ONTD Political

Babies Are Getting Brain Bleeds—Are Vaccine Fears to Blame?
Some parents are refusing vitamin K injections for their newborns. The consequences can be devastating.

In May, the Tennessean reported on a truly shocking medical problem. Seven infants, aged between seven and 20 weeks old, had arrived at Vanderbilt University's Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital over the past eight months with a condition called "vitamin K deficiency bleeding," or VKDB. This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems. Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding into the brain. This can cause brain damage or even death.

There is a simple protection against VKDB that has been in regular medical use since 1961, when it was recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Infants receive an injection of vitamin K into the leg muscle right after birth. Infants do not get enough of this vitamin from their mother's body or her milk, so this injection (which is not a vaccine, but simply a vitamin being delivered via a shot) is essential, explains pediatrician Clay Jones on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). It's also quite safe.

So then why are some parents refusing to get it, leaving their infants vulnerable to a potentially devastating condition? It's difficult to understand the phenomenon outside the context of a growing fear, in general, about vaccines in the US. "There's a lot of overlap with that anti-vaccine mentality," says Jones. Indeed, reporting on the Vanderbilt VKDB cases, the Tennessean explained that "Vanderbilt doctors believe incidences are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement."

VKDB comes in two versions, an "early" form (occurring in the first week of life) and the much more dangerous "late" form, which tends to strike infants between two and 12 weeks old who have not received Vitamin K, and who are "exclusively breastfed" by their mothers. The problem, writes Jones, is that "levels of vitamin K in breast milk are low, much lower than in infant formula."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infants who do not receive a vitamin K injection have an 81 times greater chance of coming down with late stage VKDB. Even then the risk remains small: Between 4.4 and 7.2 infants out of every 100,000. But a Vitamin K injection is "virtually 100 percent protective," Jones explains.

Such are the facts, yet nonetheless, parents interviewed by the CDC after bringing in their infants with VKDB showed concerns about the injection. "Reasons included concern about an increased risk for leukemia when vitamin K is administered, an impression that the injection was unnecessary, and a desire to minimize the newborn's exposure to 'toxins,'" observes a CDC report. These concerns are scientifically questionable at best. "Earlier concern regarding a possible causal association between parenteral [injected] vitamin K and childhood cancer has not been substantiated," states the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A quick Google search returns a number of dire warnings about vitamin K shots circulating on the Internet. One of the top results is an article at TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com, which urges readers to "Skip that Newborn Vitamin K Shot," before going on to list an array of "dangerous ingredients in the injection cocktail." (The site also calls vaccines "scientific fraud.")

And then there's physician Joseph Mercola (whose popular website calls vaccinations "very neurotoxic" and suggests they are associated with a list of conditions, including autism). In another article on his site, Mercola suggests there is a "Potential Dark Side" to the vitamin K shot. "A needle stick can be a terrible assault to a baby's suddenly overloaded sensory system, which is trying to adjust to the outside world," it reads. (Although Mercola himself rejects and debunks the alleged leukemia link.) Mercola instead suggests administering vitamin K orally, claiming it's "safe and equally effective."

In a written statement provided for this article, Mercola elaborated on his views. He said that as a doctor, he has personally seen "direct evidence of trauma from injections," and he cited risks from aluminum preservatives contained in vitamin K shots. "It is incomprehensible to me how any rational individual could even consider arguing the use of vitamin K injections over a simple and inexpensive, painless oral dose that has never been shown to fail," Mercola wrote.

Jones disagrees. "We have decades of data from a number of countries, some of which have oscillated between doing the [intramuscular injection], doing the oral, and doing nothing," he says. "And so we have good data that shows that while oral is certainly better than nothing, it is not as effective as intramuscular dosing." In particular, with oral vitamin K, there are problems involving making sure that people take the right dose and stick to the regimen—and then of course added problems if a baby vomits up the dose. "There's a lot of factors that could potentially interfere with the ability of the oral dosing to work," adds Jones. "Intramuscular is the best way to do it." (For Jones' more thorough rebuttal to Mercola, read here.) A 2003 statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics makes a similar point, citing evidence that "oral prophylaxis" may fail more often than an injection in preventing late VKDB. (Here's a paper discussing the cases of several infants in the Netherlands who received oral Vitamin K, but still came down with late VKDB.)

Science aside, evidence presented by the CDC suggests that refusal of vitamin K shots may be a major phenomenon to contend with. In Tennessee, the CDC found that at the hospital with the highest rate of missed vitamin K injections, 3.4 percent of infants were discharged without receiving one. At birthing centers in the state (a hospital alternative, often run by nurse-midwives), the number was much higher: 28 percent. (The agency also hinted that medical staff may not be adequately informing parents about the need for the shot.)

To prevent any more horrific brain bleeds in infants, that has to stop. The case for the vitamin K shot is irrefutable, says Jones, "especially when you take into account just how ridiculously safe these intramuscular injections are."

Creationist Ken Ham, who recently debated Bill Nye the Science Guy over the origins of the universe, is calling for an end to the search for extraterrestrial life because aliens probably don't exist -- and if they do, they're going to Hell anyway.

"You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe," Ham wrote on his blog on Sunday. "This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation."

The post was driven in part by NASA experts saying that they expect to find evidence of alien life within the next 20 years.Read more...Collapse )

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Also: after getting a fuckton of negative feedback, Ham posts a "rebuttal" in which he reiterates all the things he claimed he didn't say in the first place.


In a condemnatory speech last week against the Obama administration’s new Environmental Protection Agency carbon emission regulations, Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (R) claimed that man-made climate change is scientifically implausible because Mars and Earth share “exactly” the same temperature.

Smith, the owner of a mining company called Mohawk Energy, argued that despite the fact that the red planet doesn’t have any coal mines, Mars and Earth share a temperature. Therefore, Smith reasoned, coal companies on Earth should be exempt from emission regulations.


During a Natural Resources and Environment Committee meeting Thursday, Smith, the Senate majority whip, said:

"As you [Energy & Environment Cabinet official] sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I won’t get into the debate about climate change but I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of."

According to NASA, the average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit -- 138 degrees above Mars' average of -81 degrees.

Although the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has stated that the new EPA rules will not cause Kentucky to shut down any additional coal-fired power plants, state lawmakers Thursday blamed federal environmental regulations for shuttering the state’s coal mines.

Thursday’s committee meeting was dominated by a slew of outlandish scientific claims from both Republican and Democratic climate change deniers.

State Rep. Kevin Sinnette (D) dismissed the threat of man-made global warming by pointing out that dinosaurs survived climate change.

“The dinosaurs died, and we don’t know why, but the world adjusted,” Sinnette said. “And to say that this is what’s going to cause detriment to people, I just don’t think it’s out there.”


State Rep. Stan Lee (R) claimed that climate-warming trends caused by human activities -- a phenomenon backed by 97 percent of climate scientists -- are nothing more than calculated scare tactics.

“All this stems, this carbon capture, all this other stuff, it stems back to a scare, generated years ago about global warming,” the Fayette County lawmaker said on Thursday. “Finally it turned out there hasn’t been global warming in 15 or 20 years, then they changed the name to climate change.”

Even the committee's chairman, state Rep. Jim Gooch Jr. (D), is one of the state’s leading opponents of federal environmental regulations, going as far as to suggest in 2011 that Kentucky would secede from the union to avoid the EPA’s crackdown on mining pollution.

By Shadee Ashtari. Posted: 07/08/2014 6:25 pm EDT.

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I have been traveling to East Asia (and many other parts of the world) for more than 25 years and over that time one of the things that has always struck me is how intelligent the general public in countries like Japan appear to be. It's not that there aren't dummies in East Asia, but it always seems that the average level of education and ability to think about the world intelligently and critically is impressively widespread. I've often thought about why this is the case and also why the same seems more difficult to say about the U.S. The answer, I think, can be found in a comment science fiction writer Isaac Asimov made about the U.S. while being interviewed in the 1980s: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

Asimov is right on the mark, and this cult of ignorance is the most serious national security issue facing the U.S. today. It is more important than the external threats from terrorists or the rise of a politically and economically powerful China. And a major part of the reason it is such a major issue for Americans to fix is that our immediate competitors, particularly those in Asia, have managed to create a culture in which rather than a cult of ignorance, a cult of intelligence plays a major role in shaping attitudes about the world and, thus, policies about dealing with other countries.

Many Americans are aware that the U.S. does not score well on measure such as international student assessment tests when compared to other industrial countries. For example, the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) the top five societies for math were Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan-- the U.S. is not in the top ten. It is better by 8th grade, where the same societies are in the top five (although the order changes) and the U.S. makes number 9. Roughly the same pattern can bee seen for science results. This doesn't seem too bad, but in a different testing organization's measure, the Programme for International Student Assessment, the U.S. does not fare quite so well, scoring 36th for math, 28th for science, and 24th for reading. With the exception of science, where Finland is ranked 5th, all of the top five countries in this measure are from East Asia.

American policy has generally worked from the assumption that the problem lies in basic weaknesses in the structure of our educational system with its inherent inequalities and the way in which our school curricula are constructed. These certainly have contributed to comparatively weak scores. I have long been convinced that one of the reasons Japan's educational system is better than the U.S.--at least in the sense that a very broad swath of the general public receives a good and equal education through high school--is related to funding. The U.S. system generates inherent inequalities in school funding by depending upon property taxes. Even in states where there is some (usually grudging) redistribution of wealth to support public schools in poor areas (in Texas it is called the Robin Hood law), it is obvious that children in wealthy areas receive a better education with far greater academic and other resources than those in poorer areas. In Japan, because there is a national curriculum and a significant portion of the funding for public schools comes from the national government, in addition to funding from prefectural and municipal governments, there is considerably less inequality in distribution of and access to quality education than in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the troubles with the U.S. education system are much deeper than distribution of funding or curriculum weaknesses, although these are both a byproduct of the cultural issue that Asimov observes. The troubles lie in the cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism that has been a long-standing part of American society and which has become increasingly evident and powerful in recent years through the propagandizing and proselytizing of groups like the Tea Party and the religious right.

The fundamental reason that countries in places like East Asia present such a significant challenge to the U.S. politically and economically is not because they have a lot of people or big militaries, or seem to be willing to grow their economic and political might without concern for issues like damage to the environment (China). The problem is that these countries have core cultural values that are more akin to a cult of intelligence and education than a cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism. In Japan, for example, teachers are held in high esteem and normally viewed as among the most important members of a community. I have never run across the type of suspicion and even disdain for the work of teachers that occurs in the U.S. Teachers in Japan typically are paid significantly more than their peers in the U.S. The profession of teaching is one that is seen as being of central value in Japanese society and those who choose that profession are well compensated in terms of salary, pension, and respect for their knowledge and their efforts on behalf of children.

In addition, we do not see in Japan significant numbers of the types of religious schools that are designed to shield children from knowledge about basic tenets of science and accepted understandings of history--such as evolutionary theory or the religious views of the Founding Fathers, who were largely deists--which are essential to having a fundamental understanding of the world. The reason for this is because in general Japanese value education, value the work of intellectuals, and see a well-educated public with a basic common knowledge in areas of scientific fact, math, history, literature, etc. as being an essential foundation to a successful democracy.


Americans need to recognize that if the cult of ignorance continues, it will become increasingly difficult to compete politically and economically with countries that highly value intelligence and learning. Nowhere is this more problematic in the U.S. than among a growing number of elected officials who are products of that cult of ignorance and who, thus, are not equipped to compete with their international peers. Why is this a problem of national security? Because a population and its leadership need to have the knowledge and intellectual skills necessary to analyze world affairs in an intelligent and sophisticated way and to elect intelligent, capable representatives. The problem is not really with our educational system; it is with our educational culture. Americans need to remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to Charles Yancey on January 6, 1816: "if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was & never will be."

This article also currently appears in The Diplomat.

By John W. Traphagan. Professor of Religious Studies, University of Texas, Austin.

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People don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name and the consequences are deadly, finds a new groundbreaking study. Female-named storms have historically killed more because people neither consider them as risky nor take the same precautions, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes.

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The Next Frontier In The War Over Science

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.

Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014," the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can't be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.

For Democrats and advocates, however, the FIRST Act represents a dangerous injection of politics into science and a direct assault on the much-cherished peer-review process by which grants are awarded.


"We have a system of peer-review science that has served as a model for not only research in this country but in others," said Bill Andresen, the associate vice president of Federal Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. "The question is, does Congress really think it has the better ability to determine the scientific merit of grant applications or should it be left up to the scientists and their peers?"

In recent weeks, the Obama administration and science agencies have -- in less-than-subtle terms -- offered up similar criticisms of the FIRST Act. At an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum on Thursday, presidential science adviser John Holdren said he was "concerned with a number of aspects" of the bill.

"It appears aimed at narrowing the focus of NSF-funded research to domains that are applied to various national interests other than simply advancing the progress of science," Holdren said.

Meanwhile, in a show of protest that several officials in the science advocacy community could not recall having witnessed before, the National Science Board released a statement in late April criticizing the bill. As the oversight body to the National Science Foundation, the NSB traditionally stays out of legislative fights. So when it warned that the FIRST Act could "significantly impede NSF's flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas," advocates said they were surprised and pleased.

"The fact that the NSB commented on legislation, I don’t know if it is unprecedented but it is at least extremely unusual," said Barry Toiv, a top official at the Association of American Universities. "And we think that speaks to the really serious problems posed by the legislation."

And yet, for all the concerns with the FIRST Act, it seems unlikely that the bill"s main author will incorporate additional changes. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House science committee, decided early on that he would take a different approach to re-authorizing science research funding. Instead of passing an updated version of a 2010 bill that funded four agencies under the committee"s purview, he chose to split the bill in two and offered two years of funding, as opposed to four years. From that decision came the FIRST Act.Collapse )

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Measles outbreak worries health officials as hundreds of cases are reported across U.S.

Authorities say 129 cases in 13 states were reported by mid-April, the bulk of them in California and New York City.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS / Published: Friday, April 25, 2014, 2:49 PM / Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014, 2:49 PM

NEW YORK -- Health officials are worried about recent U.S. measles outbreaks that so far have caused more illnesses than at the same point of any year since 1996.

Authorities say 129 cases in 13 states were reported by mid-April, the bulk of them in California and New York City. Most were triggered by travelers who caught the virus abroad and spread it in the United States among unvaccinated people. Many of the travelers had been to the Philippines, where a recent measles epidemic has caused at least 20,000 illnesses.

The U.S. numbers remain relatively tiny, but officials are worried to see case counts growing.

Since 2000, the highly contagious disease has been considered eliminated in the United States, aside from occasional small outbreaks sparked by overseas travelers. For most of the last decade, the nation was seeing only about 60 cases a year.

But since 2010, the average has been nearly 160.

"This increase in cases may be a `new normal,' unfortunately," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Contributing to the problem: Decades of measles vaccination campaigns have been so successful that many doctors have never seen a case, don't realize how contagious it is, and may not take necessary steps to stop it from spreading.Read more...Collapse )

Source thinks it's high time governments stopped catering to the anti-vaxxers and allowing children to forgo vaccination due to "philosophical reasons." Vaccination is based on SCIENCE. "Philosophical reasons" do NOT disprove science, nor should they be used as an excuse for ignoring it.

According to this, "Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that do not allow exemptions for religious reasons. The 19 states that allow exemptions for philosophical reasons are Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, California, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin." If I lived in one of those states, I'd be lobbying my lawmakers to get rid of those exemptions.
Why are geocentrists trying to undo centuries worth of accepted science? (Hint: The Jews)

Most people probably assume the scientific debate over the Earth’s place in the universe has been settled for centuries, but a small group of conspiracy theorists have been quietly pushing the idea that Galileo was wrong.

The Raw Story brought them blinking into the light earlier this week with a report on their plans to release “The Principle,” a film narrated by “Star Trek: Voyager” actress Kate Mulgrew and featuring interviews with several prominent scientists, that questioned the Copernican principle placing the sun at the center of the universe.

Mulgrew and scientist Lawrence Krauss both reacted to the controversy by claiming they’d been duped by the geocentrists — and two of their ideological opponents say the group intends to dupe the public.

The film’s producers deny it promotes geocentrism but instead focuses only on the Copernican principle that lends the movie its name.

“The difference between geocentrism and denying the Copernican principle is not subtle,” said physicist Alec MacAndrew. “In the former case, the claim is that the Earth is stationary at the center of the universe. In the latter case the claim is much more vague – that the Earth is somehow in a privileged or unusual position.”

While he called the geocentric view “utter bunkum,” MacAndrew said the Copernican principle offered “a nice cosmological and philosophical question.”
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The Columbian Mammoth gets caught in the crossfire of the culture wars

The Columbian Mammoth is about to become an official state symbol of South Carolina, but its path to the limelight was long and fraught with controversy. Let’s see if you can guess why. Here's the text of the bill that made it official:

Section 1-1-712A. The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the 'Columbian Mammoth', which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.

This is actually the watered-down version of the bill; one version, proposed earlier, made even more explicit references to the role of a divine creator in the mammoth's history.


This all started when an 8-year-old suggested that the Columbian mammoth become South Carolina’s state fossil. Olivia McConnell had some good reasoning behind her suggestion: Mammoth teeth found in a South Carolina swamp in 1725 were the first vertebrate fossils identified in North America.Collapse )

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Aaron Miller, a Republican congressional candidate in Minnesota, said a big reason he's running is to end classroom instruction on evolution, according to the Mankato Free Press.

Miller, a hospital account manager and Iraq War veteran, said during the congressional district's Republican Party convention in Albert Lea on Saturday that Minnesota needs more religious freedom. He cited an incident in which his daughter was forced to learn evolution in school.

According to the Mankato Free Press:

"He also called for more religious freedoms. He repeated his story about his daughter returning home from school because evolution was being taught in her class. He said the teacher admitted to not believing in the scientific theory to his daughter but told her that the government forced him to teach the lesson."

Miller first mentioned his daughter’s evolution lesson at the Blue Earth County convention in March, according to the Mankato Free Press.

"We should decide what is taught in our schools, not Washington, D.C.," Miller, who won the Republican endorsement for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District on Saturday, said during his speech.

Despite Miller’s attacks on Washington's influence on education, Minnesota's academic standards in science are set by the state Department of Education.

Former state Rep. Allen Quist (R), who said he believes dinosaurs coexisted with man, has endorsed Miller’s campaign against four-term state Rep. Tim Walz (D).

By Shadee Ashtari. Posted: 04/07/2014 8:30 pm EDT. Updated: 04/07/2014 8:59 pm EDT.

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