By Dan Olmsted
One of the unexpected plusses of Bobby Kennedy Jr.'s book on the dangers of thimerosal, the ethyl mercury vaccine preservative: It is being greeted by another round of excruciatingly erroneous authoritative-sounding pronouncements claiming that the tiny, tiny -- truly, truly, teeny and tiny -- amounts of mercury are OK if not actually good for you.
No. As I believe Will Redwood put it, injecting mercury in babies on purpose is stupid. Out of the mouths of babes and infants comes the truth. Out of the mouths of the Mercury Drinkers comes a defense of injecting mercury in babies that is just plain astonishing:
"It doesn't matter what Bobby Kennedy, Jr. does -- the only thing is what the data show," Paul Offit said. "The question is, are the levels [of mercury] contained in vaccines shown to be harmful? And the answer is no. Thimerosal is ethyl mercury, not environmental mercury, and it's excreted from the body far more quickly ... Breast milk contains far higher [mercury] levels than you would ever get from vaccines."
The CDC is happy to chime with its usual insipid statement: "Thimerosal has been used safely in vaccines for a long time (since the 1930s) and has a proven track record of being safe." It's safe because it's safe because we say so.
Actually, it is not safe and it has a proven record of causing autism, starting with its use in the 1930s in pesticides and vaccines, before which autism didn't exist, after which it started popping up with increasing frequency -- first in families with backgrounds in pesticides and vaccination. Tell me why, if it's got nothing to do with autism, the father of the second child ever diagnosed with autism was experimenting with the ethyl mercury dust Ceresan at the same time his child was born? (While the pediatrician mother of Case 7 was promoting infant vaccinations with ethyl mercury?) It was poison in 1937, it's poison now. It was poison in pesticides (and long ago removed), it's poison in vaccines -- but still injected into tens of milliions of babies a year. ("Ethyl Mercury" is visible below Wheat in black type.)
This doesn't dissuade those who think we're all lotus-eating idiots. Journalists are drinking the mercury right along with the best and brightest vaccine zealots. "Most fundamentally, Kennedy does not get chemistry," wrote Jeffrey Kluger in Time. Prepare to eye-roll: "Thimerosal is an ethylmercury product. Mercury in general may be a neurotoxin, but it’s in its methylmercury form that it does its damage—and only in particular concentrations. The quantity of ethylmercury that was once in vaccines was so small that it was actually within acceptable limits for the more toxic, methyl form—but it wasn’t even in that methyl form to begin with." Yes, this makes absolutely no sense. What wasn't in what?
"Sticking up for thimerosal -- Read the studies -- it's safe," was the headline on a Slate piece by Arthur Allen in 2005 when Kennedy spoke out the first time.
By Dan Olmsted
The July 20 New York Times, which never tires of promoting the germ theory of disease and the need to vax, vax, and vax some more, is my source for the following: “Over the last century, Denmark won significantly more Nobel Prizes per capita than Italy. It also had a lower prevalence of disease-causing germs.”
The correlation, according to Damian Murray at UCLA, holds true in 161 countries based on 5 different metrics of innovation. “Murray speculates that vaccination programs ‘may serve to foster a cultural zeitgeist that is more encouraging and rewarding of innovation.’”
About the only truth in that statement is the first two words: “Murray speculates.” That’s certainly fine – I do it all the time – but I’m not even sure I understand the point. I filed it in my “AOA – Read” folder to await further developments.
They came swiftly. Yesterday, I saw a friend with two preschool sons who knows first-hand the damage FDA-approved, CDC-recommended medicine -- not vaccines in his case -- can do. (He has a lot to do with why I'm writing about autism.) I asked him what vaccination schedule he follows with the kids and he replied, “We’re doing the Norwegian one.”
I’d never heard of someone adopting another country’s schedule, but my friend is pretty cosmopolitan – thoroughly American but with recent roots in Hungary, Germany, and England.
So I looked up the Norwegian vaccination schedule for preschoolers:
• DTP combination vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough)
• Hib vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type b infection
• Vaccination against pneumococcal disease
• Vaccination against poliomyelitis
• MMR combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella
Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV, for girls from 2009)
Children are usually first vaccinated at 3 months old. MMR vaccination is first given at 15 months of age and HPV is now offered to girls at about 12 years old.
Hepatitis B vaccine is also offered through the immunisation programme to children with increased risk of infection, such as those with parents from countries with high prevalence of hepatitis B infections.
I’ve had it with the anti-American bile spewing from that leftist rag Mother Jones magazine – inciting murderous jihadis. These cretins need to shut up and stop killing people.
Oh wait, that’s not what I really wanted to say. I wanted to say, the language being used against vaccine safety advocates is really getting out of control, and a recent example is Mother Jones, which referred this week to the “McCarthyite cretins in the murderous vaccinations-cause-autism movement.” (Jenny, meet Joe.)
Sounds a bit harsh when their own rhetoric is flung back at ‘em, doesn’t it!
Not since the White House warned Americans to “watch what they say, watch what they do” in the wake of 9/11 – before starting the stupidest, longest, most ruinous wars in U.S. history, having cowed most of the press and Congress into submission – has there been a moment like this.
Egged on by the “vaccines uber alles” forces, know-nothing folks like Mother Jones’ blogger Kevin Drum are stepping up the intemperate language to “baby killer” levels not seen since Bill Gates laid that one on Andy Wakefield. (These levels are likely to rise again with RFK Jr.’s new book, out next week, driving them into frenzy.)
Let’s remember that the law provides some fairly easy ways to skip vaccination, from personal and religious exemptions to no mandates at all if children are educated at home. Don’t like it? Change the law. Don’t compare those who follow or advocate perfectly legal behavior to mass murderers.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about parallels between 1914 and now, 100 years later. Here’s another one – as war fever built, free speech was suppressed under the Espionage Act. President Wilson even tried to criminalize criticism of the president. I’m sure he thought that opposing entry into the war would cost lives. Instead it probably cost us a century more of constant war.
Calling us anti-vaccine because we want a safer, saner vaccine schedule and are highly critical of current government policy is like calling Mother Jones anti-American because it wants a safer, saner country and is highly critical of current government policy.
Free speech and relatively free choice is here to stay (let us pray!). The murderous anti-American cretins – wait, the lazy uninformed ideologues -- over at Mother Jones might as well calm down and get used to it.
The evidence for lower autism rates in less vaccinated populations keeps rolling in – and rolling off the backs of the media and medical establishment.
Thanks to AOA’s Adriana Gamondes for spotting this March article in the Times of Israel: “In Israel, a lower percentage of ultra-Orthodox and Arabic children are diagnosed with autism compared with the general population — and no one is quite sure why.
“That pattern, which is mirrored in Aboriginal populations in Canada, was the subject of discussion by autism researchers from the two countries at a Hebrew University symposium this week. One thing is certain, they said — when it comes to autism in both Israel and Canada, not enough is known.”
We have excerpted this article from Sharyl Attkisson's website.
This is an interesting article written several years ago by UPI investigative journalist Dan Olmsted. It asks “Where are the autistic Amish?”
After the article was published, back when more reporters were covering the scientific links between vaccines and autism, I asked an official from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about the supposed lack of autism in the unvaccinated Amish. She said that there could be many other reasons besides the community’s aversion to vaccines. For example, “They don’t use electricity, right?” she told me. In other words, she seemed to put lack of electricity on equal footing with lack of vaccinations when it comes to what could be responsible for the apparent lower than average autism rate in the unvaccinated Amish.
The obvious difference is there are many scientific studies supporting a link between vaccines and autism–often unreported, under-reported or dismissed by pharmaceutical interests and vaccine activists who have long fought a PR campaign to falsely portray the studies and researchers as “anti-vaccine.”
I told the CDC official that it would seem that a survey of the unvaccinated population could be a good first step in further dispelling or further confirming the possibility of a vaccine tie to autism. The CDC official acknowledged to me that the information would be worthwhile. I asked whether CDC would attempt such a survey.
Such a survey wouldn’t necessarily cost a penny because the CDC already conducts regular telephone and mail surveys to monitor childhood immunization coverage. It could just add a question: has your child been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder? Read the full post at Ms. Attkisson's site here.
Everywhere I look, one kind of metal or another seems to be implicated in modern environmental illnesses. You’ve all heard the discovery Mark Blaxill and I made that places organic mercury via both vaccines and pesticides at the start, and heart, of the autism epidemic in the 1930s. Clearly, ethylmercury is deeply implicated in the roots and rise of autism.
It’s important to remember that vaccines and pesticides are merely vectors, not causes. What they deliver – the toxic exposure -– is the heart of the matter. For instance, metals delivered in quite another way – through emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources of environmental mercury – showed up as a powerful connection to autism in the two Palmer studies at the University of Texas. And coal contains not just mercury but arsenic and lead – both metals.
“We suspect low-dose exposures to various environmental toxicants, including mercury, that occur during critical windows of neural development among genetically susceptible children may increase the risk for developmental disorders such as autism,” according to the authors.
Another study, by Windham and colleagues, found a similar correlation by linking “the California autism surveillance system to estimated hazardous air pollutant (HAP) concentrations compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. … Our results suggest a potential association between autism and estimated metal concentrations, and possibly solvents, in ambient air around the birth residence, requiring confirmation and more refined exposure assessment in future studies.”
Noted autism researcher Isaac Pessah, who wasn’t involved in the study, told the L.A. Times, "Clearly this suggests that there may be correlations between autism onset and environmental exposures, especially as it relates to metal exposures."
Combined with the Palmer studies, and our own research on the first cases and their links to mercury, any honest effort to figure out what’s causing autism would by now have zeroed in on metals and their mechanisms of delivery, whether through coal, air pollution in general, pesticides, vaccines, or what have you. But because one of the delivery mechanisms – vaccines – is protected by a moat of official denial, the entire field is blocked and diverted into unrewarding Groundhog-Day style churning of topics like genes and strictly pre-term exposures. Post-natal? Metals? No way!
One thing I’ve always remembered from that Windham study is that the highest correlation with autism came from three different metals: mercury, cadmium and nickel (as well as two solvents, trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride).
Cadmium. Interesting. This week I’m back in my home state of Illinois, and the Chicago Tribune (hardly a friend to the environmental theory of autism) reported on a new study comparing organic and regular produce. The conventional wisdom is that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between them, except that organic costs more. This study did find important differences – including the fact that organic foods offer more antioxidants, which is the main reason to eat your kale in the first place. Plus, the researchers found more pesticide residue on regular produce (duh!) and much higher levels of … wait for it … cadmium. The level was still below official limits, but cadmium, because it’s a metal, is one of those things that can build up in your system. (Kind of like mercury and lead and arsenic.)
Cadmium, number 48 on the periodic table, is chemically similar to two other group 12 metals, zinc and … wait for it … mercury. Cadmium (like mercury) is no longer allowed in pesticides in the United States.
But it’s sure interesting to see mercury pop up in a study of coal emissions and autism in Texas, mercury and cadmium in air pollution and autism in California, and cadmium in a study of produce in general. And recall that pesticides have recently been linked to autism – in mothers who live near pesticide-sprayed fields in California. This conclusion is being resisted mightily by the mainstream autism epidemic deniers; as I argued last week, it is dangerous because it ultimately points to the heart of the matter – a non-genetic, man-made, environmental disaster in which food and medicine are deeply implicated via pesticides and vaccines.
I've been talking a lot about pesticides lately. In fact, one of our readers left this comment this week. "I'm not in any way stating that pesticide use doesn't pose health ramifications to the outside populous - it does. But I still believe that overall, the biggest 'environmental factor' re: the autism increase we're seeing today, is the continued and prolific use of the bolus doses of vaccines our kids are receiving." (So do I, bear with me just a bit longer.)
It's not the first time someone has wondered where I was going with this topic. When I spoke at Autism One in 2006, this is the impression I left on Teresa Conrick:. "He had been up on the stage in a plaid shirt, talking about mercury, seeds, and Ceresan. I didn't understand why this 'lumberjack guy' was talking to all of us parents about trees, Lignasan, and ethylmercury. Dan seemed to me to be on the wrong trail. It took me a while to connect the research and see that these clues Dan, along with Mark Blaxill, had been discussing and writing about for quite some time were the first "puzzle" pieces to autism." (Thanks, Teresa!)
But why are seeds and soil and Ceresan relevant to the current autism epidemic? Because they were an independent vector for the delivery of the same toxin, ethylmercury, that in vaccines triggered the current crisis, and keeps it spreading worldwide (shots are a much more efficient vector than pesticide dust). Critics toss out the "correlation is not causation" truism to try to discredit the vaccine-autism connection. (A better version would be "association is not necessarily causation, but it is a possible clue worth aggressive follow-up."). But when two totally independent delivery mechanisms -- pesticides with ethyl mercury and vaccines with ethylmercury -- starts flashing the same signal -- autism -- at the same time -- the 1930s -- in 11 families with clear connections to both those uses ... Well, truly independent observers ought to sit up and take notice, because they are getting a glimpse of autism's Big Bang -- the roots and rise of the preeminent disorder of our age. And when you know how an epidemic started, you have the key to ending it.
This is always worth repeating even at the risk of coming across as a one-note Johnny (see our book and blog and the video of the same name on our home page). But 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.
One of the funniest things I’ve ever read – and I’ve referred to this before, so forgive me – is this item that ran in the New York Times:
“Correction: December 3, 2008 An article last Wednesday about Gael Greene’s dismissal as a restaurant critic for New York magazine misidentified the news service she was reporting for when she had an affair with Elvis Presley in 1956. It was United Press, not United Press International, which was formed in 1958 when United Press merged with the International News Service.”
Perhaps my own journalism background, which included a stint at UPI, adds to my amusement here. But I mean, who really cares what United Press was called in 1956, before it merged with the International News Service in 1958, to form United Press International, when it’s part of the same paragraph that tells you a prominent (recently fired) New York restaurant critic somehow ended up having an affair with Elvis Presley half a century ago. Now that’s a merger worth hearing about!
It is in that spirit that I bring you news that the Gray Lady has goofed again. Basically, in its latest paean to vaccination, an article last week on the rising cost of vaccines, it managed to get things so wrong as to raise concerns about its fundamental understanding of the subject. And as you know, we are the ones the Times believes are irredeemably erroneous.
I sent the Times this e-mail last week:
this statement is flatly wrong:
“For most prescription medicines, the crucial hurdle to marketing is to win Food and Drug Administration approval. But for vaccines, the prize is the imprimatur of the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Once a shot is on the committee’s schedule as mandatory, every child has to get it before entering school and insurers have to cover it, at least nominally. (Many states require home-schooled children to be vaccinated as well.) ‘We have to give it to every kid, so it’s a golden ticket,’ Dr. Irvin said.”
(My e-mail continued:) In fact, the ACIP recommends childhood vaccines to the CDC, which uses that input to determine the childhood immunization schedule. that schedule is not a mandate. states consult it in adopting school entry requirements, which often do NOT include all vaccines on the CDC's schedule. also, "many" states do not require home-schooled children to be vaccinated, as i understand it -- only virginia and north carolina do so. regarding the first point, contrast it with this statement by the pro-vaccine Shot of Prevention website:
“There are no federal vaccination laws. However, just as the government requires immunizations for those who volunteer to join the military, and health providers may require employees to be vaccinated in a medical setting, immunization requirements for public school enrollment are determined by individual states. Parents are not forced to vaccinate their children. Rather, they’re given a choice as to whether they want their children to attend public school and therefore be vaccinated according to state admission policies.”
(my e-mail ends here)
On Tuesday, the Times printed this correction:
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.
But just as I was digesting this, along came this week’s Hobby Lobby ruling from the Supreme Court itself, which said closely held companies whose owners are opposed to contraception don’t have to pay for insurance coverage. Regardless of what one thinks of that ruling, logic dictates that such firms might now be able to decline to cover other medical interventions to which they have the same objections – to wit, vaccination. To me, that case seems stronger than it does for contraception. After all, a personal religious basis for opting out of vaccination is already established in 48 states, excepting only Mississippi and West Virginia.
Nothing doing. On the contrary, the opinion emphasized, “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.”
By Dan Olmsted
This week we got an e-mail from a Wisconsin couple whose local paper is The Lake Geneva Regional News (as a suburban Chicago kid I went to camp there for many summers. It's beautiful.) They attached an article from last week titled, "In county, some parents say no to vaccines." It begins: "ELKHORN -- Walworth County is not immune to the anti-vaccination movement." It went on to talk about the rising number of vaccine exemptions parents were obtaining for their children, and included the usual boilerplate handwringing from public health officials.
"A lot of [parents] have misinformation about vaccinations," said Elizabeth Walsh, public health supervisor at the county health department. "They say that vaccinations cause autism and listen to celebities on TV. It is frustrating as well as concerning." And so on -- you no doubt get the picture.
The e-mail painted a very different picture. I'm going to print the whole thing, including some nice comments about AOA (sue me!), because it really does explain why we do what we do, and will keep on regardless:
Thank you first for your commitment to the Age of Autism! Without this beaming lighthouse of information most of us would be lost, and our family thanks all of you from the bottom of our hearts!
Our only 2 grandchildren were damaged from vaccines. Mom & Dad have to work because as most of you know insurance companies do not pay squat! So our retirement was ended and grandma cares for our precious grandsons. We do not wish to contact the Regional News as we'd be recognized, as this is a small town. It would be wonderful if someone would answer the Regional News who can hit all the reason why vaccines are so dangerous! If one child could be saved by their parents becoming informed from feedback you've given to them then it would be a wonderful gift!
Thank you all for being there for so very many of us!
When it comes to autism causation, the chemicals are coming home to roost. Just on Saturday I reviewed new research suggesting a link between pollution and both schizophrenia and autism. Mice exposed for just a few hours to the kind of pollution caused by traffic had inflammation in their brains; inflammation kills brain cells; dead brain cells cause all kinds of mental mayhem. I pointed out that in our book, The Age of Autism, we proposed for the first time that general pollution – namely, the coal-fired Industrial Revolution that spewed arsenic, lead, and mercury – fueled the amazing rise of schizophrenia in modern times (as well as a number of other inflammatory diseases including autism).
This week has begun with more evidence for our not-so-crackpot theories –another link between pesticides and autism. Reports CBS News: “Pregnant women who live within a mile of spaces where commercial pesticides are applied appear to have an increased risk of having a child with autism, a new study suggests. The risk that a child would develop autism appeared to be highest for women who lived near farms, golf courses and other public spaces that were treated with pesticides during the last three months of their pregnancies.” (As Anne Dachel points out, this is just the latest of several studies linking pesticides and autism -- and ADHD, Parkinson's etc. The media is in perpetual Groundhog Day mode; I don't think anyone covers autism as a news beat, except us, so they don't remember anything past about midday yesterday.)
No doubt the ABV lobby – Anything But Vaccines when it comes to autism causation – will cling for dear life onto this as they have onto the traffic-causes-autism research. After all, they like to point out, we’re talking prenatal exposures here, and autistic regression after vaccination is a key element of the vaccine case. So let’s blame prenatal pollution and pesticides --but not vaccines, period, ever! Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Sources tell us that both chambers of the United States Congress will pass similar versions of the newly named but basically unchanged Autism CARES act this week, confirming once again that the federal government couldn’t care less about the autism epidemic engulfing the nation.
The House was marking up the bill Tuesday. It was expected to pass through a suspension-of-the-rules vote as early as the end of the day. In the Senate, the HELP committee will take up the bill Wednesday, and it's expected to sail through the full chamber by unanimous consent. While there may be some ironing out of differences between the two chambers, a final bill is expected to move to the president’s desk with no further chance of intercepting it. (See end of story for appeal to HELP committee chair Tom Harkin [(202) 224 3254] asking him to delay vote.)
“Autism families are getting f----d again. Autism Speaks should be ashamed of themselves,” said one person who has been attempting to head off the legislation AS and federal bureaucrats have been pushing for months. Autism families will let out a “primal scream” when they realize it’s happened again, he added.
The new law is looming despite efforts by outgunned and underfunded autism advocates to add more environmental research and targeted funding to the bill. They say the process was hijacked by special interest and disability advocacy groups and that, once again, Autism Speaks big-footed the process with its lobbying. The result: Status quo ante -- and inadequate.
I was interested in the recent study that linked autism and schizophrenia with pollution. From Fox News:
Exposure to environmental pollution may cause brain changes that make people more vulnerable to developing autism or schizophrenia, according to a new study published in Environmental Heath Perspectives. ... Now, researchers from the University of Rochester have uncovered the biological mechanism that may explain how pollution can put people at a higher risk for both autism and schizophrenia. . . . . After four hours of pollution exposure during two four-day periods, mice exposed to pollution experienced marked changes in behavior compared to mice living in an environment with filtered air. . . "That kind of air pollution produces inflammation, it is going to produce inflammation peripherally and in the brain as well. And when you produce inflammation in the brain, you can kill cells there," Cory-Slechta said.
While the pollution in question in this study is the type generated by traffic, it's worth pointing out that the first to link general pollution to the rise of schizophrenia was apparently ... us! In our 2010 book, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and Man-made Epidemic, we looked at the staggering increase in schizophrenia, particularly in England, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. A lot of the high and mighty in England thought it was just ... better diagnosis. (Sound familiar?)
Mark Blaxill and I were thoroughly persuaded, however, by the painstaking research of E. Fuller Torrey, whose book The Invisible Plague charted the rise of mental illness. (And he's no crackpot -- he was the featured interviewee on 60 Minutes' recent report on mental illness and mass violence.) Torrey was more focused on the fact that schizophrenia did increase, rather than why; he was busy fighting off the mental-health version of the skeptics we all face who like to say, Epidemic? What Epidemic? He was kind enough to let us review and cite his voluminous research, and let me tell you, it is completely convincing. Strange as it seems, mental illness of the kind we deal with these days really did go from a standing start to an epidemic.
In our chapter called Pollution, we focused on schizophrenia, "The Industrial Revolution offers what is perhaps the first case study in how polluting the environment may have created conditions that give rise to new disease." We noted: "Starting around 1750, more and more peopole simply went mad in England and Wales. Statistics in E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., and Judy Miller's book The Invisible Plague, on 'Insane Persons in Psychiatric Hospitals, Workhouses and Under Care' tell the story. In 1807 the total was 5,500; by 1870 it was 54,713 -- a staggering tenfold increase over the 1807 figure. Yet historical references to insanity are few and far between before the middle of the 1700s. The meager references to madness that do exist before this time don't usuallly reference any kind of early adult onset, a characteristic that often accompanied this emerging form of mental illness."
What was happening? Most likely, some of the elements in coal -- especially lead, but also mercury and arsenic --could trigger brain disease in susceptible individuals (or just about anybody breathing that toxic stuff day after day without even the benefit of smokestacks dispersing it). Certainly, the idea that lead is implicated in schizophrenia is not new. Opler and colleagues proposed in 2004 in Environmental Health Perspectives that prenatal lead exposure might be a risk factor for later-onset schizophrenia, and that the continued use of leaded gasoline outside the developed world is a concern.
But linking the historic rise of schizophrenia to general pollution -- that appears to be our idea, one that we developed with data, charts, and logical argument four years ago. I bring this up now not to crow (although establishing priority in the publication of ideas is important for all kinds of reasons), but to suggest that those of us who link environmental exposures to modern illnesses are not so crackpot after all. We are just a little ahead of the game.
In honor of the end of the school year, let's do a multiple choice quiz. Which of the following does not belong on this list:
A. Agenda 21 is a United Nations plot to end property rights, impose communism and send people off to secret camps in rail cars.
B. George W. Bush planned 9/11 and murdered thousands of Americans.
C. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are hiding the dangers of immunizations to protect profits.
D. President Obama is a Kenyan national.
Anyone? Anyone? The answer, dear readers, is C. This was a list put together by Newsweek magazine (yes, it's back in a spiffy print edition, though who knows for how long). "Social networks, media pundits and outspoken politicians are giving rise to a new emphasis on conspiracy theories," the author, Kurt Eichenwald, wrote.
On vaccines, he cites the alleged conspiracy theory "that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are hiding the dangers of immunizations to protect profits ... Now, because of this false belief advanced by scientific frauds and celebrities, vaccine-preventable diseases that were once on the brink of extinction are roaring back," he continued.
That can only be a reference to Andy and Jenny, two of my favorite people. No hint, strangely, of Bernadine Healy, the late NIH head whose concern about public health officials avoiding the vaccine-autism issue is too inconvenient to mention.
My point is that vaccine safety issues simply don't belong in this compilation of supposedly nutty ideas, because while A, B, and D lack even a modicum of evidence and plausibility, the widely acknowledged behavior of pharmaceutical companies is entirely consistent with what is being alleged. The business-friendly (but pretty good!) Financial Times recently ran a full-page piece titled Storehouse of Trouble whose basic premise, though put slightly more politely, was that pharma is a continuing criminal enterprise.
"A raft of lawsuits and regulatory probes has given fresh ammunition to critics who say the industry puts profits before public health [that sounds familiar] -- from cherry-picking clinical trial data to bribing doctors," the paper reported.
The article quoted Fiona Godlee (good grief!) of the British Medical Journal: "we have evidence time and time again that they overestimate the benefits [of new drugs] and underestimate the harm."
That is an allegation, coincidentally, that animates AOA -- pharma and public health officials are overestimating the benefits of the current vaccine schedule and understating the dangers, bigtime. Apparently, that is not an inherently conspiratorial crackpot thing to say. You just can't say it about vaccines.
Faithful AOA reader Twyla sent me an LA Times story this week: "Two California counties sued five of the world's largest narcotics manufacturers on Wednesday, accusing the companies of causing the nation's prescription drug epidemic by waging a 'campaign of deception' aimed at boosting sales of potent painkillers such as OxyContin."
Says Twyla: "This is interesting - describes a lot of the same behaviors as we see regarding vaccines. Apparently these county officials are wild conspiracy theorists?"
Is mainstream science and medicine ever going to recognize the real significance of the repeated clues linking parental occupation and risk of autism? I vote no.
The latest clue came in a study this month from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, which found thusly, according to Science Daily:
"Children of fathers who are in technical occupations are more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, according to researchers. Fathers who worked in engineering were two times as likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those who worked in finance were four times more likely and those who worked in health care occupations were six times more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum. There was no association with a mother's occupation."
And what might account for this? According to a study author, "Parental occupation could be indicative of autistic-like behaviors and preferences and serve as another factor in a clinician's diagnosis of a child with suspected autism. Medical students can be taught that this is one of the things to consider."
I guess that means that perseverative and detail-oriented anti-social types would be drawn to those fields. Of course this does nothing to explain the increase in autism since these parents were kids -- an uptick on the order of twentyfold -- unless you deny the epidemic or buy into the assortative mating argument, since the study found that when both parents were in technical fields, the risk of severe autism was greatest of all.
It makes no sense that fathers, not mothers, would be 100 percent of the risk factor, unless both were in technical fields. I suspect that points to the real clue here -- toxic exposures. The workplace is where engineers, lab workers, chemists get the exposure and bring it home one way or the other. (Finance, I would guess. points to higher income and more medical interventions. And medicine points to, well, a lot of medicine!) Women get it from all kinds of things -- mercury flu shots in pregnancy come to mind -- that directly expose the fetus or infant without needing to be mediated by occupation. That adds enough noise to drown out the occupational clue for moms alone.
The bad faith that defines the mainstream medical response to autism is entirely evident here. You really need to turn away from a well-marked trail of evidence to get lost in these weeds. This is something Mark Blaxill and I have been writing about for years, and at the risk of repeating ourselves, let me marshal the evidence again.
In the 1970s -- closer to the start of autism than to today, and better able to tease out signals -- two complementary studies starkly outlined the risk between parents' exposure to toxins and the risk for autism. I wrote about that at UPI, in a two-part series in 2006 that "highlighted a study by Thomas Felicetti, now executive director of Beechwood Rehabilitation Services in Langhorne, Pa. As Felicetti described it in the journal Milieu Therapy in 1981, he compared the occupations of 20 parents of autistic children, 20 parents of retarded children and 20 parents of "normal" children who were friends and neighbors of those attending the Avalon School in Massachusetts where he taught at the time.
"The results did, in fact, suggest a chemical connection," he wrote. "Eight of the 37 known parents of the autistic children had sustained occupational exposure to chemicals prior to conception. Five were chemists and three worked in related fields. The exposed parents represent 21 percent of the autistic group. This compared to 2.7 percent of the retardation controls and 10 percent of the normal controls. The data, subjected to statistical analysis, demonstrated a chemical connection.
"The results of this study point in the direction of chemical exposure as an etiological factor in the birth of autistic children." [He emphasized that educational level had nothing to do with it. One father of an autistic child was a roof tarrier. That's chemicals, not credentials.]
By Dan Olmsted
It was frustrating, but in a weird way fascinating, to sit through the House subcommittee hearing on the federal response to autism this week, and to hear Tom Insel lecture members of Congress – he called it a “teachable moment” – about the scientific method, why duplication is actually replication and must never, ever be second-guessed by laymen, even the ones who sign his paycheck, and how “exciting” – I really got tired of that word – all the advances in the field have become.
He even noted that there were 30 percent more abstracts this year than last at the IMFAR conference, as if this unnecessary proliferation of entities (see Occam’s razor) was a good thing, rather than evidence that the autism industry is in self-perpetuation mode and dipping a finger in every honey pot on offer.
Why, it’s a model for scientific research, Insel said of federal efforts on autism. No one has ever brought more interagency coordination to bear on any medical problem, ever. Stand by for cause and cure! But first, we all must get out of the way and let real scientists do their work.
Partway through I began thinking of another pompous, pointless, profoundly mistaken exercise that nonetheless reeked of authority and expertise. It’s a book Mark Blaxill and I have written about, titled The Modern Treatment of Syphilis, published in 1943 by Hopkins professor Joseph Earle Moore. Here’s what we said about it in our own book, The Age of Autism:
“Up to the very last moment before the arrival of penicillin, syphilis experts claimed extraordinary progress with ever more sophisticated applications of heavy metals (mercury very much included) and fever therapy. At Johns Hopkins, Dr. Joseph Earle Moore’s Modern Treatment of Syphilis included a chapter on the virtues of mercury treatment with numerous unattributed statistics and extravagant claims about the benefits of heavy metals and the dangers of leaving syphilis untreated.”
More about mercury in a minute, but the point here is how gasbags with credentials and completely wrong ideas can hold sway right up to the moment when their whole enterprise collapses.
I think Insel is about there. “The science is moving so quickly,” he said. No it’s not. The Government Accounting Office report he was so dismissive of, with the help of Rep. Gerry Connolly, a real bullelly, nailed his misguided obsession with genes, the genome, genomics (however you pronounce it – clueless subcommittee Chair Mica wasn’t sure), and his fatuous claim to be looking for the environmental triggers now clearly driving the autism epidemic.
Everything is converging on the second trimester of pregnancy, he said, as the moment when something goes wrong. No, it’s not. It’s converging on the first two years of infancy when, as so many parents testify, many children regress in clear response to vaccination.
Even in that narrow prenatal window, Insel said, “what the culprit or culprits are we still don’t know.” Yes, we do – one of them is surely mercury flu shots during pregnancy.
Managing Editor's Note: Dan wrote this post in 2009. In light of today's OGR hearing on the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders, we thought our readers would like to see the long term inaction of Dr. Insel on behalf of the autism community.
Rep. Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced a hearing of the Government Operations Subcommittee scheduled for today on the subject of the Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The hearing will be held in at 9 am EDT today in 2247 Rayburn House Office Building, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Watch via live streaming at http://oversight.house.gov/hearings/
By Dan Olmsted
Thomas Insel, the feckless factotum who heads the committee that will decide the future of the autism epidemic, needs to follow Dr. Story Landis (HERE) out the door TODAY and resign as chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Tomorrow is too long.
Landis inadvertently revealed the bankruptcy of Insel's leadership of the group when she both bashed parents and suggested investigating the most severe cases of vaccine injury -- which is all the parents want -- in notes dropped on the floor (see the notes here) at the IACC, recovered by friendly forces and reported on our blog by the relentless Katie Wright.
At an IOM environmental working group meeting in 2007, I walked up to Insel and handed him a copy of the piece I'd written for the Baltimore City Paper, implicating mercury in the first cases of autism. (See "Mercury Rising" HERE.) Insel told me he thought that the mercury hypothesis had been disproven (not true, but certainly his right to say so). But then he went on to say, in these words or just about, that of course, it still could be the vaccines.
A lot of us "citizen scientists" who saw the news this week about a megadose of measles vaccine as a cancer treatment seem to have had the same question at the same time.
First, the news. “Mayo Clinic researchers announced a landmark study where a massive dose of the measles vaccine, enough to inoculate 10 million people, wiped out a Minnesota woman's incurable blood cancer,” USA Today reported. “The Mayo Clinic conducted the clinical trial last year using virotherapy. The method discovered the measles virus wiped out multiple myeloma cancer cells. Researchers engineered the measles virus (MV-NIS) in a single intravenous dose, making it selectively toxic to cancer cells.”
Now the question: Does this suggest that wild-type measles infection, the kind hundreds of thousands of kids caught every year before the measles vaccine arrived in the 1960s, performs some unsuspected function in preventing the occurrence of cancer? And the follow-up: Did mass vaccination wipe out this protection?
The first thing that caught my eye was the type of cancer – multiple myeloma. As it happens, I’ve been hearing about this cancer in the autism community quite a bit in the last year. In fact, in August of last year Mark Blaxill and I reported on the anonymous Case 3 in the first medical paper on autism, from 1943. We identified him as William Ritchey Miller of Raleigh, N.C. On his death certificate from July 8, 2011, the cause was listed: multiple myeloma.
According to Wikipedia, this kind of cancer is increasing. and affecting younger people than it has in the past, resulting in about 74,000 deaths in 2010, up from 49,000 in 1990. It is a cancer of the immune system, formed by malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow. We also reported that Miller, who was known as Ritchey, had one sibling, Alden Dykstra Miller. He died in Hyattsville, Md., in 1984. He was only 44 years old. The cause of death was lupus erythermatosis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own healthy tissue.
We all know that immune problems are common in the background of families with autistic children. It was ever thus – Case 1 in the original case series, Donald Triplett of Mississippi, had a near-fatal attack of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, in his early teens; his father had asthma, another autoimmune condition. Donald recovered from JRA after treatment with gold salts – and, as we’ve reported, his autistic symptoms also improved dramatically, according to his brother. (Both Donald and his brother still live in Forest, Mississippi.)
To me, it stands to reason that a virus – like measles – that triggers an immune response in children might serve some broader biological purpose best left undisturbed. Doing so might have some downstream effect on both an autoimmune condition like autism and a cancer of the immune system like multiple myeloma. (Another of the first 11 cases, Bridget Muncie, also died of cancer.)
So many things pile up during the week that I've decided to do a Midweek Mashup from time to time to make sure I get to all of it. Some don't require a lot of words but are nonetheless worth noting. For instance, the vending machine at the left? That is in the waiting room of my doctor's office in a large health maintenance organization. Very large. Obese. Bloated. Not much left to say, except perhaps to call it an ill-health maintenance organization. These are the folks that want me to get a shingles vaccine stat!
I get a lot of e-mails. A lot of them I ignore, because I don't wish to pass my time in a state of low-grade irritation. Here's one from this week:
Last week this column looked at How To Not Connect the Dots, focusing on a New York Times report about problems boys have with school titled "A Link Between Fidgety Boys And a Sputtering Economy." The Times piece came very close to the core issue -- what's the matter with kids today?, and especially, what's the matter with boys? Things have gotten so dire, and the implications so large, that even a mainstream mouthpiece like The Times has no hesitation linking boys' problems to the overall economic fate of the country.
"If the United States is going to build a better-functioning economy than the one we've had over the last 15 years, we're going to have to solve our boy problems," the article declared, adding that if only girls are considered, there's no problem at all. But the solutions on offer in the piece, and in the research paper it was based on, and among the "experts" in general, amount to evidence-free bromides -- better schools, more understanding of the ways boys learn, more support for families because boys suffer more when fathers are absent. To quote the Beatles: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Missing was any sense that environmental factors, and specifically toxins, which have been repeatedly linked to problems like ADHD ("fidgetiness") and other neurodevelopmental disorders, which affect 1 in 6 children, and several times more boys than girls, could be playing a role.
This week, NYT readers weighed in with letters to the editor under the title, "The Different Ways Boys Learn," yet another assumption masquerading as wisdom. Here we went again. Sample: "The achievement gap between boys and girls is not quite the mystery your article describes. 'Educational reforms' pushed by wealthy donors like the Gates Foundation, testing corporations and both Democrats and Republicans have cut recess, gym and the arts to focus on testing."
Ah yes, no recess, no fingerpainting, too many tests! How will we ever survive as a nation? And another: "Your article doesn’t mention an important ingredient of the problem. The rise in boys’ troubles coincides exactly with the push by schools to ramp up literacy demands in the earliest grades — a time when boys are least able to cope with reading and writing."
Ah yes, teaching boys to read and write -- that's why America is in decline. That letter was by Richard Whitmire, author of the book "Why Boys Fail," a former and very capable colleague of mine. Nonetheless, he completely misses the biological point.
And another: "Multiple studies document the academically and personally damaging effects of too much recreational 'screen time,' particularly for youths on the lower socioeconomic rungs." TV and video games, the ruination of many a young man. A capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for ... pixilated peril! (Man, did I ever have a lot of "screen time" as a kid -- to my childhood mind, the greatest show in town was Huckleyberry Hound.)
Come on, people. Boys are being damaged in a much more fundamental and durable way, which damages our country, and hence all of us, and the damage is not that hard to figure out. Autism is one heck of a clue, because it is the neurodevelopmental and learning and socialization disorder sine qua non, because it's new, because it vastly selects boys over girls, and because it's got to be environmental. That is why we call this the age of autism -- autism is telling us the nature of our problem.
So, having described last week how to not connect the dots, let me try to connect them with as few strokes as possible, kind of like one of these brain teasers where you have to link all the dots with straight lines without lifting your pencil, and can only do it when you literally think outside the box you mistakenly believe you are in.
I think you need just three dots to triangulate autism, and hence the rest of the neurodevelopmental issues affecting boys -- and children, and society, and the world -- that have so perplexed the experts.
One dot is mercury. Mercury, the organic kind used in vaccines and pesticides, clearly links the first cases of autism reported in 1943. None of the people who call us cranks or "anti-vaccine" ever bother, or perhaps the word is dare, to look at this pattern, which Mark Blaxill and I outlined in our book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic. (See the 10-minute video version on our home page, How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism..) The first use of ethyl mercury in commercial products in the 1930s stands out in those autism case histories like blood under Luminol at a crime scene.
After 9/11, there was much discussion about why the experts – the people paid to make sense of seemingly random bits of data before they coalesced into a horrific attack on our “homeland” – failed to “connect the dots” in time to do anything. Al Qaeda’s determination to attack; an attempt to take flying lessons in Minneapolis; a bunch of “students” here on expired visas no one followed up on … such were the signs that in retrospect were flashing a warning.
Today, we have another pattern of dots that are also signaling a warning – a warning that our country is in the process of being attacked and undermined in quite a different, but no less destructive, way. Every day when I read the paper or watch the news I see these signs flashing and the people who are paid to interpret them – to recognize patterns and act on our behalf – asleep at the switch, or even deliberately looking away.
Let’s take two dots and see how the connect.
Dot One: This week, The New York Times ran an article titled, “A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy.” The reporter, David Leonhardt, wrote: “The gap in behavioral skills between young girls and boys is even bigger than the gap between rich and poor.
“By kindergarten, girls are substantially more attentive, better behaved, more sensitive, more persistent, more flexible and more independent than boys, according to a new paper from Third Way, a Washington research group.”
Leonhardt linked this, and rightly so, to the decline of the middle class in the U.S., citing the recent report that Canada is thriving by comparison. And it’s the failure of boys to compete that has led to this loss – “These depressing trends have many causes, but the social struggles of men and boys are an important one. If the United States is going to build a better-functioning economy than the one we’ve had over the last 15 years, we’re going to have to solve our boy problems.”
Problem identified -- so far, so good. Yet Leonhardt lapses into the kind of vague speculation masquerading as wise observation into which these kinds of stories usually fall. He cites experts who say boys respond even more than girls to better instruction, so improving our schools must be (as ever) the obvious taxpayer-funded answer. “When good grades bring high status, boys respond.”
Then there’s the schools-don’t-teach-boys-right school. They are forced to “sit still for hours every day” and don’t have good role models (i.e., women can’t teach boys, a stupid and sexist assumption, especially because almost all teachers were single women back in the good old days of boys doing well in school). Oh, and “as the economy continues to shift away from brawn and toward brains, many men have struggled with the transition.”
By Dan Olmsted
I hope the CDC is enjoying these warm spring days and basking in the sunshine of mainstream media love during Autism Awareness Month. But I strongly suspect that the shadow of darker times ahead is starting to haunt their dreams.
The CDC -- mailing address, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta -- is clearly managing, massaging and manipulating the data about the growth of the autism rate. It is really hard to see how long this can go on, with people like Florida Congressman Bill Posey going after the agency's Coleen Boyle in a powerful Autism One radio interview with Brian Hooker. Sample:
"I know we have an autism epidemic. You know it. She knows it. She knows we know it. But for some reason they refuse to acknowledge it publicly." Regarding Boyle's assertion that the increase is due to better diagnosing, Posey said, "I don't think anybody that's intellectually honest with this issue can begin to fathom that lame excuse that she uses."
Yesterday, we ran an extraordinary piece by Katie Wiesman of SafeMinds making clear just how lame that excuse is.
Because problems with our blog platform (not AOA specifically) meant we were down part of the day, I'd like to urge you to go back and read that piece carefully if you have the chance. As our own John Stone wrote:
"This is a colossal and important piece of work - a superb documentation of the CDC's smoke and mirrors operation. At every point the way the data is collected is inconsistent and obfuscating. Not an ounce of good faith behind any of it and the bottom line is the four trillion dollar bill, the cold monetary figure measuring destroyed human lives.
"No wonder Coleen Boyle quaked before the congressional committee."
Yes, no wonder. Bill Posey must look like Freddy Krueger to Coleen Boyle.
Katie, whose writing is always marked by respectful but relentless clarity and attention to detail, shows how messed up the CDC epidemiological data is, even by the standards it sets one year, then forgets the next. No follow-up, no action plan, no urgency. To borrow a wonderful headline from yesterday's Dachel Media Update: "Autism No Crisis, No Cause, No Chance It's Vaccines."
Anne has been attacking the mainstream media's credulous reporting on the CDC, and Katie makes the same point: "On March 28th, thousands of media outlets released the new US autism prevalence numbers of 1 in 68 in 8-year-olds born in 2002 and counted in 2010. These children are 12 years old now. What was glaringly lacking in the media coverage was any critical thought about that actual data, any sign that reporters had actually read the new report or any sign of urgency on behalf of our children."
Which is what the press is for -- not to give 24-hour coverage to a still-missing Malaysian jetliner, but to hold powerful interests, and specifically the United States government, to account on behalf of the people.
One of the most interesting among the many overlooked points in the CDC report: The percent of autistic children who also have intellectual disability seems to be declining, a trend that roughly coincides with the phasing out of the mercury additive thimerosal in vaccines when these now-12-year-olds were infants. But as Katie summarizes the CDC attitude:
"There is no possibility that autism and vaccines are connected because the numbers are still going up."
Katie's comment: "Assuming that there is, in fact, a smaller percentage of ASD children with Intellectual Disability, those shifts do correspond to the beginning of the phase out of thimerosal in vaccines, which is a plausible explanation as well – but one CDC doesn’t mention. Thimerosal reduction in the recommended childhood vaccine schedule (HepB, Hib and DTaP) started in 1999 and it was phased out over several years. However, shortly thereafter, in the 2002-2003 season, the CDC started encouraging flu shots (most of which contained thimerosal) for infants 6-23 months and in the 2004-2005 flu season flu shots were formally recommended for all infants starting at 6 months of age. Meanwhile, the CDC and ACOG also added influenza vaccines (most of which still contained thimerosal) to the recommendations for pregnant women in all trimesters in 2004. This FDA letter makes clear that thimerosal-containing infant vaccines would still have been administered throughout 2002 – the birth year of the current ADDM report but at amounts, on average, probably less than in the 2000 birth cohort. The exposure to any particular child is an unknown without checking their history."
I called attention to this possibility in a brief editor's note the day the CDC released its data, and I continue to find it fascinating. As Katie points out, the CDC data is so gummed up it's impossible to tell what might be going on, but this observation is, in fact, consistent with a pretty intriguing possibility -- the CDC, which both surveils autism and recommends the childhood vaccine schedule, might find it convenient to bumble and stumble long enough to obscure any connection between the removal of mercury in vaccines and any sort of improvement in the autism outlook.
I've been "gathering string" on this issue for quite some time (this is a phrase an editor of mine used for pulling together separate threads that might eventually build a story, like a robin finding bits and pieces that become a nest). I've heard many people in the autism community talking for several years about seeing more "autism lite" -- not Asperger's necessarily, but kids who are less impaired, less physically ill and easier to recover with biomed.
By Dan Olmsted
Some say that claiming vaccines are the cause of the autism epidemic is like yelling fire in a crowded theater. I agree -- except this theater really is on fire.
By now it's an open secret that the current vaccination schedule is behind the soaring autism rate -- and a wide range of other chronic and developmental disorders. So many parents, front-line professionals and others have seen this with their own eyes, so many streams of evidence are converging to make this point, and so much desperation is on display from vaccine injury deniers, especially now during Autism Awareness Month, that it's just no contest any more. The task now is to hasten the day of reckoning, keep more kids from being injured, and bring justice, compensation and treatment to the injured.
Those who deny this reality end up sounding like Nazis -- ve vill vaccinate you! -- or just intellectually incoherent. They spout a lot of platitudes about autism awareness and better diagnosis and multiple mysterious genes and gene-environment interactions that, if they (and their spouters) ever had any relevance, don't anymore.
The goofiest part is when submissive scientists try to talk about environmental links to autism without talking about THE environmental link to autism -- the bloated CDC-recommended, state-mandated, pediatrician-provided vaccine schedule. Hence this from the Harvard Gazette this year:
"Toxic chemicals may be triggering recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children — such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia — according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed."
This study lists two pesticides as among the likely triggers, and follows up on a 2006 study that also listed a handful of suspect toxicants, including methylmercury. Not ethylmercury, of course, since that brings us right back to the dreaded V word, ethylmercury being the prime ingredient in thimerosal. And thimerosal exposure almost tripled via vaccines at the same time the autism epidemic began around 1988. (It's still used in flu shots in the U.S., where it is recommended for all infants and pregnant women, and in multiple shots in developing countries thanks to the endorsement of U.S. Public health officials, WHO, and the Gates Foundation.)
But pesticides and mercury and vaccines and autism? Never the twain shall meet in the mainstream medical or media universe.
As it happens, Mark Blaxill and I triangulated those dots in a way that indirectly but (IMHO) elegantly links vaccines, pesticides, and autism from the very beginning. In our book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic -- we showed how mercury was present at the creation of autism, causing the very first cases reported in the medical literature, in 1943.
The crux of our argument is that the three commercial vectors for the first exposures to ethylmercury in the 1930s -- via vaccines and pesticides, specifically the diphtheria shot, a lumber treatment and a plant fungicide -- are evident in those 11 families. The parents included a pediatrician mother who focused on public health and mass vaccination, one father who was a forestry professor and another who was a plant pathologist, in all three cases with documented exposure to the new ethylmercury compounds. This cannot be chance -- especially given the work of Safeminds linking mercury and autism symptoms, the absence of autism in the medical literature prior to 1930, and the coinciding explosion of ethymercury exposure and autism in the 1990s. (See our 10-minute video version on AOA's home page.)
Update 4/7/14 The vaccine injury denial community is working overtime this week in an effort to hijack AutismAction Month and protect indudstry at the expense of people with autism. Polio is most often used as the tool of fear. Here is the Polio series from Dan and Mark to offer clarity to those who seek it.
Doctors May Have Missed Pesticide Clue in California’s “Polio-like” Cluster
Child in “Polio-like Cluster” Linked to California’s Winemaking Industry
“Polio-like” Cluster in California Has Eerie Echoes
Below is Dan and Mark's 7 part series on polio which ran in 2011.
By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
1. The Wrong Narrative.
Polio is the iconic epidemic, its conquest one of medicine’s heroic dramas. The narrative is by now familiar: Random, inexplicable outbreaks paralyzed and killed thousands of infants and children and struck raw terror into 20th century parents, triggering a worldwide race to identify the virus and develop a vaccine. Success ushered in the triumphant era of mass vaccination. Now polio’s last hideouts amid the poorest of the poor in Asia and Africa are under relentless siege by, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Eradication is just a matter of time, and many more illnesses will soon meet the same fate.
It was 35 years ago that Vietnamese tanks rolled into Cambodia's capital and put an end to the four-year reign of genocidal terror that wiped out a quarter of the population through starvation, torture and execution. A tidal wave of desperate refugees rolled across the border to encampments in Thailand; eventually, thousands joined a thriving community of Cambodians who had settled in Long Beach, California.
There, in the 1980s, doctors began noticing an unusual phenomenon -- some of the resettled Cambodians, mostly older women, were having problems with their vision that could not be linked to any physical cause. "Unknown etiology" would be the formal way to describe it.
But medicine abhors a mystery, and speculation as to the cause soon arose -- these survivors of war and terror could not see because they would not see, doctors concluded. They were so traumatized by what they had witnessed and suffered that their vision was impaired. They were experiencing hysterical blindness.
"Blinding Horrors : Cambodian Women's Vision Loss Linked to Sights of Slaughter," was the LA Times headline in 1989.
"Eang Long cried for many days after the Khmer Rouge soldier beat her brother and his three children to death," the story begins. "'My eyesight started to get terrible after I saw the tragedy'," Long said. "Because I was crying so hard and long, my eyes were red and started to swell up. Then I started to have problems with my eyesight."
In the face of such horror, any human reaction seems possible. Researchers identified 30 Cambodian refugee women 40 to 69 years old with a similar pattern and gave them a battery of tests, including brain waves. (Some men were also affected, but focusing on women makes "hysteria" a simpler argument.)
"In each case, the test revealed normal visual acuity, often at the 20/20 or 20/40 level. These same women, however, when looking at an eye chart could barely see the top line of 20/200--the point of legal blindness. Other women had no light perception and could not detect light or dark shadows. ...
"Most of the women's functional blindness surfaced during the Pol Pot years. Personal interviews brought out repeated stories of forced labor, the murder of family and friends--often in their presence--beating and torture, starvation, a treacherous escape to Thailand and separation from family.... The findings indicated that the longer a woman was bound to Khmer Rouge servitude or life in a refugee camp, the more her vision was impaired."
The mainstream media covered this week's CDC new autism data – 1 in 68 American children affected, up 29 percent in two years – without even realizing the conflict of interest at the heart of the story.
CDC is the agency that recommends and promotes the childhood vaccination schedule that so many parents know first-hand is the driving force behind the autism epidemic. The preposterous idea that there is no epidemic, or the equally ridiculous notion that it is impossible to tell, abets the CDC in avoiding culpability for what has happened the past 25 years.
But because the CDC has done such a good job of convincing the media that a vaccine-autism link has been discredited, most journalists don't realize the conflict staring them in the face. They don't understand that the CDC cannot be trusted with anything bearing on the cause or frequency of autism, that it can't be treated as a credible and disinterested source. It's amazing really: the folks that caused this train wreck by falling asleep at the switch are investigating the cause and counting the casualties, and the media treats it as gospel.
Most of the time, journalists "get" this concept -- vested interests must be disclosed and generally detract from the reliability of their claims. You could see that play out this week in Chris Christie's own internal investigation exonerating him from any culpability in Bridgegate. The big media outlets basically laughed him off the national stage, noting that his own lawyers used taxpayer money to absolve him while casting evidence-free aspersions on his "emotional" former chief of staff. (Emotional, hysterical women -- this sounds familiar!)
Yet the same day, the CDC gets away with the entirely unbelievable idea that it's unclear whether there is a real increase in autism, and never gets called on why this might serve their own purposes. That keeps the wolves from the door for a couple of more years until they can switch over to the DSM-5 and obscure matters once and for all.
Amplifying the problem is that these conflicts extend to the big media players who like to come across as ferocious watchdogs when it comes to traffic jams in Fort Lee, but have far too much at stake -- namely, pharma revenue -- and far too little intellectual curiosity to dig independently into the truth about the roots and rise of autism. Some of those journalists are just as conflicted as the CDC.
For one thing, many of the "experts" the news anchors turn to when the new numbers come out are doctors, and frequently pediatricians. That is the profession that implemented the epidemic, in my view, yet they are now helping the CDC hide the truth, whether deliberately or by being totally sunk in the orthodox quicksand.
Thus Dr. Richard Besser, not just a doctor and not just a pediatrician but the former acting Director of the CDC, for cripe's sake, is the person deemed most suited to explain it all to us on ABC's World News Tonight.
After Diane Sawyer grills Christie in a long interview, she says, "and next now tonight we turn to a startling new medical report about autism."
"Why the surge? It could be better diagnosis," Besser reports. "But experts do say there are more children with autism." Well there's your story right there, Rich -- why are there more children with autism?
"What's causing it? We know genetics play a role, that young autistic brains are physically different. But it's still a puzzle." Yes, because neither of those are causing a surge. In other words, no clue is offered as to why there are more children with autism.
Then comes the usual switch to the early intervention blather -- "doctors just aren't screening, but there's new technologies to catch it sooner." Eye tracking, new approaches to treatment -- taking autistic kids' love of trains to make them more social. Get them talking to each other about trains -- that's the ticket to responding to a damaged generation.
"Tonight, as those numbers are growing, so is the race to find out why," Besser reports over images of happy train-riding autistic kids.
No, it is not. The train wreck is right on track, and the race is on to hide the truth.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism. © 2014 AgeofAutism.com
By Dan Olmsted
It’s interesting – in the sense that a train wreck that leaks toxic fumes and kills an entire town of sleeping souls is “interesting” – to watch the mainstream media descend deeper into denial about vaccines and autism.
The latest round of tut-tutting comes in the wake of a report that Americans are prone to believe in conspiracy theories, in particular that the government, corporations or both are trying to cover up the truth about some health information, USA Today reports.
Over on MSNBC, Chris Hayes blamed the recrudescence of measles in Manhattan (20 cases or so) on “purveyors of anti-science hokum” like Jenny McCarthy. “This kind of thinking, it spreads like disease.” The segment was dubbed “Anti-Vaccination Trutherism.” Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Salz, laughed off the vaccine-autism connection: "This is essentially a coping mechanism gone awry. It makes us tremendously anxious to feel that we have no control over the possibility that our baby could get autism, and to be life-ruining, it's terrifying. So that idea that we can identify something that makes us less anxious."
And this, apparently, requires belief in extravagant conspiracy theories. Well, what is a conspiracy after all? It’s more than one person working in concert, and in secret, to effect a desired and usually nefarious result.
Clearly, doctors and public health officials do know that vaccines can cause autism, because they couldn’t have missed the press accounts of awards in vaccine “court” for children who developed autism as a result of vaccination. Further, studies have found a much higher rate of autism and other developmental issues in boys vaccinated as newborns with the Hepatitis B vaccine.
There is a concerted effort to keep these truths from emerging and to replace them with the false idea that vaccines have been vindicated as never causing autism. That in effect is the “trutherism” right there.
What I find amazing is the credulity of the press – many journalists are too young, and some apparently too naïve, to run this idea through their Watergate filter. Here’s the truth: Public officials – and putting “health” in between those words doesn’t inoculate them – do conspire to create certain outcomes when their professional mission and personal reputation are on the line. And corporations are not immune, obviously.
I didn’t have to look far to be reminded of how complicit corporations can be in conspiracies. In the same Thursday issue of USA Today that reported on the health conspiracy beliefs, two stories caught my attention.
One – Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle a criminal case involving its handling of those deadly accelerator problems a few years back. “Today, we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Put simply, Toyota’s conduct was shameful.”
I love this part: Toyota, to save its corporate scalp, agreed to allow a monitor to oversee its “safety communications, its internal handling of accident reports and its processes for handling technical bulletins.” In other words, the government wants to prevent another conspiracy to hide the truth about unsafe products.
Two – GM President Mary Barra penned an op-ed in which she fell on her stick shift to apologize for the mishandling of safety recalls, delays that appear to have caused a handful of deaths.
“Everyone at GM regrets that it took so long to confirm the problem with the Cobalt and similar models and issue a recall. We are deeply sorry for the lives lost and the lives it has affected.”
She’s deeply sorry, in effect, for a conspiracy to conceal safety defects over many years.
What’s so crazy about all this is that drug companies are not held in terribly high regard in the first place, and for good reason (Vioxx, four hour erections, et al). Neither is government. Neither is the media. Yet these three groups team up to treat those with well-earned reasons to be suspicious as “truthers.”
Measles is inconsequential in the fact of the real truth – that the autism epidemic is driven by excessive vaccination. But anti-vaccine truthers get blamed for every illness this side of spring fever, and probably for that.
This week’s New Yorker has a gripping article by Andrew Solomon on Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, based primarily on interviews with his father, Peter. To me, the first thing to pop out is that his diagnosis – Asperger’s disorder – doesn’t make any sense.
Here’s the key part: “Adam Lanza was never typical. Born in 1992, he didn’t speak until he was three, and he always understood many more words than he could muster.”
Well, if he didn’t speak until he was three, he didn’t have Asperger’s. Straight from my hefty copy of DSM-IV, retrieved from the box in the garage: “In contrast to Autistic Disorder, there are no clinically significant delays in language (e.g., single words are used by age 2 years, communicative phrases are used by age 3 years).”
Now you tell me, but assuming his own father has his personal history right, Adam as an infant did have clinically significant delays in language. So if he had an ASD, it had to be autistic disorder or PDD-NOS. Since this quickly turns into alphabet soup, here's a footnote from our book The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic:
“’Pervasive developmental disorders’ is the diagnostic category often referred to as autism spectrum disorders. The three main categories of pervasive development disorder (PDD) include autistic disorder, PDD-NOS (not otherwise specified), and Asperger’s syndrome. A diagnosis of PDD-NOS is similar to but less severe than autistic disorder and includes language and communication delays, unlike Asperger’s.”
So my question is, how on earth did Adam Lanza get an Asperger’s diagnosis? Yes, in some ways he was functional, although he had the full panoply of seriously autistic traits – “such hypersensitivity to physical touch that tags had to be removed from his clothing. … A doctor diagnosed sensory integration disorder, and Adam underwent speech therapy and occupational therapy in kindergarten and first grade.” His shop teacher said he could hold a Bunsen burner to his wrist and not flinch.
By Dan Olmsted
Don’t you just love the word treacle? I do. It describes so much of what we're subjected to in pop culture these days. Without looking it up, because it speaks for itself, I’d say its approximate meaning is sickly sweet sentimentality without substance. It’s no doubt named after the candy.
So much of what passes as compassionate coverage of children in this day and age is so much treacle – commodified treacle at that, by which I mean it is packaged to sell, and one touching story is just about the same as another, only distinguished by its bathos quotient (which I think of as just slightly more treacle-y than pathos).
The more bathetic, the better.
Treacle is getting easier to get away with, and harder to get away from. The whole gloppy genre of troops home from the wars and tearfully embracing their families in a brand new home that some app helped them find, etcetera, while an indecipherable Mumford-like melody swells, is a case in point.
Another: On Good Morning America Friday, a child who I’m sure is deserving of all the loving-kindness coming his way was in the spotlight – he was afraid he couldn’t assemble any friends for a birthday party, because he didn’t have any friends, and his mother’s pleas led to an extravagant outpouring of new friends on Facebook. And did GMA ever have a birthday surprise for him!
According to the Daily Mail, “during a surprise visit to the set of “Good Morning America,” Colin Cunningham found out that he has friends all around the world, even though he has to eat lunch alone at school every day.”
And wouldn’t you know, “Colin is very friendly and open, but often shows symptoms of a mild form of autism, which is why he is typically shunned by his schoolmates.
“Fortunately, this is just one of the many difficulties that no longer seems impossible to conquer thanks to social media.”
Wow, social media as super-hero -- like Mighty Mouse, here it comes to save the day! No longer will a mild form of autism spread its evil tentacles around helpless kids -- not when heroes like Facebook and ABC have anything to say about it.
The on-air promos were enough to give me the general idea, so I turned the channel. But on the channel I turned to, the Today show was featuring Bat-Boy – the child with leukemia in remission who took over San Francisco for the day. Turned out he was going to be featured at the Oscars, but the bit got cut. Never mind, he got a trip to Disneyland with the real-life (meaning movie version) of Batman himself!
Now I have to say I loved the Bat-Kid story, which seemed to grow into a spontaneous citywide celebration of a child’s triumph over adversity. (Maybe it's because Batman and Mighty Mouse are my own personal cartoon-era heroes.) The GMA extravaganza feels different to me – a child with a condition that has not been alleviated by all the attention, but is made to seem so.
Our indefatigable Anne Dachel passed along a story Friday with the kind of title we are by now immune to, so to speak: "The Dangerous History of Anti-Vaccine Comspiracies," by Jeffrey Kopman. It was the usual mashup -- mishmash is probably a better word -- of Andy Wakefield being a fraudster, and the horrifying attack of mutant killer illnesses, and parents being so profoundly deluded as to think their child had a life-wrecking vaccine reaction just because their child had a vaccine followed by a life-wrecking reaction. (They are not the same thing!) How dare these benighted parents tell anyone such a tale, when endless scientific "experts" say it didn't happen because it couldn't happen? How very dare they?
But this article, as the Church Lady would say, was special: the piece was published by The Weather Channel, of all places. And its first paragraph is quite a piece of work: "Forty-three years after the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine hit the mainstream, the disease is still flaring across the country — as are mumps, rubella and whooping cough."
Now say whut, exactly? MMR disease is still flaring, as are mumps, rubella and whooping cough? Not gonna happen. Like all Gaul, the MMR is divided in three -- their cumulus total is not another disease, unless you want to count autism (snicker, snicker). These people, they make fun of our lack of scientific understanding and then they start off like that?
On a happier note, I was really glad to see that Paul Krugman is retiring from Princeton and heading to City University, in part because he wants a vibrant big-city milieu (he mentioned Zabar's, a specialty food store on the Upper West Side), and also to focus more sharply on the issue of income inequality.
Not that there's anything wrong with Princeton. What makes me happy, rather, is that Paul is my age, 61, shares my political outlook, and even my college class, and is serving notice that he's not letting up, he's bearing down on what he cares about most. And he's enjoying himself.
I can dig it.
Read Dan and Mark's posts earlier this week:
Child in “Polio-like Cluster” Linked to California’s Winemaking Industry and
By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
One of the California children with “polio-like” symptoms ate raspberries right before she got sick, her mother said Wednesday -- but that didn't seem to set off any alarm bells about pesticide residue from the medical experts investigating the baffling outbreak.
“She was wheezing, then she had lunch with raspberries and then we went to [the] pediatrician's office where they said she sounded like asthma,” Jessica Tomei said in an email, describing the symptoms her daughter, Sofia Jarvis, experienced in November 2012.
“On the way home she threw up. The next day we were in the hospital. 5 days later her arm was paralyzed. I kept mentioning the raspberries but botulism was ruled out.”
Doctors and public health officials have focused on microbes in their hunt for the cause of the cluster, which so far comprises five children in the San Francisco Bay area and a reported 20 more throughout the state. The five cases occurred between August 2012 and July 2013. Officials said a rare enterovirus – a stomach bug – was detected in two of the cases.
But given Jessica Tomei’s account, pesticide residue seems to us like a prime suspect. “Fruit is notoriously difficult to grow organically and without pesticides,” Jeff Moyer, farm director at the Rodale Institute, an organic research institution, is quoted as saying on the institute’s Web site. According to the institute, “Because most fruits have soft skins, the pesticides that are used to kill those bugs (and the molds and fungi that also love fruit) get into the flesh and into your mouth, and no amount of peeling or washing can remove them.”
We reported Wednesday morning that Sofia’s parents, Jessica Tomei and Jeff Jarvis, are professional winemakers, but her mother was dubious of a chemical connection via that route. On Wednesday, she mentioned the raspberries as a likelier source of pesticide.
“She had raspberries the morning of her illness -- they ruled out botulism. If what you are saying is true, perhaps the raspberries played a part. I believe more chemicals are used in that type of agriculture vs. vineyard. Interesting thoughts.”
In our 2011 series, The Age of Polio – How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic, we proposed that beginning in the late 1800s, the poliovirus – for millennia a harmless enterovirus – was rendered dangerous by its interaction with the new agricultural pesticide lead arsenate. Our theory: the pesticide caused damage that allowed the virus to penetrate the nervous system and reach the spinal cord, where it caused the paralysis called poliomyelitis.
Here’s something worth knowing about the cluster of “polio-like illnesses” identified by doctors in the San Francisco area: Some of the first outbreaks of actual poliomyletis in the United States more than a century ago happened in the same area.
Is history repeating itself? Are more cases on the way, and not just in California? It’s a question worth asking, and far more important to public health than headline-grabbing measles and whooping cough outbreaks. But don’t hold your breath, because the real answer may say more about the nature of modern illness than most mainstream medical “experts” would care to consider.
As news outlets reported on the cases on Monday – “five patients who developed paralysis in one or more of their limbs between August 2012 and July 2013” in a 100-mile radius in California, CNN said – I was drawn back to the series Mark Baxill and I wrote in 2011, called The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic.
In that 12,000-word series, we argued that a fresh look at the evidence suggested that for millennia, polio was almost always a harmless enterovirus – a stomach bug – until late in the 19th century. That's when a new pesticide called lead arsenate allowed the virus access to the nervous system, where it reached the spinal cord; this combination was the trigger for the first outbreaks of the paralytic disease called poliomyelitis.
“The reality, we believe, is that the virus itself was just half the epidemic equation -- necessary but not sufficient to create The Age of Polio," we wrote. "Outbreaks were not caused solely by poliovirus – the microbe was an ancient and heretofore harmless intestinal bug -- but by its interaction with a new toxin, most often innovative pesticides used to treat fruits and vegetables.” When children who were infected with the virus ate lead arsenate-laden produce, they were exquisitely vulnerable.
As evidence, we cited the first dozen or so outbreaks that occurred in the 1890s, just as lead arsenate was invented and first used commercially. The first of those clusters was “in 1893 in Boston (26 cases, no deaths). Then, in 1894, came what is widely regarded as the first major epidemic, in Rutland and Proctor, Vermont (132 cases, 18 deaths). Thirty more outbreaks – from such seemingly disparate locations as Oceana County, Michigan, and California’s Napa Valley -- were reported in the United States through 1909. The worst by far was New York in 1907, with 2,500 cases and a five percent mortality rate, a harbinger of the 1916 epidemic in the Northeast that killed 2,000 in New York City alone.”
Ah yes, California’s Napa Valley, just above San Francisco. Anyone? Anyone? We suspected widespread early use of lead arsenate in grape-growing country. In fact, the San Francisco area was home to three of the first dozen outbreaks – a quarter of the total. According to the peer-reviewed journal paper, “The Spatial Dynamics of Polio,” they were San Francisco and Napa, 1896 (three victims); San Joaquin Valley, 1899 (four victims); and San Francisco and vicinity, 1901 (55 victims). One fourth of the earliest clusters, in and around San Francisco.
By Dan Olmsted
Can it be? Is it already time to wrangle over the re-re-authorization of the Combating Autism Act, the billion-dollar (give or take) boondoggle that was supposed to marshal the government's war on autism but instead has shillied and shallied and dillied and dallied? Sadly, the only thing that has redoubled is not the government effort, but the autism rate.
It is indeed CAA time. The funding expires at the end of September -- the government's fiscal year -- unless it is renewed. The way things work in Washington, where I live and which I used to cover, heavy negotiations will be going on in April and May, which is practically next month.
The glaring beacon of mediocrity that exemplifies the feds' futile efforts is, of course, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which, besides not coordinating anything, spends most of its time avoiding the fact that vaccines are driving the autism epidemic. Tom Insel, whom I've called a feckless factotum and called on to resign many moons ago, seems to be hearing voices from on high (HHS? The White House?) and keeps things merrily spinning in circles.
Don't take my word for it. The Government Accounting Office recently concluded that "84 percent of the autism research projects funded by federal agencies had the potential to be duplicative. Of the 1,206 autism research projects funding by federal agencies [mostly, let's face it, by Insel's NIH] from fiscal years 2008 through 2012, 1,018 projects [most of them!] were potentially duplicative because the projects were categorized to the same objectives in the IACC strategic plan."
In its own self-serving report to Congress, the NIH's Office of Autism Research Coordination blathered on about how, "In the time since the enactment of the CAA, CDC has built critical infrastructure to further advance understanding of ASD and has seen these efforts come to fruition."
No, the CDC has continued to front-load the childhood vaccine schedule with immune-inflaming shots that are the primary trigger of the autism epidemic; the NIH has funded stupid and studiously avoidant studies; and HHS, of which both are a part, has continued to deep-six the vaccine "court" evidence that vaccine injury is clearly linked to autism.
Heck of a job, Tommy.
Given all that, what can we really expect from a renewed CAA? Well, as I said, it's almost March 1 -- meteorological spring -- and hope springs eternal. What would you, dear reader, like to see embedded in the next few hundred million dollars of government spending on the worsening autism epidemic?
By Dan Olmsted
Mainstream medical and media types have decided to kick Andy Wakefield in the terminal ilium again. As John Stone outlined in an AOA post on Monday, CNN (home of Anderson Cooper’s famously vile grilling) weighed in with a column by Frank Y. Yong titled, “Blind Eye to Scientific Fraud is Dangerous.”
Yong wrote: “Episodes like the 1998 fabrication of data indicating a connection between childhood vaccines and autism risk have clear public health and policy repercussions.” (Yong is a junior fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, a virtual assisted living facility for emeriti CDC vaccine officials like Walt Orenstein and Robert Chen. I’m sure they cabled their approval.)
No need for Yong to elaborate on the “fabrication of data” before moving on to Michele Bachmann and Jenny McCarthy. (Bernadine Healy? Never heard of her.) “Everybody knows” by now that Wakefield committed fraud by changing the 12 case histories to falsely implicate the MMR in regressive autism and a novel bowel disease.
“Everybody knows” this solely because of the work of British slimester Brian Deer, who first filled the Sunday Times of London with his accusations. Nobody paid any attention, so he recycled them under the imprimatur of the British Medical Journal and its editor, Fiona Godlee. In an editorial accompanying Deer’s articles in 2011, she wrote:
“Deer unearthed clear evidence of falsification. He found that not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 Lancet paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration, and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal.
“Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield.”
Nobody in England paid attention to the BMJ’s claims either, but the “fraud” then traveled across the Atlantic to our fair shores and became “truth,” a la the current Wikipedia entry for Wakefield: “Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (born 1957) is a British former surgeon and medical researcher, known for his fraudulent 1998 research paper in support of the now-discredited claim that there is a link between the administration of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and the appearance of autism and bowel disease.”
In certain circles, nothing is more appalling than the decline of recognized expertise – degreed, pedigreed, refereed, peer-reviewed expertise.
The very idea that some people believe themselvesqualified to opine (the legal term) on various matters simply because they done studied up on it on the internets – well, it simply won’t do.
Over at thefederalist.com, Tom Nichols is not amused. “I fear we are witnessing the ‘death of expertise’: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. …
“This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.”
“Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes” – that’s putting mildly. The Challenger and thalidomide were not exactly minor moments in the history of technology and medicine. I wonder what Nichols would have made of self-styled critics of the space program and drugs who had raised alarms ahead of those disasters. What if they didn’t have college degrees?
Nichols equates criticism of “expert” doctors by non-experts to faith healers and chicken gut poltices (were there ever such things)? But when it comes to vaccines and autism, the real parallel is between health care providers and consumers, a point Nichols completely misses in his rush to bolster the doctors, the experts.
“To take but one horrifying example,” Nichols writes, “we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine. (Yes, I mean people like Jenny McCarthy.)”
Never mind that most of these whooping cough patients were in fact vaccinated. Or that not just Jenny McCarthy but prominent medical experts like the late Dr. Bernadine Healy said the same thing.
Back in 2005, I wrote an Age of Autism for UPI called March of the Experts, playing (if anyone noticed) off The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman, a book that detailed the idiotic vanity and miscalculations that trigger war after war.
In autism, experts have continually been wrong, I wrote – blaming parents’ personalities for making their child autistic, ignoring the recovering of the very first child diagnosed with autism after being treated with gold salts, and condemning anyone who has ever tried biomedical treatments ever since.
“These days, parents aren't condemned for having autistic children,” I wrote, “just for doing something about it without the permission of experts who are certain nothing can be done.”
In fact, autism is the classic case in point that experts deserve no special standing. When I first went to college, I read a statement in the course catalog that has stuck with me ever since: “A course is simply a group of students examining a particular subject under the direction of someone who has studied it before.” There’s a lot of humility in that definition of the teacher, the expert – they’ve studied it before, period. Now it’s the student’s turn.
So I don’t hail from the school of expert worship. A good deal of what I’ve learned about autism has come, in fact, from what I’ve read using the internets. You can find scientific papers that way, and you can make of them what you will, whether you are an officially declared expert or not.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
By Dan Olmsted
It's often said that the worst fear of parents with an autistic child is this: What will happen after we're gone? This week brings the reminder that there is an even worse fear: What happens if my child dies before I do?
The death of Avonte Oquendo, whose remains were identified this week, brings that fear into high relief. The only good is its reminder, if one were needed, that "being autistic" is not the same as being "differently abled," and that the autism community cannot simply fend for itself. I remember sitting next to Bernard Rimland as he told the mother of a high-functioning young man -- a mother who felt her son was humiliated by the depiction of autism as a disability -- that if her son was content and capable, more power to him. That was not the kind of autism Bernie was talking about.
Nor was he talking about the kind of "autism" on display among certain high-functioning self-advocates and celebrities whose "coming out" only serves to diminish the seriousnesss of the real autism epidemic. (I'm reminded of Tracey Ullman's skit in which she played a minor, over-the-hill starlet who tried to stage a career comeback with a book titled something like, "My Lifelong Battle With Drugs, Alcohol, and Depression." When all else fails, talk about your heroic personal struggle.)
It's also often said that autism does not shorten one's lifespan, but I'm beginning to wonder. As more and more kids with the severe, immune-compromised, physically ill kind of autism age out into adulthood -- "after the bus stops coming" -- the prospects look bleaker, not better, for so many. The denial of the epidemic has allowed planning for the tsunami of young adults headed our way to fall into abeyance. Puberty seems to hit many children not only with new and sometimes disturbing behaviors, but with seizures and other new and frightening problems.
By Dan Olmsted
Every day, four of us at Age of Autism -- Kim, John Stone, Teresa Conrick and to a lesser extent myself -- "moderate" the comments that are posted in response to articles on AOA. Unlike readers, we see them in one long string as they pop up as feedback to many stories at once.
The most current and hot-button stories, as you will imagine, get the most response, but great comments and updates are added all the time on stories from our archive -- now totaling 6,133 over six years (comment total: precisely 99,500 and counting as of 10:17 a.m. Friday). And even straightforward news updates can generate passionate and personal essays.
We call attention to these wonderful additions by highlighting the most recent on the right hand side of our home page. But something I've often wanted to do is simply run a week's worth as an article in itself to share with you what we are seeing, learning from -- and being so impressed by -- on a daily basis.
So here goes. As an FYI, and as we clearly state, we do "moderate," which means we make a decision whether to post each comment. No apologies for that -- AOA would become troll heaven if we gave the autism epidemic and vaccine injury deniers carte blanche. And we watch for personal cruelty, wishing anyone harm, invasive comments about other people's children, destructive infighting and of course libel. We run the overwhelming majority (only three were deleted in the past week, compared to all those printed below); our choices reflect what is called editing, not censorship.
To start off, here's a comment by David Thrower in Great Britain, the kind of thing that, repeated hundreds of times, has deeply shaped my understanding of the Age of Autism:
"My son was perfectly healthy until vaccinated against measles in the UK. We watched him disintegrate into profound autism in the weeks following his immunisation. No one else has put forward any, let alone a remotely credible, alternative explanation for this. I remain 100 per cent convinced that his immunisations caused his dramatic regression. David Thrower Warrington, UK"
Now for the rest, in most recent order but not sorted by the articles they are responding to -- you'll see them as we do. In most cases the theme is clear, or will become so. I've dropped only a few that either don't stand alone well or were multiple comments by the same person, in some cases making the same point on different posts.
Enjoy -- and, as always, thanks for immeasurably enriching AOA.
Alison MacNeil said:
Thank you Lou, This is so powerful and my response is very emotional.
Reply | Edit | View | 1 hour ago on Autism and The Echo…
Interesting and enlightening article.
Reply | Edit | View | 1 hour ago on Voices for Vaccine…
Teresa Conrick said:
Thank you, Lou for writing this haunting expose. The tragedy of Minamata has always stayed with me. Those words ring so true in the epidemic of autism: “We shall pursue you to justice, and we shall not forget.”
Reply | Edit | View | 2 hours ago on Autism and The Echo…
Thank you, Jenny. I remember someone pointing out that the key thing and the common ground between all these various toxic substances and sources is the "route" by which the damage is done to cellular pathways. Different substances can cause virtually the same types of injuries. So I think 2014 should be the year that the specifics of Carson's and JFK's campaign should be resurrected and the year the public stops viewing cellular science as the "forbidden texts." The science feeds policy and policy is everyone's business.
Reply | Edit | View | 7 hours ago on Soylent Greenwashin…
The person or persons known as "Voices for Vaccines" at the Facebook page reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. Reading the conversation, I imagine VfV to have a loud booming voice. 'THE WISE AND POWERFUL VOICES FOR VACCINES HAS SPOKEN!' Since Reiss has been called out on the ridiculous number of posts she produces, maybe it is she who is hiding behind the curtain, so she can spout all she wants (or is paid to do) posing as a different mysterious person. No matter who VfV is, the tone of the whole thing is just really weird. I wonder how much they pay people to like them. Maybe they give students extra credit to like their Facebook page.
Reply | Edit | View | Yesterday on Voices for Vaccine…
It's a useful coincidence that autism and autoimmunity start with the same three letters, in both cases because they derive from the Greek word for self, as in aut-obiography. The self of autism is trapped by developmental mayhem; the one in autoimmunity is turned against itself, mistaking its own physical home for an enemy invader.
Autoimmunity, of course, may be at the heart of autism, when the infant's immune system is goaded by the stimulation of excessive vaccination, organic mercury exposure, and other environmental triggers into launching damaging attacks. That, at least, is what we believe at Age of Autism.
So it's fascinating to watch more and more observers notice that -- autism completely aside -- we are in the midst of a tidal wave of autoimmune illnesses that young adults find themselves coping with, as if they were nursing home patients whose defenses were going haywire in the inevitable decline into senescence and death.
The common theme: something is happening here, and we need to know what it is.
AOA's Anne Dachel drew my attention this week to an article in The Atlantic titled "Living Sick And Dying Young in Rich America"
by Leah Sottile, in which she describes her youngish husband Joe's battle with something called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which Wikipedia tells us "is a chronic inflammatory disease of the axial skeleton with variable involvement of peripheral joints and nonarticular structures. AS is a form of spondyloarthritis, a chronic, inflammatory arthritis where immune mechanisms are thought to have a key role."
Sottile realizes she and her husband are not alone: "Almost all of our friends are sick, too. When we met our friend Missy Narrance, Joe found solace in talking to her about his health. She’s 29 and has been battling lupus and fibromyalgia for the past 10 years."
And on and on. "In our close group of friends—who range from 25 to 35 years old—we know people with everything from tumors to chronic pain. Sometimes our conversations over beers on a Friday night turn to discussions of long-term care and miscommunication between doctors."
This is a valuable -- incredibly valuable -- observation. We need a widespread recognition that too many people are sick in disturbing new ways. So Sottile can be forgiven a conventional and not-so-valuable discussion of possible causes, from supposedly dangerous biofuels to the widespread but nonetheless wackadoodle hygiene hypothesis to the facts that people don't exercise and eat a lot of crap -- processed macaroni and cheese comes in for special scorn (in which case, I'm a dead man!). There's also this:
"Despite the fact that America shells out more money on healthcare than any other country in the world, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and a hefty 75 percent of those dollars are going toward aiding people with chronic conditions—almost half of American adults had at least one chronic condition in 2005."
You, dear AOA reader, will recognize the anomaly there -- it is probably not "despite" all this healthcare, aka toxic medical interventions, but in large measure because of them that this "emergency" of chronic illness, as Sottile properly labels it, is occurring. (Quoting the CDC on this, ground zero for the bloated vaccine schedule, is especially rich.)
Enjoy this Best Of....
By Dan Olmsted
Epidemics are simple, my colleague and co-author Mark Blaxill says. They have beginnings in time and place, they spread in ways that ultimately reveal their origins, and they end when their essence is understood and further cases are prevented.
The autism epidemic is no exception, although the medical-industrial complex wants you to think so, and the mainstream media is only too happy to grant their wish (and scoop up their ad dollars). Autism is a mystery, it's genetic, but many genes, many, many genes and gene-environment interactions and something something about older moms and better awareness and Prozac and maybe freeways and deisel fuel and icky stuff like that.
No! That is not the ticket.
Autism represents a particular kind of environmental injury in susceptible children. It had a precise beginning, in the 1930s when the chemical compound that caused the first cluster, ethyl mercury, was first commercialized. It simmered along as that exposure remained fairly steady for half a century. Then, like a raisin in the sun, it exploded a half century later when one of the commercial uses of ethyl mercury -- as a preservative in multidose childhood vaccines-- was suddenly ramped up.
Other manmade toxins, and other exposures from organic mercury developed in the interval, and the CDC's bloated, too many too soon vaccine schedule, no doubt kicked up the number of cases of early infant brain damage manifesting as the autistic behavioral syndrome. But the inauguration, and later the explosion, of ethyl mercury tracks clearly with the same trajectory as autism -- a real twofer! In a sense it is a challenge-rechallenge situation, the kind of evidence scientists consider proof of causation but, because it is autism, have to claim is coincidence.
But because it is so simple, and ultimately self-evident, it doesn't take very long to make the case -- just under 15 minutes, actually. This summer, Mark, Teresa Conrick, Natalie Palumbo and I told the first part of the story in a 10 minute video titled, How Mercury Triggered The Age of Autism.
It showed how we went from essentially zero cases before 1930 to the first 11, identified by Leo Kanner in his landmark 1943 medical paper, Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact. Those families' backgrounds, we showed, had an astonishing and otherwise inexplicable link to the new ethyl mercury compounds-- in agriculture via seed disinfectants and lumber preservatives, and in medicine for multidose vials of ethyl mercury-preserved diphtheria toxoid vaccines.
For God's sake, the father of Case 2 was a plant pathologist at North Carolia State whose first paper in his archive there is an experiment with mercury! The archives contain a notation that he was working with ethyl mercury in 1936 at the same time his son was born. This fact, confirmed by a brochure for the product in his archives, is the smoking gun of the autism epidemic, we've argued.
Now cut to exactly 50 years later. In 1986, Congress approved the Vaccine Injury Compensation Act, and despite its helpful sounding name, all hell broke loose -- hell in the form of the autism epidemic. Since then, autism has soared by a factor of 10 or 20 times, as the number of vaccines increased as a result of the liability-free world the act created for the pharmaceutical companies. The amount of mercury kids were getting tripled, and the timing got far more dangerous -- flu shots with mercury for pregnant women, HepB shots for babies within hours of birth.
Editor's note: This week Contributing Editor Dan Burns and I discuss the year ahead at Age of Autism and in the parent-led vaccine injury advocacy movement. Thanks to Dan B. for facilitating this. And thanks to all of you for your readership in 2013. The image from the cover of Kyoto magazine is one I reference in the video. It represents where the medical-industrial complex and mainstream media are right now -- thinking that they've fired winning salvos in their total war on microbes (and people like us!), but in line to receive an unpleasant surprise of their own making. -- Dan Olmsted
If Katie Couric's show on HPV vaccine side effects -- you know, fainting, permanent disability, painful injection sites, death, stuff like that -- didn't convince people that the vaccine is not worth the risk, the comment threads on Katie's blogs surely should have.
Any reasonable person, reading story after story by parents and teenage girls alike about the amazingly similar onset of amazingly similar problems, would set aside the "correlation is not causation" defense and realize what we're really dealing with here: vaccine injury and vaccine injury denial.
That makes it all the more unfortunate that obvious pharma pressure led Katie to take it all back on the Huffington Post. In retrospect this has been The Year of Taking It All Back. Age of Autism was invited to be part of a journalism blog conference at Columbia School of Journalism. Then we were disinvited. A House hearing was planned on the vaccine injury compensation program. Oops, postponed indefinitely.
But word is out, and it can't be unsaid. For that, Katie still deserves our thanks.
The Gardasil story is so powerful because many of the victims are able to speak for themselves. But that doesn't make vaccine injury in infants any less convincing. I was struck by this comment this week on AOA by Warrior Mom:
I am a convinced mom that my son has regressive autism because he too had reactions after getting his vaccines. He had full body convulsions within 10 minutes of getting his shots at 3 months and 12 months. At 6 months he was hospitalized about 6 hours after getting his vaccines for respiratory issues (he had a slight cold the day he was vaccinated).
At 15 months he got his MMR with other shots and screamed for three days straight. I believe this vaccine was the most damaging. Each time we lost a little of him. By 22 months his language skills had REGRESSED to that of a 2 month old.
Our son's pediatrician kept telling us after each event that our son was fine. Our son is 14 yo now and we've worked hard to gain back some language, although to most people it is unintelligible. He struggles severely with his attention which makes it near impossible for him to focus to learn.
Our son's pediatrician never filed a VAERS but I did once I realized and linked all of the vaccine reactions together. I know our son will never be compensated for his vaccine-inflicted, lifelong disability because of the massive cover-up by our government and vaccine manufacturers.
What needs to happen to make our voices heard LOUDER? I'm so incredibly frustrated that we (the families and supporters) have not been able to get vaccine manufacturers and the CDC to compensate us for damages and lifelong care costs for our beloved family members damaged by vaccines.
Any reasonable person can see what's going on there, too.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
By Dan Olmsted
On July 3, 1940, Winston Churchill ordered the British fleet to sink French ships clustered off the coast of Algeria, lest they fall into the hands of the Nazis.
"An hour and a half later, the British Fleet attacked," according to Historian on the Warpath. "In less than ten minutes, 1,297 French soldiers were dead and three battleships were sunk. One battleship and five destroyers managed to escape."
This is the utilitarian principle pure and simple -- "the belief that the value of a thing or an action is determined by its utility," as the Free Dictionary puts it. Killing 1,297 of your allies to avoid hardware from falling into the enemies' hands, in hopes of winning a world war against pure evil, was justified in the circumstances, Churchill believed. History hasn't argued with him.
But few concepts are more vulnerable to corruption than utilitarianism, especially when it comes to human beings. If you're going to argue that some lives are more important than others, you'd better have a pretty convincing case. And you'd better make the tradeoff clear so people can decide if they are in favor of it.
That kind of corruption underlies vaccine injury denialism -- the hell with your child's death or disability from vaccine injury, the denialists implicitly argue, disease prevention is a greater good worth your sacrifice. But rather than acknowledge this -- that some lives matter more than others in this calculation, and they aren't yours -- they simply deny the injury. No one -- no real live child, teenager, or adult, and certainly not tens, hundreds, or hundreds of thousands of them -- must be allowed on the public record to have suffered from a demonstrable vaccine injury. Someone somewhere theoretically maybe, but not here and now, not on a comment thread, not in the form of a mom telling in anguished detail how her child died immediately following a vaccination. Not ever.
You could call this the Vioxx defense. While it is a given to objective observers that the painkiller was vastly overprescribed and Merck recklessly killed tens of thousands, and suppressed data that should have warned it and everyone else, the company chose to fight every individual claim in court. That led to enough mixed verdicts that plaintiffs eventually agreed to a $5 billion settlement, a blip on Merck's revenue radar. The creator of that strategy was promoted to head of Merck, where he remains, (Also a board member at Penn State, he was briefly put in charge of investigating the Sandusky scandal, until wiser heads saw that was a clear conflict of interest, something that never happens in Vaccine World).
Merck to victims: OK, maybe Vioxx killed tens of thousands, but it didn't kill YOU! Sue us!
Now another Merck vaccine, Gardasil, is getting the Vioxx defense. Shrieking trolls like the aptly named "lilady" (I pronounce it lie-lady) and law professors who've never passed the bar exam clutter up Katie Couric's website to dispute every parental account of damage from the vaccine, including the deaths of children.
What really underlies their argument, once again, is the utilitarian principle -- that death and injury from the vaccine are trumped by the public policy objective of reducing the supposed deaths that would occur from not using Garasil. But that principle can't withstand scrutiny. Not when it comes to a dubious vaccine produced by a corrupt manufacturer with an appalling track record of insufficient safety testing, and strong evidence of damage to real people in the real world. This of course is the whole corrupt meme that's slowly being dismembered, as vaccine injury from the bloated CDC schedule becomes widespread and affects older children and adults whose experience can be documented and recounted. In particular, the vaccine "court" coverup of the link with autism -- the link being that the creation of the court itself triggered the autism epidemic -- comes into clear view, thanks to thousands of parents and the dynamite article, "Unanswered Questions," by Holland et al.
The vaccine injury denialists are stuck defending a situation in which more people are harmed by prevention than the diseases supposedly being prevented. And that's not even utilitarianism!
Call them the futilitarians. Or maybe the F-U-tilitarians. Every once in a while the grinning death's head does shine through: the hell with your child's death or disability from vaccine injury.
From John Stone: "Ken Reibel puts his foot in his mouth on Katie's blog. I have commented: "Seasoned vaccines public relations professional Ken Reibel admits below that HPV vaccines may have seriously injured as many as 4000 girls in the US and argues that this is acceptable collateral damage for the program:
"'Of the 22,000 HPV vaccine related VAERS reports filed from 2006 to 3/2013, 92% were non-serious (fainting, soreness at injection site, nausea, etc.) So that leaves 1,760 "serious" reports. Even if we double that number and round up to 4,000, it comes nowhere near the 50,000 cases of cervical cancer reported in the US since 2006.'"
Four thousand serious injuries that include deaths. A trifle.
The matching fund drive for AOA that began last week ended Thursday night, and Kim, Mark and I are pleased to report that we (meaning you) met and exceeded the goal. An anonymous donor put up $3,000 and challenged readers to match it, which you did and more. We will put this to good use in meeting operating expenses and developing new projects.
We had about 60 donations that ranged from $5 to $500. The number who gave in just 10 days really amazed us -- we've never come close to that figure before. We are mindful that this is a community without a lot to spare after confronting the costs of a major disability AND working to help their kids recover, and so I think we tend to hold back, not unreasonably.
Our A.D. had no such qualms in urging us on, and is over the moon with the response:
"Thank you for sharing the GREAT news, Dan! The amount raised is indeed wonderful, and it was my pleasure to help out. An honest, truth-seeking, truth-spilling blog like this is so important in this age of bought-and-paid-for media and wealth-over-health "medicine"…and Age of Autism makes it happen, day in and day out. I eagerly log in to AoA every day to read some REAL news, news that is important and encouraging to me. A heartfelt thank you to each of you." And to all of you.
Senseless: The sad news this week about the death of Chandler Webb, 19, after a flu shot is a reminder of the reality of what the medical professionals call an idiosyncratic reaction. (He also got either a TB test or shot, depending on the account.) With no evident risk factors in this young Utah man who was heading off on a Mormon mission, there was no predicting he would suffer a reaction. So why take the risk at all? A flu shot for a 19-year-old does not qualify except in the CDC's fevered imagination .
By Dan Olmsted
We are nearly at the halfway point in our $3,000 matching fund drive to support Age of Autism's mission to, well, end the age of autism. A kind anonymous donor has offered to match any donations up to that cumulative total, ending Thanksgiving night. That means anything you give by then will be worth exactly twice as much, unless you give a million dollars, in which case it will be worth about $1,001,500. We will worry about it when it happens.
A more reasonable approach was suggested by our regular commenter Twyla: "If: 2 dozen readers give $25, and 2 dozen readers give $50, and 1 dozen readers give $100, the goal will be met! C'mon people, give what you can!"
"Anonymous Donor" chimed in: "Twyla is correct! Please, give as generously as you can to keep AoA going strong, especially in today's extremely hostile climate towards those with 'autism' and vaccine injuries of all sorts. If you appreciate a truthful, timely, and intelligent news source, then please help keep Age of Autism alive and running!"
Thanks Twyla and A.D., thanks to our entire AOA community, and happy Thanksgiving week.
A few years ago I was at a small dinner hosted by a lovely retired psychoanalyst. She had invited an interesting mix of folks. But like a potluck, you never quite know what you'll get. One woman was a real annoyance. She kept introducing strange topics and expounding on them at clueless length.
No one said anything, but when the hostess and I were at the sink doing dishes, she used the cover provided by running water, and another language, to lean over and whisper conspiratorially, "Ces idees sont fou!" My French ended in freshman year, but it was enough to get her meaning -- These ideas are crazy! We smiled. Enough said.
There are a number of crazy ideas rolling around the autism world right now, and like hydroponic lettuce that doesn't require dirt to grow, they are not grounded in anything. One instance that makes the point involves a video we posted of Rolf Hazlehurst at the recent congressional briefing. After a few days, some glitch In the video caused our home page to take readers to that post rather than the top of the home page.
As we told readers, we had to take the post down and find a different video link, which we did. It is now back up.
But oh the ideas that get into some people's heads! Supposedly we "deleted" the video for some obscure reason having to do with the Canary Party, which sponsored the briefing and is also a sponsor (I confess! Shoot me now) of AOA. I tried explaining what really happened to one web conspiracist, saying I "just want to make sure you hear that personally from me."
No luck: "Given the circumstances, I cannot take your word for why the video was taken down." (What circumstances?) That's what made me think of the dinner party and my host's quiet comment: Ces idees sont fou.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
By Dan Olmsted
Age of Autism started as a blog six years ago this week, and our signal accomplishment, to quote Sondheim, is that we're still here. A number of other publication have come and gone, changed venues and editors and formats and focus. We at Age of Autism remain committed, somewhat paradoxically, to ending the age of autism. But until that day comes, you can count on Kim and Mark and me and our valued Contributing Editors and sponsors to keep up our daily pirate radio broadcasts, so to speak, to our fellow members of the rebel alliance. You know who you are, and you know why we're here.
I've often said that "the glory" of Age of Autism is the community that has grown up around it, a community visible every day in the comment section that accompanies each story. Recently your voices seem louder and stronger than ever, reflected not only in the daily "hits" on our site, but in the hard-hitting, thoughtful and revealing comments.
Of course, strong comments follow strong content, and a number of posts recently have stirred fascinating response threads. The Canary Party's Not a Coincidence video on Gardasil Vaccine injury, Rolf Hazlehurst's eloquent explanation of the vaccine court catastrophe, Cat Jamison on bullying parents over vaccine concerns, Julie Obradovic on Jon Stewart's casual cruelty, Laura Hayes on questions to ask vaccine injury deniers have tapped into a deep vein.
That's kind of a theme lately. I must say that the festering nastiness (many of you will recognize that phrase) of the so-called skeptics -- those who believe their superior access to the Great God Science entitles them to hurl Old-Testament style damnation upon heretics who witnessed their child's vaccine injury and want to alert fellow parents -- is a continuing astonishment, even six years on.
Newcomers, like the coldly vile Doris Reiss and execrable Emily Willingham, pop up to replace flameouts like former cupcake writer, now formally employed pharma shill Trine Tsouderos. Reliable goofs like David "I'm an assistant professor, don't cross me" Gorski soldier on. Dave has been complaining lately that AOA, which he calls "the anti-vaccine crank blog," has been ignoring his puerile logorrhea, so let me throw him a namecheck: I've been working on a piece that will blend post-modern deconstructionist literary criticism with neo-Freudian analysis, with the working title: "Scatology as Signifier: Fecal Imagery as Impacted Self-Loathing in the Work of David Gorski."
I'm loathe to highlight individual comments by our readers, but for our anniversary I'll make an exception and end with this observation from Cia Parker about Little Dorit on Emily Willingham's blog about the execrable, coldly vile Vaccine Injury Compenstion Àct:
"So this law is saying that it's all right to damage children with vaccines, that causing a high percentage of vaxed children to get asthma, allergies, ADHD, seizure disorders, bowel disease, and/or autism, is all right as long as very few get measles or chickenpox. That parents are ignorant if we refuse the vaccines, that we're deluded if we see our children react to vaccines with severe damage and report what we saw, like hundreds of thousands of others are doing. ...
By Dan Olmsted
If I were to commit a crime in Tennessee, I would have but one wish: not to be prosecuted by Rolf Hazlehurst.
Rolf is part Atticus Finch and part Sam Waterston on Law and Order, and all about bringing justice for his son, Yates, justice so far denied by the vaccine "court" autism omnibus proceeding, of which Yates was the second test case.
Rolf is an Assistant District Attorney General for the State of Tennessee, a criminal prosecutor in the aforementioned mold. Thursday at the congressional briefing leading up to the House reform committee hearings on vaccine court next month, he made clear he was not speaking in his official capacity.
But he also made clear that he has the goods on the sleazy, corrupt and in fact criminal behavior engaged in by HHS attorneys to hide the evidence that his son and so many others were vaccine-injured and now face a lifetime of the neurological catastrophe called autism.
Hazelhurst described how he virtually stumbled across two contradictory opinions by the same Johns Hopkins neurologist about whether vaccines cause autism, and how the government's lawyers deep-sixed one of them and trumpeted the other. As officers of the court, lawyers can't do that, and it really irritates Hazlehurst, to use a mild word, to see his profession pervert the course of justice.
Experts can change their minds, Hazlehurst said, but "What is wrong is for the United States government when faced with one expert with two opinions to use the opinion which is favorable and conceal the one that is not, especially when you consider that the entire purpose of this proceeding was to determine if vaccines can cause autism, and if so under what conditions.
"Well, the government's expert witness in neurology put in writing, yes, vaccines cause autism. Here's how vaccines cause autism. And the Department of Justice and HHS concealed it."
"The bottom line is that during the autism omnibus proceedings, the United States Department of Justice, representing the United States Department of Health and Human Services, willfully and intentionally concealed critical material evidence about how vaccines cause autism. ...
"Let me put that in perspective for you. If I did to a criminal, in a United States court of law, what the Department of Justice did to vaccine-injured children in the so-called vaccine court, I would be disbarred and I would be facing criminal charges."
To personalize the issue -- and believe me, this is both personal and professional in equal measure -- if Rolf did to a criminal what they did to Yates and so many others, he'd be in jail. I think the logical corollary is that they should be, too.
The wheels of Justice turn slowly, but I'm hopeful that Rolf will be allowed to tell his story at the congressional hearing next month. It needs to be heard, and he is the one to tell it.
So do the words of Mary Holland, who also spoke at the briefing, outlining the Unanswered Questions study that links vaccine court rulings and autism. Let's remember the court ruled that out of 5,000 or so cases, not a single one was triggered by vaccines, Hannah Poling notwithstanding.
We first ran this post in November of 2010. Fall is time for the flu shot push from coast to coast.
By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
Seventy-three years ago, Elizabeth Peabody Trevett, a pediatrician and pioneer in promoting mass vaccination for infants, gave birth to a boy named John who became the seventh child ever diagnosed with autism. She presumably vaccinated her baby, and perhaps herself while pregnant, with the same shots she administered to her own patients. One of those shots, the newly developed diphtheria toxoid, was the first to contain the ethyl mercury preservative, thimerosal.
Today, pediatricians and public health officials scoff at concerns that thimerosal, still used today in most flu shots recommended for all pregnant women and infants older than 6 months, could cause autism. But after researching our new book, "The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic," we are much less sanguine about such an outcome.
Our conclusion: The facts of Case 7 fit with a common familial background exposure in the first cases to newly commercialized ethyl mercury compounds in agriculture and vaccines. They suggest children, then as now, are at risk from the dangerous and indefensible practice of injecting them with mercury for the stated purpose of protecting their health.
Elizabeth Peabody Trevett graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and won a fellowship to Harvard where she was one of seven pediatricians who pioneered the well-baby visit – at which vaccines are routinely administered. Her son John was born in November 1937. She subsequently divorced her husband, psychiatrist Laurence Trevett, and resumed using her maiden name, Peabody.
A few years later, back in Maryland, she was quoted about the importance of vaccination in an Annapolis newspaper article: “Too many parents, said Dr. Peabody, have the proper shots given and then relax, forgetting that booster shots are needed and that immunization does wear off. Speaking specifically of some of the most prevalent ailments, she stated that a child cannot be vaccinated against smallpox too often and it should be done for the first time when a baby is between three months and one year of age. In the case of diphtheria, booster shots are extremely important.”
Diphtheria was the first mass vaccine to contain thimerosal, starting in the 1930s just as the first autism cases were identified. It would have been widely available at a teaching hospital like Harvard at the time John was born.
Following her passion for public health, Elizabeth Peabody later set up a well-baby clinic in Iraq, again emphasizing the importance of vaccinating thousands of babies, and then joined the Public Health Service in Atlanta as a regional administrator for children’s health programs.
As flu season kicks into high gear this year in the United States, infants, pregnant women and nursing mothers are among the millions of Americans whom public health officials are urging with unprecedented fervor to get a flu shot. Because most flu shots contain mercury, and because the CDC has declined to express a preference for giving these groups a mercury-free version, this means millions of the most vulnerable among us are getting a significant dose of the dangerous neurotoxin – some at grocery stores and airports and retailers, some without even having to get out of their car. Tracking short-term, localized and mild adverse reactions would seem difficult, and following up on any associations with the onset of chronic or delayed outcomes like autism all but impossible.
UPDATE: Well, that was quick. Shortly after this article was posted, Columbia Journalism School withdrew their invitation, saying that after further review, "Age of Autism does take a clear position on the link between vaccines and the incidence of Autism, also engaging in advocacy on that position. Therefore we must disqualify the site from our study." The same person said, when inviting us in August: "I'm also a huge fan of The Age of Autism, how you've built and sustained an enriching and focused platform. It's a huge pleasure to invite you to join a community at Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism. ... What you're doing is part of a wave in the journalism world that the Tow Center wants to bring together and highlight as a trend." We warned them to expect to hear from critics but were told, "Thank you Dan for the head's up but we are happy to have you!" Que sera, sera.
Age of Autism is honored to announce we have been chosen as part of Columbia Journalism School's inaugural Single Subject News Network. An initiative of Columbia's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, the network "connects news websites that focus on one subject on an in-depth level, filling the gaps in mainstream media and innovating models for journalism."
On the weekend of November 9, the Tow Center "will host a series of panels amongst students, industry, and an elite class of 20 single subject news publishers selected by the program." I'll be on a panel discussing how to create community around a niche topic.
We really are in elite company with these other 19 online journalism sites, and as the network rolls out the names, and talks more about the increasing role that online, in-depth, independent journalism is playing in the evolving media universe, we'll keep you posted. This is a strong acknowledgement of the work all of us in the AOA community have done going on six years next month -- Kim and Mark, our tireless Contributing Editors, our valued commenters and faithful readers, sponsors and advertisers.
Meanwhile please do me a personal favor -- go to Facebook and Like the Single Subject News Network.
This week I was watching Morning Joe when they had a segment on a new Frontline episode and book on the NFL's concussion crisis, called League of Denial. It's fascinating and instructive to watch an issue reach critical mass and break through the media barriers that keep big institutions from being held to account. The NFL is having its moment of karma right now, with the widespread recognition that it has failed to tackle the problem and in fact done a massive end-run around it for a long time, even as the damage piled up like players falling on a goal-line fumble.
I grabbed my composition book and took some notes of comments from the two authors: "a trajectory of denial over a period of two decades" ... A pattern of "attacking the scientists" whose honest research raised warning flags ... A legal settlement admitting no culpability ... But change is coming from the bottom up: "suburban mothers aren't letting their kids play as much as they used to," and that will affect the NFL down the road ... Change is "around kids' mothers making these decisions ... If ten percent of mothers decide it's too dangerous, that's the end of football as we know it."
This all seems more than vaguely familiar, doesn't it, dear readers of Age of Autism?
Bill Gates has not been having a good week. His old Microsoft buddy Steve Balmer made a weepy hyperactive exit in a Seattle amphitheater, a tacit acknowledgment that Microsoft has pretty much lost its way and is in need of a strategic reboot.
Then some minority shareholders started agitating for Gates himself to be replaced as chairman. I have to say I forgot he was still chairman, given all the focus in recent years on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its massive worldwide health programs.
The implication seems to be that Gates has forgotten it, too. The Daily Beast captured the sentiment in its overline to the story about investors wanting Gates removed: "Go build a well."
If only he would. The foundation, as people familiar with the autism-vaccine battle will know, is on a massive technological mission to reduce infant mortality by a huge percentage, wipe out polio completely, and contain any number of endemic illnesses, particularly malaria. The weapon: Vaccines.
Gates points to the fact that infant deaths have declined from 12 million to 6 million a year, and the goal is to get that to one million. With vaccines. And he says polio is now endemic to only three nations -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria -- and can be ended like smallpox in the next few years. With vaccines. After that -- measles. With vaccines.
As Gates said in a recent interview at Harvard, what this is about is "mostly vaccines" -- billions of dollars to distribute, inject and develop billions of vaccines. The problem, in my view, is that Gates has made a huge mistake by dismissing the vaccine safety debate that centers around autism in the United States but really involves the whole rise of chronic disorders in children worldwide.
So while Gates spearheads a campaign that mostly means vaccines, vaccines, and more vaccines, kids keep getting sicker and sicker. But don't try telling Gates that. Dissonant voices are baby killers, as he framed the issue in commenting on Andy Wakefield's work.
How Gates got it so wrong is a fascinating question. He's obviously brilliant, but listening to the Harvard interview, it's also obvious that his particular kind of intelligence is not well suited to his current mission. In a sentence, Gates information-gathering style could be described as, "I love learning important things from established experts."
He waxes enthusiastic that The Great Courses is "finally" streaming their material, and talks about the meteorological offering with the enthusiasm of a Harvard freshman. He loves engaging with the brilliant minds who help decide health programs for the foundation -- why, he was in Boston to meet with some of them at the time of the September 24 interview. Life is one big Coursera series. But no, he says, his excess IQ capacity doesn't totally translate outside his own computer/math field. There's no way to catch up to the knowledge base of the experts, he says.
So, basically, he listens, and he trusts them. Why am I thinking of Steve Jobs and his "Think Different" campaign? Gates references Jobs several times in the interview and talks about how Jobs went on to develop so many other products. He sounds wistful, actually. Both men were born in 1955. Gates sounds like his own contributions, while certainly valuable in both a practical and business sense, are not that big a deal to him -- if he hadn't done it, someone else would have come along with the brains and vision to create the PC software revolution.
So he needs a second act, one in which the fortune he built is now harnessed to save the world. Maybe somebody else could have pioneered software, but THIS a legacy no one else could achieve! It's a kind of double immortality, an immunization against not living up to his own Platonic idea (see Gatsby, Jay).
Jobs had a second act after the revolution, and it made him the Edison of the Information Age. Gates' second act is his effort to save the world, but in relying too much on traditional thinking and the experts who teach him about it, he's making a hash of things. Jobs is known for saying he wanted to put "a dent in the universe." The universe is putting a dent in Bill Gates.
Adding to the pathos is that Gates' other mission, along with global health, is K-12 education in the United States. Lord knows it needs help, with American kids falling behind other countries in almost every category.
The problem -- again, from our perspective here at Age of Autism -- is that the "matter" with kids today is not just curriculum or teacher competence or federal or state spending or too much TV. It's that kids are damaged, with one in six suffering from a developmental disorder, and more than half dealing with chronic illnesses. How does this not become the central issue in preparing kids for a healthy, fulfilling, competitive life?
Most of that damage is due to the bloated CDC vaccination schedule and other wild and crazy medical interventions of our pharma-phocused, statist health care system. We're messing these kids up to the point they can't learn: Something like two in five who actually get to college can't do the work without remedial help, and SAT scores are flat for the fifth year, we learned this week. Where are the results, Bill?
Global health and American educational competitiveness are both suffering from the same root ailment, and Bill Gates is not helping at all. In fact, he's hurting his causes. That's the stuff of tragedy.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.