An embarrassing, reckless, and irresponsible coda to Robert MacNeil’s career

April 18th, 2011 → 10:09 pm @

PBS’s Newshour is currently in the middle of a multi-part special on autism. The series brings Robert MacNeil back to the show for the first time in 16 years. If it turns out to be MacNeil’s swan song, it’ll be an embarrassing coda to his career.

The series kicked off with an episode titled “Autism Now: Robert MacNeil Shares Grandson Nick’s Story.” Here’s MacNeil’s introduction:

I’ve been a reporter on and off for 50 years, but I’ve never brought my family into a story, until Nick, because he moves me deeply. Also because I think his story can help people understand his form of autism and help me understand it better.

The rest of the hour-long program shows in spades why MacNeil would have been well-served by sticking to the principles that he’d followed for so long. (more…)

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An Age of Autism editor confronts child abuse on a school bus

April 7th, 2011 → 12:46 pm @

Kim Stagliano is one of the best-known figures within the anti-vaccine autism advocacy community. She can be brash, funny, and blunt. (If the National Vaccine Information Center’s Barbara Loe Fisher is the movement’s TV-ready super-ego, Stagliano is its id.) In November, she published a book titled All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Theresa, which details her experiences raising three daughters with autism. (Jenny McCarthy wrote the introduction.) (more…)

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Today’s lesson: “Alternative” Virginia school closes after half of its students infected with pertussis. All of them were unvaccinated.

April 6th, 2011 → 12:37 pm @

One of the most painful chapters to write in The Panic Virus was the story of Danielle and Ralph Romaguera, whose infant daughter, Brie, died of a pertussis infection when she was less than two months old. (In January, I recorded a Vanity Fair podcast with that chapter of the book.) Whooping cough is a scary, scary disease — as the Romagueras, or the parents of any of the ten infants who died of pertussis last year in California, can attest. (Nine of those children were under six months old, which is the age at which a child following the CDC-recommended vaccine schedule would be fully vaccinated.) (more…)

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More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson

March 31st, 2011 → 5:01 pm @

For years, CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson has been one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved. To take but one recent example: In January, she posted (and then removed) a story claiming that a study in the Archives of Neurology said almost precisely the opposite of what it actually reported.

She’s at it again: A few hours ago, she posted a story under the heading, “CBS News Investigates.”  The piece starts out thusly: (more…)

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Chill out, R2: Droids don’t get diseases like whooping cough

February 27th, 2011 → 9:31 am @

I was cleaning out some old files on my computer and I came across this clip of C3P0 reminding “parents of earth” to make sure their children are “fully immunized against childhood diseases.”

Can you imagine what the outcry would be if Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear were in a modern-day vaccine PSA?

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“You’d expect better from a Playmate”: Doonesbury issues a Jenny McCarthy smackdown

February 20th, 2011 → 12:13 pm @

In today’s Doonesbury, Boopsie bemoans the bum wrap Jenny McCarthy is giving to all of those former Playmates that don’t write books about bogus health scares…

As a wise man once said, Don’t Ever Change, Boopsie. Don’t ever change.

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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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