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Links With Your Coffee - Friday

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    Happy Binary New Year (010110)


  • Oppose “Big Floss”; practice alternative dentistry
    We survived almost all of human history without it. Yet in the last 100 years people have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by a huge corporate conspiracy into believing that we “need” their products. They cite studies and claim we don’t understand science; they ignore ancient folk wisdom and have no respect for our intuition. They peddle their products without regard to the dramatic increase in chronic diseases and weakened immune systems of recent decades. I’m speaking, of course, of “Big Floss.”

  • Findings on Origin of a Cancer in Tasmanian Devils
    The Tasmanian devil, the spaniel-size marsupial found on the Australian island of Tasmania, has been hurtling toward extinction in recent years, the victim of a bizarre and mysterious facial cancer that spreads like a plague.
    9C749CEB-11FE-4CFA-9942-244381CE6D6F.jpg
    Geoff Shaw/University of Melbourne

    Now Australian scientists say they have discovered how the cancer originated. The finding, being reported Friday in the journal Science, sheds light on how cancer cells can sometimes liberate themselves from the hosts where they first emerged. On a more practical level, it also opens the door to devising vaccines that could save the Tasmanian devils.


  • Russia to Plan Deflection of Asteroid From Earth

  • Why Powerful People -- Many of Whom Take a Moral High Ground -- Don't Practice What They Preach



 

Comments

I find it surprising that a professor of philosophy would employ the logic that, because A caused reaction B and C also caused reaction B, then because A was false C must also be false. Just because an overblown technological concern and a well-documented scientific phenomenon have caused similar responses, the fact that Y2K turned out to be a dud in no way proves that climate change is as well. Yes, we do love to get ourselves worked up about potential catastrophes (Mayans, anyone?) but the "storms, droughts, and mass extinctions" predicted as a result of climate change are not figments of some catastrophe junkie's imagination: these are actually happening, unlike the global electronic kerfuffle that Y2K was supposed to cause.

Of course they have. That's like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow. Storms, droughts, and mass extinctions have been happening for billions of years. Sure, we think it would be nice for them to stop, but I expect there would be some ugly blowback if they did.

I'm curious. What is it you think, Syngas? Do you believe man and the changes he has made to the planet have had no effect? Or, do you think they would have happened anyway? Or do you think the Earth will balance out any changes by...??? Or do you think the changes are worth the quality of life we've developed?

Am I missing something on the binary date? Sorry - I'm kind of lagging today...

Happy New Year everyone :)

Yeah, shouldn't it be 11111011010?

I was just noting that it was ones and zeros . You're right that converted to binary it's 11111011010

Ooooooh - just got it - 01/01/10....I told you I was lagging...I was thinking the same as tan da and I didn't get why it was so off....

These links bring up many desperately interesting thoughts to think about for the new year:

• If Big Floss controls the dental care industry, is the Tooth Fairy really just a lobbyist?

• If Tasmanian devils become fatally extinct, does that mean Glenn Beck will disappear from our world?

• Does the Russians' plan involve kidnapping our belovedly adored Bruce Willis from us?

• Should we dump our most powerful leaders and elect only unpowerful people to rule over us in the future?

These are questions which I shall joyfully agonize over. Thank you for your radically good posts of importantness!

"Should we dump our most powerful leaders and elect only unpowerful people to rule over us in the future?"

Lord Acton said it more succinctly many years ago, and the world still hasn't acted on it. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

The answer? - again an old saw - Voltaire's "benevolent dictatorship tempered with assassination"?

Happy New Year to all Norm's readers.

Lord Acton said it more succinctly many years ago, and the world still hasn't acted on it. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

This is a point of good you make. And it is why we should:

A) Have meekly powerless ceremonial leaders to royally entertain us.

B) Only elect dorky dweebs to real power.

C) Have a constitutionally mandated wedgie committee who will apply punitive wedgie action to any dweeby leaders abusing their power. The "atomic option" would only be allowed in cases of extreme emergency.

From what I have been told, they actually have a form of this type of progressively forward-thinking government in the United Kingdom of England.

Of course, yes, there are still a few flaws, the most obvious of which is what to do if the smartly dweebish leaders decide to wear no underpants? Or what if they decide to pursue absolutely powerful power by wearing no clothes at all? These are validly considerable questions, but really now, who has ever heard of an emperor with no clothes?

They say that clothes are what make a man, so the naked emperor trades his power for a tan.

Happy day after New Year's!

I'm sorry, old chap, but I don't understand your banter.

Re: Tasmanian Tiger story

Without trying to purport a theory based upon little evidence, nor sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, I would like the science involved here to be peer reviewed extensively. Just to rule out the possible influence the government sponsored science may have been tarnished due to the extreme political situation surrounding the plight of endangered animals in Tasmania, and the government sponsored forestry harvesting practices that operate within the state.

It seems very interesting that the questionable forest practices; the use of poisons and chemical baits (1080 for example) and the extensive aerial spraying, all operate within the animal's natural habitat.

In terms of the time-scale of the animal's existence upon the island, the facial tumour has only appeared relatively recently. Quite similar to the period in which the use of poisonous chemicals in their habitat has occurred.

It is also interesting that those animals that seem to have immunity also live in the parts of the island which is locked away in national parks, many miles away from areas that have undergone heavy forest “management” and harvesting.

Much more science, much more exposure and much less political involvement is required in this debate.

What exactly is the point of that "Big Floss" article? Is it to tar anyone who's critical of our profit-motivated medical industry with the broadest brush possible? Or to equate Vioxx with dental floss? Or to imply that any criticism of the pharmaceutical industry is akin to denouncing oral hygiene? This kind of rhetoric is moronic and unhelpful because it implies there is absolutely no justification for criticizing the healthcare industry or seeking alternatives. A better use of your bandwidth, Norm, might have been to link to this excellent interview from In These Times:

This Is Your Country on Drugs Melody Petersen talks about how we’re hooked on Big Pharma.

I think the article about Big Floss was not meant to criticize those who are questioning of the always very notoriously questionable and questioned medical industry, but rather instead it was to satirize the masses of many people who are unquestioningly embracingful of alternative medicine, which should actually be questioned more due to the scary and inscrutable scarcity of any solidly scientifical statistics to support it.

I do not think anyone is actually equating the Vioxx with the dentally tooth floss anymore. The Vioxx always had trouble reaching some of the hard to reach nooks and harder to reach crannies between my molars. Plus, also, the Vioxx tasted funny and didn't come in a minty fresh flavor.

Good link though. Thanks!

What exactly is the point of that "Big Floss" article? Is it to tar anyone who's critical of our profit-motivated medical industry with the broadest brush possible?

First the piece is satirical, secondly it takes an incredibly uncharitable reading to arrive at the conclusion you suggest. You build one straw man after another, you cherry pick examples. Furthermore it doesn't tar "anyone who is critical," but those who are dishonest in their criticism, many of those int the alt-medicine community.

Or to equate Vioxx with dental floss?

Vioxx is not directly compared with dental floss. You cherry pick an example where pharmaceuticals didn't do adequate testing and were dishonest while ignoring the many truly wonderful drugs that we use on a daily basis.

Or to imply that any criticism of the pharmaceutical industry is akin to denouncing oral hygiene?

"Any," once again a decidedly uncharitable reading. It's a satirical analogy.

This kind of rhetoric is moronic and unhelpful because it implies there is absolutely no justification for criticizing the healthcare industry or seeking alternatives.

This kind of criticism is what is moronic. Just posing it as a question doesn't get you off the hook in my book.

I selected the Vioxx example to show how ridiculous the piece is. I am not aware of any instances in which an alt med advocate attacked dental floss, or anything even remotely similar, therefore I employed an equally unfair comparison. But here's the upshot: On the one side, you have a multi-billion dollar industry actively working to defraud the American public and ruin its health, complete with shills like Sanjay Gupta masquerading daily as "health experts," while on the other side you've got, at worst, a misinformed-but-well-meaning, poorly funded and politically weak movement. So which side do OneGoodMove, Respectful Insolence, Science Based Medicine, Denialism Blog et al. attack in post after post? The side doing the most damage, or the side with the best, albeit misguided, intentions? I agree that most herbal "remedies" are useless, as are accupuncture, aromatherapy and other hippie stuff, but all of that combined doesn't add up to one Vioxx. Show me the alt med equivalent to Sanjay Gupta? Where is the alt med version of the AMA? OGM and the otherwise admirable blogs mentioned above are sprinting past the tyronosaurus to take turns swatting the mosquito, just as the pharmaceutical industry is sprinting past Malaria to address erectile dysfunction.

You should consider that alt-med people are always pointing out the "problems" with Big Pharma as it were the same as Science-based medicine.

Of course "Big Pharma" is corrupt. Of course it should be better regulated and better advertising rules should exist. But this says nothing about the validity of such "alternative" treatments. Their difference is that they're not tested with the SAME rigor as science-based medicine.

Science based medicine is inherently dangerous. Not because of corruption, but because it freaking works! It's a double edged sword. If alt-med worked with the same power, it would even be more dangerous. If something like Vioxx came out form the alt-med people, how long do you think its risks would have been discovered, and do you think the "alt-med" community would have been the ones to discover it?

I'm assuming you were addressing your comments to me, so I'm going to reply as such. First of all, I think we need to agree on what the term "alt med" even means. All medications are alternative until they are tested and accepted by the medical establishment, such as it is, at which point they stop being "alternative." Aspirin started out as willow bark, which the Native Americans smoked because of its analgesic properties. They did this presumably for centuries before Bayer figured out how to synthesize the key ingredients and market it in tablet form. I think one of the main complaints from the "alt med" crowd is that herbal remedies are ignored until some corporation can find a way to profit from them. In the meantime, all "alt meds" are maligned. Way back in 1974, I think it was, the National Institutes of Health discovered that marijuana shrinks tumors, but that information was suppressed because, in part, there is no easy way for a pharmaceutical company to profit from marijuana, since it can be grown easily. The (perhaps erroneous) assumption among the alt med crowd is that there are many other such natural remedies. Since the alt med crowd lacks the apparatus for testing these remedies in the manner you suggest, they are forced to rely on anecdotal evidence, which is spotty. In the case of willow bark, it seems, the anecdotal evidence was right on. If we remove the profit motive from the healthcare industry (yes, industry) and instead motivate them with altruism, which under current circumstances seems impossible, maybe some of the alt med claims can be reviewed. That is something that is happening a little, but only within the establishment's zeal to discredit herbal remedies, such as the case of Ginko Bilabo, which Norm recently linked to. I don't consider myself a member of the alt med crowd. I partake of no herbal remedies, aside from the occasional puff of weed. I sometimes take aspirin, and I use toothpaste and, yes, dental floss. I have no prescriptions. If I ever become seriously ill, I will embrace the latest mainstream treatment with all my might. That being said, I'm convinced that there are at least a few effective "herbal" remedies that are not being used widely for exactly the reason stated by the alt med crowd, which is that Merck or whoever cannot profit from it. Meanwhile, there are many drugs from which Merck or whoever CAN profit from, that anecdotal evidence shows to be dangerous, such as Vioxx or Paxil or Zocor & so forth. So, the choice, it seems to me, is between a well-meaning-but-ill-equipped crowd and an ill-meaning-but-well-equipped crowd. Of course, it's not quite that black-and-white, but the longer the problem goes unfixed, the more black-and-white it becomes.

And as a corollary to that, it seems to me that blogs such as this one would do well to criticize "Big Pharma" (your term, not mine) with at least as much vigor as it criticizes the alt med crowd.

If you notice, I used scare quotes just precisely cause it isn't my term. Whatever goes on this blog is whatever interests Norm, so if I'd like to hear more about the next CES convention (which I do) I'll just go somewhere else.

But in any case, "Big Pharma's" corruption is indeed criticized in science blogs, including Orac's. The Hwang Woo Suk affair was widely reported and criticized in science publications, not in Alt Med Weekly.

Similarly, bad "real" science is criticized a lot in other skeptic blogs in all areas of science, not just medicine.

BTW, Big Daddy Malcontent - I'm SO not a fan of the pharmaceutical industry I can't even tell you. I love the scientists working on cures - it's the business men I have issues with. It's like any industry - when people discover there's a whole lot of money to be made there, all the rules change. I don't think Vioxx is an isolated enough incident. There was an interesting Frontline and the FDA a while (probably quite a long time ago, now). But - I know Norm's interests are more with anti- alt med...

I just followed your Hwang Woo Suk link, and I don't see how it demonstrates that "'Big Pharma's' corruption is indeed criticized in science blogs, including Orac's." This is an instance of a single scientist fabricating data, not an example of "big pharma's" systemic corruption. To use an analogy, news organizations were zealous in their condemnation of Jayson Blair, while simultaneously ignoring the systemic corruption that, among other things, advanced the WMDs hokum. Can't you tell the difference?

I don't see how it demonstrates that "'Big Pharma's' corruption is indeed criticized in science blogs, including Orac's."

There are numerous examples of Orac criticizing big pharma. Here's one http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/05/when_big_pharma_pays_a_publisher_to_publ.php But why is it you think some sort of balance is necessary? If the alternative medicine community is worthy of criticism and they are, pointing out that big pharma is also guilty of abuses doesn't vindicate the alt-med crowd. Didn't your mother ever tell you two wrongs don't make a right.

I think I answered that question adequately when I said, "So, the choice, it seems to me, is between a well-meaning-but-ill-equipped crowd and an ill-meaning-but-well-equipped crowd. Of course, it's not quite that black-and-white, but the longer the problem goes unfixed, the more black-and-white it becomes," and "OGM and the otherwise admirable blogs mentioned above are sprinting past the tyronosaurus to take turns swatting the mosquito, just as the pharmaceutical industry is sprinting past Malaria to address erectile dysfunction."

It's a hell of lot more than a mosquito. The alternative medicine industry is a multi-billion dollar industry pedaling cures that don't work. They encourage people to forgo scientific medicine and substitute unproven and often dangerous folk remedies. Even when the treatments and herbs are innocuous billion of dollars that could be better spent for proven and timely healthcare is wasted.

This discussion, I think, reveals a major problem in our society. We are expected to plant our flag in this or that camp and then defend that camp right or wrong. You have evidently planted your flag in the big pharma camp, and will lob your grenades only in the direction of altie meds. By the US government's own (probably conservative) estimates, over 100,000 people die every year from taking precription drugs as directed by their doctors. Not accidental overdoses or pharmacist mistakes, mind you, but instances in which patients took exactly what they were directed to take by their doctors. It could be that altie remedies are indirectly responsible for the same number of deaths, but I doubt it. Moreover, we stand to gain more by directing our ire towards a medical infrastructure that CAN do the right thing if it WANTS to. If things were the way they're supposed to be, big pharma or whatever you want to call it would be helping us separate the wheat from the chaff among altie meds instead of just looking for ways to create and profit from sickness. Attack the biggest monster first, not just the one(s) that helps you display your allegiance to science.

This discussion, I think, reveals a major problem in our society. We are expected to plant our flag in this or that camp and then defend that camp right or wrong. You have evidently planted your flag in the big pharma camp, and will lob your grenades only in the direction of altie meds.

I haven't "planted my flag" anywhere but for evidence based medicine, and I'm growing tired of your attempts to present this as if alt-med and big pharma are the two sides and that because I post more often on the abuses of alt-med that means I'm on the side of big pharma. Your logic is terribly flawed, and although I've tried to explain where you're getting it wrong you persist in misinterpreting my statements and attempting to paint me as an apologist for big pharma. The only two sides are the truth and the lies. My choosing to emphasis the alt-med abuses doesn't mean I don't recognize big pharma abuses. That I don't frequently attack big pharma doesn't mean I don't believe they deserve condemnation and there are plenty of folks who are fighting that fight, and I wish them well. It is an important fight. I don't defend big pharma "right or wrong," and that you imply that I do I find despicable.

You might ask yourself if you are in part responsible for the division you see. You're the one trying to place individuals in one camp or the other with no evidence other than that they don't place the same emphasis on the various issues as you do. Crticizing alt-med doesn't make me pro pharma, any more than criticizing communism makes me a fascist.

I might also point out that alternative medicine in run by big corporations too, and is often true of corporate America they are corrupt. There isn't a big guy little guy dichotomy here as much as you might want that to be true.

I'm sorry if you saw my comments as a personal attack. They weren't intended that way. "The only two sides are the truth and the lies." I couldn't agree more. I'm sure you're right that there are big corporations behind the alt med phenomenon, but they aren't being aided and abetted by our tax dollars the way the big pharm companies are. The FDA isn't assisting the alt med lie they way they're assisting the big pharm lie. And I still maintain that the dental floss corporate conspiracy satire assists in concealing that fact.

They certainly do get the benefit of government support as even a cursory perusal of the bills Orrin Hatch has passed to benefit that particular segment of corporate America attest. There are many in government pushing for alternative medicine to be covered under the healthcare bill and hell there is even an entire government department dedicated to studying alternative medicine. Corporate America is responsible for most of the problems whether it is corporate big pharma or corporate alternative medicine. The FDA does a better job of regulating the drug companies, which since it is terrible highlights the almost total lack of any scrutiny given to alternative medicine industry. At least most of the medicine approved by the FDA works whereas most of the products sold by the alternative medicine industry are virtually worthless.

That Orac link comes closer to the balance I'm looking for; still, it exposes only a single instance of what many believe pervades the entire industry. I would like to know what Orac thinks of Melody Petersen's book, and the systemic corruption it exposes. I just searched ScienceBlogs using their own search function, and there isn't a single reference to her book, which seems like a glaring omission.

Just in case, I didn't provide the Wiki link as an example of Orac's criticism. It was just the highest-profile scandal I can remember, and I learned it from science publications. All of them were very critical of how it went down.

boy, can we attest to that!

Sorry, Norm. I can't read your reply.

Trick: highlight the text and copy/paste.

They certainly do get the benefit of government support as even a cursory perusal of the bills Orrin Hatch has passed to benefit that particular segment of corporate America attest. There are many in government pushing for alternative medicine to be covered under the healthcare bill and hell there is even an entire government department dedicated to studying alternative medicine. Corporate America is responsible for most of the problems whether it is corporate big pharma or corporate alternative medicine. The FDA does a better job of regulating the drug companies, which since it is terrible highlights the almost total lack of any scrutiny given to alternative medicine industry. At least most of the medicine approved by the FDA works whereas most of the products sold by the alternative medicine industry are virtually worthless

Thanks for the tip, Andy. I didn't know about the Orrin Hatch thing, but isn't a government department studying alternative medicine a good thing? Either that will turn up some good & cheap remedies, or it will expose alternative medicine as the fraud you seem to think it is, unless of course this department is just as corrupt as the FDA, which wouldn't surprise me. If this department simply relies on the manufacturer's own testing, like the FDA does, then were right back at square one. In any case, I'm not aware of 100,000 people per year dying from echinecea or Ghinko Bilabo or whatever, unless it's by using these products in lieu of actual life-saving medication.

Here is the Frontline FDA show - I remember it being pretty interesting although I haven't seen it for a while.

I think human kind is changing the planet so much and so fast that we can't foresee the consequences yet but these new finding of cancer in animals is result of our actions. If we investigate deeper I bet we can find a man-made action that lead to this disease.

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