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CBS Pulls Attkisson From CPAC Award Event

10 Feb

Sharyl Attkisson, CBS journalist best known here for her bias towards those promoting autism as a vaccine injury, was slated to accept an award Thursday from Accuracy In Media (AIM). This was discussed on Left Brain/Right Brain recently.

Media Matters is reporting CBS Pulls Attkisson From CPAC Award Event.

CBS still accepted the award, though:

CBS Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson did not appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference today to receive her journalism award from fringe group Accuracy In Media (AIM), despite previous reports that she would speak at the event. Instead, CBS Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham accepted the award on her behalf.

As one commenter on MediaMatters wrote, this just looks like Ms. Attkisson had better things to do. It would have been good, in my opinion, for CBS to decline the award.

Sharyl Attkisson to receive media award

8 Feb

Sharyl Attkisson has been one of the less reliable members of the media when it comes to the autism/vaccine discussion. She promotes the purported link, defended Andrew Wakefield and gave David Kirby (of Evidence of Harm fame) a platform to promote his views.

For example. Recall a few years back when the Hornig study (Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study) came out definitively putting to rest the idea that MMR causes autistic regression/GI disease with persistent measles measles infection. Ms. Attkisson wrote a piece, New Study Disproves Vaccine/MMR/Autism Link.

But she didn’t write about the new study or how it disproves the MMR/autism link.

There’s a new study in the Public Library of Science regarding vaccine measles and autism which purports to disprove a vaccine/MMR/autism link.

Also, researchers at ThoughtfulHouse wrote an opposing analysis:

She didn’t discuss the study at all. Instead she linked to printed a press release by (then) Andrew Wakefield’s Thoughtful House.

Readers won’t be surprised that I was dismayed to read that she’s now getting an award. From “Accuracy in Media“, to be given out at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Dismayed that is until I saw what “Accuracy” in Media has as a track record.

Here’s a particularly egregious example of an article from an “Accuracy in Media” “report“:

Repealing the ban on open homosexuals serving in the U.S. military would be a mistake of historic proportions but the mainstream media are turning a blind eye.

The intro is bad enough. The discussion worse. Why? Well, the author of that hate piece is

Dr. Scott Lively, a Massachusetts attorney and pastor, is co-author, along with Kevin E. Abrams, of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.

Yes. The Nazis were gay. How does the saying go, you can’t parody a farce? Read more examples of AIM’s “accuracy”in CBS To Receive Award From Fringe Group At CPAC. With links to AIM’s support of the Birthers and other outlandish claims against President Obama.

Well, this farcical organization is going to “honor” Sharyl Attkisson. I guess there is something worse than getting a “Gallileo” award from the Age of Autism.

Sharyl Attkisson blogs the Hannah Poling settlement

10 Sep

I had forgotten Sharyl Attkisson. She is a reporter for CBS news who has covered vaccines in the past, but has been silent on the issue for the past year or more.

Her recent piece shows exactly the sort of reporting that frustrated me in the past: Family to Receive $1.5M in First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award

In that piece she links to her piece from 2008 on the Hannah Poling case: Vaccine Case: An Exception Or A Precedent?

Here’s a quote from that earlier piece:

While the Poling case is the first of its kind to become public, a CBS News investigation uncovered at least nine other cases as far back as 1990, where records show the court ordered the government compensated families whose children developed autism or autistic-like symptoms in children including toddlers who had been called “very smart” and “impressed” doctors with their “intelligence and curiosity” … until their vaccinations.

They were children just like Hannah Poling.

What’s still being debated is whether the Poling case is an exception … or a precedent.

So, which is it? Were there children “just like Hannah Poling” or is this the “First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award”?

Actually, it is neither. This isn’t the first vaccine court award involving autism, and the other cases are not “just like Hannah Poling”.

For real information on the other nine cases, read Kathleen Seidel’s piece on Neurodiversity.com. Few, professional or amateur, can compare the the thoroughness of Kathleen Seidel. For example, one case (the first I read involving autism from the vaccine court) is Suel v. HHS. Young David Suel had tuberous sclerosis, a condition known to be associated with autism and epilepsy. Epilepsy occurs in about 60 to 90% of individuals with TS. Autism occurs in about 25-50%. David Suel’s case was declared to be a “table injury” wherein the seizures began within a set period after his DPT vaccination. What is notable about that is the table for DPT was later changed–when it was shown that DPT was not responsible for inducing seizure disorders. In other words, had David Suel been vaccinated, or just filed, after the change in the table, he likely would not have been awarded damages.

“They were children just like Hannah Poling”? Is tuberous sclerosis just like mitochondrial disease? (answer: not even close).

Shall we go on? In her recent piece, Ms. Attkisson states:

In 2002, Hannah’s parents filed an autism claim in federal vaccine court. Five years later, the government settled the case before trial and had it sealed

Not accurate. The court did not “settle” the case in 2007. They conceded the case, and they were in the process of completing the settlement when someone leaked the information to the press. The government did not “seal” the case–it is standard procedure to keep this information confidential until the settlement is completed.

But that doesn’t make a good story, does it?

Ms. Attkisson goes on:

In acknowledging Hannah’s injuries, the government said vaccines aggravated an unknown mitochondrial disorder Hannah had which didn’t “cause” her autism, but “resulted” in it. It’s unknown how many other children have similar undiagnosed mitochondrial disorder. All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial. Approximately 4,800 are awaiting disposition in federal vaccine court.

Mito-autism was a big thing for a while there. David Kirby took the story and ran with it–making a lot of mistakes along the way and propagating a lot of misinformation. It is unknown how many other children have similar disorders–but the researchers who studied cases like Hannah Poling have stated that cases such as hers are “rare”.

“All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial”.

What is conspicuous about the other “test cases” is that in none of them was it argued that the children were like Hannah Poling–i.e. the attorneys did not argue that a mechanism of autism through mitochondrial dysfunction aggravated by vaccines existed. In fact, one child named as a test case was pulled from that slot in order to argue that mitochondrial based case. The expert report filed for that child (since pulled from the Omnibus website) did not argue mitochondrial disorder or dysfunction at that time. In other words, the idea of a mitochondrial disorder being linked to autism was so alien from the cases being made by the attorneys for the families in the Omnibus that this child had to argue the case separately.

It is often pointed out that many autistics may have mitochondrial dysfunction. This is based largely on studies out of Portugal. It is left implied, and it is often believed that mitochondrial dysfunction means vaccine injury in these cases. This was the impression that David Kirby put forth and it was clearly wrong. First, mitochondrial disorders are a very broad spectrum. The type that Hannah Poling has is not the same as those detected in most autistics. Second, most reports of mitochondrial disorders and autism, including the Portugal studies, do not involve regression. Third, even amongst those children reported by the groups that identified Hannah Poling, regression was often idiopathic or followed fever clearly independent of vaccination.

I do not expect Ms. Attkisson to present the following (quality) information, so I will repeat it here:

Here are the answers to some questions posted to mitochondrial medicine experts and their answers:

When asked, to respond to the position: ‘‘I view the risk of vaccination in known metabolic disease patients to generally be outweighed by the risk of the infectious diseases being vaccinated against”

63.2% strongly agreed
31.1% agreed
0.9% disagreed
and 0.9% strongly disagreed.

Asked about the opinion that the risk of vaccination in metabolic disease was ‘‘greater than the risk of the infectious diseases being vaccinated against”

52.9% strongly disagreed
40% disagreed
3.5% agreed
and none strongly agreed

Sharyl Attkisson interviews David Kirby…and oh is it bad

8 Oct

Have a look for yourself:

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/player-dest.swf
Watch CBS News Videos Online

David Kirby, interviewed by Sharyl Attkisson. Talk about faux-news. For those luckily unfamiliar with Ms. Attkisson, here are some of the pieces done on this blog about her. Ms. Attkisson has a history of interviewing other members of the press and not being critical at all of their unsupported claims. She did this with Bernadine Healy, who made some unfounded claims about the IOM. When a study came out disproving a study by Maddy Hornig on mice and thimerosal that is, Ms. Attkisson blogged the Thoughtful House (Andrew Wakefield) press release on the subject. There’s more, but that gives you a taste of her history.

Today she interviewed David Kirby, author of “Evidence of Harm” and Huffington Post blogger.

To start, David Kirby apparantly has rewritten his book (yes, that is sarcasm). It is titled, “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy”.

But according to the interview, his book isn’t primarily about mercury in vaccines. Instead it is all about “increasing environmental exposures, toxins in children throughout the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s from both mercury background mercury environmental mercury which is on the increase and also mercury and other heavy metals and toxic metals that are included in vaccines that we give our children.”

Notice how thimersosal (mercury in vaccines) is downplayed compared to environmental mercury. That’s called revisionist history. Take a look at the back cover from the book (click to enlarge):

Back Cover from David Kirby's Evidence of Harm

Back Cover from David Kirby's Evidence of Harm

A commenter on this blog called the recent National Children’s Health Survey to be the worst sort of prevalence study. It can get much worse. For example–according to David Kirby, when he went through the subway he didn’t see anyone obviously autistic. Yes, David Kirby, epidemiologist and diagnostician has found a dramatically low prevalence amongst the New York subway riders.

David Kirby reminds us all that Asperger’s syndrome is a disability. Mr. Kirby, go back and tell that to Lenny Schafer, the “commenter of the week” on your blog, the Age of Autism.

If someone made a comment on this blog like Mr. Shafer did he would be booed off the stage. Here’s an excerpt:

And let us hope that the upcoming DSM-V gets clearer about defining autism only as a disability — and kicks the high functioning ND autism squatters onto the personality disorder spectrum where they belong.

Your blog gave him a free T-shirt. Don’t lecture us about disability.

Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health and chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee declined to be interviewed by Ms. Attkisson.

A sincere “good job” goes out to Dr. Insel. After the way Ms. Attkisson showed a clear bias in doing her story on Dr. Offit, I can completely understand Dr. Insel declining the interview.

The second half of the interview discusses Mr. Kirby’s new book, the use of antibiotics on large farms.

No, seriously, they moved from Autism to animal farms.

Way to plug David Kirby’s new book, Sharyl!

The IOM and "completely expressed concerns"

11 Sep

If you’ve read my previous posts Dr. Bernadine Healy, you know I have some pretty serious concerns about how she represented the way the Institute of Medicine operated when they produced their report on Vaccines and Autism.  Those statements were made in interviews with Sharyl Attkisson.  Again, if you’ve been reading, you realize that Ms. Attkisson’s methods were a cause of concern for me as well.  I have voiced these concerns with CBS news via fax.

Dr. Healy made some pretty bold assertions, and Ms. Attkisson failed to even attempt to follow up on them.

The prime example is when Dr. Healy proposed that

…“There is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. “First of all,” Healy said, “I think the public’s smarter than that. The public values vaccines. But more importantly, I don’t think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you’re afraid of what it might show.”

I’ve noted before, that a statement of that magnitude, calling into question the very methods and motives of the IOM deserved followup by Ms. Attkisson.  When someone makes a claim that an organization we all depend on to be independent and unbiased may have acted improperly, and unbiased reporter should make sure of the facts by checking with the real source before going ahead with the story.

Well, bloggers sometimes do the work that reporters fail to do.  In this case, AutismLibrary asked the IOM for comment on some of the way the IOM and its process in handling the 2004 Vaccines and Autism report have been portrayed.  Below (with permission) is the response that AutismLibrary received and blogged:

Thank you for your recent and very thoughtful message. As you know, the IOM’s Immunization Safety Review Committee most certainly did not suggest that scientific inquiry into the role of vaccines in autism should cease because the results could affect public perception of the value of childhood vaccinations. The public deserves better than that.

The committee’s 2004 report, Vaccines and Autism, states:

Determining causality with population-based methods such as epidemiological analyses requires either a well-defined at-risk population or a large effect in the general population. Absent biomarkers, well-defined risk factors, or large effect sizes, the committee cannot rule out, based on the epidemiological evidence, the possibility that vaccines contribute to autism in some small subset or very unusual circumstances. However, there is currently no evidence to support this hypothesis either.

After a paragraph in which the report follows that sentence with a discussion of the sparse literature regarding subsets of autism and the theoretical possibility of a vaccine-susceptible subpopulation, the report states:

While the committee strongly supports targeted research that focuses on better understanding the disease of autism, from a public health perspective the committee does not consider a significant investment in studies of the theoretical vaccine-autism connection to be useful at this time. The nature of the debate about vaccine safety now includes a theory that genetic susceptibility makes vaccinations risky for some people, which calls into question the appropriateness of a public health, or universal, vaccination strategy. However the benefits of vaccination are proven and the hypothesis of susceptible populations is presently speculative. Using an unsubstantiated hypothesis to question the safety of vaccination and the ethical behavior of those governmental agencies and scientists who advocate for vaccination could lead to widespread rejection of vaccines and inevitable increases in incidence of serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough, and Hib bacterial meningitis.

The committee urges that research on autism focus more broadly on the disorder’s causes and treatments for it. Thus, the committee recommends a public health response that fully supports an array of vaccine safety activities. In addition the committee recommends that available funding for autism research be channeled to the most promising areas.

Some readers have apparently failed to appreciate the full meaning and intent of the committee’s carefully written text. The report, as supported by the above-quoted paragraphs, clearly acknowledges the possibility that new information in support of hypotheses about susceptible subpopulations could emerge, at which time significant new research efforts might be appropriate. Whether the recent information about mitochondrial dysfunction will be the foundation for a major new research direction remains to be seen. The committee’s comment on the untoward consequences of discouraging vaccination was offered as an elaboration of their concerns about the unsubstantiated vaccine-autism hypothesis and not as support for their recommendations about an appropriate research agenda for understanding autism.

The scientists and clinicians on this committee evaluated the then-available scientific data in an unbiased manner. They reached their conclusions based on where the evidence led them. This principle—making recommendations only if supported by the evidence—guides all studies that IOM undertakes. I reiterate that the committee most certainly did not urge caution about pursuing the vaccine-autism connection in order to avoid frightening the public away from immunizations. The IOM stands ready to re-examine this issue should sufficient and relevant evidence emerge.

I almost put the entire last paragraph in bold for emphasis. Instead I’ll pull two lines out:

I reiterate that the committee most certainly did not urge caution about pursuing the vaccine-autism connection in order to avoid frightening the public away from immunizations

and

The IOM stands ready to re-examine this issue should sufficient and relevant evidence emerge

I read this as: there were no “completely expressed concerns” that affected the IOM’s study and that although they recommended rejecting the vaccine/autism hypotheses (thimerosal and MMR), they haven’t “turned their backs” on the subject. Should good research come forward (as with any subject in science) they will look again.

I do have one simple question: Shouldn’t Sharyl Attkisson approached the IOM for comment before going forward with this story?

Really bad blogging by Sharyl Attkisson

9 Sep

As I noted before, My fax complaining that Ms. Attkisson missed the big story in the autism/vaccine discussion just about the same time she was posting on exactly that story (the Hornig MMR paper).

Ms Atkisson’s blog post is titled

New Study Disproves Vaccine/MMR/Autism Link

Wow. I didn’t expect to see that from Ms. Attkisson.

Below is the full extent of Ms. Attkisson’s contribution to the piece

There’s a new study in the Public Library of Science regarding vaccine measles and autism which purports to disprove a vaccine/MMR/autism link.

Also, researchers at ThoughtfulHouse wrote an opposing analysis:

She then posts the ThoughtfulHouse press release. No kidding, of the blog piece, 90% (an estimate on my part) of the words are written by someone else! And, not even the researchers involved.

Dang. Recently we have seen a lack of homework on the Dr. Offit conflict of interest story, and now this.

At least there was some effort put into the story on Dr. Offit.

What happened to the CBS I grew up with? I can’t see Walter Cronkite getting paid for “Richard Nixon has resigned in disgrace. Now, here is Mr. Nixon’s press release verbatim.”

Another fax for Ms. Couric

9 Sep

Note: I didn’t do my homework–Ms. Attkisson has discussed the Hornig paper. She manages to do exactly what we would expect: toe the ThoughtfulHouse line. The blog piece by Ms. Attkisson was posted while I was finishing my fax, given the time stamp.

As you will read below, I didn’t find Sharyl Attkisson’s recent blog post to be what I expected. OK, I wasn’t expecting her to be convinced by the recent study by Hornig et al., (paper here) but I at least expected her to comment on it. Instead, she dodged the issue completely. Worse yet, her post boils down to (a) assuming that the government doesn’t do vaccine safety research then (b) apparently implying that she and Dr. Bernadine Healy are somehow responsible for a “new” effort by the government to study vaccine safety.

So, CBS news has two new pages in their fax machine (to go along with a previous fax). In an effort to save their staffers the time of forwarding the fax, I quote it below.

September 8, 2008

Katie Couric, Managing Editor
CBS Television Network
524 West 57th Street
6th Floor
New York, NY 10019-2902

VIA FACSIMILE

Dear Ms. Couric,

I have faxed you recently about my concerns with the reporting of Ms. Attkisson. I would love to be writing you now with word that things have improved. But, sadly, they have not.

Ms. Attkisson appears to have avoided the key story of the week (if not month) in vaccines and autism: the study by Hornig et al. which shows (again) a lack of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Instead, Ms. Attkisson ran a blog piece that perpetuates the myth that vaccine safety is not a high priority for the nation’s health researchers.

Hornig et al. is precisely the sort of study that Dr. Bernadine Healy (in an interview by Ms. Attkisson) claimed the research establishment was “afraid” to perform: a study looking not at large populations, but specifically at children with autism. In this paper, the study group critera were very narrow: children with autism who regressed and have significant GI problems. The study sought to answer questions raised by Dr. Wakefield’s flawed study, which has caused much distress in the autism community for 10 years. The study found that MMR is not linked to autism: a conclusion accepted by autism advocate Rick Rollens, one of the most vocal spokespeople for the autism/vaccine link.

You can imagine that, yes, I expected Ms. Attkisson to address this study in her blog or reporting. Instead I read with dismay her blog piece on September 4th, “Vaccine Watch”. In her introduction, she references her interviews with Dr. Healy, but avoids the issue of the Hornig MMR study. Instead, she discusses recent NIH grant solicitations in the area of vaccine safety, and presents them as though vaccine safety research is something new. As noted above, this perpetuates the myth that vaccine safety is not being studied.

In addition to the Hornig et al. study, there is another study soon to be released on autism and thimerosal containing vaccines. Again, a targeted study looking at the exact population of interest. I would hope that this one doesn’t escape Ms. Attkisson’s attention. Also, one need look no further than clinicaltrials.gov to find ongoing studies on vaccine safety and adverse events. It is difficult to find a way that will not appear sarcastic to point out that the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Office is a very clear example of the government’s ongoing commitment to tracking vaccine safety.

If you have any question of how important the Hornig study is in the autism community, take a look at the comments on Ms. Attkisson’s own blog post. You will find that, even though Ms. Attkisson avoided the study, the autism community considered the Hornig study to be the news of the week, not the NIH grant solicitations.

Accusations of media bias are often applied too quickly by readers who disagree with the stances taken on certain stories. However, in the case of Ms. Attkisson, I find it difficult to understand how she could avoid a story which not only was so important to the community, but also answered the precise questions she has posed in her previous reporting.

I appreciate your time in this matter, and will gladly clarify any statements above that may not be clear.

Sullivan
Autism Parent
LeftBrainRightBrain.co.uk
SullivansJourney@gmail.com