by Ken Greatorex
This is a collection of odds, ends and newsy bits that have taken our attention in the last month.
- The Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne was as big an event as predicted. There was even an appearance by both militant Christians and Muslims. HERE. For Dick Gross’s review, see HERE
The GAC was big enough to have its own fringe, in fact. Our own April Skeptics Café was billed as just such an event, featuring the delightful Eugenie Scott. It may not have represented an enormous crowd for Ms Scott – she is much in demand internationally as a speaker – but it set a record for La Notte’s Club Room.
- The Victorian Government’s announcement of an Inquiry by six MPs into sexual abuse within the church failed to gain much support. Terms such as “gutless”, “half-hearted” and “too little, too late” predominated in on-line Letters and Opinion sections.
- VITAMINS supplier Swisse experienced a backlash from many in the medical community after offering GPs free enrolment in a training course valued at $675 on condition that they supplied the “Swisse Practitioner” range of supplements to their patients. The deal was likened to the cancelled Pharmacy Guild’s “Coke and Fries” arrangement with Blackmore’s last year.
- A $30 million lawsuit is being launched against two Canadian retail chains for continuing to sell Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy against flu-like symptoms, in violation of consumer protection laws. Quoting Wikipedia: “The [Oscillocconium] preparation is derived from duck liver and heart, diluted to 200C—a ratio of one part duck offal to 100200 parts water”.
- Following on from the Mal Vickers review article on CRITICAL THINKING in February this year, we’ve also had our attention drawn to this excellent interactive site: http://www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com/home.
- In a big win for Skeptical Activism, (and a demonstration of the positive power of social media) American Airlines decided not to proceed with the publication of an anti-vaccination article in its in-flight magazine. The full story HERE.
- The Pope told the USA’s 55,000 nuns to fix up their act….
- A SEVENTH Day Adventist church closed down a language school for international students, migrants and refugees because its founder publicly supported gay marriage. The school reopened five days later as the Unitarian School of Languages at the Unitarian church in East Melbourne. The Story here
- Channel 10’s The Project ran a segment on Cryptid Big Cats in Victoria on Friday 4th May. Mick Vagg supplied the Skeptical viewpoint. http://theprojecttv.com.au/video.htm?movideo_p=39696&movideo_m=185719 , about 4 minutes in.
- Australia’s independent statutory authority the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) forced the website Homeopathy Plus! to remove claims that the whooping cough vaccine was ineffective and that the homeopathic remedies listed on the page were an alternative form of prevention. Homeopathy Plus! had ignored a previous order by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to publish a retraction of the claims. In intervening, ACCC said that the website’s assertions “could lead to serious health risks for consumers”.
- Australia’s National Pharmacies chain promoted ‘g-spot massagers’, vibrators and horny goat weed (claimed to be an aphrodisiac) in its Mother’s Day Catalogue. Spokespersons for family values groups were reportedly “very surprised”.
- An amusing US TV spoof series Spirit Questers appeared as a pilot on You-tube. Note that this is a 30 minute HD clip, so its file size is quite large. http://youtu.be/2ANA0mBUF1I
- Australia’s Federal Government announced a crack down on taxpayers’ funds being used to subsidise ”natural therapy” services, except when there is clear evidence they are clinically effective. Naturopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, reiki and rolfing are all under the threat of being declared ineligible for health insurance rebate.
- The weight loss company SensaSlim which had its product delisted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has now been given permission to sell its remaining stocks – despite the fact that the claims for the product have been shown to be fraudulent.
What follows is an editorial comment about that decision.
- The British Government has published its long-awaited Defamation Bill. Calls for widely-supported libel reform have been largely prompted by the Simon Singh v British Chiropractic Association case, in which the BCA personally sued the Science writer for his use of the term “bogus”. The case lapsed when BCA chose not to pursue it.
- There was a debate about the strength of the evidence base for homeopathy at Melbourne University on Thursday 10thMay. It was organised mainly for medical students. The three guest speakers were Dr Stephen Basser, Dr Ken Harvey, and Dr Isaac Golden, (homeopath since 1984, Founder of Australasian College of Hahnemannian Homoeopathy) . Dr Simon Floreani, Chiropractors Association of Australia President was advertised but did not show up. Most questions from the floor were directed to Dr Golden. One possible outcome may be a trial of Homeopathy, proposed by Dr Basser (whereby some patients would receive a homeopathic remedy and others would receive a placebo) and received positively by Dr Golden.