Buckets of Data

January 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES TIMES 1998:

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Living
Skeptical Doctors of Quackwatch Takes on Alternative Medicine

MARK FRITZ
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
1,187 words
27 April 1998
Omaha World-Herald
Sunrise
36

Dr. Stephen Barrett bought a little green box that plugs into the wall and pumps out miracles. When a sick person grips an electrode, the gizmo figures out which organ is failing and which homeopathic potion will fix it.

That is, at least, the general idea.

“I’ve wanted a device like this for 10 years,” said Barrett, chortling as he showed off the machine in his basement office. “It’s a total fake.”

The Vegatest I, built in Canada but banned for import into the United States, is the latest and one of the kookiest additions to the massive archive of alternative medicine that Barrett has spent the past three decades stuffing into the cellar of his suburban home.

Barrett, a 65-year-old retired psychiatrist, is part of a small posse of traditionalist doctors fighting the relentless march of alternative medicine into the mainstream. Once seen as essential warriors against medical fraud, they now find themselves struggling for attention as one new therapy after another – whether it’s eating an herb to ward off a cold or taking shark cartilage to survive cancer – gains popular acceptance.

These skeptics, who operate out of offices and homes and universities across the country, argue that nothing should be marketed as a treatment or cure until it has withstood the rigors of conventional clinical research.

While they believe that taking a vitamin under a doctor’s orders can be a good thing, they also believe Americans have been duped into megadosing and medicating themselves.

Many physicians hail the skeptics as heroes. But increasing numbers of doctors are adopting alternative therapies that may not offer a cure but may make the patient feel a little better about being sick.

In an attempt to keep a voice in the debate, Barrett and his colleagues in the past year have begun publishing a medical journal devoted to the skeptical study of offbeat medicine and have unleashed a World Wide Web site – dubbed Quackwatch – that is a clearinghouse of criticism of popular but unproven therapies. They also are involved in several lawsuits against people they accuse of making misleading medical claims.

Inside a maze of file cabinets in Barrett’s basement is much of the ammunition for Quackwatch. This is the research Barrett used for 44 books, hundreds of articles, and scores of complaints and court cases in his crusade against what he considers the misleading marketing of everything from aromatherapy to Zen macrobiotics. He’s even gone after granola.

Homeopathy? “There’s nothing stupider on the planet.”

Acupuncture? “The majority of acupuncturists are loony.”

Herbal remedies? Don’t get him started.

“Most of the people who prescribe them are screwballs,” he said. “Most of the products don’t have the ingredients listed so you can see what’s in them. Most of the books that are written for the general public are not reliable.”

Yet those books usually sell better than his own. His fight has been made harder by alternative medicine’s recently acquired aura of legitimacy.

In the past six years, Congress has compelled the National Institutes of Health to add an Office of Alternative Medicine and lifted regulations on alternative medicinal products as long as they are labeled as foods and dietary supplements. The American Cancer Society has approved some of what it classifies as “complementary” medicine. Medical schools have added alternative medicine curricula and more insurers are reimbursing fees for unconventional remedies such as acupuncture.

Perhaps even more significantly, the Internet has turned into a cyber-souk of New Age healers, old-fashioned hucksters, practicing MDs and giant mail-order businesses all shilling elixirs and remedies through eye-catching Web sites.

“I think we’ve got a serious challenge. The Internet has made it very easy to distribute inaccurate health information,” said Dr. John Renner, a University of Missouri professor of family medicine and one of the 100-plus doctors on the Quackwatch board.

Barrett hopes Quackwatch establishes itself as a scientific antidote to what he calls the virtual medicine being practiced in cyberspace. He said Quackwatch (http://www.quackwatch.com) plans to evaluate other Web sites, field consumer complaints and even dispense medical advice.

The American Medical Association’s stand on alternative medicine is essentially Barrett’s credo: “There is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies.”

Yet others caution against throwing out – or blindly accepting – anything that doesn’t fit conventional criteria.

“I think (the debunkers) provide a valuable service,” said Barrie R. Cassileth, a psychologist and medical sociologist who has just published a book on alternative medicine, “The Alternative Medicine Handbook: The Complete Reference Guide to Alternative and Complementary Therapies” (W.W. Norton), and previously co-authored a book with Barrett, “Dubious Cancer Treatment” (American Cancer Society, Florida division, 1991).

“However, they address fraudulent activities, quackery and so on that would generally be classified as alternative medicine. Unfortunately, included under that rubric are many positive therapies which are usually called complementary treatment.”

But Barrett said “complementary” medicine is another word for “baloney.”

“There’s no such thing as complementary medicine,” he said. “Most of the people who are doing it are practicing low-quality, substandard medicine.”

Cassileth, a member of the American Cancer Society’s complementary medicine committee, disagreed. She endorses herbal teas for digestive problems, ginger for nausea and acupuncture for some types of pain. Meditation, yoga and the use of certain aromas to promote relaxation “are well-documented and extremely helpful in reducing stress generally, and particularly among patients with serious illnesses,” she said.

Despite their differences, Cassileth said she sympathizes with the skeptics.

“It must be incredibly frustrating for them,” she said. “There’s almost a mindless acceptance out there. People assume that alternative medicine is automatically natural and safe, and that’s wrong.”

Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, said the debunkers are missing an important point. The reason the mainstream is co-opting alternative therapies is not because they’ve been scientifically proven to work, but because patients – the customers – like the attention they get from a more holistic approach to health care.

“It may be that there isn’t good evidence about these things like ginseng and garlic,” Caplan said. “But what alternative and complementary (practitioners) understand is that it’s important to listen to the patient. … While I am a complete supporter of efforts to attack elements of alternative medicine that are ‘quacky,’ what really isn’t discussed by those out there debunking is why it is so attractive.”

The debunkers insist that alternative medicine isn’t as popular as the media make it out to be, and that if it is popular, it’s because of the marketing acumen of people promoting unproven panaceas.

A central organization of these skeptics is the National Council Against Health Fraud, which consists of “a bunch of people who fight health fraud as a hobby,” said the group’s president, William T. Jarvis, a consumer health education specialist at Loma Linda University in California.

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January 19, 2007

People magazine 1999: Doctor No: Considering treatments

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On The Job
Doctor No: Considering treatments that sound too good to be true? Quackbuster Stephen Barrett has a word for you: Don’t

Thomas FieldsMeyer Bob Calandra in Allentown
897 words
25 January 1999
People Magazine
119+
Issue: January 25, 1999 Vol. 51 No. 3

Looking at the vitriol pouring into Dr. Stephen Barrett’s World Wide Web site (Quackwatch.com), you might think he’s been stealing candy from babies. “You are a disgrace to the world,” writes one inflamed correspondent. “You should be psychoanalyzed, or better yet, lobotomized,” writes another. Urges a third: “Rot in hell.”

The unlikely target of these venomous barbs is a 65-year-old retired psychiatrist who works out of his Allentown, Pa., cellar, carrying on a single-minded crusade to root out health quackery, from bogus bust-developing creams to false cancer cures. “There are a lot of people who have a rigid belief system,” Barrett says of his attackers. “If you challenge someone’s religious-like beliefs, you often get this kind of response.” Barrett has mounted his challenges in 45 books, numerous journal articles and, more recently, on his Web site, which is financed by the sale of his books. Among his top targets is homeopathy–treating disease with tiny medicine doses that produce symptoms similar to the disease–which he calls “a blatant affront to reality and science.” He also works to debunk chiropractors, who he says “combine usefulness with all sorts of strange things,” and the vitamin industry, which offers benefits he believes are redundant. (“If you are eating food,” he says, “you are going to get vitamins.”) And he’s not afraid of taking on pop-medical icons such as health guru Deepak Chopra. “That’s not science,” Barrett says of Chopra’s work. “He’s never published the results of anything he has done in a peer-review scientific journal.” Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, calls Barrett “a brilliant critic–equally knowledgeable and fearless.”

Not everyone agrees. Chiropractors, especially, have taken exception to his jabs. “He is so biased that it goes beyond common sense,” says Dr. Edward Maurer, chairman of the board of the American Chiropractic Association, who maintains there is plenty of research to prove the efficacy of chiropractic. “He’s using his M.D. credentials as a vehicle to become a self-appointed vigilante committee of one.”

Working from his basement office, where he has accumulated a library of bogus products, medical journals and quackery-related documents, Barrett relentlessly seeks out fakery and myths to explode. “I see problems, and I like to fix them,” he explains. “That’s part of my nature.”

Barrett was the only child of a New York City schoolteacher father who died when he was 4, and a mother who worked as a secretary at the academically elite Bronx High School of Science, from which Barrett graduated near the top of his class. He went on to college and medical school at Columbia. During his psychiatric residency in Philadelphia, he met medical student Judith Nevyas, whom he married in 1960.

The couple, who have three grown children, eventually settled in Allentown, where Judith ran a family practice and Stephen saw psychiatric patients. In 1969, he read a book about chiropractic medicine and found his mission. “My gut reaction was, ‘My God, this is organized crime in my very own field of health,'” says Barrett, who believes the chiropractic approach to disease lacks scientific validity. “Maybe I ought to do something about it.” Inspired, he formed a discussion group on health-fraud issues and began writing articles for medical journals. “I’m interested in helping the victim” of quackery, says Barrett, who closed his psychiatric practice in 1993, “but my real emotion is outrage at the perpetrator.”

In a highly publicized 1985 study, he debunked claims by laboratories that their tests on human hair could determine nutritional needs, sending hair samples from two girls to 13 labs and receiving radically different analyses. And last April he helped a 9- year-old Colorado girl, Emily Rosa, publish the results of her now famous study that found that touch therapists–who claim to detect human energy fields–could not demonstrate their purported skills in a controlled experiment. His latest concerns include chelation therapy, whose practitioners say they can clear clogged arteries by introducing amino acids and vitamins into the blood through a slow intravenous drip. “If people need bypass surgery and go to them instead,” Barrett says, “some are going to die.”

Americans’ growing reliance on alternative medicine (“Most things with that label don’t work,” he says) will surely keep Barrett busy, and he looks forward to the thrill of the chase. “This is a combination of work and play,” he says of his determination to detect and expose. “I never made much money at it. I did it because it was important.”

–Thomas Fields-Meyer –Bob Calandra in Allentown

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DOUGLAS LEVERE Barrett (right) says “there is no evidence or rational reason” supporting purportedly beneficial practices like the use of healing stones. {Stephen Barrett, with man lying down with stones on chest} COLOR PHOTO: SESTINI/GAMMA LIAISON “Most people who are quacked will never know it,” Barrett says of methods like moxibustion. {Man with smoking swabs stuck into shoulder} COLOR PHOTO: BILL CRAMER Wife Judith (home in Allentown with Stephen) says Barrett “doesn’t get easily defeated.” {Judith Nevyas and Stephen Barrett}

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Village voice 1999: “Doctor who?”

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CYBER
DOCTOR WHO?

Donna Ladd
1,050 words
29 June 1999
The Village Voice
41
English

Quackwatch.com–a skeptical psychiatrist’s attempt to torpedo alternative and natural-health movements–scored a victory in late April when a government panel named it as a credible source for exposing fraudulent online health information. By so doing, the panel may have been, inadvertently or not, choosing sides in an escalating health e-commerce battle.

The Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health, appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reached a rather obvious conclusion: Health information on the Internet can be inaccurate and misleading. Thus, consumers need to learn to separate the healthy wheat from the dangerous chaff. That is, Internet users need to guard against quacks.

“{Consumers} really need to be able to avoid quackery and bias. Bias can be as damaging as outright quackery,” HHS Health Communication and Telehealth Staff Director Mary Jo Deering told Reuters.

But in today’s divided health climate, a quack is in the eyes of the beholder. A touch therapist treating your third eye? Or a conventional doc who sprinkles around free pharmaceutical samples? The panel, composed of doctors, as well as representatives from HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente, insurers, and online health providers, considered but rejected the idea that the government should be in the business of quack exposing by regulating health information online.

“The panel decided that the most important thing is to have a voluntary standard for these Web sites,” said HHS official Dr. Thomas R. Eng, who directed the panel’s study. Eng unveiled vague guidelines and disclosure statements to help consumers determine the validity of sites. At the press conference, Eng named Quackwatch.com as a good site for uncovering fraudulent health information. But the mere mention of the site, posted by alternative-medicine opponent Dr. Stephen Barrett, raises the blood pressure of alternative advocates.

Barrett, a former psychiatrist in Allentown, Pennsylvania, doesn’t sugarcoat his bitter pills. His site is a virtual hit list of therapies he finds too illogical to be tested for their validity. Chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, vitamins and herbs, relaxation techniques, and preventive nutrition plans, as well as specific practitioners like Dr. Bernie Siegel, M.D. (author of Love, Medicine & Miracles and Peace, Love & Healing), Deepak Chopra (ayurvedic guru), and myriad others, are included in the quackery roundup.

Barrett, now a full-time journalist and book author and never a medical researcher, says he exposes underresearched, illogical therapies with little written about them. Yet he also says he examines reams of material to reach the conclusions published on his site, which are then often quoted as undisputed fact in the mainstream media.

Barrett depends heavily on negative research and case studies in which alternative therapies do not work, but he says that most case studies that show positive results of alternative therapies are unreliable. “It’s easy to look at something like chiropractic, see what they’re doing, and describe what they’re doing wrong,” Barrett says. He adds that he does not criticize conventional medicine because “that’s way outside my scope.”

Barrett believes most alternative therapies simply should be disregarded without further research. “A lot of things don’t need to be tested {because} they simply don’t make any sense,” he says, pointing specifically to homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. He believes that consumers should rely solely on established medical groups and studies, and that anyone who wants to consider info on both sides is “waiting to be quacked in a major way.”

“He seems to be putting down trying to be objective,” says Peter Barry Chowka, a former adviser to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine. “Quackwatch.com is consistently provocative and entertaining and occasionally informative,” Chowka added. “But I personally think he’s running against the tide of history. But that’s his problem, not ours.”

Chowka feels it is okay for HHS to mention Quackwatch.com as one of many sources. “But I have a problem when the federal government recommends a limited number of specific sites.” The panel also recommended its own site: http://www.healthfinder.org, which includes advice on how to detect online health fraud (but does not mention Quackwatch).

Eng later backed away from his Quackwatch endorsement, saying consumers should question Barrett’s site as well as those it targets. “The government doesn’t endorse Web sites,” Eng says. Still, he says, “{Quackwatch} is the only site I know of right now looking at issues of fraud and health on the Internet.”

The Quackwatch debate illustrates a major rift in the health-care ranks as health entrepreneurs on both sides scramble for their share of health-oriented e-commerce. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that about 22.3 million adults, or nearly 40 percent of American adults online, looked for health info online in 1998, while drug companies spent $1.5 billion advertising prescription drugs directly to U.S. consumers. In late May, a $5 billion merger was announced between two Web-based health services: Healtheon Corp. and WebMDInc. This merger, backed by Microsoft, Intel, and Excite!, is bringing together doctors, insurers, and drug companies to sell and promote health services.

Yet corporate health sites have a battle on their hands: Many consumers are rejecting big-business medicine and opting for natural, less invasive, and nondrugged routes to wellness. And the Web is a grassroots way for consumers to decide for themselves.

“A power struggle has been going on for decades between those who have the power and the insurgents,” Chowka says. “Give people the benefit of the doubt,” he adds, calling for an end to “medical McCarthyism.” “We no longer need a nanny state or a government-appointed watchdog to filter information to us.” Yet Eng emphasizes that interactive media has a unique ability to “influence behavior change”–thus the need for caution. “They tailor information and interactions to the individual,” he said of Web sites. “In print media, there is some kind of vetting. In interactive, anyone or their brother can slap a Web page together.”

That, Barrett argues, is where his site comes in. Consumers, he says, aren’t qualified to judge for themselves and must choose sides. “The consumer has to decide who to trust. I think I’m needed, and I’m qualified,” he says.

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April 2004: Calif. Sup. Court Will Review Immunity Ruling in Online Libel Case

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Calif. Sup. Court Will Review Immunity Ruling in Online Libel Case

1,062 words
20 April 2004
Computer and Online Industry Litigation Reporter
Volume 21; Issue 23
English
Copyright (c) 2004 Andrews Publications. All rights reserved.

The ruling to be reviewed came in a suit filed by doctors Stephen J. Barrett and Terry Polevoy and attorney Christopher E. Grell, all of whom work to expose fraud and quackery in the alternative-medicine industry.

Barrett operates six Web sites including quackwatch.com, and Polevoy practices medicine in Canada and operates a Web site devoted to exposing dubious medical practices. Grell is an attorney who handles cases involving health fraud and harm caused by use of herbal products.

The suit named seven defendants who advocate the use of alternative medicine. The lengthy complaint accused the defendants of libel and conspiracy for allegedly publishing numerous defamatory statements about the plaintiffs.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge James A. Richman ruled on five allegedly libelous messages defendant Ilena Rosenthal posted to various Usenet newsgroups. Rosenthal alleged the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was a SLAPP suit — “strategic lawsuit against public participation” —designed to chill her First Amendment free-speech rights and should be thrown out under California’s anti-SLAPP law.

Under that law, Rosenthal must show that the lawsuit arose from activities she engaged in to further her “right of petition or free speech under the United States or California constitutions in connection with a public issue.”

Judge Richman held that the anti-SLAPP statute applied because Rosenthal’s newsgroup postings were made in a public forum and concerned the validity of alternative medicine — controversial issue that is clearly of significant public concern.

Next, he said, the plaintiffs were required to demonstrate a probability of success on their claim in order to keep the suit alive. As an initial matter, he said, plaintiff Grell cannot make a case for libel because he is not mentioned in any of Rosenthal’s messages.

That left the claims of Barrett and Polevoy, but Judge Richman said they, too, failed to establish a basic element of their case — that the statements Rosenthal posted to the newsgroups were “demonstrably false statements of fact.” Instead, he found, most of her messages contained expressions of opinion or subjective rhetoric.

The one message of Rosenthal’s that did contain allegedly libelous fact-based material was not written by Rosenthal herself but was simply a re-post of an article written by Tim Bolen, also a named defendant.

That article accused Polevoy of “stalking” Christine McPhee, a Canadian radio personality whose program supported alternative medicine, as part of a “criminal conspiracy” to intimidate McPhee, and it urged readers to report Polevoy’s alleged stalking to Canadian authorities and demand a criminal investigation.

Polevoy contacted Rosenthal and told her the stalking allegations were false. He asked her to remove the posting, but she refused and instead posted it to several other chat rooms and bulletin boards.

Judge Richman said Rosenthal could not be liable for defamation based on this posting under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because she was not its author.

Section 230, which preempts state defamation laws, states “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Even if Barrett and Polevoy could establish a probability of success under California’s anti-SLAPP law, Judge Richman said, their suit would still fail because they are public figures who would have to show that Rosenthal acted with “actual malice” when she posted the messages, meaning that she either knew they were false or acted with reckless disregard for whether they were true or false.

The Appellate Court Ruling

The appellate panel said that Section 230 does not bar the imposition of liability in this case with regard to the potentially libelous posting targeting Polevoy because malice and disregard for the truth can be inferred from the circumstances, including Rosenthal’s failure to investigate the truth of the stalking allegation and her reliance on obviously biased sources (see Computer & Internet LR, Vol. 21, Iss. 13).

The appeals court engaged in a lengthy analysis of Zeran v. America Online Inc., 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997), the first federal appellate decision to interpret Section 230.

The Zeran court granted blanket immunity to both the authors and distributors of allegedly defamatory material, but the appellate court here held that the Communications Decency Act cannot be deemed to abrogate the common-law principle that one who republishes defamatory matter originated by a third person is subject to liability if he or she knows or has reason to know of its defamatory character.

The panel said Congress, in its legislative history, and the language of the statute never meant to grant blanket immunity but rather meant to encourage Internet service providers and users to self-regulate potentially injurious messages. If distributors, like Rosenthal, are granted blanket immunity, they would have no incentive to police their postings.

Distributor liability does not require a service provider or user to review communications in advance of posting them, but only to act reasonably after being informed that the posting is defamatory, the court said.

In this case, Rosenthal admitted her only attempt to investigate the stalking claim was to talk to McPhee, who lost her radio show and is biased toward Polevoy, the court said.

A failure to investigate, anger and hostility toward the plaintiff, and reliance upon sources know to be biased are all circumstantial evidence of malice, the court said, and, therefore, Polevoy may be able to prevail on the stalking-related claim.

The panel reversed the lower court ruling as to Polevoy’s stalking-related claim but affirmed the judgment in all other respects.

In their petition for review, Barrett and Polevoy argued that the appeals court’s decision is “contrary to all precedent” and undermines congressional intent in enacting Section 230.

Review is especially necessary, they argued, because the ruling conflicts with a 9th Circuit decision, Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018, 1027 (9th Cir. 2003). If left unresolved, they contended, the conflict will encourage forum-shopping and create the “untenable” result that California residents sued for reposting allegedly defamatory material will not be protected by Section 230, while out-of-state defendants will be.

Full Case Name: Barrett et al. v. Rosenthal|Short Case Name: Barrett v. Rosenthal|Court: Cal.|Case Action: review granted|Docket Number: No. S122953|Action Date: 4/14/2004

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January 18, 2007

1985 Prechter

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Copyright 1985 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.
The Toronto Star
October 13, 1985, Sunday, SUN
SECTION: BUSINESS TODAY; Pg. B3

LENGTH: 716 words

HEADLINE: Technicians see rally in wings

BYLINE: By Patrick Fellows Toronto Star

BODY:

Raised hemlines are said to go with higher stock markets. Someone who watches these things noted the European fashion-setters bared a bit more leg in 1984 and that there’s no immediate itch to reverse the trend. If that’s true it’s a bullish sign for the markets.

But there are many other up-and-down and to-and-fro indicators that some analysts perceive to have a significant message for market watchers.

What they all add up to is a measurement of public moods, according to Robert Prechter, one of the leading exponents of the Elliott Wave theory. The Elliott pattern is a long uptrend consisting of five upward waves and three downward ones. The end of the line is higher than the beginning because human affairs improve with the passage of time. That at least is what the chartists say.

The factors that influence people to buy or sell stocks are the same that determine tastes in fashions, music, entertainment, literature, cars, politics and archictecture, Prechter said in a recent article in Barron’s, a U.S. business magazine.

Mood measurement is easy in the stock market because of the wealth of statistics available. It’s not so easy in other areas because the changes occur more gradually and no one actually counts the numbers day by day. But if you look at history, you can discern swings in public moods that range from the sombre to the silly.

Stocks are down, ’tis said, when music is mournful, clothing is drab and horror movies dominate the screen. When markets are high, lightheartedness dominates the various modes of expresssion.

But to cut a long story short, Prechter detects a bit of a struggle going on today, reflecting the uncertain investment atmosphere. Fashion designers keep trying to reintroduce the miniskirt, but there’s been no rush to buy, he says.

And while some fashion designers are using “daring” colors, “reactionaries” are trying to bring back the maxiskirt.

Prechter takes the view that bright colors and short hemlines will win out, which would conform to the readings that Elliott Wave adherents are drawing from the charts.

Broker Ken Garfinkel of McLeod Young Weir is an Elliott Wave follower (this breed doesn’t stop at skirt lengths; it’s into such esoteric things as primary waves, Hadady-type cycles and Fibonacci ratios) and he’s high-hemline happy that a “major rally is not only possible within six to eight weeks, but also is very likely.”

New York’s Dow Jones industrial average, he says, could rise to record levels between 1450 and 1700, but there is a possibility that the Dow could first drop to 1275 and a “very low probability” of it falling into the 1100 area.

On the fashions and fads front, incidentally, Barron’s wondered what the market is to make of Bruce Springsteen. Conclusion: He is in concert with the uncertain mood of the times, but the “increasingly upbeat” note to his songs augurs well for Wall Street.

* * *

Chartered bank shares in Canada are widely held. To a lesser extent, so are those of trust companies (there are many clusters of corporate ownership in this business). But there are fewer investment opportunities in one wealth-laden segment of the financial industry – life insurance.

A recent addition to the Toronto Stock Exchange list is Lonvest Corp., whose principal asset is a 97.6 per cent interest in London Life, Canada’s sixth largest life insurance company. Lonvest is 65 per cent owned by Trilon Financial Corp., which itself is about 40 per cent held by Brascan Ltd. and Olympia and York Holdings Corp.

Because they are rich in financial assets, life insurance companies are winners in an environment of stable to lower interest and inflation rates, says analyst Terry Shaunessy of Merrill Lynch Canada.

He credits London Life’s record of high profitability (five-year average return on equity: 16.93 per cent) to capable management and a large marketing force. A $225 million sale of treasury shares last June, he says, gives the company the chance to make an acquisition that could have an early and favorable impact on earnings.

Lonvest has the option to buy Wellington Insurance until March 31, 1987. Wellington’s recent results have been so-so but it’s felt the company could be upgraded to “add an interesting dimension” to Lonvest.

January 17, 2007

Egan

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BODY:
Carolyn Egan enjoys irony — not only because she’s president of Local 8300 of the United Steelworkers of America.

Raised in an Irish Catholic home in Boston, the eldest of six children, she’s Canada’s pre-eminent pro-choice voice, a passionate advocate for women’s sexual health and reproductive freedom.

“My mother would never have considered an abortion, but still, I was brought up with an empathy for the hardship and the realities of childbirth that many women had to face,” says this year’s YWCA Woman of Distinction for health and women’s rights. “I always sensed that women wanted to have more control of their lives, and that was very real to me.”

DRAFT RESISTER

Egan, 54, moved to Toronto in 1969 with her draft-resisting husband and in 1972 began counselling young women at the Birth Control and Venereal Disease Information Centre, at Lawrence and Bathurst, where she still works.

Abortion was the seminal women’s issue in the mid-1960s, during the first burst of the women’s liberation movement, when she attended Manhattanville College, a small, Catholic university in New York.

She had counselled students there and was naturally drawn to counselling here, where she initiated outreach programs sending counsellors into schools to discuss birth control and sexual issues with adolescents.

She met Dr. Henry Morgentaler in the 1970s and asked him to come to Toronto to begin campaigning for abortion legislation here. During the 1980s, not only did she co-found the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics, she travelled with Morgentaler across Canada.

“He’d just walk through airports and women would stop him to say, ‘Thank you, Doctor.’ He’s a true Canadian hero.”

At that time, the United Steelworkers of America unionized her clinic. Though predominantly male, this union was and remains increasingly “supportive of women,” she says.

Though she has no children and is separated from her husband, Egan is close to her family.

“My parents, at 81 and 83, are practising Catholics, but they’re very supportive of my work,” she says, with gentle humour in her voice. “Both my mother and my grandmother were always optimistic and I translated that into my life.

‘WORKING TOGETHER’

“I know that change is possible. People working together can make incredible changes.”

Strong words from a woman of steel.

In other YWCA Woman of Distinction categories, Jane Doe will be honoured for social justice; Bobbie Gaunt for corporate leadership; Winnie Ng for labour and women’s rights leadership; Eslin Payne for community leadership; Joan Grant-Cummings for social action and Rahima Nenshi is the young woman of distinction.

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