Jake Crosby

Oh Brother, John Stossel Also Has Pharma Ties

Stossel_9_9 By Jake Crosby

Earlier this year, I wrote about New York Times journalist Gardiner Harris - the conflicted reporter who did not disclose his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, thereby violating the “Ethics in Journalism” policy of The Times. Unfortunately, Harris is not the only reporter in mainstream media to have undisclosed ties through a brother to the pharmaceutical industry.

John Stossel is a reporter for Fox Business Network, with his own syndicated talk show Stossel where he portrays himself as a skeptic looking out for consumers. Unfortunately when it comes to autism, the only thing he is looking out for is the pharmaceutical industry.

While Fox News has done some excellent investigative reporting lately, particularly the folks at Fox and Friends, John Stossel serves as a dire warning that not everybody at FOX is our friend.

He recently wrote on his Fox Business Blog, to promote this week’s episode of his show Stossel:

“When people see a pattern, they attach meaning to it …even when “chance” is the most likely explanation. That's a reason why 27% of Americans believe in ghosts, 25% in astrology, 26% in psychics, 33% that the government planned 9/11, and 25% of parents believe vaccines cause autism.”

Read more: HERE

Why would a national reporter resort to such blatant manipulation?

Perhaps the answer best lies with the details surrounding his older brother, Dr. Thomas P. Stossel, a hematologist and professor at Harvard Medical School with direct ties to the pharmaceutical industry, which Dr. Stossel has heavily supported in controversies where it has been on the receiving end of well-deserved criticism.

When a courageous group of Harvard medical students started a campaign to lessen the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on their professional education, The New York Times reported:

“A smaller rival faction among Harvard’s 750 medical students has circulated a petition signed by about 100 people that calls for ‘continued interaction between medicine and industry at Harvard Medical School.’”

“Encouraging them is Dr. Thomas P. Stossel, a Harvard Medical professor who has served on advisory boards for Merck, Biogen Idec and Dyax, and has written widely on academic-industry ties. ‘I think if you look at it with intellectual honesty, you see industry interaction has produced far more good than harm,’ Dr. Stossel said. ‘Harvard absolutely could get more from industry but I think they’re very skittish. There’s a huge opportunity we ought to mine.’” (HERE)

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How Vaccine Damage Deniers Threaten Us All

Vax child By Jake Crosby

In “PBS Frontline: The Vaccine Wars,” one particular scene that caught my attention was when NVIC’s Barbara Loe Fisher argued that the right to question vaccine safety and right to choose to be vaccinated should be no different than with any other drug. Then along came University of Pennsylvania bio“ethicist” Arthur Caplan, who for three years chaired the bio“ethics” advisory board of GlaxoSmithKline, to correct her, arguing that vaccines are “special.”

They are so special, Caplan argues, that getting a vaccine not only helps protect yourself, but others around you. No, really Arthur? This concept is called “herd immunity,” it is scientifically supported, and there is even a mathematic equation used in infectious disease epidemiology to assess what amount of coverage is necessary to prevent outbreaks.

What Caplan does not acknowledge, just setting aside efficacy and duration of vaccinations that also come into play, is that any adverse reaction associated with a vaccine will have a higher attributable risk by virtue of the fact that it is recommended for the general population as opposed to specific individuals. So, by holding vaccines to a lower standard of safety and stating people should have no choice over whether or not they get vaccinated as bio“ethicists” such as Caplan argue, the result is much more potentially devastating than it would be for a prescription pharmaceutical not administered to the population at large. In compelling everyone to vaccinate to protect herd immunity, there would also be a substantially greater herd risk. Perhaps this highlights the inherent conflict of public health officials being charged with both vaccinating as many people as possible and making sure the shots are safe.

But still, getting a vaccine even if it comes with an adverse event cannot potentially affect others around you like refusing vaccines might, right? Not so fast. In fact, the two most widely cited examples of vaccines causing adverse events - MMR and those with thimerosal – could potentially harm more people than just their recipients.

First, thimerosal as we all know is a neurotoxin, and one that is to be disposed of as “hazardous waste.” Yet, when it’s not harming the recipient of the vaccine it’s in, it is being excreted into the environment – not as the hazardous waste it is – posing a new, however indirect, threat to us all. True, there are claims that there is more mercury in a tuna fish sandwich, though what is conveniently left out is that the EPA has specific warnings on consuming fish because of its mercury content, and furthermore these levels are exceeded by mercury in vaccines. An even more ridiculous defense for thimerosal is that mercury partially makes up the core of the earth; which is exactly where it belongs, not above ground where people live. And unlike prescription pharmaceuticals that are only considered a public health threat when unused and flushed down peoples’ toilets, mercury in vaccines is ultimately disposed of this way when the vaccines are administered, if it’s not still lingering inside the recipient, causing harm. Ultimately, this environmental hazard threatens all living things, not just the people who get vaccinated, and the same argument can potentially be made of many other toxins in vaccines as well.

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Jake Crosby on Having Asperger's and Being a Brandeis U Student

JAKE Managing Editor's Note: Below is Jake Crosby's article from the Brandeis University Magazine, see the original HERE.

It’s not easy being a student at Brandeis with Asperger Syndrome — an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In ninth grade, however, aspiring to attend Brandeis would have been impossible. My ASD got in the way of every aspect of learning and socialization. I could not stay focused in class — not for more than 30 seconds, according to my English teacher’s report for my individual education plan meeting. But this was nothing new; these problems had affected me my whole life.

Everything changed dramatically in February 2004. I was in a freshman history class, and suddenly I found myself participating and even dominating class discussions. Until then, I had never raised my hand or answered a question unless unexpectedly called on, in which case I would not know the answer. I needed an aide nearly full time to keep me on task. But now, for the first time in my life, I could truly function independently. It felt like a part of my mind that had been turned off was suddenly switched on. Teachers and staff at my high school expressed amazement at my success story — they’d never heard of anyone else with ASD making such progress. Sophomore year I was placed in all honors classes and began taking a foreign language.

Inspiration helped make this transformation possible. Another student in the class had similar difficulties staying on task and joining in class discussions. I recognized some of my own problems in him, and I badly wanted to change my academic performance.

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CDC Admits No Rigorous Study Refuting Thimerosal-Autism Link Ever Conducted

Cart_horse_cash By Jake Crosby
Last May, I deconstructed a talking point of millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit, who claimed that studying anything other than Thimerosal besides the MMR vaccine was “moving the goalpost” and therefore “classic for pseudoscience.” (HERE)
However, before anyone abandons the Thimerosal/autism theory, they should consider reading the CDC website first. In case you were unaware, the CDC has been conducting a case-control study using the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project that should have been published last January as the agency promised. The description reads:
“VSD researchers have begun a case-control study to examine the association between Thimerosal and autism rigorously.” (HERE)
They want to “examine the association between thimerosal and autism rigorously” in a study not even published yet? Isn’t that what the CDC should have done all along?
Reading on:
“…this VSD study will be the first rigorous, epidemiological study conducted on the issue of thimerosal and autism.”
The first rigorous, epidemiological study? Now, given the CDC’s history of not being honest, and given that this study is eight months overdue, I somehow doubt it will be “rigorous.”
Yet, the important point is not that the CDC is conducting a study that it claims will be rigorous, but that even the CDC admits that no rigorous study refuting the relationship between thimerosal and autism has been done. In over 10 years since concerns about thimerosal were first raised, all of the studies that the CDC relied on over the years to deny a connection admittedly lacked rigor. That means the CDC-sponsored IOM Report rejecting a relationship, which forms the sole basis for the bogus “scientific consensus” in the U.S., lacked rigor, too – and all of the studies involved, the CDC supported.
This quote really boiled me over:
“Data from this VSD study should provide the best available scientific information on whether a causal association between exposure to thimerosal and the development of autism is possible.”

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Do Reliable Thimerosal Estimates Exist?

Reliable-cpanel-hosting By Jake Crosby

That is, of course, the key question that must be answered before one is to draw any final conclusions about the current autism rates in this country being associated – or not associated – with exposure to thimerosal used in childhood vaccines. Yet, defenders of thimerosal – a highly toxic compound that is 50% mercury by weight - conveniently ignore this question.

 One such example of this was on “Penn and Teller’s Bullshit!” If there is one good thing I can say about the Penn and Teller episode on vaccinations – it’s that it at least did not run on basic cable for more people to see. The show was so erroneous that even “Science”Blogger David Gorski corrected the hosts on the false assumption that thimerosal was removed in 1999. They ought to claim that to the parents of Hannah Poling, who got 50 mcg of mercury from shots given in 2000 right before she developed full-blown autism.

Of course, Gorski’s “correction” wasn’t any better, claiming it was “the end of 2001/early 2002.” That’s funny, not even the CDC has used that date. The government has provided many conflicting dates for when thimerosal was removed: as early as 1999 and as late as 2005, and individual reports reveal thimerosal-preserved vaccines with expiration dates that stretch even beyond that, not counting flu shots which continue to be preserved in thimerosal.

The specific time, however, repeated by Gorski which I’ve seen circulating around the internet was based on minutes from an ACIP meeting held eight years ago during which a CDC official claimed that in a “convenience sample” of health care providers scattered throughout the country, all but 17% of them were found to have had no thimerosal-preserved vaccines in stock since October 2001. This figure suddenly became widely used five years later after being dug up by tomato writer Arthur Allen to claim this time range was when thimerosal disappeared.

Except, the only problem is that being a convenience sample, this statistic is inherently incapable of being generalized to any population beyond its own by virtue of not being randomized. If doing site visits and lot counts of the vaccine stockpiles used by these particular providers is “convenient ” for public health officials, then so is getting them to switch to thimerosal-free vaccines as soon as possible in the first place – making these numbers uninformative and misleading about the thimerosal content of childhood vaccines overall.

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Brian Deer: Portrait of a Narcissist

Narcissist By Jake Crosby

Conflicted “journalist” Brian Deer’s website is perhaps one of the biggest resources of disinformation on the internet. Even worse, there is likely no better example of one man’s online shrine to himself than briandeer.com – a cesspool of self-adulation. Nothing quite sums this up better than a particular webpage that reads “Brian’s pictures” at the bottom of the homepage. You’d think it would be the many different photos of news events from his journalistic exploits, but a click of the mouse shows that it is in fact – literally – all him. See for yourself (WARNING, MAY INDUCE NAUSEA):

(CLICK HERE)  8/16 UPDATE: The link to the personal photo gallery (see photo below) appears to have been restored. It had been removed on the day this post originally ran. 

BD Site

From birth till present, Brian Deer graces us with his portrait. Starved for attention, Brian Deer knew how to get it – by targeting Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Policy.

“Science”Blogs, As Told By A Defecting “Science”Blogger

Zombie2 By Jake Crosby

Last week, I wrote about The New York Times Magazine’s exposé of “Science”Blogs. (HERE.)

That, however, was only the beginning.

Perhaps nothing sums up “Science”Blogs, its owner Seed Media, and its CEO Adam Bly better than the words of a defecting “Science”Blogger, “GrrlScientist.” On July 20th, in the snake pit itself, she wrote:

“ScienceBlogs is now ZombieBlogs, the undead, a heartless and soulless brain-eating monster that once was a beautiful living ideal.”

An ideal that never became reality, except perhaps when it published an impressive investigative report by Dr. Sarah Bridges, entitled “The Rise Against Mercury,” before going sour and endorsing Simon Baron-Cohen’s ridiculous “Geeks Get Lucky” theory. 

GrrlScientist then goes on to say:

“A significant number of us have been planning a strike, starting now, and continuing until SMG takes significant steps to correct the numerous problems they've saddled us with and until they put the proper priority on supporting us -- the Sb cash cow.”

In her anger, she indicates that many of the “Science”Bloggers wanted a piece of that cash cow:

“Our lack of tech support, combined with our lack of paychecks and a total blackout on any and all forms of communication has demoralized the entire community.”

Then came the last straw:

“As if that wasn't bad enough, the PepsiCo blog popped up on our rss feeds out of the blue, without warning or input from any of us as to how this might be accomplished in a way to cause the least amount of harm to the credibility of the site and to everyone who contributes here.”

Perhaps my favorite line is where she likens Adam Bly to Captain Bligh, whose crew rebelled against him in the historic mutiny on the British Royal Navy’s ship, the HMS Bounty:

“And all this confusion is after Captain, er .. Adam .. Bly promised he would address our very real concerns and make an effort to improve communication with us.”
Then she describes Adam Bly to a T:

“But unlike the real Captain Bligh, Adam Bly is nothing more than a smooth-talking con artist.”

Followed by the true purpose of “Science”Blogs:

“Since Sb(“Science”Blogs) attracts far more traffic and generates far more money than the defunct SEED magazine ever did, it appears that sole function for Sb is to be the cash cow whose milk funds Adam Bly's pricey fantasy lifestyle as a hotshot magazine publisher living in lower Manhattan.”

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The New York Times Exposes “Science”Blogs

Emperor's%20new%20clothes By Jake Crosby

Nearly one year ago, I wrote about the blogosphere’s biggest online snake pit, “Science”Blogs, in an investigation for Age of Autism: Read Part I and Part II.

In Part I, I wrote of Seed Media:

“Perhaps the worst of the slogans is displayed right on the homepage of the website: “Science is culture.” Apparently, to Adam Bly, culture is business, especially since the views expressed by the 69 bloggers who post on SMG’s ‘Science’Blogs are in the best interest of sponsors.”

As expected, the “Science”Bloggers struck back, claiming that what I wrote was untrue, and that advertisers have nothing to do with the site content. Nearly one year later, however, my investigation has been validated by The New York Times Magazine of all sources. When even The New York Times can see through your deceptive blog activities, you know you’re in trouble. Well, that is exactly what happened to “Science”Blogs. They were panned in a piece, entitled “Unnatural Science,” (HERE)  by Virginia Heffernan that ran in The New York Times Magazine, August 1.

Some helpful background information to know before reading the article is that recently, “Science”Blogs started up a “nutrition” blog called “Food Frontiers,” paid for by PepsiCo., without any disclaimer – nothing -  that the blog was an advertisement. This caused a mass exodus of some 20 bloggers from the website.

Although The Times doesn’t highlight the fact that “Science”Blogs was heavily engaged in this kind of promotional activity with corporations before, which had finally become so obvious with the Pepsi blog that it was too embarrassing for many bloggers to handle, the article is still spot on. It also takes some well-deserved shots at certain “Science”Bloggers in particular, such as P.Z. Myers who posted an Islamophobic portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad that’s so vile, it would be inappropriate to quote it, but it’s referenced in the New York Times article. I wonder how our contributing editor, Abdulkadir Khalif, would feel about seeing that. For having his “sub-‘South Park’ blasphemy” pointed out to him, Myers called Heffernan an “atheist-hater.”

For an inside scoop of the New York Times piece, here is a select quote:

“What’s bothersome is that the site is misleading. It’s not science by scientists, not even remotely; it’s science blogging by science bloggers.” 

And that’s what I said a year ago, that they’ve been presenting themselves as a reliable scientific source when they’re not. Anyway, enough of my intro, here is the link to the article in full: HERE

There is more to come on “Science”Blogs, but for now: enjoy!

Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Policy. He is a contributing editor to Age of Autism.

David Gorski’s Financial Pharma Ties: What He Didn’t Tell You

Gorski Beer By Jake Crosby
 His motto is “A statement of fact cannot be insolent,” yet the title of his blog reads “Respectful Insolence.” In other words, even he admits there are no facts on his blog.

He has become the online spokesperson for the vaccine industry, a member of the highly trafficked, drug-industry-sponsored “Science”Blogs where he heavily promotes the tobacco science obscuring causes of autism. Posting under the science fiction name “Orac,” David Gorski has become the most outspoken, self-styled “skeptic” in defense of mercury that exceeds EPA limits in vaccines. Another example of a cause of autism he vehemently denies is the MMR - the triple, combined live-virus vaccine implicated in measles virus infection in the ileum, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and cerebrospinal fluid of children who have autistic enterocolitis. 

 In case anybody’s wondering what David Gorski’s connection is to the autism debate, he has undisclosed financial ties to the vaccine industry. He has made no mention of these connections, despite stating in one of his many defenses of millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit, “A general principle is that undisclosed potential conflicts of interest (COIs) are of far more concern and potentially far more damaging to the scientific process than disclosed COIs.” However, Gorski has steadfastly denied possessing any conflicts, having once told me online without my even accusing him, “You are wrong. I receive no money from pharmaceutical companies and haven’t for 14 years.”


Well, it so happens Sanofi-Aventis – the world’s largest vaccine maker - is involved in several partnerships under which the company may be required to pay a total of €31 million ($39 million USD) from 2008 to 2013. Gorski’s employer, Wayne State University, is one of the partners, and he is conducting a clinical trial of one of the company’s drugs. Therefore, like Offit (who concealed the millions he received in Merck royalty payments because Merck paid the royalties to a third party, not Offit directly) Gorski has a reasonable expectation to receive money from a vaccine maker, even if it is through a third party. A look at the summary description of the Gorski Lab reveals that his research focus is drug discovery and development. However, he is not developing a new drug, but rather, developing new uses for an existing one. Such a process is far more profitable to the drug manufacturer as it eliminates the costs of developing a new substance from scratch, thereby maximizing profits for the company.

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Dr. Andrew Wakefield's Book Callous Disregard Garners Support from Adult on Spectrum

Rally Jake Jake Crosby, student at Brandeis University and Contributing Editor to Age of Autism spoke out last week in support of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the doctor behind the autism/MMR/UK controversy. Dr. Wakefield tells his side of the story for the first time in his book Callous Disregard, available for purchase HERE. The book was listed at number 8 on Amazon last week. Please leave a review on Amazon and elsewhere after you read the book. Thank you, Jake. Great job.

Paul Offit’s Message: CDC, FDA, NIH, IOM, AAP, WHO and Merck Engaged in Pseudoscience

Finger-pointing2 By Jake Crosby

Did Age of Autism move the goalposts? Paul Offit says yes, but statements from the CDC, FDA, NIH, IOM, AAP, WHO and even Merck say otherwise.
In the PBS documentary Frontline, responding to concerns about vaccine-related factors in the etiology of autism other than just thimerosal or the MMR vaccine, millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit said:

“So now this is classic for pseudoscience, is you just keep moving the goalpost. So now the goalpost is, no, we didn't mean actually MMR caused autism or thimerosal caused autism”

First of all, we continue to mean that the MMR and thimerosal clearly do cause autism as actual science shows - even if routinely denied by the tobacco science Offit regularly cites.

Secondly, his dismissal of any further criticisms of vaccines beyond these two factors as “pseudoscience” conflicts with the expressed concerns of many high-ranking members of public health and the pharmaceutical industry. They voiced opinions that other factors such as aluminum and receiving too many vaccines at once may cause autism and related disorders.

At the secret Simpsonwood meeting 10 years ago, Dr. Richard Johnston - a pediatric immunologist funded by SmithKline Beecham - said (on page 20):

“Aluminum and mercury are often simultaneously administered to infants, both at the same site and at different sites.

However, we learned that there is absolutely no data, including animal data, about the potential for synergy, additively or antagonism, all of which can occur in binary metal mixtures that relate and allow us to draw any conclusions from simultaneous exposure from these two salts in vaccines…”

Dr. Johnston would later serve as liaison to the IOM panel that cut federal funding to studies examining mercury as a possible cause of autism.

As a point of interest, Johnston also said he did not want his grandson to be given vaccines with thimerosal “until we know better what is going on.”

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PBS – Pharmaceutical BS

PBS bias By Jake Crosby

From the moment I first learned that PBS was running a program about autism and vaccines, I knew it was not going to be good. It was not just because PBS is the NPR of TV, but also because I had watched a similar program that ran on PBS called “The Health Century” - a 1987 documentary that was a total puff piece of the vaccine industry, which also included Anthony Fauci of NIAID. Fauci was venerated as the eighties’ version of Jonas Salk, who would develop an AIDS vaccine that would save millions of lives. 23 years later, that still has not happened. 

That was the same documentary that cut out almost an entire interview with vaccine inventor Maurice Hilleman. In one sitting, he admitted to importing AIDS virus, that the vaccine for yellow fever was contaminated with a virus that causes leukemia, and recounted old jokes that the US would win the Olympics because the Russians would all be loaded down with tumors due to contamination of polio vaccines with the SV40 cancer virus. All that, like the interviews of Drs. Jay Gordon and Robert Sears, was cut from a PBS documentary and left on the editing room floor.

Still curious, I decided to watch the preview for Frontline, and it only further solidified my thoughts of how the program will turn out. So I wrote a letter to PBS asking them to cancel what would essentially turn out to be an hour-long vaccine infomercial:

[email protected] wrote:

Dear PBS,

I am a college student with an autism spectrum disorder at Brandeis University and contributing editor to Age of Autism: Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic, a consumer advocacy newsletter of the autism community.
I am writing to ask you to please not air the PBS Frontline special because I feel it would be horrifically biased, and will portray the controversy in a light that excludes the voices of consumers and portrays them negatively in comparison with government and industry, represented as "scientific." '

That could not be further from the truth, government and industry have conducted all the science that shows no link between autism and vaccines. It is tobacco science, plain and simple. Paul Offit, who you quote as claiming that "a dozen" studies show no link between autism and vaccines, has even admitted that he has no knowledge of autism beyond what he read in newspapers, suggesting he has not even read the tobacco science he is constantly promoting.

The fear of disease is largely unfounded and reduced to fears of measles, for which no safe, single-shot alternative exists - only the MMR vaccine, which has been strongly linked to regressive autism and bowel disease.

I therefore call on you to please cancel this special immediately.

Jake Crosby
Age of Autism, Contributing Editor

And here’s what they wrote back:

from frontline <[email protected]>
[email protected]
date Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 12:27 PM
subject Re: general frontline mail

Dear Jake,

Thank you for writing and for sharing your thoughts and concerns with us.  We will pass them along to our editorial staff.  As of this date, the film will broadcast as scheduled.

Best wishes,

At least they didn’t send me another bogus form letter. Disappointed, but not surprised, I responded with a few small requests:

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Amy Wallace To Be Honored by Drug Industry for Wired Puff Piece

Softball By Jake Crosby

Remember Amy Wallace? I sure wish I didn’t. For those lucky enough not to, I apologize for ruining your day. Ms. Wallace was the willing entertainment business “reporter” who was front writer for millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit in a cover story she authored for Wired Magazine last year. She was completely duped by the drug industry’s most well paid spokesman on the controversy surrounding autism and vaccines, so much so that her entire article was practically ghost-written by him.

The sheer ignorance, and malleability, of Amy Wallace made her the perfect throw away for the job. Her whole background suggests that her career has been based mostly on, more than anything else, sensationalism and being in the right place at the right time, or in this case the wrong place at the wrong time. As she wrote herself in Los Angeles Magazine, her career was essentially launched when local socialite Betty Broderick confessed in an interview with the reporter to shooting and killing her ex-husband and his new wife.

Although someday she will have a very different opinion about it, she probably feels the same way about the Paul Offit puff piece as she did about the Broderick case, especially after bragging on her website, “Just got word that ‘An Epidemic of Fear,’ my Wired story on vaccines, will be in ‘Best American Science Writing 2010,’ to be published soon… Very exciting.” Given the recent episode of the award the CDC helped the Chicago Tribune buy for its drug propaganda, there now seems to be a trend of “journalists” writing government and industry-friendly pieces on this topic and getting rewarded for it by parties with vested interests.

Amy Wallace is hardly an exception. This one line sums up her whole Wired article: “To be clear, there is no credible evidence to indicate that any of this [vaccines causing autism] is true. None.” That’s assuming that your definition of “credible evidence” is tobacco science, not that Amy Wallace would know the difference between the two. That aside, the remaining premise of her article rests entirely on how parents should listen to “experts” like Offit, who admitted himself on “Science”Blogs that he learned all his information about autism from passive newspaper reading and a handful of parents. Most of them were from the lay neurodiversity sideshow. Wallace also alludes to the fear of infectious disease returning as a result of vaccine safety concerns, even though splitting the MMR vaccine into three separate shots does not make them any less effective against preventing measles, mumps and rubella, nor does using other vaccines without mercury. Her whole cover story is bunk.

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The New York Times’ Indefensible Defense of The Drug Industry

Mainstreammedia By Jake Crosby

A few months ago, I wrote about New York Times health reporter Gardiner Harris, his reprehensible coverage of this important health issue - whether or not vaccines cause autism - and his undisclosed familial conflict of interest: his brother sells lab equipment to pharmaceutical companies. (HERE)
Then, after reading about an abusive letter Gardiner Harris sent to an autism parent in an email exchange, and following the advice of readers, I decided to lodge a formal complaint with The New York Times against Harris and the paper’s coverage of this controversy, which has been overwhelmingly in favor of the government and pharmaceutical industry. In the meantime, I also learned the following fun facts about a few of The Times’ board of directors and top executives, which would at least partially, if not fully explain their position:
Dawn G. Lepore was elected to the Board of Directors of The New York Times Company in 2008.  

Ms. Lepore has served as president, chief executive officer and chairman of drugstore.com since October 2004. (HERE)   

Raul E. Cesan was elected to the Board of Directors of The New York Times Company in 1999.   

Previously, Mr. Cesan served as president and chief operating officer of the Schering-Plough Corporation from 1998 until 2001, culminating a 24-year career at the company.  

He joined Schering-Plough, which is engaged in the discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical and health care products worldwide, in 1977 as director of finance and administration for the company's Latin American region. He subsequently held positions of increasing responsibility, including president of operations in   Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and was appointed president of Schering-Plough International in 1988. In 1992, he became president of Schering Laboratories, the U.S. pharmaceutical marketing arm, and in 1994, became president of Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals.   

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Kevin Leitch’s Leftbrain/Rightbrain Sees Conspiracies Left and Right

Med_wrong_way_brain_0 By Jake Crosby

Kevin Leitch, founder of the Autism Hub and owner of the blog Leftbrain/Rightbrain, has proven that he will rewrite history to support his views. Rewriting history concerning a reaction his daughter had to a vaccine is a sure way to discredit himself in the eyes of any rationally thinking person. (HERE)

This isn’t even Leftbrain/Rightbrain’s most ridiculous blunder.

When Age of Autism first reported on Poul Thorsen’s disappearance with $2 million – Poul Thorsen being the second highest ranking coauthor from the department that led the 2003 Danish Pediatrics study attempting to clear thimerosal, and second highest ranking coauthor from the university that led the 2002 Danish NEJM study attempting to clear the MMR vaccine of any autism link - Leftbrain/Rightbrain responded with the most bizarre array of now-deleted posts. You can see a series of screen shots at the end of this post.

In the first post on the topic, a blogger on Leftbrain/Rightbrain libeled Age of Autism, which he accused of circulating a “hoax” and of forging an official document regarding the scandal. This document was in fact released by Aarhus University - the Danish institution with which Thorsen was affiliated.

Shortly thereafter, on request from Age of Autism, the story was amended to that of a speculative rather than accusatory version, the title being renamed “Is Story Spread by Age of Autism True?” At the end of the post, Kevin Leitch apologized to Age of Autism for the original wording of the entry. He would later remove it completely.

Neither Kevin Leitch, nor his blog Leftbrain/Rightbrain, learned their lesson for very long. Within the week, a new post by the same blogger went up on Leftbrain/Rightbrain echoing the same sentiment from before, entitled:

Update: Dr. Poul Thorsen not Missing, NOT suspected in theft.

The post was yet another long, extended, accusatory rant. The blogger starts by referencing his previous post:

This Saturday, I wrote what is shaping up to be a controversial post, questioning whether a document used by Age of Autism to implicate Dr. Poul Thorsen in the theft of several million dollars was authentic.

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Chicago Tribune Buys Award With CDC’s Help

ChicagoTribune-Sign By Jake Crosby
Chicago Tribune journalist Trine Tsouderos recently co-wrote an LA Times blog post that said:
Advocates of a vaccine-autism link immediately seized on the announcement [that a researcher denying a vaccine/autism link stole $2 million] as an indicator that the whole research program was corrupt…Thorsen may be a crook, but there were lots of other scientists involved in the research, and their integrity is not being contested.
Thorsen was the second highest listed co-author from the university that led the Danish study on the MMR. He was also second highest listed co-author from the university department that led the Danish study about thimerosal.

Of course, Tsouderos ignores the fact that the data behind the Danish research on the MMR vaccine indicates that the younger the child is immunized with the vaccine, the more likely that child is to develop autism. What’s more, when the reporting bias is removed from the data behind the Danish research on thimerosal, autism rates fell after removal of the preservative.

What’s most shocking of all is that Trine Tsouderos, along with her partner Patricia Callahan, recently won an award from the Association of Health Care Journalists for their Chicago Tribune “reporting” of alternative autism treatments. Their stories can be summed up as dismissing hundreds of pages of scientific evidence and the doctors and scientists who provided it. Tsouderos and Callahan also favorably quoted drug industry researchers without providing any balance to these views. Another focal point of the articles was an autism father’s lawsuit against ARI doctors. What was omitted was the fact that the prosecuting attorney was a lawyer for “Quackwatch,” a basement-run organization led by a psychiatrist, Stephen Barrett, who did not pass his board certification exams and is a listed advisor to the national industry front group – the American Council on Science and Health.

Continue reading "Chicago Tribune Buys Award With CDC’s Help" »

Chris Mooney’s Pharmaceutical Influence

ChrisMooneyHeadshot_June_2008_000 By Jake Crosby
He is the drug industry’s newer, trendier go-to guy in the media, replacing the role of Arthur Allen, who took a break to write about tomatoes. An expatriate of “Science”Blogs who now blogs for Discover, and contributing editor to Science Progress, Chris Mooney is perhaps Pharma’s newest writer who has taken on the task of spoon-feeding its message to the public.

He has co-written a book with Sheril Kirshenbaum entitled “Unscientific America,” where he briefly writes about this controversy as an example of something that should be written off as…well…unscientific. In an interview for his book in The LA Times, he slams Age of Autism and praises his former domain, “Science”Blogs. The interview aroused a series of emails from Ginger Taylor of Adventures in Autism to Chris Mooney, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and Mooney’s interviewer Lori Kozlowski. Of the three, Chris Mooney was the only one who did not reply.

His involvement in this debate has since intensified. Most recently, he appeared on the MSNBC show, “Morning Joe,” with former Vice President of Consumer Education for Johnson and Johnson Nancy Snyderman, who said that no studies show a link between vaccines and autism, a bald-faced lie. To criticize studies is one thing, but to deny that they even exist is flat-out drug industry denialism, the kind Mooney apparently felt no discomfort in associating himself with. He certainly had no problem taking advice from Michael Specter, who started writing about this controversy in his book from the same biased perspective by plagiarizing Paul Offit’s talking points. Specter’s book “Denialism” was, if anything, written from denialism.

Yet despite the previously described mingling with obvious denialists and plagiarists, Chris Mooney is perhaps most notorious in the autism community,  for the May 2009 article he contributed to Discover Magazine, entitled, “Why does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?” Now, that doesn’t really say much, given that Mooney has never managed to get his articles regularly published in anything above D-level pop science magazines such as SEED, and the Skeptical Inquirer.

Continue reading "Chris Mooney’s Pharmaceutical Influence" »

The Fallacy of Thimerosal Removal & Autism Increase: A Failure of Science, A Bigger Failure to Children Worldwide

System failure By Jake Crosby
Readers of Age of Autism are aware of the term “the big hungry lie” coined by regular contributor J.B. Handley, used to describe the tactics of the CDC and the drug industry’s attempts to disassociate autism from vaccines in any way, shape, or form.
Perhaps the biggest lie of all is the one that has been repeated all too long, that after thimerosal was reduced or eliminated from vaccines, autism rates continued to go up. There have been multiple instances of this claim and each time it has been proven false, right up to the recent lie that after thimerosal was removed from vaccines in 2001, autism rates continue to increase. These two claims, the first that thimerosal was removed from vaccines, and the second that autism rates have not gone down as a result, continue to be used to justify the injection of thimerosal into pregnant women and children with flu shots. The claims have also been used to justify the immunization of children in developing countries with vaccines preserved with thimerosal. Sadly, neither claim is any more truthful than previous equally erroneous claims, the earliest of which originated from Scandinavia, then spread to Canada and most recently came out of California.
Cold-Blooded Lies
The paper by Stehr-Green et al., for example, purported to study autism rates in Sweden after thimerosal removal in 1993, but only hospitalizations in relation to autism were analyzed. Anyone remotely familiar with autism knows that it is not the kind of condition for which one would typically go to a hospital for treatment.
In the same study were also analyses of autism rates in Denmark, which were even more flawed. Many here remember the infamous Danish studies published in 2003, which served as the primary basis for the IOM’s predetermined conclusion in 2004, that autism rates shot up after thimerosal removal in 1992. In reality what happened was the Danish were worried there was a connection between thimerosal and autism, and right after thimerosal was eliminated from all their vaccines, they rapidly changed their registration program to include a lot more children. Such an interpretation of these studies -- designed by the CDC, and conducted by Statens Serum Institut, the largest vaccine-manufacturer in Denmark -- that autism rates skyrocketed after thimerosal removal, can be regarded as little more than propaganda.
When SafeMinds reanalyzed the data of the latest Denmark study, Hviid et al., by applying the same standards of higher case ascertainment to children born before 1992, they found a prevalence of 1 in 500, compared to a prevalence of 1 in 1,500 ten years later, a 66% drop. Unfortunately, this would not be the last time the CDC would design such self-contradicting studies.

Continue reading "The Fallacy of Thimerosal Removal & Autism Increase: A Failure of Science, A Bigger Failure to Children Worldwide " »

Did Kathleen Sebelius Pressure Media to Deny Vaccine Safety Voices?

Sebelius By Jake Crosby

"There are groups out there that insist that vaccines are responsible for a variety of problems despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. We have reached out to media outlets to try to get them to not give the views of these people equal weight in their reporting to what science has shown and continues to show about the safety of vaccines,” (HERE) according to HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, in her interview with Arthur Allen for The Reader’s Digest, on February 5th of this year. Sebelius basically admitted to pressuring media outlets to report disinformation to the public in place of information that does not support the safety of the government’s most heavily promoted drug. As shocking as this statement was the first time I read it, I honestly could have predicted such a scenario.

One year ago, I wrote a short post for Age of Autism entitled “History Suggests HHS Candidate Not Unbiased on Thimerosal-Vaccine Issue,” amidst the Brian Deer-concocted hysteria and the flurry over autism cases in vaccine court. It was written in response to a number of disturbing things I read at the time about members of her staff dismissing concerns about thimerosal when she was Governor of Kansas. I was disappointed with the lack of mobilization in response to my post, though the timing of her nomination was very unfortunate. What was especially disappointing was that she replaced Senator Tom Daschle, who helped kill the Homeland Security Rider that would have protected thimerosal manufacturers such as Eli Lilly from litigation.

Worst of all, I was right. When I first saw her interviewed for CBS by Katie Couric last year, Sebelius confirmed that she was biased when she insisted thimerosal was safe. I was disappointed, but not shocked. Now as it turns out, she not only believes thimerosal is safe, but is getting the media outlets to say so for her. The New York Times, The LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Washington Post, TIME, Wired…I can only guess!

It goes without saying that the government is no more entitled to its share of media coverage than consumer groups are. That news reporters are even following through on the government’s demands is unacceptable and in violation of journalism ethics.

Government officials like Sebelius have also launched a very successful two-pronged campaign so far. The first is one of positive publicity and self-promotion, selling themselves as the “experts” in autism. In reality, public health officials are not experts in autism at all, and Sebelius’ specialty is in insurance, which means her background does not even give her the most vague knowledge about autism. Meanwhile, Paul Offit feigns authority in a favorite argumentative technique claiming, “Science is best left to scientists.” Yet the real scope of his knowledge is made clear on posts he had written for “Science”Blogs, in which he said he learned about autism primarily through newspapers and lay people with personal connections to the disorder.

Continue reading "Did Kathleen Sebelius Pressure Media to Deny Vaccine Safety Voices?" »

Oh Brother, Gardiner Harris Has Pharma Ties

Gardiner harris By Jake Crosby
He has been described by Age of Autism contributor David Kirby, as "perhaps the most important journalist covering the debate over autism and vaccines in America today, given the way that paper drives the news cycle in this country."
Unfortunately, Gardiner Harris of The New York Times is also "snide, cynical, wildly biased, dismissive, and arrogant," according to fellow Age of Autism contributor, JB Handley.
The evidence to date suggests Handley is overwhelmingly right. For example, a reader of Age of Autism confronted Gardiner Harris with the fact that conducting a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study was possible, citing David Kirby’s report that former CDC director Julie Gerberding supported such research. Harris replied,
"thanks for your note. there is no credible way to compare autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated children.  and dr. gerberding made no such statements. david kirby got his story  entirely wrong. thanks, gardiner"
In fact, she did make such statements. When asked by Age of Autism's editor Dan Olmsted in 2005 whether or not she supported doing a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study, Julie Gerberding replied it "could be done and should be done." So it was Gardiner Harris, not David Kirby, who got his story entirely wrong.

Continue reading "Oh Brother, Gardiner Harris Has Pharma Ties" »

Kevin Leitch’s Jab in the Dark

Flip flop By Jake Crosby

He is the founder of the Autism Hub, a collective of neurodiversity blogs, which brags that they are, “the very best in autism blogging.” He is also owner of Leftbrain/Rightbrain, the most highly-trafficked of the blogs. A web designer by trade, manic-depressive self-advocate, and an autism parent, Kevin Leitch, “Kev” for short, is one of the internet stars of neurodiversity, and a dedicated one at that, despite formerly expressing belief that vaccines cause autism.

A British native, his website has a UK domain name, but an estimated 70% of visitors to his site are from the US. Though he has since sold off his ownership of the Autism Hub to Dave and Kathleen Seidel, they do not hesitate to give credit where credit is due, saying “Sincerest appreciation to Kev Leitch for original creation of The Autism-Hub.” Since neurodiversity mainly operates online, it is not far-fetched to say that he is the most important figure in the movement, given that he essentially created the neurodiverse blogosphere. His blog leftbrain/rightbrain, which he still owns, vigorously challenges Age of Autism and associated “cure groups” on a regular basis, with headlines such as “Is Generation Rescue trying to get Airborne to fund junk science?,”  and “Age of Autism abandons Pretense,” the latter written by Kev himself. He even called us “less evolved creatures.”

Continue reading "Kevin Leitch’s Jab in the Dark" »

Autism Awareness Week at Brandeis: A Great Success!

Jake's photo By Jake Crosby

I have been wanting to write about this for over a month now, but my course load was simply unforgiving! I finally got my big break to write about Autism Awareness Week when the semester ended.

As project manager of panel and roundtable discussions, half of the major events for Autism Awareness Week, it is a great honor for me to state that the week went well. I raised $50 for Age of Autism, and all with a “thank you” jar, a display of articles stapled and taped to a cardboard box, and a sample collection of articles from the web newspaper, one by parent Lindy Rupp, another by Michael Thomas, who has Asperger Syndrome, and of course, an article by our venerable editor, Dan Olmsted. I think I did considerably well given that I got “out-gunned” as Mark Blaxill would put it, by the Autism Speaks table, armed with their intimidating puzzle-piece banners and vast array of pamphlets. I also had the bake-sale to compete with, though I helped out with it so I was able to direct the customers’ attention towards all the great work Age of Autism has been doing. That really helped with donations. I am content with what I made for AoA, and grateful to all those who gave, most of them fellow students.
Money aside, I was very glad with how all the events turned out. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the African Dance Performance because I had class, but I’m sure it was amazing. Lots of people attended the Medical Discussion Panel. It was the most highly attended event I was present for. The chair of Autism Awareness Week, Emily Griffin, estimated that 60 people were in attendance. I could not have pulled it off without her, in fact, none of Autism Awareness Week here at Brandeis would have been possible were it not for her. Many thanks to you, Em, for making this all possible!

Another key person who really made AAW great was Mihai Dinulescu, a senior at Harvard and our off-campus liaison. His performance at the event with moderating the panel discussions and introducing the speakers was very impressive. I was amazed at how quickly he had educated himself on the facts and how well he spoke in front of a whole audience of people. All the prior experience he had in planning student events had really shown through.
Who I would most like to thank is our guest speakers, who truly made the events come to life. Professor Martha Herbert of Harvard University and MassGeneral Hospital was superb, and delivered an amazing, yet frightening, overview of the extent of the many changes in the environment and the implications it may have on the autism rates. She gave an absolutely knock out presentation that was better than anything I had ever anticipated. I was shocked to learn of the thousands of chemicals that had not been adequately tested for neurodevelopmental dysfunction, and enjoyed her analogy of society in general to severe autism in how we are engaging in a repeating act of self-injury with all the harmful pollutants we create for ourselves. I think if anyone deserves the Age of Autism award for doctor of the year, it should be her.

Continue reading " Autism Awareness Week at Brandeis: A Great Success!" »

Keeping Autism Neurodiversity Out of the White House

Fox_hen_house.aspx[1] By Jake Crosby
Many readers at Age of Autism have a good idea of what Neurodiversity is. For those who don’t, however, it’s an ideology that states that autism is merely “diversity” rather than a disorder that should be treated, cured or prevented. Followers of this viewpoint do not see autism as a disability, at least not according to the standard meaning of the word. This is a viewpoint that would not sync up with a lot of people’s in the autism community, yet within the past year, followers of this belief have gained significant coverage from Good Morning America on ABC, Newsweek, TIME, and New York Magazine. Unfortunately, their influence on the media and press is also spilling into government. It began with them testifying for the IACC. Now they are becoming a part of federal government.

I have recently heard from my friend Jonathan Mitchell, an adult with high-functioning autism, that neurodiversity advocate and founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Ari Ne’eman, has been nominated to the National Council on Disability. Jonathan has played a very important role in my coverage of Neurodiversity on AoA, having previously alerted me to the article Newsweek was running about Ne’eman.
That, however, was miniscule compared to this. Jonathan has just alerted me to a link from the pro-Autism blog, Leftbrain/Rightbrain, which links directly to the white house website. (HERE)
On that website, a press release entitled, President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 12/16/09, names a list of 10 nominees for positions in his administration. Second from the bottom is Ari Ne’eman. After the list is a quote from President Obama: “I am grateful that these fine individuals have chosen to serve in my administration. They will bring a depth of experience and valued perspective to their roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
Well President Obama, this “fine individual,” Ari Ne’eman, who you are nominating to a position on a disability council, was quoted as indicating that autism is not a disability. In an essay he wrote about autism, Ari concludes by saying, “Difference is not disability.” Furthermore, he told Newsweek that autism is not a medical mystery that needs solving, he said on Good Morning America last year that being anti-cure is not anti-progress, speaking above a superimposed caption that read, “There’s nothing wrong with us! Autistic and proud!”

Continue reading "Keeping Autism Neurodiversity Out of the White House" »

Brandeis U. Autism Awareness Week Update: Current Schedule

Brandeis By Jake Crosby

Location: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (directions below)

Open to the Public

Nov 9-11, 2009

Events for Monday, November 9
African Dance Performance, 1:00-2:00PM, Shapiro Campus Center Atrium

We are very proud to be having the African Dance Club, not only be one of our sponsoring
student organizations, but also to put on a vibrant performance for autism awareness

Panel  DiscussionMedical Issues Surrounding Causes and Treatments of Autism, 3:30-5:00PM, Shapiro Campus Center, 2nd floor, multi-purpose room

The focus of this event will be fascinating discussions about the most ground-breaking research into causes and treatments for autism. Panelists will include Mark Blaxill, of Age of Autism, discuss the project he has been doing with investigative journalist Dan Olmsted tracing back the etiological history of autism. The rest will be Harvard and MassGeneral neurologist Dr. Martha Herbert on the role of genes and the environment, Dr. Elizabeth Sajdel-Sulkowska of Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital on postmortem brain research of autism, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone of Harvard and director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation  on his research on the cutting edge therapy Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and its practical application to treating autism spectrum disorders. Refreshments will be served.

Continue reading "Brandeis U. Autism Awareness Week Update: Current Schedule" »

Autism Awareness Week at Brandeis

Brandeis By Jake Crosby

Autism Awareness Week will be held from November 9th to November 11th at Brandeis University,in Waltham Massachusetts. Numerous events will be held to raise awareness and funds for autism advocacy and research.  Several exciting events will be taking place, including a screening of the Sundance ’09 hit: “Horseboy” based on the best-selling book of the same title by Rupert Isaacson. The event will include a Q&A with the author. There will also be screening for the critically acclaimed HBO documentary “Autism: The Musical”. Proceeds from the screenings will go to the Horseboy Foundation and Autism Speaks respectively.
AAW will include panel discussions on causes and treatments of autism, which will include Age of Autism’s own Mark Blaxill as a guest speaker, as well as the social impact of autism and it’s rise over the last 20 years. There will also be a personal experiences panel, giving the audience a look at what life with Autism is like.
I’d welcome any feedback on how to make Autism Awareness Week at Brandeis the most productive it can be, and would especially appreciate attendance by as many people who will be able to conveniently make it to campus during those days as possible. In the meantime, new updates will be made about the latest installments for the planning of Autism Awareness Week here at Brandeis on Age of Autism on a weekly basis. I look forward to an exciting and enriching experience during Autism Awareness Week at Brandeis! 

Jake Crosby is a history student at Brandeis University, a project manager for Autism Awareness Week at Brandeis, and a contributing editor to Age of Autism.

Part II Seed Media's "Science"Blogs: A 180 Degree Shift in Reporting

Kudzu building

Part I, "Science"Blogs: Seed Media's Aggressive Weed is HERE.

By Jake Crosby

In spite of Seed Media Group and subsequently “Science”Blogs’ obvious ties to the drug industry and its stance on the autism-vaccine controversy as a result, many questions remain unanswered. Such as, are there any posts that are actually critical of the drug industry? If so, what is the penalty for blogging unfavorably about drugs such as vaccines? What is the Blog’s connection to other online sources tied to pharma? What are the connections of the top people at Seed Media Group, including Adam Bly? And last but not least, has Seed Media ever represented this controversy even-handedly?

SEED: A Fair Magazine Once Upon A Time?

 The short answer to that question is yes. Though Seed Media Group is clearly not without conflicts of interest; SEED Magazine to its credit did publish a 12-page cover story critical of thimerosal in vaccines called “The Rise Against Mercury,” by psychologist Dr. Sarah Bridges in 2004, the year before SMG was created. (HERE) The story included photos of Mark and David Geier, the only two outside researchers ever allowed any kind of access to the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink. The article was written by the mother of a son who suffers from seizures, mental retardation, and autism as a result of his DPT vaccine, and who is one of 1800 recognized by vaccine court as vaccine-damaged. In an email exchange with me, she suggested Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had some involvement with the magazine publishing the article. Ironically, RFK Jr. is now regularly bashed on “Science”Blogs as an “anti-vaccine crank.” But I was curious. So I sent a letter in the mail to Adam Bly because he does not post his own email address online. I asked what the reason was for Seed’s 180-degree shift in its coverage of the controversy, especially with the launching of “Science”Blogs. I referred him to the story his magazine ran five years ago, but Adam Bly did not reply.

Censorship at Work

That was the first and last article to run in a Seed publication, be it online or in print, that suggested a vaccine-autism connection even-handedly. What gained front-page coverage then, would be met with censorship by Seed today. On the German-speaking “Science”Blogs, co-managed by Seed Media Group and Hubert Burda Media, censorship is exactly what happened to Austrian journalist, author and documentary filmmaker Bert Ehgartner. He had been blogging for the German “Science”Blogs from August until December of 2008 when an entry by him stirred up a firestorm. The thread title was “"Aluminium muss raus aus Impfstoffen!"” which translates to “Aluminum must be eliminated from vaccines!” It featured an interview between Ehgartner and a vaccine safety researcher, Dr. Klaus Hartmann, who criticized the presence of aluminum salts in the HPV vaccine, and its inadequate safety trials. This quickly prompted a full-flung attack from the bloggers and readers of the US “Science”Blogs, calling Ehgartner an “anti-vaccinationist.”

Continue reading "Part II Seed Media's "Science"Blogs: A 180 Degree Shift in Reporting" »

“Science”Blogs: Seed Media’s Aggressive Weed


Part I: Fertilizer From Pharma 

By Jake Crosby
It is self-styled as the largest conversation about science on the web. Boasting 69 blogs, along with 114,506 posts and 1,742,506 comments that are ever increasing, there is no question “Science”Blogs are highly trafficked and frequently updated. Their slogan brags, “Where the world discusses science,” and crowed a record of 2.2 million unique visitors in the month of May alone. There is now a German “Science”Blogs as well as a “Science”Blogs Brazil written in Portuguese. Their owner, Seed Media Group, likens itself to Rolling Stone during the magazine’s “early years” which according to Seed was “when music was less a subject than a lens for viewing culture.”

To Seed Media Group, “science” is its gimmick, defined by corporate sponsors. This has led to the vitriol emanating from “Science”Blogs, so much so that it has directly prompted multiple responses from Age of Autism, mostly to a “Science”Blogger using a fake name, hardly ethical journalistically. While the media’s job is to report the news, not make it, that principle has not merely been ignored, but butchered by Seed Media Group, that presents itself as an unbiased, scientific source. Instead, it doesn’t just report on science, it attempts to define “science” as the pharmaceutical industry sees fit.
Distorters Who Pretend to be Reporters
SMG pretends to be a media outlet that reports science-related topics as pop culture, seeking to reach a wider, trendier audience. On its website, pretentiously obvious promotional statements are made, such as “Science affects every single person on the planet.” And “The pursuit and impact of science is borderless.” Used-car commercials have higher advertising standards. Perhaps the worst of the slogans is displayed right on the homepage of the website: “Science is culture.” Apparently, to Adam Bly, culture is business, especially since the views expressed by the 69 bloggers who post on SMG’s

“Science”Blogs are in the best interest of sponsors.

Seed Media Group, established in 2005, was born out of SEED Magazine, founded in 2001 by Adam Bly, young Canadian entrepreneur and self-proclaimed prodigy. Bly wants the world to know he served at the age of sixteen as the youngest guest researcher at the National Research Council- a Canadian government body that overseas scientific progress, studying “cell adhesion and cancer.” That, apparently, was his springboard to success. It is unclear if Bly was actually doing real research, or just the equivalent to entering a high school science fair. The significance of this is not obvious from the website, and I can’t imagine what gets taught by 10th grade in Canada that merits cancer research. He does not mention any previous accomplishments that qualified him for such a position. Nor does he mention who invited him to be a guest researcher. Nonetheless, this, Bly claims, was what inspired him, not to become a scientist, but to become a businessman who runs a media company that writes/blogs about scientists, which is exactly what he did. This was when SEED was conceived, though it would be a couple more years before it would start to sprout weeds.

SEED Magazine before Seed Media Group did not have such a slant. In May 2004, for example, a contributor launched an impressive, critical investigation into the controversy surrounding mercury in vaccines. The article was a thoughtful piece of investigative journalism in which public health officials declined to comment while outside researchers willingly participated. That, however, was five years ago.

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First Michael Savage, then Denis Leary, now Rex Reed

Red reed Managing Editor's Note: Jake Crosby reviewed the Fox Searchlight pictures movie Adam on Age of Autism HERE. You can read Rex Reed's full review of Adam in The Observer HERE.

By Jake Crosby
Every once in a while, some celebrity will make highly offensive comments about a group of people, and tick a few people off. In the case of autism spectrum disorders, three celebrities in the past year made such statements. The first was Michael Savage, far right-wing talk radio host already known for spewing hate-filled garbage over the airwaves, calling autism “in 99% of the cases” a “fraud” and that a person with autism is “a brat who isn’t told to cut the act out.” Rather than apologizing, he said “far-left Stalinists” took him out of context, as if a comment like that could ever be given a context where it would lose its offensive meaning. Despite losing a number of sponsors, Michael Savage has been allowed to keep his show on national airwaves. He wasn’t even forced onto Satellite Radio like Howard Stern was.

Unfortunately, history often has a habit of repeating itself. Denis Leary, a comedian known for ripping off jokes from the late Bill Hicks, published a new book a short couple months after Savage’s rant entitled “Why We Suck.” In it, Leary writes, “There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumbass kids can’t compete academically…” and “I don’t give a shit what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you –yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.” Like Savage, Leary also claimed his comments were taken out of context, saying he was referring to self-diagnosed older men, but his comments clearly refer to children, who would have received professional diagnoses. Unlike Savage, Leary was decent enough to at least apologize, but humor does not excuse such tasteless writing. I still get disgusted whenever I change the channel on the TV to Comedy Central and see his face.

Continue reading "First Michael Savage, then Denis Leary, now Rex Reed" »

Jake Crosby Reviews Fox Searchlight's "Adam" Movie with Asperger's

ADAM_One-Sheet-1 By Jake Crosby

“Adam,” A Review

The movie “Adam” was billed as a romantic comedy, but to a person with Asperger Syndrome, it might be more of a suspense drama.  Part of the reason for this could just be that I am not used to watching a character with my condition on the big screen since the movie is perhaps the first where the main character had Asperger Syndrome. “Adam,” though an independent film, can well be described as breaking ground that Hollywood has not yet breached.

In contrast to distortions espoused by Hollywood and Denis Leary characterizing autistics as savants, “Adam” was a strikingly accurate portrayal of an Asperger Syndrome sufferer, which was perhaps why the movie was well received. I’m no expert on acting, but if Hugh Dancy really never heard of Asperger Syndrome before getting the lead role as Adam, as he said in a recent interview with Autism Speaks, then he is a very good actor.

Perhaps the real question is not how accurately Asperger Syndrome was portrayed, but whether or not a movie that accurately portrays a guy in his twenties with Asperger Syndrome has a potential target audience in guys in their twenties with Asperger Syndrome. That was not the kind of crowd I saw shuffling into the theater to watch the movie, and I was the odd man out, though I guess it is possible there may have been others like me who I did not take into consideration. The audience was predominantly middle-aged couples. “Parents,” I thought, most likely of children with Asperger Syndrome or even Autism Spectrum Disorders in general who wanted to learn more about their kids’ conditions. There were some people my age in attendance. I suppose any of them could have had Aspergers, though I tend to doubt it.

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Why Asperger Syndrome is a Legal Disability

Disability By Jake Crosby

A comment under my previous article on Asperger Syndrome being a disability inspired me to write yet another article on the topic. The commenter, who was completely opposed to Neurodiversity (ND), said Asperger Syndrome is not a disability because it is not legally defined as such.

I am surprised that there is such a view out there in the autism community outside the ND movement that does not think Asperger Syndrome is a disability. Those who hold this view will claim that disability is a legal term. They will say that Asperger Syndrome is therefore not a disability because it is not covered by disability law. This view is incorrect. People with Asperger Syndrome are covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Act to receive accommodations in both work and in school. In contrast to some untruths I’ve heard, we also get insurance coverage; last summer I underwent speech therapy with another person with Aspergers to improve pragmatic language skills, covered by insurance. Some of us are also eligible for Social Security benefits for our disability, including Anne Dachel’s son:

"In fact, I learned that now there was a whole spectrum of autistic disorders and John's was called Asperger's Syndrome...Once he finished school, John became eligible for Social Security disability payments."

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Autism, Asperger's: Who is Truly Disabled?

Peckikng order By Jake Crosby

 “A "Refrigerator Mother" Adult with Autism Speaks Out,” read the title of one post from an autistic perspective, which was actually “more of a cry for help than anything else,” according to the post itself. To anyone reading the post, however, it is clear that “a cry for help” is by no means an understatement. The post, written as a letter, is filled with horrendous health problems few can fathom. Perhaps what stood out most to me was “nearly dying of acute heart failure in my 20s.” 
There is no doubt much anger in what is written - at the doctors who were no help, at the psychologists who would blame the parents, and more recently at the Neurodiversity proponents who are using their ASD diagnoses to attempt to speak for everyone with an ASD diagnosis. Most of the NDs just have Asperger Syndrome, which would seem comparably trivial to others who either have or are parents of those with more severe ASD-related problems

The NDs advocate against a cure, only see society’s reaction to autism as a problem and not the condition itself, and often try to prevent people on the spectrum from getting help. Deborah Delp, a mother of a child with autism and the very first person to comment on my first article put it this way “As a parent of a non-verbal 11 year old son (yesterday was his birthday), I have wondered if he is happy and whether or not he wants us to heal him…And still I wonder if he would prefer something other than what has been provided for him. After reading your piece, I will wonder a little less.” Ms. Delp is one of many parents just trying to do what they see is right for their autistic children, but is under constant pressure from NDs not to. This has prompted many to lash out at them.

Unfortunately, some of the backlash against the NDs has not just been directed at those who deserve it. People with Asperger Syndrome are now getting their disabilities trivialized from both the NDs and some of their opponents. Reading this post saying we are not “truly disabled” is not the first time I’ve heard such sentiment expressed. Still, not all of us subscribe to Neurodiversity.

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Autism, Cancer and AIDS

Cutting room floor By Jake Crosby

In 2007, Paul Offit published a book dedicated to the life of Maurice Hilleman, who patented more vaccines than any other immunologist in medical history. The title of the book reads “Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases.” And yet, Hilleman himself said he brought what is arguably the world’s deadliest disease to the United States: the AIDS virus. This is the man responsible for most childhood vaccines today, including measles and mumps along with the Hib and Hep B shots that have contained thimerosal. For these alleged achievements, he is hailed as a hero by the medical establishment, but less-flattering historical facts about his experiments and those of other researchers have been swept under the rug.

There is ample evidence Hilleman imported AIDS, and from none other than the spoken words of Maurice Hilleman himself. While critics typically attribute his work to contributing to the autism epidemic, there is little acknowledgment of his role in the AIDS epidemic as well. The explanation for this might be because the primary evidence does not extend much further than a strange video posted on YouTube over a year ago (HERE). The video includes recorded dialogue purported to be an exchange between Maurice Hilleman and his interviewer, Harvard medical historian Prof. Edward Shorter. The description alongside the video says that the interview was cut from an 80’s documentary called “The Health Century.” It started off kind of slow, “I think vaccines are the bargain basement technology of the twentieth century,” says Hilleman. Soon into the video, the voice purported to be Hilleman, dropped a bomb. While talking about his importation of monkeys to the US for vaccine development, Hilleman at one point said he brought some African Green monkeys over from West Africa as advised by the director of the Washington DC zoo, Bill Mann. Then Hilleman said, “and I didn’t know I was importing AIDS virus at the time.” Shorter asked excitedly, “So it was you who brought AIDS into the country?!” Hilleman replied, “This is the real story.” In the background, someone can be heard saying, “What Merck won’t do to develop a vaccine…”

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Newsweek’s Newspeak: Pharma’s Weapon Against Oprah

Newsweek jake By Jake Crosby

On the cover of last week’s Newsweek issue was a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with a huge scowl on his face. On his forehead were the words, “EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT IRAN IS WRONG.”

Ahmadinejad received considerable attention for denying the Holocaust. He held a convention inviting well-known Holocaust deniers including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and launched a Holocaust denial cartoon contest. And yet, Newsweek oprah Oprah Winfrey was not portrayed any better on the cover of Newsweek’s latest issue, showing an outrageous photo of her, the title over her face reading, “CRAZY TALK.”

Newsweek will portray a prominent TV show host as horribly as it did a Holocaust denier, but will take the rather bizarre views of a neurodiversity proponent little known outside the autism community seriously. Two issues ago, the magazine gave coverage to the ND Ari Ne’eman, ignoring requests of other autistics including myself for an interview. I wrote a letter to Newsweek in anticipation of Ari’s’s article asking the magazine to give equal time to a non-ND autistic person, receiving nothing more than an automated response. I then submitted what I sent to the magazine as an open letter to Age of Autism thinking that might pressure Newsweek to at least publicly acknowledge the counterpoint to neurodiversity among autistic people. No such thing happened. Then the Ari Ne’eman piece ran online a week later and then in the May 25th issue, where he professed his anti-cure views while expressing an unfounded fear of the unproven idea that autism can be prevented through eugenics. (HERE)

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An Open Letter to Newsweek Magazine on Possible Neurodiversity Coverage

Newsweek By Jake Crosby

I have just heard from a friend with autism that Newsweek Magazine might be publishing an article by Ari Ne'eman, neurodiversity advocate and founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. (HERE)  People with autism who support neurodiversity gained considerable attention in the mainstream media, in sharp contrast to those of us with dissenting opinions who have tried informing the media of this discrepency in the past, but to no avail. I'm still hopeful of the possibility that Newsweek Magazine will be different, so I sent the below letter to the magazine's email address:

Dear Newsweek,

I am a 20 year old sophomore at Brandeis University, and a sufferer of Asperger Syndrome, the mildest form of autism. I'm writing in response to a rumor circulating around the internet, which may or may not be true, claiming that you are going to run an article written by Ari Ne'eman, neurodiversity advocate, leader and founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and junior at the Baltimore County campus of the University of Maryland who also has my same diagnosis. Is this the case? Neurodiversity is an ideology supported primarily by some autistic individuals and parents who do not believe that autism is a disability, and opposes any potential cure. People professing this belief have gained wide coverage in the media, such as interviews with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appearances on ABC's Good Morning America, as well as an article for The New Yorker Magazine to name a few.

However, most autistic people, at least ones I have met, do not believe in neurodiversity.

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A Glimpse Inside Asperger's Syndrome

Spiral stairs By Jake Crosby

Today in class seemed like any other day -- sleepy-eyed students shuffling into the classroom awaiting another lecture. The only difference was that it was the day we were getting back our first written papers for the semester. Before handing them back, the teacher gave a strong lecture concerning argumentation, citations, and handing in assignments on time. Then came the paper-returns. Upon receiving my graded essay I proceeded to leave the room. I didn’t want to see what my grade was in the presence of my professor or the TAs. As I walked away from the building to take a look on the back page where my grade would be, I was shocked at what I found: “C/C+.” It was the lowest grade for a history assignment I had ever received. Reading the comments, I found that I had not cited the sources much, which made the teacher irate. I lost a lot of credit, what gives?

It then made sense to me: I am terrible at multi-tasking, I have difficulty making simple transitions from writing papers to inserting quotations and citations in them. Such a problem is one of many organizational difficulties commonly experienced by people on the autism spectrum. Throughout my life, everything had been somewhat of an uphill struggle for me, even learning how to talk. Sociability was obviously impaired, as were academics. Although I could now function at a level of academic proficiency for my class, I was not always capable of such perseverance. I still have to work harder to overcome the problems I face that most others do not.

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The Age of Neurodiversity

Flect-mirror By Jake Crosby
Neurodiversity, albeit not accepted by the medical mainstream, is making its way into prominent consideration by university intellectuals. It's even starting to be supported by scientific studies and doctors within the mainstream medical monolith. As we've entered the Age of Autism, we're also descending into a new dark age of neurodiversity where more people are seeing autism as neutral or even positive.

In his own book "Autism's False Prophets,” Paul Offit, while using the "no medical background" excuse on any non-doctor who disagrees with him, specifically attacks the credentials of those who do. He disregards what prominent groups such as SafeMinds have to say on this same excuse. Yet, he strangely cites two neurodiversity moms, Kathleen Seidel and Camille Clark for medical evidence, neither of whom have any medical background. Clark's experience doesn't go beyond a BA in psychology while Seidel is a librarian. Not only is he revealing what a hypocrite he is, Offit is also supporting one view very much rejected within the consensus, denial that autism is even a problem.

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History Suggests HHS Candidate Not Unbiased on Thimerosal-Vaccine Issue

Blind eye By Jake Crosby

With Tom Daschle's withdrawal over unpaid taxes, a leading candidate to head HHS is Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius is Governor of Kansas, has served as Kansas Insurance Commissioner and was an ardent supporter of Obama throughout his campaign. What she has not been supportive of were safety concerns over thimerosal, the highly toxic mercury-based preservative in vaccines.

As early as 2003, her staff has ignored warnings of thimerosal dangers, relying on federal and corporate information. This was even before the 2004 IOM Report and the first major epidemiological study by Stehr-Green denying an association between thimerosal and autism had been published in Pediatrics, a study that had been heavily criticized by Mark Blaxill of SafeMinds for serious flaws. Nonetheless, Sebelius is high on Obama's list of potential appointees for Secretary of the HHS and has said she would take the position if offered to her. If appointed, the future does not bode well for victims of thimerosal damage seeking compensation, or children of future generations who are susceptible to the poison.
Jake Crosby is a student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who plans to major in history, and a Contributing Editor of Age of Autism.

Discovering I Was Toxic

Finish line By Jake Crosby

While watching “The Simpsons” four years ago, a commercial appeared for a FOX News report on autism and a vaccine preservative. I stayed tuned for the program, and what I saw and heard shocked me. The reporters were interviewing angry parents of autistic children who said thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in childhood vaccines, had caused their children’s autism. According to the show, a bottle of thimerosal is too dangerous to even open. One child was injected as an infant with a dose of mercury that would be unsafe for a 250-lb adult. A mother lamented, “It’s a neurotoxin, it’s one of the most poisonous on earth.” A group of parents of autistic children, was asked, “How many of you feel thimerosal caused your child’s autism?” I vividly remember everyone’s hand going up.

A person from the other side of the argument was also interviewed for the show. That person was Dr. Paul Offit. He seemed very assertive - almost aggressive. When asked if there was a thimerosal-autism connection, he exclaimed, “The answer is a consistent, clear and reproducible NO!” The main reason I had for believing his denial of the connection was his position at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. Other than that, I did not know who he was or what he did, much less the $1.5 million grant his research chair received from Merck, his co-patent on the Rotavirus vaccine, or his vaccine earnings which he later said were, “like winning the lottery.”

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Living with Asperger's

Point_of_view_2Managing Editor's Note: This post was sent to us by a college student with Asperger's syndrome. We're happy to have Jake Crosby join us as a contributor.

By Jake Crosby

While there is little debate that severe Autism is a disability, there is an ongoing war about the effects of a milder variant of the disorder known as Asperger Syndrome (AS).

Naturally, anything that causes a person to be in self-contained classes for a decade, keeps him from having many friends, and causes him to have a history of anxiety, would appear to be a disability to most people. These are the ways I have been impacted by my AS; I can't think of anything positive it has done other than my sense of accomplishment after overcoming some of its challenges. However, a small, new camp is emerging from within the Autistic community of Aspies who believe AS and even Autism in general is a great thing.

This politically correct group of people says that Autism is not a disorder, but a "way of life." They deny that any environmental factors such as mercury and vaccines could have caused Autism and they claim they were meant to be Autistic. Most of all, they rail against any potential for a "cure," and see wiping out Autism as synonymous with wiping out the people themselves. While there are many mildly Autistic people like me who are busy trying to overcome our challenges as much as we can and severely Autistic people who are struggling to even speak a word, this crowd is getting more and more vocal about their staunchly pro-Autism views.

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