Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stop stoppers from stopping stoppers stopping stoopid.

SAVN stands for Stop the Australian Vaccination Network. At its heart, SAVN is a loosely organised Facebook group with the stated intention of putting a stop to the very public dissemination of misinformation by the misleadingly named AVN. The AVN (recently renamed Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, or AVSN) is perhaps Australia's most prominent anti-vaccine lobby group.

Now a new Facebook group has been launched called Stop 'Stop the AVN' from stopping the AVN.

Bizarrely, it appears the raison d'ĂȘtre of this new group is to stop another group from doing what it does because the new group's founders don't believe groups should try and stop other groups from doing what those groups do so they want to stop them from stopping the others in order to make the point that stopping groups from doing things is wrong and should be stopped.

Or something.

I'll stop now. Although, for what it's worth, the page content to date is silly enough for me to believe it could be a parody. I can't imagine anyone taking it seriously.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

If reiki was real...


If reiki was real, would performing the Aussie salute constitute practising medicine without a licence?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Anti-vax quote of the day?

Spotted in the comments section of a prominent anti-vaccination blog discussing a proposed, but unlikely, public debate with a pro-vax campaigner...

"And it will be great encouragement for us knowing that even though our enemies are numerate – they ain’t too clever."

I suspect the person posting the comment meant "numerous" otherwise I'm left wondering what the hell it means. But then, I'm pro-vax and not too bad with numbers, so maybe that explains my confusion.

UPDATE:

Scrub that.

I've just seen the following on the Peter Dutton MP Facebook page...

"You have the trust as my fiduciary also peter so stop and think before you breach that trust. As your Master i order you to cease and desist immediately in correlation to Forced vaccinations.

You will be receiving Notice from the estate when i return back to the office of my estate.

You have been warned peter. Your masters of the private are watching your public actions servant.

**************************************************

formaldehyde, aluminum, mercury, MSG, animal DNA.

If you feel to brain damage children with these brain deadening poisons, you would therefore be promoting genocide.

*************************************************"



If that isn't a Poe, it's going to take some topping - although there a few more contenders on that page.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Channel 10 slams anti-vaxxers

In an episode of Studio 10 yesterday, the panel slammed anti-vax parents as grossly irresponsible.*

While every member of the panel was united in their dismay that parents would willingly choose to refuse vaccinating their children, Jessica Rowe makes her view abundantly clear then passes the ball to Joe Hildrebrand who slam dunks these supposedly "educated" parents. There was little attempt to protect anyone's delicate sensibilities.

While other media outlets still feel the need to profit from presenting false balance in vaccine stories by ensuring the anti-vax view gets around half of the airtime or lineage, Channel 10 seems to be taking the high road - the responsible road - and telling it like it is with no false balance in sight.

There is no vaccine debate. There is no "two sides". Science recognises the risks and it knows they are miniscule. It also recognises the benefits, and knows they are huge. Nothing in life is 100% perfect or 100% safe. Nothing. Not even organically-grown lentil soup served in a raffia cup in a bushland retreat.

Recognising genuine risk versus benefit is not two sides, it's one side. It's the only side. It's science. The rest is just conspiracy theory, fear mongering and, all too often, lies - and those have no place in the discussion so they are not any side at all. They're irrelevant.

When will Seven and Nine wake up and recognise this? When will most of the print media give up on the false balance nonsense and report facts instead of creating controversy where no actual controversy exists? Dare I say "will no one think of the children?"

The science on vaccination is settled and a bit of Friday-night Googling or reading books by nutjobs who stand to profit from opposing medicine is not research and does not make you an expert.

Frankly, if you happily drive your kids across bridges but refuse to vaccinate because you think the risk is too high, then your research skills and grasp of statistics are both rubbish.


*If you have trouble streaming the video, try pausing it for a while to let it get ahead of the playback.

UPDATE:

I think Dr Rachel Heap sums up the situation well in an open letter to the Australian media on the Norther Rivers Vaccination Supporters Facebook page...

"If you want to use the opinion of a member of the public in order to sensationalise the story, how about you interview the parents of a child lost or maimed by a vaccine preventable disease? How about you interview a survivor of polio, who is now suffering the late complications from the disease? How about you interview a health care professional who has had to tell a parent that their choice to not vaccinate has lead to their child’s death? How about you interview a regular person who suffered pertussis because of the loss of herd immunity in our region, and had to watch their kids go through hell for the same reason?"

Homeopathic remedies recalled

USA: A range of homeopathic remedies has been recalled after they were found to actually contain active ingredients.

A fundamental principle of homeopathy requires that the final product generally be so dilute as to be unlikely to contain any of the "active ingredient" listed on the package.

One popular homeopathic flu remedy begins with the dilution of one drop of remedy to 100 drops of water. But wait, there's more. This 100x dilution is then repeated a further 199 times resulting is what is labelled as a 200C dilution. If maths isn't your strong point, that doesn't mean the final dilution is one drop of ingredient to 20,000 drops of water - it equals one drop of ingredient in 100200 drops of water. This means there is one drop of original ingredient in...

100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x
100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100x100

...drops of water.


Using the figure of 20,000 drops equals 1 litre, we can work out that just one drop of active ingredient would make 1 x 10396 litres of flu remedy. That's a one with 397 zeroes after it - litres!

To try and picture how much remedy that is, imagine for starters that there's a little over 1 x 1021 litres of water on Earth. That's only 22 zeroes and every zero you add increases the dilution ten-fold.

So a figure with just 23 zeroes would equate to ten times as much water as there is on Earth. It would take 100 Earths to reach a volume of water with just 24 zeroes on it and 1000 Earths for a mere 25 zeroes. The homeopathic flu remedy is diluted trillions and trillions and trillions... more times than that and, according to homeopathic principles, that makes it more potent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Comedy Gala

The hilarity continues at the anti-vaccine lobby group previously known as the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN). It turns out that what I thought was a stand-up routine was actually just one episode from a full-blown sit-com of Seinfeldian proportions.

I was going add a cartoon to complement this article, but I'm just not funny enough to rise to the challenge set before me.

The anti-vaccine lobby group Australian Vaccination network (AVN) was recently forced to change its misleading name. As a result, it registered the name Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVSN) and the boffins surprisingly (not really) agreed this was acceptable, even with the inexplicable and grammatically incorrect hyphen.

Surprisingly (not really), the newly-named AVSN chose to continue to refer to themselves as AVN - which would mean their initials literally stood for Australian Vaccination Network, the very name they were forced to change due to its misleading nature.

Surprisingly (not really), the newly-added word Skeptics has no status in their preferred initials at all.

The anti-vaccine group also tends not to capitalise Skeptics in its writing or on the banner atop its primary website (which is still located at the old "avn" url). They choose instead to use the title Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network. It's almost as if they wished that "S" word wasn't there even though they chose to have it.

Anyways... the AVSN have now been told to start behaving like a normal volunteer-run, incorporated not-for-profit association (and don't for one minute think there aren't any laughs to be had in that description) - or face deregistration

From the AVSN blog today...

Now we have a new threat. Director of Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement Division, Mr David Byrne, phoned last Friday to say he requires us to change all instances of the abbreviation “AVN” to “AVSN”. And he has threatened to commence action without further notice to shut us down and remove our domain from the internet.

Of course, the AVN have objected in writing with a ridiculous defence that amounts to "you weren't specific enough when you told us to stop being misleading and to change our misleading name". This is a painful game they've been playing with government regulators for a very, very long time now to the point where reading their diatribe of complaints brings to mind discussion with a two-year-old whose only contribution is a repetitive "but why Dad?"

From a letter of complaint published in the AVSN blog article...

"AVN” is not an official name. It is an informal abbreviation, and was not the subject of our ADT hearing last year. The ADT did not even consider its use.

Such childish pedantry from supposed adults running an incorporated association that turns over hundreds of thousands of dollars a year is astonishing. But it gets worse, or better, depending on your point of view...

As noted by several people on Stop the AVN's Facebook page, the name AVN Australia is apparently official, and it's registered to the Australian Vaccination Network which is, of course, now the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network. And the topper (every joke needs at least one topper, preferably two) is that the name was registered just two days before the letter of complaint was sent by the AVSN president.

Is there a vaccine for short-term memory loss?

Also, just for fun...

Our full legal name (the new one) is prominently displayed at the top of all stationary [sic] and other documents. It is clearly displayed on all banners, footers, and other relevant text for all our web pages.

Except that their Facebook page of many years has enjoyed no such change - but of course they claim ownership of that page now belongs to some anonymous foreigner and that it's just a "fan page" for the group once known as the AVN (Oh stop laughing and pay attention. This is important. No, seriously, stop it.) The presence of AVSN committee members posting as administrators on the page is, I guess, not remotely an indication that the "fan page" is in any way associated with AVSN at all... so it doesn't count.

Ricky Gervais might make the big bucks, but he secretly wishes he could write comedy this good.

The anti-science, anti-vax, anti-government lobby group probably should be shut down for crimes against sanity, or something, but what's more likely to happen is that the boffins will miss the ball again due-to not-paying-attention when-the new-stupid name-was-registered, and use of AVN will ultimately be allowed unless and until the boffins decide on yet another plan of attack, two or three years from now.

Still, you have to laugh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Charity stops at AVN

The saying goes "charity begins at home", and it has long-appeared that the ex-Australian Vaccination Network (now Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network - AVSN) took this idiom quite seriously, since there's little sign they ever contributed any of their years of charitable fundraising to any external cause.

This issue has been a bugbear of the pro-science, pro-vaccination community for quite some time with several complaints lodged with the NSW government's charity regulator OLGR, questioning the state of the AVN's books and demanding clarification of what might somewhat charitably be described as "discrepancies".

OLGR stripped the old AVN of its charity licence in 2010 following an investigation which concluded, in part, that fundraising appeals had not been conducted in good faith for charitable purposes and that fundraising appeals had been improperly administered.

But the AVN wasn't having any of that - it absolutely wanted its charity status back...

As part of their appeal to the NSW Supreme Court in relation to the HCCC complaint, the AVN asked the court to invalidate the OLGR's revocation of their fundraising authority, asking them to grant certiorari. The court rejected the argument and the fundraising prohibition remained.[wikipedia]

Then, for reasons beyond the comprehension of any mere mortal who exists outside of the bureaucracy, OLGR returned the licence to the staunchly anti-vaccine lobby group. The AVN were no more a charity now than they were before the investigation. But the boffins saw it differently.

But change has arrived.

I can only assume that the tea trolley finally ran dry and the Tim Tams were no more because it appears staff at OLGR suddenly remembered they actually have work to do and that some charities in their state won't regulate themselves. At least not responsibly.

As a result, OLGR last week demanded the AVSN show cause why its charity licence should not be revoked. Apparently unable to think up a mindlessly-snarky response that would shock the regulator back into submission, the newly-renamed AVSN supposedly decided it would be easier to let the licence go.

So the Australian Vaccination Network (Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network) is no longer a charity.

And it only took the regulator an extremely long time to act. I guess we should be pleased they bothered at all, after all, it's only children's lives we're dealing with.

In the meantime, the public response from the AVSN can best be illustrated by the image in my last blog post.

UPDATE:
As an example of the running gag that is now known as AVSN, consider these two comments from the group's public officer. The first was posted last month on the AVN (now AVSN) blog, and the second was posted yesterday on the AVSN Facebook page (click to view)...



I guess it would be too much to ask to see evidence that the original charity licence was forced on the group and that they opposed this force. Maybe a scathing "we ain't no stinkin' charity" blog post from back in the day? Or some official correspondence demanding that the AVN pretend to be a charity regardless of their wishes?