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Congress says no to misleading autism information

Posted Jul 16 2009 10:50pm

Last year Mr. Mark Blaxill and Mr. David Kirby were given the privilege to misinform members of the U.S. government and their aids. Besides the fact that Mr. Blaxill has yet to retract his position (and pseudo-papers) claiming that autism is mercury poisoning, and the mish-mash that Mr. Kirby makes of science, there is the curious incident of the misquoted quote. Mr. Kirby made a serious error in his talk, misquoting a statement by the NIH, and was caught by a congressional staffer (an M.D. who was obviously well prepared).

It isn’t like this sort of inaccuracy was something new. Mr. Kirby was having a lot of difficulty with accuracy about this subject around that time. Epiwonk discussed in great detail how serious Mr. Kirby’s misinterpretations are here and here.

I don’t really understand Mr. Kirby sometimes. Epiwonk’s first blog post caused Mr. Kirby to admit he made a mistake and “pull” his blog post. Mr. Kirby posted a second, with this statement:

NOTE: My original post on this topic mischaracterized the 2003 CDC vaccine investigation as an “Ecological Study,” which it was not. I am reposting this piece to reflect that information accurately, but also to point out that many of the weaknesses identified in the CDC ’s data and methods apply to the published 2003 “retrospective cohort” study, as much as they do to any future “ecological” ones. I regret and apologize for the error.

He apologizes for the error. He removed the direct link to the post from his main webpage. But, did he pull the blog post which even he declares was “in error”? Nope. It is still on the Huffington Post for all to see. Hence my quotes in the phrase “pull” his blog post.

What about the misquote in Mr. Kirby’s lecture? Well, last I checked it was still in the power point presentation he has on his website. No comment, no correction.

I’m sure Mr. Kirby is planning on being more careful this year. This year? Yes, he and Mr. Blaxill are being hosted to give another briefing to congress.

Last year, Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill packed a small room. This year, they seem to be struggling to get people to fill even that small space. How do I know? Well, the good people at the Age of Autism blog have supplied us with a list of the people in the Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E) who will be attending, and who attended last year but not this year.

Want to run some stats? My unofficial and highly unscientific accounting based on the information on the Age of Autism blog:

C.A.R.E. has 11 offices attending who saw the briefing in 2008 returning in 2009.

However, C.A.R.E also has 26 offices declining the opportunity to observe Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill for a second time. (including, oddly enough, Dan Burton)

Yep, you read that right. 70% of the C.A.R.E. offices who heard the briefing last year have decided to give it a pass this year. I actually doubt it is because Mr. Kirby was caught in a fabricated quote last year. My guess is that it’s just because Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill basically had little accurate information of value to say last year, and little different to say this year.

Continuing with the stats:

C.A.R.E. has 8 offices attending for the first time in 2009.

C.A.R.E. also has 110 offices who did not attend in 2008 and are not attending now.

Summarizing these numbers, we see that, by far, most of C.A.R.E is not attending. ( I count 17 offices attending out of 153. Or, 89% are not attending).

Again, I don’t think it is because of Mr. Kirby’s lapse. The lack of a clear, scientifically sound message is much more likely the reason. Congress heard what Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill have to say and there is no point in hearing it again.

Last year’s congressional briefing was the subject of three blog posts here:

Vaccines on the Hill. Vaccines on the Hill II. Vaccines on the Hill III.

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