Kids are dying — and that’s a fact, not a belief.

February 17th, 2011 → 8:35 am @

Yesterday morning I was a guest on ABC Radio National’s “Late Night Live” program (audio link) in conjunction with the release of the Australian edition of The Panic Virus. (Coincidentally, I also received my copy of the AU edition yesterday afternoon.) It was an interesting program: A little more talk about 9/11 conspiracy theorists than I’m used to, but clearly vaccines were of much interest to the host and the audience.

When I got off the line and checked my email, I saw a message from David McCaffery, whose four-week-old daughter, Dana, died in March 2009 after being infected with pertussis. The McCafferys live in New South Wales, and I got to know them while working on my book (their story is included in the preface to the Australian edition). “Sad news, Seth,” David wrote, before pointing me to a story about a newborn baby in Melbourne who died last week of whooping cough. (More information about vaccine awareness efforts in Australia can be found on Dana McCaffery’s Facebook page.) (more…)

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The Huffington Post’s ‘Medical Review Board’ signs off on vaccine fear-mongering

February 11th, 2011 → 6:49 pm @

I haven’t hid my feelings about The Huffington Post‘s track record when it comes to responsible science reporting, and earlier in the week, I speculated as to what effect AOL’s purchase of the site would have on the combined entity’s future coverage. (As part of the deal, Arianna Huffington will assume editorial control of AOL news operations.)

If today’s HuffPo story by David Kirby is any indication, the site will continue to run misleading and inaccurate stories about vaccines and their supposed connection to autism. Kirby is a more felicitous and intelligent writer than many of the site’s other contributors, but his conclusions are no less irresponsible or off-base. Earlier today, I unpacked a handful of the problems with Kirby’s effort in a Scientific American guest blog. (more…)

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Let me state very simply: HuffPo publishes dangerously ignorant dreck

February 7th, 2011 → 11:05 am @

Last night, AOL finalized a deal to buy The Huffington Post for $315 million. From my perspective, the biggest news is that Arianna Huffington will, according to The New York Times, “take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company’s other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.”

Much of the hand-wringing about Arianna’s ascension has focused on her liberal political views. (The headline on the Fox Nation website read, “AOL veers hard left, buys Huffington Post.”) I’m more worried about whether The Huffington Post‘s history of publishing baldly inaccurate stories about science and medicine will now infect the rest of AOL’s content. (more…)

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Causation & correlation: What declining special ed rates don’t (necessarily) say about autism diagnoses

February 4th, 2011 → 6:05 pm @

Earlier today, California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, posted a short piece on rising rates of autism and declining rates of students with “learning disabilities”: (more…)

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“He should have examined the eyes of my mind”

February 4th, 2011 → 10:27 am @

I’ve been a bluegrass fan for years — which means I’ve come across a fair number of high lonesome oddities.

This video of Jimmy Martin lip-syncing along to his song “20/20 Vision” takes the cake. I’ll leave it here without any further comment.

(Hat tip to guitarist/singer extraordinaire Michael Daves, who also happens to be a kick-ass mandolin teacher. Look out for Michael’s album with Chris Thile of the Punch Brothers sometime in the next year.)

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NYT piece on “doubting” science features graphic by controversial autism researcher

February 2nd, 2011 → 8:49 am @

Yesterday, The New York Times energy and environment blog ran a post titled “Are We Hard Wired to Doubt Science?” The central question posed by the piece — “How, in a rational society, does one understand those who reject science, a common touchstone of what is real and verifiable?” — is also the central question of my book, so it’s obviously a topic I’m very much interested in.

What struck me right off the bat was the use of the following illustration, which described “The cerebral cortex and hippocampus amygdala (in red) in a normal brain.”* The image was credited to Dr. Martha Herbert of Mass General Hospital. (more…)

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CBS & the flu vaccine, pt. 2: A little misinformation goes a long way

January 29th, 2011 → 4:28 pm @

It didn’t take long for comments to start showing up on my post criticizing Sharyl Attkisson’s misleading flu vaccine story on the CBS News site. (A very quick recap: Attkisson implied, incorrectly, that a study by Amy Brooks-Kayal indicated that febrile seizures linked to the flu vaccine put children at an increased risk of developmental disorders.)

Before I get into the substance of those comments, I want to share the contents of an email Brooks-Kayal sent me this morning after I asked her about the CBS News report: (more…)

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