A horror movie called “traditional and complementary medicine”

A group of burly men surrounds a delightful three-year-old toddler playing in the park. Out of nowhere, the one man rips off the one arm from the unsuspecting toddler while the other man starts to cut off the other arm. The trembling legs follow and the bloody, unconscious, dismembered body is thrown into the bush to die. In this movie, the bone chilling screams from the toddler is needed as this enhances and strengthens the medicinal properties of the blood-spattered limbs.

A scene from a Hollywood horror movie? No, this horrific scene is not from a movie, it is everyday life in some parts in the world. We are living this movie, although not many people want to talk about it. This horrifying slaying of a toddler happened just the other day – you can read about it here. The reason that this incident barely made the news is because this is not a unique case, it happens way more often than most people would think (for those who can stomach it – you can find more examples here and here – or google “muti killings” or “muti murders”).

How can human beings do something like this to an innocent child? Because most traditional, complementary, alternative and integrative medicines are belief based medicines underpinned by pseudoscientific principles. It is based on “magic”, something that modern science cannot explain nor confirm – or at least that is what advocates of these medicines claim. These people truly belief that a toddler’s limbs, and other body parts, have medicinal value. That many people from all cultures in the world continue to belief, and use their respective traditional health care systems, is due to many different factors.  It ranges from lack of knowledge, distrust of modern medicine (advocates love to promote this aspect), inaccessibility to modern healthcare especially in rural areas in Africa, Asia and maybe even outback Australia, costs involved etc. Another aspect, and a growing cause of concern, is that trusted institutes such as universities defend and promote these pseudoscientific principles in order to balance their books.

The trade in body parts for medicinal purposes, called the ‘muti’ trade, is obviously banned and any perpetrator faces stiff penalties, and yet this heinous practice is not declining it is actually on the increase. Harvesting body parts from people (if you suffer from albinism you are a prime target) and children who are alive, as opposed to corpses, because this augments the medicinal properties makes it all the more horrific. Similarly, the banned trade and use of endangered animals in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not seem to have much of an effect, looking at the exponential rise in the number of rhinos that has being blasted to smithereens over the last couple of years. And here again you have people who belief in the magical healing powers of Rhino horn and people at respected universities who promote and support the underlying pseudoscientific principles which dictates that rhino horn, and everything that they fancy, is “lifesaving medicine”. This is the wisdom of traditional medicine! But can we, in western countries, point a finger to Africa with their muti murders or to Asia with their use of endangered animals, bodily fluids and parts and tell them that they are completely bonkers?

I wish I could, but unfortunately I can’t. They can point a finger right back at the West because most western countries have embraced and are increasingly promoting their own pseudoscientific medicines such as homeopathy and chiropractic, and to some degree, TCM and acupuncture. They use clever marketing strategies and fake scientific terminology to achieve this and at the end of the day, children also die horrific deaths as more and more people are being misled or persuaded to use these modalities (deaths occur mainly due to a failure to provide effective treatments in time). But it gets worse in Western countries. Whilst the people harming their children with these “medicines” receive jail time the professors who defend and promote these practices are handsomely rewarded.  Scientists complaining about these practices are ostracised whilst scientists promoting these practices are seen as local hero’s at these universities simply because they bring in loads of money from the CAM industry. So you find these pseudoscientific healthcare systems all over the world and in all cultures.  The golden thread that runs through all of them; a superstitious belief that every single modality works for its intended purpose and nearly zero scientific evidence that any of it works. In a previous article I have written about the opposing and irreconcilable worlds of pseudoscience vs science.

But how to create a happy ending to this horror movie? Most cultures used body parts in one way or the other albeit for sacrificial purposes, for medicinal purposes or even cannibalism – it is (or was) a common occurrence. Whilst this practice is still lingering on in some African (and maybe Asian) countries, the main current aim should be to take the magic out of it. So what better than expert advice and guidance from an independent and truly global organisation such as the respected World Health Organisation (WHO). They should work towards taking the magic out of it and the only way to do this is to convince governments to provide mass education regarding modern healthcare. Other issues that the WHO should focus on is to come up with strategies to overcome the logistical problems hampering modern medicine reaching rural areas and to make it affordable and accessible to all. They should even work towards an exit strategy to provide for the thousands of people making a living from traditional healthcare systems.  To name but a few things.

So in 2013 the WHO stepped up to the plate and published its much anticipated “Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023”. This 76-page report, funded by China and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine in Hong Kong, unfortunately contains very little or even no scientific information. No discussion on the trade and use of body parts or the pseudoscientific principles on which these “medicines” are based. No discussion of any science stuff such as promoting education, improved accessibility and cost effectiveness of science based effective medicines. There is an  inability to accept that a specific CM is ineffective and should not be used. Instead the whole report revolves around the words “integrate” or “integrative”. This is what this WHO strategy calls for – how to better integrate T&CM, which is based on magic, with mainstream conventional medicine which is based on science. And this goes for homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, TCM – disproven complementary medicines! It is as if the Australian based National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University has written this report.  The agenda of the NICM? Accept millions of dollars from the CAM industry, lobby regulators including the WHO to give blanket support for all T&CMs, integrate pseudoscience with science and this in turn increase the sales figures of the CAM industry. So did the NICM write or influence this WHO report?

Who do we find in the acknowledgements section?  Michael Smith, an adjunct of the NICM and a registered naturopath (a.k.a. a pseudoscientist). The NICM would not be the NICM if they didn’t have a finger in the pie in compiling this WHO report and as stated on the NICM’s website “He was one of the primary technical drafters of the WHO Global Strategy for Traditional & Complementary Medicine (2014-2023) and continues to participate in WHO projects, working groups and consultations notably dealing with the regulation and policy setting related to traditional and complementary medicines.” And Michael is not the only one at the NICM who is intricately involved with the WHO. You can find more examples here, here and here. Lobbying and promoting T&CM – that is all that the NICM does.

For the NICM this WHO report is extremely important because now they have a directive from the authoritative WHO and who can argue with that – they can use it to silence their critics. So they proudly follow the WHO’s directive, which they have pretty much written themselves, to; “promote universal health coverage by integrating T&CM services appropriately into health service delivery and self-health care.” That very few of these T&CM’s are effective does not seem to bother anyone, that supporting these pseudoscientific underlying principles is causing untold harm and death to many, including endangered animals, is flat out ignored. But the WHO rather chose to be politically correct, to be sensitive to cultural differences and to be influenced by institutes such as the NICM – who has a financial agenda. They use the logical fallacy, an appeal on popularity, as evidence for effectiveness and based on this the pseudoscientific T&CM needs to be integrated with conventional healthcare.

So this horror movie does not have a happy ending – yet. As long as organisations such as the WHO can be influenced by the NICM and similar institutes there will be a continued, and dare I say, a growing support for the underlying pseudoscientific principles of these T&CM healthcare systems on a global level. This implies that you can go and ban the trade in human body parts or rhino horn all you want, if the underlying principles are not addressed, and people educated accordingly, these atrocious practices will continue unabated.

So what is my issue. I hold anyone of any culture or from any country, and especially experienced scientists such as at the NICM, who promotes and defends pseudosciences responsible for these atrocities. I don’t care if you are involved directly or indirectly or intentionally or unintentionally, if you promote it you are responsible.  And the consumers of all of these pseudoscientific products? Just remember, these companies use their sales figures, even if it is for “harmless” water as in homeopathic medicines, as main justification of effectiveness – an appeal to popularity! Buying their products leads to you unintentionally promoting a pseudoscience with the subsequent atrocities committed in far flung regions of the world. The WHO report might be music to the ears of the NICM and the CAM and TCM industry but spare a thought for the children whose ears are being cut off because of its purported “medicinal” value – they can’t hear the music.

Money, not evidence based science, makes the world go round. The CM industry partnering with media outlets – the logical next step?

A $2.9 million donation here, a $2 million there and for good measure an extra $5 million here. And just to make sure that Western Sydney University (WSU) understand who pulls the shots, add a couple of $300 000 cheques into the mix.  This is the kind of funding that the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) received in the last couple of years from the complementary medicine (CM) industry. What does the NICM have to do in return? As an “independent” research institute they have to protect the CM industry with their lives and they have to provide “scientific evidence” for these companies’ products, which in turn will be used as a marketing tool. Our magical products “have been scientifically validated” or “scientifically tested” or “clinically proven” etc. What does the WSU get in return for hosting the NICM? They add the ~ $10 million under the umbrella term “industry income” and they list all the “scientific” journal articles under the umbrella term “scientific outputs” and so they climb the international world rankings – their only objective. Capitalism at its best, and truly a win-win situation for all.

But wait. What about the poor suckers who buy these products? There used to be a thing called consumer protection and there used to be a time when universities protected their independence because they are state funded enterprises serving the public. Clearly that time is from a bygone era and the notion that water has magical healing properties or that rhino horn is a lifesaving medicine is making a comeback, especially at WSU. And this in 2016. The problem with protecting (masterfully done by the NICM) the evil practices of homeopaths (if you can look a sick child in the eyes and sell them water as medicine, then I am content to call you evil) or to promote rhino horn as lifesaving medicine, is quite severe. The former gives credibility to the homeopathic industry and hence they will not only prescribe water for the treatment of minor or self-limiting conditions such as headaches, but because their products “work”, they will also prescribe it for life threatening conditions such as malaria and HIV. The impact on society? People die! The latter gives credibility to the pseudoscientific principles of traditional Chinese medicine. The impact? A hell of a lot of rhinos die!

It might be a win-win situation for the CM industry and WSU, but it is clearly causing a lot misery, death and destruction for the public and wildlife alike. But can it get any worse? Unfortunately, it can. Most rogue nations (Nazis, North Korea etc.) are in full control of the media whereas democratic governments have some influence, but far less so. In democratic nations the problem is usually that big business runs the mass media and they pull the shots and decides what is fact and what is fiction. The influence of big business  in the media can be so extreme that they can determine where and with whom the next war will be. By controlling the media, just imagine what they can do to protect and promote their business interests.

It therefore stands to reason that the CM industry in Australia, who is reportedly worth $3.5 billion/annum, and who is already in control of a number of cash strapped universities, will now take the next step and buy their way into controlling or influencing the media. Because most of their products are pretty much useless, and some are quite dangerous, focussing on marketing seems to be their main goal and the logical, if not only, way to go – true to the capitalistic dream of ever increasing profits while ignoring the real cost to society. The target of their mass (misleading) marketing is not only Australia – with its small population- but specifically the massive Asian markets who is currently their fastest growth region. To achieve their goal there seems to be no better way than to “partner” with the international arm of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). A recent article reports the following:

“ABC International’s media service Australia Plus (A+) this week announced partnerships with Monash University, the Victorian State Government and Swisse Wellness. These ‘Foundation Partners’ receive branding and advertising opportunities across all Australia Plus platforms.”

“The brands will have exclusive advertising rights to reach 190 million people across Asia who can access online and television channels broadcast by Australia Plus.”

This article was published yesterday and unfortunately do not give specifics on the amount of money involved in this deal – but now that they have bought their way into the ABC we will probably never get to know this.

It is however interesting to note that the $15 million CM industry funding for La Trobe university received a lot of media attention early in 2014. The $1.3 million funding received by Sydney University, early in 2015, also made headlines and was discussed for a number of days in the media. In July 2015, the CM industry donated a further $2 million to WSU and it barely made it into the newspapers, and then only in early 2016, six months later – let alone it being discussed in the media. The recent $5 million donation hasn’t even made it into any newspaper. Clearly there is a trend here, although a number of factors might play a role.

The first three donations were publicised on the news sites of the respective universities, whereas the last donation wasn’t (hush hush, let’s keep it quiet – I wonder why?). WSU is the minion university amongst these three universities and it is big news when a prestigious university falls for the CM industry, but no news when a minion university is involved (maybe the reason why the CM industry decided to target WSU?). That the CM industry floods universities with millions of dollars is just not newsworthy anymore. Or maybe, just maybe, media outlets find themselves in a similar position than most universities – desperate for cash. And this is mainly due to the ever decreasing circulation numbers, stiff competition and subsequent loss of income from advertisements. Partnering with other industries, never mind who, therefore seems to be the way to go – even if you have to (further) sacrifice your independence. Can this explain the abovementioned trend? So when will we see the tobacco industry making a comeback? They sell their products legally, so why not?

Can we expect a “win-win” situation being created between media outlets and the CM industry, similar to the CM industry’s partnership with WSU? I think this is the future, so Blackmores, if any of you are reading this, this should  be your next strategic move – partner with a media outlet. The big loser, as usual, will be the public – but in this case not only the Australian public, but also the Asian public.

Rhino horn as lifesaving medicine – do the NICM really believe this? (the things people do for $10 million bucks!)

My previous blog posts (you can find it here and here) discussed the pseudoscientific traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) world in which all medicines are effective, including rhino horn and other endangered species, as opposed to the modern scientific world in which very few, if any, of these TCM modalities are effective. However, the main aim of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) is to ‘integrate’ these pseudoscientific healthcare systems (TCM, acupuncture, homeopathy etc.) with modern science based healthcare systems. This is very worrying to say the least. I can also confidently predict that this drive to ‘integrate’ these two opposing worlds will sooner or later be reflected in a new name for the NICM (again).

Because of the NICM’s true believe in the pseudoscientific basis of TCM or rather the prospect of tapping into the $170 billion TCM market, Western Sydney University approved a thesis in 2008 where rhino horn was being promoted as “remarkably” better for the treatment of vascular dementia as compared to the control group. The critique that I had on this thesis was that they should have given this aspect a critical scientific appraisal which they completely failed to do, and thus I labelled this thesis as nothing more than promoting Rhino horn as effective medicine and therefore they are contributing to the sharp rise in rhino poaching. The supervisors of this thesis might now claim that it was a simple oversight or that the external reviewers failed to pick up on this issue or even that they did not know about the controversy surrounding the use of Rhino horn – although I would strongly doubt the latter to be the case.

So I dug a bit deeper and I found the proceedings of a symposium held in Sydney in 1997 with the title “healthy people, healthy wildlife”. This symposium dealt exclusively with the use of endangered species, including rhino, as medicine in the TCM world. The supervisor of the above mentioned thesis was also present and gave a presentation; “responsible use of TCM”. Below is a couple of excerpts from the proceedings (you can find the full proceedings here).

“I have been using Traditional Chinese Medicine regularly for several years. There have been many times when the wisdom of Traditional Chinese medicine has helped me recover from a physical complaint and I know just how beneficial the results can be” (page 4)

RHINOCEROS HORN (XI JIAO) (page 9-10)

XI JIAO is the horn of the Rhinoceros unicornis L or R. sondicus Desmarest, or R. sumatrienses (Fischer) Cuvier (Rhinocerotidae)

TCM nature: Salty, sour and cold

Actions: Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.

Indication and application: High fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.

Chemical composition

The rhinoceros horn contains keratin. The amino acid constituents include cysteine, and alkaline amino acids histidine, lysine and arginine. Thus it resembles wool and cattle horn in mainly composed of [eu]keratin. In addition the horn contains other protein’s, peptide’s, free amino acids, and guanidine derivatives.

Substitute

As the horns from rhinoceros, antelope and Buffalo (SHUI NIU JIAO) shared similar chemical compositions and amino acids, especially keratin, it has been proved that buffalo’s horn used as a clinical substitute for rhinoceros’ horn and antelope’s horn is therapeutically effective.

Alan Bensoussan’s presentation (page 23-29)

“At a recent conference in Hong Kong there was opportunity for practitioners and traders to express concerns related to the use of endangered species. It is worthwhile looking at these comments briefly. Some sentiments that I have heard expressed in Australia are also reflected in the comments of a TCM academic in Hong Kong: “The dilemma faced by TCM users, however, could only be better appreciated if we can step into their shoes and then make judgements if we ourselves or our beloved ones are suffering from ailments that modern medicine offers little or no help whereas products from these animals may offer relief”.

“It is important to table these views because herein lie the resistance to comply with the law, and to continue to sacrifice a constantly diminishing resource. It defies all logic. Even if we adopt the crudest perspective of some human right to continuously exploit natural resources, in this case if the medicine is valuable and in diminishing supply, the resource needs protecting. And in this sense alone the profession needs to do the utmost within its capabilities to cease all use of endangered species, and utilise alternative products, or farmed or cultivated species, at least until such time as the supply of the medicine is stable. “

Honk Kong TCM retailer

“According to CITES the trade of tigers, etc is prohibited and those TCM practitioners who use such medicines to treat and save peoples’s lives, pharmacies and traders of such medicinal resources are liable to punishment. Such international convention protects animals but harms human beings, makes animals more worthy than mankind, and degrades mankind as if they were lower than animals. It is questionable that whether such kind of rules worth existing”

“… the rights of human beings of using such resources to maintain their health, treat their diseases and sustain their survival, are ignored. The people who formulate such kind of rules are indeed ignoring human rights.”

Hong Kong TCM practitioners:

“People, however, should not work towards wildlife protection but neglect the protection of human lives.”

On rhino horn: “Reasonable application should therefore be allowed and it is inappropriate to ban the medicine entirely,” “The normal traffic of species for medical use should be set strictly aside from profit-deriving business trade.”

Singapore Chinese Doctors association

“TCM practitioners are working for the good health care for all mankind. It is not fair to treat us like profiteers or put the law on us.”

End of excerpts.

TCM nature: Salty, sour and cold. Actions: Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying – clearly TCM is a pseudoscience!!

Although this conference discussed the use of substitutes in place of endangered animals and the use of the latter is quite clearly rejected, there seems to be strong resistance coming from the TCM practitioners and retailers. They truly believe that Rhino horn is an effective, lifesaving medicine and that it cannot really be substituted by anything else – and so does Alan Bensoussan.  Replacing rhino horn with any other horn would be equivalent to admitting that it doesn’t really work – and this is unacceptable in the TCM world. Granted, they all agree that endangered animals need to be protected but there is however one important aspect that you will not find in the symposium proceedings.

That is the extremely important question that most members of the public would ask: ‘are any of these endangered animals truly effective for the treatment of any disease?’ and as a scientist you might add ‘where is the scientific evidence that rhino horn is a lifesaving medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases etc?’ or ‘what is the mechanism of action of rhino horn and specifically keratin?’ etc. etc. Surely, these aspects should at least be discussed and TCM practitioners should be educated accordingly? In general, you first need to provide scientific evidence and then only can you go and sell your medicine!

These questions aren’t even being asked, mentioned or discussed and this again proves that in the TCM world everything is active. It is a given! The reason for this is rather simple. The person who dares question the effectiveness of a specific TCM modality, in effect questions the pseudoscientific principles of TCM. The implication of this, especially for the NICM, will be that they weaken or even lose the opportunity to tap into the $170 billion TCM market. This market only exists for the true believers and thus the NICM will not risk being exposed as a semi-or non-believer. Asking these type of questions makes you suspect! In the TCM world (and the NICMs world) rhino horn is thus seen and promoted as a lifesaving medicine for the treatment of just about anything, from sunstroke to infectious diseases! That it is a banned substance doesn’t matter because as long as the underlying believe exist that Rhino horn works, and this believe is not questioned by scientists at the NICM, then they will continue to kill the rhino for its remarkable “lifesaving medicinal properties”.

So why didn’t the NICM add one or two sentences in the thesis published in 2008 about the use of the excepted substitutes in place of rhino horn? Because it is too risky! They run the risk that TCM practitioners might see them as implying that rhino horn is ineffective and that it can or should be replaced by the horns of any animal or even your fingernails. They would put a question mark behind the very principles of TCM. The NICM is thus fully aware of the controversy surrounding the use of endangered animals but they chose to fully support the pseudoscientific world as reflected in the thesis. One can argue that the symposium was held 20 years ago and that the NICM has since changed their tune but unfortunately this doesn’t happen with pseudoscientists. One tell-tale sign of this is the inability to progress, for example: new scientific research provided conclusive evidence that homeopathy is no better than a placebo and that people put their lives at risk if they continue to use it – the well-known NHMRC report. The NICM’s response? Nope, we can’t accept this report because part of our funding comes from homeopaths. They stick to their story. You can read about it here.

At the end of the day this has nothing to do with science but, as usual, it has everything to do with money. And the NICMs perseverance is starting to pay off! In the last year or two the NICM has received in excess of $10 million dollars with the most notable single donation from the well-known Australian complementary medicine company, Blackmores (my next article will deal with this aspect in a bit more detail). Although I might be jumping the gun here, I find it strange that neither the NICM nor WSU reported this news, the biggest donation in WSU’s history, on their respective news sites! Maybe because the donation of Blackmores will be used by the NICM for ‘integrative medicine research’ or in other words how to ‘integrate’ pseudoscience with science? And because Blackmores also want to tap into the $170 billion TCM market it paid the NICM on a consultancy basis to assist in their ‘Blackmores TCM Development Program’. Problem is, the only way to tap into the TCM market is to be a true believer of the pseudoscientific principles of TCM and that includes supporting the notion that rhino horn has remarkable lifesaving medicinal properties. Wouldn’t it be nice if a large company like Blackmores make a small donation towards the rhino conservation effort? After all, it is quite dangerous and expensive, some might say futile, to keep all the poachers at bay who feeds the pseudoscientific TCM market that the NICM, WSU and Blackmores support.

Endangered animals as homeopathic medicine for the treatment of loneliness. A new approach to save the Rhino.

Sometimes you can find the most amazing things on internet. And this is one of those things. My previous blog post reported on the sharp increase in Rhino poaching, partly caused by the increased need for raw materials in order to fuel the pseudoscientific TCM market, and the role that Western Sydney University might be playing in all of this. You can find it here. But how to solve the Rhino poaching crises? Well, help is coming from an unexpected corner.

I asked myself a simple question; do Western pseudoscientific healthcare systems (e.g. homeopathy) also use endangered species in their “medicine”? Why not? Using their ground breaking principle of ‘like-cures-like’ they diluted pieces of the Berlin wall, which made people depressed, to infinity and made medicine for the treatment of, you guessed it, depression – so why not use endangered animals? One can argue that these animals are becoming lonelier and lonelier, as they are being hunted to extinction, so maybe a good opportunity to develop a homeopathic medicine for the treatment of loneliness!

Therefore, to solve the Rhino poaching problem look no further than the ancient pseudoscientific Western healthcare system called homeopathy. Believe it or not, just as TCM is growing in popularity in Western countries so is homeopathy growing in popularity in Asian countries, especially in India. Below is a description of a wonderful new book where the solution to Rhino poaching is eloquently described. Apply the homeopathic principles of diluting a single rhino horn into oblivion in order to save the Rhino – problem solved! Hence, one horn would be enough to supply the whole world of this much needed ‘medicine’ –  indefinitely, and you only have to kill one Rhino instead of the current 1200 per year!!

Start of book description:

“It is with great joy that I welcome the arrival of this groundbreaking book about one of the world’s premier healing traditions, Practical Homeopathy by my colleague Prof. Steve An Xue and his assistants.

The comparative introduction of homeopathy to China via the lens of classical Chinese medicine is a natural one, for the following compelling reasons:

  1. Chinese medicine and homeopathy share similar philosophies, such as the belief in the healing power of nature, and the resonance between macrocosm and microcosm (tian ren heyi)
  2. Both systems employ sophisticated methods of pattern differentiation (bianzheng); centering them around the individual and the signs and symptoms s/he presents, in contrast to the modern focus on diagnosing disease (bianbing)
  3. Both are centered around the concept of energy medicine, rather than the more matter oriented concepts of modern medicine such as anatomy and biochemistry
  4. Both are highly practical, and reflect the four principles that the Qing dynasty physician Wang Qingren once proposed as the hallmark of true medicine for the Chinese people: it must be easily available, affordable, and effective at the same time.
  5. Both abide by the guiding principle of safety: “first, do no harm” (as the beginning of a naturopathic medicine physician oath goes). Many progressive European and American mothers have a homeopathy first aid kit at home, often supplemented with Chinese herbal cold/flu remedies (i.e., Yin Qiao San) and herbs for external injuries (i.e., Yunnan Baiyao).

As a type of “energy” medicine, the field of homeopathy is not without controversy in the context of Western medical discussions. However, similar to the process wherein Chinese medicine was able to stand the test of modern science, the clinical efficacy of homeopathic medicine has been validated by a host of clinical research during the last 30 years. Furthermore, just like educated Chinese felt drawn to the profession of traditional scholar-physician, it were especially the brighter minds among Western doctors who were captivated by the theory and practice of homeopathy. It appears that the endeavor of discerning the laws of nature by way of cohesive pattern differentiation has been found to be both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating by illuminated minds in East and West.

As a much younger medical science that does not have the same extensive theoretical underpinning as classical Chinese medicine, homeopathy can surely benefit from a comparison with the traditional knowledge systems of China. On the other hand, the clinical practice of homeopathy reflects the core principles of Chinese medicine in the most radical way—a way that is progressively being forgotten in China itself—and thus can potentially reinvigorate the future path of Chinese medicine. By witnessing the often astonishing clinical results of homeopathy and understanding that the power of this modality is intimately connected to the same principles that Chinese medicine was once founded upon, Chinese medicine practitioners in the age of East-West Integration Medicine (zhongxiyi jiehe) can hopefully be inspired to take a fresh look at the most ancient and most fundamental theoretical principles of their own profession.

As Prof. Xue will explain in detail in this concise volume, it is one of the prime characteristics of homeopathy that its remedies are most powerful when administered in high potencies, when an herbal remedy has been diluted to the point that no trace of matter can be detected in the tincture or pellet anymore. This is a most dramatic manifestation of the traditional Chinese concept that consciousness governs energy, and energy governs matter. Homeopathy, in essence, administers the energetic and spiritual essence of a plant or mineral or animal substance to affect a patient’s physical and emotional health. Furthermore, it is a typical feature of homeopathy that it will only work when the remedy and the individual patterns of the patient are a complete match. This trait realizes the core belief of Chinese and other ancient medical systems that nature and the body express itself in a consistent pattern language. If that pattern language can be correctly deciphered—an art that is progressively eroding—every disease pattern can be neutralized by a corresponding pattern in the natural world.

In addition, the integration of homeopathy into the deep spectrum of natural healing modalities in China holds the following promises:

  1. The power of strong acting natural compounds can be harnessed safely. Few traditional physicians have the knowledge and confidence anymore to prescribe toxic ingredients such as arsenic (peishuang), realgar (xionghuang), aconite (fuzi), (badou) and (qiyeyizhihua). Homeopathy can deliver the energetic pattern of these ingredients without the toxicity that resides in the chemistry of these substances.
  2. Chinese herbs tend to be prescribed at ever increasing dosages, causing extinction and availability problems. Through the dilution method of homeopathy, rare or valuable ingredients such as rhino horn (xijiao) or bear gallbladder (xiongdan) can be used inexpensively without threatening natural resources. America’s largest laboratory for the production of homeopathic remedies, Hahnemann Labs, for instance, recently made an exceedingly rare fungus that grows only on 1% of 1,000 year old coffins and is used successfully in Southern Chinese folk medicine for the easing of pain from bone metastases into a homeopathic remedy—making it available for generations of practitioners to use.
  3. The marriage of Chinese cosmology and homeopathic prescribing has unlimited potential. To give an example: On the organ clock of Chinese medicine, the shaoyang gallbladder system is located in the position of midnight and the 11th lunar month of the year, a point that traditional Chinese science has marked with the earthly branch Zi, or the corresponding animal symbol of the Rat. Based on this uniquely Chinese insight, an accomplished American homeopath I know often uses the homeopathic remedy Rat’s Blood for certain manifestations of shaoyang disorder, and achieves excellent results.
  4. While the materia medica of Chinese medicine represents a science that features unprecedented detail in comparison to other natural healing systems, homeopathy can further enhance this knowledge base by its unique descriptions of how a substance’s therapeutic effect changes at different potencies–what happens when a mother tincture of an herb is diluted 6 times, versus 30 times, versus 200 times, versus 1000 times.
  5. The recent development of electronic homeopathy, utilizing digitized vibrations of human tissues, pathogens, and pollutants, has made it possible to diagnose and treat certain diseases in a quick and minimally invasive manner. This method can help to treat most specifically while a simultaneous Chinese medicine treatment can treat the more general and systemic reasons for disease, for instance by neutralizing a certain virus directly while Chinese herbs address the “toxicity” of the body’s terrain.

Finally, I would like to repeat my strong conviction in the creative genius of the Chinese people, which I have already mentioned in the preface to Prof. Xue’s previous book.

Due to the symbol-oriented nature of homeopathy—originally a key feature of Eastern thinking—many of the world’s best homeopaths are already of Eastern descent. Greece, and especially India has boasted a vital homeopathic tradition for years, featuring many master practitioners and specialty hospitals. For a variety of complex reasons, possibly including the presence of a native healing tradition of sheer inexhaustible depth, the clinical master science of homeopathy has not yet made inroads into China. I trust, however, that the time is ripe to see the combination of China’s human resources and the clinical genius of the Chinese mind thrive to give birth to some of the worlds greatest homeopaths, benefiting both the health of the Chinese people and the world.”

End of book description

To list all the things that are completely wrong/misleading/misguided here would take me a lifetime. But a negative multiplied by a negative gives a positive. In this case multiplying the nothingness of homeopathy with the decimation of the rhino population at the hands of TCM practitioners equals the survival of the Rhino. But then again, how many people will die using homeopathy or the Rhino horn as ‘effective’ medicine. Well, that number will remain the same.

Promoting Rhino horn as medicine at an Australian university: Has this contributed to the exponential rise in Rhino poaching?

(This article was published on Prof Edzard Ernst’s blog-site in the UK as a guest post. You can find it here. Below is the same post with some minor edits. I’ve also included a photo because I believe it is worth a thousand words. This photo comes from a newspaper article published in 2011 which describes the extreme lengths that the poachers will go to.)

Something happened in 2008. Something, or a number of things, triggered an exponential rise in the number of rhinos being killed in South Africa. Poaching numbers remained quite low and was stable for a decade with only 13 being killed in 2007. But then suddenly it jumped to 83 in 2008 and it reached a total of 1 175 in 2015.  One every six hours. To explain this will be difficult and it will be due to a number of factors or events coinciding in 2008. Maybe the global financial crises had something to do with it – people tend to turn to ‘commodities’ in times of financial uncertainty (rhino horn is apparently worth around $60 000/kg) or maybe there was a sudden increase in the popularity in rhino horn as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Asian countries. Or maybe, effective conservation efforts in Nepal and India in protecting the Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) paid off and this led to a shift in focus onto the African Rhino (Ceratotherum simum) which inadvertently took its place in TCM – or all of the above and much more.

Another possible contributing factor, which I will discuss here, is the growing acceptance of TCM in western countries! One can ask the question: will the use of TCM in Asian countries increase, and thus the demand for Rhino horn increase, when TCM is given credibility or is legitimised in Western countries? For example: Phynova recently advertised a new product as the first traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) being registered in the UK. By directing customers to a separate site for more information regarding their product they ‘accidentally’ linked to a site which ‘advertised’ rhino horn (this link has since been removed). Another example is a University in Australia who published a thesis in 2008, in which they described the current use of Rhino horn as a highly effective medicine, just like you would describe any other real medicine. Surely this will have an impact!

But first a bit of background, so please bear with me. There are two ‘opposing’ aspects regarding TCM that most members of the public do not seem to understand well. Not their fault, because the TCM lobby groups are spending a huge amount of effort to keep the lines between these two aspects as blurred as possible. The first aspect is the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles; the yin and yang and the vitalistic “energy” flow through “meridians” and much more. Science has relegated this to the pseudosciences, just like bloodletting, which was seen as a cure-all hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, the pseudoscientific TCM principles are still with us and based on these principles almost every single TCM modality works! From acupuncture to herbs to animal matter (including rhino horn) – everything is efficacious, safe and cost effective. Evidence for this is that close to a 100% of clinical trials done on TCM in China give positive results. Strange isn’t it! People in China should thus no die of any disease – they have ‘effective’ medicine for everything! This is the world of TCM in a nutshell.

The second aspect of TCM is the application of the modern scientific method to test which of the thousands of TCM modalities are really active, which ones are useless and which ones are dangerous. Decades of investigation have come up empty-handed with one or two exceptions. One notable exception is Artemisia annua which contain a single compound that is highly effective for the treatment of malaria, and once identified and intensely studied, it was taken up into conventional medicine – not the herb, but the compound. If you investigate all the plants in the world you are bound to find some compounds that can be used as medicine – it has nothing to do with TCM principles and it can most definitely not be used as evidence that the TCM principles are correct or that it based on science.

These two aspects are therefore quite different.

In the TCM world just about everything works, but it is not backed up by science. It is huge market ($170 billion) and it creates employment for many – something that make politicians smile. In the modern scientific world, almost nothing in TCM works, but it is based on science. It is however not profitable at all – you have to investigate thousands of plants in order to find one useful compound.

Many TCM practitioners and researchers are avidly trying to combine the positives of these two worlds. They focus mainly on the money and employment aspect of the TCM world and try and combine this with the modern scientific approach. They tend to focus on the one example where modern science discovered a useful compound (artemisinin) in the medicinal plant Artemisia annua, which was also coincidently used as an herb in TCM – as evidence that TCM works! Here are some examples:

“To stigmatise all traditional medicine would be unfair. After all, a Chinese medicine practitioner last year won a Nobel prize.” No, a Chinese scientist using the modern scientific method identified artemisinin after testing hundreds or even thousands of different plants.

This year, Chinese medicine practitioners will be registered in Australia. ….. Chinese herbal medicine is administered routinely in hospitals for many chronic diseases. …… This has led to recognising herbs such as Artemisia as a proven anti-malarial ……” No, the compound artemisinin is a proven anti-malarial!

There has been enormous progress in the last 20 years or so. I am sure you are familiar with the use of one of the Chinese herbs in managing resistant malaria.” No, very little progress and no, the compound artemisinin!

So this is a game that is being played with the simple intention to blur the lines between these two aspects regarding TCM – but the real reason might simply be “A new research-led Chinese medicine clinic in Sydney, better patient outcomes and the potential for Australia to tap into the $170 billion global traditional Chinese medicine market”

Prof Alan Bensoussan the director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) and registered in Australia as a TCM and acupuncture practitioner is a champion in blurring this line. Alan has been instrumental in lobbying the Australian regulatory agency that a long tradition of use is all you need to be able to register new products. He was also influential in establishing the Chinese medicine practitioner registry in Australia, in 2012, and thereby legitimising TCM in Australia. He has been actively chipping away at the resistance that the Australian public have against these pseudoscientific healthcare systems such as TCM – one can argue that he has done so quite successfully because they are expanding their operations into the Westmead precinct of Sydney with a new TCM clinic/hospital.

Enough background; so what does all of this have to do with Rhino horn? (and for that matter other endangered species). We have to remember that in the TCM world just about everything works and that includes rhino horn! Searching Western Sydney University’s theses portal for Xijiao (Chinese for Rhino horn) I found a thesis published in 2008 from the NICM and co-supervised by Alan; “Development of an evidence-based Chinese herbal medicine for the management of vascular dementia”

On page 45-46: “Recently, with fast developing science and technologies being applied in the pharmaceutical manufacturing area, more and more herbs or herbal mixtures have been extracted or made into medicinal injections. These have not only largely facilitated improved application to patients, but also increased the therapeutic effectiveness and accordingly reduced the therapeutic courses …… lists the most common Chinese herbal medicine injections used for the treatment of VaD. “

“Xing Nao Jing Injection (for clearing heat toxin and opening brain, removing phlegm) contains ….. Rhinoceros unicornis (Xijiao), …… Moschus berezovskii (Shexiang), …..”

“…. Xing Nao Jing injection has been widely applied in China for stroke and vascular dementia. …. After 1-month treatment intervention, they found the scores in the treatment group increased remarkably, as compared with the control group …… “

They list two endangered species; the Rhino and the Chinese forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii). But what is truly worrying is that they don’t even mention the endangered status or at least recommend that the non-endangered substitutes, which do exist in the TCM world, should be used instead – or maybe use fingernails as a substitute? It is not discussed at all. Clearly they are stating that using these endangered animals are way more effective than western medicine (the control group) for the treatment of vascular dementia!  This is deplorable to say the least. Statements like this fuels the decimation of this species.  But this shows that they truly believe and support the underlying pseudoscientific principles of TCM – they have to, their ability to tap into the TCM market depends on it!

But is this now really promoting Rhino horn as medicine? Well, the definition of promoting something is; “support or actively encourage (a cause, venture, etc.); further the progress of.” – so I would say, yes. As a scientist you are entitled to discuss historic believes, such as that most people once believed that the earth was flat. But make sure to also state that modern science has now shown beyond any doubt that the earth is round. If it is stated that the earth is flat without saying that this is incorrect then you would be promoting that idea – and believe it or not, even in 2016, you can find a flat earth society! The same goes for Rhino horn and this is exactly what they have done here. But then again they live in a world where all TCM modalities are active!

How to solve this problem of growing acceptance of TCM in western countries?  A simple step could be that people like Alan publicly denounce the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles and make the ‘difficult’ switch to real science! Admittedly, he will have to part with lots of money from the CM industry and his Chinese partners, and maybe not built his new TCM hospital! But for some reason I strongly doubt that this will happen. The NICM have successfully applied a very thin, but beautiful, veneer of political correctness and modernity over the surface of complementary medicine. Anyone who cares to look underneath this veneer will find a rotten ancient pseudoscientific TCM world – in this case the promotion and the use of endangered animals.

After reading chapter two of this thesis one cannot believe that this is from an Australian University and paid for by the Australian taxpayer! The main question though: Can I directly link this thesis with the increase in rhino poaching? This will be very difficult if not impossible to do. But that is not the problem. Promoting the pseudoscientific principles of TCM in Australia expands the export market for TCM, and hence will lead to an increased need for raw materials, including the banned Rhino horn. That Rhino horn has been a banned substance since the 1980’s clearly does not seem to have any impact looking at the poaching statistics. In an unrelated paper published in 2010 the ingredients in the Xingnaojing injection is listed as “…. consisting of Chinese herbs such as Moschus, Borneol, Radix Curcumae, Fructus Gardeniae, ….” No full list is given in the paper – dare I say because it contains Rhino horn as well?

The drug Ice is also banned, but if you are going to promote it at a ‘trusted’ university, then you shouldn’t be surprised that Ice production increases and more of it flows into Australia – even if it is illegal.  The same goes for Rhino horn!

Rhino poaching and the Australian National Institute of Complementary Medicine – is there a link?

It is always interesting to link what the Australian based National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) say or do with international events that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with them – or at least that is what most people would think. What does the Western Sydney University based NICM have to do with Rhino poaching in South Africa??

First a bit of background, so please bear with me. Recently, the first Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) product was registered in the UK by a company called Phynova. It contains a TCM herbal ingredient and it is sold for “Joint and Muscle Relief” – you can read the press releases here and here and a more critical appraisal here. What struck me as odd was that this product was clearly being advertised as the first TCM product to be sold in the UK. This basically means that the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has given credibility and legitimacy to the underlying pseudoscientific principles of TCM for example; the ying/yang, six excesses (wind, cold, fire/heat etc.), five phases (fire, earth, metal etc.), vital energy that flows through meridians etc.

These TCM principles have been relegated to the pseudosciences and even some Chinese scholars promotes the abolishment of TCM, and labels it as nothing more than a valuable export product for China! Does this now mean that all herbs used in TCM is pretty much useless? No, there are indeed some herbs, admittedly very few, that have been shown to be quite valuable (e.g. Artemisia annua).

Phynova could have chosen to register and market their new product merely under the name of the herb that it contains. This, at least, might have given their product slightly more scientific credibility – depending on if it contains useful compounds or not. Hence, it was a choice between these two issues; support for the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles or support for the scientific approach that a specific herb might contain useful compounds. Phynova has chosen the former and hence this product is marketed under the TCM banner for the sake of market size and profits.

This, of course, is great news for TCM practitioners worldwide including Prof Alan Bensoussan the director of the NICM and registered in Australia as a TCM and acupuncture practitioner. They will now claim that the body of evidence and hence the acceptance of TCM in the West is growing, knowing pretty well that it has a lot more to do with lobbying than with science! Alan has been instrumental in lobbying the Australian regulatory agency, the TGA, that a long tradition of use is all you need to register a product – who cares about efficacy!

He has also been chipping away at the resistance that the Australian public might have against these pseudoscientific healthcare systems, such as TCM, by publicly misleading them that the TCM principles is based on real science – which it is not! You can read about it here, here and here. He is also planning to expand into the Westmead precinct of Sydney with a new TCM clinic/hospital – thus, Alan has big plans for TCM in Australia and he is a staunch believer and advocate of the TCM principles (maybe the global $170 billion TCM market has something to do with this?).

Enough background; so what does all of this have to do with Rhino horn? (and for that matter other endangered species). Well, Rhino horn “…. is bitter, sour, and salty in flavor and cold in nature. Vital functions are removing heat to cool blood, relieve internal heat, and arresting convulsion.”  This is the type of language that you hear from TCM practitioners such as Alan, companies such as Phynova and also the MHRA who has now given credibility and legitimacy to these TCM principles. Where did I get this information regarding Rhino horn? Well, from Phynova – or at least indirectly!

On Phynova’s website there was a link that directed the potential customer to a website providing scientific information regarding the herb in their new product – fair enough (accessed on 13/07/2016 – this link from Phynova’s site has since been removed). Shockingly, and probably also the reason why this link has been removed so quickly, was the information provided in the sidebar under the heading “New Herbs and Remedies.” There you find Rhinoceros horn! Yes, it is listed as a “herb” and yes the accompanying image is that of elephant tusks! Oh Boy!

If Phynova is that sloppy with doing research I have to wonder how much real scientific research has gone into their new product. Did they even read the “scientific” information regarding their herb on this website? Clearly not! Or maybe their research was more focused on the packaging, marketing and sales of this amazing new product.

Even though it is claimed on this website that Rhino horn does not have any medicinal value – the fact that it is listed and that they provide recipes of how to prepare and use it tells me a different story (please scroll down to the comments section of the website). For example, they state “Even though now it is not used as a medicine any more. Knowing a bit more about the medical facts about rhinos can be good for you.” Here again we have the familiar issue plaguing the complementary medicine industry – what they say and what they actually mean or do is two different things! You be the judge.

And Alan Bensoussan at the NICM? The following section comes straight from a PhD thesis (on page 45) supervised by the NICM uner the leadership of  Alan Bensoussan and approved by Western Sydney University in 2008 (my highlights in bold and explanation of abbreviations in brackets)

“These have not only largely facilitated improved application to patients, but also increased the therapeutic effectiveness and accordingly reduced the therapeutic courses. Following on Table 2.4 lists the most common Chinese herbal medicine injections used for the treatment of VaD (Vascular Dementia).

Table 2.4 Chinese herbal medicine injections for VaD

CHM injection Functions Compositions
Xing Nao Jing Injection Clearing heat toxin

and opening brain,

removing phlegm

Gallbaldder stone of Bos taurus domesticus (Niuhuang), Curcuma aromatica (Yujin), Rhinoceros unicornis (Xijiao), Coptis chinensis (Huanglian), Scutellaria baicalensis (Huangqin), Gardenia jasminoides (Shanzhi), Cinnabar (Zhusha), (Xionghuang), Moschus berezovskii (Shexiang), Pteria martensii (Zhenzhu)

Xing Nao Jing Injection
Based on the classic formula “An Gong Niu Huang Wan”, Xing Nao Jing injection has been widely applied in China for stroke and vascular dementia. Wang et al (2000) observed the therapeutic effect of Xing Nao Jing Injection treatment on vascular dementia and the affect on HDL  (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). 76 cases of VaD in patients were randomly allocated into two groups: Xing Nao Jing Injection treatment group (n=39) and western medicine control group (n=37). MMSE (Mini Mental State Examination) and content of HDL and LDL were assessed or observed before and after treatment. After 1-month treatment intervention, they found the scores of MMSE in the treatment group increased remarkably, as compared with the control group (p<0.05). The HDL elevated and LDL decreased in the treatment group (Wang et al, 2000).”

They only list two endangered species; the Rhino and the  Chinese forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii), but what is worrying is that they don’t even mention the endangered status or at least recommend that the non-endangered substitutes should be used instead. Clearly they are marketing these endangered species as way more effective than western medicine (their control group) for the treatment of vascular dementia! I have to admit that this thesis is rather confusing and that it will need an in-depth investigation  – my next blog post will deal with this thesis and any other similar theses I can find from the NICM, dealing with endangered species.  

The problem with Rhino horn is relatively simple. The more Rhino’s killed the more expensive the horn becomes which leads to more rhinos being killed – there seems to be no solution! That Rhino horn is claimed, as above, to be highly active against Vascular Dementia is to say the least, deplorable. Statements like this fuels the decimation of this species. But we have to try and do something. A simple step could be that people like Prof Alan Bensoussan publicly denounce the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles and make the “difficult” switch to real science! Admittedly, he will have to part with a bit of money from the CM industry and his Chinese partners, and maybe not built his new TCM hospital – but whatever he can do to save the Rhino, right?

The NICM have successfully applied a very thin, but beautiful, veneer of political correctness and modernity over the surface of complementary medicine, focusing on TCM, by ticking the box that they are against the use of endangered species, and by using real scientific terminology incorrectly in order to convince the public of the medicinal value of TCM in a “modern” package. Anyone who cares to look underneath this veneer will find the rotten ancient pseudoscientific TCM world – including the use of endangered species. Just look at how active Rhino horn is for vascular dementia!! Read chapter two of the above mentioned thesis and you cannot believe that this is from an Australian University and paid for by the Australian taxpayer! Unfortunately rhino horn is just the tip of the iceberg, they continue to defend and promote almost all complementary medicines such as homeopathy and acupuncture as well by using the same techniques.

Another piece of evidence that the use of Rhino horn in TCM is indeed alive and well comes from poaching statistics. Over the last number of years there has been an exponential rise in poaching in South Africa with 2015 topping out at 1 175 as compared to only 13 rhinos killed in 2007. Not even to mention the hundreds of human lives lost attempting to either poach or protect the rhinos. Maybe theses, such as the ones supervised by the NICM and approved by WSU in 2008, has partly led to this exponential increase in poaching stats?

Companies such as Phynova should register their product as a herb and market it as such based on real scientific results, and not advertise it under the TCM banner. The TCM banner encompasses the whole pseudoscientific TCM healthcare system including the use of Rhino horn and other endangered species.

The regulatory authorities, lobbied endlessly by the CM industry and people like Alan, should refuse to register products under the TCM banner and should only register the specific herb after real evidence of efficacy and safety have been provided – preferably clinical trial results. The Phynova product was registered solely based on a long tradition of use without any clinical trials backing up their claims!

By now, I know that very few people care. I’ve been told many times – this is how the world works, get used to it and move on. I am okay with the idea that apparently most Aussies do not mind being misled by other Aussies – seemingly an Aussie thing as Alan once told me “but everyone is doing it”.  If most Aussies want to fall for TCM, and even use their own tax dollars to sponsor it (NICM receives $2 million/annum) –  be my guest, but please keep these issues within Australian borders and leave the Rhinos alone. But that is not going to happen – supporting and advocating the TCM principles in Australia by people such as Alan Bensoussan creates a global ripple effect with Rhino poaching being one of the many detrimental results. I give it 5-10 years and that will be the end of Rhinos – which animals will they target then?

 

Comments received on this post from reddit/r/ChineseMedicine indicating that it is indeed a very thin veneer ! 

[–]Fogsmasher 5 points 3 days ago

Ok, so you hate Chinese medicine/acupuncture. What exactly are you trying to accomplish here?

[–]zeissbickham 3 points 3 days ago

Because it’s easier to shit on things and blame others than take actionable initiatives like supporting education of the populace a la Yao Ming.

The West isn’t where your problem is, OP. It’s a billion plus people not knowing that their actions are having consequences in far flung regions of the world that they know nothing about. You’re barking up the wrong tree if you’re trying to guilt trip people here on this sub – we already know about species on the brink of extinction. Your keyboard slacktivism is duly noted, however.

[–]Fogsmasher 2 points 3 days ago

Nah, he’s got some bug up his ass about TCM in general. Check out other posts in his blog and it’s full of circular logic about how TCM is bullshit and can’t possibly work so therefore we shouldn’t do research. If there is research that says something works then it’s crap research because everyone knows the basis for TCM is impossible.

[–]zeissbickham 3 points 3 days ago

I’ll take your word for it – sounds like a waste of time. As does shitposting on random subs, which is a waste of Frank’s time. So be it.

Thanks for the reply.

Western Sydney University snooping on staff emails! – why am I not surprised

I suspected it and I was even asked by the officer in the Complaints Resolution Unit if I believe that they (read the National Institute of Complementary Medicine) were snooping on my emails.  Once I started to speak to the management of Western Sydney University about the serious concerns that I had with how the NICM operates, I immediately felt that more people knew about this matter than should have. The only way that this can happen was for them to either forward my emails to third parties or by snooping on my emails. Problem was how do you prove it? The only solution that I could come up with at the time, was to switch to my gmail account – at least that solved the snooping issue but not the forwarding issue.

It was therefore quite refreshing to read in the newspaper that WSU is indeed snooping on the emails of their staff. I feel vindicated! Here is a quote from the article:

A university spokesman said on Friday that WSU has in place “a policy relating to workplace surveillance” and does not “routinely” monitor any individual’s email, adding: “Staff are made aware of these policies when they commence and the university routinely notifies staff of the inclusions of these policies. We believe our practices are aligned with those in the sector and the Privacy Commission’s good practice guidelines.” But Mr Byrne hit back, alleging his treatment was the result of a “culture of paranoia” within campus. “It’s a relatively new player in a competitive industry. Everything it does publicly is perfectly crafted and considered. Yet behind the scenes, it is completely paranoid about how it is perceived.”

Isn’t this revealing! “….and does not routinely monitor any individuals email…”. They basically admit that they are indeed snooping on the emails of staff and I cannot agree more with Mr Byrne. WSU is as paranoid as they get and the reason for this is quite simple. They know that what they are doing is wrong! Obviously they have the tendency to ignore problems and instead of having a civil discussion they force the problem to go away – read make “difficult” people go away. They were quite happy to give me 6 weeks of pay but only if  I leave immediately!! No discussion, no debate – just get out of here! So they are happy to dish out $10 000 but please leave immediately.  To fully support all sorts of complementary medicine and to intentionally mislead the public for the sake of making money is wrong. They know that only very few people will have the ethics and the guts to stand up and say something about it, and it is those people that they need to check out and hence snoop on their emails. Worst of all, they employ people paid by the taxpayer, to do this – an educated guess – maybe to the tune of $100 000-200 000 per year?  Protect our image at all costs, so maybe my guess of how much they spend on this might be the understatement of the year.

Clearly they will have problems in various departments and not only at the NICM and clearly they will not discuss these serious issues but will rather resort to gestapo style surveillance in order to make troublesome people “disappear”. It is as if this university will never wake up –  but it cannot be that hard. Focus on real science and all your numbers will fall into place and you don’t have to spend excessive amounts of funding and time to put all these fires out. Once it starts to burn, the fire will eventually consume the university – time to wake up!