Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lawsuits to Silence Criticism & The Streisand Effect

Without explaining the whole "affair", Rhys Morgan, a young skeptic from the UK, had blogged about a clinic in Houston, Texas that was offering an, at best, unproven treatment for cancer (that science-based medicine actually has treatments for).  After writing the blog, he received threats from a (though not confirmed) lawyer threatening him with legal action.

Unfortunately for the clinic and his "treatment", Rhys didn't roll over and, as a result, the clinic is experiencing the Streisand effect - "The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity." (Wikipedia)

In addition to the Streisand effect, people like Burzynski will also be faced with a further empowered and more determined adversary - I should know, I've been threatened with legal action a number of times.  Though the letters and threats are rather unsettling at first, once the reality is discovered (that they are baseless, pointless threats), the attention to the matter and resolve of the accused can encourage them to dig deeper. 

Case in point: Robbie Thomas

I had blogged, jokingly, about Robbie Thomas (who is not psychic - he just lies about his supposed skills (note: that is an actionable claim if it were not true!)) and his lack of recognition at a police press conference regarding an abduction/murder case that he claims to have been involved in.  I did a couple follow-ups on Robbie Thomas (not psychic) but it was his threats of legal action that drove me to dig a little deeper into who he is and what he claims.

Today www.stoprobbie.com exists to follow Robbie Thomas' claims and actions (it hasn't received many updates recently because Robbie is, apparently, lying low - after having failed at conventions, failed at his tour and been exposed by his manager, he probably needs to build up a new web of lies before he resurfaces) and to expose him when he claims to have psychic abilities or when he claims to have solved any crimes using his supposed psychic skills.

In more than 20 years (his claim), Robbie Thomas has solved 0 crimes using his self-proclaimed psychic powers.  Robbie Thomas is not psychic and he didn't predict (because he isn't psychic) that threatening to sue me would only encourage me to do more. Congratulations Robbie Thomas and Stanislaw Burzynski - you have achieved the complete opposite of what you set out to do.

For more on the Stanislaw Burzynski / Rhys Morgan news, visit:
Rhys blog entry about the threats
The schoolboy blogger who took on a US clinic (Guardian)

For more information about Robbie Thomas (not psychic):

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Health: Worth Changing Pharmacies For

"It's one of those things that can't be repeated too many times, but homeopathy is ridiculous." - Orac

One of Sarnia's local pharmacies has a Homeopath - I've blogged about it before.  I was really (really - honestly - seriously) hopeful that the amount of bullsh*t that she'd try to push would be rather innocuous and she would encourage people to use the PROVEN remedies and just throw in some water (homeopathy - it's just water) to earn a few extra bucks for herself.  However, while I was driving by Hogan Pharmacy today, I saw a sign that made me lose ALL respect for Hogan Pharmacy.

Selling Homeopathy as a "complementary" (albeit useless) medicine is one thing - "yeah, keep taking the stuff that is actually doing something and to make you feel like you're doing something more, have these tiny sugar pills that will change nothing".  The following sign is not about "complementary" medicine - it is about avoiding REAL medicine and taking something that is going to do nothing but leave you susceptible to a REAL disease.

Influenza is something that can be deadly for some people and is definitely not a pleasant thing to endure.  The old saying is "Once you've had the flu, you'll never miss a flu shot" comes with the standard caveat of "if you survive the flu" but, otherwise, is pretty accurate.  Many often confuse a "common cold" with having influenza - they are not the same thing and the illness, though similar, comes with additional serious concerns.  Seasonal influenza is typically much worse than the common cold and will often lead to secondary infections (bacterial pneumonia) and can worsen chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and asthma.

For a pharmacy to suggest that there is an "alternative" (note: not complementary) method of protecting a person from getting seasonal flu is outright reckless.  Many people rely on their pharmacist to be knowledgeable and trustworthy and this borderlines on abuse of patients.  Homeopathic flu kits do not work. They put people at risk of real infection and the idea of a homeopathic prophylactic is absurd - not only does it go against the "laws" of Homeopathy itself but Homeopathy is blatantly absurd.  There is NO active medical ingredient (or should not be or it isn't homeopathic) in a homeopathic "remedy".

If you go to Hogan Pharmacy, you might want to consider switching.  At the very least let them know that pushing absolute stupid on a credulous and trusting public is a violation of trust.

Get your flu shot - it might not only be your life that you're saving - don't be a selfish prick. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who is Maurice Hilleman?

There are many fascinating stories about this scientist. Yet almost no one knew about him, saw him on television, or read about him in newspapers or magazines. His anonymity, in comparison with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jose Canseco, or an assortment of grade B actors, tells something about our society’s and media’s concepts of celebrity; much less of the heroic. This is not a frivolous observation.” – Ralph Nader, April 2005, Scientists or Celebrities?

I recently received a book (Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases) from a fellow skeptic and it came with a strong recommendation that I read it.  I have read much about vaccines, vaccine controversies and the pharmaceutical industry but, on his advice, I read this book and, I must admit, it is an inspiring and captivating read.  The quote above by Ralph Nader was about Maurice Hilleman – the focus of the book – a man that, unfortunately, very few people know.

Ralph’s comment is truly telling about our society and what really makes a celebrity – we know who Paris Hilton is because of sex video, we know about some classless Jersey residents because of a reality show and yet few people know about a man who, during his career, developed 40 (yes, FORTY) vaccines.  Some of his vaccines are still used today – like the Jeryl Lynn strain of the mumps vaccine can be found in the MMR vaccine – Jeryl Lynn being the name of Maurice’s daughter.  He, as any good father would do when confronted with a sick child, had the housekeeper watch her, drove to his laboratory and picked up a swab (among other items), returned home to swab his daughter’s throat and, ultimately, created the world’s first mumps vaccine.  Though the vaccine was not able to help Jeryl Lynn (who made a full recovery), it has gone on to prevent illness and death for countless children.

In the vaccine schedule there are (approximately) 14 recommendation vaccinations – 8 of those were developed by Maurice Hilleman.  It has been said that Maurice Hilleman has saved more lives during his lifetime than any other scientist.  And you don’t know who he is?

I STRONGLY recommend that you get a copy of Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases – it is a moving and compelling book that will have you wondering how we, as a society, pick our “celebrities” and “heroes”.  Maurice Hilleman is a true hero and the story of his life is definitely a worthwhile read.