The Value of Vaccines | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

April 29, 2011

If you hold a rally and no one comes, does it make a sound?

February 24, 2011

As I reported two days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled to maintain the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA), in a 6-2 decision. And as predicted, the anti-vaxxers are not too happy about it. So what was their great plan?

Last night, my friend Michael De Dora, Executive Director of the NYC Branch of the Center For Inquiry, relayed a link to me via Dr. David Gorski on Facebook. This link. It seems that the co-editors of the recently released anti-vax polemic “Vaccine Epidemic” tried to organize a last minute rally today in NYC to protest the Supreme Court decision…and Bill Gates for completely unrelated reasons. This follows a book launch party they held at NYU, which I attended and have begun a 4-part series reporting about over at the Vaccine Times.

Now I was unable to attend this rally, but from what I can tell from the announcement linked to above, the theme of the event was the exact same as the NYU event:

If you can’t join us in NYC tomorrow, buy a few copies of Vaccine Epidemic and commit to loaning them or giving them to people who will read them. You can always donate a couple to your local library.

There is no “standing still.” Either we move forward, or we fall behind.

It is a formidable act of advocacy to put copies of Vaccine Epidemic in people’s hands. Knowledge is powerful. To open your eyes is to find your voice. And at just $14 each, it won’t break the bank.

Which I guess is understandable since, given that the Supreme Court has already ruled on the subject, what else could they have possibly hoped to accomplish with this rally other than use it as an opportunity to move merchandise?

Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way it seems. Numbers are a funny thing. For instance, in that announcement for the rally, they proudly boast about their 300 attendees at the NYU event. And what’s so funny about that is that five days before that event, the Center For Inquiry and the NYC Skeptics held a Darwin Day event in the very same auditorium, Tishman Auditorium. On that day, I’d asked Michael De Dora what the full capacity of that room was, and he told me 450. which is confirmed on their website.  And indeed, I noticed when attending the “Vaccine Epidemic” book launch that, unlike the Darwin Day event, the anti-vaxxers failed to fill the room to capacity.

But that’s nothing compared to what happened with today’s rally from what I hear. Apparently, their big last minute rally turned up a whopping 18 protesters, which fell slightly short of their predicted turn-out of tens of thousands. Oops.

[UPDATE 2/26/11 – Age of Autism finally posted an entry on the rally. Notice they never mention the size of the turn-out and the only about 10 or 11 people can be seen in their photo. Draw your own conclusions]

 

And on an unrelated note, happy second birthday to my nephew!

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As so-called ‘Vaccine Danger Awareness Week’ ends, Bill Gates declares vaccine-autism link an ‘absolute lie’

February 5, 2011

Last year, the anti-vaccine community introduced what they called “Vaccine Danger Awareness Week,” (VDAW) where they devoted a whole week to doing what they do all the time anyway, churn out loads of propaganda for their minions to spread around. Well the good news is that this year VDAW passed almost without notice. In fact, I only heard about it a few days ago and I follow this issue much more closely than most. Age of Autism doesn’t even seem to be involved. As far as I know, this event is only being represented on Facebook.

But that being said, I found it very fitting that this week saw Bill Gates popping up on The Daily Show and now CNN discussing the importance of vaccination. And in the latter, he directly called out the vaccine-autism hypothesis as an “absolute lie.”

Of course Age of Autism responded in their usual way, by making outrageous libelous accusations against Gates, as Orac discusses here, but here’s the full CNN clip in all it’s glory:


Vodpod videos no longer available.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 11.1.10

November 1, 2010

1. Robotic gripper runs on coffee … and balloons – The human hand is very complex and replicating it is very challenging. But now researchers have found out how to mechanically replicate it McGyver style with common household objects, ground coffee and a latex party balloon.

“This is one of the closest things we’ve ever done that could be on the market tomorrow,” Lipson said. He noted that the universality of the gripper makes future applications seemingly limitless, from the military using it to dismantle explosive devises or to move potentially dangerous objects, robotic arms in factories, on the feet of a robot that could walk on walls, or on prosthetic limbs.

Here’s how it works: An everyday party balloon filled with ground coffee — any variety will do — is attached to a robotic arm. The coffee-filled balloon presses down and deforms around the desired object, and then a vacuum sucks the air out of the balloon, solidifying its grip. When the vacuum is released, the balloon becomes soft again, and the gripper lets go.

2. New films lead to skeptical articles about psychics. Two current films in theaters now involve alleged psychics who claim to be able to talk to the dead, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Now I’ve only seen the Woody Allen film because (A) Eastwood tends to make boring films and (B) I don’t find dialogue like “It’s not a gift; it’s a curse” particularly profound or, you know, original. Also, Allen’s film was fairly unapologetically skeptical while Eastwoods (and maybe I’m wrong) looks less so. But what I find interesting is that both films have led to interesting skeptical articles about psychic claims, one an interview with Woody Allen, where he reiterates his atheism, and the other, a review by Roger Ebert of Hereafter.

3. Two really great pieces of athvertising:

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Rational Giving

August 10, 2010

Atheists and rationalists of all kinds are often accused of not being charitable. Now I’ve blogged before about how atheists groups dominate Kiva, a site that allows anyone to loan money to those in need but this past week, I’ve seen other great examples of giving among secular humanists.

1, For instance, atheist billionaire Bill Gates this week convinced 40 other billionaires to publicly pledge to give half their fortunes to those less fortunate:

Together with Warren Buffett, their “The Giving Pledge” project nabbed Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), George Lucas, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Barry Diller from IAC (an internet media company that owns Ask.com, Bloglines, Vimeo, Match.com and others), along with many others.

2. Then I learned that popular atheist YouTuber dprjones is organizing another charity drive with other popular atheist YouTubers to benefit Medecins Sans Frontieres (also known as Doctors without Borders):

3. Lastly, and certainly the most controversial of the bunch, atheist Robert W. Wilson has recently given $5,600,000 to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

“Most of what the Catholic schools teach are the three Rs,” said Wilson, 83, in a phone interview, referring to reading, writing and arithmetic. “And they do it better than the union-controlled inner-city schools.”

Wilson began making donations to the New York archdiocese in 1997 with a gift of $10,000, and he continued at that level for several years. Then Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, asked him to consider giving more money to the schools. Wilson responded in 2007 with a $22.5 million gift to the archdiocese’s Cardinal’s Scholarship Program. He later saw a need for a better alumni support network.

Now regular readers will know that I’m no fan of Catholic institutions, but I have heard from others that some Catholic schools do actually provide a solid education and I don’t know the detail behind this particular case. Certainly, I’d rather see that money go to New York City public schools but regardless of where I personally would rather see the money go, it’s inspiring to see an unbeliever being so giving, especially to an religious organization in which they don’t even belong.

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Bill Gates schools Michael Shermer on economics

February 22, 2010

Jared Cohen, Dave Morin, John Cusack, Dean Kamen, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Michael Shermer. Photo by John Brockman

Lately, it seems like I can’t get away from wacky libertarian politics. Hell, I don’t think I realized until now just how wacky the hard-core libertarians are and now am considering putting them up there with creationists.

Which is not to say that all libertarians are crazy. I have some libertarian friends who are active in the skeptical community and though we disagree on this one issue, they seem fairly rational most of the time.

Not like this guy who seemed so rational back when when he was making videos debunking moon landing deniers:

Then of course there’s Michael Shermer, a skeptic I respect a great deal but whom I think is very irrational when it comes to his libertarian position. That’s why I really enjoyed reading about his dinner discussion with Bill Gates, where Gates explains the importance of government intervention in the marketplace:

I asked Gates “Isn’t it a myth that some companies are ‘too big to fail’? What would have happened if the government just let AIG and the others collapse.” Gates’ answer: “Apocalypse.” He then expanded on that, explaining that after talking to his “good friend Warren” (Buffet), he came to the conclusion that the consequences down the line of not bailing out these giant banks would have left the entire world economy in tatters.

. . .

This led me to ask Gates this: “If the market is so good at determining jobs and wages and prices, why not let the market determine the price of money? Why do we need the Fed?” Gates responded: “You sound like Ron Paul! We need the Fed to steer the economy away from extremes of inflation and deflation.” He then schooled us with a mini-lecture on the history of economics (again, probably gleaned from Timothy Taylor’s marvelous course for the Teaching Company on the economy history of the United States) to demonstrate what happens when fluctuations in the price of money (interest rates, etc) swing too wildly. I believe that was the last question I asked Gates for the evening! What do I know? I run a tiny nonprofit science education organization with six employees. I’m just hoping to be able to cover my daughter’s college tuition next year. Gates is the world’s richest man who founded a giant multi-national corporation and heads a powerful nonprofit organization that is trying to save the third world. He surely understands economics and business and finance better than I do, right? I sure hope so!

Yes Michael, it’s safe to say that Bill Gates and his friend Warren Buffet DO understand economics and finance better than you do. Their expertise in these fields is even demonstrable. Just compare bank accounts.

I love Shermer but the moment economics comes up he suddenly turns into a nonsensical crank. It’s good to hear that even the richest men in the world understand the importance of government involvement in market affairs. I hope this has a big impact on Shermer’s economic views…but does it make me a cynical person that I doubt it?


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.30.10

January 31, 2010

1. Dinosaur Find Helps Solve Evolutionary Puzzle

A George Washington University expedition to the Gobi Desert of China has enabled researchers to solve the puzzle of how one group of dinosaurs came to look like birds independent of birds. The discovery extends the fossil record of the family Alvarezsauridae — a bizarre group of bird-like dinosaurs with a large claw on the hand and very short, powerful arms — back 63 million years, further distancing the group from birds on the evolutionary tree.

Until now, there was no direct evidence that dinosaurs of this type lived during the Late Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago. George Washington University doctoral candidate Jonah Choiniere named the newly discovered species of dinosaur, Haplocheirus sollers (meaning simple, skillful hand).

Again, that’s 63 million years ago, which for those keeping count is 62,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

2. Elmhurst, Illinois Mayor Pete DiCianni calls to waste tax dollars on prayer – DiCianni is calling from each City Council meeting to over with a prayer. Now besides the fact that this obviously tramples on the wall separating church and state, even rational Christians should be able to admit that we’re not paying these people to sit around and pray, but rather to run the local government. If these people wish to pray, let them do so on their own time and not on the taxpayers’ time.

3. Christian police force in UK who believe in power of prayer  receives £10,000 grant – If all it takes to catch criminals is prayer, why do they need any money? And for that matter, why do they need a police force?

4. Mennonites kidnap 14-year-old girl – The daughter of Doug Ramsey may have been brainwashed. Three church members were arrested for allegedly concealing the girl from her parents and police after she ran away from home. They intended to take her out of the state to Kentucky. Church members encouraged her to disconnect from her parents and helped facilitate her departure.

5. Midlife crises are a myth – Here’s a great article debunking the myths surrounding the so-called midlife crisis.

6. Virginia School district bans Diary of Anne Frank – That’s right. I’ll repeat that. They banned Anne Frank’s book. Why you might ask? Because of a passage about her adolescent curiosity concerning sexuality. The offending passage reads:

There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!

The horror! The horror!

But that’s not even the worst part, according to the article linked to above:

Amazon.com lists Anne Frank’s diary as one of the most banned children’s books, “for being too depressing for students.”

Anne Frank’s diary is among the most banned children’s books? Anne Frank? Are we talking about the same Anne Frank? The young girl in hiding from the Nazis? Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most banned children’s books? WTF!!!!!!!

7. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines – Suck it, Jenny McCarthy!

8. Do children need both a mother and a father? – Yup, once again science proves the bigots wrong:

The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

. . .

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

. . .

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

9. Pope calls for crackdowns on marriage annulments “at all costs” – But still nothing about cracking down on the thousands of child rapists whose salaries he pays. That’s fine.