Posts Tagged Public Health

Panic And Blame – The Daily Mail’s Bread And Butter

Alex Gibson,  friend of the MSS and board member of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, drops in to offer his thoughts on the ‘great big swine flu pandemic scandal conspiracy’ in  the Daily Mail.

Today’s headline: newspaper accuses pharmaceutical companies of manufacturing the panic about the swine flu pandemic to sell more drugs.

This, of course, is the same newspaper that did its best at the time to report the facts and not create panic with articles such as this, this, this and this. I can’t bring myself to look at the articles that the Daily Express was putting out at the time: if the Mail is the malicious kid at school who spread nasty rumours about people, the Express is the gullible, panicky person he talks to first.

The article, in its rush to expose how Big Pharma leaned on the World Health Organisation to get swine flu bumped up to pandemic status, ignores the fact that swine flu met the WHO’s very basic criteria for a pandemic. Like any good conspiracy theory, it starts to unravel when you actually look at the facts. If there was any pressure from some Tamiflu-selling corporate mastermind it was fairly pointless, since swine flu far and away fit the bill for a pandemic anyway. Avian flu didn’t, and neither did SARS – two glitzy media diseases that you’d think would be ripe for making money.

The real spleen-buster is the Mail complaining that in the UK there have been “just 251 deaths overall”. They sound terribly disappointed by this. Poor show, swine flu. There is, of course, no mention of the UK’s excellent free healthcare services and the fact that worldwide about 13,000 people have died, but that’s not even the important bit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why We Should Avoid Ubisoft Products

In 1994, my friend Russel called me raving about a new playable demo he’d got from the cover disc of a PC magazine.  The game was a reasonably early example of a real-time strategy game, in which the player was required to harvest resources, construct buildings and raise an army with which to crush the opposition; lest they do the same.  It was called Warcraft: Orcs and Humans; you may have heard of its descendants.  The playable demo came with four levels, which I devoured.  I quickly bought the full game shortly thereafter and its sequel, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, the following year.  I had developed a taste for real-time strategy games and wanted more.

In 1995, another phone call from Russel introduced me to Westwood Studios new RTS game – Command & Conquer – which I came to love more than I loved Warcraft.  One of its distinguishing features, setting it apart from the Warcraft series was the inclusion of full-motion video sequences (with real actors!) introducing each mission.  After making free with Russel’s copy of C&C, I bought my own copy in early 1996, followed by its sequels as they were released, including the games from the C&C spin-off series Red Alert.

That was until 2008, and the publication of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3.  By then Westwood Studios had been bought up by gaming giants Electronic Arts, and with more money behind them (and much more money in the video game market than in 1995), EA were able to cast Hollywood stars for Red Alert 3‘s full motion video segments.  The cast included Tim Curry as Soviet Premier Antony Cherdenko;  J. K. Simmons as US President Howard T. Ackerman; Jonathan Pryce as Field Marshall Robert Bingham; George Takei as Japanese Emperor Yoshiro; and one Jenny McCarthy as Special Agent Tanya.

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Evidence Check Evidence Check (or; What The Papers Say)

Over the last couple of weeks, the Commons Committee on Science and Technology held a couple of their “evidence check” sessions, looking at homeopathy.  Sessions such as this are held to examine whether there is evidence to support government policy.

The oral hearings take the form of witnesses with relevant backgrounds being quizzed by committee members.  Witnesses for the first of these sessions included the legendary Ben Goldacre, Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter, and Tracey Brown from the charity Sense About Science.  Speakers in favour of homeopathy included Paul Bennett from Boots, Peter Fisher from the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, and Robert Wilson from the British Association of Homeopathic Manufacturers.

The big thing that came out of this hearing, from a rhetorical point of view, was the admission by Paul Bennett that Boots did not believe homeopathy to be effective – but they sell it anyway because of consumer demand.  This lead to us here at Merseyside Skeptics drafting An Open Letter to Alliance Boots, calling upon them to withdraw the product.  If you haven’t done so already, or even if you have, please check out the letter.  Digg it, tweet it, repost it, write about it.  Help up make some noise!

Ahem.

The pro-homeopathy witnesses, when challenged, mentioned a number of studies which they claimed supported the idea that homeopathy has strong effects beyond placebo.  So I thought I’d look up a few of the studies mentioned and see what those studies actually say.

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And The Pseudo-Medical Vultures Circled…

Patrick Swayze, courtesy of http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/gq/6

Last Monday, actor Patrick Swayze lost a long fight with pancreatic cancer and passed away. Having been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in late January 2008, Swayze died on September 14th.

The news was met with a sadness from his fans, mostly girls I’ll needlessly add, but certain sections of the pseudomedical community have taken his death with an altogether different message. In an item posted to NaturalNews.com by editor Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, Swayze’s death is in fact a chilling warning as to the dangers of Chemotherapy.

Quoting the article:

“Having put his faith in conventional chemotherapy, he largely dismissed ideas that nutrition, superfoods or “alternative medicine” might save him, instead betting his life on the chemotherapy approach which seeks to poison the body into a state of remission instead of nourishing it into a state of health.”

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Compulsory Ignorance: More Anti-Vax Propaganda From The AVN

Anti-Vax Propaganda from the AVN

Anti-Vax Propaganda from the AVN

A couple of weeks ago, I reported on the Australian Skeptics and their battle with the Australian Vaccination Network.  The AVN are a ‘pro-choice’ organisation which promotes the spread of information and debate on vaccines. No, wait, sorry, I’ve got that completely wrong – they’re a deceitful, weaselly organisation spreading misinformation, rumour and lies when it comes to vaccination. Led by Meryl Dorey, the AVN have made dangerous and deceitful claims that nobody dies of whooping cough, that the swine flu pandemic was planned and deliberate and that  the MMR vaccine causes autism.

The latest ignorant and dangerous pseudomedical crap from AVN’s website is this presentation, a 46-page PDF of hateful anti-vax propaganda. It’s so blood-boilingly, insultingly and pathetically manipulative it really has to be taken piece-by-piece, so permit me to do so.

Page 1 declares, in gaudy, sensationalist, fear-mongeringly red block capitals:

Compulsory Vaccination: IT’S HERE!

Erm, yes, true enough. It is here, admittedly in some very specific circumstances, but I’m with you so far. What next, Meryl?

February 2007, NSW became the first state to mandate full vaccination (10 required vaccines) for all medical staff and allied health students. Failure to comply will result in expulsion from school or loss of employment/transfer to another area of the facility if that area exists.

July 2007 – jump on the bandwagon
All other Australian states and territories have now introduced similar policies for their health students. Hospital policies will follow shortly

OK, so far so innocuous – although a successful scheme to raise vaccination rates and therefore lower rates of infection, injury and death from some very nasty diseases is somewhat flippantly dismissed as a ‘bandwagon’. And if it is a bandwagon – fuck it, it’s precisely the kind of bandwagon there should be more of. If there were a pro-condom bandwagon in South Africa, I’d welcome that too.

What does this mean?
– 5 out of the 10 required vaccines contain live viruses which will put vulnerable hospital patients at risk.- Staff and students who can think for themselves and who question authority will no longer be in the health system.
– The list of required vaccines is sure to increase – just as the childhood vaccination schedule is increasing. How many vaccines will be enough?

Ah, here we go, now begins the weasel-wording and the utter utter bullshit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Daily Mail In Need Of Science Transplant

Feather DusterIn what has to be the weirdest and most bullshit-ridden thing I’ve seen in a long time, the Daily Mail last week ran with the headline: ‘Transplant has turned me into a housewife’: Man now addicted to cleaning after receiving woman’s cornea

I’ll let that sink in.

So, the story goes – workshy slob Will Palmer hated housework. Then, due to a condition called Fuchs’ Dystrophy – where cells lining the inner surface of the cornea to begin to die – his eyesight rapidly decreased to a point where he needed a cornea operation. Once he got his shiny new sight, he found he suddenly loves to clean. Which, apparently, can only be due to the new cornea and it’s previous owner. Because that’s how transplants work, obviously. Read the rest of this entry »

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