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AcademicIamA (scientist and author) AMA!

Apr 6th 2017 by offit400 • 6 Questions • 838 Points

Hi IAmA, We are : /u/fortherefugees-Marc (Marc-André Séguin), /u/4therefugees-Michael (Michael Simkin) and /u/fortherefugees-admin (Our volunteer sysdamin who prefers to stay anonymous, but you can call me E.).

Marc Will be here from 1:30 to 2:30 EST

Michael & /u/fortherefugees-admin will be here from 1:30-3:30, but /u/fortherefugees-admin will attempt to deliver after, as well.

You can ask questions in English or French Vous pouvez poser vos questions en français aussi

Marc and Michael are immigration lawyers, /u/fortherefugees-admin is a Sysadmin/SRE

When Edward Snowden left the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong, his lawyer, Robbert Tibbo, kept him safe by hiding him with asylum seekers.

This came to light with the release of the Oliver Stone movie, 'Snowden'.

We're trying to help get these brave refugees to Canada. They also are forbidden from working in Hong Kong, and have had their funding cut by the Hong Kong government.

Our site is https://fortherefugees.com

Our donation page is https://fortherefugees.com/donate/

My Proof: Our site: https://fortherefugees.com/reddit-ama-verification/

We've Been tweeted about and have been on the news:

https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/844688378645938177

https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/839873102557294593

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2077404/hong-kong-asylum-seekers-who-sheltered-edward-snowden-filed

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edward-snowdon-family-shelter-hong-kong-canada-asylum-1.4018657

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.3753202/snowden-escaped-arrest-with-help-from-a-canadian-and-refugees-in-hong-kong-1.3753207

Edit: formatting

Q:

Do you think a massive outbreak of a VPD, with fatalities, is inevitable in the US at this point? If so, what disease do you think is at biggest risk for this?

Side note: I consider you to be on the list of our American heroes! To look at my two young children and know they were spared the horrors of rotavirus, is an amazing feeling. Thank you so much for all you have done, and continue to do!

A:

Why do you believe that they would be tortured or killed in their home countries? Has the US been pressuring those countries to make these people disappear?


Q:

I don't think it would be a massive outbreak. Rather, I think it would be like what's been happening with measles in the last couple of years. Small outbreaks followed by people who had originally chosen not to vaccinate now scared of the disease and choosing to get vaccines. I think that's exactly what happened during the Disney outbreak in southern California.

A:

You can read the stories of our clients here:

Ajith

Vanessa

Supun and Nadeeka

We've also had reports that the Sri Lankan CID has been searching for our clients (see: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2073439/hong-kong-asylum-seekers-who-sheltered-edward-snowden-fear)

Sri Lanka's Security forces have a very poor record on human rights


Q:

Are you worried about Trump as president in regards to vaccine policy in the US?

A:

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Q:

Lord yes. Trump has given new life to the anti-vaccine movement. They, like he, deny the evidence in front of them. But I don't think Trump could do much at the federal level. He's not going to disable the Vaccine for Children's Program without the consent of Congress. Same would hold for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Everything else important about vaccines occurs at the state level.

A:

We will be happy to submit more proof if requested, just reply to my message here or hit me up via PM.

OP will deliver.


Q:

Scientifically speaking, what's your perfect sandwich?

A:

Hello. Just wondering- what work do you do outside of bringing the refugees to Canada?


Q:

Hamburgers.

A:

I'm a Systems Engineer/SRE/DevOps/Security guy (I wear many hats). I work remotely for a Y Combinator startup. I'd say which one, but we are a small org, so I'd be immediately identified. Management here is pretty sympathetic to this cause, and has been more than generous in letting me spend some time helping.

Marc and Michael are lawyers


Q:

How do you recommend talking with well-meaning parents who remain confused about whether to vaccinate despite the preponderance of evidence of its benefits? Specifically, how do you advise framing the conversation to dispel the false equivalence between real science and non-science without appearing dismissive?

A:

For the Refugees was created to help the families of asylum-seekers in Hong Kong who sheltered Snowden. We do not have plans to bring Snowden to Canada. At the time that the families sheltered Snowden, he was lawfully in Hong Kong. There is no reason to think the U.S. would retaliate against them.


Q:

I think you have to find out what the person is most concerned about. Then, hopefully, there are data to answer the question. But often data aren't enough. So I think it's also important to talk about what is at stake in the decision. I think it's reasonable to be fearful of anything injected into your body. So it's certainly not of value to be dismissive.

A:

You can read the stories of our clients here:

Ajith

Vanessa

Supun and Nadeeka

We've also had reports that the Sri Lankan CID has been searching for our clients (see: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2073439/hong-kong-asylum-seekers-who-sheltered-edward-snowden-fear)

Sri Lanka's Security forces have a very poor record on human rights

*Edit: Whoops, I replied to the wrong question. Please disregard, my bad. (It was meant for another question from /u/Andy_Schlafly, will post this there.)


Q:

Of your seven stories in your latest book,which do you think is the most frightening?

A:

There are many ways people can help!

1- Call Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office (1-613-995-0777) as well as your local MP to voice your concern for these families, to express that you feel our Minister must act quickly to save their lives, and ask people in your community to do the same!

2- Share our website on facebook, twitter and everywhere in your community: www.fortherefugees.com

3- Volunteer/Donate for the families. Every bit of help will be much appreciated. And remember that all the funds go directly to the benefit of the families. Since this is a pro bono case, we do not take any of the funds for legal fees or expenses.

Visit our website! www.fortherefugees.com


Q:

The chapter titled, "America's Master Race," because there are so many analogies to Trump's success. Basically, it's the story of a popular scientific treatise called The Passing of the Great Race, written by a New York City conservationist and lawyer named Madison Grant. He made a case for race purity that translated to Draconian immigration restrictions. Ultimately, the book was translated into German, read by a young German soldier imprisoned in Landsberg, who then took whole sections of Grant's book and plagerized it for his: Mein Kampf. The Passing of the Great Race became required reading for Nazi Germany and race purity reached its hideous illogical end.

A:
  1. Call Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office (1-613-995-0777))

  2. We can use non monetary help (everything from front end dev work, to compute credits, to social media presence)

  3. Donations are also, of course, helpful.


Q:

Who was your favorite scientist/doctor growing up?

A:

Want to bring a Norwegian over? Hehe after i had to move from Canada back to Norway after my visa expired nothing has really felt the same(Also got my best friends and girlfriend over there). Don't get me wrong, Norway is beautiful and nothing to complain about. But it feels like it is not the place for me if that makes any sense. Regardless of that, from what i can see you guys are doing great work. And i highly respect what you guys do.

Is there any immigration lawyer i could contact by the way?


Q:

My pediatrician, Milton Markowitz. It was amazing that he was in private practice. Later in his career he wrote the definitive text on rheumatic fever and then became chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Usually academic pediatricians aren't in private practice. I just caught him at the right time. Good thing, too, he diagnosed my ruptured spleen when other doctors had missed it.

A:

Thanks for your comments and question.

I'll preface this with IANAL, but I can speak to my personal experiences.

I've gone through the process to obtain a study permit, then a work permit, then a PR. Assuming you have needed skills and a clean criminal background, it's mostly a bureaucratic hassle if you are from a first world country (like Norway). You also have to do an English or French test to get your PR. I didn't use a lawyer.

The new express entry system for PR is, imho, pretty great. I was for example eligible for PR under the CEC and FSW classes, and with one application I was considered for both, and ended up coming in under the FSW class.

It's much, much better than the paper forms you used to have to fill out, imho.

They've also been modifying the criteria to make it more accommodating/reasonable, I see.

If you want to move to Quebec, the process is different, so I can't comment on that because I don't know. (I don't speak french at all, so Quebec was never an option I considered)

Overall, I'd say you don't necessarily need a lawyer, but if you still want one after my response, I can link to Marc's firm (or, you know, you can google his name from the bio, and add 'immigration lawyer' ;) ), assuming the mods approve of that.


Q:

What effect are Donald Trump's decisions going to have on vaccines and science and how do we ensure that our children don't get sick as a result?

A:

I tried to answer this one in a similar question above.


Q:

When is a door not a door?

Favourite Burger?

If I were to tell you that the next thing I say would be true, but the last thing I said was a lie, would you believe me?

A:

A door is not a door when it's ajar.


Q:

Hi, Dr. Offit! Love your books. Do you think we're making headway against the anti-vaccine movement?

A:

Yes. Definitely. 10 years ago the media covered this story as if there were two sides, even though only one was supported by the science. Not true anymore. You rarely hear the voices of the anti-vaccine leaders in mainstream media. Oddly, I think in some ways Andrew Wakefield was good for science. It wasn't that he was only wrong, he was fraudulent and wrong. The anti-vaccine groups attached themselves to his star and crashed and burned with him. No one likes a fraud.


Q:

So one of the many criticisms I see from anti-vaxxers is that researchers are either forced or paid to falsify data on vaccines so that "Big Pharma" can make tons of money. What are the checks and balances in the scientific community that keep this from happening? Any other helps that can disprove this theory?

A:

Studies that are submitted to the FDA for licensure are invariably placebo controlled and double blinded making it virtually impossible to cheat. Also, once a vaccine is licensed, phase IV and post-marketing studies using the Vaccine Safety DataLink can quickly and in real time see whether a vaccine has a significant side effect, which is what happened with the RotaShield vaccine in the late 1990s. And that vaccine was taken off the market in a year. Apart from the fact that it is not in the interest of vaccine makers to make products that hurt children, there is no hiding. If a vaccine is unsafe, it will be shown to be unsafe.