The fox would be delighted to guard the hen house

John Tozzi at Bloomberg is also on the homeopathy story.

On a recent afternoon in midtown Manhattan, I popped into a chain drug store and picked up some $12 sleep tablets whose label promises both “courage and peace of mind” and “focus when ungrounded.” I also got a $17 tube of cream offering “rapid, soothing relief of pain” from conditions as varied as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and bug bites. Both products sat on shelves alongside familiar drugs such as Tylenol and Claritin, which regulators have carefully scrutinized for safety and effectiveness. The half- dozen products I bought—labelled as “homeopathic”—aren’t vetted for either.

Tablets that give you courage and peace of mind – that’s funny. I suppose it wouldn’t have sounded spiritual enough to say “calms you the fuck down” – not that it does that either. [Read more…]

It’s a tough question

NPR covers the homeopathy issue in its usual insouciant way. It starts with a human interest story about a practitioner named Anthony Aurigemma in Bethesda (handy for NPR).

Aurigemma went to medical school and practiced as a regular doctor before switching to homeopathy more than 30 years ago. He says he got disillusioned by mainstream medicine because of the side effects caused by many drugs. “I don’t reject conventional medicine. I use it when I have to,” Aurigemma says.

Throughout his career, homeopathy has been regulated differently from mainstream medicine.

In 1988, the Food and Drug Administration decided not to require homeopathic remedies to go through the same drug-approval process as standard medical treatments. Now the FDA isrevisiting that decision. It will hold two days of hearings this week to decide whether homeopathic remedies should have to be proven safe and effective.

[Read more…]

Psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue

Salty Current has an updated psychiatry-skepticism-social justice reading list on her eponymous blog. That’s a subject I know little about, so I appreciate having the list.

Back in 2012, I wrote about why psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue and created a short list of reading suggestions for approaching psychiatry from these perspectives. The impending release later this week of Psychiatry Under the Influence has nudged me to update it.

Much has changed since 2012, and all of the developments point to the urgency of critically examining and speaking out about psychiatry and psychopharmaceuticals. Just prior to the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, the NIMH announced that it would no longer use psychiatric diagnoses, acknowledging that they’re not scientifically valid,* which was then publicly admitted (again) by the leaders of the APA. Studies completed over the past three years have provided more evidence of the ineffectiveness andharms of psychiatric drugs, and others have demonstrated the profound psychological effectsof marginalization and socioeconomic trauma. Professional movements challenging biopsychiatry and its drugs have continued to grow.

Today, many continue desperately to try to sell the myths about brain diseases and disorders and chemical imbalances, at the same time as others have taken to claiming astonishingly that reputable psychiatrists never made such claims at all. Countless people, including children, have had their rights violated and been injured or killed by psychiatric drugs since 2012, while pharma has reaped the profits and its representatives in psychiatry continue to operate with impunity.** Tragically, the skeptical community continues to exclude and attempt to silence critical perspectiveswhile promoting psychiatric myths. I have no doubt that they believe their arguments and recommendations to be compassionate and helpful, but genuinely helpful approaches should be based in reality and not pseudoscience.

Head over there to get the list.

One book

Hillary Clinton said something very startling in an interview for the New York Times last June.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.

At the risk of appearing predictable, that’s an astonishingly fatuous thing to say. She must be pandering, but it’s fatuous anyway. Mind you it’s also a fatuous question, so maybe it’s forgivable to give a fatuous answer…but honestly.

A book for the global feminist struggle

Denise Balkissoon at the Globe and Mail talks to Mona Eltahawy.

In Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, she dismantles what she calls the “trifecta of oppression” working against Arab women: the state, the street and the home, which “work together for their own benefit by keeping girls and women down.”

She takes the reader to Jordan, where a man can escape a rape charge by marrying his victim; to Egypt, where unending street harassment leads families to impose curfews on their daughters; and to Lebanon, which recently decriminalized marital rape.

[Read more…]

Cartoons that are detrimental to public order

Kate Mayberry at Al Jazeera talks to the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar.

Zulkiflee Sm Anwar Ulhaque, better known by his pen name of Zunar, is one of Malaysia’s most acerbic and controversial cartoonists, picking apart the government in a country where deference to those in power has long been the norm.

Well let’s get real – deference to those in power has long been the norm everywhere, or almost everywhere. What’s the point of power if you can’t use it to make underlings deferential?! It’s not some quaint eccentricity of Malaysia to make deference to those in power a norm. But over the past couple of centuries that norm has had a rival norm of egalitarianism to deal with, and as communication has become more and more global and instantaneous, it has become every more difficult to confine that genie to the bottle. [Read more…]

Help them shorten the distance

Via A Mighty Girl

At the Paris Marathon last Sunday, Siabatou Sanneh of Gambia stood out from the other racers — in addition to her race number, she wore traditional Gambian garb and carried 45 pounds of water on her head. Sanneh, who had never left her home country before, participated in the marathon as part of an effort to raise awareness of the difficulties African women face in accessing clean water. While she walked the race, she also wore a sign that read: “In Africa, women travel this distance everyday to get potable water. Help us shorten the distance.” [Read more…]

Still punishing the harlots

Here’s something I didn’t know about Israel, via Failed Messiah:

Does Israel really have religious freedom?

Many observers believe it does not, and the country’s secular High Court of Justice showed again last week that those observers are correct when it ruled that official state rabbinical courts can blacklist women – but not men – they believe have committed adultery, putting their names on secret lists that  prevent them from marrying ‘pure’ Jews of unblemished linage and effectively preventing them from marrying at all. [Read more…]

The smugglers are capitalizing on the migrants’ desperation

More on that mass drowning in the Mediterranean last night, from the CBC.

Italian prosecutors said a Bangladeshi survivor flown to Sicily for treatment told them 950 people were aboard, including hundreds who had been locked in the hold by smugglers. Earlier, authorities said a survivor told them 700 migrants were on board.

It wasn’t immediately clear if they were referring to the same survivor, and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said authorities were “not in a position to confirm or verify” the death toll.

[Read more…]

A battle between faith and blasphemy, between truth and falsehood

Daesh is at it again, apparently. (I wouldn’t want Daesh suing me for defamation, now would I.) The Washington Post reports that they claim to have killed two groups of Christians.

Islamic State militants in Libya shot and beheaded two groups of Ethiopian Christians, a video purportedly from the extremists showed Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

The new 29-minute video showing captured Ethiopian Christians starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations and includes scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. [Read more…]