Johnny Depp visits Australian children’s hospital as Captain Jack

Actor Johnny Depp is around town filming the latest Pirates of Caribbean installment, and has taken to winning over the locals after some bizarre behavior, so he went to visit an Australian children’s hospital.

johnny.deppDressed as his character Captain Jack Sparrow, he arrived at the oncology and neurology wards of Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane on Tuesday.

When his daughter Lily Rose contracted E. coli poisoning and suffered kidney failure in 2007, she was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, spending nine days there.

Depp was so grateful for the help they received that he donated £1million to the hospital and made a surprise visit dressed as Captain Jack two years later.

But here’s the real inspiration for Captain Jack.

A’s pitcher Sonny Gray had Salmonella

I don’t like baseball. It’s like watching soccer.

sonny-grayBut pitcher Sonny Gray was back with the A’s Thursday after suffering a case of salmonella that hospitalized him for two nights.

Gray said before Thursday’s game with Seattle that he was back to feeling mostly well for the first time since Sunday, one day after symptoms of dehydration and fever that first cropped up Saturday became serious.

It’s not extraordinary being public and accountable: Hucksters, science and celebrity

Some 10, maybe 15 years ago, Timothy Caulfield and I served on the same federal advisory panel in Canada, and both argued for evidence-based solutions for biotechnology and food production.

caulfield.celebrity.jun.15And somewhere along the way, we both figured out that shamelessly using celebrities would help spread our message.

Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta (that’s in Canada) with his book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, seems to be part of a growing movement that says: science is cool. Celebrities aren’t scientists. People who get PhDs and do the work are.

But what about those who shamelessly trade on their scientific credentials?

The American Medical Association is finally taking a stand on quacks like Dr. Oz to “defend the integrity of the profession.”

This is a turning point where the AMA is willing to go out in public and actively defend the profession,” Benjamin Mazer, a medical student at the University of Rochester who was involved in crafting the resolution, said. “This is one of the most proactive steps that the AMA has taken [on mass media issues].”

And as the N.Y. Times reported, the crimes and misdemeanors of science used to be handled mostly in-house, with a private word at the faculty club, barbed questions at a conference, maybe a quiet dismissal. On the rare occasion when a journal publicly retracted a study, it typically did so in a cryptic footnote. Few were the wiser; many retracted studies have been cited as legitimate evidence by others years after the fact.

But that gentlemen’s world has all but evaporated, as a remarkable series of events last month demonstrated. In mid-May, after two graduate students raised questions about a widely reported study on how political canvassing affects opinions of same-sex marriage, editors at the journal Science, where the study was published, began to investigate. What followed was a frenzy of second-guessing, accusations and commentary from all corners of the Internet: “Retraction” as serial drama, rather than footnote. Science officially pulled the paper, by Michael LaCour of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Donald Green of Columbia, on May 28, because of concerns about Mr. LaCour’s data.

“Until recently it was unusual for us to report on studies that were not yet retracted,” said Dr. Ivan Oransky, an editor of the blog Retraction Watch, the first news media outlet to report that the study had been challenged. But new technology and a push for transparency from younger scientists have changed that, he said. “We have more tips than we can handle.”

scienceThe case has played out against an increase in retractions that has alarmed many journal editors and authors. Scientists in fields as diverse as neurobiology, anesthesia and economics are debating how to reduce misconduct, without creating a police-state mentality that undermines creativity and collaboration.

“It’s an extraordinary time,” said Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, and a founder of the Center for Open Science, which provides a free service through which labs can share data and protocols. “We are now seeing a number of efforts to push for data repositories to facilitate direct replications of findings.”


Food as snake oil: ‘diet gurus’ hook us with religion veiled in science

With full respect to Kurt Vonnegut, I listen to the ethical pronouncements of the leaders of the church of organic and am able to distill only two firm commandments from them. The first commandment is this: Stop thinking. The second commandment is this: Obey. Only a person who has given up on the power of reason to improve life here on earth, or a soldier in basic training, could accept either commandment gladly. is 21st century snake oil. In an era of unprecedented affluence, consumers now choose among a cacophony of low‑fat, enhanced‑nutrient staples reflecting a range of political statements and perceived lifestyle preferences, far beyond dolphin‑free tuna.

And to go with the Salt Spring Island goat cheese, the all‑organic carrots and the Snapple-laced echinacea is a veritable sideshow of hucksters and buskers, flogging their wares to the highest bidder ‑‑ these things always cost a premium ‑‑ or at least the most fashionable.

In 2001, the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld four complaints against claims in a Soil Association leaflet entitled Five Reasons To Eat Organic. The ASA ruled there was no evidence that, contrary to the assertions of the Soil Association, that consumers could taste the difference, that organic was healthy, that it was better for the environment, and that organic meant healthy, happy animals. On one claim, the Soil Association responded that 53% of people buying organic produce did so because they thought it was healthy. The ASA rightly ruled this did not constitute any sort of clinical or scientific evidence.

Alan Levinovitz writes for NPR that from Paleo to vegan to raw, nutrition gurus package their advice as sound, settled science. It doesn’t matter whether meat is blamed for colon cancer or grains are called out as fattening poison — there’s no shortage of citations and technical terms (tertiary amines, gliadin, ketogenesis) to back up the claims.

But as a scholar of religion, it’s become increasingly clear to me that when it comes to fad diets, science is often just a veneer. Peel it away and you find timeless myths and superstitions, used to reinforce narratives of good and evil that give meaning to people’s lives and the illusion of control over their well-being.

Take the grain-free monks of ancient China. (My specialty is classical Chinese thought.) Like all diet gurus, these monks used a time-tested formula. They mocked the culinary culture around them, which depended on the so-called wugu, or “five grains.”

According to the monks’ radical teachings, conventional grain-laden Chinese diets “rotted and befouled” your organs, leading to early disease and death. By avoiding the five grains, you could achieve perfect health, immortality, clear skin, the ability to fly and teleport. Well, not quite. To fully realize the benefits of the monks’ diet, you also had to take proprietary supplements, highly technical alchemical preparations that only a select few knew how to make. All of this may sound eerily familiar: Look no further than modern anti-grain polemics like Dr. David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain — complete with its own recommended supplement regimen.

Despite basic logic and evidence to the contrary, the philosophy of the grain-free monks gained popularity. That’s because then, as now, the appeal of dietary fads had much to do with myths, not facts. Chief among these is the myth of “paradise past,” an appealing fiction about a time when everyone was happy and healthy, until they ate the wrong food and fell from grace.

hucksterThe mythic narrative of “unnatural” modernity and a “natural” paradise past is persuasive as ever. Religious figures like Adam and Eve have been replaced by Paleolithic man and our grandparents: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” is journalist Michael Pollan’s oft-quoted line.

The story also has a powerful moral dimension. It’s the Prince of Evil, after all, who tempted Eve. Once secularized, Satan reappears as corporations and scientists who feed us chemical additives, modern grains and GMOs, the “toxic” fruits of sin. (No matter if science doesn’t agree that any of these things are very toxic.)

Paradise past. Good and evil. Benevolent Nature with a capital N. The promise of nutritional salvation. After you’ve constructed a compellingly simple narrative foundation, all you have to do is wrap your chosen diet in scientific rhetoric.

For Chinese monks, that rhetoric involved “five phases theory.” For ancient Greeks and Romans it was “humors” — four fluids thought to be the basis of human health. Now it is peer-reviewed studies. Thankfully for diet gurus, the literature of nutrition science is vague, vast and highly contested — just like religious texts — making it easy to cherry-pick whatever data confirm your biases.

Handwashing is never enough: 50 now sick with Salmonella from chicks in Canada

Sure, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux own 17 chickens, but they’re celebrities, so their poop don’t stink: The Public Health Agency of Canada says contact with live poultry can be a source of Salmonella, even if a bird appears healthy and clean.

jen-aniston-800You can get Salmonella from a bird, its droppings or from environments where birds have been. Proper hand washing is the key to protecting yourself from illness. Always wash your hands immediately after handling birds, cleaning up after them or being in an area where birds have been.

Currently there are 50 cases of Salmonella illness in four provinces: Alberta (27), British Columbia (18), Saskatchewan (4), and Manitoba (1). Eight people have been hospitalized, and all individuals have recovered or are recovering. Individuals became sick between April 5 and May 30, 2015, and all have reported contact with live baby poultry including chicks, turkey poults and goslings. Many individuals reported purchasing live poultry by mail-order or from feed supply storefronts for backyard flocks to produce eggs or meat. Poultry varieties commonly reported include: broiler chickens (meat birds) such as Cornish Giants; egg layers; dual-purpose breeds and turkeys. Traceback investigations have indicated that these birds were ordered from Miller Hatcheries and Rochester Hatchery catalogues. Both catalogues ship birds supplied by a single hatchery in Alberta.

Charlie Sheen hospitalized after eating bad clams

Armchair epidemiologist and former decent actor, Charlie Sheen, spent a portion of Monday night in a Los Angeles emergency room with asevere case of food poisoning,” says his publicist Jeff Ballard.

charlie-sheen-02-800“It was clams, bad clams,” adds Ballard. “Nothing too exciting.”

Given Sheen’s penchant for porn stars, bad clams could mean anything.

The former Two And A Half Men star had dinner [a seafood pasta dish] delivered to his house last night and started “feeling sick” a few hours later.

“Just to be on the safe side, he went to the hospital,” says the rep. “They checked him out, hydrated him and sent him on his way. He was back home in bed 90 minutes later.”

Australia: stolen cattle gallstones and upsetting sheep with foul language

Australia can be a weird place.

johnny_depp_71911A collection of cattle gallstones, which are used in Chinese herbal medicine at $20,000 per kilogram, began disappearing over the last six months from a slaughterhouse at Oakey, west of Toowoomba.

The Toowoomba Stock and Rural Crime Investigation Squad this week raided a property at Cranley and a 38-year-old man was charged.

He will appear in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court on June 23.

Acting detective senior sergeant Brendan Murphy said police had to act fast because the small gallstones are easy to dispose of.

South of Queensland in the state of New South Wales, animal activists reported shearers at a NSW property for abuse because they were upsetting the herd with abusive language.

While the case has been dropped, the issue came up at a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday with Nationals senator John Williams demanding to know if department officials had received any formal complaints – from the sheep themselves.

“Not yet senator,” policy official Fran Freeman said.

Triathlon champ puts Salmonella behind

The Bahama Islands Info reports that with a bout of salmonella behind him, 2-time Pineappleman Sprint Triathlon champion Simon Lowe, will be back to defend his title June 6 in Gregory Town, Eleuthera.

poster4_high_res_488162693“I was sicker than I have ever been in my life,” said Lowe, 32, of the illness that kept him out of Treasure Cay, Abaco’s triathlon in March. “I was out of training for about a month and when I started again in early February it was very disheartening because it felt like I was starting again from scratch. After a few weeks though I felt the fitness coming back and I am now pretty much where I was before the illness happened.”

Nosestretcher alert: Australian food porn contestant suffers food poisoning (but it didn’t happen on the show)

A contestant on Australian food porn show, My Kitchen Rules, has been forced to pull out of the competition after being hospitalized for 15 days with food poisoning.

I’m sorry. Food poisoning sucks.

mkrProducers were quick to clarify Kaponias did not get ill during filming of Channel 7’s top-rating series, but was admitted to hospital after eating out during a production break.

Baby paleo diet wanker and judge Pete Evans broke the “sad and shocking” news as teams gathered to receive their scores from a pub grub challenge in Sydney’s Balmain.

Couldn’t a show with such popularity provide a tad more detail after a two-week hospitalization?

Food safety hopeless in Australia.