REALLity Check

by David Bloomberg

The pages of The REALL News have been so well-filled with articles in the past few months, there hasn’t been room for this column, though several of those articles were based on media reports anyway. So now it’s time to start digging into my pile of clippings and see what nuggets I can pull out.

Remembering to Keep a Story Truthful

The media has been under quite a bit of scrutiny in the past few months. Several reporters were fired for making up stories or making up people they were supposedly interviewing, and CNN/Time had to retract another major story (on the supposed use of nerve gas on American defectors in Laos) because it turned out they couldn’t back up its claims.

Alone, none of these would have necessarily meant an inclusion in this column. But the reason the CNN/Time report merits (or demerits) mention here is because they relied on the "repressed memory" of their main source. This former Army lieutenant — who had previously written about the operations in question and never once mentioned anything about nerve gas being used on American defectors in Laos, suddenly "remembered" it when he was interviewed by a CNN producer. He claimed the memories were repressed (therefore he didn’t have to address the discrepancy of why he never mentioned it before). Making it even worse, CNN neglected to mention in their report that it was based off of "repressed memories," even though they had to know that such claims have proven, as TV Guide said, "notoriously unreliable" (7/11). Yes, that’s right, even a pop-culture type magazine like TV Guide knows better than CNN and Time how unreliable repressed memories are. That’s a sad statement on the news.

FMS Trial

Speaking of problems with repressed memories, I urge you to check out to read about the first criminal trial revolving around false memory implantation (in Houston). They have updates almost daily on what has gone on in the trial, and it’s very interesting to watch its progression. There are several Illinois-related pieces in this trial (Bennett Braun was named as an unindicted co-conspirator and I believe at least one of the accusers is from Illinois as well), which makes it even more intriguing.

Medical Journal on Alternatives

An editorial in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (9/17) said something we’ve been saying for a long time: Alternative medicine should be subjected to the same standards as any other type of medicine.

The editorial noted, "There cannot be two kinds of medicine — conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work."

The same issue reported on several cases of alternative medicine:

Doctors at the Alberta Children’s Hospital discussed two cases in which parents decided to treat their child’s cancer with shark cartilage or herbs instead of standard anti-cancer treatments. The cancers progressed in both cases and one child died.

The California Department of Health Services tested more than 200 "traditional Chinese medicines," finding that one-third of them contained unlisted pharmaceuticals or heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.

The FDA described an occurrence when the herb plantain was contaminated with a form of digitalis, a heart stimulant that can cause heart attacks if used improperly.

Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Two studies on chiropractic also hit the news recently, again in the New England Journal of Medicine (10/8). One looked at non-traditional use of chiropractic to treat asthma in children. It studied 80 kids with mild to moderate asthma, all of whom were seen by 11 chiropractors to get either standard chiropractic treatment or fake manipulations. After four months, both groups got slightly better, but there was no difference between them (indicating the possibility of a placebo effect).

The second study focused more on the standard claims of chiropractic and looked at people with lower back pain. More than 320 people were tested, and it was found that while physical therapy and chiropractic were both mildly beneficial compared to care just under a family doctor, patients did only marginally better than those receiving a $1 booklet on backaches!

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