Reposted from Age of Autism.
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Thursday’s hearing before the House oversight committee (view the autism hearing here: “US Lawmakers Look into Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism”) will surely be remembered as a landmark. By the end of the day, the government spokesmen from the NIH and the CDC seemed to be the ones people were looking at funny, while those who raised concerns about autism and vaccines seemed positively mainstream.
It didn’t help that the CDC’s Coleen Boyle testified under oath that fraudster Poul Thorsen had only been involved in a couple of studies with the CDC. Shortly thereafter, a congressman introduced into evidence a list of more than 20 he had worked on. I feel like calling the CDC and asking: “Has Ms. Boyle retained counsel in anticipation of a possible perjury charge?”
The questions were tough and bipartisan — from Republicans like longtime thimerosal foe Dan Burton (above, with Mark Blaxill) to Chairman Darrell Issa, who said no topic would be out of bounds as the committee continues to probe. Democrat Carolyn Maloney, who has tried to get a vax-unvax study through the House for years, gave ’em the what-for once again. And while I have seen Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings on TV, I wasn’t prepared for the common-sense and deeply troubled approach he brought to the proceedings. The look on his expressive face was priceless. His comment, “There’s something wrong with this picture,” may go down in history with gems like Jim Carey’s “The problem is the problem.”
Cummings pointed out the animated, frustrated faces of the audience, many of whom I know quite well. Their collective eye-rolling served as a great backdrop for the in-credible defense of the federal response to autism and vaccine safety worries. And while CDC-types consider individuals as little more than walking anecdoctal evidence, to elected officials they are the voters who put them there and can kick ’em out.
As a general proposition, it is fair to say that the people responsible for running the country do not like hearing that we have double any other nation’s vaccine schedule, with a miserable infant mortality rate and an autism epidemic to show for it.
The interagency autism coordination committee (IACC) began to look like the villain it is in this disaster. One congressman even asked for questions that the panel could use if it decided to bring in the IACC for questioning.
It was just one day, but it had the feel of a new one. Our own Mark Blaxill did a fabulous job of presenting the key elements in the argument that autism is environmental, and that mercury and vaccines are so far the most plausible suspects. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey asked him to submit evidence of scientists who have been blackballed or shoved aside for tackling uncomfortable subjects.
It’s been said that the only way to win this battle was to storm the halls of Congress. We saw a version of that Thursday: “The troops have landed on Normandy Beach,” Brooke Potthast e-mailed me afterward, and it seems like the perfect metaphor. “It may take more time, but today was significant and historic.”
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
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