Author Archives: Rob Wipond

Are Psychiatric Medications Safe? The FDA’s Answer May Surprise You

The Deputy Director for Safety at the FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products answers my questions about how the risks of psychiatric drugs are evaluated by health regulators – and explains what you need to know to better protect yourself. Read the whole article or listen to an audio version of the interview at the Inner Compass Initiative website. (Note that while psychiatric drugs are the focus, much of our discussion generally applies to any other drugs as well.)

Hostpapa Review (or Hostpapa’s Scam, and what you should know about all “low-cost” web hosting providers)

 

Many providers of “low-cost” shared web hosting like Hostpapa advertise “unlimited bandwidth” — but it’s a scam, and you could end up with your website shut down and back-up functions blocked unless you pay higher fees. Don’t get burned. Learn from my experience.

In 2018-19, the web hosting provider Hostpapa started slowing down (“throttling”) my website, and then suddenly without notice shut my site down completely until I paid higher fees. This seemed like a scam. I investigated and discovered that’s exactly what it was – and I was far from Hostpapa’s only victim. In this post, I summarize what I learned about this profitable scam aspect of Hostpapa’s regular business operations. I do it in a way that is understandable for non-technical people, and I then suggest key questions to ask before signing up with any “cheap” web hosting provider like Hostpapa.

Hostpapa gets generally good reviews. Learning #1: You cannot trust most reviews of web hosting providers. Search engines return “Reviews of…”, “Top ten…” and “Best…” lists very high in search results, so there are massive profits in posting such lists and reviews. Most reviews of the “best web hosting providers” are put together by a person or company that’s typically getting paid by the web hosting companies every time a visitor clicks through to the companies’ websites, and is paid more if the visitor signs up. So if a top-ten list gives a very bad review, it’s usually just because that particular company has no such “affiliate programs” with scam reviewers. (Reviews done by established, independent tech magazines are a better bet.)

I signed up for Hostpapa’s medium, “unlimited bandwidth,” shared web hosting plan that said they would “never charge higher usage fees” – so what could go wrong?

One day out of the blue I received an automated message from Hostpapa telling me that my website had been using up so much server resources that Hostpapa had shut my website down. I could not even access my website to manage it. The email said that I could regain access to my site if I started paying monthly fees that were ten times more than what I was currently paying.

Most people without technical knowledge probably just pay the higher fees. What choice do you have? But I had a little technical knowledge and a lot of suspicion. My WordPress blog on Hostpapa was small, and the traffic was very light. I contacted Hostpapa and explained this and reminded them I was on an “unlimited bandwidth” plan that said I’d “never be charged higher usage fees”.

Hostpapa staff said my “unlimited” plan wasn’t actually unlimited. They said the “bandwidth” was unlimited but not the “server usage”. Learning #2: The commonly advertised feature of “unlimited bandwidth” for shared web hosting plans is misleading.

For non-technical users, “bandwidth” can be understood as the width of a pipe, while “server usage”, is the amount of liquid your website sends back and forth through the pipe. Hostpapa sent me a link to their policy that described extremely tight, strict limits on “server usage” – the number of monthly drops my website was allowed to send through the pipe to web users. But this policy was never mentioned in Hostpapa’s ads or Terms of Service.

I persuaded Hostpapa to let me back into my website, and I tried to ensure that I had a backup of the content. However, Hostpapa was still throttling my website so heavily that, no matter what back-up tool I used, it would time out.

Hostpapa then sent me a list of technical tips to “correct the problems” that were causing my “excessive server usage.” I had to spend many hours researching to figure out how to implement them. I finally managed to implement them all — and it made absolutely no difference. Hostpapa shut my website down again.

Hostpapa then admitted to me that it was often the case that implementing their technical tips did not actually solve the problems. The real problem, their staff explained, was that WordPress has become so popular that it’s now a frequent target of hackers and malicious web-bots. These hackers and web-bots were overloading my website. And even running WordPress firewalls and plugins like “Stop Bad Bots” doesn’t help a lot — they help secure your site, to be sure, but they do not actually block the bad traffic from ever arriving. Bad traffic can only be blocked at the server level, by the web hosting provider.

So why can’t Hostpapa just block these malicious web-bots? Well, they could. If they wanted to. And that’s exactly what responsible web hosting providers do, I soon discovered. But Hostpapa doesn’t. Instead, Hostpapa lets many web-bots through, and then throttles their clients’ websites and shuts them down and sends out demands for higher fees. And then Hostpapa has set up an entire division of its staff dedicated to moving people with small WordPress sites off low-cost hosting plans onto higher-priced plans – this scam is a major part of their profit model.

Consider a comparison: About 90% of emails circulating on the internet are spam. Imagine if an internet service provider refused to run spam-blockers and instead let all spam emails through to its clients and then charged its clients higher fees for all the extra email server space they were using each day. This is basically Hostpapa’s policy and practice in relation to malicious web-bots – and they can get away with it because most of their individual and small-business clients on low-cost plans don’t have the technical knowledge to understand what’s going on.

I repeatedly asked to be allowed to talk to a supervisor or manager at Hostpapa, but my requests were refused.

I persuaded the Advertising Standards Council to investigate and they eventually concluded that Hostpapa was indeed engaged in false and misleading advertising.

In response to the findings of the Advertising Standards Council and another complaint I made through the Better Business Bureau, Hostpapa finally changed their advertising and Terms of Service to clarify that they will under certain conditions throttle websites, shut them down and charge higher fees (see their new ad below). However, the wording in their ad and Terms of Service “Disruptive Uses” section still make it sound like this will only ever happen if “you” engage in “abusive” activities or if “you” use “unusual” amounts of server space. Hostpapa has refused to clarify that, in fact, your site could be throttled and shut down when you’re simply a victim of common web-bots that Hostpapa itself could be blocking.

I will never do business with Hostpapa again — I’ve found other web hosting providers that are nearly as low-cost and I’ve had no problems. So here are some key questions to ask a provider if you are considering signing up for a shared web hosting plan:

  • Do they block most web-bots that attack WordPress sites, or is that left to the client to do?
  • What are their ACTUAL server usage limits?
  • Do they throttle client websites?
  • Do they shut down client websites without notice?
  • Do they demand higher fees if a site crosses the server usage limits?

I’ve posted this just to be helpful to other people, not to make money. If you’ve found this post helpful, please post a link to it somewhere so that others are more likely to find it when they do searches. (And/or please leave a comment — if you don’t see my “Comments” section below, click on the title of this post and it should appear.)

Concerning Parallel? – Suicide Rates and Antidepressant Use Increasing Together?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released information showing that suicide rates have been increasing in virtually all U.S. states since 1999. I’ve removed my few random thoughts on how this correlates to rises in antidepressant use because Robert Whitaker has done a very helpful and thorough analysis of the topic that I recommend.

Announcing the Launch of Inner Compass Initiative and The Withdrawal Project

I am proud to have helped develop these two websites, contributing researching, writing and editing for them. One of the most significant elements is the development of the most comprehensive, self-directed, layperson’s guide to safer psychiatric drug withdrawal ever produced. I include below further details from the organization’s executive director.
Rob

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I am writing with news that I’ve been eagerly anticipating sharing with you for quite some time. On behalf of my fellow co-founders and a growing number of volunteers, advisors, supporters, and contributors, I am incredibly excited to announce the launch of Inner Compass Initiative (ICI), a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and ICI’s first major effort, The Withdrawal Project (TWP).

Our mission is to provide information, resources, tools, and connecting platforms ?to facilitate more informed choices regarding all things “mental health” and to support individuals and groups who wish to leave, bypass, or build community beyond the mental health system. (You can learn more about this mission here.)

Among the many resources you’ll find on the ICI or TWP websites are:

  • Informational resources on psychiatric drugs, physical dependence and withdrawal: Many people are never given access to honest, frank information about psychiatric drugs when they make the decision to take or come off these medications. TWP’s Learn section provides an accessible introduction to how psychiatric drugs affect the central nervous system, what psychiatric drug dependence and withdrawal are and why they occur, and what “slow” tapering truly means. In addition, ICI’s Learn/Unlearn section provides accessible educational information about the safety and effectiveness of psychiatric drugs in ways that are much more detailed and forthright than typically appear at other major online sources.
  • TWP’s Companion Guide to Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: Despite the astronomical numbers of people taking psychiatric medications, there’s a severe dearth of studies or research into how to safely taper off them. But countless numbers of individuals who’ve come off medications themselves have taken what they’ve learned along the way and developed sophisticated taper protocols that they are finding lead to smoother and more successful outcomes. We’ve gathered this rich anecdotal wisdom and created a comprehensive layperson’s “Companion Guide” to safer psychiatric drug withdrawal that is freely available to all who seek it.
  • TWP Connect: When people embark on the psychiatric drug withdrawal journey, they often feel terribly isolated, alienated, invalidated, and afraid – and so we’ve created TWP Connect to help them feel less so. It’s a free online platform that allows registered members who are thinking about, are in the process of, or have past experiences with reducing or coming off psychiatric drugs to find and connect with one another based on their location, interests, and needs.
  • ICI Connect: We know that more and more people are losing confidence and trust in the mental health system and seeking out alternatives to it– but they often struggle to find one another in their local communities to discuss, organize, and build different ways forward. We’ve created ICI Connect to meet this need. It’s a free online platform that helps people thinking critically about all things “mental health” find and connect with one another based on their location and specific interests.

I’m so excited to be sharing news of our launch with you. Visit Inner Compass Initiative at www.theinnercompass.org and The Withdrawal Project at withdrawal.theinnercompass.org. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-speed on the latest news from us, and find us on Facebook and Twitter. Lastly, if one or both of our Connect platforms speak to you in some way, please sign up today! They will only become the robust networking and organizing platforms we built them to be if many of us join and give life to them.

Love and liberation,

Laura Delano
Executive Director

Inner Compass Initiative (ICI) is a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides information and resources to help people make more informed choices regarding all things “mental health” and to support people who wish to leave, bypass, or build community beyond the mental health system. Its first major effort, The Withdrawal Project (TWP), is a comprehensive online hub for safer psychiatric drug withdrawal. The resources on the ICI and TWP websites include a detailed layperson’s “Companion Guide” to safer tapering from psychiatric medications; mini-booklets that provide detailed, critical information about psychiatric drugs, psychiatric diagnoses, and the mental health industry; and two networking platforms to help people who are thinking critically about the mental health system or seeking support for psychiatric drug withdrawal to find each other in their local communities.

Visit ICI at www.theinnercompass.org

Visit TWP at withdrawal.theinnercompass.org

Reporting Flu Vaccine Science

Many news articles about a study of influenza vaccine and miscarriages raised good questions—but for questionable reasons, reports Rob Wipond.

(This article appeared in The BMJ (British Medical Journal), January 5, 2018.)

When reporting on medical studies, the popular press has a habit of sensationalising. So the muted response to a recent research paper reporting increased risk of miscarriage with influenza vaccines was at first sight surprising.

The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that women who had received an influenza vaccine containing the 2009 pandemic strain pH1N1 and who were also vaccinated in the next flu season had a statistically significant, 7.7-fold higher odds of spontaneous abortion within 28 days of the second vaccination. (Absolute risk increase could not be calculated because it was a case-control study.) The concerning odds ratio fostered extensive discussion in the paper. But the news media projected an air of calm, highlighting the observational study’s many limitations.

The headline on the health news website STAT read: “Study shows miscarriage risk may have increased after flu shots, puzzling researchers”2—as if the increased risk was in doubt. A widely syndicated Associated Press story ran with the headline, “Study prompts call to examine flu vaccine and miscarriage,” discounting the fact that this had been the purpose of the reported study. The Washington Post initially declared: “Researchers find hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriage”—but within hours that headline was softened to, “What to know about a study of flu vaccine and miscarriage.”

Read the rest at The BMJ.(subscription required)

Click here for a “toll-free” link to view the complete article at The BMJ.