Internet woo – the feathery dinosaur needs your help

Yesterday, we mentioned how much this website has grown. We’re now getting several million hits and visits per month, which has meant that we need new enclosures (servers and web design) for the raptor. Feeding on all that internet woo and pseudoscience has contributed to this massive growth.

There is advertising on this site that pays some of the monthly costs, but with more and more people using Ad Blockers, a good 80% of the hits don’t result in views of the ads. So, the hungry, feathery internet woo attacking dinosaur can’t be fed properly.

Basically, we need to invest in the overhead to make this website work for a long time. For example, we need to do some basic website re-design, like modernize some of the code and improve the look and feel. We still haven’t been able to get a good front page that allows people to see the best articles.

W also have to improve the server. Last month, we were running at 500% of the allowed 4 cores (processors) for my website. I need to move to 10 cores ASAP. This site is supposed to run on 4GB of RAM, but last month I was running at 8-10. Those might sound like nothing for your MacBook Pro (well 10 cores is kind of massive), but the feathery dinosaur is trying to share the server with someone who might have a small internet storefront for Etsy or eBay.

The raptor may be mean to internet woo pushers, but he (or she, not sure how to check, or even if I should) is sympathetic to neighbors.

Internet woo

The internet host starts throttling back this website to keep others on the server running at full speed.  What this means is a bad experience for you the reader. There are thousands of inbound links to this website from numerous authors across the world who also attack internet woo and junk science. The raptor would like to keep those lines always working, 24/7.

We joke that we get money from Big Pharma to run these websites. We actually don’t. We do it for fun, for education, for good science. We all know that sites like this (not being modest, just factual) help all of us win the good fight against lies, misinformation and ignorance.

The raptor is appreciative of the authors, like Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who takes time out of her incredibly busy day to write important articles about laws and vaccines. She doesn’t do it for profit, she does it to inform. And people know to visit here for the latest information from her, and the raptor needs to make certain that readers have an efficient and stress-free experience on this website. And to make sure that the links that all of you share from Professor Reiss’ articles make it out to the public.

So please contribute to the GoFundMe campaign for the feathery dinosaur. He thanks you all, because your help is appreciated. And he really needs more space to grow. There is just so much internet woo to consume.

Cult science – the raptor enjoys hunting down pseudoscience

The Skeptical Raptor hates begging. He’d rather just get his meals from ripping apart the ignorance of pseudoscience. Before the advent of crowd-funding, like GoFundMe, we probably would have shut this website down, because the cost to run it is so high. We do feel as this website serves a function in the community as a resource to fight cult science, like anti-vaccination and anti-GMO pseudoscience.

Every day, we check who links to an article here. We are always surprised when a legal article about vaccination, from Professor Dorit Reiss, gets a link from an Italian website. Maybe some Italian law student is looking for a way to figure out how to figure out a ruling of the Italian court system. Maybe an Italian parent heard a rumor about how Americans do things with vaccines, and gets clarification.

This website is here to provide evidence and arguments to reject cult science and bad pseudoscience. That’s all.

We need to raise funds to improve the experience. We get too many 404 errors when the servers get overloaded. The front page, though much better than it was just two years ago, needs to be modernized. The website needs to be speedier and more efficient, something outside of the skills of one 65 million year old dinosaur. And that’s only marginally a metaphor.

Amazingly, we’ve raised about ⅙ of the funds that should be sufficient to get most of the things done. We need to move to a more powerful server. We need to clean up code. And we need to redesign the pages (probably the hardest thing to do).

The feathery dinosaur doesn’t want to beg, but we can’t run this place alone. If you’ve found this place at all useful, throw a few shekels this way. Bars of gold are also acceptable.

We’re not threatening shut down of Skeptical Raptor. We’d plot along as best we can. But it’s important to keep some of the articles here in the #1 hit parade of Google Hits for vaccines and other subjects. If you want to debunk “bananas cure cancer,” go ahead and google it. An article here is usually number 1 or 2 on Google hits.

Please contribute whatever you can.

 

Judge denies request for SB277 preliminary injunction – vaccines win

On August 26, 2016 Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the federal district court in San Diego rejected the request of a group of plaintiffs to issue a preliminary injunction putting SB277 – the law that removed the personal belief exemption (PBE) to California’s school immunization requirements – on hold. Judge Sabraw’s decision is carefully reasoned, powerful, upholds existing caselaw and protects children. While plaintiffs are likely to appeal, this denial of the SB277 preliminary injunction will be hard to overturn.

The practical meaning of the decision is that SB277 remains in force while the case is being litigated, and unvaccinated children who are starting kindergarten or seventh grade may not attend public or private schools unless they have a medical exemption or, in some cases, an individualized education plan, or IEP.

There are four elements to the question of whether to grant a preliminary injunction: whether the plaintiffs are likely to succeed, whether plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction, whether the balance of equities supports the plaintiffs – the harm to plaintiff is more than the harm, in this case, to the state from giving the injunction, and whether an injunction is in the public interest. The bar is high: a preliminary injunction is an unusual remedy.

The judge focused almost completely on whether the plaintiffs are likely to succeed, and found they are not, which does not bode well for their final case. He did make one comment about their harm.

If there is a place the decision could have been made stronger, it is by going deeper into the other elements. Specifically, discussing the public interest element would have bolstered the decision, since there is a clear public interest in letting a measure designed to prevent disease take effect.

But the decision already has the argument that preventing disease is a compelling state interest, by implication, making this case. Continue reading Judge denies request for SB277 preliminary injunction – vaccines win

Website contribution – the feathery dinosaur needs your help

It’s time to update everyone about my website. I’m going to brag a little, something I rarely do. But to keep this place going, I need to ask for a website contribution or two or three.

And the calm (not so much) Skeptical Raptor is going to beg for your help. The  peaceful (not so much) Skeptical Raptor really does need your help.

The good and the bad news

 

During 2016, almost 8 months, this website has had over 2 million visitors and nearly 7 million pages read. As websites go, that places your humble (or not so much) Skeptical Raptor in the top 0.025% of websites worldwide.

This website, according to Alexa, ranks in the 250,000 range, which would be bad if you were trying to get into the World Cup for Soccer. But since there are just over 1 billion websites, the self-depracating Skeptical Raptor (not so much) would actually be in the World Cup of websites.

As a comparison, the fine people over at Science Based Medicine rank about 40,000. Not that the unassertive (not so much) Skeptical Raptor is jealous (ok, just a bit), they have had like a 10 year head start on me. The irascible Orac ranks about 35,000. SkepticalScience, which is my favorite website for real information about climate change (and you really should have it on your list of websites to watch), ranks around 97,000.

Annoyingly, Natural News, one of the biggest pieces of horse manure on the planet, ranks at 8500. People are fools.

In case you were wondering, Google ranks #1. I do not think that their ranking is endangered by the subdued (not so much) Skeptical Raptor.

The bad news is that I had 2 million visitors and 7 million pages read and rank in the top 0.025% of websites. So the modest (not so much) Skeptical Raptor can no longer rely upon cheap servers from popular  web hosts and a couple of plug-ins to survive.

I have had to double the size of my dedicated servers twice over the past few months. A couple of weeks ago, my website was down more than up, because of a few issues, including not enough server power. And I need almost a full time person to fix issues.

Like chron jobs. I had runaway chron jobs. Dammit Jim, I’m a Big Pharma Shill not a computer engineer.

please-give

Asking for any website contribution

Thus, I need to beg for donations. My support for Hillary Clinton, who has been bullying Big Pharma to the point that their stock prices have crashed, has dried up all of my Shill Checks™. I’ve read rumors that Big Pharma CEOs are now eating Ramen noodles they’re so destitute.

But I really need some help. I don’t need someone to donate $1000 (but, you know, if you want, I’m OK with it). But I do need help to keep this place running. I’m not a billionaire like the incomprehensible Orac, who has a staff of minions who fix his computers and troll Mike Adams at the same time.

Your donations go to a good cause. I employ a group of starving grad students who love fixing chron jobs. And $10 gets them like a week of Ramen noodles.

In all seriousness, my “hobby” has gotten out of hand. It’s becoming a monster. So anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.

Influenza vaccination – epic rant about anti-vaccine Dumb Asses

We’re nearing the commencement of the 2016-2017 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. And every flu season, for the past 5 years, I reprint Dr. Mark Crislip‘s epic rant about Dumb Ass healthcare workers who refuse to get the influenza vaccination.

Dr. Crislip’s impassioned characterizations, which was originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, are a list of the different types of flu vaccine refusing Dumb Asses. It is important that I resurrect this list in advance of the flu season – there is nothing more frustrating than healthcare workers who refuse to get the influenza vaccination.

Even though this broadside is about flu vaccine refusing Dumb Asses, it’s all right to search and replace flu with say meningitis, pertussis, measles, HPV or any other vaccine. And just because this rant is really about healthcare workers, it’s all right to replace that with your neighbor, co-worker, or some other antivaccination Dumb Ass. There are just so many.

The upcoming 2016-2017 flu season is just starting, and many physicians and clinics (along with many pharmacies, government flu clinics, and other places) already have this season’s flu vaccine. One of the best ways, if not the only real way, to boost your immune system against the flu is with this vaccine. No, drinking copious quantities of bone broth (yes, it’s a thing) is not going to boost your immune system, kill flu virus, or create a force field against the flu.

And it’s time for intelligent, reasonable, and rational people to get their flu shots. We’ve dispensed with many of the myths that are cherished by vaccine refusers, and many reseachers have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes.

Continue reading Influenza vaccination – epic rant about anti-vaccine Dumb Asses

HPV cancer vaccine rates – Gardasil uptake remains low

As I’ve written before, there are precious few ways to prevent cancer. But one of the best cancer prevention strategies is the HPV vaccine, which can prevent numerous cancers such as cervical, oral, penile and anal, all serious, and all dangerous. Maybe we should just rename Gardasil to “HPV cancer vaccine,” which could make everyone sit up and notice.

The HPV vaccination rate remains depressingly low in the USA. According to recent research, 39.7% of adolescent girls aged 13-17 received all three doses of the vaccine in 2014 up from 37.6% in 2013. HPV vaccination rates among teen boys are much lower than for girls, 21.6% in 2014 up from 13.4% in 2013.

There are probably a lot of reasons for the low HPV cancer vaccine uptake rate, so I thought I’d go through the most “popular” ones, debunking them one by one.

Hopefully, the reader can use this article as a checklist of the tropes and myths of the anti-Gardasil crowd with quick answers to them. Maybe you’ll convince one person to get their son or daughter vaccinated against HPV related cancers.

Continue reading HPV cancer vaccine rates – Gardasil uptake remains low

Climate change denier is accurate – AP stylebook disagrees

I’m going to guess that a discussion of the AP stylebook isn’t a typical subject discussed in a skeptic blog. But the AP is worried that “denier” is too pejorative, and recommend that the term not be used, which made me take notice. I’m going to take umbrage with their recommendation and state emphatically that “climate change denier” is an accurate description.

Sure, it may be pejorative, but it’s based on the fact that those who deny real science, that is, the conclusion derived from a powerful and robust consensus of expert scientists in a field of study, willfully ignore said evidence and invent their own pseudoscience. Not only do I state that a climate change denier is a factual representation of those beliefs, I also think that a GMO denier, a vaccine denier, an evolution denier, and a Holocaust denier are essentially equivalent – each ignores the massive and robust mountain of evidence to come to an unsupported conclusion.

I think the use of “denier,” to anyone who rejects the scientific consensus, is accurate and acceptable. And it’s like several of orders of magnitude better than the “climate change skeptic” used by the deniers to make it sound like their denialism is actually scientifically based. Because real scientific skepticism is an honorable pursuit in which constantly questioning and doubting claims and assertions is based only on the accumulation of evidence. It requires the use of the scientific method, where claims, facts and theories are relentlessly tested and reviewed.

Deniers attempt to co-op the word “skeptic” when they really are just doubters and cynics who can’t be bothered with evidence or cherry pick just enough evidence to support their pre-conceived notions.

I want to look at what the AP Stylebook has recommended. I would like to know if my pre-conceived notion that denier is an accurate description for anyone who rejects the scientific consensus.

Continue reading Climate change denier is accurate – AP stylebook disagrees

Vaccine mandates promote human rights by protecting children

Over the past years, the argument that school vaccine mandates violate human rights has been raised multiple times. The argument is ill founded, and if there is a human rights argument, it goes the other way.

I would like to examine the key arguments, but adding that vaccine mandates actually promotes human rights by protecting children from vaccine preventable diseases.

Continue reading Vaccine mandates promote human rights by protecting children

Medically unfit Hillary Clinton – the doctor behind the myth

Since I am a political geek as much as a biomedical geek, I love it when the  two occasionally intersect. If you haven’t kept up, some right wing websites, like Breitbart, are pushing a trope that claims that a medically unfit Hillary Clinton is incapable of becoming President of the US.

I couldn’t resist commenting on this, because there’s really so much to say. Let’s start with the basics – Breitbart is a right wing website that seems to use the Natural News method of facts. You know, invent facts out of thin air.

You may not know much about Breitbart, but actually they’ve been slithering around the Donald Trump campaign for a long time. Last spring, a Breitbart reporter was actually assaulted by Trump’s then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Eventually, Breitbart suppressed the news, because Trump was their guy, and the reporter, Michelle Fields, resigned from the website.

But the incestuous relationship between Breitbart and Trump gets even juicer. This week, Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive. I’ve never heard of a chief executive in a political campaign, but I guess my feelings would be “whatever.”

If you think that Breitbart is anything but a right wing nut job website who’s in bed with Trump, you should disabuse yourself of those notions quickly. It is a right wing nut job website in bed with Trump

But back to the “medically unfit Hillary Clinton” trope. Let’s see where Breitbart got this “fact.” Because it has a something to do with Gardasil – maybe not directly, but I’m having fun here. Just go with it.

Continue reading Medically unfit Hillary Clinton – the doctor behind the myth

Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

With the success of California’s vaccination law, SB277, there appears to be a trend to increase vaccination uptake among school-aged children. And it’s a great thing that we protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd is still looking for lame excuses to not vaccinate – today, it’s the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines.

The anti-vaccine crowd has a tendency to ignore the vast and powerful scientific consensus on vaccines. Instead, they prefer to cherry pick research, often from biased “scientists” who publish in the lowest quality journals. That cherry picking is a form of confirmation bias – the individual seeks evidence that supports their a priori conclusions rather than letting the robust body of evidence point them to a conclusion.

Generally, these myths, based on cherry picking, are debunked. But the anti-vaccine cult is nothing if not creative. They just move on to a new boogeyman. This time, it’s aluminum adjuvants in vaccines. To be honest, anti-vaccine tropes are zombies, so we think we destroy those tropes, but they rise again, fed by new cherry picking. And debunking the danger of aluminum in vaccines has been an age-old discussion amongst the pro-science crowd.

Today, we’re going to look at one of those articles which was recently published. If one accepted this research, while ignoring critical analysis and the body of other science, then it would be a great one to confirm one’s own pre-conceived beliefs. But that’s not how we do science, so let’s take a look. Continue reading Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle