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Snake Oil

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OPINION
December 24, 2013
Re "What would Katie do?," Opinion, Dec. 18 Julia Belluz and Steven J. Hoffman say studies show that our brains and psyches appear to be hard-wired to trust celebrities promoting miracle medicines and cures. Why stop at illogical addictions to celebrity advice? Every day we are bombarded with ads hawking prescription drugs with potential side effects so horrific that no clear-thinking person would consider taking them. Yet we run to our doctors and ask for them. Why do so many people take dangerous drugs for conditions that could be addressed by diet change?
ARTICLES BY DATE
OPINION
December 24, 2013
Re "What would Katie do?," Opinion, Dec. 18 Julia Belluz and Steven J. Hoffman say studies show that our brains and psyches appear to be hard-wired to trust celebrities promoting miracle medicines and cures. Why stop at illogical addictions to celebrity advice? Every day we are bombarded with ads hawking prescription drugs with potential side effects so horrific that no clear-thinking person would consider taking them. Yet we run to our doctors and ask for them. Why do so many people take dangerous drugs for conditions that could be addressed by diet change?
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 3, 1988
Regarding your June 20 story, "Neighbors Fear Quality Will Turn Mountain Into Just a Molehill," Robert Pankey and Hal Jensen of Palomar Grading & Paving, sound like politicians trying to sell a pork-barrel project to their unsuspecting constituents. There's the touch of a snake-oil salesman. First of all, if you believe that Jensen will reduce the price of the rock because of the easy access to the freeway, then you'll buy anything from anybody. Rock is sold for a base price. And the easy access only profits one person, Jensen.
NEWS
October 27, 2011 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Yessss, that's right, folks: Snake oil - maybe it's good for what ails you! The blood of a feeding python is coursing with fats that help the reptile's heart grow big and strong, according to scientists at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In a study just published in the journal Science, a team led by Leslie Leinwand decided to take a look at why the hearts of pythons enlarge so impressively after the snake has had one of its rare and very hearty meals. And we do mean impressively: Within 48 to 72 hours after feeding, the creature's heart expands its mass by 40%. Why does it do that?
ENTERTAINMENT
April 4, 1988 | DUNCAN STRAUSS
If the Easter Bunny looked a little dazed and confused Sunday morning, it may be that Saturday night he hopped into the Variety Arts Center, where Psychic Television unleashed a bizarro audio-visual assault that was long on sensory snake oil and short on live music. You expect the unusual from Television director Genesis P-Orridge, who previously led England's sonic nightmare-mongers Throbbing Gristle.
NEWS
August 3, 2003 | Jeff Donn, Associated Press Writer
A young man climbs from bed, stares into a mirror and glimpses his future. He has just turned 34. His body is trim, his hair thick and dark. But what's that around his eyes? Those crow's-feet are getting harder to ignore. And do his teeth look a bit ground down by decades of chewing, or is it his imagination? He will probably repeat the drill tomorrow, and the next day and the next -- about 16,000 more times if he, like the average American, dies at 80. "I don't think 80 years is long enough.
HEALTH
July 1, 2002 | ROSIE MESTEL
"Snake oil"--it's not a flattering phrase, and definitely not anything we'd want to plaster on a bottle of some cure-all we were trying to sell. But presumably there was a time when the two small words were a fabulous selling point--when they conjured up images of potency, trustworthiness and miracle cures. Perhaps there were even books titled "Snake Oil: Nature's Miracle Medicine" (because people, after all, were far less sophisticated than today).
NEWS
April 30, 1997 | ROBIN ABCARIAN
I have Scotch and Snickers and six-mile runs. My husband has colloidal minerals, antioxidants, blue-green algae, gingko biloba and an abiding faith in the age-defying properties claimed by the makers of these products. He will probably outlive me. But I will die happy. My husband is part of an expanding universe of people who are fighting age from the inside out. They turn not to plastic surgeons, who give only the illusion of youth, but to supplements and "engineered" foods.
BUSINESS
March 8, 1995 | CHRIS WOODYARD, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Tuesday ordered former Anaheim real estate developer Donald Hill Williams to pay $20 million to investors in a fraud-riddled scheme that preyed on the elderly. Judge John E. Ryan castigated Williams for bilking investors in his Hill Williams Development Corp. of $90 million through land investment schemes. "He preyed on those least able to recover from financial disaster," Ryan said.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 8, 1996
Free traders are today's chauvinists. They tell us that Americans are by far the most intelligent, industrious and invincible people in the whole wide world, so we can compete with Third World poverty wages and prosper. So what else is new? Snake oil always has greased the hands that sell it. Changing labels doesn't change hogwash. BARBARA BURBY Garden Grove
NATIONAL
October 18, 2009 | Diane C. Lade
An ultraviolet light that its sellers promise will "destroy swine flu virus." A dietary supplement claiming to be "more effective than the swine flu shot." Pills, hand sanitizers and air filters galore. Through daily Internet searches, the Food and Drug Administration found hundreds of suspect items advertised as swine flu deterrents and cures, and over the last six months warned 80 Internet purveyors to stop peddling unproved or illegal treatments. The FDA has issued an advisory, telling consumers to use "extreme care" when purchasing online products claiming to diagnose, treat or prevent the H1N1 virus.
REAL ESTATE
February 10, 2008 | Ann Brenoff, Times Staff Writer
If there were an endangered species list for Los Angeles historical homes, the Girard Tract cabins might very well top it. Most of the original 120 homes were destroyed, and the dozen or so that remain have been altered extensively with little regard to their roots. But hidden in their past is this footnote: They are the housing offspring of a scoundrel. The man behind the cabins Victor Girard Kleinberger was a land huckster with big dreams.
SPORTS
April 21, 2007
Regarding the Angels' pathetic lack of offense, Gary Matthews Jr. was quoted in Thursday's Times saying, "There's no secret ingredient. You can't just go out and sacrifice a chicken, throw on some snake oil, and all of a sudden you'll start piling up the runs. It doesn't work like that." That might be true, Gary, but you can fire the turkey who gave your .232-hitting, fly ball-dropping act a five-year, $50-million contract while failing for the third straight off-season to secure the big bat that was promised to the fans by the owner.
OPINION
August 6, 2005
IN THE INTERVIEW MONDAY in which President Bush made news by defending the teaching of the "intelligent design" theory, he also defended former Texas Ranger (now Baltimore Oriole) Rafael Palmeiro, recently suspended from Major League Baseball for a positive steroid test. "Palmeiro is a friend," said Bush, once the Rangers' managing partner. "He testified in public [that he never took steroids], and I believe him."
NEWS
August 3, 2003 | Jeff Donn, Associated Press Writer
A young man climbs from bed, stares into a mirror and glimpses his future. He has just turned 34. His body is trim, his hair thick and dark. But what's that around his eyes? Those crow's-feet are getting harder to ignore. And do his teeth look a bit ground down by decades of chewing, or is it his imagination? He will probably repeat the drill tomorrow, and the next day and the next -- about 16,000 more times if he, like the average American, dies at 80. "I don't think 80 years is long enough.
NEWS
February 23, 2003
Thank you for your excellent piece on medical marijuana refugees in Canada ("The Drug War Refugees," by Eric Bailey, Feb. 2). I too emigrated from the U.S. in order to best treat my medical condition. Since 1997 I have spent as much time as the law will allow in the Netherlands. I have a severe neuromuscular disease called Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy, also known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It is a painful degenerative disease--much like multiple sclerosis. Unless I can smoke or eat pot, I am in excruciating pain from morning to night.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 6, 2001
What a refreshing ray of sunshine on a cloudy day it was to read Michael Kinsley's March 2 commentary, "It Takes a Snob to Know One," on [Fox News talk-show host] Bill O'Reilly. Finally some truth. O'Reilly exploits the anger and frustration in the country masterfully. He, like every other right-wing media personality, is nothing but a rabble-rouser and should be labeled such. Recently one rabble-rouser host was bemoaning our education system in this country, attributing all the ills to liberal policies.
SPORTS
August 11, 1987 | Jim Murray
To: The Commissioner of Baseball, 350 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. Dear Commissioner: It must be as obvious to you as it is to the rest of us that we, as a nation, are in a posture of headlong morality these days and have been since Watergate. None of the old-fashioned verities, the good old American gamesmanship, let the buyer beware, and protect yourself at all times in the clinches, prevail anymore. People do unspeakable things on stage, people say unconscionable things in films, but that's art.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 17, 2003 | Steve Lopez
The minute I saw that line in the governor's budget proposal -- $1.5 billion in revenue from Indian gaming -- I smelled trouble. The math looked pretty shaky to me, and if that part of the Gray Davis balancing act was wobbly, what were we to believe about the rest of it? By way of background, the governor and Legislature are not in charge of state government. Sacramento is owned by Indian gambling interests, and, to roughly the same extent, by prison guards.
HEALTH
July 1, 2002 | ROSIE MESTEL
"Snake oil"--it's not a flattering phrase, and definitely not anything we'd want to plaster on a bottle of some cure-all we were trying to sell. But presumably there was a time when the two small words were a fabulous selling point--when they conjured up images of potency, trustworthiness and miracle cures. Perhaps there were even books titled "Snake Oil: Nature's Miracle Medicine" (because people, after all, were far less sophisticated than today).
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