Violent USA


Who knows the famous 1947 American movie Miracle on 34th Street? It’s a movie that gets played again and again around Christmas time. The feel good movie about children and belief in Santa Claus has won lots of awards.

A major plot driver is the competition between two department stores and their two santas about which santa is the most loved and will get the most business for the store. It’s a classic goodies versus baddies thing, and classic American capitalism.

But in one of the most shocking scenes of the movie the “bad santa” taunts the “good santa” in the street. The “good santa” succumbs to the deliberate provocation and lashes out violently with his umbrella, hitting the bad santa who falls to the ground and pretends to be more hurt than he actually is.

What’s incredible about this scene is that the audience is meant to feel that the “good santa” was totally justified in his violent assault against non-violent taunts. The scene turned my stomach.

To me the scene epitomized the downside of the American psyche – a psyche that says violence is OK,  a psyche that doesn’t notice when violence is glorified, and a psyche that is incapable of self-reflection.

Of course, not all Americans are like this. I wish them luck in turning the tide and creating a culture and a world of non-violence.

Fake Osteopaths in NZ


Only in the United States of America are osteopaths also trained doctors. In New Zealand they are alternative medicine practitioners also known as quacks and are similar in this regard to acupuncture and chiropractic. Many osteopaths in New Zealand reject medical science. They want to continue business as usual and don’t want to improve their healing skills or be subject to regulation.

If you want a real professional in New Zealand who is also a doctor (like the American system) you should start at the NZ Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine.

In New Zealand osteopaths are regulated under law by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCAA). The Act says the Osteopathic Council must produce one or more ‘Scopes of Practice’ and these must be published in the NZ Government Gazette and on their website. Anyone who practices outside that Scope of Practice is subject to heavy fines. Unfortunately, it is not hard to find osteopaths practicing illegally outside the Scope of Practice. Some make all sorts of medically absurd claims about how than can treat various conditions, real or imagined.

If you insist in believing that a NZ osteopath can help you rather than a NZ Doctor of Musculoskeletal Medicine, then at least try to find an osteopath with a modicum of professional integrity. You should ask them in particular about the “differential diagnosis“.

The NZ Ostepathic Scope of Practice says “a differential diagnosis is required to determine if a structural diagnosis and the use of osteopathic manual treatment (OMT) is appropriate.” In other words, they are supposed to be able to tell you when manual treatment is not appropriate. They are supposed to be able to tell you what other medical conditions may be giving you your symptoms – there’s no point manipulating you or massaging you if you have a problem that won’t be cured that way.

So if your osteopath doesn’t know about, or won’t discuss, differential diagnosis, find another one, or better still find a Doctor of Musculoskeletal Medicine.

The NZ osteopaths know that their industry is under threat from real doctors, from the tide of history, and from people like me who are concerned when others are ripped off or don’t get proper medical care when they need it.

For example, the osteopaths 2014 Conference Report said “Another driver was, unfortunately, the need for us to protect ourselves against the purge being carried out by the “Friends of Science and Medicine”. At the moment the chiros are under the microscope and are not faring well. Our council in NZ, although subject to criticism from some members has, in my opinion, been quite smart in its approach to scopes of practice. The Friends of Science and Medicine are looking at healthcare practice from the perspective of evidence of efficacy and scientific reasoning. They would ask the question of a “paediatric osteopath” where their knowledge set came from and to receive a reply of “I’ve been practicing for 20 years therefore…..” would be risible.

Even in their Scope of Practice, NZ osteopaths know that some of their number are not properly trained. The Scope of Practice says “The purpose of a vocational scope is to allow members of the public / referring healthcare professionals to identify osteopaths on the Register with advanced standing in a sub-domain of practice. Council recognises that there is a continuum of skill and expertise acceptable in the area of practice and it is explicit that the pre-professional training / registration in the General Osteopathic Scope of Practice gives the registrant adequate skills to be competent but that mastery of a particular area of practice may develop overtime and with further study.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a beautiful place in our lives for human touch and massage. There is also a place for proper manual musculoskeletal medicine. What bothers me and should bother you are the false claims and an osteopath industry which wants a shortcut to making profits from people’s health needs, an industry acting to protect its status quo.

Finally, if you’re wondering about the photo above, I put it there as a wonderful reminder for what healing really means. Margaret Cruickshank in the photo was the first woman doctor in New Zealand. She would be a good example for New Zealand osteopaths to follow. She studied hard to become a doctor. She then studied hard to get further qualifications. In the 1918 flu pandemic she worked night and day until she also died of flu.

USA Without Democracy


I always find it sad that Americans think they have democracy.

They are utterly brainwashed that the chance to cast a vote in a broken Electoral College system operating under First Past the Post somehow equals democracy.

Without Proportional Representation as a minimum, they are nowhere close to democracy.

Their progressive parties fail miserably to grasp that changing this should be their number one priority.

How (Not!) To Be Inclusive: Deaf Academic version

Possibilities and Finger Snaps

a) Ask the deaf academic if she is willing to write a grant to cover the cost of her interpreters or CART captioning.

b) Return the deaf academic’s conference registration fees, telling her that she cannot come to your conference because her interpreters are too expensive.

c) Tell the deaf academic that she is welcome to attend and bring her own interpreters/CART captioning, and you won’t charge them registration fees (but she’ll have to pay for their services).

d) Tell the deaf academic that she is welcome to attend and bring her own interpreters/CART captioning, and you will only charge them half-cost registration fees (but she’ll have to pay for their services).

e) Tell the deaf academic (who is a graduate student) that she is welcome, and provide accommodations as requested. Upon her arrival greet her warmly, taking her aside to let her know that she is the most expensive…

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“He won’t have to be Deaf for long”


In the past 4 months, I have made so many trips to audiology and ENT, it’s mind-boggling!

The path to identificationwas a very different experience to that which we had with Zoe, 14 years ago. This time round we went through newborn hearing screening and were referred to audiology after two screening sessions resulted in ‘refer’. So we had confirmation when Carter was 15 days old as opposed to confirmation for Zoe at 15 months.

The screening sessions themselves were bizarre! I have been in many meetings where the process was discussed and the training for the screeners was mentioned.One of the things that stuck in my mind was that the screeners were trained to be very impartial in their dealings with the families.That they were not to use the word ‘fail’ and were to explain to families the many reasons for a ‘refer’ result eg fluid retention, noise interference…

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Children’s rights and Cochlear Implants


The United Nations says all people have the right to a language. But some people in the Cochlear Implant industry are prepared to gamble with that right. The gamble is that a Cochlear Implant (CI) will be successful for the child. It’s a gamble because if the part of the brain that deals with language is not developed, then the child may never acquire a language, whether it be sign language or spoken language. There is only one way to develop the language part of the brain – via exposure to a proper language at a young age. Deaf people say Many audiologists have a medical view. They try to fix the ears and neglect sign language.

A Cochlear Implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device PLUS intensive speech therapy, which is why the videos of a child being “switched on” are misleading. The implant is connected to the auditory nerve then the skin is sewn up and usually heals fine. An external wire goes from a hearing aid behind the ear to the head and attaches magnetically through the skull to the implant – so CAT scans are very dangerous. A CI kid needs continuous audiology appointments and ongoing intensive Auditory-Verbal Therapy. A CI needs enormous dedication and commitment from the family. It’s not a magic bullet. The CI industry also acknowledges that CI does not work in many cases.

The CI industry often says that sign language for CI kids is not needed and may even stop them learning a spoken language. Research shows this is not true. Figures are hard to get, but an estimated 10% of CI kids cannot speak as well as their peers by age 5 and many have no language at all. The results are better if a kid has a CI for both ears which are implanted at the same time. The CI industry often says if the CI doesn’t work THEN the kids can learn sign language. This is an irresponsible gamble.

So I was very interested to go to audiologist Julia Sarant’s talk (pdf) on Tuesday 9 August 2016 at the Hearing House in Auckland, New Zealand about these issues. The Hearing House paid for her meta study and the task was “to compare Oral Communication with Oral Communication plus Sign”. In her meta study, Oral Communication (OC) means teaching a CI kid a spoken language. As we will see below, it’s not clear from her meta study if “Sign” means a natural sign language or some other form of manual communication such as Signed English. I met Julia over a cup of tea afterwards. She said she couldn’t tell me who wrote the poor studies which she included in her meta study because it was important to maintain good relations in the industry. She really feels for the grief that some hearing parents never recover from when a Deaf child is born to them. Often that grief harms the child as in this sad subtitled documentary where a 4 years old doesn’t know their name.

Many worried mums were at the talk and a few dads and some hearing and education professionals. The questions after the talk showed many parents were confused and worried about the choices they had made or would soon have to make for their kids. They looked to Julia and her meta study for reassurance. It was also clear that one or two of the professionals did not know how to evaluate a meta study.

A meta study is not new research. It evaluates previous studies to try to find the truth (despite what postmodernists believe, truth exists). The conclusion of a meta study depends on what studies are included. A good meta study will try to cover the field. My preference is to avoid including poor studies in a meta study. However, it might report them in an introductory literature review or use them as examples of a failure.

Julia concluded, perhaps wrongly as we will see, that for Deaf kids “There is no evidence that bilingual education [OC plus sign language] improves educational outcomes over oral education.” Her meta study (pdf) looked at 39 other studies, but only 32 are listed in her bibliography (and one of these is an outdated 2001 paper by Harris et. al. about how to rank studies when she should have used the current USPSTF Quality of Evidence guidelines). So we do not even know what the 39 studies were. She said they covered six areas:

  1. speech perception
  2. speech production
  3. vocabulary
  4. language development
  5. reading/literacy
  6. social development.

Julia rated one study as “good” for one of these six areas. All the rest were fair or poor for all categories. That result calls into question why other studies were not chosen by Julia to be part of her meta study. It is worth quoting in full from the Gallaudet University Linguistics Department which lists some of those studies:

To properly evaluate the effect of ASL [American Sign Language] on early English development, the appropriate comparison to make is between children raised with oral communication only and children raised with spoken English plus a full, natural sign language. Studies making this comparison have been appearing at an increasing rate, focusing on deaf cochlear implant users raised by deaf, signing parents. This population is relatively small but internationally studied. Recent research from Belgium (Mouvet 2013), Brazil (Quadros, Cruz, & Pizzio 2012), Iran (Hassanzadeh 2012), Italy (Rinaldi & Caselli 2009, 2014), the Netherlands (Giezen 2011, Giezen, Baker, & Escudero 2014), and the United States (Davidson et al. 2014) all report successful spoken language development for deaf cochlear implant users who are raised with natural sign language input. All of these studies have come to the same conclusion: There is no evidence that early exposure to a full, natural sign language obstructs spoken language development. In fact, Marcel Giezen (2011) concludes in his dissertation by saying that the evidence points to bimodal bilingual training as the optimal choice for cochlear implanted children, giving them the best chances for language success. (Source: Gallaudet University Linguistics Department)

Why did Julia not mention a single one of these studies? When I asked her later via email which was the “good” study which she included in her meta study she said it was Teresa Ching: Ching, T. Y. C. (2015). Is Early Intervention Effective in Improving Spoken Language Outcomes of Children With Congenital Hearing Loss? American Journal of Audiology, 24(3), 345–348. Again, Teresa’s study is not in the bibliography of Julia’s paper. This is another oversight. I eventually got a copy of Teresa’s short paper, but have been unable to get a copy of the data on which it relies. It’s unclear from Teresa’s study how many CI kids also learnt sign language. When I emailed Teresa’s office and left two messages to clarify this, I got no response, though they had earlier emailed me the information which helped me track down Teresa’s study. Elizabeth Levesque presented a slide (below) about Teresa’s study which is known as the Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI). Elizabeth discussed the LOCHI data during her 2016 presentation to the Australian and New Zealand Conference for Educators of the Deaf (ANZCED). The slide also shows that the reported data from Terera’s study is unclear. Why? Because we don’t know how many of the 22% of LOCHI kids were taught natural sign language rather than some form of Signed English.


So I am not convinced by the reliance Julia makes on Teresa’s paper to conclude that oral communication is better than oral communication plus sign language for language development.

Besides the studies above which Gallaudet reports, the Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language and Education also contains a chapter by Rachel Mayberry reporting the opposite of what Julia claims. Mayberry showed that Deaf children who learn to sign before they learn English can later learn to read and write English with native proficiency. But if Deaf children are taught spoken English as a first language but fail to learn it properly, then their chance of ever learning any language properly, whether sign language, oral language, or written language is zero. Mayberry also discussed two related and critically important points. First, language structures in the anterior left hemisphere of the brains of Deaf and hearing people are the same. Second, if these structures are not activated properly (in the early critical period for acquiring languages) then the child can never learn any language properly.

So in Julia’s meta study she asks us to believe in one study, and one study only, which she rated good and says supports her case. She does not give enough information for us to judge the worth of this study and she does not mention the other studies I have referred to here. This is not the way science proceeds. Science progresses by the whole scientific community reaching a consensus on all of the best available data as Naomi Oreskes shows in this entertaining and informative video. We need to share data, we need to know the details and we need to be able to test the claims for ourselves. Unfortunately I would rate Julia’s paper poor. It does not give any evidence, other than her rating of Teresa’s study.

A parent said to Julia during question time after the talk, “Your message is a great relief to me”. I am almost in tears as I write this because Julia said “There is no evidence at all that bilingualism helps.” I wrote down these words in my notebook as she said them. The words actually contradict her paper which said “There is limited evidence that early use of sign language may assist with the development of spoken language.” I’m not sure whether by ‘limited’ Julia means  ‘some’ (in a positive sense) or ‘very little’ (in a negative sense’). In either sense, Gallaudet and Oxford Handbook contradicts this. There is lots of evidence that bilingualism (having both sign language and spoken language) can benefit both languages. When asked by someone else in the audience about the evidence from Colorado which also contradicts it, Julia she said “I think it was one study.”

If parents were properly informed I don’t think they would take the risk of not teaching their CI kids sign language. It is against the human rights of their child to gamble with language acquisition. Unfortunately by the time you discover your CI kid is behind in spoken language, it is likely to be too late. There are also heaps of stories on the internet from CI people who speak well but also wish they were taught sign language. My call to action is to encourage parents to form strong bonds with the Deaf community and to have a fluent signer interact regularly with their child. One of the big myths is that sign language is hard to learn. I’m hoping to blog about that myth soon.

This all fills me with sadness for the kids who are missing out.

30 Sep 2016 edit: A friend thought I was against Cochlear Implants. Have a look at this 1 hour and 4 minute video and you’ll understand by the end of the video what I really think. The story of Leah Coleman and her mom Rachel Coleman. Rachel’s blog about CIs also has 2 vital insights which I have learned from. 1. Leah wasn’t trying to learn English with her cochlear implant. She was already fluent in reading and writing. Her focus was entirely on learning what English sounded like and how to make those sounds herself. 2. Speech is a skill that your child has a lifetime to acquire. Speech is not a language. Speech is one way to deliver a language.

(I’d like to thank the friends and members of the Deaf community who made very useful comments on earlier drafts of this blog.)

Ngapipi lights – waste of money


This is my submission to Auckland Council about the proposed traffic lights on the corner of Ngapipi Road and Tamaki Drive in Auckland, New Zealand:

1. This submission from a bicycle rider opposes the proposed upgrade of the intersection of Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Road (Application numbers R/LUC/2016/3297, R/REG/2016/3298, R/REG/2016/3299, R/REG/2016/3307 & R/REG/2016/3493) and suggests a more simple and cost effective solution to the problem the proposal seeks to solve. Millions of dollars could be spent much better elsewhere to improve bicycle saftety in Auckland. Images below are from the notified documents.

2. Before giving my reasons for opposing the proposal I’d like to say I am unhappy with having to download a slew of 27 separate PDF documents in order to assess the proposal. This level of inefficiency is unacceptable. The documents should have been consolidated into one. I am also unhappy that Auckland Council refuses to accept the industry standard .odt format for submissions and instead forces the use of Microsoft or another standard just to upload a submission.

3. I note that a major rationale for the proposal is cyclist safety. Unfortunately the most simple, the cheapest and the most obvious solution has not been considered. The documents show 9 crashes involving cyclists were reported at the intersection from 2011-2015 (one of these was between 2 cyclists on the shared path). All remaining crashes with cyclists were vehicles turning right into Ngapipi Road failing to give way to oncoming cyclists. There were no other cycle crashes reported. I suggest the obvious solution is to install a sign on the cycleway heading west that requires cyclists to Give Way. The fact that more crashes were not reported suggests that most cyclists are already giving way and cycling defensively. Further analysis of the cycle crashes may be buried somewhere in the 27 documents but I am unable to determine the times of day or whether the cyclists were wearing reflective safety vests or had adequate lights.


4. I note that the proposal will increase traffic delays for very little gain. That is unacceptable.


5. I am also concerned that the likely impact of sea-level rise has not been properly assessed. The word “normal” in the following quote is unacceptable when we are facing abnormal changes. I would prefer to see a fuller discussion of the estimates and likely impacts using the NIWA definition of red alert tides.