Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ginkgo biloba doesn't work - CNN Health News

CNN Story
"Ginkgo biloba has failed -- again -- to live up to its reputation for boosting memory and brain function. Just over a year after a study showed that the herb doesn't prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease, a new study from the same team of researchers has found no evidence that ginkgo reduces the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging."
Full story here. Story alert from The Skeptic's Dictionary.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2 

Some months ago I visited a web site that offered me a free astrological reading. I got an email from the site from someone called Sara Freder. She sent me a long email but at the end it wanted me to spend money to get the full report which I ignored. Since then I received many emails asking for money and warning me about both good and bad events in my life that only she can tell me about if I give her money.

Do you think I should send her the money?

Absolutely NOT. Please don’t even think of sending this crook a thing. Two reasons why.

First, you do realise, don’t you, that astrology is hogwash? This is one of those ideas that needs to be consigned to history’s dustbin. There is simply no sense to astrology. Every time real scientific research has been done into the relationship between your birth date or your star-sign and your life events or personality it has shown there is simply nothing to it. It’s all rubbish.

Then there’s the web site you visited. Let’s get straight to the point. Firstly, this “woman” called Sara Freder is really a man called “Jean Christopher Maires” who lives in France. Are you suspicious yet? (More links here 1, 2, 3)

In the interests of research I did a little experiment. I went to the web site and completed the form asking for basic personal details twice, once as a man, once as a woman but both times giving the same date of birth. I gave two different email addresses and waited to see how similar the “readings” would be. When they arrived it was clear how this worked. The two readings were, on first glance, different but as I read them it became clear that they had been constructed from basically the same text, it was just the order that was different. Both emails talked in the vaguest possible terms about my future but the message was very simple. I get more when I pay for it.

That’s all there is to this scam. The Frenchman just wants your money. Once you’ve paid you can be assured that there would be more and more emails sent your way, encouraging you to spend more money for more readings.

I’ll make an astrological prediction for free. If you send this crook money for a reading, he will get richer and you’ll get poorer. Guaranteed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who has rights? (Mmegi Consumer Watchdog column)

We’ve been getting phone calls at the office. Unfortunately none of them were offering us large quantities of money (hint), free brand new Jaguars (hint, hint) or anything romantic (hint, hint, HINT!). Instead a number of them seem to have been inspired by one of the issues we covered recently and which seems to have provoked a response. This issue began when a consumer called us asking about a vitamin company called GNLD. Her email said:
“What’s the difference between them and other vitamins and supplements as they cost anything from P300 upwards for one month’s supply which I find ridiculous! To me it’s clearly a pyramid style business or something like it, to my husband it’s an option for ‘better vitamins’ (that we don’t normally take anyway!) even though so expensive?”
My response was twofold. Firstly I don’t believe that we need to take vitamins or dietary supplements. Well, OK, perhaps you might need to if you’re pregnant, old or already unwell and your doctor has suggested it would be good for you. Maybe then you should. However, those of us who are basically healthy certainly don’t need to start popping pills. Instead we should spend our money on a healthy diet and lifestyle.

In fact I suspect that vitamins and supplements run the risk of making us worse off. Taking pills to boost their health distracts people from focussing on those things that WILL make them healthy. I can imagine people arguing that as they swallow vitamin pills their health is therefore guaranteed. They probably give some people an excuse to have an extra beer, burger or box of chocolates.

Other than the unnecessary vitamin pills there is a wider issue. GNLD is what is politely referred to as a network marketing company. It’s not, strictly speaking, a pyramid scheme because there is a product at the heart of the mechanism but it has the same structure. You recruit people beneath you to sell the vitamins and in turn they recruit more people beneath them. Add in a complex mechanism of commissions and payments and you get a pyramid-shaped selling scheme.

So what, you might ask, if people are making some money? The trouble is that they don’t. The vast majority of people DON’T make money from these schemes. The evidence from companies like Amway and World Ventures shows that about three quarters of the people who get involved either make nothing from the business or lose money. The quarter that does make some money on average only makes a tiny amount. On the World Ventures web site they confess that in 2008 70% of their recruits made no money at all from the scheme. Of those that did make money, the median earnings were a pathetic $114.60. Then, hidden away in the small print it says:
“These figures do not represent Representatives’ profits; they do not consider expenses incurred by Representatives in the promotion of their business.”
So that $114.60 is before they’ve paid their expenses, like their phone bill, internet charges, transport and materials?”

Don’t waste your money on these vitamins or pyramid-shaped get-rich-quick schemes. Spend your money on fruit and veg instead.

I’m convinced that many of the callers we had were actually involved in the GNLD scheme. Most of them refused to give their names but just asked questions about who we were. However I had a conversation with one of the callers who was prepared to talk. She claimed to be impartial but seemed to know rather too much about GNLD to be a disinterested bystander. The most interesting question she asked though was to do with us, not GNLD.

“What gives you the right to criticise them?” she asked.

At the time I couldn’t think of a smart, witty and entertaining answer. I couldn’t because I was stunned by the question.

I think the problem is that I’ve lived in democracies for too long. In fact I’ve never lived in a country that didn’t permit free speech. I think I’m so used to being able to say pretty much what I want that I’ve not given much thought to having a “right” to do so. Of course we all know there are limits to what we can say, even in a democracy like ours. The great American Supreme Court judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes said:
“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”
Clearly there are some limits on what you and I can say. We have no right to endanger someone’s life, happiness or liberty by what we say.

Meanwhile we have an absolute right to criticise misconduct when we see it. So long as we don’t go too far and invade someone’s privacy or publish irrelevant personal information we have a right in Botswana to criticise companies when they get it wrong, we are permitted to tell them and to inform the public about their wrong-doings. In fact I’d go furthe. I think that we have an obligation to do so.

It’s not just newspaper columns that have a right to criticise and complain. We all do. Again I think we have a moral obligation to. It’s not just ourselves we’re defending, it’s our friends, families and neighbours.

So that’s where I get the “right” to criticise GNLD, their largely redundant products and their pyramid-shaped business model.

This week’s stars
  • Omphametse, Godfrey and Dineo at the Engen filling station at Square Mart. Our reader says they’re pleasant and helpful every time.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A UK legal scandal - Trafigura

Some companies, and their law firms, particularly those like Carter Ruck in the UK,  behave like utter scumbags.

Direct quote from Wikileaks:
The "Minton report" exposes a toxic waste dumping incident which hospitalized thousands. The UK media has been suppressed from referencing the report and its contents since a secret gag order was issued against it on September 11, 2009. The report was commissioned trhough Waterson & Hicks, a UK law firm, possibly to claim client-attorney privilege should it leak. Client and dump is "Trafigura", a giant multi-national oil and commodity trader. The report assesses a toxic dumping incident involving Trafigura and the Ivory Coast—possibly most culpable mass contamination incident since Bhopal. The UK media is currently unable to mention the URL or anything else that would direct people towards the report.
The UK press gag remains in effect. Incredibly, Trafigura's lawyers, Carter Ruck, are now attempting again to prevent parliamentary debate over the gag, this time by claiming sub-judice
Every so often a company (and their lawyers) deserve to be described as fascists.  Read the report!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

We get mail - the QXCI/EPFX/SCIO silliness

Intrigued by the SCIO/QXCI/EPFX machine we mentioned in Mmegi this week, I emailed one of the South African web sites advertising it.  I said:
We have been asked by a number of consumers in Botswana to investigate whether the SCIO device you advertise on your web site at is the same as the QXCI/EPFX/SCIO device that is currently banned from importation into the USA by their Food and Drug Administration.

Can you also please confirm the connection between the SCIO device and "Professor" Bill Nelson who is currently a fugitive in Hungary, on the run from fraud charges in the USA?

I plan to discuss this in this coming week's Consumer Watchdog column in Mmegi, the national newspaper in Botswana, so I would appreciate a rapid response.

Instead of a response from South Africa I got a reply all the way from Hungary.  It goes like this:
Thank you for sending your email.  Having read through your Consumer Watchdog website, I greatly respect your statement on your Right of Reply page, “It is critically important to us that we get our facts right.”   Therefore, I look forward to you printing the facts as follows.
I think you can live without it being printed.  Here on the blog will suffice.
The regulatory requirements for each country and each device are quite different.  The device that was sold in the USA called the EPFX was very similar to the SCIO, but the registration (granted in the USA in 1989) was different between the USA and the rest of the world (which is typical of many devices).   A summary of the FDA’s reasons are shown on the FDA’s Import Alert link which you reference below in which the FDA state what the device was and was not given marketing clearance.  Therefore, the FDA have put the device on the Import List and it is no longer manufactured.  The manufacturer of the EPFX closed in February 2009.
"Very similar" to the EPFX?  They're the same thing as far I can tell.
The SCIO has a different registration in Europe and the rest of the world as a Universal Electrophysiological System which covers many indications for use approved in Europe.  The website you mention below is advertising the SCIO under the indications for use as approved in the registration. 
William Nelson is the creator of the device.  The situation with his legal status in the USA should not bear a reflection on the device and its safe and effective use.  
Logically, yes, that's true.  It IS possible for a fraud on the run to have invented a device that works. However as he is on the run precisely because this device does NOT work and the claims made about it were (and remain) fraudulent, I think it IS relevant, don't you?
However, William Nelson has expressed an interest to chat with you on the phone if you wish.  To organize this, please write to [email address removed]
I've given this a lot of thought but I don't think I can do it.  Talk to him without laughing I mean.
As the Regulatory Manager, I’m responsible for ensuring the safe and effective use of the SCIO in all countries and areas where it is registered and used.  Every year in the Spring we complete an audit to ensure the safe and effective use of the SCIO.  The current registration in Europe expires in April 2011 as European registrations are granted for 5 years at a time.  I am more than happy to answer any more of your questions regarding the SCIO.  However, please keep in mind that I will be at a conference from Wednesday – Sunday October 7-11 and will not get the chance to respond until after the conference..
There you go.  Right of Reply respected.

I still can't see any reason not to describe the SCIO/QXCI/EPFX as a piece of nonsensical, charlatan quackery.  Avoid it.

Fighting nonsense (Mmegi Consumer Watchdog column)

It’s been a hard couple of weeks. I’m trying hard to think of a recent example of someone NOT being hugely gullible and naïve. I had a boss years ago who loved to remark that “common sense wasn’t”. Wasn’t common, he meant. If you look back over the history of our largely pathetic species you’ll see that apart from the occasional moments of generosity, kindness and heroism it is largely characterised by nastiness, naiveté and stupidity.

You see this both at the large-scale, historical level but also at the micro level. In other words in my email Inbox.

As you may have seen over the last few weeks we’ve mentioned a variety of very suspicious establishments that offer so-called qualifications for nothing other than cash. These call themselves universities but are no more than post boxes, email addresses and web sites. Correction, they’re no more than bank accounts. All you have to do is send them your cash, pretend that you’ve learned something and you get a degree of varying importance back by post. The last one wanted no more than $850 for a PhD, the exam for which was multiple choice! I can just imagine the questions. Q1. Are you going to tell your prospective employers that you bought this crappy degree online? Answer 1: Yes, I’m an honest fraud. Answer 2: No, I’m a fraud, a cheat and a liar.

Following these articles we got an email. No, I don’t mean the one from the “University” in question (The “University” of SouthCentral Los Angeles) that threatened to engage their lawyers. This email came from a reader who had a question. He said:

“I was about to apply for one of those degrees at USCLA. What you wrote made me think twice. However, my question is, are there any universities that would offer you a degree in one year? Genuinely speaking.”

Well, I suppose it’s good that I helped him think twice about getting a fake degree but is he really serious? Does he really think there are REAL universities that award degrees in a year? In case you’re in doubt, there aren’t. You can’t get a genuine degree that quickly, you really can’t. You certainly can’t over the internet. You most certainly can’t just by handing over a chunk of cash.

Then there was the other question we had. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence but just after we’d done a radio show on pseudoscience we were contacted by someone about one of the “health” devices that had been mentioned on the show.

This was the QXCI machine, otherwise known as EPFX or more recently the “SCIO”. This is a box of electronics about which some astonishing claims are made. The South African web site that is used to market this device claims that it:
“is an incredibly acurate (sic) biofeedback stress reduction system, combining the best of biofeedback, stress reduction, Rife machines, homeopathic medicine, bioresonance, electro-acupuncture, computer technology and quantum physics”

The web site explains how this device works. See if you can understand any of this tripe. Apparently it’s “multi-layer faclity enables dysfunction unravelling”. It is also “Equivalent to radonic operation”. Best of all it explains that “Most computers are binary: 1 or 0. Quantum software is trinary - basis for artificial intelligence”.

Incidentally, in case you are wondering what QXCI means, let me tell you. It stands for “Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface”. Here’s your free consumer tip for the week. Anyone who uses the word “quantum” when they are trying to sell you something is a fraud or a fool. Or both.

I could go on giving you examples of this hogwash but I think you’ve probably heard enough. This nonsense was written by someone who knows nothing about anything. They’re just using a jumble of meaningless words they’ve seen somewhere that sound good. I think you can get a feel for how respectable these people are elsewhere on the site. They offer a variety of workshops on alternative health including some based on the work of Hulda Clarke. “Dr” Clarke was famous for her bizarre, dangerous and frankly stupid theories about disease. She maintained that every single disease was caused by a combination of parasites and pollutants. She claimed that her remedies could cure cancer, diabetes and AIDS. Clarke (who died earlier this year) was a quack and a charlatan with a range of fake degrees. Anyone who offers services based on her theories is another fool or fraud.

To expand my understanding a little further I phoned the people in South Africa to ask about their SCIO device. They did indeed claim that it could cure “any disease”. They also told me that anyone can use it because when you buy the device you get a training package built in. So how much does this silly machine cost? R200,000.

So in answer to the question we received, no, we don’t think you should waste your money on this silly machine. Here’s one final reason why you shouldn’t. The US Food and Drug Administration have imposed a ban on importing the device into the USA. In an interview with the Seattle Times a spokesman for the FDA said:
“This is pure, blatant fraud. The claims are baloney. These people prey in many cases on consumers who are desperate in seeking cures for very serious diseases.”

Amusingly the inventor of the machine, the self-proclaimed “Professor” Bill Nelson (who also performs as a tranvestite singer under the name Desiré Dubounet) is now on the run in Hungary, a fugitive from US justice, on the run from fraud charges.

Do you really want to use a device that is based on fraud and baloney and was invented by a man who calls himself Desiré?

This week’s stars
  • Colin in the butchery at Spar at Kgale Shopping Centre for being charming, helpful and friendly.
  • The team at Incredible Connection for responding to a problem with professionalism and style and ending up with another very happy customer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fortune tellers are criminals - Botswana Guardian

There are times when I love the law. Not the boring bits, I mean the bits that actually outlaw something that deserves to be outlawed. I also particularly love the fact that our laws are generally so well written. They are clear, simple and easy to understand. Let me give you an example.

Section 313 of the Penal Code is entitled "Pretending to tell fortunes". It says this:
"Any person who for gain or reward undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of an offence."
Isn't that simple? Fortune tellers are criminals. The charlatans who offer to "bring back stolen goods" (that was from an advertisement last week) are crooks. It's not me saying it, it's the law. One part of that section that appealed to me is the wording it uses. Look back to where it says "undertakes to tell fortunes" and "pretends". The law is smart enough to realise that it's all hogwash. Pretending to offer any of these things is illegal because they're all make-believe. The law sees it as lying, not "occult science" or "witchcraft".

Then there are the charlatans that say they can help with things such as "fertility", "madness" and (my favourite from last week) "don't let your lover to run away coz of manhood problems". They're crooks as well. Again it's not me saying that, it's that wonderful Penal Code again. Sections 396-399 outlaw what they call "prohibited advertisements". These are advertisements that offer medicines for a range of ailments, including:
"the cure of any habit associated with sexual indulgence, or of any ailment associated with those habits or for the promotion of sexual virility, desire or fertility or for the restoration or stimulation of the mental faculties"
The same sections prohibit advertisements for treatments for cancer, TB, epilepsy, heart disease, even hernia. Pharmacists should watch out as well, it doesn't distinguish between the charlatans and the real thing.

You might think that it’s all harmless, people don’t really believe this rubbish but think again. In the last couple of years I’ve come across two cases of people who died because of the concoctions they were given by these thugs.

My new resolution, even though it’s not the traditional time for making them, is to report every one of these criminal advertisements I see to the Police. So far I know of one that has been escorted to the border and kicked over it and hasn’t been allowed back again. Who’s next?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“How to read articles about health” – by Dr Alicia White

From the ever excellent Dr Ben Goldacre's Bad Science site. How to read articles about health and healthcare

Homeopathy and science - Dara O'Brien

Warning. Not safe for work unless you work for a particularly enlightened company. Lots of rude words but an excellent attack on pseudoscientific nonsense, homeopathy in particular.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Irritating "traditional doctors" - Botswana Guardian

Yes, they're irritating but I've also been irritating them.

I responded to a number of advertisements from some of these so-called traditional doctors and have a mixture of responses. I SMSed them all saying "Your advertisement in this week's newspaper contravenes both the Penal Code and Consumer Protection Regulations."

A "Dr" Rasul very quickly phoned me and angrily demanded to know where I was. His considered opinion was that I am "a stupid person". He of course was the one who advertised that he was:
"The traditional doctor who will never disappoint you. Keeping unfinished jobs, do you want your loved ones back, looking for quick revenge, short boys for quick response, manhood, financial crisis, court cases, protection of properties eg, cattle posts and many more."
If Rasul is truly claiming that he can help me get revenge against someone then he's a criminal. If he claims he can influence the results of court cases then he's a criminal. Who exactly is the stupid one?

Later a "Dr" Gopole SMSed me. It went like this:
Gopole: Who r u?
Me: I'm from Consumer Watchdog.
Gopole: Cn u jst cm straight 2 a point wht do u want 2 say
Me: Are you really a doctor? Do you have a PhD or an MD? You use the title "Dr" in your advertisement.
Gopole: Yes both English Dr and Tra doctor i finsh my univesty 15 yrs ago mayb b4 u r stl a std grade in lagos i went 2 canada thn if u want tak me anywhr u want and i show u my degree s i knw wht u u dont knw i went morethan 40 countries bt africa and oversea do u knw who u playn with?
Gopole (again): Do u realy went 2 xool take ur dictionary and chk English Dr and Traditional Dr de meaning thn u continue askn me questions ur most welcm askng any question
Me: Is "do u knw who u playn with" a threat? Which university awarded you your doctorate?
Gopole: [nothing more from him]
I also had a call from a "Dr" Misisi who advertised the questionable services of a "Mama Yamaka". Her advertisement went like this:
"Mama Yamaka - A woman psychic. 40 years experience readings into: love, life, weight loss, relationships, drug and alcohol addictions, unfinished financial and business matters e.t.c. Quick and effective, lucky charms available."
Yet another set of illegal claims. The entire advertisement contravenes the Penal Code, the Consumer Protection Regulations, no doubt the Health Professionals Act and the Witchcraft Act as well.

In fact the entire profession shows contempt for the people of Botswana and our laws.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Simon Singh - Chiropractic

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

You can see further discussion at Pharyngula, at Respectful Insolence or at Bad Science.

Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all but research suggests chiropractic therapy can be lethal

Simon Singh
The Guardian, Original version published Saturday April 19 2008
Edited version published July 29, 2009

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying - even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Monday, July 06, 2009

GenQuest - Multi Level Marketing comes to Botswana again

A Malaysian called Goh Seng Hong is in Botswana trying to introduce us to GenQuest, a Multi-Level Marketing company. He's doing a presentation at the University of Botswana on 11th July.

Posted on the Facebook site for the event are videos relating to "energised water" whcih of course is pseudoscientific claptrap.

When I contacted the guy he was rather defensive, accused me of a range of sins, but eventually confessed that the product they are selling is the Bio Disc. This is a very good example of the sort of Energy Medicine nonsense that abounds these days.

However, the real product on sale is "network marketing". It's a pyramid-structured selling mechanism where the recruits are promised wealth and happiness by recruiting other people into the scheme beneath them, each level making money from the levels below. Very few people make money from network marketing other than those at the very top.

Steer clear!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Warning traditional healers - 3rd response

Can anyone translate this?
Ubwere mawa ndizakupase mankhwala okulisa mbolo ,chifukwa mbolo yako ndaona pa kalabashi kuti ndiyaying'ono komanso uzatenge mankhwala okuti machendee akowo asamachuluke mzeru . Ndee palinso ochilisa matenda amene ulinawowo a Aids zonsenzo kuchitunda kwake kuno Dr zatha . Poti ndiiwe kapolo wakapolo tidzakupanga ulele .galu osajandula iwe pankholo pamako ndi abambo ,pammmtuzuuu pako galu ,wagalu ukhalila yomweyo yamnsanjeyo .pachimmmtumbopako,kuthako konunkhako .

Warning traditional healers - 2nd response

I get an SMS which says:
Thank u for let me know that there is a law who bar me not to advertise in the news paper,so how am i going to advertise to the people that am a healer sir\modam?
I responded by saying:
You are free to advertise but you can't mention medicines, treatments or any medical conditions. You cannot make any offers or promises you can't substantiate.
He replied, saying:
Thank u
Thanks accepted.

Warning traditional healers - 1st response

A "Dr" Masunga called in response to the SMS. He says he's qualified as a doctor of medicine from Malawi, he's been practising here in Botswana since 1999 and didn't know that advertising his services was prohibited. He's says he'll call me back to discuss this further...

Warning traditional healers

I SMSed a range of "traditional healers" who had advertised in local newspapers. I said:
Warning! Your advertisement in the newspaper contravenes Section 397 of the Penal Code and Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Regulations. Consumer Watchdog.
Their replies will be published!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lying to lying healers - Botswana Guardian

It wasn’t just me lying to them, it was them lying to me.

A confession. I emailed a certain “Dr” Jabu who recently advertised his treatments for a range of serious medical conditions including AIDS. I pretended to have AIDS and asked for his assistance.

OK, so I lied, but I forgive myself.

His 900 word response was so disconnected from reality that I don’t know where to begin.

Let’s start with the simple things. His email said “we have treatment for Kaposis, PCP and HIV/AIDS”. As you may know Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of skin cancer often experienced by people with AIDS, who also often suffer from PCP, a horrible form of pneumonia. But note how he made it clear that he has a treatment for AIDS. No, he does not. He’s lying.

I’m not going to quote everything this crook said but here’s one excerpt to give you a flavour of his brand of nonsense:

“Consider your body as a fort-a castle- with seven gates- which are Endocrine Glands.
Blood and saliva are the pipelines. The HIV infection is an-un-known enemy which gets into the blood stream and damage the supply line of nutrition and the central power house-meaning the BRAIN. By that time, the enemy is discovered, damage is too much but not beyond the Cure.”

This nonsense goes on for another 800 words. I’ve put the entire letter on the web site below if you have the patience to work through it. At various points he suggests that antibiotics given to people with AIDS are the things that do the damage, not the various infections that anyone with an impaired immune system will suffer. He states that the best solutions are herbal remedies, acupressure, detoxification, yoga, chromotherapy and most worrying of all, “green juice”.

Everyone who’s seen Jabu’s email, including myself, has gone through the same sequence of reactions. First shock, then horror, then confusion and finally they start laughing. The danger is that none of this is actually funny. We should be horrified by people spouting this claptrap, we shouldn’t be laughing.

I don’t know whether Jabu truly believes all the rubbish he says, in which case he’s deluded, ignorant and stupid, or whether he knows that it’s gibberish in which case he’s a dangerous criminal who presents “a clear and present danger” to our nation. Either way he can’t be ignored. If only one person falls for this crap, stops taking their ARVs and suffers then Jabu has their blood on his hands.

HIV/AIDS is far too serious an issue to fool around with. Lives are at stake, the lives of our families, friends and neighbours.

Jabu and all the other peddlers of lies must be stopped. Preferably he should be stopped by the authorities but there’s little chance of that. Instead it’s up to us to run the homicidal crook out of town.

A cure for AIDS from "Dr" Jabu

The email I provoked from the so-called "Dr" Jabu, who is a crook, a liar and a fraud. Or he might just be a lunatic.


Many thanks for your e-mail and am sorry for not reponding sooner, its just because of busy.

The Answer for your question is: We have treatment for Kaposi's, PCP and HIV/AIDS which's only guaranteed for the persons between the age of 10yrs and below.

You may wonder when i say that HIV/AIDS can be curable... Here am taking an opportunity to show you how can this happen: please read with care.

Consider your body as a fort-a castle- with seven gates- which are Endocrine Glands. Blood and saliva are the pipelines.

The HIV infection is an-un-known enemy which gets into the blood stream and damage the supply line of nutrition and the central power house-meaning the BRAIN.

By that time, the enemy is discovered, damage is too much but not beyond the Cure. At this stage, under the popular treatment of Anti-biotics and other drugs made inside the effort. Mean-while, They are fires, ulcers in the stomach, mouth, etc. and even the piplines will be damaged which may lead to a serrious depletion on nutrition supply. Consequently, the immune system of the body's already weakened. A vicious cycle starts.

The first Gate to be damaged will be Thyroid and Parathyroid. ( leadind to the depletion of calcium supply).
The second will be Sex glands if the disease was obtained from sex abuse. ( leading to affection of phosphorus supply).
The third Gate is Lymph glands due to overworking during the fight against HIV and to remove excessive dead cells which die every day.

Remeber that, the immune system is already weak but the vicious cycle continues with strong anti-biotics/drugs which's only increasing the damages inside the fort. Now, more and more organs are damaged and setting in more infectious diseases steadily, the other gates become weaker, the internall immune system stops functioning.

Scientfically, it's known that if the internal force is reduced, then the out side force have to crush. Now. as the important pipelines are damaged, some people get PCP and others Kaposi's Sarcom. And so, we devide patients into two categories: 1, HIV due to sex abuse: the serrious damage will be on Thyroid and Para thyroioid, Sex glands and some times, Adrenal gland, Lymph glands and may be the liver.

However, these patients do not change their life style when the drugs are already blindly administered which may result to the excessive heat in the body, ulcers and more damages to the liver., reducing its capacity to create more biles so that they fight acidity and bacteria., the vicious cycle's also busy developing.
My dear, with extra power antibiotics and drugs, more infectious diseases increanse in the body, within two years or less, a person will be HIV/AIDS.

AIDS: due to HIV infection which's the result of sex abuses or blood transfusion:
Here it takes 3 to 12 years.

Now, because the immune system is already weak, Thyroid and Paratyroid is affected and lead to calcium deficiency and iodine in the body. hope you also know very well that all the endocrine glands are inter-connected. So now, the next damage will be on Gonads which controls the digestion of the phosphorus., then this will lead to the reduction of the internal-heat., by that time a patient experincing a problem with lack of apetite which in turn leads to the creation of massive water in the body.- This is when a patient start suffering from colds and sinus. And so Anti-biotics/drugs will be advised which may result in more production of H+ after the liver's also damaged and led to Candidiasis.

The mouth and oesophagus as the most common sites in these patients,here, you will find ulcers in the mouth and rectum which may go all the way to disseminated herpes or complex virus infection ( CVI ).

There's time, the body try to remove excessive heat by creating loose motions which is known as chronic cryptosporidiosis/an intestinal infection due to improper suplementation of nutrition. After sometimes, Adrenal gland gets more damages and lead to improper oxygenisation in the body. While Colds and Sinus creating cyto megalo virus ( CMV )/an infection in the lungs.

After the lungs are affected, there's improper supply of prified blood to the brain which can lead to a serrious damage on the pineal gland and create the disease called Cryptococcosis/ a fungual infection attacking the lungs: usually spreads to the brain and cause Meningitis.

Another disease called Taxoplasmosis which may occur after the Pituitary gland is damaged, this is the time a patient start having proplems with eyes.

Get informed that, unwise use of powerful drugs such as steriods, anti-biotics, works only to guide a HIV patient to become a victim of AIDS.

The AIDS experts worlwide have shown that the Science of Nature/Alternative Medicines have been found effective.

In This Science of Nature:
1, Endocrine glands are understood better and can only get activated by the acupressure .
2, The immune system can be boosted by the herbal remedies.
3, The blood can be purified and eosinophilia can be removed by the green juice/herbal remedies.
4, Excessive heat in the body can be removed through detoxofication programs.
5, Other organs can be activated by chromo therapy, yoga, etc.

I thank u very much for intrest in researching about a world's dillema and hope you'll understand and help others in looking for recovery but not challenging those who can help because of money!

With God, every body can survive!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Science & religion - Botswana Guardian

My recent letter celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and 150th anniversary the publication of his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection seems to have stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest.

A couple of people have written in subsequently attempting, rather feebly, to argue against the wealth of evidence that supports Darwin’s breakthrough in our understanding of our origins. They have come up with the usual rubbish that Darwin was a racist and that his theory has turned out not to be 100% correct.

On the charge of racism I must point out that Darwin was passionately opposed to slavery and committed to, what was in those times, a radical philosophy based on the essential equality of all people, regardless of “race”. One key implication of his theory that we are all descended from a common ancestry is that regardless of our superficial differences we are all fundamentally the same, beneath the skin. His language may have been “of his time” but his sentiments were definitely not.

Of course his theories weren't perfectly correct. He wasn’t 100% correct but neither were Newton, Einstein or indeed any other scientist. Darwin existed long before we really began to understand genetics so he can't really be blamed for not grasping what we now know. Neither can Newton be blamed for not foreseeing Einstein's discoveries centuries before they emerged.

All a scientist can hope to do is to take us one step further towards understanding the universe a little better. Darwin was visionary enough to do this.

I think it's a bit hypocritical for religious zealots to criticise science and progress using nothing more than ancient scriptures and legends. I don’t think Darwin should be criticised by people who can only find answers in ancient superstitious texts that, amongst other things, support slavery, sacrificing children and smiting infidels and heretics.

Stephen Jay Gould, the paleontologist and biologist, stated that science and religion are “non-overlapping magisteria”. He means that the two are so separate that they can’t really be argued together. One is based on logic, reason and evidence, the other is based on legend, superstition and assumption. They are like oil and water and can’t be mixed. I actually disagree, I think that many of the claims of religion CAN be tested. We can test, for instance, the effect of prayer to see if people who are prayed for get better more quickly than those who aren’t (they don’t by the way).

However I do sometimes think that certain arguments between science and religion are a waste of time. Logic conflicts with illogic. Reason fundamentally conflicts with superstition. One actively seeks facts, the other seems often to be devoted to fiction.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And you think fish are dull?

THIS is an example of why I think science and nature are thrilling, magnificent and awesome (all three terms to be taken literally).

Yes, this fish really DOES have a transparent head.

Click here for PZ Myers, blogging at Pharyngula, who is (tragically for me) much more eloquent and informed than I can ever hope to be.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Darwin Day - Botswana Guardian

Thursday 12th February 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and this year is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s great work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

This is surely something to celebrate.

Very few scientists or thinkers have been able to revolutionise the way we think about our origins, our planet and our future. Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin are probably the two that have had the greatest impact of them all. Each of them changed our entire world-view and what’s more, each of them has repeatedly been proved largely correct. The nature of science is itself evolutionary, theories are slowly adjusted, corrected and redirected but both Einstein and Darwin have been shown to be fundamentally correct.

Darwin’s discovery of natural selection as an explanation for our origins was truly remarkable. It explained, as some had already thought, that superstition was no longer needed to explain our origins. Darwin’s alternative explanation was based on the observation that each generation varies slightly from it’s parents and the one best suited to it’s environment will be the one most likely to pass on it’s genes to it’s children. Over many generations the species will adapt slightly to become more suited to it’s environment. Nature, not a mystical being, selects who will pass on their genes. It’s elegant, scientific and, above all, demonstrably true.

Despite what some religious groups maintain, nobody has been able to disprove the theory. The evidence is there in the fossil record, showing an enormous picture of gradual change over the millions of years life has existed on Earth. Huge numbers of so-called “transitional fossils” have been found, showing the forms of life that occurred between other forms, bridging the gaps between the two.

Evidence for evolution can be seen around us. Our bodes are so obviously similar to other creatures, our DNA is so closely related to our ape cousins, even some of the ways we behave demonstrate our origins.

Evolution can even be seen around us. Tragically HIV is one of the best examples of an evolving organism. HIV has evolved in the years we’ve know of it’s existence. We all know about growing antibiotic resistance, the difficulty in fighting TB and malaria, all of those are examples of evolution in action. Why are we so special that it hasn’t happened to us as well? It takes us perhaps 20-30 years before we reproduce whereas bacteria do it in minutes. It’s no surprise that it’s not obvious to the naked eye how humans evolve.

Unfortunately poor Darwin had his memory tarnished by a series of liars following his death. Despite what you night hear, Darwin didn’t convert to religion on his deathbed, he didn’t say an eye couldn’t emerge by natural selection and he didn’t change his mind about evolution at any point. All those stories were made up by liars who weren’t prepared to accept the evidence.

As has been said before, “Darwin took us to a hilltop from which we could look back and see the way we came.” His discovery improved humanity enormously. We should celebrate Darwin and everything he did for us. Happy Birthday Charles.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A very funny video clip from the Australian "Today Tonight" show on Scientology including the legendary L Ron Hubbard's own voice describing the alien nonsense.

Watch and enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Speaking ill of the dead

On 26th December last year, a 52-year old American woman called Christine Maggiore died. The world is a better place without her.

Isn’t that an appalling thing to say? Shouldn’t one only speak well of the dead? Not necessarily. Should we only say good things about Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Idi Amin because they’re dead? No, I think it’s OK to say that we’re glad when someone wicked stops disturbing the world with their foul deeds.

Christine Maggiore was wicked too. Maggiore was an AIDS denialist. Who died of AIDS.

She was HIV positive but instead of campaigning for better treatment, greater research and for public education she founded a deranged group of pseudoscientific charlatans called “Alive & Well” who denied the connection between HIV and AIDS, suggested that the she was still alive because HIV did NOT cause AIDS and that anti-retroviral drugs were of no value.

So far all we have is a fool, but Maggiore went much, much further.

Despite knowing her HIV status and despite the overwhelming evidence of the dangers she refused to take the appropriate medication while pregnant and then later decided to breast-feed her children.

When she was only 3 years old her daughter Eliza died of pneumonia, almost certainly brought about by AIDS. Still insisting that she was right she claimed that her daughter instead died from a reaction to an antibiotic. The autopsy disagreed. It showed that Eliza had AIDS encephalitis and PCP, the variety of pneumonia most associated with AIDS. In short it showed that her mother had killed her with neglect.

Sometimes people ask where the harm in so-called “alternative medicine” and denialism can be found. They think it’s just a few harmless homeopathic remedies bought by the gullible. They think that a few herbs here or there never did anybody any harm. Well, in most cases that’s perfectly true. Nobody ever died from taking a homeopathic remedy, simply because they don’t contain any remedies, they’re just water. Few people will come to any harm from taking some herbs sold by a quack.

However, every so often someone will take one of these remedies instead of something that works. Every so often someone will fall for the denialist claptrap we see and stop taking their real medication, the one that works. Then they pay the price, or worse still their children pay it for them.

I confess that in a very cruel moment I was glad that Christine Maggiore survived long enough to see what she’d done to her daughter but then I calmed down. Nobody should have to see that, it’s beyond understanding how terrible that must be.

But it WAS her fault. Science, medicine and rationalism could have saved Eliza’s life but they were all rejected in favour of stupidity, pseudoscience and denialism. There’s the harm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year Sense?

I wonder if it’s too much to hope that 2009 will be a year characterised by rationalism? Is it too much to ask that we start the year committing ourselves, as individuals, as families and as a nation to being realistic, thoughtful and rational?

Sometimes I think it IS too much to hope but I’m an optimist.

I hope that this year we can put the so-called alternative, or complementary medical community in it’s place. I hope we can see that there’s no such thing as “conventional medicine” or “alternative medicine”. There is only medicine that works and that which doesn’t. There are drugs that help you recover from illnesses are those that don’t. It doesn’t matter whether they came from a test tube or tree bark. Some have been shown, by experiment, by research, by science to work and others have not. It really IS that simple.

I hope we can put behind us the whole “detox” nonsense. A study by a UK group called Sense about Science published just after Christmas showed that almost all the so-called detox products on the market in the UK (and they’re available in Botswana as well) made ludicrous claims that were totally unsupported by the facts. The group also state that the suppliers of these silly products “were forced to admit that they are renaming mundane things, like cleaning or brushing, as ‘detox’”.

None of us need to “detox”, it’s just a made up term used to push pseudoscience and, more importantly, to sell us useless products. The secret the detox industry don’t want you and me to know is that we all already have nature’s greatest detoxifier. It’s called a liver. All it needs is clean water and a fairly healthy diet and it will clean out the toxins for you. For free.

Maybe this year we can also ignore all the silly conspiracy theories about medicine. The conspiracy theories that lead to illness, misery and death. AIDS is not a conspiracy by the CIA or aliens. Vaccinations are a truly wonderful way to protect children and adults from illness and are not another conspiracy to enslave the poor. The medical profession aren’t evil oppressors doing their best to keep us in bondage.

We should remember our local example of what modern medicine can do. Our PMTCT program reduced the proportion of babies born with HIV to HIV positive mothers from 40% to 4%. It was modern medicine that did that, not superstition, denial or a conspiracy.

Perhaps this year we can also do away with the more revolting aspects of corrupt religion. Maybe we can all see that a preacher to whom you give money who then drives a hugely expensive car and lives in a dream home is almost certainly a liar, a thief and a crook. Maybe we can see that a significant number of religious leaders, particularly those in the American TV evangelist mould, are just in it for the cash. They really do see their flock as sheep: stupid, woolly-headed and ready for slaughter.

Is it too much to ask that we can all be a little bit more skeptical in 2009? That we can use our heads before we give away our money, our health and our beliefs? I hope so.