Monday, January 23, 2017

Targeting My Conversations with Journalists

The latest email grab by US-RTK asked for all of my email correspondence with a handful of journalists.  As a scientist that appreciates interaction with the public, journalists offer a pipeline to deliever science to those that wish to understand it. I'm grateful to have reputable contacts in the media to help share science.

This organization is funded by borderline hate groups that seek to erode trust in scientists that convey a message counter to their beliefs and agenda. Climategate 101.  

They always claim that this is about unveiling corporate tentacles in shaping science, which they never found after seizing 30,000 of my personal emails. Because it didn't happen. Now they want emails from journalists. Journalists?  That's some conspiracy! 

And as always, in full compliance and ultimate transparency, my university harvested the requested emails from university archival severs and handed them over tout suite

Scientists and journalists work together to disseminate good information to the public. Activists now seek to destroy that relationship, harming trust in science and those that report it. 

So why do well-funded industry front groups want to confiscate my correspondence with the media?  Beats me, but I have several hypotheses:

1.  Smearing Science-Friendly Journalists.  We know that they used my emails to develop damaging false narratives, using complicit reporters and venues like the New York Times.  I fully expect that they'll use these emails to make it look like I share cozy relationships with the journalists in question, and then claim that those associations mean they can't be trusted to report science accurately.  The people targeted report objectively on biotechnology and incorporate my two cents into their independent syntheses, or not.  Activists seek to destroy the perception of their independent credibility and journalistic integrity. 

Of course, I've only met these folks here and there, served on panels with them, participated in conferences, maybe had phone calls. I had a hamburger with one once in Davis, CA, sushi with another in Gainesville, FL.  Nothing terribly exciting, but it will be blown up into wild, evil collusion. 

2.  Dissuade Journalists from Talking to Scientists.  Those that report science are less likely to do it if their questions and sources will end up as part of broad public records searches.  Heck, the same journalists use records requests all the time and appreciate transparency that FOIA provides.  But when private emails turn into the basis of broad fishing trips, looking for "gotchas" and cherry-picked bits that can be pulled from context with intent to permanently harm reputations?  It is the abuse of transparency law that journalists appropriately decry, and likely to turn a reporter away from my university if they have a question or concern in a hot-topic area. 

  3.  Chilling Science Communication.  If scientists are afraid to talk, and nobody is going to report it, it ensures complete suppression of the scientific message. They both gag the voice and cut the wires.  Severing all ties between scientists and the best journalists is their goal, as activist messages fail to find publication outside of their own websites. 


This is the most recent chapter on the expensive, damaging attack on science and reason.  They can violate the privacy of public scientists.  They can twist our words to defame us.  They can damage our reputations and drag us through the mud.  That's not hyperbole.

The abuse of records requests is the fuel in their fake news stream, a strong-armed smear campaign to erode trust in science and now those that strive to report it.  Now not just targeting those that discover and teach-- targeting those that report. 

So the take-home message-- brace for the next false allegations and smear.  The law facilitates the flow of free information for the evil people that wish to harm us, with no regulation on how it is used, and no repercussions for wielding it with malice. 

Note of Irony:  ... oh, and the same group has one of the most prolific anti-biotech reporters on their payroll.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cleveland Clinic Quackery?

You don't have to be in medicine to understand that the Cleveland Clinic has a tremendous reputation for research and clinical care. They were the reason I always hoped that if I were to blow a bio-gasket or have "The Grabber" I'd do it in in front of the Frank Zappa display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-- a stone's throw from this esteemed institution.   

But their social media presence does not reflect excellence in medicine.  To the contrary, it reflects an acceptance of alternative medicine quackery and wacky medical advice.  I figured that they hired the Food Babe's sister to run their Twitter feed. 

Today they seriously crossed the line.  Their Twitter feed promoted an article in the local Cleveland paper. Both Dr. Clay Jones and Johnathan Jarry noticed and discussed in tweet-space.  I had to check it out. 

I thought it was satire.  

It wasn't.  It's a medical Cleveland Steamer. 

Enter Dr. Daniel Niedes.  

This is the year to avoid toxins! Neides is a physician at the Cleveland Clinic that shuns the scientific consensus, has a minimal grasp on fundamental metabolism, and promotes a dangerous agenda. (I like Soylent)

Neides makes the claim that the "burden" of "toxic compounds" in vaccines is linked to neurological disorders, including autism. No kidding.  No, I'm not kidding.  Cleveland Clinic.  

He writes, "Why would any of us want to be injected with mercury if it can potentially cause harm? However, what I did not realize is that the preservative-free vaccine contains formaldehyde. WHAT? How can you call it preservative-free, yet still put a preservative in it? And worse yet, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen."

I'm not even sure where to start. First, thimerisol is metabolized to ethyl mercury, a compound with a limited half-life in the body.  It is excreted quickly and eliminated from the body.  An injection containing thimerisol carries much less risk than eating a piece of sushi (which some fish can contain methyl mercury, which is a very different compound toxicologically). 

A physician does not know this? 

Next, formaldehyde is not a vaccine preservative.  It is present in vaccines in detectable yet biologically irrelevant levels.  It is used to ensure that viruses and bacteria used to create the vaccines are eliminated from the final preparation, and trace amounts to carry over.  He calls it a "known carcinogen". 

Of course, those of us that understand risk realize that carcinogenicity is a function of risk and exposure. The trace amounts in a vaccine are no match to what the body naturally produces as part of one-carbon metabolism. 

This dude is seriously a Mistake by the Lake. 

Jonathan Jarry used the comments section to clarify the topic, at which time Dr. Neides took a stand.  

Neides thinks that because something is in the NEJM or comes from Harvard that it is legit and supports his case. 

Unfortunately he didn't read either of the pieces he cited. Neither is a research paper. The first is an opinion (and a crappy one) the second is a conference summary that has nothing to do with his claim.

The first link is an article about Glyphosate by ag economist Chuck Benbrook and some other guy.  It reiterates Benbrook's claims from when he used to have a position affiliated with Washington State U, paid for by the organic industry, salary and research.  He published a few things that made scientists roll their eyes.  The article was based on the IARC's findings on glyphosate. It has nothing to do with vaccines, mercury, or formaldehyde, and actually is a pretty lame article for NEJM. 

The second is a  non-peer-reviewed conference proceedings where they mention vaccines once.  Stay hot Neides.

He tries to throw around the names of credible institutions to misdirect from the major cow pie he stepped in here. 

But then it keeps on going.  Later he blames it on.... epigenetics! 

Neides fails to realize that science-based medicine requires evidence linking toxins to chronic disease. There is no evidence that exposure levels are relevant, let alone cause disease. 

Whenever someone brings in quantum physics or epigenetics, you see them picking up the goalpost and moving it to wackyland. 

But that does not work for those of us that actually understand epigenetics. There is no scholarly paper that links vaccines or ethyl mercury to epigenetic phenomena and chronic disease. 

Why would a physician make these claims? 

And to claim that "medical genetics is in its infancy" is a horrible statement to make.  Medical genetics is an amazing field, deep and rich.  If you think it is in its infancy, it means you haven't been studying it. 

For what it's worth, I've been hurt badly professionally and personally by those that disagree with science and the stances I've taken in public fora. I really hate to be nettlesome with Dr. Neides.  I have offered constructive advice and a willingness to help him understand the concepts he misses. 

But here a physician, at a prestigious institution, is supporting a dangerous position that threatens public health.  It caters to the conspiratorial claims of fringe movements, and helps Jenny McCarthy fall asleep at night.  That's not good. I want to do that with science pillow talk.  

I'm really disappointed that the Cleveland Clinic would let's its name and reputation ride along with such claims. 

However, it is good to see a community of scientists and physicians stand up and refute his claims.  The comments section is pure gold, a mixture of those with a clue discussing clues with those that never will have one. 

It is another clear reminder that dangerous advocates of pseudoscience can infiltrate our most trusted institutions. Now more than ever, those interested in the public understanding of science need to step up, and rebuke this nonsense. Hopefully, the Cleveland Clinic will do the same. 

**** UPDATE ****

There is a public response to this situation:

Their response is like a restaurant supports following food safety rules, but doesn't care if the chef washes his hands after using the washroom.  

Physicians that work there don't have to abide by science. It's okay to believe what you want to believe. After all, those affected are just kids, old people, and the immunocompromised.