Anti-vaccine ad running on CBS Jumbotron in Time Square

April 11, 2011

Fuck you, CBS!

Joseph Mercola and the mis-named National Vaccine Information Center have formed an unholy alliance to bring a anti-vaccine commercial to the heart of Time Square on the CBS Jumpotron, which will be seen by hundreds of thousands of passersby.

The latest report is that the ad is already running and will continue to broadcast once an hour for the next two and a half weeks. So like with the recent AMC Theater debacle, Elyse Anders from Skepchick is leading the charge in organizing a protest against CBS:

Please sign this petition at telling CBS Outdoor to take the ads down.

Tweet @CBSOutdoor and @CBSTweet with the hashtag #VaxCBS to tell them how you feel about them running this ad.

Then, you can send an email CBS Outdoor’s board of directors and CBS Network executives asking them to stop running the ad IMMEDIATELY.

More information is available in my previous post and at Respectful Insolence.

And pass it on!

And if you’d like, you can use my email to the CBS executives as a template:

I am contacting you to express my deep outrage at your company’s decision to value money over child welfare. Joseph Mercola and the so-called “National Vaccine Information Center” are lying to the American people about vaccine safety because of a cult-like devotion to the belief that vaccines are dangerous. This is in fact not true. Vaccines are the single greatest medical achievement in human history and millions of lives have been saved around the world by vaccines. Every reputable health organization on Earth endorses vaccination and agrees that the risks from vaccines are minimal and rarely ever serious.

I am an regular viewer of a number of shows on your network, but as long as you continue to propagate deadly anti-vaccine propaganda that endangers the lives of children, either via your Time Square Jumbotron or by continuing to let sham journalist Sharyl Attkisson editorialize about the harms of vaccines when the facts clearly disagree with her, I can no longer in good conscience watch your network.

Please remove this ad and fire Ms. Attkisson at once.


PS: Here are a number of reputable, well-sourced websites attesting to the safety of vaccines and debunking the misinformation of anti-vaccine propagandists:

Video testimonials from Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases:

Other great sources:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.7.11

February 8, 2011

1. FBI investigating Scientology for human trafficking – A recent profile on ex-Scientologist and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis in the New Yorker also discussed an ongoing FBI investigation into the allegations of abuse by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and the enslavement of members of  the Sea Org:

The laws regarding trafficking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is defined, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human trafficking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members…

And speaking of Scientology…

Tom Cruise

2. Is fictional Unitology in ‘Dead Space 2’ related to Scientology? – The videogame’s creative director says the similarities are just a coincidence, saying the inspiration came from Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, but his dismissal seems less than convincing given the similarities.

3. One flu vaccine to rule them all? – Researchers may have found a universal flu vaccine to end all flu vaccines. Though it’s worth noting that the trial had only 22 subjects, but bigger studies are in progress.

4. That time of year again for another ‘invisibility cloak’ story – Every year there’s another story about an invisibility cloak on the way with the requisite reference to Harry Potter. Here’s the latest one about a cloak that hides objects, rather than people, and without the use of metamaterials.

5. 1 in 8 U.S. biology teachers are creationists– This is a shocking statistic. Roger Ebert had an appropriate response to this on Twitter, analogizing this to the hypothetical statistic of 1 in 8 math teachers believing 2+2=5.

6. Florida court sides against anti-vax mom in custody battle – This is great news to hear a court rule so decisively against a parent specifically because their anti-vaccine beliefs directly endanger that child’s life. Hopefully, this will help set a precedent in all U.S. courts.

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Letter to the Editor on SafeMinds PSA in movie theaters

December 27, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the SafeMinds anti-vaccine “PSA” that was going to be rolled out in movie theaters across the country during Thanksgiving weekend and how a massive skeptic letter-writing campaign got at least AMC Theaters to pull the commercial. Well I also wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper about it that was published on November 29. Here it is, second letter down the page [Note: The link may go inactive after awhile]:



This week, the anti-vaccine propaganda organization SafeMinds is rolling out a commercial in some movie theaters that makes bogus claims designed to scare people away from getting their annual flu shot.

Given the well-known importance of herd immunity to vaccine efficacy, this misinformation campaign poses a direct threat to the public health and must be challenged head-on. Contrary to what audiences will hear from this commercial, every reputable health organization on planet Earth recommends vaccination against the flu and agrees that the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that the vaccine is more than reasonably safe and reasonably effective.

And despite what SafeMinds would have people believe, thimerosal is not poison or dangerous to anyone, including pregnant women. What is dangerous to pregnant women is the very thing the vaccine protects against: the flu. More than 30,000 Americans die from the flu in an average year, and New Jersey has the sixth-worst vaccination rate in the country.

Vaccines are among the safest health measures ever discovered, and denying this fact is tantamount to denying gravity. Vaccines save lives. Period.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.20.10

July 20, 2010

1. A vaccine patch to replace needles?

The patch has hundreds of microscopic needles which dissolve into the skin.

Tests in mice show the technology may even produce a better immune response than a conventional jab.

Awesome! Of course this isn’t likely to make vaccine deniers any less anti-vaccine. But

2. Lesbian teen Constance McMillen wins $35,000 settlement – Congratulations to Constance, who is the teen who was discriminated against by her high school officials who kept her from attending her own prom. Now she’s won a legal victory against the school, a great topic for a college essay, about 1-year’s tuition towards college, and the respect of a nation.

3. Chinese UFO sighting turns out to not be aliens – I know. Shocking. First of all, it was a rocket. Second of all, the footage wasn’t shot in China but in Borat‘s native country (presumably during the running of the Jew festivities). And third, there’s a lot of Photoshopped images being passed off as this Chinese UFO. So every part of this story turns out to be completely wrong. Brilliant.

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More bad news for anti-vaxxers

May 25, 2010

Anti-vaxxers beware! A universal flu vaccine is coming.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have developed a new influenza vaccine that brings science one step closer to a universal influenza vaccine that would eliminate the need for seasonal flu shots. The new findings can be found in the inaugural issue of mBio®, the first online, open-access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology.

I imagine the anti-vaxxers will have to pull an all-nighter to find a reason to oppose this. It’ll mean less vaccines for people and therefore Big Pharma producing a product that would mean people buying fewer vaccines–two things that squarely violate their narrative. Then again, they’ll probably insist that this is the vaccine that will ultimately kill us all.

And in other vaccine news, a new vaccine-scheduling study puts yet another nail in the coffin of the “too much too soon” claim anti-vaxxers are so fond of. Of course, they’ll deny this study just like they deny every other study.

First cancer vaccine approved for public use

May 6, 2010

As Carl Sagan said, “science delivers the goods.” Or does it?

The FDA has approved a new prostate cancer vaccine. Unfortunately, it’s amazing as I hoped:

Provenge, made by Dendreon of Seattle, does not prevent or cure prostate cancer, which killed 27,000 men in the US last year and more than 10,000 in the UK in 2008. Rather, in its largest study yet, the therapy extended the lives of 512 people with aggressive prostate tumours by four months, compared with patients who did not receive it.

Four months? That’s it? That’s all it does? The one thing I demand of a prostate cancer vaccine is that I and future generations don’t have to ever get a prostate exam. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.

But I guess it’s not all underwhelming:

Though modest, the latest result shows that harnessing the immune system is a viable way to fight cancer. Oncologist Philip Kantoff at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston led the trial. He expects similar approaches to other cancers, such as melanoma, kidney cancer and lymphoma, to be approved in five to 10 years and that tweaks to Provenge will see it further extend people’s lives.

News From Around The Blogosphere 2.1.10

February 2, 2010

1. $7000 talking sex robot – I’ve blogged before about Roxxxy, the world’s most sophisticated talking female sex robot. Now CNN’s talking about it (her?):

Powered by a computer under her soft silicone “skin,” she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct “personalities,” from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers’ preferences.

We knew this day was coming and now that time seems to have arrived when we can build robotic women who can converse and fake orgasms.

2. Homeopaths admit their products have no active ingredients – The 10:23 homeopathic overdose campaign has driven the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit that their products do not contain any “material substances”:

Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that “there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining” in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.


3. Medical researchers working on a pill to treat Fragile X

Chances are you’ve never heard of the target — Fragile X syndrome — even though it’s the most common inherited form of intellectual impairment, estimated to affect almost 100,000 Americans. It’s also the most common cause of autism yet identified, as about a third of Fragile X-affected boys have autism.

Now a handful of drug makers are working to develop the first treatment for Fragile X, spurred by brain research that is making specialists rethink how they approach developmental disorders.

. . .

“We are moving into a new age of reversing intellectual disabilities,” predicts Dr. Randi Hagerman, who directs the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, a study site.

This is exactly the kind of research that will one day defeat autism but from which ideologues like J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue have publicly called a waste of money because they’re obsessed with fruitless vaccine research. Autism is a genetic disorder and our be hope of treating it besides behavior therapies is manipulating the genes.

4. Henrietta Lack’s immortal cells

In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line’s impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

. . .

Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

5. Christians literally claim monopoly on aid in Haiti – Now while that might sound like a good thing, according to a voodoo priest, believers are being discriminated against in their efforts to help and deliberately prevented from getting much-needed aid to followers of their religion:

“The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves,” he claimed. “They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that’s a shame.

6. Point of Inquiry podcast gets new hosts – Now that D.J. Grothe is leaving the Center For Inquiry (CFI) to take on his new role as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, he will no longer be hosting the CFI’s weekly podcast series Point of Inquiry. And now his replacement hosts have been announced:  Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow and Robert Price. For the most part, these are all strong picks. Of course, regular readers may guess that the one person I’m iffy on is Chris Mooney. While I do continue to read and enjoy his blog, The Intersection, one issue that I strongly disagree with him on is his condemnation of so-called “New Atheism” or “militant atheism” as well as his insistence that science and religion can peacefully coexist.  And for this reason, he seems like an unlikely choice to represent the Center For Inquiry, whose secular goals often coincide with that of the more aggressive atheists. Though maybe I’m wrong and his perspective will ultimately just foster more challenging discussions. I hope all three the best of luck.

7. American Atheists trying to buy naming rights to Superbowl stadium for 1 hour? – I think this sounds like a really dumb idea and a total waste of money that could be spent better elsewhere. It would be one thing if they were to buy naming rights to the stadium during the Superbowl or hours before it, but–no, come to think of it, it would still be a dumb idea.

News From Around The Blogosphere 1.12.10

January 13, 2010

1. God denies Kent Hovind’s rehearing before the Supreme Court – Yup, Kent filed for an appeal and had lots of people praying for him. But I guess “God” doesn’t care much for fucktards like Kent.

2. Islamic Supreme Council of Canada issues fatwa against Muslim extremists – It’s a start but I’d still rather you guys just accepted that your whole religion, moderate or not, is bullshit and that your prophet was a crazy pedophile.

3. Atheists help the homeless:

4. Another case of death by religion – Last year, 16-year-old Neil Beagley suffered and died a painful death because he and his parents chose prayer over medicine.

Police said the boy and his family are members of the Followers of Christ Church, a highly secretive group in Oregon City that has been practicing a distinct brand of religion since at least the mid-40s after moving to Oregon from Idaho. They believe they are God’s chosen children and that God’s will can heal those he chooses.

The parents, Jeff and Marci Beagley are charged with criminally negligent homicide.

5. The Pope had declared marriage equality a threat to creation itself – And condoms cause AIDS. Glad to see this guy’s got his priorities straight. With holy leaders like this, who needs terrorists?

6. Insect cells to replace chicken eggs in vaccine manufacturing?

Scientists in Vienna have developed a new technique for producing vaccines for H1N1 — so-called swine flu — based on insect cells. The research, published in the Biotechnology Journal, reveals how influenza vaccines can be produced faster than through the traditional method of egg-based production, revealing a new strategy for the fight against influenza pandemics.

This would solve the problem of people who are allergic to chicken. But of course it won’t shut up the anti-animal-use-in-medicine/anti-vaccinationists. They’ll just start whining that doctors are injecting insects into people.

7. Roxxxy the sex robot is here – That’s right. There’s a sex robot. But my favorite part of the story is this bit here:

Inspiration for the sex robot sprang from the September 11, 2001 attacks, when planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon and an empty field in Pennsylvania.

Yay 9/11!!!!

Obama answers H1N1 vaccine conspiracists

December 22, 2009

Obama receiving his novel H1N1 vaccination

Of course the real true believer conspiracists will still find some excuse to remain unconvinced that Obama isn’t part of the evil government eugenics plot to wipe out most of the population with poisonous vaccines that have managed to not kill or seriously harm anyone for months. If this is all we have, then they’ll say he didn’t really get the vaccine and this is just a photo opt. If there is video footage, they’ll say that wasn’t the vaccine with the poison or that it was a slight of hand trick that only appeared to penetrate the skin, etc, etc. It’s always something. But I’m glad to see Obama making a point to acknowledge his confidence in the vaccine program.

HIV vaccine shows some success

September 24, 2009

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyI think we’ve all been waiting for this for a long, long time. And now finally, we’re seeing serious progress in the fight to eliminate HIV and AIDS from the planet. The NY Times as well as everyone else today has been reporting about a combination of experimental vaccines that seem to be effective in lowering the risk of HIV infection.

It’s covered very succinctly by Phil Plait, who talked to Dr. Steve Novella about it directly here:

In a controlled study, the number of people in a group using the vaccine had 30% fewer HIV cases compared to a group who did not get vaccinated. Specifically, there were 51 HIV cases out of 8200 people vaccinated versus 74 out of 8200 not vaccinated. That’s very heartening! The vaccination course is actually composed of two different vaccines, neither of which on its own was effective, but together appear to boost the immune system enough (in some cases) to help fight off the initial virus infection.A few things to note:

1) The vaccine course was not 100% effective, and does not drop the viral load of someone already infected. This is a prophylaxis, a preventative. It’s not a cure.

2) There is no HIV in the vaccine itself — it has pieces of the protein HIV coats itself with, to help the body recognize the virus — so people using it cannot get HIV from it.

3) The vaccine is not widely available; it’s still experimental. It was also tested on just strains found in Thailand, which may not translate well for other strains found elsewhere.

4) The vaccination was developed by the U.S. Army in cooperation with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Expect the antivax cranks to go ballistic over that first part.

I think this is a big stride forward, but as always there’s a ways to go yet. Ask anyone in the medical profession what the most important advance in history has been in their field, and vaccines are very high on the list. Vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of lives… and it looks like scientists will continue to find ways to do so.

This is precisely what Carl Sagan meant when he said, “Science delivers the goods,” whereas religion and pseudoscience don’t contribute anything of value to the world, nor can they be relied upon or proven. It’s another great day for science.