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Jenny McCarthy needs to learn: autistic is not psychotic or crazy

6 Aug

Last year Amanda Peet had a story in Cookie Magazine. She came out very pro-vaccine. Jenny McCarthy “jumped” on the story (delayed to be coincidental with Jenny McCarthy’s need for publicity).

This year, Cookie Magazine has a story with Jenny McCarthy. There is a lot bad in there. I am saving the worst for last (you can skip to the bottom if you want).

As to be expected in a magazine article about a celebrity, Ms. McCarthy is pushing her own business interests. In this case, her educational DVD collection:

“Through a series of entertaining vignettes featuring a cast of kids (including Evan), puppets, and dolls, the DVDs model correct social behavior and tackle everything from sharing and patience to maintaining conversations with friends to sibling rivalry. “Any parent will tell you that her kid watches a show and imitates it,” McCarthy says of her inspiration for the idea.”

I find that statement really strange for educational videos targeting autistic kids. I can think of a number of parents of autistic kids who would disagree with “Any parent will tell you that her kid watches a show and imitates it” From the book “Educating Children with Autism” by the National Academies Press:

Studies over longer periods of time have documented that joint attention, early language skills, and imitation are core deficits that are the hallmarks of the disorder.

Another quote from the Cookie Magazine story:

McCarthy’s widely publicized journey began in 2004, when her son had a seven-hour seizure and went into cardiac arrest. When he got home from the hospital, Evan was put on a heavy dose of antiseizure medication, which kept him awake for four days and induced hallucinations that made him not recognize his mom and bang his head against the wall until he bled. “I ran out of my house and into my driveway and screamed at the top of my lungs to God to just take him away, because I loved him so much and he was in so much pain,” McCarthy says of the period she describes as her “second rock-bottom” (the first being the moment Evan’s heart stopped momentarily).

A couple of observations.

First, I wish Cookie Magazine had clarified the point as to how long after his vaccination the seizure came. His MMR was at 14 months, his first seizure was after he was 2.

Now for the second. Did Jenny McCarthy really write that she had wished her child would be taken by god?

I didn’t want to blog this story. Why give Jenny McCarthy more publicity? Well, here’s the paragraph that made me want to blog:

McCarthy is leading a more normal life now, too, after having felt very alone in her first marriage, to Evan’s dad, and suffering what she calls a “breakdown” two years after Evan went into cardiac arrest and suffered those terrifying seizures. “When your kid is psychotic or crazy, you go into this place of shock so you can remain calm,” she says. “A problem a lot of moms [of autistic children] have is that they need to get out all [their emotions] later. I kept mine bottled up for two years, and then I finally released all this pent up fear, sadness, and anger. I just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried.”

“When your kid is psychotic or crazy, you go into this place of shock so you can remain calm”

I just don’t know what to say. Autism is not “crazy” or “psychotic”. Why is this woman chosen by the press to represent autism?

Maybe next year Cookie Magazine could interview a mother who is autistic or, at least, has an autistic child.

Jack Coleman talks back to Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy

12 May

Foxnews.com carries a story about Hero’s star Jack Coleman discussing autism and vaccines.

…in his belief the “autism/vaccine” link was unwarranted.

“My sister is a pediatrician and she is not beholden to pharmaceutical companies, which, I know, that’s the big conspiracy theory out there. They did huge research in Europe and they have not found any ties to it at all, there is no longer live mercury in any of these calculations,” Coleman told Tarts. “I just think that from what I’ve read and heard I don’t think it’s connected. I do know that there is a MMR that it makes your child extremely cranky and sick but I personally don’t it contributes to autism, but I am not a doctor.”

And despite McCarthy and her longtime lover Jim Carrey’s relentless lobbying to put pressure on the federal government to remove toxins from vaccines and fight for fewer childhood vaccinations prior to the age of 2, Coleman still supports immunization all the way.

“I have given my child every vaccination there is, but when you are related to a pediatrician, you tend to look much more kindly at vaccinations. As she says, ‘I’ve never seen a child die from an immunization but I have seen one die because of a whopping cough.’ What our grandparents would give to have those immunizations,” he added. “If five years from now, science says that it is the cause, then I will eat my words, but I don’t see that happening.”

A rep for McCarthy did not respond for comment.

Seems like there are maybe more smart celebs in Hollywood than I thought, Jennifer Garner, Amanda Peet, Jennifer Lopez and now Jack Coleman.

Jennifer Lopez adds vocal support

25 Apr

In an interview with ‘Good Morning America‘ Jennifer Lopez stood up for vaccinations by talking about a new campaign and website. The website is very accomplished and features Ms Lopez talking about how to protect your baby from Whooping Cough.

The interview itself contained the following on vaccines:

She’s also raising awareness about pertussis, the potentially fatal disease better known as whooping cough.

Visit www.soundsofpertussis.com to find out more about the vaccine.

Pertussis cases were virtually nonexistent in the United States after a vaccine was developed. Reported cases of whooping cough hit a low of about 1,000 in 1976. That number has been on the rise over the past 30 years, and in 2005, 25,000 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a CDC study of the disease, Hispanic infants were particularly hard hit by the disease, though there is no clear reason why.

Immunization from the whooping cough vaccine wears off over time, usually between five and 10 years, so adults can spread the highly contagious disease to infants.

Lopez said babies most often contract the disease from their parents, and it can go undetected. “We’ll be OK, but it could be fatal to the babies,” she said.

The Sounds of Pertussis campaign educates adults about getting a Tdap booster shot, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

Lopez joins other responsible parents and celebs Jennifer Garner andAmanda Peet in making sure everyone knows that these vaccines are safe and available.

Why now, Jenny?

6 Oct

I try to stay away from mind reading. It is all too prevalent on the internet: “I know why so and so did such and such.” That said, who didn’t find the timing odd of Jenny McCarthy’s Amanda Peet attack and that really strange interview where Ms. McCarthy “forgives” Barbara Walters?

For those who have been lucky enough to miss this mess, here are brief timelines.

Amanda Peet gave an interview to Cookie Magazine for their August issue. It went online about July 10th. In that interview, she commented that people who don’t vaccinate are parasites. A week later (about July 17), Ms. Peet came out with an apology. I thought it was very well written, and have since been pleased to confirm that yes, indeed, Ms. Peet wrote it herself.

Fast-forward to September 30. That’s when Jenny McCarthy decided that it was time to make a public statement about the apology. That’s what, 7 weeks later? Of course, it’s also a week after Jenny’s book debuted.

Story line two: Let’s go all the way back to September, 2007. Jenny McCarthy is on “The View” for her first autism-book tour. Barbara Walters committed a terrible “sin”: she actually treated it like an interview and questioned Jenny McCarthy. I’d like to show you the video, but the video is now pulled from YouTube and the link to the video from the more recent story (which included the bit from “The View” also doesn’t seem to work anymore.)

Some short time after taping “The View” Ms. McCarthy was at a TACA picnic where she is said to have made some rather rude suggestions towards Ms. Walters.

Fast-forward to the present. On September 29th, Ms. McCarthy “forgave” Barbara Walters.

No, really. After Ms. McCarthy got a bit cross on the show and then took it out on Barbara Walters at the TACA picnic, she “forgives” Barbara Walters.

Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

In that same interview, according to Ms. McCarthy (and only according to her, since Ms. Walters seems above responding to this), there was a bit of a heated exchange backstage with Ms. Walters after taping “The View”. Ms. McCarthy gives no indication of whether she (Ms. McCarthy) lost her cool at all.

But now, you see Ms. McCarthy understands what was going on with Barbara Walters. Remember that intro about “reading people’s minds”? Well, missing from the timeline above is the fact that Barbara Walters came out with, Audtion, a Memoir. In Audition, Ms. Walters discusses her life growing up with a special needs sister. Soooo, back to the mind-reading: Jenny McCarthy says that Barbara Walters was angry that she (Jenny) cured her son, while Barbara Walters had to go through tough times with her sister.

Yep.

Of course, did this “forgiveness” come out say, in May, when Audtion came out? No. Jenny McCarthy waited 4 months and “forgave” Ms. Walters…during the book tour for Warrior Mothers. (and after it was pretty clear that she wasn’t going to be a guest on “The View” this time).

Anyone want to guess how long before Jenny McCarthy apologizes to Ms. Walters for the rude statements?

Somehow I don’t think it’s going to happen. If I put on my mind-reading hat, I would say that these recent publicity events were, well, just that: publicity. Staged for the time when it benefited Ms. McCarthy.

I’m not shocked by the idea that a celebrity would work the press. Would anyone?

Let’s take another look at the timeline, shall we? Let’s take a look at how Jenny McCarthy’s book tours have created a buzz. As a measure, let’s use Google Trends. Google Trends gives you a rough idea of search engine traffic for specific terms. In this case, I chose “Jenny McCarthy” as the search term.

Let’s look back when Ms. McCarthy was doing the “Louder than Words” book tour, shall we? (click to enlarge)

It’s pretty impressive. For about 2 weeks, the search traffic was much higher than the average, reaching a peak of about 14 times the normal traffic for Jenny McCarthy.

Let’s expand this so we can see from 2007 to the present, shall we? (click to enlarge)

Google Trends for Jenny McCarthy 2007-2008

Google Trends for Jenny McCarthy 2007-2008

First, note that these data are week-by-week, not the day-by-day of the first figure. This smooths things out some, so the 14x peek we saw before is only about 7x in this graph. Still impressive. So, how about the traffic for “Mother Warriors”? I don’t see it either. Let’s zoom back in, but on the last 30 days. (click to enlarge)

Last 30 days Google Trends for Jenny McCarthy

Last 30 days Google Trends for Jenny McCarthy

(here’s the original graph from Google if you want to see it).

Warrior Mothers came out on the 23rd. See that little blip? This is a day-by-day trend, so we can compare to the first graph that showed a 14x spike in search traffic and a two-week increase. Instead, looks like it went up to about 1.7 and came back down fast.

But, wait, there’s another peak in early October? It goes to 4.

Remember those media events described above: the attack on Amanda Peet and the “forgiving” of Barbara Walters? Those happened on the 29th and 30th of September. After attacking Amanda Peet in the press, the Jenny McCarthy “buzz” went up.

Again, the timing is just too coincidental to suggest anything by a calculated decision by Ms. McCarthy.

Even though the buzz was low for Mother Warriors, this doesn’t mean that “Mother Warriors” is a flop. Supposedly it made “best seller” status.

As a rule of thumb, it takes about 100,000 copies of a book sold to get to be a “Best Seller”. As a second rule of thumb, that means about $350,000 for the author.

For “Louder than Words” Jenny McCarthy stated (if I recall correctly) that a portion of the proceeds would go to the UCLA autism program, if I recall correctly. I haven’t heard such a statement, or any statement about “Mother Warriors”.

Of course, she and Jim Carrey have been (and will almost certainly continue to be) proud supporters of Generation Rescue. They paid for a full page ad in USA Today–which I seem to recall being about $200,000. The thing is, I don’t consider that benefiting the autism community–or the community at large.

Jenny McCarthy’s potential for book profits are obvious. By improving her “brand” she also stands to gain from sales of her educational DVD’s and her soon to roll-out “Too Good by Jenny” products. That’s enough to set off conflict-of-interest alarm bells for many in the vaccines-cause-autism community. OK, that sets a pretty low bar, but you get the idea.

This sort of observation begs for comparison. As long as Jenny McCarthy is attacking Amanda Peet, let’s take a look at how much Amanda Peet makes from being a spokesperson for Every Child By Two and their Vaccinate Your Baby campaign.

ZILCH

Yes, that would be zero. As in nothing. As in she’s doing it because she thinks it’s the right thing to do. I somehow doubt the Generation Rescue crowd will believe that (or the fact that Amanda Peet wrote her own apology). They don’t seem to believe that anyone would act except out of financial self interest…well, except Ms. McCarthy. They also don’t want to admit that Paul Offit has no more conflict of interest, or acknowledge that he isn’t going to profit from Autism’s False Prophets. Seriously, I’ve seen them challenge whether he will actually donate the money.

A statement above sticks with me as I finish this post: Setting the Bar Low. When it comes to standards of behavior, yes, I think Ms. McCarthy has set the bar low. The question in my mind is this: Is she taking on the standards set by her organization or does she fit the organization because they have similar standards?

Reality bites back II

2 Oct

Its all going wrong for the believers of the vaccine/autism religion. This was supposed to be the time of their Fall offensive, spearheaded of course by Mother Warrior Jenny McCarthy and her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show.

So far though, the media seem markedly less keen to talk to her about her recovering/no, recovered/ah….recovering/no, recovered/oh whatever autistic child. And the science is beginning to get equal air time. Recently, Dr. Ari Brown, Dr Lou Cooper and our very own Ken participated alongside a couple of minor league celebs on a discussion regarding autism and vaccines on the US show Good Morning America.

Yesterday the Age of Autism exhorted its members to mob a website that had created a Jenny vs Amanda poll (because popularity contests will definitely help autistic people). When the Pharyngula blog got wind of this PZ, the blog owner, asked his readers to vote too. The outcome?

Yikes.

The world view of the autism/vaccine zealots was shaken mightily yesterday. They’ve always imagined themselves as a large group with considerable power. Yesterday, they got squashed like a flea on a windscreen over something as meaningless as a celeb poll. Imagine how they must’ve felt to read some of the comments there. In fact, I’ve been tracking a lot of the gossip websites who’ve mentioned Jenny of late. She’s not popular outside her own crowd. Parents of autistic kids are catching on. Here’s a quote from someone I do not know and have never heard of before today commenting on Hollywood Today:

I am a single father of an autistic child and agree that Jenny Mcarthy is doing more harm than good. Why do we put more credibility in an actress / playboy bunny than doctors and other more credible sources.

And a mother of two autistic kids says on Ecorazzi:

As a mother with TWO autistic children, I find McCarthy’s ignorance appalling. Don’t we have enough difficulty in dealing with and understanding the Autism Spectrum without letting fad pseudo-science sway our families away from proper health care for our children?

These are not isolated examples I am very happy to report.

Yesterday the mercury militia – who think we’re just a few people compared to their ‘tens of thousands’ got a great big wet fish slap of reality.

Mother Warrior McCarthy is now complaining the US Presidential candidates are snubbing her. For goodness sake, why on earth did you ever think they would listen to you? You’re a D-list celeb who can’t even get her story straight on whether her son is recovered or not.

Anyway, she says:

I literally flew to go see MCCain, his team agreed to it (meeting), I was prepped and then all of a sudden his campaign manager said, ‘We’re ahead in the polls and this is a very, very touchy subject. Let’s not give this interview right now.

Wow, McCain employs the worst PR people in the world. They tell someone that they’re not going to interview them as they’re too controversial. How convenient for Jenny!

I’m thinking the conversation went something more like this:

JM: Hi, I’m Jenny McCarthy, can I speak to John McCain?

PR Dude: Sorry? You’re who?

JM: Jenny McCarthy, I’ve appeared in films such as ‘Scary Movie 3’ and…uh…

PR Dude: Whatever…why do you want to speak to the boss?

JM: About vaccines and autism! They’re poisoning our kids! Except mine is now recovered! No, wait – I have a book coming out, make that ‘recoverING’.

PR Dude: The country – no, the world – is in a national financial crisis and you want to talk to the boss about some quacky ideas never supported by science. Go away lady.

JM: But…but…I’m JENNY MCCARTHY…BULLSHIT!….BULLSHIT!!! (Where’s the camera?)

Now Jenny is desperate to get ahold of Obama:

MCCarthy is now desperately hoping Barack Obama, MCCain’s opponent in the race for the White House, agrees to champion her cause and address the autism versus vaccines issue.
She says, “We are trying (to contact him)… We have sent numerous (requests).

This is the same Barrack Obama who has said:

I am not for selective vaccination, I believe that it will bring back deadly diseases, like polio.

He might see you Jenny. Me might even pretend to listen. You might even get your picture taken with him. Better yet, he might pass on the opportunity to see you and then you can tell people how its a big conspiracy. You might even manage to squeeze another book out of it.

None of that will change reality though. The tide isn’t changing just yet but there’s been a few signs that it might be on its way.

Vaccines on the Hill

25 Sep

With a hat-tip to Kim Stagliano at the Age of Autism blog. They got ahold of an email sent by Amy Pisani of Every Child by Two to legislators who were sending staffers to a briefing by Mark Blaxill and David Kirby on vaccines and autism.

Mr. Kirby promised to talk about, amongst other topics, Hannah Poling. That’s not what I would call a good briefing. A good briefing would be if the legislators asked HHS to talk to them about what the concession meant. Somehow, I think the two briefings would be significantly different. Then again, I suspect a briefing by the doctors who are studying that potential cause of developmental regression via mitochondrial dysfunction would also have a very different story to tell than Mr. Kirby. I strongly suspect that.

But, I digress, as I often do. You see, Every Child by Two thought that the legislators who were sending staff to the Kirby/Blaxill briefing should be informed that the information provided by that team was, well, not accepted by the mainstream.

The letter, respecfully written, respectfully submitted is quoted below. One reader of this blog asked Ms. Pisani for permission to reproduce it here. I am using the text from the AoA blog.

Why reproduce it here? Because many in the greater autism community agree with Ms. Pisani. This blogger certainly does. I hope that legislators know that many members of the autism community side with Every Child by Two on this subject.

So, after much delay, here is something written much better than the ramblings I’ve put together:

Today you have been invited to attend a briefing to provide “updates on the recent autism-vaccines debate”. While I recognize that most of you will likely be dealing with other priorities and will not attend the Maloney briefing, I write to you this morning because I feel it is critical to clarify that there is no debate among the scientific community regarding vaccines and autism. Instead, the debate rages on in the media due to the efforts of those who wish to sidetrack critical research away from finding the true cause(s) of autism and treating children and their families struggling with this condition.

‘Last week Dr. Paul Offit’s new book “Autism’s False Prophets, Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure” was published by Columbia University Press. This book is a must read for all those concerned with children dealing with autism. The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that “Offit’s account, written in layman’s terms and with the literary skill of good storytellers, provides important insight into the fatal flaws of the key arguments of vaccine alarmists, including such well-known names as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I., Conn.), and Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.).” And the Wall Street Journal writes “Ever since psychiatrist Leo Kanner identified a neurological condition he called autism in 1943, parents whose children have been diagnosed with the most severe form of the illness — usually in the toddler stage, before age 3 — have found themselves desperately searching for some way not to lose their children to autism’s closed-off world. Unfortunately, such parents have often found misguided doctors, ill-informed psychologists and outright charlatans eager to proffer help.”

In 1999 I was pregnant with my first son just as the questions first arose regarding the MMR vaccine and subsequently the thimerosal in vaccines. After attending Congressman Burton’s hearings (quite pregnant I might add) I too became alarmed. Fortunately, as the Executive Director of Every Child By Two I had at my disposal the scientific research and advice of the world’s leading experts on vaccines and I was able to confidently vaccinate my son without fear of side effects. As of today, eleven studies now show that the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism, six have shown that thimerosal doesn’t cause autism, and three have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause neurological problems.

I urge you to read a few of the reviews of Dr. Offit’s book which are listed below and contact us if you wish to have a copy sent to you.

I also ask that you please visit our new website www.vaccinateyourbaby.org – this site was unveiled in August with our new spokeswoman Actress Amanda Peet specifically for parents who have questions about vaccine safety.

at the risk of making this an extremely long blog post, let me do what the Age of Autism did not do: list some of the reviews of the book.

A definitive analysis of a dangerous and unnecessary controversy that has put the lives of children at risk. Paul A. Offit shows how bad science can take hold of the public consciousness and lead to personal decisions that endanger the health of small children. Every parent who has doubts about the wisdom of vaccinating their kids should read this book. — Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Nobel Laureate in Medicine for fundamental contributions in Immunology

As a parent it is my job to protect my children. Hearing all the rumors about vaccine side effects made me question the right thing to do. This book makes it clear that vaccines save lives, and that they clearly do not cause autism. — Amy Pisani, mother

In his latest book Paul A. Offit unfolds the story of autism, infectious diseases, and immunization that has captivated our attention for the last decade. His lively account explores the intersection of science, special interests, and personal courage. It is provocative reading for anyone whose life has been touched by the challenge of autism spectrum disorders. — Susan K. Klein, MD, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve Hospital, and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Case Medical Center

No one has been more vocal-or courageous-than Paul A. Offit in exposing the false and dangerous claims of the growing antivaccine movement. Offit’s latest book lays waste to the supposed link between autism and vaccination while showing how easily Americans have been bamboozled into compromising the health of their own children. Autism’s False Prophets is a must read for parents seeking to fully understand the risks and rewards of vaccination in our modern world. — David Oshinsky, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story

All good reviews. But, dang, a Nobel Laureate in Medicine. Not just medicine but immunology? Plus a Pulitzer prize winner? Begs the question of why the Age of Autism didn’t include them.

I am so glad that they offered Dr. Offit’s book to the legislators. I hope that the legislators, or their healthcare legislative assistants take them up on the offer. It’s a well written book, and fairly concise. It really explains how we (the autism communities) got here (into a big mess where vaccines are such a high profile subject–at least in the media) even though we shouldn’t be (because the science has been done repeatedly and shown no link).

Word back on the briefing is that about 75 people attended–a mix of staffers, parents, possibly even a member of the press. One representative was noted. Mr. Kirby gave the short version of his talk (the full version is quite long–take a look at his power point presentations sometime!). But, we can all rest assured that Mr. Kirby is there to save the vaccine program (I do hope that autism-one puts this briefing on their website. I need to hear that claim by Mr. Kirby with my own ears). Mr Blaxill took on the “sickest generation ever” theme, common to the vaccine rejectionists (a claim that has been addressed ably by epiwonk).

But, again, I digress. Let me bring you back to what I see as the one message I think you should take home from this post (repeated from above):

Why reproduce it [Ms. Pisani’s letter] here? Because many in the greater autism community agree with Ms. Pisani. This blogger certainly does. I hope that legislators know that many members of the autism community side with Every Child by Two on this subject.

Katie Couric, Sharyl Attkisson, Larry King, and Dr. Jay Gordon

12 Aug

As you may recall, I faxed Katie Couric a while back making some comments and asking for some information.  I find that the CBS coverage of autism is, well, a bit odd.  Sharyl Attkisson seems to be promoting an idea, not following a story where it leads.  The main example I give for that is the total lack of a followup to the assertion made by Bernadine Healy that “[t]here 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.”  Who, precisely, aside from Dr. Healy expressing this concern?

The Voices For Vaccines fax which preceded mine was posted an autism/vaccine advocacy website within hours of being sent, begging the question of who within CBS news sent it, and why there is such a close tie between the two.

Anyway, I shouldn’t rewrite the entire previous blog post–the short version is: I had questions.  I still do.  That’s right, I still do.

I’m not complaining, just pointing out a simple fact: CBS didn’t take the time to respond to simple questions about their reporting.

Now, take a newer event in the autism world.  In preparation for the Every Child By Two press conference last week, some comments were made on the Yahoo group dedicated to the “Green our Vaccines” rally.  One comment in particular by Dr. Jay Gordon struck me as rather bothersome.   The comment was directed at a person named Avrielle Gallagher, who works for Larry King Live.

Being in the mode of wondering about how the media works, especially those apparantly sympathetic to the vaccine/autism causality question, I decided to contact Ms. Gallagher.  I sent the following email to the same address Dr. Gordon used.  For good measure, I used the Larry King Live website to send the same message:

Hello,

I saw an email from Dr. Jay Gordon to you.  It was posted on the JennDCRally autism list.  The email is listed below.

Could you explain what is meant by the term, “[redacted]?  I see that you work for Larry King Live.  Is he asking you to do a show on the conflicts of interest of these groups?

If so, perhaps you would like to read a few analyses of Dr. Offit’s conflicts of interest.  I looked into the public data and posted my views here:

https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=1022

I rewrote this and faxed it to Katie Couric of CBS, as noted here:

https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=1057

As you will see, I am not in agreement with Dr. Gordon.  You will also see that I am the parent of a young child with autism, one who does not subscribe to the autism/vaccine concept.

Rather than “[redacted comment]”, I would like you to consider going after a good, reasoned story.  I would especially like to see a good, reasoned story on the subject of Dr. Offit’s new book, “Autism’s False Prophets”.   This is causing quite a stir amongst the alt-med subset of the autism community.  They have publicly stated that they have targeted Dr. Offit and those are also promoting vaccination (like Amanda Peet).

As you will see from my posts, Dr. Offit appears to have no more financial conflicts of interest regarding vaccines.  He is actually in a position of high independence.  And, yet, he still promotes the same message as before.  That should tell us all something.  In addition, his book is going to be a big story.

So, I ask a simple question: will you go after the story or the person?

I look forward to a response.

I’m still looking forward to a response.  I’m an optimist that way, I guess. 

Oh, you are no doubt wondering why I redacted Dr. Jay’s exact words.  You see, after a bit I decided to email him.  I admit, I should have emailed him from the start, but I did wait a few days.

Dr. Gordron, I saw the below message from the JennyDCRally autism group.

If I may, could I ask what you mean by “[redacted].”?

Given that Avrielle Gallagher works for Larry King Live, this sounds like you are asking for Larry King to do a show about these people in a poor light.

I am the parent of a child with autism.  Surely you can see that the image of the autism community (or segments of the autism community) as a group that would use the media to “[redacted]” is something that I would like to avoid.  While we as a community may be divided on some issues, I would bet that the majority would agree that we rely heavily on the support of the majority of the public.

I look forward to your response.

Sullivan

Even though I misspelled his name, he responded within a couple of hours:

Thanks.

You’re correct, that was very poorly phrased.

What I meant was that there should be more light shined on the financial conflicts of interest which exist.

Jay

(emphasis his)

When I notified him that I intended to include his comments in this piece, he replied:

Dear Sullivan,

The first statement I made reflected my anger. I really do think there is far too much conflict of interest in the lives of many of the vaccine researchers, the CDC and the AAP.

The brief email answer I sent you reflects my true feelings about this.

Please feel free to quote me and, if you do, please also mention that I certainly don’t think that my being immoderate in my comments helps anybody.

Best,

Jay

Dr. Gordon did what Katie Couric, Sharyl Attkisson, Avrielle Gallagher, and the staffs for CBS News and Larry King Live failed to do: answer simple and (I hope) respectfully posed questions.

I could give a long list of the people who have answered simple, sometimes even complicated, questions, respectfully posed. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. I would have loved to add CBS News and Larry King Live to the list.

It all just makes me wonder. CBS News and Larry King have spent decades reporting on how this person or that company or some group in the government ignored questions. Invariably, those reports cast a bad light on the groups investigated. And, yet, when presented the opportunity to clarify their own actions, they chose to be silent.

Maybe I’ll send a respectful question to Voices For Vaccines and ask if CBS News responded to their concerns. I know that CBS took the time to respond to the Orange County Register’s blog on Autism.

In their reply to the Inside Autism blog, CBS News noted:

…We believe our report was in no way defamatory of any institution or individual, and that no retraction is warranted…

As I’ve noted before, I like the irony of CBS News deciding for itself whether it was defamatory. Strikes me odd given the complaints alleged against, well, basically everyone the vaccine/autism groups have ever complained about.

But, I digress. I’d like to point out that I didn’t claim CBS was “defamatory”. I only bring this up to point out that even though CBS communicated with the Register blog, they haven’t addressed my questions.

A commenter on the Register’s blog said it best in her response to Lisa Randall of Voices For Vaccines. The Register’s blogger decided to highlight the comment, and I pull out the segment that caught my eye here:

…We expect the press to tell us the truth…

The first step is to tell us anything.

Amanda Peet on Good Morning America

5 Aug

Prior to today’s Every Child By Two press conference (no news outlets to link to yet) Amanda Peet was on the American show Good Morning America. The interview is below:

The only quotes I can get online are from the more high end Celeb mags (not the Perez Hilton trashy ones) such as Celebrity Gossip:

And now that she’s landed in New York City, Amanda is doing her part to help out the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Every Child By Two organization by lending her celebrity voice to a campaign urging parents to get their babies vaccinated against preventable diseases.

With a press conference scheduled for later today, Amanda recently said of her decision to help out: “When I was pregnant with my daughter Frankie, I had all kinds of questions, including ones about immunization. There is a wealth of misinformation about vaccines out there, particularly in Hollywood.”

“My husband and I took the time to speak to several doctors about our concerns. What became clear to us was that delaying vaccines could jeopardize our baby’s life. I have teamed up with Every Child By Two to help parents get the facts straight on this very important issue.”

Peet concluded, “My main message to parents is that they should not be taking medical advice from me or any other celebrity. They should look to their pediatrician, the AAP and other experts.”

For those of you who want to see what McCarthy has been up to, there is some footage from her recent American Wrestling Entertainment experience.

Jenny needs my help!!

5 Aug

I just got this email. I never thought I’d have the chance to help Jenny McCarthy, but here it is:

subject:

URGENT! – From Jenny McCarthy

Big old banner:

We need your help right now!

Salutation:

Greetings! (Contact First Name)

I love how close we’ve become over time! Not everyone calls me “Contact First Name”.

You won’t believe this! AAP is kicking off a “Vaccinate Your Baby” campaign.

Uh, the American Academy of Pediatrics is kicking off a “Vaccinate Your Baby” campaign, this is unbelievable? Next week: nutritionists urge, “Eat Food”. Personal trainers say, “Exercise”.

I mean, seriously, the AAP recomending vaccinating babies.  This is a stunner to someone?  How far removed from the mainstream do you have to be to think that “you can’t believe this” can be tied to “AAP is kicking of a vaccinate your baby” campaign?

Speaking to the press tomorrow is Amanda Peet, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Bumpers, the President of AAP, Paul Offit (holder of several vaccine patents), and a mom of a child with autism!  They say, “This initiative will address misinformation about vaccines that causes confusion among parents and puts children at risk.”

So, we have

1) Amanda Peet. Uh, is it bad to have an actress talking about vaccines?

2) Rosalynn Carter. Don’t even take your nasty smear campaign there. I think even Generation Rescue is smarter than that. I think.

3) Betty Bumpers. She’s the “Former First Lady of Arkansas and Cofounder of Every Child by Two”. I guess GR haven’t created any smear on her either. Smart move GR, keep it up.

4) The president of AAP. Is there a reason why they edited Renee Jenkins’ name?

5) Paul Offit, holder of several vaccine patents. Uh, perhaps Jenny McCarthy would like to read up on the difference between an “inventor” and the “assignee”. Dr. Offit “holds” no patents. Ah well, that doesn’t make good smear copy, does it?

6) And a mom of a child with autism!

Again, with the editing out of the name. This could be a blessing, as the mother might not get harassed. But the name is public: Ann Hotez.

I don’t know for certain, but “Hotez” is not that common of a name. This sounds like no ordinary “autism mom”, but the wife of the noted vaccinologist Peter Hotez.

First–thanks Mrs. Hotez. Thanks for taking the heat. Thanks for stepping forward. Thanks for helping kids.

Second–assuming I have the right person, I’d say that Ann Hotez probably knows a bit more about vaccines than, say, Jenny McCarthy. I’ll take any bet anyone wants to make that her husband knows more about vaccines than Jenny McCarthy’s partner, Jim Carrey.

“This initiative will address misinformation about vaccines that causes confusion among parents and puts children at risk.”

Not if Jenny has anything to say about it. As we can see, she’s already working hard on keeping the misinformation alive.

The press conference is tomorrow (Tuesday, August 5th, 2008) at the Peninsula Hotel, 3rd Floor Gramercy Room from 10:30 to 11:30. We need every family we can to go and tell the press the truth about this idiocy.

I’d love to tell the press there about the idiocy. Why do I suspect Jenny doesn’t want me talking to the press about the idiocy?

Thanks Jenny. Thanks for making the autism community look like an anti-vaccine crowd.

On the reality side of this–there is a website that is launching on this subject

http://www.vaccinateyourbaby.org/

After the launch of Voices for Vaccines, Generation Rescue made some sort of claim that they (VFV) were copying GR by creating a website. Look, here’s another group with the gall to create a website and not give credit to GR. I am shocked and amazed!

Back to the real world– here is the press release for the actual event tomorrow.

Thank you everyone working on this “vaccinate your baby” campaign. Thank you Amanda Peet. Thank you Ann Hotez. I apologize in advance for the reception my fellow autism parents are about to give you.

edit–one note: my email client has flagged the Jenny McCarthy email as a possible “scam”. I haven’t been able to make myself click the “not a scam” button.

David Kirby vs Accuracy

20 Jul

As I’ve said before, I like David Kirby personally. We exchange friendly emails. We even recently discussed the idea of having a private blog – readable by all but one that allowed only two posters (David and I) and no commenters. This would, I suggested, give us the opportunity to have a civil debate.

Unfortunately, David was too busy, which was a shame. However, the offers always open should he find a bit more time.

He did have time yesterday to blog a piece for the Huffington Post in which he discussed Amanda Peet and said she was ‘against the medical establishment’ for taking the stance she did. He cited a few things to support his point. I’d like to discuss these things but before I do I’d like you Dear Reader to take note: someone who was at the IACC meeting David talks about (he wasn’t there) will hopefully be posting their account of proceedings on LB/RB.

Anyway. Lets proceed. David’s first piece of rhetoric to support the idea Amanda Peet was against the medical establishment was:

A workgroup report of the IACC (the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes HHS, CDC, NIH and others) says that some members want “specific objectives on vaccine research” included in the new, multimillion-dollar national autism research program, as mandated by Congress in the Combatting Autism Act.

I’m sure that some members do want this. Lynn Redwood and Mark Baxhill to be precise. As the upcoming IACC account will show, I don’t think any other IACC workgroup members were interested. (Please see this correction of an ignorant Limey’s take on the US system.)

I would also like to correct David on his characterisation of the Combating Autism Act. The Act contains no mention of vaccines. It specifies environmental research but the words ‘vaccine’, ‘vaccination’ ‘immunize’, ‘immunization’, ‘mmr’ or ‘thimerosal’ appear nowhere in the CAA. I hope David will correct his HuffPo piece accordingly.

Notes from the meeting indicate that workgroup members want federal researchers to consider “shortfalls” in epidemiological studies cited as proof against a vaccine-autism association (by Offit, Peet, et al); as well as a specific plan “for researching vaccines as a potential cause of autism.” The workgroup also says that the final research agenda should “state that the issue is open.”

Once again, David’s notes are coming from two people, Lynn Redwood and Mark Blaxill and indeed – they asked for all these things. The account of the meeting I have heard (from someone who was there) differed somewhat. As a flavour of how much the majority of the working group listened to Redwood and Blaxill, I enclose a teaser quote from chairperson Tom Insel:

“Lyn, your community is not the whole community and there are many people with well thought out concerns about ethics of the concept of prevention and if we want to be inclusive we will not do this.”

Back to David:

July 14, 2008 – Rep. Brad Miller (R-NC), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, (Committe on Science and Technology) writes to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to complain that current federal autism research “shows a strong preference to fund genetic-based studies,” even though there is, “growing evidence that suggests a wide range of conditions or environmental exposures may play a role” in autism.

I blogged that episode here. Suffice it to say that a _politician_ is not representative of the medical establishment. I would urge everyone reading this to read that piece as it suggests amongst other things that Generation Rescue and SafeMinds be responsible for a Board that would serve as a liaison between the IACC and parents of autistic people and autistic people themselves!. After reading that I would urge everyone to contact the following people to express your thoughts (politely!) to the decision makers:

HHS Sec Mike Leavitt (mike.leavittAThhs.gov)
NIMH director/IACC director Tom Insel (tinselATmail.nih.gov)
Everyone here: http://science.house.gov/about/members.htm

Once again, back to David:

Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross and current Health Editor of US News & World Report tells CBS News that, “Officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational,” and says they “don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.”

I still can’t get over the fact that David is using this person to back up his points! He continues to trumpet the opinion of Bernadine Healy who actually did assert that cigarettes do not cause cancer and worked closely with Philip Morris to do so. She also totally reneged on her stance on fetal tissue research when she found herself in the same camp as President Bush. In AoA language she’s a shill.

David then goes on to cite al three Presidential Candidates – as if a politicians opinion in an election year means anything! I definitely fail to see what any of them have to do with being part of the medical establishment.

Onwards:

March 29, 2008 – Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the CDC, speaking about the Hannah Poling case on CNN says: “If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and was pre-disposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage (including) symptoms that have characteristics of autism.”

Er, so? I’m really not sure how this is a ‘point’ for David (or anyone else who thinks its supportive of the idea vaccines cause autism). If she’d said ‘yes, vaccines caused autism in Hannah Poling’s case’ (which no-one ever has by the way, despite statements to the contrary) than _that_ would be a bombshell. As it was Dr. Gerberding was simply speaking what is obvious.

David again:

The CISA Network (Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment), headed by the CDC, receives a report from top researchers at Johns Hopkins University that 30 typically developing children with mitochondrial dysfunction all regressed into autism between 12 and 24 months of life. At least two of them (6%) showed brain damage within one week of receiving simultaneous multiple vaccinations.

Now, I can’t answer this as much as I’d like to. I have spoken to people involved in the preparation and writing of this report (as has David) and I was given two take home points from our email chat:

1) The science is _not yet complete_ . The paper is not published.
2) The authors feel ‘disappointed’ in the slant David has put on their work and are loth to discuss it with anyone else due to that. I was told that David might be rather surprised when everything comes out later in the year.

David once more:

Medical Personnel at HHS concede an autism case filed by the family of Hannah Poling in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, before the claim can go to trial as a “test case” of the theory that thimerosal causes autism. Though portrayed by some (ie, Dr. Offit) as a legal decision, it is in fact a medical decision. HHS doctors admit that the “cause” of Hannah’s “autistic encephalopathy” was “vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves,”

First of all, I beg to differ with David. The concession was a legal one. By definition the phrase “autistic encephalopathy” does not exist in mainstream science so if it was used (a fact which has yet to be determined – I invite David once more to link through to the document where this is stated). A simple test of its non-existence is to search for the phrase on PubMed. I got:

Quoted phrase not found.

So we have a multitude of uncertainties here:

1) Nowhere (except in David’s writings) can we find evidence of HHS apparently saying “autistic encephalopathy” caused Hannah Poling’s autism.

2) The phrase itself (“autistic encephalopathy”) does not appear in the entire PubMed database, thus causing me to doubt its use by the medical establishment.

3) Is the concession legal or medical? If a diagnosis does not exist but is used in a legal document then by definition it must be legal – thats my opinion anyway.

David also mentions a HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group meeting but I know next to nothing about that so can’t comment.

I have to say that based on the above, David seems to be attempting nothing more than an intellectual ‘land grab’ i.e. to attempt to paint those who claim vaccines cause autism as part of the medical establishment and those who stand against them as not. Its a good political idea but I don’t think its going to work. There are just too many holes in this particular boat for it to float for long.