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Shannon Des Roches Rosa: Changing Conversations: When Parents Murder Disabled Children

11 Sep

Shannon Rosa is the incredible parent of incredible kids, one of whom is autistic. I could say this from what I’ve read because Ms. Rosa is an excellent writer, but I have also met her and Leo in real life. Ms. Rosa writes at BlogHer as well as The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and Squidalicious.

A recent BlogHer article she wrote covers a very important topic: how when a disabled person is murdered the conversation usually focuses on the murderer, not the victim

Changing Conversations: When Parents Murder Disabled Children

Her article starts:

Michigan parent Kelli Stapleton recently pled guilty to poisoning her autistic teen daughter Issy. According to police reports, Kelly lured Issy into a van, “drugged her, lit the grills and left the van to get more charcoal while her sleeping daughter breathed in poisonous carbon monoxide fumes.” Kelli and Issy both survived the attempted murder-suicide. Issy emerged from a coma and seems to be doing well; Kelli is in jail, and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 6th.

Go to Changing Conversations: When Parents Murder Disabled Children for the full article.

–By Matt Carey

Harpocrates Speaks on: MMR, the CDC and Brian Hooker: A Guide for Parents and the Media

8 Sep

Todd W. over at Harpocrates Speaks has put together a FAQ like guide on the questions that come up with regards to recent research by Brian Hooker and the allegations Mr. Hooker has made about the CDC. That article is an excellent resource for people looking for some answers on this story. The article starts:

The anti-vaccine community has been in a tizzy lately over a supposed “CDC whistleblower”, Dr. William W. Thompson, who, according to them, revealed fraud at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To bolster their claim, they point to a new study from one of their own, Brian S. Hooker, that purports to show evidence of an increased risk of autism among African American boys who receive their first MMR vaccine late. However, the claims appear to be hollow and unfounded, and so they have chosen to rely on emotional arguments that may sound convincing to those who are not familiar with the issues and people involved. In a truly egregious fashion, they have erroneously and cynically compared this whole thing to the Tuskegee syphilis study, and equated the CDC with Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot, combined.

With that in mind, here is a brief FAQ for parents, news media and others to help them understand what the claims are and what the evidence actually says. The questions below have been raised or implied by anti-vaccine activists. Hopefully, this will prevent inaccurate reporting and help parents feel reassured about the MMR vaccine.

That FAQ can be found at MMR, the CDC and Brian Hooker: A Guide for Parents and the Media


By Matt Carey

Comment on: Expression of Concern: Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young African American boys: a reanalysis of CDC data

31 Aug

It’s in a peer reviewed journal. We’ve heard that a lot about Mr. Hooker’s recent paper “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young African American boys: a reanalysis of CDC data”

What does “peer” review mean when the person who wrote the paper has shown himself to have a bit of a problem with the truth? Who is the peer for someone who acts as the “priest” to a man in order to record his statements and put edited versions of them on the web?

I ask this because the editor of the journal Translational Neurodegeneration has published an “Expression of Concern”. I’ve never seen an editorial “expression of concern” before and I’ve been publishing papers for 25 or so years.

Here is that “Expression of Concern

The Publisher of this article [1] has serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions because of possible undeclared competing interests of the author and peer reviewers. The matter is undergoing investigation. In the meantime, readers are advised to treat the reported conclusions of this study with caution. Further action will be taken, if appropriate, once our investigation is complete

Let’s start by exploring the “competing interests” statement on Mr. Hooker’s recent paper. Authors are supposed to list whether and what conflicts of interest they may have so the reader can weight that when reading the paper. Mr. Hooker’s article lists as “competing interests” that “Dr. Hooker has been involved in vaccine/biologic litigation.”

If memory serves, Brian Hooker has used this “competing interest” statement before. I remember that because I found it odd given that his case as a petitioner before the Court of Federal Claims (vaccine court) is still ongoing. The way the above is phrased does not capture the active nature of his case.

What about the question the editors raised about peer reviewers? Well, we can only speculate because we don’t know who those reviewers might be. An author can often suggest possible referees for his/her paper when it is first submitted. One should be intellectually honest and not just recommend one’s friends. The editor is not bound to use the suggested authors. If not, the editor may look for similar papers in his/her journal and ask authors of those papers to referee. There are only three papers involving vaccines at the journal Translational Neurodegeneration presently. Two of those involved Mark and David Geier, the father/son team that has been much discussed here and elsewhere. It would be reasonable for the editors to think about the Geiers as referees. One of the papers papers is “A two-phase study evaluating the relationship between Thimerosal-containing vaccine administration and the risk for an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in the United States”. It appeared in Tanslational Neurodegeneration last year.

Let’s take a brief aside. Ever heard of that paper? That’s what happens to mediocre science published by biased authors. No one cares. That is, unless, one comes out with dramatic press releases about “CDC Whistleblowers”.

Take a look at the competing interests statement in the “two-phased study”. It is the same as in the new paper by Mr. Hooker. Besides the fact that this doesn’t capture the active nature of Mr. Hooker’s case, it doesn’t capture the fact that Mark Geier is an expert witness in a case. Given that the Which is again odd as Mark Geier is currently engaged as an expert witness to Mr. Hooker’s ongoing court case. Mr. Geier has been hired by Mr. Hooker.

Back to the first paper–let’s say that one or both Geiers were chosen as referees. Either by recommendation of Mr. Hooker or because the editor is mining his previous authors. The fact that Mark Geier is working on active litigation for Mr. Hooker would be a pretty serious competing interest. Had Mr. Hooker recommended Mr. Geier, Mr. Hooker should have declared this business relationship they had.

Again, we can only speculate at this point. But this is an example of what sort of problem might be ongoing that the editors wish to investigate.

Mr. Hooker’s current paper (his reanalysis) has been replaced on the journal website with this statement:

This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation

My guess is that the editors took a second look at this paper after the very strange and very bad public relations campaign Mr. Hooker engaged in. Finding discussions by researchers online discussing how bad this paper is, the editors questioned how the paper got through. And found a possible problem with the referees chosen, resulting in their expression of concern.

From a list of discussions about the Hooker paper put together by educator/writer Liz Ditz:

  • August 22, 2014,  Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence:  Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism

    Of course, the key finding in Brian Hooker’s paper is that Wakefield was wrong. Indeed, in this video, Wakefield even admits that he was mostly wrong about MMR and autism. Let that sink in again. He admits that he was mostly wrong about MMR and autism. OK, he says we were “partially right,” but the flip side of that is that he must have been mostly wrong.

  • August 22, 2014, Reuben Gaines at The Poxes Blog: Andrew Jeremy Wakefield plays video director while African-American Babies die, or something

    Hooker is wrong in his assertions because the DeStefano paper did not leave out African-American children on purpose. Children were excluded from the analysis because of very legitimate and scientific reasons. They either were not the right age, did not have autism but some other neurodevelopment disorder, or were born outside of Georgia. Even if they were tossed into the analysis, DeStefano et al used a statistical analysis that took into account things like birth weight and mother’s age when analysing the data. They wanted to make sure that what they were seeing was most likely because of the MMR vaccine and not because of some other factor associated with autism.

  • August 23, 2014,  Ren at Epidemiological: Directed Acyclic Graphs and the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism.

    I’m very skeptical that Dr. Hooker’s simplified statistical approach can be better than DeStefano et al’s approach of conditional logistic regression. Conditional logistic regression has the advantage of being able to control for a multitude of confounders and effect modifiers.

  • Another cause for concern in my view would be Mr. Hooker’s declaration submitted with the paper. Authors are required to state that they are submitting original research. An analysis performed 10 years ago by someone at another organization (CDC in this case) which you duplicated is not, in my opinion, original research.

    Also there is a very broad competing interests statement on the Journal’s website

    Non-financial competing interests
    Non-financial competing interests include (but are not limited to) political, personal, religious, ideological, academic, and intellectual competing interests. If, after reading these guidelines, you are unsure whether you have a competing interest, please contact the Editor

    Mr. Hooker certainly has some personal and ideological interests. Here’s a YouTube video of a presentation he gave last year, and discussed here at Left Brain/Right Brain. It’s a Skype-talk.

    Here’s a screenshot:

    hooker_autism_inside_job

    His talk is “CDC — Ground Zero for the decline of children in the United States”. His logo on every page is a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb explosion. The title of Mr. Hooker’s talk in the program for that event was “Autism-an inside job”. I’m going with strong “ideological interests” here. Both in his views on vaccines and on his views on the CDC. But anyone seeing the recent videos he produced with Andrew Wakefield would know that.

    When I wrote about this talk before I noted that it was presented at a 9/11 Truther online conference. Mr. Hooker let me know that he took offence to the implication that he is a 9/11 truther. I wasn’t making that implication then and I’m not now. I do think Mr. Hooker makes very poor choices when he chooses to lend his name to a 9/11 truther event.

    In this case, it isn’t that Mr. Hooker’s decisions are poor (they are), it’s that his choices show that he has a rather strong ideological stance on vaccines and the CDC. One which the editors of his recent article likely wish Mr. Hooker had disclosed when he submitted his paper.

    Of course, with all this in the public domain, this also begs the question of why “CDC Whistleblower” William Thompson chose to work closely with Mr. Hooker. But that is a discussion for another time.


    By Matt Carey

    Financial documents for the Canary Party

    12 Jul

    There seems to be a large number of groups promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. A large number of groups who share the same principle members. SafeMinds, the National Autism Association, Generation Rescue and others come to mind. A few years ago, another group was formed, this time as a political party: the Canary Party.

    The Canary Party is not a charity, so they do not file form 990’s with the IRS. They appear to not be a national political party a they are not listed with the FEC. Recently, a commenter at the Respecful Insolence blog (Narad)found that the Canary Party is organized in Minnesota and files their financial reports there.

    Forms have been filed for 2011 and 2012.

    The Canary Party pulled in $72,000 in 2011 and $49,000 in 2012. The major contributors are (assuming I did my sums correctly):

    2011:

    Jennifer Larson (Canary Party President), $40,665
    Mark Blaxill (Canary Party Chairman), $15,000

    2012:

    Barry Segal (founder of Focus Autism): $30,000
    Mark Blaxill (Canary Party Chairman), $10,000

    The largest expense is for a “media consultant”, Jennifer Taylor (apparently Ginger Taylor, a blogger).

    $36,600 in 2011
    $9,000 in 2012

    Plus many expenses for advertising and other promotional expenses.

    In 2012, travel became a larger expense. For example:

    On January 26, 2012, $3,399.79 for expenses with Hyatt/Four-Seasons/Hyatt
    (February 2nd 2012 was the date of the “Health Freedom Expo”, where other expenses were incurred)

    On February 2, 2012, $1,841.43 for expenses with Hyatt/Ritz

    It’s difficult from this to tell how many people were lodged at these hotels for these dates. One expense seems more clear: On 6/15/2012, expenses attributed to Canary Party president Jennifer Larson amounted to $1,541.42 for another Health Freedom Expo hotel stay, this time at the Hilton. Health Freedom Expos are typically 3 day events.

    On 10/22/2012 the party hosted a convention, with apparently a tab of $11,382.02 for Hotel/Beverages/Hotel Fees.

    Nothing particularly interesting. Per another comment posted to Respectful Insolence, the association between the Canary Party and Mr. Barry Segal appears to be strained. As Mr. Segal accounted for $30,000 of the party’s $49,000 revenue in 2012, one does wonder what 2013 revenue will look like.


    Matt Carey

    Gluyas v Best: autistic blogger wins defamation suit

    16 Feb

    Long time readers of this site may recall the name John Best. Mr. Best was a very active participant on online discussions, including this blog. Mr. Best is a staunch believer in the notion that autism is mercury poisoning and that chelation is the cure.

    Over time Mr. Best’s activities have, in my opinion, increasingly focused on attacking people. For example, Phil Gluyas, an Australian autistic blogger.

    Examples of blog posts Mr. Best has published include:

    “Is Phil Gluyas the next Adam Lanza?”
    “Phil Gluyas’ history of brutality”
    “Severely deranged mental case sues me again”

    For those familiar with John Best, a defamation case is not surprising. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Best, count yourself lucky.

    The judge found in favor of Mr. Gluyas:

    The defendant’s responses to the plaintiff’s views have gone well beyond the bounds of ordinary discussion and intellectual debate. The items posted by the defendant on the internet, concerning the plaintiff, contain an extraordinary level of invective and personal denigration, which, in some measure, have been repeated in two letters which he has forwarded to the court in response to the proceedings served on him.

    and Mr. Best did not argue that his statements are true:

    Taken together, the article, and the imputations to be derived from them, are highly defamatory of the plaintiff. Again, the defendant has not sought to plead and prove the truth of any of those allegations. As such, each of the allegations by him about the plaintiff are false.

    This, and much more, led to Mr. Best losing the defamation suit. Instead of the originally requested $10,000, the judge awarded $50,000. With a comment that he could have gone even higher:

    Taking into account the foregoing considerations, I consider that it is appropriate to award the plaintiff the sum of $50,000 damages to compensate him for the publications made by the defendant of the plaintiff in Victoria. I should add that, if I had been satisfied that the publication in Victoria of the items, of which the plaintiff complained, had been more widespread than that proven in the evidence, I would have awarded the plaintiff a considerably larger sum of damages

    I fear that the ability of someone finding Mr. Best capable of paying anything, much less $50,000, is slim. Accomplishing that from Australia might be even more difficult. It is an attempt to get blood from a turnip. But, Mr. Gluyas has been awarded the right to draw blood from this turnip and that alone is a victory.

    There is room to be critical of the actions of others online. John Best crossed that line. To quote the TV show “Friends”, “you’re so far past the line that you can’t even see the line! The line is a dot to you!”


    By Matt Carey

    A Decade of Left Brain/Right Brain

    1 Jan

    2013 marks the 10 year mark for Left Brain/Right Brain. The blog actually started in June, as I recall, but June of 2003. The blog started out as a place for Kev Leitch to write about his life and his work. Most of his writing about his life was about events pertaining to his autistic child. I found the blog a few years later and it had already evolved significantly from its early days. It has evolved since then as well.

    In a time when the online and public discussion was dominated by groups of parents willing to characterize autistics as “train wrecks” and “empty shells” who had “descended into the hell of autism”, Kev stood up to counter the message. Kev put together the autism hub to band together autistics and allies who were writing from a perspective of respect. Kev hosted an online forum and at one point this blog was home to about 10 writers, autistic and allies.

    Kev has moved on to other ventures. I wish him well. He did a lot of good here.


    By Matt Carey

    Autism center sues over blog posts calling it a fraud and worse

    7 Sep

    The idea that an autism center would sue over blog posts is the sort of story that would, of course, attract my attention. But when I saw the blurb for Autism center sues over blog posts calling it a fraud and worse I was taken back to the before time of autism blogging.

    Here’s what I read:

    Autism Intervention Specialists of Worcester and principal Nassim Aoude today filed a federal libel suit against a New Hampshire man who says it pedals “horseshit” because it refuses to accept his theory that autism is caused by mercury in…

    For those who have been online for a few years, guessing the identity of the “New Hampshire man who says it pedals “horseshit” “, especially readers of this blog, making the ID would probably be easy. Here’s a bit from the story:

    Autism Intervention Specialists of Worcester and principal Nassim Aoude today filed a federal libel suit against a New Hampshire man who says it pedals “horseshit” because it refuses to accept his theory that autism is caused by mercury in vaccines.

    In its suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, Autism Intervention Specialists wants John Best’s blog posts about it replaced with retractions and a suitably large, if unspecified, amount of damages.

    John Best was one of the early generation of Generation Rescue’s “Rescue Angels” but even GR wanted distance from him. Mr. Best attacked a number of people online in years past. Autism Intervention Specialists is neither the first nor the last to be attacked.

    I am a bit conflicted about this lawsuit. Freedom of speech is very important to me (even outside of writing). Autism Intervention Specialists may be in for a mini Streisand Effect. Aside from the fact that recovering damages from Mr. Best is unlikely at best, AIS should read Mr. Best’s writing and his YouTube videos and ask whether any reasonable person would give Mr. Best any credibility whatsoever.

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