Catrin Owen’s story could kill someone

Catrin Owen’s story about Erin Palmer is extremely dangerous. In it, Owen details how Palmer fell ill, was operated on, started chemo and stopped well short of her recommended treatment. Her cancer came back and her prognosis is unfortunately very bleak. Palmer’s 4 solutions? Vitamin C therapy, ozone therapy, yoga and meditation.

In Palmer’s case, it is unlikely that she will be negatively affected by these treatments. Yoga and meditation may actually improve her quality of life if she enjoys it. However, it will not stop her cancer, and a story like this encourages non-treatments over real treatments. Her decision early on in her treatment to cease chemotherapy likely reduced her chances of clearing the cancer.

I have previously admonished another journalist in the Fairfax group for spreading anti-science treatments as alternatives to established treatments. Owen’s failure is not in reporting this woman’s story. Her failure is in failing to do even basic research into the treatments being promoted. A quick Google Scholar search will show that Vitamin C treatment has never been successfully used to treat cancer in vivo (that means in body, for future reference). There have been some in vitro (test tube) studies that show it could interrupt cancer’s cellular pathways. The sorts of vitamin C concentrations needed to achieve cancer suppression could be highly dangerous, or the body may break down the vitamin C before it can do its work. Either way, we simply don’t know because there is no evidence.

It should be health journalism 101 to memorise the following: it’s easy to kill anything in a test tube, but hard to kill things WITHOUT killing the host.

More importantly, there are thousands of cancer researchers and oncologists all over the world that Catrin Owen could have contacted to get a scientific or medical opinion, but she didn’t. She is a lazy, negligent journalist that may play a part in helping kill someone with a treatable cancer.

Convincing people to ignore medical advice, especially with conditions as serious as cancer, is extremely dangerous. One of the great minds of our time, Steve Jobs, died as a result of not taking medical advice to treat his pancreatic cancer which had a good chance of survival. Promotion of such ideas is just as bad as the promotion of anti-vaccination ideas. They can have deadly results and will together with Catrin Owen have blood on their hands if even one person dies as a result of stopping their treatment.


Using CryptoJS for AES decryption

This tutorial is amazing, it runs through CryptoJS, but unfortunately doesn’t make clear the  most important point. This code demonstrates AES encryption and decryption:

var key = CryptoJS.lib.WordArray.random(16);
var iv = CryptoJS.lib.WordArray.random(16);
var encrypted = CryptoJS.AES.encrypt("Message", key.toString(), { iv: iv.toString() });
var decrypted = CryptoJS.AES.decrypt(encrypted.toString(), key.toString(), { iv: iv.toString() });

But if you can’t get the decrypted content at the end, you have to do this:


I’m sure this will save a lot of heartache.

What is the surveillance state doing to the collective mental health of the world?

The man behind the FSU shooting was worried that the government was spying on him. He was almost certainly disturbed by more than the operations of universal surveillance. That said, he is not wrong about the government spying on him, only possibly about how much the government cares.

Ernest Hemingway was paranoid that the FBI was watching him, which eventually may have lead to him committing suicide. The thing is, he WAS being watched by the FBI.

Surveillance makes people scared. It makes people paranoid. A fear that the next thing that you say might land you in trouble because everything you saying is being listened to may simply stop you from criticising the government. Alternatively, it may drive extreme beliefs that the government is trying to hurt you or worse, and your only course of action is violence.

Bill Shorten says Obama should show ‘conscience’ and not come to G20 summit in Australia

This is a parody. Original can be found here.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Barack Obama should “show enough conscience” not to come to Australia for next month’s G20 summit, accusing the US President of “rubbing our faces” in the aftermath of the international spy scandal by making the trip.

Mr Shorten on Monday scaled up his criticism of Mr Obama, whose attendance at the economic forum in Brisbane was confirmed by the government on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, Mr Shorten said he understood the government could not act unilaterally to prevent Mr Obama from attending an international conference.
But he said he believed most Australians would not welcome the US President’s visit and “laying out the red carpet” was not the way to “deal with an international bully”.

“There’s plenty of evidence to indicate indirect if not direct presidential involvement in the NSA which saw literally fucking billions of people spied on, with no justification or rationale,” Mr Shorten said.

“How is it that the President of the United States will thumb his nose at the rest of the world, go wherever he wants without there being any repercussions or any cooperation with the independent investigation as to how this happened?

“I believe Obama knows more about what happened with the NSA than he’s let on.”

Lesson in spin, by James Jansson

Joe Hockey says “The poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far”. I couldn’t afford to own a car until I was 25. I would actually agree with Joe Hockey for a definition of “the poorest people”.

alboEnter Labor/media spin. Take the quote, then imply that Hockey actually said something different, like “The bottom half of the country don’t drive that much”. Ignore that this is not what he said. 

Enter all the faux impoverished who get on their high horse and say “I’ve got a $300k mortgage in the burbs and a car so I’m poor, Hockey is SUCH a dickhead.”

Hey listen up Labor propaganda consumers, until your money leftover after rent, vegetarian meals and the bus to uni is in the single digits, you don’t know what it is like to be “the poorest people”. I do. As much as I think that Hockey is a self entitled grub, in this case, he’s not actually wrong.

One last thing: opposing indexing the fuel excise to CPI on the basis of “It’s going to hurt struggling families” is the same argument Tony Abbott used against the Carbon Tax. Just saying. 

Please Google, destroy ResearchGate

ResearchGate has been gaining infamy with scientists all over the world. It’s almost everyday that you get an email from ResearchGate asking you to join. This spam is annoying but is easily fixed by blocking ResearchGate in your email. Unfortunately, ResearchGate is doing the worst thing possible to scientists across the world: breaking search and making it hard to access information. 

An example of this is found in this page. It came up as the number four result while searching on Google for mathematical modelling terms. It has the abstract to a paper, the DOI for the paper, but no link to the paper itself. There’s a button which says “Request full text”, but pressing this does not take you to the site hosting the paper, but to a registration page instead.

ResearchGate isn’t just a slightly annoying social layer to engaging with scientific content; it actively breaks the systems that researchers, government bodies (such as the NIH) and journals built to make accessing scientific content easy on the internet (such as the DOI system) by replacing high ranking search results with their rubbish. Meanwhile it uses those very same systems to scrape for data to build their business.

ResearchGate is actively destroying the functionality of search and hence productivity of scientists across the world. Google should stop serving ResearchGate results for general searches of scientific terms. 

Joe Hockey is a massively entitled grub.

in a blunt response to a question about how a young person who had lost unemployment benefits would be able to afford it, the treasurer said: “I would expect you’d be in a job.”
You would expect that, because either you don’t understand just how hard it is to get a job as a young person, or you don’t care. Let me break down why your expectations are unreasonable.
The youth aren’t responsible for the economic climate of the day
Joe, show me a country where youth unemployment is lower than general unemployment. Or a country where the young, the poor and the unemployed run the economy, where the rich and the old have to sit back and take the scraps of what the government has decided to give them. Oh you can’t? Maybe it’s because the young and the marginalised are ruled over by the old and the wealthy. Employment availability is controlled by people like you and your self-righteous mates in parliament, along with business some of whom donate to your party. Young people have high unemployment in pretty much every country in the world, and it has nothing to do with the availability of welfare programs.
Inexperienced youth can’t help that they are inexperienced
In fairness, it’s only partly the government’s fault for not looking after the young people to ensure they have appropriate skills and there’s jobs available. Getting someone to put faith in you to get your foot in the door, and getting that experience you need to maintain stable employment is actually pretty fucking hard. Youth unemployment is high simply because it is much easier for a company to hire someone with existing job experience. Until you get that first job, it’s an uphill battle convincing employers of your worth. Even if you happen to be in a job as a young person, you are more likely to have a lower skilled job. There’s also a culture of last in first out in many workplaces, meaning younger people get the sack first in difficult times.
People in their twenties need to eat, just like old people
I just thought that I would remind you of that fact, Joe. What do you think they should do? If you think that it is bad that a person aged 30+ temporarily losing their job means they go hungry and lose their accommodation, why do you think it is okay for it to happen to someone aged 18-30? Why don’t these rules preventing unemployment benefit access apply to people over 30? Given the above two points, the only conclusion I can come to is that you have nothing but contempt for the younger generation.
So before you go expecting young people to have jobs, maybe you should remember that the circumstances that young people find themselves in is not of their own making. Out of all the people that you expect to have a job, why is it the young? One thing is for sure, simply wanting really badly to have a job, and going for interviews, and getting an education is not going to guarantee you getting a job. And your changes, Joe, mean that some of those who try hard will end up hungry and on the street. Life is dangerous in Hockey’s Australia.

Tony Abbott- economic and strategic failure of our lifetime

It’s not really a surprise to me that a minister from the Howard government, who took us to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would claim that we have to make deep cuts into the public sector (including cuts to scientific research) while pulling $12B out of a hat for new planes to defend against an invisible enemy. That’s about 4 times the budget of the Australian Research Council, CSIRO and NHMRC combined. It represents a grand change in the focus of the government from promoting development to defending what we have currently.

For the sake of this ludicrous argument that “we need to defend ourselves” let’s look to the north for this invisible enemy. There are 230 million Indonesians (10x our population), 1.2 billion Indians and 1.3 billion Chinese (56x our population each). When you rank Australia in terms of density, we’re 266 out of 280 countries. Our north is either not worth stealing, or we’re not capable of defending it even with fancy planes. What will protect our sovereignty is acting as an ally not just to the US but also to major partners in Asia. Last time I checked arms races are not part of being good neighbours.

It is a false premise that 23 million people will be able defend our fronts simply through technological superiority. It assumes, most importantly, that we are more technologically capable than China. Hate to break it to you guys, but we don’t make microchips. We don’t design microchips. Let that sink in for a little while.

This is probably going to be the most unpopular thing I ever say, but we should really just assume that if it came down to a fire fight between Australia and China that we would have our arses thoroughly whooped. Even if you think that somehow our army is smarter or whatever false glorification you give to the Australian military, they have the bomb. They have nukes attached to ICBMs. We don’t and it would be a violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if we were to obtain them.

Even accepting the “big army” mindset, Abbott’s just spent 3.3% of our current budget on a single piece of equipment. That doesn’t include weapons, pilots, engineers etc needed to service these planes. And it doesn’t include the rest of the cost of the armed services. “But it’s over several years” you claim. That just means we don’t have any capacity to buy new technology in the future. One thing about war is that the modes are never the same, and heavy commitment to a single type of military technology leaves us wide open to attack if that technology is not relevant to a future war scenario.

Not only is this decision a bad decision in terms of the raw cost involved. It is also a bad decision in terms of the type of equipment purchased. These fighter jets are US produced. The US have bases all over the world, control of GPS systems, aircraft carriers and a country with hundreds of medium sized cities. Australia has basically no appreciable overseas presence, no control over GPS systems, no aircraft carriers, and 6 medium/large sized cities with basically nothing in between over distances measured in the thousands of kilometres. What makes anyone think that a jet optimised for US use would be any good for an Australian setting?

It’s a good thing that we aren’t a European nation, otherwise Abbott would take us to war with Russia this winter.

7 things you probably don’t know about the Racial Discrimination Act amendments

Conclusion: these amendments are bad. I would probably side with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commissioner in 1991 in saying the ‘offence’ and ‘insult’ should not be prohibited by the law. But these amendments in their current form basically make any sort of incitement of racial violence or hatred legal. Ironically, I don’t believe that Brandis intended to make inciting racial violence legal, but the amendments are so poorly written that this is the likely consequence. While it can be said that the Liberals went to the election promising to repeal section 18c, the Brandis amendments significantly change 18D as well, for which the government cannot claim to have a mandate.