Matthias Rath–the missing chapter of “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre

This is a copy of “Matthias Rath – steal this chapter” by Ben Goldacre, reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works licence.

This chapter was omitted from the first edition because Ben was being sued by the subject of the chapter, Matthias Rath, at the time.  The suit failed and costs were awarded against Rath.

I have reset the text for readability but have not changed anything else.  The work you are about to read is the copyright of Ben Goldacre.  I did not write any of it.  Please disseminate this document as publicly and widely as you see fit under the terms of the licence..  Please buy a copy of Ben’s excellent book, of which this is only one of over a dozen fascinating chapters.

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US to lift federal embryonic stem cell funding ban?

Welcome news from Reuters: the White House has announced that the US President is to sign an executive order on Monday on the subject of stem cell research.

In view of Mr Obama’s stated opinions on the matter, most sources are speculating that he is to lift the federal ban on funding of embryonic stem cell research on new lines, which was imposed by President George W. Bush.

On this assumption, Bloomberg reports that scientists and health advocates are excited and predicting that the action will accelerate the pace of essential medical research.

I’d prefer to wait until Monday before I start celebrating, but the ban on funding is an international disgrace and it is imperative that it be lifted, and obviously the Obama administration is painfully aware of the years wasted by the previous science-hating administration.

State of ignorance: sex education in Texas schools

RH Reality Check yesterday carried an article on a report about sex education in Texas schools, titled “When In Texas: Just Say I Don’t Know”.  The result of two years work by Dr. David Wiley, a health education professor at Texas State University-San Marcos, and Dr. Kelly Wilson, on behalf of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, the report is a damning indictment of a woefully inadequate system.

The problem seems to be that Texas receives some $18 million in federal funds annually for a program which is known as “abstinence-only education“, but is actually composed of feeding children scare-stories about sex and telling them not to do it. The results of such institutionalized idiocy are easy to predict: young people have sex anyway but are ignorant and unprepared for the consequences. It appears that most of this lunacy is presided over by religious organizations whose record of stupidity on matters related to sex is second to none.

Hopefully this disgusting behavior will be stopped and religious organizations will be chased out of the field of education, to the benefit of the young people of Texas.

More bad news for antivaxers as court tosses out MMR claims

AP reports today that judges in a US vaccine compensation court have ruled that “It was abundantly clear that petitioners’ theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive.”  The claims were reviewed by Special Masters for the court, which is part of the US Court of Claims.  The case is one of three in which a total of over 5,000 individual claims for compensation related to vaccines have been filed attempting to link vaccination to autism.

UPDATE: Washington Post now reports that the other two cases have also been tossed out. All 5,000 claims are now rejected.

Countdown: Andrew Wakefield, Worst Person in the World

Check out Keith Olbermann‘s excellent Countdown program on MSNBC TV.  Tonight Keith nominated Andrew Wakefield “Worst Person in the World” for lying in his bogus 1998 paper declaring a link between Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism.

Jeni Barnett and the memory hole

Oops! Quackometer reports that Jeni Barnett has lost a lot of comments from her blog. Coincidentally this was in the thread on which I myself had commented.  See also my earlier story on the Jeni Barnett affair. Fortunately Quackometer has been able to recover some of the comments.

UPDATE: Quixotic Quisling caught just about all of the missing content here.

Jeni Barnett, antivaxer, bites off more than she can chew

Anyone who has followed Ben Goldacre‘s excellent Bad Science blog or read his column with the same name in The Guardian will know that Ben doesn’t suffer fraud and charlatanry and ignorance. Sadly he has suffered–literally–by being hounded legally by the harmful cretins and liars whom he pillories verbally.

Last year Ben and the newspaper were sued by Matthias Rath, a loony or fraud who has sold vitamins to AIDS sufferers in South Africa, falsely claiming that antiretroviral drugs are part of a genocidal scam by pharmaceutical companies and that the vitamin pills produced by his own company can cure AIDS. Although Rath dropped his case and The Guardian was awarded costs, it cost Ben money and a chapter had to be cut from his book, also called Bad Science (ISBN 978-0-00-724019-7).

Recently Ben was so incensed by a broadcaster, Jeni Barnett, who used her radio program to make ignorant and harmful statements about vaccines, that he reproduced the whole thing online. Soon he had copyright lawyers breathing down his neck asking him to remove the clip. At the same time, Jeni Barnet produced this entry and this one on her blog, tucking the megaphone behind her back and trying to turn herself into a poor, maligned victim.

His response: he has asked other bloggers each to take a small section of the broadcast and to reproduce it with commentary (this is allowed under the “fair dealing” principle of British copyright law, similar to the American principle of “fair use”).

The response from the blogosphere has been prompt and satisfying. There have been umpteen blog entries taking up Ben’s challenge. The issue has been taken up by the renowned scourge of quackery, David Colquhoun, in an entry on his “Improbable Science” blog. Gimpy has not only responded to Barnett’s feckless maunderings, he also helpfully displays a list of other responses.

In short, the blogosphere is white hot over this, and rightly so. In September, the newspapers reported that MMR takeup amongst five-year-olds in London was below 50%. according to figures compiled by the NHS. Measles is a killer.

“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” –John Gilmore

Antivax bombshell

The Sunday Times carries a bombshell today, reporting that, according to evidence presented to the General Medical Council, Andrew Wakefield faked patient data in the original paper purporting to find a connection between MMR vaccine and autism, sparking the baseless and highly destructive vaccine scare that has lasted a decade and caused the incidence of measles to rocket.

The Sunday Times reports that Wakefield, alongside doctors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, is standing trial for serious professional misconduct before the Council, which has the power to reprimand them or strike them off the medical register.

Half of London parents are officially stupid and selfish

The BBC reported yesterday, 24 September, 2008 that Measels, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine takeup among five-year-olds in London was just under 50 per cent. The stupidest and most selfish parents live in the Newham (42% takeup), Islington (43% takeup), and Brent Teaching health trusts (43% takeup).

London Assembly Health and Public Services Committee chair James Cleverley reports: “The gap between coverage levels achieved in the capital and the national average is widening.” Living in London, it seems, makes you stupid. Particularly stupid given the high population density of the boroughs with the stupidest parents.

“Compared to the country’s average of 74%, only 49% of children in the capital have had the MMR vaccine and booster by their fifth birthday”, says Cleverley.

If you live in London, the only way to protect your children from the behavior of these irresponsible and selfish parents is to make sure your own kids are kept away from those who haven’t been immunized, and make sure their own vaccination is kept up to date. Make sure you ask other parents if they’re sending their kids out to play with yours without being properly immunized.

Unless you want to go back to the state of affairs that existed in my childhood, when measles was regarded as inevitable and all kids took their chances of brain damage and death, treat those parents who refuse the jab as pariahs. Don’t let them risk your children’s life.

The risk from mumps and rubella should not be ignored, either. Mumps can make a post-pubertal male sterile and Rubella can induce congenital defects in a child if the mother is exposed to the disease during pregnancy. This is no laughing matter. Put all the social pressure you can on these stupid, selfish and misguided people.

Younger Cambodians shake off ancient superstitions

The Phnom Penh Post reports on the increasing use of modern psychiatry services by younger generations of Cambodians in place of the belief that psychological problems are caused by evil spirits.  The Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh reports seeing 20 new patients per day, mostly women.