Ian Luxmoore investigates the claims for BioMag underlays.Continue reading
Elephants in Loch Ness?
Nessie’s an elephant, says a leading British palaeontologist (Dominion Post, 7 March).
Neil Clark, curator of palaeontology at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum, spent two years investigating the Loch Ness myth and suggested the idea for Nessie was dreamt up as a “magnificent piece of marketing” by a circus impresario after he saw one of his elephants bathing in the loch.
In 1933, the same year as the first modern ‘sighting’ of Nessie, Bertram Mills offered £20,000 to anyone who could capture the monster for his circus, sparking international interest. Most sightings could be explained by floating logs or waves, but there were a number, particularly from 1933, were more difficult to account for.
He believed some were elephants belonging to circuses – which visited Inverness and stopped along the banks of the loch to allow their animals to rest. When they swam in the loch, only the trunk and two humps could be seen – the first hump being the head and the second the animal’s back.
University fears cancer from wireless internet…
Lakehead University, in Ontario, Canada, won’t allow campus-wide internet access because of health worries (Dominion Post, 1 March.)
President Fred Gilbert told a university meeting that some studies showed links to carcinogenic occurences in animals, including humans, related to energy fields associated with wireless hotspots – “whether these hotspots are transmissions lines, whether they’re outlets, plasma screens or microwave ovens that leak.” The university has only limited Wi-Fi connections, in places where there is no fibre-optic internet connection. The decision, apparently, was a personal decision by Gilbert.
The stance has caused a backlash from students and Canadian health authorities. “Considering this is a university known for its great use of technology it’s kind of bad that we can’t get Wi-Fi,” student union president Adam Krupper said.
…but cell phones are OK
Meanwhile, according to a new study, cell phones do not increase the risk of developing brain tumours, the Dominion Post reported (21 January.)
After a four-year survey, scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and British universities in Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham found no link between regular, long-term use of cellphones and glioma brain tumours.
The results were consistent with the findings of most studies done in the US and Europe, although this survey was bigger than any previous research and involved 13 countries.
The researchers questioned 966 people with glioma and 1716 healthy volunteers about how long they had used mobile phones, the make and model, how many calls they made and how long the calls lasted. Earlier mobile phones used analogue signals, which emitted higher power signals than the later digital models. Any health danger would be more likely to result from the earlier models, but the scientists found no evidence of it.
Ghosts keep the tourists away
The existence of ghosts may be debated, but the impact of traditional Asian beliefs on Thailand’s tourism trade since the December 26, 2004, tsunami appears indisputable (National Geographic News, January 6).
Tourism from Europe, Australia, and the United States has rebounded since the disaster, but tourist arrivals from elsewhere in Asia have not. Industry observers cite Asian tourists’ fears of ghosts in tsunami-stricken areas as the main reason for the decline.
Buddhism and other Asian belief systems hold that if bodies are not properly buried, their spirits restlessly wander the Earth, and may try to drag living beings into a spiritual limbo.
“Please tell your fellow Japanese and Chinese back home to stop fearing ghosts and return to this region again,” Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reportedly told tourists after a memorial service to commemorate the victims of the tsunami.
Since the disaster, tales of ghost sightings have become endemic. Foreign ghosts seem to be particularly common, and many of the accounts are being covered in local newspapers.
One Phuket taxi driver reportedly said he was hailed by four western tourists who asked to go to the airport. The driver chatted as he drove, but when he pulled up at the airport to let the passengers out there was no one there.
Police procedure allows for sorcery concerns
Maori should not be forced to give DNA samples because of concerns over sorcery, says a report in the Dominion Post (5 December 05). A new police manual says Maori have spiritual beliefs about samples taken from the body, and that “a person should not be forced to provide samples for testing purposes”. Police management said the direction would be amended or deleted in future editions.
‘John of God’: it’s all been seen before
Chair-entity Vicki Hyde is gnashing her teeth over the upcoming visit to New Zealand of Joao Teixeira de Faria, ‘one of the world’s most powerful spiritual healers.’
In a full-page feature on the ‘healer’ in the Dominion Post (28 January) Vicki told reporter Stefan Herrick she was convinced Teixeira de Faria, who goes by the name John of God, was a con man “who peddles miracle cures that don’t withstand even light scientific scrutiny.
“Sad to see this chap coming here as it just means more exploitation of vulnerable people.”
Hundreds of foreigners visit Abadiania, the small village in Brazil where Teixeira de Faria has established a clinic where ‘miraculous cures’ take place. He is promoted as “the greatest healer of the past 2000 years”, and claims to be guided by 35 healing spirits.
Vicki Hyde said if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, “it’s probably just another duck…”
John of God, the report said, doesn’t charge for visits to his clinic (although the Wellington sessions will cost $115) but he appeared to be well off. The ABC network reported that he owned a 400-hectare ranch down the road from his clinic.
Magnets attract support
Magnet therapy, said to be favoured by Cherie Blair, is to be made available on Britain’s National Health Service (NZ Herald, 11 March).
The 4UlcerCare – a strap containing four magnets that is wrapped around the leg – is available on prescription from GPs. Its maker, Magnopulse, claims that it speeds the healing of leg ulcers and keeps them from coming back.
The announcement has created excitement in the world of alternative medicine. Lilias Curtin, one-time therapist to Cherie Blair, sent a poster-sized announcement to newspapers declaring her “sincere belief that, in the next five to 10 years, magnets will be seen in first-aid boxes”.
Other experts are sceptical. Professor Edzard Ernst, head of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, said that he was puzzled by the NHS decision. “As far as I can see, there hasn’t yet been enough research to prove that these magnets help people with ulcers.”
More powerful electromagnets could help to heal tissue injuries, but that was different, he said. His own study of small magnets on arthritis sufferers had failed to yield compelling results.
In January, researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, in California, published a paper in the British Medical Journal that cast doubt on the therapeutic use of magnets. “Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proven benefits. If they insist on using a magnetic device, they could be advised to buy the cheapest – this will alleviate the pain in their wallet,” they wrote.
Nervousness based medicine
Fear of litigation is a powerful stimulus to over-investigation and over treatment. In an atmosphere of litigation phobia, the only bad test is the test you didn’t think of ordering.
NZ Medical Journal Nov 24 2000 p. 479
While setting the VCR the other day I caught a segment on TV where a particularly slimy and irritating Australian was extolling the virtues of magnetic pillows and underlays. I was further reminded of this incident when Dr Keith Davidson of Blenheim, gave me a brochure on “Magnetic Energy”. Ever the humorist, Keith had scrawled across the bottom the words “doesn’t attract me!”
The web address is www.magneticenergy.com.au (shouldn’t that be ‘dot.con’?)
One of the great things about quackery is that it can be recycled after a period of time when people have forgotten the lessons of history. Charles Mackay — “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, outlines the last great era of magnetic therapy in his book. Refer page 304.
When recycling an old fraud it is important to modernise it for a more sophisticated New Zealand audience (don’t laugh). It also helps to link it with other modalities such as acupressure and auricular acupuncture. Some highlights from the brochure: Magnetic water. Placing a jug of boiled water on top of the Mega Multi Magnet for 2-3 hours makes this. The daily use of “magnetised water may keep your negative and positive ions and pH levels balanced.”
What about an antinauseant magnet with the unfortunate acronym of “SCAT”. (Sea, Car, Air, Train). Scat is a North American term for animal sh*t which pretty much sums up these useless magnetic products.
Sexual abuse claims set to spiral
In Vol 62 I predicted that moves to allow lump sum compensation for sexual abuse claims would then be subjected to Welch’s Law. (Claims expand to take up the amount of compensation available).
Since the Government announced the reintroduction of lump-sum payments, 12,000 people have lodged “sensitive claims” and may be in line for $100K each regardless of whether police have investigated the complaint (they have been too busy collecting speeding fines) and claimants are not required to name the perpetrator.
I am very concerned that this absurdly unfair legislation excludes people who have really suffered through alien abduction. It should not matter that such claimants are unsure as to the identity of their abductor. In the half-light a Martian can resemble a Raelian. Unless the spaceship was speeding, it’s unlikely the event would come to the attention of the police. In passing, I wonder what the penalty is for doing Warp 9 in Taihape?
Marlborough Express 29 April, 2003
Employers have much to fear from proposed changes to the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Employers are about to become responsible for managing stress in the workplace. If this foolish proposal is implemented I predict that there will be a surge of complaints followed by requests for compensation as disaffected workers struggle to get their snouts into the ACC trough. Many already have by successfully claiming for spurious conditions such as chemical “poisoning”, multiple chemical sensitivity, and occupational overuse syndrome (OOS). These are all classical conversion disorders where personal stress and anxiety is manifest as physical complaints. Workers are now being given the opportunity to take their own personal worries to work and make them the responsibility of their employer and ACC.
Dominion Post May 5 2003-05-16
These have been in the news lately and thanks to Alan Pickmere for sending me a range of what’s on offer in Whangarei. In an accompanying letter Alan recounted how his queries to various suppliers were met with a dose of “vehemence medicine”.
Zenith Corporation are promoting “Body Enhancer” and “Bee V Balm” via their website www.zenith.co.nz. Claims are made that their products are backed by research but none is evident, only the usual testimonials which are the hallmark of snake-oil salesmen. The language is very carefully chosen, for example: “Under NZ law and the Medicines Act 1981 we are prohibited from telling you how our products and the ingredients they contain will work for your benefit.” Wrong. They are prohibited by law from making claims for which they have no evidence.
Malcolm Harker’s website www.malcolmharker.co.nz tells us that he has been making traditional herbal medicines since 1981. The website is a bit “clunky” and lacks functionality but is worth a visit, if only to enjoy some of the product names. Troubled by “brain fatigue”? Try “E-sense”, a mixture of sage (geddit?), rosemary, gingko, kelp and fucus. That last ingredient sounds a trifle unpleasant.
I urge all readers to visit these websites and send in questions about these products. The alternative health literature is an endless source of whacky ideas and because so many of the people involved are scientifically illiterate, there are some wonderful howlers. Take this one for example:
“The activity (ie “hotness”) of the capsicum family is measured by British Thermal Units (BTU). Good quality cayenne capsules come in extra hot which is 100,000 BTU.”
One BTU is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1lb of water by 1°F. It has nothing to do with the perceived “hotness” of cayenne pepper. Consider a hot water cylinder containing 200lbs of water. 100,000 BTU by my calculations would raise the temperature of your cylinder by 500°F. I will leave you with Alan Pickmere’s comment: “rather a cheap way to heat your bathwater”.
Yoga for Sickness Beneficiaries
For many years I have been corresponding with various officials and bureaucrats about the continuing scandal of the sickness benefit. A short-term benefit for illness has been turned into a lifestyle and all that is required to gain this benefit is a signed certificate from a doctor. It is a matter of some regret to me that members of my own profession have been largely responsible for an increase of 3000 on the sickness benefit since July 2000. Over 4000 people have been on a sickness benefit for more than five years, 182 for more than 15 years and five for over 20 years.
At the expense of sounding like a redneck I get particularly annoyed when I read in the paper of professional criminals described as “sickness beneficiaries”. They are too sick to work but well enough to commit burglaries and serious criminal offences. All of my attempts to find out details of these cases have been thwarted by “privacy considerations”. This means that a third party (a doctor) can commit the state to providing a benefit with no independent means of auditing these decisions. The Government continues to express concerns as to why so many people are going on to sickness benefits. The answer is simple: because they can!
But wait … a novel solution has been found. Selected sickness beneficiaries are being offered “yogic breathing to help them get a job”. This has been described by critics as “unscientific, dangerous, and bullshit”.
However, let’s not write it off completely. If they also offered yogic “flying” this could offer the dual benefit of a return to work and a means of getting there. But what next? I predict language courses in Klingon?
Sunday Star Times May 18 2003