The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients: Battling Burzynski’s Dangerous BS

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2013

Sometimes pseudoscience is stupid, sometimes it is annoying, sometimes it hurts our educational institutions… and sometimes it is outright frakking deadly.  Case in point, medical frauds who perpetuate nonsense to vulnerable, desperate people; such as when quacks push supposed “cures for cancer” which are anything but or have yet to be proven, such as in the case of Stanislaw Burzynski and his “cancer clinic”.  In such situations, it is literally a matter of life and death because when cancer patients delay reliable medical treatments in favor of pseudoscientific B.S. the delay can cost them their lives.  Skeptic James Randi helps to break it down in more detail here:

The Randi Show – The Burzynski Clinic and Cancer Quacks

But rather than curse the darkness, let us instead light a candle… 🙂

I am happy to announce that the Skeptical Teacher will be joining a coalition of skeptical activists called the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients (SPCP).  The Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients is a grassroots group devoted to the promotion of promising, ethical, and transparent cancer research. For more about this project and the group sponsoring it, visit or visit their Facebook page.  Also, please consider donating either some of your time  by promoting the cause (if you have a blog or media contacts) and/or your money to the legitimate scientific research of cancer.

Some more background and info on Burzynski:

*Dr. David Gorski has a new Science-Based Medicine post out as of this past Monday on Burzynski’s antineoplastons treatment. Science-Based Medicine » Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s antineoplastons versus patients.

*Burzynski gets warning from FDA: Stop promoting your treatment as “safe” and “effective”

The U.S. FDA has sent a letter to the Burzynski Research Institute to cease claiming that their brain tumor treatment, antineoplastons, are safe and/or effective for the purposed for which they are being investigated. In other words, Burzynski’s claims on websites and promotional materials that this treatment WORKS is a violation because supposed to be testing that!

* Supporters often use patient anecdotes to sell his unproven treatments at the Burzynski Patient Group. We have started curating a collection of patient stories at The OTHER Burzynski Patient Group, the ones Burzynski would rather you not hear. Also, these stories can be exported to your own website IN THEIR ENTIRETY via the storify site they were created on. Free content, people. Just sayin’.

*Orac, an oncologist, cancer researcher, and patient advocate, has written extensively about Burzynski at Respectful Insolence.

*Learn the whole story at Josephine Jones’s Blog. She has kept a comprehensive list of content about Burzynski, his clinic, and his chemotherapy on the web. An invaluable resource!

*You might be interested that the EMPLOYER of one of our members (of SPCP) was recently contacted by one of Burzynski’s misguided supporters.

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

An Honest Liar – The Story of James “The Amazing One” Randi

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 18, 2012

One of my biggest skeptical heroes is James Randi.  He is a small man with a big laugh, an even bigger heart, and an even bigger love for the pursuit of skeptical analysis into all manner of paranormal, mystical, or odd-ball claims.  For Randi, no questions are off limits and skepticism knows no bounds; he and his legacy are one of the primary reasons why I am here, doing what I do on this blog and in my daily life as a skeptic and teacher, and I know his work (through the James Randi Educational Foundation) has reached and inspired countless others.  Now there is a movie being made about him, called “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story”.

Watch the trailer, pass it on to your friends (even if they aren’t card-carrying skeptics), and consider helping to get this film made.  As is stated early in the trailer, “This is a film about trickery, fraud, about lies…” 🙂

James Randi – An Honest Liar

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Placebo Band Bracelets and Opportunity for Easy Skeptical Activism

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 14, 2011

I have written before on this blog about the scam called Power-Balance, and how that company has raked in huge gobs of cash by essentially lying to its customers.  In fact, in Australia the company has basically been banned for false advertising, and fortunately more and more people are cluing in to this nonsense here in the United States.  But to help along everyone’s critical thinking skills as well as expose the Power-Balance for the scam that it is, I want to pass along to you a wonderful opportunity to engage in some easy and fun skeptical activism.  Dear reader, I give you the Placebo Band!

The Placebo Band: image courtesy of SkepticBros

There are two outlets for the Placebo Band, the original one at SkepticBros out of Australia and a new North American affiliate at the Placebo Band Store.  In addition, you can find testimonials on the power of  the Placebo Band, as well as instructions on how to educate your friends on how the whole thing works (hint: think placebo effect, hence the name 😉 )

For example, here’s a real* testimonial on the power of the Placebo Band.  Order yours today!!!

*And by “real”, I mean totally fake 🙂

Posted in humor, medical woo, physics denial/woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Take Action in Fake Bomb Detector Scandal!

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 30, 2011

A bit over a year ago, I blogged – in a post titled Skepticism Matters – Bomb Dowsing Pseudoscience in Iraq – about a scandal concerning the sale of fake bomb detectors to various governments (including in Iraq).  As outlined at that post, these bogus detectors (based off of thoroughly debunked dowsing techniques) have resulted in the deaths of many people because – surprise! – they don’t work. Fortunately, some of the charlatans selling these fake bomb detectors are in big trouble, but unfortunately there is much more that can be done.

Well, now there is a movement afoot to take the investigation & prosecution of these pseudoscientific charlatans to the next level.  I strongly encourage you to read the following petition, read the related links documenting this criminal activity, and sign & pass it on…


From the early 1990s to now, commencing with James Randi and the Quadro Tracker, and now comprising a huge Worldwide network, the fight has been on to try to eliminate the trade in fake detectors which claim to be able to find everything from explosives, to drugs, to people, to gold deposits, to almost anything.

The picture illustrates the end of the line of this disgusting trade in fraudulent hope. Further the terrible waste of money on what are effectively dowsing rods dressed up as fancy gadgets, with absolutely 0 possible working principle.

We know of a latest very reasonable estimate from various sources including credible news reports and public documents of $200 -250 million dollars of sales around the World.

Plus the many hundreds if not thousands of deaths caused by their inevitable failure, because every single one of these devices is totally useless, they are still on sale, including in the U.S. Germany, India, China, and many other locations around the World.

The campaign has made great progress in the last year, and we are hopeful of much more UK action soon. However, we want to see concerted Political action to at least shut down the International aspect of this scam.

If you want to research further please see blogs at:

Or the forum threads at

We now need a final push to major Westen Governments to get an effective ban in place. What we want is more cross-border co-operation, especially to recover as much of the money as possible and put it to better use e.g. Schools and Hospitals!

We will petition;

U.S.A. for pursuit of Charles Chistensen and his H3Tec

Germany for pursuit of Unival, David Vollmar, Frank Trier and the HEDD1 (formerly Sniffex Europe/ SNiffex Plus)

Gary Bolton, Global Technical, UK GT200

John Wyatt, SDS Group UK, HEDD1

General Pierre Hadji Georgiou, ProSec. Lebanon, ADE651

Stelian Ilie, Mira Telecom Romania, ADE651,

Simon Sherrard, ComsTrac UK, Alpha6

Yuri Markov, Sniffex ‘inventor’ Bulgaria,

Horizon Group India, GT200

Malcolm Roe, Sniffex into Europe

Sam Tree, Sniffex/Mole/GT200 into Europe

Agents in Thailand, Mexico, and elsewhere who have facilitated this trade through bribery and corruption. Other sales have been to Kenya, Niger, Hong Kong etc.

We have documented evidence of sales in 30 countries and possibly 10+ more

This is a winnable one. We already have ADE651 principal under Police Bail in UK, General Al Jabiri arrested in Iraq for ADE651 corruption, Thailand have carried out proper testing on Alpha 6, GT200, and HEDD 1, with all failing (much pressure was required on Government to get past the bribe takers!), action by private companies to sever ties with participants, major media investigations by NYT, BBC Newsnight and many others across the World; Internet full of anti information on almost any relevant search possible; widespread network of blogs, sites and campaigners from small beginnings.

Embarassing and calling to account the perpetrators and the officials who were fooled and or bribed in this process.

We ask that you add your name to this worthy cause and we will deliver the petition to multiple sources including media at the end of June  if we have a respectable number. How about one for every dollar spent! Or is that a bit much to ask? May be one for every life damaged. Perhaps 10,000+

Hope you agree a good cause and as many as possible please!!! Thanks so much!

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Japanese “Nuclear Fallout Map” is a FAKE!!!

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2011

[**Update (3-16-11): There also appears to be a fake text message warning people of “fallout” coming their way.  Just an FYI, folks.]

You know, over the weekend when I was doing a bunch of research for my last blog post – Know Nukes: The Japanese Earthquake & Anti-Nuclear Hysteria – I briefly ran across an image about the supposed “fallout pattern” from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.  I thought, “What a bunch of bullshit” and then moved on; not until later did I think that we’d probably be seeing that image again in the context of a hysterical, ranting chain email.  And I was right – here it is…

This is a completely, 100% bogus map, as is the email associated with it! As the fine researchers at have discovered, it has no association with the Australian Radiation Services, and any implication by the map that there will be nuclear fallout, a large release of radiation, or any kind of far-reaching health/environmental damage is nothing more than rank fear-mongering.

I don’t know what kind of asshole puts something like this image out there at a time like this, but I don’t find this funny in the least.  Most especially at times such as these, what we really need is to slow down, act calmly & coolly, and think about things in as rational manner as possible.  Freaking out, going hysterical, and blindly buying into & passing along garbage such as this “map” is only going to make a bad situation far, far worse.

[**Update (3-17-11): On the question of the Fukushima site and radiation, if you want to get more regular, reliable updates, I suggest using the World Nuclear News website – here’s more from that site in a recent update…

… peaking at 400 millisieverts per hour (40,000 mrem/hour) on the inland side of unit 3, and 100 millisieverts per hour (10,000 mrem/hour) on the inland side of unit 4. At the highest exposure rate, a nuclear worker or soldier could remain in the area for less than 40 minutes before leaving the site, unable to return. …

… Despite high levels of radiation close to the units, levels detected at the edge of the power plant site have been steadily decreasing.

17 March, 4.00pm  — 0.64 millisieverts per hour (64 mrem/hour)

17 March, 9.00am — 1.47 millisieverts per hour (147 mrem/hour)

16 March, 7.00pm — 1.93 millisieverts per hour (193 mrem/hour)

16 March, 12.30pm — 3.39 millisieverts per hour (339 mrem/hour)

This means that if you are at the edge of the Fukushima site itself, then receiving about 60 mrem/hour is like getting 2 or 3 chest x-rays per hour, which is a very strong dose of radiation.  However, the intensity of the radiation gets a lot weaker the further away you get from the source (I believe it follows an inverse square law).  Thus, it should be noted that if the radiation levels are that low at the edge of the power plant site, then they are most likely well within acceptable levels by the time you get to the edge of the evacuation zone, 30+ km away.  And there’s certainly no danger to people far beyond that point, including here in the United States and Canada.  Thus, despite the fact that some radiation has been released on the Fukushima site itself, the notion that any kind of “fallout cloud” will spread far & wide beyond that site is utter nonsense.

In addition, a good reference on the levels of radiation exposure (and related health effects) can be found here – – note that those values are in rems, whereas most of the exposure I’ve been referencing in these reports is in milli-rems (mrems).  Bottom line: the people who are going to be affected the most are the workers right there on site, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are getting a potentially lethal dose; as for everyone else, I think the danger is practically non-existent.]

Posted in environmental hysteria, internet, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Bogus Power Balance Bracelets Get PWNed

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 22, 2011

Have you heard about the “Power Balance” bracelet?  It is a supposedly amazing device which, when worn, apparently confers to the wearer greater strength, balance, and flexibility!  Amazing!!!  Just watch this video “proving” the wonders of the Power Balance technology!

The Power Balance technology is supposed to work by…

… harnessing naturally occurring frequencies by programing them into a Mylar hologram.

That’s a quote directly from the Power Balance video above, and it’s complete and utter garbage. Firstly, as a physics professor, I can tell you that the goober in the video peddling this nonsense (and his bosses manufacturing and marketing it) don’t know the first damn thing about “naturally occurring frequencies” or “holograms” – if they did they wouldn’t be putting them into the same sentence.

Second, it is quite easy to definitively show that this whole Power Balance scheme is just a big, fat scam.  Just take a look at how skeptic Richard Saunders and his crew at the SkepticZone demonstrate how the scam works…

Third, it’s not just skeptics like me and Richard Saunders pointing out the scam, but it seems the law in the United States is catching up with the Power Balance charlatans as well.  Just look at this article at the Podblack Cat blog 🙂

Power Balance Bracelet Facing USA Class-Action Lawsuit

It’s official – if you’re in the USA and brought a Power Balance bracelet, you can sign up at

And be a part of the nationwide class-action lawsuit against the makers of the Power Balance bracelet.

Wow, that’s a triple whammy.  Spread the word far and wide about this scam, because these charlatans are actively marketing & selling this bogus product to far too many gullible customers.  Folks, you might as well burn your money for all the good it’ll do you.  In short, I think it is appropriate to deliver the following message to the Power Balance company…

Posted in medical woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Skepticism Matters – Bomb Dowsing Pseudoscience in Iraq

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 15, 2010

Sometimes we skeptics have to deal with the criticism that “this skepticism stuff isn’t important”, “who cares if someone believes in ghosts?”, or “why do you want to trample on what people believe?”.  My answer is simple: skepticism matters because when sloppy & irrational thinking is allowed to go unchecked the results can be disastrous.  Case in point: believe it or not, there are “bomb detection devices” in use now in Iraq, with the at least tacit approval of both the United States and British military, that are based upon the pseudoscience of dowsing! And, like any device based upon dowsing, they don’t work, which means people (both military & civilian) are getting killed.

Really folks, you can’t make this stuff up.  Check out some of the recent media coverage on this…

UK bans export of fraudulent bomb detector; arrests director of manufacturer

The government of the United Kingdom has banned the export of the ADE 651, which is advertised by the manufacturer, ATSC Ltd., as a hand-held “remote portable substance detector.” However, critics say it is just a “glorified dowsing rod.”

In a statement, the Department for Business said, “Tests have shown that the technology used in the ADE651 and similar devices is not suitable for bomb detection. As non-military technology it does not need an export license, and we would not normally need to monitor its sale and use abroad.”

The statement went on to say, “However, it is clearly of concern that it is being used as bomb detection equipment. As soon as it was brought to the attention of the Export Control Organisation and Lord Mandelson we acted urgently to put in place export restrictions which will come into force next week. We will be making an order, under the Export Control Act 2002, banning the export of this type of device to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Adding, “The reason the ban is limited to these two countries is that our legal power to control these goods is based on the risk that they could cause harm to UK and other friendly forces.” The statement closed by saying, “The British Embassy Baghdad has raised our concerns about the ADE651 with the Iraqi authorities.”

Meanwhile, the Avon and Somerset Police have arrested the managing director of the manufacturer, ATSC, 53-year old Jim McCormick on suspicion of fraud. McCormick is a former police officer from Merseyside. He has been released on bail.

These two events come after an investigation by the BBC’s Newsnight program where they tested and revealed the device as a fraud.

The device, manufactured by ATSC Ltd. which operates from a former dairy in Sparkford, Somerset, contains an antenna attached to plastic hand grip which is attached to black box. It requires no battery or other power source, and is supposedly powered solely by the user’s static electricity, the manufacturer claims. It can supposedly detect minute traces of explosives, drugs, human bodies, money and even elephants provided it has the right card.

The black box of the device is intended to read “programmed substance detection cards” that are supplied with the device. The device supposedly works on the principle of “electrostatic magnetic ion attraction”.

Newsnight brought the device to Sidney Alford, a renowned explosives expert who advises all branches of the UK military. Alford opened up the card reader of the device which was empty. Alford said, “Speaking as a professional, I would say that’s an empty plastic case.” Alford believes that the selling of the device is “absolutely immoral”. He added, “It could result in people being killed in the dozens, if not hundreds.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Church of Scientology Convicted of Fraud in French Court

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 28, 2009

Well, this latest news caps a really crappy week for the Church of Scientology, which makes me happy 🙂

Last May, I blogged about a story on how the French government was pursuing a court case against the Church of Scientology for fraud.  Well, today the verdict is in: guilty. And what was revealed during the course of the trial was very interesting…

Scientologists convicted of fraud

A French court has convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, but stopped short of banning the group from operating in France.

Two branches of the group’s operations and several of its leaders in France have been fined.

The case came after complaints from two women, one of whom said she was manipulated into paying more than 20,000 euros (£18,100) in the 1990s.

A Scientology spokesman told the BBC the verdict was “all bark and no bite”.

France regards Scientology as a sect, not a religion.

Prosecutors had asked for the group’s French operations to be dissolved and more heavily fined, but a legal loophole prevented any ban.

Instead, a Paris judge ordered the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a bookshop to pay a 600,000-euro fine.

Alain Rosenberg, the group’s head in France, was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence and fined 30,000 euros.

Three other leading members of the group were also fined.

I have to admit, given the Church of Scientology’s overly litigious nature and proclivity for targeting their critics as “fair game” for a number of aggressive strong-arm tactics, it is refreshing to see someone stand up so strongly to them.  I suppose that more and more people are getting tired of the CoS cult and their quest for brainwashing & manipulating their members.  But, you can expect the CoS to continue their loathsome practices for as long as they are able.

And they can try, but as long as they do there will be those who oppose them.

Posted in cults, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Defending Free Inquiry in Iran

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 16, 2009

I don’t usually delve into strictly political waters, but recent events in Iran have compelled me to share some important information with the readers of this blog.  One of the key things that drives all skeptics & scientifically-minded folk is the spirit of free inquiry.  Without the free flow of unfiltered information, science & skepticism in their purest & most useful forms wither.

Well, right now in Iran, there seems to be a revolution of sorts in the offing. There are huge protests, numbering in the 100s of thousands for days, alleging widespread & deep fraud on the part of the Iranian government and incumbent president & hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The challenger, a moderate politician named Mir Hossein Mousavi, is stating publicly that he will not accept the results of a fraudulent election, and he is demanding a revote.

Unfortunately, the Iranian government has responded violently to these protests, and they are also attempting to impose a media blackout.  This includes kicking foreign journalists out of the country and keeping them locked in their hotel rooms so they cannot cover the events unfolding in Iran.  In addition, the Iranian government is also attempting to silence dissent on the Internet by shutting down popular websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

This is where you can come in.  I found the following information on a thread at the JREF Forum:

If you have geek skills, an extra computer/server, and an interest in undermining fascist censorship, please help!  Here’s how you can set up an anonymous proxy server to help Iranians bypass the Internet barriers.

Mac OS X


There are people calling for anyone with a twitter account to change their location to Tehran and their time to +3:30 GMT in order to throw off government searches for Iranian students who are tweeting.

Please consider helping out; if you don’t have the skills necessary to set up a proxy server or set Twitter accounts, pass along this info to someone who can.  Help defend free inquiry in Iran!

Posted in free inquiry, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Scientology on Trial

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 28, 2009

An interesting bit of news… apparently, the leaders of the “Church” of Scientology (CoS) are on trial in France for fraud.  Here’s a news clip I saw from the BBC about it…

Now those of you who are familiar with the CoS won’t be surprised by this in the least.  But just in case you weren’t convinced by Tom Cruise’s public displays of frothing insanity that the CoS was nothing more than an international money grubbing, brainwashing cult, I suggest you check out (also known as “Operation Clambake” 🙂 ) for more info.  If you know anyone who is expressing even a passing interest in Scientology and/or Dianetics, tell them to look at first, and that will set them straight!

I agree with the prosecuting lawyer in the case in that the fact that the CoS is being taken to court at all is a victory of sorts.  This is because the CoS has a history of attempting to silence their critics through a variety of intimidating tactics.

In any case, stay tuned for more info.  Apparently, the ruling from the French court will be handed down June 17th – it will certainly be interesting to see what happens.

Posted in cults, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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