Sense About Science (previously) is a UK group that advocates for evidence-based policy; as part of that mission they give out the annual Maddox Prizes for people who brave political and social retaliation to infuse difficult public policy debates with factual evidence.
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When Mark Tilbrook politely and peacefully distributed leaflets at venues where "psychic" Sally Morgan was performing, her son and husband threatened to beat him up (and even to have him murdered), uttered homophobic and racist slurs, and, eventually, served him with a legal threat. Read the rest
Jon Corbett, who posted a video explaining a vulnerability in TSA full-body scanners that might allow dangerous objects onto airplanes now reports that two different reporters have told him that they were contacted by a TSA spokesperson called Sari Koshetz who "strongly cautioned" them not to write about his video. Read the rest
Houston's Burzynski Clinic is a cancer-treatment facility specializing in "antineoplaston therapy," a treatment involving urine developed 34 years ago by the clinic's founder, Stanislaw Burzynski. Mr Burzynski characterizes his treatments as "clinical trials." After 34 years' worth of these trials, I can find no record of randomized double-blind studies demonstrating this treatment's efficacy being published.
Many people are skeptical of "antineoplaston therapy," which has led to several skeptical posts about the clinic, and the ethics of offering an unproven treatment (which can cost £200,000, a fact that came to light when a UK family ran a fundraiser to get their child treated there) to families who fear for their loved ones' lives. An apparent representative of the clinic calling himself Marc Stephens has written to several of these skeptics threatening them with libel claims. In one case, he apparently sent a letter to the father of a newborn, threatening not just the critic, but his critic's family.
The people who've received missives from Mr Stephens can't locate any indications of his being admitted to the bar in Texas, though he implies that he is a lawyer ("So, when I present to the juror that my client and his cancer treatment has went up against 5 Grand Juries which involved the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Aetna Life Insurance, Emprise, Inc., Texas State Medical Board, and the United States Government, and was found not guilty in all 5 cases, you will wish you never wrote your article"). Read the rest
Mark Makhoul, a Lebanese software developer and blogger in Kuwait, wrote an unflattering review of the newly opened Benihana restaurant in Kuwait. Quickly, his blog's comment section filled with clumsy astroturf posts, all sent from the same IP address, purportedly reports from satisfied diners who disagreed with his assessment.
Then it got weirder: the restaurant's manager, Mike Servo, posted a comment accusing the writer of shilling for his competitors, and threatened a lawsuit. A few hours later, he filed a lawsuit (English translation PDF) for KD5001 (about $18,000) against Makhoul, asserting that the review was "fabricated" to gain publicity.
And so, we order the payment of KD5001 as a compensation for the damages caused to the restaurant management and for encouraging large number of customers not to try the restaurant by insulting, doubting the quality and food served by Benihana and using expressions that disgust people from trying the food. The person has caused huge material damages to the restaurant, ethic damage to the restaurant's reputation as an international brand that has chains all over the world as well as hurt the restaurant's potential to expand in Kuwait by influencing all kinds of nationalities not to try a restaurant that offers a specific type of food that is subject to taste preference.
This morning, I spoke with Michael Kata, COO and Executive Vice President of Benihana of Tokyo, who license the Kuwaiti franchise. He hadn't seen the suit yet, and while he said he could not offer specific comment, he confirmed that a lawsuit over a bad review was "unprecedented" in the firm's history. Read the rest