April 14, 2014

For many years now, the internet has been giving celebrity vaccine deniers like Jenny McCarthy a lot of grief, on account of all the, you know, children killed due to vaccine refusals. Apparently some of that finally got through, because over the weekend McCarthy published an aggrieved op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times claiming she's been misrepresented:

I am not "anti-vaccine." This is not a change in my stance nor is it a new position that I have recently adopted. For years, I have repeatedly stated that I am, in fact, "pro-vaccine" and for years I have been wrongly branded as "anti-vaccine." [Chicago Sun-Times]

Nope! As detailed here and here, McCarthy has, for years, loudly and angrily asserted scientifically false things about vaccines: most prominently, that they're filled with toxins, and that they cause autism. No, this is a tactical retreat to a less outrageous anti-vaccine position, motivated by the total scientific and ethical collapse of the purported vaccine-autism link. Because despite her attempted whitewash of history, McCarthy is still effectively scaremongering about vaccines:

I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit. I've never told anyone to not vaccinate. Should a child with the flu receive six vaccines in one doctor visit? Should a child with a compromised immune system be treated the same way as a robust, healthy child? Shouldn't a child with a family history of vaccine reactions have a different plan? Or at least the right to ask questions? [Chicago Sun-Times]

As Aaron Carroll points out, these less alarming "questions" about vaccines are either strawmen or scientifically bogus:

She asks that we consider the "gray zone." But in many areas, there is no gray zone. Do vaccines cause autism? No... Do they overwhelm the immune system? No... She's conflating totally different things here... She asks if a sick kid should get vaccines. If they're not more than mildly ill, yes. Maybe if they'd gotten the flu vaccine they wouldn't have the flu. She brings up immunocompromised kids, but they absolutely do get considered differently already. No decent physician would not consider a child's individual medical history. Same with those kids with a history of adverse reactions. We consent people for vaccines, and ask if they've had bad reactions before.

And no one, absolutely no physician I know, refuses to answer the questions of parents. [The Incidental Economist]

Yet again, she's been sowing scientific controversy where there is none. Sorry we hurt your feelings, Jenny, but lives are literally at stake here. Ryan Cooper

This just in
3:34 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Update 4:54 p.m.: After the most recent exchange of gunfire, a fourth officer was found wounded inside a Planned Parenthood clinic. In addition to the officers, police now say that civilians have been injured, and seven people have been transported to the hospital, although it is unclear if that number includes the police officers. While police previously said that the gunman involved was contained, they later confirmed they were still looking for the person.

On Friday afternoon, Colorado Springs police officers responded to reports of an active shooter at a Planned Parenthood clinic, reports the Associated Press, initially notifying residents and the media via Twitter to stay away from the scene because it was not secure. The gunman allegedly barricaded himself inside the building, reportedly injuring at least three police officers before he was eventually contained. Stephanie Talmadge

Only in America
2:15 p.m. ET

A Columbia University student claims that she's been deeply traumatized by reading too many books about white people. Nissy Aya told a university panel that the school's required "core" courses forced her to look at history "through the lens of these powerful, white men." As a result of feeling "no power or agency as a black woman," she said, it will take her six years to graduate. The Week Staff

foreign policy woes
1:58 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

This weekend, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson will make a surprise trip to Jordan to tour a Syrian refugee camp, according to the New York Times. His advisers have framed the trip as an effort on Carson's behalf to improve his understanding of the refugee crisis, which has recently come under harsh criticism.

Prepared with Beanie Babies and soccer balls to distribute to the refugee children, Carson's trip will include a tour of the Azraq hospital and clinic near Amman. "I want to hear some of their stories," said Carson. "I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression."

Prior to the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, Carson held strong leads in some state and national polls, but his support has waned as national security concerns mount and the neurosurgeon has come under intense fire for his lack of foreign policy knowledge. Last week, Carson's senior foreign policy adviser told the Times in an interview that "nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East." Stephanie Talmadge

For those who have everything
1:18 p.m. ET
Courtesy image

America's second-largest toymaker is "reaching out to that last frontier of consumers: seniors," says Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. Hasbro's new Joy for All Companion Pets ($100) promise to provide Grandma or Granddad with hours of virtual companionship in a small, battery-operated package. Three cat models are already available, and each uses motion sensors and light sensors to help it respond to being petted and hugged. You can hear and feel it purring, and it'll even roll over if petted long enough. The concept "might sound a little depressing," but even a lonely septuagenarian can appreciate the appeal of a pet that demands only affection — "not feeding or bathroom breaks." The Week Staff

retail therapy
12:39 p.m. ET
Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Ah, Black Friday: the post-Thanksgiving feast day of digestion that is perhaps best known for turning American shoppers into monsters, as they abandon their visiting families to camp outside big box retailers and compete for the best holiday deals. While we all know the basics of the retail-frenzied occasion, many may be surprised to learn the long history of how the biggest shopping day of the year came into its name:

  • Since the early 1900s, the post-Thanksgiving weekend has signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping rush, with New York City retailers fully embracing the marketing opportunity in the '20s by releasing Christmas ads and staging events, including a little parade you may have heard of — Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — which debuted in 1924.
  • In 1939, the holiday had already become so important to merchants that President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a week earlier to extend the buying period.
  • By the '50s, factory managers began referring to the day as "Black Friday" due to the rampant failure of employees to show up for work.
  • Philadelphia's police officers during the '60s used the term to refer to the swaths of jaywalking shoppers who flooded the city's downtown.
  • While the term continued to grow in popularity to connote the shopping frenzy, it wasn't until the 80's that the name took on a positive connotation, as shop managers pointed out that the holiday rush put "black ink," signaling profits, rather than loss-signaling red ink, on their revenue reports for the first time all year.

There you have it, but with Black Friday's continued encroaching on its Thanksgiving precursor and increasingly violent reputation, perhaps the name will once again revert to its negative origins. Stephanie Talmadge

Only in America
12:16 p.m. ET

Two men were booted off a Southwest Airlines flight when a paranoid passenger overheard them speaking Arabic. The men were allowed onto the plane after being questioned by police, but were then forced by other passengers to open a small white box they were carrying — which was full of sweets. "So I shared my baklava with them," said one of the men. The Week Staff

police shootings
11:28 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Demonstrators in Chicago protesting the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer have scheduled a Friday march in the city's best-known retail district to disrupt Black Friday shopping. The city released several dashcam videos earlier this week showing Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged Tuesday with murder, repeatedly shooting the teen. The videos, which oddly capture little audio, touched off two nights of mostly peaceful demonstrations calling for an independent investigation.

Following the charges filed against Van Dyke, Rev. Jesse Jackson held several meetings Wednesday with elected officials and community leaders to form a response to McDonald's killing, reports the Chicago Tribune. "The whole idea is that we need a massive demonstration," Jackson said in an interview. "And a massive quest for justice." Stephanie Talmadge

See More Speed Reads