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328 posts categorized "Dan Olmsted "

Help Make "How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism" Go Viral

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

Does everyone have nine minutes to spare to stop the autism epidemic? I am counting on it.

Last weekend, we debuted a nine minute (ok, nine minute and eight second) video at Autism One. We also ran it at the top of our site, in a banner above our logo (where it still resides), and in a note From the Editor.

Well, here we go again. Nothing we've accomplished takes precedence over the evidence we've dug up about the 11 cases of autism reported by Leo Kanner in 1943. I see sharing this evidence as an urgent moral imperative, and I'll risk being redundant or looking naive in order to do it.

So if I can call in one favor after 10 years of chasing the autism story, this is it -- help us spread this video!

In my last Age of Autism column before being laid off at UPI in 2007, titled The Last Word, I singled out four areas I had reported on, including the fact that the mainstream press coverage of autism stunk bigtime, that the MMRV looked even more dangerous than the MMR, and that some less vaccinated folks like the Amish appeared to have less autism and hence a vax-unvax study would be worth doing. 

"The Age of Autism columns that may mean the most over time (IMHO, of course) are about the first cases of autism," I wrote then, noting that Mark Blaxill and I had uncovered several to that point.

Now, in partnership with Teresa Conrick, we're up to eight out of 11 and still on the case every day, because each one we find strengthens the case that ethylmercury -- first used in seed and lumber treatments and, yes, vaccines -- triggered the Age of Autism. 

Public health officials and pediatricians, as you know, say no. It's safe as mother's milk. It's the nice mercury, mercury lite, E-Z Xcrete mercury, the "gentle bacteriostat," as Paul Offit calls it. They go right on injecting thimerosal into 84 million children worldwide every year -- their proud figure, not mine -- even as they claim it was "taken out" of childhood vaccines in the U.S. but the autism rate keeps rising.

This is Orwellian. First, the latest apples-to-apples CDC figures on autism are for children born in 2000. Second, it's not out, not by a long shot. Here's how Reuters drinks the Kool-aid: "With the exception of some types of flu shots, the compound is not used in vaccines in the United States, which are distributed in single-dose vials."

In other words, with the exception of flu shots now recommended for every pregnant woman and all four million babies born in the United States every year, the compound is not used in vaccines in the United States. 

Continue reading "Help Make "How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism" Go Viral" »

New Video: How Mercury Triggered The Age of Autism

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill. Motion design by Natalie Palumbo. With Special Thanks to Teresa Conrick. View YouTube Link How Mercury Triggered The Age of Autism here.  We will be discussing this video and more this morning at 8:30 at Autism One in the Louvre Room.

Weekly Wrap: Gag Me

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

There's a moment in the 1950 movie Born Yesterday where the malaprop-prone Judy Holliday says, "This country and its institutions belong to the people who inhibit it." I'm starting to think Judy got that exactly right.

It's hard to conclude otherwise after this week's Columbia Journalism Review piece that singled out me and AOA (flattered, to tell you the truth), and said we were mangy dogs, all right, but that even balanced coverage of the vaccine-autism debate is, effectively, killing babies. It reminds me of the time after 9/11. If you criticized the invasion of Iraq, the terrorists win. If you didn't go shopping, the terrorists win.

Why not just root for the terrorists since about anything you did or didn't do would help them win?  It's more straightforward that way.

Nowadays, if you echo, let's say, Darrell Issa or Elijah Cummings or the late great Bernadine Healy, not to mention Andy Wakefield, and ask questions about vaccines and autism or even, apparently, quote those people disapprovingly, the babykillers win. Perhaps the most exotic babykiller allegation I came across was the idea that Susan Dominus's whack job on Andy Wakefield in The New York Times shouldn't have been published either -- even viciously anti-anti-vaccine attack pieces kill babies by continuing to bring up the subject.

Seriously, they do! Paul Raeburn said so on the Knight Journalism at MIT blog in 2011:

"So why would the Times do this story now?

"Here's why not to do it: I believe that this story will prompt more parents to refuse to vaccinate their children. Some of those children will suffer or die from illnesses that the vaccines would have prevented.

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: Gag Me" »

Protocol 007: Merck Denies Fraud, But Feds Seek New Mumps Vaccine as Cases Spread


Mumps


By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Scattered mumps outbreaks – possibly underreported by the CDC – are reinforcing longstanding concern that Merck’s mumps vaccine is failing far more often than it should.
 
The outbreaks come as Merck defends itself in federal court against a whistleblower lawsuit filed last year claiming it faked data to mask the low efficacy of the mumps component of its MMRII vaccine. Within the company, according to the suit, the effort was known as Protocol 007.
 
In a filing earlier this year, Merck denied wrongdoing and said it stands by its claim that the vaccine is 96 percent effective. It asked the judge to dismiss the claim and pointedly noted that U.S. Justice Department officials have so far not joined on the whistleblower's behalf -- a move that often spells the difference in court.
 
But the government seems anxious despite Merck’s reassurances – just as the whistleblower suit was unsealed, Age of Autism has learned, health officials awarded almost $2 million to a research team at the University of Georgia. The goal: Find a much better mumps vaccine, in a hurry. “The fact that outbreaks had occurred in populations with over 95% coverage of two-dose [mumps] vaccine strongly suggests that the current vaccine is not effective,” according to project information filed by Biao He, a researcher at the University of Georgia who received the $1.8 million grant.

According to a recent filing by the whistleblowers: "The government has not joined in Merck's current motion [to dismiss the case] and has made no decision on the current Complaint. Instead, it has taken a 'wait and see' approach requesting that it be served with all pleadings, motions and court orders in this case, and that its consent be obtained before the case is settled, dismissed or discontinued.

"While the Department of Justice has chosen to sit on the sidelines of this case for now, both the FDA and its sister agency, the National Institute of Health, have since the complaint was filed begun to take steps to address the failure of Merck's mumps vaccine. The FDA has initiated its own study to determine the vaccine's efficacy, acknowledging that the recent mumps outbreak 'indicat[es] lower vaccine efficacy than previously estimated.' The NIH has gone even further. It is funding the University of Georgia to develop a new mumps vaccine because the recent outbreaks 'strongly suggest that the current vaccine is not effective.'"

Merck continues to state that its mumps vaccine is highly effective, as shown in this ad filed with the court by the whistleblowers; it claims 96 percent efficacy for the mumps portion of the MMRII -- in other words, 96 out of 100 people who get the shot are protected from the mumps virus: 


Mumps ad

Continue reading "Protocol 007: Merck Denies Fraud, But Feds Seek New Mumps Vaccine as Cases Spread" »

Weekly Wrap: 1 in 25

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend two talks by Andy Wakefield a stone's throw from my home in Northern Virginia. One, a fund-raiser, included talks by David Lewis and Patrick Tierney, two friends of our community who know a thing or two about the suppression of unpleasant science.

The other was a public event, at which Josie Nelson and Louise Kuo Habakus also spoke. Louise has the most polished, impressive presentation of how to take responsibility for your own vaccine choices that I've ever heard. I hope she is called on to share it far and wide (and I'm reminded why AOA named her Person of the Year a few years back).

There were a couple of families in the crowd with adorable infants, and if anyone could help them understand the issues, it was Louise.

Andy updated everyone on his defamation suit against Brian Deer and the BMJ, which now awaits a jurisdictional appeal in Texas. One thing Andy said that really struck me: The autism rate is now 1 in 25. It's happening, it's set in stone, nothing will change it in this cohort of kids.

He didn't elaborate, but he didn't really need to. At the rate of increase, how could it not hit 1 in 25? Only the manipulations of the DSM and the CDC will change it, absent a clear-eyed look at the real cause. (Speaking of which, how about Rep. Posey's speech? He is going to be a must-see at Autism One.)

One in 25 -- that's a rate of one autistic child in every homeroom. Just like the old days.

Josie Nelson gave a wonderful intro, a ringing defense of free speech and independent thinking when it comes to vaccine safety. I asked her to share it with me so I could share it with you:

"Last fall, I said to Brooke Potthast and a room of about…oh twelve other people…that one of my goals for 2013 was to help create an educational event around vaccine exemption rights for our local community.  I don’t think any of us imagined we’d be standing with Louise Habakus and Dr. Andrew Wakefield just a few short months later.  What a treat!  

"And why, might you ask, would any sane person choose to talk about this subject in the first place?  While increasing numbers of parents, scientists, and health practitioners have questions about the size of the CDC recommended vaccine schedule, the signs and symptoms of vaccine injury, and conflicts of interest in the vaccine industry, to be curious about these issues is an easy route to hearing oneself labeled: threat to public health, unscientific, emotional, and even anti-vaccine.  As a consequence, conversations about this important topic tend to take place with pointed fingers and with raised voices, or behind closed doors and in hushed tones; and sometimes, sadly, they don’t take place at all.

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: 1 in 25" »

AOA EXCLUSIVE -- Her Name Was Vivian: Clues From the Age of Autism’s First-Born Child

Vivian ancestry

By Teresa Conrick, Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
 
We found her.
 
Eight years after setting out to identify the 11 children in the first medical report of autism, we have found “Virginia S.”, the eldest child in that landmark paper -- and thus the first-born child of the Age of Autism.

Her real name: Vivian Ann Murdock. Born in 1931, Vivian was placed in a Maryland institution at age 6 and died in a state-run home in 1987, age 56. She was the daughter of a prominent Baltimore psychiatrist, Harry M. Murdock, and his wife, Margaret.

Rosewood2
The Rosewood State Training School, Owings Mills, MD Stuart Dahne Photography

The key to finding her real name was the recent online publication of the 1940 U.S. Census – allowing one of us (Teresa) to test her hunch about the institution to which"Virginia" had been committed as a child: The Rosewood School in Owings Mills. The hunch was correct; the Census listed an "Inmate" there named Vivian Murdock, age 8 in 1940, who we conclusively identified as "Virginia S."

In Dan and Mark's The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, published in 2010, we described the seven children we'd identified to that point, and wrote of “Virginia”: “We continue to search for this eldest child of the Age of Autism and whatever clues her identity may hold.”
 
Now, having spoken with family members, and pored over countless records and archives, we believe her identity does offer important clues, ones remarkably consistent with the other cases in that first report -- exposure to new mercury compounds in their families. 
 
Vivian was directly in the path of at least three mercury vectors:

-- the first use of mercury-preserved vaccines in Baltimore -- a drive to vaccinate every infant with those shots began the month she was born;

-- her parents' avocation of orchid growing and breeding, which required intensive application of chemicals including mercury;

-- and her father’s psychiatric career, which brought him – and probably his family through second-hand exposure – in contact with mercury treatments for a common form of insanity.

Mercury is no longer used in agriculture or mental health treatment. But each year, 100 million children worldwide get vaccines containing thimerosal, the ethylmercury preservative first used in those shots in Baltimore. In the United States, flu shots, most of which contain mercury, are recommended for pregnant women and for infants beginning at 6 months of age.

Our research on Vivian and the other first cases of autism suggests that is a very bad idea. 

Vivian’s identity also offers insight into how the damaging idea of “refrigerator parents” – supposedly cold and neglectful mothers and fathers responsible for causing their children's disorder -- got its start. We will explain these clues and conclusions in detail, but first the basics about the discovery of Vivian Murdock.

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Seventy years ago this month, in April 1943, a psychiatry journal called The Nervous Child published an article titled “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.” Written by Leo Kanner, a Johns Hopkins child psychiatrist who is widely considered the founder of the field, it begins:
 
“SINCE 1938, there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that each case merits -- and, I hope, will eventually receive -- a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities.” Elsewhere, he called it "a behavior pattern not known to me or anyone else theretofore."
 
The three of us have always found those words remarkable, coming as they did from an acknowledged authority who eight years earlier had catalogued every known childhood mental disability in his landmark 500-page book  “Child Psychiatry.” Those pages contained not a whisper of autism, or anything that in retrospect looks similar.
 
Our own research convinced us the autism rate before 1930 was effectively zero (it is now 1 in 50). A handful of cases over several centuries might conceivably qualify, but there was nothing approaching the cluster of children whose worried parents brought them to see Leo Kanner in the years between 1938 and 1943.
 
Curious whether the family backgrounds of those first 11 cases might point to common environmental exposures, we began trying to identify them in 2005. The eight boys and three girls were described in the paper only by a first name and last initial. But because Kanner gave birth years for each child, we knew that “Virginia S.” was the oldest; her birthday was listed as September 13, 1931. Even as the number of autistic children seen by Kanner rose in later years, none appears to have been born earlier. (In a 1955 update, Kanner revisited his first 42 cases. The oldest autistic person at that point was 24 -- born in 1931 and presumably Virginia S.)

 We began our hunt with Kanner’s original 1943 "Autistic Disturbances" report and a follow-up paper he wrote in 1971. (In the latter paper, he slipped once and referred to “Virginia S.” by what we now know is her real first name, Vivian.) In “Autistic Disturbances,” he quoted a psychologist noting that Virginia “could respond to sounds, the calling of her name, and the command, ‘Look!’

 “She pays no attention to what is said to her,” the psychologist said, “but quickly comprehends whatever is expected. Her performance reflects discrimination, care, and precision. … She is quiet, solemn, composed. Not once have I seen her smile. She retires within herself, segregating herself from others. She seems to be in a world of her own …”

Continue reading "AOA EXCLUSIVE -- Her Name Was Vivian: Clues From the Age of Autism’s First-Born Child" »

Weekly Wrap: Autism Science, Doing Autopsies on Plane-Crash Victims

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

When the mainstream media and medical establishment talk about autism long enough, they end up babbling incoherent nostrums about early detection, greater awareness, the joys of disability and, finally, pure noise. The "news" product that gets extruded through the tube becomes stupider and stupider and older and older.

That's where we are in Autism Awareness Month, limping to the finish line with the last embers of empathy all but extinguished.  I just read as "new" the idea that valproate can cause autism. Yes, we know. And the most delectable morsel had to be the comment in the Times this week, regarding the wrinkled placenta theory of autism, that one researcher had sent another "Milky Way bar-size sections of 217 placentas."

Yum! Allow me to quote from one of our valued commenters, "Barry," in response to someone touting their scientific credentials on AOA:

"It's little wonder that you arrogant, overeducated buffoons have wasted so much time ... and have yet to accomplish anything! What you 'scientists' are doing, is roughly the equivalent of an air crash investigator completing autopsies on all the plane crash victims ... to try and figure out what caused them all to die!

"These vaccine injured children that you prefer to call autistic, have one big thing in common. They all have severely dysfunctional immune systems, which in most cases are relentlessly attacking their own bodies. Hmmmmn... severely disabled immune systems, that have suddenly become rampant in the most vaccinated generation in the history of mankind. Is it really that hard for you 'scientists' to connect the dots on this?"

Yes, it is hard, when rather than listening to parents or calling for vax-unvax data stat or drawing the logical conclusions about the neurotoxicity of ethylmercury, you are shipping Milky Way bar-size portions of placentas to each other.

--

Speaking of listening to parents, Joan Campbell told me this week that her site followingvaccinations.com now has 1771 comments from more than 150 countries all saying the same thing -- that injury, including autism, and even death followed directly and swiftly after vaccinations. When I wrote about it just a couple of years ago it had half as many.

As I said at the time, this is one of the most important documents ever assembled regarding children's health and, among other things, a standing reproach to the glib assertions that things like autism just kinda sorta happen around kinda the time when kids get some shots or sumthin' like that.

Let's just take the first entry:

"Ana Maria Abba  I believe my son's issues stem from the two flu vaccines I was strongly advised to take during pregnancy. I did an alternative vaccine schedule. He developed normally until 9 months when he started to get sick a lot. I looked and it seemed to be around when he got the polio shot. I believe he had mild autism at 2 yrs (I didn't know that then but was starting to be suspicious) then I gave him the Hep B shot since I had just moved to Malaysia and was freaked out about the 3rd world country thing. Anyway after that shot he developed a bad fever. He also lost his strength which was visual learning. He stopped reading his books. He really went downhill after that. He was diagnosed about that same time. Polio and others in Littleton, CO Hep B Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia"

And one from the Z's:

"Dustin Zeimet  Our son was administered hib and the flu vaccine in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Within 3 days we started seeing headbanging, hitting and many more meltdowns than usual.  He is almost 4 now and his regression of skills into autism started between 13 and 15 mo."

Now that's the kind of autism awareness we need a lot more of.

--
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Weekly Wrap: Yes, Blame Government For the Return of Measles

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted Dr. Andrew Wakefield suit headshot

The British media and medical establishment can't get over Andy Wakefield's gall when he claimed, in a post published here, that an outbreak of measles in Wales is squarely the fault of British health officials. Has the man no decency? At long last, has he no decency?

Well, I certainly agree with Andy that the blame for the measles outbreak rests squarely with the public health establishment. Separate measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines were available when Andy was asked, and gave his honest view, that parents should avail themselves of that choice until more research was done. A few months afterward, the government got rid of those shots, and parents were left with all or nothing -- the MMR, about which quite reasonable concerns persisted, or no shot at all.

Many chose nothing, no shot at all, making the quite reasonable calculation that the risk of those diseeases was better than a 1-in-50 shot at getting autism (actually, of the three, the only good case is for the rubella vaccine, to prevent congenital rubella syndrome in babies). The same dynamic has played itself out in the United States, where separate shots were available, then they weren't, then they were going be, but then they weren't -- and still aren't.

The British establishment would like to paint Andy as a uniquely hubristic satanic fraudster -- who else would engender concerns about the safety of vaccines, and then blame the authorities when parents don't get them in the prescribed way?

Well, Jon Poling, for one. In 2008, Hannah's father wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the wake of his daughter's multi-million-dollar award in vaccine court for, yes, vaccine-induced autism: 

 "The current vaccine schedule, co-sponsored by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, injures a small but significant minority of children, my daughter unfortunately being one of those victims. Every day, more parents and some pediatricians reject the current vaccine schedule. In an abundance of caution, meaningful reform must be performed urgently to prevent the re-emergence of serious diseases like polio or measles.

"As a neurologist, I have cared for those afflicted with SSPE (a rare but dreaded neurological complication of measles), paralytic polio and tetanus. If these serious vaccine-preventable diseases again become commonplace, the fault will rest solely on the shoulders of public health leaders and policymakers who have failed to heed the writing on the wall (scribbled by my 9-year old daughter)."

To repeat, the return of measles would rest solely on the shoulders of public health leaders, according to the father of a child compensated for vaccine-induced autism. 

As I wrote at the time, Dr, Poling is the real deal, educated at Johns Hopkins, devoted both to his daughter and his patients, tempered by reality. He's mild-mannered. He's mainstream. He's credible. And he says that if a disease like measles emerges again, "the fault will rest solely on the shoulders of public health leaders and policymakers."

As I wrote then, "I'm starting to think we should rename the CDC the Centers for Disease Contagion. You've all seen the news that there are suddenly more measles cases in the United States and the CDC is blaming it in part on the increasing reluctance of parents to vaccinate their kids.

"But it's the CDC's fault, and no other. ...  Right now they're triggering a measles outbreak, and that may just be the start of the havoc they're going to cause unless Congress or the (next) president reminds them who's REALLY in control around here."

Oh, and by the way, vaccines  including the MMR are the cause of the autism epidemic. More and more parents, families, and ordinary people know it. Andy Wakefield and Jon Poling are stating the obvious -- parents have lost trust in governments that say otherwise.

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

 

Weekly Wrap: Snickering About Shingles, Sticking It To Andy

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

My cousin, a doctor, told me a long time ago that the best way to approach doctors and medicine is this: go to the doctor as little as possible, take as few medications as possible, and take as small a dose of those medicines as possible.

I've tried to live by that, and so far have succeeded pretty well. Recently, it was time for a physical, and I braced myself for a discussion with my doctor about vaccines. Ithink doctors may be a bit like members of Congress -- although Congress in general is held in low esteem, voters tend to think their own Congressperson is doing a pretty good job. So while I spend a lot of time harshing on the medical industry, I've always liked my own doctor, to whom I've been going for two or three decades.

When it came time to talk vaccines, she noted I was due for a bundle -- i think tetanus, some kind of pneumonia thing, and, having recently turned 60, the shingles shot. I had my answer ready -- i just didn't want to get any vaccines, thank you (and I didn't want to argue about it, although I didn't say that -- I just didn't argue). I didn't get into how vaccines have caused the autism epidemic, sudden infant death, a whole mess of chronic conditions, and etcetera.

Saying no seemed to do it. But somehow the shingles shot came round again during my visit -- shingles in the eye making people blind was one of my doctors warnings for the shingles-shotless. And, she noted, shingles is more common these days because people aren't getting the immune "bump" from exposure to wild chicken pox in children, due, she said, to the chickenpox vaccine that's become routine in the last 20 years.

I had to say something about that: "Well you know the same company that makes the chickenpox vaccine makes the shingles vaccine -- Merck. And we're trading a harmless and probably useful childhood illness for something that as you say is really dreadful."

Her response was a smile and an obvious sense of amusement and acknowledgement. "Well, that's true," she said. "You are definitely right about that."

Good grief! How did we go from denial that the chickenpox shot triggers more shingles cases, to laughing about how obvious it is? And who signed up to get shingles in order for the stupid chickenpox vaccine to become ubiquitous? (If it's so critical, why don't they have it in Great Britain and most everywhere else.)

It's the New Normalization of bad illness as a side-effect of preventing minor illness, and it makes no sense. Except financial.

Me, I'm sticking with my cousin's motto -- as few doctors visits, and as little medicine as possible.

--

Speaking Of Too Many Shots: The big British paper The Independent has picked up on Andy Wakefield's piece, published on AOA, that blames the government for the outbreak of measles in Wales. You can hear the harrumphing clear across the Pond. But thanks for crediting our humble Web site!

Andy pointed out that the government banned single vaccines for the M, M, and R, forcing people to go all in with the MMR or skip the vaccine altogether. I agree -- it's not his fault, especially since, in my opinion, the MMR does cause autism! A small point, I guess.

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: Snickering About Shingles, Sticking It To Andy" »

Weekly Wrap:The Big Disconnect in Autism Coverage

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

I've said many times that the media's failure to listen to parents who describe their child's descent into autism after vaccinations is appalling. The First Amendment was not created so that news outlets could help federal bureaucrats reach 98 percent coverage rates for the chickenpox vaccine. It was created to act as a check against government excess, denial and overreach.

So it really makes my skin crawl when i see something like the Arizona TV station report this week, headlined, "Study: Autism risk not increased by too many vaccines too soon.'" It begins:

--

PHOENIX -- A new study adds to years of research showing that childhood vaccines do not cause autism, despite worries among a growing number of parents that their young children receive "too many vaccines."

"Jalen has pretty severe autism," dad Jami Nielsen said of his son. "When they were 3, both boys went to get shots and within two to three days, all his language fell completely off."

--

The report goes on to quote the DeStefano/CDC study about how the antigens in vaccines don't correlate with a risk for autism. Even in the self-protective annals of the CDC, this study is a stinker.

But putting that aside, the fact that Jalen fell off a developmental cliff TWO OR THREE DAYS after vaccination ought to make somebody in the editing room at that TV station, or some mainstream outlet somewhere, sit up and take notice.

This happens all the damn time, people! These kinds of parental accounts, combined with the $2 billion plus awarded in vaccine court, including to Hannah Poling; the known properties of vaccination, and the concommitant rise of mercury and vaccines with the autism epidemic, are far more than enough to start asking tough questions.

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap:The Big Disconnect in Autism Coverage" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: AS OK's CDC BS

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

The new study that claims the number of "antigens" in vaccines has no bearing on the risk for autism isn't really worth much comment. It's just more messing around by the CDC with data they've already abused (Price, 2010) to obscure the link between thimerosal and autism. That study was described as "an interesting case of over-matching" in a published paper by  DeSoto et al. It's a devastating critique of the BS the CDC piles higher and deeper all the time to avoid implicating itself in the autism epidemic.

And it's exactly why reasonable people have long wanted to wrest vaccine safety oversight from the conflicted hands of the CDC. Any report on immunization safety "from the Immunization Safety Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.," is suspect.

As Dr. Bob Sears said, it's "another waste of money in another attempt to pretend to do research on vaccines and autism. ... You would probably find the exact same results no matter what group of kids you studied. Pretty much all children in any given span of years receive the exact same number of shot antigens. ... So, why would it even be useful to study this?

"All this study proved is that all the kids in that HMO got about the same vaccines over that 5 year time period. This doesn't give us any useful data on how vaccines would have or would not have influeced the rate of autism."

A reader named Ed Burke offered this analogy: 

"I don't have a horse in this race, but I am surprised that no one is talking about what the study shows, which does little or nothing to inform the debate as to whether the current recommended vaccine schedule is safe.

"If you fire paint guns across a schoolyard all day and that night compare the kids with splattered clothes to the ones clean, they were all exposed to the same number of paintballs. The paintballs still caused the splattered clothes.

"If you expose a population of kids to a slew of vaccines and then compare those who develop autism to those who don't, and say, well, the autistic kids were not exposed to any more vaccines than the non-autistic kids, that does not prove the vaccines do not cause autism any more than our hypothetical proved paintballs do not cause splattered clothes.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: AS OK's CDC BS" »

Weekly Wrap: What Killed Aaron Swartz? ... A Murder-Suicide Minus the Murder. ... And the 1 in 50 Millstone

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

Aaron Swartz looks like a "canary kid" to me. The tech wonderkind, creator of RSS and Reddit, born in November 1986 and a suicide this January, had the dark circles around his eyes and the combination of intensity and depression, keen intellect and chronic ill health, that seem like the two poles of life for so many kids and young people today.

Of course, he was also under indictment for unauthorized downloading, and faced the possibility of a few months in jail (not the 30 or 40 years the media keeps citing). Those who knew him best said they thought the criminal case wasn't really enough to explain why he hung himself, and the details that have emerged suggest what that "else" might be.

"He was small and frail and shy and often sick," according to a New Yorker profile. Specifically, "he Aaron-swartz-428x284had Crohn's disease; he also thought that he was a 'supertaster,' experiencing sensations of taste more intensely than regular people. Partly for these reasons, he ate only foods that were white or yellow. He ate pasta, tofu, cheese, bread, rice, eggs, and cheese pizza. He was phobic about fruit and wouldn't touch it." 

The profile also suggests that a combination of medicines might have triggered suicidal impulses. Regardless, he had enough health issues to remind us of too many other young people in this Age of Autism -- kids with sensory issues, food sensitivities, gut problems that can be disabling.

As I wrote last week, suicide is not just a psychiatric outcome but often reflects a biomedical crisis for the body and mind triggered by environmental factors we need to start acknowledging.

--

I also wrote last week about the phenomenon of murder-suicides, mostly by young men, and noted that the horror of mass murder obscures the fact that all of these young men first decided they were willing and perhaps eager to die themselves. "Suicide by cop" -- in which the only outcome for the perpetrator is death at his own hand or a law officer's -- has become a term of art.

S1.reutersmedia.netRight on cue, we had the example of a student at Central Florida University who appears to have been planning a mass attack but, after pointing a gun at his roommate and being cornered by the police, shot himself. (And after I wrote these words on Thursday, a Marine not far from me in Northern Virginia killed two other Marines, and then himself after being cornered by the MPs. It's getting hard to keep up.)

Too many young people are too willing to die. Why?

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: What Killed Aaron Swartz? ... A Murder-Suicide Minus the Murder. ... And the 1 in 50 Millstone" »

Weekly Wrap: Alex and His Mom, Autism and Suicide, and Psychiatry's Hysteria Hangover

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

March 16, 2013 -- The drama now playing out at Loyola hospital in Chicago, as detailed in Contributing Editor Lisa Goes' superb reporting for Age of Autism,  is a stark case in point of what so many autism families face -- and so many more will -- as this epidemic unfolds. Uncomprehending doctors, a community not yet organized to intervene effectively, profoundly disabled young men no longer suited for cutesy ad campaigns, a media scared away by their reluctance to challenge medical authorities ... all can be seen in this sad saga.

But another part of the story is as old as autism itself: blaming mom.

The fact the hospital seems to be treating her as trouble is par for the course. But I've been quite surprised and a little disappointed by the feedback in our community that there is something wrong with this picture, namely, the mom. Why is she letting Alex languish with no treatment? Why hasn't she tried biomed, if she hasn't? Who is she taking advice from, and if it's not the right advice, why doesn't she get better advice? Why is she going public when maybe a more discrete and decorous handling of the matter might have been better for Alex? (An answer from a fellow AOA  editor: "That's probably right about the bulk of the situations from a practical perspective. But this crap goes on all the time. And sometimes we need to put a spotlight on it.")

All this reminds me of a sarcastic comment my father, a Roosevelt Democrat, made to lampoon criticism of the poor by the privileged: "If they don't like living in the ghetto, why don't they just move?" I'm half expecting someone to tell me that, Psssstttt,  the mom was turned down for the Junior League because, well, she's just not our kind of girl, don't you know?

I feel a little like Hillary Clinton testifying to Congress, waving her arms in exasperation and saying (about Benghazi): "What difference at this point does it make?" The evidence, visual, eyewitness, documentary, is overwhelming that this child's medical needs are not being properly addressed. What more at this point do we need?

Blaming mom, of course, is the oldest trick in the autism playbook, perfected by Bruno Bettelheim (in Chicago, where Alex now languishes), who said infants retreated into the "empty fortress" of autism because they correctly deduced their mother's homicidal wish for them to be dead.

Brian Deer deceived and savaged the Lancet 12 moms, suggesting they were in it for the money, Andy's willing dupes, and Munchausen-by-proxy head cases. Theresa Cedillo, in the Omnibus rulings, was portrayed as the gullible tool of money-grubbing lawyers, a parent so inattentive she missed the earlier signs (earlier than the MMR! far far earlier!) that her child was descending into autism, and couldn't keep her chronology straight.

But this has all come from the other side. Here's hoping we don't pick up their bad habits.

--

What to make of the new study that shows kids with autism have a considerable risk of suicide? The key finding for our community -- the community that believes autism is an environmental illness and biomedical treatments can help -- may be that in children with autism whose parents considered them depressed, 77 percent had considered or attempted suicide, according to the Fox News account.

Kids with autism who weren't subject to mood disorders were very unlikely to have done so.

So poor mental health, not autism per se, is the risk.  Of course, autism as presently treated by mainstream medicine (see Alex, above)  is a risk for mental health "co-morbidities," given the lack of support and the tendency to pour toxic psychotropic drugs into kids with unexamined medical conditions (ditto). Many, many kids with autism have problems from GI issues to food and skin and sensory sensitivities that would depress any human being, however neurotypical.

Yet the hospital tells Alex's mother: "We have to heal the mind first and then the mind is going to heal the body." 

Exactly bass-ackwards.

What's more -- to my mind, anyway -- autism makes people prone to psychiatric issues because the causative factor in many cases -- exposure to organic mercury through vaccines and the environment -- also causes depression, irrational anger, and suicidal thinking directly. It's a vicious circle, and the failure to understand it is a catastrophic mistake we can trace back to the very beginnings of psychiatry.

--

In 1900, in Vienna, Austria, an 18-year-old named Ida Bauer wrote a suicide note that would help shape modern psychiatry.

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: Alex and His Mom, Autism and Suicide, and Psychiatry's Hysteria Hangover" »

Meet the New Boss

Sebelius out, Burwell in. With the latter's Gates Foundation background, maybe she'll reach out to have people concerned about vaccine injury silenced. Oh wait, that already happened. What next?

--

Hey April! Be aware of THIS, from 2003: "The Autism epidemic is real, and excessive vaccinations are the cause." --  Click for full statement BY BERNARD RIMLAND, PH.D.;

Director, Autism Research Institute;
Editor, Autism Research Review International;
Founder, Autism Society of America;

THE AUTISM EPIDEMIC IS REAL, AND EXCESSIVE VACCINATIONS ARE THE CAUSE

The vaccine manufacturers, the Center for Disease Control, the FDA, and the various medical associations have failed miserably in their duty to protect our children. Rather than acknowledge their role in  creating the immense, catastrophic rise in autism, these organizations have resorted to denial and obfuscation. They stand to lose their credibility, and billions of dollars in liability suits will soon reach the courts.

As a full-time professional research scientist for 50 years, and as a researcher in the field of autism for 45 years, I have been shocked and chagrined by the medical establishment's ongoing efforts to trivialize the solid and compelling evidence that faulty vaccination policies are the root cause of the epidemic. There are many consistent  lines of evidence implicating vaccines, and no even marginally plausible alternative hypotheses.

As the number of childhood vaccines has increased 700%, from 3 in the `70s to 22 in 2000, the prevalence of autism has also showed a parallel increase of 700%.

 Late onset autism, (starting in the 2nd year), was almost unheard of  in the `50s, `60s, and `70s; today such cases outnumber early onset cases 5 to 1, the increase paralleling the increase in required vaccines.

Thousands of parents report - and demonstrate with home videos -- that their children were normal and responsive until suffering an adverse vaccine reaction. (The Autism Research Institute has been tracking such autism-related vaccination reactions since 1967.)

Mercury, one of the most toxic substances known, is used as a preservative in many vaccines. Some infants have had 125 times the maximum allowable limit of mercury injected directly into their bloodstreams, in one day, in vaccines. (People vary enormously in their sensitivity to mercury, because certain genes predispose to mercury sensitivity. The highly-touted New
England Journal of Medicine  Danish study failed to mention the very convenient fact that none of the Danish children had prior exposure to mercury, since Denmark, unlike the U.S. had, banned mercury from childhood vaccines in 1992, the year before the birth year of the children in the study.)

There are numerous scientific studies showing large differences in clinical laboratory measures of blood, urine and biopsies which compare autistic children with normal controls. Such findings, pointing directly to vaccines as the cause of the group differences, are conveniently overlooked by those attempting to conceal the strong connection between the autism epidemic and excessive use of unsafe vaccines.

The truth must - and will - emerge. It is long overdue.

Bernard Rimland, Ph.D.
Director, Autism Research Institute
Editor, Autism Research Review International
Founder, Autism Society of America

Weekly Wrap: Adam Lanza, Feeling No Pain

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

Talking about the Newtown mass murderer, Adam Lanza,  is fraught with peril for people in the autism advocacy community, especially that part of the community which believes -- as I certainly do -- that vaccines have caused the epidemic of autism diagnoses now so apparent in schools across the country. The fact that two of the 20 dead children had ASDs just goes to show how prevalent such children are in classrooms everywhere.

Whether Lanza himself had an ASD is still an open question, despite second-hand reports that he had Asperger's. I'm proud of the way AOA responded to that story, starting with a statement that reads in part:

"Regardless of whether or not the shooter truly is on the autism spectrum, we wish to make it clear that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are in no way associated with criminal violence. More often than not, people with ASDs are the victims of such violence, not the people committing them." 

So while hard information on his ASD status is unknown, and, in any event, irrelevant as a primary cause, there is one diagnosis that was plausible from the start: Sensory integration disorder. From the Associated Press, just a couple of days after the shooting:

--

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — At Newtown High School, Adam Lanza had trouble relating to fellow students and teachers, but that was only part of his problem. He seemed not to feel physical or emotional pain in the same way as classmates.

Richard Novia, the school district's head of security until 2008, who also served as adviser for the school technology club, said Lanza clearly "had some disabilities."

"If that boy would've burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically," Novia told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It was my job to pay close attention to that."

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: Adam Lanza, Feeling No Pain" »

Jake Crosby: "SafeMinds Ignores Major Allegations While Replying Dishonestly to Other Charges"

Capitol

Editor's note: I declined to run Contributing Editor Jake Crosby's original article on this topic for reasons outlined here. Since then, it appeared elsewhere and generated a great deal of comment within our community (and without). We subsequently ran a statement from SafeMinds, the object of the original piece. Now Jake has asked us to run this follow-up. Given that the subject is on the table, and that this article would presumably appear elsewhere in any event, I decided to run it, unedited. -- Dan Olmsted.

(PS: After a thorough airing of views, the comment thread is now closed. Go in peace for all mankind.)

By Jake Crosby

On November 29th, SafeMinds hijacked the Dan Burton Congressional Hearing on autism and vaccines by pretending to represent autism parent and scientist Dr. Brian Hooker, and by changing the topic away from vaccines - thus opening the door to autism epidemic denialists among other vaccine program apologists. On its website and on Age of Autism, SafeMinds responded to my Bolen Report article “SafeMinds Steals The Show, Literally…” claiming that what I wrote about the organization were “false allegations.” However, they provided no proof that any of them were false, completely ignoring some of the more serious allegations.

Continue reading "Jake Crosby: "SafeMinds Ignores Major Allegations While Replying Dishonestly to Other Charges"" »

From the Bolen Report: Jake Crosby on Congressional Autism Hearings

Keep Calm Write OnNot long ago, Jake Crosby, one of our Contributing Editors, submitted an article about the background of the Congressional hearing on autism late last year. I rejected the article because, as I told Jake, it did not meet the standards that I try to apply to everything submitted to Age of Autism. Jake then submitted the piece to The Bolen Report, which, adding to the strangeness of this situation, posted it but did not technically "publish" it, according to Tim Bolen (see my "Tough Tim Bolen" satire below). Some of our worst critics have now had plenty of time to relish its attacks on our friends while the rest of us could only watch in distress.

Now Bolen says he will publish it, which is certainly his right. So, as a reader service, here is the link.

Jake is someone I have long admired for his autism advocacy and writing for Age of Autism. He remains a Contributing Editor. However, this article does not stand up to scrutiny on a number of levels. The invasion of privacy of a number of SafeMinds board members here is unconscionable and, really, inexplicable given the far less-than-critical issues involved. Furthermore, based on preliminary inquiries, the facts do not seem to be as described in this article; certainly, SafeMinds has denied them vigorously. It's bad journalism, glaringly unsourced and without giving the "targets" an opportunity to give their version of events. I stand by the choices I've made in dealing with this unfortunate situation, and will be following up in the near future. -- Dan Olmsted

 

SATIRE: Who is Tough Tim Bolen and Why is He Threatening l'il ol' Age of Autism?

Yosemite samBy Dan Olmsted

There's a tough talkin gun totin fella outta the Wild West, Tim Bolen by name, who's a ridden in to Autismtown like a new sheriff and is here to tell ya, don't a be messin wif him and his posse cuz he's ornery as a stray cat that ain't a had nuffin ta eat in quite a spell.

Pardner.

Tim's been a takin out after the sarsaparilla-sippin rascals over at-a  Safeminds and a hookin up with a bunch of nouveau tough guys who think we all a been a bunch of pansy-asses in never sayin that there therisomil, or however you say it back east, is a causin this here autism, and that other shot too. (Even though Safminds done cooked up that therismole idea in the first darn place!) He's a got a new artical that already kinda got out the barn door on them twitters and facialbooks, but now he's gonna run it for real, like, even though some desperado named Orac already done had a field day with it. Now the rest of us cowhands can gather round the campfire and hear the tale.

Who talks like this? "As you know, it was I, Tim Bolen, who made the arrangements for an
alliance between the North American Health Freedom Movement and the Autism world by, first, arranging for a west coast conference for AutismOne in conjunction with my friends at the Health Freedom Expo at Long Beach, California." And on and on. And on.

And why not? It's time for Tim and his posse to be a callin the shots around here and takin over the town. Autism One? Pansies too. They'll be a run right outta that hoity Chicgao, or a workin for a differen sheriff, namely thisun, befur the sun a come up 365 more times in the West (namely, Orange County, home of fantasyland). Come on a Autism One, you be seein it!

Just a few sunrises ago, sheriff Bolen done took out after this here humble internets place called age of autism, and said, Pardner, I'd a be a careful if I was you. You better a think on whos a gonna be a butterin your skillet cornbread after we get a done with this here sissy factory. Don't a be asking any questions Tim and his posse might not be a likin about that there artical they might be a runnin and kinda already done did. Don't be a calling the pansy ass big shots and so called press spokesmens in Washington to be a tryin to get ackshul facts, that ain't a none of your job. You and your little pansy ass friends might a pushing up digital daisies by a time we a be a done with a you.

Here be somefin called a e-mail -- don't need no stamps! -- that Tough Tim done sent to this here blog warnin' us of more trouble than a porcupine wrestlin with a cactus.

Got it, Pardner.

--

 -----Original Message-----

From: Dan Olmsted [mailto:olmsted.dan@gmail.com
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 8:45 AM
To: tim bolen
Subject: Re: The SafeMinds issue - up to date
hi tim, thanks for these comments. just trying to understand on the question
of publishing jake's piece - you say "if i [tim] do do this," meaning publish his
piece, i think. but you HAVE published it, haven't you?
just trying to get my bearings here. if i write about it, it's correct to
say you published it, right? again, i don't have an issue with you
publishing it...
best,
dan
--
On Feb 5, 2013, at 12:45 PM, "tim bolen" <jurimed2@earthlink.net> wrote:
Dan:
No, that's not true.  I haven't published it.  Notice that it was
intentionally not dated.  I put it in a hidden place where certain key
people could see it to comment on it.  It was supposed to be private. ...
So far, I can't guess how many people have seen it, but if I do the teaser,
and hit the send key, roughly 285,000 subscribers will get it seconds later.
Then, it gets picked up by our network and rebroadcast to even much larger
readership.
Dan, were I you, I'd be very careful about what you do with this.  Rumor has
it that 50% of AoA's income is dependent on either Mark Blaxill or
SafeMinds.  Were I you, I wouldn't even touch this.  You might be just
betting the farm.  The last thing you want to be, right now, is a part of
the problem.  You were right not to touch it in the first place.
Perhaps this is a good time to wet your finger and see from which direction
the wind is blowing in the Autism world.
 
Tim Bolen
--
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap Up: A Really, Really, Really Bad Idea

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

A few really bad ideas in the hands of people in a position to carry them out can create one heck of a mess. That is the point of a book by Fred Kaplan, "Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power," published in 2008. It begins like this: "Nearly all of America's blunders in war and peace these past few years stem from a single grand misconception: that the world changed after September 11, when in fact it didn't." It didn't because the need to work with, rather than against, the rest of the world remained as important as ever, in Kaplan's argument.


Kaplan cited a handful of other mistakes, including the idea that America was uniquely strong after the end of the Cold War, and could impose its will – including democratic governments – around the world. No, he argues, we needed alliances more than ever. But the prevailing idea, misbegotten as it was, was that flexing our muscle big-time would make the world safe for America. Ultimately, this linked chain of bad ideas fell apart for all to see in Iraq.

My point in quoting this book is not political – you could make a similar argument against the decade-long war in Afghanistan now being run by the Democrats – but to suggest that an analogy holds in the autism and vaccine debate: a few very bad ideas, very strongly held by a relatively few key players, have caused the rise of the autism epidemic. First among them is that there is no epidemic. Therefore the disease is genetic. Therefore it could not possibly have anything to do with vaccines, most especially the MMR and mercury. Therefore expansion and exportation of America's vaccine schedule is an unalloyed good for the entire world, kind of like exporting our version of democracy everywhere.

The ultimate outcome, on the autism front, is that thousands of parental observations, and a great deal of troubling science and natural history (see our book The Age of Autism), are completely ignored in favor of bogus epidemiology and studies concocted by special interests, which sadly in this case include public-health authorities. We saw that on display last week when the Institute of Medicine again ratified the CDC vaccine schedule.

Today, we witnessed another consequence of these few but horrifically bad ideas. The World Health Organization and United Nations ignored concerns about mercury in vaccines, exempting it from the mercury-reduction treaty adopted on Saturday. So mercury will continue being injected into nearly 100,000,000 children a year in the most disadvantaged countries.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap Up: A Really, Really, Really Bad Idea" »

Weekly Wrap Up: Suicide, Mayhem, and the Rx Effect

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

Our humble blog has published a number of excellent articles in the wake of the Newtown mass shooting, pointing out the lack of relationship to the killer's supposed autism diagnosis, and looking at whether the use of psychiatric drugs could have been a factor in his behavior. We still don't know what drugs, if any, he may have taken, but as several writers have pointed out, the link between such events and the kinds of medication being given routinely to troubled young men is indisputable.

Indisputable, but largely ignored by the mainstream media and medicine. In any one case, it is impossible to "prove" the drug played a role, so we are left with abstract discussions of adverse event labels. Then when we get down to cases like Newtown, we wait and wait for official reports, and are reminded that any evidence in this one instance is necessarily anecdotal. Meanwhile, senseless deaths pile up.

That's not good enough. We need a robust national discussion about whether any drug is acceptable that, as a "side effect," can lead to mass casualties among people not even taking it.  And that's where my previous reporting on a totally different drug, called Lariam or mefloquine, remains instructive to me. That anti-malaria pill has been linked to psychosis, depression, suicide, and homicidal violence so many times and ways that there is really no question about its capacity to cause those things. And yet the drug rolls on, the denial continues, and when an inexplicable death or outburst occurs, no one even thinks to raise the queation. It's a familiar pattern, and I'm sure that's how Pharma likes it.

But here are two recent cases that ought to raise exactly those questions. You may have heard the Job Price reports that one of the most senior SEAL commanders, Job W. Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, committed suicide in Afghanistan last month.

To anyone familiar with the military's elite Special Forces, this sounds very strange. These highly trained operatives are used to stress and have been vetted for mental health problems. Of course, bad things happen, but before deciding this is one more casualty of frequent deployments or family stress, the question needs to be asked: Given that he is of an age to have served multiple tours in combat zones, and given that Afghanistan is one of the places where the military routinely prescribed mefloquine, did he take it? Did he exhibit any of the signs of toxicity like anxiety, troubled dreams, paranoia, etc.?

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap Up: Suicide, Mayhem, and the Rx Effect" »

Weekly Wrap Up: Pb is Bad, But Mercury is Yummy?

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted MJ wrap

The current issue of Mother Jones magazine caught my eye at the airport this month, with its cover story clevery titled "America's Real Criminal Element: Lead." The article outlines the case for lead -- mainly in leaded gasoline -- as the big reason for the rise, and subsequent fall, of crime. As the author, Kevin Drum, summarizes:

"Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes [18]. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century."

This goes against a lot of received wisdom, and raises questions about Rudy Giuliani's "broken window" approach to crime fighting (arrest miscreants for minor mischief and you'll nip the murder rate in the bud). It's an environmental approach to explaining social behavior, and as such it's been largely ignored despite the very strong evidence, according to Drum.

Mark Blaxill and I are familiar with the case, having sought out the leading author of the idea, Rick Nevin, who was a government consultant in the 1990s when he stumbled across the data and put together some remarkable charts. We had dinner with him last year and discussed our mutual interests in how environmental toxins, especially lead and mercury, can cause major social mayhem.

Of course, the mercury-causes-autism idea has gotten the same treatment, and worse, as the lead-causes-violence idea. In fact, you don't have to look any further than Mother Jones, and Kevin Drum, to find a case in point. Drum himself ridiculed the idea in 2011 as he blogged in the mag about an article by Chris Mooney:

"Is vaccine denial primarily a leftie/hippy/Hollywood phenomenon? There's apparently no really good data on this, but Chris Mooney rounds up what he can and concludes that the whole issue is pretty nonpolitical: 'Bottom line: There’s no evidence here to suggest that vaccine denial (and specifically, believing that childhood vaccines cause autism) is a distinctly left wing or liberal phenomenon.'" In other words, the silly idea that vaccines cause autism is embraced by idiots of all political persuasions.

Mother Jones was not always so sneering about the idea. In 2004, it ran an article titled "Toxic Tipping Point," and the subhead asked the question: "Are the CDC, the FDA, and other health agthencies covering up evidence that a mercury preservative in children's vaccines caused a rise in autism?" The answer, basically, was yes. The story was fair and full of the Simpsonwood transcripts, the Verstraeten study, and other evidence of looking the other way by federal regulators. Rita Shreffler and Mark Blaxill were quoted respectfully. 

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap Up: Pb is Bad, But Mercury is Yummy?" »

Weekly Wrap Up: Gravely Concerned

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

I hate to beat a dead horse, but when the supposedly dead horse is the fact that – contrary to the American Academy of Pediatricians-- mercury in vaccines causes autism, I'm afraid I'm going to have to go on beating it.

In a sick way, the new AAP statement condoning the use of mercury in infant vaccinations worldwide has handed us a dream of an issue. The idea that mercury vaccines have no relationship to autism, and therefore nearly 100,000,000 children should be vaccinated with them every year into infinity, certainly concentrates the mind and reminds us of what we are fighting for, or rather against.

The AAP statement is an affirmation of one by a WHO advisory group with the telltale moniker of SAGE, which reported earlier this year it was "gravely concerned that global vaccine discussions may threaten access to thiomersal-containing vaccines without justification. SAGE reaffirmed thiomersal-containing vaccines were safe, essential and irreplaceable components of vaccine programs, especially  in developing countries."

Well, they are not safe, not essential and not irreplaceable. They are dangerous; they cause autism; we can improve world health outcomes without them. In fact we can ONLY improve health outcomes without them.

Thanks, SAGE and AAP, for reminding us what the stakes are here and WHO we are fighting for the future of the human race. In case we needed a New Year's resolution worthy of our time and effort, we in the rebel alliance don't have to look very far.

 

 

 

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap Up: Congressional Autism Hearing

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

I have to confess I was not expecting much from the autism hearings in the House of Representatives last month. For one thing, I used to be Washington editor of United Press international, and our Congressional correspondent, whose opinion I valued highly, once told me I needed to understand one main thing about Congress: "Congress sucks."

For another, I've learned not to get my expectations too high when it comes to anything about autism. I predicted to Jake Crosby that John Walker-Smith's appeal in Britain would fail, basically on the premise that everything always fails. He enjoys reminding me that Walker-Smith was triumphantly vindicated. (There is a similar joke among foreign correspondents: if you need to write a story about the Middle East and you don't have anything to say, it's always safe to begin by writing: "the situation in the Middle East worsened last week." Someday, that story will be wrong.)

PoseyEven so, the prospect of a late-in-the-session, lame-duck hearing to give Rep. Dan Burton a proper swansong for his pet theory did not seem like a good venue for anything important. What I did not count on, aside from the excellent preparation by many members of our community, was what I will call the legacy effect. Rep. Bill Posey, Republican of Florida, began his legendary grilling of the CDC's Coleen Boyle by noting that he had replaced Dave Weldon in his district, and that Weldon had explained to him the fact that mercury is a likely culprit in autism.

And Rep. Darrell Issa, now chairman of the reform and committee, struck me as a Issa smart and morally serious person, even if I suspect I might disagree with many of his views; his statement that no possible cause would be off the table was quite a moment. It was clear to me that he was not doing this to be nice to Dan Burton, he was doing it because his own judgment of what Burton had been saying was now taking effect.

In a way, this shouldn't have been so surprising. In our community, many of us are keenly aware of the legacy of a number of individuals, most significantly Bernie Rimland. I know personally that doing justice to Bernie's great integrity and perseverance is a factor that motivates me every day, and my connection with him in the years before he died has given me a tremendous sense of commitment. We all have people like that, and I am heartened to realize that history is not lost in the House of Representatives, either.

I hope Dan Burton and Dave Weldon are proud of their legacies. They should be.

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap Up: Arrogant, Ignorant "Experts"

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

One of the guilty pleasures of covering the autism story lo these many years is to witness the spectacle of arrogant, ignorant "experts" weighing in on the issue -- supposedly on the side of science, or, as they often think of it, Science -- and making absolute blithering fools of themselves.

It's even more fun to contemplate the blot this will eventually be on their permanent record, because we're not talking here about trivialities, the kind of feature-y stuff where a lot of these folks spend most of their intellectual energy, such as it is. No, when they opine about things like mercury, vaccines and autism, and declare it to be a proven fact that none of those could possibly be related, they are Wrong When It Really Matters.

That's why I call them Wwirms. The newest Wwirm to come crawling our way is one Alexandra Petri, a Washington Post blogger who  says she "puts the pun in punditry."

"Consider the Congressional hearing today on the dangerous link between vaccines and autism – again, not a real problem that exists, as countless studies have demonstrated. It is abundantly clear that vaccines save lives. Meanwhile, scientists can show no connection whatever vaccines and autism. This is a fictional problem."

 She goes on to say, "next there will be a hearing about how to keep the Dragon Smaug  from ravaging your village."

While it is perversely satisfying to read this kind of thing, the truth is it disrepects thousands of parents and  contributes directly to the suffering of millions of human beings worldwide. That, Ms. Petri and fellow Wwirms, goes on your permanent record.

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Vax v Unvax Brings Deja Vu All Over Again

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

Back in the summer of 2005, I asked then-CDC Director (now Merck vaccine prexy) Julie Gerberding the following 19-word question (or 20 words, if you count U and S as two words, but I don't, especially because in their abbreviated form they run together without a space between them).

Dan Olmsted: Has the government ever looked at the autism rate in an unvaccinated U.S. population, and if not, why not?

Julie Gerberding: In this country, we have very high levels of vaccination as you probably know, and I think this year we have record immunization levels among all of our children, so to (select an unvaccinated group) that on a population basis would be representative to look at incidence in that population compared to the other population would be something that could be done.

But as we’re learning, just trying to look at autism in a community the size of Atlanta, it’s very, very difficult to get an effective numerator and denominator to get a reliable diagnosis.

I think those kind of studies could be done and should be done. You’d have to adjust for the strong genetic component that also distinguishes, for example, people in Amish communities who may elect not to be immunized (and) also have genetic connectivity that would make them different from populations that are in other sectors of the United States. So drawing some conclusions from them would be very difficult.

I think with reference to the timing of all of this, good science does take time, and it’s part of one of the messages I feel like I’ve learned from the feedback that we’ve gotten from parents groups this summer (in) struggling with developing a more robust and a faster research agenda, is let’s speed this up. Let’s look for the early studies that could give us at least some hypotheses to test and evaluate and get information flowing through the research pipeline as quickly as we can.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Vax v Unvax Brings Deja Vu All Over Again " »

Landmark Autism Hearing: "The Troops Have Landed on Normandy Beach"

Blaxill Burton HEaringBy  Dan Olmsted

Thursday's hearing before the House oversight committee (view the autism hearing here) will surely be remembered as a landmark. By the end of the day, the government spokesmen from the NIH and the CDC seemed to be the ones people were looking at funny, while those who raised concerns about autism and vaccines seemed positively mainstream.

It didn't help that the CDC's Coleen Boyle testified under oath that fraudster Poul Thorsen  had only been involved in a couple of studies with the CDC. Shortly thereafter, a congressman introduced into evidence a list of more than 20 he had worked on. I feel like calling the CDC and asking: "Has Ms. Boyle retained counsel in anticipation of a possible perjury charge?"

The questions were tough and bipartisan -- from Republicans like longtime thimerosal foe Dan Burton (above, with Mark Blaxill) to Chairman Darrell Issa, who said no topic would be out of bounds as the committee continues to probe. Democrat Carolyn Maloney, who has tried to get a vax-unvax study through the House for years, gave 'em the what-for once again. And while I have seen Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings on TV, I wasn't prepared for the common-sense and deeply troubled approach he brought to the proceedings. The look on his expressive face was priceless. His comment, "There's something wrong with this picture," may go down in history with gems like Jim Carey's "The problem is the problem."

Cummings pointed out the animated, frustrated faces of the audience, many of whom I know quite well. Their collective eye-rolling served as a great backdrop for the in-credible defense of the federal response to autism and vaccine safety worries. And while CDC-types consider individuals as little more than walking anecdoctal evidence, to elected officials they are the voters who put them there and can kick 'em out.

As a general proposition, it is fair to say that the people responsible for running the country do not like hearing that we have double any other nation's vaccine schedule, with a miserable infant mortality rate and an autism epidemic to show for it.

The interagency autism coordination committee (IACC) began to look like the villain it is in this disaster. One congressman even asked for questions that the panel could use if it decided to bring in the IACC for questioning.

It was just one day, but it had the feel of a new one. Our own Mark Blaxill did a fabulous job of presenting the key elements in the argument that autism is environmental, and that mercury and vaccines are so far the most plausible suspects. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey asked him to submit evidence of scientists who have been blackballed or shoved aside for tackling uncomfortable subjects.

It's been said that the only way to win this battle was to storm the halls of Congress. We saw a version of that Thursday: "The troops have landed on Normandy Beach," Brooke Potthast e-mailed me afterward, and it seems like the perfect metaphor. "It may take more time, but today was significant and historic."

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

More Mush from the Wimps: Autism Speaks, CDC and Capitol Hill Hearings

Managing Editor's Note: We ran this post last April after the hearing on autism statistics. 

Autism_speaksBy Dan Olmsted Cdclogo

After attending Wednesday’s congressional briefing on the latest autism statistics, I found myself with three questions, despite having asked several at the briefing. They are variations on the same theme, and not exactly new, but seem more pressing after more than an hour of listening: Why is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still in charge of monitoring and explaining the rise in autism? Why are the CDC and Autism Speaks cozying up to each other in such a public way at this particular moment? And why was the Congressional host heaping praise on the agency when it covered up the first signs of the epidemic -- and in his home district in New Jersey, of all places?

The event was co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) and billed as “a Congressional Briefing on the Centers for Disease Control's recent announcement that autism now affects 1 in 88 American children.” 

Rep. Smith began the proceedings, which drew probably 30 people to a room in the Rayburn House Office Building. Congressmen often try to make news at these kind of events, and before he started speaking an aide passed out a statement by Smith headlined, “Global Autism: ‘A Developmental Disability Pandemic’ – 67 Million People Affected According to Autism Speaks.” Then I realized the statement was from May 31, 2011. Nothing new to say, I guess.

Smith began by describing the CDC’s Brick Township study, which started after a parent reached out to the congressman in 1997 (he’s been around for 16 terms, as he pointed out). The parent was concerned about “an apparent prevalence spike” in autism. The CDC investigated, Smith said, and “did an expert study that was extraordinary … and all of a sudden it became clear that it wasn’t just Brick. It seemed as if there was some game changer somewhere in the population causing this huge new increase in autism.”

Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. The CDC did find a rate of 1 in 150 children in Brick Township Pablum2 – the highest ever reported anywhere in the world to that point – but said no conclusions could be drawn from the data about whether there was an actual increase. (That refrain has become familiar, repeated time and again by the CDC at Wednesday’s briefing. Some things never change.)

In our book, The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, Mark Blaxill and I took a look at the actual data the CDC used in its Brick Township study, which the group SafeMinds had obtained from the CDC. In fact, the autism rate in Brick Township was actually zero in 1989, the start of the study period. Not one kid had autism.

As we wrote, “Once you have the real trend data, you can figure out how hard the CDC had to work in order to report a result that said there was no trend. … If this wasn’t a cover-up, it’s hard to think of a polite synonym.”

So the opportunity to recognize, report on, and try to intervene in the autism epidemic years ago was lost, and lost by the CDC itself. Since then, hundreds of thousands more children have developed autism in the United States alone. Today, though, the CDC remains in charge of studying the rate of autism and looking for the reasons behind it. In response to a more recent spike in autism in the Somali population, the CDC said it was going to do a really thorough analysis and cited the Brick study as precedent for the kind of really thorough job it would do. Oh, joy.

Continue reading "More Mush from the Wimps: Autism Speaks, CDC and Capitol Hill Hearings" »

Review of Autism Hearings April 2012

UselessManaging Editor's Note: We first ran this post last Spring.  Dan Olmsted also provided his review of this Autism Speaks/CDC meeting in his post titled: Mush From the Wimps: Autism Speaks and the CDC Take Over Capitol Hill as Rep. Smith Bows Out

By Katie Wright

You have to see this to believe it. No transcript could do this briefing justice.

Thank God Beth Clay was there and filmed the briefing on her phone. I had been told that it would be too difficult to broadcast the briefing. Beth used her iphone and then put the footage on Facebook, not complicated, not expensive.

OK this was a joint CDC Autism Speaks briefing on the new autism prevalence numbers. Listen, I am sure Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp and Dr. Baio are nice people. The problem is that their understanding and conception of autism is both dated and deficient and, sadly, they are very bad at their jobs.

Yeargin-Allsopp is always polite with parents, but I am sorry to say she is incompetent. Yeargin-Allsop has been working in this job for almost 30 yrs and should have been fired 25 years ago. In the past 2 decades Yeargin-Allsopp has had access to tens of millions of dollars and could have been a hero to American families because she had the opportunity to change the face of autism and stop this epidemic. Instead Yeargin-Allsopp and her partner Coleen Boyle (another sad story) have spent decades devising and executing dreadful, wasteful research that has accomplished little. Just how many studies on parental age do we need? 10, 50, 100? Because we are on our way there! Yeargin-Allsopp has also authored a number of studies on autism and parental aggravation. This is very ironic considering the CDC is a tremendous source of parental aggravation. Let’s not forgot the studies on fat moms causing autism, either. CDC autism research is literally a treasure trove of nonsense.

Continue reading "Review of Autism Hearings April 2012" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Betraying the American Family Since 1943

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

I try not to comment on the choices and difficulties faced by families dealing with autism -- mainly, because mine is not one. But after nearly a decade (yes, I first edited an investigation of the CDC and vaccine conflicts in 2003), I will venture to say this: The holidays are not always "the most wonderful time of the year" promised in song, advertisements and cultural come-on of all kinds.

There are multiple reasons for this, I think, including the simple inability to gather the way many would wish, due to logistics and occasionally resistance, implied or fully expressed, from other family members. And it can be a bit hard to identify exactly what it is one ought -- ought, never a good word -- to be thankful for. But there's more to it than that, as witnessed in this e-mail exchange I was part of earlier this week, about a child who "ages out" this year right between Thanksgiving and Christmas:

"I'm rather a wreck over it -- haven't brought her paperwork from probate court to town hall.  I just haven't had the heart or courage. It has cast a pall over the entire holiday season. -- so I'm just looking to January to start the year and do the same stuff all over again -- I'm pretty tired right now, and you know how that goes."

Well, I don't know how that goes, personally. Cheap, teary empathy is already too much in vogue. To the extent that I have any insight at all, it mostly comes from talking to, visiting, staying with many families over the years and reading their accounts right here, on AOA. But the other person on this e-mail had plenty of experience.

"We are at a bumpy road and really have been for a while," said this mom, whose daughter is about the same age. "It is so hard, all of it, and I wonder how we do it."

Thanksgiving, especially, is all about family. And one thing I do know for sure is that the autism epidemic reflects a fundamental betrayal of American families. Doctors and journalists and judges and scientists, among many others, have failed in their duty to listen to the real stories of real people, real families, and instead have thrown in their lot with the Bigs -- big medicine, big pharma, big media, big government, big money -- and left families to fend for themselves.

I could do without hearing the phrase "family values" ever again, or at least until those afflicted by autism and other disorders of our Age are heard, understood and compensated, the epidemic ends, and those who let this calamity arise and drag on face some sort of accountability, truth and justice.

Meanwhile, I suppose, we all (or most of us) will slog on, but I don't expect a lot of the folks I know to be particularly festive about it.

"'Happy Thanksgiving' can be an oxymoron for so many of us," wrote one the e-mailers above. "But I do give thanks for all of us being together in this. I wouldn't be able to do it otherwise. Though we are all scattered around the country, just knowing you are all out there fighting with me gives me courage."

As for me, I'm thankful for this, which Anne Dachel quoted in an e-mail lately: "I take comfort in the knowledge that my job is to wake up every day and do the next right thing." -- Paul Arthur.

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of AgeOfAutism.com

 

 

 

 

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: The "Very Very Small" Autism Rate

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted Smash TV

If you're like me, there are a lot of times when it feels like getting through the evening news is an almost superhuman challenge. All the supposed breakthroughs that will prevent and treat autism, all the happy sappy stories about high functioning kids and their touching achievements, all the pharma ads in between that show why this kind of pabulum dominates the airwaves, is enough to make you want to throw your remote or take even more dire action, like Elvis and his famous television shootout.

Case in point: On Veterans Day, Diane Sawyer reported on the study that showed a potential link between flu during pregnancy and having a child with autism.  "Back here at home a new headline discussed around kitchen table tonight," Diane began. "We know that one in 88 children are diagnosed with this disorder, and this new study suggests a bout of flu during pregnancy can increase a child's risk."

Diane turned to chief medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, formerly the acting director of the CDC, to get some perspective. "So many pregnant couples are going to be in fear over this," Diane said. But not to worry: Besser said that among mothers who remembered having the flu during pregnancy, the risk of autism doubled. The screen flashed a graphic that read, "Flu during pregnancy increases autism risk from 1% to 2%." Now get this:

"So, still very very small," Besser said, referring to a risk of 2% of having an autistic child.

He also noted the study was not enough to prove a connection – fair enough. Diane then asked about other risk factors we've heard about. Besser obliged with the usual tired list:  "We have some clues. Genetic factors are very important. Parents' age matters. As fathers in particular get older and hit 40, the risk goes up." Then there was time between pregnancies.

"Lots of clues. No hard answers." Diane, lobbing the ball back one more time, said she knew Besser wanted to assure parents about what she called ""the 2% versus 98%." "That's right. That's a very small number. You know women who get the flu during pregnancy don't need to worry about this. They should get a flu shot while pregnant, though, because they're at great risk for the flu."

Oh for heaven sakes. The chief medical editor of one of the leading networks has just said that the risk of autism rising by one percentage point – from 1 out of 100 to 2 out of 100 live births here, in these United States – is a small number and nothing to worry about. That's because 98% – the vast majority – will not be born with autism.

This is just nuts. That kind of autism risk ought to strike fear in every single family in America. And it does. Think about it in terms of another dread disorder – let's say polio, just for example. If parents thought that one out of every 100 children born in United States would have paralytic polio, there would be mass hysteria, and there should be -- and there was. The actual rate of polio complications at the height of the epidemics in the 1950s was more like one in 3000, and that was more than enough to galvanize the entire medical and scientific research establishment to solve that problem.

But when it comes to autism, an equally disabling condition for so many, a rate 30 (or even 60) times that of polio does nothing to galvanize Dr. Besser.

So what's going on here? Well, part of it is the same indolent, incompetent, uncomprehending response to the autism epidemic that we have seen so often. Our own Anne Dachel has documented this so many times. But I wonder if there is something else: Dr. Besser is an old CDC hand, and probably doesn't take flu very seriously in his heart of hearts. He would know as well as anyone the degree to which the CDC has fudged and fumbled the figures to make flu sound like a killer, when it is clearly not for most Americans, including children.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: The "Very Very Small" Autism Rate" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Trillions and Trillions of Mercury Atoms

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

Last week I offered a rough estimate of what I believe is responsible for the autism epidemic -- vaccines mostly; other environmental (outside) factors also playing a role in causation, and mercury as an element in both vaccines and the environment, providing a powerful clue to the nature of the disorder: Man-made rather than genetic.
Today I wanted to say a little more about mercury. Metals can be incredibly damaging to human health, whether lead in gasoline or arsenic in Victorian wallpaper and medical potions -- or, as Mark Blaxill and I showed in our book, mercury in everything from syphilis medicine to teething powders to, yes, vaccinations.
We don't need any more studies to demonstrate the neurotoxic properties of these substances. Whole schools are evacuated when mercury -- the relatively less harmful elemental kind, not the organic nightmare that remains in flu shots -- spills out of a test tube. An epic battle was fought to get lead out of gasoline, leading to an increase in the IQ of children -- and a decrease in inner-city delinquency by kids especially exposed to lead paint and gas.
Of all the insanely catastrophic vaccination policies being pursued by our so-called public health authorities -- Hep B on the day of birth; live-virus M, M, and R in the same shot at 12 months, with the chickenpox shot tossed in for good measure -- the worst of all has to be the continued use of thimerosal in flu shots, many of which go to pregnant women and infants.
Had there never been a debate over mercury and autism, this would still be inexcusable, given what we know about the toxicity of organic mercury, namely ethyl mercury, the kind in vaccines. Keeping mercury in any shots became criminal after the FDA recognized the amount in the shots routinely given in 1999. Phasing them out, rather than pulling them off the shelves, was unconscionable. But using fishy language and logic to keep mercury in flu shots -- and extending those shots to all pregnant women and infants -- implies a degree of reckless disregard that would bring a long prison term if it involved anything but -- well, anything but the health of pregnant women and infants.
Recently one of our readers, an expert chemist and outspoken critic of mercury in vaccines, posted a comment that I want to call attention to. The first part will be familiar to most of you, but the last part astonishes me every time I read it.
"A study has been done involving thimerosal-preserved vaccines given to infant monkeys to determine the resultant mercury levels. The whole body exposure of the infant monkeys at 80 micrograms of mercury per kilogram body weight from thimerosal-preserved vaccine resulted in an average of 16 parts per billion inorganic mercury levels in the brain tissue. The half life was over 120 days. See Burbacher et al (2005), figure 7, page 1019.
"Now look at a six-month old human (baby girl) in regard to the exposure from a thimerosal-preserved flu vaccine [in two doses four weeks apart]. First the average weight for a 6 month old baby girl is 16 pounds (7.26 kilograms). See CDC Growth Charts, (2000) page 20.
"Next 25 micrograms of mercury from ... thimerosal-preserved flu vaccine given to a six month old baby girl weighing 7.26 kilograms gives a whole body exposure of 3.44 micrograms per kilogram. So then by extrapolation, as a result of that mercury-preserved flu shot the brain tissue in the child could have 0.69 parts per billion inorganic mercury levels in the brain tissue with a half life of over 120 days.
"That is 2 trillion mercury atoms per gram of the developing brain in that child. No scientist can say that this is a safe level. The insanity of giving children and pregnant women thimerosal preserved flu shots must stop!"

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Trillions and Trillions of Mercury Atoms" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: What Causes Autism

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

We've had a fascinating back-and-forth during the past couple of weeks over how to apportion the causes of the autism epidemic. It started with a comment by Tony Bateson of Birmingham, England, that I posted in the From the Editor column: 

"We are still banging on around the thousands of complexities facing both sides of the argument as to whether vaccines are linked to autism. And yet I still await an answer to my question posed at the Vaccine conference of November 2002 'where are the unvaccinated autistic kids?'. Please someone tell me, I haven't been able to find them in the UK and no organisation seeks to disabuse me of the notion that they don't exist. What goes on here? It is as though there is an extra dimension where people can endless argue the issue whilst no link exists to the reality."

I followed up with a narrower question: "Is there any evidence that anything but mercury causes anything but an insignificant fraction of the autism epidemic? In other words, but for mercury poisoning, would 'autism' really exist? Anyone?"

Autism Venn

What followed was the kind of crowd-sourced -- i.e., reader-led -- comment thread that to me is the glory of Age of Autism. People with all kinds of experiences and observations weighed in and provided the broad overview and specific detail that makes it possible to refine some answers. (My friend and now Northern Virginia neighbor Josie Nelson, who first expressed keen insights related to all this when we met in Minneapolis in 2010, has added some comments, noted in parentheses. Thanks, Josie!)

First of all, vaccination cannot account for every single case of autism, bar none. We all already know this, I think, because there are enough credible reports of never-vaccinated children with clearly documented diagnoses to show "autism" -- neurological  damage during infancy (or in utero)  that results in a characteristic syndrome of behavior and, often, physical ailments -- is not exclusive to vaccination. But there aren't many such cases, and it can be very hard in a finite group and time period to find any, as Tony Bateson's comment shows. (The Amish and Mayer Eisenstein's Homefirst practice in Chicago are two more cohorts in which there are tens of thousands of never-vaccinated children and little evidence of autism in those children -- certainly nothing on the magnitude of 1 in 88.)

Second, mercury alone is not the sole cause, as many of you who witnessed regression so quickly after the MMR vaccine, in particular, can testify.

But both Tony's question, and mine, point to what I believe is the truth: the autism epidemic is the result of vaccination; mercury both within and without vaccination can be identified as a likely suspect, providing us a key insight into the toxic nature of the disorder. The fact that it falls in the middle of my sketch above, and connects both kinds of exposure, vaccine and environmental, is apt.

(Josie Nelson adds: We also need to pay attention to the way that aluminum (over)stimulates the immune system and can instigate an auto-immune cascade … and the way that that auto-immune cascade can be exacerbated in the presence of a live virus (i.e. multiple vaccinations at once, particularly a live virus vaccine and a killed cell virus vaccine with aluminum adjuvant at once).  We all know that the so-called safety studies have never looked at what happens when you give two vaccines together … let alone two different TYPES of vaccines.  This is a huge piece in my mind … the aluminum is an immune stimulant.  That’s its stated purpose.  When you are purposefully stimulating an immune response without any regard to the state of the individual immune system you are stimulating and you introduce a live virus into that scenario at the very same time, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to imagine what possible (or even likely) results can ensue.  I also think ASD tends to look different depending on what hits occurred.  The mito kids look different from the mercury kids in part because there are (by and large -- oversimplifying here to make my point) different toxins at play.

(Deisher’s research on human DNA contamination and her excellent change point analysis data is a political landmine I know (whatever side of the legalized abortion issue one happens to be on).  But leaving politics aside for the moment, and speaking of auto-immune potential, inserting residual human DNA into a person while stimulating that person’s immune system by other means (aluminum, formaldehyde, MSG) seems like such an obvious area of concern.  According to Deisher there is more residual human DNA in varicella vaccine than there is varicella.  Deisher’s research points to the residual DNA hitting the known ‘hot spots’ on the DNA the areas more susceptible to breakage.)

Someone is surely going to say, but what about genes? Well, what about them? To say there may be a genetic vulnerability to autism is basically to say that it is a disorder acquired by individual human beings. Most of the genetic variability noted in autism (see Jill James) has to do with how effectively toxins are excreted. In a few cases where autism is said to be due to "known" genetic causes -- Down syndrome, say, or tuberous sclerosis -- not every child with those conditions develops autism, suggesting a decisive (and I suspect toxic) co-factor. Add to that the virtual absence of autism before the 1930s -- a time when many genetic disorders were already well-characterized -- and you have a non-starter of a hypothesis, though one that still attracts the lion's share of autism research money.

Plus there's the fact that toxins can cause epigenetic changes. So toxins damage genes that may contribute to autism? That's not a genetic cause.

Forget genes. But for toxic exposures, there would be no autism epidemic.

Bernie Rimland put it to me this way not long before he died: Vaccines do not cause every case of autism, but they have indeed caused the autism epidemic. Exactly what portion is uncertain, but it is fair to say that the strongest case for the rise of autism can be made for overvaccination, period. I certainly believe it's the big majority. A doctor who worked closely with Bernie told me not long ago they believe vaccination probably accounts for 30 percent of all autism cases -- in other words, a substantial minority, with the largest effect due to other medical interventions, including antibiotics, and environmental toxins from food to pollution. So, in my little sketch above, you could draw the ENV circle bigger and the VAX circle smaller. (Or vice versa.) It's not meant to be proportional, just to indicate the circles of causation and the fact they connect, with mercury a clear instance.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: What Causes Autism" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: More Mushy, Misdirected Autism Empathy

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

The morning shows were agog Friday over the duet between Katy Perry and a tween girl with autism, to be broadcast on tomorrow’s “Night of Too Many Stars” benefit on Comedy Central. On the Today show, Al Roker said he teared up, and trotted out the old “it must be my allergies” joke as a way of calling even more attention to it.

Touching. But what exactly is this benefit benefiting? PR for the event says it uses “comedy to raise money for autism education programs.” On the benefit’s Web site, we learn: “Night of Too Many Stars benefits a variety of autism programs across the country in support of the overabundance of individuals with autism that so desperately need quality services. In 2010, thanks to your support, Night of Too Many Stars, through its partner organization, New York Collaborates for Autism, gave more than $3.1 million in grants to 41 programs in 13 states."

 I couldn't find any easily located list of who those recipients are, though I'm sure many of them are worthy. But this “partner organization,” New York Collaborates for Autism, is clearly the charitable entity involved, and it has two current initiatives, one of which is the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, due to open next year.

This is Catherine Lord’s project – along with redoing the DSM-V in a way that a lot of us don’t care for. We think it will exclude some high-functioning children with autism and muddy the waters about the real epidemic increase in autism. If you support this work, and the idea that we don’t really know if there’s an epidemic, and never will, and certainly don’t know what is causing it, by all means, contribute.

But you might want to read some of AOA’s coverage of Dr. Lord, starting with this from Katie Wright:

 “What kind of human being makes money by testifying against disabled children with autism?

Dr. Eric Fombonne.

Dr. Catherine Lord.

Dr. Bennett Leventhal.

“These parasites regularly take the stand in Vaccine Court in hopes of preventing sick autistic children from receiving financial compensation for their injuries. … I think their 'work' as anti-child professional testifiers has been insufficiently discussed and deserves a good public airing, don’t you?"

 Anne Dachel has also put Dr. Lord under the microscope. “In April, 2012, Dr. Catherine Lord was STILL saying that all the autism everywhere might just be ‘better detection.’”

 The lifetime cost of autism is pegged at around $3 million (conservatively, given the cost to

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: More Mushy, Misdirected Autism Empathy" »

Best of AofA: Why Progressives Don't Get Autism

Enablers Managing Editor's Note: We first ran this post in November of 2010 - it's apropos this week with the debate.

By Dan Olmsted

The midterm elections have ushered in a period of reflection and reckoning for the nation’s liberal-left movement that today usually describes itself as “progressive.” As The Huffington Post bluntly put it, “Progressive Heroes Go Down to Defeat.” Especially given health care reform’s big role in the election debate, this reckoning ought to include the biggest health problem facing the next generation and hence the nation: Autism.

But first, progressives have got to come to grips with their abject failure to “get” the autism issue.

Progressivism, the idea that government can and should intervene to improve the lives of its citizens, arose early in the last century in response to the Darwinian excesses of Industrial Revolution, laissez-faire capitalism – child labor, abject poverty in the elderly, untaxed corporate profits that went right back into the pockets of the richest. It peaked during the New Deal, then plummeted during Reagan – “Government is not the solution to the problem, government IS the problem,” he famously said.

While this political philosophy waxes and wanes, as it should, I would argue that the word has a wider meaning now – that our country, great as it is and has been, faces challenges and problems that can be addressed by doing something, by making progress, sometimes but not necessarily led or funded by government. So it’s not so much a left-right issue as one of the static status quo versus the impulse to improve on it.

One key part of the progressive agenda of the last century has been improving health – and especially children’s health – through mass vaccination against deadly diseases.  And now come a new group of people, autism parents, who allegedly want to roll back all this progress so long in the making. And how do they want to accomplish this nefarious (and nebulous) goal? By questioning the consensus that genes cause autism, and by claiming that the environment – and plausibly some aspect of the very same mass vaccination campaign -- is implicated in autism’s epidemic rise. Cleverly labeling these concerns “anti-vaccine” and, implicitly, anti-progress, makes it easy to ignore a fundamental truth -- that every ideology including progressivism can go too far, get hijacked by forces that should be its natural enemies, and fail to understand what is required at a particular historical moment.

Continue reading "Best of AofA: Why Progressives Don't Get Autism" »

Best of AofA: Why Conservatives Don't Get Autism

Helen lovejoy! Managing Editor's Note: Our good friend Ginger Taylor wrote this post at Adventures in Autism.com in November 2010 as a counterpart to Dan's post above.  We're running it in response to/anticipation of the Presidential debate.

A few days ago, Dan Olmsted at Age of Autism wrote a piece entitled, “Why Progressives Don’t Get Autism”, where he made the case that those on the left are so enamored with the idea that government can solve the problems of humanity, like communicable disease epidemic prevention via public health policies, that they fail to see the unintended consequences of these policies.

In a rare moment of self-reflective contemplation, one of the leftiest blogs on the left, The Daily Kos, admitted that Olmsted had a point.

In reading all this, I have to face that conservatives just have another version of the same problem. We are often so enamored with the idea that business and industry can solve the problems of humanity, and that free man can, with his clever mind and by the sweat of his brow, build the bright, shining city on a hill, that we fail to see the unintended consequences of these ambitions.

Our freedom to work and to own and to engage in commerce, coupled with our dedication to creation, has done some truly astonishing things. We went from the horse and buggy to the moon in less than two centuries. What other culture in the history of man has made such advances?

Progress and innovation have lifted us out of the muck and put us in climate controlled skyscrapers, where we can have pizza delivered while we watch football, and where we don’t have to hunt through the forest and toil in the garden. Which is great. Except that we were kind of made to hunt through the forest and toil in the garden. And when we get too far away from the garden, there are consequences to our health.

When “PROGRESS” and “INDUSTRY” (insert 1950’s post war pro-business, “Better Living Through Chemistry” educational film here) push us to create thousands of compounds and molecules that have never existed on this planet before, and we manufacture them in massive quantities and spread them everywhere, to interact with one another everywhere, in the air, in the water, in homes, in clothes, in foods and in medicines, what we WILL end up with is a chemical soup that WILL harm some or all people. (Any one who does not believe that this is an eventuality is just in denial or has never read Frankenstien or any of the other thousands of cautionary tales of how man’s creations return to bite him in places to which only God and the TSA have unrestricted access.) Because THAT chemical world is not OUR chemical world, the one that nurtured the human race to the place where it could begin an industrial revolution only a very short time ago.

We belong in our garden.

There are basically two camps on how we came to be here in our garden. One is that an omnipotent and loving being made us and placed us in a garden that was created especially for us and would meet our physical needs. The other is that we evolved from the garden and are actually part and parcel of it… just another flower in the garden.

Continue reading "Best of AofA: Why Conservatives Don't Get Autism" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: The 'No-Debate' Debate

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

One of the great televised moments in vaccine-autism history (right up there with “the problem is the problem”) occurred on The Today Show a few years back when Matt Lauer said “there is controversy” over a link and Dr. Nancy shot back: “Not controversial subject, Matt.”

 Matt: “Well, controversial for parents who still believe ...”

 Dr. Nancy: “It is not controversial Matt. It's time for kids to get their vaccines.”

 It’s less what Matt says, and more the look on his face and the sound of his rather emphatic setting down of interview notes, reflecting the fact “parents who still believe” include someone in his own circle who blames a child’s autism on the MMR.

 Yes, it’s controversial. And it’s only gotten more so.

 The 2008 Today show piece Matt and Dr. Nancy were discussing was a paean to the heroic long-suffering Paul Offit. But it also showed an interview with Bernadine Healy, and Snyderman claimed that Healy wanted to ask “a different question altogether” from whether vaccines cause autism --about whether a “one size fits all” vaccine schedule is dangerous, and a subset of kids may be vulnerable to various side effects. This of course is not a different question altogether, it is exactly the same question – as Healy’s interview with CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson showed.

 Yes, there is indeed a controversy, one Dr. Nancy and Dr. Paul have tried unsuccessfully to suppress.

 The “no debate” argument surfaced again this past week, as Brian Deer was given free rein at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to peddle his views as though they were carried down the mountain by Dr. Moses. As our own Anne Dachel reported:

 “The University of WI-La Crosse made their position clear in the opening remarks of professor of immunology, Bernadette Taylor, before an audience of hundreds of UWL students. “There is no debate… This University did not invite a debate on that issue.”

“Case closed: the University would not allow for a free exchange of ideas so informed, intelligent students could make up their own minds.

“Brian Deer was then allowed to present his version of the most heated controversy in medicine today: Is our aggressively expanded vaccination schedule behind the exponential increase in autism? According to Deer and the UWL, the debate is over. Only a few desperate parents still believe in a link. The science has spoken.”

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: The 'No-Debate' Debate" »

Tics and Toxins: Mystery Illness Strikes Third Pitcher at Same New York State High School

Three strikes
By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

A third softball pitcher at Corinth High School in Upstate New York was stricken last week with the same strange illness -- including seizures and tics --  that felled two other pitchers at the school.

Like the first two,  Corinth 9th grader Abby Matuszak collapsed unconscious. And like Corinth them, she's being told by medical experts that it's all in her head. That's the same diagnosis officials gave earlier this year to about 20 girls, many of them athletes, at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in the western part of the state.

But the new case in Corinth strengthens the possibility that something environmental or infectious -- or a combination of both -- may be at work. While two softball pitchers (out of four) at the same school might be dismissed as a coincidence, albeit an unlikely one, three is an alarm bell. And several local sources told us the total number of students affected over the past two school years in Corinth is now six, including a sixth-grader active in cheerleading.

Abby's mother, Shannon Matuszak, says that after  her daughter was taken by ambulance to a hospital last week, doctors dismissed her symptoms as psychological. She is now at home, missing classes she enjoys, games with her varsity field hockey team, Spirit Week activities and Homecoming -- all much-anticipated events for a ninth grader. She is currently suffering "only"  three to four seizures a day, according to her mother, a psychiatric nurse.

“I told them, don’t you think it’s odd that six girls in the same school in a tiny small town are all going through the same thing and they walk through these doors and you tell them the exact same thing?" Shannon said. "Do you think that maybe they correlate with each other -- that three were  pitchers? Maybe it’s nothing, but to me it’s a Big Maybe.”

The family found a doctor in Westchester County who has started Abby on antibiotics with a presumptive diagnosis of Lyme disease. They're hopeful her symptoms will continue clearing up and she'll be back in school soon.

Corinth Central School District Superintendent Daniel R. Starr did not respond to a request for comment. 

Abby’s saga began last Wednesday, just two days after we reported on the cases of Alycia Nicholson and  Lori Brownell, who began suffering similar symptoms  last year when they were the junior varsity and varsity pitchers. Abby is the pitcher for the ninth-grade team playing on the same fields, and her mother said no one in her family was aware of our article.

Like Lori and Alycia, Abby experienced some symptoms in the weeks before the severe attack. Her legs cramped and her joints hurt. Her mother told her to eat bananas to replenish potassium depleted by exertion. Last Tuesday, Abby got a nasal flu vaccine.

On Wednesday, “What happened was she was in lunch, and she started having her peripheral vision going,” her mother said. “And she had a headache, and her hearing was off.” Her friends wanted her to go to the nurse, but, typically, she insisted on attending her next class, in math.

“Her friends in the class said she was staring off and very spacey, and then all of a sudden her desk was shaking from where she was writing, and then she just toppled over, she fell right out of her seat.” 

During a 45-minute wait for an ambulance, she had eight more seizures, and continued to have them at the hospital in Glens Falls and after being transferred to Albany Medical Center. They ranged from 10 seconds to three minutes in length. “It took them a long time to rouse her when she got to the hospital. It took half an hour to wake her up.  It wasn’t until probably an hour later that she was able to even speak.”

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: Mystery Illness Strikes Third Pitcher at Same New York State High School" »

British Medical Journal Deposition Raises Questions For Brian Deer in Wakefield Lawsuit

Brian deerBy Dan Olmsted

Brian Deer's appearances in Wisconsin yesterday and today -- and Andy Wakefield's press conference there Thursday -- are coming amid the continued crumbling of Deer's British Medical Journal case against Wakefield. Check out the depositions from Andy's defamation suit against Deer, including the first one, featuring a British Medical Journal fact checker who can't remember too many facts and doesn't sound like she checked too many, either (including whether the children did or did not have autism, kind of a key point).

 “The parents’ story is the most valuable starting point, and if the parents say, ‘This is what happened to my child, they were normal, they had a vaccine, now they're not normal,’ and this happens not once, but thousands of times around the world, then we have to take that very seriously,” Wakefield told a crowd of about 50  at a local park, according to WKBT in LaCrosse. “Here we have, for the first time, something in autism, which is directly treatable and where we can make the lives of these children so much better, and what a tragedy not to capitalize on that,” said Wakefield.

I got an e-mail press query yesterday: "Do you think Dr. Wakefield has a chance at rebuilding his reputation among most Americans after what has occurred in recent years?" My response: Andy plans to address Deer's claims that he engineered "an elaborate fraud" in the 1998 Lancet paper. It's certainly appropriate for Deer and others to investigate that paper, but it's also important for other journalists to hold Deer to high standards of accuracy and fairness in making such a serious and important claim.

I spent several months both in the US and England investigating Deer's claims. I found no evidence of fraud at all and have so far written 10 articles about that at AgeOfAutism.com. The vindication of Andy's co-author, John Walker-Smith, puts Deer in an even more problematic position, in that Walker-Smith independently vouched for the accuracy of many statements in the Lancet paper that Deer claims were fraudulently manipulated by Wakefield.

The fact is, based on my own reporting including interviews with parents in Lancet paper and many other sources, I believe that the MMR does cause bowel disease and autism. Thousands of parents and others know it to their great sorrow and have tried to sound the alarm. Andy will be speaking along with some of those parents. Ultimately, because he and they are telling the truth, his reputation will be rebuilt. The quickest way for that to happen is to get Deer's false claims in front of a jury, which Andy and his supporters are diligently working to do.

Read the depositions HERE. Learn more at Dr. Wakefield's justice fund.

Tics and Toxins: The Beast, the Wrestler, and the Trouble With Conversion Disorder

CorinthBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

CORINTH, New York -- Lori Brownell’s teammates nicknamed her the Beast. She threw herself into every play last year on the girls’ softball team at Corinth High School, north of Albany. A star pitcher and all-around player, she dove for the ball and slid into base with bruising abandon – and has the jammed fingers, scrapes, and concussions to prove it.

Alycia Nicholson is no shrinking violet, either. She is an undefeated wrestler on the boys’ junior varsity wrestling team, and, like Lori, an ace softball pitcher. This past spring, after she moved up to the varsity, she hurled a two-hitter with eight strikeouts for one victory, and slammed a solo home run in another.

It is odd, then, that these two hardy teens were the only two students felled at the high school last year by a mystery illness that included fainting spells, tics, severe fatigue, joint pain, breathing problems, seizures, rashes, and other serious signs and symptoms.

And it’s even odder that both were subjected to claims in recent months that it was all, in effect, in their heads – that they suffered not from any physical illness but from a Freudian diagnosis of “conversion disorder,” in which some past trauma or emotional upheaval got converted unconsciously into physical symptoms. When this happens to more than one person in the same setting, it is called mass hysteria, or, to use the modern and less judgmental-sounding term, a mass psychogenic event.

Historically, hysteria has been associated with anxious, attention-seeking people, usually women. Across the state, a similar cluster of symptoms among a group of high-schoolers was dubbed, “cheerleader hysteria.”  As a New York Times column by Caitlin Flanagan put it: “Most parents of adolescent girls will never have to contend with episodes of hysteria of the kind experienced by the cheerleaders. But anyone with a teenage daughter can attest that this is a time of emotional extremes and high drama, of girls who are one moment affectionate youngsters and the next screaming banshees.” (See our article, The Crazy History of Conversion Disorder)

The girls, and their families, don’t buy it. As Alycia, an attractive, self-contained young woman, said simply when we visited her home outside Corinth earlier this year: “Why would anyone do that to herself?”

It’s a great question, and one with no good answer. The likeliest explanation in both cases remains real illness, triggered by something in the environment, or by an infection, or by some unusual combination. But unwarranted medical and media skepticism, based on 19th-century psychiatric speculation, continues to stand in the way of understanding what really happened. While Alycia, now a junior, has returned to school and sports and has only minor residual problems, Lori – an outgoing, appealing and mature senior, eager to do volunteer work for the disabled -- cannot attend class or tolerate noisy or crowded situations, and continues to have disabling verbal and physical tics. A recent video captured her on a rare trip out, to Walmart, with a friend pushing her wheelchair.

 

Both girls were afflicted in 2011, Alycia near the end of the school year that May, when she collapsed, passed out, and went into convulsions on the pitcher’s mound at a junior varsity home game. Lori, the star varsity pitcher that year, passed out that August at a school dance, then again in October, with recurrent dizziness at school in between, followed by multiple symptoms that worsened dramatically.

Lori, used to being knocked down but not out, tried to carry on as usual, but a friend described the difficulties: “When she started to come back to school, she passed out almost every day. It killed me to see everyone just staring at her as the nurse came running down the hallway.”

The cases gained national attention early this year after a similar but larger cluster of about 18 girls developed tic disorders at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School near Rochester, 250 miles west of Corinth. In LeRoy, the state health department endorsed the diagnosis of conversion disorder, and school officials said there was no environmental or infectious cause for the illness. For that reason, health experts have declined even to investigate the Corinth cases, saying that by definition they could have nothing in common with LeRoy.

Although we have drawn no conclusions, there are several plausible physical suspects in Corinth – from infections to pesticides on playing fields – that should have been investigated more intensively and ruled out more persuasively before exotic mental diagnoses were even considered. Since the start of the school year two new tic cases have been reported in LeRoy, along with a third case that suddenly worsened. This, and rumblings of more cases in both locations and clusters in other states, suggest such factors could be a continuing threat. For that reason if no other, a close look at the Corinth cases makes sense.

--

When we visited, we found two strong, unified families facing their daughters’ mysterious illness with caring and determination. But when a reporter for The New York Times, Susan Dominus, visited the Nicholsons -- Randy Nicholson is an independent construction contractor and his wife, Heidi, is a stay-at-home mom to four kids -- it did not take her long to decide on a diagnosis. As she wrote on her Times blog:

“I drove to Corinth first and interviewed one of the two young women [Alycia] who were showing symptoms there. I’m not a neurologist or a psychiatrist, but it seemed likely to me after talking to her that anxiety was an issue, and that her symptoms seemed to get worse in situations when there was a lot of attention and concern focused on her and the other girl. I did not think that she was faking it, but that there was something psychological at play. It was not what I had expected, to be honest.”

The idea that a newspaper reporter would offer such a diagnosis after a brief visit, and make it public, upset Alycia and outraged her parents. So did the family’s subsequent visit to California to appear on The Doctors, a TV show. Randy Nicholson said the family participated on the understanding that the doctors would evaluate Alycia for PANDAS, a neurological condition that has been suggested as a cause of many of the LeRoy cases, but “when we arrived, the testing was changed to the most basic and general tests which would undoubtedly turn up nothing.”

The doctors then told her, on national TV,  “You’ll be fine in no time.” Translation: Tut, tut little girl. Just calm down and you’ll get better. It’s all in your head.  Says Randy: “That’s not it. There’s a lot more going on.”

“It’s like being in a horror movie,” Heidi Nicholson said of the repeated failure to find anything amiss with their daughter. “At Albany Medical Center, they told us they didn’t see anything wrong, so there was no further need to investigate it. It made us so angry because we couldn’t get anywhere, and she was sick all the time.”

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: The Beast, the Wrestler, and the Trouble With Conversion Disorder" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: LaCrosse Drinks Brian Deer's Kool-Aid

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

As an English major, I'm really disappointed to see the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse promoting Brian Deer's talks next week at the University. According to the department's blog, Deer "carried out one of the classic public interest investigations of recent times. He probed the controversy over vaccines and autism.  Based on this landmark inquiry, and 25 years of pursuing complex, contentious topics, he gives a reporter's inside perspective on how to break a difficult story." 

"Fears that vaccines cause autism has become one of the biggest health controversies in America. But where did the story begin, and what keeps it going?"

The truth, fellow English majors and would-be journalists, is that the story began when vaccines began causing autism, and what keeps the story going is that vaccines keep causing autism. That's my view, but I'm not alone, and the fact that I and thousands of others hold that view shows that Deer's presentation should be treated as one side of a controversy, not as a how-to session. The promo -- doubtless supplied by Deer or his enablers -- acknowledges it's a real controversy, but then immediately reverts to the idea that some nonsense abroad in the population is perpetuating this ridiculous idea of a vaccine-autism link.

That is the kind of subtle subversion of logic and language to which English majors, especially, should be alert. The medical and scientific community may be in the tank, but this is a story in which close attention to rhetoric and reality can point to the truth as directly as any other evidence.

There's nothing wrong with having Deer speak at an American university, although I can't see much point in it. But the issue needs to be presented as a debate, a dialogue, and prosepective journalists need to study the controversy, not slaver over the author because he has won some awards and the orthodox medical and media establishments are drunk on his Kool-Aid. Andy Wakefield shouldn't have to scratch around for a venue to hold his own press conference. He should be invited in to confront Deer, or to appear in a similarly respectable capacity. Or, if not Wakefield, I've written and presented on the problems with Deer's reporting and would have been glad to do so again (they wouldn't have to pay me, which I can only assume is another difference between myself and Deer).

The title of Deer's other talk, "An Elaborate Fraud: The MMR Vaccine and Autism," is not really holding up well, either, given developments since the series by that title appeared in the British Medical Journal in January 2011. According to the promo: "Over a period of seven years, Brian Deer investigated the story for The Sunday Times of London and now comes to LaCrosse to reveal what Time Magazine dubbed one of the 'great science frauds' of all time.  Launched from one British hospital in the 1990s, the scare took hold first in the UK, and then spread around the globe, leaving doctors baffled, children at risk, parents frightened, and lawyers with a lot more money. Deer shows how it was done, who did it, and why it will happen again."

The question to be asked is not how was it done, etc., but, What fraud?

Inconveniently, Wakefield's co-author on the 1988 "Lancet" paper, the renowned John Walker- Walker-smith.jpg.displaySmith, was exonerated of the British medical establishment's trumped-up charges this year by a British civil court with a thorough-goingness that directly discredits many of those breathless assertions against Wakefield, including claims that there was no regressive autism, no bowel disease, no genuine case series, no plausible link to the MMR. For instance, here is what Smith said under oath :

--

Q. What did you believe that you were finding?

A. Just like many times in my career before, we were finding a new disorder. … We were beginning to see a new syndrome, fairly clear features of children [with regressive developmental disorders] presenting with diarrhoea, very often abdominal pain which often was not diagnosed by other doctors. ...There is a characteristic symptom pattern. ... Clearly in the context of autism we felt something new was coming, and that is the motivation, of course, for us clinicians to feel that it was appropriate for Andy Wakefield to take the lead, and write these features for publication.

Q. Having gone through the histology reports, the synthesis of those reports in the histology meetings, it is clear that there are abnormalities there ---?

A. Yes.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: LaCrosse Drinks Brian Deer's Kool-Aid" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Poison, Apples, Polio, and Popcorn

DO WA State

By Dan Olmsted

The drumbeat is especially loud this fall -- get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and protect Flu shot flyeryourself from the modern plagues. You know, chickenpox, mumps, hepatitis B in infancy. Not to mention the mercury, I mean flu, shot, and the shingles jab to protect yourself from the population-level consequences of the chickenpox shot. They've practically become Blue-Light Specials at the big box store.

But the pushback to the drumbeat is also more notable this year. Parents (along with the gutsy Rob Schneider) are battling in California, which wants your doctor to harrangue you before you exercise your legal rights, and New Jersey, which wants to require proof that your medical or religious exemption is legit. (Ah, the Golden state, home of the law that lets 12-year-olds get the Gardasil shot without parental consent, and an exploding autism rate. Ah, the Garden state, home of the Pharm team and an astonishingly high autism rate.) 

So all is not lost -- at least the issue is out there and getting bigger by the day. Private school parents -- better off, better educated -- and opting out for their kids more than ever. Last year a restrictive measure was beaten back in Vermont, and the increasing presence of the Canary Party and other autism activists in the debate bodes well for the long run.

But meanwhile we must suffer reports like the one this week in The New York Times, "Washington State Makes It Harder to Opt Out of Immunizations," that begins: "Washington State is home to Bill and Melinda Gates, champions of childhood vaccines across the globe. Its university boasts cutting-eduge vaccine research. But when it comes to getting children immunized, until recently, the state was dead last."

The article extrudes praise on the recent tightening of exemptions there, and soberly notes a new study that "more parents are choosing not to have their children vaccinated, especially in states that make it easy to opt out."

But why would parents do that, especially the most informed and engaged ones? Of course, there's that "false" Andy Wakefield claim linking the MMR to autism, as The Times put it. Well, that's not what Wakefield said, but I will -- the MMR does cause autism and bowel problems. Too many parents know it, and they know that the current cumulative, agglutinated vaccine schedule does, too. And so does mercury in its many manifestations. That, fundamentally, is why they're scaling back, dialing down, opting out. New laws and scornful schoolmarmish mainstream articles won't change that in the long run.

Washington State is an interesting place for this debate, as the article notes. But there's another reason it's apt. Look at the photo with the story -- a mom and daughter on their farm, with what look to be apples in the foreground weighing down the branches. It's that time of year.

In the old days, it used to be the time for polio outbreaks as well. The article says: "Vaccines are among the most important achievements of modern medicine. Since the first major types came into broad use in the 1940s, they have drastically reduced deaths from infectious diseases like polio and measles. But the virtual disappearance of these diseases has lulled parents into considering the vaccines as less necessary, public health experts say." (Cue mandatory quote from millionaire vaccine industrialist -- not "public health expert" -- Paul Offit.)

But let's talk polio for a moment. Mark Blaxill and I have written an alternative narrative of the rise and fall of polio.  We propose that the polio virus was a benign stomach bug until it was potentiated by industrial-age pesticides, beginning with lead arsenate in the 1890s and exploding with DDT after World War II. Yes, the polio vaccine beat the virus into submission, ending the epidemics, and that's a good thing, but the better thing would have been never triggering the epidemics in the first place. Second best, even at this late date, would be learning the lessons of that iconic modern scourge.

Which brings us to Washington state and apples. In our series on polio, we described a study done by Jacolyn Van Vliet Manning in 1912 -- a nice round century ago -- that took note of a stunning phenomenon. At the same time as several of the early polio outbreaks, farm and domestic animals also died. Since experiments showed the virus could not trigger paralysis in animals, that was an early warning sign something more complicated might be going on -- some kind of co-factor or confounder was paralyzing animals at the same time people were contracting poliomyelitis. 

"I have found a disease appearing in one or two year old colts that shows a line of symptoms corresponding closely to anterior poliomyelitis in children," Manning wrote. (Don't you just want to scream, Wake Up!)

Although no one recognized it then, we believe that co-factor was pesticide. One of the coincident outbreaks in man and animal cited in Manning's chart was in Kelley, Washington, in 1910. As we've pointed out, many of the early outbreaks were in places where fruits and vegetables were grown intensively, like the Napa and San Joaquin valleys in California, and the blueberry-growing center in Eastern Maine. Orchard-heavy Washington state would certainly fit that bill. Apples were a prime target for moths, and thus a prime target for the new lead arsenate pesticide. Another early outbreak occurred in  Galesville, Wisconsin, in 1907. Even today, the Chamber of Commerce logo there features an apple, and the annual Apple Affair is held the first Saturday in October. “Orchards from the area set up stands on the square where visitors can purchase apples and apple treats served up by local growers. Apple pie, apple slices, caramel apples, Apple Normandy, Queen's Apple, apple cider, apple juice -- if it's apple, you'll find it here.”

Yes, along with early polio outbreaks. Another example we wrote about from Washington State: 

In January 1920, Veterinary Times published an article by J.W. Kalkus, head of Veterinary Science at the State College of Washington Agricultural Experiment Station, titled “Orchard Horse Disease.”   “The writer recently had an opportunity of making an investigation of a disease which has been causing considerable loss among horses in certain sections of Washington."

It caused paralysis and death, and it went by several names, Kalkus reported, among them orchard horse disease; orchard poisoning; alfalfad horses; arsenate of lead poisoning; mold poisoning.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Poison, Apples, Polio, and Popcorn" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: All Apologies

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

Apologies are in the air this week. There's the presidential campaign battle over who if anyone apologized, or should have, or should now, or should not, for what. Then there's the apology the thalidomide manufacturer proffered 50 years after the fact for the damage done by that drug. Anne Dachel wrote about this (see below) and the obvious analogy to thimerosal, the organic mercury component still in flu shots.

There is no reason in this enlightened day and age to be using a chemical like that in shots given to pregnant women and babies in the United States, and in all kinds of vaccines given to children around the world. The same ingredient was banned decades ago in pesticides because of its glaring toxicity. Plenty of evidence has since been marshaled to show its connection with autism and other serious disorders.

But if history is any judge, an apology for thimerosal will probably take another half-century. Meanwhile, there is every reason to push for apologies that could help weaken the grip of orthodox medicine -- and particularly psychiatry -- on the brain damage it likes to call "autism" and to control with prescription drugs and behavioral therapy. Here are a couple that the autism community might consider pushing for now:

DO headApology Number One: From the University of Chicago and its Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School. This was the stomping ground -- literally and figuratively -- of bully boy Bruno Bettelheim, who cooked up the idea of homicidal mothers driving their appropriately terrified infants into the "empty fortress" of autism. Beloved during his life as a wise and benevolent guru of disturbed children, revelations after his death showed him to be abusive to the children at the school. And his blame-mom paradigm slowed by decades the understanding of autism as a biological disorder.

The damage he did to families and individuals coping with autism is beyond description. But you'd never know it by checking the Orthogenic School's Web site. Yes, it's still there, still treating disturbed children -- and, unfathomably, still shilling for Bettelheim!

Under "Our History and Mission": "Founded in 1915, the school received worldwide recognition under the leadership of previous school directors Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, Dr. Jacqui Sanders, and Dr. Betram Cohler. Today it is under the direction of a dynamic team of professional staff that utilizes a wide variety of treatments in the care and support of students at the School. ..." They even recommend two of the sainted Dr. B.'s books.

You cannot be serious! These folks needs to acknowledge the disastrous legacy of Bettelheim, and apologize specifically to people with autism and their families. 

Apology Number Two: From Johns Hopkins. Hopkins is where autism was first identified, and where it was first linked to "refrigerator parents" by its discoverer, Leo Kanner. Vile publications by Kanner and others followed. Kanner recanted without apologizing -- attacking Bettelheim while claiming he, Kanner, never disparaged parents. Hopkins needs to acknowledge the black mark on its record.

I'm sure there are other entities and individuals who ought to offer their regrets and their promise to do better. If you know any, suggest them here. 

The idea of demanding apologies NOW, not after another half-century of damage, is not unique to me. John Gilmore suggested that a couple of years back in a comment on AOA: 

"I have always thought that the American physicians, especially the psychiatrists, who I don't really consider physicians, owe people with autism, their families, and especially the mothers of people with autism an profound apology for the way they adopted and expounded the refrigerator mother theory without a scrap of evidence to support it.

Current physicians like to pretend that this incredibly damaging irresponsible, intellectually lazy and deeply misogynistic policy was from the distant past and has nothing to do with them. I think it has everything to do with current practice.

I have always thought we should have a formal campaign to demand an apology from the American Psychiatric Association to the mothers of people with autism."

--

Speaking of rewriting history, I was interested this week to see the battle over Sharyl Attkisson's Sharyl A Wikipedia entry. On the subject of vaccines, it says: "Attkisson's reporting on vaccines has been criticized with Steven Salzberg characterizing it as being 'anti-science' and spreading 'anti-vaccine misinformation.'"

This is a little like saying, "Bob Woodward's reporting on Watergate has been criticized, with a writer of Republican press releases calling it biased." On her own blog, Attkisson writes: "Beware the paid naysayers and fringe bloggers who propagate false Web propaganda against me and others who investigate their industry and conflicts. Watch for pharmaceutical interests disguised as 'scientists' or pretending to be average 'commenters' on ridiculously vitriolic blog stories that claim those who look into vaccine safety are 'anti-vaccine' or 'nutty.' They want you to believe that for a reason. You know better. The public is getting wise."

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: All Apologies" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Which Candidate Will Cause Less Autism (Than the Other)?

Obama pointBy Dan Olmsted

There is a problem with both President Obama and Governor Romney Romney when it comes to autism. They're all for research and treatment and acceptance, but they also want to vaccinate the bejesus out of America's kids -- and that's the main driver of the autism epidemic. Talk about a messed up situation!

One can argue which candidate would cause slightly less autism than the other one over the next four years -- Obama's Big Brother approach to vaccine mandates, or Romney's Big Business push for vaccine development -- but that hardly seems like the basis for much optimism or enthusiasm in either case. (See article below on their response to questions about vaccination.) You can't push policies that cause an autism epidemic, and then expect credit for how you plan to prevent or treat it.

Is this -- the truth about autism, the reality that so many parents and even doctors know, yet so many "experts" and regulators deny -- too down-in-the-weeds, too delicate, too darn complicated to expect the candidates to face? Are pabulum and platitudes OK? I vote no. It's the core issue for American competitiveness, for the health of our children, for the proper relationship between private enterprise and the public good, for competence and accountability. These guys need to "get it" if they want to get our votes. They can't just fall back on nostrums about public health and private enterprise in the absence of informed and sound policy.

For heaven's sake, Obama has had the entire apparatus of the federal government at his disposal for four years to find the cause of autism. Michael Strautmanis, the father of a teenage son with severe autism, is at his side, yet the feds are putting just 5 percent of the research budget toward environmental causes. Speak up, Michael! (As Katie Wright wrote on AOA after listening to him at an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting: "Finally Michael Strautmanis spoke. Mr. Strautmanis is a special counselor to the President. Strautmanis spoke movingly about his own experience with his ASD teenage son and the struggle to maintain safety in the home. It was a poignant speech from a loving father and compassionate man. However, it was a speech we had heard before. Mr. Strautmanis is not interested in autism research. We desperately need someone in the White House or the HHS who closely follows the autism research and can hold the NIH accountable for progress. We cannot continue from this place of research stagnation, with the same people in charge, doing the same things the same way, investing in the same lackluster research and failing our families.")

The irony, of course, is that in the past four years it has become more and more obvious, and scientifically convincing, that autism is an environmental illness -- that there are susceptibilities, to be sure, and those susceptibilities include genes, but that we've been pulling the trigger on a virtual AK-47 full of toxins, from elemental mercury spewing out of Texas power plants, to multiple vaccinations of kids with mito disorders, to loading up pregnant women and infants with ethyl mercury and live viruses at ages (like in utero and by 12 months) when they were never intended to get them, to pesticide-spraying that comes very close, in the case of West Nile, to shooting a gnat with a bazooka. The damage is vast, not limited to autism (ADHD, asthma, etc.), not limited to infants (Alzheimer's, Gardasil, etc.), not limited to the MMR or to thimerosal or vaccines, and not likely to stop anytime soon.

The further irony is that in the last few elections the issue has been at least on the table, but as the evidence for both the epidemic and its origins has increased, the concern evinced by the candidates has diminished. Bush Junior said he'd take thimerosal (mercury) out of vaccines, but he didn't. McCain made all kinds of noise but, back in the Senate, where he might actually have done something useful, he hasn't. Obama told Sam Wessels last week (see below) that he has "a plan," but he manifestly doesn't.

You can thank words like "discredited," "disproven," "much-debunked," "junk science" applied by self-interested parties to the honest and first-hand observations of family members and of a few brave souls like Andy Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. You can thank the lazy and credulous press. And you can thank the people who run the government, or want to, of both parties and all political persuasions.

Obama, of course, presides in an ultimate sense over the catastrophic Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, whose historic failures defy concise recitation, and the National Institutes of Health, which just poured another $100 million down a gene-centric rabbit hole. Romney's view that we should onshore our vaccine innovation and keep cooking up more moneymaking vaccine remedies to public health failures sounds like a piece in The Economist or a press release from the Chamber of Commerce.

Clearly, there's a crying need for a new way forward. The Canary Party. A third-party candidacy that puts vaccine choice, and the environmental roots of autism, into the public debate. A disruptive candidate to stand up and continue the conversation Michele Bachman began (and good for her).

It's too bad Dave Weldon's quixotic bid for the Senate didn't go anywhere. Remember, he wanted to study the Amish; he described the vaccine damage ratio as "1 in 1." He called the CDC on its continuing coverup. And he's a doctor! With Dan Burton retiring and with a key staffer for Rep. Carolyn Maloney stepping back for family reasons, we need people to step up. 

And they will. But as for this election, fuggedaboudit.

--0--

  Pesticide Spraying

Pesticides are in the news again, as a study suggested organic foods aren't any more nutritious than the regular -- one is tempted to say inorganic -- kind. As I pointed out, that's not really the point, and those of us who've taken a close look at pesticides appreciate the fact that there is 30% less bug spray and dust on organic food. These days, though, it's not just food that's a risk -- as Dallas found out when the place was thoroughly dusted by plane to try to kill off the West Nile virus via the mosquitos that carry it. 

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Which Candidate Will Cause Less Autism (Than the Other)? " »

Dan Olmsted at Autism One on The Wakefield Inquisition

VideoWe invite you to watch Dan Olmsted discuss and dissect the GMC and mainstream media's battle against Dr. Andrew Wakefield in his presentation from last May at Autism One.

Abstract: The unprecedented journalistic attack on Dr. Wakefield and colleagues after their 1998 paper on autism and bowel disease has begun coming apart at the seams. Now that Wakefield has filed a defamation suit, and a judge in England cleared the paper's other senior author of all wrongdoing, it's time to ask: How did Murdoch's London Sunday Times and the British Medical Journal get away for so long with getting the story so wrong? How long will it take the mainstream media to do its job and report the real facts? (If the embedded video does not appear click HERE.)

Best of AofA: Autism From a Flu Shot? The Ominous Clue From Kanner's Autism Case #7

Mercury-vaccine Note: Flu vaccine season is upon us, appearing each September along with Halloween Candy and early Thanksgiving decorations. Below is a post from November of 2010.

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 concerned 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.
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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.

Continue reading "Best of AofA: Autism From a Flu Shot? The Ominous Clue From Kanner's Autism Case #7 " »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Do MMR + Hg + SSPE = ASD?

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

"I wonder whether autistic enterocolitis isn’t a kind of SSPE with a weakened (vaccine) virus," Kathy Blanco wrote in an e-mail this week, with a link to a blog post HERE  that reports: "Hidden government documents have revealed that leading professionals have had serious concerns about the safety of the single measles vaccines for many years. Secret government documents that have been under lock and key for thirty years have revealed that the UK government has known for many years that the single measles vaccine can cause the debilitating neurological disorder SSPE or Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis."

Whether "autism" is in effect a variant form of SSPE is well worth wondering.

SSPE, as many of you will know, is a rare outcome of wild measles virus infection that is debilitating and usually fatal and can come on well after the original infection. It's often cited as a reason the measles and MMR vaccinations are worthwhile public health interventions -- yes, for most kids measles is unpleasant, but for some it can be far worse. It is neurotoxic and lethal.

So the idea that the measles vaccine, a live virus, could also trigger SSPE or a variant is certainly biologically Measles virusplausible, secret documents or not. If that's the case, mixing measles with mumps and rubella live viruses to create the MMR only makes matters worse because of immune interference (see Wakefield, Andy). So does adding a chickenpox shot on the same day, or cooking up the MMRV, with seven times the amount of chickenpox virus added to the already immunity-compromising MMR.

Blanco also notes: "An imbalance of TH1/TH2 system seems to be the prerequisite for both CNS diseases [SSPE and autism]. Possible causes for an imbalance are mercury (thimerosal) and vaccinations during the first months of life." And he includes this abstract from one of Wakefield's follow-up studies to the 1998 Lancet paper linking bowel disease and regressive autism (it's easy to forget -- because the medical establishment is trying to expunge the record -- that many follow-up studies by Andy and others have strongly added to the evidence):

“At the level of the immune response, the newborn tends towards a TH2 response to pathogens and gradually shifts towards a TH1 response with age. If this transition does not take place appropriately, the infant is likely to be at greater risk of mounting aberrant immune responses in later life, as seen in patients with allergies. Given that, under normal circumstances the age of this transition will be different for different children, it seems inevitable that a ubiquitous viral exposure of all 15-month-old children could induce an immune response that is consistent with the individual dynamics of this TH2-TH1 transition.” (Wakefield AJ, and Montgomery SM. Autism, viral infection, measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Israeli Med Ass J 1999;1:183-187 ).

The official concerns about the measles vaccine and SSPE Blanco cites go back to the early 1970s. But from the very earliest autism reports, there's been evidence that some kids were neurologically vulnerable to live virus vaccines -- perhaps because, as Blanco notes, they've been immunologically "set up" by early or simultaneous exposures to such toxins as mercury. In our book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, Mark Blaxill and I wrote about the intriguing chronology of one of the original case histories presented by Leo Kanner in his 1943 landmark, "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact."

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Do MMR + Hg + SSPE = ASD?" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Did the Anthrax Killer Shape Public Health Response?

AnthraxBy Dan Olmsted

This week has seen all kinds of activity on the war-against-disease front. Small planes dive-bombing big cities with pesticides! Ebola re-emerging! A superbug rampaging through the NIH! Vaccine clinics popping up at Walmart -- now it's not just for flu anymore, you can get your Gardasil shot right by the checkout aisle and fight killer papilloma viruses! Back-to-school-shots frenzies, lest your child come down with chickenpox and die at the hands of a ruthless aggressor! The war-and-death imagery alone is enough to make me want to lay in a year's supply of tuna and baked beans.

All this reminded me of something I've been mulling since I read the book, "The Mirage Man -- Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War," by David Willmon. Like you, no doubt, I had thought that the hunt for the anthrax killer, who sent tainted envelopes to media and government outlets and created a mega-panic right on top of the 9.11 attacks, was conducted by the best and brightest crime-fighters in the U.S. government, who let no tip pass them by in a relentless high-tech hunt for the killer.

As Keith Jackson would put it, Oh My. The clues were thicker than a cloud of freeze-dried anthrax bacillus radiating from a deadly envelope, but the bigshots managed to miss them. All they really had to do was look into Ivins' deranged and well-documented history, and then look at the lab hours he logged alone right before and during the attacks. The ultimate irony, of course, was that the killer was among them --  the lunatic government expert who wanted more attention to his vaccine effort and was smack in the middle of the investigation himself.

An incident that caught my eye was when Iraq was still suspected of the attacks: "As Saddam Hussein continued to rebuff the United Nations and the White House, war grew imminent. Thousands of U.S. troops were being deployed, many to Saudi Arabia. Given the circumstances, the USAMRIID specialists knew that waiting 18 months for each GI to achieve immunity with injections of the anthrax vaccine was out of the question. Commander Bailey needed an answer to the original question: For how long would a soldier need to take an antibiotic to overcome exposure to inhaled anthrax? And what antibiotic would be best?"

So they asked, who else, Bruce Ivins, the anthrax killer! "But which antibiotic would be best? One product, erythromycin, could cause harmful side effects if used by persons exposed to prolonged direct sunlight. ... Two low-cost options, doxycycline and penicillin, along with Cipro, a drug patented more recently, were found to be effective ... 

"Deputy Commander Peters had a related question for Ivins. Pondering it would allow the eager microbiologist to think like an intelligence agency analyst -- or to put himself in the shoes of Saddam Hussein's military scientists: 'Bruce, how hard would it be for them to make penicillin-resistant anthrax?' Ivins replied, 'High school science fair project.'"

In other words, penicillin, and presumably also doxycycline, would be worthless in treating anthrax -- according to the anthrax killer. "At that time Cipro had just been shown to work against anthrax in Petri dishes," Peters said. "So we cranked up animal testing -- and Bruce was very important in running the samples and pulling everything together."

How convenient -- the anthrax killer helped steer the government to the belief that Cipro was the best way to treat the effects of his own terrorism attack. But was it? Cipro, I believe, was overkill. 

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Did the Anthrax Killer Shape Public Health Response?" »

Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Here Come the Bugs

Keep Calm Write OnBy Dan Olmsted

Welcome to the new Weekly Wrap, a column highlighting issues in the news and wrapping in the week's From the Editor posts (which, for some glitchy reason, do not get picked up in Google News unless they appear in a center-column post like this one.)

When I was growing up in suburban Chicago in the 1950s, our idyllic tree-shaded street was attacked by Dutch Elm Disease. Once a tree was infected, it was too late. The city swooped in and cut the trees down, and then sprayed a sticky white oil containing a pesticide for 100 feet in every direction. Since these trees were in people's front yards, that pesticide -- DDT -- was everywhere. The only warning to residents was to make sure their car windows were rolled up at night.

Of course, now we know better -- we'd never spray DDT in people's front yards. Or do we? A successor pesticide to DDT -- safer, supposedly, but still designed to kill living things by wreaking havoc with their nervous systems -- was sprayed by plane over the weekend all over Dallas to fight West Nile Virus, and the images of people covering their lawn furniture and flowers with tarps brought back the old days in Oak Park. Just roll up your car windows and everything will be fine.

It also brought back the story Mark Blaxill and I have spent considerable time on this year -- the outbreak of tic disorders in upstate New York. The official diagnosis is the preposterous "conversion disorder" -- mass hysteria, a la Sigmund Freud -- but we have looked at environmental or infectious etiologies, possibly working as co-factors. Our most recent story focused on a plane that sprayed an insecticide called bifenthrin right next to LeRoy Junior-Senior High School, the site of the major outbreak, last September. A nearby farmer was concerned enough to make a video (Crop Dusting Video HERE)  and speculate on "what part of the chemistry set" was being used on the cornfield.

New Evidence Raises Pesticide Concerns in New York

We don't know whether that pesticide-spraying incident, or any other, triggered the symptoms in LeRoy, though we were surprised that several investigations costing tens of thousands of dollars never considered that possibility. But we do know that bifenthrin is in a class of pesticides called pyrethroids, and that pyrethroids at high doses can trigger some of the same symptoms -- notably muscle twitches -- that beset the LeRoy girls. We operate on the scientific maxim called Occam's Razor -- that the simplest explanation is likeliest to be correct, and that you should consider and rule it out, if possible, before going on to more exotic explanations like "conversion disorder," which we believe is a confabulation of psychiatrists who are still channeling Freud at his worst.

The trade name of the pesticide sprayed in LeRoy is called Tundra. The one in Dallas is called Duet. Both are pyrethroids. This particular compound is being spread all over the place all over the country, in and around schools and elsewhere. As West Nile spreads, so too will the use of these pesticides.

Yet there's a growing awareness this can't be good. New York State banned pesticides on school grounds last year, realizing the risk to children. The state also has a "neighbor notification law" that requires someone applying pesticide to notify their neighbors. But outside metro New York City it's optional, and Genesee County, where LeRoy is located, hasn't adopted it. Maybe they should.

Continue reading "Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Here Come the Bugs" »

Tics and Toxins: New Evidence Raises Pesticide Concerns in New York State Outbreak

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

 

One Thursday last September, a crop-dusting plane swooped down over a cornfield in Western New York and dipped below the tree line, spraying an insecticide engineered to paralyze the nervous system of agricultural pests called earworms. After several passes, the plane climbed, banked sharply, and flew away.

The event, captured on this video by a local resident, is noteworthy for when and where it happened: on a school day, on a field adjoining LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in Western New York, where an outbreak of tic disorders among 18 students, mostly girls, would soon gain national attention. By then two girls had developed symptoms, according to the state Health Department – one in May 2011, the other earlier in September – but the bulk of the cases would follow, including two more the next week.

“This cornfield is adjacent to the school property and uphill from the school,” the neighbor who took the video wrote in an e-mail. “The fields in our area are dusted at least twice a year.”

The “dust” that settled that day is called Tundra. Its active ingredient, bifenthrin, has been linked at high doses in animal studies to some of the same symptoms experienced by the LeRoy students. U.S. regulators regard it as much safer than earlier generations of pesticides such as DDT, but it was banned in Europe until just last week due to environmental concerns.

Most of the LeRoy girls were diagnosed by a local neurology clinic with a psychiatric illness called conversion disorder, a finding the state Health Department endorsed despite the protests of parents who said their daughters were not emotionally disturbed. Several investigations, including one made public last month, found no evidence of environmental contamination.

In May 2011, a ban on all pesticide use on school grounds went into effect in New York State. But the investigators did not appear to consider the possibility of pesticide drift or runoff from neighboring property in the intensively farmed region, or test for currently used pesticides like bifenthrin – only ones banned decades ago. There is no evidence that the crop-dusting on September 22, or any other date, was part of any investigation. (Our inquiries to the school district and the environmental consulting firm have not yet been answered.)

The video, shot by Leroy Township resident Don Dessert from his nearby home, was sent in March to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. We obtained it last week through a Freedom of Information Law request, along with supporting documents. In an e-mail accompanying the video, Dessert wrote that it showed “a crop duster spraying the cornfield on the other side of the tree stand from my house.”

Dessert attached a fact sheet on agricultural practices for corn to illustrate “what part of the chemistry set is put on corn crops. Makes me want to find some organic corn …” He included a photo diagram showing his location in relation to the field and the school (click to enlarge photo):

Leroy 106A

Just below the cornfield in this photo looking south is a retention basin and the girls’ softball field. In some aerial photographs, including the one on the school’s Web site, the basin is full of water.  The period between April and September of last year was the rainiest ever in Rochester and Buffalo, the two big cities to the east and west of Leroy.

As we wrote in February, “School officials who say environmental factors can’t be responsible for the outbreak of tics at the Junior/Senior High School might want to check last year’s record rainfalls – and the flood-prone ground right under their feet.

“Parts of the school grounds -- including athletic fields -- are right on top of a federally designated FEMA Flood Hazard Area. … The zone cuts right across the girls’ softball diamond.” (In this photo, north is toward the top of the frame, and the field that was sprayed September 22 is visible at the bottom.)

Leroy feb red

Officials told us then that the school’s pesticide log was examined as part of the initial investigation but, because no pesticides were applied on school grounds during the preceding year, pesticides were ruled out as a factor. (Pesticide use was banned on all public school grounds in the state as of May 18, 2011.)

The Department of Environmental Conservation’s internal notes obtained through the FOIA request show it ruled out the crop-dusting as a cause of the outbreak.

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: New Evidence Raises Pesticide Concerns in New York State Outbreak" »

The IACC (I Am Completely Clueless) Meets Again

Clueless no excuseBy Dan Olmsted

Bernadine Healy must be barfing in her grave.

At least the former National Institutes of Health director, who told the self-evident truth that vaccines could not be ruled out as a cause of autism, because the research hadn’t been done, because the government didn’t want to do it, didn’t have to sit through Tuesday’s meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. She didn’t have to hear the current NIH Director, Francis “gene” Collins, talk about all the advances in pinpointing the genetic causes of autism, now reaching 30 percent according to his math; didn’t have to listen to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius laud IACC Director Tom Insel for all the progress he’s made on autism as the rate doubled over the past five years, or Insel laud Sebelius for all the progress she’s made on behalf of the President of the United States of America (much more on him later), or Collins laud Sebelius and Insel for … ad nauseum.

But I did. Yeesh.

This was the inaugural meeting of what Insel described as version 3.0 of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, enabled by the re-authorization of the Combating Autism Act last year. As such, the session was a showcase for the failure of the CAA and in particular for the inaction, misdirection, and torpor that comes with having no mission except avoiding the reality of an autism epidemic and the accompanying truth that it’s an environmental illness in which the government’s own nutty War on Germs has played the major role. It’s sort of the living out in a Washington hotel conference room in 2012 of Bernadine Healy’s admonition from the grave. (“The question has not been answered,” Healy had told CBS. “One should never shy away from science, from getting causality information. I think the government or certain public health officials within the government have been too quick to dismiss the concerns of these families without studying the population that got sick.”)

So there sat Certain Public Officials and the grateful dopes they could find to agree with them. Insel even managed to rustle up three new members for the committee who are on the spectrum, and thrilled to be there (by which I mean on both the committee and the spectrum). Bully for them, but not one (to my memory) said anything about helping those for whom autism is a nightmare from hell every single day, or for their families.

There were a few bright spots. Several people whom I would describe as members of the Rebel Alliance stood up and turned their backs after listening to Sebelius repeat the same old blather. (See photos below.) All of them wore T-shirts that said, on the back, “Sebelius turned her back on the autism epidemic. Again," and displayed different pithy comments on the front – “$1 billion researching what doesn’t cause autism” being a particularly pertinent maxim, roughly the amount funded by the CAA, coordinated by the IACC.

The private hotel guards had been alerted by Homeland Security that there might be a protest, and two of them were talking behind me. “Protest?” one said. “They just look outspoken to me.”

Of course, that’s terrifying enough.

The room was odd and poorly suited to an event like this (how convenient!), with a giant six-foot pillar in the middle that made the turn-your-back event a little hard to see. But this strikes me as a first  by parent-advocates whose children, in Healy's words, "got sick," and who have turned against the status quo and its enforcers.

Continue reading "The IACC (I Am Completely Clueless) Meets Again" »