Respectful Insolence

My British readers, say it ain’t so! Hot on the heels of learning that, bankrolled by antivaccinationists, David Kirby is planning a trip to the U.K. in early June, I find out something even more disturbing. A reader forwarded this press release to me:

From: “Clifford G. Miller”

May 23, 2008 — CONTACT: David Kirby – dkirby@nyc.rr.com

BESTSELLING AMERICAN AUTHOR
DAVID KIRBY TO SPEAK AT HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

Briefing by Journalist Who Covers Vaccine-Autism Debate is Sponsored
By Lord Robin Granville Hodgson, Baron Hodgson of Shropshire

U.S. Journalist David Kirby, author of the award winning book “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic – A Medical Controversy,” will give a special briefing on this debate at the Houses of Parliament in London, on Wednesday, 4 June.

Mr. Kirby will speak about recent legal, political and scientific developments in the United States in the ongoing vaccine-autism controversy. The briefing is open to Peers in the House of Lords, Members of Parliament, their Staff, members of the Media, and Invited Guests.

The briefing will take place on Wednesday, 4 June at 3:30PM at the Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, Committee Room 4. It is being sponsored by His Lordship Robin Hodgson, Baron Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Shropshire.

In addition to his Parliament briefing, Mr. Kirby will also give a free public lecture on Wednesday 4th June, 6:30-10PM at Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London.

In addition, Mr. Kirby will attend an informal reading, book signing and Q&A on Friday 6th June, 4:00-7:00PM at Gudrun Jonsson, 2 Napier Road, Kensington, London.

Among the subjects to be addressed by Mr. Kirby are:

  1. A recent case in the US Vaccine Court in which the federal government conceded that vaccines induced autism in one little girl – and updates on other cases in the court.
  2. Growing evidence of a link between mitochondrial dysfunction and autistic regression, and case studies of several ASD children with mitochondrial issues.
  3. State-of-the-art research underway at top universities on the connection between environmental toxins, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, glutathione depletion, neuro-inflammation and autistic encephalopathy.
  4. Declarations by all 3 US Presidential candidates that autism is epidemic and calling for more research into vaccines and mercury as possible causes.
  5. Recent studies linking ASD risk with heavy metals and other contaminants in air pollution.

The visit is sponsored by US autism organizations Generation Rescue, Autism Research Institute, National Autism Association, Coalition for SAFE MINDS, and Talk About Curing Autism.

David Kirby is a former contributor to The New York Times and a writer for the popular blog, The Huffington Post. “Evidence of Harm,” debuted on The New York Times bestseller list in 2005, and is still widely read today. It won the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award in 2005 for Best Book. Kirby has appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s Larry King Live, NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning, CNN Headline News, Air America, and many others.

David Kirby

is available for media interviews – Please contact him directly at dkirby@nyc.rr.com.

More information about Evidence of Harm is available at www.evidenceofharm.com

Mr. Kirby’s essays at Huffington Post can be viewed at www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby

What’s going on here? Who is Lord Robin Granville Hodgson, Baron Hodgson of Shropshire and why is he giving a voice to antivaccinationism in Parliament? Having David Kirby there is as bad as if Andrew Wakefield were to be given a chance to do a briefing at Parliament–particularly if there are no dissenting voices there.

My British friends, it looks like it’s time to start contacting your MPs. There are less than two weeks until serious antivaccinationist propaganda hits Parliament. Start suggesting tough questions that any MPs who might attend this briefing can ask. Write to them and protest.

Time to contact Brian Deer and Ben Goldacre again.

Comments

  1. #1 guthrie
    May 23, 2008

    He appears to be a Conservative peer:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hodgson,_Baron_Hodgson_of_Astley_Abbotts

    I am not close enough to this sort of thing here in the UK, but there will be some Peers with actual medical knowledge and who may have been involved in real science as opposed to pseudoscience like this, and therefore they could turn up and ask interesting questions…

  2. #2 heidi roger
    May 23, 2008

    David Kirby is a journalist and should not be labeled “antivaccinationist”. Why not go and listen to what he has to say? You might learn something. And maybe some innocent infants’ lives might be spared the horror show of vaccine damage if some parents act in a more conservative manner about vaccination going forward. Why not err on the side of caution? What, all medical products are 100% safe? Your country experienced the thalidomide tragedy, no? Vaccines are just another medical product, like Vioxx and, oh yeah, Rotavirus vaccine, that might need to be recalled due to dangerous side effects. Get informed.

  3. #3 Estellea
    May 23, 2008

    Gee Thanks for your insight Heidi. What makes you think that we haven’t listened to what he has to say and deconstruct all of his fallacious arguments? He is barely a journalist and certainly not a scientific one at that and he should stop posing as one trying to shoehorn vaccines, either some single constituent or vaccines in general (his theories keep changing), into ASD aetiologies. Oh yes, let’s abandon medical and pharmaceutical research because not every single outcome is perfect. Good plan there Heidi.

  4. #4 Uncle dave
    May 23, 2008

    “….And maybe some innocent infants’ lives might be spared the horror show of vaccine damage…”

    How about he horror show of players like polio, measles or the horror show of diphtheria.

    http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=749000

    Why not err on the side of caution?

    We do, thats what the vaccinations are for.

  5. #5 Tlazolteotl
    May 23, 2008

    Heidi appears, unfortunately, to be about as well-informed about vaccination as she is about the subject matter of this blog.

  6. #6 Mariah
    May 23, 2008

    Yes, because what the Brits need is more of this:

    Unvaccinated child dies from ‘diphtheria’

    The condition is very rare in Britain as most children are immunised against it by a routine, three-dose immunisation given at age two, three and four months. Booster injections are then given before school starting age and then again between the ages of 16 and 18.
    Prof Peter Borriello, of the HPA, said: “This child had not been immunised. We have taken action to prevent the infection spreading to others.”

  7. #7 hikitty
    May 23, 2008

    I feel a bit foolish asking this, but perhaps someone can inform me. The antivaccination folks used to say that mercury in vaccines causes autism. Now that mercury isn’t used in vaccines anymore, what do they think is in the vaccines that is causing autism?

  8. #8 Orac
    May 23, 2008

    TOXINS!

    Of course.

  9. #9 MemeTherapist
    May 23, 2008

    </lurk>
    The answer to “who he is” would appear to be an anti-vaccination campaigner (though he’s been quiet these past 4 years) and general woo believer, a supporter of homeopathy and cranial osteopathy (a new woo for me) which is fairly de rigeur for a member of the house of Lords in a land where we have a Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.
    To write to your MP, a Lord etc. easily use Write to them
    <lurk>

  10. #10 HCN
    May 23, 2008

    Heidi wrote: “David Kirby is a journalist ”

    No, honey… he was a travel writer:
    http://travel2.nytimes.com/gst/travel/travsearch.html?term=byline%3ABy%20DAVID%20KIRBY

    He has absolutely no training in biology, medicine or epidemiology. He has even claimed that a few years after thimerosal was removed from vaccines, that the autism rates would go down. Well, overy seven years have gone by, and that has not happened. So he decided to blame cremation fumes from China!

  11. #11 HCN
    May 23, 2008
  12. #12 sharon
    May 23, 2008

    Well, I’m not up on the inner workings of Parliament, but I really don’t think this is a huge deal. Briefings are going on all the time (and lobbying in general), to and by the politicians. I’m betting Committee Room 4 isn’t exactly the hub of the parliamentary universe. Still, it’s probably worth keeping an eye on, especially since we might have new Conservative lizard overlords in the next year or so (although that’ll have me worrying a lot more about anti-abortionists than anti-vaccinationists, to be honest)…

  13. #13 Calli Arcale
    May 23, 2008

    David Kirby is a journalist and should not be labeled “antivaccinationist”.

    Perhaps the label is offensive, but he most certainly is opposed to vaccines. Prove that ethyl mercury preservatives in vaccines don’t cause autism, even prove that vaccines themselves are not associated with an increase in autism, and it doesn’t matter. He’ll still find ways to try to scare people into avoiding vaccines, since of course the risk of polio is so much better than the risk of autism.

    I have an ASD child. Even if vaccines really did cause autism in rare cases, I’d much rather have her be autistic than consigned to a ventilator due to polio.

    By the way, it is grossly misleading for Clifford Miller to say that the government conceded that one girl’s autism was caused by vaccines. This sort of deliberate distortion of the truth is being widely used by the opponents of vaccines. The truth, which is far less dramatic, is that the girl had an extremely rare mitochondrial disease which was essentially ticking time bomb. Sooner or later, she was going to develop a fever, which, because of her condition, was going to do neurological damage. If it hadn’t been the vaccine causing the fever, sooner or later, it would have been a wild virus doing the same thing, and triggering the same damage, but without any convenient boogeyman to sue. (Or would they have sued an influenza virus manufacturer for failing to protect her from the fever?)

    The ultimate irony? Children like her are quite a bit more vulnerable to infectious disease than normal children, so it is actually *more* important to vaccinate them. Her parents will also have to take great care to keep her from being exposed to too many pathogens. A common cold could kill her. I sincerely hope her parents care enough about her well-being, despite the misinformation that has been hurled at them by those who make a living suing vaccine manufacturers, to get *themselves* vaccinated against influenza each year. They are living with a high-risk child who cannot afford for them to be disease vectors.

  14. #14 Sick of the mercury crazies
    May 23, 2008

    Clifford G. Miller is a well-known “autism conspiracy to poison our kids” anti-vaccine nut and a relentless troll. He often turns up on comments threads doing a kind of tag-team act with John Stone from anti-vaccine group JABS, e.g. on this comment thread about vaccination from the British Medical Journal online edition.

  15. #15 FraserH
    May 23, 2008

    Maybe someone should contact the Labour peer Lord (Prof) Robert Winston about this. He was the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and is a well known and respected public figure in the UK. I’d do it but am on a pokey slow dial up in PNG (12.0 kbps!) and probably am not best suited as haven’t followed the shenanigans of the anti-vac crowd

  16. #16 Sick of the mercury crazies
    May 23, 2008

    PS Clifford is a lawyer, by the way. And a quick trip to the wonderful Neurodiversity reveals that he has penned a paper in that august organ the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

    My preferred description for Clifford is “an indefatigable loon”.

  17. #17 DLC
    May 23, 2008

    You know, if these people believed that UFOs from the planet zorg caused headaches and were merely urging everyone to wear an aluminum foil hat to protect themselves from the Zorgian Headache Ray, I wouldn’t bother over them. But, they don’t.
    They cause considerable harm, and aim to do more, by preventing just as many vaccinations as they can. I prefer that we not step back into the days before vaccinations.

  18. #18 daedalus2u
    May 23, 2008

    I would want to ask him who breached the Vaccine Court’s confidentiality and gave him the confidential report on Hannah Poling, and why did he publish it with the direct dial phone numbers of the lawyers for Respondent so that Kirby’s minions in the Mercury Militia could harass them?

  19. #19 wonderman
    May 23, 2008

    Perhaps British politicians, who also get elected, are hearing from their voters that the cases of autism are growing.

    Perhpas they are trying to figure out why the cases are growing and perhaps they are getting a cold-shoulder from the British medical community.

    Perhaps that compels them to do their own research and perhaps everytime they do, the dreaded “V” word appears, so perhaps they are trying to further their understanding of what many consider a GROWING problem of autism.

    Or, perhaps autism is just genetic, it’s always been with us, and parents just need to love their special kids and this is madness.

    Depends on what you think you know, I suppose.

    Wonderman

  20. #20 Phoenix Woman
    May 23, 2008

    Quick O/T: Orac, check out this excellent TNR piece on how the rather squishy and variable concept of “dignity” (as opposed to the more-readily-quantified concept of “autonomy”) is used to smother research into diseases.

    Now, back to topic:

    Wonderman said:

    Perhaps British politicians, who also get elected, are hearing from their voters that the cases of autism are growing. Perhpas they are trying to figure out why the cases are growing.

    Actually, the diagnosis of autism has increased in large part because more and more disorders and conditions are added to the autistic spectrum. Things that would not have been considered autism thirty, twenty or even ten years ago are now often diagnosed as such. Asperger’s Syndrome, for instance, now falls under the autism umbrella. Rett Syndrome is also sometimes classified as an autistic-spectrum disorder, though this is a controversial classification.

    and perhaps they are getting a cold-shoulder from the British medical community.

    That cold shoulder might have a wee bit to do with the guy who started this whole mess in the UK, Andrew Wakefield, being a lying scumbag who’s in it for the money.

    Perhaps that compels them to do their own research and perhaps everytime they do, the dreaded “V” word appears, so perhaps they are trying to further their understanding of what many consider a GROWING problem of autism.

    Except their “research” is bogus, readily debunked and innocent of the concept of peer review — that’s why they can only get published in their own bogus journals, many of which are “pay to publish” affairs. After Wakefield’s hookwinking of The Lancet, no respectable scientific journal will have anything to do with the antivac/mercury militia.

    Or, perhaps autism is just genetic, it’s always been with us, and parents just need to love their special kids and this is madness.

    See my comments above about the vast changes in autistic-spectrum diagnosis over the years.

    Depends on what you think you know, I suppose.

    Actually, it depends on hard facts, something the anti-vac crowd fears. Unfortunately, they have louder voices than do honest doctors and researchers, so when Googling anything on the topic of mercury in vaccines, the first few links are almost inevitably anti-vac garbage links.

  21. #21 Bob O'H
    May 24, 2008

    Perhaps British politicians, who also get elected, are hearing from their voters that the cases of autism are growing.

    Well done, wonderman. If you’re going to make an argument like yours, it helps if you don’t start from a premise that is trivially false. The politician who organised this is in the House of Lords, so he wasn’t elected, and will keep his seat there.

  22. #22 has
    May 24, 2008

    Standard-issue anti-vaxxer:

    Perhaps that compels them to do their own research

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  23. #23 Matt Penfold
    May 24, 2008

    This briefing, odious as it is, does not have any official backing from parliament, in that neither house has official asked him to speak.

    Members of either house, Commons or Lords, can invite anyone they like to speak and they will be provided with facilities for that meeting. Sadly some of the idiots who govern us abuse that right and invite totally unsuitable people.

    There is good news on the vaccine front in the UK, and that is all three major parties, and the two Nats parties all support the government line that there is no link between vaccines and autism and that all children should be vaccinated unless there are good medical reasons for not doing do. Indeed there has been talk of late of preventing kids who have not been vaccinated from attending state funded schools.

  24. #24 Dr Aust
    May 25, 2008

    The question here for us UK geeks seems to be how Robin Hodgson is connected to long-time anti-vaxer Clifford G Miller.

    Hodgson is what we would call a “Tory Grandee”, a long time and well connected Conservative Party insider. For US readers this would be somewhere between a long-time Senator, though members of the House of Lords are not actually elected, and a very senior party official.

    I doubt Hodgson has run across Kirby on his own account. He (Hodgson) has no track record on health issues, as his key “portfolios” for the Conservative Party have been Trade and Home Affairs (law and order issues). Again, for US readers, Hodgson’s role in these things is slightly equivalent to being minority spokesman on these issues in the Senate, or minority lead on a Senate committee on the subjects.

    Since UK politicians are much more sensitive to what is going on in politics – including US politics – than to what is going on in science, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t in some way a knock-on effect of the rather ambiguous remarks some of the Presidential candidates have been making about autism (see Orac posts passim).

  25. #25 Sick of the mercury crazies
    May 25, 2008

    A bit more digging now reveals that Lord Hodgson has what we Brits call “previous” (or as our American cousins would say “a record”) on thimerosal in vaccines, having raised it in the House of Lords on several occasions: try Google-ing

    “Lord Hodgson” thimerosal

    This would explain the Hodgson – Clifford G Miller – David Kirby connection: as a squint at Clifford Miller’s website will show, he is a lead member of the UK’s version of the “Mercury Militia”

  26. #26 cathyf
    May 25, 2008

    The truth, which is far less dramatic, is that the girl had an extremely rare mitochondrial disease which was essentially ticking time bomb. Sooner or later, she was going to develop a fever, which, because of her condition, was going to do neurological damage. If it hadn’t been the vaccine causing the fever, sooner or later, it would have been a wild virus doing the same thing, and triggering the same damage, but without any convenient boogeyman to sue.

    That’s also true of the not extremely rare situation. The most common vaccine reaction is allergy, and there is nothing at all controversial about the link between severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis and neurological damage, and that neurological damage can be similar in some aspects to autism.

    The most important thing to keep repeating about the Hannah Poling case with the mitochondrial defect is that it is actually quite typical for a case of vaccine injury and death. The person is (as Calli puts it) a ticking time bomb, the vaccine causes an event, the child is lucky to survive, and has more or less damage. With the (extremely rare) mitochondial defect, the fever could have been caused by anything, and, from a financial point of view, her family is lucky that it came from the vaccine, and we have a fund to give money to vaccine injury victims. For most kids with the mitochondrial defect, the fever is going to come from contraction of some virus or bacteria, and they are out of luck financially. With the allergy time bomb we have the same sort of good luck / bad luck scenario — the allergy is a ticking time bomb, the anaphylactic shock which is the proximate cause of the neurological damage is unmistakable, and so it is obvious whether the reaction was to a vaccination (payday) or food (no payday).

    Suppose there is a link between vaccinations and autism. Well, from what we know, it has to be a mechanism like the ticking-time-bomb scenario. Since there is no decrease in the autism rate between unvaccinated and vaccinated kids, this link would have to be something which could be triggered by the vaccine, but only if it hasn’t been triggered by some other non-vaccine cause which is ubiquitous to childhood.

    If you look at the actual mechanism of the mitochondrial defect, then there are two reasons why you absolutely want such children to be vaccinated. The first one is very noble — these children are much more likely to die if they catch one of these vaccine-preventable illness. The second reason is cavalier and mercenary — if you vaccinate and your kid gets a fever, then you can get money from the vaccine injury fund, whereas if you don’t vaccinate, then when your kid gets the inevitable injury from the fever coming from the random virus or bacterial infection that he/she will inevitably get, then you don’t get any money from the vaccine fund.

  27. #27 Woobegone
    May 25, 2008

    “Perhaps British politicians, who also get elected, are hearing from their voters that the cases of autism are growing.”

    This would have been by reading that well known epidemiological study, British Voters Et al. (2008)?

  28. #28 Steve David
    June 18, 2008

    Hi All,
    Well i very much agree with hikitty as the matter of fact the same question comes into my mind now when mercury isn’t there used as vaccines what is basically there causing autism??
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