Tag Archives: vaccinations

Links for July 26th

AI: Thanks, Assholes.

This afternoon I would like to send a special thank you out to Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, Meryl Dorey, Age of Autism and anyone else who encourages parents not to vaccinate their children. It’s just so great what you guys are doing. You’re so warm and fuzzy with your adorable plea to “green our vaccine” and your desire to hold our hand while you, “help the children.” All of your worthless advice is based on your oh-so-cute and imagined mommy instinct, bad science, fear mongering, conspiracy theories or apparently just a plain old desire to f*%$ shit up for the rest of us and now all your tireless work is paying off. You have helped to create a whooping cough epidemic the likes of which we have not seen in 50 years! Way to go. Give yourselves a round of applause.

Sunday Sacrilege: Unorthodoxy

I saw something wonderful at a science fiction convention a few weeks ago. At these events, people often put on odd and extravagant costumes, and I saw one rather obese young man who’d made a minimalist choice: he’d come as one of the Spartans from the movie 300, which meant he was standing in the crowd wearing a red speedo and a bright red cape…and nothing else.

Now imagine this same young fellow at an event at your high school. It would have been brutal. I know; when I was in high school, I was a little poindexter, ostracized, laughed at, and treated like a space alien, and I was treated mildly: being even more different, being the fat kid or the gay kid or the homely kid or whatever excluded you from the Jock Clique or the Heathers or whatever ideal the majority of the student body worshipped meant merciless torment and unremitting cruelty.

Sunday Sacrilege: So alone : Pharyngula

Scientists and atheists do something that many believers find repellent: we shatter their perception of their relationship to the universe. And understandably, they don’t like that.

Whooping cough now an epidemic in California

According to a statement just released by the California Department of Public Health, pertussis — whooping cough — is now officially an epidemic in California.

That’s right: an almost completely preventable disease is coming back with a roar in California. There have been well over 900 cases of pertussis in that state this year, over four times as many as this time last year (and 600 more suspected cases are being investigated). If this keeps up, California may see more cases in 2010 than it has in 50 years.

If that doesn’t anger and sicken you enough, then this most assuredly will: there have been five deaths this year from pertussis as well, all babies under three months of age.

Joe Power, non-Psychic non-Detective: A Clarification « The Merseyside Skeptics Society

From time to time in the world of skepticism, something happens which you really don’t see coming – something totally unexpected. Often, these are positive things – like the media interest in our 10:23 Campaign, or the random discovery that comedy-legend Ed Byrne knows who you are. From time to time, they’re somewhat negative things – like discovering childhood-hero Johnny Ball thinks farting spiders are responsible for the high CO2 levels in the world. And then there are the things that are just utterly unpredictable, out of the left-field, and hard to wrap your head around.

On Friday of last week, I got a phone call. From Ormskirk police. The polite and friendly officer assured me there was nothing to worry about, but that he was looking into alleged threats of violence coming from people on Facebook. Specifically, within the group page of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. And aimed at non-psychic non-detective Joe ‘I’ll just pop to your toilet‘ Power.

The Magnetic Therapy Water Wand: A Debunking from History

the Daily Mail offered its readers, “30 ways to relieve hayfever: From pills to nasal prongs, our guide to beating pollen”.

The article is a pretty good example of everything that is wrong with health journalism. Whilst, no doubt, amongst these thirty tips there is some good and reliable advice, it is also so full of unchecked quackery, nonsense and falsehood that it renders the whole article as unreliable and useless. It serves only as an advertisement for the suppliers of the products, pills and potions mentioned.

One product caught my attention, and it faced some stiff competition from the qu chi bands and ear candles. Magnetic Therapy Ltd, a Manchester based company, is selling something called the ‘Magnetic Water Wand’.

Why the Digital Economy Act simply won’t work

With the passage into law of the dread Digital Economy Act comes Ofcom’s guidelines that are the first step toward rules for when and how rightsholders will be able to disconnect entire families from the internet because someone on or near their premises is accused of copyright infringement.

Consumer rights groups and privacy groups – such as the Open Rights Group, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Which, and Consumer Focus – participated in the process, making the Ofcom rules as good as possible (an exercise that, unfortunately, is a little like making the guillotine as comfortable as possible).

But this isn’t the last word in the copyfight – not even close. Because disconnection for downloaders will only serve to alienate entertainment industry customers

Medical advice for head-bangers

The British Medical Journal investigates the health risks from head-banging and recommends protective gear and “adult-oriented rock”

These cuts won’t hurt a bit. Unless you’re young or poor

This is only the appetiser, not even the first course, just the amuse-bouche to whet the appetite. With a hint of lip-smacking relish for the coming cuts, George Osborne and David Laws today sharpened their knives. There were no expressions of regret, not even a crocodile tear or two for the real suffering they were inflicting. That attitude may be their downfall in the year ahead.

What’s £6.2bn? A mere bagatelle, David Cameron kept saying throughout the election. It’s only a hundredth of government spending, so why the fuss?

Links for February 9th

Digital Economy Bill bill could ‘breach rights’

An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government's approach to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users.

The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government's Digital Economy Bill needed clarification.

It said that technical measures – which include cutting off persistent pirates – were not "sufficiently specified".

In addition, it said that it was concerned that the Bill could create "over-broad powers".

iPad Snivelers: Put Up or Shut Up

It's taken me a couple of days for me to understand the wet sickness I felt in response to all the post-iPad whining, until it finally came up in a sputtering lump: disgust.

The iPad isn't a threat to anything except the success of inferior products. And if anything's dystopian about the future it portends, it's an American copyright system that's been out of whack since 1996.

Apple – an open and shut case?

In a fascinating and well-argued piece in this morning's Financial Times, the Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain expresses a worry that is now taking hold amongst many – that Apple has moved firmly from the "open" to the "closed" camp in the software community.

He points out the tight control that is now exercised by the inhabitants of 1, Infinite Loop, Cupertino over the software that can be installed on the iPhone – and in future on the iPad – and worries about the power that gives governments and content owners to demand that certain applications be switched off.

Open Societies need open systems

Openness, like democracy, must be constantly defended, says Bill Thompson.

Are expensive digital HDMI cables better?

"You wouldn't spend £20,000 on a car then put cheap tyres on it, would you?"

That might seem like powerful argument for road safety, but it's the kind of line being trotted out in high street electrical stores to sell HDMI cables.

These short, unexciting-looking wires are used to connect devices such as Blu-ray players and games consoles to modern, flat screen televisions.

HDMI cables rarely come included with new gadgets and while they can be bought for as little as 95p, some retailers stock models costing up to £110.

Gates: $10B vaccine program could save 8.7M lives

Bill and Melinda Gates announced plans Friday to invest $10 billion in the fight against a number of illnesses including AIDS and said the record donation could save nearly nine million lives.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they said the 10-year program will focus on vaccines for AIDS, tuberculosis, rota virus and pneumonia.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Bill Gates.

"Vaccines are a miracle," added Melinda Gates. "With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime. We've made vaccines our priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen firsthand their incredible impact on children's lives."

None dead in mass homeopathic overdose

The mass homeopathic overdose, organised by the 10:23 campaign, went ahead on Saturday morning, and it appears everyone involved lived to tell the tale. Hundreds of sceptics gathered at various locations around the country, many of them outside branches of Boots, and at 10:23am downed entire packets of homeopathic pills. With the exception of an amusing remark reported in the Observer from Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who quipped that one "swallower" hurt their thumb while opening the pill bottle, there were no reports of casualties.

Ericsson cutting an extra 1,500 jobs

Swedish telecoms equipment group Ericsson has said it is cutting an extra 1,500 jobs, as it reported a 92% fall in quarterly profits.

Hit by the cost of its restructuring work, and a continuing drop in orders, its net profit for October to December was 314m kronors ($43m; £27m).

This compares with 3.89bn kronors for the same quarter in 2008.

The latest 1,500 job cuts come on top of the 5,000 positions that the company shed last year.

British Newspapers Make Things Up

[A]ll British newspapers are tabloids because they don’t distinguish between what is true and what they make up. I knew this from my own experiences of dealing with British journalists, but, as it turns out, even the British government admits, in an official government publication, that British newspapers make things up and report them as facts.

It’s idiotic to blame God, the devil, or anything other than geology for the Haitian earthquake

[...]we can clearly identify the "fault" that runs under the Atlantic Ocean and still puts Portugal and other countries at risk, and it took only a few more generations before there was a workable theory of continental drift. We live on a cooling planet with a volcanic interior that is insecurely coated with a thin crust of grinding tectonic plates. Earthquakes and tsunamis are to be expected and can even to some degree be anticipated. It's idiotic to ask whose fault it is. The Earth's thin shell was quaking and cracking millions of years before human sinners evolved, and it will still be wrenched and convulsed long after we are gone. These geological dislocations have no human-behavioral cause. The believers should relax; no educated person is going to ask their numerous gods "why" such disasters occur. A fault is not the same as a sin.

Web Security: Are You Part Of The Problem? – Smashing Magazine

Website security is an interesting topic and should be high on the radar of anyone who has a Web presence under their control. Ineffective Web security leads to all of the things that make us hate the Web: spam, viruses, identity theft, to name a few.

The problem with Web security is that, as important as it is, it is also very complex. I am quite sure that some of you reading this are already part of an network of attack computers and that your servers are sending out spam messages without you even knowing it. Your emails and passwords have been harvested and resold to people who think you need either a new watch, a male enhancement product or a cheap mortgage. Fact is, you are part of the problem and don’t know what you did to cause it.

Links for December 4th

Don’t strike up the band

Visit a pub and there’s every chance you’ll hear background Muzak, or high-volume Sky Sports coverage of Premiership football. But what are the chances of hearing live music?

At least as good as they have ever been, says the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which controls the licensing of pubs. Nonsense, say musicians, who blame the 2003 Licensing Act for drowning live music in red tape. The facts to settle this argument ought to be there, but aren’t.

Ever since the act came into force there has been a long-running argument between the department and its critics, who assert that dodgy statistics, misleading statements by ministers, and a failure to collect the right sort of data make its claims unbelievable. Far from “flourishing”, as the Government claims, music in pubs is declining or dying, they say.

New Agers and Creationists should not be President

New Age beliefs are the Creationism of the Progressives. I move in circles where most people would find it absurd to believe that humans didn’t evolve from prehistoric ancestors, yet many of these same people quite happily believe in astrology, psychics, reincarnation, the Tarot deck, the i Ching, and sooth-saying. Palmistry and phrenology have pretty much blown over.

If you were attending a dinner party of community leaders in Dallas, Atlanta, Omaha or Colorado Springs and the conversation turned to religion, a chill might fall on the room if you confessed yourself an atheist. Yet at a dinner party of the nicest and brightest in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and (especially) Los Angeles, if the hostess began to confide about past lives, her Sign and yours, and her healing crystals, it might not go over so well if you confessed you thought she was full of it.

Study shows lower autism rate in vaccinated kids

A study just released claims that kids who are vaccinated against measles have a much lower autism rate.

Web giants unite against Digital Britain copyright plan

Some of the biggest names on the web have written to Peter Mandelson to express “grave concerns” about elements of the Digital Economy Bill.

Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay object to a clause that they say could give government “unprecedented and sweeping powers” to amend copyright laws.

“We urge you to remove Clause 17 from the bill,” the letter read.

However, the government has said it believes the clause will “future-proof online copyright laws”.

Australian skeptics cheer David and Toni McCaffery

Continuing with Australian Skeptics awards, they are giving out a new award in honor of Fred Thornett, a skeptic who died earlier this year. The first recipients of The Fred, given to outstanding promoters of reason, are David and Toni McCaffery.

The McCafferys are heroes of mine. Earlier this year, their four week old infant daughter lost a battle with pertussis. Yes, whooping cough. She was too young to be vaccinated, and because the antivaccination movement is strong in their area, vaccination rates were low, and the herd immunity was in turn too low to help little Dana.

When this grieving couple was shrilly and mercilessly attacked by Meryl Dorey and the AVN, the McCafferys fought back. They went on TV, they gave interviews, and they told the truth: their daughter died from an easily preventable disease, and that people like Dorey and the AVN are a public health menace.

Deepak Chopra: redefining “wrong”

I am no fan of Deepak Chopra. For years he has gone on TV, in print, and in his books, peddling all manners of nonsense. Here’s a quick reality check: if his claims of “quantum healing” are correct, why is he getting older?

Anyway, he has gone to the very font of new age nonsense, the Huffington Post, to spew more woo: he’s written an article about why skepticism is bad. It’s almost a bullet-pointed list of logical fallacies.

Brits 2, Scientologists 0

It’s nice to see the Brits sticking it to the Scientologists – first I read how English Heritage have turned down an application from the cult’s supporters to place a blue plaque on a building once occupied by founder L Ron Hubbard in London’s Fitzroy Street, and then I read this story on how Winston Churchill’s descendants are threatening legal action over a Scientology poster (pictured) which uses the wartime PM’s image. The poster was aimed at recruiting new Scientologists to work, funnily enough, at the same Fitzroy Street building for which English Heritage denied the blue plaque.

Keeping cyberspace open to the public

Bill Thompson doesn’t want to see the online commons enclosed by private interests.

Why does Peter Mandelson favour the Analogue Economy over the Digital?

Mandelson is standing up for the Analogue Economy, the economy premised on the no-longer-technically-true idea that copying is hard. Companies based on the outdated notion of inherent difficulty of copying must change or they will die. Because copying isn’t hard. Copying isn’t going to get harder. This moment, right now, 2009, this is as hard as copying will be for the rest of recorded history. Next year, copying will be easier. And the year after that. And the year after that.

And don’t suppose for a moment that other countries are in the dark about this. Right now, the future of the world’s economies hangs on each government’s ability to ignore the Analogue Economy’s pleading.

Countries that declare war on copying – and on all those businesses that are born digital – are yielding their economic futures to countries that embrace it, creating a regime that nurtures the net and those who use it.

Links for April 2nd

The vaccine/autism theory may be dead, but the treatments live on.

A federal court may have changed the public discourse about the safety of vaccines in February, when it dismissed the theory that they cause autism. But vaccine damage is still the reigning paradigm for a rump caucus of thousands of parents who turn to physicians with a remarkable set of beliefs and practices in hope of finding recourse for their children’s ills.

I really wish this were an April Fools’ Day joke…

Yesterday, given the release of Jenny McCarthy’s new book espousing antivaccinationism and autism quackery and the attendant media blitz the antivaccine movement has organized to promote it, I predicted that a wave of stupid is about to fall upon our great nation.

Well, the stupid has landed. And how. An interview with Jenny has just been published on the TIME Magazine website in which she “surpasses” herself. In fact, so dense is the stupid emanating from what passes for a “brain” in that empty head of hers that words fail me. Suddenly, my favorite snarky analogies about “black hole of stupid, beyond whose event horizon no intelligence or science can pass,” “waves of neuron-apoptosing stupidity,” or “the stupid, it burns thermonuclear” (or supernova or hypernova) all seem woefully inadequate to the task of describing the sheer magnitude of the stupid that issues forth from the interview.

Parents ‘impose countryside ban’

Nervous parents are making the countryside “out of bounds” for their children, a survey has suggested.

Natural England produced the survey, called One Million Children Outdoors, to launch a project encouraging children to visit the countryside.

It found less than 10% of children played in natural places, compared to 40% of adults when they were young.

Shift in anti-film piracy tactics

The UK film industry is changing the focus of its fight against piracy.

A series of adverts warning people against the offence have been withdrawn and replaced with a campaign thanking the public for their support.

The Industry Trust says cinema and DVD sales rose in 2008 and its campaign message “You wouldn’t steal a car… piracy is theft” transformed attitudes.

I absolutely hate that piracy “ad” although it’s not as bad as the one they use on our House DVDs that suggests that piracy funds terrorism. Of course it does. Idiots.