Saturday, February 28, 2009

Search for LA serial killer still cold;_ylt=Av.lJnNC1A4kMuS8NmZpElxbIwgF

Police tracking a Los Angeles serial killer nicknamed the "Grim Sleeper" have very few leads in the 24-year-old case. The killer first struck in 1985, and took a 14-year hiatus between before striking again in 2007. One witness who called to report a suspicious man dumping something in a trash bin, then speeding away in a van, refused to give police his name, saying that he "knows too many people." The killer, like many American serial murderers before him, kills prostitutes and minorities, likely knowing that the general public and police won't pay as much attention to such crimes. But the killer made a mistake that is almost always fatal: he left a living victim, who has given a description to police after being picked up by a man, then shot and left for dead.

In New Mexico, at least ten bodies have been found in one section of desert. The ones that have been identified are young women, one of whom was pregnant. The article didn't say how long the bodies have been there, but while reading it, I thought of New Mexico torture killer David Parker Ray, who claimed many victims whose bodies were never found. Ray, with a female accomplice, kidnapped, tortured and murdered a young woman, and was arrested when his partner turned him over to police, and because he left a living victim who identified him. When asked in an interview why she went along with Ray's sadistic activities, his partner recalled a sick fascination with Ray, along with a fear of him. Are the new bodies more victims of David Parker Ray, or is New Mexico plagued with another killer targeting young women?

Friday, February 13, 2009

US court dismisses anti-vaccine suits

US scientists and courts have made official what the legitimate scientific community has known for years; there is no concrete link between childhood vaccinations and autism. This absurd and potentially dangerous claim was publicized by a small but very loud group of confused parents looking for something to blame in the face of their ignorance of a child's disorder, and misguided members of the medical fringe. Their argument was based on hearsay and the perceived surge of diagnosed autistic children in recent years. Although responsible doctors and scientists made clear through studies that there was no clear link, this group of the misinformed tried to convince the world of their baseless theory, using the typical "alternative medicine" argument that the medical establishment is purely profit-based, and therefore wants children vaccinated. Children are vaccinated because it works. When I was a kid, I never knew anyone with measles, mumps, rubella or meningitis. In one publicized case, parents of a little girl who died of meningitis revealed that they never had the girl vaccinated because they bought into the anti-vaccine hysteria.
I was skeptical of the supposed vaccine-autism connection from the start, for two reasons. One, while it appears that there are currently more autistic children than ever, most likely there are no more than there have ever been. The reason it appears that way is because of the publicity and increased knowledge of autism in the last five to ten years. Whereas before, if a child had autism or Asperger's Syndrome, there was no name for it, and very little knowledge of what that name would mean for the child. When I was growing up, no one, including me, knew why I didn't fit in with the rest of the world. But now I know what it is, and can recognize the signs if I see them. It's not that there are more cases of autism, it's that now we know what to look for, and when we know what to look for, we can see more clearly. Another possible reason why there may be more cases in recent years could be that, with the advent of autistic-friendly professions like computing and engineering, those with autism spectrum conditions are more likely to marry and have children, and scientists are looking into the possibility that autism may have a genetic component.
The other reason I never bought the vaccines cause autism argument is that it seemed improbable. Millions of children are vaccinated, and only a small percentage show any sign of an autism spectrum disorder. My sister, brother and I were all vaccinated, and only I ended up with Asperger's Syndrome. My brother could even be described as "anti-autistic" since he's highly social and has a comfort around other people that I could never attain or understand. Also, my grandfather, a retired IBM engineer, has all the signs of Asperger's, but he grew up long before the diagnosis existed, therefore was never identified as such. Also, I don't think he was given the now common childhood vaccines. In conclusion, this ruling marks a victory for medicine and a blow to the lunatic fringe who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to attempt a reversal of medical advances and go back to the age of common childhood illnesses.
Tomorrow, I have an interview for a temp job. The hostile environment of gossipy moron coworkers at my current job has me at the breaking point. Job interviews have always been tough for me, because they require eye contact, quick thinking in response to questions, and cloaking the truth in more friendly and palatable language, things I and other with autism spectrum disorders cannot do easily. But this time, Anthony, who regularly conducts interviews, offered help, and now I know what kind of answers are expected and how I can give the interviewer what they want without having to lie. It will still be a hellish 20-30 minutes, but being coached might help me get a job that I desperately need.