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A brave parent speaks: How I Made a Mistake and Was Given The Opportunity to Say I’m Sorry

12 Jun

Over at Emma’s Hope Book a mother has done something very brave: made a public apology for a mistake.

How I Made a Mistake and Was Given The Opportunity to Say I’m Sorry

She starts by quoting her daughter:

“You put the toast in the basement. That made me sad.” Emma stared at me expectantly.

I drew in a breath. My chest felt tight. I knew exactly what she was referring to. We’ve had similar conversations, but she’s never said it so directly.

The article is sad but wonderful. I can’t pull excerpts without destroying the beauty of the story, so I urge you to follow the link and read the rest.

The Autism Vaccine Controversy and the Need for Responsible Science Journalism

7 Jan

The Huffington Post has a new section on science. One of the first articles discusses the “Autism Vaccine Controversy”. In The Autism Vaccine Controversy and the Need for Responsible Science Journalism, Seth Mnookin starts out:

Earlier this week, The Panic Virus, my book on the controversy over vaccines and autism, was released in paperback. While there haven’t been many scientific advances in this particular issue since the hardcover edition was published — the evidence supporting vaccines’ paramount place in public health efforts and the total lack of corroboration supporting a causal connection between vaccines and autism remain as strong today as they were a year ago — there have been new developments in the story. Their coverage highlights an enduring passion of mine: The need for reliable, responsible science journalism.

Yes, Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, is writing for the Huffington Post, a site which has contributed greatly to misinformation about vaccines and autism. The Huffington Post has been home to David Kirby (who was a major promoter of the mercury/autism concept) as well as welcoming input from Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, to name but a few of the poor choices for writers the Post engaged.

On PLoS blogs, Mr. Mnookin announced this new gig with Has the Huffington Post embraced science & closed the door on anti-vaccine quackery? We can hope. I wouldn’t place any bets on it though.

Five years ago…

1 Sep

Left Brain/Right Brain has been around since 2003. Yesterday I thought to myself: I wonder what a look back would tell us. Say, 5 years? To summarize: it tells us that things move slowly.

Some of the faces have changed over the years. For example: I wasn’t writing then but Autism Diva was. Some regular commenters have moved on. Some new ones have joined. David Kirby (author of Evidence of Harm), Rick Rollens (California Lobbyist) and others were frequently in the news and now they are rarely heard from.

But, in the end, many things stay the same:

In Autism Diva: Kelloggs Just Trying To Help , Kev pointed to a post by Autism Diva who was discussing an awareness program by Autism Speaks where AS was getting their name on cereal boxes.

I seem to recall being critical of Autism Speaks just recently…

In Dr David Ayoub – Hidden Agenda and Stone Cold Certainty we see Dr. Ayoub, a vocal proponent of the idea that vaccines cause autism. This was about the time when people were discovering that Dr. Ayoub had some interesting beliefs. He was posing “difficult questions” like “2) Is there evidence that vaccines can deliver antifertility products? Have they been used?” and “3) Does thimerosal fulfill criteria as an antipopulation agent?”. This as well as some other odd ideas, as discussed in David Ayoub, Black Helicopters and Social Movement.

Years later, even after this, Dr. Ayoub still pops up from time to time (for example, on last year).

In, “Its The Mercury, Stupid! No Wait!“, Kev was discussing people were predicting a drop in the autism counts which were then published quarterly by the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS).

He quoted David Kirby:

[Kirby] “Stay tuned. If the numbers in California and elsewhere continue to drop – and that still is a big if—the implication of thimerosal in the autism epidemic will be practically undeniable.”

So, now that we know that they never dropped is the opposite ‘practically undeniable’?

Let’s not forget what David Kirby told Citizen Cain:

“if the total number of 3-5 year olds in the California DDS system has not declined by 2007, that would deal a severe blow to the autism-thimerosal hypothesis”

The drop didn’t happen. The goalposts moved. The mercury idea lost some momentum but, unfortunately, still lives on despite evidence.

In “A Blogging Catch Up” Kev discusses the “Rain Mouse” study (a study claiming autistic behaviors in mice injected with thimerosal. The MIND Institute tried to replicate the study later and found they could not, even with much higher doses of thimerosal). Also in the “catch-up” was the revelation by Kathleen Seidel of some of the misdeeds of the Geier’s. This included the fact that they had failed to obtain appropriate IRB approval for one of their studies. 5 years later and they are just now facing some disciplinary action for the way they’ve conducted their business.

Like I said. Some things move slowly. Sure, the “autism is nothing but a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning” idea has mostly (mostly) gone by the wayside. I often read people writing, “Is this the end of autism/vaccine idea?”. The idea has certainly lost momentum. I doubt it will die in my lifetime.

Thankfully, it wasn’t all vaccines (then or now). In Calling all autistic college students, Kev set out to help an organization trying to gather information about autistics in college.

Pseudonymous blogging at Science Blogs is over

23 Aug

DrugMonkey over at Science blogs reports that the new owners of Science Blogs will not allow for anonymous/pseudonymous blogging in the future. In Pseudonymous blogging at Science Blogs is over he/she writes:

I have just been informed that ScienceBlogs will no longer be hosting anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers. In case you are interested, despite extensive communication from many of us as to why we blog under pseudonyms, I have not been given any rationale or reason for this move. Particularly, no rationale or reason that responds to the many valid points raised by the pseudonymous folks.

The blog Confessions of a Science Librarian also chimes in: Friday No Fun: Pseudonymous blogging no longer allowed at ScienceBlogs?

This is very problematic for me. The ability to speak freely and without fear of reprisal is the foundation and necessity of pseudonymous blogging. These bloggers work long and hard to establish the credibility and reliability of their online identities and shouldn’t be punished or banished because of it.

Science Blogs is now owned by the National Geographic Society. They have hosted anonymous articles on their own site (e.g. WHAT’S THE WORLD’S DEEPEST, DARKEST, DENSEST JUNGLE?). ScienceBlogs is now their property, and they can set the rules. I would hope that they would reconsider this, though. I prefer quality over non-anonymous information, frankly. The worst information I can find on the net, especially blogs, has names attached. Some excellent work has been produced under a pseudonym.

What I did with your money

18 May

Now LBRB is successfully moved (with a few little bits of tidying needed her and there) I need to tell you what I did with the nearly $1000 so generously donated.

First and foremost of course I bought some new hosting. I think you’ll agree that the site feels much faster and slicker as a result of the move. Gone is the churning away and (hopefully) gone is the CPU throttling.

However, I did have some money left over so I decided that as you all had been so generous that the right thing to do was pay it forward. In that spirit I split the remaining money into three parts and donated thusly:

The Autism Science Foundation – A good deal of LBRB contributors and visitors are American so to donate to a science based autism foundation in the States seemed like a good idea. ASF do not place _any_ research monies into the blind alley of vaccines.

National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading autism charity, giving an actual voice to actual autistic people is vital and the NAS do this better than anyone else in my opinion.

Speur Ghlan are a small, recently incorporated charity based in the land of my fathers – Scotland. I know the founder well and am constantly impressed at her drive and enthusiasm for her subject matter.

The amounts involved were not huge obviously but I hope that I’ve managed to meet with your approval both in choice and reasons for choice.

Thank you once again for your generous donations to get LBRB a better home. I hope I can repay you with years more quality blogging from Sullivan and the odd bit of snark from me 😉

New hosting environment – occassional weirdness

17 May

Hi folks,

Thanks to your extreme kindness, LBRB has been able to move to a much better hosting environment 🙂

However, as we’re moving _right now_ you’re going to see some oddness. Posts are going to disappear as will some comments. Hopefully we’ll be able to reinstate them ASAP but please bear with me whilst I get it all ship shape and bristol fashion.

Blogging IMFAR

12 May

I’m currently attending IMFAR. I’m taking notes and hope to get posts out quickly. I’d strongly recommend following Shannon Rosa. She’s tweeting and live blogging the conference. She’s on twitter and The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.

LBRB needs you!

9 May

As some have noticed, LeftBrain/RightBrain has been having issues. One of the main things is the fact that as LB/RB has become more and more popular over the years, it is not able to co-exist with normal Shared Hosting and is being CPU Throttled, something that basically means that, during peak time of popularity our hosts are having to basically turn the website off for 30min stretches to allow the CPU to cool down a bit.

The only way we can get around this practise is to get our own Dedicated Server. Having this means that we would have one CPU all to ourselves and thus not be throttled.

However, Dedicated Servers are not cheap. I have managed to source one for about £900 per year but that is way, way, waaaay beyond my personal means and much more than the advertising brings in.

So I’m asking for help. You should be able to see a ChipIn widget top right of each page. I’ve set the amount to $2000 and the time limit to a month but these are fairly arbitrary things. I’ll take whatever I can get and if it takes 6 months, so be it. I will of course be throwing in the advertising money that LBRB does get and I’ll also be putting in some personal money too but if you have a spare tenner, fiver or just a quid floating around in your PayPal acct, then I’d thank you for it.

Thanks in advance.

Ginger Taylor misrepresents David Bowman

5 May

the admission of David Bowman at HRSA (who runs VICP) that vaccines can cause encephalopathy that causes autism as reported by David Kirby.

Following the Poling vaccine concession, Kirby wrote to HRSA and asked if this now meant that the VICP was now paying for vaccine induced autism. This the “official statement” that HRSA sent him:


In response to your most recent inquiry, HRSA has the following

The government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to
compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually
caused by vaccines. We have compensated cases in which children
exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy
may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms
including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.

Some children who have been compensated for vaccine injuries may have
shown signs of autism before the decision to compensate, or may
ultimately end up with autism or autistic symptoms, but we do not track
cases on this basis.


David Bowman
Office of Communications
Health Resources and Services Administration

Is this not a very significant disclosure by HHS and in conflict with many of their public statements of autism causation? HHS has admitted that vaccines can cause brain damage that becomes “autistic behavior, autism, or seizures”.

Well, no, no its not. Lets look closley at the ‘offending’ paragraph:

We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.

Quite clearly Bowman is saying that Encephalopathy may be accompanied by etc. A fact he goes on to clarify further in his next paragraph. How much clearer does it need to be?

Ginger Taylor and David Kirby really have got to stop misrepresenting people in this way. It does their beliefs no justice.

Sullivan outs himself

27 Apr

Back in 2010, Age of Autism’s Inspector Clouseau, summed up the following about Sullivan:

1) Female
2) American
3) A doctor or scientist
4) Not the parent of an autistic child.
5) Is actually Paul Offit’s wife Bonnie.

And followed up with this promise:

If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the website is given to you and your husband for good.

In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.

As blogged by Sullivan, he will be attending IMFAR as a contributor:

I have written in the past that I will be attending IMFAR, the International Meeting For Autism Research. I will be supported by a stakeholder travel grant from the Autism Science Foundation, for which I am very grateful. What I haven’t mentioned before is that I was planning to attend IMFAR even before applying for the stakeholder grant. I’ve been planning on attending since I submitted an abstract: Parent Reported Status and Expectations for Their Autistic Student Children: An Analysis of the 2007 National Household Education Survey.

The abstract in question is:

Parent Reported Status and Expectations for Their Autistic Student Children: An Analysis of the 2007 National Household Education Survey. M. J. Carey

M.J. Carey, of course being LB/RB’s own Matt Carey.

So, now we turn back to JB Handley – are you ready to both hand over both the domain and your word to never mention in word or speech the name Paul Offit again JB?