The Ban on Everything (The Last Stand)

Late last year, the UK Home Secretary Theresa May rammed the Psychoactive Substances Bill through Parliament. The bill effectively prohibited any and all substances not included on an approved list of exemptions. Concerns that the absence of a meaningful definition of the word “psychoactive” would render otherwise legal substances – such as perfume and air fresheners – illegal, was secondary to the concern that unregulated legal highs were potentially being sold to young adults.

Think of the Children

The Home Office actively ignored the warnings of its own council, and seemed determined to do anything and everything in its power to stamp out this unregulated evil. Efforts were made to reason with representatives from the Home Office. High-profile gay groups lobbied for an exemption on Poppers, the drug of choice among gay men (from what I hear). The advisory body for Christian and Jewish churches in England even had to be reassured that incense could still be used in religious services.

Anyone capable of understanding the implications of a law that doesn’t contain a working definition of the very thing it is purporting to ban, mourned the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Bill earlier this year. Well, it appears there is now reason to celebrate. The Home Office has reportedly delayed putting the law into practice while it hammers out the details. That’s going to require some hammer.

The Alternative Trade Association has the scoop.

*STOP PRESS*

The New Psychoactive Substances Act has passed through Parliament, received Royal Ascent and was due to come into force 6th April 2016. However, it has been postponed ‘indefinitely’ after it was pointed out by the police that it is unenforceable.

Hampshire Police Psychoactive Substances Bill

See also: The Ban on Everything and The Ban on Everything (cont.), my two items covering the Psychoactive Substances Bill from last November.

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No Room for Debate II

This is a sequel to my post yesterday about the Consumer Federation of America’s (CFA) decision to disinvite author of The Big Fat Surprise Nina Teicholz from the 2016 National Food Policy Conference. To recap: one of the panelists, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Margo Wootan, said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work.” 

Wootan cited a letter that was sent to the BMJ requesting the retraction of Teicholz’s article, The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, which criticised the methodology and findings of the 2015 dietary guidelines report. The letter was organised by Wootan’s CSPI colleague, Bonnie Liebman, via an email that was circulated among 180+ university professors and graduates from the US and Europe.

I’m taking this opportunity to publish some of the responses to Liebman’s original email, which I obtained by filing records requests with various UK universities.

Name of signatory and university

Jayne Woodside, PhD / Queen’s University, Belfast
Laura Johnson, PhD; and Angeliki Papadaki, PhD, MSc, FHEA / University of Bristol
Mike Rayner, DPhil / University of Oxford
Neil Poulter, MD / Imperial College London
Graham MacGregor, MA, MB, BChir / University of London

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Cloning Programme

While I was researching an upcoming blog post on alternative medicine, I noticed a strange phenomenon among graduates of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where Samhu Iyyam aka Dr. David Katz serves on the advisory board. It appears the institute has a secret cloning programme, whose sole purpose is to spread the word about integrative nutrition.

Exhibit A: this well-turned, if not slightly mechanical excerpt, which appears to have been inserted into the bios of every graduate of the institute’s “Health Coach Training Program.”

Institute of Integrative Nutrition Debra Klein

The words of health coach Debra Klein, or an evil clone? Here are the same few lines, taken from the website of so-called integrative health coach, Tara the Health Nut.

Institute of Integrative Nutrition Tara the Health Nut

In the words of Burt Bacharach, who are these people?


Big thanks to Peter M. Heimlich for his highly-recommended Lazy Man’s Guide to Blogging, which inspired this post.

No Room for Debate

Journalist critical of 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines disinvited from speaking at the 2016 National Food Policy Conference [Updated: Read the UK responses to Bonnie Liebman’s email re: CSPI / Nina Teicholz retraction letter by clicking here]

Nina Teicholz, journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise, has been disinvited – or perhaps a more apt word would be “deplatformed”¹ – from a prestigious Washington, DC food policy panel. Politico reports that Teicholz, whose work challenges the science on diet and nutrition, has been replaced by Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research & Education. If nothing else, Storey’s pro-carb perspective will make for an agreeable talk.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and National Food Policy Conference panelist, reportedly said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work” – citing a letter that was sent to the BMJ requesting the retraction of Teicholz’s Sept. 23, 2015 article, The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, which strongly criticised the methodology and findings of the 2015 dietary guidelines report.

The Nov. 5, 2015 letter was organised by Wootan’s CSPI colleague, Director of Nutrition Bonnie Liebman, via an email that was circulated among more than 180 university professors and graduates from the United States and elsewhere. For a sense of the slipshod organisation and uncritical thinking that went into the preparation of the letter, click here for Liebman’s original email plus a sample of the responses, which I obtained via a records request to Queen’s University, Belfast.

If you believe public debate should include dissenting voices, click here to sign a petition to reinstate Teicholz on the panel at the National Food Policy Conference on April 6-7.

See also: Disappearing Act: 18 co-signers of BMJ retraction request letter are now MIA, which I co-authored with Atlanta, GA reporter Peter M. Heimlich last December.

¹Deplatforming means disinviting a speaker at the insistence of a special interest group, and is traditionally the domain of hypersensitive undergrads, as seen last October when students at Cardiff University (UK) petitioned to cancel a lecture by iconic feminist Germaine Greer.

Advertisements for Himself

As a semi-newbie blogger, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to check out each new follower to Shooting the Messenger. I figure I owe it to return the favour, plus it keeps things interesting.

About a month or two ago, things got a whole lot more interesting when cult author and DePaul University writing professor Dr. Joseph Suglia began following this blog. Since I’m not in the habit of quizzing readers for feedback, I just presumed Dr. Suglia liked something I wrote. Alas, I’ve been forced to rethink that presumption.

According to San Diego CityBeat reviewer Kinsee Morlan, Dr. Suglia makes no secret about using social media to promote his books.

[Joseph Suglia] may be one of the first Myspace junkies to use the peer-to-peer marketing capabilities of the site to promote his latest book, Watch Out […] Suglia hit me up on Myspace to ask if I’d review his book. I appreciated his ballsy conceit – at one point he wrote to say his book “is the greatest accomplishment of my life: literally or otherwise” – almost as much as I came to appreciate the conceit of his central character. 

Consulting with my friend Google,¹ I’m informed Dr. Suglia is both “The Greatest Writer in the World” and “A Self-Important Prick.”

One of the above quotes provides the headline to an actual review of Dr. Suglia’s 2006 novel, Watch Out; the other was taken from the author’s own Myspace page. Without peeking, care to guess which goes where?

If the only reason to follow my blog was to promote his latest writing exercise, I’m forced to concede the ploy worked brilliantly. Thanks to Dr. Suglia, I have now read most of Table 41: A Novel. The good news is, it’s as batshit crazy as you’d hope.

Dr. Suglia’s MO for each chapter – or “table” – is simple. Almost invariably, he opens with a description of an animal/s, walking/crawling/slithering etc. around a public setting, then finds as many different ways to embellish the description until all available synonyms have been exhausted. A typical line goes:

The tiger freezes and stares its frozen stare, locking eyes with your looking eyes. Its eyes are the green of green Jell-O.

Who can identify what shade of genius/madness colours Dr. Suglia’s soul? Personally, I applaud any fiction writer who uses the adjective “lactogenic” and is still allowed to enter a bookstore.

To read the highly entertaining Table 41: A Novel, click here. To watch Dr. Suglia read an excerpt from his novel, click here.

¹That’s a Sonic Youth reference, for all the cool kids out there.