Anti-vaccine proponents

One Furious Scientist’s Blistering Response To An Ignorant Anti-Vaccination Meme

Addicting Info

The anti-vaccination movement, like climate-change denial, pitches opinion and folksy anecdotes against peer-reviewed science as if it were a fair fight. When a scientist came across this ridiculous anti-vaxxer meme on the internet, s/he couldn’t help but let rip with this awesome response.


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The only element of this argument I would dispute is ‘mum-led’, which smacks of sexism. This author has certainly seen a pretty even gender balance in the anti-vaccination movement, and across class and race too. The wave of anti-vaccination celebrities from Jim Carrey to Donald Trump is also un-nerving, given their public profile and ability to sway a mass audience.

While the sheer lunacy of the arguments put forth by anti-vaxxers might raise a laugh, the consequences are deadly serious. As the Washington Post reports:

Infectious diseases that we normally think of as rare in the United States are making a comeback. In recent years, pertussis — also known as whooping cough — has returned to the headlines. A measles outbreak that struck a Texas megachurch community late last summer sickened 21 people. And just recently, at least 16 people got sick during a measles outbreak in Ohio. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported 13 measles outbreaks so far in 2014 — the most since 1996.

That’s not to mention the rapidly escalating measles outbreak in Disneyland.

How did we get here?

In 1998, a rogue scientist named Andrew Wakefield released a paper which he claimed connected the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. No other scientist was ever able to match Wakefield’s findings, and in the coming years, it became known that Wakefield had a financial conflict of interest. In 2010, an ethics review board found that he had falsified the data in his report, causing an immediate retraction of his original paper and revocation of his medical license.

But the damage was done.  If Wakefield’s paper hadn’t been published by a respected medical journal such as The Lancet (which was in financial dire straits at the time and made an economic rather than scientific decision to publish) it would never have gained such legitimacy; a legitimacy which allowed mainstream media outlets to run a fear campaign against the vaccine from which we have not recovered.

The mass opposition to the paper’s findings by the scientific community was spun to make Wakefield appear the ‘Lone Truther’, versus the sinister cabal of mad scientists.

It is little wonder that anxious parents the world over are having their heads turned.  This level of noise from public figures and institutions which should know better could hardly be expected to go without consequence.  But at some point, we have to stop flapping along with careerist chicken-licken types, and make our own calm, informed choices.  It is this simple:

Refusing to vaccinate your child places them and others at risk of deadly, life-altering and entirely avoidable diseases.  Please don’t do that to them, or us.

Help us get the word out!
Ebola Outbreak

On Ebola, we need a dose of candor

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robin Robinson, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Counterterrorism Policy Assistant Commissioner Dr. Luciana Borio testify during a hearing on Ebola before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee October 16, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Washington Post ~ Eugene Robinson

Let’s make a deal: We’ll all promise not to panic about Ebola if the experts — especially those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — agree to get their stories straight.

They should begin by giving a better explanation of why they have concluded it would be wrong to “stop the flights” arriving from the Ebola “hot zone,” beginning with the fact that there are no such flights: There is no direct commercial air service between the countries at the epicenter of the outbreak — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — and the United States.

Travelers from those countries must make one or more intermediate stops to get here, meaning that any travel ban would have to target individuals based on nationality or recent visits to the affected countries. Experts should explain why this idea is neither crazy nor politically incorrect but simply, in their professional opinion, inadvisable.

The risk that limiting travel to and from West Africa would hamper efforts to control the outbreak is real. Saying that charter flights could be arranged for aid workers ignores the necessarily decentralized and ad hoc nature of responses to this kind of emergency. Doctors, nurses and other volunteers need to be able to go into a hot zone when they are ready, not when seats happen to open up on a charter.

They also need to know beforehand that they will be able to rotate out of the zone in a timely fashion. There is an obvious role that military or charter aircraft can play in evacuating aid workers who have been in close contact with Ebola patients. For those with less risk of exposure — those who, say, could advise health officials in affected countries but not actually treat victims of the disease — travel restrictions would serve no purpose except to make them think twice about going.

With polls showing majority support for some kind of travel ban, CDC Director Tom Frieden and others should not just state their position on the issue but show a willingness to engage with those who disagree. Experts should acknowledge that restrictions might help keep out the Ebola virus in the short run — but would, in their view, put Americans more at risk in the long run.

Pressed at a House committee hearing Thursday about travel curbs, Frieden gave a terse answer: “We will consider any options to better protect Americans.” Asked about other countries that have imposed restrictions, Frieden said he was unfamiliar with the details. Really? Wouldn’t that be important to know?

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did a somewhat better job at the hearing of explaining the consensus view: It is better to interview, track and, if necessary, quarantine the 100 to 150 travelers entering the United States from West Africa daily than risk the likelihood that at least a few infected people would manage to circumvent any ban.

Health experts also need to explain what went wrong in Dallas, Clevelandand points in between.

With two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas now being treated for Ebola, it is obvious that normal protocols for dealing with a highly infectious disease are not adequate for this virus. The most urgent task for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health is making sure that health workers nationwide — the Americans most at risk — are armed with procedures and equipment that can keep them safe.

It is understandable, perhaps, that the Dallas hospital was initially unprepared to handle Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan and that nurses involved in his early treatment might have been exposed. But now every hospital in the country should be on notice. The vast majority of health-care professionals will never deal with an Ebola case — but cases “could present anywhere,” as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said at Thursday’s hearing, which means that all nurses and doctors need to be prepared.

There also has to be an explanation of how the CDC handled the case ofAmber Joy Vinson, the second nurse with the virus. First we were told that she should not have traveled home from Cleveland to Dallas on a commercial airliner. Then CDC officials admitted that they cleared her to take the flight, even though she had a fever of 99.5 degrees. Then we learned that she might have been symptomatic — and thus potentially infectious — while on that Frontier Airlines plane.

The thing is, Americans are anxious about Ebola but not panicked. This will change, however, unless experts speak more honestly about the nature of the threat.

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

Ebola Outbreak

CDC Director on Ebola: ‘The Only Thing Like This Has Been AIDS’

NBC News

The widening Ebola epidemic is reminiscent of the health threat caused by AIDS, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, urging action so Ebola “is not the world’s next AIDS.”

“In the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where many countries pledged funds and services to try to stem the virus ravaging West Africa. “And we have to work now so that this is not the world’s next AIDS.”

AIDS also started in Africa, and experts agree it spread to cause a global pandemic because the world was slow to recognize it and fight it. Many leaders denied the virus caused the disease, and others blamed the patients for catching it.

Frieden spoke a day after Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died in a Dallas hospital. Meanwhile, in West Africa, 8,033 people have been diagnosed with Ebola and 3,879 have died, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, adding that the true numbers were almost definitely higher.

AIDS has killed 36 million people since it started a pandemic in the 1980s. The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS currently infects about 35 million people. Like Ebola, HIV is spread through bodily fluids.


Government Shutdown

6 long-term effects of the government shutdown

Got a flu shot? Good, but the CDC is now more than two weeks behind in tracking the viruses.

The Week

The pain has just begun

Now that the first government shutdown in 17 years is over and we’ve avoided defaulting on the debt (at least for a little while), life in America is returning to normal. Federal employees are going back to work. Museums and parks across the country are reopening. The panda cam at the National Zoo is up and running again.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t be feeling the consequences of the shutdown and debt ceiling fiascoes (sic) in the weeks, or maybe even months, to come. Thanks to the political theater in Washington, the full faith and credit of the U.S. government has once again been called into question and an already shaky economic recovery has been handed a major setback. It’s going to take some time to dig out of this self-inflicted hole.

Let’s take a look at six lasting effects of the fiscal brinkmanship:

1. GDP growth will likely decline
We’ve all heard anecdotes about restaurants remaining empty and family vacations being canceled because of the shutdown, but shuttering the government has been a tremendous drag on economic growth. Economists at Moody’s Analytics estimate that the shutdown caused a drop of 0.5 percentage points in gross domestic product, while Standard & Poor’s believes it “shaved” at least 0.6 percentage points off GDP growth in the fourth quarter of this year.

That amounts to taking roughly $24 billion out of the economy. Slower growth will send a signal to companies that it’s not time to invest, which in turn could lead to fewer jobs being created. Fewer jobs mean a slowdown in spending, and the cycle continues.

2. The veteran disability claims backlog grew
Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, testified before Congress on Oct. 9 that the budget impasse was hampering his agency’s ability to rectify a massive backlog in disability claims. Hundreds of thousands of veterans — many of whom have been in limbo for more than a year — have been waiting for their claims to be approved and to start receiving disability checks. The VA had been making some progress before the shutdown. Between March and September, claims processors decreased the backlog to 418,000, from 611,000.

But the shutdown forced the furlough of 7,800 employees within the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the backlog grew again. The VA is still tabulating the damage that was done, but some estimates indicate as many as 2,000 cases may be affected.

3. CDC lost ground tracking the flu
It’s flu season, which means that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would normally be at work tracking viruses. This year, however, researchers lost almost three critical weeks to study whether the current crop of flu viruses will respond to anti-viral medication and whether the flu vaccine will be effective.

“It’s going to take us some time to assess where we are so we can salvage what we can,” said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds. It’s not clear how long it will take to get the research back up to speed, since 85 percent of flu trackers were sent home during the shutdown. “We’re trying to figure out what the priorities are,” said Reynolds. “The sooner in the flu season that we do these things, the better.”

4. Consumer confidence has plummeted
The shutdown undermined confidence in the economy, which slid in October to its lowest level in nine months. According to Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, consumer confidence fell on their index to 75.2 in October, from 77.5 in September. Another gauge, the Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index, dropped 22 points from September to October.

When people don’t feel good about the economy, they tend to spend less. A recent survey commissioned by Goldman Sachs found that a whopping 40 percent of Americans cut spending because of the shutdown. That’s a problem heading into the holiday season, which is when retailers bring in a healthy portion of their revenue. “The timing is terrible from that perspective because the retail sector has been having a rocky year,” said Joe Fuller, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. “People are anxious about what’s going on in Washington, and so they’re saying it’s a good time to be prudent and save money.”

5. Research was disrupted
There are scores of research projects funded by the federal government, most of which were put on hold during the shutdown. Clinical trials for cancer patients were delayed. Scientists are scrambling to save data sets that track constantly changing ecosystems. And the 16-day hiatus affected research of annual arctic sea ice, climate change, and planetary exploration, just to name a few.

Furthermore, the National Science Foundation will most likely have to delay reviewing and awarding grant proposals. “If people have funding, they can continue, yes,” Stephen Merrill, director of science, technology, and economic policy at the National Research Council, told The Washington Post. “But anybody caught between grants or dependent on a new grant, or even the extension of an existing grant, they’re all directly impacted.”

6. Interest rates may increase
There are several factors that explain why interest rates go up and down, but the latest round of debt ceiling negotiations have creditors a little jumpy. (JPMorgan Chase sold all of its short-term Treasury holdings last week.) Rating agencies in the U.S. and abroad have signaled they aren’t pleased with members of Congress openly advocating for default.

Before a compromise was reached, Fitch Ratings put the U.S. on notice that its credit rating may be downgraded. “That immediately ripples through to pricing,” said Fuller, noting that lenders will want to adjust their interest rates to cover the additional risk. “When anybody who owes somebody money makes a credible threat that they are not going to pay, a prudent lender says that borrower is riskier than I thought.”

Even though Washington finally agreed to raise the borrowing authority until Feb. 7, Dagong, one of China’s four biggest credit rating agencies, dropped the U.S.’s rating from A to A- because the same political theater may repeat itself in four months.

Michelle Obama · Rush Limbaugh

How do you make a conservative hate water?

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an event at Watertown High School to encourage people to drink more water, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Watertown, Wis. (Photo by Morry Gash/AP)

Another knee-jerk reaction from Rush Limbaugh and his supporters.  I’m just waiting for the Obama’s to come out in support of air, simply to see what those folks would do.


Drink more water. It’s pretty simple advice, the type of thing any health-conscious consumer has probably read at least a dozen times over the last few years. It’d be hard to come up with a less controversial idea, until, of course, first lady Michelle Obama started advocating water.

Last week the first lady unveiled her new “Drink Up” campaign — an offshoot of her healthy “Let’s Move” advocacy to reduce childhood obesity. For “Drink Up” she traveled to Watertown, Wisc., to encourage kids and adults to add a little more water to their drinking habits.

“I’ve come to realize that if we were going to take just one step to make ourselves and our families healthier, probably the single best thing we could do is to simply drink more water,” she said in a statement announcing the program. “That’s it — it’s really that simple. Drink just one more glass of water a day and you can make a real difference for your health, your energy, and the way you feel.”

But according to the right wing’s resident conservative weathervane, Rush Limbaugh, this new campaign is simply “more command-and-control” from the White House.

“We have real trouble, real problems in this country and around the world. What is this push to drink more water?” he quipped on his program last Friday.

The primary scientific critic Limbaugh and a number of news outlets quoted, is Dr. Stanley Goldfarb of the University of Pennsylvania. He’s a nephrologist (doctor who specializes in kidneys) with a long history of bashing the Affordable Care Act.

As Limbaugh pointed out on his show, Goldfarb says there “really isn’t data to support” the claims that increased water consumption can achieve the goals of the “Drink Up” campaign. “To make it a major public health effort, I think I would say it’s bizarre,” Goldfarb said.

So where is Michelle Obama getting this data to support her new program? It comes from the Centers for Disease Control, which has found that one in four children don’t drink any water daily and that nearly half of all Americans are getting less than four cups of water a day.

The new “Drink Up” campaign is focused on positive advocacy, encouraging people to consume more water, rather than telling them not to avoid sugary sodas. And while you might think that positive message would assuage a nanny-state-averse conservative pundit, Limbaugh found a way to hate it anyway. His criticism? The campaign has her cozying up too much with Big Soda.

“It’s Big Bottled Water, or Big Bottled Water is Big Soft Drink,” Limbaugh said. “That’s who’s pushing this.”

As pundit Bill Maher joked on his Friday program, ”I think this is a test to see if the Republicans will come out against water. ‘That’s not water, that’s socialism juice!’”

At least one Republican managed to pass that test. Congrats, Rush.

Gun Violence

Guns in the home proving deadly for kids


USA Today

While efforts at gun control are still being fought, children’s advocates are urging parents and communities to take their own steps to protect kids.

He didn’t know the gun was loaded.

The 14-year-old Massachusetts boy had recently found his mother’s handgun, which she kept hidden under her mattress for protection.

“Promise me you’ll never touch it,” his mother, a single mom, had asked him.

But the lure of the gun was irresistible. He decided to show it off to his neighbor, 12-year-old Brian Crowell.

“He was going, ‘Click, click, click,'” pretending to shoot the gun, says Brian’s mother, Ann Marie Crowell, who spoke to the child and his mother after the incident. “But there was one last bullet. It went into Brian’s neck.”

And just like that, Crowell’s son was gone.

Nearly 800 children under 14 were killed in gun accidents from 1999 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one in five injury-related deaths in children and adolescents involve firearms.

Although mass shootings get more attention, children are far more likely to be killed at home.

Through homicide, suicide and accidents, guns cause twice as many deaths in young people as cancer, five times as many as heart disease and 15 times as many as infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Continue reading here

Gov. Rick Scott

Deadly Tuberculosis Outbreak In Florida Covered Up By GOP Governor Rick Scott

I have to ask: What were Florida voters thinking when they elected that Bat-Boy look-alike to the Governorship?  Everything about his demeanor, history of Medicaid Fraud and his actions since becoming Governor of Florida has been an unmitigated disaster.

Addicting Info

When the Center for Disease Control issues a warning about a large outbreak of Tuberculosis(TB), the rational person would prepare to address the issue. Perhaps notify the local hospitals or shelters. If the area had a top-notch treatment center, notifying them would likely be at the top of ones to-do list as governor I would suspect.

Instead, Governor Rick Scott of Florida ordered the shutdown of the states only TB treatment facility, the A G Holley State Hospital in Lantana, Florida. Part of a larger Department of Health budget cut signed just nine days before the state was notified of the problem, the shutdown was accelerated after the notice was given, and the facility shut down 6 months ahead of schedule back in June. The reason given; austerity, in order to fund the tax cuts for the rich.

Of course, the cost to treat a TB patient early is typically $500, however if prolonged, drug resistant TB strains which do develop can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And once those appear, the diseases contagious nature make it sure to spread rapidly, especially in areas effected by the layoffsfor water treatment plants. So much for austerity.

And, as the Palm Beach Post reported, it appeared that the Governor had been actively hiding the CDC report from lawmakers just before they ordered the closing of the state’s sole TB treatment center. Despite the confirmed deaths by TB and thousands exposed to the disease, the Governor felt that saving a few hundred dollars per patient was worth the looming crisis in the state. Now it appears that containment of the disease is no longer an option, and with TB being incredibly contagious, called “Consumption” for those who recall the works of Charles Dickens, the danger to the state looms large.

The truly despicable piece of this story, however, is that the information was actively hid by the Governors office. Under Florida’s Sunshine Laws, reports such as the CDC warning are to be kept in the public domain for ease of access. Instead, it took months for the Palm Beach Post to break the story, and by then the damage had been done, the treatment facility closed, and thousands of Florida citizens have been exposed to the deadly disease. Governor Scott’s Objectivist driven ideology has landed his state into a severe crisis, one in which his corporate masters can never hope to address.

But hey, he’s working hard to make sure that 92-year-old WWII veterans can’t vote, it must have slipped his mind.

For our readers in Florida, if you begin to show any of the signs of Tuberculosis do not wait. Get yourself tested and treated immediately.

*Correction* An error in the timeline of cancellation where the bill to authorize the shutdown was signed after the CDC notice. It should have said nine days before the notice was delivered.

Teen Pregnancies

Teen Pregnancies Highest In States With Abstinence-Only Policies

Duh!  Tell a teen NOT to do something and you can bet your last dollar he/she will do it!

Think Progress

The number of teen births in the U.S. dropped again in 2010, according to a government report, with nearly every state seeing a decrease. Nationally, the rate fell 9 percent to about 34 per 1,000 girls ages 15 through 19, and the drop was seen among all racial and ethnic groups. Mississippicontinues to have the highest teen birth rate, with 55 births per 1,000 girls. New Hampshire has the lowest rate at just under 16 percent.

This is the lowest national rate for teen birthssince the Centers for Disease Control began tracking it in 1940, and CDC officials attributed the decline to pregnancy prevention efforts. Other reports show that teenagers are having less sex and using contraception more often. Studies have backed this up. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. And in 2007, a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.”

But 37 states require sex education that includes abstinence, 26 of which require that abstinence be stressed as the best method. Additionally, research shows that abstinence-only strategies could deter contraceptive use among teenagers, thus increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy.

For example, take the states with the highest and lowest teen pregnancy rates. Mississippidoes not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico, which has the second highest teen birth rate, does not require sex ed and has no requirements on what should be included when it is taught. New Hampshire, on the other hand, requires comprehensive sex education in schools that includes abstinence and information about condoms and contraception.

Rachel Maddow Blog

Politics goes to the movies: Contagion

The Rachel Maddow Blog

So I saw Contagion recently, and I can’t get it out of my head — and not just in terms of the increased frequency of my hand sanitizer usage. If you haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t, you should — it’s a taut thriller that moves as quickly and efficiently as its viral subject), here’s the main thing I keep circling back to: basically, it’s about how the federal government saves the day. Faced with “MEV-1,” a hyper-contagious virus that becomes a global pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control isolate the bug, study it, and develop a vaccine. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security distribute it. The picture’s primary heroes are the CDC’s “Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer” and its Level-4 Biosafety Lab tech; one gives her life in battling the virus, the other risks hers, selflessly and modestly, to test the vaccine.

That Scott Z. Burns’s screenplay creates a giant problem that is solved by a giant government is, on the face, nothing revolutionary; within the context of the film, it’s the narrative arc that makes the most sense. But Contagion’s decidedly positive portrait of government is also something of a rebuke to the notion that government is the problem and the private sector, the free market, and “individual liberties” are the solution — even to natural disasters, which Tea Party favorites like Ron Paul insist warrant no response at the federal level.

For that matter, Contagion’s only portrayal of state government (the Minnesota Department of Health) is that of an organization that serves entirely as an obstruction to the CDC — fretting over economic damage from a possible panic, pinching pennies over an emergency triage center (“Is this coming out of your budget or ours?”).

The pandemic portrayed in Contagion is one that it takes giant organizations to contain: the World Health Organization, the Red Cross, FEMA, Homeland Security, the CDC. Contrary to the bogeyman theatrics of Ronald Reagan, in this story, the words “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” are not “terrifying”; they are literally a lifesaver. You can walk away from Contagion with a lot of interpretations, but not that a virus like “MEV-1” could have been wiped out by the private sector.

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Michele Bachmann

Cooper Tears Into Bachmann

The Huffington Post

Anderson Cooper highlighted what he said were the “dangerous falsehoods” that Michele Bachmann has been pushing on the campaign trail.

Cooper has often used Bachmann as a target for his daily “Keeping Them Honest” segment, debunking her statements about everything from American history to the cost of President Obama’s foreign tripsto her denials that her clinic runs so-called “ex-gay” therapy services.

On Thursday, he turned to her recent crusade against rival presidential candidate Rick Perry, whom she has attacked repeatedly for mandating that young girls be given the HPV vaccine. Cooper playedfootage of Bachmann on the “Today” show, where the Minnesota Republican said that a woman told her the HPV vaccine gave her daughter “mental retardation.” He didn’t mince words when describing what he thought of Bachmann’s decision to relay that story, calling it “incredibly irresponsible.”

As Cooper (and many others) pointed out, the Centers for Disease Control has found that there is absolutely no evidence that the vaccine causes any kind of mental disability.

“Bachmann is spreading all-out falsehood here,” Cooper said. “A dangerous falsehood at that. And it is not the first time she’s done this by any stretch of the imagination.” He then played a series of clips of what he called “just flat-out factually incorrect statements.” After the clips played, he wondered if the misstatements would have any effect on her campaign.

“Do voters care about the truth?” Cooper asked.

See video here…

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