The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Vanessa Schipani, FactCheck.org
Q: Did people develop cancer because of the polio vaccine?
A: There are no known cases, and it's very unlikely. In the 1950s and 1960s, people did receive polio vaccines contaminated with a virus that causes cancer in rodents. But research suggests this virus doesn't cause cancer in humans.
By Kali Holloway
Some horror movie tropes just come off as unbelievable, they're so ridiculous and overused. Like, "Girl who falls down for no apparent reason while being chased by a killer." Or, "Group of friends that decides to split up when it's obvious being alone will get you murdered." And then there's this one: "Science laboratory creates horrible disease that will inevitably escape and kill all of humanity," which might be the most unbelievable, since it defies both logic and actual laws. Or rather, it did until Tuesday, when the U.S. government announced it was lifting a three-year ban on federal funding for experiments that alter viruses to make them even deadlier.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
With a rough 2016 officially behind us, and a foreboding 2017 ahead, maybe we all need a good dose of 1990's nostalgia. This Spring, Bill Nye will make his long-awaited return to our screens with his new Netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the World.
The Science Guy and his band of correspondents—model Karlie Kloss, Xploration Outer Space host Emily Calandrelli, comedians Joanna Hausmannm and Nazeem Hussain, and Veritasium host Derek Muller—will explore some of the most complex scientific topics of the day, from climate change, vaccines and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
While Netflix first announced the show in late August, Nye's comeback seems all the more fitting with Donald Trump's presidential inauguration this Jan. 20.
"Each episode will tackle a topic from a scientific point of view, dispelling myths, and refuting anti-scientific claims that may be espoused by politicians, religious leaders or titans of industry," Netflix stated in a press release.
Trump, as any EcoWatch reader knows, is just about as anti-science as it gets. The president-elect has plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, undo President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan and other environmental initiatives, and has nominated an entire cabinet of fossil fuel "puppets" and executives.
Nye came to fame in the 1990s as the host and creator of Bill Nye the Science Guy. The bowtie-wearing educator taught his young audience about the joys and importance of science and engineering.
We doubt that Trump will be streaming the new show, but Nye does intend to appeal to a wide audience.
"Since the start of the Science Guy show, I've been on a mission to change the world by getting people everywhere excited about the fundamental ideas in science," he said in the press release.
"Today, I'm excited to be working with Netflix on a new show, where we'll discuss the complex scientific issues facing us today, with episodes on vaccinations, genetically modified foods and climate change," he added. "With the right science and good writing, we'll do our best to enlighten and entertain our audience. And, perhaps we'll change the world a little."
Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air - not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2014
Since Science Guy came off the air in 1998 after five seasons, Nye has made numerous appearances on television shows and online videos as a science commentator and outspoken environmental advocate.
Earlier this year, the educational icon famously bet climate change denier Marc Morano $20,000 that 2016 will be among the hottest on record and that this decade will be record hot. Morano turned down the bet, claiming that it's "obvious" that scientific data will show warming, implying that the data would be doctored.
2016, of course, is officially the hottest year ever recorded, scientists have determined.
Top Climate Denier Turns Down $20k Bet From Bill Nye https://t.co/yp6aqrQwYk @climate_rev @BraveNewClimate
— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) April 13, 2016
In an interview with Huffington Post Live, Nye explained that "GMOs are not inherently bad. We are able to feed 7.2 billion people, which a century and a half ago you could barely feed 1.5 billion people and [it's] largely because of the success of modern farming."
However, Nye cautioned that introducing new organisms into the ecosystem can have "unintended consequences."
"My take on it now is genetically modified food is actually, in general—genetically modified plants, in general—are not only not harmful, they're actually a great benefit. However, you can't just go planting enormous monocultures and killing everything and expect the ecosystems to take it," he said.
Last month, The Hill published a letter sent by "more than a dozen" senior Center for Disease Control (CDC) scientists charging the agency with nursing an atmosphere of pervasive research fraud.
The group, which claimed to represent scientists across the CDC's diverse branches, calls itself SPIDER (Scientists Preserving Integrity, Diligence and Ethics in Research). The letter to CDC Chief of Staff, Carmen Villar, expressed alarm "about the current state of ethics at our agency." The scientists complained that "our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests" and "circumvented by some of our leaders."
The scientists told Villar that, "questionable and unethical practices, occurring at all levels and in all of our respective units, threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health." The letter charged that staff level scientists "are intimidated and pressed to do things they know are not right," and that, "Senior management officials at CDC are clearly aware and even condone these behaviors."
The scientists cited several recent scandals involving scientific corruption at CDC.
- They describe a "cover up," by officials, of mismanagement in CDC's Wise Woman Program, which provides screening in low income neighborhoods for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health disorders. According to the letter, CDC officials purposefully misrepresented screening numbers in documents they sent to Congress to conceal failures in the multimillion dollar project. "... definitions were changed and data 'cooked' to make the results look better than they were." The scientists accused high level CDC bosses of suppressing the results of an internal review, involving staff across the CDC, "so media and/or Congressional staff would not become aware of the problems." As part of the systematic cover up, CDC then engaged in a coordinated effort to "bury" these deceptions. "CDC staff has gone out of its way to delay FOIAs and obstruct any inquiry."
- The scientists also complain about the "troubling" adventures of Dr. Barbara Bowman, director of CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Dr. Michael Pratt, Senior Advisor for Global Health at the NCCDPHP. Bowman recently left the CDC following shocking media disclosures that the pair had manipulated scientific studies on soft drink safety in collusion with Coca Cola. The CDC flimflam was part of Coke's campaign to pressure the World Health Organization to relax guidelines for sugar consumption by children in developing nations where the soda industry is aggressively expanding its markets.
The scientists complain that the "climate of disregard" at CDC puts "many" agency scientists in difficult positions. "We are often directed to do things we know are not right." The public record supports SPIDER's allegations that scientists who insist on research integrity suffer persecution by CDC supervisors.
- On Sept. 27, the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, announced further investigation of corruption in the agency's Zika testing program. That investigation arose from disclosures by laboratory chief Dr. Robert Lanciotti, supervisor of the CDC's prestigious Fort Collins, Colorado lab, that his CDC supervisors were deliberately using a Zika test that agency officials knew would underestimate the number of Zika cases nationwide by some 40 percent. Dr. Lanciotti initially raised the issues internally at CDC and in an email to state public health officials in April 2016. In May, his CDC supervisor responded to this boat rocking by demoting Lanciotti to a non-supervisory position within his lab. Dr. Lanciotti filed a whistleblower claim alleging that his punishment was retaliation for his disclosures. After its initial investigation, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel forced the CDC to reinstate Dr. Lanciotti as lab chief.
- In a 2010 scandal that predated the Flint, Michigan tragedy, Congress found that the CDC had deliberately manipulated scientific documents and purposefully made inaccurate claims about the safety of Washington, DC drinking water in order to mislead DC residents into believing that their water was safe. The congressional committee found that the CDC's deceit had caused thousands of DC residents to drink water highly contaminated with lead for years to the detriment of their health. As with the Coca Cola and Wise Woman Program scandals, the immediate victims of CDC scientific fraud and mismanagement were disproportionately poor and minority.
- In August 2014, CDC senior vaccine safety scientist, Dr. William Thompson, invoked federal whistleblower status and testified to Congressman William Posey that his CDC supervisors had ordered him to destroy data and manipulate studies to conceal injuries to black children from certain vaccines. According to Thompson's testimony to Congressman Posey, data analyzed by Thompson and a team of scientists for a key study showed that black boys who received the MMR vaccine on schedule, had a 250% increase in autism diagnoses. The data also pointed to the vaccine as a culprit in the epidemic of regressive autism in both white and black children. A high level CDC official, Dr. Frank DeStefano, ordered Thompson and his fellow scientists to destroy that data in a large garbage can and omit the damning findings from the published study. That study has been cited more than 110 times in published studies on PubMed, and forms the cornerstone of the CDC's orthodoxy that vaccines don't cause autism.
- One of the key figures in the cover up described by Dr. Thompson is the Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Dr. Colleen Boyle. Boyle's seminal career coup at the CDC was orchestrating the cover up of Agent Orange and dioxin toxicity in the 1970s. Boyle's handiwork deprived thousands of Vietnam veterans of health benefits until her fraud was uncovered and exposed in comprehensive investigations by Congress and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Instead of punishing Boyle for corruption and scientific fraud, the CDC rewarded her with a powerful directorship. From that platform, Boyle has managed the CDC's cover up of the vaccine-autism connection.
The recent SPIDER letter highlights the culture of deep-rooted scientific corruption that has metastasized across CDC and become the subject of a decade- long parade of investigations.
- On Aug. 23, 2000, following a three year investigation, a House Government Reform Committee staff report criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC for routinely allowing scientists with conflicts of interest to serve on two influential advisory committees that make recommendations on vaccine policy. The report concluded that, "the majority of members of both committees have financial ties to vaccine manufacturers or hold patents on vaccines under development."
- Three years later, a 2003 investigation by UPI's Mark Benjamin found that CDC had ignored Congress's recommendations for reform, which stated: "Members of the CDC's Vaccine Advisory Committee get money from vaccine manufacturers. Relationships have included: sharing a vaccine patent; owning stock in a vaccine company; payments for research; getting money to monitor manufacturer vaccine tests; and funding academic departments."
- A year later, in May of 2004, Special Counsel Scott Bloch, of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, sent a letter to Congress urging congressional action on evidence of scientific fraud in the CDC's vaccine division. Bloch described possible collusion between CDC officials and pharmaceutical companies to manipulate and destroy data in order to conceal the links between mercury-preserved vaccines and the exploding incidence of pediatric neurological disorders including autism.
- A month later, on June 18, 2004, Congressman Dave Weldon, MD took to the House floor to accuse CDC of failing to reform: "A public relations campaign, rather than sound science, seems to be the modus operandi of officials at the CDC's National Immunization Program." Congressman Weldon concluded that, "The CDC is too conflicted to oversee this vaccine safety function."
- In January 2006, amidst the corruption scandals, the prestigious journal Nature editorialized in reference to vaccine safety that, "there is a strong case for a well-resourced independent agency that commands the trust of both the government and the public."
- A year later, in 2007, Weldon and Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act of 2007, a bill to create a new agency to supervise vaccine safety that reported directly to the Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to mandate independent vaccine safety research. Weldon declared that, despite all the scandals and investigations, there were no signs of reform at CDC. "Federal agencies charged with overseeing vaccine safety research have failed," he said. "They have failed to provide sufficient resources for vaccine safety research. They have failed to adequately fund extramural research. And, they have failed to free themselves from conflicts of interest that serve to undermine public confidence in the safety of vaccines."
- In June of that year, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, published "CDC Off Center," yet another lengthy exposé of corruption and mismanagement at CDC. The report detailed "how an agency tasked with fighting disease has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars for failed prevention efforts, international junkets, and lavish facilities, but cannot demonstrate it is controlling disease."
- In December 2009, the HHS Inspector General published the results of a lengthy investigation of corruption in the CDC's vaccine division. That shocking report painted the CDC as a hopelessly corrupted arm of the pharmaceutical industry. It described, in detail, mismanagement, dysfunction and the alarming conflicts of interest that suborn the CDC's research, regulatory and policymaking functions. The report discloses how CDC allows vaccine industry profiteers to make millions of dollars by serving on advisory boards that add new vaccines to the schedule. In a typical example, Dr. Paul Offit, in 1999, sat on the CDC's vaccine advisory committee and voted to add the rotavirus vaccine to CDC's schedule, paving the way for him to make a fortune on his own rotavirus vaccine patent. Offit and his business partners sold the royalties to his rotavirus vaccine patent to Merck in 2006 for $182 million. Offit told Newsweek, "It was like winning the lottery!" HHS investigation revealed that 97% of CDC's scientific committee members failed to complete the mandatory conflict of interest disclosures and that as many as 64% of committee members disclosed conflicts of interest that were not acted upon by the CDC.
- In 2014, the chief of the HHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI), David Wright, announced his resignation in a scathing letter that characterized HHS as a remarkably dysfunctional agency. ORI's function is to monitor research misconduct including, "falsification" and "fabrication" of science at the CDC, FDA and other public health agencies. Calling the post, "The very worst job I've ever had," Wright decried an "intensely political environment" where his supervisors told him that his job was to be a "team player" and "to make my bosses look good" and where he spent "exorbitant amounts of time in meetings and in generating repetitive and often meaningless data and reports to make our precinct of the bureaucracy look productive," rather than pursuing its mission of detecting and punishing scientific fraud.
Given this long history of deeply entrenched scientific chicanery at the CDC, it's no surprise that scientists are now complaining. If Donald Trump is sincere about his promise to "Drain the Swamp" in the federal bureaucracy, he should begin by appointing an honest and able CDC director who can restore transparency, credibility, robust science and regulatory independence at the agency and who will turn around the culture of corruption that has been so damaging to children's health.
Thomas Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), has blocked CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, from testifying on scientific fraud and destruction of evidence by senior CDC officials in critical vaccine safety studies regarding the causative relationship between childhood vaccines and autism.
The medical malpractice case seeking Dr. Thompson's testimony is on behalf of 16-year-old Yates Hazlehurst. The lawsuit alleges that Yates is autistic as a result of vaccine injuries.
Attorneys Bryan Smith and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., of Morgan & Morgan, have been seeking to have Dr. Thompson testify in a medical malpractice case to explain how the CDC committed scientific fraud in a series of studies, which found no link between vaccines and autism.
In denying the request, Dr. Frieden said, "Dr. William Thompson's deposition testimony would not substantially promote the objectives of CDC or HHS [Health and Human Services]."
Dr. Thompson, a 19-year veteran at the CDC and former senior vaccine safety scientist at the agency's Immunology Safety Office, is the co-author of four key studies that the CDC widely touts to exonerate the MMR vaccine and vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, from being linked to autism. Thompson is currently employed at the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.
In August 2014, Dr. Thompson revealed that the data underlying CDC's principle vaccine safety studies demonstrated a causal link between vaccines and autism or autism symptoms, despite CDC's claims to the contrary. According to Thompson, based upon interpretation of the data, "There is biologic plausibility right now to say that thimerosal causes autism-like features." Dr. Thompson invoked federal whistleblower protection in August 2014.
Dr. William Thompson is listed as author or co-author on the principal studies—Thompson, et al. 2007, Price, et al. 2010, Destefano, et al. 2004—most widely cited to "debunk" the link between autism and vaccines. Thompson said that his bosses, including the CDC's Immunization Safety Office Branch Chief Frank Destefano, specifically ordered him and three other CDC scientists to destroy data demonstrating vaccine induced autism in CDC's seminal 2004 study—Destefano, et al. 2004. The data unexpectedly showed a 250 percent increase in autism among young black males who received the vaccine on time—before their third birthday—compared to those who waited until after their third birthday. The data also showed a significant link between the vaccine and isolated autism (autism in normally developing children with no other medical problems), the kind suffered by Yates Hazlehurst, who is mentioned below. According to Thompson, Destefano called his four co-authors into a room and ordered them to dump the damning datasets into a giant garbage can. The published study omitted those data sets. That study, now cited in 91 subsequent papers on PubMed as proof of vaccine safety, is the principle foundation stone of the theology that vaccines don't cause autism.
In a series of taped statements, a deposition to Congressman William Posey of Florida and in statements issued through his personal attorney, Thompson confirmed that the data underlying the seminal 2004 Atlanta study, Destefano, et al. 2004, showed a causal association between MMR and autism for both African-American boys and for children suffering isolated autism. Thompson also asserted that CDC's leading thimerosal studies, rather than demonstrating thimerosal's safety, have consistently showed a causal relationship between thimerosal and tics, a family of grave neurological injuries that are a well-established feature of autism.
The medical malpractice case seeking Dr. Thompson's testimony is on behalf of 16-year-old Yates Hazlehurst. The lawsuit alleges that Yates is autistic as a result of vaccine injuries, which occurred when the vaccines were improperly administered in 2001. Because of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 (VICA), Hazlehurst v. The Jackson Clinic is the only vaccine injury case that has gone to any U.S. court in 30 years.
Under the VICA and the 2009 Supreme Court decision Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, almost all vaccine injured children are barred from filing lawsuits in state or federal courts. Instead, their only legal remedy is to seek compensation under VICA in the so called "vaccine court," the popular term which refers to the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which administers a no-fault system for litigating vaccine injury claims. There is no judge, no jury and the most basic rules of law do not apply.
However, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services subsequently admitted that during the Omnibus Autism Proceeding it secretly settled and sealed what potentially would have been one of the six test cases, Poling v. HHS after HHS conceded that the vaccines did indeed cause her autism. By conceding the Poling case and opposing the parents motion for complete transparency, HHS concealed critical evidence of how vaccines can cause autism.
Dr. Thompson wants to reveal the scientific fraud and destruction of evidence that took place in the studies that he co-authored. However, in accordance with the Whistle Blower Protection Act and other federal regulations, Dr. Thompson can not testify under oath without the permission of the director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden.
Hazlehurst's attorneys, Smith and Kennedy, sought the permission of the CDC to allow Dr. Thompson to testify. The request on behalf of Hazlehurst specifically relates to the issue of causation, i.e. the issue of whether vaccines can cause autism, which the State of Tennessee Circuit Court Judge found to be both relevant and a proper basis for seeking the deposition of Dr. Thompson.
According to Kennedy, who argued before Tennessee Senior Circuit Court Judge William Acree that Dr. Thompson's testimony was necessary, "Yates, and almost 5,000 other vaccine injured autistic children, lost their cases in vaccine court because CDC and the Justice Department submitted fraudulent science wrongly denying the vaccine-autism link."
Kennedy explained that Dr. Thompson's testimony was necessary to explain details of the fraud. "Dr. Thompson will also rebut defense experts' testimony that Yates was not damaged because vaccines do not cause autism," Kennedy said.
Accepting the logic of Kennedy's argument, Judge Acree ordered on Feb. 5 that Dr. Thompson should be deposed. Following Judge's Acree's ruling, Smith filed a formal request to CDC to make Thompson available for deposition and trial testimony.
On Sept. 22, in a letter from CDC Director Thomas Freiden, CDC denied Smith's request. Smith explained that "this denial was a disappointment but not a surprise, since the inescapable implication of Dr. Thompson's testimony is that the agency fraudulently altered the science to undermine autism cases worth potentially $1 trillion in compensation ordered by Congress."
Smith and Kennedy plan to immediately appeal the CDC's denial to federal court.
"Since that original study data is only available from Dr. Thompson," Smith explained, "We are very confident that a federal judge will order CDC to make Thompson available."