12 February 2009

A few thoughts on the current news stories

Vaccines and autism - The special court ruled that the evidence overwhelmingly does not support a link between autism and vaccination. Finally. I'm an epidemiologist, if none of you already knew, so I read the original paper for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and the original "study" that "proved" a link between MMR and autism had a sample size of 12; that is laughable for a population-based study. You can't just dig up 12 patients with autism and incidentally find that they all had the MMR vaccine thus concluding the MMR vaccine caused the autism; that's bad science - poorly designed and biased. But...in a world where people need causality and want a place to lay blame for the origin of a child's disease that study that "finding" was the "proof" many parents needed. So began that fight. Someone from NVIC did point out that the court's ruling will not dissuade many parents who earnestly believe their children are in danger because of the MMR vaccine (and other vaccines as well) and therefore will fight to avoid vaccinating their children. You know what that does? Endangers everyone else's children. Herd immunity should not be used as an excuse and anyway, you know that thimerosal preservative everyone freaked out about? Well, I'm 30 and had my first measles shot in 1980 and my MMR in 1992 - if thimerosal was going to cause autism it would have caused an explosion of cases in my generation, not the children born in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The "Octuplet mom" - NEEDS MENTAL HELP. She has a narcissistic personality if I ever saw one. She had all those children by IVF, put them in mortal danger through a high-order multiples pregnancy (which is frowned upon by the medical establishment), and now wants us to help care for (i.e. pay for) these children all because she was lonely as a child? She doesn't love those children, she loves herself and the attention she's getting because of it. A reality show? A website to collect donations? She already collects SSDI for several of her older children to the tune of several thousand dollars a month and she was receiving workers compensation for a back injury sustained while working at a mental institution. Now, she doesn't deserve threats but she really needs a reality check. She might not consider food stamps and SSDI "welfare" but that is provided by the tax payers, specifically those of California, and they're going to wind up footing the bill for her children - about 1.5 to 2.5 million dollars. That's a lot of money going to one person just because she wanted a big family. I call that selfish. Oh, and she's going to back to school (she already has $50,000 in school loans) and she's going to rely on *cough*take advantage of*cough* the school's daycare provider and volunteers to care for the children while she attends school. As I said above, I'm 30 - this woman is 33 (her oldest child is 7, I believe); why IVF was required? Higher-order multiples are extremely rare in pregnancies concieved naturally.

Social Hosting laws - Should a parent who provides alcohol to teens for a party/gathering/etc. be held liable for what happens? Yes, it is illegal to provide minors with alcohol; the only exception is allowing your own child to have a small drink in the privacy of your own home for say dinner or a celebration. Should a parent be held liable because their stupid kid threw a kegger while the parents were out of town, either obtaining the alcohol through another source or raiding the existing liquor cabinet (in my experience, the alcohol usually comes from an outside source)? Nope, at that point the child decided to do something illegal but the parents will probably have to foot the bill for their child's stupidity. You can substitute "social host" for parent, here. I'm also a big one for personal responsibility. I'm also a big one for not making alcohol such a taboo; as a younger teen I was allowed to have a small (maybe two fingers worth in a tumbler) glass of wine at dinner if my parents were having wine with dinner or I was allowed to have a sip of beer if Dad was having one. I was taught that having a drink was a social thing and that having a lot of alcohol in one sitting was a really stupid idea. I tested that theory out while in college; yeah, having a lot of alcohol in one go is not the smartest thing ever and I've really not ever done it again.

The stimulus package - First off, if the banks are using the previously-allocated bailout money improperly the government should ask for the money back because it was a loan and I think loans can be recalled (I could be wrong). Second, absolutely NONE of those CEOs should even be drawing a salary, nor should any of the other top executives, that exceeds the salary of the lowliest intern; didja hear me? NO bonuses, NO raises, nada, zip. You got us into this mess, so you better start trying to get us out. Third, why don't we use some of the stimulus money to help people keep their homes? In my opinion, if someone has honestly been trying to keep up with the mortgage payments, then they're probably not trying to play the system, so the stimulus money should be used to help re-negotiate the mortgage so that it is manageable. Fourth, who gives a crap about doorbells in Mississippi? Get real (gotta love StimulusWatch - I hope someone in Washingon sees it). It gets even better - this is the state where I live and there are only two cities listed who have requested federal stimulus funding. I don't live in those areas and I pretty much only see the need for the sewer work, flood mitigation, and ADA compliance projects. Library and wireless LAN projects, parks improvements, etc. are not something the federal government should pay for; if the locals want those things then they better pony up the cash.

That idiot Blagojevich (reposted from a Chicago trib blog) - So he's going to write a tell-all book? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry, still snickering. How does someone that juvenile get elected to public office? Wait, don't answer that.

UI Graduate Students Split from UISG (hopefully that will open without having to register for the DI - Just a bit of local-yokel news and all I can say is about damn time. I did both undergrad and graduate work at the University of Iowa and I can easily say that the UI Student Government is run by undergrads; said undergrads do not want to listen to the Executive Council for Graduate and Professional Students. I can also attest to being pissed that my graduate student fees were going to support activities attended primarily by undergraduates. So, in the next fiscal year GSS will allocate grad student funds and UISG will allocate undergrad student funds.

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