Thanks to several readers, I’m kept up on the latest news about religion, cats, woo, and so on. I’ve collected three items here, which I’ll describe briefly (you can read more at the links). I could post them separately, but that’s an unconscionable division of posts, and I’m also tired.
BBC Africa reports some good news about Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese doctor who was sentenced to death for apostasy—while pregnant, although she wasn’t to be executed until she had her child). As you might recall, she was married to a Christian man, and was herself raised Christian although she had a Muslim father. But that was enough to doom her.
Fortunately, Italian authorities (probably with U.S. help, since her husband was a U.S. citizen) intervened, and she flew from Khartoum to Italy. She’s free! You may remember that she almost escaped, but was rearrested, but now she’s out of Sudan for good:
The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy’s involvement in the case.
Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.
“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.
A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.
Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.
“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.
Yes, but she is smart enough to know what awaits her if she stays. If the government doesn’t kill her, somebody else will. Her husband, who is confined to a wheelchair, traveled with her.
. . . She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.
These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum.
Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.
And. . . the bestest news: she got to meet the Pope!
Mrs Ibrahim met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican soon after her arrival.
“The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.
The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show “closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith,” he added.
Spreaking of those who suffer for their faith, how about all Catholics?
To see the video of Ibrahim and the screenshot below, if you can stand it, to get to the video (there are three in toto):
Also according to the BBC,David Tredinnick, a Conservative MP and a diehard believer in Indian astrology, wants to screw up British medicine by infusing it with his woo. Fortunately, it won’t fly, but the guy is on both the health committee and the science and technology committee:
A Conservative MP has spoken of his belief in astrology and his desire to incorporate it into medicine.
David Tredinnick said he had spent 20 years studying astrology and healthcare and was convinced it could work.
The MP for Bosworth, a member of the health committee and the science and technology committee, said he was not afraid of ridicule or abuse.
“There is no logic in attacking something that has a proven track record,” he told BBC News.
Proven track record?
. . . “I am absolutely convinced that those who look at the map of the sky for the day that they were born and receive some professional guidance will find out a lot about themselves and it will make their lives easier,” he told MPs.
. . . He stopped short of suggesting astrological readings on the NHS, but said he wanted to raise awareness of it as an alternative among patients and clinicians.
“I think it’s something that people should be aware of as an option they have if they are confused about themselves.”
He’s also prepared charts for his fellow MPs. Although the NHS, I think, already provides coverage for homeopathic remedies (and why do you Brits tolerate that?), I hope they won’t consider astrologial diagnoses as well. “You’re a Pisces, eh? Right, well then it’s penicillin for you.”
According to Wikipedia, this guy has not only been an MP for over 20 years (one of its longest-standing members), but was suspended for 20 days for taking a £1000-pound bribe to ask questions in Parliament. That’s a pretty light punishment. And he’s a long-standing exponent of woo (my emphasis):
He is a supporter of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). He has made supportive comments in Parliament on homeopathy, despite continued lack of evidence of its effectiveness. He has supported chiropractic and mentioned the influence of the Moon on blood clotting. In this same debate he characterised scientists as “racially prejudiced”. He has tabled several early day motions in support of homeopathy’s continued funding on the National Health Service. Tredinnick’s views continue to cause amused disbelief in some quarters and a spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons of England said they would “laugh their heads off” at the suggestion they could not operate at the full moon.
And, at long last, Houston cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski has been charged by the Texas Medical Board with misleading patients. I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about this guy, as medical scams aren’t really my beat, and people like Orac do it much more thoroughly than I ever could. (For Orac’s posts on Burzynski at Respectful Insolence, go here.)
For four decades Burzynski has been dispensing ineffective drugs (“antineoplastins”, his own invention) as chemotherapy for patients who have run out of hope, all under the aegis of a Food and Drug administration “clinical trial.” There are no data that these drugs work (so why has the FDA allowed the trial to continue for years?), and many people have died. Most would have died anyway, but without the toxic effects of some of these drugs and without spending the exorbitant sums that Burzynski extracted from his desperate patients.
Finally, as USA Today reports, the quack has been corralled:
Once patients arrived at Burzynski’s office, the board says, he misled them in several ways:
• By making patients pay a retainer before receiving any diagnosis or treatment.
• By performing unnecessary tests and “non-therapeutic treatment” with no potential to help them.
• By imposing “exorbitant charges” for drugs and lab tests, without telling patients that he also owned the pharmacy and lab being used.
• By allowing unlicensed staff to treat patients, while describing the staff as doctors.
Burzynski also prescribed unapproved combinations of highly toxic chemotherapy in ways that caused harm to several patients, the board says.
Burzynski — who was the subject of a USA TODAY investigation last year — broke Texas law, the board says, through “unprofessional and dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive or defraud the public.”
Oncologist Howard Ozer, who reviewed the board’s case, said the charges against Burzynski are medically sound. For example, the board says Burzynski tested one patients’ blood oxygen levels eight times in two weeks — at $35 a test, in addition to a $4,500 monthly case management fee. While these oxygen tests are common for patients in intensive care, they aren’t used for patients receiving outpatient treatment, Ozer says.
In Burzynski’s case, “these tests seem to me to be simply for generating extra revenue,” says Ozer, a professor at the University of Illinois Cancer Center.
Burzynski apparently also used unlicensed employees not only to dispense drugs, but to recommend treatments. Richard Jaffee, Burzyngi’s lawyer, comments:
Jaffe says the board, which put Burzynski on probation from 1994 to 2004, is “under tremendous pressure to take away Burzynski’s license” because of negative publicity that Burzynski has received in recent years.
Jaffe predicts that this would be the last time that Burzynski, 70, will tangle with the medical board.
“One way or another, this is the last time that this is going to happen,” Jaffe says. “Either they are going to take away his license or the board is going to be humiliated, because we are going to ask a judge to decide whether this treatment works better.”
Read a few of Orac’s articles, and you’ll see that the only rational thing to do is take away Burzinski’s license. I’m still baffled as to why he was allowed to continue, since the 1970s, using a treatment which has never been demonstrated to work.
h/t: Tony, Susan, Grania