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).

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Download the Internet here

You can now download the entire internet and work offline. Skeptical?

Warning! Make sure you have plenty of disk space!! ;-)
Download the ENTIRE Internet here

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Ease the strain on the neck

Ease the strain on the neck


There are many different treatments available for neck pain, which is normally a sign that none of them is any good.

Common complaint: Neck pain is usually due to age and an unhealthy lifestyle.

THE proverbial pain in the neck affects 30 per cent of all men and 50 per cent of all women at least once in their lifetime. Many have it regularly and some suffer constantly.

Thus neck pain is not just a misery for those who are afflicted by it, it also causes huge expense to all of us, for example through days off work and cost for treatments.

Unless there is a specific cause, such as an injury, neck pain is usually due to two factors: age and an unhealthy lifestyle. As we grow older, our bones and the surrounding tissues in the neck degenerate.

Numerous treatments

Most people's lives do not allow them to do enough exercise, and they spend far too much time in postures which put a constant strain on the neck, such as sitting in front of a computer for much of the day. Both factors in combination mean that neck pain, after the age of 40 or 50, becomes more the rule than the exception. Experts often call this non-specific neck pain.

Treatments for neck pain are numerous: painkillers, spinal manipulation, massage, exercises, heat packs, cupping, traction — you name it, some healthcare practitioners will offer it. Whenever there are dozens of treatment options, there is, I think, good reason to suspect that none is truly effective.

In an attempt to find out what really works, British physiotherapists conducted a rigorous clinical trial. The results were recently published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. The researchers recruited 350 patients suffering from non-specific neck pain. These patients were treated in three different ways.

Those in the first group received individually tailored advice and were taught simple exercises, which they were advised to do regularly at home. The advice was along the following lines: neck pain is common and not a reason to worry, it is normally not due to a serious disease; rest does more harm than good, so staying active is important.

The second group received the same advice plus regular treatments with spinal manipulation of the neck. Chiropractors and osteopaths often use this approach but, in this case, physiotherapists carried out the treatment. Up to eight such sessions of manual therapy were given.

The third group received pulsed short wave therapy. This is a treatment often used in physiotherapy departments and simply means that mild heat is applied to the painful area in the hope that the warmth will relax the tense muscles and ease the pain.

After the treatments were completed, the success of each approach was evaluated. The primary outcome measure was a questionnaire, which quantified the degree of disability experienced by patients through neck pain in daily life.


The results were revealing: there was marked improvement in all three groups, but very few differences emerged between them. If anything, the patients who only had the advice and did their own exercises fared best. These patients also used fewer painkillers or other drugs and consulted their GPs less. Half a year later, the patients were reinvestigated. At that point, little had changed; the group of patients who had received advice and kept active still had the best results.

These findings are important. They show that the best options for neck pain are fairly simple and inexpensive. Adding spinal manipulation to the regimen not only does not improve the situation, it may be detrimental. For one, it increases expenditure. As neck pain is such a common complaint, these costs accumulate and would amount to huge sums.

But there is more; while exercise is almost entirely risk-free, other treatments are not. Spinal manipulation has been repeatedly associated with serious complications such as stroke or death. And, of course, painkillers are not risk-free either. They can lead to gastro-intestinal bleeding, damage the kidneys, and perhaps even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So, for once, the cheapest treatment seems to be the best. That must be music to the ears of those who have the difficult task of watching over our healthcare budgets. But there is still one problem: many patients can't be bothered with exercise. It is important that patients are monitored and motivated, ideally by a good physiotherapist who can also check that the exercises are done correctly. As with everything else in life, good intentions are not enough, and only doing things right leads to the right things.

Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth in southwest England.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

* * *
Neck pain can be the result of many disorders or diseases in the structure of the neck. Neck pain is also referred to as cervical pain.

The neck is composed of seven vertebrae (cervical vertebrae) or the building blocks of the spine. These surround the spinal cord and canal. Discs cushion the vertebrae and the nerves of the neck pass nearby. Within the neck, there are neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph glands, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, oesophagus, larynx and trachea.

While diagnosing neck pain, the history of the symptoms must be reviewed. This includes the location, intensity, duration and radiation of the pain. Past injury to the neck must also be noted. Positions or actions that aggravate or relieve the pain are also important. An examination of the neck while at rest and in motion.

Following this, the doctor may prescribe other tests like x-rays and scans.

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It's Enough to Make You Sick

It's Enough to Make You Sick
But this health book will cure you of gullibility

By Gene Weingarten

Sunday, September 25, 2005; Page W64

I just finished reading the No. 1 national best-selling advice book in America: Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, by Kevin Trudeau. I think I can safely say it is not a "good book," though I admit my standards may be a little high. I am defining a "good book" as one that is not actively trying to kill you.

Trudeau argues that most doctors are idiots, puppets of the evil pharmaceuticals industry. Together they are engaged in a shocking conspiracy with the FDA and FTC to keep you ignorant about simple, inexpensive natural cures that exist for virtually all diseases and that could keep you alive well past 100. It's all a fraud, says Trudeau, whose expertise appears to be that he, himself, has been convicted of fraud. (Don't look to the book for details about this last item. It involved a credit-card scam.)

Still, Trudeau is currently a megamillionaire, thanks in significant part to this book, which advises, among other things, that you should never eat any food that is produced by a "publicly traded company"; that you should immediately have all the metal fillings in your teeth replaced; and that -- unless you are basically lying on a gurney and dying from a gunshot wound -- you should never have any surgery or take any drugs prescribed by a doctor. (So, even though I myself was cured of a potentially fatal form of liver disease by a cocktail of pharmaceuticals prescribed by my doctor, Louis Y. Korman, Dr. Korman is evidently a dangerous quack. According to this book, he should have put me on a strict regimen of hydrogen peroxide and "crocodile protein peptide.")

According to Trudeau, if you are clinically depressed you should not take antidepressants; you should take long walks during which you "look far away." Cancer is completely preventable, a malady caused by nutritional deficiencies, "electromagnetic chaos," toxins in the body and stress. For perfect health, take 15 enemas in 30 days. Jump on a trampoline 10 minutes a day. Stay away from electric tumble dryers. Put magnets on your fingers and toes. Whenever possible, wear white clothes (though the author seems to be posing on the cover in black). Don't read the newspaper or watch TV news (these things cause stress, which is bad). Don't use fluorescent lighting. Throw out your microwave oven. Don't get your clothes dry-cleaned. Don't use deodorants. Follow these simple steps, and remain disease-free for the rest of your life.

Mostly, the book is a relentless tirade against the medical industry, which he says is motivated only by greed, greed, greed. "It's all about the money," Trudeau warns repeatedly. At one point, he discloses that he himself has discovered an easy, painless way to quit smoking for good, and then directs people to his Web site to learn what it is. Once you are there, you find you can obtain this information for 10 bucks, or you can sign up for an economical $499 lifetime membership.

My favorite part of the book is where Trudeau claims that because other mammals ingest no drugs or processed foods they live to "well in excess of what would be the equivalent of 120 human years." Now, if the ordinary, skeptical person thinks about this statement a little, and applies some basic, seventh-grade logic to it, he might well wet his pants. But it is not the ordinary, skeptical person to whom this book is addressed. It is addressed to the ordinary, gullible half-wit. And there appear to be at least 2 million of you out there, judging from sales figures. Many of you, presumably, are huddled in your homes away from TV, radio, newspapers or any source of disquieting information, subsisting on backyard squirrel meat, bouncing, stinking and dying.

Now, I have to say that after I read this book, I felt outrage. I was outraged that I had not thought of it first. Two million sales, based entirely on the premise that if you tell Americans something they want to hear, they'll make you rich!

I'm already planning my next two books. The first will be for women, the second for men.

How to Be Loved Forever and Ever by Someone You Love

By Gene Weingarten


How to Become Invisible Whenever You Enter

a Women's Locker Room

By Gene Weingarten

Oh, one more thing. Kevin Trudeau's book also says it's really healthy to laugh a lot. So by making fun of your idiot book here, Kevin, I'm merely doing my altruistic part for the nation's health, just like you.

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BLOGGING: Psst: Want to Know My Net Worth?

Psst: Want to Know My Net Worth?

For an increasing number of people, blogging is all about the money.

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Experts savage oxygen booster

Experts savage oxygen booster
25 September 2005

A "super-oxygenated" bottle of water being peddled to athletes and racehorse trainers as a performance booster is a load of hogwash, say experts.

Oxy-Shot, costing $200 for one litre - more expensive than most Champagnes - is said to have been developed using Nasa technology to provide huge amounts of additional oxygen to the bloodstream.

It has been embraced by two leading racing trainers - South Island galloping trainer Michael Pitman and greyhound trainer Dave Fahey - and has sporting icons Martin Crowe and Grant Fox batting for it.

But none of the exercise physiologists and veterinarians consulted by the Sunday Star-Times had a good word to say about it.

Harness Racing New Zealand veterinary consultant Andrew Grierson said Oxy-Shot's claims were "absolute crap, a load of hogwash".

"If this stuff is so good why aren't the girls at Mermaids (a strip bar) all on it. They wouldn't have to come up for air."

Former All Blacks first five-eighths Fox was introduced to Oxy-Shot spokesman Tony Brigstock by former New Zealand cricket captain Crowe.

Fox wasn't shy about praising Oxy-Shot, saying it had given him an extra zest for life.

"If I was an athlete I'd be right among this," Fox said. "The science went right over my head, I'm just going on what I feel. You don't get a buzz or anything, but I find I've got more energy and my sleep patterns are better."

Pitman, who finished second on the national premiership last season, started using it in February.

"I'm sure it's helped me. Ten or 12 horses, who were going nice races without winning, won within a short time of being on Oxy-Shot.

"I'm happy because I've had results. Whether the horses would have won without it I don't know, but whenever I use it, the horses seem to race a little bit better.

"Horses who are a little bit light, and lack a bit of natural strength, seem to get more energy at the right time."

Pitman agreed it was expensive for what it was, "but nothing's expensive if it works".

Yet some of the claims made by Oxy- Shot, launched in Great Britain last week, where it costs about $100 for 250ml, were outrageous, one expert said.

While vets laughed about the product, concern is spreading in other quarters about Oxy-Shot's aggressive marketing campaign.

By sponsoring big races in all three racing codes this weekend, it appeared to be gaining tacit credibility.

Grierson said he and industry analyst Geoff Beresford checked out Oxy-Shot last year when HRNZ got wind that some trainers were using it.

"There's nothing in it that would make it a prohibited substance under the rules and in my opinion it would have no effect on a horse. I wouldn't recommend anyone uses it."

But Fox, who has been recovering from two knee operations, said that in the two months he had been taking Oxy-Shot he had felt like he could "go just a bit harder" in training.

And he noticed the difference on the golf course, caddying for son Ryan.

"Walking 72 holes in two days is tiring but I now take a bottle of water, with this stuff in it, sipping constantly, and I don't feel so tired any more."

Fox said that, unlike supplements, which didn't make him feel any better, Oxy-Shot gave him an energy lift.

Experts cast wet blanket on 'super' water claims

On its website, www., promoters call it a super-strength concentrate, containing at least 150,000 parts per million usable oxygen compared with tap water's 6-10ppm.

Made without the use of chemicals, through "bio electrical manufacture", it comprises "84 per cent deionised water, 15 per cent dissolved diatomic oxygen and 1 per cent sodium chloride (Atlantic sea salt)".

The website claims that in a world breakthrough, Oxy-Shot is able to provide a pH-balanced oxygen supplement that can be syringed behind the tongue.

It says the stabilised oxygen molecules are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive system. Once in the bloodstream the oxygen is said to make its way into the cells of the body.

Oxy-Shot spokesman Tony Brigstock says Oxy-Shot is a revolutionary way to achieve peak performance and conditioning, and was best given 30 minutes before training.

"Oxygen debt is now regarded as a major issue for peak performance in elite athletes and racing animals are no different."

Brigstock says a string of Australian sports stars who have endorsed Sports Oxy-Shot, taken in 10ml doses, prove its effectiveness. They include rugby league's David Peachey, Craig Gower and Robbie O'Davis, rugby international Mat Rogers, hockey Olympian Brent Livermore and Olympic athlete Tamsyn Lewis.

The Australian website,, lists testimonials from leading golfers, kickboxers, swimmers, triathletes, bodybuilders, dancers, cricketers and coaches.

Brigstock says Oxy-Shot is a "proven, safe, clean product" that achieves the same objective as illegal techniques, such as the synthetic hormone EPO.

The trouble is, says Mike Hamlin, senior lecturer in exercise physiology at Lincoln University, EPO (erythropoeitin) and hypobaric chambers acted by stimulating the production of more red blood cells, and hence a greater oxygen-carrying capacity.

He questions how Oxy-Shot could work with the existing number of cells, when 98 per cent of them were already saturated with oxygen.

"If you gave the horse 100 per cent oxygen, you'd still only give it another 2 per cent at the most."

Hamlin said he knew of no physiological explanation of how oxygen could get into the bloodstream through drinking water.

Humans and horses were not fish, with specialised gills for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide.

One internet observation read: "The concept of obtaining significant amounts of oxygen through the digestive system makes as much scientific and physiological sense as quenching your thirst by inhaling a glass of water into your lungs."

Hamlin: "You are bypassing the normal systems (lungs) going to the digestive system.

"It has to go all the way down the oesophagus, into the stomach, the small intestine, and then be absorbed into the bloodstream.

"But there's no specific structure for oxygen to get across those tissues."

Even if some small amount of extra oxygen got into the blood from the gut, it would make no difference, he says.

The amount of oxygen transferred to the blood in the lungs would be reduced and the final saturation would still be only 98 per cent.

"So what do you gain? Nothing."

Hamlin said it was "quackery" to suggest Oxy-Shot could improve performance.

Andrew Kilding, senior lecturer in exercise physiology at AUT, said oxygenated water was a gimmick.

"It's not new. A lot of the original work on oxygenated water for humans was done in the late 1990s. There were quite a few in the US but they were quickly dismissed.

"On what I know of physiology and previous work done, this Oxy- Shot would have absolutely no effect. The amount of oxygen from one litre of oxygenated water is equivalent to only one breath.

"Oxygen available through water would not get into the bloodstream at all. It would be absorbed into the cells of the gut."

Anyone who bought a 500ml bottle would probably find by the time they came to the last few 50ml doses, there might be no oxygen left at all, if the bottle had been opened repeatedly.

As with carbonated water, each time the bottle was opened, it got flatter.

"Are they saying they've somehow modified the structure so oxygen stays within the fluid?"

Kilding said he was sure that if the NASA-based technology was so successful, NASA would have commercially developed it itself.

HRNZ veterinary consultant Grierson said test results on the website, under letterheads of the University of Sydney and the Australian government, were laughable.

One, which described a rise in the partial pressure of oxygen in one resting horse administered a 100ml of Oxy-Shot, was an absolute joke.

"In any clinical trial, you need at least 20 subjects to show any statistical effect. And it doesn't show any standard deviations or variance.

"A trial like that would always be discredited it's not peer reviewed."

Grierson said he would at least have expected another horse to have been given a saline solution as a control.

Just putting a catheter into the horse's artery and introducing a stomach tube would create a flight- or-fright response, causing the the spleen to contract and pump out extra red blood cells.

By simply hyperventilating, the horse would increase its cardiac volume, output and respiration rate.

Grierson said effectiveness aside, it would certainly be illegal for anyone to administer Oxy-Shot on race day giving anything, especially by syringe, would be classified as a serious racing offence under the rules.

Brigstock said his company was not suggesting people used the product on race days it was a training aid designed to get an animal into peak condition.

"The scientists say this does not get you a free lunch but it allows you to work harder if you want to.

"It's all about training and recovery. Horses are smart animals and if they're feeling better, they'll find another gear.

"We're seeing improvement in horses' health over time, they're overcoming small injuries faster."

Unlike word of mouth with athletes, horses couldn't tell you how good they felt on Oxy-Shot.

But Hamlin, who has a special interest in human and equine performance, says that if horses are pushed harder, even with pure oxygen, more break down, so there's no point.

When challenged on the lack of scientific studies on Oxy-Shot, Brigstock said the technology was so new they were only now being done.

Brigstock referred the Star- Times to Oxy-Shot's Tasmanian distributor, Rick Cazaly, a personal health and fitness coach, for specifics on how Oxy-Shot works.

But when Cazaly's explanations were put to Hamlin, he destroyed each in turn, replying: "This guy is trying to baffle you with bullshit. He is using some big scientific terms but has no conception of what they mean or what actually happens."

Brigstock said he could not release details yet but he "had something special" from a study just completed in the United States.

"We have some of the world's top sports physiologists doing clinical trials and last week we had a breakthrough with the most influential sports doctor in New Zealand."

Brigstock would not name the doctor, nor would he name any of the Australian trainers he claimed had been using Oxy-Shot with success for the last 12 months.

"Trainers aren't into telling people what's working for them."

South Island galloping trainer Michael Pitman said he had been influenced into trying Oxy-Shot after seeing a testimonial from Australian trainer Johnny Tapp saying his team was firing on all cylinders.

Pitman said Oxyshot had certainly not done his team any harm but like chiropractic treatment or magnetic blankets or iron tonics or an extra dipper of oats it was difficult to measure success.

Fahey said he had been using Oxy-Shot for the last couple of months on his two best dogs, this year's greyhound of the year Willy What and stayer of the year Superstitious.

"It seems to make them a bit stronger at the end of a race and they recover quicker, which helps if they're racing closely together."

Leading greyhound trainer Dave Fahey said he planned to use Oxy-Shot on the rest of his team now that it was becoming more freely available.

Fahey, in third place on the premiership, said he was sure the product was helping him achieve better results.

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Skeptics' prize goes to education group

Skeptics' prize goes to education group


The Tertiary Education Commission has been given the Bent Spoon Award by the New Zealand Skeptics for what they call the most publicly gullible action of the year.

Since 1992 the Skeptics have made an annual Bent Spoon Award, in "honour" of spoonbender psychic Uri Geller.

The commission won because it "was suffering dilutions of grandeur when it identified homeopathic training as a nationally important strategic priority for New Zealand", said the society.

Homeopathy involves a process of dilution to increase the potency of medicines.

Skeptics chairwoman Vicki Hyde said the award was being made because Bay of Plenty Homeopathy College had received money from the commission's strategic priorities fund to run its Diploma of Homeopathy (Animal Health).

The Bent Spoon will be "formally confirmed telepathically" by Skeptics attending their annual conference at Rotorua next week.

Previous winners include Justice Minister Phil Goff, Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, Wellington Hospital, Holmes, TV2, TV3, the NZQA, Country Calendar and the Consumers' Institute.

The Skeptics also announced their first Bravo Awards for "critical thinking in a public arena". These go to:

* Chris Barton of the Herald, for "Mannatech's sugar-coated moneymaker".

* Rose Hipkins for her comments on Intelligent Design on Campbell Live.

* Tim Watkins of the Listener for his "Star Power" editorial about anti-vaccination campaigners.

* Jeremy Wells for his "amusingly scathing look at the psychic and medium business" on Eating Media Lunch.


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A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit

A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit
Published: September 26, 2005

DOVER, Pa., Sept. 23 - Sheree Hied, a mother of five who believes that God created the earth and its creatures, was grateful when her school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about "alternatives" to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design.

But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them - is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools.

With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.

What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court.

Dover, a rural, mostly blue-collar community of 22,000 that is 20 miles south of Harrisburg, had school board members willing to go to the mat over issue. But people here are well aware that they are only the excuse for a much larger showdown in the culture wars.

"It was just our school board making one small decision," Mrs. Hied said, "but it was just received with such an uproar."

For Mrs. Hied, a meter reader, and her husband, Michael, an office manager for a local bus and transport company, the Dover school board's argument - that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue - has a strong appeal.

"I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied said over a family dinner last week at their home, where the front door is decorated with a small bell and a plaque proclaiming, "Let Freedom Ring."

But in a split-level house on the other side of Main Street, at a desk flanked by his university diplomas, Steven Stough was on the Internet late the other night, keeping track of every legal maneuver in the case. Mr. Stough, who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax.

"You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn't pass muster," said Mr. Stough, a Republican whose idea of a fun family vacation is visiting fossil beds and natural history museums. "In science class, you don't say to the students, 'Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?' "

Evolution finds that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions. It is the foundation of biological science, with no credible challenges within the scientific community. Without it, the plaintiffs say, students could never make sense of topics as varied as AIDS and extinction.

Advocates on both sides of the issue have lined up behind the case, often calling it Scopes II, in reference to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that was the last century's great face-off over evolution.

On the evolutionists' side is a legal team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. These groups want to put intelligent design itself on trial and discredit it so thoroughly that no other school board would dare authorize teaching it.

Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs would call six experts in history, theology, philosophy of science and science to show that no matter the perspective, "intelligent design is not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations, is not testable."

On the intelligent design side is the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit Christian law firm that says its mission is "to be the sword and shield for people of faith" in cases on abortion, school prayer and the Ten Commandments. The center was founded by Thomas Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza founder, a conservative Roman Catholic who also founded Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law; and by Richard Thompson, a former Michigan prosecutor who tried Dr. Jack Kevorkian for performing assisted suicides.

"This is an attempt by the A.C.L.U. to really intimidate this small-town school board," said Mr. Thompson, who will defend the Dover board at the trial, "because the theory of intelligent design is starting to gain some resonance among school boards across the country."

The defense plans to introduce leading design theorists like Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, and education experts who will testify that "allowing students to be aware of the controversy is good pedagogy because it develops critical thinking," Mr. Thompson said.

The case, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District, will be decided by Judge John E. Jones III of the United States District Court, who was nominated by President Bush in 2002 and confirmed by a Senate vote of 96 to 0. The trial is expected to last six weeks and to draw news coverage from around the world.

The legal battle came to a head on Oct. 18 last year when the Dover school board voted 6 to 3 to require ninth-grade biology students to listen to a brief statement saying that there was a controversy over evolution, that intelligent design is a competing theory and that if they wanted to learn more the school library had the textbook "Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins." The book is published by an intelligent design advocacy group, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, based in Texas.

Angry parents like Mr. Stough, Tammy Kitzmiller, and Bryan and Christy Rehm contacted the A.C.L.U. and Americans United. The 11 plaintiffs are a diverse group, unacquainted before the case, who say that parents, and not the school, should be in charge of their children's religious education.

Mr. Rehm, a father of five and a science teacher who formerly taught in Dover, said the school board had long been pressing science teachers to alter their evolution curriculum, even requiring teachers to watch a videotape about "gaps in evolution theory" during an in-service training day in the spring of 2004.

School board members were told by their lawyer, Mr. Thompson, not to talk to the news media. "We've told them, anything they say can be used against them," Mr. Thompson said.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional because it was based on religion. So the plaintiffs will try to prove that intelligent design is creationism in a new package. Richard Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United, said the "Pandas" textbook only substituted references to "creationism" with "intelligent design" in more recent editions.

Mr. Thompson said his side would prove that intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible and never posited the creator's identity.

"It's clear they are two different theories," Mr. Thompson said. "Creationism normally starts with the Holy Scripture, the Book of Genesis, then you develop a scientific theory that supports it, while intelligent design looks at the same kind of empirical data that any scientist looks at," and concludes that complex mechanisms in nature "appear designed because it is designed."

A twist in the case is that a leading proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, removed one of its staff members from the Dover school board's witness list and opposed the board's action from the start.

"We thought it was a bad idea because we oppose any effort to require students to learn about intelligent design because we feel that it politicizes what should be a scientific debate," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the institute. However, Professor Behe, a fellow at the institute, is expected to be the board's star witness.

Parents in Dover appear to be evenly split on the issue. School board runoffs are in November, with seven candidates opposing the current policy facing seven incumbents. Among the candidates is Mr. Rehm, the former Dover science teacher and a plaintiff. He said opponents had slammed doors in his face when he campaigned and performed a "monkey dance" when he passed out literature at the recent firemen's fair.

But he agrees with parents on the other side that the fuss over evolution has obscured more pressing educational issues like school financing, low parent involvement and classes that still train students for factory jobs as local plants are closing.

"There's no way to have a winner here," Mr. Rehm said. "The community has already lost, period, by becoming so divided."

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NIH Study Takes Another Look At Vitamin C and Cancer

NIH Study Takes Another Look At Vitamin C and Cancer

September 13, 2005

Does vitamin C help fight cancer? It depends on which studies you believe. The latest research says it might.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says high doses of vitamin C, administered intravenously, may be an effective cancer treatment.

Ever since the 1970s, when Linus Pauling wrote Vitamin C and The Common Cold, some scientists have suggested vitamin C holds powers against all manner of ailments, including cancer. Early studies seemed to suggest that might be the case, though later studies found no benefit when it came to cancer.

But now researchers say those early studies used intravenous and oral ascorbate, while the later studies used only oral administration. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health believe those differences could account for the different outcomes. They reexamined intravenous ascorbate therapy in cultured cancer cell lines.

Dr. Stephen Barrett, of the Website QuackWatch, says three prospectively randomized, placebo-controlled Mayo Clinic studies involving 367 patients documented no consistent benefit from vitamin C among cancer patients with advanced disease. In fact, he says, the studies suggest high doses of vitamin C can have significant adverse effects.

“Despite these hard facts, many individuals still claim that high doses of vitamin C are useful as a cancer treatment. It is important for responsible health professionals to clarify this issue so that patients neither forfeit scientific care nor put themselves at risk by using a product that has no merit,” Barrett said.

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Speakout: State ignores naturopaths' 'quackery'

Speakout: State ignores naturopaths' 'quackery'
By Drs. Kimball C. Attwood and Carl Bartecchi, Special to the News
September 19, 2005

In Colorado today at least 49 persons pretend to be physicians. They are neither licensed nor trained to practice medicine, but they claim to do exactly that. Most advertise that they are "physicians," a protected title in Colorado, and many define themselves as primary-care physicians, trained to diagnose and treat illnesses. Such language is a violation of Colorado's Medical Practice Act. Colorado regulators are aware of these facts but have refused to act.

The physician impersonators call themselves "naturopathic physicians." They have received the "ND" degree from one of five four-year schools in North America. The schools purport to teach a blend of "conventional" medicine and "gentle, natural, holistic medicine." They claim to prepare students to act as primary-care providers immediately upon graduation, unlike medical doctors who must first undergo several more years of rigorous, hospital-based residency training.

Naturopathic schools, moreover, don't teach a recognizable form of medicine. NDs claim that diseases are caused by toxins, allergies, systemic yeast infections, "energy imbalances," dietary sugar, fat, and gluten, spinal misalignments, "craniosacral rhythm" disturbances, and a few other fanciful notions. To diagnose these, they use "applied kinesiology," "iridology," "hair analysis," "electrodermal skin testing," "pulse and tongue diagnosis," and other methods that lack any basis in science or medicine. Treatments include "detoxification" by enemas, fasting, vitamin injections, homeopathy, "craniosacral therapy," inflating balloons in the nostrils to "release tensions stored in the connective tissue and return the body to its original design," arduous dietary regimens, "natural remedies" sold by the ND for a profit, and more.

There is a time-honored term for such practices: quackery.

The Colorado Medical Practice Act defines the practice of medicine, in part, as follows:

(a) Holding out oneself to the public within this state as being able to diagnose, treat, prescribe for, palliate, or prevent any human disease . . .

(b) Suggesting, recommending, prescribing, or administering any form of treatment, operation, or healing for the intended palliation, relief, or cure of any physical or mental disease . . .

(c) The maintenance of an office . . . for the purpose of examining or treating persons afflicted with disease . . .

A person who does any of the above without a license to practice medicine is in violation of the act. The act assigns the state Board of Medical Examiners the "powers and duties" to enforce its provisions.

The Web site of one Colorado ND states:

"I consult with, exam, diagnose and treat folks for everything you can think of, from newborns to folks dying of cancer. I use diet, exercise, herbs, nutrients, hormones, acupuncture, counseling, drugs, intravenous therapy and detoxification."

On June 24 Linda Rosa, a nurse in Loveland and a member of the National Council Against Health Fraud, presented this and similar information regarding 49 NDs with offices in Colorado to the Board of Medical Examiners. She received this reply from Rosemary McCool, the director of the Division of Registrations: "we are not in a position to accept and process your complaints." Her reasons:

". . . you have not included specific patient-care allegations regarding these individuals. In fact, it does not appear that you have personally interacted with these naturopaths and have no direct knowledge of the services that they provide. . . . it appears that your primary objection is to the fact that these individuals provide some type of health-care service."

McCool also suggested that the Board "prioritize" its "resources towards complaints from consumers who are the recipient of the licensee's service and who believe that those services were substandard in some respect." Apparently the board confines its investigations to licensed physicians but ignores unlicensed physician impersonators. This is like arresting reckless drivers only if they are licensed.

There is nothing in the Medical Practice Act that requires a complainant to be a patient or to interact with physician impersonators. When the evidence has been gathered, as was done in this case by Rosa, the act directs the board to "aid the several district attorneys of this state in the enforcement of this article and in the prosecution of all persons, firms, associations, or corporations charged with the violation of any of its provisions."

McCool and the board have been inventing new law in their erroneous interpretation of the Medical Practice Act. In so doing, they have chosen to wait until someone is injured by a quack before they enforce the very laws that are intended to prevent such injury.

Dr. Kimball C. Atwood is associate editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. Dr. Carl Bartecchi is distinguished clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

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Cancer ‘cures’ are empty promises in Kevin Trudeau’s ‘Natural Cures’ book

Cancer ‘cures’ are empty promises in Kevin Trudeau’s ‘Natural Cures’ book

The New York State Consumer Protection Board (“CPB”) is warning consumers that a fast-selling book by Kevin Trudeau does not contain the “natural cures” for cancer and other diseases that Trudeau is promising in a nationwide television ad campaign.

The CPB says Trudeau is not only misrepresenting the contents of his self-published book, he is also using false endorsements to encourage consumers to buy “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About.”

“This book is exploiting and misleading people who are searching for cures to serious illnesses,” said Teresa A. Santiago, Chairperson Teresa A. Santiago. “What they discover is page after page after page of pure speculation -- not the cures for cancer and other diseases that are promised.”

“From cover to cover, this book is a fraud. The front cover makes false promises about ‘natural cures’ that are in the book, while the back cover includes false endorsements, including one from a doctor who died three years before the book was even written,” Chairperson Santiago said.

These false endorsements extend to Trudeau’s television infomercials, Chairperson Santiago said, citing in particular the infomercial featuring the former Tammy Faye Bakker (now Messner). Tammy Faye appears in Trudeau’s infomercial because she is suffering from a reoccurrence of cancer.

The ad gives the false impression that Tammy Faye opposes chemotherapy in favor of the ‘natural cures’ in Trudeau’s book. A representative for Tammy Faye said that is not true and that she is starting chemotherapy again.

“We’re asking Mr. Trudeau to pull this ad – not only because of the misleading ‘endorsement’ by Tammy Faye, but also because Mr. Trudeau advertises so-called ‘cures’ that are not even mentioned in his book,” said Chairperson Santiago. In his infomercial with Tammy Faye, Trudeau cites only one specific cancer “cure” – a “serum” allegedly invented by a New York City zoologist in the 1960’s.

“As unbelievable as it seems, the key to stopping many cancers has been around for over 30 years,” Trudeau said before claiming this serum was banned by the government. Although he mentions this anecdote in his television ad, there is nothing about this in his book, Chairperson Santiago noted.

Trudeau also told Tammy Faye that his book contains a “technique” to quit smoking among other addictions. The book, he said, even includes the method Trudeau allegedly used to quit smoking. In the book, however, Trudeau writes: “If you want to know the exact method that I used to quit smoking, go to and become a private member.”

Consumers in New York (see last page) and across the country are complaining that the book is just another commercial for Trudeau’s website and monthly newsletters. Throughout the book, readers are told that the cures they are looking for, in many cases, are available if they spend more money and subscribe to Trudeau’s newsletter or his website. Both cost $71.40 per year or $499 for a “lifetime membership.”

“This is not a matter of ‘free speech’ as Mr. Trudeau claims: if you advertise the contents of a book, it had better contain what has been promised,” said Chairperson Santiago.

On the back jacket, Trudeau begins a list of endorsements with a quotation from Dr. Herbert Ley, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But Ley never endorsed or even read Trudeau’s book because he died on July 22, 2001.

The book also has a quotation from Dr. My Haley, widow of “Roots” author, Alex Haley. Dr. Haley said her quotation (…”it would be hard these days to find a better read”) was not meant to be an endorsement of the book’s health claims. Instead, Dr. Haley said she was only suggesting that the book was “an exciting read.”

“The hypocrisy surrounding this book and its advertisements is galling because people with real illnesses are being misled,” said Chairperson Santiago. “This book and its marketing machine are a cynical attempt by Mr. Trudeau to cash in on his legal troubles with the federal government.”

“The hypocrisy surrounding this book and its advertisements is galling because people with real illnesses are being misled,” said Chairperson Santiago. “This book and its marketing machine are a cynical attempt by Mr. Trudeau to cash in on his legal troubles with the federal government.”

Last year, Trudeau agreed to pay $2 million and to stop marketing “coral calcium” as a cure for cancer to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). The FTC sued Trudeau largely on the grounds that Trudeau could not substantiate his advertising claim that coral calcium can cure and prevent cancer. It is one of at least 10 products that Trudeau has sold or promoted before the government has leveled fraud charges.

In addition, Trudeau pleaded guilty in 1990 to larceny in a Cambridge, Mass., state court after being charged with depositing $80,000 in worthless checks. The following year, he also pleaded guilty to credit-card fraud in federal district court in Boston, resulting in prison term of nearly two years. The federal charges involved the use of credit-card numbers from customers of a memory-improvement course Trudeau was promoting at that time.

“Trudeau cannot hide behind his frequent claims that this book simply contains his opinions and that the government is trying to censor him,” said Chairperson Santiago. “Throughout the book, Trudeau tries to fool readers into thinking he knows the cure for specific diseases when all Trudeau really offers are different theories on what causes an illness or a disease.”

Another example, she said, is Trudeau’s June 2005 newsletter which carries the headline: “The Natural Way to Cure Cancer.” In that newsletter, Trudeau wrote, “The cure for cancer is: simply stop doing the things that are causing the cancer!”

“It’s like the old joke where a patient complains to a doctor that it hurt to lift his arm and the doctor says, ‘Then don’t lift your arm,’” said Chairperson Santiago. “Trudeau even has the nerve to tell that joke in his book – not once, but three times.”

Among Trudeau’s recommendations and ‘opinions’ are:

* Breast milk has been poisoned by exhaust fumes from jets (p. 80)

* People should not use antiperspirant or deodorant (page 135);

* “All tap water is poisonous” (page 144)

* Microwave cooking poisons food --and causes cancer (page 145)

* Baby food is “poisonous;” (page 145); * “Vaccines are some of the most toxic things you can put into your body” (page 131. Despite that statement, Trudeau’s newsletter praises Jonas Salk and his vaccine for curing polio);

* Avoid hot tubs, saunas and swimming pools (page 155);

* Wear white (“The closer you get to white, the more positive energy you bring into your energetic field.” Page 167)

* Driving in traffic causes stress and stress causes cancer;

* Sunscreens cause cancer (page 152);

* Eat only organic food and “do not eat any food produced or sold by a publicly traded (page 142); and,

* Don’t take prescription or non-prescription drugs (This recommendation is cited throughout the book. Trudeau’s website, however, recommends that drugs be used to cure TB and Parkinson’s. In one commercial, Trudeau concedes that drugs and surgery are necessary when an illness is too advanced.)

“He pushes all of these ideas and dozens more; claiming some combination of ‘natural’ remedies will cure virtually any disease. It’s preposterous,” said Chairperson Santiago.

“When readers are expecting answers and details in his book, Mr. Trudeau either claims the government is censoring him or he ‘encourages’ his readers buy his newsletters or the books he sells on his website,” Chairperson Santiago said. “It’s an outrage.”

Near the end of his book, Trudeau concedes that readers might want to know why and how he can make these recommendations. He writes that his recommendations and opinions come from “more than 900 studies.” But, he writes, he’s not yet ready to say what those studies were, what they allegedly found, or where they took place.

In his television commercials and throughout his book, Trudeau claims he does not profit from the products and information in his book. Only near the end of the book does Trudeau concede that he does profit from the books sold on his website.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Monkey See, Monkey Do (not)

So much for a popular myth about the alleged paranormal transmission of knowledge:

"The monkeys may see, but the monkeys no do. "It's clearly a made-up story," de Waal says."

Monkey See, Monkey Do
Consultant Debunking Unit

From: Issue 23 April 1999 Page 56 By: Lisa Chadderdon
Illustrations by: Bill Mayer

This past winter, Walt Disney Pictures released its $80 million remake of Mighty Joe Young, an adventure tale that first came to the screen in 1949. The story, which changed only slightly from the old version to the new one, is standard fare: A gorilla, brought from Africa to the United States, behaves violently in order to save himself -- despite his basically gentle nature. It's a story of man and nature, of social behavior and animal behavior, of change and learning.

Which brings us to this edition of the Consultant Debunking Unit -- or, in the spirit of a remake, the Consultant Re-Debunking Unit (CR-DU). For just as there are monkey movies that keep coming back, so there are management myths that refuse to stay debunked. This monkey business was brought to the attention of the CR-DU when Dave Potter, a Fast Company reader and organization-development consultant, emailed to tell us that the fable of "The Hundredth Monkey" was once again making the rounds: "I've heard 'The Hundredth Monkey' referenced by motivational speakers who want to impress the power of minds working together. I've also heard it from consultants who lean more toward 'New Age' philosophies."

The "hundredth monkey" tale first surfaced in the late 1970s, in Lifetide (Simon & Schuster, 1979), by New Age scientist Lyall Watson. Then, in 1982, Ken Keyes Jr. popularized the parable in The Hundredth Monkey (Vision Books), an anti-nuclear-war treatise that sold more than 1 million copies. The monkey myth, as recounted by Keyes, goes like this: On an island near Japan, scientists distributed sandy sweet potatoes to a colony of monkeys. Soon one young monkey learned how to wash the sand off the potatoes before eating them. She taught the trick first to her mother and then to other young monkeys. More and more young monkeys started teaching their parents how to wash sweet potatoes. One day, the 100th monkey learned how to wash the sandy spuds -- and at that moment, miraculously, all of the monkeys started washing their potatoes. Even more amazing, the potato-washing practice leapt over land and sea: Monkeys on other islands were suddenly washing their food too. According to Keyes, the story demonstrates the power of a critical mental mass: "When a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind." For consultants who want scientific information about organizational transformation, is this a truly compelling story? You bet! Is it true? No way! The first debunking of the "hundredth monkey" story came in 1985, when Ron Amundson, a professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii, published "The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon" (Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1985). Amundson documented that there had been a colony of monkeys -- on an island called Koshima. And many of those monkeys did learn how to wash sweet potatoes. But the number of monkeys never exceeded 59. And there was no evidence of a leap of consciousness from monkey to monkey.

Confronted with this information, myth creator Watson responded with a monkey mea culpa (Whole Earth Review, Fall 1986): "It is a metaphor of my own making, based . . . on very slim evidence and a great deal of hearsay." But even Watson's admission failed to put the monkey matter to rest -- and now the monkeys are making a return engagement. So we contacted Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at Emory University's Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta. De Waal, who has been studying primates for 28 years, recently returned from Koshima with an update on the potato-washing monkeys. There are now about 100 monkeys in the colony, de Waal says, but there is still no mind-meld miracle. And the percentage of monkeys that wash their potatoes has declined to about 25%: The monkeys may see, but the monkeys no do. "It's clearly a made-up story," de Waal says.

Just one question remains: Will the myth of "the hundredth monkey" have to be debunked 100 times before consultants suddenly -- and miraculously -- stop monkeying around with it?



Senior Researcher Comments on the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon in Japan

The Hundredth Monkey: And Other Paradigms of the Paranormal (Paperback) by Kendrick Frazier (Editor)

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Battling encephalitis with hope...and homeopathy

Read and weep! These poor people with their children.... How many will needlessly die because quackery like homeopathy is allowed? Why isn't this quack sitting in jail?

Battling encephalitis with hope...and homeopathy
Sunday September 11 2005 00:00 IST

KUSHINAGAR: Many desperate women trudge along the highway to take their children to a homeopath's camp near this Buddhist pilgrims town, 40 km away from the epicenter of a raging encephalitis epidemic.

A closer look reveals that the worried folk have made a beeline for the camp in a crowded market place in Hata Bazar town, 20 km from this Buddhist pilgrimage centre, as it claims to have a preventive medicine against Japanese encephalitis, a particularly virulent form of the disease that causes inflammation in the brain and has taken over 650 lives in this area close to the country's border with Nepal.

On a hot and humid afternoon, a long queue of people with tiny tots in tow has formed there. The scene is unusual. But when the state administration has failed miserably, hapless people will do whatever it takes to keep their hopes alive.

With the epidemic having ensnared 22 districts since it broke out at the end of July, the fear of death stalks every household in these parts.

Anyone offering a solution is much sought after - as was visible from the overflowing numbers at the narrow lane leading to the homeopath's camp.

"The doctor is giving us drops that will save our kids from the dangerous brain fever (that is how the disease is locally referred)," Kusuma, who had walked 10 km from her village carrying her infant daughter Leela and two sons aged five and seven, told an IANS correspondent.

The fear of possible after effects even if a victim survives - mental retardation, partial or total paraplegia, involuntary movements and even nerve palsies - is very real.

Riaz and his wife Kanzeena had been waiting for two hours for their turn. "We have brought both our children; this doctor is a godsend. At least we will not have the sword of brain fever hanging over our necks," Riaz told IANS.

C. Shekhar, the homeopath who has offered his services, claims: "Yes, three doses of homeopathic drugs, rhus tox and belladona, will keep the kids safe from Japanese encephalitis."

"Homeopathy believes in symptomatic treatment and we tried it successfully last year also."

Local Traders Association president S.P. Verma, who had helped get space and manpower for the camp, agreed.

"This is the least we can do as a representative body of traders in this small town. After all there is total absence of any kind of preventive measures on the part of the government," he alleged.

Refuting official claims, he said: "Fogging and spraying of mosquito repellents has not been carried out for years even though everyone knows that mosquitoes are the root virus."

The unavailability of vaccines, largely on account of official apathy and red-tape, is no secret.

"The state's health administration wakes up to the need for vaccines only when the disease has already broken out. And that is not the time when it will work," says K.P. Kushwaha, senior paediatrician and in-charge of the special encephalitis unit at the region's leading hospital, Gorakhpur Medical College, about 40 km away.

The hospital has so far received more than 1,600 patients of which about 463 have died and nearly 300 are still huddled in jam-packed wards.

The homeopathy camp at Hata Bazar also continues to draw crowds till the medicines get exhausted. But it doesn't deter people from waiting for another round, even though camp organisers are not sure how long it will take to replenish their stocks from Gorakhpur.


For more about homeopathy:


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