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Thimerosal on trial- the incredible shrinking epidemic

13 May

The audio recordings of the first day of the thimerosal-only portion of the Autism Omnibus Proceedings hearings are now available here: ftp://autism.uscfc.uscourts.gov/autism/thimerosal.html. They are mp3 files.

Here’s some of what I heard yesterday via telephone and comments on what I think the parents’ lawyers seem to be implying now, maybe you will listen to the same discussion and take away different key points:

A lawyer for the petitioners (Mr. Williams, I think) said, as if a fact: there has been an autism epidemic, and he added that there is no such thing as a “genetic epidemic”.

They know this because no one could “miss” regressive autism in the past. I guess they might have missed other non-regressive autism and other ASDs.

The only kind of regressive autism they are interested in is the “clearly regressive” subtype, which they seem to be saying is about 2% or less of all ASD children born during the 1990s.

Apparently, they are only interested in the children of the “epidemic” era when kids got more thimerosal exposure.

There are so few of their target group that when these kids started to be “added” to the “epidemic” no one could see it happening, and likewise when the exposure to thimerosal dropped of precipitously, even though the numbers of these target group kids must have dropped off precipitously, no one could see that change in the larger epidemiological data.

So the epidemic might continue but it has nothing to do with thimerosal exposure now.

The numbers of “clearly regressive” autistics, however should be obviously diminishing. Because it’s a small group and not all of them “clearly regressed” following a vaccine containing thimerosal. These supposedly thimerosal-damaged clearly regressive kids must be disappearing by now, but maybe they’ve been replaced by kids who “clearly regress” due to another actionable agent. If they regress because of an non-actionable agent, like, say, oxygen or exposure prenatally to mom’s immune system, no one cares. Then logically, if all of the “clear regressing” autistics were caused to regress only by thimerosal, then there should be very few, or none, younger “clearly regressed” autistics in areas where thimerosal is not used for toddler age vaccines now and hasn’t been used in the past few years.

Apparently, they are claiming that thimeosal in vaccines only causes a subset of regressive autism, not including early-onset autism. So apparently there’s no way for a baby who got the birth dose of Hep B to be made autistic, since it can’t “clearly regress” shortly after birth. And if the baby only got the Hep B dose (if preserved by thimerosal), that alone couldn’t cause a regression months later. I think they are only interested in vaccines given right before a toddler regresses, at say age 12 months to 36 months.

Also, it seems that the PSC believes Eric Fombonne’s research is reliable when they want to make a point with it. They used his research to support the numbers of autistics who regress if I recall.

The transcripts will be available eventually (maybe soon), but we don’t know when. I think it would be interesting to compare get them to explain how many of this tiny group of ASD kids also have mitochondrial diseases or disorders. I wonder if they are trying to imply that the rest of the “epidemic” is caused by tuna mercury, chicken mercury or MMR, aluminum, assortative mating or what?

Kathleen Seidel

5 Apr

There’s no point at all in my rehashing what has happened to Kathleen. We all know. The blogging communities response has been swift and fierce – rightly so. I don’t imagine the lawyer in question has made many friends in his profession over the last couple of days.

I wanted to write a blistering, thundering post too because, believe me, that’s how I felt after reading the subpoena Kathleen received. I consider her a friend and ally of a good many years now – as I do Dave. They both do what they do because they care. They care about their own autistic children and they care about all of our autistic children and they do what is right – they question what is suspicious and they support what is worthwhile.

But I can’t write a blistering, thundering post. The last few weeks have been something of an education for me on how the world works. I am even having to be incredibly careful about how I write this post, a tribute to the tenacity of my friend Kathleen.

Where my American friends can rest easy in the knowledge that their law supports them in their right to speak freely, mine does not. Where Kathleen can put together such an excellent response, I – and all other British bloggers – cannot. Unless we are very rich, or insured or employed by a paper that is insured, we are totally stymied.

Please rest assured that I have very recent knowledge of this process. To the extent that whilst I can say that I have first hand knowledge I cannot discuss it, I cannot (and will not) name names. I don’t like this but I have no option. This is modern Britain. Bloggers can be silenced. I hope that Kathleen is never, ever silenced. The world needs truth and integrity.

Dear Katie

16 Jan

As I write this, your Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle and Aunt are striving to bring you some justice. I don’t know yet what the jury will decide and I can only guess what trickery those who did you wrong may employ to wriggle out of their responsibilities.

However, I wanted to write you this letter as it occurred to me that although your picture sits on the bookshelf of our home, next to the photos of my own autistic daughter and although I have written about you from time to time I have never addressed a letter to you.

I wanted to tell you dear that I am so awfully sorry that I never got to meet you. Your Dad and your Grandpa came to see us and brought us some lovely photos of you. In all of them you were smiling and in all of them the adult with you – your Grandma, Grandpa or Dad – were smiling proudly. I can understand that Katie. You were obviously a little girl who anybody could be proud of. I hope to one day be able to tell you that when I can come and visit you where you’re resting now.

I also want you to know that your Daddy, your Grandma, your Grandpa, your Aunt and your Uncle and lots of your teachers spoke up for you sweetheart. They stood up to be counted and said that you were loved – adored – that the fact you were autistic should not ever be used as a justifiable reason for hurting anyone. They told the world what you were like. They wore pink ribbons to show the world that you were remembered. I wore my own pink ribbon everyday too.

One night, my own autistic little girl woke up about 3ish and we sat and I told her about you and about how much you were loved and how brave and steadfast your Daddy and your Grandma and your Grandpa were. Her favourite picture of you is the one where you are sitting on your Grandpa’s lap. I think it is her favourite as she remembers sitting on his lap when he and your Daddy came to visit. You are both little girls who see the purpose of a Grandpa!

Your Daddy is a hero Katie. A man who will not ever stop fighting for the rights of his daughter. A man who has stood opposite the person who wronged you so viciously, looked that person in the eye and remained dignified and composed. A man who has been buffeted from all sides and who simply misses his little girl and wants to do right by her. Your Daddy called me ‘pal’ and hugged me when he came over to see us. I am proud to be thought of as a friend by such a fine man as your Daddy.

The real tragedy is that any of this happened at all. There are no excuses for what was done to you. Whatever the verdict comes back as, the truth is that you were betrayed and snatched away from those who loved you. Those who wronged you – those with no answers – still try to wrong you. They blame vaccines. They blame autism. They blame mental illness. They look everywhere to place blame except where it deserves to be placed. In doing this they seek to cheapen and diminish the enormity of what was done to you. Your family will not let them.

Take care dear. I hope very much that one day I will be able to say some of this to you. I will bring you a toy from my girls and tie some pink ribbon around it. Until then please rest in the peace you so richly deserve. Your family continue to light a candle for your darkness.

Please Note: There is a living memorial for Katie should anyone wish to contribute.

CDC: “Thank you, Sallie, May We Have Another?”

27 Sep

A CDC study released yesterday found no evidence to support “a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years.” In other words, vaccines don’t scramble your brain.

The study didn’t examine autism as an outcome, although that is almost certainly what it was intended to get at. Instead, it looked for whether children’s exposure to thimerosal before birth or in infancy had any relationship to their later performance on 42 standardized tests which one would expect to be affected by autism. For each of the 1,047 children in the study, the researchers assessed speech and language; verbal memory; achievement (letter and word identification); fine motor coordination; visuospatial ability; attention and executive function; behavior regulation; tics; and general intellectual functioning.

CDC tried so hard. They invited one of the queen mercury moms, Sallie Bernard of “SAFEMINDs,” to participate in the planning of the study. They brought on a panel of outside advisors. The team spent at least two years administering forty-seven separate tests to each of the children and analyzing and writing up the results. They printed every piece of data generated in a companion volume to the published study.

They got kicked in the teeth, but don’t feel bad for them. They should have known better.

The autism-vaccine contingent has responded by spluttering about the study not having been large or random enough, and by accusing the researchers of being biased and of ignoring important associations in the data. It’s no news that these people don’t believe anything that comes from CDC – they’ve said as much, very clearly. But one would think that if you let the antivaxers in on the process from day one, if you were totally transparent, they couldn’t object, could they? They’d have to see the light when the results came back and say, “Well! I guess it’s not the vaccines after all!”

CDC, if you really thought that would happen, you were so, so wrong.

The appearance is that Sallie Bernard was going along with all this up until the day the results came in and – shockingly! – showed thimerosal didn’t do one bit of harm. If she’d thought from the outset, as a SAFEMINDs press release now claims, that there weren’t enough kids in the study or the sampling were biased, does anybody think this gadfly would have nodded and smiled and gone right along with it?

No, everything was fine and dandy as long as she was enjoying being fawned over as a “representative of the autism community” and a fellow-scientist instead of the commercial marketer she actually is. Here’s a clue, Sallie: If you’re going to play scientist, you have to follow the rules of science, and that means you stand by your results. You don’t get to say “heads I win, tails you lose” by waiting to see the outcome before deciding whether the study was any good.

And you really don’t get to have CDC at your beck and call, spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to do a study to your specifications, then turn around and call them liars when you don’t like how it comes out.

And you, CDC? You’re not just a victim here. Every time you say “let’s do more research” or “we are examining this issue” in order to appease the mercury moms, you increase the chances that kids will go unvaccinated because you failed to give their parents confidence in the safety of vaccines. When you say a study is reassuring and then highlight what is virtually certain to have been a chance finding (a statistical association between higher thimerosal exposure and transient tics in boys) without making it abundantly clear that some false associations were inevitable given the study design, you defeat the purpose of doing the study. People who understand statistics weren’t the ones who needed to be convinced thimerosal is safe; the antivax crowd will never be convinced no matter what. You needed to speak to the well-meaning parents who worry about the rumors they hear at playgroup, and not only did you give them something new to worry about and whiff the opportunity to show them that the likes of Sallie Bernard are all about the rhetoric – you managed to tee up for yet another round of Righteous Long-Suffering Parents vs. Heartless Government Scientists.

Haven’t you learned yet who wins that one? Or are you going to invite Sallie back for another round of research?

Postscript: More commentary on this study by Arthur Allen, Orac, Joseph, Interverbal, and Kristina Chew.

CSS Reboot – Guest Reviewer

2 May

Well, the CSS Reboot is upon us once again and I thought given the prestige of the occasion, I’d hand over to a guest reviewer to review some of the entries in the Reboot.

Please welcome Guest Reviewer – Johnny Nice-Painter.

Oh hello my fellow artists….how very lovely it is to be here reviewing such a prestigious event as the CSS Reboot amongst all you young people. You may know I’m something of an artist myself, although I have to say I utilise the more conventional approach of a nice canvas and water colours. I daresay that sounds terribly old fashioned.

Anyway, lets move on shall we? Katie has my tea and medication waiting for me and I don’t want to be late…so who’s first Mr Leitch?

Oh ah, young Prabhath from Nidahas…what an exotic looking web page that is! How jolly nice! Did he win? No? Why? Because he didn’t pay to get his design listed on the front page? I don’t understand Mr Leitch – you have to pay?

Oh, only some people can pay – those who can afford it I presume – not those who come from developing countries with other priorities I would surmise…? How very strange. Anyway, which lovely website should I look at next?

Oh, ah Standards Rule…well now thats jolly nice too, what a lot of talented people we have here Mr Leitch!…what’s that? Look at the ‘source code’…whatever for? Ah…I see – using a table for layout purposes – I thought this was a CSS competition? It is? Oh dear. I don’t understand, I’m afraid. Admittedly, an old man like me can’t keep up with the latest gizmo’s and jeejaws but even I know that calling a website ‘Standards Rule’ and rebooting in a CSS competition whilst using a table for layout is a bit…well, its not cricket is it eh?

Shall we just go straight to the CSS Reboot home page Mr Leitch? No? Why not? What do you mean ‘no reason’, that sounds a bit silly – lets just click the link and…..

oh….

….there’s an awful lot of black isn’t there…….

….oh dear…Terry Ng, David Longworth, John Protasiewicz, Bryan Veloso, Doug Gibson…….

black……BLACK!!!!

ah……Christian Montoya….ARRGGHHH Christian Montoya AGAIN!!!! BLACK!!!!

You lock me in the cellar and feed me pins, where shall we sleep tonight Mother? On Father’s grave?

Alex Graul….Jonathon Snook….

They wait for me in the woods…

VEERLE MADE IT GOOD BUT IT MAKES ME SAD!!!

The black…..ITS EVERYWHERE!!!!! I MUST HIDE IN THE WARDROBE OF SUBTLE PLAGARISM DARKNESS!!!

Well…sorry about that. I guess all that black was a bit much for poor Johnny. I know how he feels.

Meme Clobbered – Where Was I?

3 Apr

H has meme clobbered me and as I took the piss out of 37 Signals so mercilessly I can no loger cry off such things. Damn you karma!!

Where Was I One Year Ago?

One year ago I worked for a financial services company as their in house designer/developer. We were also getting our daughter established in a mainstream school, my wife was six months pregnant and I had gone through about 3 re-designs of this site in a month.

Where Was I Five Years Ago?

2001 right? Erm….I was working for a design agency (clients included Disney, Nat West, Jarvis and others) churning out very dodgy Flash based websites and living the dotcom dream. Shorlty afterwards I was laid off. The dotcom nightmare.

Where Was I Ten Years Ago?

Christ. In 1996 I was at University doing my degree and was doing a bit of web stuff to make ends meet. I had just met Naomi. I was thinner. I was fitter. I had a better blood pressure. Other than that I cannot remember/am not saying.

Its customary at this time for me to clobber three other people with this meme. I shall therefore choose one design blogger, one autism blogger and one skeptic blogger.

Hating Sanity: My Very Own Sockpuppet

13 Mar

Someone (and its really not hard to guess who) has created a little sockpuppet site for me. Whomever (ahem) it is has also started sprinkling the blogosphere with spicy comments from ‘me’.

How cool is this? Someone (ahem) is worried enough about what I say to start a whole new blog to sockpuppet me!

I could get annoyed about such a thing but really, we have to look at it this way – I must be making a much bigger impression on someone (ahem) then I thought I was. Enough for them to be really worried about the success I’m having in getting through to people.

But lets not ruin the possible fun here. Lets have a bit of a Cluedo type blog post to work out the suspects….who is ‘kev’????

Is it:

a) JB Handley?

Evidence for: He’s got form for trying to coerce people to his beliefs. He’s also good for a bit of name-calling.
Evidence against: Probably knows I wouldn’t be anything but amused.

b) SueM?

Evidence for: Has the wit.
Evidence against: Lacks the motivation.

c) John Best Jr?

Evidence for? Has been repeatedly made to look foolish by a myriad of people on his own blog and other peoples but as I have adopted a position of purposefully getting in his face, I’ve probably stuck in his brain longer than most. Possibly because I continually post his racist (equates Muslims to terrorists), homophobic (believes homosexuality is a perversion which can be cured by a dose of ‘self-respect’) illogic (believes autism was invented by Eli Lilly in 1931) back in his face.

Lately I pointed out to Joseph that attempting rational debate with John was useless. His two crowning moments for me were when he said that there was no autism in China prior to 1999 (whereupon he was deluged with comments pointing to the many studies that predate 1990, let alone ’99 in China) and that autism didn’t exist before 1931 (whereupon I pointed out the diagnosis for case studies stretching back to the 1880’s) and it was at this point that I referred to him as ‘spectacularly stupid’ by which I meant that I was occasionally in literal awe of how stupid he truly was.

Evidence against: Can someone that stupid have a mildly amusing idea like this?

d) Sigourney Weaver?

Evidence for: Took umbrage at my post disagreeing with her statement that autism is a gift. Also annoyed that I confessed to lusting after Gillian Anderson and Geena Davis as well as her.

Evidence against: Is quite obviously in love with me.

So there we have it. Put on your deerstalkers, sniff your class A narcotic of choice, play the stringed instrument you like the best, indulge in a same sex relationship and claim its platonic, be insufferably condescending all the time and inspire lots of really good black and white movies starring Basil Rathbone.