Friday, December 14, 2012

Autism Hearing Transcript: Dr. Alan Guttmacher

Before the first panel of expert witnesses started to speak, Rep. Issa spoke briefly to take care of some procedural business and to swear in the witnesses: 
Still image of Rep. Darrell Issa, taken from this video
I thank the gentleman [referring to Rep. Kucinich, who has just yielded back the floor]. 

On all sides, I now ask unanimous consent that our colleague from New Jersey, Mr. Smith, be allowed to participate in today’s hearing. Without objection, so ordered. 

I will announce that if any individuals would like to be in a little more comfortable situation, we do have an overflow room, so just let our staff know, they’d make sure that, if they gave up their seat here, that they’d be able to be in the overflow room. It may be more comfortable for some of our guests.

I now turn to our first panel. The distinguished Dr. Alan Guttmacher is director of the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health --- and I actually knew the namesake of your organization, during her time --- and Dr. Coleen Boyle is director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC.

With that, pursuant to the requirements and rules of this Committee, would you please rise to take the oath
(pauses while Drs. Guttmacher and Boyle stand up)

Raise your right hands.

Do you both solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

(Drs. Guttmacher and Boyle nod their heads)

Thanks. Please be seated, and let the record indicate both witnesses answered in the affirmative.

You are important witnesses and we will not stop you if you go slightly over five minutes, but we do have a large second panel and we would ask that you bear in mind that all of your opening statements and additional extraneous material you may choose to submit to us will be placed in the record, so if you abbreviate or go off-message, it doesn’t change the official record for you. And, with that, Dr. Guttmacher, you are recognized.
Still image of Dr. Alan Guttmacher taken from this video
And here is Dr. Guttmacher's speech:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am also a pediatrician and medical geneticist, and a member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC, re-authorized most recently by the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011.

Let me thank the Congress for its continued support of research and other activities regarding autism spectrum disorders. That support has made possible remarkable advances in autism research and helped to better identify and meet the needs of people with ASD and their families.

ASD includes diverse conditions that share distinctive styles of, or impairments in, communication skills and social interactions, as well as restricted, repetitive, or stereotyped behaviors. The combination and degree of impairments vary, creating an array of conditions that range from what many would see as normal to significantly disabling. Two decades ago, ASD was thought rare. Today, with CDC’s latest prevalence estimates, it is a national health priority.

The IACC plays a pivotal role in bringing together federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the public to identify priorities and strategies to address them. It includes individuals on the autism spectrum, parents of children and adults with ASD, other advocates, researchers and service providers, and officials from federal agencies. The IACC welcomes public comment at all full committee meetings, and regularly invites written public comments and holds town halls. Thus, a diversity of perspectives on ASD informs IACC activities and recommendations. It is a committed group; while the law requires two meetings a year, the committee and its subcommittees meet as many as seventeen times a year. The law charges the IACC to update a strategic plan annually. We are drafting --- as always, with autism community input --- a 2012 update that includes the latest advances, remaining gaps, and emerging needs in autism research. The plan encompasses priorities from fundamental biology to services across the life span.

Over the past decade, autism research funding has grown substantially. The NIH leads federal research in ASD, investing $169 million in fiscal year 2011, three times more than ten years ago. In 2009 and 2010, $122 million in additional American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds were also invested.

As Congress has emphasized, early diagnosis and intervention are critical. This year, NIH-funded researchers identified brain pattern aberrations as early as six months of age in infants who went on to develop autism, the earliest such changes ever recorded in autism, and one of a number of recent findings which suggest that the factors causing autism may operate very early in development. Last year, researchers demonstrated that doctors’ offices can use a short questionnaire to screen inexpensively for ASD at the one-year well-child visit. Another promising diagnostic tool, a one-minute test that detects eye-gaze patterns specific to autism, had nearly 100% specificity in infants as young as fourteen months.

But early diagnosis is valuable only if effective interventions are available. Recent ASD trials have validated early interventions to improve health outcomes and quality of life. For instance, a recent behavioral intervention study showed improved IQ, language, and social development in young children, and progress is also being made on interventions for adults. A recent study showed, for instance, that for the many adults with ASD who have impaired ability to recognize faces, a computerized training program improved facial-recognition skills.

Many recent advances have come from NIH's Autism Centers for Excellence program, which currently supports nine centers and networks across the country, with two additional awards expected in 2013. The research covers a variety of topics aligned with the IACC strategic plan, including nonverbal ASD, genetic and environmental risk factors, potential treatments, and determining why ASD is five times more common among boys.

We do not know the causes of ASD, but recent findings highlight the need to focus on both environment and genetics. NIH and CDC established large research networks to collect extensive data on environmental exposures and health outcomes, and conduct powerful analyses to identify factors that contribute to autism. Those networks explore possible causative factors in the environment before, during, and after pregnancy. Just this week, one of these networks published a study that suggests prenatal and early-life exposure to car emissions is associated with autism.

On the services front, HRSA has invested substantially in improving physical and behavioral health of people with ASD, practitioner training and service provision. In fiscal year 2012, Congress appropriated over $47 million to HRSA for autism and other developmental disorders. This supports 43 interdisciplinary training programs which provide services and training to 41 states, and include autism intervention projects for underserved populations. Federal agencies also use public-private partnerships to maximize our work, such as NIH’s National Database for Autism Research, which coordinates with other autism data repositories to enhance researchers’ access to data.

Programs like these, that involve collaboration with patients and families, bring together hundreds of researchers and clinicians with tens of thousands of people nationwide affected by ASD. The Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, with help from several nonprofit organizations, supports the Autism Now project, offering a call center, web-based clearinghouse for resources and twice-weekly autism webinars. The NIH-supported Association for University Centers on Disabilities is improving early identification of autism through 25 Act Early ambassadors who train doctors in identifying, diagnosing, and managing ASD.

In conclusion, since the establishment of the IACC, a wide variety of research, service, and education expertise have come to bear on autism. Research is rapidly translating into practical tools for use in the clinic and the community. Federal agencies are coordinating efforts to identify best practices to support the lifelong health, education and employment needs of people on the spectrum.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony on such an important topic. 
(end transcript)

You can see the Strategic Plan he talks about here. It is structured as a list of seven questions for the IACC to use as guiding principles in deciding which research projects to fund. In each annual update to the Strategic Plan, they list what research has been done relating to each question, and what gaps remain in their knowledge.

These are the seven questions, with a little more explanation on the ones I think are vague or overbroad:
1) When Should I Be Concerned? - developing new diagnostic tools, especially for use at younger ages, and improving existing ones

2) How Can I Understand What Is Happening? - fundamental biology research, including topics like brain structure, brain activity, gene expression, animal models, the role of glial cells, and how the various genetic mutations that have been found to be associated with autism affect brain development and/or synapse formation

3) What Caused This to Happen and Can It Be Prevented? - looking for factors that predispose a person to develop autism: genes, environmental exposures, characteristics of the parents that aren't necessarily genetic (e.g., age, epigenetics)

4) Which Treatments and Interventions Will Help? - evaluating early behavioral interventions, various kinds of training or therapy for older children (e.g., cognitive behavior therapy**, social skills training, mindfulness training), and of course drugs (blargh!)

5) Where Can I Turn for Services? - looking at disparities in access to diagnostic services and therapies, and at quality-of-life issues like wandering, restraint and seclusion***, and caregiver stresses

6) What Does the Future Hold, Especially for Adults? - developing diagnostic tools for adults, determining prevalence of autism among adults, and looking at quality of life among autistic adults

7) What Other Infrastructure and Surveillance Needs Must Be Met? - trying to make it easier to do the kind of research they want, by making it easier for different research teams working on similar problems to pool data

Also, looking at the bibliography they have at the bottom of this page, it looks like the study he mentions dealing with "prenatal and early-life exposure to car emissions" is this one.

*I learned a new word. It means "not autistic."

**I am confused about that; I thought cognitive behavior therapy was what you used to try and overcome distressing, irrational or self-defeating thoughts, like you get when you have OCD or depression. I'm not sure how it could be useful to an autistic child, unless maybe it's supposed to help them overcome their need for rigid routines or deal with sensory overload better. I could see either or both of those working, maybe.

***I'm immensely happy that people in the government know that restraint and seclusion in schools is a problem! All this time I'd been thinking it was just activists and parents who knew that and were fighting against it.

Autism Hearing Transcript: Dennis Kucinich

Still image of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, saved from this video.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Having had the opportunity to work with Mr. Burton on this for the last 10 years, I remember well, as I’m sure Mr. Burton does and some members of this Committee do, a time when a provision was snuck into a bill on homeland security that essentially shielded from lawsuits the manufacturers of thimerosal.

This was ten years ago.

And you know what? No one, for the members that have been here less than ten years, no one knew where that provision came from. It came out of nowhere and ended up getting buried in a conference report. Of course, it passed.

I mention this because it’s not as though we just discovered this matter, and while I salute the Chair for holding this hearing, we didn’t just discover this. My own theory is, while there are studies that are out there that are implicating environmental factors in autism, think about this for a minute: We know, as Mr. Burton laid out, the component of thimerosal, the component that stabilizes it, is mercury. We all know that mercury is more than a contaminant, it’s an environmental toxic. But it doesn’t only exist in liquid form! Mercury can also be inhaled.

And I would guess, and this is just my theory, that we’re not only talking about drug manufacturers; we might be talking about coal companies too. We have to be aware, there are reasons why this Congress and this government, has not effectively addressed this issue. When you had Lilly and others, Eli Lilly and others, contributing millions of dollars to trying to affect the outcome of elections, I will tell you: I salute this Chair for taking a shot, because, at the bottom of this, you have special interest groups who would resist any deeper research on it because it’s going to affect their bottom line. Meanwhile, you have children all over the country turning up with autism, so this is a new beginning, I salute the Chair for making it, but this goes way beyond thimerosal and start thinking about coal. Thank you.
(end transcript)

If I were a swearer, I would be swearing right now.

Coal companies and pharmaceutical companies in league with each other in some dastardly plot to pump mercury into the veins of Amerca's youth, turning them all ... (gasp) ... autistic? The horror!

(Why they would want to do this is not really addressed, but whatever.)

I liked Dennis Kucinich before I heard this.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Autism Congressional Hearing Transcripts: Dan Burton

Still image of Rep. Dan Burton saved from this video
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

Let me start off by saying, contrary to what has been stated in the media over the years, I am not against vaccination. I believe that vaccinations have a very important place in our society and have given us one of the best health regimens in the history of mankind. People live longer, and live better, and have less disease because we have vaccinations. 

What we have always opposed is putting toxic chemicals, or mineral --- metals --- in the vaccinations. 

Thimerosal contains mercury. When I was a boy, we used to have mercury in thermometers, and they said if you break that thermometer and the mercury gets on your hands, as years went by, that was toxic. 

In Indianapolis, we had a school where, in the chemical laboratory, in the health science room, they broke a vial that had some thimerosal in it, they evacuated the school, they burned the clothes of kids that came into contact with it, and the fire department came in with all kinds of equipment to make sure they weren’t exposed to it. 

Women who are pregnant, they say don’t eat fish that has mercury in it, and they caution them that there’s certain kinds of fish you don’t eat. You don’t drink water that has any mercury in it. There’s all kinds of reasons not to be exposed to mercury, and yet we continue to put it in vaccinations as a preservative. 

In 1929, they came up with thimerosal. They tested it on 29 people that had meningitis. They all died of meningitis, but they said the mercury in the vaccinations, or the thimerosal, didn’t cause any problems, it was not a contributing factor. So ever since 1929, it has never been completely tested, and they continue to put it in vaccinations! 

It wasn’t so bad when a child got one vaccination, or two or three. But when they get as many as 28 or 29 before they go into the first grade, it really hurts them. It causes a cumulative effect. The brain tissues do not chelate it, and it stays in there and causes severe, severe problems. 

Now I had, during the chairmanship which I had in this committee, when I was chair, for six years, we had about four years of hearings. We had people from all over the world: scientists from every part of the world, doctors from every part of the United States, who testified. And people from CDC and FDA said, “There’s no evidence that the thimerosal causes any neurological problems in people who are vaccinated.” And then we kept on, kept on, and finally we had some people from FDA and CDC who came and testified and said --- get this word --- there is no conclusive evidence that the mercury in the vaccinations causes neurological disorders. 

No conclusive evidence. 

Now, that word “conclusive” ought to stick in everybody’s mind, because what it means is there’s a possibility. Now my question has always been --- and I’m convinced that the mercury in vaccinations is a contributing factor to neurological diseases such as autism and Alzheimer’s, I’m convinced of it after all those years we had hearings --- but that word “conclusive,” “there’s no conclusive evidence,” creates a doubt. 

And my question to the presidents and CEOs of pharmaceutical companies has always been, if there’s any doubt, if there’s any doubt that the mercury in vaccinations can cause a neurological problem, then get it out. 

You shouldn’t put mercury in any form in the human body, especially in children in vaccinations. Or adults, in my opinion. 

When we get a vaccination for flu --- every year we get a flu vaccination --- we have thimerosal, fellas. I don’t know if you know that. They’re injecting a certain amount of mercury in your body. And over time, I believe it does have an adverse impact on the neurological system. Of adults. I think it’s a contributing factor to other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

Let me just say that the thing we need to do is always err on the side of safety. If the pharmaceutical industry were to go to single-shot vials, then you would eliminate the possibility of neurological problems because there wouldn’t be any mercury in them. 

The last thing I want to say real quickly --- I’ve got 20 seconds --- we passed a vaccine injury compensation fund to compensate those people who were injured by vaccinations. And it was supposed to be something that people could work with the government to get that money --- the pharmaceutical companies were putting money into that fund --- but it’s so hard for a person who’s had a damaged child or a damaged adult to get any money out of that fund, it’s unbelievable. We need to reevaluate that fund to make sure that people who are damaged by mercury in vaccinations need to have access to that so they can at least have some compensation to help with the rest of their lives. These people are going to live sixty, seventy years and they’re going to be a burden. Not only on the families, but on society itself.
(end transcript)

You know you're not going to hear anything good when the speaker feels compelled to preface it with, "Now, I'm not against vaccines, but ..."

That's another five minutes of this hearing wasted on the completely fictitious vaccine hypothesis, and it really does not make me feel good about this hearing at all, or about Congress in general and their likelihood of doing anything helpful for autistic people, that this guy, with his thimerosal obsession, was apparently the driving force behind this committee's decision to look into autism. 

On a lighter note, this is the first I've heard anyone suggest that vaccines might be causing Alzheimer's disease, too! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Autism Congressional Hearing Transcript: Opening Statement (2)

Right after Rep. Darrell Issa gave his opening statement, the Oversight Committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, gave a second opening statement.

Here's the video:


Thank you for that, Mr. Chairman, and I do thank you for holding today’s hearing. Before I get started I want to take special note, as you have already done, to our friend who is leaving, Mr. Burton. Over my seventeen years on this Committee, this has been an issue that he has constantly put forth and constantly made sure that we tried to address as best we could. Mr. Burton, I want to thank you for your vigilance and I want you to know that although you may be leaving the Congress, as the Chairman just said, we will continue the fight. And I know you will too.

Mr. Chairman, we have learned much about autism spectrum disorders over the past decade. Taxpayer-sponsored research has identified risk factors and evaluated therapies to assist with some symptoms. Physicians and parents now have a better understanding of the developmental signs and the symptoms, allowing for earlier detection, and educators have experience with new methods and approaches for assisting children with autism. 

Congress has also acted to help individuals with autism and their families in significant ways. In 2010 we passed the Affordable Care Act, which contained significant new protections. Insurers may no longer discriminate against people based on pre-existing conditions. Insurers may no longer impose lifetime caps on health care coverage. New plans must include screening for autism without additional costs to the parents. And young people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders may remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until they are 26 years old. These are real and significant protections that will improve the lives of millions of American families. 

Even with this progress, there is still more to learn and there is still more to do. While autism affects all racial, socioeconomic and ethnic groups, some studies have shown that African-American, Hispanic and Asian children are less likely to receive an early diagnosis. These delayed diagnoses cause minority children to be further behind in development of language and motor skills. We must be vigilant in emphasizing earlier detection for all our children, as an early diagnosis can make a critical difference in the lifelong development of a child.

We must also continue to invest federal research dollars in new and evolving therapies to improve the lives of those with autism spectrum disorders. In my district we house the Kennedy Krieger Institute [link], an internationally recognized institution dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with developmental disorders. These institutions improve the quality of life, education, and continued development of those affected by autism spectrum disorders, and we must continue to support them. 

Today’s hearing is an opportunity to examine what has been done about autism spectrum disorders to date and what more needs to be done in the future. There are many experts, individuals and groups who can help us in this effort. I want to take this moment to thank all of you for being here. 

As the Chairman said, there are so many people who are interested in this issue, so many who wanted to speak, but I want to say to you what I said to Bob Wright of Autism Speaks a little earlier in the day: I thank you for caring about somebody other than your children and yourselves, because what you are doing here today is raising this issue so that other children, other than those, or other folks, other than those maybe in your own families, maybe your friends, will benefit in the future. 

In other words, you are touching the future, and you are making it possible for those who are going through the autism spectrum disorders to have a better future. And so I thank you all for what you are doing, and as I said to Bob Wright, you must stay the course. One of the things that I’ve learned from being in Congress these seventeen years is that, in order for these causes to move forward, you have to keep banging the drum, and you must keep banging it louder and louder and presenting your case so that, after it’s all over, there’s high, as my mother would say, motion, commotion, emotion, and no results. I want you to be successful in what you’re doing. Life is short, and so what we must do is try and use our energy so that we can get the best possible results. And I am so glad the Chairman said what he said, about sticking with this, addressing it, and we encourage all of you to work with us as we move forward, and with that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you.
(end transcript)

Rep. Cummings raises some important points: he's absolutely right that there are inequities in who gets diagnosed with autism, and in who has access* to the kinds of therapies, services and educational accommodations that can make an autistic person's life so much easier. He is absolutely right that these inequities are starkest along racial, ethnic and class lines.

He's also right to point out the gains autistic people and their families made with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. 

Unlike Rep. Issa, Rep. Cummings seems to place the highest priority on identifying and providing services that improve actual, living autistic people's lives, as opposed to the more academic, theoretical research about what causes autism or what autism is at the molecular level.

I admit that I find the latter category of autism research more interesting, because I majored in biochemistry and I want to know about everything at the molecular level, but there's no question that the former category of research is more useful.

You can make the argument that scientific research shouldn't be funded solely based on its potential usefulness, or lack thereof, and I'd agree with you, but given that we're dealing with a limited amount of money that's supposed to cover pure research and applied research and actual provision of services, and that right now the bulk of the funding from both public and private sources goes to pure research, I'm okay with funneling some of that (public) money into the other two avenues. Private charities (looking at you, Autism Speaks!) would, of course, continue to be free to allocate grant funding however they see fit. 

*As this article from the Los Angeles Times makes clear, these disparities persist even when services are supposed to be paid for by the state. In 2010, the California Department of Developmental Services spent $11,723 per child on white autistic children ages 3 to 6; on services for Asian children, they spent only slightly less: $11,063 per child. Black and Hispanic children fared the worst, with the state spending only $6,593 per child (just a little over half what they gave the white families!) on the former and $7,634 per child on the latter.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Autism Congressional Hearing Transcript: Opening Statement (1)

I'm slowly making my way through watching the video of the Nov. 29 congressional hearing, transcribing as I go.

(I'm not just doing it to have a complete, public, textual record; I also find having something I can read helps my own understanding, too.)

I'm going to post a bunch of separate, shorter transcripts here, one for each separate speaker.

Here's Rep. Darrell Issa*, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, calling the meeting to order and making his opening statement**:

(gavel pounding)

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will come to order. This hearing on “1 in 88 Children: A Federal Response to Rising Rates [of autism]” will come to order.

The Oversight Committee exists to secure two fundamental principles: First, Americans have a right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent, and second, Americans deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them. Our duty on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is to protect these rights. Our solemn obligation is to hold government accountable to taxpayers, because taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government. We will work tirelessly in partnership with citizen watchdogs to deliver the facts to the American people and bring genuine reform to the federal bureaucracy. This is our mission, and I might say today, in many cases we are dealing with people who, because of this affliction, may never pay taxes, but in fact their families and others pay for their entire life. 

Congress spends a lot of time discussing and debating issues, and in determining by our philosophical beliefs what the role of government should be. As we have seen in these debates surrounding TARP, stimulus, healthcare reform, these kinds of issues oft come down to where you fall on an ideological spectrum.

Today is no such thing. We’re having a hearing focused on something that spans from the ideological left to the ideological right. We’re drawing attention to something that has no political affiliation, no partisan allegiance, and sometimes --- and we believe, today --- not nearly enough focus on something that does not shorten life but dramatically --- or even slightly, but usually more than slightly --- reduces the quality of life, both for the individual and for their families.

I’m a father. As far as I know, I’m one of the fortunate ones. I’m not the 1 in 88. But right now, if the numbers are accurate, and if they continue to grow from the now 1 in 88 who are in some way ASD-affected, we in fact have an epidemic. It could be that some of the 1 in 150 at the start of this century was too low, that in fact people were simply not diagnosed. But few people believe that, in fact, there aren’t factors in our society and our behavior, in the air we breathe, the water we consume, or others, that are affecting how many people will be afflicted. 

We’re going to hear from a distinguished panel first, of people who do this for a living, try to get to the causes, prevention --- I won’t say “cure” today --- but at least the treatment, the understanding, and perhaps, in some cases, truly something that would mitigate their suffering. I know they’re frustrated. Congress, although we put nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year directly into research, has not put the kind of dollars, perhaps, that could bring specific outcomes sooner.

On our second panel, a number of individuals who will say that in fact, one of the problems is we’re looking on one side of the equation and not nearly enough on what to do for the victims of various forms of autism.

The fact is, they’re all right. There is not enough money being placed into the various possible causes of autism. There is not enough study. Our government does not collect statistics as well as perhaps someday soon we will, so that in fact we can find out what the true number is, cross-check every aspect of how that number, which is a human being, came to be afflicted. 

The truth is we have a lot to do. I will not claim that I have come here timely. This is the last two days of my first two years as chairman, and this is our first hearing. But what I will promise you here today is that we will stay involved in this issue. We will stay involved through staff and through, if appropriate, additional hearings. I also would say to our first distinguished panel that one of the most important priorities I place today is in fact that we work with you and help you in this process, that we be a conduit to the rest of Congress on this important issue. In a few moments I’ll be swearing in --- I’m sorry, I’ll be recognizing, by unanimous consent, a number of members who would not ordinarily be here at a hearing, because they are involved in this issue but serve on other committees. 

Additionally, I want to apologize to all of those people who, rightfully so, would be well (?) to be heard here today. I could’ve had a second panel of at least twenty witnesses from organizations and affected individuals. We had the difficult job of selecting just six, and as the ranking member will undoubtedly agree, six is already a fairly large single panel. 

That’s one of the reasons I pledge to you today that any organization or individual that in the next seven days provides to us, as required by our rules, in electronic format --- or, if you give it to us in paper we will try to scan it --- we will include your statements and your information in the record. 

We’ll hold the record open so that the many who could not be heard live in testimony will in fact be at least in the record. I want to particularly recognize Brian Hooker [link] with Focus Autism [link] in the American Academy of Children --- well, actually it’s a long, long title --- sorry --- who in fact has been one of the people who has championed for today’s hearing, and a number of others. They’ve been essential in my getting a better understanding. 

I’d also like to thank --- and we will be recognizing two witnesses, er, two members, on each side: the former Chairman of the [mumble] Committee[***], Dan Burton, who years ago began a process of focusing on some aspects of this terrible disease. We in fact don’t know enough; our goal is to know more, and today is but a down payment on that. With that, I’d like to thank the ranking member for his assistance in putting together today’s hearing and recognize him for his opening statement.
(end transcript)

I won't be offering a whole lot of commentary right now, but I would like to make note of the two people to be name-checked in this short speech: Rep. Burton, whose testimony I will put up shortly and which really speaks for itself, and this Brian Hooker, who is affiliated with some group I'd never heard of called Focus Autism. It turns out to be a crank group dedicated to the notion that vaccines are "an important contributing factor" to autism in children.

So that's not good. We're just in the opening statement, and already the vaccine hypothesis --- which ought to have no place at all in a discussion of how best to spend federal money on autism research, therapies and services --- has been moved front and center.

*I'd post the video, too, but I cannot find a separate clip of just this speech. I can find one for the second opening statement, by Rep. Elijah Cummings, but I can't find one for Rep. Issa's statement. If you can, and you give me a link in comments, I will gladly embed it.

**I'm not going to blockquote my transcripts because I find that, in this blog template at least, blockquoting makes things a lot less readable! These transcripts are going to be kinda long, so I really don't want to sacrifice readability. I will set them apart some other way, like drawing lines above and below the transcribed speech.

***I didn't completely catch this, but looking at Rep. Burton's webpage, he has chaired both the Oversight Committee and another committee, a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Issa is probably referring to his past chairmanship of the Oversight Committee.