Recently some friends whose son died of autism-related seizures— a tragedy for which the family was compensated through vaccine court after the standard contentious proceeding and desecration of their son’s memory in the industry press— shared a link to an upcoming conference at NYU: the Fifth Annual Innovations in Healthcare Symposium: Advances in Global Heath—A Symposium honoring Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin on World Polio Day and Dr. Salk’s Centenary.
Presenters will be, among others, Seth Mnookin, Drs. Paul Offit, Julie Gerberding, Peter Hotez and Arthur Caplan, PhD, and a special video presentation by Bill Gates. Also in attendance will be Francoise Gilot, widow of Jonas Salk and author of Life with Picasso which partly inspired the film Surviving Picasso, Robert Gallow of And the Band Played On fame (or infamy), and a filmmaker who produced a documentary on a polio-stricken Balanchine dancer. The first thing that came to mind was—just in time for Halloween!
But after browsing the program, I thought it was interesting that a vaccine conference would focus largely on polio in the middle of an Ebola epidemic, not to mention finding the subtitle a little ironic (“Advances in Global Health”… really? While the toll in Africa explodes?). On the other hand, the overall theme of the conference is clearly about how to bring the errant consumer flock back into the vaccination fold—something which could be considered relevant as the CDC pays cash to Baltimore’s poor and indigent in exchange for taking various trial Ebola vaccines. It’s not as if conference presenters will be lining up to take the untested shots, so the burning question may be how to make other people do it. No experimental vaccine kiosk listed in the program in any case. NYU’s Arthur Caplan is set to lead off with a presentation titled Session on Ethics: What Ought to be Done to Overcome the Anti-Vaccine Trend?
A huge component of the recurrence of measles, mumps, pertussis and other vaccine preventable diseases is vaccine refusal and vaccine hesitation. What can be done to combat this problem? What educational, legal and policy efforts are most likely to persuade individuals and parents to accept vaccinations as very safe and effective?
There’s no mention of Ebola in the blurb, although Caplan’s and other presentations are sure to make references to it. Also no mention of the fact that the CDC itself and bastions of radicalism like the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group declared the outbreaks of measles, mumps and pertussis to be occurring largely among fully vaccinated populations due to vaccine failure. But it’s not unreasonable to ponder over the question of public trust in vaccination as a deadly scourge heads our way—if only anyone was talking about the actually deadly scourge or about earning trust through the usual routes—through transparency, accountability, respect for civil rights, etc.
…displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.
~Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
A recent study in Pediatrics reports that autism rates now appear to be higher among the children of American born Hispanic and African American mothers and among children of mothers within certain immigrant groups:
The study group comprised children born in Los Angeles County with a primary diagnosis of autism at ages three to five years from 1998 through 2009. The children were linked to 1995–2006 California birth certificates (7,540 children with autism from a total 1,626,354 births). The investigators identified a subgroup of children with autism and a secondary diagnosis of mental retardation; they investigated differences in language and behavior among this subgroup.
The researchers found an increased risks of being diagnosed with autism overall and specifically with coexisting mental retardation in children of foreign-born mothers who were black, Central/South American, Filipino, and Vietnamese, as well as among United States-born Hispanic and African American/black mothers, compared with US-born Caucasians. Compared to children of US-born Caucasians, children of US African American/black and foreign-born black, foreign-born Central/South American, and US-born Hispanic mothers were at higher risk of autism, characterized by both severe emotional outbursts and impaired language skills.
This report is a dramatic turnaround from only a few years ago, when the CDC reported an entirely different pattern among ethnic groups in the US:
Non-Hispanic white children were approximately 30% more likely to be identified with ASD than non-Hispanic black children and were almost 50% more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children.
The earlier CDC study went on to say that it was unknown whether the disparities in ethnic rates existed because of differences in recognition or diagnosing:
The extent to which this variation might be attributable to diagnostic practices, underrecognition of ASD symptoms in some racial/ethnic groups, socioeconomic disparities in access to services, and regional differences in clinical or school-based practices that might influence the findings in this report is unclear.
But as David Kirby reported in the Huffington Post in 2009, not even National Institute of Health director Thomas Insel thought the rise in autism could be explained away by changes in diagnostic practices or “increased recognition,” so it might follow that the formerly low rates of autism among minority children could not be entirely explained by lack of recognition. Not only were rates of autism among minorities lower, as autism rose among white children in the US, rates among Hispanics in some regions were even dropping:
In 2006, the rate among non-Hispanic white children was 102-per-10,000, but among black children it was 76-per-10,000, a 34 percent difference, and among Hispanic children it was 61-per-10,000, a difference of 67 percent.
Inexplicably, the rate among Hispanics in Alabama actually plummeted during the period in question, by 68 percent, from an already low 19-per-10,000 in 2002 to an almost rare 6-per-10,000 in 2006. Meanwhile, with the exception of Arizona, the CDC said, "prevalence among Hispanic children did not change significantly within any of the other10 sites."
For the record, my own affected twins have sixteen different nationalities, including Hispanic, North African and Amerindian as well as European. Regarding the issue of autism within various ethnic communities, when rates were low there were many public discussions of “cultural differences” that could supposedly account for cases being ignored, as if minority parents don’t notice or care when children don’t reach milestones, or that there’s more “cultural acceptance” in some quarters of children who don’t speak, sleep or who exhibit endless raging meltdowns. It should be interesting to hear what the next apologia will be now that rates among the same groups have exploded, and bitterly fascinating to see whether the pop-psych hypothesis of the “autistic killer” receives more media play as a result of the epidemic being racialized, particularly in light of the fact that the theory was founded on arguably racist research. It will also be curious to watch what happens with “investor confidence” in the multi-billion dollar autism drug market now that fresh blood has been thrown into the pool.
What’s also bitterly fascinating—and not mentioned in media coverage of the recent study on high rates of autism among ethnic groups— is that there had also been a radical shift in ethnic and economic demographics regarding vaccine uptake. At one time, for instance, African Americans were the least compliant and most “under-vaccinated”:
Factors That Distinguish Fully Vaccinated Children from Undervaccinated Children (2001 NIS)
These analyses indicated that, compared with fully vaccinated children, undervaccinated children were significantly more likely to be black than Hispanic or non-Hispanic white; younger; or foreign-born than born in the United States. Undervaccinated children were significantly more likely to have a mother who was young; widowed, divorced, or separated than married; had educational attainment that was high school or less than a college degree; and whose preferred language was English than Spanish. Finally, undervaccinated children were significantly more likely to live in a household with an annual income below the poverty level than in a household with an annual income greater than $75 000…
Unfortunately the study above, which was originally accessed in June, 2011, may have been bowdlerized—the title and text altered. In any case, the old link to the 2001 study (Pediatrics) now redirects to a 2004 study which weaves in the updated issue of “unvaccinated” privileged white children whose parents avoid vaccines rather than having reduced access—something not mentioned at all in the 2001 study. The original 2001 title appears only in the citations of other studies at this point.
The Frau Koma series I wrote in 2013 was intended to explore questions over politics, genetics, corporate crime and scapegoats in the media campaign to associate autism with mass murder. In light of the current fanfare over yet another research claim of an association between autism and modern massacre— as well as another recent mass murder committed by an individual who reportedly suffered from autism—the series is unfortunately relevant again.
On Friday, May 23rd, 22 year old Elliot Rodger, son of Hunger Games assistant director Peter Rodger, became the latest poster child or “horned devil”—a killer with a reportedly identifiable trait, in this case possible Asperger’s—for the mass murderer profile. According to CNN, Rodger’s mother made a sworn statement in divorce documents that her son had been diagnosed with high functioning autism as a child.
The original Koma articles on mass murder, autism and drug side effects were an attempt to illustrate through the views of a range of independent psychopharmaceutical experts, reform psychiatrists and through independent research that, due to the current rate of roughly 1 in 50 boys (and rising) with the condition, autism is still statistically underrepresented among non-ideological mass murderers. But the series also considers that, due to the extremely high rate of drugging among the developmentally disabled with medications that carry black box warnings for violence and suicide—up to 90% according to reform psychiatrist and expert witness Dr. Peter Breggin, a drugging rate approximately 1000% higher than the already high American average—we could eventually see the prophesy of the autistic killer self-fulfilled through the “magic bullet” drugs meant to treat them. The conjectures made in recent reports on the Santa Barbara massacre appear to be no exception to the general pattern.
On the evening of May 23nd, Rodger stabbed and shot six people to death in a college town near Santa Barbara, drove his car into another and left six more hospitalized, two in critical condition. Several sources claimed that, according to family members, Rodger had seen psychiatrists for many years and had been on medication. In a video, Rodger explained that he’d refused to take Risperdal due to the side effects, though he didn’t indicate whether or not he took other prescriptions. Sudden withdrawal from certain drugs is associated with a steep increase in suicidal and homicidal reactions.
Rodger, like many of the modern random mass murderers, had no history of violent assault but, by all accounts, had recently become increasingly paranoid and withdrawn and had quit school. Members of a chat group the Rodger belonged to described Rodger’s violent hate speech towards women and his musings on releasing a virus that would kill off his male competitors. Shortly before the massacre, his family had attempted unsuccessfully to get an emergency commitment for him after learning of a Youtube video in which he described his rage at sexual rejection and social isolation. Rodger’s manner of evading police scrutiny during the welfare check—by convincing them that he was a “kind and wonderful human being”— does not jibe with an autism diagnosis but there’s no indication in reports that Rodger's diagnosis had been updated. In the video, Rodger vowed to take deadly revenge against those he saw as unfit to live for committing the “crime” of rejecting him. In his 141 page manifesto, Rodger describes his intended rampage as the “Day of Retribution,” himself as “divine” and unambiguously akin to the Second Coming who will rid humanity of the “impure” and “depraved.”
Rodger's demeanor in the video segment could be taken for a Sheldon Cooper send-up, but the combined effect of pompous delusions and his view of himself as a “living god” who will reduce his victims to “mountains of skulls and rivers of blood” is chilling. His rampage in Isla Vista left two young women and four young men dead. There was no indication from reports that he personally knew the victims, though he stated in the video that he intended to target a particular sorority house. He reportedly shot himself after the killing spree. Family members of both victims and the perpetrator called for stricter gun control in the wake of the crime.
In the recent study on mass murder and developmental disability, Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in the development of serial killers and mass murderers, researchers postulate that an extremely diverse category of mass killers had/have autism. Essentially two things are looked at in the work: killing and autism. Killing how, why, how many (or any) and over what time period are simply a grab bag. The study calls for a raking over by experts to formally analyze methods and case definitions, but I’ll list a few of the obvious highlights:
The authors indicate the research focused only on subjects apprehended for murder after 1985, explaining that the cut-off point was chosen “because there has been a dramatic increase in the recognition of ASD” since this date. The date also precedes by a year the mass marketing of Prozac, the first SSRI antidepressant—a drug class most associated with school shootings, random mass murder and suicide. Researchers do not discuss whether there had been an actual dramatic increase in autism, do not note the expansion of the vaccination schedule which also occurred in 1987, nor the recent research of a connection between SSRI antidepressants and autism (discussed in Part 2 of the Koma series). Authors don’t comment on the fact that at least one subject was only an attempted murderer and killed no one, and that another conspired and planned a militant mass murder but did not commit the actual act. There may be more irregularities among other cases listed in the study’s tables.
The authors admit to using Google as a primary research tool: “The name of the killer was entered into the search engine ‘Google’ followed by ‘AND’ and each of the following search terms were explored separately: ‘brain’; ‘head injury’; ‘asperger’; ‘autis*’ and, in some cases, ‘murder’ if the name alone was failing to produce relevant sites. In these searches, numerous resources were examined in detail including court transcripts; newspaper articles and other online resources.”
The study’s authors mention Adam Lanza once in the introduction (apparently justifying the use of Lanza’s photo for media coverage). Lanza is not included in tables for some reason, though he’d already been mostly confirmed to have high functioning autism by family members. Also in the introduction, authors claim killers such as Norway’s Anders Breivik and James Holmes of the Aurora, Colorado massacre (both discussed in Part 2) had some form of autism spectrum disorder based on Daily Mail articles. What’s good for the goose… Daily Mail is the source on Elliot Rodger’s medication, though this source quotes a family member while the material on Holmes and Breivik involve no sources close to either. Researchers repeatedly cite the works of Professor Michael Fitzgerald, whose theory that Adolph Hitler had autism (discussed in Part 3) has been widely criticized.
Authors also cite Simon Baron-Cohen’s work claiming an association between “zero empathy killers” and autism based in part on the undeniably racist MAOA or “warrior gene” theory (also discussed in Part 3). The MAOA gene theory has zombied along for decades, mainly due to the fact that it supposedly implicates the role of “low serotonin” in violence—meaning that it has an automatic serotonergic drug marketing algorithm attached. But one of the problems with the theory—in addition to the fact that it blatantly implies that people with brown skin are “more violent,” and was used in the 1990’s as grounds for a prospective program to psychiatrically “vaccinate” certain racial groups against violence using medication— is that the role of serotonin in mental disorders has repeatedly been debunked as a drug industry PR myth.
In fact, other than the claim that over a quarter of the 239 “eligible killers” studied had “definite, highly suspected or possible/probable ASD,” the study breaks no new ground in presenting evidence that mass murder is associated with ASD. There are some references to head injuries and psychosocial factors among certain infamous or obscure perpetrators which are not novel, but what is notable and particularly irresponsible is the conflation of older-than-the-hills crimes such as serial murders, domestic violence killings and militant ideological acts of terrorism with the recent historical advent of non-ideological, random mass murder. The researchers thereby sloppily imply that a high percentage of terrorists could have “definite” autism and an even higher percentage have probable autism. The attempt to find a “terrorism gene” also isn’t new but there’s a level of flagrancy in this attempt that hits a new low.
'What right did they have?'
'What?' Yossarian froze in his tracks with fear and alarm and felt his whole body begin to tingle.
'What did you say?'
'Catch-22' the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. 'Catch-22. Catch-22 says they
have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.'
Catch 22 ~ Joseph Heller
(screenplay by Buck Henry; film directed by Mike Nichols)
Gut Revisionism as Drug Market Purgative
Don’t get me wrong: the “Lancet Paper” and Andrew Wakefield are nowhere near dead. In fact. the front groups are always prematurely celebrating Dr. Wakefield’s politicide and the “debunking” of the modest case study right before both are exonerated yet again by yet another research finding, injury claim or legal ruling.
But industry desperately needed for Dr. Wakefield to be buried along with all memory of the embattled paper before it could fully monetize the undeniable connection between gastrointestinal disorders and autism. Basically all industry needed to launch the gut-drug-palooza chapter of “Autism: Disaster Capitalism Unlimited,” was for the gut-ASD connection to be effectively divorced from a vaccine-induction theory. That connection is not buried and never will be since the truth will always out, including the fact that safety advocacy doesn’t equivocate to an extremist anti-vaccine position. But the corporatocracy confuses media spin for reality all the time. WMD? Gulf of Tonkin? Swine Flu?
A first-ever vaccine created by University of Guelph researchers for gut bacteria common in autistic children may also help control some autism symptoms.
Call it “hair of the dog.” The story immediately reminded me of the “IV/pee-swap” scene from Catch 22.
At the end of her post on the “autism vaccine,” Anne concluded sadly that “the money's in treatment, not prevention.” In that sense, it’s par for the course that, even as industry backed researchers and pundits claimed no gut connection whatsoever, industry vultures have quietly circled the autism-gut issue for several years.
And the media vultures have begun to convene as well. Since last year, Emily Willingham has turned herself into a regular GI Jane in her efforts to laxatize the backlog of gut meds in the pipeline which are just waiting for the break-up of the gut-autism/Lancet marriage to be finalized in public perceptions before being (typically) blasted all over the airwaves in drug puff promos and DTC ads as the new “revolutionary” thinking in autism.
In her touting of a new gut-autism study in Pediatrics, Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Meta-analysis, Willingham tries to reconcile the irony with an acrobatic bullshitsu maneuver attempting to— uh —blame the gastroenterologist who largely called attention to the autism-gut connection for causing the commercial science lag in recognizing the association. In Blame Wakefield for the Missed Autism-Gut Connection, Willingham attributes the accusation to the new study’s authors, writing,
When children aren’t autistic and they have stomach pain or constipation or diarrhea, the frequent conclusion is that stress and anxiety are the cause and predictive of anxiety in adulthood. Indeed, with that little nervous system parked there in our gut, it’s no wonder that things get a little seized up and out of rhythm when the rest of us does.
So why is it that no one attends to this clear (to me) link when it come to autistic children? Well, the Pediatrics review by McElhanon et al. happens to cite that reason several times: Wakefield’s MMR/autism/gut red herring and the subsequent noxious cloud that his fraud left over any research examining autism and the gut. So we don’t know anything about the real underlying causes of these digestive problems among autistic children. The Pediatrics authors state it unequivocally:
“It is clear that greater clinical and research scrutiny is needed to increase awareness on this topic and thus support development of the best standards of care. Previous controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine and proposed causal link between ASD and infection of the GI tract probably deterred investigators from dedicating resources to examine GI functioning in this population while fostering uncertainty in the ASD community regarding the validity of this line of inquiry.”
While Andrew Wakefield has published his response to the Forbes article, families who benefitted from Wakefield et al.’s more timely warning have our own perspectives and they run more than a tweet long. Aside from the fact that blaming Wakefield for the lag in autism-GI investigations is a bit like blaming Galileo for the church’s lag in accepting heliocentrism, investigators and physicians who’ve been making money hand over fist drugging the bejesus out of affected children with medications that—whoops—often cause gastrointestinal disease, left children in agonizing pain, denied care to and allowed some affected individuals to die while parents frequently lost custody through state child welfare apparatuses which parroted mainstream claims that attempting to treat bowel disorders in autism was tantamount to “medical child abuse”— all because these investigators feared facing the same media assaults as Andrew Wakefield? And these gutless wonders who would put their “good names” above the lives of children have apparently been the dominant force in the same commercial field we’re now supposed to entrust with the task of coming up with a solution?
This week Liz Feld of Autism Speaks appeared on Katie Couric to talk about Avonte Oquendo's wandering, disappearance and death. This precious boy, a mother's son, died in The East River. I don't know if Avonte could swim or not. But if you fall into a large body of water in the chill of a New York October (he eloped from school due to lack of proper supervision on Friday, October 4) swimming is kind of the least of your worries. Michael Phelps probably would not have survived the fall, the splash, the panic and then trying to find a safe place to get OUT of the river. Note - this was not the pool at the Harvard Club, it was the dark, murky East River.
Autism Speaks is backing swimming lessons for our children. Really? After months of Avonte's disappearance - some folks affiliated with AS put together a terrific reward for his return - and that was great - but swimming lessons? THAT'S their response?
Our Contributing Editor Tim Welsh Tweeted:
TannersDad Tim @TannersDad
40+ children die from wandering in the last couple of years and no sense of urgency to deal with Autism. Swimming lessons? really no really?
TannersDad Tim @TannersDad
@LizFeld_AS @katiecouric Swimming Lessons?
And our Contributing Editor Adriana Gamondes created the Marie Antoinette graphic meme to show the disconnect of the effort.
I've often said Autism Speaks' role for the community - the flesh and blood people dealing with the challenges of autism - is akin to watching our kids get killed crossing a highway and instead of building fences to protect them, Autism Speaks raises funds on the backs of the very same families to purchase Mercedes Benz ambulances to whisk the kids off to their own hospitals. The cow has left the barn, so to speak.
Have you ever tended to a guy with the flu or encountered the dreaded “man flu syndrome”? I was accused of reverse sexism by an online troll for daring to mention it, but it really is a “thing” and it’s mostly mocked by guys themselves. Striking almost exclusively in English speaking countries, man flu has inspired many audiovisual tributes.
And a post-alternative punk cult band from England!
Actually I couldn’t find any man flu spoofs coming out of the US, where we have no sense of humor at all about influenza. Here, we take man flu dead seriously. And deadly it is—to family harmony and marriage anyway. According to many a mom, it’s even worse than “angry dad on vacation.” The sorrow and the suffering. The cries and whispers. And the woe.
Has anyone also noticed that an overwhelming percentage of online biotech stealth-marketing trolls are male? They can be found in gaggles in every media comment sections following articles even lightly brushing on biotech, usually trailing after Dorit Reiss like little ducklings from their Skeptic front group hubs, spouting pseudorational catchphrases and Latin legalese such as “cum hoc ergo propter hoc!” defending GM crops, psychiatric drugs and shot mandates till the cows come home. I could provide a thousand examples of male-dominated comment threads on the subject of vaccines but anyone can look for themselves. Both genders are represented on either side but men lead the Skeptic charge hands down and they tend to hang around the longest to get in the last word. With the exception, again, of Omni-Dorit.
You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You've gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people! We've gotta stop them somehow!
~ Detective Robert Thorn, Soylent Green, 1973 (From imbd: In an overpopulated futuristic Earth, a New York police detective finds himself marked for murder by government agents when he gets too close to a bizarre state secret involving the origins of a revolutionary and needed new foodstuff.)
Given the fact that the U.S. joined the “Minamata Convention on Mercury,” an international environmental agreement which supposedly addresses “specific human activities that contribute to widespread mercury pollution,”was anyone recently surprised to discover that regular incandescent bulbs are being phased out and were off the shelves by January 1st, 2014, and that mercury-containing compact fluorescent bulbs will mostly be sold in their place? Wasn’t the incandescent ban overturned a few years ago?
Good news first: some incandescent manufacturers are using the “rough service bulb” loophole to keep regular 40, 60, 75 and 100 watt bulbs available to consumers, sometimes at twice the cost, though typically they last longer and are less prone to breakage than the low-pressure mercury bulbs. The bad news is that most people are going to give in and buy CFL and most will not be properly disposed of, potentially dumping more mercury into an environment that is not only dangerously overburdened with mercury itself but with toxicants that compound the effects of mercury.
It’s known that mercury is both acutely and chronically toxic: it can outright kill or gradually poison at remarkably low levels, but little is commonly understood about the mechanisms by which mercury impacts health. Aside from mercury’s effects as a metalloestrogen that can alter the sexual characteristics and behavior of various species, one of mercury’s primary routes of damage is its targeting of mitochondria, leading to an array of seemingly unassociated conditions from cancer to autoimmune disease to cognitive decline and birth defects. This is why Rachel Carson focused on the mito-targeting properties of an increasing number of industrial chemical compounds in her 1962 book, The Silent Spring, which summarized that mitochondrial damage would be the downfall of many species of plants and animals, including humans: “Some of the defects and malformations in tomorrow’s children, grimly anticipated by the Office of Vital Statistics, will almost certainly be caused by these chemicals which permeate our outer and inner worlds.”
You know the expression “cut to the quick”? If mitochondria, as the organelle-engines which produce energy in every living cell in every living organism on earth, represent the “quick,” mercury would be the obsidian knife of the modern toxic arsenal. But part of the problem is that it’s not alone. In Mitochondria as a Target of Environmental Toxicants, Meyers et al. argue that,
The high lipid content of mitochondrial membranes facilitates accumulation of lipophilic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (Backer and Weinstein, 1982) and some alkylating agents (Wunderlich et al., 1972). Cationic metals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and manganese, have also been shown to accumulate in mitochondria preferentially (Atchison and Hare, 1994; Bucio et al., 1999; Castellino and Aloj, 1969; Gavin et al., 1992; Sokolova et al., 2005a). These metals may accumulate in mitochondria due to both entry via calcium transporters (i.e., molecular mimicry) and chemical behavior resulting from their interactions with mitochondrial pH and charge.
The authors provide a short list of environmental mitochondrial toxins and drugs which cause mitochondrial damage and are suspected of proliferating an epidemic of mitochondrial-related diseases:
Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors or NRTIs and analogs (Benhammou et al., 2007; Blanche et al., 1999; Chan, 2007; Claessens et al., 2003; Divi et al., 2010; Kohler and Lewis, 2007; McKenzie et al., 1995)
By Adriana Gamondes
In the age of biotech entryism—where formerly independent media sources that made their names on liberty and transparency platforms increasingly take the dive on pharmaceutical and Big Ag sacred cows like vaccination and GM tech (usually after receiving backing by biotech industrials such as Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch or the Koch brothers)—it’s refreshing when a media source which doesn’t focus exclusively or even largely on health and biotech issues makes a purely political argument against compulsory medicine.
One source in particular, Police State USA: Land of the Checkpoints, whose mission is “to educate and inform the public about issues that endanger our rights and liberties, and to work to fix them through non-violent means,” has a decidedly libertarian bent and took exception to an article published in a 45 year old libertarian publication, Reason Magazine, entitled Refusing Vaccination Puts Others At Risk: A Pragmatic Argument for Coercive Vaccination. Not surprisingly, Reason writer Ronald Bailey’s book, Liberation Biology: The Moral and Scientific Case for the Biotech Revolution, was published by Prometheus, a publishing hub for biotech PR front group, the Skeptics.
Age of Autism is a politically agnostic forum but not apolitical. To quote Herman Melville, “There seems no reason why serviceable truth should keep cloistered because not partisan.” There are rare exceptions to unilateral mainstream news compliance with government demands that critical views of vaccines be censored. PSUSA has done an elegant job ignoring the memo and explaining why compulsory medicine cannot be legitimately argued from a liberty position. Many thanks to Police State USA for agreeing to share their article with Age of Autism readers.
Long-time author Ronald bailey says that there is no libertarian case for refusing a vaccine.
Posted on December 10, 2013 by PSUSA
One aspect of the police state that I find particularly bothersome is forced drugging. We see this manifest in a variety of situations, usually involving children whose parents question their doctors or want to pursue alternative health care solutions. Being a complicated and emotional issue, many people end up siding with the courts in pursuit of mandatory medication. While this position is to be expected from the average statist, it is somewhat alarming when a well-known and respected publication like Reason Magazine comes out in favor of forced mass-drugging of the population, or as it was gently termed, “coercive vaccination.” These ideas, promoted under a pseudo-libertarian shroud, cannot go unrebuked.
Reason is 45-year old magazine, traditionally promoting the libertarian cause, which has published a lot of thoughtful and compelling work over the years. It has a large following of readers, of which I have included myself for some time. Yet, it seems that there is a faction of the staff that is promoting a contentious view of “liberty” when it comes to certain topics regarding science. One blogger, with the consent of a sympathetic editing staff, is so adamant about promoting the consensus of mainstream scientists that he believe that it should be mandatory for all.
Police State USA will attempt to expose these dubious arguments and set the record straight about libertarianism.
Ideas So Good They Have to be Mandatory
Ronald Bailey, the self-described “science correspondent,” recently wrote a piece which has raised a lot of eyebrows, titled: Refusing Vaccination Puts Others At Risk: A Pragmatic Argument for Coercive Vaccination. He goes on to argue in no uncertain terms that he not only believes that coerced medicine is libertarian, but that there is no libertarian argument for declining a vaccine.
Bailey’s article is heavy on irrelevant statistics and light on actual libertarian arguments. The article, which asserts that liberty is incompatible with vaccine refusal, can be condensed into the following three sentences; the only places that liberty is mentioned at all:
Oliver Wendell Holmes articulated a good libertarian principle when he said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”…. To borrow Holmes’ metaphor, people who refuse vaccination are asserting that they have a right to “swing” their microbes at other people. There is no principled libertarian case for their free-riding refusal to take responsibility for their own microbes.
No Principled Libertarian Case?
On Febrary 22th, 2013, Office of Council member Vincent Gentile issued a press release calling for the removal of all New York students of the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts.
Councilman Gentile is no doubt serious in his campaign to pull New York students and funds from the Judge Rotenberg Center and sincere in his outrage at the school’s aversive and dangerous practices. The following is not meant to express cynicism towards this particular effort and it would be a certain victory for human rights if this campaign succeeded where others have failed. Most have probably noticed by now that, despite repeat major media exposés, clusters of blog criticism, ineffectual clicktivism and even a request filed with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2010 to protest human rights violations, the Judge Rotenberg Center has weathered most storms.
But if the Rotenberg Center didn’t exist, what would the people and organizations instrumental to sustaining the epidemics of childhood developmental disorders and chronic disease moralize about in order to prove they don’t always defend institutional policies? What would those who profit by and suppress constructive solutions for these epidemics point to in order to comparatively diminish how their actions contribute to disaster and the mounting toll of failing health and mortality among American children?
As an estimated three or more individuals with special needs are killed every week in US schools and institutions due to abusive practices; as the news reports more and more children with autism arrested in schools, brutalized by police, denied organ transplants, found face down in ponds and subjected to a lottery for services; and as disability services around the country are trimmed to the bone; as the US drops to #49 on the world infant mortality index; as 1 in 8 children of Somali immigrants in Minnesota are diagnosed with autism and the national rate soars beyond the official 1 in 88; as toddlers are drugged with increasing frequency; as the vaccine schedule continues to expand and the drum beat of denial over a host of potential environmental causes and co-factors involved in the rise in disability in the US grows louder, in terms of the mainstream mismanagement of what may be one of the worst medical disasters in history, to be the “leper with the most fingers,” you might have to find another “leper” with stumps in place of arms.
That bar is kept low as long as the JRC exists. To be a champion of children’s rights and a hero for the disabled, all any mouthpiece has to do is criticize the Rotenberg Center. Meanwhile Matthew Israel, the center’s founder, smiles the wistful, knowing smile of the contracted fall-guy and extortionist. And the center—founded in 1971 and renamed for the judge who defended the institution against the first wave of attacks on it the year the autism epidemic was launched and the year Prozac was first marketed—has endured all the while.
The low-cost way to explain the mystery of the JRC’s endurance: whenever the next crusader in a long line of crusading bureaucrats attempts to shut down the “school of shock,” a handful of parents of the center’s students go up into arms and protest that the Rotenberg Center provided the only therapy that stopped their children from injuring themselves or others, from smearing feces on every surface or otherwise acting like crazed animals.
This explanation is favored by both those who defend the institution and those who want to be perceived as protesting it alike. But even those who genuinely protest the center’s practices are either blind to the machinery which has sustained the institution for so many decades or loathe to commit the politically suicidal act of addressing it. The latter are probably the most hypocritical if they grub for humanitarian “creds” while still performing the table-cloth trick of leaving in place the factors which feed the school. But even the sincere may eventually throw up their hands as they start stumbling over the skeletons pouring out of every dark “closet” that surrounds the issues of disability and institutional abuse in the US. At least in the past, official demands for long term research on outcomes for the JRC’s specific practices have tended to fade to whispers over and over again.
Sadly, the airing of the now infamous JRC torture video and the
perpetual wilting of each round of public outrage in the press might be used as
a kind of litmus test or even public inculcation exercise: if the public sees
the video and reads of the campaigns to close JRC and the center is not closed
forthwith this time, this can be bureaucratically interpreted as a sign the
public tacitly approves and will allow it.
But even if current campaigns finally succeed, the Rotenberg Center is a hydra: closing the center without investigating the real reasons it’s endured cuts off only one head. The same abusive practices will crop up, even if by stealth, in other institutions. Again, why?
Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell. ~Karl Raimund PopperBy Adriana Gamondes
Autism, the fastest growing developmental disorder in the US, represents more than 7% of a $40 billion dollar psychopharmaceutical market for a demographic of roughly 1 to 2% of individuals under age 25, where roughly 85% of autism diagnoses are found. Marking a condition as a public safety hazard and those with the traits as near devils is the time honored manner of manufacturing public consent for exploitative and coercive treatment and dehumanization. In other words, a wide belief that those with autism are likely to kill could effectively snuff protest against drugging mandates which Torry, Satel, Koplewicz, NAMI, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, a steady procession of presidential administrations and the pharmaceutical industry have pushed for all along.
But the population with autism may be only one of many targets of this particular campaign. Autism research provides an endless supply of unsubstantiated genetic corollaries which have the distinction of being protected by the state in order to obfuscate the role of government public health agencies in contributing to an epidemic. And, of course, these unsubstantiated genetic corollaries have endless applications for political and industrial exploits.
Questioning the “largely genetic” foundations of autism has ruined medical, scientific and media careers, and this may partly be because, as with the elusive schizophrenia “genes,” so many reputations and articles of scientific faith hinge on the theory. For instance, if a group of researchers needs to prove that pigs fly to serve an industrial sponsor or as part of an exercise in "weaponized anthropology” targeting a strategic or ideological foe, all they need do is link “proofs” of the imaginary flight of pigs to autism to create an automatic credibility shield.
"No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's
cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids
look and look and look at all those X's..."
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle." ~Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
In the introduction to Nuclear Rites, Stanford anthropologist Hugh Gusterson explains why he approached a formal study of atomic weapons scientists in the same manner he’d approach a tribal culture: “one powerful Western institution that is particularly understudied by anthropologists is science.”
Gusterson concludes that, though typical psychological analyses of weapons production bear some truth—that the power of nuclear weapons systems become an extension of the self, an expression of potency,etc.—the view too easily dismisses scientists’ own rationalizations and ideology as mere distractions from driving psychosexual motives. Instead, according to Gusterson, scientists’ faith in the ultimate morality of their work and the fact that this stems from the problems they’re charged with solving (namely the belief that winning the arms race would prevent nuclear strikes by less evolved nations) might better explain the field’s euphemization of risks, romanticization of their technology and exaggerated self-assurance that this technology can be controlled even in the face of repeated human error and equipment malfunction potentially costing the lives of millions. Gusterson discusses profit mostly as it pertains to scientific status, coveted name-rights and the ritual of “initiation and transcendence” involved in creation and testing.
The word “profit” is derived from the Latin profectus—“to gain, advance or progress.“ There are a variety of interweaving gains to be made in ventures that are perceived to advance humanity in the name of progress—money is only one of them. Gusterson quotes Robert Budwine, head of the USA Delegation and director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory:
The United States, for all our manifest faults, is without a doubt the best hope for a future world of peace and prosperity… Weapons research simply must continue at a determined and intensive level for our nation to have the opportunity to lead humankind towards some future utopian world order.
Several of Gusterson’s works begin with a quote from E.L. Doctorow: “The bomb first was our weapon. Then it became our diplomacy. Next it became our economy. Now it’s become our culture. We’ve become the people of the bomb.”
“To the victor go the spoils” has a different meaning in that sense. Gusterson also points out in The Insecure American that by becoming terrifying on the path to progress—even if this is rationalized, as it always has been, as the conscious pursuit of the “greater good”—we’ve terrified ourselves. Fear sells, but we’re the chief consumers of it.
Every social policy which requires the cover of morality and pursuit of a shining future to rationalize human and ecological collateral is now framed as a “war” on some frightening specter or other: the war on terror, the war on disease, the war on street drugs, and the war on mental illness (providing the sanctioned replacement for street drugs). Some are beginning to recognize that whenever the “war on” prefix is attached to any problem, whatever the “war” has been declared on will expand.
The voting public might backlash against some of these proverbial wars (case in point, the legalization of recreational marijuana in two states), but public opinion is increasingly feeble when it comes up against corporate interests. Most American voters wanted withdrawal from Afghanistan and for Wall Street bankers to be held accountable. Many were repelled by the Supreme Court’s decision to gut limits on corporate campaign financing and almost 90% of Americans are concerned about vaccine and prescription drug safety. But as clinical psychologist Bruce Levine wrote in a Huffington Post article entitled The Myth of U.S. Democracy and the Reality of U.S. Corporatocracy, “’We the People’ have zero impact on policy.”
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. ~Revelations, 20:14-15By Adriana Gamondes
In September, 2011, Manitoba judge Robert Heinrichs ruled that a sixteen year old accused of murder would remain in youth court where he faces a maximum sentence of four years rather than the possibility of life without parole in adult court. Family members of the fifteen year old victim were outraged by the ruling, though Heinrichs stated that the accused’s “basic normalcy now further confirms he no longer poses a risk of violence to anyone and that his mental deterioration and resulting violence would not have taken place without exposure to Prozac…He has none of the characteristics of a perpetrator of violence.”
Dr. Peter Breggin, the reform psychiatrist and psychopharmaceutical expert who testified on antidepressant-induced psychosis and violence in the Manitoba case, was sued for his medical license in 1987—the very year that Prozac was first mass marketed by Eli Lilly. The charges were filed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a consumer group which has always lobbied for forced institutionalization and mandated treatment of the mentally ill ( Section 9.2 of NAMI’s Public Policy Platform)—including drugs and electroconvulsive therapy or ECT— and was recently exposed as a long-standing pharmaceutical industry front organization in The New York Times.
Due to his success in banning forced lobotomy in institutions coupled with efforts to raise the alarm on clinical risks of ECT and psychiatric drugs, Dr. Breggin has been a thorn in the side of industry and its various front organizations since the 1970’s. After Breggin went on Oprah and reported that Eli Lilly’s own trial data showed that even individuals lacking histories of violence or serious mental illness who were exposed to the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant Prozac and antipsychotics would frequently develop violent ideation or violent psychosis, NAMI claimed that Breggin’s remarks could cause patients to discontinue their meds. Following an outpouring of support for Breggin from the international medical reform community, the Maryland licensure board dropped the charges and Breggin prevailed. Seventeen years later, the FDA adopted black box warnings for suicide and violence on SSRI antidepressants. The black box warnings are, almost word for word, the precise clinical caveats that Breggin repeatedly submitted to the FDA and in Congressional hearings.
The previously concealed Prozac trial data Breggin uncovered and exposed in 1987 included cases of child subjects on Prozac who suddenly developed intrusive dreams and visions of going to school with guns and shooting classmates. There were also far more attempted and completed suicides among drug-exposed subjects than in the placebo groups.
Over the years, Breggin and other researchers have worked to identify the mechanism by which certain psychopharmaceutical drugs induce violence and suicidality. Breggin has described phenomenon such as drug-induced akathisia, an uncontrollable sense of restless inner torment caused by an amphetamine-like and even LSD-like effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI’s, and has written about prescription drug-induced “intoxication anosognosia” or “medication spellbinding:
Medication spellbinding has four basic effects.
In our district school, right down the hall from the cinder block scream room, there’s a ten foot statue of Lincoln with the usual engraved quote about liberty, equality and honesty. We think the school should take it down.
According to my mother’s family tree, Lincoln is some kind of distant cousin. But the irony that the school mistreated descendants of its own mascot isn’t the reason we think the school should remove the statue. Lincoln didn’t set much stake in perceptions of ancestry—sort of the point of his legacy. The replica is just misleading.
This is a school which chased out a brilliant special education director six years ago because she tried to get the school in compliance with the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) for wider inclusion of disabled students. Like many wealthy districts concerned with appearances, the school spends a fortune to ship children with less-than-high-functioning disabilities out of district and out of sight rather than using funds to build state of the art programs. Some families like their children’s outplacements in private programs that they might not otherwise be able to afford; some are coerced into accepting the placements and would prefer inclusion.
In our case, the private schools also tend to be a long haul away from the community and disabled children often spend more than fifteen hours a week riding buses, sometimes on icy, poorly plowed roads. Some kids stim on bus travel—ours don’t. And considering that our district fired a bus driver for protesting faulty brakes, we drove.
Even with the high level of outplacement, the visible rate of autism among seven and eight year olds in our district is the highest I’ve ever seen or heard of—Minnesota Somali high. Since the rate in Massachusetts is already estimated to be as high as 1 in 48, this town may have a lot to hide—a spike within a spike. It could make prospective business and home buyers wonder what’s in the water. It could hurt real estate.
Whatever the reason, it was clear from the start that the district didn’t want our children in the school. At first we didn’t either; but this was due to complex health issues, not degree of disability. We saw it as a temporary measure. The children had made such enormous progress from simple changes to diet that we were concerned about food infractions and losing ground in development. We thought a high staff ratio in a private school might be “safer” in this sense. But when the children were mistreated in the private school, and we decided we wanted our children in a less restrictive environment and close to home, we discovered that private placement can be a trap: the district could use past “restrictive” placements to prevent inclusion with typical peers in the future.
This is pretty much what happened— the district took the private school’s denial that abuse had occurred at face value, falsely framing the children as “aggressive” and us as spurious reporters by way of denying “LRE” or “least restrictive environment”—sped-speak for inclusion.
For the school, denying inclusion really wasn’t about degree of disability either but that we stank of advocacy. Coincidentally, the district and the private school received a letter explaining precisely why the kids were being officially withdrawn from the private school—from the physical assault to the strip search and lack of accountability—the very day the Occupy movement was launched in 2011 and we were seen as nothing more than troublemakers trying to “occupy” the district. Knowing that our issue with the private school had been mistreatment, the district principal threatened to build a seclusion room just for our kids in an openly recorded meeting. His feet did a little dance under the table as he issued the threat while simultaneously dangling admission over our heads. By that time, the children had been out of school for more than two months and it would be another two months before the district finally relented and agreed to provide them with a Free and Appropriate Education, but only on an irregular “trial” basis. Despite the coercions, we still objected to the use of seclusion in that meeting for the record: restraint and seclusion for noncompliance are illegal in this state unless parents agree to it for supposedly “therapeutic” purposes.
According to a 2008 study performed in Denmark, the mortality rate for individuals with autism is twice that of the general population. A more recent Swedish study found the rate 5.6 fold higher than expected. Whichever is the true number, the message is clear: far more disabled die young. Among the more common causes of death such as seizure, accident and circulatory disease, asphyxiation is included among unnatural causes.
Michael Carey’s thirteen year old son was one of the victims of “increased mortality”—a euphemism for the violent death Jonathan Carey suffered at the hands of staff at the O.D. Heck state residential care facility in New York. Since Jonathan’s death in 2007, Michael Carrey has lobbied for improvements within the state’s dangerous disability system, including calling for video and audio surveillance of all special needs classrooms, on transportation, in group and residential homes.
What happened in place of the changes Carey battled for appears to be worse than nothing. The bill signed by Governor Cuomo in June created yet another go-between agency to divert calls and reports of institutional abuse away from 911 and law enforcement. The bill also gives power to the governor to appoint institutional officials and makes the prosecution of accused care workers and administrators more difficult than it already was by raising the bar from “credible evidence” to “preponderance of evidence.” Carey believes the bill was clearly intended to prevent reports of institutional abuse from reaching the justice system.
Listen to Carey discussing the bill:
Even after Jonathan’s death was covered in The New York Times, the abuse at the center continued according to care worker Mary Maioriello, who provided the Times with recordings of O.D. Heck administrators taken secretly during meetings in which these administrators fail to show much interest in or stop the assaults and systematic degradation of residents which Maioriello. After the tapes were released, the administrators were replaced.
The need for surveillance is often demonstrated by surveillance.
I’m writing this post for two reasons. First it’s to announce an event which autism families might take an interest in—a chance to protest the proposed changes to the “bible of psychiatry,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, which may go into effect in 2013. Secondly, I’m writing to bridge a gap between causes which otherwise share a lot of common ground.
On May 5th, a reform psychiatric organization called Mindfreedom has organized a rally in Philadelphia and a march to “occupy” the American Psychiatric Association, which is holding its ritzy, drug industry funded yearly convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. MindFreedom states that it represents those who say they have been harmed or even helped by organized psychiatry but find that recent proposed changes to the DSM will lead to increased practices of over or wrongful diagnoses and over-medicating with drugs that carry severe side effects. Among the scheduled speakers will be activist attorney Jim Gottstein, founder of Psychrights, who lobbies against forced institutionalization and drugging and exposed the dangers of atypical antipsychotics frequently prescribed for individuals with autism.
Autism parents have trouble enough attending their own dental appointments much less rallies but the way this event is organized, there is nothing to stop anyone from carrying a sign protesting the proposed changes the DSM’s autism category. There is also an occupy rally in Boston on the same day in solidarity with the Philadelphia event.
As far as what the “occupy” umbrella means, no one has been able to figure that out yet, though the Occupy Wall Street organizers clearly stated several demands:
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create [fake] derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
Occupy has been associated with a liberal bent, but according to Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, this is not strictly the case:
I can’t speak for the people out there because I don’t know who they are or exactly what they are demonstrating against…I can argue the case for their right to express their outright frustration with what is going on. Some are liberals and some are conservatives and some are libertarians and some are strict constitutionalists. And if you read carefully over what I’ve written over the past 10 or 15 years, I talk a lot about this, that eventually we will go bankrupt.
In other words, political constituency is no obstacle in participating— for the time being, “occupy” is what you make of it.
Most in the autism community have probably seen coverage of how the proposed changes to the DSM’s autism diagnosis would impact individuals with autism and it’s not a pretty picture. Many believe the proposed changes to the autism diagnosis were designed to reduce the appearance of a genuine rise in the disorder in order to squelch public alarm. The proposed changes to autism criteria would eliminate about three quarters of those currently diagnosed according to one study.
At first glance it would seem our concerns are precisely reverse from those of psychiatric reform groups—psychiatric reform groups are concerned with overdiagnosis of certain conditions and the autism community is concerned about a scheme to underdiagnose the condition in question. But the concerns of the autism community come full circle, since individuals who are “booted out” of the autism diagnosis would then be shoved into other diagnostic categories such as “social communication disorder.” This vague and generalized “SCD” appears to have already been matched up with corresponding drugs in the pipeline promising to “improve socialization” in autism. Of particular concern is the new class of exceptionally dangerous glutamate antipsychotics, though old, off-patent drugs may gain a new profitable life as they’re re-patented for autism.
Managing Editor's Note: Here's yet another updated version of this post by Adriana Gamondes. Last May we told you that there was a new hire by Autism Speaks of a Pfizer Executive. This week AS made an announcement from the UK: Unprecedented Academic-Industry Collaboration Seeks New Drugs and Novel Treatments for Autism. In January 2011 Vanity Fair ran an article that said "Prescription drugs kill some 200,000 Americans every year. Will that number go up, now that most clinical trials are conducted overseas—on sick Russians, homeless Poles, and slum-dwelling Chinese—in places where regulation is virtually nonexistent, the F.D.A. doesn’t reach, and “mistakes” can end up in pauper’s graves? The authors investigate the globalization of the pharmaceutical industry, and the U.S. Government’s failure to rein in a lethal profit machine." The Guardian UK ran America's fatal addiction to prescription drugs Misuse of legal medications kills more US citizens than die in car crashes. The cost in dollars, let alone lives, compels action last June.
By Adriana Gamondes
What if the pharmaceutical industry had a formula for projected drug profits from a massive rise in autism? A formula such as: PY=P×Y
And what if the same industry simultaneously rewarded scientists, media companies and organizations which disseminate the concept that there is no autism epidemic, that the rise is “false”, that the numbers have always been with us, but that there’s just increased diagnosis due to increased clinical and public recognition of autism? And what if this industry went on a massive campaign to proselytize the dangers of any treatment method—or any scientific authority— which threatened PY=P×Y?
Profiting from something while claiming it doesn’t exist is nothing new. According to some historians, the myth of the flat earth was perpetuated by the Phoenicians to prevent maritime trade rivals from voyaging to England to mine tin. Tin, which seems to have been scarce in ancient Canaan, was an essential ingredient to bronze; bronze was the essence of military power and trade at the time. Advantage in the tin trade gave the Phoenicians untold power. As long as the lie held, Phoenician fleets regularly made mining expeditions north, trading freely with the natives of the British Isles—while neighboring states feared plummeting off the edge of the world if they dared to sail through the Straits of Gibraltar.
For the analogy, imagine the existence of the epidemic as “England”; autism recovery treatments as the “Straits of Gibraltar”; and maybe psychopharmaceutical drug profits as “tin”.
The epidemic-based profit formula actually exists. It was published in a 2003 study for Eli Lilly by researchers Robert and Julia Gerlai (HERE). From the study: Autism: a large unmet medical need and complex research problem
The question whether the epidemic status of ASD is due to true increase of incidence of the disease or simply its better detection and diagnosis is debated. Nevertheless, according to a most recent report to the legislature on the principal findings from the epidemiology of autism in California, the M.I.N.D. institute has confirmed that the increase of incidence is real and cannot be attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria or misclassification. Autism was estimated to have a frequency of more than 1 in 500 children, while more recent studies found its prevalence as high as 1 in 150 (for examples, see; also see CDC website HERE). Researchers, private (e.g., Alliance for Autism Research), and government (e.g., National Institutes of Health, USA) agencies have recognized the enormous need. As a result, funding for research has significantly increased. Surprisingly, however, autism is still not among the neurological or neuropsychiatric diseases onto which large pharmaceutical research companies traditionally focus. This is unfortunate as ASD represents a significant unmet medical need with an enormous market size. Consider the following: ASD may be diagnosed as early as 2–3 years of age. Some even argue that successful diagnosis may be made at 8-12 months HERE) Autistic persons can live a normal life span. The market size can thus be calculated as follows:
where PY is the number of “patient years,” P is the number of patients and Y is the number of years for which patients live after diagnosis. Calculating with the conservative prevalence estimate of 1 in 500, there may be approximately 600,000 ASD patients in the USA alone. These persons may live for an average of 76 years. Using the conservative age of 3 years for the time of diagnosis, PY may be calculated as follows.
PY=600,000×73=43,800,000, i.e., almost 44 million patient years.
We're pleased to announce that Adriana Gamondes is our newest Contributing Editor. Adriana runs our FaceBook page along with Cathy Jameson, who is also a Contributing Editor. Here is a sampling of her work. Please join us in welcoming her.
Restraint and Seclusion in Special Education
The Phoenicians: Autism Recovery Denial, Drug Profits and the Media’s Flat Earth
The Bad Business of Autism
By now the outbreak of tics and Tourette’s like symptoms among primarily female high school students in LeRoy, New York, has hit the mainstream media—all except The New York Times, which so far has printed nothing on the tragedy. Why?
It’s possible that Times management may have foreseen that, after more low-brow media had exhausted the standard diversionary red herring theory for mass outbreaks of movement disorders among females— that the girls suffered from the too-Freudian “conversion disorder” or “mass hysteria”— environmentalists would eventually descend on LeRoy to test the soil, air and water and study potential toxic sources.
The problem for the Times may be that there's no progressive-seeming way to spin the story—mod shade of lipstick or not, the hysteria theory is still a pig. Though it’s a very useful pig with so many industry-exculpating applications which the Times is deeply invested in. For instance, what if environmental theory in the LeRoy outbreak implicates industries or institutions represented by the Times’ shared board members?
Maybe in an oblique, all-purpose pitch to de-pig-ify the hysteria theory, Times editors could dredge up a representative from an astroturf breed of Prozac-friendly postfeminist like Elizabeth Wilson, author of Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body, in which she argues incomprehensibly that:
Listening to Prozac does not simplistically replace psychological or cultural determinism with biological determinism; more carefully, it opens up the very nature of determination (i.e., certainty, termination, resolution) to interrogation.
But there’s another option beyond bad genes and bad childhoods: Biological indeterminism—as in consumers have little informed consent about the safety of the air we breathe, the food and water we consume and the drugs we take. We are not always in control of how toxins impact us in combination, how they got into us in the first place or our individual toxic susceptibility.
The environmentalists have in fact descended on Leroy::
The competing psychological-disorder diagnosis — Buffalo Drs. Laszlo Mechtler and Jennifer McVige have called it both conversion disorder and mass psychogenic illness — is what's known as a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it is applied when other more tangible explanations have been ruled out.
Miller and representatives of the environmental and health groups say not enough work has been done to exclude these other possibilities.
"Right now you have a cluster of sick kids, and nobody's quite sure what's going on. It's kind of been a rush to judgment here," said Claire Barnett, executive director of the Healthy Schools Network, a nonprofit group with offices in Washington, D.C., and Albany.
Officials at the state Department of Health, which has looked into the cluster, avoid speculating about the cause. Spokesman Jeffrey Hammond notes there are "many causes of tics-like symptoms," and stress often makes them worse.
But Hammond did say most of the girls did not get the HPV vaccine Gardasil, so any side effects wouldn't have caused the symptoms. He said the physicians in Buffalo also ruled out infections in the patients they saw.
Hammond noted that indoor air testing done for the school district found no evidence of toxic-chemical contamination, a lack of fresh air, mold or other problems. And he argued the lack of symptoms reported by staff members and male students argued against a contaminant spread through the air.
In the end the claim that solely female students were stricken has been contradicted. Aside from vague reports that, among the 15 or so victims in LeRoy, one male student may have been affected, Age of Autism blog editors Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill were contacted by the family of Bryan Trembley, a thirty-five year old resident of Bath, New York, who developed very similar symptoms to the girls in LeRoy in September. Bath—aptly named considering that, like LeRoy, the area is low-lying and subject to flooding as the Age of Autism editors documented— is approximately 60 miles southeast of LeRoy, though the towns appear to be connected by an intricate network of waterways.
Bryan Trembley is obviously not an adolescent or female and so far, no one has suggested he suffers from conversion disorder. In a similar past outbreaks, such as at the William Byrd High School in Roanoke, Virginia in 2007, one adult teacher succumbed to tics along with students. Still, the gender disparity and adolescent bent of the syndrome is obvious, which is likely what brought on quaint speculations of victims’ female-borne psychological instability. Who could be more “susceptible” to this kind of sloppy inference than teenage girls?
By Adriana Gamondes
Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeats
We hear their heartbeats
Mothers of the Disappeared ( U2, on YouTube)
I recently experienced a brain freeze after reading the report of a lawsuit filed against government health authorities in Chile on behalf of a vaccine injured child:
Last week a mother filed a US$4 million lawsuit against the government for neurological damage allegedly suffered by her son as a result of state-approved flu vaccines with high mercury content.
Sandra Ormazabal says her son Sebastian Ruiz has a language disorder, food allergies and intestinal dysbiosis (mercury poisoning) as a result of vaccines administered by health authorities. She said the vaccines contain a dangerous neurotoxin - thimerosal (ethyl mercury) - in doses higher than permitted by international agencies.
Ormazabal’s attorney Linda Troncoso said the lawsuit was filed against the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Public Health after tests of sample vaccines confirmed unsafe mercury levels.
“Sebastian is not an isolated case,” said his mother, author of ‘The Silence of My Son,’ a book documenting her son’s health problems. “There are other children who have disorders resulting from mercury poisoning.”
The news struck me in a personal way. For anyone unfamiliar with South America’s not-so-distant history, the full irony that citizens in Chile can file vaccine injury suits against their health authorities but that we in the US cannot may not be immediately apparent.
I’m not particularly equipped to give a crash course, but here’s a quick overview: “Operation Condor” was a US Cold War era covert campaign to remove perceived leftist or pro-labor democratic governments in South and Central America and replace them with US-approved military dictatorships. On September 11th, 1973, democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende was deposed via a US-conceived and backed military coup headed by General Augusto Pinochet, thereby destroying the longest standing democracy in South or Central American history. With Allende dead, Pinochet ordered the murders and “disappearances” of roughly 30,000 “opponents” of the regime between 1973 and 1990, when Pinochet was himself removed from office by referendum.
And of course the New York Times and mainstream media in general reported with gross inaccuracy—if they reported at all— on this and other human rights catastrophes throughout South and Central America during those nations’ similar reigns of terror. Stories of women flayed and hung from trees; of infants swung into rocks by their heels; of the assassinations of priests and nuns; killings covered up as suicides; massacres in public squares; people bound and thrown live from airplanes into the sea; torture, mass graves and the utter absence of justice for the murdered and missing. Because the dictatorships were “client states” erected to protect a breed of American and international business interest in these countries, anyone murdered by the state—even nuns, even children— were mischaracterized as undeserving of justice, as having been terrorists or “radicals”, as having done or been something wrong according to the few, thin, emotionally devoid back page reports of abuses that emerged in the American press in that era. It’s all nearly identical to the way that mainstream media now censors abuses, mischaracterizes victims and protects business interests on behalf of another, more modern version of the “client state”—the global pharmaceutical industry.
What’s interesting about Allende’s political career, in light of both the current epidemic as well as the Santiago Times’ mention of mass Hepatitis A vaccinations in northern Chile (as a response to the region’s sewage problem), is that Allende was a medical doctor and had written a book on fighting disease among the poor through changes in living conditions, not primarily through medical means. I have no idea whether his niece, novelist Isabel Allende (“House of the Spirits”), drew influence from her uncle when she wrote about the possibility of vaccine-induced seizures and mental disorders in “Of Love and Shadows”, her 1986 novel on political violence and disappearances in an unnamed South American country.
It’s this that Chile recovered from in order to reassert a constitution and personal liberties which give citizens the right to civil action for a child injured by vaccines. But where did this symptom of suppression go to if Chileans no longer suffer from it, at least in this instance? It seems to have come home. But home is anywhere individual rights and tort protections are composting, because the profit interests in question never had allegiance to any country, ideology or population. The “banana republic” is now anyone injured by a vaccine in the US. The third world is us.
You don’t know me, but we may be breaking up. I don’t actually have time to watch your show, so you won’t be losing a viewer—maybe just an occasional Youtube-clip-watcher, but an avid one. Like so many, I’d once held you up as a sort of icon of independent media in a sea of embedded shills— even if you were once led into “by puppets making prank phone calls” as you put it (oh such good times we had—sigh).
But recent events have left me wondering—are you…could you be… somebody’s monkey after all? And do you dance? Or are you really truly squarely scout’s honor a wincing, cringing, emotionally crippled hypochondriac? Please let it be the latter, Jon, for then there is hope.
After seeing your recent interview with Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano (HERE) which came off like a giggling plug for Sanofi Pasteur, my heart sank. I’m an autism parent and laughter is like a tourniquet to someone who just lost an arm in a wood chipper. In my case, both arms: my once healthy boy-girl twins began disappearing after flu shots at one year of age. It’s laugh or die for parents like me, but I’m no longer sure if you’re the kind of man I can click on in times of need.
I’ve had to think it through. On the one hand, if I myself were a clever pundit making umpty millions on cable and my parent network, which happened to have pharm-friendly ties, was hinting that I should make nice about flu shots in the midst of a marketing frenzy (and my extraordinary survival barometer was telling me that if I made the wrong noises in this instance, even if I didn’t jump on a couch or subscribe to an alternative church and was careful to never repeat my “mochachino” quip in earshot of a women’s basketball team*, something else I did or said could easily be turned into an excuse to make things far worse for me than all the other times I’d “bucked the pressure” combined), I might take a vague dislike of having people spray snot in my face and whip it into a full blown case of hypochondria in my own mind if it made me feel better about “assuming the position”. On the other hand, I might be Monk.