LA Times/Michael Hiltzik and the Fakest “Fake News” of All
When Autism Crosses the Line

Weekly Wrap: A New Year of Books and Blogs and Big Ideas

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted Dan headshot for book

Last week I said adieu to old acquaintances and was touched by the comments I got both on- and offline. This week it’s time to move forward into what promises to be a big year for AOA and its allied enterprises. There’s even more to come than I’ll talk about here.

But first let me say, did you ever work on a big project over a long period of time that you cared a lot about – but still had a moment of, “How did I ever get myself into this?” Or, even worse, how do we translate an important but overlooked paper from 1907 in a journal called, I kid you not, Zeitschrift fur die Erforschung und Behandlung des jugendlichen Schwachsinns.*

Well, that moment has come and gone as regards the book Mark Blaxill and I are finishing up this month. Although the title is not set yet, the topic is autism epidemic denial – how it hurts kids, families and our future.  AOA readers always come to the rescue, and Birgit Calhoun translated a trove of Mark Dan Book 2017 useful documents from German that are crucial to understanding the whole issue. Thanks, Birgit.

The book, our third together and something of a bookend to the first (The Age of Autism) and second (Vaccines 2.0), will be out in a few months. It has been a fascinating and deep dive into the history of mental disorders in children, which of course is a dark topic, but what we came up with makes hash of the “better diagnosing, awareness, substitution/these kids were always there” mantra we are all so sick of. One more time: No these kids were not ”always there”! We aim to present the definitive account of why autism instead must be a man-made epidemic (the subtitle of our first book) that needs to be stopped. As we say in the book, epidemic denial is not just improbable or implausible; it is, based on both facts and logic, impossible.

We quote our redoubtable colleague J.B. Handley on Paul Offit and his ilk of deniers: J.B. calls epidemic denial the “original sin” of autism. “In Offit’s world, there is absolutely no problem here. Things are as they always were, we just understand it better. Of course, we all know, if there’s no epidemic, there is no environmental trigger, because why have a trigger if something hasn’t actually grown? Said differently: Denying the autism epidemic is to deny the suffering of millions of children and their families and also to deny the exploration into the true cause so the epidemic might end.”

Amen. That’s all I’ll say for now. We have some finishing up to do but are grateful that Skyhorse is again proving a hospitable publisher for our cause. Oh, and we dedicate the book to Bernie Rimland, who “sought the truth and helped sick kids.” Like all of us, we hope to in some small way to further that effort. And we think the timing could be good, eh?

I’m also far from done writing about polio, so expect to see that topic resurface before too long. Last year I wrote a galactic-sized opus about the great northeast epidemic of 1916 and its possible connection to arsenic used for the first time in sugar cane growing, and I warn you I’m just getting started. This year I plan to broaden the horizon quite a bit. If you want to catch up on the stories (the first of which was conceptualized and co-authored with Mark), they are linked in the right hand sidebar.

I get a fair number of blank stares when I tell people about the significance of polio even today, but it has to do in part with vaccine idolatry – the polio vaccine being a supposed triumph when the real story was the creation of a man-made epidemic, not unlike autism. Not unlike autism at all. Sometimes I think the best approach is indirect – I was quoted a way long time ago in the Columbia Journalism Review as saying I came in through the basement window when I first started reporting about autism, looking for clues in the past and in parallel epidemics. Plus, there is the strange new disorder paralyzing kids after what starts out as a polio-like common cold. This bears watching and reporting – we were the first last year to report the CDC notified states that cases were once again soaring in the summer. It’s scary, frankly, and the worst may be yet to come. This is one disease that I think the CDC is not paying enough attention to because it is exactly the way polio began, in fits and starts as an environmental co-factor emerged, and then in epidemic proportions when that co-factor exploded. (Once again, like autism, and for the same reason.)

I keep a copy on my desk of an e-mail from Linda1 who wrote me following a moment of self-questioning (a la “how did I ever get myself into this”): “If there’s anything we can learn from history, it’s that historians, especially when they are medical historians, often don’t get it right. So it’s very good that you are reexamining the polio epidemic from a fresh perspective. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from looking back 100 years. It’s an important exercise. Look at Egyptologists. They spend their entire careers trying to figure out what happened 5,000 years ago.”

Thank you Linda1! I also have to thank the cookie that, I kid you not, delivered this fortune with Chinese takeout last year: “You could prosper in the field of medical research.” Prosper, of course, means many things, and I’ll take “coming across unexpected riches through looking carefully at conventional wisdom” as my first definition. It’s what we try to do every day.

Of course, straightforward attacks on the Death Star of vaccine injury (and epidemic) denial are good, too, and Kim does such a great job of blasting out articles (and the perfect visuals/videos/music to match) every day, many by our great group of contributors who, like all of us, are in this for the long haul and trying to figure out ways to make it shorter – for the sake of our kids, our families and our future.  Please give us any suggestions to improve – we’re not touchy!

May the rebel alliance prosper in 2017.

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

--

*Modern translation: Journal for the Study and Treatment of Intellectual Disability.

Comments

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Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

ATSC, Thank you for your followup comments. Another comparison I have made about my son's language problems is that he almost but does not quite pass the Turing Test, proposed in 1950 by Alan Turing, who looked forward to the day when computers could be completely fluent in speech: If you have a computer hidden in one room, and a human in another, and you cannot distinguish any differences in responses from the computer or the human, the computer passes the test.

I have noticed that my son does not quite pass the Turing Test. He carries on a normal-sounding conversation with a stranger, then all of a sudden he will say something completely cockeyed. This is when he pulls some echolalic phrase out of his memory, totally out of context, even with pronoun reversal, and at the same time this is when he knows he is not keeping up, and will turn away.

Compare this to trying to converse in a foreign language. We all become socially inept when we realize we cannot keep up. Ability to become fluent in a second language becomes more difficult by adolescence, but of course there are those who will try to point out someone who became proficient later in life. This not too different from those who will proudly describe someone who outgrew autism, got at PhD, etc.

Whether by mercury or other vaccine additives, valproic acid, asphyxia at birth, etc. I will continue to point out the vulnerability of the auditory pathway, which has higher blood flow and metabolism than any other area of the brain.

Dan and Mark, I hope you discuss vulnerabilities of particular circuits in the brain. Rimland thought autism might be the result of damage within the brainstem "reticular formation." I corresponded with him a few times about damage of the auditory pathway by asphyxia at birth.

Benedetta

ATSC;
Thanks for the very informative information.

I have been through all of this and I tell, I did not understand it then at all, and forgotten it all now.
I probably never truly understood how much of a disability in language my son had and has.

Benedetta

ATSC: Thanks for all of that.

You know- I have been through all of this; and I still do not have an handle on what the deficits of language, and communications that my son struggles with.

.

ATSC

Eileen,

"I never read much by Frith, because she linked language problems to "social" disorder, which for me is only a euphemism. I see also that DSM-5 does not regard language as the central problem. This is so wrong. "

Years ago, Uta Frith and the other experts at the time would have agreed that language is the central problem, even in Asperger's Syndrome.

"The youngster usually begins to speak at the age expected in normal kids.... A full command of grammar is sooner or later acquired, but there may be difficulty in using pronouns correctly, with the substitution of the second or third for the first person forms. The content of speech is abnormal, tending to be pedantic and often consisting of lengthy disquisitions on favorite subjects.

Sometimes a word or phrase is repeated over and over again in a stereotyped fashion. The youngster or grown-up may invent some words. Subtle verbal jokes are not understood, though simple verbal humor may be appreciated....." "Despite the eventual good use of grammar and a large vocabulary, careful observation over a long enough period of time discloses that the content of speech is impoverished and much of it is copied inappropriately from other people or books. The language used gives the impression of being learned by rote."
Asperger's Syndrome: A Clinical Account (1981) Lorna Wing http://www.mugsy.org/wing2.htm

And from the ARI:

"Autism is sometimes described as a social/communication problem. Processing auditory information is a critical component of social communication, and people with autism spectrum disorders typically have problems processing this information."


"If he has a "social disorder" it is because of his auditory processing disorder. He cannot follow people who speak a-mile-a-minute. He avoids conversation for the same reason most of us shy away from conversing with people in a foreign language. "

My son does the same. For him, learning to speak again after vaccines wiped out the speech he had was like learning a foreign language.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

ATSC, Thank you for your explanations. I never read much by Frith, because she linked language problems to "social" disorder, which for me is only a euphemism. I see also that DSM-5 does not regard language as the central problem. This is so wrong. Now we have a lot of wannabes, and they are able to get all the attention.

In 1992 someone suggested I read Lorna Wing's paper on Asperger's syndrome (Psychol Med 1981 11:115-29). Then I read papers by Szatmari comparing Asperger's and high-functioning autism. My son fit better the description of high-functioning autism. Then I read papers by Cederlund and Gillberg in which they reported difficulties in language development in Asperger syndrome.

Language development was the most serious handicap for my son. If he has a "social disorder" it is because of his auditory processing disorder. He cannot follow people who speak a-mile-a-minute. He avoids conversation for the same reason most of us shy away from conversing with people in a foreign language.

The triad of impairments, language, repetitive movements, and lack of awareness are most accurate. These are neurological signs, and can be minimal or severe. Numbers of children and young adults with these signs are seen everywhere now. This was not the case 50 years ago. We must be insistent that the causes be identified.

ATSC

Eileen,

Yes, it's a pity that Frith only translated parts of it because we are not getting the whole picture. I think we have to remember the times that these boys were living in and that by emphasising their strengths, Asperger, a deeply religious Catholic, was trying to save their lives.


ATSC

John,

I've searched in vain for the BBC Horizon documentary Living with Autism Episode 10 because I was trying to find where Uta Frith said that perhaps we are all a bit autistic. I'd like to know why it is "not currently available" at the BBC and all YouTube videos have been deleted. What I did find was one two-three minute clip from the programme on a Chinese site, fortunately of Uta Frith saying:

"My fascination with autism began nearly fifty years ago when I met some autistic children while I was training to be a clinical psychologist. I was immediately fascinated of the paradox of how these beautiful, bright-eyed children could be so detached from the world. When I asked a question, an autistic child would repeat it and not answer it, and I couldn't engage them in a conversation, and I couldn't engage them with toys either. An autistic child might rapidly complete a jigsaw puzzle but show absolutely no interest in a game of Teddy Bear's Picnic. I passionately wanted to find out what was going on here."

If Frith had found out what we all want to know, instead of emphasising Asperger's syndrome and focusing on the apparent talents of people with autism, I think she would have deserved her DBE, but she has not solved the mystery. Instead, after fifty years, she asks in the Q & A of that Horizon episode which can still be found on YouTube:

"Are we all a bit... are we all on the spectrum actually?"

The only reason Silberman can get away with writing Neurotribes is that the ND movement has been supported and fed by these experts at the expense of moderately and severely affected individuals who have problems with speech and language. How could a child answer questions, converse or play Teddy Bear's picnic without understanding language and being able to use it?


ATSC

Benedetta,

Prior to the introduction of Asperger's Syndrome in the DSM-IV, the diagnostic criteria for autism included language deficits and peculiarities which Kanner had described in 1942.

In the DSM-III in 1980: "Gross deficits in language development" and "If speech is present, peculiar speech patterns such as immediate and delayed echolalia, metaphorical language, pronominal reversal.", and in the revised edition in 1987 one item had to be present from Category B "Qualitative impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication and in imaginative activity". Examples given included the same ones from 1980.

In 1994 with DSM-IV, language impairments/peculiarities were not essential for an autism diagnosis when Aspergers Syndrome was included as an ASD: "There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)" and, I think this part is important too, "There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood."

For a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the new DSM, there must be "Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts". "With or without accompanying language impairment " is tacked on at the bottom along with "With or without accompanying intellectual impairment".

The triad of impairments used to include "language": Impairment in language and communication, social interaction, and imagination until Lorna Wing renamed it the triad of social impairment so as to include Asperger's in the spectrum, then it became "Impairments in social interaction, social communication and social imagination", and, astonishingly, she wrote in 2010 on the NAS website that "the social impairment is the most important part of the triad so people who have this on its own can be included in the spectrum".

Lorna Wing's article was taken down last year, perhaps because of the new diagnostic categories in DSM-V..... or just maybe because she mentioned brain damage and encephalitis.

This change has happened gradually over time. Asperger's Syndrome in the 1990s was meant to apply to more able people with autism. This idea that AS was not higher-functioning autism was used by Brian Deer to throw out some of Dr Wakefield's cases and say, "They didn't really have autism".

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

ATSC, I decided to have a look at Asperger's paper. I am not competent to translate it, but was able to read it well enough to obtain some information about the cases he described. First was a 6-year-old boy, Fritz, slightly delayed in motor development, but he learned to read at 10 months of age (4 months earlier than he learned to walk). His speech lacked normal "word melody," he spoke slowly in a singsong fashion. Birgit could more acurately translate this and subsequent descriptions of speech and stereotyped movements.

Asperger suggested comparisons to schizophrenia, consequences of encephalitic illness, or birth trauma. He described three additional boys, who had begun school. Then he commented on the unusual characteristics of autism. If autism has always been a common condition, why would these cases have been of such great interest?

This paper is 61 pages. Uta Frith only translated parts of it. I will go to the library to read her translation. I downloaded a better quality pdf file from Harvard, which I will email to Dan, who can ask Birgit if she would have time to read and comment on it, or translate the parts Frith omitted.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Benedetta, The link is:
http://www.conradsimon.org/BarrEcholalia1898.html

Sorry, I enclosed this in parentheses in my previous post, which became part of the link. Hopefully the above works. The paper is quite interesting I think.

Benedetta

Eileen; I could not get to your paper through your link. I did just google it and got a good long list of other articles about it. One interesting article of - the evolution of the naming of this health problem.

Thanks for the additional information.

ATSC: Thanks for your information too.
Do you mind elaborating on what you meant by "Language problems morphed into social communication "


John Stone

ATSC

These are interesting and troubling remarks by Gertraude:

"Also, she consistently labelled the boys "patients," Asperger saw them as students who were asked to perform. 2. Annoying, in my mind, were also Frith' own annotations throughout the translation. Although many were informative, indeed supportive, those belonged inside her own accompanying paper that she placed strategically in front of his. She seemed like a hyperactive kid in a classroom trying to catch every-one's attention: "Look at me! Look what I know!""

And this looks more than a little like the performance I criticised a few years ago:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2013/01/utter-froth-autism-epidemic-caused-by-the-film-rain-man.html

I must have been unaware when I wrote the article that the British government had just made her an honorary Dame (she cannot use the title as she is a German citizen)

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/david-willetts-presents-honorary-dbe-to-professor-uta-frith

So, perhaps that was why she was feeling particularly outrageous.

ATSC

Hi Birgit,

I wonder if you would consider translating the first chapter of Hans Asperger's thesis "The Problem Position" and perhaps publishing it as an ebook online? Would this be possible? The reason I ask is that I'm intrigued by Gertrude S's one star review "Disappointing Translation" of Uta Frith's Autism and Asperger Syndrome, and the two comments she wrote underneath. Here on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Autism-Asperger-Syndrome-Uta-Frith/dp/052138608X

I agree with her that, "There is much harm that Frith has done to the serious cause of autism" and I feel the same way about other autism experts who in my view have abandoned people at the lower end of the continuum who have serious problems with language and hence communication. Like Eileen's son, language disorder was the most serious of my son's problems and he was also echolalic. Unfortunately, at sometime during the past twenty-odd years severe language problems morphed into social communication and I hadn't noticed until Eileen mentioned it in one of her comments a while ago.

I have read elsewhere that Hans Asperger never described his students as "Little Professors". I think it was Volkmar who first used this term in the Little Professor Syndrome by Lawrence Osborne in 2000.

Link to pdf of Die 'Autistischen Psychopathen' im Kindesalter:

http://www.neurodiversity.com/library_asperger_1944.html

I do hope that someone will translate it if it can in any way debunk the nonsense in Silberman's Neurotribes e.g.Autism "is a strange gift from our deep past, passed down through millions of years of evolution"! (p470)

I don't think I'd be the only person who wants to read what Asperger actually said.

Looking forward to reading Dan and Mark's new book.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Benedetta, A child who is echolalic is reciting verbatim whole phrases, and this is observed in many autistic children. Normal language development begins with use of syllables then words. Lookup the book by Roger Brown, A First Language: The Early Stages, Harvard University Press, 1973.

The echolalic child may be unable to detect syllable and word boundaries in the speech around them. Shortly after my son's diagnosis of autism, the October 1969 issue of the Scientific American arrived in my mailbox, with an article on brain damage in monkeys subjected to asphyxia at birth. The only damage found was in the midbrain auditory pathway. I still think this damage in human children might prevent the ability to detect syllable boundaries, and prevent normal maturation of the language areas of the cerebral cortex. I don't have any idea what might lead to echolalia in an adult.

Low verbal autistic children are everywhere now. Failure to learn to speak could not have been missed in the past. Martin Barr who wrote the paper I linked to was a well known expert on mental retardation in the late 19th century. His paper describing an unusual case of echolalia, suggests this kind of language disorder was not as common in the past as it is now.

Denise Anderstrom Douglass

I will look forward to the book. Thank you all for doing what you do.

Tim Lundeen

Re FB posts, I was able to post this, but the image/link they normally show was missing, so it doesn't look like a link.

Anne Harris

I tried to post this on my Facebook page and it wouldn't let me. Is this the beginning of Facebook censorship?????

Benedetta

I am looking so forward to this book.
Will you all be doing any book signings?

Benedetta

Eileen I was down in the basement library a lot back in the 70s and ran into a mountain of effects on the hypothalamus of mice. Seemed like everything effected it, and there seemed to be endless list of symptoms too.

My own children never developed echolia. My daughter tongue did not place right when she pronounced the ch sound which the school system loved to help her on. I was such a fool, I never connected the DPT to all of her trouble. Why, she did not have any trouble; she was smart, A student in school. They called me in to show me the great results of her IQ test. I thought high IQ - I got it made. High IQ does not mean mental wellness by the way.

My son just would not speak, did not until the end of the third grade. He says now that it was just too much effort. But I don't think his assessment of the circumstances is totally correct. It was a lot more than weakness of the muscles in that area - because he totally miscommunication what few times he did try to communicate. There seemed to be a lot of inability to string words together to make sense.

Here is something though about echolia that I have wondered about, and maybe you know. My Mother about five years ago had a kidney stone that almost killed her. It put her in the hospital and became a very long 6 months ordeal. She went into some sort of delirium, psychosis through it all. To my surprise she could hold up her end of the conversation, with the only catch being: if you asked her where she was she was bad wrong. At the end of this ordeal, when she had her final operation to get the stone out and more toxins/infection in her blood was released, she was again put in ICU. At that time she developed echolia., she repeated things that was on the huge wall mounted TV set.

When she became better; she told me she was in a terrible dream/reality state. That they were doing horrible things to her in the IC unit. All around her they were blowing things up, torturing people, and showing her horrible things that was indecent in nature. They had the TV on WWII by the way. She thought it was real.
The ICU nurse said this was very common in the patients that come through the unit.

My question though is; Do you think the same mechanisms in my Mother and ICU patients that cause echolia would be the same mechanisms going on in some of our sick children with autism that develop echolia? Do you think - too horrible for me to even contemplate that some of these children are in some kind of dream state?

Angus Files

Thanks Dan for all you write most informative no doubt the book will be as well looking forward to that.

MMR RIP

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

My son was born in 1962, less than 20 years after Kanner's paper on autism was published. He suffered head injury and oxygen insufficiency at birth. Language disorder was the most serious of his developmental problems. Everything he said was a verbatim out-of-context recitation of something spoken by someone else. Kanner referred to this as metaphorical speech, or echolalia.

Rimland's book was the only one I could find in the library. So I began reading the medical literature. My focus was brain damage underlying language disorders. Very little had been written on echolalia. Searching through old journals down in the sub-basement stacks at the Harvard medical library, I came across an article written in 1898 by Martin Barr, "Some notes on echolalia with the report of an extraordinary case," in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 25:20-30. I posted this paper on my website (http://www.conradsimon.org/BarrEcholalia1898.html) for anyone who might be interested.

I will be interested to read what you have found on the history of childhood mental disorders, and have concluded that autism has not always been there.

Reader

Thanks, Dan, for all your work for the sake of the children.

Carolyn mcd

You just have to watch the earliest speaking movies with groups of children. The children every one of them is so far ahead of our poisoned children today.

Jeannette Bishop

I just posted elsewhere, but meant to post here, in a recognition of too much deference to licensing, etc. on my part: It just occurred to me that Vaccines 2.0 might be very informative for many vaccine administering physicians and nurses, too.

Jeannette Bishop

I'm already thinking the Age of Autism book should be required, or at least highly recommended, reading for those embarking upon training as healthcare professionals (and perhaps for many other professions involving some toxicological exposures). The absence of medical credentials (despite the value held in the eyes of many) might often be an asset for locating overlooked and buried aspects of medical history, and we can't any longer afford the amount of deference assigned to licensing and degrees IMO.

Looking forward to more of your work!

ldb

Same thing happen to....a message saying it could not be posted to my Facebook. Never has happened before.

Birgit Calhoun

You are very welcome! I would be glad to help again any time. I enjoyed being part of the project. It was revealing how these early child psychiatrists described their first cases and how really observant they were. I am not sure that today's specialists in the field really know of the depth of knowledge of particularly Austrian physicians in those days. Usually child psychiatry was not exactly a profession those people started out with. It was such a relatively rare profession. Finding cases must have been even more difficult. The observations of those people were much sharper that you can find today. I wished I had had diagnosticians like that for my son.

KFuller

Thank you for your persistence, and for not giving up on our kids.

Cynthia Cournoyer

Congrats Dan. Looking forward to reading it!

The more valuable research you do and the more facts you uncover boosts your readers' confidence in their decisions about vaccines. Unfortunately, it also heightens the opposing forces against us. They counter "our" facts with fear, cultural conditioning, deeply embedded institutions, stricter laws, and the false science of consensus and opinion.

However, "sunlight is the best medicine." Thank you for providing the light.

Gary Ogden

Thanks, Dan. Your intellectual integrity and rigor are on full display in your published work. Your investigations and writing are thorough, compelling and empowering. Not to mention riveting. Looking forward to more on "polio" amid the ongoing epidemic of paralysis in "polio-free" India, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

Linda1

You made my day, Dan. Looking forward to that new book :o).

Julie

I shared this in my fb timeline and it was removed it said this was spam. I post your articles every day but this was a first

Bob Moffit

"As we say in the book, epidemic denial is not just improbable or implausible; it is, based on both facts and logic, impossible."

I would respectfully suggest that "epidemic denial" is just another form of "plausible denial" .. that has been used for centuries by powerful vested interests to make what is "improbable or implausible" .. acceptable. Consider ....

Wikipedia dictionary defines .. "Plausible denial" thus:

Plausible deniability is the ability for persons (typically senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others (usually subordinates in an organizational hierarchy) because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts in order to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise. The lack of evidence to the contrary ostensibly makes the denial plausible, that is, credible, although sometimes it merely makes it unactionable. The term typically implies forethought, such as intentionally setting up the conditions to plausibly avoid responsibility for one's (future) actions or knowledge. In some organizations, legal doctrines such as command responsibility exist to hold major parties responsible for the actions of subordinates involved in heinous acts and nullify any legal protection that their denial of involvement would carry.

Indeed .. an entire industry comprised of .. for instance .. "prominent, credible, scientists" .. whose sole purpose is to ... "Manufacture Doubt" .. so as to allow "plausible deniers" to continue their determination to make the "improbable, implausible" .. acceptable.

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