News From Around The Blogosphere 3.30.10

March 30, 2010

1. Single unvaccinated kid source of 2008 California measles outbreak

The family’s 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Wow, that’s one hell of a path of destruction caused by a single anti-vax family. Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

2. Magnets can almost instantly change a person’s moral judgment – This would seem to pretty definitively debunk the notion of dualism and fairly conclusively show that the mind is, contrary to Deepak Chopra’s claims,  purely a localized phenomenon. It also further illustrates how absurd the evangelical notion of “objective morality” from “God” is.

3. Critical thinking and skepticism begins at childhood – Here’s a great story of a kid scientifically investigating the Tooth Fairy and successfully debunking it

But not all kids are brought up to be such critical thinkers.

4. New Harris poll confirms most Americans are dummies

The poll involved 2,320 adults responding to true or false questions. Among many other disturbing facts, 14% of respondents said they believed Obama could be the Antichrist.

. . .

When broken into partisan results, it seems 24% of all Republican respondents hold this view, while only 6% of Democrats are that batshit crazy. But taken as a whole, the numbers in this poll are depressing. 32% think Obama is a Muslim. 23% think Obama is a racist. And 20% say Obama is “doing many of the things Hitler did.”

But I’m pretty sure Hitler didn’t hold a Passover seder in the White House…or cut out the middleman in student loans…or sleep with Michelle Obama.

5. Bill Donohue continues shameless campaign defending child rapists – Now he’s taken out an ad in the NY Times defending the man most responsible for ensuring the child rapists could continue to prey on more children, The Pope. Oh, and he’s moved on from blaming the families of the victims to blaming the gays. It won’t be long now before he blames everyone on Earth except for The Pope.

And he’s not the only one defending child rapists. . .

6. The Vatican has selflessly thought up 3 reasons why they feel The Vatican is not liable – The first is that the Pope, as head of state, is immune from prosecution (aka Joey Ratz does whatever Joey Ratz wants and if you get in the way, he’ll whack you or have your children horribly raped). The second excuse is that the American priests were not Vatican employees  (This should go over really well with the American Catholics). And the third excuse is that they’ve declared by fiat that the smoking gun evidence that has been confirmed by high ranking church officials is really not smoking gun evidence at all (I call this the Jedi Mind Trick defense – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Now move along):

McMurry insisted Tuesday that Crimen is a smoking gun.

“The fact is, this document and its predecessors make it an excommunicable offense to reveal any knowledge of allegations that a priest has sexually abused,” he said in an e-mail.

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

As for that first excuse that a head of state can’t be sued, fine, let’s call it an act of war then. I hope the Vatican has a strong military.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.12.10

February 13, 2010

Happy Darwin Day everyone!

Also save the date June 21 because it will Global Atheist Solidarity Day!

1. Secular Coalition for America receives a gift of $500,000 from philanthropist Todd Stiefel

2. Need information to counter global climate change deniers in a hurry? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that.

3. Creation Science Fair? – It’s not very fair to science.

4. Measles outbreak in South Africa

The cause of a measles outbreak sweeping South Africa has not as yet been determined, but initial suspicions point to religious objections and unfounded fears that immunizations against the disease increase the risk of autism in children.

Thank’s Jenny McCarthy!

More anti-vaccine news and the “Age of Wakefield”

February 9, 2010

1. Autism LINKED to vaccines? Nah, just kidding. – It’s just further evidence of autism’s genetic roots. Researchers have discovered that unsurprisingly, advanced maternal age increases the likelihood of autism:

Advanced maternal age is linked to a significantly elevated risk of having a child with autism, regardless of the father’s age, according to an exhaustive study of all births in California during the 1990s by UC Davis Health System researchers. Advanced paternal age is associated with elevated autism risk only when the father is older and the mother is under 30, the study found.

And the alleged increased rate of autism makes more sense when you consider how medical science is allowing more and more women to procreate well into their forties. Of course none of this can explain every single case of autism but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Of course J.B. Handley would rather we all stop wasting our time, money, and energy on that worthless genetic research and perpetually investigate vaccines till the end of time. Sorry J.B. but we prefer to investigate avenues that will actually result in decreasing the rate of autism.

And in a related story. . .

2. England & Wales see 36% rise in measles – That’s the largest number since the monitoring scheme was introduced in 1995.

Health Protection Agency experts said most of the cases had been in children not fully vaccinated with combined MMR and so could have been prevented.

. . .

More than 600 of the 2008 measles cases occurred in London, where uptake of the vaccine for MMR – measles, mumps and rubella – is particularly low.

Public confidence in the triple MMR vaccine dipped following research – since discredited – which raised the possibility that the jab may be linked to an increased risk of autism.

Thanks Andrew Wakefield, Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, et al. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

3. Age of Wakefield – As I’ve reported before, the Age of Autism blog seems to have completely transformed itself in the Andrew Wakefield Defense Campaign website. Ever since Wakefield’s disgrace has been made official, close to 100% of the blog entries on the page are about spinning Wakefield as a persecuted martyr at the hands of the evil science mafia conspiracy. This is best illustrated by visiting their page but is also very evident when looking at the I Speak of Dreams blog, which has made a mission out of collecting blogs, both positive and negative, discussing the Wakefield scandal since his disgrace had become complete.

This blog, Skepacabra, makes at least one appearance on the list. But what’s abundantly clear is that while the blogs supporting the Lancet’s decision to retract the Wakefield story come from a multitude of sources spanning many backgrounds and sites including many actual medical professionals, those found in defense of Wakefield are almost exclusively from Age of Autism or at least from authors who regularly write for Age of Autism. There’s AoA regulars Kim Stagliano and David Kirby posting on the Huffington Post, a Fox “News” interview with AoA editor Mark Blaxill, CNN’s interview with Stagliano, well-established loony and non-doctor Mike Adams blogging over at his Natural News site. Then just a handful of obscure blogs and a whole mess of posts from Age of Autism directly.

So while this does a decent job of illustrating precisely where the campaign of misinformation spread, I do have to admit that there’s one thing on the I Speak of Dreams site that bugs me. I find it somewhat disconcerting that Debbie Schlussel and I agree about something. But at least I can be slightly comforted by the fact that Schlussel’s criticisms almost exclusively involve hurling sexist insults at Jenny McCarthy instead of well reasoned arguments.

News From Around The Blogosphere 1.28.10

January 29, 2010

1. Scientists determine color of dinosaur’s tail feathers – because of course dinosaurs weren’t in any way related to birds. Right creationists? It’s orange.

2. Russian rabbis hospitalized from holy water – Silly rabbis. Trix are for kids. (Thanks to my friend Michelle for that joke!)

3. Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – This is great news but I fear that the first Pakistani kid who gets sick from anything at all will become a target for anti-vaccinationists to point to, insisting that it was the vaccine. . .even if that particular kid wasn’t vaccinated. Or maybe they’re just emphasize that these kids only got vaccinated against measles instead of getting MMR vaccines, and insist that that’s how we should all get them. Either way, I doubt this news story will escape their rationalizations.

4. Atheist billboard goes up in Tampa Bay

5. The Pope’s a masochist – Remember when the Pope condemned “The Da Vinci Code” for its inaccuracy? Well it wasn’t all inaccurate. The self-flagellation part was true:

Wales sees worst measles outbreak in over a decade

May 20, 2009

vaccine1Yet more of Jenny McCarthy’s acceptable casualties are reported in Wales, which is facing a measles outbreak 4 times the highest figure recorded in the past 13 years:

Four nursery school children were treated in hospital as part of 127 cases across mid and west Wales, while there are another 39 cases in Conwy.

The National Public Health Service (NPHS) in Wales saw 39 cases last year. Its highest figure in 2003 was 44.

Officials appealed for parents to take up the MMR vaccine.

And contrary to what the anti-vaccine crowd would have us believe, children can die or become impaired by measles. Of course Jenny McCarthy claims she’d gladly trade her kid’s autism for measles. Of course her son is already vaccinated and so won’t have to worry about measles.

Jenny McCarthy calls millions of potential measles casualties acceptable losses in her crusade

April 2, 2009

Yeah, Jenny MCarthy actually told Time Magazine that the victims of measles, 1 of the top 5 killers in the world of children under 5 years old, are acceptable losses in her fight against autism.

I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism. (Read “New Clues to Autism’s Cause.”)
. . .

People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines. Please understand that we are not an antivaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f___ing measles.

Of course nobody seriously has to make such a choice because science has conclusively proven that vaccines have no connection whatsoever to autism. I have to say I’m disappointed that Time didn’t grill her mercilessly. It’s really sad when the Comedian Jon Stewart is the most hard-hitting journalist in the nation and I wish desperately that a publication like Time Magazine would look to a comedian to tell them how to do their jobs, because they are failing their readers and are, as Stewart once told Tucker Carlson, hurting America.

Better living through vaccination

March 26, 2009

vaccine1Here‘s a great blog by John Snyder, the most recent addition to the writing crew at Science-Based Medicine.  In it he elaborates on some of the incredible harm caused by anti-vaccine hysteria.

Parental vaccine refusal endangers lives. Here we have a situation in which an unavoidable shortage of a vital vaccine, has combined with an irrational parental mistrust of expert scientific opinion to create a critical mass of vulnerable children. The result, so far, is four dead children. But in the absence of any shortage, vaccine myth and the poor parental decision making it breeds has already had a profound impact, with the potential for more to come. In the never-ending wake of Wakefield, measles outbreaks have occurred in pockets of under-immunized children in areas of New York, San Diego, and Milwaukee.  Particularly in communities where parents know how to do their own “research” about vaccines. Many more children have suffered unnecessarily in the U.K. and elsewhere as a result of the spreading wave of panic over fictionalized vaccine dangers. In fact, as bad as this wave of vaccine parananoia is in the U.S., it’s far worse in Europe and the U.K. where vaccine mythology is rampant, and the threat of vaccine preventable epidemics is very real. This widening circle of vaccine fear across the Atlantic is a major threat to children in this country.  Imported cases of vaccine-preventable disease can now find increasing populations of under-immunized children in which to take root.

To see children fall ill and die from completely preventable diseases because of irrational fear and a belief in myth should truly make us angry. Those of us who have the knowledge and experience to speak out publicly should do so. We should seek every opportunity at our disposal to speak with a clear and unintimidated voice to say that we’ve had enough. Enough of the armchair pseudoscience. Enough of the misinformed journalists. Enough of the celebrity grandstanding. That parents in this day and age would arrange a chicken pox or a measles party so that their children could actually get these diseases rather than have them safely vaccinated makes me want to scream. The hours I spend trying to correct the massive amounts of misinformation foisted on parents who believe a seemingly endless array of conjured myth is mind-numbing. We should be calling out the phoney mavericks, charlatans, and know-nothings for who they are. Robert Kennedy, Jr., David Kirby, and J.B. Handley believe they are fighting the noblist of fights. What they are doing, of course, is endangering lives. But more broadly, their rhetoric endangers the already fragile relationship society has with an evidence-based approach to understanding the world. It is our responsibility to make it known that the controversy is over. No, that there never was a controversy in the first place. That science and reason will not allow another child to die or suffer needlessly. Really, where is the outrage?

The whole article is really worth the read.