Skeptic News: Piña coladas and Protests


96

Skeptic News: Piña coladas and Protests

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


 

Piña coladas and Protests


In a world where for some 2021 is already giving 2020 a run for its money, I’m trying to appreciate my freedoms. That includes the freedom to relax, drink cocktails and enjoy the balmy weather, and not get stressed out about about where to put cocktail flavoured suppositories to solve make-believe problems invented by the wellness industry.

Jess Macfarlane 

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Lockdown Protests at the Beehive

There were many false claims made on 14th January, by Billy Te Kahika and his supporters outside the Beehive in Wellington. The most dangerous claim was that Covid-19 is no more deadly than the flu (2 million people have died worldwide at the time of writing). Among other strange things, they claimed that Jacinda Ardern is a communist who wants to keep putting New Zealand into lockdown, including organising one again on 15th January, the day after the protest.

The problem with making false claims about a deadly pandemic is, people who underestimate the danger will not only risk catching Covid-19 themselves but will wantonly take risks that impact the health of others around them.

The trouble with making predictions about specific things happening on specific days, is what to do if your prediction doesn’t come true.

We found our answer on January 15 when @nealejones shared on Twitter a screen capture of Billy Te Kahika saying “Urgent Live!! Lockdown called off because of us?”.

If that’s not a textbook example of confirmation bias, (and delusions of grandeur) I don’t know what is.

In response to the protest, Newshub writes that Dr Anna Brooks, an immunologist at the University of Auckland’s Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery spoke to Magic Talk, saying it was “somewhat frustrating” to see people who have done their own “research” online spread misinformation about Covid-19. Dr Brooks said it was “offensive” for people to say “I’ve done my research” when actual experts have had to spend years and a great deal of money to understand what research means and how to perform it objectively.

U.K. Society of Homeopaths have Accreditation Suspended

In a win for skeptics everywhere, On 11 January 2021, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) in the U.K.  moved to suspend accreditation of the Society of Homeopaths (SoH), because they found that the SoH “did not appear to have prioritised public protection over professional interests in its handling of complaints or governance processes, which undermined confidence in its ability to ensure its registrants were compliant with its own Code of Ethics and position statements.”

Read here to find out about the multiple legal challenges the Good Thinking Society have brought over the years, including one relating to the morally bankrupt CEASE therapy, intended to ‘cure’ autism.

In New Zealand, after a tip from NZ Skeptics, reporter Farah Hancock wrote back in August 2019 about CEASE therapy in Christchurch, and how diluted vaccines were being sold as homeopathic cures for autism right here in New Zealand. Vaccines do not cause autism, but it is this false belief that led homeopaths to think they could cure it by coming up with a homeopathic remedy made from diluted vaccines.

It seems that so far, no-one in the SoH has offered their resignation, despite the significant blow to the organisation in losing accreditation. You would think they might want to clean house to get back on the good side of the PSA. We will see what happens. A hearty congratulations to all those at the Good Thinking Society and those that helped to make this happen.

Fruity Vagina Melts go viral on TikTok

The author of my Bible – The Vagina Bible, Gynaecologist, columnist and author Dr. Jen Gunter was on Twitter recently, again, to educate people about how a vagina is able to self-clean, without any help from the wellness industry which is doing its best to make money out of people by shaming them into thinking they have to fix a problem that isn’t there.

Dr. Gunter explained that any products designed to clean vaginas or mask their natural odors can cause harm by disrupting the body’s own natural effective cleansing process. The tweet came in response to vagina cleansing melts that were becoming a thing on TikTok. Femallay, the company selling the fruity flavoured vaginal moisturising suppository melts say they “offer a fun and healthy way to feel confident, smell lovely, and be your best you! “.

On her first ever TikTok, Dr. Gunter assured us that vaginas don’t need any assistance from fruity flavoured and fragranced melts, are evolved to clean themselves, and should not “smell like a piña colada”.

This product had apparently been in the news for a while as I found an article about them from back in October 2020 when Christchurch gynaecologist Olivia Smart was interviewed by Stuff.

Dr. Smart suggested that in a physically and emotionally healthy relationship the melts were unnecessary but could be fun. However, she worried that people might turn to them instead of seeking medical advice for issues such as “pain, discharge, odor or dryness”. Again, delaying effective treatment may cause real harm.

I’m saving the fruity flavours for the cocktails. Stay skeptical!


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Skeptic News: Protesting for Dummies


96

Skeptic News: Protesting for Dummies

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


 

Protesting for Dummies


 

Happy New Year!

I can’t help but wonder what 2021 is going to bring us, given that we’ve already started the year with the US Capitol being invaded by right wing extremists and QAnon conspiracy theorists. Closer to home, Billy TK’s Public Party appears to be coming apart at the seams, with staff members taking over the party’s website to detail Billy’s financial mis-management.

The new COVID strains – both the UK and South African variants – are looming large around the world, and we can only hope that we are able to keep ourselves protected against them here in NZ. Thankfully we have trusted science advisers to help protect us, rather than homeopathy, prayers and wishful thinking.

Mark Honeychurch

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Auckland Lockdown Protest

Billy TK held an anti-lockdown rally in Auckland on Saturday. The rally was accompanied by a variety of interesting flags, signs and chants:

The flags were a mix of Trump 2020, the United Tribes of New Zealand and one picture of an assault rifle with the words “come and take it” underneath.

The signs covered a wide range of conspiracy and pseudoscientific beliefs – here’s just a sample of what was on view (complete with spelling mistakes):

 

“Take your mask off your eye’s”

“No mandatory vaccines”

“No more Lies. No more lockdowns”

“Certificate Of Vaccine ID”

“Do your own research”

“Noah was a conspiracy theorist, then it started to rain”

“Wake up New Zealand”

Agenda 21 = Slavery”

“Sick of cover ups, sick of lies. Ban 1080”

“Masks kill lives”

“Socialism distancing”

“Rise up NZ”

“Sunshine save lives”

“We do not consent to scumbbaggery”

“Blood & organ harvesting, modern day slavery”

“MSM-FB and this Muppet Show government are hiding the truth”

“No No No. Lockdown. Forced Vax. 5G

“We are sovereign

“Stop stealing our freedom, Comrade Jacinda”

“NZ has been subjected to socialist brainwashing”

“Children are being tortured, Pizzagate should be investigated not ignored”

“Close the media for 30 days and watch 80% of World Problems go away”

“I will not be muzzled, tested, tracked, chipped or vaccinated to support this orchestrated lie”

and my favourite:

“COVID-19 is a manipulated UN/World/Media Instalment of a ‘Global Reset’ for Socialist/Communist Totalitarian Control By the 1% Elite. We Do Not Consent“

Billy and a couple of other local crackpots spoke for a while, and then Billy’s phone was held to the microphone while cranks from around the world (including “Dr” Rashid Buttar) phoned in to talk to the crowd. One of the warnings given was that Billy has been told, via “military insiders”, that another lockdown is coming on January 15th.

Vinny Eastwood led the chanting during a march held after the rally, which consisted of pretty much what I’d expect from him – an onslaught of weirdness and conspiracy nonsense:

“We do not consent”

“No forced vaccines”

“No 1080, no fluoridation, no chemtrails, no Agenda 21”

“No more Labour, no more Greens, they’re corrupt”

“No 1080, no chemtrails, no mass surveillance”

“No more scumbaggery, no more corruption, shove it up your bum”

“No AI, controlling our lives”

“No more COVID, it’s a fricking hoax”

“Disobey the lockdown, January 15”

“No more Jacinda, no more Cindy, ruling our lives”

“You can stick your New World Order up your ass”

“No World Economic Forum, they’re bad and we need to destroy them”

“COVID-19, a hoax can’t you see”

“No radiation, destroying our nation, while people play playstation”

“No more Jacinda, she’s just a sinner, no more Jacinda, she just wants to skin ya”

“No more Jizzy, Jizzy in your face”

I feel sorry for those who were on Queen Street at the time and had to listen to this drivel.

Maybe we should be thankful that our parliament is in Wellington, and that the Auckland march after the speeches wasn’t able to storm the Beehive – instead just meandering down Queen Street and back again. Having said that, there was an announcement at the end of the march that the next Public Party event will be on the 6th of February (Waitangi Day) in Wellington. I’ll be there, and will report back on how things go.


For those of you with enough intestinal fortitude that you can digest conspiracy nonsense without feeling sick, you can watch the entire 2 hours of nonsense on YouTube courtesy of Vinny Eastwood.

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Beware of JP Sears

I’m sure many skeptics have enjoyed JP Sears’ parody videos of the wellness industry, such as How to Become Gluten Intolerant and How to be Ultra Spiritual. It was a surprise to me, just before Christmas, to read that despite poking fun, JP Sears has for a long time been a seller of nonsense. An article from the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Canada details JP Sears’ history of selling unregulated therapy sessions and useless supplements, and sadly also his recent descent into COVID-19 science denial.

The article talks about “conspirituality” – a mixture of conspiracy and spirituality. We’ve seen this recently in NZ, with some of the weirder summer festivals embracing conspiracy thinking, hosting conspiracy lectures and workshops, etc. At least it’s been good to see that some in the local spiritual community are concerned enough about this shift that they’re actively trying to combat it, both in the media and at the festival events.

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Musical Vaccine

An image that has been making its way round the internet recently purports to be a circuit diagram for a 5G chip which is inside COVID vaccines. However, those who are technically musical minded have pointed out that the image is actually that of a guitar effects pedal called Metal Zone from company Boss.

This slip up reminds me of the time Uncensored (a conspiracy magazine in NZ) purchased the rights to a short video of an alien autopsy, blissfully unaware that the footage had been lifted from an Ant and Dec movie literally called “Alien Autopsy”. Jonathan Eisen, editor of the magazine, said at the time:

“The magazine’s technical people did a frame by frame analysis prior going to press with it and determined that it was legitimate in every respect.”

Back in 2015 it took me a couple of hours to source a copy of the movie, a few minutes to confirm that the footage Uncensored bought was just a copy of part of the movie, and another hour or so to learn how to use a video editing suite and line the two videos up to show they were identical. I’m not sure what these “technical people” did, but they certainly didn’t certify the legitimacy of the video they were buying!

The video that Uncensored bought can still be found on their website, under the headline “Roswell Original Footage of Dead Alien Discovered by Uncensored Editor”, without any kind of retraction or footnote to let people know that the footage is fake.

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A Faraday Cage to protect you from WiFi

On the popular tech news YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips, Linus has evaluated a couple of small faraday cages that are sold in the US as a way to protect home users from the harmful radiation coming from their WiFi base stations. At around NZ$120 a piece I’m not sure which of the findings I think is the funnier – that they do a really bad job of blocking WiFi, or that they turn out to just be repurposed wire paper trays with a couple of modifications to allow wires to be inserted, and that they cost less than NZ$10 each to buy from China.



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Skeptic News: New year, skeptical you?


96

Skeptic News: New year, skeptical you?

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


 

Happy New Year from NZ Skeptics


 

Welcome to the first newsletter of the new year. I think we can all agree that 2020 was a fairly exceptional year, and not in a good way. 2021 has rolled around, and the common expectation is that it’s going to be much better than 2020! I feel we’re falling for some cognitive effect that rolling over the calendar provides us – and that maybe it’s not going to turn out that way.

Let’s see what happens…
Craig Shearer
 

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Image from Scott Rodgerson/Unsplash


 

Psychic predictions for 2020

At the start of each year, it’s common for psychics and mediums to put out a bunch of predictions for the coming year. These predictions generally fall flat, although a common strategy for some psychics is to put out so many, often vaguely worded, so that there’s a chance that some of them will actually come true, at which point they capitalise on this, claiming to be the World’s Most Accurate Psychic™! 

An obvious point about the 2020 year is the huge number of astounding events that have occurred, none of which were predicted by psychics! For a humorous look at this, see Rebecca Watson’s YouTube video. Rebecca points out that
 

“Psychics are frauds that lie to people for money, though many people who think they’re psychic are just lying to themselves (and others).”

– that’s certainly putting it bluntly and accurately.


The Real News?

We’re written about the Advance NZ political party in the past, and about their conspiracy-theory-driven policies and public statements. 

It’s come to NZ Skeptics attention that they’re now promoting a new magazine to be distributed early this year. There’s a new website set up to promote this, run by a company called The Full Court Press. The director of that company, from the NZ Companies Register, is Katherine Smith, who’s also the publisher of the awful New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine. That magazine has been popping up in mainstream magazine outlets and supermarkets for some time (and also available as a gift option on iSubscribe – hopefully that didn’t get given as a Christmas gift!), but it appears that the new venture is going for a more viral distribution model.

If you’d like to read the first issue of the magazine, it’s available for free here (if you can stomach it!). 

Their distribution model is to get people to buy the magazine in bulk (minimum order of 100 copies at $1 each) then sell them at a profit to friends, family, and neighbours. 

The first issue is packed full of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and dangerous misinformation, and as expected, advertises various likely-bogus “natural” medicines.

 

COVID-19 Vaccines

As you’ll no doubt know, 2020 ended seeing the successful and record-setting development of a range of vaccines for COVID-19 from various companies. 

New Zealand is in the privileged position of having zero cases of COVID in the community. We can afford to take our time with the vaccine, which must go through local approval processes (Medsafe), unlike other countries where the transmission is rampant, and vaccines have been authorised for emergency use. 

The current predictions are that vaccines will be available in New Zealand sometime this year.  We’re also doing the right thing by our Pacific neighbours and helping them out. More information can be found on the NZ COVID-19 website.

Unfortunately, it seems that many people in the US are falling prey to vaccine hesitancy

This is unfortunate, though perhaps predictable. I believe that it’s not unreasonable for people to have concerns about the vaccines, particularly with the speed at which they’ve been developed. But, as always, the key to alleviating concerns is a deeper understanding of the science behind their development. The key takeaway is that the speed of development is mainly down to bureaucratic hurdles being removed, modern technology, and the moon-shot-like efforts that scientists put in.

Image from Tim Mossholder/Unsplash


New Year’s Resolutions

Around this time of the year it’s common to be spending time with extended family and friends. 

As we’ve seen over the last few years with the rise of social media, it’s easy for unsuspecting people to fall down the rabbit holes of conspiracy theories. 

Equally, this is the time of year that people make new year’s resolutions, often around the themes of improved health or weight loss or better eating. There are many businesses that thrive on and exploit these tendencies. I’ve seen various fad diets and detox programmes popping up on my social media feeds.

If you’re searching for your own new year’s resolution, I challenge you to become a skeptical ambassador and encourage critical thinking and spread the skeptical viewpoint among friends and family. And this year, it’s particularly important to help people establish an accurate science-based view of the COVID pandemic and the vaccines.

What can you do to promote critical thinking?


NZ Skeptics Membership

NZ Skeptics is a registered charity. If you’re already a member now’s the time to pay your subs. If you’re not a member, please consider joining us to support the work we do. Membership is only $40/year for waged/salaried people, and $20/year for unwaged people. You can sign up on our website.


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