Respectful Insolence

Remember yesterday how, I referenced the ever-awesome bit about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and how after pulling the pin you must count to three, no more, no less, before lobbing the grenade at thine enemies? The implication was, of course, that I was on my third post in a row about the so-called “CDC whistleblower” and that was enough.

I lied.

Well, no, actually I didn’t lie. (But look for a crank to quote mine that two-word sentence.) Rather, I changed my mind. The reasons are three-fold. First, this is a crank storm that just keeps on giving when it comes to grade-A blogging material. The other reason is that this story isn’t going away, and there are still issues I wanted to touch upon. True, because the story isn’t going away soon, I won’t be blogging about it indefinitely until it finally fades into the background noise of antivaccine conspiracy theories that are always buzzing around us like pissed off bees chasing after someone who knocked over their hive. I do think that one more installment is in order, though, the third reason being an observation last night of just how desperate the antivaccine movement is to have Brian Hooker’s incompetent “reanalysis” of a ten year old vaccine safety study and Andrew Wakefield’s despicable race-baiting video gain traction in the mainstream media. The failure of this conspiracy theory to do so is driving antivaccine activists into ever-greater fits of lunacy online, plus another release of a letter that I’ll discuss after I get through the more amusing stuff.

For those who might be entering this saga right now, I’m referring to a claim, being flogged to death right now by the antivaccine movement, that there is a CDC whistleblower who has made “devastating” reports that the CDC hid data that showed a 3.4-fold increased risk of autism in African American males, based on a “reanalysis” of a 10 year old CDC study that found no evidence that children with autism were no more likely to have received their first MMR vaccine earlier than neurotypical controls. Although the status of the “whistleblower,” senior CDC scientist William Thompson, PhD, is unknown because we have no one’s word for what it is other than Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield, we do know that Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis,” which is at the heart of this conspiracy theory, is a fetid pile of dingo’s kidneys, from a statistical and epidemiological standpoint.

Perhaps the most hilarious example of the lengths to which antivaccinationists will go for attention came in the form of a “Twitter party” last night using the #CDCwhistleblower hashtag. Indications that this was going to occur hit social media sites Monday night, but yesterday the Not-So-Thinking Moms laid down the instructions for this “Twitter party,” to hilarious effect. Let’s just put it this way: A mix of antivaccine loons plus antivaccine Twitter newbies = comedy gold! Particularly hilarious were these instructions:

  • Do not use profanity, defamatory language, or make lewd comments.DO NOT engage with nay-sayers, pro-vax people or pharma trolls. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH: DO NOT ARGUE! If you feel the need to reply to them, simply repeat #CDCwhistleblower with no other wording. DO NOT ARGUE.
  • Do not refer to lawsuits, personal or class action. That talk is way too premature.
  • Do not express negativity toward William Thompson. Just don’t.

Naturally, the Moms provided a bunch of prepackaged Tweets with links to antivaccine talking points about William Thompson as the “CDC whistleblower.” Not unexpectedly, try as they might, several of the antivaccine Twitter champions couldn’t resist arguing with pro-vax people. They also Tweeted at a bunch of news organizations, who, I bet, recognize cranks when they see them, and Rob Schneider, who is an antivaccine crank. A lot of the usual suspects were there, as well, spewing the same sort of nonsense we normally see them spewing on their blogs and Facebook pages, such as:


No, Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” of the Destefano et al study showed nothing of the sort.

Of course, no antivaccine trope was too dumb or discredited to be pulled out, dusted off, and presented as Truth:

You get the idea.

That wasn’t the only bit of craziness going on. You knew it had to happen, but I noticed yesterday that Patrick “Tim” Bolen got into the act with a typical screed of his entitled The CDC Whistleblower…The Story Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want To Run… Perhaps the only amusing thing about Bolen’s tiresome post is just how much he dislikes me. I always say that I know I’m effective when the cranks take the time to attack me personally, and Bolen definitely does that. Unfortunately, he is too uncreative and unimaginative to come up with an insult worse than calling me “big pharma’s bought and paid for man.” (The pharma shill gambit? Really? How disappointingly…predictable.) Also apparently, my commenters are all sock puppets of me trying to generate support for my posts. If there’s one thing about Bolen, he never fails to be an ass. His worst sin, though, is that he is not even a particularly entertaining ass.

Bolen did remind me, however, that there is a quack cancer conference coming up at the end of this week that I should perhaps look into, and Brian Hooker is apparently going to be speaking there. Why? Because two quacks are stronger than one; so combining this quack cancer conference with an AutismOne event appeals to more cranks? I guess that must be the reason.

Finally, Mike Adams is back in the game with a new e-mail from Hooker to CDC officials from 12 years ago. You know, if I were Andrew Wakefield or Brian Hooker and I wanted to get my message out through the channel least likely to be immediately dismissed as unreliable, perhaps the last site I’d choose would be NaturalNews.com, the crankiest of the crank sites out there, particularly when Adams posts lurid articles with the title Natural News EXCLUSIVE: Bombshell email from CDC whistleblower reveals criminality of vaccine cover-up as far back as 2002. But then, thankfully, I’m not Brian Hooker or Andrew Wakefield. Anyway, here is the letter. It is from Thompson and addressed to Melinda Wharton and several other high-ranking CDC officials:

CDC-DOJ-Investigation-MMR-Vaccine-Autism

Taken out of context, it’s rather hard to know what to make of this e-mail. Apparently in 2002, there was a Department of Justice request for documents relating to the MMR vaccine, thimerosal (which, I note, is not in the MMR and never has been), and autism. What I see here, though, is not evidence of a coverup. Quite the contrary! If you read the letter, you’ll see Thompson relating that he had expressed concerns about some of the “sensitive legal issues” regarding what documents he should provide to the DOJ and was told that he should “apply a very broad definition” to the documents to be provided to the DOJ. In other words, it would appear that Thompson went to the CDC expressing concern about these requests and was told to give the DOJ everything. So that’s what he does, spelling out exactly what he means by that: All his agendas, analysis plans, Excel spreadsheets, SAS programs, draft manuscripts, edited manuscripts, and sensitive results from the MADDSP/MMR Autism study (the study that was ultimately published as Destefano et al and “reanalyzed” incompetently by Brian Hooker). He also said he would be providing any other documents he had related to autism/MMR studies. In other words, he seemed to be saying to the CDC, if you tell me to apply a “broad definition,” I’m going to give the DOJ everything I have.

Most of the issue here appears to be requests for documents from the DOJ, which clearly spooked Thompson, if this letter is any indication. I can understand. If I were an investigator at the CDC and the DOJ were requesting documents from me, I’d be nervous too, particularly after seeing my collaborator raked over the coals in front of the committee of the grandaddy of antivaccine congressional representatives, Dan Burton, as Thompson did Coleen Boyle in 2002. As an investigator in vaccine safety, you don’t expect to be the target of investigations of politically minded antivaccine loons. You expect to do good science and let the science speak for itself. Unfortunately, given the antivaccine movement, anyone who works for the CDC in vaccine safety is a target.

Mike Adams (and the antivaccine loons lapping up his stuff) want you to think Thompson was expressing fear that he and his collaborators had done something wrong. To Adams, it’s the “coverup.” It’s always the “coverup.” I just don’t see that, though. To me, it looks as though it’s probably panic at having the DOJ breathing down his neck and demanding documents. What I see is a plea for help, an attitude of, “WTF? I didn’t sign on for this legal stuff when I became a scientist. Take my name off the manuscript if I’m going to have to put up with this stuff to be part of it.” He then took the step of hiring a personal attorney to protect himself, which is not an entirely unreasonable step to take. After all, institutional lawyers exist to protect the institution, not the individual. Physicians inherently know this, which is why they don’t generally use hospital attorneys to defend themselves in malpractice cases. They hire their own. In this case, it looks as though Thompson is simply informing the CDC brass that he is covering his own posterior. In other words, this e-mail is very much of a piece with his previous e-mail. Thompson was freaked out at dealing with the DOJ and didn’t want to take any chances. Barring more information, that’s what it looks like.

What amazes me today, as it did yesterday, is just how…mundane…this “bombshell” e-mail is. There’s no real indication of a coverup. In fact, it sounds as though the CDC ordered its investigators to be maximally open with the DOJ after Thompson asked for guidance. If this is the best Adams, Wakefield, and Hooker can come up with, it’s thin gruel indeed. One can’t help but wonder if this is the best they have. After all, if they had more damning evidence in all those thousands of documents Hooker got through Freedom of Information Act requests, they’d almost certainly have used at least one of them by now. I understand the “drip, drip, drip” approach trying to build momentum with ever more damning leaks, but there’s really nothing particularly damning so far. You have to start out with something that at least catches attention without its having to be misrepresented as something it’s not, as Mike Adams misrepresented the first letter/e-mail from Thompson. Given how spectacularly the antivaccine movement has failed thus far to garner attention from the mainstream press, they’re going to have to deliver something substantive soon, or the “drip, drip, drip” will rapidly fade into oblivion in all but the most fevered conspiracy swamps of antivaccine websites, blogs, and Facebook pages.

OK, I’m going to try to do something different for my next post. I need a break. I don’t know if I’ll succeed or not, depending on what happens today, but I can’t make this the “all whistleblower all the time” blog.

ADDENDUM: Oh, holy hell. Now Brian Hooker’s showing up on the Next News Network regurgitating the same nonsense about his “reanalysis.” I’m too tired to deconstruct it now. Hooker portrays himself as a hero, as the only one who has been able to “reanalyze the data.” (Remember how incompetently he did it.) He calls for resignation of the Destefano et al coauthors, accusing them of criminality.

There’s really nothing new here. Most importantly, there is no direct statement from William Thompson. Well, actually, there is one interesting tidbit. Hooker claims to have gotten a call on his cell phone from Thompson out of the blue. If what Hooker says is only partially true, it’s hard not to conclude that (1) Thompson was either incredibly naive; (2) Thompson has been at co-opted, either partially or completely, by the antivaccine movement (i.e., has gone, either whole or in part, antivax); or (3) a little of both. At least, Hooker tells us that Thompson was not escorted out of the CDC and that he is still going to work at the CDC. So what is going on? Who knows? No one other than Hooker is talking, and his highly unreliable information is being amplified. More importantly, Hooker lays out the antivaccine strategy quite clearly: Reanalyze more data sets incompetently, as he has with the Destefano et al dataset, to produce more “scientific papers” that find spurious correlations and promulgate the argument that, because of the “whistleblower,” nothing from the CDC can be tested, according to the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement.

ADDENDUM #@: Oh, goody. The antivaccine group Canary Party is reporting that Representative Bill Posey will be investigating the whistleblower’s allegations. Remember Bill Posey? He’s antivaccine and has even appeared at the antivaccine quackfest AutismOne.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Zsalt
    August 27, 2014

    I see that Rob Schneider, as usual, weighed in to give his celebrity backing to this nonsense.
    Note for people who don’t know him: Schneider is famous for playing a rather uneducated and ignorant buffoon.
    He also appears in films.

  2. #2 NZ Sceptic
    NZ
    August 27, 2014

    For your post-after-next then could you PLEASE possibly take apart Megan’s latest -and most crazy rant yet- at Living Whole?
    Predictably it’s about the so-called ‘whistleblower’. I can’t bring myself to post the link.
    She’s predicting that 1 in 2 boys will have autism by 2024 and her followers are falling for it.
    That woman is going to have copious amounts of blood on her hands soon. She’s handing out increasingly dangerous pseudo-medical advice in her comments section as freely as if it were M&Ms!

    Are there laws about that in the US?

  3. #3 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    August 27, 2014

    There’s a rather badly stitched together video from the Autism Media Channel currently on AoA, claiming to be a recording of “CDC Whistleblower”‘s views on Thimerosal / Flu Vaccines / Tics / Autism.

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2014/08/cdc-whistleblower-on-thimerosal-in-pregnant-women.html

    I don’t get this drip-drip-drip approach. If this was all genuine, why not release the whole conversations alongside the edited versions for those who would understandably have doubts about the veracity of Wakefield / Hooker’s claims. Y’know, releasing the raw data and showing the working alongside the results…

  4. #4 Rich Woods
    August 27, 2014

    If this is the best Adams, Wakefield, and Hooker can come up with, it’s thin gruel indeed.

    They’re taking a leaf from the book of some of their comrades-in-arms, believing that they strengthen the power of their arguments by looking for the most watered-down evidence possible.

  5. #5 Doktar Statz
    August 27, 2014

    It is so disappointing to read and witness persons claiming to write as scientists use such non-scientific emotional language and name calling rather than statements based on evidence and objective analysis. No one should take such a diatribe of insults as a skeptical discussion of an issue, and no thinking person would. Read both sides for yourself people/sheeple and try and look at the facts, data…and style of argument. This “scienceblog” is the opposite of what reason and scientific debate are. There is a real story, real facts, real data that needs a real discussion.

  6. #6 Olefin
    192.168.0.1
    August 27, 2014

    I think the drip, drip is about building momentum. The videos are well polished so this is an organized event. Get the twitter storm going, stoke the fire with more videos, then get their issue in the news.

  7. #7 pallygirl
    August 27, 2014

    Re the tweet that said vaccine safety data shouldn’t be trusted because of the lack of placebos. They really don’t understand much about the development vs. the use of medicines, do they?

    How would placebo safety data help? Oh, we must reduce the percentage of headaches attributed to vaccine A as this percentage of people who never got that vaccine also got headaches?

  8. #8 Lurker
    August 27, 2014

    Re. the ‘drip-drip-drip’ approach:

    They’re trying to mimic what Edward Snowden did, releasing a little at a time and hoping the press will gobble it up as thirstily as they gobbled the stuff that Snowden released.

    I’m highly confident that this is their strategy and that they believe themselves to be Snowden-equivalents.

    If that’s the case, then calling them on it in a tone of ridicule, should cause them to howl, squeal, bray, and quack up a storm.

  9. #9 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    Even FauxNews, who can’t resist going after a government agency for incompetence or mismanagement (not to mention any whiff of malfeasance) isn’t touching this story with a 10 foot pole….that should tell you something about the depths that these guys have sunk, as far as reputation and credibility with anyone outside of their little circle…..

  10. #10 ebohlman
    http://turnipsandpotatoes.wordpress.com
    August 27, 2014

    Lurker: They may be trying to mimic Snowden, but they’re really taking their cues from the AGW denialists in “climategate”.

  11. #11 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 27, 2014

    … No one should take such a diatribe of insults as a skeptical discussion of an issue, and no thinking person would. Read both sides for yourself people/sheeple

    Doktar, please let us know when your book “How To Fail Completely At Tone-Trolling” will be published. I assume it’ll be shelved with the humor books?

  12. #12 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 27, 2014

    Re the tweet that said vaccine safety data shouldn’t be trusted because of the lack of placebos. They really don’t understand much about the development vs. the use of medicines, do they?

    How would placebo safety data help?

    There is actually an internal logic there. If you’ll note, she doesn’t say they don’t use placebos, but that they don’t use “true” placebos.

    The logic goes like this:

    Vaccine A is a combination of antigenic compounds, plus preservatives, adjuvants and other ingredients.

    Vaccine A is typically tested for safety and effectiveness vs. Placebo A’, which is all the ingredients of Vaccine A minus the antigenic compounds.

    If groups that receive Vaccine A and those that receive Placebo A’ experience equal rates of adverse effects, then it’s concluded that the antigenic compounds are not causing any problems and this is taken to mean that the vaccine is safe.

    However, if one of the adjuvants or preservatives is in fact very dangerous, then testing two formulas that both have that dangerous ingredient and comparing the difference between their rates of adverse effects will give you a false negative indicator of safety.

    The problem with this logic is that it presumes nothing is known about the safety of the adjuvants and preservatives being used.

    In the real world, these adjuvants and preservatives are used in so many vaccines that, if one of them increased the probability of a particular side effect by even a small amount, it would have created an epidemiological signal impossible to miss.

  13. #13 John Best
    United States
    August 27, 2014

    This is a poorly designed scam to direct attention away from mercury as the cause of autism. Naturally, all of the dumbed down autism parents fell for it and followed their controlled opposition leaders to make themselves look foolish by blubbering all over the internet to show how naive they are.
    The MMR vaccine was used all over the USA from 1971 onward. However, there was zero autism in MS, NH and D.C. until 1991 when the HepB shot with mercury caused the onset of the autism epidemic. If the MMR shot didn’t even cause one case of autism in those three places where it was used for 20 years, then we can conclude that it never caused autism anywhere.
    Of course, everyone on this blog knows that mercury is the sole cause of autism so I’m not giving you any new knowledge. But, maybe you weren’t aware of those statistics from MS, NH and D.C. that prove that the CDC made this whole thing up to dishonestly bash themselves to help them discredit the truth about mercury.

  14. #14 Chris Hickie
    August 27, 2014

    Their “drip, drip, drip” seems much more like the intermittent dribble of gonorrhea.

  15. #15 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    Gah! I wish I’d thought of that line!

  16. #16 KayMarie
    August 27, 2014

    Do you have a citation for no child ever in all of history in the states of MS, NH and DC had autism prior to 1991?

    How are those three states different from all the states that have had autistic kids even back in the 60’s and 70’s when they really only diagnosed the severely effected?

  17. #17 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @John – perhaps you’d like to provide the citation that there was not even a single case of autism in those three areas?

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    August 27, 2014

    Unfortunately, I promised someone I’d accompany him somewhere today so I can’t stay and personally witness the pyroclastic flow of anti-vax which now threatens to engulf us in a smothering wave of stupifying gases. And flow it must because they have nothing else.

    First of all, if boys of African descent are sensitised to the ghastly effects of MMR, why, pray tell, doesn’t that show up in OTHER CDC studies that look at autism and race- like one I quoted on the previous thread which even includes figures from Georgia? Actually, it seems that they exhibit a lower rate than white boys**. They are studies from places NOT under the thumb of the CDC- are those kids worse off?
    If they were, we’d know it by now and sure enough, some investigator would be making his or her name studying it in detail whether the ‘racial’*** differences were due to genetic, physical environmental or SES sources.

    It seems that AJW and Hooker both have a history of exhibiting revelations periodically**** which usually turn out to be nothing- howver, this time, they appear to have synchronised their dripping.

    Finally, Bolen slimes our peerless leader and US! At leas tnone of us are littering the lovely Golden State by living in one of its parks.

    ** oddly enough, one AoA commenter asks what ‘SES’ is!
    You can’t make stuff like that up!
    *** there’s only one race as far as I’m concerned
    **** could that be hormonally based?

  19. #19 Eric Lund
    August 27, 2014

    Apparently in 2002, there was a Department of Justice request for documents relating to the MMR vaccine, thimerosal (which, I note, is not in the MMR and never has been), and autism.

    Could somebody with more knowledge about this say something about what this was about? Such as, what federal statutes were people suspected of violating? Because having the DOJ on the case is serious business. If this was just a fishing expedition on the part of an anti-vaxer sufficiently well placed at DOJ, then that was a major abuse of power. The actual reason for the DOJ’s request might well be flimsy, but there should be one.

    That puts the idea of ebohlman @10, that the anti-vax people are using “climategate” as a model for their current action, in a different light. Lying to a federal investigator is a crime, and I’m sure these folks have convinced themselves that the authors on the DeStefano paper were lying to the DOJ (whether or not the researchers actually were lying). So the anti-vax crowd must find it all the more frustrating that the media are ignoring their shouts of “OMG CDC scientists are criminals!!eleven!”

  20. #20 lilady
    Not in MS, NH or DC
    August 27, 2014

    I thought Brian Hooker’s area of concentration is Thimerosal…so why is he sharing the spotlight with Andrew Wakefield whose area of expertise is MMR vaccine-induced-enterocolitis?

    Then, there’s Jake Crosby, who, just last week, was singing the praises of Andrew Wakefield. Now he has accused Mr. Wakefield of “outing” the whistleblower.

    I’m so confused.

  21. #21 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @Eric – it is quite possible that it may have been part of a DOJ Discovery or FOIA request related to either the Omnibus Hearings or perhaps another lawsuit filed with the Vaccine Court (or outside the Court).

    Since there is no context provided, it is nearly impossible to tell.

  22. #22 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    Doing more reading and talking to a couple of people, I think it was the discovery phase of the Autism Omnibus proceedings, but that might be incorrect.

    Mqybe context will be provided in the next “drip,” but I doubt it.

  23. #23 Dangerous Bacon
    August 27, 2014

    Publicity-seeking Congressman + slow news day = major media coverage, at least for those outlets that aren’t concerned about hyping a Wakefield-generated story and ultimately embarrassing themselves.

  24. #24 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @Orac – that would make sense. Knowing what I know about Discovery (in general) and DOJ (in particular), it doesn’t surprise me that it was considered an “extremely broad” request for documentation.

    Especially if it was for the Omnibus Hearings – which covered pretty much any and every theory about a link between vaccines and autism, it would be, by the very nature of the cases, broad.

    Since no one knew how the hearings were going to go, it makes sense that Thompson might have been a little concerned & sent a CYA email just in case.

  25. #25 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    After thinking about it more, if anything, I interpret this e-mail as Thompson being freaked out at dealing with the DOJ over, presumably, the Autism Omnibus discover phase and terrified that antivaxers would spin those “problematic results” about African American males into allegations of fraud that the DOJ might actually take seriously. I could be totally wrong, but that’s how it strikes me. In such an environment, he was (somewhat understandably) freaked out; so he sent out a CYA e-mail to a bunch of CDC officials and lawyers saying he’s giving the DOJ everything and hiring his own lawyer.

  26. #26 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @Orac – that’s the main problem here….the anti-vax brigade is seemingly unable to provide context – only snippets of information.

    Which leads me to believe, that if you looked at the information in its entirety – and in context, that you would get an entirely different view of the situation and why this is nothing more than a bunch of nothing.

  27. #27 ANTI VACCINE UNDERGROUND
    Canada
    August 27, 2014

    Poor pharma paid orac. Want a tissue?

  28. #28 dave
    August 27, 2014

    I am confused. Please tell me where I am wrong. These children would have been diagnosed with autism using the DSM4 criteria, I think. I do not remember the dates when it came into being, but I think it was used in the 90’s. The DSM4 criteria require symptoms prior to the age of 3 in section II. The increase relative risk was only seen in those older than 3. So didn’t they have autism prior to the vaccination?

  29. #29 Krebiozen
    August 27, 2014

    John Best #13,

    However, there was zero autism in MS, NH and D.C. until 1991 when the HepB shot with mercury caused the onset of the autism epidemic.

    So what caused the very similar increase in autism in the UK, where the hepatitis B vaccine is only given to high-risk mothers? Why has the autism “epidemic” continued even though children have been exposed to hardly any thimerosal for over a decade?

  30. #30 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    August 27, 2014

    @Lawrence and Orac

    I could see being a bit freaked out by such a request, especially if it involved identifiable patient information. The only way to keep from supplying that is to get a Certificate of Confidentiality, which bars disclosure even due to governmental request. I doubt such a certificate would have been issued to any of the subjects in that research.

  31. #31 Mike
    August 27, 2014

    I wonder if Orac is downplaying the statement about retaining a personal lawyer. I have worked in academia and in government. Collection of information by other agencies or FOIA requests were routine. To be so worried about something that you would think you need a personal lawyer is pretty troubling. It might just be smoke, but it is a lot of smoke to me.

  32. #32 Mike
    August 27, 2014

    I wonder if Orac is downplaying the statement about retaining a personal lawyer. I have worked in academia and in government. Collection of information by other agencies or FOIA requests were routine. To be so worried about something that you would think you need a personal lawyer is pretty troubling. It might just be smoke, but it is a lot of smoke to me.

  33. #33 JCL
    Earth (mostly)
    August 27, 2014

    I must have graduated – having had a razor sharp argument binned at AoA. I had initially asked them how such a large increased risk factor could go unnoticed by front line health workers or interest groups like themselves. They retorted that it was noticed, just covered up. So then I asked how that could even be, given the large figure – its a bit like trying to cover up that women are shorter than men – its informally manifest to anyone that looks, and a piece of piss to verify statistically. (We do have to allow though that government agencies everywhere, of all stripes, are capable of mindblowingly stupid things…). So I asked them why *they* hadn’t noticed it – given their interest in raw incidence numbers, and if it wasn’t at least indictated by their own membership profile. (I suspect that last bit hit hard – I have of course no actual idea, and only my prejudices to go by, but I’m suspecting that AoA, TMR and the rest aren’t exactly showing the glorious rainbow of ethnic diversity in their memberships). There are many possible answers to all that but ‘bin and ignore’ works every time :)

  34. #34 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @JCL – I asked the exact same question. If there was as huge of a difference between blacks and white (and autism), why isn’t it plainly evident in all of the incidence numbers we have today?

  35. #35 Andreas Johansson
    August 27, 2014

    that’s the main problem here….the anti-vax brigade is seemingly unable to provide context – only snippets of information.

    Classical online debating trick: make an unevaluatable claim, then act as if your opponent not accepting it as proof of your position proves him an idiot.

  36. #36 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    @JCL

    Someone asked that on another vaccine forum, and this was the response they gave.

    “You can have a 3.4 fold increase in autism in those vaccinated early as compared to those vaccinated later in a specific population while still having lowish numbers.

    Example, using made up numbers to prove a point:

    Male white children

    2% have ASD if vaccinted early, if vaccinated on time, or if vaccinated late.

    male, African American children:
    1% if vaccinated early
    0.8 % if vaccinated on time
    0.25% if vaccinated late.

    My chances of having a child on ASD specturm if I were black (and assuming no diagnostic issues) might be lower overall than a white person, but it is still safer from an ASD perspective (and assuming Hooker is right) to vaccinate late versus early.”

  37. #37 Krebiozen
    August 27, 2014

    Doktar Statz,

    It is so disappointing to read and witness persons claiming to write as scientists use such non-scientific emotional language and name calling rather than statements based on evidence and objective analysis. No one should take such a diatribe of insults as a skeptical discussion of an issue, and no thinking person would.

    I entirely agree, that video from Hooker and Wakefield is a shameful piece of emotionally loaded propaganda. Thank goodness for this blog, where the actual science is discussed in detail.

    Read both sides for yourself people/sheeple and try and look at the facts, data…and style of argument.

    Good advice, which I always try to follow.

    This “scienceblog” is the opposite of what reason and scientific debate are.

    Now you’ve lost me. This blog is one of the few places I have seen the science discussed and explained in detail.

    There is a real story, real facts, real data that needs a real discussion.

    How have you missed the “real discussion” about the DeStefano case control study design and how Hooker has horribly abused statistics by trying to reanalyze the data using a cohort design? Not only that, but he carried out subgroup analyses that he failed to correct the statistical significance p value threshold for, and falsely claimed that there is a statistically significant increase in autism among African American males children vaccinated early? This completely invalidates any of his claimed findings. That’s the important message I take from this charade: Hooker is completely and demonstrably wrong.

  38. #38 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    I wonder if Orac is downplaying the statement about retaining a personal lawyer. I have worked in academia and in government. Collection of information by other agencies or FOIA requests were routine. To be so worried about something that you would think you need a personal lawyer is pretty troubling. It might just be smoke, but it is a lot of smoke to me.

    How about requests from the DOJ, which would be a pretty BFD, especially in light of loons like Dan Burton dragging you or your collaborators in front of a congressional committee to try to find evidence of a “coverup”? Remember, this was a time when Burton was putting maximal pressure on the CDC and his political grandstanding was at its height. The discovery phase of the Autism Omnibus proceedings was underway, and lawyers for the complainants were on a massive fishing expedition, casting a wide net for anything they could find to support a causation hypothesis between vaccines or thimerosal in vaccines and autism. That’s hardly “routine.”

  39. #39 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    This piece is now making the rounds today in the anti-vaccine circles….

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2014/08/cdc-whistleblower-and-probability-of-post-mmr-autism-diagnosis.html

    Haven’t read the whole thing, but this part was pretty hilarious.

    “Since this story broke, it has been stated many times (including by me) that the data indicates a 340% increase in the risk of autism for African American males. 340% is a huge increase. So is 236%, which is actually what we should have been saying. The numbers reported by Dr. Hooker were for Relative Risk.

    So… here it is. I’m sorry. We made a mistake. See, CDC… it’s really not that hard to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Thankfully, this error did not go unaddressed for more than 10 years, and thankfully, no children were harmed as a result of our math mistake.

    When I realized we had been using the wrong percent increase, I felt a bit ill. My thoughts went to something along the lines of, “Oh crap. We are going to look like a bunch of no-nothing alarmist parents and this is going to be used against us to say we don’t know what we’re talking about.” Well… Why would that scare us? It certainly wouldn’t be anything new.”

  40. #40 JCL
    August 27, 2014

    @Lawrence yeah I noticed that comment- was thinking that way myself, but I suppose I should have acknowledged your prior art :) But I wanted to see what the AoAers thought – like why *they* hadn’t noticed it – they’re almost anal repeating the supposed incidence rates – why wasn’t it obvious to them? Why wasn’t it part of the ‘anecdotal lore’ of autism? And why, given that its clearly going to be pretty easy to confirm such a finding, why don’t they go do just that? (Also, minor subtext but I was hoping to see if they would comment on the ethnicity of their membership – not that I care you understand, just curious in a general way)

  41. #41 JCL
    August 27, 2014

    @Annie that there was the piece I commented on. The author also has a mea culpa as you report, then goes on to make some other fairly elementary errors – apparently (semiquoting, can’t be arsed looking it up again) – their head hurts a lot when they do this kind of arithmetic. They did allow one comment from me about a maths error to go through, but only I suspect so that they could reiterate the coverup story, and also because they actually don’t care whether they, or anyone esle. is right in the workings, only if they are right in the conclusions. Unfortunately, aving come up with such a huge number of AfricanAmericans with autism they seem unwiling to say anything about how this *huge* (I say again *huge*) number passed by their scrutiny until a dodgy doctor is said to have revealed it to a dodgy statistician in a video made by an alround dodger

  42. #42 John Best
    United States
    August 27, 2014

    Lawrence

    August 27, 2014
    @John – perhaps you’d like to provide the citation that there was not even a single case of autism in those three areas?

    I learned this a long time ago from statistics that were published by the US Dept of Education that identified cases of autism by year and by state. You can go search for it if you like.

  43. #43 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    @JCL, ah ok. Didn’t realize that was the post you were talking about.

    An anti-vaxer did make a response on another thread as to why/how they may have missed those numbers and why the rates of autism aren’t different (or even lower) for black vs white children. I posted it upthread a bit ;)

  44. #44 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 27, 2014

    This piece is now making the rounds today in the anti-vaccine circles….

    How cute. They are obviously reading the criticisms of the Hooker study but they are still not addressing the bigger problem which is the stats application Hooker used to begin with and how he treated the data set. So either they aren’t paying attention or Marcella Piper Terry is continuing to pull the wool over the flock’s eyes with her “dazzling” display of stats chops.

  45. #45 Brian Deer
    August 27, 2014

    And what is this? Hooker paper pulled?

    http://www.translationalneurodegeneration.com/content/3/1/16/abstract

    The plot thickens

  46. #46 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @BD – whoa, that’s huge…..that a clear point that “suddenly” somebody woke up over there & realized what a big pile of crap they published.

    Teehee.

  47. #47 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    @Brian Deer

    Oh boy. Anti-vaccine heads are going to explode.

  48. #48 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    I’m not sure how I feel about this new development.

    Drat!

    Looks like I might have to write another blog post about this whole thing tonight when I get home.

  49. #49 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    “This article has been removed from the public domain pending further investigation because the journal and publisher believe that its continued availability could cause public harm. Definitive editorial action will be taken once our investigation is complete.”

    Wow, the possibilities are endless here. Perhaps a certain Mr. Thompson got in touch with the Journal, or maybe somebody just woke up and did some simple math to see that Hooker’s numbers didn’t add up.

    AoA is going to go insane.

  50. #50 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    Excuse me, I meant – Dr. Thompson.

  51. #51 JCL
    August 27, 2014

    On the contrary – retracting it allows the antivaxxers to claim ongoing coverup without the paper there to address in detail – its actually ideal for them. If the publishers do retract it I hope someone has scraped a copy so it can be republished and refuted in detail.

  52. #52 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    I’m sure, if it is indefinitely pulled, that an editorial will be left in its place, explaining why.

    If there was malfeasance uncovered, this could be good – really, really good.

  53. #53 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    @Lawrence. I know. That’s why I probably will have to blog it tonight, after the reactions have come in…

  54. #54 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    Sorry to add to your workload Orac…..

    I’m caught in the middle of some partner negotiations myself, on top of a DIY almost-disaster this morning I am trying to fix.

  55. #55 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    I predict there will be statements that the paper was pulled by CDC/vaccine industry goons who are engaging in a smear campaign against the authors and the brave whistleblower. I further predict that any silence by any of the above will be interpreted as an indication that they are in mortal peril.

  56. #56 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    Oh, they’ve altered the message a bit.

    “This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.”

    Interesting!

  57. #57 BOB
    August 27, 2014

    You’re absolutely right. Nothing new here.
    CDC lies — as usual — and you claim it’s normal.

    Your religion is nothing but scientism — no science here.

    So how many vaccinations did you give your kids?
    And they still haven’t gotten autism?
    BRAVO Doctor Orc

    Just keep on sucking down that fluroide tap water and GMO pesticided foods. The ignorant and the pseudo-science quacks should be the first to go…

    Did you dowse your overheated brain with ice water yet?
    SEE http://www.conspiracyplanet.com/channel.cfm?channelid=36&contentid=11386

  58. #58 lilady
    August 27, 2014

    I’m with MO’B about how the anti-vaccine crowd will spin this.

    Thompson is not the only one who is in grave danger. Big Gubmint is arming those little black drones with those teeny poison darts to eliminate everyone involved in the publication of Thompson’s article.

  59. #59 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @Annie – wow, that revised language is even more damning…..

    Woohoo – this is hilarious.

  60. #60 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    August 27, 2014

    @Mephistopheles O’Brien

    Oh, it’s already started. Ginger Taylor tweeted about it being pulled, and someone responded about censorship, the TRUTH is terrifying, blah blah blah.

    Among the conspiracy minded, there is no answer you can give them that will not feed into the conspiracy. Deny it? “You’re just covering it up!” Retract a study because it is highly flawed and should never have been published in the first place? “Censorship! Cover-up!” Admit to a minor error? “Aha! See! Just like we said!”

    There’s just no pleasing them.

  61. #61 Fragmeister
    August 27, 2014

    “CDC lies — as usual — and you claim it’s normal.”

    Bob, amidst your rant, you didn’t notice that if the CDC does le as usual then it is normal. As you didn’t understand what you were writing, I guess no one will pay you any attention.

  62. #62 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    @Todd – of course.

    At least this way, there may be a real accounting of how badly Hooker screwed up.

  63. #63 John Best
    United States
    August 27, 2014

    Brian Hooker probably realized how he had been conned by the CDC and the phony whistleblower. His paper hadn’t accounted for how much mercury the kids received before they had their MMR shots. I guess he came to his senses.

  64. #64 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    August 27, 2014

    @Lawrence

    Possibly. Whatever the journal ultimately decides, I hope that they release a statement making very clear the reasons behind their decision. If they put it back up, state why. If they retract it, state the specific shortcomings that they found.

  65. […] The CDC “whistleblower” manufactroversy: Twitter parties and another “bombshell” e-mail […]

  66. #66 AdamG
    August 27, 2014

    BOB’s link about the ‘satanic’ ice bucket challenge is hilarious for so many reasons.

    no science here.

    I’m not sure someone who thinks food can be “GMO pesticided” and who believes what they read on a site called ‘Conspiracy Planet’ is in any position to discuss the actual science.

  67. #67 qetzal
    August 27, 2014

    Regarding the paper being taken down, I predict the editors will find (or have already found) multiple errors. Of course, Hooker’s overall approach of analyzing case-control data as if it were cohort data is bad enough, but there are other problems.

    Hooker claims in the Abstract, Methods, and Discussion that he analyzed the data using Pearson’s chi squared test. But all four of his data tables are titles “Fisher’s exact analysis…” Unless I’m badly mistaken, those are not the same test. So, which test did Hooker really use?

    Hooker claims he used SAS, which I don’t have access to. Instead, I used a couple of online calculators to perform both Pearson’s chi square and Fisher’s exact test to try to reproduce Hookers “Total Cohort” columns in his Table 1. I got the number of cases and controls in each age group from DeStefano et al. I couldn’t reproduce Hooker’s p values with either statistical test.

    Hooker gives what he calls Relative Risk number in all his tables. But at least for the Total Cohort part of Table 1, it’s clear that those are not the relative risk numbers. Instead, they are odds ratios with associated CIs. I confirmed this by doing the calculations using DeStefano’s data, and you can even see that the values Hooker gives for the 36 month cut-off are identical to the odds ratio values in DeStefano’s abstract. (Relative risk & associated CI calculations all give different, lower values.)

    Does Hooker not know that RR and OR are different? Does he not know that Fisher’s exact test is different from Pearson’s chi square? Did he lost track of which numbers came from which tests? Whatever the explanation, it’s seems clear to me that his work is fatally flawed, not just in conception, but also in execution.

  68. #68 The Grouchybeast
    August 27, 2014

    Translational Neurodegeneration might be ‘a bottom-feeding peer-reviewed journal’ with an impact factor of zero, but I’ll say this for them — they move a wee bit faster than The Lancet when it comes to retracting papers.

  69. #69 qetzal
    August 27, 2014

    P.S. I happened to save Hooker’s manuscript yesterday, before the editors pulled it.

  70. #70 nutrition prof
    August 27, 2014

    AOA has the article on google docs (I looked at their facebook page)-with the scary warning:
    If you want a copy, download here. Quickly…who knows how long it will stay up

  71. #71 JGC
    August 27, 2014

    So… here it is. I’m sorry. We made a mistake. See, CDC… it’s really not that hard to admit when you’ve made a mistake.

    Wonder when can we expect the easy admissions admitting the other mistakes the article made–analyzing the case control study as if it were a cohort study, using the wrong statistical method (Pearson’s chi-square rather than conditional logistic regresion), failing to adjust p-values to reflect mutliple comparisons, etc.?

  72. #72 JGC
    August 27, 2014

    I learned this a long time ago from statistics that were published by the US Dept of Education that identified cases of autism by year and by state. You can go search for it if you like

    I’ll have to interpret this as a terse admission “I got nothing” on your part, John Best

  73. #73 janet
    where it's beautiful outside
    August 27, 2014

    I grew up in Mississippi, long before the 90s. They may not have been officially diagnosed and reported, but there most definitely were autistic kids in my schools.

  74. #74 Chris Hickie
    August 27, 2014

    Last week: big whistle blower, big whistle, big paper

    This week: no whistle blower, no whistle, no paper.

  75. #75 Dickyh
    August 27, 2014

    I see mike adams has predictably gone off the deep end complaining about book burning. Don’t recall many book burnings where they left info on where you can read said burned book – the link the the draft PDF is down but the ePub is still available.

  76. #76 Narad
    August 27, 2014

    AOA has the article on google docs (I looked at their facebook page)-with the scary warning:
    If you want a copy, download here. Quickly…who knows how long it will stay up

    Yah. Retraction Watch seems to have no such concern.

  77. #77 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    This was posted in the AoA comments.

    “8/27/2014 14:18 EST – CDC Whistleblower William Thomas is in contact with congressmen and a press release is forthcoming”

    Anyone know anything about this?

  78. #78 ChrisP
    August 27, 2014

    Bugga.

    I put old news on a different blog post. Damn you lot for discussing the same topic across several threads.

    But I haven’t laughed so hard in a while, until I read the comments over at AoA.

    From NORA “this is beyond the pale. Is Dr. Hooker safe? This is just unbelievable! The CDC is out of control.”

    And then I laughed even harder.

  79. #79 The Grouchybeast
    August 27, 2014

    Fun fact! As can be seen by comparing the tables in these two reports, the National Center for Education Statistics did not collect separate data on the number of children with autism in federal programs until the 1991-1992 school year.

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs94/94115.pdf
    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93292.pdf

    So there are states where autism suddenly appeared in 1991? Hmm. I am strangely reminded of the guy with the Jewish nanobot bacteriophage conspiracy who thought they’d been invented in 2007 because that’s when Google started including dates in their picture searches.

  80. #80 weirdnoise
    August 27, 2014

    Janet, back when I was growing up, only nonverbal kids with very specific stereotyped behaviors were “autistic,” and the idea of a broader “autism spectrum” was decades in the future. Kids now labeled ASD (and I would have been one of them) were “learning disabled,” “juvenile delinquents,” or “mentally retarded.”

    Lack of cases could be nothing but a missing box on a form, a missing code for a database, a problem in moving data from one database platform to another, or any of a variety of reasons. States still don’t standardized their records collection process, and there are all sorts of pedestrian reasons for cases to be missing in data while existing in reality…

  81. #81 Phillip
    August 27, 2014

    Like THIS is a science site.. BWAHHAHAHAHA

  82. #82 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    Rob Schneider is saying a press release from Dr. Thompson is coming in a few hours….

    https://twitter.com/RobSchneider/status/504689578960502784

  83. #83 Chris
    August 27, 2014

    Phillip, considering your mucking up the NVICP requirements and the 2004 availability of influenza vaccine for children, you still need to provide this science:

    Please provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that any vaccine on the American pediatric schedule causes more seizures than the disease.

  84. #84 Narad
    August 27, 2014

    @dave:

    The DSM4 criteria require symptoms prior to the age of 3 in section II. The increase relative risk was only seen in those older than 3. So didn’t they have autism prior to the vaccination?

    The sample was children aged 3–10.

  85. #85 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    A few days ago, Orac posted a blog entry that focused on interpreting the Hooker paper, describing some of is problems, and discussing some of its implications even assuming it were correct (which, for the record, Orac believes is not true). At least one person complained that he was ignoring the real story by glossing over the alleged whistleblower, the politics of the situation, and perceived malfeasance at the CDC.

    Today Orac penned a blog post about the politics surrounding this paper and people complain that he did not deal sufficiently with science.

    There’s no pleasing some people.

  86. #86 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    http://gianelloni.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/erased-by-a-birth-certificate/

    Now this blog post is making the anti vaccine rounds. More birth certificate conspiracies.

  87. #87 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    @BOB,

    You’re absolutely right. Nothing new here.
    CDC lies — as usual — and you claim it’s normal.

    Are you referring to the CDC issuing statements it knew to be false or to being in repose? In either case, please provide a source for your knowledge.

    Your religion is nothing but scientism — no science here.

    Today’s post is mostly related to current events, but others have been more related to science. Please check them out as they may be more to your taste. Your comment about religion doesn’t seem to relate, as no one has brought up religion to the best of my recollection.

    So how many vaccinations did you give your kids?
    And they still haven’t gotten autism?

    My kids got the full slate of recommended vaccines, and also have gotten others required for travel abroad (as have I). No autism diagnosed. Thanks for asking!

    BRAVO Doctor Orc(sic)

    I’m sure Orac appreciates your applause.

    Just keep on sucking down that fluroide (sic) tap water

    I just had a glass. It was inexpensive and very refreshing. I understand it has done well at reducing dental caries.

    and GMO pesticided (sic) foods.

    I was unaware there are GMO pesticides. Could you provide details on them? They sound intriguing.

    The ignorant and the pseudo-science quacks should be the first to go…

    Where are you going?

  88. #88 AdamG
    August 27, 2014

    AoA’s new ‘apology’ post is completely hilarious, a goldmine of stupid.

    A probability of .05 means that you have achieved a 95% assurance that what you are seeing is real and not by chance. A 1 in 1,000 level translates to 999% assurance that what you’re seeing is real and not by chance.

    I’m 999% sure these loons have no idea what they’re talking about.

  89. #89 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    The ignorant and the pseudo-science quacks should be the first to go…

    And why should you be the first to go anyway? Shouldn’t people take turns? That hardly seems fair. Is that like an alphabetical order thing? And do you have to go in groups, or can you go individually?

  90. #90 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    Even being charitable and filling in the missing decimal point I’m sure they meant, I don’t think it works like that. Remember, as Terry Pratchett said “a million-to-one chance succeeds nine times out of ten.”

  91. #91 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    999% certain?

    Who, so that’s how anti-vax math works….no wonder they don’t understand simple science.

  92. #92 doug
    August 27, 2014

    the 999% thing comes from “Marcella Piper-Terry, M.S.”
    If that M.S. means Master of Science, somewhere out there is a university that needs de-certification or a process to rescind degrees.

  93. #93 Narad
    August 27, 2014

    Jeffrey Beall would like to see the reviewers’ reports.

    WHY ARE THEY BEING COVERED UP?

  94. #94 Sandman2
    san pedro
    August 27, 2014

    I may have missed it above, but did you realize that Snopes.com has jumped on the story.? And that your site is the place recommended by them to go to for more information? Which makes sense since they quote you extensively.

  95. #95 Narad
    August 27, 2014

    @qetzal:

    Does Hooker not know that RR and OR are different?

    Note that he doesn’t even keep this straight in the abstract and, worse, claims that DeStefano et al. were reporting RRs.

    No, he doesn’t understand the difference.

  96. #96 JayK
    August 27, 2014

    Marcella Piper-Terry appears to have an MS in psychology and is going around saying she’s a biomedical consultant.

    She’s a complete and utter nutball, though.
    http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Marcella-Piper-Terry/1311935660

  97. #97 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    Dr. Thompson’s press release is out…..not the “whistleblower” he was made out to be & he also never consented to being tape recorded.

    I guess he had good reason to hire an attorney – like filing a lawsuit against Hooker & Wakefield.

  98. #98 qetzal
    August 27, 2014

    @Narad,

    Thanks – I missed that.

    It’s also worth noting the following statement from DeStefano et al.:

    Of the 41 case children who
    were vaccinated after 36 months of age in our study,
    32 (78%) had documented delays in development
    before 36 months of age.

    Does Hooker think that MMR causes autism retroactively?!

    So much fail….

  99. #99 Brian Deer
    August 27, 2014

    The interesting thing for me is that CNN published a video by Wakefield claiming that Dr Thompson accused CDC of fraud. What do they do now that he has said that reasonable scientists can disagree?

    He says nothing about fraud, and nothing about a holocaust against African Americans.

    Wakefield tried – and failed – to insert himself back into the public debate.

    And people think journalists are dumb.

  100. #100 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    @Lawrence

    Link?!

  101. #101 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    August 27, 2014

    Can a brother get a link to the press release?

  102. #103 Kiiri
    August 27, 2014

    @Annie – as I put on the other thread, the information the researchers cited is gathered as part of the birth certificate. Jus the part that is printed out on request and given to parents is the ‘short’ form, just the basic vital information to prove the birth was recorded properly. it is all you need for proof of citizenship, passport, etc. The other information is available, you just have to ask for it specifically, i.e. request a full copy of the birth certificate or the ‘long’ form data. It is available at vital records office of state or county of birth. It just isn’t printed out without specific request. The woman writing the blog is a complete idiot. I couldn’t even read all of the conspiracy drivel she was spouting.

  103. #105 Firestormm
    UK
    August 27, 2014
  104. #106 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    Damn – the folks at AoA are completely unhinged…just look at the press release…..Dr. Thompson is about the sue the pants off of both Hooker & Wakefield, don’t they realize that?

  105. #107 Kiiri
    August 27, 2014

    Interesting press release. I look forward to the Orac take on it. I really think Hooker should be worried about being sued seems he taped the guy without his consent. And surprise Wakefield edited it to make it sound like a condemnation of CDC. I can’t understand why the conspiracy theorists can’t get that rational people (and scientists) can disagree, sometimes vehemently, looking at the same data. While they march in lockstep to their conspiracy drum interpreting everything they see through their own lenses.

  106. #108 JayK
    United States
    August 27, 2014

    In my state only one party has to accept the recording of a conversation, so it would depend on the state where Hooker was doing the recording.

  107. #109 Narad
    August 27, 2014

    Just by the by, everybody knows that Thompson’s Ph.D. is in psychology, right?

  108. #110 Firestormm
    UK
    August 27, 2014

    It’s the ringing endorsement of vaccinations that will cause the most furore on the alternative sites – you watch (para. 3).

    I’d just like to thank you all for providing such great analysis. I am disabled but I have been following your deliberations where I can and with great interest.

    I do hope we will see someone take action now against Wakefield and Hooker – and perhaps even those affiliates who also helped spread the crap in the past 10 days.

    I also look forward to hearing of a complete retraction of Hooker’s paper: with a full explanation (as has been said above).

    Dare say there will be some ‘wiggle-room’ that gets exploited by the key players: but I tend to think this is moving in the right direction.

    Thanks again.

  109. #111 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    August 27, 2014

    I’m surprised the AOA brain trust hasn’t jumped on the line –

    In fact, I received a performance-based award after this story came out.

    I’ll help ‘em out…

    LooneyTunes
    He was bought off. He received thou^H^H^H^H^Hmillions in hush money. BigPharma laundered money thru the CDC to silence him. Money talks. It’s a conspiracy of silence.
    /LooneyTunes

  110. #112 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    It appears to me that Dr. Thompson is being very careful about his public statements, which are being vetted by his lawyers. As these lawyers (by their statement) were voted “Named “Whistleblower Lawyers of the Year” for 2010″, I suspect their first intent is to prevent any kind of threats to his livelihood. His statement gives a little something to everyone – he didn’t know his name was going to be spread across the internet as the poster boy for the anti-vaccine movement, on the other hand he states that his original paper didn’t include statistically significant results that it should have per its methodology and responsibilities.

  111. #113 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    In particular, his lawyers’ web site says “we are experienced litigators who bring qui tam cases under the False Claims Act, the IRS whistleblower law, and other federal and state laws for people who report fraud or abuse of the taxpayers by government contractors.” I choose not to speculate on what Dr. Thompson’s motives are in hiring such a firm, as it could simply be protection.

  112. #114 Derek Freyberg
    August 27, 2014

    @JayK (#107)
    California is an “all parties” state, and Hooker’s home base is in California (Simpson University, a Christian liberal arts school in Redding); so if Hooker was working from home or his college office it would seem that he is subject to both personal suit by Thompson and potential criminal prosecution – see http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/california-recording-law for a summary of the law and a link to the law itself.

  113. #115 JayK
    United States
    August 27, 2014

    Thanks, Derek! Looks like Hooker might be in a bit of a spot.

  114. #116 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    August 27, 2014

    @JayK

    Someone had brought this up in the past, and stated that Hooker was in California, which requires that all parties be aware the call is recorded. Georgia is a one party state.

  115. #117 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    August 27, 2014

    That’s twice this afternoon I was too slow – I’ll just sit in the corner and read…

  116. #118 Brian Deer
    August 27, 2014

    Maybe his legal caution is a hangover from his days at Merck. There’s an old joke about Merck being a law firm that just happens to make drugs.

    Good for him though. He evidently wants to keep his job, and I’m sure he will. What are two missing lines in Table 3 to fall out about anyhow?

    It’s just a pity that the kind of public discussion he obviously thinks should have taken place 10 years ago appears to have been deemed beyond the media and public’s sane appreciation.

    But then in 2004, the MMR thing was raging in the UK as a virtual psychosis, thanks to Wakefield, and you would have to wonder how all those p values and whathaveyou would have played out in public.

    Personally, I think he’s probably right. Have it out, and deal with it at the time. And I think his colleagues do too – now.

    Epidemiology is such a dismal medical science.

  117. #119 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    I have a feeling we’ll see the entire AoA crowd become completely unhinged – with this & Hooker’s paper being withdrawn, all in one day.

    They must feel like Grand Moff Tarkin on the Death Star – “What, evacuate in our moment of Triumph?”

  118. #120 Annie
    August 27, 2014

    @Lawrence

    What is the general consensus among them? Are they happy? mad?

  119. #121 sadasd
    August 27, 2014

    The only thing that gives me pause is the mention of Rep. Posey, who was the beneficiary of a fundraising push by Generation Rescue, Canary Party, and Safeminds – illegally, I might add; as 501c3 charitable organizations, they’re prohibited from engaging in electioneering and providing campaign donations, or coordinating with candidate committees. Put another way, we as taxpayers are actually subsidizing this cray.
    Hopefully, IRS yanks their tax free status and their donations from wealthy contributors dry up.

  120. #122 JayK
    United States
    August 27, 2014

    It looks like they’re going to focus on his claim that the data was omitted and continue to claim the DeStefano (2004) study is fraudulent.

    They have no idea that without validation from other similar studies they aren’t going to be able to get that done. They’re holding fast to their belief and they’ll use any psychological tricks, on themselves, in order to maintain that belief.

  121. #123 SpaceTrout
    Inna gadda Velveeta.
    August 27, 2014

    Well, I’m glad that’s solved.

    Sigh…

  122. #124 Lawrence
    August 27, 2014

    They are down the rabbit hole….somehow they believe Dr. Thompson’s statement validates what Hooker said, but instead, it reads more like he had a simple disagreement in methodology, in no way validating Hooker’s work.

    I find his use of the words “unbiased and objective” when talking about his willingness to help others go back over the data to be particularly damning.

  123. #125 Mark Thorson
    August 27, 2014

    ANH is reporting there are rumors Thompson has been escorted off the CDC campus.

    http://www.anh-usa.org/autism-vaccine-cover-up-latest-updates/

    They cite this as their source:

    http://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/breaking-cdc-whistleblower-thompson-in-grave-danger-now/

    Who darkly alludes to the possibility that Thompson will be murdered in a way that looks like “suicide”.

  124. #126 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 27, 2014

    Dr. Thompson claims otherwise in his press release. But – someone predicted that response.

  125. #127 Narad
    August 27, 2014

    In particular, his lawyers’ web site says “we are experienced litigators who bring qui tam cases under the False Claims Act, the IRS whistleblower law, and other federal and state laws for people who report fraud or abuse of the taxpayers by government contractors.”

    Well, at least none of these has the slightest bearing on Thompson.

  126. #128 dingo199
    August 27, 2014

    But doesn’t Thompson’s statement about finding a higher risk in African Americans in the original De Stefano study data corroborate the new claim by Hooker?
    In other words, Hooker used all the wrong methodology and stats in his “reanalysis”, but still found what De Stefano found??

    I’d really like to know what passed between T and H over the “many discussions” over the last 10 months.

  127. #129 Michael Finfer, MD
    Edison, NJ
    August 27, 2014

    Retraction Watch is reporting that this paper has been withdrawn pending an investigation because questions have been raised about the validity of the results. I am sure that more is to follow.

  128. #130 lilady RN
    August 27, 2014

    Narad, Thompson does not have an advanced degree in epidemiology and I think his designation as an epidemiologist is based on his pay grade slot within the CDC. Psychologists should be able to design and implement a study.

    Brian Deer, your opinion of epidemiologists may be based on William Thompson and Jake Crosby, who managed to muck up the DeStefano, et al study. How about giving credit to our colleagues Reuben and Rene, who dissected Hooker’s paper, without the data set…and who actually work in public health as epidemiologists?

  129. #131 Orac
    August 27, 2014

    I agree. As much as I’ve respected Deer and his work over the years, I’m not really liking his contempt for epidemiology right now. Not at all.

  130. #132 Ren
    http://epidemiological.net
    August 27, 2014

    “Epidemiology is such a dismal medical science.”

    It really isn’t that “dismal.” The concepts are difficult to explain to a lay audience, or to the uninitiated. Thus, when something comes along that muddies the waters, it makes it look like epidemiology might as well be an alien language transmitted to us in an alien script.

    If one looks at the DeStefano paper, it is very clear to see why they didn’t report the increased odds ratio (not relative risk) in African American boys. There weren’t enough in the cell to make it biostatistically sound. They couldn’t compare GA birth certificate data to data from other states because it would introduce more bias. And they used conditional logistic regression, which I can almost bet you did away with the signal Thompson thought he saw because it adjusted for effect modifiers and confounders.

    Then again, there’s an old joke where two epidemiologists are lost in the wilderness. Along comes a biostatistician in a hot air balloon. The two yell up, “Where are we?” To which the biostatistician responds, “On the ground.”

    His answer was correct, but it was in no way meaningful.

    And that’s the thing about the observed increased OR or RR in any study. Is it meaningful? Is it biologically plausible? What could have contributed to what you’re seeing?

    Real epidemiologists ask these follow-up questions and always question their own findings.

  131. #133 BA
    Dabbling in the murky waters of politics (while keeping my feet very clean)
    August 27, 2014

    @sasasd #121

    That is not exactly correct. A 501c3 may spend up to 20% of its operating budget on lobbying endeavors. That is, they can hire a lobbyist that supports their interests in whatever manner possible. Individuals from the 501c3 can also contribute as private citizens.

  132. #134 BA
    August 27, 2014

    There are good epidemiologists and bad ones. Just like any profession. I always have a healthy skepticism with any heavily statistical social science as it is an endeavor littered with pitfalls. Good epidemiologists stick to the confines of their findings and some are quite entertaining.

  133. #135 Politicalguineapig
    August 27, 2014

    Narad: That explains a lot about this whole mess. Why did the CDC send a psychologist? They’re the golden retrievers of the science world.

  134. #136 Krebiozen
    August 27, 2014

    “Epidemiology is such a dismal medical science.”
    “Dismal” is a bit strong. It’s messy around the edges, where noise and signal merge, like most fields. Sadly it’s those edges that comprise the swamp inhabited by CAM practitioners and AoA. Don’t forget the many useful things epidemiology has taught us, about infectious disease and other causes of disease.

  135. #137 Chris Hickie
    August 27, 2014

    The whistleblower appeared and is whistling out both sides of his mouth. How convenient for him…

  136. #138 Anne
    August 27, 2014

    Politicalguineapig, the CDC didn’t just send a psychologist, as Dr. Thompson had co-authors on the paper. Frank DeStefano, the lead author, has an MD and MPH. Tanya Bhasin has an MPH. Dr, Yeargin-Allsopp is a psychiatrist (MD) and is also African-American. Colleen Boyle has a Ph.D. in epidemiology. All of them work as epidemiologists, I think. Perhaps there were some disagreements among them as to whether certain data they collected were meaningful. Dr. Thompson’s statement about the decision to omit data is not at all clear.

  137. #139 Anne
    August 27, 2014

    Also it occurs to me that all the authors may have agreed that the omitted data was not meaningful but that, in retrospect, Dr. Thompson thinks they should have included it in case somebody else wanted to follow up on it. Because, as he says, reasonable scientists can differ in their interpretation of information.

  138. #140 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 27, 2014

    Just by the by, everybody knows that Thompson’s Ph.D. is in psychology, right?

    And that just might go a long way explaining some statements and events that can’t seem to be reconciled.

  139. #141 Doc Nola
    August 27, 2014

    May we expect another article denying any wrongdoing at the CDC now that Dr. Thompson has admitted his falsification of results in a public letter released through his lawyer? You can read it at Vanderkamp dot com.

  140. #142 Denice Walter
    August 27, 2014

    Oh boy! After an absence of 14 hours or so, I return to read about 120 comments and review a few major developments.

    So the dude is a psychologist: hope that that doesn’t reflect poorly upon the rest of us- some of whom had massive, over-wrought, formidable doctoral requirements in statistics, research design and physio and possessed enough brains to steer clear of epi ( AND geology, fluid physics and celestial mechanics.) And I even studied ec.. So there.

    Again, the anti-vax contingent goes (stays?) mad as hatters.

  141. #143 Denice Walter
    August 27, 2014

    OOOOOOOH!
    Kreb calls CAM/ AoA a swamp. I wonder where he got that?

  142. #144 sadasd
    August 27, 2014

    @BD#133 : I disagree. Lobbying-attempting to influence outcomes on individual pieces of legislation-is okay; electioneering-attempting to influence outcomes of elections for public office-is not.
    Good explanation here: http://www.lawforchange.org/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=4965

    Sorry for nerd fighting you. I just think that these groups that are doing harm to the health of the public shouldn’t be able to do it on that public’s dime; truly galling.

  143. #145 sadasd
    August 28, 2014

    Here’s what I’m referring to:http://www.ageofautism.com/2014/08/generation-rescue-supports-congressmen-bill-poseys-autism-diligence.html

    Clearly, a call for support for a campaign committee, and seemingly, sponsorship for a campaign event. (hosted by a Florida chiropractor). Tooootally against tax law limits.

  144. #147 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    If that M.S. means Master of Science, somewhere out there is a university that needs de-certification or a process to rescind degrees.

    She parlayed her bachelor’s degree in painting into an M.S. in psychology.

    The article also reads as though she’s been skating on thin ice in the sounds-like-practicing-medicine department, but whatever.

  145. #148 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 28, 2014

    May we expect another article denying any wrongdoing at the CDC now that Dr. Thompson has admitted his falsification of results in a public letter released through his lawyer? You can read it at Vanderkamp dot com.

    Duh, it’s been posted here for several hours. Dr. Thompson didn’t admit any falsification of results; he did however admit he spoke with Hooker and never gave him permission to be recorded Oops.

  146. #149 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 28, 2014

    CNN just put a piece up about it.

    The anti-vaxxers got their wish, it made the MSM. I doubt it’s what they had hoped for though.

  147. #150 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    CNN just put a piece up about it.

    Impressively, they managed to screw it up, as well:

    “Brian Hooker, author of the study and a biochemical engineer [sic], found African-American boys who were given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR, before age 24 months were more likely to be diagnosed with autism.”

    And this is leaving aside the atrocious English. Let’s take out the nonrestrictive clauses:

    “Brian Hooker found African-American boys who were given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine before age 24 months….”

    We’re now 79% through the original sentence, and Hooker may as well be Robert Baird candling foreskins.

    “… were more likely to be diagnosed with autism.”

    Oh, OK.

  148. #151 Doc Nola
    August 28, 2014

    Mom, I think you were reading something else. Here are Dr Thompson’s own words in the letter released from his lawyers: “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”
    He massaged the data to get the results he and the CDC wanted. Sounds like a admission of guilt and regret to me.
    Oops.

  149. #152 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 28, 2014

    Operative words, “I believe”. He has the advantage here as his co-authors cannot comment. There were no omitted data, just more analyses for birth certificate subjects as opposed to those who did not have GA birth certificates and therefore not the additional information to perform the proper statistical analyses for and he just didn’t agree with. Big Difference “Doc”. Where are you getting, “He massaged the data to get the results he and the CDC wanted. Sounds like a admission of guilt and regret to me.”? Are you in contact with Dr. Thompson and his attorney? That’s what we call, just making sh1t up.

  150. #153 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    That is not exactly correct. A 501c3 may spend up to 20% of its operating budget on lobbying endeavors.

    I’m not going to bother with sorting out the 501(h) election,* but one might note that the Canary Party isn’t a 501(c)(3) to start with, it’s a Minnesota PAC.

    * Hey, where’s ann?

  151. #154 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    Mom, I think you were reading something else.

    If they were “statistically significant,” Hooker wouldn’t have had to massage the cutoff point from 36 to 31 months.

  152. #155 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    Epidemiology is such a dismal medical science.

    I find this analogy to economics perplexing. In the modern day, the most common criticism is that the field is divorced from actual data. James Heckman, bless his heart, is banging the econometric* drum kit six ways to Sunday.

    But this is the opposite of epidemiology, from start to finish.

    * Dental student, etc.

  153. #156 Brian Deer
    August 28, 2014

    Actually, I think the most obvious criticisim of Destafano et al is that they assert a key proposition without presenting data – even in the abstract conclusion. I mean: where they say that an elevated association is evident where kids are likely being vaccinated for enrollment in special education.

    The parallel with economics, I think, is that a big bunch of data is worked over, and then an ideologically-driven analysis is cast across it. The nagging issue with CDC, as Neal Halsey at Hopkins, I think would say, is that it bureaucratically WANTS its results to come up good for vaccination. Of course, we all do, because good true results are good for children.

    But are those good results the right results? Maybe the study design and analysis would profit from input from people who just live for the chance of proving them wrong. Conflict is at the root of democracy and capitalism, because eventually it works stuff out.

    The answer, I know, is that so many different studies, done in so many different ways, eventually gives confidence. But even so, like economists, epidemiologists often speak as if they have an objective truth.

  154. […] over at NaturalNews.com releasing a “bombshell” e-mail from Thompson that wasn’t. In the fourth installment yesterday, I had a bit of fun with a final desperate gasp in which The Not-So-Thinking Moms had a Twitter […]

  155. #158 Krebiozen
    August 28, 2014

    Denice,

    Kreb calls CAM/ AoA a swamp. I wonder where he got that?

    Osmosis.

  156. #159 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    I mean: where they say that an elevated association is evident where kids are likely being vaccinated for enrollment in special education.

    That signal only stands out in the 3–5 year old group (e.g., Table 3), the IDEA mandate was in 1991, and 98% of the 3–5 cases were enrolled in applicable preschool special-education programs.

  157. #160 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    Osmosis.

    Not Osmodeus?

  158. #161 Krebiozen
    August 28, 2014

    Narad,
    I was unfamiliar with Equinox, and as a connoisseur of ‘so bad it’s good’ movies, I thank you. I suspect AoA commenters would mistake Equinox for a documentary about the CDC.

  159. #162 Krebiozen
    August 28, 2014

    That signal only stands out in the 3–5 year old group (e.g., Table 3), the IDEA mandate was in 1991, and 98% of the 3–5 cases were enrolled in applicable preschool special-education programs.

    That, in a nutshell, is why there is no story here. Early MMR vaccination was more common in autistic children enrolled in early intervention programs that had mandatory vaccination requirements. What else would anyone expect to see?

  160. #163 sadasd
    August 28, 2014

    @narad#153: They were tax exempt when they were founded. Maybe they’re behind in their paperwork; maybe they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re a PAC under MN state law, but that doesn’t change their status for the purposes of compliance with FEC or IRS requrements.

    See: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/canary_party_of_minnesota-800707371-990-0053.pdf

  161. #164 JayK
    United States
    August 28, 2014

    ” Why did the CDC send a psychologist? They’re the golden retrievers of the science world.”

    If you want someone that knows how to handle and generate qualitative data, then a psychologist is typically your guy.

  162. #165 Doc Nola
    August 28, 2014

    Mom, I’m not making up anything. Obviously you should brush on your reading skills. Or was it your ideological view that made you skip the first sentence? “I REGRET that my coauthors and I OMITTED statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics.” (emphasis mine)
    That’s why I said he expressed regret and omitted data.
    You know, nevermind. Your mind is made up, so you can’t see the evidence when it’s laid in your lap. Tata.

  163. #166 Narad
    August 28, 2014

    They were tax exempt when they were founded.

    They’re a section 527 political organization, as can be readily checked.

  164. #167 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    August 28, 2014

    Mom, I’m not making up anything. Obviously you should brush on your reading skills.

    There is little more tedious than having to hand-hold an anti-vaxx buffoon through their own statements. Your first comment:

    May we expect another article denying any wrongdoing at the CDC now that Dr. Thompson has admitted his falsification of results in a public letter released through his lawyer? You can read it at Vanderkamp dot com.

    Then mine:

    Duh, it’s been posted here for several hours. Dr. Thompson didn’t admit any falsification of results; he did however admit he spoke with Hooker and never gave him permission to be recorded Oops.

    There was no falsification of data, it’s only Thompson’s word as his co-authors don’t share his belief nor regret and it’s very presumptuous of Thompson to apologise for his co-authors who can’t say much about this specific topic.

    Then you again:

    Mom, I think you were reading something else. Here are Dr Thompson’s own words in the letter released from his lawyers: “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”
    He massaged the data to get the results he and the CDC wanted. Sounds like a admission of guilt and regret to me.
    Oops.

    Emphasis mine. And this is what you just made up. You have no inside track on this that would allow you access to the data and access to all of the co-authors to make such a statement. You may opine but you should qualify it as such. You said much more than “he expressed regret and omitted data” as fact. If you call that evidence then yes, no wonder I can’t see it. Let’s see how long you stick the flounce.

  165. […] “science” community is quickly moving to discredit the articles about this. One such, via Science Blogs, has no science, but plenty of personal […]

  166. #169 sadasd
    August 29, 2014

    Narad-by gosh, you’re right. Thank you.

  167. #170 Eric Glover
    United States
    September 1, 2014

    The problem with this debate is that there are true victims in all of this: Kids and their Parents. There is true vaccine injury out there even when top notch scientists/medical professionals indicate everything is safe. They push guarantees on vaccines these days. As a nurse who has given immunizations, I’ve seen people get instantly sick and injured. It was never reported on VAERS either because I looked! I don’t necessarily think vaccines cause autism but I think the better focus should be on safety.

  168. #171 Lawrence
    September 1, 2014

    @Eric – then why didn’t you report it to VAERS? You are allowed to do that, you know….

    Also, nothing is guaranteed – please point out where anyone has said vaccines are 100% safe and 100% effective.

  169. […] cover-up.  However Thompson also found himself verbally assaulted by his peers in several science blogs that have denounced his statement as well as the original […]

  170. #173 herr doktor bimler
    September 1, 2014

    So the dude is a psychologist: hope that that doesn’t reflect poorly upon the rest of us- some of whom had massive, over-wrought, formidable doctoral requirements in statistics, research design and physio and possessed enough brains to steer clear of epi ( AND geology, fluid physics and celestial mechanics.) And I even studied ec..

    Some of us are just physicists who turned to the Dark Side.

  171. […] None of that stopped the ever-intrepid Drinking Thinking Drinking Moms from organizing “Twitter parties” and the antivaccine crankosphere turning the crazy up to 11 because they thought they had […]

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