REALLity Check

by David Bloomberg

The biggest news on the media front is the Greta Alexander claims (see "From the Chairman"). I will go out on a limb and predict that there will be a longer article on that particular case and other similar ones in an upcoming issue, so I won't go into it any further here.

The Other Side of Skepticism

As you may recall from the May issue of this newsletter, the former host of NBC's half-hour talk show, The Other Side, left because he was tired of the sleaze on the show. I also mentioned then that if the show followed him and went off the air, it would restore some of my faith in the general public. Well, my faith remains in the basement, I'm afraid.

The show is going on, with a new, even less skeptical host. TV Guide's Couch Critic, Jeff Jarvis, reviewed the show in the August 19 issue, and he called it like he saw it: "TV's latest low." He also pointed out how "pathetic and cruel" one show was in which a supposed psychic was passing along messages to a mother from her dead daughter.

I especially liked his tone of skepticism - so often missing in many journalists these days - as he points out that The Other Side has no other side; the show is for True Believers only. One quote that bears repeating: "It's amazing enough that they can fill a week with these eccentrics. But it's even more amazing that they could find a host gullible enough to nod at all the claptrap..."

Alternative to Health

Dateline NBC once again tackled the issue of alternative medicine, this time (8/22) looking at a story which isn't exactly new, but is important nonetheless.

Several years back, L-tryptophan hit the market as an alternative "health food." Because it was labeled as such, it didn't have to go through the FDA testing process necessary for drugs, and was simply shipped into stores for people to buy. It was billed as a wonder product, one that could supposedly cure all sorts of problems.

Unfortunately, at least one company's version of this "health food" turned out to be a killer. Over 5,000 people have become ill, and at least 36 have died because their brand of L-tryptophan apparently contained an impurity which caused their immune systems to turn on the body.

This is a health food?

Dateline pointed out that the FDA still doesn't need to approve these "supplements," and, in fact, they must prove it unsafe in order to get it removed. Even if it has no effect at all, the company can still market it and make money off of people who wrongly assume that if a product is on the shelves, it must be OK and the claims must be true. In the worst case, we'll have another L-tryptophan on our hands sooner or later.

Skip This if You're Squeamish

You can't say I didn't warn you - skip this portion if you get easily grossed-out.

Newsweek (8/21) reports that there is a new alternative medicine trend: people drinking their own urine.

I know what you're thinking: YUCK! That's my thought too. But Vedanta Saraswati, a London yoga teacher, says that we're just being silly. "Westerners in general are awfully funny about things that come out of orifices," he said. Yeah. Silly me. I happen to agree with what Dr. Marc Micozzi was quoted as saying: "If the body is trying to eliminate something from the system, that would be a sign that it's not a good idea to ingest it."

Once again, I say: YUCK!

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