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Zamperini_flag By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

I recently finished reading the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and couldn't help thinking how relevant its message is to so many communities.

For those unfamilar with the book, it tells the story of Louis Zamperini, one of the world's great runners in the years before the Second World War, his experiences as a Japanese POW, and what happened upon his return to the United States.  The author, Laura Hillenbrand suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome/ME.  I know, sounds sad and disturbing, right?  I agree.  And yet it's one of the most profound and uplifting stories I've read in years.

I've been spending a good deal of time recently on chronic fatigue syndrome/ME websites.   I don't know if you're aware of this, but lately they've been striking some pretty good blows for the autism community.  There has been preliminary data linking both autism and chronic fatigue syndrome/ME to the XMRV retrovirus and it has some of the traditional opponents of the autism community concerned.   I've mentioned it before, but both my daughter with autism and my wife have tested positive for the XMRV retrovirus.

The other day there was a web-chat with Chicago Tribune reporter Trine Tsouderous and Dr. Paul Offit regarding vaccine safety.  Dr. Jamie Deckoff-Jones, a chronic fatigue patient asked the following question of Trine and Dr. Offit.

Dr. Deckoff-Jones: Are you concerned that the current epidemics of ME/CFS, ASD (autism spectrum disorders) and GWI (Gulf War illness) are related to vaccines? These neuroimmune disease cohorts are all of mysterious etiology and share many clinical similarities: sensory and cognitive processing deficits, susceptibility to and inability to clear certain infections, an unusual susceptibility to stress, increased oxidative stress, glutathione depletion, methylation blocks, mitochondrial defects, high levels of heavy metals, inflammatory bowel issues, hormone abnormalities and a suspicion that vaccines are implicated in pathogenesis. The pathology in humans is extremely similar to what is known of simple retroviral infections in animals. We have evidence that xenotropic and polytropic MuLVs are infecting humans (Lombardi et al Science Oct 2009, Lo et al PNAS Sept 2010). Given the history of the use of mouse and chick embryo cells for vaccine production coinciding with the history of Epidemic Neuromyasthenia (as documented by Henderson and Shelokov, NEJM 1959), the known presence of animal retroviruses in those cells, and the documented ability of these viruses to infect human cells, aren't you the least bit concerned?

Trine Tsouderos: Hi Jamie: I don't agree that problems like glutathione depletion, methylation blocks, etc are associated with ASDs. A study here, a study there, some of dubious quality. I wrote about this last year: (HERE). These ideas are promoted by folks who sell a lot of therapies to "fix" these things when it is not clear they are even there. So I don't think there is good evidence for that.

Paul Offit: The xenotropic murine retrovirus story as a cause of neurologic disease, including chronic fatigue syndrome has clearly fallen apart. And for those of us old enough to remember, many careers have fallen off a cliff claiming retroviruses as a cause of a variety of illnesses: most noteworthy, MS and Kawasaki's disease. Retroviruses are so ubiquitous and such a frequent lab contaminant that they're the Sirens of the lab.

Trine Tsouderos: The heavy metal connection is especially poor. It comes from a study that found less mercury in the hair of children with autism and concluded that that was proof they had trouble excreting it. A dubious conclusion.

It's interesting that both the chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and autism communities seem to have picked up Trine Tsouderous and Dr. Paul Offit as enemies.  I find it especially revealing that Dr. Offit doesn't even see fit to mention the epidemic retrovirus story which played out for decades in our nation's history, that of HIV-AIDS, a monkey retrovirus which somehow jumped species into the human population.

All of which brings me back to Unbroken.

After his plane crashed in the Pacific, Louis Zamperini, and two companions were adrift for forty-seven days.  On the fortieth day at sea Louis heard the singing of angels and counted twenty-one of them in the clouds.  His companions did not see them.  Later he recalled praying that if the angels would save him he would dedicate his life to God.

About a week later they were picked up by a Japanese boat.  He was taken to a POW camp of eight hundred prisoners where the sadistic commander declared him "prisoner #1" and set about a regular routine of beatings and humiliation.  The camp commander was later declared one of the top ten Japanese war criminals.

Back in the United States, Louis got married, and tried to settle back into a normal life.  Like many former POWs he was plagued by nightmares and flashbacks.  He dreamed of finding the former camp commander who had abused him and killing him.   Louis was drifting into alcoholism, getting into fights in bars, and was close to divorce.

As things were near the breaking point his wife encouraged him to go and see this charismatic preacher who had come to town, a very young Billy Graham.  Although he didn't like Graham after first hearing him speak, he returned several times until one thought from Graham's sermon struck a chord. 

Graham said that when observing the evil of the world you might want to consider a simple idea.  That when God hides His face from the world so thoroughly we can't see it, we're called upon to demonstrate our true faith.  Louis remembered his time on the raft, the singing of the angels, and realized that God had never left him.

When I consider all that has happened in both the autism and chronic fatigue syndrome/ME communities I often feel that God has thoroughly hidden His face from us.  And yet I must consider what my response will be.

For Louis, turning his life to God made the nightmares go away, he was able to repair his marriage, he founded a camp for delinquent boys, and became known to all as an incorrigible optimist.  He carried the Olympic torch through Los Angeles for the 1984 games, learned how to skateboard at the age of eighty, and even now well into his nineties enjoys good health.

And so I find myself faced with the dilemma of how to feel about people like Trine Tsouderous and Dr. Paul Offit who are harming so many lives.  They carry a heavy burden for their actions and the war we wage on behalf of our children is just.  But when the battle is won I want to let go of it.  I want to be free of it all, just as Louis Zamperini freed himself from the demons of his war.

It's for this reason I carry only sadness for those who fight against us.   They will live to see how wrong they have been.  I honestly pray for their hearts to turn towards our children.  Life passes quickly and none of us knows how long we may have.  Louis even forgave the camp commander who beat him, although the commander refused to meet with him.  I'm a stumbling pilgrim of faith and must confess that such forgiveness eludes me at the present time. 

But I continue to consider the possibility and in doing so find I am less burdened by my woes.

What are you doing in your life so that you remain Unbroken?

Kent Heckenlively is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism


Donna L.

As always, thanks for a great thought-provoking article, Kent!

And BobR, definitely food for thought. I hope to one day get to that 'place'.


Thanks for a great article.

Paul Offit et al continue to promote giving damaging vaccines to children. I would like to see him in an orange suit behind bars. That would be justice.

However, a wise person once said that retaining bitterness towards others is like holding a gun to your head, pulling the trigger and expecting someone else to be hurt. I choose to oppose Offit with righteous indignation in a principled manner without bitterness toward him. To do otherwise is to allow him to control me and goodness knows he has done enough damage without allowing him to do that.

Kent Heckenlively

I have to wonder if they aren't more scared of the retrovirus issue than anything else.

It's not simply that you put some chemical whaich harmed people in the vaccines, it's that the entire process of passing viruses through animal tissue to weaken them, is fundamentally unsound.

Jeff C.


Agree with everything you say except this:
"I have to assume that Dr Offit has something against retroviruses, not just against autism".

I don't think he has anything against retroviruses. What he despises is the notion that chronic illnesses are increasing at epidemic levels. They have no answer for that except to hand-wave it away as "better diagnosis". They can't get away with telling people it's all in their head anymore.

So what could be causing peoples immune system to go berserk and attack the body it was meant to protect? The answer is so glaringly obvious the only tactic is to deny it's even happening.

Marie-Anne Denayer, M.D.

".....many careers have fallen off a cliff claiming retroviruses as a cause of a variety of illnesses" as stated by Dr Offit.
What about the most infamous of retroviruses: HIV?
What about the retrovirus HTLV-I (Human T-Cell Lymphotropic virus ? (Not to be confused with HTLV-III, the original name of HIV) In Far-East populations, particularly in Japan, HTLV-I causes hairy-cell leukemia or a T-cell lymphoma.
In the Caribbean and in the Americas, HTLV-I causes a neurological disorder long thought to be a variant of MS:
"Tropical spastic paraparesis". This condition causes progressive paralysis, starting in the legs, painful sensory disturbances and bladder dysfunction.
It is transmitted sexually and via blood products.
I have to assume that Dr Offit has something against retroviruses, not just against autism.
He is obviously not an expert in the field of retroviruses, and should therefore abstain from erroneous comments.


I'm a fan of forgiveness. I think the person who benefits most from forgiving is the person doing the forgiving. Unfortunately, as long as harm and wrong-doing are occurring, unacknowledged, it can't be forgiven. It has to be named, called out, seen for what it is, and those responsible held accountable, or it will persist. I give a big shout out of thanks to those "rebel angels" who are fighting the good fight. I think the way to remain Unbroken under such circumstances is to stick together.


A sublime post, Kent. Thanks from another "stumbling pilgrum of faith."

Coincidentally I just had a reporter admit to disregarding vaccine/autism information because it came from a creationist. Never mind that the facts were simply repackaged from verifiable government reports; the messenger was a man of faith, and thus considered unscientific. Yet it was his faith-based humanity that opened his mind to the victims' plight.

Another unnecessary ideological schism employed to simplify data gathering for a topic ill-suited for skimming. And a sorry excuse, given the corrupt state of science-for-hire nowadays.

Maurine Meleck

First we need to stop the epidemic.
Then we need to recover our children.
Next let's put those that are guilty in orange suits.
Then, if there's time left over, one can forgive if they so choose. I have left anything spiritual out of the equation.
Thanks, Kent, as always for your informative AOA pieces.

Justin Reilly, esq.

Thank you Kent for a great post.

Right now, as a pwME/CFIDS I agree with Jeff C., that anger is part of what keeps me going in the fight against our persecutors. The positive side of anger is that it is energy for change. I think there are probably other ways to be Unbroken without forgiveness. I'll think about whether or not to forgive the evildoers when we are all better.


Forgiveness needs to be earned. Sorry Kent, but this has been going on for too long with too much suffering to give such a gift of forgiveness. Mr Zamperini had the ability to chose to do what he did with full knowledge of the possible consequences. Our children were completely innocent and the madness continues...this is unforgivable!

Kent Heckenlively


Great picture! Yes, I often dream about putting some of those people in an iron maiden device. Then the better angels of my nature come along and say, "Well, if you do it we'll pretend like we didn't see it!"

Keep the faith everybody!

All the best,


That's awesome, with you man. I try forgiving after my forever altered life 9 years ago. Some days are better than others and some years are worse than others. Thanks AoA for a great article.


Wonderful article Kent!

I just picked up that book at Barnes and Noble yesterday. I am looking forward to reading it, now even more after reading your article.

I cannot help but wonder if Laura Hillenbrand would ever consider getting a DAN! doctor and follow the protocol... She probably could get a lot better...

laura tattoo

as someone who has suffered with me-cfs for 15 years, i am hopeful that our communities will continue to work together for changes in the perception of our illnesses. i have been reading your blog for a little while now and i am so thankful for it. ~laura in oregon

Carolyn M

I will CONSIDER forgiving when I see SINCERE repentence on the part of Offit et al.

Birgit Calhoun

Concerned Mom! No this person did not have Aspergers. People with Aspergers I have met are not that crude.


"Who in their right mind would discourage something that so many report helps our kids? I’ve concluded they don’t want our kids to get better."

Amen a thousand times. To your whole post i say yes.


Those "lifestyle" articles are usually plants by public relations firms so doing their bidding with regard to vaccines was probably not a big change for Tsouderos.

Jeff C.

I can understand the motivation of many who question the autism–vaccine link. My background is scientific, and much of the information from the studies is in conflict. While I’m convinced of a link, I realize that good people (and I don’t mean insiders like these two) can disagree.

What I find absolutely unforgivable is those that actively discourage any biomedical approaches. So many of our kids can be helped. Of course it doesn’t work for all, but it does work for some. What is the harm in trying something like a GFCF diet? Yet these people say you shouldn’t even try it, that doing so is dangerous. We need ten years of peer-reviewed studies before we could ever recommend parents give their children rice or corn instead of wheat. Many cultures don’t consume milk after weaning, yet a trial with our children we’re told is reckless. This is the face of evil. Who in their right mind would discourage something that so many report helps our kids? I’ve concluded they don’t want our kids to get better.

I understand forgiveness brings peace of mind, but I don’t want peace of mind. That anger is what drives me to continue to pursue answers, read new papers, and study organic chemistry. It is parents motivated by anger that will finally unravel this mess.


Yeah, yeah, yeah I know forgiveness is for us and not those that sinned againest us. Yet, hadn't we have some fire in the belly of those that fight because for the last 30 years those that have sinned againest us have not repented and continue to do thier sin?

My Aunt called last week, and told us that my cousin who got sick three years ago is sicker still. He has Parkinson disease and now is in a wheel chair. I supect my 55 year old, tall,strong, wonderful--- but now wheel chair bound cousin - also a carreer military man has really in truly ALS from his vaccines the military gave him during the Gulf War.

Which makes me wonder about sequalene and retroviruses????

The armny during WW II messed up and gave contaminated (Hep B virus) in a flu vaccine. Made a lot of service men sick at a time when we needed men to fight.

So the military's newer vaccines were suppose to be as few proteins that would barely rouse the immune system - even building it by protein by protein - atom by atom to prevent this. To help rouse the immune system they added sequalene and it alone can cause the same problems we are seeing in ME, along with ALS, Guirrare Burraie syndrome(I can't spell but when people become paralyzed).

So, the more I read the more confusion there is.

Is it mercury getting in the way of the mitochondria pathways?
Is it a retorvirus messing up the mitochondrial pathways?
Is is adjuvants in the vaccines that are known inhibitors of mitochondrial pathways; like aluminium, sequalene,even the whooping cough organism its own self?????

Untill we have people like James Cherry, Offit, Insel,and etc (really to stupid to figure any of this out) but at the very least step out of the way - there is only a burning hate in my heart.

After it is all over, truly over, the medical society stops harming people and claiming it is for the greater good - EVEN if I have had to bury most of my family including my cousin, EVNE if I am broke up on medical care, psychoic medication, seizure medicine, and what ever medicine that is call for the heart, pancreas, kidneys, brain. Even if I am living on the street - if it is truly over - I will forgive, for my own sake - but not untill it is over.

Concerned Mom

Birgit, I'm so sorry that parent said such a terrible thing to you. The bluntness of his comment makes me wonder if perhaps he has Asperger's himself. Be that as it may, it doesn't excuse the rudeness. Blessings to you and your family.

Birgit Calhoun

When Erik was about six or seven years old, my two older sons played soccer. Erik always came along to stand on the sidelines. He sometimes even wandered on the field and we had to guide hime back behind the touch-line. Talking to the parents was fun for me and I always felt that things were alright. Then one day one of the parents came up to me after a game, and he said that it "is too bad that you have Erik because we could have been friends." After that I knew that my social life was pretty much confined to casual interaction in the town where we live. I decided at that moment that I didn't need friends that used Erik as a factor for socializing or not socializing.

What did I do about that? I joined a folk dance group. I enjoyed myself immensely. Folkdancing became my life.

After a while people asked me if I played a musical instrument. I had played the recorder badly about 30 years earlier. So I said yes I did but that I was a little rusty. So I decided to get up to speed. I told myself that I was going to play well. The motto for dancers is "If you can walk, you can dance." So for playing the recorder it became "If you can get a tone out, you can make music." When you have played the one tone, you can play. But when you play the second tone, you have improved 100%. That is how I taught myself to play well. Since then I have not been without company. My social life improved. It saved my sanity.

Dancing and music has changed my outlook and kept the family together.


This represents the level of forgiveness I feel right now:

SteveBigAofA Fan

Thank you once again AofA for another oustanding piece! You are doing a great service to us all - in more ways than I can count.

pass the popcorn

Four months before Trine Tsouderos kicked off her new career as a pharma shill with the first of many attacks on the autism community, she wrote this for the Chicago Tribune:

"Once upon a time, we paid people to cut, buff and paint our nails.

Once upon a time, we had people shape our unruly eyebrows and rub hot, smooth stones over our sore backs.

Once upon a time, we put time aside to have people rip hair off our legs with wax and wrap us in algae.

Those days, for many of us, are long gone.
Spas obviously want us back. And so, there are deals. Many end soon, so act fast if you're yearning for pampering. Here are a few that caught our eye (framed, we admit, by slightly unruly brows."

Two months before that, she wrote this:

"Imagine, right now, a cupcake. But not a cupcake with yellow cake on the bottom, or chocolate. No, think white cheddar. Got it? OK. Now imagine the frosting, but instead of vanilla or chocolate, think tomato. Yes, tomato frosting. Top the cheese and tomato cupcake off with a wee crouton or two. Grilled cheese and tomato soup cupcake.

Now envision a birthday cake. But before you think yellow cake, make it spinach instead. With purple onion mousse between the layers and green apple gelee on top. Garnish it with slices of onion.

And now think about gelato. Cast out of your head flavors like pistachio and strawberry. Instead, imagine what balsamic vinegar gelato would taste like. Or rice gelato. Or roasted red pepper with honey and cinnamon. Could you imagine eating a scoop of that on a cone?"

Now, she goes on interviews with the head of infectious disease at CHOP and offers her opinion about autism causation.

You really can't make this stuff up.


It is not so much about forgiveness as it is about understanding. I live in the hope that one day we can come to a common understanding. Seeking this understanding is human even divine. Closing your mind and ears to it betrays what it is that makes us human in the first place. This curiosity, this quest for what is right and just drives me to read and listen and analyse. Like everybody on this site. Time will come when Offit and others stand by the roadside. I can make my peace, I can give my love if and only if they by then show the understanding. Of the true nature of what has passed. Of the suffering if all the victims. And of their own role in prolonging this. Time will come. Soon.


Forgiveness is not for those who have wronged is for US! If we allow these people to steal our joy, they have won. The unforgiveness festers in our hearts and cannot be lanced until we let go of our hatred for these people. When we let go of our hatred, not our anger, we are able to find joy in our lives again.

All of you are such wonderful people. You carry on a fight that few understand or care about. Thank you so much for this ministry. It gives the rest of us a path to travel that has already been cleared of most of the thorns and boulders. I thank God every day for each of you.

Please do not let unforgiveness steal your energy.

Emmanuelle Rosenthal

Thank you so much for this. Great article, great website! So important ...

It's amazing to find so many of my favorite topics in one article: Me/CFS, XMRV, Autism, vaccine-safety, God, Laura Hillenbrand, and anger at the ignorant and/or evil people who prevent understanding of these illnesses and spread lies ...

Regarding FORGIVENESS: Forgiveness is not for the one being forgiven-- it's for ourselves, so that we are not consumed by the corrosive power of our anger and hatred. It's not easy. And it doesn't mean "excusing" the "evil" that has been done. I forgive (when I am able) for my own peace of mind.

And I have not yet forgiven those who are standing in the way of our research or are covering up the truth about causes. I'm still angry ... maybe later!

Jeff C.

Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes? Glutathione depletion, methylation blocks, heavy metals, it's all lies cooked up by those evil DAN doctors and vitamin companies to make money. (Unlike those at Merck and Sanofi whose only desire is to serve mankind and are pure as the driven snow.) These people have answers for everything except one; how do they explain the recovered kids like my son? Oh that's right, me never really had autism. Maybe he should be an actor because he sure had us, his special ed teachers and his doctors convinced.

Although it may put my salvation in jeopardy, I refuse to pray for the souls of these people. The thought of them being forgiven during deathbed conversions turns my stomach. They deserve a special place in hell. If we had listened to them, my recovered six year old son would still be where he was.

Has Jake done one of his fantastic connect-the-dots pieces on Tsouderous yet? Gotta be a story there.

Regarding Louis Zamperini, the local airport and high school gym are named for him in Torrance, California. He grew up here and was a sports legend. It is wonderful to see some late recognition of his truly remarkable life.

Kent Heckenlively


Thanks for your kind words.

I'm not at the point of forgiveness, but when I consider people like Louis Zamperini and Nelson Mandela I know what I should be doing.

Maybe I'll settle for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission like they had in South Africa. Then there can be some justice as well as forgiveness.

All the best,

Denise Studstl

My husband is a huge fan of that book. Reads, rereads, has a copy on his mp3 player to listen to. He is borderline Aspergers and has other health issues that onset during his time in the military. Military members are given an unbelievable number of vaccines. Coincidence? Not. And we have 2 out of 3 daughters on the spectrum as well. The non-spectrum daughter rec'd no vaccines between age 2 months to age 3.

Patricia Carter

Thank you for this inspiring article, Kent. Even being at the point where you can say you are considering forgiving these people is further along than I am. These people have now cost me 24 years of my life, and they continue to try for more years. When they are really defeated, if I am still alive, then I will consider forgiving them. I cannot consider forgiving them while they are still causing this pain.

Antibodies to XMRV have been proven in people with XMRV; humans do not produce antibodies to lab contaminants. Therefore, XMRV cannot be a lab contaminant.

No one has come close to finding that XMRV is ubiquitous. So far, the studies have shown somewhere between 0% XMRV and 3.7% XMRV in healthy controls. This is definitely not ubiquitous.

I applaud you for your forgiving nature, Kent. I aspire to follow your example.

Patricia Carter
XMRV+, 24 years M.E.


Ignorance is so painful for those of us who suffer from under it, isn't it? Let's make sure we stay on top of things to turn things around. I have ME/CFS and am doing what I can to change the world we live in to ease suffering for all. I have hope by working together we can turn the autism and ME\CFS discourse around.


Thank you Kent! The articles you are writing on this subject are so important. I believe the truth will come out soon and will be undeniable.


That retroviruses are a frequent lab contaminant is just the problem, isn't it?

In 1999 several government agencies sponsored a workshop on "Evolving Scientific and Regulatory Perspectives on Cell Substrates for Vaccine Development." There are several eye-crossingly technical talks on mouse retroviruses. The consequences of the presence of such retroviruses in vaccines is lightly touched upon. (Too lightly it seems to me, given that the workshop is supposed to be about that.)

"DR. LINIAL: I guess there are two issues. The first, I agree with Hsing-Jien and Steve Hughes, and that is the problem of retroviral contamination or contribution to other viral vaccines. I think clearly it's a possibility, but it sounds like, you know, all the common ones are being screened for, and people are doing the best they can...."

Erik Nanstiel

I think we should all pray VERY HARD for the souls of Paul Offit and Trine Tsouderos... 'cause I have a good idea where they're headed. You can't say the things they're saying without knowing that you're lying.... you just can't do it.


in the end justice is God's


david burd

Kent, The timeline for the emergence of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) matches perfectly the wave of State laws mandating students graduating (or even entering) colleges and university students to take a great many vaccinations. No vaccinations, no diploma.

Time magazine dubbed it the "Yuppie Flu" because virtually all those afflicted with CFS were recent college graduates.

I've been trying to contact Laura Hillebrand of Unbroken to see if her sudden late-sophomore year onset of CFS had a temporal connection to any mandated vaccines she may have been injected with at that time. As you may know, Laura is still essentially an invalid but musters the will to write so well, and inspire.


A very well written article on Ms. Tsouderos ...


The Chronic Lyme Disease community also despises the Offit/Tsouderos kabal, too...

John Stone


It is a beautiful and terrible tale.

I think uncovering the truth is the most important thing. Sometimes one can forgive for oneself but I don't know that we can on behalf of other people. But that's different from maintaining a thirst for vengeance. Fundamentally, it is the truth, some kind of honourable acknowledgement of what has happened, and political commitment to the proper long term care of our all too numerous children - the collateral damage of public policy - which motivates me.



Beautiful. Thanks for the uplifting words this morning Kent.

Adam M


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