A little link love

And now for something a little different.
Instead of my normal post, I’m going to send out some link love.
Firstly, a Dr Joel Harrison read Andrew Wakefield’s “autobiography” Callous Disregard, and found a large number of factual errors (more correctly called “lies”). He was annoyed enough to write an article dismantling them. The article is 17 pages long, a PDF and over 3 Megs in size. If you still wish to read it, here it is.
Secondly, after angering autistics with their call to action and doubling down when they were criticised, Autism Speaks upped the ante with a film “Sounding the alarm”. Todd W has reviewed it. Please go over and say hello.

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Some vaccine news

The first measles outbreak of the year has occurred already.
On the good news front, India is officially polio-free. The last recorded case occurred three years ago. Congratulations to India.
Also on the good news front, the South African Health Department has decided to roll out hpv vaccines for schoolgirls. Good work Dr Motsoaledi.

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Some films I watched in 2013

Happy New Year, everybody.
Last year, I gave reviews of every film I saw in 2012. I’m not going to do a full list this year, just a few films that I watched. They are in no set order.

Life of Pi
The story of a man named Piscine (“Pi” for short) born in India. The story is narrated by Pi to a journalist. His family owns a zoo. The family decides to take the animals to Canada. The ship sinks and Pi, the only survivor, is stuck on a lifeboat with the zoo’s tiger as his only companion.
Pi is an unreliable narrator.

The Sessions
I’ve already written about this film. Poet Mark O’Brien, a victim of paralytic polio, lost his virginity with the help of Sex Surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene. There is full-frontal nudity, but it is handled tastefully. If you get the chance, rent or buy the DVD.

Despicable Me 2
The followup to “Despicable Me”. Despite protesting that he is no longer a working villain, Gru is roped in to help crack a difficult case. Some very adult but well-disguised humour.

This did not deserve its Oscar for best film. An entertaining look at how staff members of the US Embassy in Iran were exfiltrated (yes, that IS the word they used) under the cover of being a group scouting Iran for areas to shoot a science fiction film named “Argo”. The best part? “What does Argo mean?” “It’s short for Argh go fuck yourself.”

This film was largely snubbed by the Oscars. Yes, Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar, but I still think that the makeup people should have been recognised. They made Day-Lewis into Lincoln.

Escape from Planet Earth
An alien story in reverse, where the main character from another planet comes to Earth to rescue his brother, trapped when a distress call turns out to be a trap.

The Heat
A buddy cop film with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in the lead roles. Ridiculous, fun and very entertaining.

Monsters University
The most disappointing film of the year for me. This prequel to Monsters Inc. showed the backstory of Sullivan and Mike. The plot was forced, cliched and implausible, even within the film’s universe. Instead of letting the story develop naturally, Pixar straitjacketed it into following a formula and it shows.

The Bling Ring
Based on the article “The suspects wore Louboutins”, this was about a gang of teenaged thieves who burgled the homes of celebrities in Hollywood. At the end, the gang is sentenced. I was quite shocked to learn that the two ringleaders had to pay $800,000 in restitution each. That’s several times my net worth. The best part was Emma Watson. She has left Hermione behind for good. She plays a vapid, shallow self-absorbed person that left me disgusted, and very impressed with her acting abilities.

Ender’s Game
Written and directed by South African born Gavin Hood from a novel by Orson Scott Card. After an alien invasion by a race called the formics, Earth is determined to prevent the immense casualties it suffered in repelling the invasion from ever recurring. Because teenagers can process information faster than adults, they are trained as soldiers to repel the next invasion. Ender Wiggin is the best, and is appointed the leader of Earth’s forces. There is a twist that I managed to guess, but it’s still shocking.

The last film I saw in 2013. Loosely based on “The Snow Queen”, it has some very clever plot twists. I enjoyed it.

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Autism Speaks: Follow Up Post

Merry Christmas, Channukah Tovah, Seasons Greetings.
This is a followup to my earlier post about Autism Speaks’ misguided call to action.
It turms out that their behaviour was even worse than that. I’d heard of “Autism every day” and the action call. I’d forgotten that Autism Speaks had also put out “I am autism”.
I’m a fan of several blogs and blogging collectives. One is “Scientopia“, and one of the bloggers on Scientopia is Namnezia. His latest post is “Speaking Spookily About Autism“. He saw an advert from Autism Speaks featuring Toni Braxton and her autistic son. The last sentence of the post reads “Why are they casting these what I imagine are well meaning ads with such a tragic, dehumanizing rhetoric?” I’ve also been in a fight over at Left Brain Right Brain in these two posts.
The bottom line is Autism Speaks uses the rhetoric of “Autism is a tragedy”. Such rhetoric dehumanises autistics, even though that is not the intention. In addition, instead of listening to the complaints of autistics and their families, Autism Speaks tried to frame the debate as “high-functioning vs. low functioning”, conveniently forgetting that even high-functioning autistics need support.
Not only does Autism Speaks not speak for autistics, it doesn’t even bother to listen to us.

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An interesting and plausible hypothesis

There is an article doing the rounds on the internet. It’s title is “The boy whose brain could unlock autism“. It’s about Kai Markram, whose father Henry has come up with a new hypothesis for autism. Please, go and read it.
The hypothesis is the “intense world” syndrome. They describe it thusly:

Rather than being oblivious, autistic people take in too much and learn too fast. While they may appear bereft of emotion, the Markrams insist they are actually overwhelmed not only by their own emotions, but by the emotions of others.

This fits in with other facts. Autistics often suffer sensory overload. Around 18 months, there is a rapid die-off of brain cells. In autistics, this either doesn’t happen, or isn’t as big. On a personal note, I often find it difficult to read stories about injustices as my brain imagines me in the shoes of the wronged party. Finally, autistics have had their brains MRI’d, and it was found that the brains needed more oxygen. To me, this hypothesis is quite plausible.
As a side note, I believe that Henry Markram is himself autistic, and may want to get tested.

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New treatments for autism? Yeah…don’t hold your breath

I read an article on News24 about two promising looking treatments for autism. The first one was feeding autistics the eggs of an intestinal worm found in pork. The second was giving autistics baths at temperatures of 102°F (40°C). Both supposedly trigger an anti-inflammatory response in the immune system and thus reduce the severity of autism symptoms.
Even leaving aside the small sample sizes, I’m unimpressed. The article says:

“The findings verify earlier reports that about one-third of people with autism show an improvement in symptoms when they suffer a fever, the researchers said in background information.
Parents have said when their child got fevers, they see a marked improvement in autism symptoms.”

So an autistic who is running a fever is more docile and has less energy to act up. This is Captain Obvious type research. I was very sick last month to the point of needing an injection in the backside, and I was more docile and had less energy to act up. As for the very hot baths, a lot of people (not just autistics) enjoy very hot baths and showers. Once again, I’m one of them. A hot wash is very relaxing. Of course an autistic is going to have less severe symptoms after having a steaming hot soak. The researchers look to be drawing a very long bow in reaching their conclusions.
If you want to give your autistic child a nice hot bath or shower and said child likes hot baths or showers, go ahead. Just realise that it works because it’s relaxing, not because of an anti-inflammatory response, and it works on nonautistics as well.

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Susan Boyle is on the spectrum

Well, that’s interesting
Susan Boyle has Asperger’s Syndrome.

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