Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

60 pct of cancer patients try nontraditional med

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “YAHOO NEWS”

TAMPA, Fla. – With much of her lower body consumed by cancer, Leslee Flasch finally faced the truth: The herbal supplements and special diet were not working.

“I want this thing cut out from me. I want it out,” she told her family.

But it was too late. Her rectal cancer — potentially curable earlier on — had invaded bones, tissue, muscle, skin. The 53-year-old Florida woman could barely sit, and constantly bled and soiled herself.

“It was terrible,” one doctor said. “The pain must have been excruciating.”

Flasch had sought a natural cure. Instead, a deadly disease ran its natural course. And the herb peddlers who sold her hope in a bottle?

“Whatever money she had left in life, they got most of it,” said a sister, Sharon Flasch. “They prey on the sick public with the belief that this stuff can help them, whether they can or can’t.”

Some people who try unproven remedies risk only money. But people with cancer can lose their only chance of beating the disease by skipping conventional treatment or by mixing in other therapies. Even harmless-sounding vitamins and “natural” supplements can interfere with cancer medicines or affect hormones that help cancer grow.

Yet they are extremely popular with cancer patients, who crave control over their disease and want to do everything they can to be healthy — emotional needs that make them vulnerable to clever marketing and deceptive claims. Studies estimate that 60 percent of cancer patients try unconventional remedies and about 40 percent take vitamin or dietary supplements, which do not have to be proved safe or effective and are not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “YAHOO NEWS”

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University of Maryland Medical Center-Are you that naive?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

This bit of news that has been picked up by major news outlets such as the Seattle Times and MSNBC.com is troubling beyond belief.

At one of the nation’s top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient’s bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that mix with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive.

They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Dr. Richard Dutton, calls it “mystical mumbo jumbo.” Still, he’s a fan.

“It’s self-hypnosis” that can help patients relax, he said. “If you tell yourself you have less pain, you actually do have less pain.”

True, but aren’t you in fact endorsing a fake therapy in the eyes of the patient and the public? Why the University of Maryland Medical Center offers it, so it must work. People are not going in there getting reiki, feeling better, and walking out thinking ” wow that placebo effect I got from the fake treatment known as reiki was great!”. They come out of there thinking “Wow that reiki is great, I don’t know what I would have done without it. It works!“, and then they’ll go on to accept all the claims that are made in the name of reiki.

Really Dr. Dutton? Are you really that naive or short sighted? Don’t you think that your job as a doctor includes dispensing good, sound information? Don’t you think your job should be more than just making the patient feel better right there and then, regardless of what that might mean for the patient further down the road? I find this attitude quite incredible!

Thank goodness the journalist reporting this troublesome bit of news, does not stop there, but goes on to point out how dangerous these so-called natural, alternative medicines are.

Dietary supplements do not have to be proved safe or effective before they can be sold. Some contain natural things you might not want, such as lead and arsenic. Some interfere with other things you may be taking, such as birth control pills.

“Herbals are medicines,” with good and bad effects, said Bruce Silverglade of the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Contrary to their little-guy image, many of these products are made by big businesses. Ingredients and their countries of origin are a mystery to consumers. They are marketed in ways that manipulate emotions, just like ads for hot cars and cool clothes. Some make claims that average people can’t parse as proof of effectiveness or blather, like “restores cell-to-cell communication.”

Even therapies that may help certain conditions, such as acupuncture, are being touted for uses beyond their evidence.

An Associated Press review of dozens of studies and interviews with more than 100 sources found an underground medical system operating in plain sight, with a different standard than the rest of medical care, and millions of people using it on blind faith.

How did things get this way?

Ten years ago, Congress created a new federal agency to study supplements and unconventional therapies. But more than $2.5 billion of tax-financed research has not found any cures or major treatment advances, aside from certain uses for acupuncture and ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea. If anything, evidence has mounted that many of these pills and therapies lack value.

Yet they are finding ever-wider use:

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“In testing, one out of four supplements has a problem,” said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, an independent company that rates such products.

Even when the ingredients aren’t risky, spending money for a product with no proven benefit is no small harm when the economy is bad and people can’t afford health insurance or healthy food.

But sometimes the cost is far greater. Cancer patients can lose their only chance of beating the disease by gambling on unproven treatments. People with clogged arteries can suffer a heart attack. Children can be harmed by unproven therapies forced on them by parents who distrust conventional medicine.

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The truth is, supplements lack proof of safety or benefit. Asked to take a drug under those terms, “most of us would say ‘no,'” Allen said. “When it says ‘natural,’ the perception is there is no harm. And that is just not true.”

Now this is what I call good reporting. Well done Marilynn Marchione.

Dude, Don’t Harsh My Feng Shui

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SKEPTICBLOG”

A Taiwanese man, after losing 2 million dollars to a Vegas casino, is demanding his money back because, he claims, the casino deliberately gave him bad feng shui. Yes, that is the kind of world we are living in.

Yuan was happy with his Feng Shui when we was winning $400,000, but then his luck turned and eventually he lost his winnings plus 2 million more. Now it is reported:

…the Venetian dug a one-metre (40-inch) square hole on the wall of the presidential suite he was staying in April last year and covered it with a black cloth, said Apple Daily.

The casino also put two white towels in front of Yuan’s suite and turned on two large fans facing his room without notifying him, it said.

Those bastards!

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SKEPTICBLOG”

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Oprah: Shame on you.

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “BAD ASTRONOMY”

So last week, Newsweek printed a heroic front-page article detailing the antiscientific medical swill Oprah Winfrey has been routinely doling out to her audiences. This nonsense includes, of course, Jenny McCarthy, as well as dangerous quackery by Suzanne Somers and others. The article really slams Oprah hard, as well it should.

Unsurprisingly, Oprah has released a statement about this, and it’s full to the brim of fail. I wouldn’t call it a lie, but it’s spinning like a newborn pulsar:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “BAD ASTRONOMY”

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Child rape survivor saves ‘virgin myth’ victims

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “CNN”

Hope was 14 years old when her uncle raped her.

Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to help Zimbabwe's young sexual abuse victims.

Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to help Zimbabwe’s young sexual abuse victims.

“He trapped me to the ground and covered my mouth with his hand,” said the 18-year-old from Zimbabwe. “He threatened to kill me if I ever told anybody.”

So, she kept quiet.

“After a while people around the villages started saying that I looked pregnant,” she said.

Hope was not only pregnant, but her uncle had infected her with HIV.

Like many young girls in Zimbabwe, Hope was the victim of a widely held belief that if a man with HIV or AIDS rapes a virgin he will be cured of his disease. This so-called virgin myth, perpetuated by Zimbabwe’s traditional healers, has led to the rape of hundreds of girls, according to UNICEF. Some of those victims are too young to walk, much less protect themselves.

Betty Makoni has fought for nearly a decade to protect her country’s young girls from sexual abuse. And she’s witnessed some of the worst cases of the myth in action.

“The youngest girl I ever came across was a day-old baby who was raped,” said Makoni, 37.

Through her Girl Child Network (GCN), Makoni has helped rescue 35,000 girls from abuse — including Hope; thousands more have found an empowering community and a public forum in which to speak out.

“Ten girls per day report rape cases,” she said. “It means if we keep quiet, at least 3,600 girls per year may just be contracting HIV and AIDS.”

Makoni’s own tragic experiences fuel her fierce determination.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “CNN”

God is merciful, but only if you’re a man

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “THE GUARDIAN”

There is plenty to criticise in Islam‘s view of women. Last year, the Observer told the story of a man in Basra who stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed to death his 17-year-old daughter for becoming infatuated with a British soldier. The relationship apparently amounted to a few conversations, but her father learnt she had been seen in public talking to the soldier. When the Observer talked to Abdel-Qader Ali two weeks later, he said: “Death was the least she deserved. I don’t regret it. I had the support of all my friends who are fathers, like me, and know what she did was unacceptable to any Muslim that honours his religion.”

This was clearly extreme, but the truth is that the God many people believe in – whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish – hates women. Take America’s Southern Baptist Convention, which declares in its faith and mission statement: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.” That’s fair enough, isn’t it? After all, he’s probably stronger than she is.

Or there’s the Catholic church. The Pope put things more suavely in an address in 2008: “Faced with cultural and political trends that seek to eliminate, or at least cloud and confuse, the sexual differences inscribed in human nature, considering them a cultural construct, it is necessary to recall God’s design that created the human being masculine and feminine, with a unity and at the same time an original difference.” The insistence on difference is the necessary first step to insisting on inequality and subordination and it is a step that popes have been taking at regular intervals for decades.

In November 2006, Nicaragua enacted a ban on all abortion, with no exceptions, even to save the mother’s life. The law was ratified by the National Assembly in September 2007. Both the original enactment and the vote in September 2007 were widely attributed to the influence of the Catholic church. In a report this month, the United Nations Committee against torture called Nicaragua’s total ban on abortion a violation of human rights.

Then there is Judaism. In one neighbourhood in Jerusalem, religious seminaries flank streets with yellow signs that warn: “If you’re a woman and you’re not properly dressed – don’t pass through our neighbourhood.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “THE GUARDIAN”