NFL pulls funding from CTE study ($16 million)

swilliams

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Dec 22, 2015
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It's a little disappointing how poor the coverage has been on this press release, with most media conflating the NIH with the FNIH. (Edit: troparra, yes, the WaPo report is wrong.) It could be that the press release says what it appears to, but it could also be that it is intentionally carefully worded to avoid denying that the NFL meddled. Given the NFL's recent lack of public honesty, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. The FNIH statement was very likely written with heavy input from the NFL's lawyers.


The OTL report said that the NFL wanted to keep its money from going to Stern, and that this got all the way to Francis Collins - the head of the NIH. When we see a statement from Collins, or from Koroshets (head of NINDS, the division of the NIH that oversees neurological trauma research), then you can believe the press release that the NFL really has clean hands. So far, we haven't seen anything from them.
 
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theapportioner

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The NFL may seem invulnerable, but there was also a time when the tobacco companies were similarly seen in that light. The NFL, it seems, has decided to take an adversarial position on this, probably because the evidence will eventually fall not in their favor. But as the evidence accumulates, as I expect it will, the NFL will be up shit's creek. It doesn't have nearly the constituency backing it that the tobacco companies had (have), or the NRA for that matter.
 

theapportioner

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Yeah, for all our angst about the deflategate debacle, this situation is far worse for the NFL in the long run. Once the scientific data is robust enough for the Surgeon General, or the AMA and similar organizations, to make a stand against it, lawyers will swoop in like they did when it became clear that asbestos inhalation causes lung cancer and mesothelioma. By that point, some municipalities will decide to not allow football to be played in their town, because of the huge financial liabilities it would incur. At the same time, public sentiment in some places will also swing against the sport.

The NFL is suicidally shortsighted on this matter.
 

BigJimEd

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Koroshetz said in the original article that noone has told him that the NFL pulled out.
 

Bunt4aTriple

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There's a very good chance that when Brady and Belichick retire, I'll take the opportunity to stop watching this sport. What that says about me isn't all that pleasant, but there ya go.
This is where I'm at. It will make for a clean break. To quit now would be like going on a diet right before Thanksgiving.
 

Buster Olney the Lonely

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This is where I'm at. It will make for a clean break. To quit now would be like going on a diet right before Thanksgiving.

Actually, this is exactly what I did. The day that the NFL announced the Brady suspension (back in May) I called DirecTV and canceled Sunday Ticket.

I had just read League of Denial and my tolerance for this stupid league had reached a breaking point. Dropped out of two fantasy leagues, didn't get Madden for the first time in more than a decade. I had been a ST subscriber for more than 15 years and this year I haven't watched one second of NFL. It felt like quitting cigarettes at first. Now it's easy.

I have to admit that I get a guilty pleasure when I go into the game threads and read about the bad games, the poor officiating, etc. Looking forward to seeing Concussion.
 

swilliams

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Dec 22, 2015
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Summary:
The ESPN story appears true. The NFL blocked their money from going to Stern.
Despite the non-denial denial issued by their foundation yesterday.




Koroshetz said in the original article that noone has told him that the NFL pulled out.
While technically true, your statement leaves plenty of room for the NFL to try to veto Stern and BU.
Here's what Koroshetz said:

Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the NIH's National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told Outside the Lines this week that he had asked the FNIH over a period of several months if the NFL would be providing funding for the study but never received a definitive response. He said he attempted to expand the study over the summer to include other researchers -- a proposal that might have satisfied the league. But the NIH ultimately decided to fund the study on its own.
[...]
Koroshetz said he was never told directly that the NFL was refusing to support the CTE study. "No one has ever said that to me: 'The NFL said no,'" he said. "They're their own organization. They have committed $30 million; I am hopeful they stick to their commitment. If they don't, then I'll be upset."
Koroshetz allowed his name to be used for the OTL article. He is quoted as saying the NFL slow-walked the funding for Stern -- never saying no, but never saying yes. There is a deadline to fund a study after review, and the NFL knows that if they fail to respond, that's the same as saying no. Koroshetz got that implicit no from the NFL, and then he found money in his budget to fund the study.

Koroshetz has not denied the OTL quote. He tweets here:
https://twitter.com/nindsdirector
He certainly has the platform to deny the article if he wanted to.
 

soxhop411

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that "unrestricted" donation from the NFL? it actually has a lot of strings attached.... GJGE NFL

When the National Football League announced a $30 million donation to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to fund research on concussion and brain trauma, the league called the grant an “unrestricted gift.”

But it turns out there were strings attached.

Before spending the money, the foundation must reach “mutual agreement” with the NIH and its donors — including the NFL — on the “research concepts” that will be addressed, as well as on “timeline, budget, and specific milestones to accomplish the research,” according to a signed agreementobtained by STAT.

The agreement also commits the foundation to set up a “stakeholder board” to let the NFL and other donors talk with the NIH’s scientific leadership to “express viewpoints, address challenges, share expertise, and develop common perspectives on issues relating” to the research.
The new national CTE research — the one not funded by the NFL — aims to figure out how to diagnose CTE in living patients.

Four congressional Democrats this week demanded more information about the NFL’s role in funding brain trauma research.

“We are concerned about the potential implications of outside entities expecting to exercise ‘veto power’ or other influence over the selection of NIH research applicants,” Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., Gene Green, Jan Schakowsky, and Diana DeGette wrote in a letter sent to the NIH and the foundation. All four signatories are Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The letter was first reported by the Washington Post.

The NIH said its director, Dr. Francis Collins, had received the letter and that the agency will respond.

the full "Agreement" is at the link

http://www.statnews.com/2016/01/08/nfl-concussion-research-grant/
 

mauf

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Yeah, for all our angst about the deflategate debacle, this situation is far worse for the NFL in the long run. Once the scientific data is robust enough for the Surgeon General, or the AMA and similar organizations, to make a stand against it, lawyers will swoop in like they did when it became clear that asbestos inhalation causes lung cancer and mesothelioma. By that point, some municipalities will decide to not allow football to be played in their town, because of the huge financial liabilities it would incur. At the same time, public sentiment in some places will also swing against the sport.

The NFL is suicidally shortsighted on this matter.
You realize there are a lot of lawyers on this site, right?

Maybe you should leave the legal analysis to them.
 

djbayko

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The NFL alleged that the review process that led to Stern's selection was marred by conflicts of interest, Koroshetz said. In addition, league officials charged that Stern was biased because he had filed an affidavit opposing the settlement of a lawsuit in which thousands of former players accused the NFL of hiding the link between football and brain damage.
Thanks. I needed a good laugh.
 

TFP

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That is really really sad and I think it points to two major problems the NFL has. Brain injuries and opioid pain management.
To that end, was watching Real Sports on HBO last night and they did a segment on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and how it could be an effective pain killing medicine for the NFL, instead you get their head doctor telling Andreas Kremer that players should take opiates to deal with pain rather than smoke weed, despite a lot of players protestations.
 

Gunfighter 09

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That is really really sad and I think it points to two major problems the NFL has. Brain injuries and opioid pain management.
And PED use.

That is where I am on this issue, I want the science to look at all three aspects - Head injuries, Opioid use, and PED use and find out what the combination of factors is that really hurts athletes. I really think trying to isolate just one of these factors - head injuries- is naive.
 

GeorgeCostanza

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To that end, was watching Real Sports on HBO last night and they did a segment on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and how it could be an effective pain killing medicine for the NFL, instead you get their head doctor telling Andreas Kremer that players should take opiates to deal with pain rather than smoke weed, despite a lot of players protestations.
That's disingenuous at best. If you haven't, I recommend reading a post by @OilCanShotTupac in one of the other forums about the nightmares of opiates even when used as prescribed. I'm already a tenuous NFL customer at this point and these kinds of responses to what I perceive as grave issues facing the league certainly aren't helping to keep me from being pushed out the door.
 

luckiestman

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To that end, was watching Real Sports on HBO last night and they did a segment on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and how it could be an effective pain killing medicine for the NFL, instead you get their head doctor telling Andreas Kremer that players should take opiates to deal with pain rather than smoke weed, despite a lot of players protestations.

That's disgusting. I basically have heroin sitting in my cabinet that I got for free(pain pills I never took) but marijuana is still seen as scary. This society is so fucked up
 

Devizier

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That is where I am on this issue, I want the science to look at all three aspects - Head injuries, Opioid use, and PED use and find out what the combination of factors is that really hurts athletes. I really think trying to isolate just one of these factors - head injuries- is naive.
What's your evidence in support of this hypothesis? I'm serious -- if you're suggesting that androgen/steroid abuse affects cognitive function, that's an actual, testable hypothesis. And it would imply that simple treatments (androgen depletion) could slow the onset of dementia.
 

Leather

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I took GF09 to be talking more holistically; that all three of those things lead to crippled players (either through damaging themselves or their ability to damage others, perhaps), be it through CTE or otherwise, so focusing only on head injuries is kind of like focusing only on seatbelt laws when talking about rates of injury in traffic accidents.
 

Gunfighter 09

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I took GF09 to be talking more holistically; that all three of those things lead to crippled players (either through damaging themselves or their ability to damage others, perhaps), be it through CTE or otherwise, so focusing only on head injuries is kind of like focusing only on seatbelt laws when talking about rates of injury in traffic accidents.
You captured it well. I just think concussions and head impact are less unique to football than the combination of the three factors and that researching the interaction of the three would probably be very helpful to the people who are suffering degraded health. My worry is that answer does not lead to easy headlines or simple stories that can be captured in a one hour piece of programming, so there is little motivation to put forth the huge cost of researching all aspects of the problem, and worse (from the NFL/owner's perspective), not having players use PEDs or narcotic painkillers.
 

EricFeczko

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You captured it well. I just think concussions and head impact are less unique to football than the combination of the three factors and that researching the interaction of the three would probably be very helpful to the people who are suffering degraded health. My worry is that answer does not lead to easy headlines or simple stories that can be captured in a one hour piece of programming, so there is little motivation to put forth the huge cost of researching all aspects of the problem, and worse (from the NFL/owner's perspective), not having players use PEDs or narcotic painkillers.
Let's nip this in the bud before we get crazy here. Head trauma is factor in dementia much in the same way that cigarette smoking is a factor in lung cancer. There are certainly other factors that are important (e.g. genetic factors), but lets not just grab on to anything that NFL players do as a sign that it leads to dementia.

CTE, like all dementias, involves a cascade of cellular (e.g. soluble misfolded proteins trigger a cascade of effects that leads to cellular excitotoxic(literally brain frying) death) and system reactions (e.g. the spread of soluble misfolded proteins occurs in areas of the brain that co-activate in different task states) that end in neural atrophy. The systems of the brain that are affected vary from dementia to dementia and within dementias. As far as I know, none of these effects have much to do with opiod receptors, or opiod ligands. If anything, the anti-inflammatory effects of analgesics may slightly reduce the risk of dementia, or have very little effect.
Furthermore, saying that you want to examine something holistically is not as easy as actually doing it quantiatively. Opiods present a confound, in that people with dementia are more likely to be taking opiods due to indirect effects of having dementia (e.g. physical injury or other aging problems). In order to determine whether opiods present a risk factor, you need to control for the others.
Finally, a recent prospective study that did just that in 3000 individuals found little evidence that opiod use is a risk factor for dementia, which is consistent with what we know about dementia in the first place.
On the other hand, there's strong evidence to suggest that, yes, head trauma is a huge factor in subsequent neurological/psychiatric disorders. It is established as a large risk factor in most dementias. In fact, mouse models of head trauma mimic the development of pathology observed in most dementias (e.g. tangles, specifically neurofibrillary tangles of phosphorylated tau).

Other professional sports likely involve heavy usage of PEDs (whatever that means -- some PEDs may have neurodegenerative effects, and they are NOT the ones marciano uses) and opiods. So far, we've seen no indication that dementia is higher in those other sports. On the other hand, boxers suffer from dementia that is extremely similar to CTE (previously known as dementia pugilistica for that very reason), which again implicates head trauma as one of the largest environmental factors.

EDIT: I apologize for the glibness of my post. If I wasn't in the middle of moving to Portland, I would post links, etc. Sorry about that.
 

Devizier

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Let's nip this in the bud before we get crazy here. Head trauma is factor in dementia much in the same way that cigarette smoking is a factor in lung cancer.
This is actually a more direct way of saying what I was implying.

Portland? Good for you. OHSU?
Photo from the lab:
You laugh, but mouse models are less sophisticated than you might think.
 

EricFeczko

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This is actually a more direct way of saying what I was implying.

Portland? Good for you. OHSU?

You laugh, but mouse models are less sophisticated than you might think.
Yup, thanks! I'm starting at OHSU on February 8th. Working with Damien Fair and Joel Nigg on the development of the human brain and the macaque brain. Really excited about the projects going on there.

EDIT: Devizier is spot on about the mouse models.
 

Leather

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Let's nip this in the bud before we get crazy here. Head trauma is factor in dementia much in the same way that cigarette smoking is a factor in lung cancer. There are certainly other factors that are important (e.g. genetic factors), but lets not just grab on to anything that NFL players do as a sign that it leads to dementia.

.
And, again, I don't think he was limiting the scope to just CTE, but to other damaging effects of playing football. Pushing opioids on football players leads to players playing hurt, or gives them the ability to inflict more damage without the threat of corresponding pain, which leads to long-term issues with not just the brain, but all sorts of muscular-skeletal issues. Sash was not only suffering from brain trauma, but also from chronic shoulder pain that curtailed his ability to do manual labor.

Head injuries are a big problem, but it's not the only one.
 

GeorgeCostanza

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I certainly wasn't suggesting that opioid use could lead to CTE. I was just saying that brain injuries and opioid use are major issues that the NFL is facing, not that they are linked.

The fact that the recently departed seems to have struggled with both is a double whammy for them.
 

Harry Hooper

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Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada are back with another massive installment. In a shocking development words like "unrestricted, integrity, and independent" seem to mean whatever the NFL tells you they mean. Exponent doesn't show up, but another legal expert witness firm (MEA Forensics) does.

But beneath the surface of the NFL's largesse is a secretive funding apparatus with its own set of rules, one that often rewards league doctors, punishes critics and, some researchers believe, steers research away from potentially uncomfortable truths about the relationship between football and brain disease.

In at least six instances over the past two years, NFL-affiliated grants totaling several million dollars have gone to scientists or institutions directly connected to the league, the data show. The NFL and its partners awarded nearly $4 million for projects tied to the co-chairman of its powerful Head, Neck and Spine Committee, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, including a $2.5 million concussion clinic affiliated with Ellenbogen and another top NFL adviser.

Outside the Lines has also reviewed documents that show Ellenbogen and three other NFL health and safety advisers were applicants for a $16 million research project on football and brain disease that was to be funded by the NFL through a $30 million "unrestricted gift" to the NIH. The research proposal was led by Kevin Guskiewicz, a prominent concussion researcher who chairs the NFL's Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and Playing Rules. The proposal would have directed millions of dollars to research institutions that employ the league's advisers.

After an NIH review selected a competing proposal, Ellenbogen and two other senior NFL health and safety officers challenged the decision in a conference call, a senior agency official recently told Outside the Lines. Ellenbogen's participation on the call as an NFL adviser who was also an applicant for the NFL-funded grant "undermines the integrity of the entire peer-review process," said one researcher who works closely with the NIH and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In a series of emails to Outside the Lines, Ellenbogen, a neurosurgeon, denied he complained about the selection process, saying he had been on a call with the NIH discussing "a wide range of research issues" but "dropped off" to go to the operating room. He initially denied he was part of Guskiewicz's grant application but later confirmed he was a "minor consultant."
 

soxhop411

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Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada are back with another massive installment. In a shocking development words like "unrestricted, integrity, and independent" seem to mean whatever the NFL tells you they mean. Exponent doesn't show up, but another legal expert witness firm (MEA Forensics) does.

But beneath the surface of the NFL's largesse is a secretive funding apparatus with its own set of rules, one that often rewards league doctors, punishes critics and, some researchers believe, steers research away from potentially uncomfortable truths about the relationship between football and brain disease.

In at least six instances over the past two years, NFL-affiliated grants totaling several million dollars have gone to scientists or institutions directly connected to the league, the data show. The NFL and its partners awarded nearly $4 million for projects tied to the co-chairman of its powerful Head, Neck and Spine Committee, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, including a $2.5 million concussion clinic affiliated with Ellenbogen and another top NFL adviser.

Outside the Lines has also reviewed documents that show Ellenbogen and three other NFL health and safety advisers were applicants for a $16 million research project on football and brain disease that was to be funded by the NFL through a $30 million "unrestricted gift" to the NIH. The research proposal was led by Kevin Guskiewicz, a prominent concussion researcher who chairs the NFL's Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and Playing Rules. The proposal would have directed millions of dollars to research institutions that employ the league's advisers.

After an NIH review selected a competing proposal, Ellenbogen and two other senior NFL health and safety officers challenged the decision in a conference call, a senior agency official recently told Outside the Lines. Ellenbogen's participation on the call as an NFL adviser who was also an applicant for the NFL-funded grant "undermines the integrity of the entire peer-review process," said one researcher who works closely with the NIH and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In a series of emails to Outside the Lines, Ellenbogen, a neurosurgeon, denied he complained about the selection process, saying he had been on a call with the NIH discussing "a wide range of research issues" but "dropped off" to go to the operating room. He initially denied he was part of Guskiewicz's grant application but later confirmed he was a "minor consultant."
If anyone saw concussion. This is the least shocking news ever. NFL is run like the IOC
 

soxhop411

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“@Rosenberg_Mike: Roger Goodell just said the league has been focused on the concussion issue ”for several decades“ and now I can’t find my wallet.”

Welcome to the NFL folks!
 

Devizier

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Outside the Lines has also reviewed documents that show Ellenbogen and three other NFL health and safety advisers were applicants for a $16 million research project on football and brain disease that was to be funded by the NFL through a $30 million "unrestricted gift" to the NIH. The research proposal was led by Kevin Guskiewicz, a prominent concussion researcher who chairs the NFL's Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and Playing Rules. The proposal would have directed millions of dollars to research institutions that employ the league's advisers.
This doesn't surprise me one. fucking. bit.
[/bitter scientist]
 

swilliams

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Dec 22, 2015
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The NFL made a misstep by donating to the NIH (through fNIH). They should have just given the funds to a private foundation, who they could have intimidated. The NIH is one of the few science organizations around that wouldn't be intimidated by the NFL. Their yearly budget is several times the yearly NFL total profit. Few groups, and certainly not fNIH, would have just walked away from a $16M donation like the NIH did. Koroshetz at NINDS basically told the NFL to take their money and stuff it. And he paid for the study out of his own budget.

Goodell may live in a sycophantic cocoon, but there are limits to the NFL's power that he should realize. Congress and the NIH are two entities he probably won't have success pushing around.

Outside the Lines has also reviewed documents that show Ellenbogen and three other NFL health and safety advisers were applicants for a $16 million research project on football and brain disease that was to be funded by the NFL through a $30 million "unrestricted gift" to the NIH.

After an NIH review selected a competing proposal, Ellenbogen and two other senior NFL health and safety officers challenged the decision in a conference call, a senior agency official recently told Outside the Lines. Ellenbogen's participation on the call as an NFL adviser who was also an applicant for the NFL-funded grant "undermines the integrity of the entire peer-review process," said one researcher who works closely with the NIH and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Scientists are going to be pissed off about Ellenbogen trying to influence the process.

I understand a bit why the NFL feels like they can do whatever they want. They have several very prominent doctors on their side. Berger is the chair of the UCSF neurosurg department.

But beneath the surface of the NFL's largesse is a secretive funding apparatus with its own set of rules, one that often rewards league doctors, punishes critics and, some researchers believe, steers research away from potentially uncomfortable truths about the relationship between football and brain disease.
The NFL is trying to do the same thing with concussions that tobacco companies did with lung cancer, asbestos companies did with mesothelioma, and oil companies are doing with carbon emissions. The playbook is well worked-out for corporations to challenge science that hurts their profits. They give money to researchers on their side, pay for PR for those who will say what they want, and trumpet any small result that supports their point of view. The goal is to sow doubt, not to prove anything. If you can get the public to think there is a scientific dispute, usually the public will throw up its hands and not act.
 

mwonow

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<<snip>>
The NFL is trying to do the same thing with concussions that tobacco companies did with lung cancer, asbestos companies did with mesothelioma, and oil companies are doing with carbon emissions. The playbook is well worked-out for corporations to challenge science that hurts their profits. They give money to researchers on their side, pay for PR for those who will say what they want, and trumpet any small result that supports their point of view. The goal is to sow doubt, not to prove anything. If you can get the public to think there is a scientific dispute, usually the public will throw up its hands and not act.
I believe that's a quote from the climate change denier handbook, too [/hijack]
 

joe dokes

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The NFL is trying to do the same thing with concussions that tobacco companies did with lung cancer, asbestos companies did with mesothelioma, and oil companies are doing with carbon emissions. The playbook is well worked-out for corporations to challenge science that hurts their profits. They give money to researchers on their side, pay for PR for those who will say what they want, and trumpet any small result that supports their point of view. The goal is to sow doubt, not to prove anything. If you can get the public to think there is a scientific dispute, usually the public will throw up its hands and not act.
Right. And the way to get to the public is to make sure that every media outlet covering the issue has one of "their" guys in reporters' virtual Rolodexes to call after each and every incident "On the other hand, science expert Dr. Boughten Paidfor notes that research is at best inconclusive on the flatness of the Earth.
 

swilliams

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Dec 22, 2015
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I believe that's a quote from the climate change denier handbook, too [/hijack]
Right.

The NFL is trying to do the same thing with concussions that tobacco companies did with lung cancer, asbestos companies did with mesothelioma, and oil companies are doing with carbon emissions.
Most of the climate-change denial effort is funded by oil (coal etc.) energy companies that see carbon emission regulation as a threat to their profits.

Seems like you know this, but for the record here's a good summary -- The Union of Concerned Scientists on this issue:
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/fight-misinformation/global-warming-skeptic.html#.VraJVVMrJow
An overwhelming majority of scientists agree — global warming is happening and human activity is the primary cause. Yet several prominent global warming skeptic organizations are actively working to sow doubt about the facts of global warming.

These organizations play a key role in the fossil fuel industry's "disinformation playbook," a strategy designed to confuse the public about global warming and delay action on climate change. Why? Because the fossil fuel industry wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas — even though the science clearly shows that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet.