Since AoA admits it's just a blog, it doesn't need to be on the Google News feed, does it?

Here's what I'm hoping for, folks: a letter-writing campaign of the internet variety. Age of Autism comes up in the google news feed whenever someone enters autism as a search term. Since they've admitted they are an edgy blog, they don't really need to come up as NEWS, do they?

So, let's tell Google News all about it!

Just click here: http://www.google.com/support/news_pub/bin/request.py?contact_type=report_an_issue and fill out a quick form.

Don't forget to place this url for the one we're concerned about: http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/11/pass-the-maalox-an-aoa-thanksgiving-nightmare.html

In the comment section I placed: "For our friends who object, I'm not sure I would have chosen the image of the baby myself, but chill out a bit folks: we're a blog, for chrissakes; it's our job to be edgy." by Mark Blaxill, editor at large, in the comments section.

Offer your protest of AoA's latest shenanigans by filling out the google news form (problem with content).


Which is it? "Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic" or "a blog"?

**Updated at the bottom of the post (6:00 pm)**

Busy day over at AoA as even some of its loyal readers take it to task, so I figure this warrants its own post as Blaxill works to defend AoA's actions.

Here's his comment and my rebuttal/commentary on it:

"The response this has gotten is certainly interesting."
Ya think? Whether you thought ya'll were being swiftian or not, your implication is that these people are babykillers. Here's the problem, though. You're arguing that vaccines cause autism, not that it kills babies.

"And while I have a certain sympathy for those who argue against ad hominem attacks (we need less name-calling and a more civil discourse on all the issues surrounding autism), I think we all need to recognize this is a CARTOON."

Sort of like how folks say something outrageous and then go "just kidding"? No dice. You actually have the temerity to say that "we need less name-calling and a more civil discourse on all the issues surrounding autism" but calling or inferring that public officials, private citizens, doctors and reporters are baby-killers is civil discourse? Just kidding. No harm no foul. Not.

 "And the apt metaphor on the table (pun intended), is that while the medical industry feasts off its excesses, pays off scientists for exercises in misdirection and pays toadies in the media for hit jobs on those who dissent, real children's lives are consumed."

Okay, so anyone who doesn't agree with your vaccine-induced hypothesis of autism is being bought off or is a toady? And children with autism have lives that "are consumed"? Are you kidding me? Yup, that's civil and based on reality.

"For our friends who object, I'm not sure I would have chosen the image of the baby myself, but chill out a bit folks: we're a blog, for chrissakes; it's our job to be edgy."

Which is it? Are you the "Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic" or "a blog"? Huh? Your job to be edgy? I thought your professed goal was to follow the truth wherever it led, not to be edgy. Better rewrite Olmsted's piece on what AoA was about. I think it's time for an update. For sure.

 "At the same time, all the faux outrage is more than a bit hypocritical; frankly, anything that makes the wackosphere vibrate with new forms of silliness is fine by me."
Are your friends faux-outraged? Or just the wackosphere? The picture is bad enough. Really. But Stagliano's little piece about Snyderman giving Offit a blowjob is every bit as bad as Handley suggesting that Wallace had to be slipped a date rape drug by Offit to write her piece. Wackosphere? Seriously? http://www.whale.to/. http://this-present-crisis.blogspot.com/2008/12/death-by-vaccine-population-reduction.html. http://www.alternative-doctor.com/vaccination/scheibner.htm.  That's the wackosphere. Not folks following the scientific evidence. Not folks busting their asses to make the world a better place for their autistic children and others with disabilities. Not folks seeking out evidence-based treatments and therapies to help our children reach their potential.

"Seriously, though, something horrible is happening to a generation of children and Michael Specter gets a free pass to call us nut jobs and denialists?"
Yes, he does. He absolutely does. Because you are. See the above sites where your talking points are coming from. Nice attempt to deflect from the nastiness that you, your "blog," decided to put out there. Nice job at distorting the facts. Nice job at lying about the science, about the scientists, about the role of vaccines.  Nice job at turning reasonable people into people who would laugh at, celebrate and lampoon this cartoon and Stagliano's wittiness.
"This is Orwell reincarnate, you can't make this stuff up."

What precisely is Orwell reincarnate? Hmm? I'll grant you that you can't make up your going over the line. Over the line.

What exactly are AoA's goals now? Because I don't see any truth searching. I don't see helping families. I do lies. Distortions. And selling products. I see ugliness. I see a serious lack of civility. I see a shitload of woo, and some outright crazy. Go look at those sites listed above. Then go read folks like Moffie over at Huff and it will make a great deal of sense as to where she was getting her nonsense.

There is no faux outrage. There is a fulmination of outrage at your organization.

And now Anne Daschel is trying to deflect responsibility for their actions. Nice. No dice. No pass.

At some point, it's all going to come home to roost. And I guarantee you, our outrage, my outrage as a parent to three beautiful and autistic children, is that you have done tremendous harm to the autistic population, to seeing that disabled individuals receive equal treatment and protection, that they are welcome into the main culture with open arms. For heaven's sake, you've got most mainstream folks and certainly a fair amount of the medical and scientific community thinking that parents of autistic children are completely off their rockers. Thanks a lot, AoA, for all the "great" things you've done for autistic people and their families.

You know, you could try an "oops, my bad."

Or not.

"Tom, we appreciate your loyal readership. This is a cartoon/spoof of the team of people who have either made it their life's work to make sure our kids go untreated or who have advanced that agenda unabashedly in the mainstream media. I feel no remorse in running it. I think Mark Blaxill's comment explained our position very well.

I do respect and appreciate your comment. Hope to see you tomorrow. Teresa Conrick has a great post on autism and co-morbidity.

Thanks. Kim"

Now, that's such complete and utter bunk that it makes your head spin. Equating Offit's work in debunking the autism-vaccine myth, or the reporters' work as promoting non-treatment is full of bull. No, what you've got here are decent, hard-working people trying to prevent dangerous, untested experimentation on the most vulnerable in our society. It's really good to know that you have no remorse at AoA. You also have no connection with decency. How about the blowjob comment, huh? Got any remorse for that? I like how you alternate between Stagmom and Managing Editor. Of course, now we know you think you're just a blog that's meant to be edgy, not actually a journalistic site that provides NEWS.

Olmsted and Irony

"Specter didn’t mention the factual errors, which, when piled on top of the plagiarism, make his work look much worse. They suggest a habit of carelessness that he would prefer not to call attention to – as does the fact Specter has been down this road before, in an article he wrote in 2007 on spam." http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/11/olmsted-on-autism-tell-jon-stewart-the-truth-about-denialist-michael-specter.html#more

I know, I pick. I do. But seriously, this dude manufactured the entire Amish/autism bullshit that all of the anti-vaccine folks LOVE to pull out as proof.

For a thorough debunking of Olmsted:


The "Amish" Anomaly hoax

American Balkans: Dan Olmsted Trips Over Amish Country

Profile of Fraud: Olmsted's history






I'm sure if I worked at it a little longer, I could find more. :-) Something to consider if you're an AoAer and read me. If they won't admit when they're factually incorrect, if they buy into and participate in the whale.to, well, seriously?

Standing Up From the Table and Saying Enough

"Dr. Nancy is under the table servicing Dr. Offit's RotaDick. Wait, can you hear her? "Fere If doh bontrobersy!!" Someone should tell her it's not polite to talk with your mouth full.

Posted by: Stagmom
November 29, 2009 at 10:10 PM"

Go ahead, click the link, see the photoshopped picture. Read the civil and decent comments by parents who just want to do right by their kids. Mh-hmmm.

I've said it before:
As to Olmted's last bit of that line: "grasp of the truth is much stronger and harder-won than yours." No. Olmsted wrote that AoA was going to follow the truth wherever it led. I believe I have demonstrated quite well over the last several months that this is not at all true.

And having autistic children doesn't make your truth harder-won. For frak sake, that's like saying your child is your science. It demonstrates your ignorance of the truth, of scientific evidence, of psychological fallacies. You keep making the same errors over and over. You spiral into a cesspool of nastiness and hold yourselves up as morally superior and smarter because you see the truth. You are becoming a cult.

No, I quibble completely with the idea that you are "smart, well-informed and decent people whose grasp of the truth is much stronger and harder-won than yours." You are angry, hostile parents who are hurting. You believe with a fervor bordering on fanatical that you have the answers of autism. You are so close to being just like John Best Jr, on the whole, that soon no one other than your most zealous followers will afford you any weight.

Again, whale.to and holocaust denial. That's who you people are. You aren't in it for the truth. You aren't in it to make the world a better place for your children. You aren't in it for your children, despite what you think, or you'd treat autistic adults a damn sight better and you wouldn't engage in bullying.

And I grow weary that the smart, decent people amongst you do not stand against the lies and abuse. Ideology drives this, not the pursuit for truth.

You cannot be a person of good conscience and stand for this. You cannot be a person of decency and think this acceptable behavior. If you align yourself with AoA after all that they have put out there, and at this point I am not talking about their more extreme commenters, I'm talking about their leadership (that's the managing editor up there, on par with Handley's intellectual rape gambit), then you get stuck with all that being associated and supporting that agenda brings. You do not get to say you're after civility in disagreement over the vaccine controversy. You do not get to wrap yourself in the mantra of being a parent of a vaccine-damaged kid who just wants to recover the child (bad as that is). The truth is far different than AoA presents. And it is they who will have deaths on their hands. And misery and suffering.

So, stand with them if that is what you are after, but don't pretend to be after the truth after this little bit. This wasn't humor on their part. It was vitriol.


(Civil) Conversations With Those Who Think Vaccines Cause Autism

I wrote recently about an AoA post by a mother who wanted to know why there was so much hostility and name-calling going on between those who believe vaccines caused their child's autism and those who follow the science which says it doesn't. To be fair, that's not how she couched it because she's not buying the science. She's buying Handley's fourteen studies.

I'd agree with her on the lack of civility, although to be honest, I really don't get out that much onto the vaccines-are-responsible-for-all-that's-gone-wrong sites, so I don't know where this blogger is getting all the hostility. Yes, the folks at Orac and at LBRB can be a wee bit harsh on folks who come draped in AoA and the anti-vaxxer's anti-science. The trick is distinguishing which parents are well-meaning and simply latched onto the wrong information at the wrong time and those who are dipped, battered, and deep-fried in the woo. Not all parents who are certain the vaccines did it are the above, and I'm more than honest enough to admit that I have indeed called a dumbass a dumbass. And for that matter, a chickenshit a chickenshit. It's just the way I'm drawn, folks, and I think you appreciate the honesty you get from me. You know where you stand with me. I don't believe in being uncivil, but I can be quite tart.

There's a reason for that, and one I believe is a darn good one. Some of these people at AoA and like-minded organizations and groups are militantly anti-vaccine. Why, I have no clue. But they are and when they have decent, intelligent and nice people thinking maybe we don't need the vaccines here because we've got better conditions overall, better medical responses, so that suffering is no big deal, well, you know we're in trouble. The truth is people die from diseases when they shouldn't have to. And to wish the pain and misery that some of these infectious diseases are, even when no long term damage is done, all because of the misguided belief that vaccines caused your children's (yes, plural) autism, well, again, I repeat, we are in for a world of hurt. Literally.

So, I've gone out and about and talked to some folks who are quite insistent that the vaccines did it. I ran Craig's very harrowing story of a vaccine adverse event (which us science-loving folks have never denied happen). We (at Raising Autism/Countering's Facebook group) are supportive of all families dealing with autism, regardless of what the belief structure is. And I've come away with some thoughts on the whole shebang.

Certainty and the need for answers and a clear course of action. That has to be part of it, surely. Guilt, as well, not just over the thought that one way or another (through genetics or something you did environmentally) that you are to blame over the child(ren)'s autism must be playing some role. Perhaps even a tinge of guilt over not wanting to be a parent to a disabled child, or God forbid, children (a friend put that idea out there). Maybe. And then to have no cures, no quick and easy paths to take to help your child be normal, it can be easy to turn to woo. Sure, it can.

And it can be even easier to make attributions about causes that just aren't there. Of course, the problem with this is that no one can make someone else see something he or she doesn't want to see. You can lead them to the IOM, lead them to study after study that hasn't been interpreted by a Spanish teacher or a bully, and still not make them see, especially when those study-bashers are offering some products that promise your child a cure. Uh-huh,  I can certainly see how folks could go, how can I not?

Emotion, especially in connection with your children, can be all but impossible to put aside. Especially regarding medical decisions. However, it is precisely then that we must put aside our emotions and let reason and rationality prevail.

The science does not support a causal link between autism and vaccines. One's certainty that the fact their child had a vaccine and then later regressed (or not) into autism doesn't make it so.

I commented on a post by a person sure that vaccines are to blame, sure that they may not be as necessary as we think, and I'm going to provide it here. I'm not linking to the person's blog or the person's actual words out of respect for the person's right to privacy (I know, I know). The person is welcome, if he/she wants, to comment and provide the link to his/her blog. I've provided, in the comment, this example from my own life on faulty attributions, so I hope you'll forgive me for sharing it again. It demonstrates so well that we are none of us exempt from it.

My comment (I know some of it will make you wonder what the comment was that triggered the specifics of this response, so I will provide clarification in parentheses):

Independent researchers do have access to the VAERS data; everyone does. :-) (asserted that independent researchers should have access to the data after I provided the link to VAERS because of the assertion that the VAERS data wasn't available)

Ah, I wouldn't make you own some of these folks over at AoA; that'd be downright tacky of me. (well, who wants to be lumped in with the crazy folks on the fringes?)

And I'm sorry if you've been accused of being anti-vaccine, but I did point out that when you provide information that is scientifically inaccurate and from the fringe elements, it's easy to get branded with the title. Still wouldn't put you in the same camp as the folks using this stuff, though: http://www.alternative-doctor.com/vaccination/index.htm. And some of the folks at AoA are. Even worse, they use whale.to. (You can not wrap yourself in their talking points and not get dinged for it)

No, I wouldn't want to be placed in the same camp with the extremists on the vaccines-are-awesome-because-they-save-lives-and-prevent-lifelong-disabilities. But, I don't use their talking points and don't (that I am aware of) frequent their sites. (see two paragraphs up)

And I would agree that the chicken pox, which does kill about 100 people in the US a year, is not the best example to use. However, if it prevents 100 deaths, if it prevents permanent disabilities and the risk of shingles occuring at a later date, and the rate of adverse reactions is far less than the rate of complications and deaths, then why exactly would you be against it? (pro-vaccine folks trotting chicken pox out as a needed vaccine)

After all, your argument that we're a first rate country and vaccines aren't as necessary because we can provide better care after the disease process is started, well, that is a little anti-vaccine sounding, isn't it? And those 100 chicken pox deaths are here, where that awesome first rate medical care is.

If you won't look at Thelma and Louise, then read http://lilwalnutbrain.blogspot.com/. Her son is day 36 after serious, life-threatening complications from H1N1. (Title of blog is offensive, although I would argue true, as I am sure even the looniest of folks at AoA has feelings)

And read the IOM's Vaccines and Autism. Spread your reading out and contrast your vaccine-linked sites with sites like science-based medicine. And reread Gladwell. (Well, you can't say you've pursued the science if you haven't read the science, and Gladwell's Blink is a nice primer on attribution errors. If you've read it and you still can't see you might be wrong, well....)

You know, for four years I would have sworn all three of my autistic children and I were gluten and casein intolerant. All because my son began to read within six months of going on the diet. Forget about the eight years of prior hard work on my part and his. It had to be the diet. After all, the reading happened after the diet started. And my issues were better. Huh. Turns out none of us were gluten or casein intolerant. Not celiac. Nope. I had, however, recently had my gall bladder out, and the reduction in fat (when you take away the gluten and casein, you take away a lot of fat, too) led to improvement in my issues. (my oft-trotted out example of how I made a four year unbelievably untasty mistake)

Long story short (I know you're thinking, not really), boy, did I have egg on my face this past March when we all went off the diet and were just fine. Just fine. And, actually, all the kids social skills saw significant improvement and the girlies did better academically. Must be the milk and wheat!

Now, do I think civil exchange is possible? Absolutely. Do I think it's going to move the diehard? Nope. Not much better than the name-calling. The name-calling is probably more satisfying, in some ways. Less frustrating, but it can easily get dehumanizing. And I'm not about that. Well, other than noting when someone is a dumbass. And a wackaloon. Oh, okay. But, come on, don't I always give evidence? I don't just name call and not defend it. And seriously, only another wackaloon would deny the first person's wackaloon status, right?
I think that labeling has a place, though. We should remember that people are complex organisms and that belief systems are just as complex. We should remember that there are an infinite number of positions available and not everyone at AoA is as off the deep-end as one of their diehard commenters who is militantly anti-vaccine and proud of it. Go see Thelma and Louise for some of the sources of the worst of the woo; don't let the dumbass in their title stand in your way.


Mercola and AoA: In Bed Together

I opened up my email inbox and saw the near-dairly Dr Mercola newsletter full of woo (I really wanted to be snarky here, but I held back, just want credit for that). Once I looked through today's choices of craziness to read, I had a general feel for what I wanted to write today. So, I headed on over to Age Of Autism to see what crazy they were up to. And there it was: a choice between Heckenlively (aww, he'll think I'm picking on him) and an article showing that AoA and Mercola have hooked up to sell products (Too far? They're going to have a contest to give away one of his products. Oooh, I hope it's one of them tanning beds!).  Wow, you know, sometimes blogposts fall right into your lap. And when two bastions of anti-vaccination and woo outwardly connect, thereby reaffirming their own positions, well, that's gravy.

Starting with AoA: they're running a link to an interview between Sharyl Atkisson and Mercola on how the H1N1 is all a government hype. Yup, doesn't sound like conspiracy theorists at all. AoA is also promising a future contest with a Mercola goody. They end with noting that Mercola is "the founder of the world’s most visited natural health web site"

Well, at least they aren't arguing his world-reknown or the other empty and absurd labels he likes to pin on the doctors he interviews like Blaylock and Kent "infectious-disease-expert-my-ass" Holderf. We already knew, unfortunately, that there were a lot of people who were into the woo. It doesn't mean he's right. Or someone to be respected.

In fact, I think he's the opposite, especiallly with this latest bit of nonsense: "If you are a pregnant mother, please do not take the H1N1 swine flu vaccine." This is in a piece filled with horror stories of mothers miscarrying some time after the H1N1 vaccine.

I grant you that recommendation is awful and will likely result in some women listening to him and getting H1N1. It's a crapshoot I wouldn't be willing to take with my life nor the life of my unborn baby. If he thinks the vaccine is causing miscarriages (and there is no evidence that it is), then what does the fool think H1N1 would do?). This "idea," though, is worse: "You also need to understand that no reproduction studies have been done to determine how these flu vaccines (whether for seasonal- or the H1N1 vaccine) affect future fertility, and whether or how they affect a developing fetus."

Okay, so he's scared pregnant "natural" women into thinking that if they get the H1N1 vaccine, they will miscarry and be infertile, on top of that. Great.

He ends it with this piece of conspiracy theory: " I urge you to continue educating yourself about vaccines before yet another generation is lost to medical arrogance and greed."

The AoA piece, to back up for a moment, is on the interview with the reporter Sharyl Atkisson, who finds a conspiracy wherever she looks. I cannot believe CBS airs her work. This latest bit of crazy will come as no surprise, I am sure, to those who have run across Atkisson before. And we have. So, she thinks H1N1 isn't that bad and the government is lying. She thinks Wakefield is dreamy. She seems to be consistently anti-vaccine: she also has a report on gardasil. Interesting that a Washington reporter whose official job description is "investigative correspondent focusing on government spending and taxpayer issues" spends so much time on vaccines, basically coming out against them.

This isn't new for her either. Orac covers her anti-vaccine tendencies and her relationship with AoA back in August 2008. He brought it up a year earlier, as well, in June 2007. In July 2008, Liz offered criticism of Atkisson's journalism.

How many times does Atkisson come up on AoA? 19 times. AoA loves her.

Changing topics, I have to leave this post with this rich offering from Mercola: "IQ Isn't Everything: Why a High IQ Doesn't Mean You're Smart." 

Mercola wants you to eat the right foods to boost your IQ and avoid the wrong ones so you can be "mot" (as my Rosie pronounced it for the longest time) and not do foolish things. My recommendation, so much easier: avoid woo.


AoA Doesn't Get why Rehashing Lies Concerning Offit is a Dumbass Move


 In AoA's article today, "Pediatric SuperSite's Paul Offit Article: High Praise and Two RotaqTeq Ads," they absolutely prove they can't stop the lies. Can't. No matter how many times they've been shown to lie, they cannot help themselves.

AoA: beats the lies into the ground. And it's not like you can directly challenge them; they moderate their content and stifle dissent, so their readers who stick to them like glue on woo won't see the truth. They'll continue to think Handley and company are just awesome, cuz they is takin on the man, dontcha know? Seriously?: "Click the photo to increase size. To learn we find this ironic, read Voting Himself Rich: CDC Vaccine Adviser Made $29 Million Or More After Using Role to Create Market."

How many times?







Okay, at this point I am tired of copying and pasting, but when I type in Offit into my search bar for Countering, I get 8 pages of hits, so you know I've spent a shitload of time countering AoA's crap concerning Offit. David Brown's spent time countering it. LBRB has. I'm sure other bloggers have as well.

At this point, it's beyond ridiculous but not surprising. AoA doesn't care about factual information. Period. And I'll keep demonstrating that. And so will other good people. It's about all we can do. Stand. And hope that AoA really is the fringe group that many think it is, that most people aren't suckered into their brand of reality.

Kent Heckenlively: Doctors Lie to the Press but tell me the truth

Too strong? Maybe slightly. His words: "It's been my experience that what researchers say privately to somebody like me varies greatly from what they may say in academic papers or to members of the press." It still suggests that he believes that researchers lie to the public and to fellow academics, but tell him the truth.

Heckenlively writes: "On one point I must take issue with is my saying that the Hopkins researchers "have a protocol." If I did that was a terrible misstatement on my part. I have never believed that this was a "Hopkins protocol", simply that it was based on findings from the Hopkins laboratory."

As to the assertion concerning a Hopkins protocol, that's not what the journal article says. No mention of a Hopkins protocol exists in the article, period, let alone relating to Heckenlively:

Patricia Kane, who calls herself "the queen of fatty acid therapy," initially sounds like a skeptic of alternative autism treatments. She distances herself from the Defeat Autism Now! approach and says hyperbaric oxygen therapy, IVIG and chelation drugs all can be harmful.

"If you could see what happens to children when they're given some of these crazy interventions that ruin their life, and it's so painful," said Kane, whose office is in New Jersey. "Parents say, 'Patricia Kane will tell us the truth,' and I believe parents deserve the medical truth when it comes to their children."

One of her fans is Kent Heckenlively, a California science teacher who writes for ageofautism.com, self-described as the "daily web newspaper of the autism epidemic." After spending "a couple of hundred thousands" on treatments, from chelation to stem cell therapy, for his daughter with autism, Heckenlively said Kane appealed to him in part because her protocol includes lab tests run by the prestigious Kennedy Krieger Institute.

"I can trust them, I think," Heckenlively said.

Kane, who points to neuroinflammation as a feature of autism, discusses Pardo's study in a chapter she co-wrote on autism treatments for the book "Food and Nutrients in Disease Management."

Kane says many children with autism have a buildup in their brains of a substance called very-long-chain fatty acids. Her "PK Protocol" -- named after her initials -- is aimed at burning them off with a prescription drug, phenylbutyrate, that is normally used to treat extremely rare genetic disorders in which ammonia builds up in the body.

Side effects of phenylbutyrate include vomiting, rectal bleeding, peptic ulcer disease, irregular heartbeat and depression. No clinical trials have evaluated this drug as an autism therapy, and the idea that very-long-chain fatty acids have a role in autism is not proven by science.

Kane is not a medical doctor. When treating children with autism, she says, she works in concert with the child's physician, who supervises treatment.

She said she holds a doctorate in nutrition that was issued by Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited institution that was shut down after a lengthy court battle with the state of California. An administrative law judge in 1997 found that the school awarded excessive credit for prior experiential learning, failed to employ qualified faculty and didn't meet requirements for issuing degrees.

Kane said Columbia Pacific granted her a doctorate after the school "consolidated my work," which Kane described as "clinical work" and continuing medical education courses for doctors. Her doctorate is valid, she said, because it was issued before the university ran into problems with the state.

Last year she was the subject of a television news investigation about her work with patients with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease, which affects motor neurons, is a death sentence.

Janine Schiller, a Pennsylvania mother, went to see Kane. "Dr. Kane flat out told her: 'You do not have ALS,' " said her husband, Tim. "She told her: 'You have a buildup of neurotoxins in your blood.' "

Kane's protocol involved taking pills, medications and herbal remedies, which Kane sold, Tim Schiller said. In all, the family spent $3,000. But nothing stopped the march of ALS, and Janine Schiller died eight months after her diagnosis.

"The money was trivial compared to the false hope she instilled in us," Tim Schiller said. "It's a terrible thing to be preying on people who are going to be dying."

In her work with children who have autism, Kane emphasizes that she doesn't rely on what she calls "Mickey Mouse" labs to test for red cell fatty acids in patients' blood. She uses the Peroxisomal Diseases Laboratory at Kennedy Krieger.

But a spokeswoman for the institute said its autism experts do not endorse the use of phenylbutyrate to treat children with autism.

"There has been no research conducted at the institute which validates the use of phenylbutyrate as an autism treatment," Elise Babbitt-Welker wrote in an e-mail. "Any suggestion otherwise is a misinterpretation of research data."

Heckenlively admits he's using the Kane protocol but feels that it is unfair for the article to make it appear that this is risky on his part. He writes: "My daughter's neurologist did not have any safety concerns for the protocol although she did not think it would work. My neurologist has actively assisted me in providing sedatives for the IV procedure."

Whether that's accurate or not, we can't know. Did the neurologist advise Heckenlively of potential risks? She'd have to. Do doctors play up the risks or play them down? Or present them neutrally and allow the patients to way the relative risks and decide. On medications, it's been my experience that doctors rarely discuss the side effects; the prescribe and move on. No informed consent is needed on medications, so it's likely to depend on the patients as to whether the medication is simply prescribed or the risk/benefits discussed before hand.

Heckenlively does at least admit that the neurologist told him it was unlikely to help. This simply reaffirms that desperate people are willing to go down a whole lot of woo no matter the risks. That may be one thing when it's your own life. It's entirely another when it's an unconsenting minor relying on his or her parents to make medically sound judgments for him/her. You cannot, do not, make sound, rational judgments when you are mired in desperation, and the potential to do tremendous harm is vast. It's your job as a parent to breathe, calm your ass down, and think rationally. Presumably Heckenlively is an intelligent man, both a lawyer and a grade school teacher. Chasing chelation, stem cell therapy, and now this incredibly foolhardy PK Protocol among the other woo, shows pretty clearly that this isn't about rational thought. His defense today of his actions also indicate an unwillingness to clearly evaluate the risks and benefits and how it impacts not only his child, but the children of desperate parents who read him.

Need I remind you of the sticky blood? Need I remind you of his contention that he may not know exactly what it was in the vaccines but it was something in them?

Need I remind you of whale.to?


Thelma and Louise invite folks to drop by EDHF on Thanksgiving

Eatin tha bird-not flippin it (by Louise)

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends! Boy howdy me and my gal Thelma gots lots to be Thankful for an such! Tommorrow we is havin an open house with Mamma H...and we would like y'all to stop by and say hey! Folks around Stink Creek will be droppin by..We got us a couple a laptops set up around the trailer..so ya never know who might be chattin an all. So come on by for some pie and coffee when ya git a chance. We'd love ta have ya! Thats for true.

Me an Thelma is loosinin up tha rules a bit. Anyone wants ta come is welcome-ya just got ta be respectful a each other-ya ken me? So Roger darlin..iffen yer wantin ta come discuss yer latest movement an all, I'm sure there be someun interested an all..An Lurker, I'm sure ya got somethin ta be thankful for-so come on by an share it! This is a day a love an respect..an bein thankful we has got all that we does! Drop in anytime..we is sure lookin forward ta seein y'all!

Utter Lunacy

A couple days ago, Kim Stagliano decided to up the histrionics on her site, what with the burning house and the throwing of kids. You know, her usual overdose of hyperbole and her tendency to go with the martyrdom route: why, why does it bother you that we want to experiment on our children with HBOT, chelation, lupron, nicotine patches, IVIG, megadoses of vitamins and minerals, and pot? Why could you possibly care, you trolls and sheoples who are working for big pharma? Gads. I read it and couldn't deal with it at the time. That's okay, though; there are folks out there who see the same victim-woe-is-me crap and take it head on. LBRB took it on in a post called "Age of Autism to Autism Families: Make your children suffer". Orac refers to it in his "The anti-vaccine "biomed" movement: Hijacking legitimate scientific research".

Bad as Stagliano's analogy is, the comments are worse. Referring to the LBRB discussion of the martyr message Stagliano' conveying, one AoA commenter writes:

"They hate our children and they will do ANYTHING to protect the vaccine industry and try to confound our efforts to push research FORWARD into the clinics to help our kids."

What can you say to this kind of comment, to Stagliano's absurd inability to really examine the evidence and her incessant need to go past the edge of sanity, other than utter lunacy?

This is not about the vaccine industry and protecting it.
This isn't about preventing autistic children from receiving appropriate and safe interventions.
This isn't about not treating real medical conditions with science-based medicine.

Here's what this is about:

Protecting a vulnerable population from unethical and dangerous medical experimentation.
Protecting parents from being sucked into the woo vortex.
Providing evidence-based information to parents so that they can make reasonable, rational and responsible decisions regarding their children's medical care.

A Willingness to examine the evidence and live a good life

(This started out as a post about the IOM and its 2004 review of the evidence regarding vaccines and autism, but it twisted and turned on me into something more reflective, something that, to no surprise to those who read me regularly, sums up my position, well, on life and living it despite all the bad shit that comes one's way).

In 2004, the IOM released its eighth and final report regarding vaccines and autism. The members of the committee looked at all the research, including that provided by those arguing that there is a link, and concluded that there was no evidence of a link. None. At all.

I've brought up the Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism repeatedly over the last several months whenever the vaccines-stole-my-child crowd argues that it hasn't been looked at, that the government and big pharma are in collusion with each other, the 14 studies garbage that Handley put out to argue that the science had actually spoken (you know science doesn't speak, right? That might be one of the problems.). This 215 page review has been out there for FIVE frakking years. Five years. I don't get it. I really don't. You know, the no-really-I'm-for-safe-vaccines crowd can't argue that they are scientifically literate if they refuse to even read the evidence, refuse to read the best and brightest scientists who have read all the evidence and reached a conclusion that the damnit-I-don't-know-what-it-was-but-it-sure-as-hell-was-something-in-the-vaccines crowd doesn't want to hear (la-la-la-la, I can't hear you!).

If you are one of those parents who are just too darn lazy to read it, I'll provide some snippets (I assure you, friend who's no longer speaking to me, not taken out of context - you can quote a line or to without changing its meaning) for your perusal.

The abstract sums it up:
The committee reviewed the extant published and unpublished epidemiological studies regarding causality and studies of potential biologic mechanisms by which these immunizations might cause autism. The committee concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. The committee also concludes
that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. The committee further finds that potential biological mechanisms for vaccine-induced autism that have been generated to date are theoretical only.
The committee does not recommend a policy review of the current schedule and recommendations for the administration of either the MMR vaccine or thimerosal-containing vaccines. 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. The committee makes additional recommendations regarding surveillance and epidemiological research, clinical studies, and communication related to these vaccine safety concerns. (IOM, 1)
Nonscientists look at things from a predetermined perspective. Many of these parents appear to have reached a conclusion and examine it from that perspective. They don't go in open-minded; they don't, despite assertions to the contrary, go looking for the truth. They come up with their theories for why something happened without even considering they might not have the knowledge base to accurately assess the situation. Google is awesome, and being able to access studies is tremendous. I'm all for pursuing knowledge, but the problem with self-education is that you don't know if you don't get it; a college education at least provides some feedback for when you are off track. If you are not getting that self-acquired knowledge vetted by experts in the field you're studying, you can go so far off track so as to be helplessly mired in woo. Complete and total woo. And it can be doubly damn hard to conclude who the real experts are. I mean, if they've got an MD or a PhD, they can't be completely wrong, can they? Well, yes, they sure as hell can. Wakefield, Geier, Mercola, Blaylock, Haley, Hyman, Gordon anyone?

To explain how they began their review of the literature, the report states:

The committee begins from a position of neutrality regarding the specific immunization safety hypothesis under review. That is, there is no presumption that a specific vaccine (or vaccine component) does or does not cause the adverse event in question. The weight of the available clinical and epidemiologic evidence determines whether it is possible to shift from that neutral position to a finding for causality (“the evidence favors acceptance of a causal relationship”)
or against causality (“the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship”). The committee does not conclude that the vaccine does not cause the adverse event merely because the evidence is inadequate to support causality. Instead, it maintains a neutral position, concluding that the “evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship.” (IOM, 2-3)
What is a parent who just wants some answers to do? Who are you supposed to trust? It sucks to hear news you don't want to hear. It sucks to be told that the causes of autism are not all known, to hear that there are no cures for what seems like a life sentence to a parent newly going through that diagnosis. And I know from personal experience that it really bites to be told when your wee one is five years old that he isn't going to achieve independence and that the best he can hope for is a group home. It sucks even bigger to then spend 15 years working for thousands of hours with that child to try to change that prognosis and not be able to. It does.

I am so grateful that Bobby's autism was diagnosed before the internet was really out there, before all these wackaloon theories were devised, before Wakefield. Before secretin. Before all this wooquack, DAN doctors, HBOT, IVIG, chelation and Yasko or PK protocols were out there. Before there were charlatans promising me a cure if I just drained my pocketbook over to them. It meant that over the last three-four years as my daughters' autism became unavoidably apparent that I didn't go to the woo. I'd already had a decade and half with my son to know that nothing would replace hard work and that even then, no miracles, no instant cures, were out there.

The closest I came to it (woo) was to follow the GFCF diet for four years, starting when my littlest was barely more than a year old. And we followed it, oh how we followed it. And it seemed to do wonders for Bobby. Suddenly at 14, he began to read within months of starting the diet. There we were; I'd worked for 8 years to teach him to read, and suddenly it clicked and within a year of being on the diet he could read Harry Potter. Success, right? Had to be the diet, not the 8 years of work and a brain that finally made the neural connections, reached the matural level needed, right?

We went off the GFCF diet in March. Bobby had the last couple years of it slipped off of it occasionally, with no loss in functioning. The girls and I never slipped (we had started it because the girls and I had intestinal issues), but in March I decided we'd try. And what did we find? Well, that eating the gluten and casein made us not a bit sick (or in my case any more sick) and all a hell of a lot happier. No loss in skills, no loss in functioning for any of the kids. It was an expensive lesson that correlation is not causation and that psychological investment in an idea can cause a person to make decisions that are completely pointless and not at all tasty.

I understand wanting a child who is going to fulfill all of the things loving parents want for their children. I know firsthand the pain of watching your child's peers pass them by. I have felt the heartache as each milestone is missed, as the years slip by and the progress does not come. I know and fully understand the pain involved with being the parent of an adult child whose disabilities preclude him from achieving independence and all of the adult milestones we wish for our children. I know the fear a parent feels regarding their child's future. Who will be there to care for my child when I can no longer do so? And I feel that fear for all three of my children as all three are on the spectrum, and no matter how smart, how "high functioning," independence is not a guarantee, not something a parent can just assume will happen.

Now, you have a choice as a parent to a special needs child, to special needs children: you can deal with it adaptively and allow yourself and your children to make good, productive happy lives despite the limitations or you can rage, rail, and be miserable and make your child miserable. Really.

You can be a victim, make your child a victim, act like a martyr and be miserable, making those around you miserable. Or you can choose differently. You can choose to find the beauty that is there in every moment, even the literally shitty ones. You can make the best and teach your child(ren) that obstacles and hurdles are things to be overcome, that perseverance and grace are things that can be found even when you are unbearably weary of the road you are on. You can teach them that shit happens, but it doesn't have to ruin their lives. It doesn't have to stop them from reaching their potential or you your potential.

Stay in the woo or come into the light. Stay in the anger or leave it behind. I'm all for fighting the good fight, but make damn certain it's the right fight.


Don't Confuse Ullman with Someone Who Has a Clue

**Note, my comment did not get on.**

I thought the latest blog post by Ullman was a piece of work. Nah. He was working up to it. Here's his latest comment in the thread, in its fraktastic glory, proving once and for all that he is a dumbass, and an arrogant one at that:

"I am pleased that I've stirred up a hornet's nest of skeptics, for they expose their sheer ignorance. Predictably enough, however, these skeptics are not very good at it. They seek to "defend science" but are not good representatives of good science. They seem pleased in their ignorance and yet they are arrogant...and that is a dangerous combination.

They remind me of Fox News by the way they spin information and create misinformation. I sincerely hope that readers here see through the straw men that they create. What they say about homeopathy is simply wrong and confused.

They clearly do not understand homeopathy; they keep saying that there is no research, despite the many references that I have given to such research in highly respected medical journals. They make embarrassing statements about the smallness of the homeopathic dose and then wonder how small doses of substances in the water or air do not "heal" people (again, they have no understanding of homeopathy and homeopathic pharmacology).

The good news here is that they expose their ignorance to the world, even though they use fake names. They do not even seem to have the intellectual rigor to read and understand the articles I have written nor the research to which I commonly refer. Sad but true..."

My response, as if it will get on:

My real name, bud. The only one overly arrogant here is you. We're not saying there is no research; we're saying your research is bunk. Totally different. Orac already (two years ago) deconstructed your COPD study.

Listen, I don't care if those who think magic water is going to cure all that ails you follow you right off the figurative cliff. But you sure as heck better get used to folks arguing with you that you wouldn't know science if it gave you a lap dance.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Desperation Drives Parents into Woo

How, if you're involved in the online autism community, can you miss the Tribune's reporting on risky alternative autism treatments? Aoa is all a buzz over it. Hate it! Orac's on top of it. LBRB is on it. Ken Reibel is on top of it, both at his site and here. I said a few short things relating to AoA's coverage of it, and Liz is keeping track of it at her site. So, if you're an anti-vaxxer, you're aghast. If you're a rationalist (gonna see how many different labels I can make up), you're all over this and thrilled to see mainstream media smack down the woo and the charlatans. It's poetry. It is.

Heckenlively is not happy about this workup. At all. Ken covers it nicely. He even directed me to a passage in today's article, "Autism treatment: Science hijacked to support alternative therapies," by Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan that stars Heckenlively.

I wonder if there will be backlash against Heckenlively for this (more than he already gets from the no-woo-for-me-crowd and perhaps some from his own group). Heckenlively has really had some crazy ideas in his posts at AoA, but his latest venture to recover his child may be his worst.

Relevant portions of the article and some thoughts follow:

"Patricia Kane, who calls herself "the queen of fatty acid therapy," initially sounds like a skeptic of alternative autism treatments. She distances herself from the Defeat Autism Now! approach and says hyperbaric oxygen therapy, IVIG and chelation drugs all can be harmful" (Tsouderos and  Callahan).

According to Mercury Exposure, Kane and a Dr. Kinghardt did a lecture on autism. The two of them argue that (at least according to this site) "Autism is made by damage of the immune system by vaccination and heavy metals. Damage by vaccination concerns enzymes of the fatty acid metabolism of the nerves. At those children first of all you have to excrete the heavy metals,. with 6 g Chlorella 4 x per day, and bears garlic."

Tsouderos and Callahan continue:
"One of her fans is Kent Heckenlively, a California science teacher who writes for ageofautism.com, self-described as the "daily web newspaper of the autism epidemic." After spending "a couple of hundred thousands" on treatments, from chelation to stem cell therapy, for his daughter with autism, Heckenlively said Kane appealed to him in part because her protocol includes lab tests run by the prestigious Kennedy Krieger Institute.
"I can trust them, I think," Heckenlively said."
Now this is the part we're really interested in. Heckenlively, as I've deconstructed before, has some pretty damn odd ideas. And now we learn he's onto another one.

Heckenlively admits to spending a shitload of money on quack treatments including chelation and stem cell therapy and now is trying this crap by Kane.
The reporters continue their article:

"Kane, who points to neuroinflammation as a feature of autism, discusses Pardo's study in a chapter she co-wrote on autism treatments for the book "Food and Nutrients in Disease Management."
Kane says many children with autism have a buildup in their brains of a substance called very-long-chain fatty acids. Her "PK Protocol" -- named after her initials -- is aimed at burning them off with a prescription drug, phenylbutyrate, that is normally used to treat extremely rare genetic disorders in which ammonia builds up in the body.

Side effects of phenylbutyrate include vomiting, rectal bleeding, peptic ulcer disease, irregular heartbeat and depression. No clinical trials have evaluated this drug as an autism therapy, and the idea that very-long-chain fatty acids have a role in autism is not proven by science.
Kane is not a medical doctor. When treating children with autism, she says, she works in concert with the child's physician, who supervises treatment."

The reporters continue their scathing indictment of Kane, making it clear to anyone who can actually comprehend their words, that this is beyond the pale of woo and dangerous crap to boot. If you haven't read this article in its entirety, you really need to take the time. The series of articles, in conjuction with last year's, make it abundantly clear that desperate parents with the wherewithall to do so make medical and treatment decisions based not on sound reasoning, based not on science-based medicine, but on that desperation. AoA shows this in comment after comment. The various yahoo groups that these desperate parents post in apparently reveal the depths they are willing to go to to recover their children.

You have to wonder what these family's lives would be like if they weren't convinced that mercury, aluminum, etc. in vaccines did this to them, to their children? If there weren't conmen and charlatans promising them expensive cures that aren't cures at all? If AoA, GenRes, SafeMinds weren't feeding the frenzy?

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Ken was kind enough to start off the critical response to AoA's coverage of the Tribune's series on autism and quackery (post below this one). It should be an interesting day! Liz is keeping track of the coverage here. Orac weighed in with an excellent piece. So did LBRB. :-)  I commented at the Trib piece, which had only garnered three comments, so I hope readers will go over and tell them well done.

AoA's pissed, of course, and has a piece out on how it's "another shoddy hit piece." See, there's the problem. They don't know good science. They don't know good science coverage. Come on, your wooquack docs didn't like the interview because it made them out to be the wooquacks they are?

Of course, Arranga (AoA author) has to frame these quacks as "the courageous doctors and researchers who are willing to move forward with integrity for the children despite mainstream pharMonied prejudice." Oh for heaven's sake, and the folks over there wonder why mainstream science doesn't take them seriously?

I'll confess, I just can't wade any deeper into the morass that is AoA today. It hurts. And I've better things to do.

It's nice to see the mainstream media cover this. It'd be even nicer to see it go big, to see the Geiers, Wakefield, and others really held up to mass exposure. It's a heck of a start, though.

Ken picks up and continues the examination of the Tribune articles at Autism News Beat.


"AoA panics over Chicago Tribune investigation" by Ken Reibel

Picture taken from http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/080212.pdf (image cut off to fit)
Should be noted that in this pdf, GenRes also promotes the idea that there is antifreeze and ether in vaccines (oh, and formaldehyde, aluminum, and mercury!). --KW (oooh, maybe someday I will be managing editor?)

AoA panics over Chicago Tribune investigation

by Ken Reibel


Nothing panics the anti-vaccine movement like critical news coverage in a major media outlet. We saw it last month with Amy Wallace's excellent piece on the dangers of vaccine rejectionism in Wired Magazine. The latest example is a well-researched and damning investigation of the autism cure industry that ran in today's Chicago Tribune. Kent Heckenlively, whose day job is, incredibly, teaching science to American school children, attempts to deconstruct the Trib's coverage, with predictable results.

Heckenlively writes that he has three major criticisms of the story. First, he objects to the characterization of an "autism epidemic" as unproven. But instead of offering data to show a true increase in prevalence, he quotes a press release from the UC MIND Institute which came to a vastly different conclusion than the study itself.

"A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted — and the trend shows no sign of abating.

Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California’s children.

It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental and occupational health and epidemiology and an internationally respected autism researcher."

FIrst of all, the California DDS databases are not reliable for determining incidence. As DDS explains on its website and in its quarterly reports:

"Increases in the number of persons reported from one quarter to the next do not necessarily represent persons who are new to the DDS system."

Yet the MIND researchers used both client records and quarterly reports to do just that.

What's more, the actual study does not reach a conclusion that "it’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California." That's the press release talking, and I am quite sure that Mr. Heckenlively knows the difference.

For a more detailed critique of this surprisingly poor study, see this post by Joseph at Natural Variation.

Heckenlively concludes part one of his critique with the question "What scientific research does (the Tribune) have to support a position that the autism increase may not be real?" That's a funny question coming from an organization that habitually mispresents prevalence data. In January, 2008, Generation Rescue ran a full page ad in USA Today that claimed the autism rate has mushroomed from 1:10,000 in 1983 to 1:150 today. But in 1983 researchers were looking for DSM III autistic disorder, also called Kanner's autism. The best estimate at the time was 4:10,000. There was no "autism spectrum" in 1983, no PDD-NOS, no Asperger's. So any comparison between then and now could only address autistic disorder, and the current estimate for that PDD is roughly 20:10,000 - a five-fold ncrease which can be explained by less restrictive diagnostic criteria, greater awareness, diagnostic substitution, and other factors.

To be clear, there is no evidence either way for an autism epidemic. We cannot say, with the data at hand, that true prevalence has risen, nor can we say it hasn't. What we can say is that Generation Rescue's 1:10,000 to 1:150 claim is intentionally misleading. Surely, Mr. Heckenlively knows as much.

Heckenlively then moves on to the paper's finding that “Chelation’s popularity as a treatment is driven by the unproven idea that the disorder is tied to the accumulation of heavy metals in the body.” He cites the flawed Palmer study from the University of Texas which ties an increase in autism to environmental mercury. He also cites the discredited Burbacher paper, which Kim explains nicely here, and you can also read about here. Heckenlively cluelessly cites Mady Hornig's 2004 Rain Mouse study, which concludes nothing that can be applied to autism. This, it needs to be noted, is a common ploy by Age of Autism and other vaccine rejectionists - to misrepresent a study to make it fit their own agenda. In this study, Hornig dosed specially bred mice with thimerosal to coincide with certain developmental milestones. But human infants are given shots several months apart, which is enough time to excrete the miniscule amount of thimerosal once found in scheduled pediatric vaccines. Hornig's mice received four shots over nine days. She used three strains of mice, and found no statistically different behaviors in any of them. In fact, the mice that were bred to be more susceptible to mercury, and that were dosed with thimerosal, were less likely to show measured stereotyped behavior. Hornig only dissected three mouse brains, but found nothing remotely similar to what one finds in the human autistic brain.

"I am at a loss to explain (the Tribune's) failure to even mention this research," opines the terminally clueless Heckenlively. Let me help you out - the reporters ran the studies by credible researchers, who pointed out the shortcomings. But it's so much easier to challenge reporters to another pick-up game of abstract toss than to find some credible researchers of their own.

Of course no anti-vax screed is complete without complaining about vaccine court, and Heckenlively delivers a tale of "recovery" from autism that was heartlessly dismissed by the special masters. But there is much that Heckenlively leaves out.

From the Tribune article: "Colten Snyder, another child who was evaluated in vaccine court, underwent chelation after tests on his blood and hair over six years came back normal for mercury, court records state. Given that the boy was immunized with vaccines containing thimerosal, ‘his hair mercury was exceptionally low, said his physician, Dr. Jeff Bradstreet of Florida. ‘That’s pathological.’ Bradstreet also disputes that all of his test results were normal.”

Counters Heckenlively, "Colten Snyder has essentially recovered from his autism and this fact was in the published decision rendered by the Special Master." By "recovered", Heckenlively apparently means "improved."

Here's the rest of the story.

According to court records, "Bradstreet’s treatment of Colten involved 160 office visits over an eight-year period, numerous laboratory tests (’many of which were non-standard tests not approved by the FDA’), several lumbar punctures and both gastroscopy and colonoscopy." And while the court noted the boy's improvement, it occurred despite Bradstreet's questionable treatment protocol, not because of it. "It is even less clear that the treatments were designed to remove a dangerous virus from the body and the evidence that any of the treatments were capable of doing so is non-existent," noted one special master.

And so it goes.

The two-part Chicago Tribune investigation is yet another encouraging sign that the mainstream news and entertainment media's narrative is changing from "vaccines might cause autism" to "vaccine rejectionism is bad news". Mr. Heckenlively's impassioned, albeit fact-free defense of the indefensible, is another sign of how desperate these days must be for America's anti-vaccine movement.

Part two of the Tribune's investigation is scheduled for tomorrow. Grab some popcorn.

It’s Mercury, Damnit! Run for the Hills!

One of the common complaints of parents who believe that vaccines are responsible for their child(ren)’s autism is that there is mercury in vaccines and mercury is a neurotoxin, damnit! All mercury is bad! Okay, gotcha. Mercury bad. Yum, tuna fish sandwich. Seriously, you don’t get to kvetch and moan that thimerosal in vaccines did it and then go eat or let your child eat tuna or any other food with mercury in it. You are gonna be some hungry folks! Best stay away from canned products and baking powder with the aluminum, aluminum foil and aluminum cookware, and for God’s sake, make sure your child gets no soap in his mouth, either (another common complaint: aluminum).

What most folks-in-the-know do when faced with these ranting parents (who then may go on to talk about Cutler’s protocol and deranged mineral transport) is to carefully explain the difference in pure mercury, methyl mercury and thimerosal, which breaks down into ethyl mercury and thiosalicylate (CDC). Some of the in-the-know folks (trying new labels on) may then invoke the dihydrogen monoxide gambit, which never gets old --okay, it does, but it points out nicely that the not-in-the-know folks don’t understand the chemistry thing too well. That’s okay; it’s a heavy, deep (potentially boring) subject that most people don’t want to wade into too deeply. It’s a whole lot easier to read some guy off the internet who promises to cure your child of autism if you follow his protocol. It’s wrong, but it’s fun, right?

So, let’s look at the mercury gambit some, since the mercury militia uses it.

We’ll go over mercury, the element. According to National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), mercury is “found throughout the environment.” It has “three forms: as a pure metal (as found in thermometers), as inorganic salts, and as an organic derivative. Humans and wildlife are exposed to all three forms, though most of the mercury in the environment is in metallic or inorganic forms. Organic forms of mercury are more easily absorbed when ingested and some forms are eliminated from the body very slowly. Because mercury is everywhere, it is not possible to prevent all exposure to it. Exposure to high levels of mercury can be toxic” (NIAID).

It should be noted that thermometers don’t use mercury anymore, although they once did.

Note that NIAID pointed out that” high levels of mercury can be toxic.” High levels.

At what point is the brain most sensitive to mercury damage? According to the NIAID, it is the “developing brain (before birth) is the most sensitive to damage by methyl mercury.”

Ng et al. (2007) write that “thimerosal in blood after vaccination is rapidly excreted in stool.” In addition, Ng et al, notes that no “significant elevation of blood and urine mercury levels after vaccination has been reported.” This would seem to exonerate thimerosal in vaccines as a cause of heavy metal toxicity. After all, that’s part of what the vaccines-ruined-my-life crowd is running with. Autism is: heavy metal toxicity, an auto-immune disorder, sticky blood, Lyme disease, activated monkey virus, too much testosterone, etc.

Another difference between thimerosal and methyl mercury is the route of exposure. The mercury militia goes on endlessly about mercury being injected into the bloodstream (we know that ain’t right) and the methyl mercury gets pooped out, so it’s okay. According to the NIAID,

“Prior to the removal of thimerosal from childhood recommended vaccines, infants were exposed to ethyl mercury by intramuscular injection during vaccination, not by ingestion.” This sentence would set these folks off because that’s a base lie: thimerosal is still in vaccines! Childhood recommended vaccines. So, not a lie. I know, then they’d rant that there was still thimerosal in the vaccines at their doctor’s offices in 2004, blah.

Let’s say we’re one of these mercury-is-mercury-is-mercury folks and we’ve read through the CDC, the NIAID, and hell, even Ng and his buddies’ paper, and we still aren’t buying it. Nope. It’s the mercury in that vaccine, and it got in my kid’s brain and it made him autistic. I know what I know. My child is my science. Ng et al. (2007) notes that “no active transport mechanism for ethylmercury exists in the BBB. Also, the larger molecular size and faster decomposition of ethylmercury further prevent its accumulation.” (84). Uh, huh? BBB is the blood brain barrier. Ethyl mercury can’t get through the blood brain barrier because of size and lack of active transport.

That’s a lie, too, of course, because they’ve read some study with monkeys and thimerosal and how they were all autistic after getting the thimerosal and that proves it. Sigh. SafeMinds, Generation Rescue, and AoA love the Burbacher study, which can be found here: http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/burbacher.pdf. **Updated: not the only study the mercury militia use concerning thimerosal and monkey brains; I conflated this with the new Thoughtful House monkeys made autistic study; Burbacher doesn't say it made them more autistic because he didn't measure autism in monkeys--hah, if your monkey lines up things, he might be autistic--he looked at the levels of inorganic mercury in the brain. That's how the mercury militia uses the Burbacher study: as proof it makes you autistic.**

It’s beyond what I have time to dig into here, but the crux of the Burbacher study appears to be that in these monkey brains, more inorganic mercury was deposited in the brain in those who were given thimerosal through intermuscular injection. How ethyl mercury, an ORGANIC mercury, managed to “cause” INORGANIC mercury to be deposited, well that’s a question, isn’t it? And it is a question that Burbacher ends his journal article asking. He really doesn't draw any strong conclusions other than methyl mercury not being particularly useful as a comparison.

Burbacher’s interconnections with SafeMinds, AoA, Blaxill, and the Geiers cannot be overlooked. Using Blaxill and the Geiers' as reputable sources in his article limits his credibility, wouldn't you say? Should not be overlooked. Whale.to folks are pretty fond of Burbacher, as well.  Plus, based on Ng et al.'s reporting that ethyl mercury doesn't get past the blood brain barrier, well, it's interesting, certainly, and bears more examination, more than I have time for in this piece. It will go on to my list of things to look at.

Changing tactics slightly what about the argument that mercury poisoning and autism are the same condition? Ng et al. (2007) writes (and I’m too busy to hunt down the original article, but will when time permits): “Nelson and Bauman reviewed the two diseases and concluded that these two conditions have distinct differences because the common symptoms of mercury poisoning such as ataxia, constricted visual fi elds, peripheral neuropathy, hypertension, skin eruption and thrombocytopenia are never seen in autis(-)tic children” (84).

What do we take away from this morning's worth of looking at the mercury militia's argument that "it's the mercury, damnit!"? The IOM's Immunization Safety Review is linked over to the right. It'd be a good thing to read. There appears to be no reputable scientific evidence to link thimerosal to mercury being deposited in the brain. Burbacher even noted that thimerosal is excreted from the blood much faster than methyl mercury. Burbacher didn't even draw the conclusion that thimerosal caused autism.

If you've spent any time with the mercury militia, you already know that they aren't going to let scientific evidence get in the way of their beliefs. You can show them patiently or stridently, it doesn't matter, that ethylmercury isn't methylmercury or inorganic mercury, you can point out that there is no link between autism and thimerosal, only to have them move the goalposts on you. Oh yeah, well, it may not be just the thimerosal, it's all them toxins in the vaccines! Those chemicals are bad for you!

Sigh. Listen, if you're one of those parents who has decided it had to be the vaccines because your child was vaccinated and then later diagnosed with autism, and you don't see that you could as easily substitute "attended the circus" for "was vaccinated" or "rode a pony" or "went on a trip," then it might be because of your need for the certainty of an answer for why this happened to you and membership in a group that will help feed your fire and anger for having your world upended with the reality of having a child with special needs (**I know it's wordy!**). If you've got two or more children with autism  and you're blaming the vaccines.... well, there's quite a few out there with multiple children on the spectrum who are doing just that. One, I get, I suppose. Two? Three? Really? Might be time to look in a mirror, you know?

There's quite a few of us with multiple children on the spectrum who look at ourselves and our children, our extended families, and we don't need to reach for some outer explanation of a harm done to us. We don't need someone or something to blame. Our children are our children and we see ourselves reflected in them. They may have more significant issues to deal with than we did, but we see the spectrum. You know, sort of a when our powers combine kind of thing? We read the neurological research, we note that difficult pregnancies are implicated, that there are genetic susceptibilities, and we go, huh, well there you go, and we move on, thinking our children to be absolutely delightful, challenging, often difficult people who we wouldn't trade for the world. We bust our asses to help them navigate this world successfully. We bust our asses trying to make the world an easier place.

You folks on the vaccines-did-this-to-me front who think it fine and dandy to send death threats to health officials who stand up and note the lack of scientific evidence for autism being caused by vaccines are a huge part of the problem our children collectively face. You are the bullies who use intimidation and threats to push others around. You are the people who bully those who are disabled, disadvantaged, different. You. And you subject your children to potentially harmful, absolutely unscientific treatments all in the need to recover the perfect child you believe was stolen from you.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mercury and Thimerosal. 22 Nov. 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/thimerosal/

National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Vaccines. 22 Nov. 2009. http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/vaccines/research/vaccines.htm

NG, D. K., et al. (2007). “Low-level chronic mercury exposure in children and adolescents: Meta-analysis.” Pediatrics International 49, 80–87

On a side note, take a peek at this from AutismDiva from 2005 that I found this morning as I was looking for information relating to this subject: http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/2005/11/you-wanna-go-where.html.

If anyone has good links to criticism of the Burbacher study, please post them here.


Winning Folks Over with Sunshine And Moonbeams

It's been the kind of week where I am working hard to avoid working on other things. Oh, I still get them done, but having every moment absolutely chock-full is a good thing right now. So, each morning I'm wandering over to AoA, and sometimes, I get amused. Sometimes, I get discouraged. And we all know when I get thorougly annoyed.

What's AoA got to offer this morning? Honestly, I do believe it will be making many of us "“anti-anti-vaccine”  folks chuckle at the absurdity of it all (http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/11/the-names-people-play.html#more).

Handley pulls the intellectual rape and kool-aid bit after years of other abusive tripe, and this writer comes barreling to his defense because a blogger was far more creative at the invective hurled at him?

Sheoples and trolls, anyone? Alright, we'll all admit we know of some science-based bloggers who hurl the invective sublimely, who show a capacity for stringing invectives together in a mind-blowingly awesome orgy of fun. I do believe Thelma and Louise had a post on this based on Physioprof's invective. It is naughty, no doubt (see http://evendumbasseshavefeelings.blogspot.com/2009/09/inventive-invectiveness-warning-mama-h.html).

This writer at AoA seems to think the science-based bloggers were trying to win the whale.to believing naifs over to an evidence-based critical reasoning system. Awww. She writes: "Do you win over anyone by calling them stupid?"

Well, gosh, no, you sure don't. I do believe at this point, most bloggers who are rational (yes, they may get apoplectic with the group of people who cite whale.to and think there is insecticide in vaccines) and evidence-based have given up on the idea of persuading the anti-vaccine wackaloons that they are wrong. I mean, after all, you can't get basic facts right and you support a holocaust-denying, mind-control believing government conspiracy to inflect and infect, I suppose, an entire generation of people with autism.

You didn't get an anti-vaccine label because you questioned the safety of vaccines. No doctor, other than the nutcase doctors ya'll are following liked the pied piper, has ever asserted the notion that vaccines are without risk. You know that, but you keep repeating it. Mainstream science hasn't concluded that autism is 100% genetic. You know that. But you anti-vaccine types keep betraying an inability to reason and evaluate critically the claims presented. Instead you fall back to whale.to and AoA's talking points. And it immediately identifies you and you lose whatever credibility you might have had because it shows you follow the woo sites. Sorry. Tough toodles.

You cement it with this: "The pedestal upon which the “pro-science” movement is standing doesn’t seem very elevated, does it? But it’s very loud. It’s full of uniformed and ill-informed people who think vaccines are all that’s standing between us and death. They accept the government’s propaganda without critical thought or research. I understand this person all too well because I used to be one of them. I drank the cool-aid."

No, see here's the problem. Much as I absolutely abhor the cool-aid gambit, following scientific evidence isn't drinking the cool-aid. Relying on sites like Fisher's, or whale.to or SafeMinds and TACA and writing the post you just did over at AoA demonstrate a failure to think critically, to examine evidence, and a willingness to walk lockstep with an organization that is actively promoting the idea that vaccines, period, are bad. Oh, I know, green them up, reduce the number. Blah, blah. See more kids fall ill. See more kids die. All because some of you folks decided to jump on the bandwagon and blame vaccines for your child's autism and now every possible thing under the sun rather than accept that sometimes you have to roll the hard six. Sometimes there are no cleancut answers and no quick and easy solutions.

Don't worry, us evidence-based folks will be watching and we'll be more than happy to give you your due if you succeed at reducing vaccine rates. And, I'm certain, some more labels. After all, who, looking from the outside and with half a brain cell, really wants to be seen as being aligned with a holocaust-denying, mind-control believing bunch of conspiracy theorists?

Doesn't sound at all anti-vaccine: "Just to be clear: Vaccines are one of the environmental triggers that cause autism in genetically susceptible children" ( http://lifeasthemotherof4.blogspot.com/2009/04/let-me-state-this-as-clearly-as-i-can.html). To be fair, Hansen writes on her blog that she thinks shot should be thimerosal free and spaced out (http://lifeasthemotherof4.blogspot.com/2009/04/vaccines.html). She's a fan of Kirby, though, and the 14 studies, and like a friend of mine who isn't speaking to me, if her message is truly one of believing vaccines to be necessary, she's surrounded that message with garbage that obscures it. It's really hard to take someone serious when they are wrapped in the cloak of AoA, whale.to, etc. And then asserting that you know more than the average pediatrician on vaccines and linking to SafeMinds, really really doesn't help your case, nor does thinking that Generation Rescue phone survey is reliable evidence (http://lifeasthemotherof4.blogspot.com/2009/11/embarking-on-new-career.html).

My message would be to step away, re-evaluate, and recognize no one in the mainstream is going to take someone speaking from the midst of all that seriously, nor should they. If you can't correctly identify pseudoscience (hello, Mercola) and misinformation, what do you expect?

Update: See, the AoAers really don't get it. They don't get taken seriously because they swarm over the quacks.

Don't see Palevsky. Seriously. Don't. Already covered this last week. Woo. If you quote Mercola or one of his merry band of wooquack docs, I won't take you seriously. I won't think you know your head from a hole in the ground, and neither will other science-based people.


Thelma Interviews me on Integrity and Accountability for EDHF

Our conversation below, with Thelma in bold (okay, italics):

Shakin it up: An Interview on Integrity and Accountability

Well now, sure an I know that Louise an I been missin fer a fair spell. We done been busy gals of late, an hope our friends will forgive us for not findin an takin on the dumbasses.

Lordamighty, we gots ta member that the dumbasses have feelins, but it don't mean we fail ta take em on! We been focused on the internets dumbasses, sure, ain't we? Plenty of em. We don't often take on and talk about the dumbasses in our real lives.

What's up with folks is somethin I been awonderin? Why we got all these folks at Age of Fools sayin such nonsense an the outright lies? Blows Thelma right away. Whatever happened ta integrity an accountability?

Been talkin ta our friend Kim on it some, as she's had ta deal with some students this semester that have just puredee amazed her with their failure ta act with integrity an ta take accountability for their foolishness. Asked her what she thought about it, an we decided we'd take it on interview style, shake it up some. Made me feel all official like, interviewin an such. I got me some index cards an wrote my questions out, got adequately relaxed with my Wild Turkey and tab. Mhhhhm. Sat my plump arse down an gave her a holler while Louise was out with Mama Hazel at the senior citizen center teachin a class on somethin ta do with teeth in the mason jar not interferin with, well, never mind, that'd be a story for Louise ta tell. Boy howdy, though, cain't ya jus picture Mama Hazel and Louise co-teachin?

So, armed with my index cards, Kim an I had us a fine chat that I have done reproduced here. Kim says she'll have ta repay the favor; said her best bud Kathleen and my best bud Louise oughta consider it since we had great fun. Tried ta get Kim ta have a cuppa Boone's Farm while we chatted, but she weren't havin none of it. Said she'd rather lick tarpaper than ta drink the Boones. Done said the Wild Turkey nearly done her in when she tried it ta see if it were as good as I let on. She said oh, hale no, it ain't. It's an aquired taste, hun, is what I said.


Index card number one: What does integrity mean ta ya?

Kim: We could look it up and be technical about it, but to me it means: you do the right thing even when no one's looking. If I put on my psychology instructor hat, I could lecture on Kohlberg's stages of morality (http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kohlberg.htm) and talk about how we might define that differently depending on what stage we're in, but that gets messy fairly quickly. What we consider to be the right thing depends on our stage of moral development. For some, that is going to mean following society's rules and laws, and overall, that's not a bad way to go when we talk about things like violence, aggression, theft. For others, if the laws aren't just, doing the right thing means breaking the law. See, messy fast.

When it comes to integrity as a student, though, it's not messy. You do your own work. Period.

Thelma: Ya been on the facebook a commentin upon occasion that this here has been a rough semester for ya on the plagiarizin. Whaddaya mean by that, in case folks are awonderin?

Kim: I wrote a post last week or so on Olmsted taking the auhor of Denial to task for plagiarizing Offit. I noted that if the two paragraphs were indeed as Olmsted showed them that Specter had indeed plagiarized. Taking another person's words or ideas and not correctly attributing them or quoting them is plagiarism. It's one thing to paraphrase another's words as long as you let the reader know it's not your ideas; what Specter did was take an entire paragraph of Offit's and change a couple words and completely fail to attribute it or place it in quotes.

Careers have been ruined over this. It's a huge deal. It's a failure of integrity. I go over this a great deal in my English classes. I harp on it. I bring it up weekly. As laid back and easy going as I can be as an instructor (I know I'm personally wound tight, but I can and do cut students a lot of slack), the worst thing you can do as far as I'm concerned is hand in work that isn't your own. I focus a lot of attention on this; I carefully go over that you've got to give credit to other's peoples' ideas and words. If you use two words in a row, it better be in quotes.

I have never had so many students get caught intentionally plagiarizing before. I have had four students take or BUY essays wholesale off of the internet this semester and three individuals take bits and pieces and fit them into their papers. This shows a lack of integrity, and worse, an inability to take acountability for their actions.

Thelma an my next index card (I knew this was comin up!): What do you mean by accountability?

Kim: Accountability is owning your actions, accepting responsibility for your words and acts. This isn't just a problem for students. It's systemic throughout our society. The Age of Fools folks, as you call them, regularly fail to act with integrity or to take accountabiliy for their actions.

Bill Maher, Jay Gordon, Bob Sears, and the inflammation buy-my-services doctor are over at Huffington Post and elsewhere failing to take responsibility for their words and the actions that result from the inaccurate and often dangerous ideas that result from their words regarding vaccines. Jenny McCarthy is bad enough; you can almost feel like any idiot who takes his information from a playboy bunny whose only science is her son and what she learned at sites like Fisher's, whale.to, Mercola, Gordon, etc., deserves what he gets.

Like several of my students who were caught plagiarizing or the one who recently had a cussing hissy fit in the middle of my class, or like the priviliged yuppies who think rules don't apply to them, the inherent lack of integrity leads to an inability to take responsibility, to be held accountable. Every bad thing is someone else's fault. You made me do this. Vaccines did it. Big pharma wants to make us all autistic. Cops are mean. You name it. So many people refusing to own their mistakes.

Thelma: Sure, they be the dumbasses we are always takin on. Whadda we do ta stem the tide?

Kim: It starts by recognizing when we ourselves act without integrity. Yes, it can be a real pain in the butt to be the one to stand and say that an act is wrong, but integrity means not only doing the right thing personally but standing up and countering when we see a wrong.

It means teaching our children to act with integrity and to own their mistakes. That means leting them suffer some of the consequences of their own actions. Not easy, but necessary. It's the only way to promote accountability.

I've been dealing with community and two-year colleges since the mid 1990s (with an extended break to homeschool my son), and there is a definite shift in how today's students behave. The internet has made it so easy to just take other people's work that it seems a no-brainer to them to save themselves some time. They come to the college unprepared to learn on their own, unwilling to do the work, and unaware of how to treat others with respect. That's fine; we have to deal with them where they are at, but that means some real hard knocks for these kids as they learn that what worked for them in high school won't be accepted in college. It means choosing to stand there, as well, and be a bit confrontational and call out unacceptable behavior. I can't teach a student who won't put down the electronic device long enough to listen to me.

Thelma: What? I was textin Louise. She said Mama H jus took her teeth out and demonstrated somethin on a banana an sent me a picure. I think I have to wash my eyes out with soap now.

Happy Day: Finding the Bright Spots

I've worked with my garden girlies for several years on greetings and goodbyes and the right things to say. I still have to prompt them most days to tell their grandparents to have a good evening as we leave from our almost daily visits.

Most mornings I drop them off at school and get no acknowledgement despite my promptings. This week the biggest garden girlie started waving to me once she and little garden girlie were out of the car. Today, she waved and the little one yelled back to me, "Have a good day, Mama!" It's their third year of schooling, and for the most part I'm the one who drops them off. I've gotten used to telling them bye and to have a good day with no response.

Happy Day!