Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Quora A2A: How can I hide my likes on Twitter? Only likes

(I am no longer answering questions on Quora's website)

My answer assumes the questioner is asking about tweets that he or she has liked, rather than tweets of theirs that others have liked - though in either case it's not possible to hide them beyond making your account public.

Liking a tweet is a semi-public act in that anyone can see that you've done it by looking at your liked tweets page, mine is here - just change the username in the URL and see yours or anyone else's (only if their account is public of course). You cannot hide any liked tweet from here beyond unliking it, which you can do by clicking once again on the heart symbol to unlike it (it's a toggling sort of arrangement: click once to like, click again to unlike).

However once you've liked a tweet Twitter will most likely have sent out a notification to the tweet's sender so it's possible (depending on their settings) that they'll have been made aware, via the notifications tab, or via pop-up notifications or by email.

Newer versions of Twitter including the latest #NewTwitter interface have also been 'surfacing' (explicitly drawing attention to) these 'like' actions in your timeline so you may see "So and so liked a tweet by XYZ". Most people find this pretty irritating and I've written a post on my tech-focused blog that addresses it called 'Hate seeing other people's likes? Some options to try' - the post has had 110,000 views since I published it, from which I assume a fair few people want to stop that feature.

Many people like a tweet to bookmark it, rather than to say 'I like what you've said' or 'I've seen this and am liking it to signal the amiable end to this exchange', or whatever meaning people ascribe to the action. There are plenty of ways to bookmark a tweet to read later and if that's all you want to do with it then do that instead of liking it and no-one needs to know.

Examples might include bookmarking the URL of the tweet (desktop) or copying and pasting its URL into some file of saved tweets, you can also email the tweet to yourself or take a screenshot. You could even create a spare account, log in there and like it then the like is not linked with your primary account. That may be taking things a bit far of course!

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Homeopaths are delighted that a draft report has been released - not sure why

tl;dr - Homeopaths are cock-a-hoop that a report has been released containing the phrase "encouraging evidence" (for homeopathy) but several mentions are just saying that "the term 'encouraging evidence' has not been defined" and highlighting problems with the conclusion. There are 6 'positive' mentions (in favour of homeopathy) in the report. All have been corrected with an annotation highlighting that it was a mistake.

Here's the draft first report from 2012, it's 294 pages long (293 pages plus a one page statement at the front from the NHMRC's CEO Anne Kelso saying that -
"NHMRC strongly encourages interested members of the community to refer to the 2015 NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions. Contrary to some claims, the review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective. Rather, it stated that “based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.”"

The 2015 report (all 2015 docs can be found here) has an accompanying statement with some fairly strong warnings about NOT using homeopathy.
Table of Contents
1. How frequently does the phrase "encouraging evidence" appear?
2. How does the phrase "encouraging evidence" appear?
3. Full details of how "encouraging evidence" is used on each page - 13 to account for
4. Conclusions and rationale for this post
5. Background to the report
6. References
7. Screenshots of search strategy and results

1. How frequently does the phrase "encouraging evidence" appear?
Searching in the 2012 draft report (using Ctrl+F or Command+F on a Mac) for "encouraging evidence" brings up 12 mentions of 13 instances (one isn't picked up in the automatic search). Four are on p9, one each on pages 10, 11, 12, 54 and 236 with two instances on pages 85* and 138. By the way there are also 25 mentions of "no convincing evidence".

*Of the two mentions on p85, one is not picked up by the search. One is a mention, the other an annotation cancelling it.

2. How does the phrase "encouraging evidence" appear?
There is a rough split between statements in the report suggesting that there is encouraging evidence for homeopathy and statements that are annotations, highlighting that the conclusion was incorrect. It's not a 1:1 mapping of a positive phrase with a negative annotation because other phrases are also used (eg "See comments on issues with this section of the report on page XX").

Seven mentions are positive (all are corrected with annotations), 2 are neutral and five are negative. 

Three instances of the negatives say
"The term 'encouraging evidence' is not defined in this report. There are inconsistencies as to how it is interpereted." - examples found on pages 9, 85 and 138.

3. Full details of how "encouraging evidence" is used on each page - 13 to account for
All page numbers are those counted in the PDF by Adobe eg p10 of 294 refers to page "ix" in the document and p85 of 294 is actually page 72.

3a. Page 9 - four mentions
Page nine says that there is encouraging evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy (one mention) for fibromyalgia, otitis media, post-operative ileus (first time to flatus), upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in adults and side effects of cancer treatment. All are given 'Grade C'. The annotations (two mentions) point out the flaws - that 'encouraging evidence' isn't defined and that Grade C has sometimes been used to mean 'encouraging evidence' and sometimes 'no convincing evidence' so it has been applied inconsistently.

The last mention is the phrase "listed above under encouraging evidence [Grade C]" which I've taken to be a neutral statement (one mention).

3b. Pages 10-12 - three mentions
Context: Table 1 in the report is a 'Summary evidence of effect of homeopathy by condition' for 27 conditions. The phrases "no convincing evidence", "inconclusive / equivocal evidence", "insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion" or "no evidence" appear next to all but two.

Page 10
Cancer treatment symptoms (one of three mentions) says that there is encouraging evidence for topical calendula and Traumeel S. The annotation says "See comments on issues with this section of the report on page 40". [NB page 40 = p53 of 294]

Page 11
Fibromyalgia (two of three mentions), annotated with reference to page 70. [NB page 70 = p83 of 294]

Page 12
Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) (three of three mentions) - annotated with reference to page 139. [NB page 139 = p152 of 294]

3c. Page 54 - one mention
There is one positive mention of "encouraging evidence for topical calendula... and Traumeel S" but this is then trashed in the comments. The annotations are a bit brutal including "incorrect - see below" and "The conclusions for topical calendula and Traumeel S cannot be justified AND WERE NOT CONFIRMED BY THE EXPERT COMMITTEE" (their capslock). The annotations also point out that the Traumeel S study was based on a small clinical trial of 32 participants. I don't think they're very impressed.

3d. Page 85 - two mentions
One mention of encouraging evidence for fibromyalgia treatment with a Grade C given. The other mention is the annotation saying that the term isn't defined and is inconsistently interpreted. Another annotation says that "this conclusion is flawed" and goes on to say that it should be a D.

3e. Page 138 - two mentions

One mention suggests encouraging evidence for postoperative ileus and this is immediately thwacked with "not defined / inconsistencies".

3f. Page 236 - one mention
This part of the report contains all abstracts of all the references considered / used, with a comment below.

"Although there is some encouraging evidence for hypnosis, herbal medicine and acupuncture..." - homeopathy is not actually included in this bit at all. It is subsumed into the phrase "there is insufficient evidence to suggest that other CAMs are effective for the treatment of childhood conditions". Pleasingly this is one of Edzard Ernst's papers (Ref 43).

4. Conclusions and rationale for this post
So there we have it. The draft first report, released to such fanfare from homeopaths, does not support homeopathy. The NHMRC does not recommend its use in any condition. Since homeopaths will probably try and use this report to suggest that regulatory bodies should loosen their restrictions on homeopathy (eg NHS and RCVS) I thought it best to have something to point people to saying why this is pointless.

5. Background to the report
A few years ago an Austrlalian study was commissioned by the NHMRC to examine the evidence relating to the use of homeopathy to treat a variety of health conditions. There were a number of problems with the draft of the 2012 report - it included studies of lower quality and was not clear about how it graded the quality of studies.

A second report was commissioned, and later published in 2015 and concluded that the evidence for homeopathy was not impressive. Hardly a surprise given that pretty much all overviews of the evidence come to the same conclusion.

Homeopaths were annoyed that the earlier 2012 draft report wasn't published. They were under the impression that the first report had shown some success for homeopathy and that this had been deviously edited out in the second report, unfairly implying a negative effect for homeopathy.

The first draft report has now been released and homeopaths are very happy that the phrase "encouraging evidence" appears in the document, such as -
" which the author concluded that there is “encouraging evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy” in five medical conditions." (1)
It would be more correct to add the word 'wrongly' or 'mistakenly' between 'author' and 'concluded'.

Appended at the start of the draft report is a statement from the CEO of the NHMRC, the text of which is at the top of this post. The HRI has managed to draw this conclusion from it -
"We also welcome the valuable clarification provided by NHMRC CEO Prof Anne Kelso, that NHMRC’s second Homeopathy Review published in 2015 “did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective”, despite claims to that effect in media reports and by anti-homeopathy campaigners." (1)

Incidentally there is an important but subtle difference between these two statements
1. There is evidence that homeopathy does not work
2. There is no evidence that homeopathy works

6. References and further reading
(1) NHMRC finally release first report on homeopathy (27 August 2019) Homeopathy Research Institute

See also Hinner Feldwisch's thread

7. Screenshots of search strategy and results
Click to enlarge any that need it.
Ctrl+F or Command F brings up the Find option

Click the gearwheel to bring up the full search options

This is what I searched for in the document - encouraging evidence

There were actually 13 instances but only 12 appeared in the automated search. All are accounted for in my post.

The annotations for page 9 were particularly brutal.

Monday, 26 August 2019

I've had it with Quora and am gradually closing my account there

I've had enough of Quora, though I still occasionally answer questions there. Too many things about it annoy me now and chief of these is -

The Quora Partner Program... (QPP)
...which pays people to ask questions. This means that in among genuine questions people ask them most inane banalities and then tag people (which might include me) to answer them. It's never bothered me that Quora doesn't pay for answers as I'm happy to answer where I can contribute. Similarly I get no payment for editing Wikipedia and - although the homeopaths seem unable to accept it - I also get no payment for pointing out on social media that homeopathy is guff. But I digress ;)

The Quora Payment Program has certainly coincided with a massive increase in absolute drivel appearing on the site, though I can't prove that it caused it. However it does mean that any question I'm now asked grates a little more as I wonder if someone is getting paid to ask it, although really it shouldn't make any difference because I have always enjoyed answering questions! But it does.

The QPP may also be responsible for a series of almost identical questions being asked over a short space of time - perhaps people forget that they'd already asked me to answer their first version.

Duplicate answers
The search on Quora is pretty good and will generally show you if a question has already been asked / answered. There's no point in re-asking it but Quora's now full of these duplicates and triplicates that are phrased in a slightly different way. Fortunately it's fairly straightforward to merge questions and answers and you're given the opportunity to pick either the more viewed page over the less viewed one, or the one that you think more people will search for (the more popular one may have been actively shared on social media).

Email spam
I went through all possible "do not email me" options and had several months, possibly years, of no emails from Quora until recently when I discovered it had added some new options and automatically signed me up. Don't ever do that. I've now gone through and blocked those settings too (I don't object to on-Quora notifications).

Inability to set a "please don't ask me questions for a period of time" option
I've previously asked Quora how to adjust things so that I don't show up as a suggestion when people are looking for answers. As I log in infrequently (I tend to visit the site mostly during Christmas and bank holidays) I'm effectively ignoring people who've asked me to answer. Instead of doing that I'd much rather say "I'm out of the Quoffice" and set it for a period of weeks / months. People cannot know if I'm not around or just ignoring them (it used to be possible to give a reason when you passed on a question but that option seems to have gone). It's unfair to other users and annoying to me when I log in and find loads of (often irrelevant) questions in my 'requested to answer' pile. I just whizz through and delete them all now unless I spot one that's actually relevant / that I can answer.

The only solution is to deactivate (rather than delete) your account - this works very well. The only reason I'm not using it at the moment is so that I can log in and access 'my' content and move it offsite. Once I've finished and deleted all my answers I'll be able to delete my account permanently.

Layout doesn't prioritise 'asked to answer' questions
When you click on 'Answer' it gives you 'Questions for you' which are random questions that might be relevant based on previously answered questions. But it's not the list of questions that you've actually been asked to answer, that's in a separate bit to click in, called Answer Requests.  This page is one of the more irritating as it shows you some of the latest ones and as you delete or answer them starts to show you some earlier ones. I've found questions in there from several months ago (I'd assume you'd show them in order with earliest asked first - nope).

Has it already been answered by someone else?
My fault for not noticing this more promptly I think but there's no point in answering an asked-to-answer that's been answered satisfactorily by someone else. I just don't see the point. I'd only answer or comment if I have something to add (or occasionally correct) or if there was currently no answer. Of course Quora arranges things so that you're presented with a question and an option to answer. I can see that questions do say "No answers yet" or "5 answers" or "1 answer" - perhaps that's always been there and I failed to spot this clue (!).

You cannot download or export your own content other than manually
It's not portable as far as I can tell. I'm manually copy / pasting my answers to my new storage place for them and deleting them from Quora. They won't be properly deleted until I kill my account as at the moment I can restore them at any time. It should be straightforward to download and migrate my own content.

I've got over 270 answers on there so the copying and pasting will take some time, done 5 so far, doing a few every few days so will probably take me about a year to transfer. I look forward to liberating my answers from Quora's clutches. A shame, as I really liked Quora to begin with.

You have to log in to read more than one article
If you're not logged in and want to have a bit of a read it keeps pestering you to log in. I think you can get round this by right clicking and opening in a new tab, or searching for the content on Google and re-entering the site through that way but it's irritating, the content is free and it's supported by ads. There's no need to log in. On a mobile it's apparently even worse with a pop-up constantly requesting you download its app.

Good things about Quora
It's free to use, anyone can ask or answer a question, it is fairly well moderated (though one of my own answers was deleted because it pointed to a commercial site), it's really easy to paste in a screenshot (no need to file / upload). Although adding links can be a bit fiddly, anything from Twitter autoresolves to a hyperlink saying 'Login in to Twitter' so you have to 'hide' the link under some text or have a fight with it to stop it doing that, but generally it's fine.

Further reading
What turns people off about Quora? (a question asked on Quora) which has even more bleats than this post!
Yes, Quora still exists, and it’s now worth $2 billion (May 2019) - Recode

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Preparing and packing for Wilderness 2019

Woohoo, this time next week I should be all packed and ready to go for the 9th Wilderness Festival. I last went in 2017 and am going again for the same reasons - it's lots of fun and my friend Dr Helen Pilcher is giving a talk on Saturday afternoon (4.30pm) in the Books Tent and it will be a lovely family (I'm Auntie Jo to the kids and Oddparent to her eldest) outing, hooray.

Last time I took the world's tiniest, lightest tent along with a sleeping bag and camping mat. It was a bit of a squash, so this time I've booked myself into 'boutique' camping (finally, glamping!) and will not have to bring the following items as they're already included.
  • Tent
  • Thing to sleep on
  • Duvet
  • Pillow
  • Towel
Once again I'm using a combination of Gmail, WorkFlowy, Dropbox and Evernote to organise myself because I need all the help I can get.

  • 1. Maps
  • 2. Software
    • 2a. Gmail
    • 2b. WorkFlowy
    • 2c. Dropbox
    • 2d. Evernote
  • 3. What I'm packing
  • 4. FAQs

1. Maps and useful documents
Annotated map, where the Info centre and meeting points are etc

PDF of camping and entrances

Stage times 2019

Environmental Policy 2019

There's info about my travel tickets and times, festival tickets, alternative travel arrangements including taxi numbers and the postcode for satnavs. I also have info about ISS passes as it's rather nice to be out with friends under an open sky and see the International Space Station pass by.

2. Software 
2a. Gmail All emailed tickets and info are in a Gmail folder called Wilderness 2019. This has been synced so I can access it on my phone and I've opened all the emails on m phone and told them to 'show images'. There's a high chance that before I leave the house (night before) I'll re-do this and take some screenshots of tickets and stuff just in case.  

2b. WorkFlowy I've been using this for years for pretty much everything. It's a list-making marvel which makes it easy to add, move, mark as done or delete new items. If you start making a list and realise you want to add in subsections it's easy, you can just add a heading and indent anything below it (and you can click and drag to move things between headings or between levels of indentation). You can have a go of it yourself here. For Wilderness I'm using it specifically for my Master Packing List so that I can pick out items that might be relevant for a few days away in a field. The WorkFlowy app is also on m phone and sync'd but I'm just using it on the desktop for this. I've transferred the relevant items to Evernote and put check boxes next to them (see below).  

2c. Dropbox I have the app on my phone, behind an additional password, sync'd. All the files I need for Wilderness (stage times and maps PDFs etc) are in there. For extra usefulness I activate settings that will let me access the files offline. Relevant bits can also be enlarged and saved as screenshots and stored in a cameraroll album.  

2d. Evernote This is quite like WorkFlowy but with pictures. You can very easily paste in images and use colour and change the font size etc. This acts as my main one-page info.
  • At the top is stuff I still need to do or buy
  • ...or print
  • 1. Travel Times
  • 2. Tickets
    • 2a. Travel tickets info
    • 2b. Festival tickets info
    • Barcode of festival ticket order
    • Screenshot of main map
  • 3. Taxi numbers just in case
  • 4. Packing list
    • Wilderness' lost property form link just in case 
Here's what the packing list looks like.

3. What I'm packing / to-do list
And here's the actual packing list of what I'm taking. I don't have any prescribed medication but if you do don't forget that, and obviously if you're not glamping you might need a tent, groundsheet, camping mat, sleeping bag and something pillow-ish not to mention a towel. Or a mallet and tent pegs. Also I'm a woman so chaps reading this might want to have a think about blokier items to pack.

3.1 To-do a day or two before
  • Print information and maps
  • Charge up phone charger(s), ensure right cables for packing
  • Check e-tickets are sync'd on phones, screenshots in album, Dropbox sync'd
  • Buy things I need to buy
3.2 Hardware
  • Rucksack to put everything in
  • Day bag to have stuff I need when away from tent
  • Charger + cable (plug probably not a lot of use but you never know (works on trains)) 
  • Torch / headtorch and spare batteries - keep with you so that you can return to your tent after dark with ease
  • Plastic bags - to wrap stuff in and for putting used clothes etc in.
  • Vaguely wondering if I'll regret not buying walkie talkies
3.3 Outside
I'll be spending time away from my tent so need to be comfortable
  • Plastic ground sheet - anything to sit on in case grass is damp. A plastic bag would do
  • Sun cream - weather's gonna weather
  • Anti-bite cream - especially for evenings out
  • Hat / sunglasses as suits
  • Re-useable water bottle (a 'Misc' item but for the daybag)
3.4 Clothing
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • T-shirts
  • Trousers / jeans (or shorts, skirts or dresses if that's your thing)
  • Jumper (can get cooler in evening)
  • Jacket (warm / waterproof)
  • Spare shoes / Wellington boots / flip flops / sandals
  • Pyjamas or nightdress
3.5 Ablutions / health / comfort
  • Toothbrush / paste
  • Wet wipes
  • Liquid soap
  • Deodorant / scent
  • Tampons / liners
  • Nail clippers, scissors, tweezers
  • OTC meds like ibuprofen or dioralyte
  • A bit of talcum is always walcum
  • Ear plugs if your camp site isn't that quiet
  • Plasters
  • Spare insoles for added comfort
  • Hair stuff - clips, comb
3.6 Misc
  • Snacks / sweets / chewing gum - if you're leaving on Monday you'll need to pick up some portable snacks on the Sunday as the site will be closed and you'll be hungry
  • Cash (there are 2 ATMS on site)
  • Re-usable water bottle for day bag
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Pen / pencil
  • Notebook
  • Reading material - kindle or book 
  • Bunting - this is Wilderness you understand
I'm not packing any exciting outfits as I'm not really the demographic for that but that would probably go in Clothing. There are people who seriously dress up at the festival and bring colourful hats and headdresses. Not me :)

 Above is what the INFORMATION TENT looks like. Lot of bunting there. I want to live in this tent.

4. FAQs
Cash machines: there are 2 ATMS on site (see annotated map)

Family friendly: it's very family friendly. See the bit about trolleys below too.

First aid tent: if you're a bit under the weather (see annotated map)

Food: excellent, not cheap (though General Shop has basic snacks and cooking stuff), ubiquitous
& Water: free, several taps on site (see annotated map), bring a re-usable bottle

Information tent: where you can buy programmes and find out about timing changes and other stuff (see annotated map, it's pretty much in the middle)

Lockers: they have them. You can also charge your phone in them. I didn't investigate cost cos didn't need them last time.

Loos: very nice, usually have mirrors in, mildly posh. You can pay extra for a Loowatt loo which is fancier but don't think you'd need to

Meeting point: by the entrance to family camping, used for several events

Phones 1
Recharge: see bit on lockers above

Phones 2
Switch off cellular data: you won't need 3G or higher, or wifi, for telephone and text, only for internet. Keeping it mostly switched off will preserve your battery life and data use but you can text or ring your friends. I'm with people who have iPhones so I'll switch off iMessage on mine and suggest similar (Settings > Messages) as sending via iMessage involves data and isn't necessary. Just make sure SMS/MSS is on.

You'll need to switch data back on again to send tweets or instagrams or to share pictures via text. I had excellent 3G and general O2 text / call signal throughout the festival. It struggled a little on the last day (when everyone is packing up and arranging to meet people I suppose) but I didn't really need it then. Also for checking the weather app!

Shop: There is a general store that sells all sorts of useful stuff. Get there early if you need serious stuff like camping gear. They also sold spring onions last time I was there. Don't think they sold many but I like the idea that someone had some with their bacon and sausage campfire barbecue arrangement. (Soft drinks, sun lotion, lighters, stoves, sleeping bags, ground sheets, tent pegs, toothpaste, the usual).

Snacks for Monday: if you're leaving by coach or bus etc on Monday grab some snacks on Sunday from the general store or get some toast or something from someone to carry with you. Everyone's shutting down on Monday and there isn't necessarily time to decamp / pack and fetch food before getting to the pickup point. If you can pack something that won't go off without refrigeration before Mon 5 Aug I recommend it.

Trolleys: can be hired in advance or at the entrance to your camp to help you transport your stuff to wherever you park your tent. From Friday evening you can then hire these trolleys overnight or for the weekend to wheel your small children around in.

Twitter / Instagram: @WildernessHQ for both

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Open letter to Autism Directory about having CEASE Therapy offering homeopaths in their listings

I sent this text on 7 July 2019 via Twitlonger (a third party app which will send out a tweet for you containing a link to where the text is stored). Authorise the app, write your text and it will do the rest. If you begin the text with an @ it will send it as a reply (in which case don't fill in the title bit as that'll ruin the reply format).

As of 18 July 2019 the listings remain.

@AutismDirectory @GWT82 Re:

Please remove listings* for CEASE Therapy from your directory as the treatment cannot help people with autism and is exploitative. The acronym stands for "Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression" (itself a misleading statement).

The treatment involves supplements and vitamins, at much higher doses than recommended by the NHS, and can result in diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Tinus Smits (the inventor of CEASE) celebrated diarrhoea as being some sort of 'evidence' of detoxifixation of vaccines

There have been various efforts to stop misleading claims made by people offering CEASE (and in some non-UK cases to stop CEASE practice) as this treatment does not work and is effectively a form of medical neglect with potential harms to autistic kids.

1. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA, UK) has sent Enforcement Notice to 150 homeopaths offering CEASE treatment to remind them of permitted and non-permitted marketing claims Some of these homeopaths who have failed to comply have been referred to Trading Standards.

2. The Federation of Holistic Therapists (UK) will not accept onto its register any homeopath offering CEASE therapy (or homeoprophylaxis - which means offering homeopathic remedies as a [non-functional] alternative to vaccination) - see Section 3.4 in this PDF and general "not endorsed" info on their page Their register has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA, who report to Parliament).

3. The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) still permits CEASE-offering homeopaths onto their register though the PSA has been working with them over the last two years to try and reduce the risk to the public from this They were re-accredited in 2018/2018 with some restrictions then, controversially, the PSA (re)re-accredited their register in 2018/2019

4. Last week The Good Thinking Society submitted a request for a Judicial Review of the PSA's decision (to re-accredit the SoH) "to keep autistic children safe from homeopaths who offer harmful CEASE therapy" (also

5. Many CEASE practitioners have a listing on an official CEASE website which the Dutch equivalent of the ASA has found to be in breach of advertising standards

6. Naturopaths in British Columbia, Canada are not allowed to advertise or offer CEASE therapy, nor are they allowed to offer anti-vaccination materials or advice, nor claim that vaccination can cause autism

7. Homeopaths are working with vulnerable children without having a DBS check and those who are not members of a Society (registered or otherwise) have no particular oversight for safeguarding. This is effectively a feral treatment (the treatment and advice are often offered via Skype).

In response to the many, many concerns about CEASE and about the regulatory changes some homeopaths are using alternative names (eg EASE for "Easing Autistic Spectrum Expression") or the more general "homeopathic detox" - but cynically the underlying 'treatment' is the same. Please watch out for this.

CEASE Therapy has been around for a while but has only recently become prominent in the last couple of years and as such it wasn't included in the UK's Westminster Commission on Autism publication about Harmful Interventions for Autism

Please do not promote this pointless but harmful treatment to people with autism or parents of autistic children.

*These are the homeopaths listed on your page who offer CEASE, please remove these listings.

• Acorn to Oak Health
• Liesje Cochrane
• Paula Lattimer
• Gill Marshall Homeopathy
• Roberta Young
• Jak Measure
• Dr.Joshi's Center for Autism
• Miranda Parson's Homeopathy
• Alison Roberts Homeopathy

Thank you

I've created a Wikipedia page for the Society of Homeopaths

A few months ago I spotted that the British Homeopathic Association (BHA) and Faculty of Homeopathy (FoH) had Wikipedia pages but the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) didn't and I'd been meaning to create a page to redress that. It's been interesting revisiting some of their activities and with their recent re-accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and the Judicial Review into that decision that has been requested by the Good Thinking Society I thought it was time to get a move on, so here it is: Society of Homeopaths.

The BHA's page begins with a paragraph about when the association was formed and by whom, then highlights that homeopathy is an unevidenced pseudoscience before going on to highlight two examples of BHA's activities. The first is about the quality (apparently not great) of the evidence they submitted to the House of Commons Evidence Check on Homeopathy from 2009, the second is about their failed Judicial Review of NHS England's decision to top funding homeopathy.

I followed the same pattern for the SoH page and so far I have the following information in there.
  • An Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) adjudication against the SoH in 2013 for engaging in false advertising and discouraging people from seeking essential treatments
  • SoH considered legal action in 2016 against the ASA after it wrote to UK homeopaths to remind them of the rules for marketing material, but they were advised against it by their legal advisor
  • In 2017 skeptics* complained to the PSA about the SoH as their members were offering CEASE therapy for autism. The PSA put some obligations on the SoH in place but re-accredited them. One of the obligations was to publish a position statement on CEASE (and monitor risks from member homeopaths offering this).
  • In May this year there was an undercover interview by The Times with a number of homeopaths one of whom was both a member of the SoH and also offering 'homeoprophylaxis' (an alternative to vaccination, which doesn't offer any protection). Rather than bring about disciplinary proceedings the SoH defended the member and said they would complain to the press regulator.
  • As a result of the PSA re-accrediting the SoH (on 1 April no less) the GTS has filed a request for a Judicial Review to be undertaken of that decision, you can read more about that here (and donate to the crowdfunder).
*the term skeptics refers not just to bloggers and activists by doctors, scientists, healthcare professionals and patients who are concerned about health claims.

Next to investigate, write, reference and add are
Obviously I want the Wikipedia article to be reasonably encyclopaedic (kind of the point!) but I don't think it's necessary to itemise every single thing. Here are some things I've not added, or only lightly referenced.
  • I've added the latest (as at Sep 2018) official number of society members (according to PSA's accreditation document) but struggled to make sense of the membership numbers overall so haven't included further information. Their current 'About us' website page has 1,200. In their 2009 submission to the HoC EvCheck they give it as 2,500, in 2013 it was 1,300.
  • Probably I won't add anything about the problem of Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University letting the SoH have their conference and AGM on site despite concerns about legitimising homeopathy, not to mention how the university's autistic students might feel about that happening. 
  • Also there's some stuff about alleged links between a (former) SoH staff member and the long-since debunked MMR-autism controversy but that might require legal considerations, so probably best left out for now.
  • The SoH has today published a news article on the fact that members can add additional therapies to their insurance package. Some SoH members offer a range of services, including homeopathy, but the standard insurance covers them only for homeopathy. Whether or not society members are underinsured might be a bit niche for Wikipedia.
The purpose of this post then is to combine some stuff that's on Wikipedia with stuff that isn't. I think it's important and helpful to have overview information of a topic, particularly where something involves many years of historical skeptic activism. It's easy to forget things and so useful to keep it all together.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Suggestion: [schol-sci-com], a mailing list for scientific and scholarly communication, a companion to @psci_com

Summary: I think we need a "schol-sci-com" mailing list as an accompaniment to the psci-com list, for jobs and events that are scientific but not public-focused.

Or does this list or group already exist and I just don't know about it? Perhaps several do - where are they? It needs to be an email list so that emails can be forwarded and people can sign up very easily. (I'm on LinkedIn in only the vaguest, technical sense, perhaps there are suitable groups there too but they're not very emailable from outside the group... are they?).

About psci-com
Psci-com is a public mailing list for science communicators and those working in or interested in public engagement with science. It currently has just under 4,500 subscribers (who receive emailed posts and can post things to the list themselves) and messages to the list include job adverts, events listings, requests for advice, and general discussion. It's been in existence since at least 1998 (originally created by Wellcome I believe) and I've been its owner since Autumn 2012.

The 'problem'
Regarding the job advert side of things there has been a recent noticeable increase in the number of job adverts coming in to its moderation queue that don't fall within the list's remit of public engagement with science. The list's focus is the intersection between science and the public so posts need to be relevant to both.

Some jobs straddle 'scicomm' and scholarly comms - for example a Health-condition Charity might want a research officer whose role involves liaising with researchers to peer-review the research they fund, so that in itself is not particularly scicomm. But there may be opportunities for the post-holder to give public talks about the research, or to write plain-English summaries, or help answer public enquiries - those sorts of jobs are likely more relevant to the list. [Also charities often have lay members on their research committees]

Each post is considered on its own merits by me, as fairly as I can manage it. Where possible I try and work with the person emailing me to 'bring out' the public engagement-y bits of a job advert. In short, I try and get any job ad posts tailored to the list (much as you'd tailor your CV and cover letter if you were applying).

But for some job ads it's really a struggle to find their inner psci-com and I can't let them through as they're just not relevant. This doesn't make me happy as I know there'll be those on the list who'd welcome the info, but I don't want to make the list an 'anything vaguely sciencey' free for all so I try and keep non-remit posts to a minimum.

A proposed solution
I'd like to propose the creation of a new schol-sci-com type of mailing list that caters for jobs, events, conferences and discussions that relate to the communication of science to scientists in industry and academia, rather than to or with the public. When non-remit jobs come in to psci-com I'd like to be able to say that it's not suitable for the psci-com list but would they mind if I forwarded on to schol-sci-com instead. That doesn't have to be its name though!

While I can set up and run this list alongside psci-com myself it might be something for someone else to do so I'm opening this up publicly as first refusal. There's no pay. I'm not paid to run psci-com but it's interesting and fun and means you get to hear about all sorts of cool stuff. You do actually get a bit of exposure ;) ("Oh you're Jo, I'm on psci-com!" - though so far it's not paid the rent!)

Also I'm really not an expert in scientific publishing, scholarly comms, science business marketing and things like that.

There are lots of platforms available. Jiscmail is the path of least resistance for the 'psci-com sister group' concept, however there's a restriction in that you need an email address to be the group's owner. But I think it should be something where people can send an email to an email address (rather than having to submit posts to LinkedIn or however it works).

A note on terminology
The term science communication is generally restricted to public communications, with the term scientific communication for scholarly type comms. It's not exactly ideal in terms of avoiding confusion though!

Here's what Wikipedia has to say -

Science communication

"Science communication is the practice of informing, educating, sharing wonderment, and raising awareness of science-related topics. Science communicators and audiences are ambiguously defined and the expertise and level of science knowledge varies with each group."

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Homeopathy company in Germany issues lawyerly notices to skeptics for saying homeopathy doesn't work

Yesterday I read a new post from Edzard Ernst highlighting that a homeopathic company in Germany, Hevert Arzneimittel, had sent legal letters to homeopathy skeptics asking them to stop saying that homeopathy doesn't work and to sign an agreement to that effect or they'd have to pay just over 5,000 euros to the company.

A couple of the German skeptics affected have tweeted copies of their letters. Some Twitter apps / platforms have a 'translate' button below tweets, if not you can paste the text into Google Translate and select German to English.

In early May another homeopathy group reported Bernd Kramer to the German press association for his criticisms of homeopathy, which he tweets, and he adds updates to his thread eventually leading to the tweeted legal letter from Hevert shared on 16 May 2019.

On 24 May Natalie Grams (herself a former homeopath) tweeted her own legal letter (English translation), by which time tweeted responses to @HevertNatur's Twitter account had become robustly critical and mocking, and voluminous.

As far as I'm aware people who received the letters had not been critical of the company itself, they'd just pointed out that homeopathy doesn't work.

Given the phenomenon of the Streisand Effect (drawing even more attention to something when seeking to remove some small level of attention already received, see also Verschlimmbesserung) it seems an odd action to take, as lots of people are now sharing info about the legal action. As a consequence they are now criticising the company as well as reiterating that homeopathy does not work with the rallying cry "Homöopathie wirkt nicht über den Placebo-Effekt hinaus" or "Homeopathy does not work beyond the placebo effect".

Today Hevert has published a statement on its Facebook page (though not mentioned at time of writing on its Twitter page) explaining the action it has taken in trying to prevent criticism of homeopathy in Germany. It's interesting to note that they specifically acknowledge the effectiveness of UK skeptics^ in getting legal restrictions introduced on homeopathy* in Britain, which followed from commentary that was critical about homeopathy (a pattern they are hoping to avoid occurring in Germany). Again the (over 200) comments on the page are now critical of the company's actions and asking for evidence that homeopathy is more effective than placebo.

The comments on Edzard's post are interesting and helpful and put things into context in terms of German law. Commenter Joseph Kuhn suggests that the company may be able to assume that, legally, authorised homeopathic products are considered effective: "The German law on drugs assumes efficacy for authorised homeopathic remedies (remedies with an indication)" and so perhaps it's not unreasonable to expect people to respect that assessment.

Eppur (non) si muove, however.

^this includes scientists, doctors, patients - not just bloggers
*For example homeopathy has largely been removed from the NHS and is no longer allowed as a first line treatment by vets. There's also been a tightening of permitted marketing claims and much greater scrutiny of them.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

On the overreach of homeopaths and why homeopathy now finds itself in difficulty

There's a scene in Family Guy where Peter (the dad) asks to see the newspaper (Brian the family dog is reading it) and expresses surprise at the lack of mention of a certain ornithological piece. As Brian starts to ask Peter what he means Stewie (the baby) tries to stop him, but too late, Peter starts singing Surfin' Bird.

I can't help wondering if my poor friends think the same whenever homeopathy is mentioned in my earshot ;)

To most people homeopathy is a harmless pastime, you feel a bit under the weather, you take a pill 'for' it (or 'for' you - it's never entirely clear), you get better. If asked they might ascribe the getting better to the homeopathy and ignore the possibility that they'd have got better anyway. Friends of skeptics probably wonder why we get so exercised about this. Here's why.

If homeopaths and homeopathy stuck to "helping people feel a bit better when they're under the weather" - let's call that Moderate Homeopathy - I'd expect you'd not hear much of a peep from doctors, nurses, vets, scientists, patients, skeptic activists and anyone who's ever given a sideways look at a homeopath opining that they can cure or prevent a serious disease - let's call that Extremist Homeopathy.

As is often the case Extremist Homeopathy flourishes in the vacuum of Moderate Homeopathy's utter failure to call it out. It's incredibly rare to hear a homeopath correct or criticise another homeopath's ideas or pronouncements and I can only think of one example (if you know of others please let me know). Peter Fisher (a doctor and homeopath who sadly died last year in a cycling accident in London) strongly criticised those homeopaths who were claiming that homeoprophylaxis (the preventive wing of homeopathy) could stop people from getting malaria if they took homeopathic vaccinations or pills. It can't. He was pretty cross about them having said this (as part of a BBC undercover operation(1)) because it was a harmful thing to say (people could become very ill) - and of course it did the reputation of homeopathy no favours at all.
"I'm very angry about it because people are going to get malaria - there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice." - note, a senior homeopath said that homeopathy could not prevent malaria - it's not just skeptics who said that.
Since 2006 several homeopaths (who would probably consider themselves Moderate) have been sanctioned by the Advertising Standards Authority for making claims that homeopathy can help people with asthma, fertility problems, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, menopause and so on. Unfortunately this is veering into Extremist Homeopathy territory as homeopathy cannot help with any of these. The quality of evidence is not in homeopathy's favour though no-one should deny that people might feel better after talking with a kindly homeopath who is able (thanks to charging for it) to spend time listening to the person and make them feel supported.

The most-obviously Extremist Homeopaths are now offering homeopathy to treat or prevent autism. The mistaken notion that vaccination can lead to autism has led to a three-pronged approach to try and prevent or reverse this - in short a money-making scam which can leave children unvaccinated or harmed by ridiculous protocols.

1. Tell the parent not to vaccinate the child (or, more accurate, create a culture of fear in which parents become reluctant to vaccinate and provide a 'safe haven' for them to come to you) and offer them homeoprophylaxis - a non-existent homeopathic alternative to vaccination.
2. For parents who have vaccinated and are now worried about future autism, offer them a Homeopathic Detox Therapy package where the imagined bad effects of vaccination can be undone with homeopathy.
3. Where a child has autism, imply that it was caused by vaccination or other 'toxins' and that homeopathy and high-dose supplements ('CEASE therapy') can now detox the child and reverse autism(2). There is no requirement (and no-one even to require it) for these homeopaths to be DBS (formerly CRB) checked and no safeguarding of children.

These types of claims, several made by members of the Society of Homeopaths, have made critics of homeopathy sit up and take particular notice and act on their concerns.

Homeopaths seem to believe that they should be in charge of their own regulation (which is a privilege not a right) but until they collectively stop putting people's health at risk their claims are always going to be closely scrutinised by the same people who've gradually helped to cause the public mood to shift away from seeing homeopathy as being harmless or benign.

Homeopaths will not listen to advice from skeptics but in case this can reach any of them here's my attempt nonetheless at telling homeopaths why they now find themselves in defensive-mode and what I think they need to do:

Homeopathy is its own worst enemy. It has massively overreached in its claims. Doing so means skeptics* have taken notice and acted coherently to try address it. Success has been slow going but is very definitely heading in that direction. The evidence is not in favour of homeopathy so when doctors and pressure groups ask the NHS to defund it they are knocking at an open door. Claiming to cure or prevent diseases while being unable to do so is harmful (directly and indirectly) and until homeopaths have the courage to call out other homeopaths over this you can probably expect greater scrutiny, tighter regulation and more unfavourable news articles.  Any annoyance you feel at skeptics for curtailing your claims and activities is because you've failed to regulate yourselves and you put people at potential risk from active or passive harms.

There was probably a case to be made for homeopathy on the NHS, but homepaths blew it by exploiting its presence on the NHS as a cover for more harmful notions. It is true that doctors are not always able to help patients and some doctors had said they found it useful to be able to refer those patients to what could have been just a harmless distraction (the patient would still be under proper medical care and in little danger from having no real treatment if monitored). Losing them to private homeopaths risks losing that oversight and puts patients at risk from dangerous ideas and bad advice.

If homeopaths had stuck to offering people support without making wild claims I probably wouldn't have written a single blog post or tweet, or written to regulators (I've been in touch with the Advertising Standards Authority, three different Trading Standards branches, Professional Standards Authority in the UK as well as regulators in Ireland and the US). I'd not have signed or shared petitions or lent my voice to calls for homeopathy to be defunded by the NHS (successful) by insurance companies (partially successful) or removed as a first line treatment for vets (successful), and I'd not have welcomed the attitudinal change among newspaper editors and TV producers in several countries which means articles and programmes now actively criticise the dangerous claims made, instead of advertising homeopathy clinics as they used to (still do, but to a lesser extent).

*Not just bloggers like me but doctors, nurses, vets, scientists, angry patients, health activists and skeptic bloggers.

(1) Malaria advice 'risks lives' (BBC News) 13 July 2006
(2) Homeopaths ‘treat’ autistic children with rabid dog saliva (The Times) 14 April 2019

See also
How homeopaths push useless alternatives to crucial vaccines (The Times) 4 May 2019

The Times view on homeopathic treatments: Dangerous Quackery (The Times) 4 May 2019
Homeopathic alternatives to the measles vaccine pose a risk to public health

Friday, 26 April 2019

Slightly strange ICC Cricket emails from ExAccess Group

Seeing Action Fraud's tweet just now "Looking for tickets to the Men's Cricket World Cup? They can only be purchased directly from the official ticket website: Tickets for sale on other platforms may not be genuine and could leave you out of pocket" reminded me that I'd meant to post something about emails I received on the topic a few weeks ago.

I've no interest in cricket (or watching sport generally) and wouldn't use my work email address to sign up to anything like that so was a bit surprised to get this email on 8 March 2019.

"Subject: England vs Australia - ICC Cricket World Cup - Last Table

Good afternoon,

I have a note to keep you posted on any Cricket deals that come up and I was just wondering on your plans for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

We've just had a private table for 10 guests with full hospitality come in for the sold out England  vs Australia fixture taking place at Lords on Tuesday 25th June 2019.

We can offer you this private table for just £599 per person (+VAT).

Package includes:

  • A Q&A session with former international cricketers
  • Unique views of the players’ practice area
  • Breakfast, three-course lunch and afternoon tea
  • Complimentary drinks, including Champagne
  • Lower Mound Stand or Lower Grand Stand seats (Category 1)
  • Match day programme

Sample itinerary:
  • 9.00am Gates open, breakfast is served
  • 10.30am Play starts
  • 2.00pm Three-course lunch with selected fine wines and coffee
  • 2.45pm Play resumes
  • 6.15pm Scheduled close of play
  • 6.45pm Bar closes
  • 7.15pm Nursery Pavilion closes, guests depart

Demand for hospitality at the World Cup has been unprecedented, with only a limited number of packages remaining available, so if you have an interest please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,"

The email ended with a name, phone number and link to the Exclusive Access Group website which you'll need to copy, paste and delete the ^ to visit: www^.exaccess^group.^

I asked why I'd been emailed as I'd never signed up and didn't hear back. Then I received an identical email on 18 March 2019 from another person working there. At which point I played along, indicated my interest and - of course - someone got back to me. They didn't know how my work adress had been added to their database but eventually promised it would be removed, though it took several emails until 10 April 2019. I also tried the phone number (020 7157 9511) but no-one answered. Perhaps they are a genuine company but it was an odd series of exchanges and when buying sports tickets I'd be extra cautious about where you buy them from.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Professional Standards Authority has re-accredited the Society of Homeopaths - CEASE therapy for autism

Reaccreditation document (PDF)

This one is a little surprising. A number of us have been expressing concern to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) about the response by the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) to those of their members who are offering "CEASE" therapy for autism.

The SoH keeps a register of its 997 members (at Sep 2018, all of whom are allowed to use the term RSHom in their marketing material) and the PSA accredits a variety of society registers, including SoH's. SoH therefore runs an Accredited Register (AR) of homeopaths, though accreditation isn't meant to imply that homeopathy works.

Last year the PSA re-accredited the SoH with some provisos that the society would need to satisfy some additional monitoring requirements about those of their members offering CEASE.

Yestesrday the PSA published the latest accreditation and I've not read it all yet but wanted to add something here about it as I've written several times on this topic.

The 21 page PDF from the PSA is here - Society of Homeopaths Annual Review 2018

What surprised me is that the PSA highlighted a problem with members of an AR offering any treatment (whether real or bogus) that claims to treat a protected characteristic such as autism. The SoH still has members offering this, with a range of claims.

Thanks to @UKHomeopathyReg for alerting me.

Also of interest and relevance is that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has referred five homeopaths (I don't know if any of them are SoH members, no reasons to assume that any are) to Trading Standards for further investigation. Last year the ASA sent an Enforcement Notice to 150 UK homeopaths who were making misleading claims to treat or cure autism. Homeopaths should not write CEASE out in full (it stands for Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) as the full name is an implied health claim, which is misleading.

Why so-called CEASE Therapy claims to 'cure' autism really have to stop - Guy Parker, CEO ASA

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Open air cinema screenings in London 2019

Last updated: 13 April 2019

Every year I get terribly excited at the prospect of open air movies in London and trawl the various listings, trying to capture them all. It's almost impossible to succeed because there are so many (hooray!). If you know of one I've not listed please let me know @JoBrodie on Twitter.

For the last couple of years I've made the list as a Google Spreadsheet as it's easy to sort and manipulate, though not very searchable on Google and other search engines so I do an additional blog post. I miss doing it on Storify but it closed.

The current list lives at Open air cinema screenings in London 2019 and will be updated throughout the year; the 'season' generally runs from late April to late September. There are free screenings too, some during the daytime (using screens unaffected by bright sunlight) and some screenings are part of other events.

Table of Contents
1. General advice
2. List of films so far
3. List of venues so far
4. Previously...

1. General advice - think about bringing the following
Tickets! Make sure you print in advance, or have the e-ticket visible on your device - and make sure you know where the venue actually is (!)
Something warm to wear (even if it's boiling hot in the day it can be surprisingly cool when sitting outside at 10pm)
Something to sit on (plastic bag as a minimum, blanket or cushion better) as you could be sitting on damp grass or hard stone / concrete or pavement
- Pop Up Screens let you bring camping chairs but many other venues don't (some venues already have seating) - check
• Something to avoid rain (umbrellas are generally a bit of a no-no, I'd recommend rain hat or one of those 'pac a mac' things)
• Something to eat and drink and something to eat it off / drink it out of (most films are in public spaces so you can bring your own picnic, check though as venues like Syon Park and Alexandra Palace might not, always check the website's FAQ) - don't forget a bottle opener if you need one
• A plastic bag to take away rubbish / and for sitting on grass
• Loo roll (public toilets being as they are...)

2. List of films so far
10 Things I Hate About You
50 First Dates
A Star is Born
An American Werewolf in London
Back to the Future
Beauty and the Beast
Bend It Like Beckham
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
Bohemian Rhapsody (sing-along)
Bridget Jones' Diary
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Crazy Rich Asians
Cruel Intentions
Dirty Dancing
ET The Extra-Terrestrial
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Finding Dory
First Man
Forrest Gump
Game of Thrones (TV)
Grease (sing-along)
Green Book
Highway Rat
Jurassic Park
Legally Blonde
Leon: The Professional
Les Miserables
Lost in Translation
Love, Simon
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins Returns (sing-along)
Mean Girls
Monty Python's Life of Brian
Moulin Rouge!
Notting Hill
Pretty Woman
Pulp Fiction
Raging Bull
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Romeo + Juliet
Shakespeare in Love
She's All That
Some Like It Hot
Spice World
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Stan & Ollie
The Big Lebowski
The Breakfast Club
The Devil Wears Prada
The Favourite
The Godfather
The Greatest Showman
The Gruffalo
The Incredibles 2
The Jungle Book
The Lego Movie 2
The Little Mermaid
The Lost Boys
The Meg
The Notebook
The Young Victoria
Top Gun
True Romance
Withnail and I
Carmen (opera)
The Marriage of Figaro (opera)
Romeo and Juliet (opera)
Angora Love (Laurel & Hardy)
You’re Darn Tootin’ (Laurel & Hardy)

3. List of venues so far
Alexandra Palace
Arena Square (Wembley Park)
Battersea Park  
Bussey Building (Peckham)
Chiswick House and Gardens
Crystal Palace Park
Danson House (Bexley)
Dulwich Park  
Fulham Palace  
General Gordon Square (Woolwich)
Hampton Court Palace
Horse Hospital Stables Market (Camden)
Kensington Palace  
Kenwood House (Hampstead)
Lyric Square (Hammersmith)
Merchant Square: The Lawn (Paddington)
Morden Hall Park  
Old Royal Naval College (Greenwich)
Opera Holland Park  
Queen of Hoxton (Shoreditch)
RAF Museum London (Hendon)
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre  
Roof East (Stratford)
Station Square (Herne Hill)
The Scoop (London Bridge City)
Tooting Common  
Trafalgar Square  
Victoria Embankment Gardens (Embankment)
Victoria Tower Gardens (Westminster)
Wandsworth Park  
Westminster Abbey  
White City (Shepherd's Bush)
Wimbledon Park

4. Previously...   

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Google could warn people who are searching for "how to buy bitcoin" about scams like this email

I've just received another one of those 'warning' scam emails telling me that some malware has been added to my computer to monitor my activity and a video of me is to be sent to all my contacts unless I pay up. It's twaddle.

These emails all ask for payment in bitcoin and include a search suggestion to find out how to do that as presumably most people have no idea (I don't). I ran the suggested search for "how to buy bitcoin" and was a bit disappointed that there wasn't a warning from Google to let people know that this search is often related to scams.


Subject: Fwd: ❗ ATTENTION! You are screwed now Jo Brodie...

Do I have your attention?
You are really screwed now and you better read this... !

Your device was recently infected with a software I developed,
and now you have a problem you need to solve,
because it has gone too far..

You probably noticed your device is acting strangely lately.
That's because you downloaded a nasty software I created
while you were browsing the Ƿornographic website...

The software automatically:
1) Started your Ƈamera and begun recoding you,
uploading the footage to my server...
2) Recording your device screen
3) Copied all your contact lists from mail program, facebook
and your device chain
4) Started logging what you write

The problem is that it has cought you while you have been
ʍasturbating.. and I didn't plan to see that.. but I did.

I now have the Jo Brodie.mp4 file with you
ʍasturbating to this hardcore stuff... ugly!! :((

Let me get straight to the point.

If you do not do what I ask you now, I will upload this
ugly video file with you ... and the stuff you were watching
to several video upload sites and I will send the links
to all your friends, family members and associates.

I am sure they will not like what they will see and I am
also sure you don't want me to do that, right ?

So do you want me to uninstall the nasty software from
your device and stop recording you?
Do you want me to forget about this whole issue??

I think 2,000 USD is a fair price for my silence. I know you
can handle to send me this money - and it is enough for
me to get lost. So how do you send the cash?? Bitcoin.

I checked right now and 1 Bitcoin is worth 4,960 bucks.

Send exactly 0.409482 BTC to my Bitcoin wallet.

This is my Bitcoin wallet address:

If you do not know how to send cash using bitcoin,
type 'how to buy bitcoin' in google. There's plenty
of guides.

Ok.. so what if you decide not to pay ?
Well if you want to test my patience - go on.
I will destroy your social life, you can count on that.

You think that visiting Police is a good idea ? Nope.
I don't live in your country and I know how to stay
Anonymous. I will send the compromising video to
everyone you know!

Just send me the 2,000 USD and we forget about
the whole thing. I have family to feed too.

Send 2,000 USD worth of bitcoin to this address:

0.409482 BTC
to this address:


(copy and paste it - it's cAsE sensitive)

After you send the money to my wallet (exact
amount!) - I will see it and I will remove the video
and deactivate the rec software.

I give you 5 days only to send the transfer..

The time starts ticking after you open this letter
(I included a pixel in this message and I will
know when you read it).

Don't try to contact me - I am using an untracable
email to deliver this message to you.

I am waiting for your cash.
And don't forget the shame if you ignore me.


Friday, 22 March 2019

CEASE Therapy for autism in the UK news today - it doesn't treat or cure autism

1. Listen
The BBC will run a piece* early this afternoon on Radio 4's You and Yours about a bogus treatment for autism, called CEASE Therapy aka 'Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression'.

Listen to it on BBC Radio 4 from 12.15pm today Friday 22 March 2019, or catch up later

Read You and Yours' post about the story "Advertising watchdog rules fake autism 'cure' adverts must stop"

CEASE rests on the false idea that vaccination causes autism and uses homeopathy and supplements to try and "detox" children from the imagined negative effects of the vaccines. Not only is it nonsense it's also harmful and medically neglectful (encourages diarrhoea as a process to eliminate toxins),  a safeguarding concern (vulnerable children and families involved) and offensive (implying that autism should be eliminated). There is no need for it, and it's great that awareness is being raised.

2. Watch
The BBC also referenced CEASE on their Breakfast television show. You can watch it again on iPlayer (you may need to register) until tomorrow (Saturday, at 9.15am), from 19 minutes into the programme (6.18am on the programme itself).

3. ASA
The Advertising Standards Authority's CEO Guy Parker published a blog post today about the action the ASA has been taking against homeopaths who are offering CEASE therapy and who are referencing it in relation to autism. Last year the ASA sent out an Enforcement Notice to 150 CEASE homeopaths pointing out the problems with offering the therapy, this notice has also been published today. Five homeopaths have been referred to Trading Standards but not yet added to their Referrals page.

Why so-called CEASE Therapy claims to 'cure' autism really have to stop

Metro have also picked up the story.
Guardian too.

The ASA have previously adjudicated against two practitioners offering CEASE therapy - Teddington Homeopathy
and Elle Fox (trading as Bubbling Life).

4. SoH / PSA
The Society of Homeopaths is one of several membership societies for homeopaths but is the only one regulated by the Professional Standards Authority. SoH members are already required to adhere to ASA's guidelines but last year the PSA had to step in and address problems with some members' claims about CEASE.

The response by the SoH to the ASA's action has been described as "staggeringly inadequate" because there have been "discussions taking place on how the therapy might be renamed" instead of addressing the underlying nonsense. This merely "(e)ncourages CEASE quacks to continue as before, while hiding from ASA." 

Today (and over the weekend) Oxford University's Lady Margaret Hall is hosting the SoH's AGM and conference (on fertility and pregnancy).

5. See also
CEASE Therapy on Wikipedia
• Westminster Autism Commission (PDF) on other harmful interventions on autism (CEASE not included)

*"We report on what's being done to stop a bogus treatment which claims to cure autism in children. The Advertising Standards Authority has told You & Yours it’s served enforcement notices on 150 homeopaths who offer so-called CEASE therapy. The treatment claims to purge heavy metals, vaccines and antibiotics from a child’s system. The National Autistic Society says there's no cure for autism and it's wrong to claim it can be cured. We speak to a mother who tried the treatment for several months and now regrets it. The Society of Homeopaths say there are discussions taking place on how the therapy might be renamed to make claims aren't made that can't then be substantiated."