Autism, Empathy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
TIME Magazine on Epigenetics and Autism

Tribune Watchdog Or Tribune Skunk? Part 1

Cockroach-Gum-Bait-663499 By Teresa Conrick

It has been almost two months since the Chicago Tribune did their second malicious and biased report on the biomedical treatments for autism.  They have since done a third which also smells suspicious.  Many of the treatments that the Tribune incorrectly reported in that November 23rd article are medically based and focus on restoring normal function to organs and systems damaged by chronic bacterial, viral, and fungal infections as well as metals such as lead, aluminum and mercury.  Many of these toxins are found in vaccines.  The Tribune has appeared to make it a mission of theirs to try and paint a picture of desperate parents doing voodoo to treat children who have some sort of genetic and incurable developmental disorder.  Hardly the reality as we now look at 1:100 children developing autism and a 50% increase from just 2 years: Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders --- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006.

I decided to check out the Trib website and see if any of our many letters sent to Trine or the Editor addressing the benefits of biomedical treatments were posted.  There were just 2 letters on their website for Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan's shoddy piece and they were an interesting pair.

The first letter was from a local doctor and attempted to negate and belittle the idea of neuroinflammation in autism.  It was absurd yet seemed part and parcel to letter number two, an ad nauseam, cheerleading effort on the dangers of medically treating autism.  It seemed eerily familiar yet I was unaware of the organization, Association For Science In Autism Treatment,  but a quick look at their website explained quite a lot: Association for Science in Autism Treatment - Board of Directors ....  Here was another "association" formed to show us the "science" in autism treatments yet looking on their Advisory Board, I saw three names that jumped off the page hinting towards deep conflict of interest.

What then is the purpose of the Association For Science In Autism Treatment? Looking at these names and their involvement in autism might shed some light:

1- Dr. Stephen Barrett : His website describes him, "Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who resides near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has achieved national renown as an author, editor, and consumer advocate" but there are numerous websites sharing a different opinion, for example: HERE and HERE QuackPotWatch.

Wikipedia lists numerous accomplishments: Wiki Barrett; yet I found this (Wiki Mediation Cabal) addition so the issues seem to be ongoing.  I should mention that he has one whole website just devoted to bashing most biomedical treatments for autism: dietary supplements, chelation, homeopathy, hyperbaric oxygen, IVIG, oh, and how interesting that when you click on that link, it takes you  directly to the infamous Trib article Autism Watch.

2- Dr. Bennett Leventhal : I am very familiar with Dr. Leventhal as he was here in Chicago for many years. He was also coincidentally quoted in an article which I was also in that was reported by the Chicago Tribune (2006). I am in that article discussing my daughter, Megan, and my thoughts on thimerosal and her regression.  Dr. Leventhal's statements, "Chelation, for instance, could strip the body of essential minerals as well, said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a University of Illinois at Chicago psychiatrist, an expert on autism and the director of an Illinois task force on the disorder. Furthermore, Leventhal is convinced mercury does not trigger autism."If mercury was the cause, we'd be all over it," he said. "It might help shed some light on what areas of the brain are damaged and it might give us some clues to the genetic susceptibility and help us find some answers. But unfortunately, it just isn't turning out to be the case."

Quite a mouthful especially since he now also has become an expert witness for Respondents in the Autism Omnibus Cases. He and fellow genetic autism, psychiatry, researcher Dr. Ed Cook, who is also now known for his Respondent testimony in the Autism Omnibus cases, have been a team looking for those elusive autism genes for MANY years (HERE.)

They also have another common bond.  It appears that they have each been involved with Eli Lilly (HERE). Dr. Cook reported to receive Consultation Fees (include scientific advisory boards) for Eli Lilly. (HERE)

Dr. Leventhal is a bit more popular: Dr. Leventhal received "research support from Abbott, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Shire, Pfizer, and Forrest Laboratories; he is on the speaker bureaus of Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb/Otsuka; and he has consulting relationships with Abbott, Eli Lilly, Janssen, McNeil, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline"
(HERE)

3- Dr. Eric Fombonne : "Eric Fombonne, M.D., is professor of psychiatry and head of the Division of Child Psychiatry at McGill University. He also directs the Department of Psychiatry at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and serves as the Canada Research Chair in Child Psychiatry.  His research focuses on epidemiological investigations of child psychiatric disorders and the risk factors associated with them, with a particular focus on the epidemiology of autism."  (Abstract Here)

Dr. Fombonne also has similar interests like Dr. Cook and Dr. Leventhal.  Rigorous and unwavering research on genes as the sole cause of autism, also an expert witness for Respondents in the Autism Omnibus cases, and...you guessed it...."In the United Kingdom, Dr Fombonne has provided advice on the epidemiology and clinical aspects of autism to scientists advising parents, to vaccine manufacturers (for a fee), and to several government committees between 1998 and 2001. Since June 2004, Dr Fombonne has been an expert witness for vaccine manufacturers in US thimerosal litigation."  (HERE)

Now how is it possible that expert witnesses in cases regarding vaccine injury and autism, including thimerosal, could possibly be unbiased when they have received money from these same companies that have been involved in making vaccines or manufacturing thimerosal?  How can a paper like the Chicago Tribune post letters from an "association" and doctors who have such conflict of interest on the topic of vaccine injury, autism, and the treatments that are helping those children?  Where are all of the other letters sent to the Tribune?

I'll leave you with one more question.  How is it possible that two letters from two different states end up being posted on the Tribune website with identical and synchronized titles that are different from the original article?

"On behalf of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, we would like to commend you for your recent article "Tribune watchdog; Dubious medicine; Research hijacked for autism; 'People are abusing science' to justify experimental treatments" (Page 1, Nov. 23)."

and then:

"This is in response to "Tribune watchdog; Dubious medicine; Research hijacked for autism; 'People are abusing science' to justify experimental treatments" (Page 1, Nov. 23).

yet -- the complete, histrionic Tribune article title was:


TRIBUNE WATCHDOG DUBIOUS MEDICINE
Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science
Alternative therapies amount to uncontrolled experimentation on children, investigation finds

I love a good mystery.

Teresa Conrick has two beautiful daughters. When she is not teaching, she is researching the biomedical implications of autism, both past and present.


 

Comments

Allison Chapman

Awesome Job Teresa, way to weave the web!
There are just too many conflicts of interest and too many strong denials that completely do not relate to the autism I know and am familiar with.

My son was home for 3 days this week because he was rolling around on the floor at school saying "I sad, I sad, I sick, I sick", come to find out from a stomach exam, it's extreme constipation, causing extreme pain. He has had these episodes so many times over the years but just recently has been able to verbalize so well. The pain of our children has been denied for far too long and there is something incredibly fishy going on to have the same voices from the other "genetic only" "brain involvement only" crowd parroting the same talking points over and over.

They are so unbelievably wrong and as the science involving the medical pieces in autism are emerging, they seem scared and more on the attack than ususal. Someone needs to ferret out their motives because they most certainly have nothing to do with the well being of children with autism.

nhokkanen

Ben, look at the Society of Professional Journalists' web page. One article is titled "SPJ cautions journalists: Report the story, don’t become part of it."

Next, read the Ethics page.
https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Journalists should:
— "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived."
— "Disclose unavoidable conflicts."
— "Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."
— "Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting."
— "Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so."

Teresa and Tim accurately point out that Ms. Tsouderos failed to abide by SPJ ethics rules.

Tim Kasemodel

Ben says: "I think it would be ffective to look at the arguments that the TRIBUNE is making and evaluate their claims using reason and logic instead of trying to discredit their sources."

Tim says:

"I challenge the author and yourself to explain why all the MEDICALLY DOCUMENTED toxic crap inside my child and thousands of others could NOT possibly be related to his condition? And why are our attempts to reduce that toxic overload not logical?"

Ben replies:

"Your points in no way counter mine."

Ben - the challenge stands my friend. Teresa's blog above is all about HER argument why the author may be avoiding my question as well - since you jumped into the fray, maybe you have the answer?

I eagerly await your straightforward detailed response. Stay focused on the question.....

Garbo

Well, ben, don't think of it as a personal attack, think of it as a result of broadening the definition of unacceptable journalism under this year's DSAIV manual (Doesn't Speak Autism). It's not that there are suddenly MORE unacceptably cozy journalists shilling for pharma in 2010, it's just that we're going to start publicly calling them out on it and investigating them. Consider it a change in diagnostic criteria.

I mean really, once you start looking at all the birds feathering nests together -- Gerberding and Holzworth and Merck, Singer and Offitt, ECBT and their pharma sponsors Wyeth and Sanofi, Grinker and his wife, Insel and his brother -- the list of egregious relationships goes on and on.

No journalist worth their salt should feel persecuted by a public that demands transparency on an issue of life or death importance that is affecting 1 in 58 boys born in this country. We aren't interested in personally attacking anyone. But we will demand the truth, particularly from those who are supposed to be its guardians.

ben

This is a reply to Tim Kasemodel so I would like it if it is not deleted

Your points in no way counter mine. The fact is that the only goal of this blog entry and part two is to try to discredit the author of the tribune article through guilt by association. This tactic is infantile and proves nothing.

Randy

"I can't help but think about other products that fit the description of "industrial chemical". Flouride in your drinking water is an industrial waste by-product. Go ahead and stick a nail in a can of Coke for a week or so. Hell, look up the origins of "aspartame". I could go on and on."

Tim - that was exactly my reaction to this "article". Other notable examples of similar hypocrisy - the recent FDA flip-flop on it's BPA stance, the dozens of essentially "secret" chemicals currently floating around in who-knows-what consumer products, all protected by decades old laws that favor the protection of "trade secrets" over consumer safety. Really makes me sick to hear so called advocates rant about how "appalled" they are that kids are being subjected to treatments that are not tested and / or "blessed" by the FDA.

A reporter with a biased agenda - somebody needs to pull the stick out of Trine's ass before they let her write anything again.

Anna

So, I read the articles by Trine. At the beginning I was very upset. But then I started to see this differently: Chicago is pharma-country. Abbot and Baxter have headquarters here. So, where will pharma companies attack their perceived enemies more strongly that at home? And yes, Chicago Tribune definitely has economic troubles... So, I'm pretty sure that both facts are connected and Trine and the Tribune have not found autism and biomed just by chance ;-)
On the other hand, that means that we are causing pharma companies enough trouble that they need to address it in such a public way (so, congrats to all parents that believe in biomed and all doctors that support it). Also, since this time they addressed AoA by name, many congratulations to you. You are an identified concern to them (and you can be very proud of that). And now, we should not let them forget that we will win. Because we don't do this for money (like they do) but for the health of our children. So, more power to us

mlinn

Thank you Teresa, excellent summary. ASAT is such a disappointment of an organization. They started out with good enough intentions, to promote ABA as an effective treatment, but it boggles my mind how they have basically stagnated and resisted acknowledgement and acceptance of the biological, medically treatable, whole body aspect of autism. Then again, one look at their board and advisors, and it's no mystery. About 90% of them are BCBAs. Don't get me wrong, I love my current BCBAs and they have helped my kids tremendously. However, as a group, I'd have to say they are the most unscientific bunch I have ever met. Seriously, I could do a "Jay Walking" style interview with all of the behaviorists I've worked with over the years and I'm quite sure none of them could answer basic biology or chemistry questions (yeah, that would be REAL science). I remember one BCBA trying to understand a parent explaining glyconutrients and 5 carbon sugars. She literally tilted her head to the side and said, "there's no carbon in sugar," completely perplexed. How did we let this profession dupe themselves and society into thinking they are "scientists"? It's the charade of the century--

Elucidatus

Times are rough these days and even in these hard times I would rather spend my money on toilet paper than wipe my ass with the Chicago Tribune. Because the Chicago Tribune is already full of shit.

Lawrence Landherr

Bravo to the many ladies who posted excellent well supported comments debunking the Chicago Tribune drivel. As for the "experts" quoted in the article there is an old axiom which fits: "There are none so blind as those who will not see".

Kevin Barry

The entire CTI Science FAQ page was sent to both the reporter and her editor before the article was published.

There is an internet rumor that OSR#1® is an Industrial Chelator. Is this true?

No. OSR#1® as produced by CTI Science is not now and has never been marketed or tested as an environmental or industrial chelator. Nor has OSR#1® been tested in humans as a chelator by CTI Science, and no claims of chelation treatment use are made by CTI Science.

Is OSR#1® being marketed as a treatment for Disease or Disorder?

No. OSR#1® is not a drug and no claim is made by CTI Science that OSR#1 can treat or cure any illness or disease. OSR#1® is a dietary antioxidant. OSR#1 is not FDA approved for any medical treatment or protocol.

OSR#1® is a dietary antioxidant which helps scavenge free radicals and helps maintain glutathione levels. Low glutathione levels are an indicator of oxidative stress. Ask your medical professional for more information about the harmful health effects of free radicals and oxidative stress, and whether your blood glutathione levels should be tested.

https://www.ctiscience.com/CTIScience/FAQs.do

Jacey

Teresa -
I am moving out of the Chicago area. Way too embarrassing to live here. Thanks for disputing this rag's articles once again.
I cancelled my subscription in Nov. but trying to think of something more drastic this time. Hmmmmmm.....so many things come to mind but probably not safe to print.
Thank god for people like you who actually know how to write and report on accurate research. Journalism at it's finest.
Bless you,
Jacey

Tim Kasemodel

Ben,

The only ones who are being attacked in articles like those in the Trib are the children who have, are and will be helped by the product OSR.

I can't help but think about other products that fit the description of "industrial chemical". Flouride in your drinking water is an industrial waste by-product. Go ahead and stick a nail in a can of Coke for a week or so. Hell, look up the origins of "aspartame". I could go on and on.

My point is that referring to OSR is being related to a "family of chelators originally developed for industrial purposes," is a dubious misdirection. Of course it is possible it could some day be used (likely in another form) to remove heavy metals from soil and acid mine drainage - after all, it is a chelator.

As far as "the arguments that the tribune is making" such as "...the scientifically unfounded idea that their disorder is linked to toxic metals" I challenge the author and yourself to explain why all the MEDICALLY DOCUMENTED toxic crap inside my child and thousands of others could NOT possibly be related to his condition? And why are our attempts to reduce that toxic overload not logical?

Molly Clark

Teresa - you rock!! I can't wait for part 2!!

nhokkanen

Revealing investigations, Teresa; thank you for digging. These conflicts of interest conveniently ignored by the questionable Chicago Tribune illustrate why the phrase "asked and answered" is so laughable.

What use are psychiatrists for commenting on the myriad physical ailments of our "autistic" children? These staunch defenders of the status quo merely observe behaviors, tinker with epidemiological statistics, and prescribe psychotropic medications presumptively like Russian roulette. No medical testing to find out what's actually going on in the patient's body.

Did the Association for Science in Autism Treatment form at about the same time as the public revelations that the CDC was dosing children with toxic levels of Thimerosal?


Imagine, right now, a cupcake

It's well known that the Chicago Tribune has fallen on hard economic times. These days the Tribune is often filled with little more than AP wire stories.

It really is a shame that a once proud institution is now reduced to transcribing posts from obscure angry blogs.

Karen

Dear Tribune, I have a son diagnosed with 'autism', who actually has lead, aluminum, mercury, cadmium, and uranium toxicity (and the ensuing chronic inflammation and immune system dysfunction). Do you actually expect me to leave it in his body? Every week he looks forward to getting a chelation I.V. because, according to him, they "make me feel so much better". I live in the Chicago area and would be happy to show you his lab reports.

Shannon Johnson

Thanks, Teresa! Keep up the good work!

Think of the trees, people

Every time a skeptic clone giggles about a logical fallacy or says the phrase "ad-hominem attack," a beautiful little tree grows in a forest far away.

Maurine Meleck

Keep in mind that the sentiments of the owners of these newspapers are just as important(if not more) as the reporters who write the stories. And don't forget that today's journalism is more about money, advertisements, what the paper perceives the public wants to hear than it is about honest journalism
Teresa, you are the Agatha Christie of the 21st Century. Brava.
Maurine

ben

I don't expect this comment to make it past the moderators but at least someone might see it before it disintegrates into the internet graveyard.

My comment is that I think it would be ffective to look at the arguments that the tribune is making and evaluate their claims using reason and logic instead of trying to discredit their sources. This is the very definition of the ad-hominem attack.

Craig Willoughby

If memory servers, isn't Orac one of Barret's little accolytes?

Barry S.

Teresa,
Love the article! Keep it up and I'm glad you are on our side!

Natasa

"I can venture a guess where the editors of the Trib received their autism drivel."

no doubt about where, the only question is why? why exactly would Tribune solicit and publish such rubbish from people who haven't got the faintest idea about autism?

and why was a psychiatrist called to testify in a court case on medical injury?

Dadvocate

Dr. Leventhal, irrespective of his "honors" and "prestige" in the autism community, has contributed less than zero to any recent advances in autism research (the last 2 decades at least). The fact that he and colleagues debunked Bettelheim is so 1960's. He is, in the words of another advocate here in Illinois, nothing more than the old rooster trying to keep authority over the barnyard....nothing more.

Zed

Stephen Barrett is a despicable little man who couldn't make it in medicine, so works out of the basement of his house, receiving funding from "somewhere", giving half-truths a platform and trying to scare people away from anything drugless or non-surgical. And since he has MD attached to his name, some uninformed are inclined to listen. He is the very worst kind of propogandist--one who would rather see people die at the hands of "modern, scientific medicine" than reach any goals of genuine health. In most circles, however, he is simply known as a prostitute.

JS

Great piece, Teresa. The Association For Science In Autism Treatment is very much in bed with the federal government and is listed as a source of info for those looking for more info on autism.
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm

It would be interesting to know any/the amount of funding ASAT has received from NIH. ASAT specifically states on their website that their PR subcommittee, Media Watch, exists to educate the public with PROACTIVE media contact, etc.
http://www.asatonline.org/media_watches

I can venture a guess where the editors of the Trib received their autism drivel.


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