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July 2018
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Pharmacy Diets

The "pharmacy diet" scam is simply out of control here in Australia. However, I first wish to remind readers of the basic reason those we pay for sound advice also leap to deceive us via such tacky plays on fear, guilt, anxiety. Greed. Money. Profit. If you happen to reside in the fine Southern continent of Australia you can witness a strange manifestation of consumer exploitation in every neighbourhood pharmacy.

This open letter to The Pharmacists of Australia from Australian Skeptics helps clarify what is simple, unadulterated consumer exploitation. At best it is [or rather was, given Aussie pharmacists well proven double standards] an unexpected qualification of legitimacy by mere association with medical science that in part motivated the drafting of such a letter.

Items advocating clearly dangerous and/or useless, 'new age', natural [so are lightening strikes], homeopathic, aromatherapeutic, magnetic stimulation, crystal energetic, pyramid power, detoxification remedies, ear candles, similar products or even practices claiming to enhance/maintain/repair/develop or augment in some way or another such vaguely described, yet "essential" bodily, mental or spiritual functions abound within Australian pharmacies. And they abound right next to recognised and proven treatments.

Indeed the placing of demonstrably non efficacious preparations, alongside products with genuine, documented validity deserves scorn in and of itself. The intuitive feeling of trust that accompanies the consumer associating product X with the decades of reliability of product Y in its familiar and comfortable packaging, is a powerful motivator. Minimal thinking and maximal "satisfaction". You may well have doubted the flushing of "negative energies" through unwilling sphincters as "essential care for the holistic You!" - if not actually impossible - until you saw the Betadine antiseptic ointment nearby.

Legitimacy by association? Isn't that a bit ambitious? Perhaps. Yet we know that human beings seeking advice or treatment trust - and decide to act upon - advice given by a person wearing a white coat. Correct for other variables and results frequently follow that white coat. We learn to expect valuable advice and respond accordingly.

At worst it is a coldly calculated grab for consumer dollars involving products the pharmacist him/herself mocks and derides because of the junk science involved. I have a friend who manages a pharmacy with the slogan: "Passion, People, Price" - or words to that effect. "I'm a skeptic too", he announced as I outlined the scam surrounding the Anti-snor "acupressure" ring. But, he went on snorting derisively, that it's not up to him to advise on "sympathy spending" [I think he meant 'retail therapy'] managing to admit in one breath that his "natural" products were junk but he was still kindly helping customers by allowing the subconscious human need to waste money.

He has a valid point: we can spend our money where we wish. Besides, franchise product choice is not his decision, nor is dissuading customers from spending likely to be a positive career move. Indeed the decision to limit or remove alternative junk from pharmacies won't come from ranks of staff. It will likely arise at a senior level when industry image matters more than profit. Then a "phasing out" period will follow accompanied by consumer information designed to paint the all-knowing pharmacist as a health professional without peer. Why? At some point the ipso facto professional image of the community pharmacy will begin to erode. Poor competition ensures we remain ignorant of varied approaches, and Pharmacy Guild tactics are ruthless if not brutal when it comes to holding onto their monopoly.

Remember the feverish drive by the Pharmacy Guild against supermarkets stocking pharmaceuticals? Seven out of ten items sold in supermarkets are cigarettes, lied one poster in my local pharmacy. Would you trust your health advice to sellers of dangerous products? Therein lies the irony. The angle chosen by pharmacists was concern for your health. We now know without a percentile point of doubt this too was a scam. Supermarkets are examined for price, cleanliness, product quality, claims on packaging, petrol docket value, plastic bag use and so on. Frequently these topics dominate TV, radio and print media. Pharmacists suffer no such intrusion and this is to our disadvantage.

Still, I value my pharmacist interlocutors advice, enjoy his critical wit and might label his greatest crime as not suffering fools gladly. Dastardly deeds for their own sake is not what I'm arguing. Intentionally harming, placing others at risk or promoting junk science as an end in itself is not the aim of pharmacists. Indeed it is the association between clinical skill and unproven remedies that concerns those of us who advocate understanding evidence over accepting claims. Recently, our morning chat was interrupted. He rolled his eyes dramatically because a scooter driving elderly lady required a bottle of cough syrup located near the dispensary. As said friend had decided Swine Flu was "a media rort" at best, Mrs. Scooter was lucky to be served at all. But I had to grin inwardly. The poor lady couldn't move without mowing down ranks of tacky, flimsy shelving. And what was on this shelving? Jelly beans, novelty desk clocks, gym socks, ear candles, antisnor rings, vitamins, vitamins, vitamins and ample detox kits. Bizarre. To think our pharmacies - aside from our hotels - are the final bastions of legal pre-toxing and now stand under assault from "healthy" scams that could harm you as easily as the Class A drugs kept in the dispensary safe.

In this episode Firesnake examines what appear to be quite useless diet plans, on offer at major pharmacy chains. Of particular note is the pushing of poorly monitored and expensive dietary supplements onto children, the lack of training or skill required by staff and incredibly, the arrogant response by Tony Ferguson - a rogue Pharmacist only too well known for his "independent" money making scams over the years. Tony runs "Weightloss and Wellness Centres". He also pushes his programmes from Terry White Chemists.

Recently Australian consumer magazine Choice reviewed Pharmacy Diet Plans. The Courier Mail described Choice as "slamming" such plans. Briefly Choice concluded:

  • Pharmacy diet plans may help to shed extra kilos quickly, but most fail to deal effectively with the complex broader issues around weight loss.
  • CHOICE cannot recommend these programs until consultants improve their training and move beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Tony Ferguson seized the opportunity. Guessing that media outlets are as fed up - no pun intended - as the rest of us with self styled gurus, Ferguson used his own web site to "reply" then within weeks launched a new TV advertising campaign bursting with positive "testimonials".

600,000 People Can't be Wrong but Choice Magazine can't get it right with weight loss investigation!

Tony Ferguson

"One of Australia's leading consumer comparison magazines, Choice Magazine, has got it wrong! "says weight loss authority and pharmacist Tony Ferguson.

Renowned for helping Australians make accurate and informed decisions, Choice have unfortunately made a mistake with their review of the weight loss industry including Australia's pharmacy supported weight loss leader , the Tony Ferguson Weightloss Program. In addition the magazine did not review the entire program , only half of it despite being invited to do so.

Ferguson explains that: "They also ignored the psychological aspects of weight loss in their review. The leading authorities in treating obesity around the world acknowledge that being overweight is much more than a product of eating too much and exercising too little. That is an outdated method of losing weight which has failed Australians for almost two generations now."

Ferguson is using old evasion tricks here. Firstly, he introduces variables that have nothing to do with the aims of diet programs, thus pleads unfair. Next he uses some Peacock terminology - "The leading authorities in treating obesity around the world...", basically sound like they agree with Tony although it's irrelevant and conveniently unreferenced.

You may read Tonys full reply here. Keep in mind the panel of experts assembled by Choice described Fergusons latest scam and Ultra Lite as "disgraceful and irresponsible". Given these physiologically brutal approaches aim to maximise ketosis [see below] and no warning is forthcoming one must agree.

Choice magazine does have an entry on healthy eating for those interested. Here's how Choice introduced their programme review:

Our findings confirm these diet plans, if followed closely, will certainly shed the kilos in record time, but are they safe and are customers properly assessed and monitored by the pharmacies? Do these fast-track diet plans address the real issues at the root of the weight problem? And is it the pharmacies themselves who end up profiting the most?

CHOICE investigation

To anonymously assess these programs CHOICE sent three overweight people to a selection of pharmacies offering seven different diet programs, and asked a panel of experts to assess our findings.

All the pharmacy plans involve a weekly visit to your pharmacy consultant and a diet that restricts carbohydrates to some extent. All except Ultra Lite use meal replacements to keep your intake in check. The basics of each program are shown in the table.

Programs we looked at:

  • AlphaSlim Pharmacy Weight Loss
  • Betty Baxter Complete Weight Management
  • Dr. Tim’s Success
  • Kate Morgan Weight Loss
  • MediTrim
  • Tony Ferguson Weight Loss
  • Ultra Lite Weight Management
  • Xndo Weight Control System

Choice also looked at Meal replacements, standard of replacement, consultant training and ongoing training, claims surrounding weight loss and client suitability - eg; one does not have to be overweight or an adult in programmes other than Dr. Tims Success. This certainly raises serious questions over body image and possible self abuse with such low levels of supervision. Considering the pressure on teens and even children today to conform to the perfect body type, Fergusons plea of "psychological aspects" sounds like a cruel game of mockery. To think a perfectly healthy teen can be supplementing healthy eating with "replacement shakes" on advice from a barely trained part-time consultant is at best careless opportunism on the part of these programmes.

The Choice report looks closely at nutritional value, the upsell of diet pills, flaxseed oil, fiber supplements, vitamins, minerals an so on. In the case of Betty Baxter fiber was so low, constipation is likely. Xndo slap you in the face with $1.60 per drink [called a serve] which is much the same as buying any other commercial drink.

There is ample advice within the Choice report. The decision to appoint independent nutritionists is welcomed and it appears pharmacy diets fail us in almost every manner possible. In fact the highly predictable findings of cheap and tacky equipment and dusty storage areas or corners labelled "consultancy areas", fits nicely with the dollar focus of Australian Pharmacists in general.

Choice also explain the concept of ketosis, which is the default side effect of starving yourself of proper nutrients. We award Tony Ferguson a CPDCT - Clear and Present Danger to Critical Thought score of 7.0 out of 10. Well done Tony.

Choice explained:

Some organs of your body, such as the brain and red blood cells, need glucose for energy, and if you don’t eat enough carbohydrates to supply them, your body will break down protein – from your muscles if you’re not eating enough protein – as an energy source for these organs.

What are the benefits? Quick initial weight loss (mainly due to fluid loss) may increase your motivation. Some people claim the fluid loss also reduces feelings of bloating. Ketosis can also help make you feel less hungry.

And the downsides? Some undesirable side-effects are mild dehydration, poor athletic performance, nausea, bad breath, risk of blood pressure problems, an increased risk of osteoporosis and muscle and blood vessel damage. It may also make concentrating on mental tasks more difficult.

CHOICE verdict

These programs are of obvious financial benefit to the pharmacies, and a constant stream of short-term clients will shift a lot of product off the shelves. Will you lose weight? If you follow them closely, yes. Will the pharmacy setting provide you with your own highly skilled weight-loss advisor? Our experts think not.

Considering the inadequate training of consultants, little ability to tailor programs and deal with individual circumstances and habits, as well as the lack of close, qualified supervision, CHOICE does not recommend these programs. The current regulations and voluntary codes of practice covering weight-loss programs are insufficient. CHOICE wants to see a national accreditation system, including minimum standards for training, covering all programs, consultants and leaders who counsel people on losing weight.

It's with genuine effort I find myself holding back from simply abusing the window dressing that is the "pharmacy industry" here in Australia. The truth is, it would do little good and one cannot excuse legislators or ignore the hopeless policies bound in red tape. Presently, Pharmacy Guild members worship at the alter of the dollar and whilst able to promote sound health and science, have clearly chosen to promote a culture of "lock-n-load" profiteering that suits existing Guild restrictions on proprietorship numbers.

There's a huge, growing, aging, drug dependent market out there. Australias pharmacists long ago decided to limit premises to the precious few who play by the rules and rule by the pay. Woo-woo, junk science and reckless dieting by dollar may well be here to stay.

So, how can we limit or prevent junk science and 'new age' rubbish from basking in the integrity of white coated pharmacists? Get medications into supermarkets as fast as is sensibly possible. Faced with competition pharmacists will have fewer choices than placing marketing above medication efficacy hence consumer health.

All relevant articles are here.

59 min. 23.5MB


Direct download: firesnake_pharmacydiets.mp3
Category:Scams -- posted at: 10:18pm EDT

Bible Prophecy

Bible Prophecy is a Scam. Not only have prior prophecies failed, Christians can offer no explanation. "The Virgin Mary" cult was soundly debunked along with the fallacious parthenogenesis lie that offends billions of people today, decades ago. Yet, even patiently explaining how the answer is in the same bible misused by duped early Christians, only skeptics seem able to handle the hard work of thinking.

Cygnus' Study in "Debunking The Bible" concludes with what is considered common knowledge amongst those who have read arguments for both possibilities of a prophesied virgin birth [truth or trash].

We see above that there are numerous problems with this being a prophecy of Jesus. The first and foremost is the translation problem. We see that Isaiah was familiar with the term BETHULAH and used it when he wanted to convey a woman's virginity. That he did not employ it at 7:14 seems to indicate that this is not what he meant for this prophecy. In addition to this is the problem that the prophecy was framed in such a way that for it to be true, it would need to occur in the time of King Ahaz. Lastly, we see that the child is indeed born during Ahaz's time as chapter 8 shows us.

Far from being a prophecy of a virgin birth, we find a regular pregnancy some 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus.

Prophecy busted.

We're told God demands "unconditional surrender" and is obsessed with "nakedness" in the USA. This most religious of developed nations, with many holding to medieval superstition and belief in demonstrably false religio-superstition, has even earned extra points for "refusing to repent".

Bible Prophiteers simply engage in postdiction - finding something that can be squeezed to conform. Nostradamus was all the rage before our Creationist profiteers saw the potential. Typical examples include as "honey" is sticky to touch, this meant oil. As "darkness" was mentioned and oil is black, this means oil is important. The "battle" must be in the middle east. Hence, with troops there we must of course be about to witness the end of the world. Israelites was predicted to "return" [they invaded] to the "homeland" before the "End Time". Global Warming is the necessary preparation for a "scorched earth", refugee crises are "scattering of the people", equal rights are the doing of "the unrepentant", etc, etc - in fact Pin the Tail on the Passage is all the rage.

Sadly, not only do they fail to provide a shred of evidence, they fail to explain why any other phenomena might not be viable. This is in line with the general literal interpretation we see in trendy Christian Magicians. Exegesis is the re-interpretation of text. Hermeneutics is the active physical meddling with reality to give the impression prophecy - as per any text - is correct.

The concern is of course the promotion of climate change - "bring it on man, global warming is holy" - may not be entirely helpful to future generations of Earth. In fact "The New Apocalypse" cares little for the planet, human beings, present day suffering or social decay of any sort. The worse it is, the better chance JC is packing his bags for the Second Coming.

Encouragement of war and geographical migration, falsely linking current events to archaic text are daily events. One boasts that George W. Bush has said WW3 is due in 2008, thus so is the "Rapture". Another claims Bush said the "last years" begin in 2008; thus it's 2015 for the Rapture. "End time radio" in the USA specialises in linking daily news events to the horror outlined in the book of revelations - "Amen, brother" is the standard utterance to dead civilians, dead soldiers, economic downturn, struggles over oil and so on. The belief is being pushed that events in the Middle East herald the realisation of events written so obscurely, even proponents can't agree on the best lie. War is good - that's for sure. Jesus loves us so much, he'll kill most of humankind in a blaze of "glorious and holy fury that will shake the Cosmos".

What is truly bizarre are the dual claims of JC judging "the repentant" as worthy yet this "essence of redemptive soul", as it were, may be learned from a quick DVD tutorial. Why go to Confession when the Digital Deity [and your credit card] is at hand? So, if this JC guy is so dumb rote learning by video is enough to enter "Gods Dwelling", who'd want to go play in the clouds with him? Plenty of gullible, bored and very annoying people with far too loud a voice it seems.

Sam Harris put it well once; "But you ask me what the scariest things are in Christianity: this infatuation with biblical prophecy and this notion that Jesus is going to come back as an avenging savior to kill all the bad people". -- Sam Harris, Beliefnet inverview

One typical site contains the following:

As we begin to see the effects of climate change, we also see man's inability to deal with the idea that he is not really in control. Many people will point to human activity, warmer oceans, solar flares, and all kinds of probable causes for the events we are witnessing. Volcanic activity is on the rise. Increased earthquake activity has already been recorded, and predicted for these, the last days.

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
Luke 21: 25-26

Sensible Christians debunk the silliness of the entire affair and others have patiently explained the flaws to simpletons. One poor chap who we hear from this episode believes he will find Prophetic Oil - in already drilled fields - and sink a well so large it will drain Saudi Arabia. Not only does this fly in the face of geological evidence and mining principles his only reason is because of what he thinks he can see in the bible.

Oh! And it's actually all on his DVD - that he mentioned contained all the real data and full truth, whilst he was announcing he didn't want to profit from the interview.

It is simply the cowards way out. Not only do trendy god botherers have a real life Harry Potter book to justify bigotry, abuse, suffering, war and financial greed - it contains a get out free caveat. No need to conserve energy, think green or care for our environment. That's pure blasphemy. In fact, it is the problems we see today that prove we must repent - not apply ourselves to the evidence at hand.

Why? Well, we must "prove" the bible is literally true. Science must be discredited, religion must be reintroduced and men must have superstitious control over as many people and as much money as faith in magic allows. In fact, it seems to be an out of control extension of Evangelical Creationism with all the pizazz of oxymoronic "Creation Science".

Faith indeed is a cognitive detriment when it comes to novel thinking. What we must guard against is hermeneutic interpretation: invading Iraq so "the final battle" may begin. Exogesic interpretation might have you smiling happily at starving Aussie families and suiciding farmers, but at least you get to die and plunge to heaven-less oblivion, void of afterlife as a final [albeit very quick] payback.

Killing innocents, invading nations and ruining economies to then say "there, told ya so", is going too far.

This episode Firesnake has some out-takes from what is run of the mill rubbish pushed out by these groups. We look at the absurd claims, the easy exposure of fraud and the potential causes and outcomes.

All articles are here.
Music thanks to Garageband.



Direct download: firesnake_bibleprophecy.mp3
Category:Scams -- posted at: 11:45pm EDT