Trick or treatment?

(Note: this is the infamous article on chiropractic that got Simon Singh sued. It is being reposted all over the web today by multiple blogs and online magazines. Via Björn.)

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.
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.

Thieving quack bastards.

As Nils and Paulo have pointed out, genetic testing company DNA Dynasty are thieves.
On their front page, you can see this:


and here on Flickr, uploaded in May of last year, is Ricardo‘s graphic for The DNA Network logo. The lazy bastards didn’t even bother with a quick photoshop.
Nils also points out that these lowlifes are peddling bullshit of the worst kind:

  • “DNA tests for innate abilities” like intelligence and “emotional quotient”
  • “Hair Analysis through Bio-sonic technology”, including analysis of “emotions” and “chakra”
  • “oxygenated water”
  • “Negative Ion Detox Foot Spa”
  • “Spine Corrector Insole”


Andy Michaels is a filthy spammer and I hope he spends eternity as the dingleberry closest to Satan’s festering freckle.

Just got this bullshit trackback (on this totally unrelated entry):

I\’m pleased to announce the introduction of two products, the latest is the Ice Cold New Marketer Seminar Series for internet marketers who are just starting out and looking for solid counseling on tools, resources, and services without all the techni…

from this bullshit blog: (no Googlejuice for you, asshole).
Andy, you’re a disease with opposable thumbs. You’re a plague, a pox, a parasite on all that is good and useful. Other people are making the internet into the greatest library that ever was, a scholarly resource, a tool for science, a home for the arts, a conversation, a force for social change — but you, you’re out there shilling. And you’re not even selling anything real, you’re selling the idea of selling. You mammon-worshipping maggot. You’re sucking down bandwidth and making all sorts of worthwhile endeavours more difficult by the day, just to push yourself into people’s faces and scream “give me money”. You are greed made flesh. You’re the reason we have to have CAPTCHA and Bayesian spam filters and blacklists. Blind unmitigated selfishness like yours is why we can’t have nice things: it’s people like you who piss in fountains and spraypaint inanities on grand buildings and carve their initials into ancient trees.
Andy, you’re a soulless meat puppet with the red right hand of a sick, materialistic culture jammed forearm-deep in your pliant rectum. There just aren’t enough curses in the world for you — there aren’t enough bad things I can hope will happen to you.
Andy, Bill Hicks has some advice for you.

An opt-out for spyware; how considerate.

Ever see “DoubleClick” or “” or similar hostnames come up when you’re loading something entirely different? Those are advertising servers, and at least one group of the sneaky bastards now offers a way to opt-out of their cookies. This won’t stop you seeing ads, it will only prevent them being “targeted” — more importantly, it will stop their data collection. I had an active cookie from six of the nine network members, and their site claims I’ve now successfully opted out of all nine.
(Hat-tip: David.)

Why thank you, asshole

— for stifling one of the most original and insightful voices on the internets.

System Offline
After family discussion regarding a commenter’s threat of violence against our dog, Creek Running North has been taken offline.

I hope this will be a temporary hiatus — just long enough for the cops to find you, you worthless Cro-Magnon sack of shit. You maggot. You suppurating carbuncle on the anus of humanity. You cowardly fucking bully.
Chris and family (human and otherwise), be safe.
(h/t: that French-sounding dude)
Update: Chris is back, and in good form. In typical fashion, he’s moved past his own misfortunes and is thinking about community:

This person, whether misguided progressive or malevolent wingnut, sought to build and deepen rifts in the left online world. Mary Beth and Eric Williams and Dwight Meredith over at Wampum run the Koufax Awards, which more than any other single online event builds a remarkable unity and camaraderie across the left-progressive-feminist blog world. […]
There is a tool that would make the Wampum folks’ work on the Koufax Awards much easier this year, and it’s pricy enough that they cannot really afford it without some help. The awards will go on without it, but this tool — a generator to run their off-the-grid tech setup — would make it happen at a lower human cost, and more environmentally sound to boot.
The person who made the threat against Zeke tried to erode our community. You have all responded with truly touching emotional generosity to this threat. Let’s slap that thug’s face, in a non-violent metaphorical sense. Drop a few bucks on Zeke’s behalf to buy the Wampum folks that generator. The threatening asshole brought us all together here: let’s take advantage of that to accomplish the opposite of what he or she had in mind.

Oh, and there’s a message from Zeke:

It matters not how vile their hate,
How lame-anonymous their troll,
I am the master of my plate:
I am the captain of my bowl.

(Update update: I don’t know how Chris fell off my blogroll, but he’s back.)



I was going to turn the page black and just have that flag in the middle, but the General is right. You should also read Glenn (also here), hilzoy (also here), Scott and Bora.
Seriously, read those links: it’s a short list, deliberately so. If you want more, Bora has another good list here. Update: read this too.
I came to this country to be with my wife, and I’d have gone anywhere for that reason alone. But I was actively pleased to be becoming an American, because I’ve always had the sense that (beneath a conspicuous layer of buffoonery) the US had a core of decency, of values that were in accord with my own. This is the country whose constitution is the model and gold standard for democracies everywhere, a country literally born of a war for religious and political freedom. This is my home now. George W Bush, if he is not stopped, will destroy it. I’m going to do what I can to stop him.

Reed-Elsevier kills babies.

I’m pretty sure I’ve linked before to Tom‘s coverage of Reed Elsevier’s involvement in the international arms trade. (If I haven’t, I should have.) That second link goes to Tom’s summary of the issue; read the whole thing, but here’s a glimpse:

The $1 trillion global trade in arms and military goods undermines human rights, fuels conflicts and causes huge civilian suffering. Arms fairs are a key part of the global arms trade, and allow arms companies to promote weapons to countries involved in, or on the brink of conflict, as well as those with terrible human rights records. DSEi’s 2005 official invitees included buyers’ delegations from 7 countries on the UK Foreign Office’s list of the 20 most serious human rights abusing regimes, countries like Colombia, China and Indonesia. Reed Elsevier do not make public the full list of invitees to their arms fairs. Reed Elsevier arms fairs have featured cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions and torture equipment. Perhaps the most harmful and most familiar kind of equipment on sale at Elsevier arms fairs is small arms, the rifles and other hand weapons which, according to the UN, are responsible for 500,000 fatalities each year.

Tom now has a petition up; if you are an academic, researcher, teacher, grad student or any other consumer of Reed Elsevier’s scientific/technical/medical publishing products, please sign and promote it.
I’m #28 on the list of signatories; statistics prof and three-toed international man of mystery Cosma Shalizi is #19, and it was he who pointed me to the petition:

Starting about a year ago, I have refused to referee papers for journals owned by Elsevier, since it sticks in my craw to provide free labor for people who turn around and gouge the academic community mercilessly. This reasoning applies, to some degree, to all commercial journal publishers, though Elsevier is unusually exploitative in its pricing. There is however a more substantial reason to dislike them: their — forgive the phrase — mercenary involvement in the international arms trade.

Herewith my own promise, following Cosma’s example:

Until Reed-Elsevier ends once and for all their involvement in the arms trade, I will neither referee for nor submit my own manuscripts to their journals.

To this end, I have also signed Nick Gill‘s boycott pledge (background here, see other signatories here).
That’s likely to get me in trouble one of these days with a co-author who cares more about impact factors than human life. Kiss my minimally conscientious humanitarian ass, putative future co-author. I believe that scientists and academics of all walks have a certain responsibility to engage in political and civic life, but in this case there’s an even more pressing and obvious connection. The bulk of Reed Elsevier’s business is STM publishing; consumers thereof thus have a real and unique opportunity — and so, I would argue, the responsibility — to force them to abandon their much smaller arms dealership.
Note to my academic and research colleagues: I’m fairly junior, but I’m famously ornery. I’m actually willing to risk being fired or otherwise disciplined over this. Moreover, my boss is a good guy and so is his boss; the risk to my career is pretty minimal. If you’re up against more risk than you’re willing to take on, don’t sign Nick’s boycott pledge — but please do sign Tom’s petition.


hybridbear.jpg The headline says “DNA Tests Confirm Bear Was a Hybrid” (see also here). “Was”, as in, this is an ex-bear. It was a naturally occurring interspecies hybrid; now it’s a corpse, since some dickless macho yuppie fuckbag stood off a safe distance with a high powered rifle and a telescopic sight and killed it, presumably because wasteful slaughter is a soothing salve for the inflammation of the ego that comes with being a sniveling coward who wants so very badly to be a tough guy.
I hope “hunter” Jim Martell (left, in the chic white parka) dies of explosive rectal prolapse. I hope it happens on his very next “hunting” trip, and I hope he is still conscious when whatever he was “hunting” wanders over and starts gnawing on his guts.

Fucking bastards.

From hilzoy, a snapshot of just how desperate the armed forces have become for fresh meat to feed into their pointless fucking grinder:

Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from high school in June. Girls think he’s cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there — silent.
Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won’t talk to people unless they address him first. It’s hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.
Jared didn’t know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall — shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Portland strip mall and complimented his black Converse All-Stars.
“When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, `Well, that isn’t going to happen,”‘ said Paul Guinther, Jared’s father. “I told my wife not to worry about it. They’re not going to take anybody in the service who’s autistic.”
But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he had not only enlisted, but signed up for the Army’s most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Turns out the parents got the media involved and there’s an investigation underway; see the linked stories for details. I guess Jared won’t die in Iraq after all, but not for lack of trying on the part of the recruitment vultures.
(I’m somewhat angry at myself, too, for a missed opportunity. I was recently a judge at the Northwest Science Expo, a local science fair for middle and high school students and part of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. ( It was a blast, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to get involved; that’s not my point here though.) There were a handful of broomstick-up-my-ass types wandering around in medal-bespangled uniforms, because in addition to the usual awards there are various military scholarships and prizes available at these fairs. Next time, I’m going to turn up in a t-shirt reading “hired killers off our campuses” or something like that.)

This is why we can’t have nice things.

The Poe Toaster tradition continues, but if random assholes have their way it won’t for much longer:

BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) — Continuing a decades-old tradition, a mystery man paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe by placing roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer’s grave to mark his January 19 birthday.
Some of the 25 spectators drawn to a tiny, locked graveyard in downtown Baltimore for the ceremony climbed over the walls of the site and were “running all over the place trying to find out how the guy gets in,” according to Jeff Jerome, the most faithful viewer of the event.
Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, said early Thursday he had to chase people out of the graveyard, fearing they would interfere with the mystery visitor’s ceremony.

What is wrong with these people? What kind of worthless mouthbreathing Morlock is willing to spoil, for all time and for everyone, something unique, odd, touching and wonderful — merely to satisfy an overstimulated monkey-mind that will move on to the next shiny soundbite in less than a minute? It’s not even real curiosity, it’s something grubby, selfish and hyperactive, an infant’s “meeeeeeeeee!” high on MTV, a sick conviction that a personal Right to Be Entertained trumps everything.
Hat-tip: Ivy; news stories abound here, mostly rehashes of the same release. Once again, AP writer Brian Witte has good coverage
Oh, and I never did manage to get permission to publish the photo of the Toaster, but someone else either did, or didn’t care. I don’t suppose it matters much, so here.