Quickies

Skepchick Quickies, 12.13

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Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Can someone comment on the validity of the H1N1 thing? From what I gathered, it’s culling anecdotes gathered from a legitimate source (VAERS)? I’m not familiar with that method of analysis, but it seems odd. Is this a) a legitimate scientific tool, b) a perversion of a legitimate scientific tool or c) something completely off the cuff?

    The article concentrated on the CDC’s refusal to accept the data provided to it, but only noted the source of the data as an afterthought. No surprise there. And the commenters! Wow!

  2. The H1N1 story wasn’t biasly reported at all. /snark

    It is something that needs to be looked at but, as is often the case with this type of reporting (alt med sites), the absolute numbers are not included.

    Did the rate go from 100/10,000 to 700/10,000 (something that would truly be alarming) or did it go from 10/100,000 to 70/100,000 (something that should be looked at but is not nearly as alarming).

    Fucking statistics, how they work?

  3. One also wonders what the influence is of the H1N1 scare in getting more pregnant women than usual to vaccinate against the flu, thereby possibly also reducing the number of miscarriages among unvaccinated women. (I.e. pregnant women specifically getting the vaccine as per their doctor’s advice).

    Fucking statistics indeed. And some masturbating alt-medders.

  4. The girl OS thing is just an extension of certain guys (I am using that term because it is mostly young men) to sexualize EVERYTHING, even asexual stuff.

    Also see furries, “sexy” cartoon characters, and pretty much everything hentai. Gee, that stuff is mostly Japanese. WTF Japan, really.

    BTW I love Japanese stuff, but they WILL not be outweirded.

  5. The against-type jobs thing is indeed disheartening; another thing it can be called is human nature. Unfortunately the gender roles in society are laid down early and are hard to change because of it.

    “Nurses are women and doctors are men” is a hard thing to get past but it is happening in some occupations. Some are still almost completely closed (male secretaries are still rare as are female garbage collectors) and still others are completely closed (none of the big 4 sports currently has a woman player or coach). Anyone that stands out for any reason is going to stand out for both good and bad reasons. If you make a mistake everybody is watching.

    We can only keep working toward changing it but it is like steering a tanker.

  6. @exarch
    One also wonders what the influence is of the H1N1 scare in getting more pregnant women than usual to vaccinate against the flu, thereby possibly also reducing the number of miscarriages among unvaccinated women.

    That’s a good point.
    We were constantly being told that the most vulnerable should get the vaccine. Perhaps that pregnant women that considered themselves the most vulnerable would have been the most likely to have miscarriages. If that makes sense.

  7. The crap about the miscarriages – a bunch of cranks show up at a CDC hearing (for the wrong division, too – this isn’t a pediatric issue), dump a bunch of material which is not presented in any scientific format I’m familiar with, then issue a press release to garner publicity for their “cause”. It’s pretty obvious bullshit.

    The correct approach here would have been to write a proper scientific paper showing exactly what they’re trying to prove. They would then both submit it to a peer-reviewed journal and present a draft to the appropriate advisory committee at the CDC – probably the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, but what do I know. Then they could issue their press release with the abstract of the paper, allowing other scientists to analyze and comment on it.

    But again, these are cranks, not scientists.

  8. Purely anecdotal, but that gender one definitely rings true. My husband got a job as a veterinary assistant (essentially, he was a murse) and quickly found that he was being judged very harshly. He was on his feet all day, working as hard as he could, but his bosses consistently gave him more work than he could get done and then would have “chats” with him when he failed. Meanwhile, his female co-workers were given less work and could even take breaks without repercussions.

    He was also given all the more physically demanding jobs. So there’s some sexism that applies to the “lower level” pay scales as well.

    As for the H1N1 stuff, what an awful article! You can’t say that it’s linked to a 700% increase in miscarriages and then not give any information at all about where that number comes from! All they say about it was that it was “presented to the CDC” and that the CDC didn’t take them (whoever “them” is – also not indicated). If I were the CDC, I wouldn’t take it too seriously either if someone came up to me and just started screaming numbers in my face without any information about where their origin…

    I would love to have this looked into, but wow… total failure.

  9. @mrmisconception:
    Perhaps that pregnant women that considered themselves the most vulnerable would have been the most likely to have miscarriages. If that makes sense.

    Yes, a sort of self selective bias such as the one that says women who do midwife assisted home-births are less likely to have a miscarriage than those who go to hospital (because those women who are deemed to be too high risk aren’t allowed to even try home birthing and thus skew the statistics).

  10. The miscarriage story does not pass a basic math check.

    google average miscarriage rate -> 15%

    700% increase means rate = avg-rate *8

    Therefor the post N1H1 miscarriage rate must be 120% for the claim to be true. Even if they got step 2 wrong (and just did rate*7), it’s still 105%, “more than all” is tautologically incoherent.

    Even one birth by a mother that got the vaccine is a disproof of anything close to the claim being true.

  11. Isn’t there a formula we can use to predict how many miscarriages would be expected around the time of the H1N1 vaccines?

    Something along the lines of “If X number of women are preganant at anyg iven time, and Y% of all identified preganancies end up in miscarriage, and A% of the population was vaccinated against H1N1, then Z is your expected miscarriage rate for vaccinated pregant women.”

    Or, am I just thinking too simplisticly here?

  12. @dgandhi: Yes, but for every pregnant woman who got the H1N1 shot (and thus necessarily had a miscarriage), one in 5 (20%) of pregnant women who didn’t get the shot also had a miscarriage as a direct result. This is how you get 120% miscarriage rate.
    Therefore H1N1 vaccine is contagious.

  13. The “glass cliff” article seems to me a reasonable hypothesis but very far from proven. College president = Police chief? I don’t think so. But maybe they’re thinking NYC or LA police chief or the president of the Clayton College of Natural Health (defunct).

    I think you’d need a study of more situations, more subjects, and many more pairs of “comparable” jobs. But funny thing, the last item is the problem.

  14. Ok, so all three of the sources cited at the end of the H1N1/miscarriage story use the first link, to ProgressiveConvergence.com, as their ultimate source.

    Two of the links on the ProgressiveConvergence site use data pulled from the CDC and FDA’s VAERS system. The data is all anecdotal, and the onset of symptoms leading to miscarriages occurs anywhere from the day of vaccination to 135 days after vaccination. The VAERS site specifically states that their data contains “coincidental events and those truly caused by vaccines”, and that “A report to VAERS generally does not provide sufficient basis for concluding that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine receipt. “

    The rest of the links on the ProgressiveConvergence page are to press releases and summaries prepared by Eileen Dannemann, Co-Founder of the group. One of them, labeled “Statistical correction”, cites two sources – the VAERS and “other-sources”, which unless I missed something aren’t really well defined.

    None of this really convinces me that I should give credence to the site’s repeated accusations that the CDC is lying or ignoring the facts when they respond that there is no link between vaccinations and miscarriages.

    And, since I always like to get an idea where my info is coming from, according to her bio info from the About page, Eileen Dannemann is the Director of the National Coalition of Organized Women which the bio describes thusly “The National Coalition of Organized Women is a verb, an organizing force, a coalescing energy based on the Unified Field and quantum physics which defines it. ”

  15. Long time reader, first time commenter. Myself, my wife and my son were vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine. My wife was several months pregnant when she received it, and in April of this year she gave birth to a perfectly heathly baby girl. Not birth defects, in fact we had fewer issues with her then we did when my son was born, he was born with layrengomalacia but it cleared up within a month after his birth. If there is anything i can contribute to help just let me know!

  16. If you look at all of the links in that h1n1 site they all point to basically the same site, which isn’t the CDC site at all. Eventually after clicking around for a while they have a link back to an actual CDC press release which doesn’t say a single word about miscarriages at all. The article and its sources appear to be complete bullshit.

  17. yeah dgandhi that’s what I was boggling about. Only the rate of miscarriage I thought was 30%, when you consider earlier miscarriages as well (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE0DC1439F934A15754C0A96E948260).

    When you consider the percent of conceptuses which don’t make it to birth… it’s over 75%. But most of those don’t ever even implant and become a pregnancy in the first place and it’s super hard to measure anyway.

    A 700% increase just seemed absurd.

  18. I usually don’t personify computers or software, but the closest I can come is the younger son of one of the warlords in Yojimbo. (You know the guy I mean, with a round face, pudgy, really, really stupid. Though there is no physical resemblance, I think he was the model for Fredo Corleone. I’ve seen the same actor in other Kurosawa films playing much more sympathetic and intelligent roles.)

  19. I was distracted from reading the article on H1N1 vaccines and miscarriage by the ads for cancer cures, colloidal silver, and intestinal cleansers over on the right of the page :-)

    But seriously, I’d like to see an analysis of the claims on that site on science-based medicine or something. The most obvious thing that stuck out to me was the equating of correlation with causality, though there’s a lot of other things wrong with it.

  20. @Dave: You nailed it. We know these people. They start with a conclusion. No matter how well reality cooperates, their story was going to be that the vaccine was causing miscarriages and there is a government/pharma conspiracy to fool us citizens. There is so little (nothing) right about the article scientifically that it’s not even worth pointing out what’s wrong with it. It’s the same made-up crap that’s the usual Natural News fare.

  21. Regarding the “glass cliff” study, but tangential to it: Has there been any quantity of quality research done in regard to jobs with sex imbalance and to what degree the “locked out” sex actually wants that job?

    Shouldn’t that be a rather critically important topic of study if we really honestly want to get to the bottom of sex/employment inequality?

  22. @Buzz Parsec: I also considered the possibility that the jab significantly increased the level of impregnation, that the number of miscarriages could increase by 700%, yet the number of live births would still remain the same, which makes the N1H1 jab one hell of a fertility drug.

  23. @dgandhi: Aha! I was thinking of the RATE of miscarriage, which is what the article says, but they might have actually meant the NUMBER of miscarriages. That makes more sense, as you pointed out. Just yesterday, I was watching a video where some homeopathic doctor was explaining the relativistic underpinnings of homeopathy. Since as Einstein showed. E=mc^2, when m=0, E=0*c^2 = c. Therefore energy equals the speed of light.

    Not only are they entitled to their own set of facts, they are also entitled to their own algebra, where multiplying by zero is equivalent to taking the square root, and rate equals number.

    I never realized this before. No wonder I don’t understand their higher logical.

  24. As mentioned earlier re the H1N1 flu vaccine, Mike Adams and his Natural News are total top to bottom quackers. And at work my operating system is a cranky old spastic retired circus clown or juggleo of undetermined gender.

  25. Yes, I posted that last link specifically so people could help debunk it. It’s not enough to simply say, “It’s on that site, therefore it’s not true” – I think we should examine it, understand what claims they’re making, and figure out how to counter them. Thanks for everyone pitching in!

  26. @Mark Hall: “I’m hesistant to label my OS as male or female, given that it seems to suffer from DID and, possibly, demonic possession.”

    Well, is it a he-demon or a she-demon? The exorcism methods are very different.

    If it’s a he-demon, pop ‘Secret of the Ya Ya Sisterhood’ in the DVD. If it’s a she demon, throw your dirty socks on the tower.

  27. @Buzz Parsec:
    Aha! I was thinking of the RATE of miscarriage, which is what the article says, but they might have actually meant the NUMBER of miscarriages.

    Wait, you mean they counted the number of women who reported having had a miscarriage on the VAERS site in 2008 and compared that to the 2009 dataset (222 cases apparently) and quickly calculated the percentage?

    Working those numbers backwards to their presumed origin, I predict we’ll find that there were approximately between 27 and 32 anecdotes in the 2008 dataset which reported a miscarriage as one of the events following the vaccine.

    But how likely is it there was a simple 8-fold increase in VAERS reports merely because of the H1N1 scare?

  28. @dgandhi: @mrmisconception: Fertility’s nothing. I just reported to VAERS that after getting my flu shot, I have developed the ability to fly. I’m about to have a press conference to announce that the flu vaccine is responsible for an infinity % increase in the ability to fly.

    It looks like what they did was raise unfounded concerns that the H1N1 vaccine might cause miscarriage and urge people to report any miscarriages to VAERS, whereas in years past, most people wouldn’t have associated a miscarriage with the vaccine. After fulfilling their own prophecy, they themselves reported this to the CDC. And when the CDC fails to cooperate with their fear-mongering, it is of course proof of the conspiracy.

    There are certain things absent in this article that would not be left out by folks with nothing to hide, such as their source for the elevated miscarriage rate (to a mathematically impossible extent, cleverly pointed out by @dgandhi: ), and the actual numbers rather than arbitrary, free-floating statistics. Also, I love how anything that happened in 2009/2010 points “directly to the vaccine” (is correlation vs. causation that hard to understand?), the conclusion that “the CDC does not care about the facts” rather than the more reasonable possibility that the CDC recognizes that these are not facts, and the coy use of the passive voice at the beginning, “data presented to. . .” to encourage the assumption that this was some kind of official report rather than the crankery of Eileen Dannemann (a one-woman homage to the naturalistic fallacy) as you find out later in the article.

  29. Re: the against-type thing:

    Um, duh.

    I worked for an engineering firm when I first got out of school doing Environmental Site Assessments . The only woman in the company who wasn’t an AA, everything I did was heavily scrutinized. I’m sure I made mistakes – I was young, it was new to me – but I had been assigned one of the senior members of the department as my mentor, and asked a lot of questions. I did what he was doing and got punished for it – the bosses just went “Oh well, that’s John”. Nice.

    My favorite? This was in the DC area, so I was doing an ESA on a property for sale that ended up being on the fringes of Spring Valley. For those of you not familiar DC, this is a part of the city that during WWI was used by the army for testing chemical warfare. They’ve been digging up unexploded chemical ordinance for years.

    I did the obligatory in-house research: going through 10 years of ESA’s produced by the staff (most of whom were still there). 4 were in that neighborhood, one within the previous 12 months, done by one of the most respected members of the staff. Not one even mentioned the munitions, and the other agency research I did also had no munitions within a 1/2 mile radius.

    Because no one had mentioned it in previous ESA’s, DC’s Dept. of the Environment didn’t note this particular area as having historically been a part of the Spring Valley problem, and my mentor said it probably wasn’t relevant, I left it out of the report.

    Sent to the head of my department for review, he literally called me on the carpet in his office after he went over it. Where he commenced to YELLING at me that I “missed” the whole Spring Valley issue. Stunned and angry, I fixed it. And then sent him an e-mail with a list of the in-house reports I’d reviewed that didn’t include the Spring Valley information, stating he might want to address the lack of that information with the clients and the engineers who wrote the report.

    I got a half-mumbled apology – that was it. Not surprisingly, I quit some time later.

  30. Did they say that the OsTan started as a way of symbolizing the inadequacy of an operating system? And do they’re all girls? Makes perfect sense in the stereotypical girlophobic version of geekdom that may or may not exist (and/or in Japan, generally?).

    My operating system is an unforgiving but extraordinarily loyal and efficient empress penguin who is a lot more powerful than I’m capable of understanding. She disguises herself as a gnome so as to avoid intimidating me, which I appreciate.

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