distrust of modern medicine has never been higher.

Mainstream doctoring has been held to be at the root of a host of evils - from the supposed epidemic of autism to the dubious over-prescribing of myriad pills and potions with dangerous side-effects.

So is it any wonder that Dr Hahnemann is a hero to so many?

Hahnemann's theories - that very weak solutions of toxic substances could cure disease completely - changed the way many people thought about their bodies and their illnesses.


Despite an avalanche of scientific scorn in the centuries since his birth, homeopaths have thrived, promoting their tinctures which they claim will relieve symptoms or even cure them.

I am not a doctor, and hold no torch for any particular medical paradigm or practice, but I find this modern British faith in homeopathy extremely depressing.

It seems clear to me that the rise of the homeopath represents nothing less than an assault on the Age of Reason, the modern belief in scientific logic and rational thought which has dominated Western thinking since the days of Newton and Darwin.

This is not a popular view, and I realise that it will not resonate with many of our readers. But I believe the issues here are so important that both sides must be heard.

First, let's be clear about some terminology. There is no such thing as 'alternative medicine'. There is medicine which works, and medicine which does not. 'Medicine' which does not work is simply snake oil and fit only for the bin.

So where does homeopathy fit in and what do its practitioners claim?

In the late 18th Century, 'traditional' medicine was in a mess. After consultation with a 'doctor', patients - in reality victims - would be purged, burned, gassed and flayed in order to effect a cure. No wonder so many died.

Dr Hahnemann thought this was a nonsense and came up with a new theory. The principle of homeopathy is 'like cures like'; he reasoned that since some substances caused symptoms very similar to some common diseases, then maybe the body could be 'trained' to fight the original disease by taking these substances in very dilute form.

Harmless dilutions

To this end, he developed a system based on incredibly weak and harmless dilutions of known toxins. Give someone a dilute solution of deadly nightshade, for instance (which causes fever, headache and death when consumed) and the body would produce a sort of immune response curing a headache or fever.

We understand the mechanism for this, but there is no way such a dilute solution of arsenic can 'prime' the body to do anything.

And yet homeopaths believe that the more dilute the solution, the greater its power! Well, if they are right, just about everything we believe about the natural world must be wrong.

In fact, every single glass of water you drink will probably contain, or has had disolved in it, at least one atom or molecule of every chemical known to man.

So if homeopathy works the way homeopaths say it works then every glass of water should contain a homeopathic 'cure' for every disease under the sun!

No one would have any problem with homeopathy if it worked, but it does not.

A miracle

Of course, there have been thousands of anecdotal cases in which the homeopath has seemingly wrought a miracle. People have had a lifetime of chronic pain ended with the swig of a tincture of belladonna. Millions swear by their Bach Flower Remedies and Arnica.

But that does not mean homeopathy is responsible. It is one of the great truisms of medicine that with any relatively minor illness, doing nothing will usually be 100 per cent effective.

Our bodies possess a pretty formidable machine in the immune system, honed over millions of years of evolution to cope with whatever the world throws at us.

Homeopathy - effectively doing nothing - will of course 'work' most of the time if we have a functioning immune system.

Modern medicine (and a scientific understanding of disease and how our bodies work) is responsible for the fact that life expectancy in the West is now in the high 70s, rather than in the 30s and 40s of 150 years ago.

Modern medicine is the reason why diseases such as malaria, diphtheria, typhoid and plague are now rarities in the developed world.

Modern medicine is the reason surgery is no longer torture, and why parents no longer have to come to terms with the fact that half their children will be dead by the age of five.

Modern medicine

Despite all this, there are still millions of people who refuse to believe in the awesome advantages modern medicine has given us.

They look back to a mythical golden age, before 'chemicals' corrupted our bodies and evil boffins worked their magic upon us for profit and glory.

There have been attempts to 'prove' that homeopathy works. Various scientists have attempted to show that incredibly dilute solutions can have an effect, but the general attitude is one of scorn.

The vast majority of doctors and researchers believe homeopathy is simply wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, alternative medicine marches on. And this is why I believe homeopathy represents such a great step backwards.

Its on-going success tells us that we are uncomfortable with the age of enlightenment and prefer to hark back to a darker era when we believed in witchcraft and superstition.

By all means if you have a headache or feel low, go to the homeopath. The worst thing that will happen is that you will waste money on distilled water.

But if you have something more serious - a broken leg, a heart attack or cancer, go orthodox. After all, it must say something that homeopathic hospitals rarely have a casualty department.

©2005 Associated New Media

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Just stick it out!

A little 8 year old boy wanted to be circumcised when he realized he looked different than dad and his friends. The day after the proceedure he returned to school.

During class, he became uncomfortable and asked for permission to go to the nurse. When he arrived at her office, he hesitated and finally just asked if he could call his mother. Sensing this was personal, the nurse stepped into the hall and closed the door to allow him privacy.

Several minutes later the little boy came out of her office and the nurse noticed his penis was sticking out of his pants. "Where are you going?" she asked. "Back to class," said the boy.

"But you can't go back like that!" explained the nurse. "I have to," stressed the boy. "My mother said that if I could just stick it out until lunchtime, she would come and pick me up."

Do physicians overestimate effects of acupuncture treatment?

Schmerz. 2005; [Epub ahead of print]
[Do physicians overestimate effects of acupuncture treatment?]
[Article in German]

Lungenhausen M, Endres HG, Kukuk P, Schaub C, Maier C, Zenz M.

Abteilung fur Schmerztherapie, Klinik fur Anasthesiologie, Intensiv- und Schmerztherapie der Berufsgenossenschaftlichen Kliniken Bergmannsheil Bochum, .

Physicians' ratings about their patients' pain prove to be invalid compared to patients' ratings. This is especially true if pain rating acts as an indicator for therapy outcome. The aim of this study was to compare physicians' and patients' ratings of pain relief following acupuncture and to identify correlations between patient characteristics and potential miscalibrations.

In a cross-sectional study 291 pain patients with gonarthrosis or chronic low back pain and their attending physicians were asked to give their rating of patients' pain relief following acupuncture. Patients were interviewed by telephone, and doctors responded to questionnaires.

The proportion of false-positive physicians' ratings was 81% referring to patients without self-reported benefit from acupuncture. Just every fifth patient without pain relief was correctly classified by his physician. There was no correlation between patients' characteristics and false-positive ratings of physicians.


Evaluation of treatment in daily medical routine should be primarily based on information provided by patients.

Alternative Medical Terms

Alternative Medical Terms
Benign................What you be after you be eight.
Artery................The study of paintings.
Bacteria..............Back door to cafeteria.
Barium................What doctors do when patients die.
Cesarean Section......A neighborhood in Rome.
Cat scan...............Searching for kitty.
Cauterize.............Made eye contact with her.
Colic.................A sheep dog.
Coma..................A punctuation mark.
D & C.................Where Washington is.
Dilate................To live long.
Enema.................Not a friend.
Fester................Quicker than someone else.
Fibula................A small lie.
Genital...............Non-Jewish person.
G.I. Series...........World Series of military baseball.
Hangnail..............What you hang your coat on.
Impotent..............Distinguished, well known.
Labor Pain............Getting hurt at work.
Medical Staff.........A Doctor's cane.
Morbid................A higher offer than I bid.
Nitrates..............Cheaper than day rates.
Node..................Was aware of
Outpatient.... .......A person who has fainted.
Pap Smear..... .......A fatherhood test.
Pelvis................Second cousin to Elvis.
Post Operative........A letter carrier.
Recovery Room.........Place to do upholstery.
Rectum................Darn near killed him.
Secretion.............Hiding something.
Seizure...............Roman emperor.
Tablet................A small table.
Terminal Illness......Getting sick at the Bus Station
Tumor.................More than one.
Urine.................Opposite of you're out.
Varicose..............Near by/close by.