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Sue-ing the government

After chatting with Graeme Hill on Magic Talk recently about Sue Grey, co-leader of the conspiracy minded Outdoors Party, and her threat to sue the government, I found out that Sue was planning to give a talk on the steps of parliament the next day. So, during my lunch break, I wandered up to the Beehive to see more about why Sue thinks the government’s rollout of the COVID vaccine needs to be stopped.

Thankfully when I arrived the crowd was not very big, maybe 50 strong. It's possible that there weren't many people available to attend because of other protests outside of MIQ facilities in both Christchurch and Hamilton. I noted that there appeared to be more school children eating lunch in the gardens of parliament than protesters.

I had been wondering about who exactly Sue’s clients were. She didn’t mention it in her open letter to Jacinda Ardern informing her of the plan to take legal action, or the accompanying video. But thankfully one of her clients, Mark Thompson, was there to introduce Sue. Mark told the crowd that the COVID vaccine is not actually a vaccine, but rather a medical device that’s being injected into people - presumably this is an allusion to the conspiracy theory that the vaccine is a front for Bill Gates' plan to secretly injecting a microchip into each of us.

Sue’s main argument against the vaccine is a little more nuanced than Mark’s, and is that Section 23 of the Medicines Act, which is the section apparently being used at the moment for the Pfizer vaccine approval and rollout, states:

“the Minister may... give his provisional consent to the... use of a new medicine where he is of the opinion that it is desirable that the medicine be... used on a restricted basis for the treatment of a limited number of patients.”

Sue plans to argue in court that, because New Zealand is planning to purchase enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone in NZ, this is not a “limited number of patients”. It seems that her assumption here is that the government intends to administer all 10 million doses of the vaccine under this provisional consent - and I’m not sure this is a safe assumption for her to make.

Either way, it sounds like it’s going to be a while before Sue gets to sit in front of a judge. She complained that they’re all on holiday, and that it might be a while before she even gets given a court date, which she expects to be in September. I’ll be watching this one with interest, as I can’t help but shake the feeling that this is nothing more than posturing designed to attract conspiracy theorists to The Outdoors Party, especially now that so many of them are looking for a home in the wake of the collapse of Billy TK’s Public Party and his political ambitions.

Mark Honeychurch

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Treasurer, NZ Skeptics

The Pope is a hologram

I’m a bit late to the party with this one, but there is footage on YouTube from last year where the pope gives a blessing from an upper floor window. After the blessing the pope turns around and starts walking away from the window. After a couple of steps, he suddenly just pops out of existence - disappears into thin air. Some people have taken this as evidence that the pope was never actually physically at the window, but instead had been replaced with a hologram - and that this hologram had been turned off prematurely, before it had moved out of sight. Maybe a decision was taken not to risk the pope’s health during a pandemic. Maybe the pope is a lie? It does look pretty weird.

The video was broadcast on an American news channel. It turns out that there is also footage from other cameras, and in this other footage the pope doesn’t suddenly disappear - he walks into the back of the room, as expected. Case closed.

Except, why did this happen in the first place. Well, the camera was fixed on a tripod and totally stationary, so if the footage used by this one TV station was played out of sequence at all, only things that are moving within the frame would give it away. I’ve seen a fairly convincing video online showing that some video editing tools will loop a video clip if the length of that clip is stretched to beyond the amount of video available. The beginning of the video clip in this instance is at a point in time before the pope appears at the window, so looping around to this empty window shot while the pope is still in frame would make it look like he’d suddenly disappeared.

While this isn’t a definitive answer to the mystery, it at least has the distinction of being plausible - something the alternative theory, of a pope hologram, is sorely lacking.

His Holiness, the Pope. Now you see him...
...and, just a couple of frames later, now you don't!

Watch out for this new COVID pamphlet

Kyle Chapman, ex head of the New Zealand National Front, is one of several people planning to distribute misleading leaflets about the COVID vaccine around New Zealand:

Thankfully the claims in this pamphlet are pretty easy to debunk:

The COVID death rates in the pamphlet are way lower than reality, where in China, South Korea, Italy and Spain the death rate of the 70+ are not 0.24% as quoted in the leaflet, but around 8% - rising to 15% for those over 80. And for younger people, it’s not a blanket 0.24%, but rather the rate increases with age - from around 0.2% of people in their 30s to just below 1% of those in their 50s. You can read more at:

The COVID vaccine death/injury rate of 5% is just plain nonsense, and part of a raft of misinformation circulating on the internet:

The Israeli Health Minister quote about the vaccine killing 40 times more elderly than the virus is flat out wrong, and the 260 times more younger people part wasn’t even in the original false rumour, and has likely have been attached, Chinese Whispers style, at a later date:

The Bill Gates quote, in full and in context, does not talk about lowering the global population. Rather it is about slowing population growth, and can be found in a talk about global CO2 levels:

"First, we've got population. The world today has 6.8 billion people. That's headed up to about nine billion. Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by, perhaps, 10 or 15 percent. But there, we see an increase of about 1.3."

Finally, the list of references at the bottom of the pamphlet is a who’s who of vaccine misinformation. Robert Kennedy Jr, Sherri Tenpenny, Dolores Cahill, Joe Mercola, The Highwire and our local science denying outfit, who appear to have fallen down the rabbit hole, COVID Plan B.

Please keep an eye out for this pamphlet if you see it lying around somewhere or being handed out in the street, and treat it the way it deserves to be treated. Throw it in the bin or, better still, recycle it, so that somewhere down the line it might be turned into something useful rather than dangerous.

Homeopathic Hippo Sweat Sunscreen

Honestly, I don’t think I could make up something this daft if I tried. Thanks to an astute member of our NZ Skeptics Facebook group, I now know about a New Zealand company - Hippo Health - who are marketing a fascinating sun block for animals.

Their schtick is that the sweat of a hippo from behind its ear contains norhipposudoric acid, and that this acts as a sunblock - after all, as the company says, “Have you ever seen a sunburnt hippo?”. The company claims that this orange substance, when excreted, somehow quickly coats the entire skin of the hippo, and protects it from UV rays. From there, the company says that their homoeopathically diluted version of this product also provides sun protection when swallowed - and they hint that it should work on people as well as animals:

Does SOL Plus work on People?
On a daily basis our team at Hippo is asked whether it works for people too. Logically we would like to say ‘of course’ but because we don’t have clinical trials for people, our official stance is that we don’t sell or market it as a people sunscreen. We suspect there are a lot of people unofficially helping themselves to their horse’s bottles of Sol Plus and we welcome any feedback.”

There’s a lot wrong with this product, and the claims that are being made about it. Firstly, although tests have shown the chemical, and it’s red counterpart hipposudoric acid, do have some UV protective properties when applied to the skin, there’s no explanation of how this would work when taken internally. But bigger than this are the problems that come with this being a homeopathic product.

Homeopathy is a fully discredited pseudo-scientific idea about how diluted substances might help our bodies to heal - in reality, homeopathy just doesn’t work. So, it’s likely that this hippo sweat, when diluted in water to a point where no molecules of the acid are present, won’t retain any of the properties of the active chemical.

On top of the dilution idea, homeopathy operates under a “like cures like” model, where something which in concentrated form causes a set of medical symptoms will cure similar symptoms when it is diluted. So, for example, diluted caffeine (a stimulant) is said to treat ADHD and diluted onion (which makes you cry and your nose run) will apparently treat colds and flu.

So, if we apply this to our homeopathic hippo sweat (I can’t believe I’ve actually written those words down), this should mean that our concoction might be expected to help you tan. But no, in this case the principle of like cures like is thrown out the window, and instead diluted hippo sweat, when swallowed, is being sold in New Zealand as an effective sunscreen.

Thankfully committee member Jonathon Harper is on the case, and has already submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. Expect a short follow-up story when the ASA release their decision.

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