The Natural News conspiracy – Google is out to get them and hilarity ensues

Natural News conspiracy

As many of us pro-science bloggers have written, the malodorous, fetid cesspool of pseudoscience, Mike Adams’ Natural News website has been blacklisted, strippedblacklisted, and delisted from Google searches (as of 26 February 2017). Of course, this has resulted in a series of comical headlines regarding the Natural News conspiracy theories – it’s all about how Google is out to destroy Natural News, because of whatever fantasy that comes from the brain of Adams.

Why is Mike Adams going after Google so directly? Despite some the wishes and hopes of the scientific community, Natural News was not delisted because of its awful pseudoscience. As I had written on the initial article about this story:

I have no clue why Google blacklisted Natural News. It may have been some SEO (search engine optimization) change by Google – the dark arts surrounding SEO is only understood by secretive wizards who try to explain to mortals like me. The blacklisting may be permanent, or it may be temporary. There are literally dozens of reasons that cause Google to remove a website from it’s search results – bad spelling and grammar, fake links, and many others.

In other words, I was pretty certain that the story of the blacklisting had little to do with fake news or pushing pseudoscience, but more to do with something strange to do with their website. And several Search Engine Optimization folks, who have nothing to do with scientific skepticism, they just write about the alchemy of SEO mysteries. Because I swear the existence of sasquatch is more real than some of the rules surrounding SEO. Continue reading “The Natural News conspiracy – Google is out to get them and hilarity ensues”

Andrew Wakefield – dishonest attempt at self-justification

Andrew Wakefield

The movie Vaxxed is an anti-vaccine polemic that claims, despite all of the high quality contradictory evidence, that there is a link between the MMR vaccine, for mumps, measles and rubella, and autism. Furthermore, it claims that the US government is engaging in a conspiracy to hide said link. Reviews of the film have appropriately emphasized the checkered past of its director, Andrew Wakefield, a discredited ex-scientist with a history of misrepresentations. Many of the reviews point out that Wakefield is not a credible source for information on vaccines.

In a recent video posted on the Vaxxed website, Andrew Wakefield took those claims head on, mounting a passionate defense of his reputation. If anything, however, this video further shows that Wakefield is not a good source of information.

The video’s claims range from unsupported (and implausible) to blatantly false. Unfortunately for Wakefield, Brian Deer meticulously documented each step in the events, making it relatively easy to identify the problems in these claims. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Wakefield’s adherents are unlikely to check his claims, and others may also accept his word without fact-checking. It’s therefore worth going through the claims.

To hear Wakefield, he was the victim of a conspiracy mounted because he dared raise safety concerns about vaccines. But as with his book, Callous Disregard (pdf), Wakefield’s claims are ill founded. In short, there are good reasons he lost his license and his reputation as a serious scientist.

A brief review of the history of this story – in 1998, Wakefield and co-authors published a paper suggesting that the measles component of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused changes in some children’s guts, and that those changes were associated with autism.

In 2007, after extensive investigation by Brian Deer published at The Sunday Times, Britain’s General Medical Council (GMC) opened an investigation of their own to answer the question: Did Wakefield engage in serious professional misconduct?  In May 2010, the GMC found that yes, he did, and removed Wakefield from the British medical register (pdf).

Wakefield’s claims in the Allegations video can be put into three categories:

  1. there were no serious ethical violations or fraud in relation to the article he published in the Lancet;
  2. he’d done nothing wrong otherwise, measles outbreaks are not his fault, the GMC decision was generally wrong, and Walker-Smith’s acquittal shows that; and
  3. Brian Deer’s articles are a fraud motivated by a conspiracy.

None of these claims hold water.

Continue reading “Andrew Wakefield – dishonest attempt at self-justification”

Immunization requirements neither discriminate nor segregate

This article was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. 

Additionally, Reiss is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

Anti-vaccine activists have been claiming that statutes abolishing exemptions from school immunization requirements – like SB277 in California – are discriminatory. This post explains why this claim is wrong in both its form: school immunization requirements without exemptions are neither discrimination nor segregation.

Continue reading “Immunization requirements neither discriminate nor segregate”

Lions, tigers and ebola–oh my!

ebolavirusUnless you’ve been living under a rock (which is admittedly difficult), you might be aware of the Ebola virus. And that it has entered the USA–one patient, not exactly an epidemic. And, according to public health officials, about 10 people are at risk from the disease from contact with this “patient zero” in the USA. Despite these minuscule, small, tiny numbers, you’d think America is facing a disaster of epic proportions.

Not so fast. I’m not saying we should ignore this disease, or minimize it’s danger, but seriously, in the grand scheme of the world, is this something to actually worry about? I have completely ignored the disease, other than mocking homeopaths for attempting to cure the disease, because there are so many infectious diseases that are actually more scary than Ebola.

Let’s get some facts then. Continue reading “Lions, tigers and ebola–oh my!”

The anniversary of September 11–my personal experience

For a moment, I want to step away from my typically snarky commentary about things I see in the pseudoscience world. I want to talk about my own experiences on that day, which, in retrospect, ended up being a closer call than I ever wish to have.

You see, on September 11, 2001, I was taking a morning flight from New York’s JFK airport to my home. I had spent the weekend in New York City with my girlfriend–we had good food and drinks with her brother and her sister-in-law, and we all got good seats for the hit musical on Broadway that year. Even after 13 years, I’ve never seen the movie based on that musical nor listen to the songs, despite how funny they are. It’s because, to me, that musical is intimately tied to 9/11.

 

Credit to Wikimedia Commons, 2011
Credit to Wikimedia Commons, 2011

On Monday, September 10, I had to go down to Wall Street (in a building close to the World Trade Center) to meet with a group that was doing an analysis of one part of the medical device industry, and we spent all day examining numbers, evaluating companies, and discussing future technology. It was highly analytical, and something I enjoy doing.

I also met with a hedge fund operator in the Twin Towers, whom I had befriended in a previous job. His whole investing strategy was to root out liars and frauds in the small medical companies, then short the stock (that is bet that the stock price will drop and profit from it). He had an amusing and colorful internet nom de plume, which I remember to this day.

After the meetings, I was originally going to stay in the Marriott Hotel on Wall Street, but I decided to just stay in my more uptown hotel for better restaurants and things to do.

At this point, the world was perfect for me. New York’s weather was feeling a bit like autumn was just around the corner. I was in a wonderful relationship. And I was going to close on a new house on Tuesday afternoon, so I was in a hurry to get back. Continue reading “The anniversary of September 11–my personal experience”