Home' Greymouth Star : September 15th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, September 15, 2015
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
uLetters to the editor
1776 - During the American Revolution,
British forces under General William Howe
capture New York.
1830 - The first train accident: British
statesman William Huskisson is fatally injured
at the opening of the Liverpool and
1916 - British Army uses tanks
for first time on Western Front in
World War One.
1938 - British Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain visits
Germany ’s Adolf Hitler at
Berchtesgaden where Hitler states his
determination to annex Sudetenland on
principle of self-determination.
1940 - During the Battle of Britain in World
War Two, the tide turns as the Luftwaffe
sustains heavy losses inflicted by the Royal Air
1988 - Convictions of Michael and Lindy
Chamberlain over the death of their baby
Azaria at Uluru are quashed.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
James Fenimore Cooper, US writer (1789-
1851); William Howard Taft, US president
(1857-1930); Joseph Lyons, Australian prime
minister (1879-1939); Agatha Christie, British
author (1890-1976); Jean Renoir, French
film director (1894-1979); Sara
Henderson, Australian pastoralist
and author (1936-2005); Jessye
Norman, US soprano (1945-);
Oliver Stone, US filmmaker (1946-);
Tommy Lee Jones, US actor (1946-);
Princess L etizia of Spain (1972-);
Tom Hardy, British actor (1977-);
Sophie Dahl, British author and model (1979-);
Prince Harry of the United Kingdom (1984-) .
“ In every real man a child is hidden that
wants to play.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, German
“ Jesus said, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the
Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and
believe in the good news’.” — (Mark 1:15).
A 1951 model car
hurtled off the road
at Coal Creek last
night and resulted
in serious injuries to three 18-year-olds. The
injured youths are: Douglas Corrin, concussion,
fractured jaw; condition fair. John Gibbens,
head and chest injuries; condition serious. Peter
Shirley, head injuries; condition satisfactory.
The three were the only occupants of the car
owned and driven by Mr Corrin. They were
travelling from Runanga to Greymouth when
the accident hapened at about 9.15pm. The
car failed to take a bend on the Runanga side
of Roper’s Bridge. At high speed, it ploughed
through two properties before it hit a tree
stump on Mr C E Roper’s farm.
First on the scene were Mr and Mrs N K
Darney who actually “heard the accident
coming” from within their house. There have
been two or three other accidents on this bend,
said Mrs Darney, and they were both familiar
with the sound.
West Coast television enthusiasts are again
forced to play a waiting game, with the NZBC
transmitter Sugar Loaf the deciding factor.
Within 10 days to a fortnight, the immediate
future of television here should be known, for
the new station is to step up its transmission
output to full power.
The first waiting game played here for
months ended a fortnight ago in virtual despair
after Sugar Loaf failed to provide a better
reception. In less than a fortnight’s time, the
reception here is expected to undergo a marked
change for the better when transmission is
stepped up to full power of about 100KW.
This again is only surmise.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
One of my
my t-shirt should
read: “I don’t
support war, but
me.” And it is
true, I suppose.
I write about
lots of other
things too, but
I have been
studying war, writing about wars, going
to wars (but never fighting in one) for
the whole of my adult life, partly because
international relations are so heavily
militarised, but also because for anybody
who is interested in human behaviour, war
is as fascinating as it is horrible.
So you might assume that I would leap
into action, laptop in hand, when I learned
that almost 3000 “researchers, experts and
entrepreneurs” have signed an open letter
calling for a ban on developing artifical
intelligence (AI) for “lethal autonomous
weapons systems” (Laws), or military
robots for short. Instead, I yawned. Heavy
artillery fire is much more terrifying than
The people who signed the letter
included celebrities of the science and
high-tech worlds like Tesla’s Elon Musk,
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak,
cosmologist Stephen Hawking, Skype
co-founder Jaan Tallinn, Demis Hassabis,
chief executive of Google Deep Mind and,
of course, Noam Chomsky. They presented
their letter in late July to the International
Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence,
meeting this year in Buenos Aires.
They were quite clear about what worried
them: “ The key question for humanity
today is whether to start a global AI arms
race or to prevent it from starting. If any
major military power pushes ahead with
AI weapon development, a global arms
race is virtually inevitable, and
the endpoint of this technological
trajectory is obvious: autonomous
weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of
“Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no
costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so
they will become ubiquitous and cheap for
all significant military powers to mass-
produce. It will only be a matter of time
until they appear on the black market
and in the hands of terrorists, dictators
wishing to better control their populations,
warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnc
“Autonomous weapons are ideal for
tasks such as assassinations, destabilising
nations, subduing populations and
selectively killing a particular ethnic group.
We therefore believe that a military AI
arms race would not be beneficial for
Well, no, it would not be beneficial for
humanity. Few arms races are. But are
autonomous weapons really “the key
question for humanity today ”? Probably
We have a few other things on our plate
that feel a lot more “key ”, like climate
change, nine civil wars in the Muslim
parts of the world (Afghanistan, Iraq,
Syria, south-eastern Turkey, Yemen,
Libya, Somalia, Sudan and north-eastern
Nigeria) — and, of course, nuclear
The scientists and experts who signed the
open letter were quite right to demand an
international agreement banning further
work on autonomous weapons, because we
do not really need yet another high-tech
way to kill people. It is not impossible that
they might succeed, either, although it will
be a lot harder than banning blinding laser
weapons or cluster bombs.
But autonomous weapons of the sort
currently under development are not going
to change the world drastically. They are
not “the third revolution in warfare, after
gunpowder and nuclear arms,” as one
military pundit breathlessly described
them. They are just another nasty weapons
What drives the campaign is a conflation
of two different ideas: weapons that kill
people without a human being in the
decision-making loop, and true AI. The
latter certainly would change the world, as
we would then have to share our world for
good or ill with non-human intelligences
— but almost all the people active in the
field say that human-level AI is still a
long way off in the future, if it is possible
As for weapons that kill people without
a human being choosing the victims, those
we have in abundance already. From land
mines to nuclear-tipped missiles, there
are all sorts of weapons that kill people
without discrimination in the arsenals of
the world’s armed forces. We also have
a wide variety of weapons that will kill
specific individuals (guns, for example),
and we already know how to “selectively
kill a particular ethnic group,” too.
Combine autonomous weapons with true
AI, and you get the Terminator, or indeed
Skynet. Without that level of AI, all you
get is another way of killing people that
may, in certain circumstances, be more
efficient than having another human being
do the job. It is not pretty, but it is not very
The thing about autonomous weapons
that really appeals to the major military
powers is that, like the current generation
of remote-piloted drones, they can be
used with impunity in poor countries.
Moreover, like drones, they do not put the
lives of rich-country soldiers at risk. That
is a really good reason to oppose them —
and if poor countries realise what they are
in for, a good opportunity to organise a
strong diplomatic coalition that works to
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
The rise of the machine
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
t would be easy to consider Robert
Bryden’s goals modest.
One day he would like to work
as a builder. He would like to be
able to drive, so he can take people
to their weddings in a classic car,
which he will have restored with the help of
his dad, Robert Snr.
It is tempting to say the 29-year-old
wants his old life back. But Robert does not
recall his old life. He has no real idea who
or what he was prior to an attack outside
a Wellington pub that left him with a
traumatic brain injury known as a diffuse
axonal; and only a blurred grasp on much of
what has happened since.
Robert was repeatedly kicked in the
head during a vicious attack. His assailant,
Ioritana Tuau, who witnesses said held
on to a railing to get better leverage as he
stomped on Robert, received a nine-year
Robert got life — or rather a lifetime of
rehabilitation. When he emerged from a
month-long coma, he was blind, had little
control of his body and was so severely
mentally impaired he would forget his
parents’ names in a matter of seconds.
He was, as Robert snr puts it, “munted ”.
His goals, then, are far from modest.
It is a week short of the fourth anniversary
of the night that changed his life — and the
lives of many around him — when Robert
tells of his dreams. He is lucid, cheerful and
has no problem engaging in conversation.
His reference to restoring cars is no
surprise. He has been stripping down
engines as part of his rehabilitation. The
idea was to help improve his hand-eye
co-ordination, says Robert Snr, a mechanic
and builder who has given up work to
concentrate on his son’s rehabilitation. His
methods are unconventional. He has made
Robert walk sand dunes to re-train his
muscle memory, developed a gym-based
cognitive training exercise using coloured
cones and generally eschewed mainstream
The biggest breakthrough came this year,
when Robert Snr agreed to let Hayley
Brown treat his son with hyperbaric oxygen
at her Paraparaumu clinic.
Robert has just completed a second block
of 40 90-minute sessions in a pressurised
cylinder breathing elevated levels of oxygen.
The results have been encouraging.
The most startling effect has been on his
peripheral vision. Dots on a series of graphs
Robert snr holds illustrate how much his
son’s vision has improved. But to what
extent can they be attributed to HBOT, as
hyperbaric oxygen therapy is known?
“I can only go by the testing we have
had done after we’ve had hyperbaric, with
the behavioural optometrist, and seen the
growth,” says Robert Snr.
“I would not have expected it to grow that
quickly, and he has never plateaued. He is
Brown has no doubts her treatment is
driving Robert’s improvement. Her Health
Evolution clinic has treated five other
traumatic brain injury victims with HBOT
and they are all cured, she says.
Brown passionately believes HBOT can
be used to treat head injuries ranging from
rugby concussions brain damaged car crash
victims, and possibly even strokes.
Given the lack of alternative treatments,
she is appalled HBOT is not more widely
used within mainstream medicine — and
wants to know why.
The answer, says associate professor
Simon Mitchell, the head of Auckland
University’s anaesthesiology department
and New Zealand’s leading expert in
hyperbaric medicine, is science.
“It’s just fanciful bollocks,” says Mitchell
of the notion that brain injuries can be
treated with HBOT.
“I’m very disturbed about it.”
The proliferation of such nonsense, he
says, is bad for the field and exploitative
of patients, most of whom are extremely
Hyperbaric medicine has long battled for
credibility. Couched in a hard to contradict
philosophy that oxygen is central to life, it
has been a lightening rod for practitioners
of alternate medicine for decades.
Some claim it can heal just about
anything. In 2013 America’s Food and
Drug Agency issued this warning about
unsubstantiated claims for HBOT. This
list of conditions the FDA warned people
HBOT had not been proven to treat
included cancer, autism, diabetes and brain
“Patients may incorrectly believe that
these devices have been proven safe and
effective for uses not cleared by FDA,
which may cause them to delay or forgo
proven medical therapies,” the FDA
In New Zealand, an advertisement
that appeared in the Bay News in 1998
listed 100 ailments that could be treated
with hyperbaric oxygen. Many of the
conditions were misspelled, as was the word
The sales pitch is typically thus: the
human body requires oxygen to heal, and
increasing the oxygen supply boosts the
ability and rate of healing. By combining
an elevated level of oxygen with increased
atmospheric pressure, a hyperbaric chamber
forces oxygen into damaged tissues.
The mechanism by which it works is
seldom that simple, but it does work
— for some ailments. The FDA lists
14 ‘indications’ for which hyperbaric
therapy is considered proven, including
decompression sickness, burns, radiation
injuries, carbon monoxide poisoning and
Traumatic brain injury is conspicuous by
its absence. The reason, says Mitchell, it that
is has been proven categorically not to be
Under pressure to follow up on an
encouraging independent 2003 experiment,
the United States military spent
$70 million on a trio of advanced studies.
The hope was HBOT could cure the vast
numbers of combat troops returning from
Iraq and Afghanistan with battered brains.
HBOT treatment — which involved
subjects breathing 100% oxygen at pressures
ranging from 1.2 atmospheres (ata) to 2.0
ata — produced significant, measurable
effects, researchers found. People got better.
But the studies all included what is
known as a randomised, double-blinded
sham control. Subjects in the sham
treatment group were fooled into thinking
they were receiving hyperbaric treatment
with a combination of plain old room air
(roughly 21% oxygen) and mildly elevated
pressure (1.3 ata).
The results were virtually identical. People
who thought they were receiving HBOT
improved at exactly the same rate as those
who were genuinely receiving it.
A placebo was well and truly in effect,
scientists running all three studies
“If you had to write a script for the perfect
environment for a placebo effect you would
write a description of a hyperbaric facility,”
“If you take people who are highly
motivated to recover and put them in
a caring, sharing, positive, optimistic
environment that involves a complicated
looking inter vention that would almost to
the man on the street be inconceivable not
to work, then they will change.
“But the inescapable fact is that when
you put a sham treatment against an active
treatment there is no difference between
The debate, though, does not end there.
Proponents of HBOT as a revolutionary
cure for TBI reject the placebo theory. The
likes of New Orleans-based physician Dr
Paul Harch — who in 2001 established
the International Hyperbaric Medical
Association and made himself president —
argue that HBOT is so potent that even
room air at a mildly elevated pressure is an
active treatment. The sham was no sham at
all, Harch and his followers argued.
Utter nonsense, say mainstream
“The same pressure of inspired oxygen is
achieved just by sitting there in your office
breathing bottled oxygen through a plastic
mask,” says Mitchell, who with Australia
colleague Michael Bennett last year
published this paper on unsubstantiated
claims made for HBOT.
“Then they say ‘oh yes but it is the
pressure’. Good luck with that argument.
“There is no plausible reason in the world
to suspect that exposing yourself to point-
three of an atmosphere of pressure is going
to resurrect inactive neurons in the brain.
That ’s just fanciful. But that is the line they
are taking because the industry that they
are creating depends on it.”
Robert Bryden Snr is not impressed with
the scientific smackdown of HBOT.
“Everything I understand comes from my
gut,” he says. “It ’s inside me.”
His gut told him a rehabilitation centre
in Porirua was not the place for his boy to
recover. His gut told him to sack doctors
who were not prepared, as he is, to kick
over every stone in search of ways to help
Hayley Brown’s Evolution Health has
treated five other traumatic brain injury
victims with HBOT.
“I said I want something that is a bit
more alternative, you people stick to your
book. If you didn’t stick to your book then
you wouldn’t have a job in your hospital
because the hospital wouldn’t allow you
to step outside those boundaries. The
hospital basically controls you, which is the
government, which is the drug companies.”
The ‘government in bed with the
pharmaceutical companies’ conspiracy
theory does not surprise Mitchell.
“That’s just a hoary old chestnut.
“There are plenty of people in hyperbaric
medicine who would love nothing more
than for there to be more indications
because that is how they make their living.
“They deny this one because the science
doesn’t support it.”
But not working is not the same as not
having an effect. Robert’s recovery is there
for all to see.
“It becomes a very complicated argument
because the effects they are seeing are real,”
“That ’s the problem. That is why people
like Brown are true believers. They see
people change, they see people ‘recover’.
“But let ’s be clear — no one is getting
cured or having some kind of miraculous
change. No one has come in as vegetable
and walked out a normal person. That
Brown disagrees. A placebo effect could
not have caused Robert’s improvement
because he lacked the cognitive function to
manifest one,” she says.
“He had no understanding that he had
had an injury. He couldn’t have imagined it
because he didn’t have an imagination.”
Robert snr does not much care if it is a
placebo that is helping his son. If placebos
work, then why not use them, he asks?
“Ask yourself what a patient might think
if they committed significant time and
money to a treatment that did not work
for them, and they subsequently found out
that they were being deceived about its true
efficacy?” answers Mitchell.
“The provider would essentially have to
say ‘yes we lied to you in the hope that the
lie itself would cause you to believe that
it worked — but thanks for your money
anyway ’. Hmmmm.”
Money is often at the crux of the issue,
says Mitchell. Treatments are expensive,
ranging from $100 to $200 a session.
Clinics run by the likes of Harch are
large scale and highly commercial. A
proliferation of head injuries, a lack of
effective treatments and the powerful
placebo effect means true believers are in
Brown, who discovered HBOT while
seeking treatment for an illness of her own,
insists she is not in it for the money.
“I say give us some cases and we’ ll show
you it works,” she says. “I’d happily treat
them for nothing to prove what it will do.
“The people coming in here are tragic
cases. They have got no hope. There is
nothing else. You give them treatment and
they improve quite markedly quite quickly.
Someone needs to give us the opportunity
to show what it can do.”
Mitchell disagrees vehemently. Once
desperate patients are sucked in to a
treatment cycle, extracting them is nearly
impossible, he says.
“They will be seeing changes which are
real and trying to talk them out of it will be
impossible. You can’t expect someone in a
desperate situation like that to change their
view. That ’s what makes it so exploitative.
“It ’s deception. With all the good intent
in the world, it is still deception.”
— New Zealand Herald
Do hyperbaric chambers work?
Robert Bryden’s brain injury was so bad he could barely see or remember his parents’ names. Now he’s talking clearly and
getting his vision back after trying an unconventional oxygen treatment. So why are scientists not convinced?
PICTURE: New Zealand Herald
Robert Bryden inside the hyperbaric chamber.
Links Archive September 14th 2015 September 16th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page