Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I arrived early at the Promised Land,and greeted Alice and Dean with glee,I think they thought me sexually deviant,Alice excused herself for a hasty wee.I then met all of the regulars,and in the corner, Jimmy Crankie himself,I thought he was the local eunuch,but it turns out he was a skeptical elf.No, he wasn't really an elf,or a halfling, hobbit or some other un-PC reference to a dwarf,it was the one and only Rhys Morgan,the purveyor of suits that are morph.Now Rhys had been a bit poorly,and he asked some people on the 'net what to do,but when they recommended drinking bleach,he knew they were talking out the wazoo.He told them they were crazy,and there were no studies to support their claims,but when people got mad and feelings hurt,it was him who got the blames.So, he phoned the Trading Standards,the BBC got involved, that was a shock!before he knew it he was famous,and all the girls wanted his – autograph.Then our teenage hero was a critic,of a bogus treatment, as most would agree,some muppets in Houston have spent decades on it,and the trial has only got to stage three.His comments risked a libel suit,when he took on the infamous Doctor Burzynski,who sells terminal patients piss in a bottle,and who's therapy can best be described as risky.Rhys has also got into trouble,with peers and school authorities,for publishing a picture a Jesus and Mo,that offended some religious minorities.But, I don't want to paint a bad picture,of Rhys as hell-raiser skeptic in a pub,he's also founder, and talented writer,of a blog called the Heresy Club.Now, I don't want tell his story for him,even though it may employ razor-sharp wit,I'll let him do that himself,and stop making myself look like a tit.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
So, we have a result! As I said in the previous post, however, my work is not quite done. I now have quite a number of instructors' websites with equally dubious claims on them. At least I now have something to quote in my correspondence with them. If there is a way for me to get action on misleading and unsubstantiated claims without having to trouble an over-burdened ASA then I still believe it is worth my time.
I'd like to thank the few people who've supported my efforts and taken the time to show an interest in the practical application of skepticism.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
More relaxed podcasting and editing means you get this a little late. However, it's still definitely worth a listen! Go download it now.
We talked about the drug dealer who wanted more jail time, the Tories' solution to child poverty, Indian Skeptic facing arrest, Hooters, Jeremy Hunt, Julian Assange, David Cameron's poor parenting skills, John Sentamu's homophobic rantings, gay marriage, the Daily Mail's "hot" technology news and Trevor sends in some super secret bonus material to keep you happy.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Monday, June 11, 2012
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Steven returns from his self-imposed exile to abuse the third best known city in Wales. This week we talk about Abu Qatada, anti-EU sentiment in the media, Alan Davies & Liverpool, Norwich City's "intellectual" property, excommunicated bishops, s127 of the Communications Act and African cake.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Dear Mr Stabler,
Firstly, can I apologise that you did not receive a response from your initial email to us. We have checked and cannot find a record of it, so there was obviously a glitch at our end.
Thank you for taking an interest in the work of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), and for blogging about how using infant massage strengthened the bond between your wife and your baby son.
I note you mentioned that the instructor who had run the baby massage course your wife attended had made some ‘very interesting claims’ about the benefits of massage, which were also included in the literature your wife received.
It would really help us to know if the instructor was IAIM trained as, if she did make misleading claims, then of course we need to know and to take action. We would also like to see a copy of the literature you refer to, to help us in our investigations.
The IAIM’s founder, Vimala McClure, began developing what is now the IAIM’s infant massage programme, which combines centuries-old Indian and Swedish massage traditions with principles from yoga and reflexology, in the 1970s.
Tens of thousands of parents and healthcare professionals around the world have since been trained to use the techniques, and happily endorse the positive physical and emotional benefits that the techniques can bring to both babies and parents/carers.
However, we do take your questioning of the evidence behind some of the very positive benefits outlined on the IAIM website very seriously.
I would like to assure you that the IAIM UK Chapter is currently undertaking a complete review of the information on the website. In fact, over the last few years the board has been piloting ways of gathering feedback from parents, carers and health professionals, so our claims can be clearly be backed up by evidence and demonstrated in real time.
Please do not hesitate to get back to me – especially if you can identify the baby massage instructor and the printed materials you refer to.
President, IAIM UK Chapter
Considering the content of her response I wondered why it took so long to get back to me, but I guess I can appreciate people are busy. At least I got a reply!
I won't pick her response apart; I'll just post my reply:
Thank you very much for your reply. I can understand your problems with my first email; I work in IT and I know first-hand how overzealous some spam filters can be.
Unfortunately, my wife's attendance at a baby massage course was quite a while ago now so we do not have any of the literature and memory of who the instructor was has long-since faded. I mentioned it in my previous email only to provide background and the reason for my attention to your website. My primary focus has been the claims made on the IAIM websuite because of the potential for IAIM members to use it as a source of information for their own websites etc.
It doesn't surprise me that tens of thousands of people attest to positive experiences with baby massage and my wife may be one of them. However, this doesn't really address the problem of a lack of objective scientific evidence for what are specific claims of health benefits.
I'd like highlight a very recent example which I believe demonstrates the problem with the current trend of using testimony and anecdote to justify objective claims. Recently the ASA concluded that the claims made by a faith-healing group were misleading (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-
england-somerset-16871116). While I accept that the claims made for infant massage are not as extreme as those by the HOTS group, the analogy is very close. I am sure tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people would attest to positive health outcomes through the use of faith healing or prayer. However, whenever controlled studies are performed on the efficacy of faith-healing or intercessory prayer it is discovered that it does not work in any practical sense. Therefore a higher standard of evidence is required to make such claims.
I'm glad that you acknowledge the importance of questioning the evidence underpinning claims of benefits. I am, however, looking for actions that demonstrate the IAIM is dedicated to an honest and evidence-based approach in their communications. Although I have no reason to doubt that the IAIM is currently reviewing the contents of its website may I just reiterate the fact that I am not simply seeking some kind of personal satisfaction; I am looking to establish whether the website material breaches very important regulation that exists to protect the public (http://www.cap.org.uk/The-
Codes/CAP-Code/CAP-Code-Item. aspx?q=CAP%20Code%20new_ Specific%20Category% 20Sections_12%20Medicines,% 20medical%20devices,%20health- related%20products%20and% 20beauty%20products_Rules#c581 ), something the IAIM should be looking to address urgently.
Therefore I'd appreciate it if you could answer some further questions:
1. How long will the review of your website take?
2. Will the completion of the review result in the removal of unsubstantiated claims?
3. Will the completion of the review result in the citing of scientific evidence to back up any objective claims made?
4. What does the IAIM's efforts to gather feedback from parents, carers and health professionals have to do with providing objective evidence to back up claims made?
If the answer to the first question is a period of time longer than the resolution procedures of the Advertising Standards Authority then I may as well just complete their online complaints form and add to their workload. However, I'd much rather see an internal resolution. I'm also keen to see the claims made on IAIM members' websites substantiated. On, what I assume, is your own website, for example, I found dubious claims such as "strengthens baby's immune system" and "helps to balance baby's respiration" (http://www.babybitsandbobs.
Health workers and professionals play a very important role in society, but they must be careful not to step outside the boundaries of fact and into the world of fiction when making objective claims for their treatments and interventions. Using assumptions, intuition and anecdote instead of science leads to the slippery slope of misleading and potentially harmful claims.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Hopefully this is this episode represents the last week of Steven's exile from the podcast. But John and Trevor put in an extra special effort to bring you some of the more unusual news from the last couple of weeks, including Kony 2012, catholic USB porn, video game nasties, illegal homeless, Rowan Williams resignation, Christian Voice, gay marriage, age of consent and the start of our illiberal government.
It's not all depressing, so don't be too worried about downloading it now!
The title for this week's episode is a joke that we couldn't finish, even though Trevor put his comedy mind to it for quite a while.
Anyway, please enjoy the usual comedy gold from an episode that was almost lost due to laziness and incompetence.
Lots of love, John, Trev and Steve x
Here's the email I sent to the IAIM (UK Chapter):
From: Johnathan Stabler [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 05 April 2012 16:17
Subject: Massage Benefit Claims on IAIM Website
I sent you an email on 25/072011 pointing out that some of the claimed benefits of infant massage on your website were not supported by clinical evidence. I have noticed that the claim of "boosts immune system" has now been removed and "helps digestion" has been changed to "stimulation of...digestion...systems". While I am still concerned about your use of the word "stimulation" and the implication of benefits, I'd like to draw your attention to another statement on your website at http://www.iaim.org.uk/what_benefits.htm that claims "helping with language development, memory and concentration". I took the liberty of, once again, checking medical publication websites for trials/studies related to infant massage and this specific claim and once again drew a blank. In fact, a Cochrane systematic review concluded that there was no evidence of effects on cognitive and behavioural outcomes.
If there is evidence for the efficacy of infant massage in such matters then I suggest you update your website and literature to cite such studies. If there are none then you are likely to be in breach of ASA advertising codes. Currently it would seem that the Wikipedia article on Infant Massage is better able to substantiate claims and cite sources than your organisation.
In my previous email I also sought assurances that massage instructors were not making unsubstantiated claims of benefits. However, I was disappointed that my email was not even acknowledged, let alone information provided on how your members were being educated about the importance of evidence-based practise.
And here is the reply:
Many thanks for writing to the IAIM. Your enquiry has been referred to our committee board who will reply back to you shortly. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other queries in the meantime.
International Association of Infant Massage (UK) Chapter
Suite 10, 96 George Lane
Tel : 020 8989 9597
Registered Company : 6832002
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The NHS is need of change.
There is no doubt to this fact and I am sure this would gain cross party support in the House of Commons. There is seemingly unmanageable bureaucracy at all levels, the mistakes Dr’s, nurses et al (they are only human) make are increasingly in the spot light, partly due to our increasingly prevalent “compensation culture”, we have the so called “post code lottery” and waiting lists seem to be ever increasing. Money is sluiced away.
The NHS is in need of a shake up, of this there is no doubt.
But I still love the NHS. It’s like a favourite old aunt, loveable, caring, always there to put her arms around you, but with a bad hip and ever so slightly incontinent.
I, like many people in this country have relied upon the NHS. It has arguably saved my life, it has certainly saved the lives of my mother, father and brother. Up and down the country people say the same thing. It is the greatest invention of the last century, inspired and led from the welsh valleys, through Nye Bevan and the Tredegar Medical Aid Society. It’s founding principle was clear: A health service available to all, funded by taxation. People contributing according to their means. This model should still work today, sure we are living longer (down to improved Health Care), but our monetary wealth has increased also.
Lansley’s bill seems hell bent on destroying the NHS. Reformed to the point of destruction, deliberately broken beyond repair to pave the way for full privatisation. The bill has been rumbling around Parliament for a couple of weeks now and the sheer volume of amendments show just what a bad bill this actually is. Trumpeted as a cost saving and reforming exercise by the Government, the Health Secretary himself has admitted that it will cost £1.4bn to implement, with the National Audit Office warning of short term costs rising significantly coupled with decreased patient care.
The real elephant in the room, is of course the back door privatisation of the NHS. I have 2 issues with this. Firstly, I don’t believe that Competition is a good thing I don’t want a bargain basement service, where costs are cut to be increasingly “competitive”. I want a service that will work and give me the best possible care. If a private company can make a profit out of the NHS, why can’t the Government make a profit to reinvest rather that sit in shareholders pockets? Although, this bill does not fully introduce “privatisation” it is ultimately the end game. If in doubt please read this article published in the BMJ (courtesy of Dr Ben Goldacre).
Secondly, privatisation of the NHS will mean that health care provision will be available only for those who can afford it. According to Official Reports the gap between rich and poor in this country is ever increasing (a problem affecting both this and the previous Governments). The current inflation rate and low wages further exacerbates this problem, adding the cost of health insurance to the monthly bill of a low income family will push people further into poverty. A lot has been said about the American model of health care, so I’m not going to cover it here in detail, but I would urge you to watch Michael Moore’s film “Sicko”. Although, I’m not a huge fan of Moore this film alone provides justification for a National Health Service.
The Lib Dem’s have an opportunity this weekend to deliver a knock out blow to this legislation. It is their party conference and there are 2 motions re: the NHS bill. One by Dame Shirley Williams to encourage support of the Bill, the other calls for the Lib Dems to scrap it. They have the power to defeat this bill, Labour will oppose the bill en masse meaning the Tories need the Lib Dems to pass this bill, if there is a revolt by the party we will see the end of this bill. I urge the Lib Dem conference to support the second motion, to listen to the views of the Health Professionals - The Royal College of GP’s, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing, the Faculty of Public Health - they all believe that patient care will suffer at the hands of this bill. One of the thing we have heard the Health Minister talk about is “empowering doctors” and “handing power back”, well how about taking that on board and listening to them as they shout at him, “we do not want this Bill.”
The NHS needs reform, this Bill will destroy it, and we will be left with a flash Aunt, conspicuous by her absence gallivanting around the world without time for us, maybe receiving the odd email. I don’t want that. I to be cwtched by my old aunt with her shiny, new hip replacement and to come away slightly damp.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
This week Trevor and John discuss the Anglican church's anti-gay marriage bigotry, bias and fractal irony in the US media, the workfare scheme and the scandal-hit management company, female reproductive rights and cherry-picking evidence, bat-shit crazy Republicans, praise for Gove and the usual features.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We do not really believe there is a causal link between David Cameron and cancer. However, there may be a correlation, so we just thought we'd put it out there.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Returning to our usual schedule, this week we talk about fairness in football and the media, Julian Baggini discovers the obvious, men love porn, Leveson enquiry, privacy and freedom of the press, card-carrying catholics, Anglican bishop irony, citizen justice, twitter joke trial, PM's question time and the usual feature.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Hopefully it'll be up to the usual high standards and we'll be back to our regular schedule now.
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