Our story so far: In April 1916, record shipments of raw sugar poured into New York City, including 14,051 tons delivered from Hawaii to San Francisco by the steamship Mexican, then carried overland by train for the first time ever. In May 1916, the first cases of what became the world’s worst polio epidemic occurred in Brooklyn, the world's sugar refining capital. Among them were the proprietor of an ice cream shop and two infants who lived in the same tenement building. As May unfolded, cases multiplied, but health experts didn’t notice till June. When they did, they mocked public concerns about a link between food and polio – especially ice cream, sweets, and fresh fruit -- but overlooked compelling clues. This series. which seeks to connect those dots, is told in real time, 100 years later. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.
Brooklyn, New York -- May was a waste. More than two-dozen cases of poliomyelitis in Brooklyn, including Lettie Caruso and Peter Pinchero, did nothing to raise the alarm with the city health department. There were retrospective but not terribly convincing explanations for the lag. It’s not that polio was unknown: Since the turn of the century, epidemics hit the city with deadly regularity, though usually later in the summer. The one in 1907 had been the first major outbreak in the U.S. It killed 125 in New York City alone. This one would kill twenty times as many -- 2,343 in the city and 6,000 nationwide.
It took until June 17 to alert the media and the public. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle story that day said there was “no need of undue alarm” but "the officials of the board of health are somewhat worried and are taking measures to stamp out the disease," mostly centered on travel restrictions, quarantine, removal of sick children, and sanitation efforts. The fear their children would be taken away may have worked against honest reporting in the Italian immigrant enclaves where the cases began; few to none of the health department workers spoke Italian, and they considered the immigrants "suspicious and ignorant."
In retrospect, Health Commissioner Dr. Haven Emerson wrote the next year: “To judge by the reports of physicians up to June 1, there was nothing to excite suspicion that we were already at the outset of an epidemic. Within the first eight days of June, 6 cases were reported from Brooklyn, from which borough no cases had been reported up to this time in 1916 and none in June from the other boroughs. The six cases were reported as follows”:
Even then, it took another 10 days to raise the battle flag. Emerson claimed he had moved as fast as possible – given obstacles that were conspicuously not of his creation. “Only a thoroughly alert public and a forewarned profession could have prevented the delay in official knowledge of the threatening epidemic,” he wrote in the department’s own exhaustive and self-serving 391-page history, "A Monograph on the Epidemic of Poliomyelitis (Infantile Paralysis) in New York City in 1916: Based on the Official Reports of the Bureaus of the Department of Health,” published in 1917.
“That energetic measures were taken as soon as six verified cases of the disease were reported on June 6th and 8th, is a sufficient reply to any lingering suspicions that the Department of Health awaited the actual presence of a calamity before taking measures of protection.” That sounds like a guilty conscience that needed no accuser but might have encountered a few. It also raised the question: Just whose responsibility was it to alert the public and forewarn the doctors about an annual epidemic that visited New York with increasing virulence? (There is another possibility we’ll look at – that some of the cases weren’t recognized as polio because they weren’t polio, at least in the classic sense.)
But help, perhaps too much and too late, was on the way.
“On July 6,” Emerson writes, “the Secretary of the Treasury in person offered to the Mayor the assistance and cooperation of the United States Public Health Service. … The offer was gratefully accepted.” (I’ll bet it was.) That, said John R. Paul, whose 1971 “A History of Poliomyelitis” is considered the authoritative text, “posed a certain amount of competition for Dr. Emerson’s own working force.” (I’ll bet it did.)
Nonetheless, Paul wrote, Emerson displayed “earnest zeal” and “gave to this cause the very best that was in him – according to his lights.” But he and the Public Health Service zeroed in on quarantines and travel restrictions and studies of horse stables and side issues like documenting secondary exposures, which Paul called “a thankless task indeed.” (Those are the files at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia on which my reporting is based, so I thank him for that!) A better focus would have been to collect information that “had to do with poliovirus – its distribution within the body and its distribution within nature.” The fact that polio infection was caused by a "filterable virus" had only been established in 1908, after the last big epidemic, so a focus on it now would have been a significant contribution.
As for Emerson the man (below), “In appearance Haven Emerson’s tall, almost ascetic figure has epitomized the title which had been bestowed on him, namely, 'The last of the great Puritans.'" He was related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. But earnest zeal and rectitude did not always win the day. “After the lapse of fifty or more years it is easy to say what should have been done,” Paul wrote. “In retrospect, the tragedy was that, in view of the galaxy of talent which had been assembled on advisory committees and working forces alike and the administrational and laboratory facilities that were at their disposal, a golden opportunity to advance knowledge of the clinical virology of poliomyelitis had been allowed to slip by.” As regards Emerson’s own claim that the department’s response proved “the efficacy of co-operation,” Paul writes ruefully, “It cannot be said that these words have stood the test of time, though they may have been appropriate in 1916-17.”
Earlier notice might have stopped or at least foreshortened outrages like Mrs. Franklin (chronicled in Parts 1 and 2) working at her ice cream store on Gates Avenue for nearly three weeks after she started feeling pain in her arms, legs and spine on June 1. One has to think that being the friendly neighborhood ice cream lady for so many children so early in the epidemic, and “attempting to bathe” one of the children who subsequently died, and working until she literally dropped, was not a good idea. An earlier alert might have kept her at home or in the hospital, or scared patrons away, well before June 19, when she collapsed on the ice cream parlor floor, paralyzed. By the same measure, health officials didn’t notice or follow up on any number of anomalies -- deviations from the norm that often contain the best clues to causation, especially when they occur early on. The entire 1916 outbreak, while characteristic in many respects, was shot through with such anomalies that beg for closer inspection.
Our story so far: In the spring of 1916, the first cases of what became the world’s worst polio epidemic were reported in Brooklyn. Shortly before, a record-breaking shipment of raw sugar from Hawaii arrived in New York Harbor. This series offers a scenario that connects those dots, told in real time 100 years later. Part 1 is here.
Brooklyn, New York, April 23, 1916 -- By late April, 14,051 tons of sugar from the Big Island were pouring into Long Island refineries – a transit of nearly 5,000 miles that took most of a month. While some of the sugar came by American-Hawaiian steamship to the world’s largest commercial dock in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge Channel, most arrived via the new overland rail route from San Francisco.
The trains probably passed through the huge Oak Island Terminal in Newark before rolling across the Upper Bay Bridge spanning Newark Bay to Bayonne. There, the freight cars were uncoupled and ferried to Brooklyn in barges. In the map below, the transit point was from approximately the bottom left to bottom right across Upper New York Bay, from New Jersey to piers around 50th Street in Brooklyn. Manhattan occupies the upper middle of the map, and the whole point was to avoid it and get the sugar straight to the refineries, which were connected to the docks by short haul rail tracks.
Most of the Hawaii sugar crop had been purchased by Howell & Son sugar brokers, and it no doubt ended up at Howell's affiliated refineries: in Brooklyn; just above the Queens-Brooklyn line in Long Island City, and on the Hudson River in Yonkers. (Philadelphia refiners had purchased the remainder, which went straight to Philly by train from San Francisco.)
At the refineries, the raw sugar underwent a complex process to produce the pure white crystals consumers expected. Byproducts like molasses were literally spun off, impurities were swept into the sewers by millions of gallons of water. The pure sugar crystals lined up under magnification in orderly single file, like the freight cars that brought them. All this was big business in Brooklyn.
“Brooklyn’s Sugar Plants Largest in the Country,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported in 1924. “Brooklyn is still the sugar refinery to the world, having handled in the last year approximately 1,900,000 tons of raw cane sugar, or 4,256,000,000 pounds. … Ninety percent of the sugar handled at the port of New York is refined and distributed from this borough. The great industrial cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston trail in the rear of Brooklyn when it comes to refining.”
May 1916 -- Half a dozen miles inland, at 1295 Gates Avenue, Brooklyn, doctors and family members puzzled and prayed over 13-month-old Lettie Caruso, who moved there with her family on May 1 and took ill May 9 with what was considered a cold, then pulmonary bronchitis, or possibly meningitis. On May 23, she died.
She was an only child.
The cause of death was listed as “fatal pneumonia.” Infantile paralysis -- polio -- was not suspected or at least not mentioned at the time. “There has been no Infantile Paralysis in this house, nor in the adjoining properties," the health department reported in September in a note about Lettie as if to explain why it hadn't seemed possible; now she was listed at the top of that note as "a possible source of infection." In fact, if she had polio, she would be an index case -- along with a male infant in another part of town, she was the first to get sick, on May 9. There were no children with onset listed before that date.
Soon there was more sickness and death in the building. At some point in May, “there was a woman living on the top floor of the house over her store whose baby was taken ill and died suddenly. … The doctor was an Italian and never told the mother the cause of the baby’s death.” Based on another report in the file, this second infant was probably a male named Peter: “After an illness of 4 days, Peter Pinchero of 1295 Gates Ave. died on May 24th. Eight days before he was taken ill, his cousin, living at the same address, had also died following a similar illness of about two weeks.” (This is probably an imprecise reference to Lettie.)
Contact tracing, as it's called, was not an easy task, as the jumble of interviews and observations in Lettie's file attest a century later. Between the language barrier in this Italian neighborhood; the poverty, and especially the fear that health officials might take children away, the truth comes out in dribs and drabs and even then remains incomplete. Nor did the health workers exhibit much empathy, calling their clients "suspicious and ignorant." “These people neither understand not speak Eng. So I could get very little accurate information,” a nurse wrote August 24 as she tried to complete a questionnaire on “possible source of infection” at the tenement. (Apparently there were no Italian speakers in the employ of the City of New York to call on in the midst of the worst polio epidemic ever.) So bear with me; the confusion itself is part of the picture.
Suddenly, I’ve become an expert on autism – and not just autism, but all things neurological and other stuff I can’t understand.
This all stems from a commentary Mark Blaxill and I wrote last year for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, which the abstract on PubMed (yes, we’re indexed on PubMed!) summarizes thusly:
“Leo Kanner begins his landmark 1943 case series on autistic children by stating the condition was first brought to his attention in 1938. Recent letters to JADD have described this reference as "mysterious" and speculated it refers to papers published that year by Despert or Asperger. In fact, as Kanner goes on to state, 1938 is when he examined the first child in his case series. An exchange of letters with Despert and later writing by Kanner also point to the originality of his observations.”
Basically, we were disputing previous comments that suggested Kanner was actually referring to a speech Hans Asperger made in 1938, or an article by another child psychiatrist, Louise Despert, that same year.
The truth seemed clear to us. In his second paragraph of Kanner’s article, he explained why he was aware of such children “since 1938”:
“Case 1. Donald T. was first seen in October, 1938.” And there you have it. Kanner cited that encounter several more times and said, stating the obvious, that it was the first time he was aware of autism.
This may seem like dancing on the head of a pin, but trust me, it is really not, because relentless efforts to show that autism existed before Kanner, that he simply copied earlier reports of similar children, and so on, go to the heart of a key question: Is autism really ancient, and is it really increasing? We believe that no, it is not ancient; it was first observed in 1938 by Leo Kanner just as he said in paragraph. And yes, it really is increasing.
We’ll have much more to say on this later this year, but for now it’s enough to add that our paper went through peer review. Peer Review! That was a first for me. The first review comments came back with “Major Revisions Requested” in the subject line, but after several decades of being edited by grouchy city editors, I thought it was pretty tame. I was encouraged to take out a few snarky remarks more appropriate to a blog than a journal, which I was happy to do.
And I have to say, it was kind of cool to finally be peer-reviewed and PubMed indexed after a decade of wandering in the wildnerness of simply being a journalist with a point of view that had no standing in the medical community. All this in a journal that Kanner himself had helped to start.
Then the e-mails started coming. Here’s a recent one:
Dear Dr. Olmsted,
We would like to follow-up towards our previous mail which you might have missed. We tried to contact you after viewing your published work on "Leo Kanner's Mention of 1938 in His Report on Autism Refers to His First Patient." in [Journal]. Considering the scope of your noteworthy article, we assume that you might be interested in joining us for the 2nd Neurological Disorders Summit (NDS-2016) scheduled during September 07-09, 2016 in Baltimore, USA.”
Oops, they left the journal name out, which made this seem a little less personal than I thought. But really, me at a summit on neurological disorders? What a concept.
Was it really 11 years ago that I first wrote about the Amish and their apparent lack of autism? Yes, it was. Back then I was working at United Press International and had gotten interested in prescription drugs' side effects. My colleague Mark Benjamin suggested taking a look at vaccines, and his first report, The Vaccine Conflict, ran in 2003. (That led to the wonderful moment when Paul Offit, a focus of that article, stood up in a church -- a church! -- in North Carolina, and in response to a question said, "Mark Benjamin doesn't know s--!" That's about as close to a nomination for sainthood as most of us will come.)
Mark got involved in the medical treatment of veterans -- writing the first reports on how poorly our Iraq and Iran vets were being treated, first for UPI, then for Salon, then for Time.
I took the autism beat. The first thing to catch my attention was that both Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner -- in 1944 and 1943 -- noticed the phenomenon at roughly the same time. The cases were very different, but Child 1 in both reports was born in 1933. That is supposed to be the most wonderfully fabulous unrelated coincidence in the history of the entire world, but I didn't, and still don't, buy it. As I wrote then:
This leads to a simple but significant question: Was it coincidence the first few cases of these strikingly similar disorders were identified at the same time, by the same term, in children born the same decade, by doctors thousands of miles apart?
Or, is it a clue to when and where autism started -- and why?
The question reflects a huge, and hugely important, debate. If autistic children always existed in the same percentages but just were not formally classified until the 1940s, that would suggest better diagnosis, not a troubling increase in the number of autistic children.
If, however, autism had a clear beginning in the fairly recent past (a past so recent that Fritz and Donald could both be alive today at age 71), then the issue is very different. That would suggest something new caused those first autism and Asperger's cases in the early 1930s; something caused them to increase, and something is still causing them today.
This ongoing series will look for answers by tracking the natural history of autism around the world -- a road less traveled than one might think.
Little did I know then that Donald T. was indeed alive, that Mark Blaxill and I would be the first to identify Donald T., interview him at his home in Mississippi and deduce a number of connections to new environmental risks that led to the rise of autism. In a sense everything flowed from that first article, including a new book we are working on these 11 years later.
My next stop was the present day -- autism among the Amish. It's amazing the potshots my rather modest observations have taken -- I'm somewhere between a crank and a fraud. I'm sure there will be some remarks to that effect in the comment section. But show me one Amish child with "iatrogenic autism" -- the kind not connected to a genetic anomaly or some other well-known source of causation -- and then let's talk. As far as I know, I remain the only person to find such a child -- who was removed from her home by public health authorities in a dispute over medical treatment at age 2, fully vaccinated while she was away, and returned two years later fully autistic. I even took her picture and ran it on AOA and in our book! Epidemic Deniers are welcome to submit their own selections.
It's just an accident the articles started during Autism Awareness Month. I have to say I'm feeling more encouraged this year than on previous anniversaries. Last year, for his excellent film Trace Amounts, Eric Gladen interviewed some Amish on the same topic. It's just a couple of minutes long -- check it out!
Here is the start of my first article with a link to five of many that I did on the Amish and autism.
Lancaster, PA, Apr. 18 (UPI) -- Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder.
I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.
The mainstream scientific consensus says autism is a complex genetic disorder, one that has been around for millennia at roughly the same prevalence. That prevalence is now considered to be 1 in every 166 children born in the United States.
Applying that model to Lancaster County, there ought to be 130 Amish men, women and children here with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Well over 100, in rough terms.
Typically, half would harbor milder variants such as Asperger's Disorder or the catch-all Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified -- PDD-NOS for short.
So let's drop those from our calculation, even though "mild" is a relative term when it comes to autism.
That means upwards of 50 Amish people of all ages should be living in Lancaster County with full-syndrome autism, the "classic autism" first described in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins University. The full-syndrome disorder is hard to miss, characterized by "markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests," according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Why bother looking for them among the Amish? Because they could hold clues to the cause of autism.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
"By Dan Olmsted
I don't know what impact Robert De Niro's interview on the Today show Wednesday will have on those who don't believe vaccines cause autism, but I do know the effect it has already had on those who do. The word is "galvanic." This was a call-up-your-friends moment, and we don't get those too often.
It's been, as they say, a long cold lonely winter, and I'm not speaking meteorologically. The condescending and ridiculous premises of books like Neurotribes and In a Different Key; the refusal of those I call the "greasy nothing-burgers" in Congress to confront the William Thompson revelations; the long slog of the Merck mumps whistleblowers; the removal of Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival; the triumph of SB-277 forcing vaccine mandates on California schoolkids; all of it is very wearing. And I say that without having an affected child.
Now that De Niro has put himself forward as believing there's a link between vaccines and autism, he can count on the usual drubbing for advocating a view that's been disproven, debunked, discredited and delisted, deleted. ... Just this morning, Today felt it necessary to do a follow-up piece that amounted to giving pharma a chance to recite its talking points. Dr. Ari Brown did the usual parent-blaming -- saying that they've just missed the early signs of autism, then get confused by thinking it occurs as a result of vaccination when it just happened after vaccination. This is the modern version of Bettelheim.
Because it's not just about debunking Wakefield or RFK Jr. or Jenny anymore, it's about debunking parents. It's parents versus science, as the Times famously put it. And now "science" -- really scientism, believing that one branch of human knowledge reigns supreme and knows all -- has its fangs out. You think you saw your child regress after vaccination? You are debunked by science! It's a nonsense kind of argument, really -- you can't debunk this volume of eyewitness observation, you can only claim it doesn't mean what people think it means -- thousands and thousands of people, who now are joined by the De Niros.
On Saturday I wrote about W. Ian Lipkin's Wall Street Journal piece in which he said that he'd spent 45 minutes talking to Di Nero before he pulled Vaxxed. Presumably De Niro told him he had fundamental concerns about vaccines and autism, something Lipkin didn't bother to say in the article, which is a little bit incomplete, wouldn't you say? Or maybe Lipkin never gave him the chance. Anyway, Lipkin looks like a loser in this battle, just another self-interested "scientist" unable to convince a parent that they didn't see what they saw and it didn't mean what they think it did.
All of us will have our favorite comments from this interview, which succinctly raised so many fundamental issues, but mine was when De Niro told Willie and Savannah, and by extension NBC News, and by further extension the mainstream media, that they should be investigating this: “Everybody doesn’t want to seem to hear much about it. It’s shut down. You guys are the ones that should be investigating. Do the investigating.” I don't think I can recall someone besides RFK Jr. telling the media they are failing on this story. As a journalist, it was incredibly welcome. De Niro is right. This is a story that needs to be covered, not covered up. It's a historic failure and one that will haunt journalism even longer than the cheerleading that led up to the Iraq War.
You never know what's going to make this cookie crumble, this wall fall. It may just be the equivalent of 50 percent and a feather -- one last thing that, added to the weight of the evidence of corrupt science, pharma greed, and CDC mendacity pushes the whole thing into the light. Whether De Nero is the feather, time will tell. But for now, for a lot of people who have felt increasingly isolated and denigrated, spring has sprung.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
By Dan Olmsted
A while back -- on September 4, 2008, in fact -- I wrote a post titled "Letting the MMR Off the Hook" that began: "The last time I saw Ian Lipkin was at the IOM Environment-and-Autism workshop last year. He was spending a lllloooottttttt of time describing some gizmotron that could do something or other to analyze some stuff that might hold clues to autism." I never published it. I'm not sure why, but I did make a note to myself that I was being "deliberately provocative," so perhaps I decided to hold off.
That, anyway, was my impression of Dr. Lipkin, and the bzzz-bzzzt-bzzzt at the meeting was that Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health -- it takes half an hour just to say the title! -- was hogging the microphone to promote, as I put it, some gizmotron, complete with a slide presentation. For all the world he looked like a salesman raising money for his lab, which sources report that in private conversations seems to be what he cares about.
I went back and found that column this week after picking up my Wall Street Journal on Monday at Starbucks and nearly spitting up my Venti Hazelnut Pike when I got to the Op-Ed page and found, by W. Ian Lipkin, "Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won't Stop." The professor wants you to know that he was a major player in getting Robert De Niro to pull the plug on Vaxxed at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"I am among those Mr. De Niro consulted. In a 45-minute conversation with him, I recommended that the festival withdraw the film from the 'documentary' category and not screen it."
Why not just title the column "I, Ian"? 45 minutes with a big star! And a star so famously inarticulate that a glossy magazine once titled its interview with him "Fifteen Mumbling Minutes With Robert Di Niro." I am guessing, but I bet Rankin spent a llllloooottttt of time talking.
In the WSJ article, Lipkin also manages to call attention to a study he and colleagues did in September 2008 (hence the column I was writing back then), which supposedly absolved the MMR of any involvement with autism. "We tested Mr. Wakefield's two major findings. ... In our peer-reviewed study ... we found that only 20 percent of children fit the Wakefield model in receiving MMR vaccine before onset of GI disturbance and autism."
This study caused a lot of consternation at the time, not least because another author of the study, Mady Hornig, made extravagant claims about those findings and also because Hornig had long seemed sympathetic to vaccine safety concerns around not just the MMR but thimerosal. She authored the famous mouse study that showed auto-immune-susceptible mice given thimerosal chewing on each other and otherwise behaving like out-of-control autistic mice might be expected to behave.
I included her in that 2008 column, too, noting: "The last time I saw Mady Hornig she was giving me a llllooonnngggg disquisition on exactly how the measles virus could mess up kids in a way that, I swear I'm remembering this correctly, leads to autism."
And I still remember it. She was telling me how the MMR could cause autism! She was doing vaccine lunacy! We were sitting in a round glass restaurant on top of a hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, talking above karaoke, one tune being "Brown-Eyed Girl" (How's that for recall!). There was a terrible storm that I decided to leave in the middle of, and ended up at a close-by friends' house waiting it out. I, Dan Olmsted, am a trained observer. I remember these things. (And here's a what-the-heck: Back in 2005, after the Times ran its infamous Parents-vs-Science takedown of the vaccine-autism concerns, Hornig and Lipkin were among those paying a visit to the public editor to complain. Who looks a little looney now?)
So when the MMR study came out and Hornig was fronting for it, I got the feeling it was a ticket back to respectable mainstream scientism. Mark Blaxill and I addressed it in our book, The Age of Autism, in 2010.
“The Hornig study was by all accounts carefully done and the reported results valid. In the press release announcing the publication, however, Hornig went further, claiming, “The work reported here eliminates the remaining support for the hypothesis that autism with GI complaints is related to MMR vaccine exposure. We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism.” In our view, this claim was an exaggeration. In her study, only five of the twenty-five children developed these symptoms after the MMR vaccine and therefore, only these five were comparable to the 2002 Wakefield study. In contrast to her public statement, her new study effectively confirmed that results from an earlier study from the laboratory of Professor John O’Leary were correct, and identical to the results obtained by the participating laboratories, which included Wakefield’s original collaborator, as well as the CDC and Columbia lab. Far from repudiating Wakefield’s findings, it provided support for the reliability of the original analysis.”
As I look back at my e-mail traffic from the time, this observation was a pretty civil distillation of what most people in the vaccine safety community considered a stab in the back. The operative phrase was "selling out."
"Just thinking out loud," one e-mailer said. "It’s a big claim to make for a little study. The evidence is what it is. But Hornig makes a grandiose claim. It’s kind of embarrassing, like the way she overstated her mouse findings (one mice ate through the 'scalp' not, as Mady said in talks, the 'skull' of its cage mate). Mady is a good scientist and does thorough work and we should respect it. But she’s way out of her depth as a big picture interpreter."
Right on cue, the Forbes headline read: "U.S. study claims to clear MMR vaccine of autism link."
"We found no difference in children who had GI complaints and no autism and children who had autism but no GI complaints," Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University told reporters in a telephone briefing, according to Forbes, which added that "the team also collected data about the children's health and immunization histories from parents and physicians to see if vaccinations preceded either their autism or bowel trouble.
"We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism," Dr. Mady Hornig, also of Columbia, said in a statement.
Said another of my e-mailers: "I am still actively angry at these two for their MMR capitulation and conference call about it."
I hardly think these two care. Not when they get a llllooooottttt of press coverage, have a lllooooonnggg conversation (45 whole minutes) with a big star, and get to have a five-column article in the journal titled "Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won't Stop" all about a study that proved nothing, while hurling names like "lunatic." As a vaccine lunatic, I think I'll end with part of that post from eight years ago that never ran. So sorry if it's deliberately provocative!
I especially don't understand how you get from not finding the measles virus in some kids with autism and GI problems, to making the evening news (as Hornig did last night) by saying that there is thus no connection between the MMR and autism.
Because, there is. I strongly believe the MMR can trigger autism in vulnerable kids, and this study does nothing to knock down that idea. I'm sick and tired of studies that put the burden on the critics of the untested, unsafe and pharma-driven childhood immunization schedule by going after particular theories of causation rather than figuring out whether the MMR causes autism ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. These piecemeal studies slice off one part of the pie -- and more money from the CDC -- and then say, see, we didn't find anything so vaccines are safe. Shoot 'em up!
I have been a longtime critic of the MMR, and it comes from spending a lot of time talking to parents of kids who got the MMR (usually with some other live virus vaccine or mercury-containing shot), got sick and regressed, as well as looking at the evidence that something fishy is going on when multiple live viruses meet and greet in developing immune systems.
Is the MMR alone behind the autism epidemic? No, it is not. There has never been an autism epidemic -- pick your country -- that can be traced to the MMR alone; even in the U.S., the spike in cases starting around 1990 came too late to be wholly or solely explained by the introduction of the MMR a decade earlier. What the MMR does do, I believe, is synergize with a pre-existing vulnerability (including a crapload of mercury) to make a subset of kids autistic.
That's the kind of thing you DON'T find when you take a bunch of kids -- most of whom regressed and had GI problems BEFORE they got the MMR, for crying out loud -- and look for measles in their guts, and not find it, and give the CDC an "all clear" to keep causing autism.
The question is, what are those vulnerabilities? I've spelled this out many times in many ways, based on what is now years of reporting, researching and listening to real people. You can find at least three ways to turn the MMR into the "autism shot," as Jenny McCarthy has aptly phrased it.
First, hit very young kids with multiple live viruses, either in concurrent vaccinations or because the child actually got sick near the time of the shot (Paul Shattock in Great Britain has done fascinating research suggesting marked regression after the MMR is more likely if a child has had naturally occurring chickenpox three months either side of the MMR shot).
Second, mix in a background load of toxins -- from where you live, what you drink, other shots or power plants or whatever that add in enough mercury, aluminum, lead, arsenic etc. to dysregulate the immune system just enough to make MMR feel right at home. The mercury-containing flu shot in pregnant women and infants as young as six months could be enough to tee this up, I believe.
Third, combine the above in a child with an inherited difficulty in coping with a particular virus.
Is it really up to the parents who have witnessed these reactions and tried to warn others to figure all this out, too? No, it's not, even though many of them are doing yeoman's work on that front. It's enough to say that all the evidence of our eyes and ears implicates the MMR in autism. This is why Bernadine Healy, the former NIH head, says researchers need to find 400 kids whose parents believe they got sick and regressed as an IMMEDIATE reaction to vaccines and figure out what happened to them.
Instead, we get self-serving rubbish like this. The only really interesting thing this time is who's taking out the CDC's trash.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
If you blinked, you might have missed this week’s announcement that the autism rate has remained at 1 in 68. That’s 1.5 percent of eight year olds born in 2004 and surveyed in 2012 (what’s the hurry, right?). Perhaps because the number hasn’t changed since the last report two years ago, the news didn’t make the splash it sometimes does. Yet it’s just as shocking, not least because it highlights the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “manages” the autism epidemic.
Mark Blaxill, my co-author and colleague at AOA and HealthChoice, wrote about this powerfully earlier this week contrasting the CDC report with evidence he obtained from a whistleblower lawsuit in Utah. The suit was filed by Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman, who was fired in the middle of working on Utah’s autism rate. It suddenly and inexplicably took a dive -- raising serious questions about how those numbers are obtained, not just in Utah but around the country.
I asked Mark a few questions to try to get my mind around the significance of these major developments.
Dan: I just thought your analysis of the numbers was a really important look at how this sausage is made. Let me start with this: What would be the right way to do a task like this, to track over time a disease or disorder that's of public concern, that people think might be increasing, and that they wanted to get an apples-to-apples comparison for over a period of time. In other words, if they wanted to really figure out was going on, what would they do: What would be best practices as they say in business?
Mark: You'd want to start early enough, in time to observe the trend in the epidemic. Yet the first thing that they (the CDC) do is start their surveillance in 1992, which is by all accounts after the inflection point -- the autism rates were already starting to get elevated by 1992. We know from the data in Brick, New Jersey, that the difference between the rates in the ‘88 and ‘92 birth cohorts was huge -- that was sort of the critical four years when the whole thing turned from zero to about the highest rates ever recorded. (See last slide)
Dan: The EPA has said that 1988 was in fact the inflection point worldwide.
Mark: Exactly, and that inflection point shows up in other places and in other studies. The first two CDC studies were in New Jersey and Georgia. They have the data on Brick Township starting in the 1988 birth year, and Brick is in some of the other New Jersey ADDM surveys.
By the way, we should be supporting data collection in New Jersey, which by all accounts has some of the best collection methods, and has the highest autism rate – 1 in 46 -- in the ADDM system that determines the national rate. (See slides 4, 5 and 6.) Plus we know that in Atlanta the CDC has been doing their own autism surveillance for a while, and has data going back to the1986 birth cohort.
If you wanted to analyze time trends, you would be sure to capture the history before and after an inflection point, so that you could answer the question, What happened and when? That's what an honest effort would do.
Also, as you add states (to the surveillance network), you wouldn't be capricious about putting states in and pulling them out. Utah was in, then Utah was out, now it's back in. Florida was in for a little while, then Florida was out. Alabama was in, then there’s no Alabama. They are fickle in their management of the state network, and all of that just creates noise for a problem at the scale of autism that justifies really aggressive surveillance.
And then you would do things like collect information on the diagnostic categories within autism. The earlier studies were of the narrower full-syndrome autistic disorder. They have now fudged it up almost deliberately by reporting on the wider spectrum, and saying maybe it’s just better diagnosis that is causing the rates to rise.
No it isn’t. Yes, they added a new category in the 1994 DSM, Asperger’s, but in the ADDM studies Asperger’s is just 10 percent of the overall autism total, so they’re blowing smoke if they want to claim adding Asperger’s explains the increases. But that’s want they want to do -- they want to spin it to take a 10-fold increase and say, “Look how much better we’re doing! We’re so much more aware of autism.”
When you've got a real increase that is tenfold, it boggles the mind that they can somehow spread this lie that it's all just better diagnosis.
Dan: So I started by asking what's the right way to do this. It sounds like what they're doing is kind of the opposite – it’s what you would do if you wanted to manipulate the data. And because of the Utah situation, we can actually see that happening for the first time. Is that right?
Mark: Yes, in reading the court documents, it appears like they were putting a lot of pressure on Judith Zimmerman (at the University of Utah) to do unethical things. According to the complaint, she stood up to it and then they put more pressure on her and she complained, and they went after her and made all sorts of accusations. It's likely she believed the increase was real, because she did research on environmental causation. I can’t imagine the genetics folks there liking that. My suspicion is that there was a bit of a wink and a nod between the department and the CDC to say let's get Zimmerman out of there, she's a problem.
Otherwise, I don’t think the Utah numbers would have suddenly gone down (see Slide 7, What Happened in Utah?). If it hadn’t, the overall autism rate in the U.S. might have increased to one in 62 or something like that. There were “uncorrected errors,” Zimmerman alleges, that got all the way into the final data – that’s part of what the lawsuit is about.
Dan: It's reasonable to wonder whether this might be going on more broadly, to state it mildly. It seems like kind of a pattern where they have so many buttons they can push at their little dashboard of tracking the rate, that who knows what the rate really is and what the trend line is?
Mark: It's probably one or 2% of kids. It probably varies a fair bit between states. That’s another thing they don't do – they don’t include a fair sampling of states with the highest rates, other than New Jersey.
California has never made it in. California is pretty high. There’s Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Maine -- all among the highest in the educational data -- and they're not in. Massachusetts is very high, Michigan is high -- eight or 10 states are higher than New Jersey in the educational data and they should have been in there.
You would think they’d want a full range. There is variation; it looks like there's a north-south gradient. Oregon and Minnesota stand out, Maine stands out, Massachusetts stands out. New Jersey’s not the only state with a high autism rate.
So you’d want the sample to include the full range of the problem, from worst to best. You also want to understand where the problem is the worst because there might be some kind of environmental clue in that.
Dan: Exactly. So this is not best practices to take on a task like this and do it this way. I mean, they've done a very bad job.
Mark: Yes, since you presumably are trying to find answers to the root causes of autism. When it comes to tracking infectious disease, the CDC gets everything, everywhere – they’re extremely rigorous in tracking infectious disease.
Dan: Right. We’ve talked about what a good job they did in the beginning of AIDS as opposed to the rest of the government. So I guess this would be my insipid question: why wouldn't the CDC want to get this right?
Mark: I don't think they have an interest in finding a problem. They understand that the implications of a real order of magnitude increase would be huge. If they admitted that, the responsibility on them would be enormous to find a cause. To the extent that the possibility might be real, that the cause might include vaccines, they wouldn’t want to find it.
Me: They don't want to find it because they would be implicated by recommending the vaccination schedule, just to state the obvious?
Dan: As my mother would say, a guilty conscience needs no accuser. Doesn’t this kind of suggest consciousness of guilt? Why else would they not do it in a way that any reasonable businessperson or statistician would accept? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
Mark: It points to a culture. It points to leadership. It points to what is rewarded and what is punished. It points to all of it. Coleen Boyle started as a midlevel analyst and now she's running autism (at the CDC as Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Disabilities). She's being rewarded for tucking away the problem. She's also in there supervising Thompson [William Thompson, CDC whistleblower on a manipulated MMR study] and the notes show her giving him orders, telling him to redesign it this way, tweak it that way.
So whether it’s time trends or vaccines, if they tweak the studies enough they can say, oh we don't know if the increase is real but we do know we're doing a better job diagnosing it. And people like Coleen Boyle are the ones who stick around while Thompson is intimidated, Thomas Verstraeten [who did a key thimerosal study] is shipped out of the country, and Judith Zimmerman gets fired from her job in Utah.
There is this little economy of all these people who subsist on government grants. They’re used to things being kind of orderly and not that controversial and this one is just way too big. It requires leadership and continuous management over time. Coleen Boyle is clearly one of the leaders and, in my opinion, is the single-most-guilty person in the whole thing.
Me: “Continuous management over time” is another word for ongoing cover-up isn’t it?
Mark: Yes exactly. They’ve got an orthodoxy of interpretation. There's a “right way” to look at the data and a “wrong way” to look at the data; there are “good outcomes” and there are “bad outcomes.” It’s not an even-handed, straight-up view of the facts.
They will advertise the hell out of the studies that advance their policies and will tweak until it's acceptable any inconvenient evidence to the contrary. So it's really biased. It requires management. And it’s a moral choice.
Me: Yes, and a pretty serious choice when you think about the ongoing numbers – 1 in 68. It seems to me like we’re watching them succeed at this at the moment. It just seems so malignant that I wonder how to stop it.
Mark: I don't know. But I think at some level we have a little microcosm here of things that are enraging all kinds of Americans against the establishment, coming from the left, from the right, from libertarians, from the Tea Party. There’s a range of very fundamental critiques of Washington – a primal scream that says let's change the culture in Washington.
Me: Maybe that's hopeful -- the idea that this is part of a pattern that is becoming more and more evident to people of all stripes, who are maybe more open to looking at things freshly.
Anyway, thanks for shedding light on all this. I think it’s an important thing to do.
Mark: You bet.
HILO, Hawaii, March 28, 1916 -- The steamer Mexican sailed from Hilo with 14,051 tons of raw Hawaiian sugar, shoving off at night for the Port of San Francisco. By April 8 an army of California stevedores was loading its cargo onto seven waiting freight trains, each 50 cars long, all of them filling with sugar from the plantations near Hilo on the windward side of the Big Island.
The two-week journey east from California across the entire continental U.S. would end in late April as the sugar poured into the massive refineries that ringed New York Harbor. Hawaiian sugar had never come overland to New York before, and never in this quantity.
Until just a few weeks earlier, the Mexican (pictured above) and the rest of the American-Hawaiian Steamship fleet delivered all that sugar directly to New York and Philadelphia -- around Cape Horn via the Straits of Magellan, or across the Pacific to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico, where it was unloaded, put on a short-haul railroad to the Atlantic side, then reloaded on another Hawaiian-American ship for the rest of the trip. Plan A -- to pass through the new wonder of the world, the Panama Canal – would have been much less cumbersome. But mudslides closed the canal temporarily soon after it opened in 1915.
The outbreak of World War I disrupted things permanently. Although the United States did not enter the war until a year later, by early 1916 American-Hawaiian could fetch a higher price leasing its fleet to the U.S. Government for troops and cargo than running sugar from Hawaii to New York and hauling home lumber, clothes, housewares -- essential supplies for the remote islands. As profitable as it was patriotic, the new arrangement was hard to beat. But Hawaiian sugar suddenly had to find a new route.
The Sugar Factors, the cartel that ran the outside business for the plantation owners, had to scramble. American-Hawaiian detailed three steamships, including the Mexican, to take sugar as far as San Francisco, where the huge freight train convoys were waiting. (To get out of its contract, American-Hawaiian agreed to pay the cost difference of freight versus steamship delivery to the East Coast). The Factors never forgave American-Hawaiian for leaving its planters in the lurch, and never did business with the line again.
Fortunately, cross-country freight had come a long way in just a few years – the Pacific Fruit Express, a refrigerated rail service underwritten by the powerful Harriman interests, started moving tons of fruits and vegetables from the West Coast to the East Coast for the first time in 1907. The haul included apples and potatoes from Washington state and Oregon, lettuce and asparagus and raspberries and strawberries and everything else from California’s fertile Central Valley, grapes from Napa. People in the chilly Northeast could enjoy sun-ripened produce year-round.
But the sugar express eclipsed everything. “The movement of this heavy tonnage of sugar across the entire breadth of the United States represents the largest transcontinental haul of any commodity ever handled by the railroads in solid trainload lots over such an extended continuous mileage,” the newspapers reported in early April.
Even as the 350 freight cars rolled east, a few American-Hawaiian ships were still transiting the Hawaii-New York run with their loads of raw sugar. So for a time this early spring of 1916, an industry publication noted, “sugar will probably be moving to San Francisco [for rail delivery] and to New York via Magellan [by steamship] at the same time, with quite large receipts on the East Coast for a few weeks.”
BROOKLYN, N.Y., May 1, 1916 -- 13-month-old Lettie Caruso moved with her family to an apartment building at 1295 Gates Avenue, Brooklyn. On the ground floor, a 56-year-old woman named Mrs. G.H. Franklin ran a small ice cream parlor, which “the children naturally frequented,” according to a subsequent report by the New York Health Department.
On May 9, Lettie became ill. “A private physician was called the first day and came several days,” the Department reported.
"This year’s Tribeca Film Festival will include a screening of a film by Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor who was stripped of his medical license after authoring a discredited study that implied a link between vaccines and autism," wrote Anna Merlan. "A spokesperson for the film tells Jezebel that there will be 'celebrity support' for the film at the screening."
"Wakefield," she continued, "claims the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are ignoring a link between vaccines and autism, especially among African American boys. That claim has been extensively debunked."
Oh really. The piece is one of those tarred-by-association things, the implication being that Tribeca is inviting in a crank. Kind of like those articles you see that say "Rand Paul [or whoever questioned vaccine orthodoxy in any given news cycle] once belonged to an organization of doctors that once suggested that something once happened to a child who got 27 vaccines at once. That suggestion has been widely debunked."
But it looks like the festival isn't going to fold, offering this perfectly sensible statement: “Tribeca, as most film festivals, are about dialogue and discussion. Over the years we have presented many films from opposing sides of an issue. We are a forum, not a judge.”
Let's remember that Jezebel is a sister publication of Gawker, which just lost its shirt, and every other shirt in the known and all possible universes, by believing it was newsworthy to air a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with his best friend's wife. The hundred-million-plus verdict will probably put the whole outfit out of business, and even as a journalist it's hard to feel too bad for an entity whose editor testified thusly, according to the New York Post:
A.J. Daulerio, 41, was sitting ramrod straight in the Florida courtroom during the awkward moment when he was asked on video by Hogan’s lawyer, “Can you imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy?”
Daulerio answered flatly, “If they were a child.”
“Under what age?” attorney Charles Harder asked.
“Four,” he said.
“No four-year-old sex tapes, OK,” Harder said.
A few weeks ago they were bouncing bank shots off consensus candidate for Most Hated Human Martin Shkreli, he of the million-percent drug markup and lopsided grin while taking the Fifth Amendment. With the addition of a twirly mustache, he’d be the perfect person to tie the damsel on the railroad track (that would be Snidely Whiplash for cartoon newcomers).
First of all, let him take the Fifth in peace. That’s what it’s there for, and he is kinda under indictment at the moment, after all. Second, it’s been pointed out before that Shkreli is a great distraction from the real misdeeds of pharma (including, I would argue, triggering the autism epidemic via vaccines).
In the same way, screaming at people about the lead in Flint is the perfect foil when the bigger issue is the toxic poisoning of America by special interests that fund an obeisant governing class. Exhibit A, of course, is Congress itself -- and the government’s own vaccine mandates, its “cover-up court” and its flabbergasting insistence that flu shots containing industrial-waste-grade mercury are just fine for pregnant women and for infants.
Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland who was having a go at Michigan’s governor this week over Flint, used to care about that, too, as you might recall. In November 2012 he played to the crowd of parents and told the CDC’s Coleen Boyle:
“’There's something wrong with this picture. When you've got this combination of shots, and you go from 1-in-10,000 to 1-in-88, it seems to me somebody would say, 'Wait a minute. Let's put the brakes on this,'" he said. "’I wish you could see the people behind you. There are grown men crying behind you... Let's err on the side of keeping children safe, even if we have to do a pause and give children one shot per day.’"
Playing to the audience seems to be a Cummings specialty. He told Shkrelli: "You can look away if you like, but you should see the faces of the people you affect," Cummings said. "You are known as one of the bad boys of pharma."
Congress has more to answer for than Shkreli does when it comes to pharma whoredom, and more to answer for than Michigan’s governor when it comes to the toxification of America. Like answering for its own creation, the ill-advised vaccine “court” and compensation scheme (and I do mean scheme), and its own massive failure in not revisiting its catastrophic consequences (the autism epidemic). Talk about an Oversight!
Like answering for making it impossible to negotiate drug rates for Medicare and tossing another trillion dollars their way. Like answering for crashing through the revolving door faster than Julie Gerberding. (See Billy Tauzin, former head of PhMRA. Wikipedia: “Two months before resigning as chair of the committee which oversees the drug industry, Tauzin had played a key role in shepherding through Congress the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill.”)
Now, as Anne Dachel has reported, Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam tried to raise the William Thompson CDC whistleblower issue with Cummings. You’d think Cummings, after saying “something’s wrong with this picture” of multiple vaccines and a soaring autism rate, would take the logical next step and demand Thompson himself be called as a witness. (Even if Chaffetz said no, the public stink would be progress). Instead, Cummings told Muhammad before hanging up, he is “pro-vaccine” despite all the ersatz empathy for the audience. And Chaffetz, I happen to know, has chit-chatted with a who's who of autism advocates including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who you think might get a little professional courtesy from both sides of the aisle.
People are tired of lawmakers in high dudgeon who promptly forget what they’re angry about until the next chance to act tough presents itself. I thought it was just me, but people are starting to notice.
“I’m really glad these lawmakers took their moment in the sun to look so tough,” Mika Brzezinski scoffed on Morning Joe Friday, speaking of the Flint session. “I don’t want to ever hear those people again. I’m so sick of Washington.”
“And you wonder why Congress has an 11 percent approval rating?” said Steven Rattner.
No, actually, you don’t.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I can’t walk down the street anymore without being assailed by evidence that we live in a toxic world and that, healthy though we may be at the moment, there is always something lurking around the corner.
Like Alzheimer’s. Coming out of Starbucks today I saw a new building for assisted living going up. Right next to the smiling couple on a banner covering the chain link fence was the news that two – not one, but two! – floors would be devoted to memory care. I’ve heard Alzheimer’s called the autism of adulthood, which means that fewer and fewer of us are going to get out of this world with our minds intact. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
“By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 and older affected in 2015.” (By the way, the group’s slogan, “the brains behind saving yours,” does nothing to make me think they are going to get a grip on this disease anytime soon. Yuck!)
Anyone who reads this blog already knows the damage inflicted on a generation and a half – and counting – by the autism epidemic. We hear the latest numbers are coming out later this month, but whether it’s 1 in 68, or 1 in 30 boys, or 1 in 50 based on the CDC’s own phone survey of parents of kids 6 to 17 in 2011-2012, or 1 in 25 as Andy Wakefield says it really is right now, or the 1 in 2 that MIT professor predicted for a couple of decades from now – well, it’s way too much.
Add ADHD on top of that, along with declining academic proficiency, asthma, allergies and so on. And that’s just the A’s, and that’s just the kids.
It appears the Seven Ages of Man that Shakespeare described have been reduced to a list of age-appropriate disabilities – all of it attended to by the only flourishing sector of the economy at the moment, health care.
Still, a ghastly end awaits an awful lot of us after all this lovely health treatment. Make it past 85 and you’ll have a one in three chance of having Alzheimer’s. One in nine of those over 65 (which I will be next year) have it.
I've listened to Donald Trump talk and talk and talk and I've waited and waited and waited for someone to state the obvious -- the man is a compulsive talker. I mean, clinically compulsive. Trump is just like half a dozen folks I've known over the years who really and truly can't stop talking. It's not bluster or bravado, necessarily. I worked with a woman who would say something perfectly interesting. And then say more along those lines. And then segue into another very interesting topic, upon which she opined at considerable length and with many interesting sub-points about which there was, apparently, an infinite amount remaining to be said. Infinity is an interesting concept. For example, what is infinity times infinity and how can one person fill it with nothing but words, words and more and more words? You get the idea; in an hour or so, anyone would have to say to themselves -- because there was certainly no opportunity to say it to her -- that this person has some kinda deal where she can't shut up!
That's Trump. From the University of Google, I've learned that people who talk incessantly are often really insecure, and stopping for even a moment would let the truth start whispering in their ear and reduce them to blubber -- so they blabber blather. This sounds a bit like psychobabble to me.
The other association appears to be with ADHD. I'm going to say I think Trump is a good candidate for that diagnosis. It's not just the talking. It's the steaks, the condos, the gilded home in Trump Tower, the golf courses, the TV show, the Miss Universe TV show, the book, the other books, the finest wine on the East Coast (which is no guarantee you won't gag to death!), the water, the running for president, the magazine, the airline, the university, the lawsuits that he won't settle because those people gave glowing reviews and if you settle with them it just invites other people to sue about other things, about which a great deal more can be said. And so on.
Now, what causes ADHD? Why is there an epidemic of it? Mercury and other toxins cause ADHD, in my view. I've done a lot of research on this. In The Age of Autism, we mentioned that a doctor named Still in England in the 1800s was the first to describe ADHD in pollution-clogged London. He also was the first to describe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. And as we know, kids today have a lot of both -- Case 1, Donald T., had autism and JRA -- in his day it was still called Still's disease.
Last week I wrote about the wild and crazy horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and speculated that he got mercury-poisoned because his father had general paralysis of the insane, a form of syphilis that we believe was caused by the mercury treatment then in vogue. That's what reminded me of Trump, in fact -- no, not syphilis, that's got nothing to do with him -- but one of the symptoms of GPI/aka/mercury poisoning.
That symptom would be grandiosity. Epic, endless megalomaniacal self-referential nonstop gaudy fabulous HUGEness! You could just about diagnose GPI on the basis of the delusions of grandeur these people reliably had in the later states of their illness.
And they couldn't stop talking about it! Gold! Jewels! Power! The noted German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin wrote:
“The patient thinks he possesses extraordinary physical strength, can lift 10 elephants, is 800 years old, 9 feet tall, the most beautiful Adonis in the world, weighs 400 pounds, increases 25 pounds every week, has an iron chest, sinews like a man-eater, an arm of silver, a head of pure gold, travels a thousand miles a minute, can fly. He is infinite, has died and again come to life, can have intercourse with 100 women, has 1,000 million boys and girls, a compressed brain, has run a race with the grand duke. His urine is Rhine wine; his evacuations are gold. Ten years ago he had an enormous chancre, his sexual organs and fingers are constantly getting larger; his brain is still growing; he has an immense movement of the bowels.”
God give me the strength to leave the thing about "the sexual organs and fingers constantly getting larger" alone. Leo Kanner, of autism fame, also wrote about GPI and described one patient thusly:
“He has several delusions of grandeur. He has two million dollars in a bank. He takes care of all the houses, all the horses, all the cattle, all the farms, and everything. He is to be married to a young preacheress of a very good family. He is the best man in the world next to Jesus Christ. When he marries that girl he will be able to make people very rich; he is going to be a powerful man; he will become President of the United States. ”
And maybe he will!
Trump himself, of course, believes and states -- correctly and courageously, in my view -- that too many vaccines too soon are behind the autism epidemic. He was born in June of 1946, an early boomer, a son of wealth who, according to him, multiplied a small nest egg -- a piffle, a mere million, into billions and billions and billions -- many more times over as Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes.
Upscale New York City after the war was a perfect moment to get vaxxed early and often with thimerosal. The diphtheria shot containing mercury had been around since 1930, and was combined with tetanus in 1947; pertussis was added in 1949. (See our second book, Vaccines 2.0.)
Vaccines and mercury caused the autism epidemic. ADHD is part of the autism epidemic. Non-stop talker Donald Trump pretty clearly has ADHD and smacks of GPI grandiosity. And that's why I think the Donald is dusted.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
You may never have heard of him, but H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most widely admired and influential writers of supernatural horror fiction in American history. He was indisputably the creepiest:
“We followed the local death-notices like ghouls, for our specimens demanded particular qualities. What we wanted were corpses interred soon after death and without artificial preservation; preferably free from malforming disease, and certainly with all organs present. Accident victims were our best hope.”
Eek! Ick! No more!
I was reminded of Lovecraft last week after mentioning AOA Contributing Editor Teresa’s Conrick’s amazing find -- an article by a Danish doctor titled, “Is General Paresis [GPI] Dependent Upon Previous Treatment With Mercury?”
Check it out. To treat syphilis, patients in the late 18th and early 19th centuries had been getting 400 treatments with mercury ointment, not to mention the injections. The idea was to prevent GPI, the worst outcome of the disease and invariably fatal after a period of wild insanity and declining physical stamina. But when the use of mercury stopped, GPI – which came on an average of 15 years after the initial infection -- fell off the cliff.
Pointing to half a millennium of malpractice, Mark Blaxill and I proposed this theory in our 2010 book, The Age of Autism. The idea was that using mercury to treat syphilis created rather than prevented GPI, the worst form of the disease. And a lot of the people who were caregivers and exposed to the mercury treatments themselves – nurses, domestic help, daughters living at home who helped their ailing parents -- went on to develop mercury-induced illnesses, like hysteria, that were also misdiagnosed.
I’ve read Lovecraft for years – a guilty pleasure up there with my Forensic Files obsession I admitted to a couple of weeks ago – so I was amazed recently when everything – syphilis, mercury treatment, GPI “Asperger’s,” the caregiver effect – came together in the surpassingly strange world of H.P. Lovecraft. The light went on from reading a bio of him. (Oh, and he was a horrible racist to the point of nutty obsession.)
Born into New England aristocracy in 1890, his privileged and sheltered world came crashing down in 1893 when his father, Winfield, on a trip to Chicago, suffered "some kind of attack or seizure," according to his biographer, S.T. Joshi.
The father ended up in an asylum in Providence, where he died in 1898. "It is now clear that Winfield was suffering from syphilis," Joshi writes. "In all likelihood, he had contracted it from a prostitute in his late twenties, long before he and Susie [his wife] were married."
Joshi speculates "this whole series of events must have been traumatic for Lovecraft and, especially, for his mother." While H.P. (born 1890) showed early gifts -- "A precocious boy, Lovecraft was a rapid talker at the age of two and could recite Mother Goose poems from the tabletop" - he was too high strung to succeed in school by day, and plagued many nights by ghastly dreams. He later suffered a complete mental breakdown, and has been subject to speculation, given his misanthropic and bizarrely obsessive personality, that he might have had what we now call Asperger's disorder.
I wouldn’t pin Asperger’s on him without a lot more evidence, but the idea that he might have been mercury poisoned and showed some of the same symptoms of other mercury poisoned kids is not out of the realm of possibility in my mind. In fact, it’s well within it.
Lovecraft’s mother also fared poorly. Her health failed in 1919, capped by an epic nervous breakdown from which, like her husband, she never recovered. She was hospitalized that year and died in 1921.
All this makes good Freudian sense as a family drama that shaped the life and work of a brilliant but very dark mind. But as someone who has studied the natural history of such illnesses for many years, I see all the signs of unrecognized toxic injury leading to outcomes that are never understood for what they are.
When Winfred Lovecraft collapsed in Chicago in 1893, his syphilis infection, contracted years earlier, had clearly progressed to GPI. And GPI is caused, as we've postulated, by long years of treatment with mercury.
The paper Teresa Conrick found was from 1938 by Povl Heiberg, M.D., Copenhagen's Deputy Medical Officer, titled "Is General Paresis [GPI] Dependent Upon Previous Treatment With Mercury?"
Heiberg noticed that as arsenic and other substances replaced mercury as a treatment for syphilis in the early 20th century, GPI cases declined dramatically:
“The working hypothesis which explains best the form of this curve with its gradual rise followed by a rather abrupt fall, apparently headed for the zero level, is the hypothesis about the causal significance of the mercury therapy to the development of general paresis. About 1870 the use of mercurial ointment for intermittent and protracted treatment became more common in Copenhagen, and later this was the prevailing form of treatment through a considerable length of time. Since 1924, however, mercurial ointment has been replaced almost entirely by other remedies."
"Intermittent mercurial treatment" was recommended for up to 10 years "to avoid the development of general paresis." That’s a whole lotta mercury: Heiberg cites "the case history of a male patient recorded by a Copenhagen specialist of high repute. The antisyphilitic tratment was instituted shortly after the infection was contracted, and it was continued through 9 years. Mercurial inunction (rubbing on the skin) was employed in seances (80-50-60-60-35-60-50), making a total of 395 inunctions. Most likely, each inunction consisted of 3 g. of mercurial ointment (33%). His wife went through a similar intermittent and protracted treatment."
If that was the case with Winfield Lovecraft -- and it was the standard of care at the time, especially for those with the income to afford "good" medical treatment -- it could also have been for his wife, Susie, too. Or she may have administered his treatment and also absorbed an ungodly amount of mercury. The question really becomes, how could their only child NOT have been exposed to mercury one way or the other -- in the womb, via breast-feeding, through skin-to-skin or household contact?
This fits with a theory we lay out in our book chapter "The Age of Hysteria." There we proposed, apparently for the first time, that many of Freud's early cases of "hysteria" -- the ones that shaped his epochal psychodynamic theory of behavior -- were actually the result of exposure to mercury in the home or workplace. Freud himself noted that most of his severe patients were either nurses -- where medicinal mercury would have been ever-present in the late 1800s -- or had fathers who suffered with general paraylsis of the insane.
"Now a strikingly high [italics in original] percentage of patients I have treated psychoanalytically come of fathers who have suffered from tabes [neurological complications of syphilis] or general paralysis [GPI]. In consequence of the novelty of my method, I see only the severest cases," he wrote.
Freud's oversight would haunt the history of psychiatry to the present day, and likely the psyche of H.P. Lovecraft as well. Freud’s landmark book, Studies on Hysteria, was published in 1893, the same year Winfield Lovecraft collapsed.
As I noted, H.P. was something of a hyperlexic savant, remarkably verbal at age 2, writing stories as a child, penning an astonishing 80,000 letters, reinventing the horror genre in the shape of his own nightmares. Another of my hypotheses is that savant qualities can be an outcome of mercury exposure, that in rerouting the normal development and operations of the brain, it is not surprising that special gifts, obsessions, aptitudes, phobias might emerge.
I also can't help noticing Lovecraft's extraordinary dreams. Many of Freud's patients, of course, had dreams they recalled in vivid detail that became a basis, once "interpreted," for resolving psychodynamic conflicts. A classic case of Freud's was the Wolf-Man, whose dream of seven white wolves in a tree outside his window became, in Freud's mind, a window into his infancy and its traumas (including witnessing the primal scene) that carried directly into adulthood. That, dear reader, is gibberish, because sometimes a white wolf in a tree is just a wolf in a tree. The Wolf-Man, as we've shown, was unquestionably mercury-poisoned by treatment for abdominal problems, a fact Freud blew right past in his obsession with family dynamics as the root of mental illness.
Freud made his worldwide reputation with "The Interpretation of Dreams," published in 1899 – many of them probably mercury induced. As for Lovecraft, "he experienced horrible nightmares in which bizarre creatures he called 'night-gaunts' would plague him. He described these creatures as 'black, lean, rubbery things with bared, barbed tails, bat-wings, and no faces at all.' They would clutch him by the stomach and carry him off on nameless voyages and the boy would frequently wake up screaming. Dreams and nightmares of this sort, some of them highly detailed and full of bizarre imagery, afflicted Lovecraft throughout his life, and several of them served as the basis of his weird tales."
Once again, I suspect, the half-dead oozing corpse of mercury has slithered out of its evil crypt and grabbed another innocent in its fetid talons. Lovecraft can’t be the only one. In the near future I plan to talk about others, including the brilliant but doomed poet Sylvia Plath.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
Complete this sentence: “The importance of ending the autism epidemic pales in comparison to …”
I can think of a couple of responses – The importance of ending the autism epidemic pales in comparison to total global annihilation from an act of God -- being hit by a meteor – or man -- through thermonuclear war. I mean, who really cares if we’re totally wiped out?
After that, I can’t think of too much that pales in comparison to ending a disabling epidemic now affecting 1 in 30 boys, or whatever the exact recent calculation is. Not to mention the other disorders and disabilities linked to this environmental nightmare.
And now to my point: The importance of ending the autism epidemic would not pale in comparison to the horror of electing Donald Trump as president. Would it?
I feel pretty free to say this because, as is well known by anyone who bothers to look, I’m a progressive by background and have sought a progressive solution to the environmental roots of the autism epidemic.
But since most progressives aren’t interested in that, why are we still interested in most progressives? Specifically, why are people like us backing people like Bernie Sanders, who doesn't have a ghost of a chance of becoming president anyway?
An AOA commentator wrote this week:
In case you did not see this, here is Bernie Sanders on autism (Rachel Maddow show, 9/17/15):
"I think the evidence is overwhelming that vaccines do not cause autism. And it really is a little bit weird for Trump - who, I presume, has no medical background - to be raising this issue. And obviously it is a concern. When somebody like that says it, you're gonna find thousands of people now who are gonna hesitate to give their kids the shots, and bad things may happen."
Given his statements, Bernie Sanders is not educable on this subject.
paulI will be voting for Trump.
For backers of Sanders and other “non-Trump candidates” (as Mitt Romney woodenly put it this week – I miss him!), I invite them to complete one more sentence: “I’m voting for X Y, a candidate whose position is that vaccines do not cause autism and that the science is settled, because I nonetheless think we can win this battle to end the autism epidemic in the following way: …”
While Rand Paul was in the race, I think his governing philosophy and his willingness to listen to the parents of vaccine-injured kids was a reasonable road to take. Perhaps even a better one, for those who found Trump simply too odious.
But now? Is odiosity a reason to perpetuate the autism epidemic? Not to recite my resume, but I’ve covered politics in Washington for three decades. I was an editor at USA Today and the Washington editor of UPI. This place doesn’t care about you, my friends. They care about power and money (which are by now one and the same). As my venerable former colleague Mark Benjamin used to say, “The one thing you need to understand about Congress is, Congress sucks.” I’m not getting where the path to victory starts, apart from the door to the Oval Office. So many of my good friends have worked so hard just to try to get a congressman to show up for a 15-minute briefing only to be stuck with bored interns pretending they will fill the boss in. Now that does pale in comparison!
I can recall many conversations with folks who said that what it would take to win would be for a young president to be elected, have a totally normal kid, and the world to watch him or her regress after the MMR and/or flu shots. (I’m not sure even that would do it, frankly – he’d just be labeled a kook.) We’ve all scanned family photos of newly nominated grandees and wondered if this child or that one might look autistic. We don’t wish it on them, but we are desperate for someone with some authority to understand in their bones, not just in their position papers, what’s going on.
In other words, we all realized that the path to winning is blocked off in so many ways that it would take somebody who already has power to make any difference at all. The key was having power and being willing to use it, not being a D or an R or a nice guy or gal or a jerk or a boor or someone who uses swear words.
The idea that a major party nominee would say, and get away with saying, that vaccines cause autism would have been inconceivable a year ago. Now we seem almost blasé about it. Perhaps people think Trump can't get elected or, like the rest of ‘em, wouldn’t do anything about it once elected. Yes, perhaps. Tell me, where are better odds, because I will be happy to bet them.
Speaking of odds, I worry that we won’t win, and I mean that in the world-historical sense, which is why I’m not sure how choosy we really think we can be about the path to victory. That’s not a bleak assessment, it’s just acknowledging one of the possible outcomes, and the fact that things don’t always work out to our hearts’ desires. We don’t like that. As a college roommate used to say with a huge grin first thing in the morning while I was barely awake, “Every day in every way things are getting better and better!”
They’re not, necessarily. I’ve heard Andy Wakefield express the same contrarian sentiment -- that whether or not this issue is resolved in our lifetime, or in fact ever, we have to consistently do the right, and skillful, things to try to bring it about. We do them, but we can’t know for sure whether they're making a dime's worth of difference.
When you get a sense of history about battles like this one – Paradigm Wars, as Mark Blaxill and I called them in our 2010 book The Age of Autism – you see how uncertain the outcome can be, and that time is not on the little guy’s side. Fairly often, the bad guys win and then they bury the corpse called Truth without an obituary or a proper funeral.
Let me briefly venture into a cautionary tale. As we wrote in our book, the evidence is very strong that when the medical establishment got hold of the syphilis epidemic when Columbus brought it back from the New World, they made a historic, five-century mess of things – and got away scot-free.
Because the early wave of syphilis in the naïve European population was especially hideous, with skin eruptions that disfigured people and often killed them, the doctors of the day attacked the bacterium with mercury salves. And because mercury is biologically “active” – it affects living things – it did subdue (kill) the surface manifestations, which seemed miraculous in the face of such suffering. Then doctors starting turning mercuric chloride (far worse than elemental mercury) into drinkable potions, and finally -- far worse than drinkable potions -- into injections of mercuric chloride.
That’s nuts, and it made many of the recipients (and providers) of this “modern treatment of syphilis” crazy as well. We show that it actually created the worst form of syphilis, the aptly named general paralysis of the insane (GPI).
This killed far more people, and for far longer, than syphilis itself. And – here is the point – except for a few obscure nods in the direction of this cause, the medical profession has never taken responsibility. I have a cousin who is a doctor and who read our chapter on syphilis with astonishment – it made perfect sense, but he had always been taught that GPI was just a tragic outcome of long-term syphilis infection.
Yet doctors knew, suspected, or should have known all along that they were causing this catastrophe, not preventing it. A few did. After our book came out, Teresa Conrick spotted an amazing article by a Danish doctor titled, “Is General Paresis [GPI] Dependent Upon Previous Treatment With Mercury?”
Check it out. Patients had been getting 400 treatments with mercury ointment, not to mention the injections. When that stopped, GPI fell off the cliff.
The title could really be something like, “Did we just kill millions of people over 500 years in the worst mass poisoning in history while trying to treat a disease that wasn’t even fatal?” The honest, open recognition of the enormity of what had gone on might have led to an understanding of mercury’s dangers in humans before the whole Pink Disease debacle (from teething powders and diaper ointments) killed babies in the 20th century. Not to mention the whole autism thing (or Freud’s mercury-poisoned “hysteria” cases.)
Nobody paid a price, even the price of acknowledging the truth.
And so I say ending the autism epidemic is no certain thing, as much as we like to encourage each other and appeal to the better angels of our collective nature.
Message: We’d better take our chances when we get ‘em. Don’t count on the perps walking in handcuffs or holding a press conference to acknowledge their grievous errors. Do we really want to settle for a piece in The Journal of Obscure Disorders in 100 years that says “early vaccine compounds now appear to have used toxic ingredients and formulations that triggered brain damage that was then called ‘autism.’ Fortunately, the march of medical progress has since led to much safer vaccines.”
No, we want a reckoning, restitution and justice -- now or as soon as humanly possible.
Right now we have a presumptive major party candidate who says too many vaccines, too soon are destroying the minds of our kids. People should make whatever judgments they want, but I'd like to know they've reckoned with the truth that the importance of ending the autism epidemic doesn't pale in comparison with very much at all.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Editor’s Note: I’ve often said that the community that has grown up around Age of Autism is the best thing about it – from our Contributing Editors to our commenters and Facebook friends to those who donate or simply read (simply reading is the heart of the matter for a blog, anyway). We appreciate all of you.
Many comments are so well thought out and add so much to the conversation that I wish we could run them as standalone posts – and sometimes, such as today, we do. This comment below by Ted Kuntz shows how destructive and wrong it is to divide a complicated and critical conversation into two supposedly warring camps – vaccine backers and anti-vaccine zealots.
So please read it and at the end I’ll make a few comments, not to argue with the observations but to add a couple of my own. – Dan Olmsted.
In response to this article: Waking Up To Vaccine Reality:
The media tend to portray the “dialogue” about vaccines as a debate between two groups of people – pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. As a participant in countless conversations about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines I've learned there are many more factions participating in this process. It’s helpful to know who we might be in conversation with. They include:
Hope this helps those new to the discussion.
A Regretful Vaxxer who is on his way to becoming an Anti-Vaxxer."
So that is Ted’s much more reasonable look at the spectrum of vaccine safety concerns than the usual media caricature. To that I’d like to add one more category, suggested by Kim Stagliano after Laura Hayes brought this useful discussion to the fore. Kim said:
“Perhaps another layer? Where would those who emphasize vaccine choice fit in? The ‘never for my kids but you do what you want” group? Or the “I want just polio but NOT Gardasil’ – they are also important in the dialogue.”
The vaccine choice option is important to me, too. The fundamental idea that parents, as proxies for the developing child, have the right to make these decisions seems fundamental. I wrote last week about how some candidates, such as Rand Paul, who favors less government intrusion overall, see that as the crux of the matter. And Donald Trump, when he links autism with too many vaccines too soon, is essentially pointing to overreach by the medical bureaucracy that denies parents the chance to space out and select vaccines as they see fit.
As Mark Blaxill has framed the issue, if market forces – the economic model we claim to follow in this country – were allowed to function, the vaccines that most people felt were safe and necessary would survive, and ones like Gardasil and hep B at birth and chickenpox and – well, a lot of them, would lose out.
Something tells me that the more nuanced view Ted writes about here – along with the focus on choice that Kim and I believe is fundamental – is going to be getting a lot more attention in the next four years than it did in the last eight. And I say that regardless of who becomes president – the issue has been joined, and as the autism rate soars, it will only get bigger.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Don’t speak ill of the dead, the solons say: De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“Of the dead, nothing unless good.”) Of their work product, though, the truth should always be told.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, wrote the majority opinion in Bruesewitz v Wyeth, the decision that put vaccine safety issues permanently out of reach of a jury of our peers. Instead, a vaccine “court” of arrogant "special masters" created in 1986 bottles up the truth – that vaccine injury is far worse, and far more common, than the government and the pharmaceutical industry want you to know, and that one of those injuries is autism.
Scalia’s 2011 decision -- slamming the door to a federal court appeal by families denied compensation in vaccine "court" -- ingests every talking point of the “vaccines are God” crowd and disgorges them as the basis for a wrongheaded legal decision. Writing for the majority, Scalia said:
“For the last 66 years, vaccines have been subject to the same federal premarket approval process as prescription drugs, and compensation for vaccine-related injuries has been left largely to the States. Under that regime, the elimination of communicable diseases through vaccination became ‘one of the greatest achievements’ of public health in the 20th century.'” (The quote is from the CDC.)
This wonderful state of events, Scalia goes on, was disrupted by misplaced concerns over vaccine side effects. “But in the 1970’s and 1980’s vaccines became, one might say, victims of their own success. They had been so effective in preventing infectious diseases that the public became much less alarmed at the threat of those diseases, and much more concerned with the risk of injury from the vaccines themselves.
“Much of the concern centered around vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DTP), which were blamed for disabilities and developmental delays. This led to a massive increase in vaccine-related tort litigation.”
Well, yes, it did – because the DTP shot was in fact responsible for disabilities and developmental delays; if not, why was it reformulated? You’ve got to be an Offitoid to argue otherwise.
Scalia displayed a rosy-eyed view of the vaccine “court’s" effectiveness. “Fast, informal adjudication is made possible by the Act’s Vaccine Injury Table,” he declared. Oh please. As we all know, the “court” has become a Ground Hog Day of delays and diversions in which government lawyers essentially act as intermediaries for the drug companies.
As the Unanswered Questions report has shown, it is where the autism epidemic goes to hide – despite the rejection of 5,000 vaccine-autism claims, they’ve compensated many cases of autism following vaccine-induced encephalopathy. Just don't say the word autism, successful claimants have found.
Scalia spends much of his opinion dancing on the head of a pin – “(a) Section 300aa–22(b)(1)’s text suggests that a vaccine’s design is not open to question in a tort action. If a manufacturer could be held liable for failure to use a different design, the ‘even though’ clause would do no work. “
Autism families don’t really care whether a) Section 300aa–22(b)(1) does no work. They care that the government does no work to confront the autism epidemic, which in my view is being driven by excessive vaccination.
Vaccines are not victims of their own success; people with autism are victims of the liability-free vaccine "court," which took a far more limited childhood immunization schedule and turned it into a profit center for pharma.
Scalia and his colleagues sealed all the exits, even in a case of vaccine injury as clear-cut as Hannah Bruesewitz herself. In our book Vaccines 2.0 published last year, Mark Blaxill and I wrote:
Consider the case of Hannah Bruesewitz, who “hours after a diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, developed catastrophic brain injury and a lifelong seizure disorder,” according to the Eizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy.
Every journalist who has been at it for a while (in my case, four decades or so) has a treasure trove of bone-headed mistakes they can recount.
-- A friend of mine at the paper back in Danville wrote up a short item about a drunk driver being arrested by a state trooper. What could possibly go wrong? Well, you could inadvertently switch the names of the state trooper and the drunk driver. ...
-- Filling in for the county government reporter, I ignored something called the “multiplier” and wrote that taxes were going up when, in fact, they went down for the first time in years. My editor said the subsequent story, which we artfully attributed to “new information,” was the first time the paper ran a (disguised) correction bigger than the original article.
-- OK, one more, told to me by an assistant city editor from Kansas, possibly apocryphal but too good to omit. A paper in his home state had two big front-page stories the same day – a dilapidated barn burned down, and the mayor’s wife died. You may sense where this is going: Under the barn photo the headline read, “Mayor’s Wife Dies at 70.” Under the mayor’s wife? “Old Eyesore Gone at Last.”
So, mistakes happen. It’s funny in retrospect, but not so much at the time. The trick for journalists is to learn how easy it is to get things wrong before we look like complete idiots when it really matters.
By that standard, Steve Silberman, John Donvan and Caren Zucker look like complete idiots to me. They make mistakes in their new books on autism (the former’s NeuroTribes and the latters’ In a Different Key) that suggest they don’t really know what they’re talking about. And they don’t know it in a way that shows the biased a-s-s-umptions they substitute for real reporting.
Several AOA contributors, in particular our indefatigable Anne Dachel, have pointed up the macro-mistake of both these books – the idea that autism has been around forever and basically needs TLC rather than a massive public health response. To my mind, a mistake this big requires getting a lot of little things wrong, little things that add up to a complete lack of mastery. “To compare great things to small,” as Milton put it, here are a few.
NeuroTribes, by Silberman, says that parents first raised concern about mercury in vaccines. No -- it was the government.
“After an outcry from organizations like (Barbara Loe) Fisher’s National Vaccine Information Center, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the American Academy of Pediatrics asked vaccine manufacturers to remove thimerosal from the their products. …”
No, no, no! The FDA was ordered by Congress to look at medicines that contained mercury, leading to the government announcement in 1999, leading to parents’ outcry.
You make this kind of mistake when you think the idea that mercury might be dangerous in vaccines is so absurd that the crazy anti-vaccine parents must have started it; when you think Fisher is a wild-eyed loon who can help you make whatever point you want.
Ditto In a Different Key. The authors report that in response to 9/11, Congress added the infamous “thimerosal rider” to the bill creating the Department of Homeland Security, sparing Eli Lilly from liability.
“The discovery of the rider caused a brief outcry,” they write. “Families were now obliged to pursue their cases through a process known as vaccine court.”
That was some “brief outcry”! Donovan and Zucker appear not to know it was repealed under massive public pressure, and not just from anti-vaccine nut jobs. Thus it had no effect on whether families were obliged to pursue their cases through vaccine court.
In a Different Key mangles the other foundational issue for vaccine safety concerns – Andy Wakefield’s study in 1998. According to Zucker and Donvan, the study reported that, “the measles virus was present in all 12 children.”
No! If you’re going to spend seven years on this, read the damn paper! I sent that to Andy, who commented: “Absolute garbage! The Lancet paper makes no reference to detection of measles virus. A later paper by Kawashima from Japan, on blinded samples of cases and controls, found measles genetic material in some autistic children. He published this result.”
But of course, since Andy is a fraud, he must have said that!
History is built of blocks called facts. Before you try to interpret the edifice they create, you need to make sure the foundation is solid.
One more: Silberman completely mangles a story about Leo Kanner, before he discovered autism. It's not worth untangling the whole thing here, but it totally confuses the way Kanner went about looking for a neurological form of syphilis in Native Americans. Silberman makes a cautionary tale out of his messed-up version, portraying Kanner as a glory hound intent on sniffing out a disorder to stamp his name on -- as he would subsequently do with autism, in Silberman's fevered version of things.
I could go on and perhaps I will in a follow-up because there is much more here – Zucker and Donvan misspell my name, for cryin’ out loud – but let me just say again that, as a journalist, these kind of mistakes are red flags. How much, to compare great things to small, should we rely on the depth of their understanding of the autism-as-epidemic argument? How much should we care about Donvan and Zucker's column in the Washington Post Saturday doling out tips to presidential candidates and calling a vaccine link “scaremongering”?
“The autism world, like the world in general, needs less discord,” they write, spreading the kind of soothing caca that suits their mistaken, mistake-prone view of autism.
No! The autism world needs a loud and persistent revolution with as much unpleasantness as is required until eyesores like that are gone at last.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Editor's Note -- This AOA article excerpted from 2014 looks at cases of anencephaly in Washington state and whether pesticides or some other environmental factor might be involved. An update from the Washington health department (consider the source) is here. With the Zika virus now in the news, we thought it was worth reminding readers that anencephaly has been on the radar before.
By Dan Olmsted
Today I'd like to mention further evidence that links pesticides with neurological and developmental mayhem, including but not limited to autism, especially along the "left coast" of the United States, stretching from the San Joaquin and Central Valleys of California up through Napa and the orchard and wine counties of Washington State. This temperate and fertile arc, sometimes referred to as Ecotopia, began blooming with fruits and vegetables when industrial agriculture, pesticides and irrigation started taking hold at the end of the 19th Century. It now accounts for a large percentage of the nation's food supply -- and increasingly, a number of unusual outbreaks that point to toxins.
In our AOA series in 2011, The Age of Polio -- How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic, we demonstrated how the first use of pesticides containing lead and arsenic in the late 19th century triggered the first outbreaks of poliomyelitis. The polio virus up till then had been a benign stomach bug, or enterovirus, but we proposed that the ingestion of lead and arsenic in children with an active polio infection allowed the virus to gain access to the nervous system, where it killed cells at the top of the spinal column (the anterior horn), leading to temporary or permanent paraylsis and, sometimes, death. Early epidemics in the San Joaquin and Napa regions as well as orchard country in Washington State are the kind of associations, overlooked at the time and ever since, that point to the true, manmade nature of polio epidemics.
Earlier this year Mark and I tracked a new outbreak, of two dozen or so cases of partial paralysis in California children, and suggested pesticides could have played a role there. Medical experts suspect an enterovirus, interestingly. We suspect that whatever else was going on, pesticides probably played a role. We reported that the parents of one child owned a vineyard (reminiscent of that Napa polio outbreak more than a century ago), and had also remembered their daughter ate fresh raspberries the morning she got sick. The doctors, she told us, didn't seem interested. (The child also got an IV at the hospital right before her arm suddenly, and permanently, went limp, possibly suggesting provocation polio, in which a needle stick can create an opening for an enterovirus to reach the nervous system). A second child who has been identified lives in an LA exurb built on farmland so intensively farmed it has an apricot named for it. (Moorpark.)
Lately, the arc of mayhem has been migrating further north, where another "mystery outbreak" has baffled researchers. According to NBC, "Mysterious Birth Defects: No Answers, Only Questions, Experts Say":
"Since 2010, at least 30 babies — now 31 — have been diagnosed with anencephaly in a three-county area of central Washington state that includes Yakima and Sunnyside. ... That’s a rate of 8.7 per 10,000 births in the region, far higher than the national rate of 2.1 cases for 10,000 births."
Among the possibilities are a nearby nuclear plant and "pesticides, grain molds, nitrates in water supplies and other concerns previously tied to the problem. ... One factor that’s certain to get attention is the low rate of folic acid use in the region. Low levels of the B vitamin in early pregnancy are known to increase risk of anencephaly, spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Sixty percent of women in the three-county area don’t take folic acid as recommended — a figure that climbed to 80 percent to 90 percent in those whose babies were studied."
Seriously, not enough folic acid? My money is on toxins, particularly pesticides. Another recent article pointed to illnesses caused by a phenomenon known as pesticide drift in the same areas. According to oregonlive.com in May:
If you’ve been wondering what’s up with the suit filed by two whistleblowers against Merck for allegedly hiding the fact that the mumps vaccine doesn’t work – well, so have we.
Now a timeline has emerged, although you might need a telescope to see its further reaches. An Amended Scheduling Order was released this month that extends deadlines even longer: “dispositive motions” to be filed by December 20, 2017 – basically two years from now; “motions involving class certification” by May 3, 2018. That looks like the earliest a trial could start, and it’s not hard to see the whole thing going into 2019, if not a new decade entirely.
This for an allegedly blatant fraud against taxpayers that occurred last decade – in 1999!
A key date appears to be October 31 of next year, when a status report from both sides is due on whether “the parties would consent to alternative dispute resolution” – in other words, I believe, to settling out of court.
Backed by a major California law firm that knows how to write powerful briefs and has a lot of material to work with, the whistleblowers – Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski – haven’t budged. Attempts by Merck to get the suit thrown out on all kinds of grounds (such as, unbelievably, that the FDA knew about it and didn’t care, so why should anyone else!) failed in federal court in Philadelphia.
Discovery of documents must also be completed by that October date. Discovery – the delivery of relevant material that might help make a case – is exactly what private firms of all kinds dread, and one reason you see so many settlements where terms are not disclosed, nobody admits any wrongdoing and the whole thing goes away. The big firms pay millions to defend themselves, so what’s a few more million out of billions in profits to buy someone off? Most people can’t resist the temptation given that they could lose everything in court.
That’s why getting to discovery in this lawsuit is the crux of the matter – it’s so rare, and there’s so much at stake. That includes billions in potential penalties for Merck if it’s found the firm defrauded the government, which pays hundreds of millions a year for the MMR – the mumps, measles, and rubella shot. Merck has the only license to manufacture any of the MMR components in the United States, and in the worst outcome for Merck it could lose that lucrative monopoly entirely.
There is no discovery allowed in the so-called “vaccine court” that has so far thwarted thousands of parents who claimed their child’s autism was due to the MMR, the mercury in some vaccinations, or a combination of both. The judges who threw out all the cases ridiculed the families for having no evidence to that effect, a Catch-22 if ever there was one.
So while it seems like bad news that this case is stretching so far into the future, the fact that it is still headed for daylight is kind of a miracle. If it makes it all the way, you have to wonder what a jury will make of some of the Merck documents already disclosed – such as the one in which a Merck official told subordinates that their job was to show that the mumps vaccine met federal licensing standards, when it clearly did not. To bridge the gap, according to the suit:
“Merck set out to conduct testing of its mumps vaccine that would support its original efficacy finding. In performing this testing, Merck’s objective was to report efficacy of 95 percent or higher regardless of the vaccine’s true efficacy. The only way Merck could accomplish this was through manipulating its testing procedures and falsifying the test results. … Krahling and Wlochowski participated on the Merck team that conducted this testing and witnessed firsthand the fraud in which Merck engaged to reach its desired results. Merck internally referred to the testing as Protocol 007.”
Naming a secret project after a British spy with a license to kill might have seemed amusing inside Merck; perhaps not so much in an American courtroom.
It is also worth pointing out that lawsuits like this are typically long slogs, but sometimes pay off big-time. An example is close at hand: For instance, Merck just paid $830 million to settle a lawsuit with shareholders over the painkiller Vioxx. That drug was pulled from the market 11 years ago, in 2004; since then, the company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for violating drug laws; paid $900 million; and settled 50,000 lawsuits by patients in 2007 for nearly $5 billion.
Before it settled, Merck engaged in a tobacco-style scorched earth policy of fighting every individual claim of harm or death from the drug, denying all, even after it became clear that thousands of people had died from heart attacks and strokes and Merck had been, shall we say, not forthcoming about the implications of its own studies of the drug’s safety. (The master of that approach, its chief lawyer, was rewarded with the chairmanship of the company.)
You may remember the heavy marketing of the drug – skater Peggy Fleming in a TV ad holding her sore ankle, hardly the appropriate audience for a heavy-duty painkiller. That pill-popping approach to a compound not much better, and far more dangerous, than aspirin mirrors the mumps vaccine hype: According to research Mark Blaxill and I have done, the vaccine is unnecessary, given the mildness of most mumps infections in early children. Now, thanks to the vaccine, outbreaks are showing up more and more in adolescents and young adults, in whom it can cause sterility and other complication.
That’s because, according to the whistleblowers, it doesn’t even work.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Why is it that so many writers seem to have an anaphylactic reaction to the fact that the first case of autism in the medical literature recovered remarkably when treated with gold salts?
The short answer is because it suggests that the mainstream has gotten autism very wrong, and from the very first. Neither parent-blaming nor genetic anomalies nor ABA nor Floortime could explain how treating someone with a different diet, or certain kinds of medicine or alternative methods, could trigger a visible improvement in their symptoms, let along the kind of recovery seen in Donald T.
Donald, as you may know, was Case 1 in Leo Kanner’s 1943 description of 11 children with a theretofore-unknown syndrome that Kanner called “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.”
Mark Blaxill and I tracked Donald down in 2005, and in 2007 met him in his hometown of Forest, Mississippi. Meanwhile, others were on the case. John Donvan and Caren Zucker, doubtless in possession of our 2010 book the Age of Autism which outlined our reporting on Donald, made a suspiciously well-timed splash the day before with an article in the Atlantic and a gig on Good Morning America, with the always-eager-to-diminish-autism George Stephanopoulos presiding.
I don’t doubt Donvan and Zucker independently identified Donald; it wasn’t that hard to do. I don’t blame them for publicizing their work at the same time as ours (I suppose they think they “scooped” us by landing one day before, although our book had been out for review for weeks), nor do I object to the fact that their take on Donald was a very pleasant feature story – the lovely people of Forest adopted him as their own little Hobbit (he is very short and suffered from failure to thrive, a sign of what really happened), and now he had found his own little place in the Shire. If only all the townsfolk of the world would be so kind, they implied, we’d have no problem with autism at all. Now they've recapitulated all that and much more in their new book "In a Different Key -- The Story of Autism," which along with the recent "Neurotribes" paints autism as just another part of human diversity that has always been with us.
Yeah, right. Our book laid out an entirely different scenario, in which we showed that Donald really was among the earliest handful of cases that came to be called autism. That the reason was the commercialization of ethyl mercury in seed disinfectants, lumber preservatives and multidose vaccines, and that the march of industrial progress, not for the first or last time, had inadvertently (and carelessly, given the known toxicity of ethyl mercury) launched the Age of Autism (see our book, the video on our home page, and my column last Saturday).
Let’s set that aside for a second and talk about the fact that Donald, according to his brother, Oliver, developed an acute case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in early adolescence and was near death by the time his parents got him the right diagnosis and treatment at the Campbell Clinic in Memphis. That treatment was intravenous gold salts over several months, during which time his JRA lifted, with the exception of one fused finger bone.
During that time, his brother told me, Donald’s autism symptoms also cleared up to the point that he was able to take his place in the community, go to college, work at the family bank and become president of the Kiwanis.
Interesting, no? Well, no, not interesting, nothing to see here according to Donvan and Zucker’s account. In a footnote, where pesky ideas that threaten the main narrative go to die, Donvan tells a different story, one that acknowledges ours but finds every reason you could think of, and a few you couldn’t, to dismiss it out of hand.
You see, the fact that Case 1 had not just autism but (another) autoimmune disease – rheumatoid arthritis -- interests them not at all as any kind of clue to causation or treatment. What they want to do is tear down any association between the gold salts (biomed) and the improvement in Donald’s autism.
Donvan reports that Donald’s mother, long dead, believed that the fevers induced by JRA, when they weren’t nearly killing him, improved his symptoms. Now, fevers do sometimes seem to have some effect on autism – usually temporary, alas, as I understand it.
But to Donvan, that’s the ticket out of having to consider a sustained anti-inflammatory treatment as anything to do with Donald’s recovery, which he also disputes, saying Donald is clearly still autistic. (Many parents would be thrilled with that kind of “autism” in their adult children.)
Donvan attributes the fever cure concept to Donald’s brother, and makes it sound like our description of gold salts as the source of his improvement is rampant, self-interested speculation by anti-vaccine kooks. "In his initial reporting, Olmsted went so far as to suggest gold salts had cured Donald's autism," they write.
Except, that’s what Donald’s brother told me in his law office above the square in Forest back in 2005! He said a Dr. Hamilton in Memphis “began to treat my brother with gold salts – two or three months. He just had a miraculous response to the medicine. The pain in his joints went away.”
And then Oliver dropped the bomb I wasn’t expecting: “When he was finally released the nervous condition he was formerly afflicted with was gone. The proclivity toward excitability and extreme nervousness had all but cleared up, and after that he went to school and had one more little flare-up when he was in junior college they treated with cortisone.”
Later in the interview, still processing this unexpected idea, I came back to the gold salts and asked Oliver again if it really seemed like the decisive event: “It sure did,” he said. “He became more sociable.” Oliver added, “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Donvan also criticizes me for suggesting Donald had moved off the autism spectrum, but when I asked Oliver if Donald had autism he said, “No, he doesn’t. It’s just in certain areas.” Again, some peculiarities, some traits, but c’mon John, the first guy ever reported in the literature got so much better that, if he’d started out like that, he’d never have been in the medical literature in the first place. This is where the diagnostic category itself, as opposed to a concept like auto-immune environmental injury, serves the status quo. The medical establishment controls the category, and you'd best not tamper with it.
Two years later, in 2007, Mark and I met Donald and, sitting around his kitchen table in Mississippi, talked (on tape) about his early life. We ran it in our book in Q and A form.
“Q: There was a mention in some of the medical papers that when you had the gold salts therapy, all of a sudden some of the behaviors and some of the other problems got better. Do you remember that?
A: No, I don’t really remember that.
Q: Did your parents say, though, that you seemed to get a lot better in terms of your relationship with the rest of the world and that sort of thing at that point?
A: Yes, as I got older, things got a whole lot better.
Q: And did they think that had something to do with it, those gold salts treatments?
A: I have a feeling it might.
Q: And the behaviors they were calling autistic, did those change most after the first one?
A: Yes, it seems like they changed.
Q: But you don’t remember that kind of change taking place?
A: No, I don’t remember, really.”
Unlike this conversation, my earlier interview with his brother was not on tape. Reporters don’t like to share their notes, but here are two pages of mine. They show Donald’s brother, not me, musing about his amazing recovery from gold salts.
Now, maybe gold salts were not what helped Donald, although I think they did; it is at least an idea worth taking seriously and keeping on the table as the number of injured kids soars. The meta-point here is that folks like Donvan can’t stand the idea and its implications, and toss in everything they can think of to discredit it. Maybe he was already getting better. Maybe he didn't really get that much better. Maybe it was the fevers. Maybe it's the lovely people of Forest. JRA has nothing to do with autism. Autism is not autoimmune, dammit! Etc. ... Just like parents who report that removing certain items from the diet, or using chelation, or supplements, are treated like kooks. Yes, if you always ignore the evidence, people who insist on paying attention to it will remain kooks!
What can I say? I report what people tell me, and Oliver told me his brother’s JRA and his autism – in my view, a couple of co-morbid autoimmune afflictions triggered by early exposure to ethyl mercury – both cleared up with history's first biomedical intervention. Donald thought so, too, but was too young and too sick to know for sure. What a missed opportunity for the world to begin to understand what created this new disorder and what might help alleviate, and even stop, it. If the doctors who saw those early cases suspected the environmental clues that were there to see, we'd be living in a very different world today. One such clue to causation is biomedical recovery from both JRA and autism in Case 1.
But with causation comes culprits, both the compounds that triggered it and the powers that be who let it happen and allow it continue to this day.
And that, I think, is why so many have anaphylactic reactions to Donald T. and gold salts.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at some of the bad ideas that combine to cause the ongoing autism epidemic – including the very bad one that there is no epidemic.
In fact, that is the worst idea of all, because it stops discussion before it starts. If there’s no epidemic, then there’s no environmental factor in play. Autism is part of life, one might even say part of God’s plan. Ergo, we should put all our efforts into helping the affected while ignoring the causes and the calamity, as Hillary Clinton’s feckless proposal this week manages nicely.
You can see that play out in a recent spate of books by authors who want to normalize autism and make it seem, in the Church Lady’s word, so very special, as opposed to so very disastrous.
Thus in the new Smithsonian, John Donvan and Caren Zucker find a few pre-Civil War case descriptions that might include autistic features and conclude, “Still, the dominant narrative has been that real rates are going up, and the United States is in the midst of an autism ‘epidemic,’ even though most experts see that as a highly debatable proposition. Moreover, the 'epidemic' story has helped crystallize the notion that 'something must have happened' in the near past to cause autism in the first place. Most famously, some activists blamed modern vaccines—a now discredited theory.”
That paragraph shows the potency of the "no epidemic" premise -- no epidemic, no vaccine link to autism, no need to worry your pretty little head.
So much for bad ideas. Now for the best one: Listen to the parents. After pondering the trajectory of autism and thinking about reader comments, I realized this is really the universal antidote to the “autism awareness” and “no epidemic” idiocy.
First of all, most parents don’t think autism is any kind of blessing. Discussing the book Neurotribes, “Greg” commented on AOA:
“Bad Idea number 15, the neuro-diversity movement and autism as a gift: It's a gift to be a non-verbal kid, past early childhood and still in diapers. And, if you're high functioning autistic adolescent, sitting at home on your butt, unemployed and waiting for your aging folks to look after you, your autism is also most definitely a gift.”
And “Reader” said:
“Stoopid idea number 7: Pretending that autism is a good thing as in Neurotribes. Yeah it's just great that 30% of people with autism communicate not at all or minimally, 82% unemployment for adult autists, high number wandering and drowning deaths relatively, high murder suicide rates. High numbers with sensory and pain issues. It's just f'g great.”
But the main reason to listen to parents is that they know what happened to their children. As The New York Times famously wrote: “On Autism’s Cause, It’s Parents Versus Research.” Yes, it is, and the steady drumbeat of parental testimony about vaccination, illness, regression and autism trumps the conflicted, contorted “research.”
As Sarah Bridges wrote in Spectrum magazine about RFK Jr.: “In 2006, Kennedy wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine called Deadly Immunity. The response to his piece was overwhelming: following the publication, Kennedy received thousands of letters and emails from all over the world. 'The astounding thing was how alike all of them were and that people from Mississippi to New Delhi shared such identical experiences. Here is the typical scenario I heard: A mother took her toddler to the doctor where he received a spate of vaccines, became ill that night, often with a fever, sometimes with seizures, then lost the language he had, developed stereotyped behavior and regressed into a looking-glass world of debilitated relationships and social isolation. Essentially,' Kennedy adds, 'their lives were plunged into unimaginable agony.' It seemed imperative to Kennedy to keep getting the story out to prevent the catastrophe from damaging other children.”
Not listening to parents unites mainstream media and medicine. Listening to them unites RFK Jr., this humble blog, Andy Wakefield and many others. In no other universe but Autism Denial would this kind of evidence be dismissed as mere "anecdote" and relegated to the dust bin, while CDC studies exonerating the MMR and thimerosal are treated as gospel.
Last week I wrote about my adventures in the 1970s as a young investigative reporter. I’m convinced, on the basis of long experience, that if journalists were as deaf to other concerns as they are to the reality of vaccine-driven autism epidemic, Richard Nixon would still be president (or something like that). The idea that we needed to listen to our readers was drummed into us. The idea that doctors need to listen to their patients – and, as Andy puts it, “listen to the mother” when the patient is an infant – is still the best idea in medicine.
As commenter Ottoschnaut put it: “Bad Idea: 'Ignore the hundreds of thousands of first hand, eyewitness reports of parents who witnessed vaccine injury unfold in real time.'”
That, of course, is why the “discredited” vaccine-autism debate rolls on, because thousands of parents know exactly what happened, way too credible and way too many to silence with appeals to conflicted, self-interested, shoddy “research” that suggest ordinary people can’t be trusted, that wisdom belongs to the priestly class, in this case the medical, legal, and journalism establishments.
This can’t last forever, especially when the damage keeps rising at the rates we are seeing now -- at epidemic rates. Our main task is to find the most effective and direct and immediate ways to blast through this denial of the age of autism, help sick kids and share the truth with anyone willing to listen. More and more people are.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Back in the 1970s when I started as a full-time journalist, I covered the usual beats – police, fire, the courts, city hall, in my hometown on Danville, Ill. (That's me in a contemporary rendering from, gosh, 40 years ago this new year.)
I’d show up at what we called “the cop shop” at about a quarter to seven in the morning, copy down arrest reports, make the other rounds and then go back and write them up for that afternoon’s paper. If I had time and the cops were in the mood, I’d check in with them on what was going on. There was one detective who always seemed to know. On his office wall, although I didn’t focus on it at the time, was a dollar bill that had been cut up in small pieces and reassembled in the shape of a question mark.
One day, someone came to us and told an amazing story, one that was kind of hard to believe. He said that earlier in the decade, a number of police officers, some of who were still there, had been involved in a burglary ring. They would break in somewhere – backing their cruiser through the bay of an auto body shop, say, or busting out the glass in the door of a drugstore. They’d take what they wanted, and then they’d call in the incident. So not only would they get the dough, or the bottle of Scotch, or the new car battery, they’d get the credit for discovering the break-in.
This was interesting -- in fact, it was sensational -- but how would you prove it, especially at this late date? That’s when “the source” said something that really made me pay attention: One detective who knew about the burglary ring found a way to remind everyone of it, he said. That detective took a dollar that he suspected had been stolen in one of the break-ins, cut it into small pieces, made it into a question mark, framed it and put it on his office wall. Suddenly, I realized he was telling the truth.
I went back and looked at what, if anything, had been written at the time about suspicions that the cops were crooks. The only thing I found was an editorial – from my own paper! – saying that murmurs that some cops were doing bad things were scurrilous, and if anyone had information to the contrary, they should come forward.
It’s a long story, but based on information we developed from this new source, a grand jury convened, called witnesses including the cops under oath, and issued a report. The report named officers who participated in the burglaries – one category – or who knew and had a duty to report it – a second category. The statute of limitations had expired, but the naming and shaming was a necessary purgative, since some of these names were still police officers. It needed to be known.
The upshot: Sometimes, “conspiracy theories” are true. Sometimes, the bad guys get away with it, abetted by the idea that such a claim seems so unlikely and so unfair to those who put their lives on the line every day.
Now let’s talk about autism. We’ve been publishing articles and comments lately about bad ideas that perpetuate the autism epidemic, and one of them is that a vaccines-autism link is a “conspiracy theory,” end of discussion. Daily Kos, as I’ve written, called it a CT and won’t let in any such comments. The idea that vaccine safety concerns are just a fancy name for "anti-vaccine" and are kooky has really become a meme.
This meme links vaccine-autism concerns, 9/11 trutherism and Sandy-Hook-never-happened into one big lump and expect those of us concerned about vaccine safety to try to explain how we got such a crazy collection of counter-factual ideas.
My column this week on six bad ideas that triggered the autism epidemic (and how to fix them) led to some thoughtful responses, as well as the usual defense of all things vaccine, this time led by Vincent Iannelli, MD and Eindeker, useful foils of whom I will speak no more (but our commenters will!).
Here are a few of the best "bad ideas" you proposed, with more to come:
Reader: Stoopid idea number 7: Pretending that autism is a good thing as in "Neurotribes." Yeah it's just great that 30% of people with autism communicate not at all or minimally, 82% unemployment for adult autists, high number wandering and drowning deaths relatively, high murder suicide rates. High numbers with sensory and pain issues. It's just f'g great.
Kapoore: It's a bad idea to say the "science is in," the science can never be in and be science. Scientific thinking began in the Renaissance with the idea of measuring the known but with a clear understanding that precision was impossible. Modern scientists forget about the unknowable part and so they claim that they have a precise science, a precise vaccine...and when it turns out that they were wrong--like big time wrong--they shove it under the rug and repeat "the science is in."
Every day I read an article on some aspect of the real science, that is the science that is ongoing and based not on hubris but respect for the evidence--so how could the "science be in" if scientific research is ongoing. However, the worst idea goes to science as dictatorship... now that the science is in we have a new religion and if you don't follow what we say you don't get an education... so taxpaying parents have their children banned from school for some flawed idea such as "vaccine acquired immunity" when in reality what we have is "leaky vaccine acquired immunity" with so much breakthrough disease they have to find someone to blame, and those are the unvaccinated. Put them in jail shout the so-called "scientists" So the worst idea is scientists as inquisitors.
Betty Bona: Dr. Iannelli,
The problem with your "no worries" position about the new vaccines in the pipeline is that money is more powerful than the best interests of the American citizens. The lack of liability of industry and doctors for harms caused by their vaccine products creates a situation where the safety and efficacy of these products no longer carries as much weight as it should.
In fact, it sets up a situation where products that are truly cancer treatments (or treatments for some other non-infectious condition) will be called vaccines so that the product will enjoy the lack of liability. We're no longer just talking about infectious diseases. Aside from the lack of liability, safety and efficacy standards can be so easily manipulated in the vaccine arena.
Just look at the HPV vaccine. Everyone knows that we won't know if it is efficacious until the recipients reach the age when they might be expected to contract cervical cancer. Really, is that a vaccine against an infectious disease, or is it a cancer prevention strategy? Didn't we already have a cancer prevention strategy that worked quite well - the pap smear?
As for safety, you need look no further than the newly approved, fast-tracked flu shot for the elderly. I don't know if you are 65 yet, but if you are, do you plan on being one of the guinea pigs for this new flu shot for the elderly? I say guinea pigs because it is fast-tracked and not fully tested. The last shot for the elderly included a larger amount of virus per shot. That was unsuccessful, so they are approaching the problem from the adjuvant side, adding squalene and polysorbate 80 to the shot in hopes that it will work better in the elderly.
That adjuvant does not have a great safety profile given the incidence of narcolepsy in children receiving the H1N1 squalene/polysorbate 80 adjuvanted vaccine in Europe in 2009. The young and the elderly are vulnerable. Does it make sense to fast-track this vaccine? After the failure of last year's high antigen flu shot for the elderly, I think loss of sales that might have occurred in flu shots for the elderly this year prompted the fast-tracking.
In other words, I think they abandoned safety considerations for profit. What do you think? Have you received your MF59 adjuvanted flu shot this year? If you feel so comfortable with the ever increasing creep of vaccines, maybe you should get that shot even if you are not 65 just to show your complete trust in the vaccine program. I won't touch it with a ten-foot pole, and I sincerely hope I am never mandated to act as a guinea pig like the elderly are doing this year. At least they can still refuse (though that right is somewhat meaningless in some of the elderly).
Linda1: One of the first things that I noticed years ago about allopathic medicine is what is called cascading intervention. The patient presents with a problem, oftentimes caused by a medical misstep, a drug taken or a natural biological rhythm or balance disturbed that needs restoring.
To solve the problem, the physician doesn't recognize the cause of the problem, but orders one or more interventions that causes other problems which lead to other interventions which do not solve anything but that cause other problems which lead to other interventions which lead to...and on and on and on until the patient is worse than ever and is tethered to and hooked on a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs.
We probably all know the saying that Ideas Matter. Lately I’ve been mulling a handful of ideas – very bad ideas, I’d say – that have come together to trigger, expand, and perpetuate the autism epidemic and a host of allied disorders that constitute The Age of Autism.
Today I’m going to lay them out in brief, and in coming days I’ll say more about each one, and end with the counter-ideas that could really bring us a happy new year.
Please add your own!
Bad Idea Number One. Vaccines are the Eric Clapton of Medicine; they are God. Vaccines are the number one medical accomplishment of all time, and every day in every way they make our world safer and safer. Bow down!
Bad Idea Number Two. The evidence for Number One is clear. “Study after study” has shown that vaccines work wonderfully and that the so-called “risks” are effectively zero – a one-in-a-million chance of anything serious happening. (“One in a million” is pharma speak for zip, zilch, nada, roll up your sleeve.)
Bad Idea Number Three. Disagreeing with Numbers One and Two is Unacceptable Speech. Claims that vaccines are more dangerous than advertised are bogus and should be suppressed. You need to be a conspiracy theorist, a purveyor of junk science, a pathetically gullible parent looking for someone to blame for your damaged kid, or out-and-out anti-vaccine to harbor such ideas.
Bad Idea Number Four. Conflicts Don’t Count. Drugmakers, doctors, legislators, bureaucrats, TV programs buoyed by pharma money are immune to the usual concerns that conflicts of interest -- profits, incentives, campaign contributions, ad dollars, liability worries -- require extra vigilance by the press and public. The drug companies may be caught red-handed in corrupt dealing, Congress bought off, the media lazy and desperate for drug dollars, but when it comes to vaccines (see Number One), they have only our health at heart!
Bad Idea Number Five. Because the first four are true, we must trust The Experts who are working hard every day to help us stay happy and healthy. They are god’s messengers on earth.
Trust. The. Experts.
These recent comments by Albert Enayati, an early vaccine safety advocate, to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee are worth everyone's attention. "I think it may be beneficial to the other parents who say their children regressed to autism through childhood immunization," he says. We agree. The list of studies at the end is terrific.
“Vaccines Caused Payam’s Autism” --Testimony Presented By Albert Enayati, MSME, Research Scientist, Senior System Engineer. Father of Payam, who regressed into autism after his childhood vaccinations, Board Member of SafeMinds and APRC
E-mail: albert_enayati @msn.com
Before the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). November 17, 2015. Bethesda MD.
My name is Albert Enayati. I am a board member of SafeMinds and APRC, both volunteer organizations focused on identifying and removing the harmful environmental agents contributing to the severe disability that frequently accompanies autism. Sadly, despite my 20 years of autism advocacy, we are still ignoring environmental risk factors, with no safe and effective medications or prevention strategy in sight. No conclusive biomarkers have been identified and no new treatments validated. Over the past seven years of IACC coordination, Federal agencies have spent 1.6 billion dollars in many fields of autism research, but environmental research has been underfunded and autism prevalence continues unabated, including severely disabling cases.
It is time to dedicate resources to a more fruitful path; environmental causation of autism. Within this field, a topic in need of funding is the role of vaccines in autism etiology.. Please take note that a recent study among parents by the Simons Foundation found that 42% of parents felt vaccines contributed to their child's autism.1, The IACC should not ignore this large segment of the community and observations by so many parents regarding their children's developmental history.
In 2009 the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) 2, 3, 4 recommended to this committee a number of feasible research proposals on vaccines and autism. Not a single one has been implemented.
My son Payam regressed after his vaccinations. He is suffering from his autism and breaks my heart piece by piece. He has serious self-injurious behavior. He has run away, ended up in the emergency room, and been tased by law enforcement. His finger was nearly amputated because he cannot communicate his pain from infection. His medications don't help. Meanwhile, the main decision-makers on autism research, here at the IACC – the NIH, CDC, Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation - have been discriminating against children like my son and many children across the country whose parents report regressions after their childhood immunizations. Even if it is “unpopular”, it is ethically imperative that we investigate these reports and study these children. Public health is not simply freedom from infectious disease. Autism is not always a gift or alternate way of being. It often comes with a great cost. My son deserves to have attention paid to him and research done to help him have a better quality of life.
On many occasions Dr. Insel informed me that “science does not support my point of view”. In fact, very little meaningful science has been done on vaccines and autism, only a small fraction of possibilities have even been looked at, and the studies that have been published are riddled with conflicts of interest, data manipulation and in the case of Dr. Thorsen, indictment for financial research fraud. In addition, Dr. William Thompson, a senior researcher at the CDC who has whistleblower status, has reported dumping inconvenient data in a garbage can, along with colleagues, to avoid reporting an increased risk of autism in African American boys who received MMR vaccine.
A 2011 study by the Institute of Medicine's Immunization Safety Review Committee5 evaluated the evidence on possible causal associations between immunizations and certain adverse outcomes. In 135 of 158 pairs evaluated, they found that “evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship”. They found no relationship between MMR and autism, but given that their evaluation included studies like the one where data was dumped, the safety of our children demands that we allow for future research to inform the questions.
Even the package insert for DTaP6 vaccine suggests that we need further study. Here’s a quote from 2005: [emphasis added]
“Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting.”
Yet, there are no studies looking specifically at autism and receipt of DTaP vaccines.
In 2002, a furniture salesman named Jason Padgett was viciously attacked outside a karaoke bar in Tacoma, Washington. As a result, he became a math genius and was able to visualize complex geometric and physics concepts.
"I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life" — from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain, Padgett told her. "It's just really beautiful."
It may be beautiful, but how many of us would choose being beaten within an inch of our life in order to gain what, in another context, could be called savant skills? (Padgett says it's worth it, even though he developed, interestingly enough, PTSD, OCD and social anxiety. I'd rather skip the whole thing, and I'd certainly like a vote before the hammer came down on me.)
I’ve been collecting stories like this for a while, in which being a savant is associated with damage of one kind or another, and now seems a useful time to put a few together. With the rise of Neurotribes and the overall normalization of autism in which Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang theory – a physics whiz with obvious autistic traits – is supposed to be funny, you would think that the modern world of computers and phones and flying machines essentially depended on autistic savants who just love calculating things in seconds so the rest of us can gape.
And yet, what a truncated world they so often end up inhabiting – if autism is a brain injury, which I believe it is, then savant skills are a rare side effect that are hardly worth the trouble. I believe we, and they, would get along just fine without this kind of collateral damage masquerading as a gift. I mean, in the context of a raging epidemic of human-induced suffering, who really cares if cows have a calmer trip to the slaughterhouse?
It’s wild the number of times that I come across metal, and not the kind you get clobbered with outside a karaoke club, in connection with savant skills and autism. Exposure to toxic metals, both from without in the form of family or workplace exposure, and within in the form of vaccine ingredients, just about cry out “Guilty!”
Back in 2010, Mark Blaxill and I were invited to talk about our book at the Brown University bookstore. It was a good event. A few days later, a student named David Sheffield wrote a column for The Brown Daily Herald that said:
“While Brown should welcome a broad range of viewpoints, we should not allow ourselves to be used as a soapbox for whomever would like to come speak. There is a point at which the damage done by hosting a speaker outweighs the benefits.
“Last Friday, the Brown Bookstore hosted Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill, the authors of ‘The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic,’ for ‘a reading and [discussion] of their research.” Research is a highly generous word to use to describe what the authors have done. Essentially, they repackaged the last decade’s worth of claims that mercury causes autism, disregarding the actual research that shows those claims to be utterly false. Study after study has shown that autism is not caused by mercury in vaccines.’”
Ergo, we shouldn’t have been allowed to speak. Now – and it’s hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude over it – Brown is mired in a much broader, but not much different, debate over free speech. Many Brown students, it seems, are against it when it doesn’t suit their purposes. In a long and thoughtful piece on the Daily Beast – “Brown University Professor Denounces ‘McCarthy’ Witch Hunts” – the threat to free expression becomes clear.
Outrage over minority oppression has morphed into the idea that certain kinds of speech are unwelcome on campus. She quotes an anonymous professor:
“More disconcerting than the nature and tone of recent protests to this professor is the lack of concern over freedom of speech—or what he referred to as ‘freedom of expression’—on campus.
“‘’Freedom of speech’ is a little tough,’ he said. ‘It’s not the perfect phrase to use, partly because we’re a private institution and we’re not talking about government action. I like to use ‘freedom of expression.’ Universities are supposed to be places of freedom of expression."
It’s worth reading the whole piece -- “I think freedom of speech in general has a lot of problems because of power dynamics, just racially and otherwise, so you have to be cautious,” sophomore Sierra Edd said” -- to get the flavor of what’s going on. It appears that students there, and across the country, are both both infantilizing themselves – help protect us from upsetting words! – and becoming the arbiters of the parameters of acceptable speech.
I’m not passing judgment on the validity of their substantive concerns – although the stifling of a discussion of Halloween costumes at Yale, my alma meter, was both spooky and goofy. Rather, it’s worth seeing how little value seems to be placed on free speech and free expression these days, especially by younger people. Did they miss Civics? Have helicopter parents made them feel like the center of the universe? Are they vaccine damaged?
It’s a topic we’re all familiar with from the vaccines and autism debate, which vaccine injury deniers have been trying to shut down any way they can. As I’ve said, the premise that ideas are too dangerous to discuss has no place in a democracy.
Yet the online site Jurist, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, last month argued exactly that. In an article “Legally Limiting Lies About Vaccines,” the authors – both law professors – asked: “Can messengers of openly false statements that contravene the public's health be stopped?
The article offers all kinds of remedies such as this: “For example, if governmental health officials publicize false statements linking child vaccines and autism, they could lawfully be censored or fired from their positions. They have no constitutional right to spread false statements antithetical to the mission of their agency or office.”
So censor or fire them – and, the article suggest, sue politicians if they suggest vaccines cause autism, just as the beef industry sued Oprah (note to Jurist: she won).
This all came together in one lovely package recently. AOA reader Judy Ritchie sent me a piece from the Concord Monitor that began: “NHTI professor Nathan Strong knew that inviting a prominent opponent of vaccination to speak to a class about the science of vaccines would be a little controversial.
“That turned out to be a good prediction, as long as ‘a little’ is translated as ‘very.’ Maybe even ‘very, very.’
“’I was not expecting the reaction,’ admitted Strong, who has taught in the biology department at NHTI for 21 years, including a stint as department head.
Strong had invited Laura Condon of the NVIC to talk about vaccine safety issues. In the article, everyone was backpedaling as fast as possible.
I’m sure that when most of our readers first heard about a shooting this week at a regional center in California for developmentally disabled people, they had the same chilling thought – oh lord, please let this not involve anyone in the autism world. It turned out that the victims happened to be from the county health department (although I heard a woman say on TV that one person had worked with autistic kids), but that of course did nothing to diminish the fear, sadness, and sense of vulnerability.
Chris Christie put it this way: “If a center for the developmentally disabled can be the target of a terrorist attack, then any place in American can be the target of a terrorist attack.
Marie Simonton wrote in a comment: “My son receives services from Inland Regional Center. We have been praying that his former and current caseworkers were not among the victims. They just released the names of the victims and are relieved that they were not among them. Our hearts break for those who were lost and for their families who are left behind to grieve. May God fill their hearts with peace and solace.”
One thing that does no one any good is to confabulate conspiracies out of heartbreak. As soon as the shooting happened, my Facebook news feed got clogged with posts about how there was a SWAT drill going on at the same time nearby and that this whole tragedy was somehow a setup for something or other.
We saw this with Sandy Hook, too, which was supposedly a “false flag” operation, whatever that means. In that case, our Managing Editor’s husband was friends with the family of a victim. And we heard it about 9.11, in particular that it wasn’t a plane that hit the Pentagon. I live just a few miles from there, and people I know saw the plane. What’s more, a friend was a first responder, and part of the plane was intact inside the building.
We have enough real conspiracies on our hands that we ought to make an extra effort to avoid ones that lack good evidence.
Another thread that I really don’t like is that Islam is an inherently violent religion. I won’t run those comments and people who think I should and say that’s censorship are welcome to read other blogs. I think those comments go way beyond the purview of a Web site on autism. Remember, the Somalis in Minneapolis, dealing with a terrible autism rate, are part of our community. Telling them the religion they rely on for support and strength is an evil sham is not part of our mission, to say the least.
Before this happened I was already planning to republish Contributing Editor Kent Heckenlively’s wise words about the season:
“Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season ... It is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now.”
Amen, Kent. And congrats that Plague is the Number One best seller in Virology on Amazon – there’s something to celebrate!
Also worth celebrating is that AOA has just completed another successful annual fund-drive, thanks to Anonymous Donor who put up $5,000 and the dozens of readers who more than matched it. We rely on the kindness of our friends. (Friends who know we are tax-deductible!)
OK, one last holiday reference: What to my wondering eyes did appear this week but an article on Daily Kos, the reliably progressive and pro-vaccine Web site, titled “The Pharma Bulls Are Loose, and It’s the End of American Democracy.”
This headline does not overhype the article, which is a spectacularly – spectacularly! -- good look at how pharma has taken over medicine, government and mainstream media. Embedded within, and all the more powerful for it, is a look at the vaccine disaster. Sample:
“I’ll say it first: we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a fascist Pharmatopic Republic.
“The saddest part about living in this fascist state is that most people in America are not even aware of this new reality. In fact, in the public shaming of those who want safe vaccines, the American public is an unwitting victim of mass propaganda – and those doing the shaming are analogous to jack-booted thugs. Those in the blogosphere resort immediately to ad-hominem attacks at the first hint of logic and rational discourse. Even asking a question on vaccine safety makes one suddenly ‘anti-vax.’ (Disclosure: Both of my sons are fully vaccinated. I draw the line at HPV.)”
Yikes, that’s freaking brilliant. The author is listed as lifebiomedguru but Anne Dachel says that’s Dr. James Lyons-Weller, who she interviewed on AOA in October. http://www.ageofautism.com/2015/10/dachel-asks-doctors-thoughts-on-the-cdc-whistleblower.html
This seems like quite a turnaround for Kos, which I wrote about in March when one of our own astute commenters, Twyla, tried to leave a comment there. Here’s what she got back.
“The vaccine-autism link has been debunked by many careful studies, and here at Daily Kos we consider it conspiracy theory. CT postings are not permitted here. Postings that advocate this theory can get you banned at Daily Kos.”
I once wrote a piece called “Why Progressives Don’t Get Autism” (Kos actually mentioned it as a point at least worth considering.) I may have to amend that to Why All Progresssives Except Dr. James Lyon-Weller (and Bobby Kennedy Jr.) Don’t Get Autism. As I’ve tried, sometimes vainly, to argue, protecting citizens from rampant domination by business (the end result of which is in fact the textbook definition of fascism) is actually a progressive issue. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
“If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
How nice for Pfizer, which has hitched itself to a foreign company in one of those reverse mortgages – or tax inversions or whatever those things are called that allow you to pay lower U.S. taxes if you get a P.O. box in, say, Ireland. The economics and ethics of this are beyond me – Hillary Clinton complained about it, but the WSJ says it will return more profits to the U.S. – but it does offer a moment to remind ourselves what big, big business we’re talking about here.
This $150 billion deal, according to the Journal, “will create a pharmaceutical behemoth, with top-selling products including Pfizer’s Prevnar pneumonia vaccine and Allergan’s antiwrinkle treatment Botox, and an industry-topping R&D budget.”
Let’s remember that hiding in there is the former Wyeth, whose salesman once tried to hide the relationship between DTaP and sudden infant deaths in Tennessee, and won the Bruesewitz case which slammed the door on any liability for vaccines that caused autism.
Oh, and Prevnar, the world’s best-selling vaccine and no doubt a real bauble to dangle in the merger talks. As Mark Blaxill and I wrote earlier this year in Vaccines 2.0:
Prevnar 13, a vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis and other illnesses, is recommended at 2, 4, 6, and 12–15 months.
(In August 2014, the CDC’s advisory committee recommended Prevnar 13 for adults over 65, setting off a predictable wave of lucrative TV advertising aimed at older adults.)
In commercial terms, the Prevnar brand, which was introduced by Wyeth (now Pfizer) in 2000, is the most successful vaccine ever launched, generating $31 billion since its inception. In its tenth year, it reached roughly $3 billion in worldwide revenues and has been generating about $4 billion a year since 2011. Its blockbuster status was a major reason Pfizer decided to buy the whole company that made it.
For any vaccine developer looking to maximize profits, Prevnar 13 sets the standard. It was adopted rapidly, both in the United States and globally; it has no competitors in its category; with the exception of one episode of supply problems in 2003, its growth has been continuous; and its history has been remarkably free of any reputation problems due to safety concerns. The cloud hovering above this cheerful vista is a rather large
I've spent the last five days on a mountaintop in the very approximate location (GPS doesn't work here) of Hot Springs, North Carolina, attending a meditation retreat at the end of the most ungodly, one lane, bumping, sharp-dropoff road I have ever bounced up. On the first night, we were asked to give our names and tell one surprising thing about ourselves. One young man said, "I am a very good parallel parker." I had to admire this as the least revealing personal anecdote I had ever heard. Someone else said they had attended seven of the first eight Bonnaroo music festivals -- more informative, although it was hard not to wonder what happened to the eighth. Someone had been to Iceland.
When it was my turn, I said, "I'm a journalist, and there are a lot of people who don't like me."
This got some laughs. Since the retreat was conducted in silence, nobody asked me why a lot of people didn't like me until Friday. I explained the usual -- my reporting has convinced me that autism is new, environmental, and epidemic, that vaccines are a large factor in it and other iatrogenic disorders, and that a lot of us are trying to tell the truth about it, which a lot of people don't like. That we have a Web site called Age of Autism that a surprising number of people read and respond to with insightful comments, that we are out on Google doing battle daily against Death Star avatars like the CDC, the Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks, that are trying to drown us out. (See last Saturday's post.)
When I got home last night and logged into my (423 new) e-mails and checked the snail mail, I was reminded how much I don't care that a lot of people don't like us. While I was off the grid, our readers had pushed us near the top of our own personal mountain -- the $5,000 matching fund drive that Anonymous Donor set in motion at the start of the month.
We are now at $4,600, and I have a feeling we are going to make or exceed our goal. And that is fabulous, so please, before the holidays consume us, consider pitching in tax-deductably and money-doublingly to get us the rest of way up. (Last year we raised $7,000 from readers, so please don't let the matching limit stop you.) And thanks for sending so many kind words along the way. Julia Whiting of Charlottesville sent hers with a Christmas card of her wonderful family, and V. Ward of Santa Barbara, I blush to say, wrote that "I visit your website all the time, and The Age of Autism is one of my all time favorite books." Thanks, V., we will try to keep both coming and with help like yours, we wlll.
One note was addressed, "Dear Dan and Dan's Crew, Thank you for what you do. Luis and Luis Jr." To Luis Tijero and Luis Jr. of Spring, Texas, and all of you, Kim, Mark, myself and the rest of the crew say thanks.
Editor, Age of Autism
(checks via mail: Make out to Autism Age, c/o Olmsted, 102 Whittier Circle, Falls Church VA 22046)
Greetings, all, and happy birthday to all of us. Age of Autism turned eight this week. We’re coming up, conveniently, on 8,000 posts (7,720), 125,000 comments, and 20 million page views. And we’re "out there" every day in every possible way telling the truth that vaccines cause autism, recovery is possible, and the autism epidemic is real.
When I say we’re out there, I include Google. It’s important to consider how valuable that is. If you type Do Vaccines Cause Autism into the search engine, the first page has 10 results, all but one of them claiming they don’t.
First up is Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism Concerns, from the CDC; followed by How My Daughter Taught Me Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, from Voices For Vaccines; and Autism-Vaccine Link: Evidence Doesn’t Dispel Doubts, from WebMD; and Autism and Vaccines, by the Autism Science Foundation; and the classic Do Vaccines Cause Autism. If you click on that last, you will learn one thing: "They F------ Don’t!"
Then – ta da – comes Vaccines Cause Autism, from Age of Autism. You’ve got to dig pretty deep into Google to find another listing like that. That's because we have the status of a news outlet. We are independent, we are reality-based, and we can't be bought or muffled.
Now, we are not solely focused on vaccinations. We are focused on autism and its allied disabilities -- the "Age" of iatrogenic damage that must be stopped -- and we try to be a broad-based forum for people who share this overall view of the world but may disagree on tactics, timing and emphasis. The fact that not everyone on "our side" likes every story we run is a sign we are living up to our mission to be journalists, not a house organ for any particular agenda.
And as you can see from the Google results, a lot of people are not on "our side". Our formal motto is “Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic,” but I think our informal one is “Pirate Radio Station of the Rebel Alliance.”
We know we have a fight on our hands with the Death Star, and like most rebels we go at it every day with a certain reckless disregard for our bubble reputations and short-term results. ("Orac" would have little to do if he weren’t attacking us, which just shows that what we publish gets the attention of the folks who call themselves “skeptics” but are more like apologists for the ongoing harm to America’s kids. As FDR once said of his opponents, "I welcome their hatred.")
Now, the pitch: The Empire is well-armed, well-fortified and filthy rich. We are not, nor are we looking to be. But a certain amount of financial solidity helps us keep going, both with the daily blog and the books we publish. They all take time and, as the adage puts it, time is money. Right now is the perfect time to help out – we have a special, November-only deal where Anonymous Donor has once again pledged to match any gift up to $5,000.
You can donate through PayPal - use the button on the right side bar of this site, or you can mail a check made out to "Autism Age" to:
102 Whittier Circle
Falls Church, VA 22046
And now it’s tax deductible. You’ll get a letter from me in January with our IRS non-profit number.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I’m fortunate to be included on some e-mail threads where people go back and forth on important issues around autism advocacy. I mostly just listen in, and often get a sense of topics that are bubbling up or events that are in the planning stage.
Sometimes the discussions are so good that they are worth sharing verbatim. Such is the case this week. The topic was the title of a book published this year, “The Autistic Holocaust – The Reason Our Children Keep Getting Sick,” by Jon E. Mica, an autism dad from Auburn, N.Y.
I haven’t read it yet, but it looks very much like the view shared by most of our readers and myself – corruption at the CDC and big pharma leading to a vaccine-induced catastrophe – a holocaust, in Mica’s word. I’ll try to say more about it later.
Meanwhile, the discussion it provoked centered on whether calling autism a holocaust, capital H or lower h, in a book title or anywhere else, is simply out of bounds. I asked three of the participants -- Bob Krakow, Lou Conte and John Gilmore -- if I could share their extended comments, and happily they all said yes.
This is the argument against the use of the word in regards to autism. What do you think?
Bob Krakow -- I have a strong view that the choice of the word “Holocaust” is not appropriate and does not serve the interests of our children.
What is happening to our children - has happened and has continued - is devastating but differs in substantive ways from what is known as "the Holocaust” or in Hebrew “Shoah”, which literally means the “destruction” or “catastrophe” (the word Holocaust, is from the Greek “sacrifice by fire") - the deliberate, organized, state sponsored, systematic murder of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Communists, some Slavic ethnic groups (Poles and Russians), and others from approximately 1939 to 1945. It was overt government policy. The burning aspect comes from the gassing and literal burning of corpses in the camps, such as Auschwitz. The imagery is powerful as is the word used to describe it.
Naming what has happened to our children a ”Holocaust" calls for a comparison that diminishes what happened to the children, but distorts the sense of what has happened. It is a facile comparison and unhelpful. What happened to our kids is something new, devastating and horrible. The response to the devastation - in many levels - warrants extreme moral outrage. But there is no Fuhrer orchestrating a systematic exercise of killing against one or more groups based on ethnicity or belief. In fact, what is happening here today is more insidious and less obviously evil, so it is more challenging to identify and counter. “Autism” - a word I equate to a slave name because it is, in a sense, a medical euphemism, which means little and signifies ignorance about cause -- is also not a good word for what afflicts our children.
Choice of language is important. Using the word “Holocaust” is use of a word that is a sort of blunt linguistic instrument that fails to describe what has happened. It will also offend certain groups and elicit resistance to our narratives - although that is not my primary concern. We have to use our own language, new language, not use comparisons that are inapt.
The book may be great, but “The Autistic Holocaust” is a title that I find offensive and ill-conceived.
John Gilmore: "Holocaust" is a word with too powerful associations to be of much use describing anything other than the crimes of the Nazis. But in your thorough enumerating of the Nazis’ preferred targets you left out an important group, the first group targeted for elimination by the Nazis: developmentally disabled children.
I think we might be dealing with something potentially worse than National Socialism; as a society our prevailing guiding principle is what I would describe as nihilistic careerism, nothing matters beyond personal material and status advancement, nothing. If your own career, material well-being and status are advanced, the consequences of what happens to others simply isn't a consideration.
Bob Krakow: Absolutely correct and thank you for pointing out that omission - disabled children were the early target of the eugenics movement in the US, the promoters of which were the progenitor of the Nazi movement in Germany. That is right - the Nazi movement, especially in its ideas of ethnic cleansing and extermination started in the US with eugenics. The Nazis refined and amplified, making it their overarching public policy and practice.
Editor's Note -- Some of you will know Tim Bolen as the California writer who savages just about everyone in the autism advocacy community and tells them how they could and should have done things right. In his latest newsletter, he takes on the Democrats in the California legislature with a, shall we say, vivid, detailed fantasy about what they were doing instead of helping the parents of vaccine-damaged children:
"Right in the middle of the hearings, with all of these parents there in Sacramento, the Democratic legislature took the day off, I kid you not, to celebrate Gay Pride Week. Instead of looking, carefully, I guess, at what vaccines do to children, the Dems, instead, shaved off their body hair, oiled themselves up, slipped into their Speedos, and pranced down to Sacramento Gay Bars, where they could dance around the Gay Pole with their REAL constituents - the ones they understand, and serve the needs of..."
I wouldn't touch that with a proverbial 10-foot pole.
When I was a kid and set up a lemonade stand, the price was one safety pin. I’m not sure why my mother settled on that – maybe she needed safety pins or didn’t want me getting too avaricious too young – but the idea of making real money was not on my radar.
Now, however, it is, thanks to a very cool girl named Elizabeth Mazer, who recently sent the following letter:
“Dear Age of Autism, Today in Annapolis, Maryland, there was a street festival called ‘Crafty Kids.’ In this event, kids set up tables and sell goods on Maryland Avenue, and get to give 50% profits to a charity of the kids’ choice.
“I have an autistic 14-year-old brother named Max. To raise money, I set up a lemonade booth for 50 cents a cup, which was successful. In the end, I wanted to donate 100% of my profits to autism.
“In total of the checks, there is $48.50. Thank you for opening an autism charity to raise awareness!”
“Sincerely, Elizabeth Mazer, Age 10.”
Thank you, Elizabeth! We survive and thrive on individual donations – yours is sufficient to purchase our domain name – ageofautism.com – for another year. (Our annual fund drive is coming up next month – tax deductible! More later on all that.)
Regular readers may recognize Elizabeth’s last name. Her dad, Josh, is a loyal AOA reader and writer. We recently posted his letter to the editor of the Annapolis Capital Gazette, in which he called out the school board for recommending FluMist vaccine to students -- a live-virus vaccines that can shed.
“The introduction of FluMist into county schools makes some kids get flu like symptoms, or flu, and then have to stay home,” he wrote. “Further, no in school provision exists for parents who do not want their children exposed to the viral shedding.
“The board defers to CDC recommendations on vaccine policy. Both share a complete lack of accountability if your child gets sick, misses school, or suffers a more serious adverse reaction. One wonders if there is a financial incentive in the form of state and federal grants tied to FluMist. What other explanation is there for this backward and contradictory policy?”
Well, we have an update: “County schools cancel nasal flu vaccines,” the Capital Gazette now reports.
“The FluMist vaccine, a nasal spray, will not be given to Anne Arundel County Public School students this year due to a manufacturing delay, according the county Health Department and the school system.
“The Health Department has no FluMist vaccines available and don't expect them to arrive in time for flu season.”
How convenient, as the Church Lady would say. The article does note, “The cancellation in Anne Arundel schools comes at a time when the effectiveness of FluMist is being questioned by health organizations.”
And by concerned parents like Josh Mazer. If this vaccine is being pushed on kids in your area, he suggests you might forward his letter and the newspaper’s follow-up to school officials: “Watch them scramble for a cover story as they frantically unwind their FluMist program! It's fun, it's easy, and it works!"
One lemon at a time.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I don’t like using question marks in headlines, as in the kind of story you see in some national publications along the lines of, Can Congress Be Fixed? I figure that if someone plunks down a quarter for my newspaper (I’m going back to the old days) they want answers, not questions. A recent example is the CNN headline: Can Starbucks Be Stopped? Please, stop click-baiting and just tell me whether Starbucks Can Be Stopped. Take a stand, for heaven’s sake!
So for example, at AOA we don’t ask, Do Vaccines Cause Autism? We put in the time and effort (and often the tragic personal experience) to be able to say yes, they do. We don’t ask, Did Mercury Cause the First Reported Cases of Autism? We can say yes, it did, based on years of research, travel, interviews and analysis (see The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic for the 500-page version, or check out the video link on this page, How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism, for the 10-minute tale. We aim to answer the question, to tell the truth, in as many ways as possible).
There are, however, a few topics that have been stewing in my mind that, as yet, lack clear answers but raise all kinds of questions. Darwin wrote, “Without speculation there is no good and original observation.” This seems kind of turned around doesn’t it? What I take him to mean is that, given a set of interesting facts, trying to figure out how they fit together can lead to a new way of looking at things. Implicit in the idea of speculation – of wondering how a set of dots might connect -- is trial and error and a willingness to look ridiculous.
In that spirit, here are a few things I’ve been speculating on. Confirmatory or counter-speculation, even ridicule, is most welcome.
Is HPV vaccine bringing down the birth rate?
This idea was first proposed to me by an Australian vaccine safety advocate who was visiting the States. According to my notes from 2014:
“she said the teen birth rate in south australia took a dive in 2008, the year after the vaccine was introduced there. also something similar in europe. she said the vaccine might be killing off the eggs in the ovaries. something to this effect was pubbed in sept 2012 by deirdre little, she thinks in bmj or lancet.”
Checking today, I see a report from 2013:
(LifeSiteNews.com) - The British Medical Journal (BMJ) Case Reports journal has reported that a healthy 16-year-old Australian girl lost all ovarian function and went into menopause after being injected with the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil.
“Dr. Deirdre Little, the Australian physician who treated the girl, provides solid evidence that Gardasil caused the destruction of the girl's fertility.
“She also pointed out that Merck Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of Gardasil, has no supporting information on the effects of the vaccine on ovaries, suggesting that Merck had either done no safety testing on Gardasil in relation to its effects on women's reproductive systems, or had suppressed the information.”
My notes from 2014 continue:
“Wonder if this could explain sharp drop in u.s.
The population of the world is approaching 7.4 billion. The population of the U.S. (318 million) and New Zealand (around 5 million) combined is less than .4 billion, which means there are about seven billion people who don’t live in either country.
I envy every single one of them, at least when it comes to the fact that they are not bombarded by ads for prescription drugs.
I’ve just returned from Japan, where the only ads for medicine are over-the-counter pills and nostrums that, like the elixers, tonics (and snake oil) that predominated in 19th century America, are good for whatever ails you. Bursitis? Try this! Lumbago? Amazingly, this will work for that, too! Dispepsia, dipsomania, low energy, neurasthenia? Ditto. I snapped the accompanying photo on a subway in Tokyo, and the various grimaces on the faces of the actors point to the all-purpose nature of the remedy. It reminded me of Geritol, which some of you may remember from the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and elsewhere.
Compare and contrast those nostrums with the highly targeted, hugely expensive pharma products in the U.S. Good Lord, are they irritating! My current least favorite is for Namzaric, for “mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” The TV ad tries to thread the needle by showing a lovely older woman with her caring, concerned family, Mom looking discombobulated but not disheveled, which in the TV universe would be far worse!
In Tokyo, CNNj – an international version of the U.S.-based network – runs ads, but not pharmaceutical ones. In Kyoto, which simply broadcasts the U.S. version of CNN, during ads the screen goes to weather, stocks and currency data while a relentlessly banal tune plays that soon gets in your head. (It’s not a bad way to drift off, sans medication.) Either way, you’re spared pharma’s version of the world.
There are plenty of those aches and pains ads, and I doubt most of those treatments do much, but at least they probably don’t kill you or cause autism. And there may be a strong placebo effect from taking something with beautiful Japanese characters on it.
The advancing age and declining number of Japanese (the current population of 127 million is expected to fall to 87 million by 2060, with almost 40 percent of them over 65 and in even more need of tonics to relieve their aches and pains) has led to an effort to boost the population.
Recently, according to an account I read in the Japan Times, a government health agency got a little overzealous. It put out sex ed material suggesting that the age of 22 was the best year for a woman to give birth. Turns out, as you might imagine, there is no “best year” for a woman to give birth, and the government has now backtracked.
But that kind of manipulation in the service of state and corporate interests is nothing compared to the relentless bombardment of prescription drug ads back home. It creates an environment in which drugs are presumed to be the treatment of first resort for everything from erectile dysfunction to needing to pee too much (now conveniently treated in one pill!) to getting a new knee. Then come the ads for the defective knee replacements, lawsuits, etcetera, a virtuous circle as far as media revenues are concerned, a vicious one for people with bad knees.
It mutes Big Media when it comes to questioning the effects of these drugs, especially the vaccines that are clearly implicated in the rise of autism.
It quiets Congress, which should be hearing from people like William Thompson about the CDC’s malfeasance in studying the MMR, as well as other drugs.
Once, in a conversation with TV journalist Robert MacNeil, Mark Blaxill said he believed that banning pharma advertising was an important step in restoring sanity. “And cut off their heroin?” MacNeil responded in a tone that suggested the networks would never give up their fix.
Greetings from Kyoto, fellow AOAers. I was last here 22 years ago. The spiritual appeal of the ancient capital is unchanged – there’s a temple on every corner, it seems, such as the one where I snapped this selfie.
But secular times do change – on this visit I’m equipped with a cellphone, a laptop, and WiFi. There's a Starbucks on every corner, too, from which to extract the venti hazelnut Pike that fuels this enterprise. (The sacred and profane are not far apart: My Starbucks, in fact, has a huge wall of glass looking out at the temple pictured.) Speaking of which, the Japan Times had a cartoon showing massive snarling deities on display in a museum, with one visitor saying to the other, “Apparently the Kamakura period didn’t have decaf.”
I found an article in the same newspaper headlined, “Providing patients the latest immunizations.” It begins, “Conveniently located in Harajuku Tokyo in a stylish modern building, The King Clinic has long been treating patients in need of general care and immunizations.”
Dr. Leo A. T. King, the director, inherited the clinic from his father, and it’s been operating for 65 years. “Although King’s father used to administer vaccinations, the younger King was the one who dramatically increased the number of vaccinations. ‘As a U.N. examining physician, I needed to import newly developed vaccines in the West, as they were not available in Japan,’ he said.”
But it turns out you can dramatically increase the number of vaccinations available in Japan and still come nowhere near the Western onslaught.
Most media outlets continually overlook the huge conflicts of interest that help perpetuate the autism epidemic – the studies done by pharma-funded interests, the CDC recommending and tracking the safety of vaccines for children and determining the “autism rate,” the collective obeisance of the media itself to those who buy ad time and space.
When conflicts this large occur in other areas of governance and public health, they get pointed out, making the blind spot when it comes to vaccine safety and scrutiny even more glaring.
For instance, this front-page Washington Post story: "John Roth is the top watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security, a position shielded by law from outside pressure so he can conduct independent inquiries of the government’s sensitive internal workings.
“But during a nearly completed investigation of the Secret Service, Roth’s office has taken the unorthodox step of allowing officials from the service to work alongside his agents as they tried to determine how unflattering information about a congressman was disclosed from the agency’s files, according to half a dozen people familiar with the inquiry.” (The congressman is Jason Chaffetz of the House Government Reform Committee who -- not terribly shockingly -- once applied to be a Secret Service agent!)
So, someone who works at a federal agency is allowed to investigate something that could cast it in an unfavorable light? Reminds me of the CDC’s response to the William Thompson disclosures that the agency hid the truth that the MMR causes autism when given earlier than three years of age:
“CDC shares with parents and others great concern about the number of children with autism spectrum disorder.
It’s the world’s largest company in the category. It’s been caught cheating, putting public health and the planet at risk. Bogus tests gave false results that made everyone think the product was working, but in the real world it was a disaster. Resignations are flooding in, criminal investigations are starting, and the future of the company is at stake.
Obviously, I’m talking about Volkswagen, but I’m thinking about the largest firm in Vaccine World – Merck. At least the first part of the story is the same: Merck ($5.9 billion vaccine revenues in 2014, the world’s biggest haul) has been caught cheating, putting public health at risk by – allegedly – faking data to prove the mumps vaccine works when it doesn’t. It only works when you (Merck) run bogus tests using rabbit blood and you (Merck) alter results by hand, but not in the real world where college kids are now getting mumps and becoming sterile for life.
In Merck’s case, two courageous whistleblowers filed suit in federal court five years ago. Merck has so far failed to get the suit dismissed or (presumably) to buy off the whistleblowers with a few measly millions. Recent rulings by the judge overseeing the case have paved the way for the word they hate most in Vaccine World – discovery, meaning the uncovering of (covered up) documents.
There’s no discovery in vaccine “court,” the liability-free protection racket set up by Congress that has led to the epidemic of excessive vaccination and, with it, the autism epidemic and so many more kinds of vaccine damage. Various independent examinations of its “rulings” over the years show clearly that vaccine-induced encephalopathy (brain damage) results in vaccine-induced brain damage (autism), and they all know it.
In the case of the mumps vaccine, regulatory oversight has failed dramatically, far worse than in the VW case where the government pursued the clues and came down hard. In contrast, he FDA was apprised of what was going on at Merck in real time but let the company ‘splain it all away. (Merck now says, hey, the FDA knew about it, you can’t sue us! So far, that hasn’t worked.) And as we know, the “cesspool of corruption” called the CDC has abetted Merck by hiding MMR study data that showed a higher risk for autism when the shot was given before age three (CDC recommendation: 12 months).
You wonder how long it would have taken the VW fraud to emerge if the EPA was as bought off as the regulatory apparatus for Vaccine World. Forever, is my guess.
Well that was quick! Last week I began my column by asking, “Why isn’t there a huge groundswell in the autism advocacy community for Donald Trump? We seemed to like him better when he was not in a position to do anything. Here we have the first leading major party candidate to say the studies are fudged, the shots are too many too soon, and the result is autism.
“I’ve lived in Washington and covered politics here for three decades, and believe me, it is a big freakin’ deal that the Republican front-runner embraces our issues when we aren’t respected in virtually any other way.”
On Thursday, Trump won a whole lot of love from our community by saying, during the GOP presidential debate, that there is an autism epidemic, that vaccines can and do cause autism, that spacing out the shots would greatly reduce the incidence of autism, and that he had an employee whose healthy, happy child got sick and regressed into autism right after a vaccine.
Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who in the past had defended vaccine mandates and whom CNN had teed up to go after Trump for his vaccine views, agreed, shockingly, that there are now “way too many shots” in too short a period and even questioned the necessity for some of them, and Rand Paul, an M.D. who emphasized choice as a bedrock of health policy, also supported spreading out the shots.
I felt the ghost of my hero Bernie Rimland in the room, who said, “The autism epidemic is real, and excessive vaccinations are the cause.” Wish he could have heard the debate!
This is a breakthrough moment, and to pick at what Trump said or to diminish Carson or Paul is not, to my mind, the right response. As our ever-astute John Stone wrote in a comment:
“Trump's technical grasp of the issue - let alone ignoring [CDC whistleblower William] Thompson - is rudimentary to say the least. With half-an-hour's proper briefing he could give a much better account than that. Though when it comes down to it - and this is where he gets the point - he ignores all the official BS and says in effect 'this is what happens and let's stop pretending'. And, of course, it is what happens.”
What to do next remains a matter of debate, for which Age of Autism is a willing forum – see this week’s posts by J.B. Handley and Dan Burns, both of which are superbly reasoned and written, from opposite perspectives. Should we fall in line behind Trump even if we find his manner and policy ideas atrocious? (I’m a self-professed progressive, and there are libertarians, doctrinaire conservatives, classical liberals and apolitical types among us. The person in the debate whose overall views most agreed with mine was Rand Paul. Horrors!)
The Donald has the perfect name for this dilemma, doesn’t he: Do his views on vaccines and autism trump everything else?
Of course, discussion of this topic in any way, shape or form freaks out the mainstream media. Their new go-to word is “dangerous.”
Washington Post: “The GOP’s Dangerous ‘Debate’ on Vaccines and Autism:
Hey Everybody! Catching up from a busy and fun summer or maybe just an obsessive one – along with camping and visiting friends and family, I’ve been immersed in the polio epidemic of 1916 – but that’s another (but related) story:
I wonder: Why isn’t there a huge groundswell in the autism advocacy community for Donald Trump? We seemed to like him better when he was not in a position to do anything. Here we have the first leading major party candidate to say the studies are fudged, the shots are too many too soon, and the result is autism.
I’ve lived in Washington and covered politics here for three decades, and believe me, it is a big freakin’ deal that the Republican front-runner embraces our issues when we aren’t respected in virtually any other way.
Speaking of politics and getting no respect, isn’t it amusing how the left paints us as know-nothing reactionaries and the right paints us as granola-crunching liberals?
As a granola-cruncher myself, I hate when my favorite mellow buddhistic publications dump me into the climate-change-denial wastebasket and stomp all over my sensitive little head. Today’s example is the mag Mindful, whose motto is “Taking Time For What Matters.”
Under the heading of Brain Science and the headline “The Stickiness of Misinformation – Even the most ridiculous rumors can cling in our minds – despite what the proof says. Sharon Begley tells us why,” the article begins:
“Isn’t it scandalous that Barack Obama, whose health-care reform law established death panels, is a Muslim who was born in Kenya? And isn’t it scary that all those scientific studies have shown that childhood vaccines can cause autism?”
That paragraph, of course, is dripping with sarcastic condescension toward the scientifically benighted and goes on to cite pop-brainiac concepts like “the fluency effect.” Now, Sharon Begley, who used to be at Newsweek, which used to be a magazine, has occasionally shown a scintilla of sympathy for the idea that vaccines cause autism, but it clearly no longer serves her professional purposes.
Editor's Note: It's hard to believe it's been 10 years this week since I identified Donald T., autism's Case 1. I remember my shock when I matched his first name and last initial as given in the original 1943 paper by Leo Kanner, popped it into a White Pages directory for the town Kanner said he lived in, and found someone matching all the right details. What was the first person with autism doing with a street address and a published phone number, I wondered. Since then Mark Blaxill and I have visited Donald Triplett (I didn't name him until we wrote our book in 2005) in Forest, Miss., and learned about his amazing recovery after being treated with gold salts. Now, 10 years on, it's worth remembering how much those early cases have to teach us
Editor's Note: Mark Blaxill and I appreciate the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders -- the leading peer-reviewed autism medical journal -- running our commentary in the issue published this week.
Leo Kanner's Mention of 1938 in His Report on Autism Refers to His First Patient.
Here is the abstract: "Leo Kanner begins his landmark 1943 case series on autistic children by stating the condition was first brought to his attention in 1938. Recent letters to JADD have described this reference as 'mysterious' and speculated it refers to papers published that year by Despert or Asperger. In fact, as Kanner goes on to state, 1938 is when he examined the first child in his case series. An exchange of letters with Despert and later writing by Kanner also point to the originality of his observations."
The matter at hand is both seemingly arcane and ultimately overarching -- what did Leo Kanner mean when he said he became aware of autism in 1938? (He first named and wrote about it in 1943.) Commenters in the Journal have speculated it was a reference to earlier papers by other psychiatrists, which would mean autism was not a new entity, just one that Kanner codified by describing more precisely through a case series. Based on a decade of research with primary documents and personal interviews, we argued -- and, I think, we demonstrated -- that 1938 was a reference to the year the first patient was seen at his clinic at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. That patient, Case 1 Donald T., was the first of 11 who displayed the same novel syndrome "markedly and uniquely different from anything reported so far," as Kanner wrote in that landmark 1943 report. As Ginger Taylor (who first called our attention to the recent discussion in the Journal) aptly wrote on Facebook this week: "Olmsted and Blaxill (again) show that Autism had a start date, and it was after Eli Lilly invented and began selling a water soluble form of mercury in fungicide and vaccine preservation." So thanks to Ginger, and to Teresa Conrick, our fellow AOA editor who has made invaluable contributions to this ongoing work of identifying those original cases (we are up to 8 of 11!) and finding patterns that point to causation. You can read all about it in our book The Age of Autism, in our subsequent blog posts here, and now in the prestigious, peer-reviewed Journal. And you can count on more to come. We ended our commentary by writing: "This timing remains the essential clue to the disorder. Something happened to bring a new condition to the attention of child psychiatry." That component can be seen from the beginning -- 1938 -- and it can be seen today, in the damage mercury-laced vaccines, and other vaccine toxins, continue to do to children in the United States and around the world. We feel privileged to have wandered onto this amazingly fruitful pathway, and we intend to keep going until its full implications are recognized and the truth about the condition first observed in 1938 is fully and finally addressed. As Einstein said, "It's not that I'm smarter than anyone else, it's just that I stick with problems longer." Ditto.
(Note -- This article originally ran a year ago under the headline "Pray For the Religious Exemption." Now California is just days away from possibly denying it to the state's families.) A couple of recent court cases have me convinced that the religious exemption from childhood immunizations is in big trouble.
The first case is one I somehow missed when it was decided last month. It’s a bit convoluted, but the gist is that three New York parents said their unvaccinated children were denied their rights by being kept out of school because another child had a vaccine-preventable disease. The judge said no.
To tell you the truth, I am not terribly concerned about that. Most parents I know who forego vaccines say that a better solution to disease control is informal quarantine – keep your kid home when they’re sick, or if you don’t want them to catch a disease they’re not vaccinated against.
But the scary part – especially in a state with no philosophical exemption and a nasty habit of trying to make parents prove the sincerity of their religious convictions -- was this comment in the federal judge’s ruling. “The Supreme Court,” he wrote, has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
I couldn’t find a link to the judge’s ruling, but according to the Times, he was pointing to Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which in 1905 (!) found that if Mr. Jacobson wanted to skip being vaccinated during a smallpox epidemic, he had to pay a $5 fine. More broadly, “Jacobson” has been cited as proof that the state’s police powers trump personal choice when it comes to a battle over vaccine mandates.
I don’t see it. He objected, he said, because both he and one of his children had bad reactions to earlier vaccinations. And all he had to do was pay five measly bucks, which even accounting for inflation is not much. How that undercuts religion as a basis for declining vaccination – especially absent a raging, deadly epidemic – is beyond me.
Like you, we read of Dr. Jeff Bradstreet's death and were struck silent. A stalwart leader in treating autism, really helping families, his loss is huge in our community. Dan Olmsted interviewed Dr. Bradstreet 10 years ago for his The Age of Autism series with UPI. Here is the interview; the study he was calling for has finally been done and the results are awaited, a testament to his foresight and persistence. Our condolences to the Bradstreet family and the autism community who relied on his compassion and care.
WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- Where are the unvaccinated homeschooled children with autism? Nowhere to be found, says a doctor who treats autistic children and is knowledgeable about the homeschooled world.
"It's largely nonexistent," Dr. Jeff Bradstreet told UPI's Age of Autism. "It's an extremely rare event.
Bradstreet treats autistic children at his medical practice in Palm Bay, Fla. He has a son whose autism he attributes to a vaccine reaction at 15 months. His daughter has been homeschooled, he describes himself as a "Christian family physician," and he knows many of the leaders in the homeschool movement.
"There was this whole subculture of folks who went into homeschooling so they would never have to vaccinate their kids," he said. "There's this whole cadre who were never vaccinated for religious reasons."
In that subset, he said, "unless they were massively exposed to mercury through lots of amalgams (mercury dental fillings in the mother) and/or big-time fish eating, I've not had a single case."
Bradstreet said his views do not constitute a persuasive argument that low vaccination rates are associated with low rates of autism, but it is worth studying.
"That's not yet science," he said. "It doesn't rise to the level of a powerful observation. It's a place to say, OK, well that's interesting, what does that tell us?"
About 2 million children are being homeschooled in the United States. The number of those unvaccinated is unclear, but judging by the school opt-out rates in some parts of the country where there is more concern about vaccinations, it could be 3 percent or more. For example, in Oregon's Lane County roughly 2,000 students out of a total of 51,000 have exemptions, about 4 percent.
My Facebook friends are over the moon about an event Thursday night at the Scientology Community Center in Los Angeles that featured some of our best friends appearing with Nation of Islam’s Tony Muhammad. “Inspiring to see this community coming together to fight for our right to choose what goes into our bodies,” wrote one Facebooker.
Sorry, but to my mind this is not a kumbaya moment. The Nation of Islam is a racist, bigoted, homophobic, woman-degrading hate group. I mean, isn’t it? It is. For Muhammad to compare the coverage of autism and the Nation of Islam is sickening, and it ought to sit poorly with us. It's also choice to talk about "people of all ages, nations, races all together to fight for our kids" and getting "closer together" when NOI doesn't really want white people around -- they want a separate state. ("Rather than preaching a message of unification, NOI calls for segregation and separatism," according to the Web site the blaze.com. "On the group’s web site, the denomination is clear that it wishes for African Americans to live separately from whites.")
Sometimes it's not the media that's your problem, it's the truth.According to the Extremist Files of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Since its founding in 1930, the Nation of Islam (NOI) has grown into one of the wealthiest and best-known organizations in black America, offering numerous programs and events designed to uplift African Americans. Nonetheless, its bizarre theology of innate black superiority over whites — a belief system vehemently and consistently rejected by mainstream Muslims — and the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders, including top minister Louis Farrakhan, have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”
Let’s pick one Farakkhan gem: "T]he Jews don't like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man.” Taken out of context, I'm sure. Oh, "And don't you forget, when it's God who puts you in the ovens, it's forever!")
He hates Catholics, too. “It is no secret that Farrakhan is anti-Catholic, as well as anti-Jewish,” according to the church’s bigotry watchdog, which noted, “Cardinal Bevilacqua refused to meet with him in Philadelphia. Farrakhan had sought a meeting with the Archbishop of Philadelphia, as well as with local Jewish leaders, and was turned down—for reasons evident to everyone but Farrakhan.”
To continue with the SPLC, “While Jews remain the primary target of Farrakhan's vitriol, he is also well known for bashing gay men and lesbians, Catholics and, of course, the white devils, whom he calls ‘potential humans ... [who] haven't evolved yet.’ All of this has helped make him attractive to certain white supremacist groups who agree that the races must be separated. In its turn, NOI has come to view white supremacists as people who at least understand NOI's program and could therefore become allies.”
I know many in the autism activism community believe there is no problem with this association, that you use what you have to get what you need. Sorry to disagree with that, Friends, but I do. Desperate times call for desperate measures, yes, but not deals with the (small d) devils of racism, bigotry and homophobia.
This brings us to our reducto ad absurdum: Would we go to an Aryan Nation event if they agreed with us? Is "Racists For Vaccine Choice!" a placard we are prepared to get behind?
Not the best week to ask that question.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Medical authorities, as you may have noticed, don’t like to be challenged. The fact that they have been so wrong, so often, so long and so recently does not in the least change their view of the matter. They are angry you would even bring it up! They may have advertised the throat-soothing properties of filter cigarettes, bled patients dry (probably killing the father of our country) and pushed stupid stuff from Viagra to thalidomide to the first deadly rotavirus vaccine because their phrat brothers told them to. But no matter. This time, and forever after, they are exactly, completely, unchallengeably, unconflictedly right.
As Mark Blaxill and I pointed out in our book The Age of Autism, this long history of bad medicine is blithely subsumed -- submerged and suppressed might be better words -- under the medical “march of progress” – as in, OK, getting syphilis patients to drink mercuric chloride may have been misguided, but it was the best practice at the time (even if it did cause the worst form of the disease, general paralysis of the insane, but let’s not dwell on that), and after a few hundred years of that they accidentally came across penicillin, which did cure it, so why are we even bringing this up? And Freud was wrong about hysteria, which got psychiatry off to a catastrophic start (hysteria was actually caused by mercury poisoning), but now the "experts" really do understand the human psyche, so get off their case already! Take two Seroquel and don’t call us in the morning.
I’m bringing this up because realizing how badly and self-righteously medicine has behaved ought to make parents far more cautious than most of them are (although the numbers are growing) about the proven, study-after-study-vouched-for-safety of the current vaccination schedule. This is not just "presentism" -- judging history by the impossibly high standard of what we have learned since then. The medical establishment really messed up with impunity for most of its long history and a lot of people suffered and died for it. Until at least germ theory came along, people would have been much better off with homeopathy, whether it worked or not, because at least it did no harm.
This month my mind is on a very topical example of medical arrogance and iatrogenic harm, the idea that homosexuals were sick, needed to be treated, condemned or just locked away in jail (or, in Iran, killed, and in Russia, bullied and beaten). June is gay pride month, timed to the Stonewall riots that triggered the gay rights movement. And this month may be the most historic and decisive ever, as the Supreme Court rules on gay marriage rights.
We’ve come a long way, baby. Just this week the New York Times – where medical “experts” still reign on all things vaccination – looked back at its own often-sordid history of treating homosexuality as an evil disease. The headline from 1964 (when I turned 12): “Homosexuals Proud of Deviancy, Medical Academy Study Finds.” It would be a medical academy, wouldn't it? And it would be The Times, wouldn't it!
As David W. Dunlop wrote this week: “There it was, to shock anyone whose eye fell on the front page of The Times: news that homosexuals had ‘gone beyond the plane of defensiveness and now argue that their deviancy is ‘a desirable, noble, preferable way of life.’ ” According to the original article, medicine was not going to let the homosexuals get away with having a decent life:
“The report is the first recognized study of homosexuality by a recognized organization representing all branches of medicine, a spokesman for the committee said” – the Committee on Public Health of the New York Academy of Medicine. Homosexuality, the story went on, “is an ‘illness’ that can be treated ‘in some cases’ but is more easily dealt with by early preventative measures, the report concludes.” Maybe a vaccine?
There’s an odd emotion I suspect many AOA readers share with me, a mix of “Holy Cow” and “Tell us something we don't know” when new information clusters around the hypothesis that autism is an environmental disorder and, sorry to say it, vaccines are the main trigger.
Such was the case this week when Coy Barefoot, an autism dad, radio host and all-around great ally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sent an e-mail titled, “In case you hadn’t seen this.” It was a link to a June 1 Science Daily report from the University of Virginia Health System. It begins:
“In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer's disease to multiple sclerosis.”
Autism. Haven’t parents and some professionals been saying for years that autism is an autoimmune and neurological disorder? How is this new study not strong support for the idea that goosing the immune system into dysregulation with vaccines is bad for the developing brain?
This comes on top of evidence we’ve known for years about the role the brain’s own immune cells may play in autism; in The Age of Autism, Mark Blaxill and I characterized the cause of autism as “a rash on the brain” from overstimulation of its immune cells due to, for example, the mercury in thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Mark agreed this new piece is of strong interest, but it certainly didn’t “overturn decades” of orthodoxy for us. Coy said it is “something of a smoking gun, don’t you think? A missing link between damage to the immune system and brain injury.”
I do think that. And I was reminded of a comment by Dr. Brian Jepson I came across this week to the effect that calling autism a developmental disorder is like calling a hammer blow to the skull a headache. There are specific processes going on that result in the injury known as autism (and other issues) in vulnerable children, and those processes are pretty clear by now to all but the all genes/no real increase crowd (read: mainstream medicine and media).
So, like wow, that’s interesting. But like, yeah, we already had the basic idea a lot clearer than the experts.
Also this week, the feds fessed up to the full extent of the failure of the flu shot to protect people. “Scientists blue after flu vaccine only 19 percent effective,” USA Today headlined. (Note the focus on the poor scientists, not the poor people who got a worthless flu shot.) So that was another Wow! -- this thing really was worthless. On the other hand, yeah, we knew this year’s was particularly worthless, a subspecies of the overall worthlessness of the whole flu shot enterprise.
I’m making my annual return trip to Illinois, which tends to be not too hot and not too cold right around Memorial Day. This year I’ve noticed how many people seem to have a story to tell about sick kids.
I was talking to a nurse in Decatur, and when someone mentioned I write about autism, she volunteered that she has a 15-year-old son with autism. He was fine until 18 months, and then everything just stopped. I asked if she had any idea why that happened, and she said she didn’t.
She has four younger children, all boys, who seem fine, she said. If you do the math, the one with autism was born when mercury was still being phased out of "most" vaccines. The others, let’s hope, escaped.
A few days earlier, in Champaign, I was talking to someone who has a friend who is pregnant. The expectant mother suffers from depression and is debating whether to get off her meds until the baby is born. (I vote yes, if humanly possible). This mom also has ADHD. The question was posed, did I think a parent with ADHD and depression is more likely to have a child with autism. No, I said, I don't think parents have anything to do with their children having autism. However, the child may inherit vulnerabilities, like auto-immunity, and parents ought to make sure those vulnerabilities aren't triggered by, oh, say, mercury containing flu shots in pregnancy.
I passed along a copy of our book, Vaccines 2.0.
A friend in Chicago has a daughter with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. And another has a son who is teetering into trouble with the law because of issues that sound like they verge on, or topple over into, the autism spectrum.
This adds up to too many kids and young adults with too many problems, problems that didn’t used to be like this, and that too many people either don't notice, or pretend not to. I had lunch at Terzo Piano, the very cool restaurant at the Art Institute, on Friday, and took a selfie with the skyline in the background. You can see the Prudential Building, which when I was a kid (a half-century ago) was the tallest, widest, most skyscraperesque building around.
Now it’s dwarfed by taller ones. Still, if the newer buildings on the Chicago skyline were sized to reflect the rise in autism since the Prudential Building was built in 1955, those other skyscrapers would be 20 or 30 times taller. They would be a visual sign for the damage that still remains too hidden, and that makes too many people feel this is all happening to them but maybe not to anybody -- in fact, everybody -- but them.
Maybe that would get people’s attention.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
Close followers of the autism debate know that George Stephanapoulos is regarded by "our side" like Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Anderson Cooper -- especially nasty avatars of the "no vaccine link" school. So it's hard not to have a bit, or more than a bit, of schadenfraude when he gets tripped up, as happened after his especially nasty interview with Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. Turns out George had donated $50,000 -- wait, make that $75,000 -- to the Clinton Foundation that he never thought to disclose.
As others have pointed out, the original sin in all this was probably hiring him in the first place. Was there no other person in the United States able to become the flagship anchor of a major news network than someone who had been a close adviser (with James Carville, the man who later came up with the stepped-all-over-us line to describe George's treatment of the Clintons in his autobiography) in both the Clinton campaign and presidency?
The answer was clearly no -- there was not no other person, so to speak. Hiring George as a commentator -- as Carville has been -- would be fine, but someone with so prominent a role, so recently, in politics really should have been disqualified. Now some may cite Diane Sawyer, who helped Richard Nixon in his exile, or Tim Russert, who worked for Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But those were earlier and much lesser roles. And frankly, both of them were much better journalists than George.