By Dan Olmsted
"An effort spanning two decades has resulted in a global first," CNN reported Thursday. "The Americas have eliminated measles, the World Health Organization said this week. The battle was won through mass vaccination to prevent the viral disease, which can cause severe health problems including pneumonia, blindness, brain swelling and even death."
Well, the battle was mostly won before the battle began, as anyone who's looked at the pre-vaccine wipeout of the disease would know.
From Mark Blaxill and my 2015 book, Vaccines 2.0:
In Vaccines 2.0 we wrote: “Much of the recent publicity about measles reflects a small increase in US cases in the past few years—usually overseas travelers becoming infected and then spreading the illness in small pockets that generate alarmist headlines.
“In the spring of 2014, a news outlet in suburban Washington, under a large banner titled “Health Warning,” reported public health workers “are informing people who were at various locations . . . that they may have been exposed to a person with measles. Northern Virginia area health officials are mounting a coordinated effort to identify people who may have been exposed.”
“The idea that measles is highly infectious is certainly true; the claim that it is a health emergency is not. For generations, measles was considered a rite of passage for children, with little risk of complications and the reward of lifetime immunity."
A blogger at Livingwhole.org made the same point in June 2014 in a post titled, Measles Shmeasles:
“So far, in 2014 there have been 288 cases of measles, no cases of encephalitis, and no death. In 2013 there were 189 cases of measles, no encephalitis and no death. In 2012 there were 54 cases of measles, no encephalitis, and no death. In 2011, there were 22 cases of measles, and you guessed it . . . no encephalitis, and no death.
“I could go on, but you get the point.
“By and large, measles is unpleasant, not deadly.
“In comparison, the same cannot be said for the MMR vaccine. As of March 1, 2012 there were 842 serious injuries following the MMR vaccine and 56 deaths. Since 1990 there have been more than 6,058 serious adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). What’s even more sad is that only 1–10% of cases are actually reported ….”
Honestly. If you’ve seen Vaxxed, you know it does a great job of contrasting the Disney measles hysteria with the blasé attitude of mainstream media and medicine and the CDC and the NIH and HRSA and etcetera to the endless, increasing, debilitating, sometimes lethal autism epidemic and its allied catastrophes.
But of course kids will all be getting the MMR into perpetuity – now with one part that doesn’t work and spawns epidemics post-adolescence that are far more dangerous (mumps); a vaccine for a disease that is usually not serious and is no circulating (measles) but can have serious side effects, and one for which there can be an altruistic argument given the risk of congenital rubella syndrome, but also with serious risks. Put them all together, shake it up and voila -- the autism shot, as Jenny called it.
Kind of like the DPT – diphtheria doesn’t circulate, tetanus is not a serious risk, and certainly not to anyone but the person who might get it, and pertussis, for which we believe there is a case worth discussing.
Not to mention the deadly and disgusting HPV, the useless and dangerous Hep B, the useless and dangerous chickenpox.
This is why parental choice and no mandates are so important, regardless of one’s stance on vaccines overall. Too much autism, too many vaccines with too many side effects – but at least, thank God, no measles.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
By Dan Olmsted
WYTHEVILLE, Virginia (AOA) -- It was the seventh inning stretch of a home game for the Wytheville Statesmen, the Class D League team beloved by this baseball-obsessed Southwestern Virginia town. The date was June 30, 1950.
The announcer told the crowd that Johnny Seccafico, infant son of second baseman Jim Seccafico, had been rushed to the hospital in Roanoke, seriously ill. (How serious can be measured in miles away: 78.) The fans passed a Statesmen hat and chipped in $227, a generous gesture worth ten times as much in today's dollars. Jim, who looks heartbreakingly young in this photo, was not in the game that night. He never played again.
Johnny had polio, the first case in town that summer, and his father instantly dropped the itinerant life of a D Leaguer to help care for him; Johnny lived. He never walked again.
Before it was over that summer, Wytheville – pronounced WITH-ville, pop. 5,500 – and Wythe County suffered an outbreak of poliomyelitis that struck nearly 200, killing 17, almost all of them children. Per capita, Wytheville remains the worst polio outbreak anywhere, ever.
Why? That was the question on my mind last month when I stopped off for a day in this town in the Blue Ridge just off Interstate 81, on my way back from a camping trip in North Carolina. I’ve learned over the years that the most extreme example of a phenomenon – the first cases of autism, for example, or the worst cases of Freud’s hysteria, or the fatal version of syphilis – can be the most revealing. It’s what Mark Blaxill and I have been doing for a decade now. (Another thing I've learned is to try to visit places I'm writing about -- walking the territory, as one editor put it to me.)
In the case of polio, we concluded a few years back that outbreaks were not as simple as they seemed: a toxic co-factor is required to turn harmless poliovirus infections into poliomyelitis, the illness that attacks the anterior horn cells at the top of the spine and causes paralysis and death. The earliest co-factor, we proposed, was the pesticide lead arsenate; its invention in 1892 ushered in the Age of Polio. Arsenic can weaken the immune system and cause permeability in the GI tract and, we suspect, allow the virus to escape into the nerves and cause paraIysis. Lead, too, is infamous for causing both mental and physical handicaps including paralysis. A handful of medical mavericks have long argued so-called"polio" is just lead arsenate or DDT poisoning in disguise. Our equation is new: virus + toxin = poliomyelitis.
Following our “worst and first” approach to historical epidemiology, I recently wrote about the first big regional epidemic in the United States, which started in Brooklyn in 1916. I made a case that the outbreak was triggered by the first use of arsenic as a weed killer in sugar cane fields; Brooklyn was the sugar refining capital of the world.
We always enjoy hearing from readers. Here’s an e-mail I received this week from someone going by the pen name Potato Part:
“I will preface this with the fact that I am autistic.
“I accidentally ran across Age of Autism. Age of Autism is the type of stuff that actually hurts autistic people. This type of thing makes it seem like the parents are suffering when their kids are autistic. That's complete bullshit.
“Those parents are the ones trying to kill us in an attempt to ‘cure’ us. It is definitely very nice to see that we are hated. I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for helping the content that hurts autistic people. Thank you for putting out content that gets autistic people killed. Thank you for actively harming autistic people. Thank you for reminding us that we are thought of as burdens.
“Thank you for making it harder for autistic people to live. Thank you for the content that makes autistic people suicidal. Thank you for making our life harder. Thank you for making our life worse.”
Another commenter this week wrote the following:
“We have 16 yr old severe autistic child with violent behavior. We cant leave such a beautiful girl in this world alone after us. So we decided to live till we can bear. When we reach a point beyond which we can't pull any more, we will end our roles in this world along with her. People may call us escapists, but after taking this decision, we started enjoying life. We are sure nobody else can take care of such children other than parents.
"Doctors/scientists/bureaucrats/politicians - Put some more efforts/grant enough funds to research more to find solution ASAP to save families suffering from this problem.”
Those two comments just about cover the waterfront, I’d say.
Obviously, premeditated murder-suicide out of despair for the future of one’s child, as this parent is promising, is not OK. Autistic people like Potato Part feeling suicidal, or at least that his or her life is made harder and that they are hated after reading sites like ours, is not OK.
It’s not my place to offer a glib counterargument to either, although in my opinion death just postpones your karma, so you might as well work it out in this life and ask for -- demand -- all the help you need to do so. The degree of suffering in both these comments is awful and deserves empathy though not encouragement or consent, a difference those of us in happier circumstances have an obligation to convey.
People high-functioning enough to write a note like Potato Part’s might fairly be asked to drop the nihilistic sarcasm and say plainly what they might, or we should, do to make life better not just for themselves but for autistic individuals so incapacitated that their parents believe it would be an act of love to kill them. Parents who think their kids will be better off dead than without them might want to consider Potato Part’s perspective, as well as resources like TACA, before settling on such a dire strategy. I wrote a few weeks ago about a hundred flowers blooming in terms of ideas for group living and other remedies for institutions and social isolation. A lot of families are in this boat. Don't jump ship. Reach out.
Another comment this week from a regular reader about a conference Mark Blaxill and I were attending left me a little perplexed: It began: “Dan, you do amazing work but I probably won't watch because the conference looked too slick and commercial, which to me means they will probably downplay the role of vaccines in the health crisis.”
Well, first, thank you, and second, you are seriously harshing my buzz, dude. The Real Truth About Health Conference in Orlando did anything but “downplay” the role of vaccines in the health crisis. I’ll say more about it later when I have some video and transcripts to share, but this falls in the category of not wanting to join the kind of club that would have us as members, doesn’t it? Or something like that.
I picked up a Time magazine at the airport on the way to the Orlando conference. Mistake.
“We shouldn’t dismiss people who deny facts,” wrote Sara E. Gorman and Jack M. Gorman in a short Viewpoint. “It’s easy to dismiss people who believe things that are factually incorrect – that vaccines cause autism, for example, or that climate change isn’t real.” The article attempted to “empathize” with us poor benighted souls. Since no one knows what causes autism – speak for yourselves, Sara E. and Jack M. – “we tend to fill in the gaps ourselves” and respond more to stories than statistics.
“That’s precisely what makes it more natural for antivaxxers to ‘imagine’ the risk of their children dying from a vaccine than it is for them to comprehend statistics that say otherwise.” The article, dripping with condescension masquerading as wuv, sweet wuv, concluded, “changing minds requires compassion and understanding, not disdain.” As J.B. Handley put it on The Doctors a few years back, “I don’t need your sympathy.”
The idea that we are so pitiably illogical comes in the midst of a rather illogical argument, doesn’t it? Many who saw their child descend into autism after a shot were not (duh!) and are not “anti-vaxxers,” nor are they relying on “stories” about children dying. They are sharing what they saw. The Gormans might try listening.
The Russians apparently hacked the records of some of our Olympians, and the media is reporting on Simone Biles’ ADHD. That’s a terrible invasion, but nothing for her to be ashamed of. It does reinforce a point I made a few weeks back about all the health challenges this year’s Olympians faced – including Michael Phelps, who has spoken openly about his own ADHD. We’re going to start needing a para-para-Olympics for our only “slightly” disabled athletes. Otherwise I’m not sure they’ll be able to put together a men's water polo team in 2020.
Did you see how the sugar interests paid Harvard researchers decades ago to blame fat, not sugar, for ill health and obesity several decades ago? That’s a big deal as it skewed us away from what has since become obvious – that there wasn’t that much wrong with our grandparents’ diets (and theirs, and theirs) until sugar and preservatives came pouring into just about everything we eat.
I’ve been writing about the role of sugar in the 1916 polio epidemic, and although this has nothing directly to do with it, it shows what comes first, and it's not the consumer.
Speaking of which, Bayer bought up Monsanto this week for $66 billion. Monsanto developed glyphosate. Bayer and DuPont created the ethylmercury seed disinfectant Ceresan that led to early cases of autism. DuPont and Dow recently merged. Dow and Monsanto supplied the government with Agent Orange. Coleen Boyle of the CDC helped minimize the role of Agent Orange in harming U.S. troops; she hid the cause of the autism epidemic, including the MMR cover-up described by William Thompson, and the dangers of ethylmercury-containing vaccines like the flu shot, DPT, HIB and Hep B. Thimerosal (Merthiolate) was invented for Eli Lilly by the same guy, Morris Kharasch, who invented Ceresan for DuPont and Bayer. Bayer bought up Monsanto ...
It’s a small, toxic world that spins round and round. And real people are really suffering because of it.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Editor's Note -- Today (Tuesday) at 9 am ET, Brett Wilcox is speaking on Vaccine Dogma and the Epidemic of Nonsense. Brett is the author of the very new book Jabbed, How the Vaccine Industry, Medical Establishment and Government Stick It to You and Your Family. Mark, Del Bigtree and I were on a panel with him in Orlando over the weekend and he was terrific, a great new asset to the vaccine injury community. We need some fresh voices, and we've got one. Tune in for free here, and leave a note to win a free copy of his book. Brett lives in Sitka, Alaska, by the way, and has already written two books on Monsanto's mayhem. He's a true antivaxxer. -- Dan
NOTE: Welcome to the USSV. United States of Severe Vaccination. The California medical board is practicing communicable disease communism, demanding lockstep adherence to the pediatric vaccination schedule regardless of physician recommendations. And they will punish doctors who exercise their medical knowledge. They are targeting Dr. Bob Sears for his audacity in putting his young patients health before pharmaceutical, public health or government wishes. There is to be NO vaccine choice in the world of Public/Government health. You will vaccinate with no question of your health status, religious beliefs or personal stance. This is communism. The government controls you.
Please share your support in our comments and most especially on this article.
Dr. Bob Sears faces medical board discipline in recommendation not to vaccinate
Dr. Bob Sears, the Capistrano Beach pediatrician who is an outspoken critic of mandatory vaccination laws, faces possible state Medical Board discipline after he recommended that a 2-year-old patient forgo immunizations, according to legal documents made public Thursday.
The board accuses Sears of committing “gross negligence” in 2014 when he wrote a letter excusing the toddler from future vaccinations after the child’s mother described an adverse reaction as an infant.
The documents say Sears failed to obtain a detailed medical history documenting the unidentified boy’s prior vaccines and reactions, which was necessary for making an evidence-based decision. Sears’ recommendation left the patient and “his future contacts at risk for preventable and communicable diseases,” the documents say.
Sears declined to comment Thursday.
If the board finds Sears negligent, he could face discipline ranging from a public reprimand to revocation of his medical license.
Two years after dozens of children became paralyzed following baffling respiratory illnesses, the CDC says it has received a “notable” increase in reports this year compared to last – a spike that appears especially pronounced since May 1.
Forty-nine reports of suspected acute flaccid myelitis – AFM -- were received by the CDC from January 1 in 22 states; 27 of those reports met the case definition and four more are probable, the agency said. Age of Autism reviewed an official alert containing the information. The CDC received only eight reports to that date last year, five of them confirmed. (Chart shows statistics January-June 2016 in orange compared to the year earlier.)
The average age this year is five, with the range from five months to 18 years. The dates of onset ranged from January 19 to July 23, with 20 of the 27 confirmed cases occurring after May 1, 9 of them in July. The agency said no single pathogen had been identified that linked the cases. It’s unclear how many cases may have occurred since July 23.
The original paralysis outbreak beginning in late 2013 affected more than 100 children and was associated in many cases with Enterovirus D-68, a member of the virus family which also includes poliovirus and usually circulates without causing severe illnesses. Age of Autism covered the outbreak extensively and raised the possibility that some of the cases – which began in California – might be linked to pesticides.
The apparent resurgence this year of the paralytic illness is concerning because, like polio, it could be following a fluctuating pattern and peaking in the summertime, suggesting a possible connection to crops and food.
Other troubling signs of pesticide exposure include the death of bee colonies, most recently millions of honeybees in South Carolina after spraying for mosquitos.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism, Mark Blaxill is Editor-At-Large.
Perhaps you saw the spectacular launch pad explosion of Elon Musk’s rocket this week. That is nothing compared to the failure to launch of the entire excessive-vaccination generation. (I adopt that term from Bernie Rimland, who said – and it always bears repeating – that “the autism epidemic is real and excessive vaccinations are the cause.”)
Recently an autism dad suggested to me that kids started having trouble with ADD and ADHD in the 1970s, well before the 1988 spike in autism that defines the epidemic. That could track to the introduction of the MMR and various other adjustments to the vaccine schedule and increases in coverage. And that would give us people like Michael Phelps – born 1985 – who has talked openly about having ADHD. It’s possible some of his substance issues could be self-medication. (This appeared to be the year when Olympians with Issues became the headline. Crohn’s disease, asthmatics – where did this infirmary full of world-class athletes come from? I don’t remember it a decade or two ago.)
Of course, Phelps is an awesome success story by any standard, but especially the standards set by pop culture presentations of young adults these days. One that’s on the airwaves now is for a credit-score company: the impetus for tracking your credit is the ongoing nightmare of living with mom and dad. Two or three amusing vignettes – dad wearing the same shirt to try to be cool, or playing some dopey game – make clear that living with your parents is a drag, man. It finally dawned on me this was one of the first ads I’d seen from a millennial perspective. Rather than the irritation of having grown kids at home – that would be my generation’s complaint -- it was the irritation of having stupid parents in your space, even if it is technically their space!
Also this week, I was flipping through my new edition of Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine, and from a less materialistic perspective picked up the same vibe.
“My students seem burdened,” said Jeff Wilson, an associate professor of religious studies at Renison State University in Canada. “People seem really afraid – we probably all know statistics around antidepressant use and anxiety and depression. I think it’s coming from the dissipation of family and connection with others. It just seems really hard to sustain that in the kind of society we have.”
Oh, pish posh. I wish that people who make useful observations would pause for just one moment before offering mere speculation as to the cause. I just don’t think there is justification for this kind of anomie, some breakdown in our families and society to the point that young people just can’t get it together.
It was no picnic in 1968, let me tell you. Yet today things are so fraught, apparently, that trigger warnings and safe spaces and micro-aggressions are the order of the day. (One is tempted to say, if you want a safe space, go back to your parents’ basement.) It was nice to see the University of Chicago push back in a letter to students this week. My own alma mater, Yale, was the scene of great pusillanimity kicked off by a dean’s wife harmless suggestion that nobody get too riled up by potentially offensive Halloween costumes. I don’t mean to minimize this generation’s own set of issues, nor the need to deal with historical grievances that ours may have never considered. Many will disagree, but I thought Georgetown’s offer this week to give preferential admission to descendants of slaves it had owned (and sold to keep in business) was terrific. There are problems to be dealt with but that does not explain or justify a generation of kids with sawed-off ambitions and crippling apathy who can’t seem to get out of their parents’ basements. I remember staying at home for three or four days right out of college until I moved in with a couple of friends. We were not living large, but it seemed that way because, hallelujah, we were on our own. (And then, a few months later, I moved into my own tiny attic apartment and bought a Sherwood receiver, a Dual Turntable and a pair of Dynaco speakers that I still have and put on a record that was just out -- Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up in Blue's astonishing instrumental opening came pouring out like warm honey and gave the system a worthy baptism. I digress but being on your own is good!)
There’s nothing heroic about this, it is what people do and have done really for millennia -- a biologic imperative of youth to stand up, strike out on their own, show they can do it better and create their own life. The universe throws in some extra hormones or whatever to push us all out of the nest without a crippling fear of falling. Except, apparently, these days.
One of my favorite quotes is by Lightner Witmer, a Philadelphia psychologist, describing a possible early case of autism:
“As the flower blooms, the fish swims or the bird flies, so the child crawls, walks and talks. It is the unfolding of his own instinctive impulses. But this child had to be taught to crawl and to walk, and even then he could only toddle around uncertainly. He never uttered a word spontaneously.”
This unfolding naturally continues into adolescence and early adulthood – or it ought to. But we shouldn’t be surprised it doesn’t when we have 1 in 6 kids with learning disabilities, 1 in 68 with autism, more than half with some kind of mental or physical health issue. That’s a lot of kids! Yet when these kids continue to have “delays” into adulthood, we seem to ignore this reality of cause and effect. Saying a three-year-old is delayed is one thing, but a 20-year-old who delays taking on the natural responsibilities and advantages of his age is something else. Or is it? Are we going to be talking about “delays” in 80-year-olds? At some point delay becomes denial of a person’s right to live a full and unburdened life.
It’s what Bernie Rimland called Dyslogic Syndrome in a book by that title available on Amazon. The subtitle says it all: Why Millions of Kids are ‘Hyper,’ Attention-Disordered, Learning Disabled, Depressed, Aggressive, Defiant, or Violent – and What We Can Do About It. This overlooked gem from 2008 – a kind of bookend to his classic Infantile Autism in 1964 – describes the generation now in their late teens and early adulthood.
If you get a generation whose members were delayed in infancy, should we be surprised they remain delayed in everything from leaving home to adjusting to the rough and tumble of what used to be called “the real world,” still "toddling around uncertainly" like the child Witmer described? Speaking of the real world, I'm reliably informed that another reality show, Big Brother, currently has three contestants well into their 20s who still live with their parents. We should stop grabbing for silly explanations and come to grips, like Georgetown with its egregious slave history, with what we have wrought.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Catching up from some time away, camping (more like “glamping”) with some autism dads and others who know the score, by the French Broad River in Hot Springs, North Carolina. (The milkweed seemed like a sign of summer’s end.)
I’m impressed that as the first generation of the autism epidemic cohort – I guess that’s how I’d put it – is aging out of schools and into adulthood, a hundred flowers are blooming, sometimes literally. A dad whose son is 20 talked about all kinds of ideas he and his wife are working on, from a flower delivery service that includes donating one bouquet to a special needs family for every one sold. There was also talk of incorporating the tiny house movement into a group living situation for people with an autism diagnosis.
I know that Dan Burns and Teresa Conrick, among others, have worked on interesting projects. Not all will work on the first try but along with the harsh fact of a world unwilling and unable to accommodate the coming deluge, I’m impressed with the energy and creativity that’s emerging.
On the way back, I stopped for an Egg McMuffin and one of the staff was being animated and a bit goofy. “Don’t judge me, I’m special,” he said. I wasn’t sure whether to be offended because he wasn’t disabled, or accommodating because he was. I hope it’s not the hip kids co-opting phrases the way they did the R word and “that’s so gay.” But it’s becoming their world now whatever we think about it.
There are two kinds of studies coming down the pike that I was told to watch – or watch out – for. One looks at acetaminophen, which a scientist dad I talked to at length is convinced is responsible for 90 percent of autism cases. I just don’t buy it but I’m open to the evidence. He sent me some papers to read that I’ll take a look at. What are your ideas about the role, if any, of Tylenol in autism?
I can see the biological plausibility, but the idea it’s the “but for” factor in nine out of 10 cases doesn’t quite work for me. As I told this dad, one of the strongest arguments against it is the work Mark Blaxill, Teresa Conrick and I have done on early cases. If you accept our premise – autism was essentially nonexistent before 1930, first arose with the commercialization of ethyl mercury compounds in vaccines and preservatives, and first affected children in families with those occupations in the background – it is hard to see how a pain reliever fits the fact pattern better.
I thought he didn’t realize the power of that evidence, but then I would think that, wouldn’t I?
The second kind of study looks at older unvaccinated siblings of vaccinated children with autism. Many times parents will forego vaccinating subsequent children in the (correct) belief that there was a connection. But if those unvaccinated kids have the same or a higher rate of autism, it throws an obvious monkey wrench in the theory. If you have ideas for why this kind of data might not be convincing, I’d like to hear them.
Of course this sort of study gives the lie to the claim it’s impossible to compare vax v unvaxxed people, so why not do it in a broader group with unrelated children? We’ve been waiting for that for a long time now.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about continued attention to the antimalarial drug Lariam, or mefloquine, and the fact that it is most certainly causing a percentage of veteran suicide and violence.
This week I heard from a very good, and cautious, source with military connections that there is evidence the Dallas shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, who killed five police officers, might have been taking the drug and suffered its long-term effects.
He was an Afghan War Army Reserve veteran, which puts him in the right place at the right time. As long as the media and medicine ignore the acknowledged long term consequences of this drug, we are going to see more suicide or violence, whether this case was representative of that or not.
The only good-faith thing for the military to do is launch a high-power investigation. That, of course, would mean facing up to its culpability in inventing and mandating a deadly dangerous drug. It’s easy to be cynical but I think it can and will happen as more bizarre deaths occur, indefinitely.
One nice thing about being back is to catch up on posts and comments and realize how much good content appears every day and week. This comment by John Stone caught my eye: “It is a crazy idea that you can just suspend the normal rules of a liberal democracy and not reep appalling consequences.” I looked up liberal democracy and learned that the “liberal” is used in the classical sense of liberty, meaning that individuals within a majority-ruled country should have a wide margin of freedom within that context.
Liberal and libertarian – not so far apart when it comes to our common cause.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Dan is on a short break. This post ran on 8/23/14. Since then, Vaxxed has exposed the CDC Whistle blower to a broad audience and we're bearing down on a Presidential election. How many children have been diagnosed in 24 months' time? Yesterday I had a new student in a karate class I teach, I heard Mom say, "He attends [name of developmental peer combo preschool in our town.]" I asked her, "Is he a peer or on an IEP?" "Oh! He's been tested for autism 3 times, he has sensory processing disorder and speech delay." And the leaks continue. And the flood drowns. KIM
By Dan Olmsted
As the MMR whistleblower issue blows up, here's one thing that’s worth remembering: The specific manipulation of data being alleged is that the CDC covered up a risk for autism in black males who got the MMR shot earlier than 36 months. That is appalling, and raises terrible echoes of the nation’s public health officials and their odious Tuskegee study of untreated black males with syphilis.
But more broadly, according to the medical, scientific, and journalistic consensus of our day, there should be no good evidence of any kind, whatsoever, linking any vaccine to autism in any child, ever. Ever! (“One Thing We Know About Autism: Vaccines Aren’t to Blame” – National Geographic. “Once again, the research is definitive: vaccines don't cause autism, and the potential costs of vaccines' mild side-effects are clearly smaller than those of the lethal diseases that can spread if we don't vaccinate all children.” – Vox.com)
Since “we know” that vaccines don’t cause autism, they certainly don’t cause it in black males. They certainly don’t cause it when the MMR is given to black males. They certainly don’t cause it when the MMR is given to black males in Atlanta. They certainly don’t cause it when the MMR is given to black males in Atlanta before a certain age – or, for that matter, given on the day of birth to blue-eyed females in Dubuque born on the first or third Thursdays of months ending in "y."
They don't cause autism! Got it? If they did, even in such a circumscribed cohort as black males in Atlanta vaccinated with MMR before 36 months -- that would start a cascade of challenges to orthodoxy that simply can’t – and, if the authority figures have their way, simply won’t – be tolerated. This is what the The Times and The Networks and the Agencies are going to be working overtime to shore up.
The CDC’s William Thompson, whistleblower to Brian Hooker on the MMR study and lead author on another on mercury in vaccines, has probably ruined more than a few of his colleagues’ August vacations at Hilton Head. One can’t help think of goofy cartoon characters running around a leaking dike and plugging every hole that starts spurting. They are down now to using their toes. (Check out this staggeringly off-message comment from Dorit Reiss on CNN: "Even if his [Brian Hooker's] claims about the study were correct, which is doubtful, it would show that for most of the population, MMR does not cause autism." I imagine a Merck guy yelling in her ear, "Dammit, Dorit, don't ever say it's OK if the MMR just makes a few thousand black boys autistic! Do you really want this job? ")
More broadly, these “leaks” in the bulwark of conventional wisdom have been coming for a long time, and not just from people on the inside with information to share.
I’m talking about leaks like all the parents of children on the other side of the elevated-risk stats – MMR shots at 12 months, illness, regression, autism.
Leaks like parents who saw it with other vaccines, at other times -- parents who were willing to share what happened to try to keep it from happening again.
Leaks like the original Verstraeten study at the CDC that found a high risk of autism for infants who got the most ethyl mercury by the first month of life, as opposed to the least.
Leaks like the CDC coverup of the soaring autism rate in Brick Township, N.J.
Leaks like all the evidence from low-and-no-vaccine populations with low-to-no autism. Leaks like the unwillingness of the public health authorities to even study the issue.
Leaks like the Hannah Poling case, which the government conceded was triggered by autism, but buried by obfuscation. Leaks like the Unanswered Questions study showing autism all over the place in unacknowledged vaccine “court” rulings.
Leaks like the SafeMinds parents identifying autism as a “novel form of mercury poisoning” more than a decade ago.
Leaks like the Merck scientists who came forward to say the company faked data to make its mumps vaccine look effective.
Leaks like the connection between the first cases of autism reported in the medical literature, in 1943, and the families’ exposure to the new ethyl mercury vaccines and fungicides.
A study this week found that a service member diagnosed with PTSD was actually suffering from mefloquine toxicity -- the Army-invented malaria drug that can cause suicide, homicide, psychosis, depression and sudden death. It's a topic I wrote about extensively and it's a dead ringer for the autism-vaccine debacle; the government refuses to come to grips with the damage done, and people suffer needlessly as a result. The analogies between the two convinced me the public health establishment will lie and cover up to protect its prerogatives and hide its collateral damage.
I asked Dr. Remington Nevin, a former Army doctor now getting a doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins who has done groundbreaking work on mefloquine (Lariam): "What is your guess about how much of PTSD these days is really Lariam induced?" He replied, "I’m on record as saying it’s probably somewhere in the single digit percentages in military populations — but it could be even higher, depending on the context. Among troops deployed who never saw combat but who were prescribed (and continued to take) mefloquine, the proportion of questionable diagnoses could be much higher — see my chapter 'Mefloquine and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder' for further discussion of this.
"What is interesting is that this is not an effect that is unique to mefloquine. Quinacrine (Atabrine) used in WWII, and chloroquine used in Vietnam both have similar effects. And, of course, what we today consider PTSD was not even formally recognized during either war. Prolonged panic or anxiety reactions in WWII veterans were called 'gross stress reaction,' and were not recognized as a distinct diagnosis among Vietnam veterans until the 1980 DSM III established the new 'PTSD' diagnosis.
"I actually suspect what Vietnam veterans called 'Vietnam syndrome' — which was actually quite different than today’s construct of PTSD — was in many cases simply quinoline antimalarial toxicity."
I am a connoisseur of after-action, lessons-learned reports. It's always interesting to see what, in the clear light of day, caused a disaster. The O-rings. The 9.11 report. The Pentagon Papers. I have a passing relationship to one such nightmare -- the made-up stories by a USA Today staffer that came to light only after a long string of them had gotten into the paper. I sat next to the reporter in the 1980s when he was an ambitious copy boy in the News Section and I was an assistant national editor. The fake stories didn't begin till after I had left the news section; otherwise I'm pretty sure I would have fallen for some, which were usually written from exotic locales that would be very hard to double-check. Plus -- and this counts for a lot in real time -- he was a really, really nice guy. He just had a bad habit of making stuff up, and that's not something you expect a reporter to do at a national newspaper.
So I'll stipulate it's not fair to hold people to standards that would have required superhuman abilities. It's the cases that were or should have been obvious at the time that really hurt. When the Challenger exploded, the engineers in the lunchroom at the manufacturer realized immediately it was their own product, the O-rings, that had caused the explosion (because the cold weather made them vulnerable to coming apart). Even though the editors hadn't caught the USA Today reporter's fabrications, the New York Times reported some of his colleagues "were so suspicious of his dispatches that as long ago as the mid-1990's, they began keeping crude dossiers on him -- questioning the plausibility of his battlefield descriptions, clipping articles from other newspapers that included phrasing similar to (his), and even making copies of his correspondence with editors." The editors said they never heard about it, but the "hindsight" defense no longer worked; they should have created a newsroom culture where the suspicions reached them. Instead, the after-action report said, they created a "climate of fear" in which no one dared say anything. That's why as soon as they read it the news editor and executive editor resigned.
Most recently, the Brits did a full accounting on the reason for invading Iraq along with the United States. As summarized by CBC News, "the six-year study concluded that London and Washington knew a lot — but underestimated or discounted most of the looming dangers and pitfalls. When (Tony) Blair told the inquiry he could not have foreseen the problems in Iraq, (the committee) would have none of it: 'We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuits of its interests, regional instability and al-Qaeda activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion," the report said.
So when did hindsight cease to be an excuse for the man-made autism epidemic and the failure to do anything about it? There are so many inflection points, from the Brick study to the Verstraeten saga to the Thompson whistle-blowing. Pick your poison. The point is that the time is past for the hindsight defense to exculpate anyone. Someday some prestigious panel will write the kind of report I am addicted to reading. I hope I'm still around for it and that it contains words to the effect that "hindsight is no defense when thousands of parents told their doctors and public officials exactly what happened and the number of cases soared with the vaccine schedule. Most remarkable of all was that the CDC was allowed to continue its monopoly both on the vaccine mandates and the safety studies years after its cluelessness, conflicts of interests and coverup became clear to any impartial observer."
And speaking of mefloquine, it should have been obvious by 2003, when soldiers returning home to Fort Bragg from Afghanistan killed their wives and then themselves, that the drug was too dangerous. Instead the relentless wave of veteran suicide, violence and despair has been swelled by the ignorance and arrogance of the military medical command -- the soul brothers of the CDC, the NIH and the civilian public health establishment. The "hindsight" defense just doesn't cut it, especially not when you are on record blaming the "herd," aka the victims who were trying to tell you.
From the Army Times:
"Mefloquine was developed under the Army’s malaria drug discovery program and approved for use as a malaria prophylactic in 1989. Shortly after commercial production began, stories surfaced about side effects, including hallucinations, delirium and psychoses. Military researchers maintained, however, that it was a 'well-tolerated drug,' with one WRAIR scientist attributing reports of mefloquine-associated psychoses to a 'herd mentality.'
"'Growing controversies over neurological side effects, though, are appearing in the literature, from journal articles to traveler’s magazines and resulting legal ramifications threaten global availability,' wrote researcher Army Col. Wilbur Milhous in 2001. "As the 'herd mentality' of mefloquine associated psychoses continues to gain momentum, it will certainly affect operational compliance and readiness. ... The need for a replacement drug for weekly prophylaxis will continue to escalate.'
"Mefloquine was implicated in a series of murder-suicides at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002," the Army Times continued, "and media reports also tied it to an uptick in military suicides in 2003."
Yes, media reports of the truth.
A note for those of you expecting the latest installment in the polio series – I’m taking a break to complete another project but will return with a vengeance in a few weeks. I’ve pretty much completed the arc of the 1916 New York City and North Atlantic epidemic, proposing that sugar tainted with arsenic pesticide triggered the outbreak in those with an active poliovirus infection. Next we’ll look at other outbreaks to test and refine our hypothesis, and ultimately examine why polio is the autism of childhood illnesses, and autism is the polio of childhood disorders – both triggered by an environmental factor that orthodox medicine is either slow to recognize or suppresses altogether. I guess you could call it an after-action report; it's all about "hindsight "that should have been just as clear at the time if the experts weren't blinded by their own theories at the cost of ignoring the people right in front of them.
Catch up on the series here.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
Note: You can read the entire series on our sidebar here.
Note: You can read the entire series on our sidebar here.
By Dan Olmsted
Note: You can read the entire series on our sidebar here.
Editor's note: We invite you to read the entire series here.
By Dan Olmsted
When Mrs. G.H. Franklin woke up after collapsing on the floor of her Brooklyn ice cream parlor on June 19, 1916, she found herself in a ward at St. Mary’s Hospital, paralyzed. She was 56 years old. Just two days earlier, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a story on its front page headlined “24 Cases of Infant Paralysis in the Boro; Health Board Acts.”
Despite the timing, doctors were loathe to describe Mrs. Franklin's case as polio. For one thing she simply seemed too old for infantile paralysis -- the oldest person in the health department case files that summer. “The hospital records show that the case was considered some type of meningitis altho a lumbar puncture showed nothing abnormal,” according to a health department report. “On July 8 she was brought to her son’s home at 1250 Curtis Avenue, Woodhaven, Queens. On July 30, after she left, her grandsons Herbert and Calvin were taken acutely ill, the former promptly being diagnosed poliomyelitis, the diagnosis in the latter not yet known. “On July 15, Mrs. Franklin moved to 4559 Metropolis Avenue, Queens, and nine days after arriving there, her grandson Willy was taken ill and also Edith Smith, the daughter of another tenant in the same house. Both proved to have poliomyelitis.
“An interesting sidelight on this problem is the fact that on June 1, when Mrs. Franklin was first taken ill at 1295 Gates Avenue, an Italian baby on the top floor became suddenly ill and died within 24 hours, no diagnosis being made.” Trying to untangle the coincidences from the clues was beyond the health department’s ken. Yet the department spent a lot of its time building up voluminous files on each case and tracking down every possible contact. This was a misadventure if the hypothesis I've laid out in earlier segments is true, because it continually missed the environmental trigger -- low levels of arsenic in sugar that had recently arrived at the refineries from Hawaii.
The environmental toxicologist who’s been helping me commented: “Arsenic in sugar would result in intermittent dosing, which is more likely to manifest in some of the other known symptoms of arsenic toxicity such as GI upset. Orally ingested arsenic is very hard on the intestines. Orally ingested poliovirus enters the body through the intestines, which will be less able to fight off a viral invasion if arsenic-induced inflammation and necrosis is present.” Certainly plenty of polio cases I’ve read about from the 1916 epidemic began with that kind of stomach upset. I wonder if Mrs. Franklin got better just because she was no longer eating her own ice cream all day.
Brooklyn, where the Hawaiian sugar made port, had the first outbreak. Queens, where most of the raw sugar went to the refinery in Long Island City, had the highest polio rate per capita of the five boroughs. Yonkers, where a smaller amount went to the refinery there, had the highest number of cases of any city of its size in the country. That’s proof of nothing but it’s consistent with the “facts cluster around a good hypothesis” model.
As we add an installment, we update the Polio series on our sidebar. We invite you to read the entire Polio series by Dan Olmsted here.
We are updating the full series with each installment on our sidebar here.
By Dan Olmsted
As we prepare to follow the Hawaiian sugar harvest to the U.S. mainland in early 1916, a natural pause suggests itself. I’ve now presented the basic hypothesis: that arsenic applied for the first time ever to sugarcane fields anywhere, at the Olaa plantation on the Big Island of Hawaii, led to the first massive poliomyelitis epidemic in the United States.
It triggered the Explosion that ushered in the Age of Polio.
That kind of claim attracts critics who use words like "laughable." (Of course, laughable things can be true.) Over at Orac, Denice Walter commented: "Although I am often highly entertained by your speculation, I would be much more pleased with you if you took a few life science related courses at your local university." I responded: "Denice, I remain pleased that you are highly entertained. I fear that exposure to actual experts might reduce my ability to amuse you, so I’ll avoid it for now." (The claim here is that a non-scientist journalist such as myself has no business tackling a topic like this. I disagree.)
So perhaps it’s time to say a little more about how the theory evolved and where I am heading with it. In 2011, Mark Blaxill and I wrote a series called The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic.
In it, we proposed that the invention of lead arsenate pesticide in 1892, interacting with poliovirus infections, kicked off the modern era of polio epidemics. Lead arsenate was created to fight the gypsy moth invasion around Boston that threatened to wreck the entire domestic apple crop. In a literal and metaphoric instance of the “butterfly effect” – seemingly minor and distant events leading to major disruptions -- a few moths escaped their enclosure in a back yard in suburban Medford, and before long turned into teeming masses undulating like black waves across suburban streets to devour fruit trees in one collective gulp. This story almost defies belief, but The Great Gypsy Moth War by Robert J. Spear brings it to creepy-crawly life.
Lead arsenate subdued the moth problem, but the association of the pesticide with poliomyelitis is hard for dispassionate observers (meaning those not wedded to virology as the explanation for everything) to dismiss. In 1893, the year after the first use of lead arsenate in Boston, two local doctors wrote a medical journal article, “Is Acute Poliomyelitis Unusually Prevalent This Season?” and very quickly established that it was unusually prevalent. “It would not have seemed worthwhile to report these observations had it not been that the number of cases observed at the Massachusetts General Hospital in September and October of this year [apple harvest time] is decidedly larger than usual. …” Putting together all the cases from four sources, they came up with six polio cases for the period August-November 1892, and 26 for the same period in 1893.
While that was an impressive rise, it could have simply been natural variation; sporadic cases were observed by medical professionals over the past several decades. Hence the question mark. But the very next year, 1894, in the Otter River Valley in Vermont, came the answer – an unmistakable poliomyelitis epidemic.
The account, a classic of medical literature worth reading in its own right, was provided by Dr. Charles Caverly, a Rutland physician who also happened to be the president of the state medical society – and was in the right place at the right time. The beginning is memorable and haunting, given what was to come and the fact that epidemic poliomyelitis was so unfamiliar in the United States that Caverly didn’t even call it “infantile paralysis” or poliomyelitis until later articles.
“During the month of June, 1894, there appeared in a portion of the valley of the Otter Creek, in the state of Vermont, an epidemic of nervous disease, in which the distinctive and most common symptom was paralysis. The great majority of sufferers were children under six years of age.” Hardest hit were the towns of Rutland and Proctor. There were 132 cases and 18 deaths.
This was not like Boston the year before. This was big.
Note: Here is the "The Age of Polio: Explosion" series to date, revised and combined. Each new installment published on AOA will be added to it.
By Dan Olmsted
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein
On May 1, 1916, thirteen-month-old Lettie Caruso* moved with her family to a tenement at 1295 Gates Avenue, Brooklyn. A fifty-six-year-old woman named Mrs. G.H. Franklin lived and worked on the first floor, where she ran a small ice cream parlor that “the children naturally frequented,” according to a subsequent report by the New York Health Department. Lettie and her family lived in the apartment adjacent to the ice cream shop. On May 9, Lettie became ill. “A private physician was called the first day and came several days,” the Department reported. “She was examined with the stethoscope and at the first visit the doctor thought it was only a cold. As she grew worse a physician from New York was called in consultation. Mrs. Caruso thought the diagnosis was pulmonary bronchitis. So far as she knew the child was not paralyzed, but she cannot remember any special examination for that. There has been no Infantile Paralysis in this house, nor in the adjoining properties.”
That was about to change.
Looking back with perfect hindsight, Brooklyn in May 1916 was ground zero for an explosion that no one saw or heard for a month and more -- and, to this day, no one has satisfactorily explained. Before it ended late that summer, 25,000 people in the Northeast developed paralytic poliomyelitis, most of them young children, and an extraordinary 5,000 died -- nearly half of them in the City of New York, a toll approaching the September 11 tragedy. It was by far the largest and most lethal polio epidemic to date, and it remains one of the biggest ever (see chart).
As spring turned to summer, polio gripped every family with fear, not just in the Northeast but nationwide. It was a fear that never entirely lifted until the outbreaks ended in the United States and most other countries after the Salk vaccine was introduced a half-century later, an occasion so momentous that church bells rang out across the country. But 100 years ago, and especially Brooklyn, there was barely suppressed panic that the authorities and the media did their best to tamp down.
"While there is no need of undue alarm," the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported in a careful front-page (but one column) article on June 17 announcing the epidemic, "the officials of the board of health are somewhat worried and are taking measures to stamp out the disease."
Since 1894, clusters had occurred with increasing frequency and virulence in the U.S.. The first, in Vermont, affected 132 and killed 18. The worst, in 1907, killed 125 in New York City. It almost seemed like a rehearsal, or a warning. But 1916 marked the moment the Age of Polio arrived in America.
No one could explain why the epidemics began appearing around the turn of the century. As Albert Sabin, inventor of the live virus polio vaccines, mused in 1947: “No circumstance in the history of polio is so baffling as its change during the past fifty or sixty years from a sporadic to an epidemic disease.” It certainly wasn’t a matter of better diagnosis or greater awareness – this of all diseases, with its sudden onset and often permanent disability or death, was as impossible to miss as a child in an iron lung.
“There was no idea in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that poliomyelitis was contagious,” wrote John R. Paul, a professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at Yale who conducted important polio research himself. “Had there been larger outbreaks in the early or mid-19th century it seems highly unlikely that they would have gone unnoticed.”
In 1917, the year after the Great Northeast Epidemic, John Ruhrah and Erwin E. Mayer wrote, “It seems to be a disease of comparatively recent origin. In the history of most diseases there is a gradual shading off into the older writers until the disease is lost in confusion of inaccurate descriptions. Not so with polio.” They continued: “The disease is so striking in its symptomatology, so devastating in its results, and produces such a deep impression on the popular mind that it does not seem possible that any very considerable epidemics could have happened in the countries in which there were physicians making records of what occurred.”
Perhaps because the outbreak rose and fell so suddenly, bracketed by much that came to define the turbulent 20th century -- war in Europe in 1914, the sinking of the Lusitania, which departed from New York Harbor, the next year; shark attacks along the crowded Jersey shore that sweltering summer of 1916 that caused sensational press coverage and became fodder for Jaws 60 years later; U.S. entry into WW I in 1917; and the Influenza Pandemic that killed 2,157 New York City residents in the week of November 1, 1918, alone -- the epidemic has faded from collective memory.
But the question remains, and it remains important in an age of new diseases like EV-68 and Zika, and disorders like autism, that seem to come out of nowhere and spread like wildfire: What caused the Explosion of 1916? If I'm right, an environmental bomb dropped on Brooklyn set it off, spreading with a smooth but terrible precision like a pebble dropped in a still volcanic lake. That kind of bomb could go off again at any time, anywhere. We need to understand it.
I've foreshadowed some of this saga in ways not yet apparent. It takes twists and turns I never imagined when I began. I only ask that you withhold judgment till the keystone has locked the blocks into place.
(*Sources and notes: Information about the sugar industry in 1916 comes from multiple sources including articles on newspapers.com and in specialized sugar journals. Case histories of Lettie Caruso, Mrs. Franklin and others are from the New York City Health Department archives of the 1916 epidemic at the American Philosophical Association library in Philadelphia. All names have been changed, which the library required as a condition for access. The chart showing the spike in the polio rate is by my colleague Mark Blaxill. Our series in 2011 proposing a new explanation for the roots and rise of polio epidemics paved the way for this series.)
Age of Autism is now a non-profit organization in its tenth year of serving as the Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic, which we believe makes us the longest-running autism-related publication on the Web.
We are reaching out to you with our first direct request for financial support. Organizational changes have meant that we have lost a considerable portion of our revenue over the past year, and we hope you will consider helping us continue at full steam.
To make a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation, please click here www.paypal.me/autismage or send a check made out to:
c/0 Dan Olmsted
102 Whittier Circle
Falls Church VA 22046
Our revenue goes for publishing expenses, reporting and research costs, and support for Dan and Kim in their daily work for AOA. None of this would happen without the community’s support – your support.
We promote calls to action from all around the autism advocacy world, offer new information about the microbiome from Teresa Conrick, expose the latest outrages from the IACC by Katie Wright, bring news of the UK from John Stone, distill the latest media coverage with Anne Dachel, share Natalie Palumbo’s sibling perspective, and chronicle Kim’s saga of raising three girls with autism who are starting to “age out.”
Plus there's Cat Jameson's Sunday column, Tim Welsh's power tweets, Kent Heckenlively’s legal perspective, Dan Burns' literary touch, my own weekly column and ongoing investigations, and – as they say – so much more. We've published over 6,000 posts and 130,000 reader comments. A whole genre of books speaking up for victims of vaccine injury has spun off from AOA, and more are coming.
When I type “vaccines and autism” into Google, we are usually in the top 10 hits, and we are most often alone as a voice for vaccine safety and autism advocacy. I can’t count the number of people who see us as a lifeline and oasis, who say we have helped them make an informed decision, or helped them find their way to autism groups that can really help. We just redesigned our site to be even more accessible, inviting, and compatible with mobile platforms.
Seventy-five years ago, my father, Robert Olmsted, finished a book – a labor of love, really, on the influential architect Louis Sullivan and Sullivan’s writings not on architecture, but democracy. Today, I'm publishing for the first time the opening of that book (here.) Let's hear it for the World Wide Web!
A bit of background is in order. My father was 47 when I was born in 1952, and he died at 66 in 1971 (just two years older than I turned Friday -- too young). I missed a good deal of his life, with divorce and distance a further complication. I only knew second-hand, especially from my sister Rosie, that before I was born he spent long hours up in the garret (yes, a real garret) of their house in Danville, Illinois, creating this work. He would have been in his 30s.
It was never published, and everyone believed the manuscript was lost.
It was not lost, only spectacularly mislaid. After my mother's sister died, her children were going through the attic and found a manila envelope with –-behold! --the loose-leaf, typewritten pages of the "Louis Sullivan book." My cousin Trevett handed it to me, and I must say that for some while, I thumbed the pages but didn’t really read it. I had no idea what I would find. What if it was awful or misguided or as dated as the typewriter it was written on, at least by my lights? Well, it wasn't.
The mammoth Auditorium building in Chicago may have been demolished by the time these words are in print. If the Auditorium is razed, one of the monumental proofs of Louis Sullivan's genius will have submitted to the hand of Time. But Sullivan's legacy to the world is more lasting than stone or steel.
That opening still feels fresh and powerful, at least to me. A lot was at stake -- an architectural masterpiece might bite the dust. The building's description -- "mammoth" for size, "monumental" for significance -- was a nice variation, especially since "monumental" worked in both senses.The introduction unfolded in the same way, a brief, well-crafted intellectual biography of Sullivan -- and therefore of my father as well.
Seventeen years after Louis Sullivan's death he is still primarily known as an architect. Yet those persons who were close to Sullivan during his lifetime all attest that to know him as an architect, as a giant creator-builder -- to use Sheldon Cheney's phrase -- is to know only half the man. Great as was his contribution to architecture, Louis Sullivan, the poet-philosopher, the artist-writer, the teacher, the prophet of democracy, the personality, stands far above the buildings or the theories of architecture he left to the world. If there remains any doubt about this evaluation this book is offered as conclusive evidence.
Yet this was not hagiography. Sullivan's career cascaded into darkness; he ended up alone. He suffered the fate of someone far ahead of the times. But my father was passionate about the point he wanted to make: Sullivan’s philosophy shaped his buildings. Ideas mattered most. And so did the individual. Form followed function -- a term Sullivan coined.
Sullivan's faith was in the democratic idea, a belief in the soundness and kindness of the common, the normal man -- the multitudes. Here was a faith on which to build a genuine optimism; here was a substantial support reaching down to bedrock. America pointed to her steel production; Sullivan looked at the spiritual vitality of the nation as an index of national well-being.
I just love that. I'd call it prairie progressivism, a Midwestern, land-of-Lincoln fanfare for the common man. It's in my bones as well, as readers who care about such things will know. It was an affirmation of, an appeal to, our better angels, as Lincoln had it.
Hey everyone -- Still in search of a member of the American Psychiatric Association to make a request on my behalf; and I'm issuing a call for a virologist out there to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I have some embarrassingly basic questions to ask. Meanwhile, my query for help with understanding arsenic -- sometimes a metal, sometimes a metalloid, among other tricky properties -- paid off, as you'll see Saturday.
Sometimes our comment threads contain tales of such misery that they are hard to read. Like this one:
"I want to say that I have a 20 yr old Autistic son who has started to turn violent these past two years. He does not communicate at all! He used to use the bathroom in his pants, but now I take care of him fulltime as my job and have worked with him to sit and use it. For those who can't get a job because nobody will care for them while you work, in some states you can become a certified provider and get paid by the county to care for your disabled son, daughter, or family member. They need a waiver which can be difficult to get especially if they are under 18.
"I begged, cried, pleaded with the county to please push this waiver through because I was running out of resources and would have to give him up to the state because nobody could watch him while I worked. I have a 10 yr old typical developing daughter I have to support too and couldn't not work. I'm a single mother because I divorced their father three years ago, and he knew it would make my life more difficult by not helping me, hoping I would come back. Now, I believe his violent outbursts are due to him needing to use the bathroom. Maybe constipation, so I started giving him more fiber, and will sit him on the toilet until he has a bowel movement. This seems to calm him down once he has one.
"He has never went after anyone, but gets so upset that he screeches and rocks rapidly back and forth. I have to walk away sometimes for 5-10 min because it gets overwhelming. I hear comments all of the time about how it must be nice to get paid to watch your own son, but you walk a day in my shoes and see if you could handle it. Even for just an hour. I earn every damn penny of it, believe me. Some say he's my meal ticket because of this, but I'm not a lazy ass who lives off of welfare because I don't qualify for it and pay my own bills and go to school. I know I won't always be able to care for him, and need a backup plan. In ohio, the waiting list for a waiver is 2 yrs+.
"I didn't have that time to wait, so after all of the crying I did they put it through as an emergency waiver. Still, it took 6 months for all of the paperwork to go through. I thank God everyday for my mother who helped me. My parents told me they would help as much as they could once I got divorced. I just wanted to vent, and give information to people who has lost hope or almost there. I cry at least 3 days a week because of the stress, but I am strong and will get through this. Love to all parents/family who have a violent child/adult with autism because it takes special people to be able to live with a person with a disability."
This is the reality for many as their severely affected children get older, even as the image of Asperger-style whiz kids takes root in our society. Here's one that's less horrific but I'm sure wears people down just as much.
"It took me almost 7 months and several conversations with 4 doctors just to get one of them to sign a tax form indicating that my son still has autism. Why? Because he hadn't had an appointment with any of them in quite some time. We would need to schedule one, on a wait list for months. I resigned myself to the fact that I would miss the tax deadline that year (silly me, thinking this exercise would be a 15 minute thing). It took some intervention from my own doctor's office to get this resolved.
Midweek Mashup: A Little Help, A New Look, A Big Sneeze, Battle Casualties, and a Vision of Hell on Earth
By Dan Olmsted
Hey everybody – tell your psychiatrist to call me --I need help in a hurry. Well sort of – I’m renewing my request for a member in good standing of the American Psychiatric Association to request some material for me from the APA library. The library is perfectly happy for me to go that route – they just need a member request. Email: Olmsted.email@example.com.
Another request – I’d like to speak to someone who knows enough chemistry to talk me through arsenic and its variations in a fairly detailed way. Again, please email me.
How are you liking our redesign? I like the overall look and feel a lot, but there are tweaks to come, and we want everyone’s viewpoint as we go about it. For reference sake (and because I’m kind of proud of it!) here is my original sketch for the new look that we adopted last week.
As you can see, I have no one to blame but myself, as what we ended up with is a pretty faithful rendering. But there is something a little “loose,” at least to my eye, about the way it looks on the actual screen.” It’s not quite as elegant as I’d like it to be. Is the type too big? The logo too small? Should we move up the comments on the right and move down the search function? In all of this the goal is to create a clear and calm – and intelligent, and irreverent, and funny, and moving, and all that -- corner of the world for like-minded people to hang out (and for the rest of the world to slowly be convinced we are right…).
Just don’t suggest messing with the red i, as in iconoclast.
Last week I wrote about an alarming report out of Britain that fully a third of children coming into the education system have issues with speech, socialization and toileting. This iatrogenic, man-made, unprecedented catastrophe -- which is what it is unless you just want to argue it's always been this way -- was airily displaced onto kids having too much smartphone access, not enough parental interaction, and so on. I said it was another species of parent-blaming -- it now appears to be the primary task of moms and dads these days to keep their children away from all the appurtenances of modern life lest they be ineducable by age 5. But unless you want to turn the phone to airplane mode and go on retreat in the hills of Virginia (as I did this past week, in fact), that's not a very reasonable expectation. And I'm not sure why letting Johnny play Wib Wob during dinner at Outback is any more toxic for the kid than coloring bunny rabbits on the place mat. Is he supposed to discuss the threat to democracy posed by the presumptive Republican or Democratic nominee?
Recently the reliably tone-deaf Autism Speaks plied another version of the "parents did it" canard with one of its Weatherstone grants to post-doctoral students. From AS: "Eric Rubenstein, of the University of North Carolina, will explore the association between autism symptoms in children diagnosed with the condition and autism-like behavioral traits in their parents (who don’t have autism). The goal is to better understand how and when inherited factors play a role in the development of autism and then use this information to tailor interventions that can best meet a child’s needs. The study also promises to deepen understanding of the inherited traits and biology of different subtypes of autism."
Nothing against Rubenstein, but here's the role autism-like traits play in making your kid autistic: None. Now give me my grant money! This reeks of the Geek Syndrome, in which mere oddities in adults somehow get magnified when they mate in Mountain View et voila, you've got a disabled kid. In fact, 20 times more disabled kids than two decades ago.
Even rainy weather points to poor parenting. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in 2008, a study found higher rates of autism in rainier counties. Could it be (cue Church Lady's voice here) mercury? In water picked up from toxic lakes and streams and dumped on Johnny's house? No: "This week's peer-reviewed paper raised the possibility that heavy rainfall forces vulnerable children indoors, where there is greater exposure to cleaning chemicals and television, and less exposure to sunshine -- and the vitamin D it produces."
Vitamin D -- maybe, although we've had dark days since the dawn, so to speak, of time. But letting a child get within half a mile of cleaning chemicals and TV -- that's bad parenting! Get your toilet scrub at Whole Foods and play patty cake with your child all day or face the wrath of the autism causation committee! (A similar "association" followed Hurricane Katrina, in which a spike in autism cases was attributed to maternal stress, not, never, no, of course not, to the toxic sludge that spilled into neighborhoods. If only these moms had meditated for a week with me instead of getting hysterical about a little old hurricane. It's their fault, you see.)
Back when I first started writing about autism for UPI, and was just starting to suspect the role of toxins in the early cases, I wrote that "it's not who the parents were, it's what they did." But that I meant that it wasn't their personalities, or their intellectual and mathematical and science bents -- and by the descriptions of Leo Kanner and others they did seem a bit bent -- it was the unrecognized environmental risks from their occupations. People seemed to forget that doctors, scientists, engineers, researchers are the leading edge of toxic exposures to novel chemicals of all kinds. Boyd Haley used the great term "bucket chemists" to convey what lots of them did -- slop chemicals into beakers and pour them into each other and suck up (with their mouths -- really) enough liquid in pipettes to keep the experiment rolling.
I've written about it before, so let me repeat myself, to wit:
Is mainstream science and medicine ever going to recognize the real significance of the repeated clues linking parental occupation and risk of autism? I vote no. A study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found thusly, according to Science Daily:
"Children of fathers who are in technical occupations are more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, according to researchers. Fathers who worked in engineering were two times as likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those who worked in finance were four times more likely and those who worked in health care occupations were six times more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum. There was no association with a mother's occupation."
And what might account for this seeming hodgepodge of risks? According to a study author, "Parental occupation could be indicative of autistic-like behaviors and preferences and serve as another factor in a clinician's diagnosis of a child with suspected autism. Medical students can be taught that this is one of the things to consider."
I guess that means that perseverative and detail-oriented anti-social types would be drawn to those fields It makes no sense that fathers, not mothers, would be 100 percent of the risk factor, unless both were in technical fields. I suspect that points to the real clue here -- toxic exposures. The workplace is where engineers, lab workers, chemists get the exposure and bring it home one way or the other. (Finance, I would guess. points to higher income and more medical interventions. And medicine points to, well, a lot of medicine!) Women get it from all kinds of things -- mercury flu shots in pregnancy come to mind -- that directly expose the fetus or infant without needing to be mediated by occupation. That adds enough noise to drown out the occupational clue for moms alone.
The bad faith that defines the mainstream medical response to autism is entirely evident here. You really need to turn away from a well-marked trail of evidence to get lost in these weeds. This is something Mark Blaxill and I have been writing about for years, and at the risk of repeating ourselves, let me marshal the evidence again.
In the 1970s -- closer to the start of autism than to today, and better able to tease out signals -- two complementary studies starkly outlined the risk between parents' exposure to toxins and the risk for autism. I wrote about that at UPI, in a two-part series in 2006 that "highlighted a study by Thomas Felicetti, now executive director of Beechwood Rehabilitation Services in Langhorne, Pa. As Felicetti described it in the journal Milieu Therapy in 1981, he compared the occupations of 20 parents of autistic children, 20 parents of retarded children and 20 parents of "normal" children who were friends and neighbors of those attending the Avalon School in Massachusetts where he taught at the time.
"The results did, in fact, suggest a chemical connection," he wrote. "Eight of the 37 known parents of the autistic children had sustained occupational exposure to chemicals prior to conception. Five were chemists and three worked in related fields. The exposed parents represent 21 percent of the autistic group. This compared to 2.7 percent of the retardation controls and 10 percent of the normal controls. The data, subjected to statistical analysis, demonstrated a chemical connection.
"The results of this study point in the direction of chemical exposure as an etiological factor in the birth of autistic children." [He emphasized that educational level had nothing to do with it. One father of an autistic child was a roof tarrier. That's chemicals, not credentials.]
I met a friend for lunch this week. He was fresh off the plane from London as part of a multi-country jaunt, and he had the baggy eyes to prove it. The first thing he did was pull out Monday’s Daily Telegraph and point to an article on page 12: “Primary pupils who can swipe but not speak.”
The article began: “Parents’ immersion in smartphones has left thousands of children starting primary school unable to hold conversations, teachers say.
“Around one in three children starting school is not ready for the classroom with many lacking social skills, suffering speech problems or not toilet trained, a survey of senior primary school staff showed.”
The litany included “more and more children entering our early years stage with delayed speech” and “levels of reading, writing and numeracy lower than they should be.”
The rest of the article basically blamed the parents and their failure to keep children from coming into contact with the world we live in, which is deemed self-evidently noxious and destructive – too many smartphones, too little parent-child interaction.
Before tackling that bogus argument, let’s just acknowledge the facts in evidence here. A third of pre-school kids in England today have some version of issues that echo autism – speech problems, lack of social skills and toileting problems. My friend, much more knowledgeable about autistic children than I am, said the latter probably reflected sensory issues and GI problems (as well as general delay, I’d suggest).
I don’t care what this is called – autism-like traits, or school-readiness deficit syndrome in a third of children, not otherwise seen before (SRDSIATOFC-NOSB), or whatever. It’s the kind of thing we’ve been talking about for years, a generation and now more damaged by something new and terrifying, and at least in England, it’s indisputable. I asked my friend what he thought was going on, and he said some combination of vaccines and other medical mayhem, pesticides, and god knows what else (the Environmental Working Group's study of all the evil crap found in mothers' umbilical cords is passing through the back of my brain). Unless you want to argue that the ability of one-third of children to make their way in life from the very start is just good old genes doing their work of making our species less able to thrive in a hostile world, it's definitely environmental. And it is NOT smartphones, dammit!
Of course, we also see this in America, with the same veneer of pop psychology pabulum stapled onto it because facing the truth is too threatening to the people doing the observing for a living. From the New York Times last October: “Boys are falling behind. They graduate from high school and attend college at lower rates than girls and are more likely to get in trouble, which can hurt them when they enter the job market. This gender gap exists across the United States, but it is far bigger for poor people and for black people. As society becomes more unequal, it seems, it hurts boys more.”
Ah, so inequality is at the heart of it. That’s the ticket! We can blame vague malignant capitalist forces, and get on the right side of the social justice movement. Well, I am on the right side of the social justice movement, but I don’t think inequality is what’s really going on here. As if there were no inequality – much worse inequality – before this male-centric problem was ever observed? And please tell me, then, why are four out of five autism cases boys? Were they disadvantaged? Did their parents or teachers disadvantage them? That's a discredited old argument but it is gaining new life.
In April 2014 another column in the Times was titled. "A Link Between Fidgety Boys And a Sputtering Economy." As I wrote then: The Times piece came very close to the core issue -- what's the matter with kids today?, and especially, what's the matter with boys? Things have gotten so dire, and the implications so large, that even a mainstream mouthpiece like The Times has no hesitation linking boys' problems to the overall economic fate of the country.
The Times went on: "If the United States is going to build a better-functioning economy than the one we've had over the last 15 years, we're going to have to solve our boy problems," adding that if only girls are considered, there's no problem at all.
As I pointed out, the solutions on offer in the piece, and in the research paper it was based on, and among the "experts" in general, amount to evidence-free bromides -- better schools, more understanding of the ways boys learn, more support for families because boys suffer more when fathers are absent. (What, no smartphone-blaming? Let's get the story straight here.) To quote the Beatles: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Missing was any sense that environmental factors, and specifically toxins, which have been repeatedly linked to problems like ADHD ("fidgetiness") and other neurodevelopmental disorders, which affect 1 in 6 children, and several times more boys than girls, could be playing a role.
So it’s just about unanimous, isn’t it? Even our most mainstream publications, openly hostile to concerns about vaccines or other environmental factors, acknowledge the rise of so many disabled and dysfunctional children that these kids’ futures – and ours, as the society they will inherit – are at stake.
Yet the experts fall back on video games and lack of good parenting and the devastation of being disadvantaged to explain it all. Fifty years ago it would have been the predations of rock and roll, and how refrigerator parents made their kids autistic. Faced once more with an inexplicable problem in children, parent blaming is, once again, the last refuge of those who cannot or will not see.
More on that next week.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Suddenly, I’ve become an expert on autism – and not just autism, but all things neurological and other stuff I can’t understand.
This all stems from a commentary Mark Blaxill and I wrote last year for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, which the abstract on PubMed (yes, we’re indexed on PubMed!) summarizes thusly:
“Leo Kanner begins his landmark 1943 case series on autistic children by stating the condition was first brought to his attention in 1938. Recent letters to JADD have described this reference as "mysterious" and speculated it refers to papers published that year by Despert or Asperger. In fact, as Kanner goes on to state, 1938 is when he examined the first child in his case series. An exchange of letters with Despert and later writing by Kanner also point to the originality of his observations.”
Basically, we were disputing previous comments that suggested Kanner was actually referring to a speech Hans Asperger made in 1938, or an article by another child psychiatrist, Louise Despert, that same year.
The truth seemed clear to us. In his second paragraph of Kanner’s article, he explained why he was aware of such children “since 1938”:
“Case 1. Donald T. was first seen in October, 1938.” And there you have it. Kanner cited that encounter several more times and said, stating the obvious, that it was the first time he was aware of autism.
This may seem like dancing on the head of a pin, but trust me, it is really not, because relentless efforts to show that autism existed before Kanner, that he simply copied earlier reports of similar children, and so on, go to the heart of a key question: Is autism really ancient, and is it really increasing? We believe that no, it is not ancient; it was first observed in 1938 by Leo Kanner just as he said in paragraph. And yes, it really is increasing.
We’ll have much more to say on this later this year, but for now it’s enough to add that our paper went through peer review. Peer Review! That was a first for me. The first review comments came back with “Major Revisions Requested” in the subject line, but after several decades of being edited by grouchy city editors, I thought it was pretty tame. I was encouraged to take out a few snarky remarks more appropriate to a blog than a journal, which I was happy to do.
And I have to say, it was kind of cool to finally be peer-reviewed and PubMed indexed after a decade of wandering in the wildnerness of simply being a journalist with a point of view that had no standing in the medical community. All this in a journal that Kanner himself had helped to start.
Then the e-mails started coming. Here’s a recent one:
Dear Dr. Olmsted,
We would like to follow-up towards our previous mail which you might have missed. We tried to contact you after viewing your published work on "Leo Kanner's Mention of 1938 in His Report on Autism Refers to His First Patient." in [Journal]. Considering the scope of your noteworthy article, we assume that you might be interested in joining us for the 2nd Neurological Disorders Summit (NDS-2016) scheduled during September 07-09, 2016 in Baltimore, USA.”
Oops, they left the journal name out, which made this seem a little less personal than I thought. But really, me at a summit on neurological disorders? What a concept.
Was it really 11 years ago that I first wrote about the Amish and their apparent lack of autism? Yes, it was. Back then I was working at United Press International and had gotten interested in prescription drugs' side effects. My colleague Mark Benjamin suggested taking a look at vaccines, and his first report, The Vaccine Conflict, ran in 2003. (That led to the wonderful moment when Paul Offit, a focus of that article, stood up in a church -- a church! -- in North Carolina, and in response to a question said, "Mark Benjamin doesn't know s--!" That's about as close to a nomination for sainthood as most of us will come.)
Mark got involved in the medical treatment of veterans -- writing the first reports on how poorly our Iraq and Iran vets were being treated, first for UPI, then for Salon, then for Time.
I took the autism beat. The first thing to catch my attention was that both Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner -- in 1944 and 1943 -- noticed the phenomenon at roughly the same time. The cases were very different, but Child 1 in both reports was born in 1933. That is supposed to be the most wonderfully fabulous unrelated coincidence in the history of the entire world, but I didn't, and still don't, buy it. As I wrote then:
This leads to a simple but significant question: Was it coincidence the first few cases of these strikingly similar disorders were identified at the same time, by the same term, in children born the same decade, by doctors thousands of miles apart?
Or, is it a clue to when and where autism started -- and why?
The question reflects a huge, and hugely important, debate. If autistic children always existed in the same percentages but just were not formally classified until the 1940s, that would suggest better diagnosis, not a troubling increase in the number of autistic children.
If, however, autism had a clear beginning in the fairly recent past (a past so recent that Fritz and Donald could both be alive today at age 71), then the issue is very different. That would suggest something new caused those first autism and Asperger's cases in the early 1930s; something caused them to increase, and something is still causing them today.
This ongoing series will look for answers by tracking the natural history of autism around the world -- a road less traveled than one might think.
Little did I know then that Donald T. was indeed alive, that Mark Blaxill and I would be the first to identify Donald T., interview him at his home in Mississippi and deduce a number of connections to new environmental risks that led to the rise of autism. In a sense everything flowed from that first article, including a new book we are working on these 11 years later.
My next stop was the present day -- autism among the Amish. It's amazing the potshots my rather modest observations have taken -- I'm somewhere between a crank and a fraud. I'm sure there will be some remarks to that effect in the comment section. But show me one Amish child with "iatrogenic autism" -- the kind not connected to a genetic anomaly or some other well-known source of causation -- and then let's talk. As far as I know, I remain the only person to find such a child -- who was removed from her home by public health authorities in a dispute over medical treatment at age 2, fully vaccinated while she was away, and returned two years later fully autistic. I even took her picture and ran it on AOA and in our book! Epidemic Deniers are welcome to submit their own selections.
It's just an accident the articles started during Autism Awareness Month. I have to say I'm feeling more encouraged this year than on previous anniversaries. Last year, for his excellent film Trace Amounts, Eric Gladen interviewed some Amish on the same topic. It's just a couple of minutes long -- check it out!
Here is the start of my first article with a link to five of many that I did on the Amish and autism.
Lancaster, PA, Apr. 18 (UPI) -- Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder.
I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.
The mainstream scientific consensus says autism is a complex genetic disorder, one that has been around for millennia at roughly the same prevalence. That prevalence is now considered to be 1 in every 166 children born in the United States.
Applying that model to Lancaster County, there ought to be 130 Amish men, women and children here with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Well over 100, in rough terms.
Typically, half would harbor milder variants such as Asperger's Disorder or the catch-all Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified -- PDD-NOS for short.
So let's drop those from our calculation, even though "mild" is a relative term when it comes to autism.
That means upwards of 50 Amish people of all ages should be living in Lancaster County with full-syndrome autism, the "classic autism" first described in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins University. The full-syndrome disorder is hard to miss, characterized by "markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests," according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Why bother looking for them among the Amish? Because they could hold clues to the cause of autism.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
"By Dan Olmsted
I don't know what impact Robert De Niro's interview on the Today show Wednesday will have on those who don't believe vaccines cause autism, but I do know the effect it has already had on those who do. The word is "galvanic." This was a call-up-your-friends moment, and we don't get those too often.
It's been, as they say, a long cold lonely winter, and I'm not speaking meteorologically. The condescending and ridiculous premises of books like Neurotribes and In a Different Key; the refusal of those I call the "greasy nothing-burgers" in Congress to confront the William Thompson revelations; the long slog of the Merck mumps whistleblowers; the removal of Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival; the triumph of SB-277 forcing vaccine mandates on California schoolkids; all of it is very wearing. And I say that without having an affected child.
Now that De Niro has put himself forward as believing there's a link between vaccines and autism, he can count on the usual drubbing for advocating a view that's been disproven, debunked, discredited and delisted, deleted. ... Just this morning, Today felt it necessary to do a follow-up piece that amounted to giving pharma a chance to recite its talking points. Dr. Ari Brown did the usual parent-blaming -- saying that they've just missed the early signs of autism, then get confused by thinking it occurs as a result of vaccination when it just happened after vaccination. This is the modern version of Bettelheim.
Because it's not just about debunking Wakefield or RFK Jr. or Jenny anymore, it's about debunking parents. It's parents versus science, as the Times famously put it. And now "science" -- really scientism, believing that one branch of human knowledge reigns supreme and knows all -- has its fangs out. You think you saw your child regress after vaccination? You are debunked by science! It's a nonsense kind of argument, really -- you can't debunk this volume of eyewitness observation, you can only claim it doesn't mean what people think it means -- thousands and thousands of people, who now are joined by the De Niros.
On Saturday I wrote about W. Ian Lipkin's Wall Street Journal piece in which he said that he'd spent 45 minutes talking to Di Nero before he pulled Vaxxed. Presumably De Niro told him he had fundamental concerns about vaccines and autism, something Lipkin didn't bother to say in the article, which is a little bit incomplete, wouldn't you say? Or maybe Lipkin never gave him the chance. Anyway, Lipkin looks like a loser in this battle, just another self-interested "scientist" unable to convince a parent that they didn't see what they saw and it didn't mean what they think it did.
All of us will have our favorite comments from this interview, which succinctly raised so many fundamental issues, but mine was when De Niro told Willie and Savannah, and by extension NBC News, and by further extension the mainstream media, that they should be investigating this: “Everybody doesn’t want to seem to hear much about it. It’s shut down. You guys are the ones that should be investigating. Do the investigating.” I don't think I can recall someone besides RFK Jr. telling the media they are failing on this story. As a journalist, it was incredibly welcome. De Niro is right. This is a story that needs to be covered, not covered up. It's a historic failure and one that will haunt journalism even longer than the cheerleading that led up to the Iraq War.
You never know what's going to make this cookie crumble, this wall fall. It may just be the equivalent of 50 percent and a feather -- one last thing that, added to the weight of the evidence of corrupt science, pharma greed, and CDC mendacity pushes the whole thing into the light. Whether De Nero is the feather, time will tell. But for now, for a lot of people who have felt increasingly isolated and denigrated, spring has sprung.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
By Dan Olmsted
A while back -- on September 4, 2008, in fact -- I wrote a post titled "Letting the MMR Off the Hook" that began: "The last time I saw Ian Lipkin was at the IOM Environment-and-Autism workshop last year. He was spending a lllloooottttttt of time describing some gizmotron that could do something or other to analyze some stuff that might hold clues to autism." I never published it. I'm not sure why, but I did make a note to myself that I was being "deliberately provocative," so perhaps I decided to hold off.
That, anyway, was my impression of Dr. Lipkin, and the bzzz-bzzzt-bzzzt at the meeting was that Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health -- it takes half an hour just to say the title! -- was hogging the microphone to promote, as I put it, some gizmotron, complete with a slide presentation. For all the world he looked like a salesman raising money for his lab, which sources report that in private conversations seems to be what he cares about.
I went back and found that column this week after picking up my Wall Street Journal on Monday at Starbucks and nearly spitting up my Venti Hazelnut Pike when I got to the Op-Ed page and found, by W. Ian Lipkin, "Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won't Stop." The professor wants you to know that he was a major player in getting Robert De Niro to pull the plug on Vaxxed at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"I am among those Mr. De Niro consulted. In a 45-minute conversation with him, I recommended that the festival withdraw the film from the 'documentary' category and not screen it."
Why not just title the column "I, Ian"? 45 minutes with a big star! And a star so famously inarticulate that a glossy magazine once titled its interview with him "Fifteen Mumbling Minutes With Robert Di Niro." I am guessing, but I bet Rankin spent a llllloooottttt of time talking.
In the WSJ article, Lipkin also manages to call attention to a study he and colleagues did in September 2008 (hence the column I was writing back then), which supposedly absolved the MMR of any involvement with autism. "We tested Mr. Wakefield's two major findings. ... In our peer-reviewed study ... we found that only 20 percent of children fit the Wakefield model in receiving MMR vaccine before onset of GI disturbance and autism."
This study caused a lot of consternation at the time, not least because another author of the study, Mady Hornig, made extravagant claims about those findings and also because Hornig had long seemed sympathetic to vaccine safety concerns around not just the MMR but thimerosal. She authored the famous mouse study that showed auto-immune-susceptible mice given thimerosal chewing on each other and otherwise behaving like out-of-control autistic mice might be expected to behave.
I included her in that 2008 column, too, noting: "The last time I saw Mady Hornig she was giving me a llllooonnngggg disquisition on exactly how the measles virus could mess up kids in a way that, I swear I'm remembering this correctly, leads to autism."
And I still remember it. She was telling me how the MMR could cause autism! She was doing vaccine lunacy! We were sitting in a round glass restaurant on top of a hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, talking above karaoke, one tune being "Brown-Eyed Girl" (How's that for recall!). There was a terrible storm that I decided to leave in the middle of, and ended up at a close-by friends' house waiting it out. I, Dan Olmsted, am a trained observer. I remember these things. (And here's a what-the-heck: Back in 2005, after the Times ran its infamous Parents-vs-Science takedown of the vaccine-autism concerns, Hornig and Lipkin were among those paying a visit to the public editor to complain. Who looks a little looney now?)
So when the MMR study came out and Hornig was fronting for it, I got the feeling it was a ticket back to respectable mainstream scientism. Mark Blaxill and I addressed it in our book, The Age of Autism, in 2010.
“The Hornig study was by all accounts carefully done and the reported results valid. In the press release announcing the publication, however, Hornig went further, claiming, “The work reported here eliminates the remaining support for the hypothesis that autism with GI complaints is related to MMR vaccine exposure. We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism.” In our view, this claim was an exaggeration. In her study, only five of the twenty-five children developed these symptoms after the MMR vaccine and therefore, only these five were comparable to the 2002 Wakefield study. In contrast to her public statement, her new study effectively confirmed that results from an earlier study from the laboratory of Professor John O’Leary were correct, and identical to the results obtained by the participating laboratories, which included Wakefield’s original collaborator, as well as the CDC and Columbia lab. Far from repudiating Wakefield’s findings, it provided support for the reliability of the original analysis.”
As I look back at my e-mail traffic from the time, this observation was a pretty civil distillation of what most people in the vaccine safety community considered a stab in the back. The operative phrase was "selling out."
"Just thinking out loud," one e-mailer said. "It’s a big claim to make for a little study. The evidence is what it is. But Hornig makes a grandiose claim. It’s kind of embarrassing, like the way she overstated her mouse findings (one mice ate through the 'scalp' not, as Mady said in talks, the 'skull' of its cage mate). Mady is a good scientist and does thorough work and we should respect it. But she’s way out of her depth as a big picture interpreter."
Right on cue, the Forbes headline read: "U.S. study claims to clear MMR vaccine of autism link."
"We found no difference in children who had GI complaints and no autism and children who had autism but no GI complaints," Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University told reporters in a telephone briefing, according to Forbes, which added that "the team also collected data about the children's health and immunization histories from parents and physicians to see if vaccinations preceded either their autism or bowel trouble.
"We found no relationship between the timing of MMR vaccine and the onset of either GI complaints or autism," Dr. Mady Hornig, also of Columbia, said in a statement.
Said another of my e-mailers: "I am still actively angry at these two for their MMR capitulation and conference call about it."
I hardly think these two care. Not when they get a llllooooottttt of press coverage, have a lllooooonnggg conversation (45 whole minutes) with a big star, and get to have a five-column article in the journal titled "Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won't Stop" all about a study that proved nothing, while hurling names like "lunatic." As a vaccine lunatic, I think I'll end with part of that post from eight years ago that never ran. So sorry if it's deliberately provocative!
I especially don't understand how you get from not finding the measles virus in some kids with autism and GI problems, to making the evening news (as Hornig did last night) by saying that there is thus no connection between the MMR and autism.
Because, there is. I strongly believe the MMR can trigger autism in vulnerable kids, and this study does nothing to knock down that idea. I'm sick and tired of studies that put the burden on the critics of the untested, unsafe and pharma-driven childhood immunization schedule by going after particular theories of causation rather than figuring out whether the MMR causes autism ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. These piecemeal studies slice off one part of the pie -- and more money from the CDC -- and then say, see, we didn't find anything so vaccines are safe. Shoot 'em up!
I have been a longtime critic of the MMR, and it comes from spending a lot of time talking to parents of kids who got the MMR (usually with some other live virus vaccine or mercury-containing shot), got sick and regressed, as well as looking at the evidence that something fishy is going on when multiple live viruses meet and greet in developing immune systems.
Is the MMR alone behind the autism epidemic? No, it is not. There has never been an autism epidemic -- pick your country -- that can be traced to the MMR alone; even in the U.S., the spike in cases starting around 1990 came too late to be wholly or solely explained by the introduction of the MMR a decade earlier. What the MMR does do, I believe, is synergize with a pre-existing vulnerability (including a crapload of mercury) to make a subset of kids autistic.
That's the kind of thing you DON'T find when you take a bunch of kids -- most of whom regressed and had GI problems BEFORE they got the MMR, for crying out loud -- and look for measles in their guts, and not find it, and give the CDC an "all clear" to keep causing autism.
The question is, what are those vulnerabilities? I've spelled this out many times in many ways, based on what is now years of reporting, researching and listening to real people. You can find at least three ways to turn the MMR into the "autism shot," as Jenny McCarthy has aptly phrased it.
First, hit very young kids with multiple live viruses, either in concurrent vaccinations or because the child actually got sick near the time of the shot (Paul Shattock in Great Britain has done fascinating research suggesting marked regression after the MMR is more likely if a child has had naturally occurring chickenpox three months either side of the MMR shot).
Second, mix in a background load of toxins -- from where you live, what you drink, other shots or power plants or whatever that add in enough mercury, aluminum, lead, arsenic etc. to dysregulate the immune system just enough to make MMR feel right at home. The mercury-containing flu shot in pregnant women and infants as young as six months could be enough to tee this up, I believe.
Third, combine the above in a child with an inherited difficulty in coping with a particular virus.
Is it really up to the parents who have witnessed these reactions and tried to warn others to figure all this out, too? No, it's not, even though many of them are doing yeoman's work on that front. It's enough to say that all the evidence of our eyes and ears implicates the MMR in autism. This is why Bernadine Healy, the former NIH head, says researchers need to find 400 kids whose parents believe they got sick and regressed as an IMMEDIATE reaction to vaccines and figure out what happened to them.
Instead, we get self-serving rubbish like this. The only really interesting thing this time is who's taking out the CDC's trash.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
If you blinked, you might have missed this week’s announcement that the autism rate has remained at 1 in 68. That’s 1.5 percent of eight year olds born in 2004 and surveyed in 2012 (what’s the hurry, right?). Perhaps because the number hasn’t changed since the last report two years ago, the news didn’t make the splash it sometimes does. Yet it’s just as shocking, not least because it highlights the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “manages” the autism epidemic.
Mark Blaxill, my co-author and colleague at AOA and HealthChoice, wrote about this powerfully earlier this week contrasting the CDC report with evidence he obtained from a whistleblower lawsuit in Utah. The suit was filed by Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman, who was fired in the middle of working on Utah’s autism rate. It suddenly and inexplicably took a dive -- raising serious questions about how those numbers are obtained, not just in Utah but around the country.
I asked Mark a few questions to try to get my mind around the significance of these major developments.
Dan: I just thought your analysis of the numbers was a really important look at how this sausage is made. Let me start with this: What would be the right way to do a task like this, to track over time a disease or disorder that's of public concern, that people think might be increasing, and that they wanted to get an apples-to-apples comparison for over a period of time. In other words, if they wanted to really figure out was going on, what would they do: What would be best practices as they say in business?
Mark: You'd want to start early enough, in time to observe the trend in the epidemic. Yet the first thing that they (the CDC) do is start their surveillance in 1992, which is by all accounts after the inflection point -- the autism rates were already starting to get elevated by 1992. We know from the data in Brick, New Jersey, that the difference between the rates in the ‘88 and ‘92 birth cohorts was huge -- that was sort of the critical four years when the whole thing turned from zero to about the highest rates ever recorded. (See last slide)
Dan: The EPA has said that 1988 was in fact the inflection point worldwide.
Mark: Exactly, and that inflection point shows up in other places and in other studies. The first two CDC studies were in New Jersey and Georgia. They have the data on Brick Township starting in the 1988 birth year, and Brick is in some of the other New Jersey ADDM surveys.
By the way, we should be supporting data collection in New Jersey, which by all accounts has some of the best collection methods, and has the highest autism rate – 1 in 46 -- in the ADDM system that determines the national rate. (See slides 4, 5 and 6.) Plus we know that in Atlanta the CDC has been doing their own autism surveillance for a while, and has data going back to the1986 birth cohort.
If you wanted to analyze time trends, you would be sure to capture the history before and after an inflection point, so that you could answer the question, What happened and when? That's what an honest effort would do.
Also, as you add states (to the surveillance network), you wouldn't be capricious about putting states in and pulling them out. Utah was in, then Utah was out, now it's back in. Florida was in for a little while, then Florida was out. Alabama was in, then there’s no Alabama. They are fickle in their management of the state network, and all of that just creates noise for a problem at the scale of autism that justifies really aggressive surveillance.
And then you would do things like collect information on the diagnostic categories within autism. The earlier studies were of the narrower full-syndrome autistic disorder. They have now fudged it up almost deliberately by reporting on the wider spectrum, and saying maybe it’s just better diagnosis that is causing the rates to rise.
No it isn’t. Yes, they added a new category in the 1994 DSM, Asperger’s, but in the ADDM studies Asperger’s is just 10 percent of the overall autism total, so they’re blowing smoke if they want to claim adding Asperger’s explains the increases. But that’s want they want to do -- they want to spin it to take a 10-fold increase and say, “Look how much better we’re doing! We’re so much more aware of autism.”
When you've got a real increase that is tenfold, it boggles the mind that they can somehow spread this lie that it's all just better diagnosis.
Dan: So I started by asking what's the right way to do this. It sounds like what they're doing is kind of the opposite – it’s what you would do if you wanted to manipulate the data. And because of the Utah situation, we can actually see that happening for the first time. Is that right?
Mark: Yes, in reading the court documents, it appears like they were putting a lot of pressure on Judith Zimmerman (at the University of Utah) to do unethical things. According to the complaint, she stood up to it and then they put more pressure on her and she complained, and they went after her and made all sorts of accusations. It's likely she believed the increase was real, because she did research on environmental causation. I can’t imagine the genetics folks there liking that. My suspicion is that there was a bit of a wink and a nod between the department and the CDC to say let's get Zimmerman out of there, she's a problem.
Otherwise, I don’t think the Utah numbers would have suddenly gone down (see Slide 7, What Happened in Utah?). If it hadn’t, the overall autism rate in the U.S. might have increased to one in 62 or something like that. There were “uncorrected errors,” Zimmerman alleges, that got all the way into the final data – that’s part of what the lawsuit is about.
Dan: It's reasonable to wonder whether this might be going on more broadly, to state it mildly. It seems like kind of a pattern where they have so many buttons they can push at their little dashboard of tracking the rate, that who knows what the rate really is and what the trend line is?
Mark: It's probably one or 2% of kids. It probably varies a fair bit between states. That’s another thing they don't do – they don’t include a fair sampling of states with the highest rates, other than New Jersey.
California has never made it in. California is pretty high. There’s Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Maine -- all among the highest in the educational data -- and they're not in. Massachusetts is very high, Michigan is high -- eight or 10 states are higher than New Jersey in the educational data and they should have been in there.
You would think they’d want a full range. There is variation; it looks like there's a north-south gradient. Oregon and Minnesota stand out, Maine stands out, Massachusetts stands out. New Jersey’s not the only state with a high autism rate.
So you’d want the sample to include the full range of the problem, from worst to best. You also want to understand where the problem is the worst because there might be some kind of environmental clue in that.
Dan: Exactly. So this is not best practices to take on a task like this and do it this way. I mean, they've done a very bad job.
Mark: Yes, since you presumably are trying to find answers to the root causes of autism. When it comes to tracking infectious disease, the CDC gets everything, everywhere – they’re extremely rigorous in tracking infectious disease.
Dan: Right. We’ve talked about what a good job they did in the beginning of AIDS as opposed to the rest of the government. So I guess this would be my insipid question: why wouldn't the CDC want to get this right?
Mark: I don't think they have an interest in finding a problem. They understand that the implications of a real order of magnitude increase would be huge. If they admitted that, the responsibility on them would be enormous to find a cause. To the extent that the possibility might be real, that the cause might include vaccines, they wouldn’t want to find it.
Me: They don't want to find it because they would be implicated by recommending the vaccination schedule, just to state the obvious?
Dan: As my mother would say, a guilty conscience needs no accuser. Doesn’t this kind of suggest consciousness of guilt? Why else would they not do it in a way that any reasonable businessperson or statistician would accept? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
Mark: It points to a culture. It points to leadership. It points to what is rewarded and what is punished. It points to all of it. Coleen Boyle started as a midlevel analyst and now she's running autism (at the CDC as Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Disabilities). She's being rewarded for tucking away the problem. She's also in there supervising Thompson [William Thompson, CDC whistleblower on a manipulated MMR study] and the notes show her giving him orders, telling him to redesign it this way, tweak it that way.
So whether it’s time trends or vaccines, if they tweak the studies enough they can say, oh we don't know if the increase is real but we do know we're doing a better job diagnosing it. And people like Coleen Boyle are the ones who stick around while Thompson is intimidated, Thomas Verstraeten [who did a key thimerosal study] is shipped out of the country, and Judith Zimmerman gets fired from her job in Utah.
There is this little economy of all these people who subsist on government grants. They’re used to things being kind of orderly and not that controversial and this one is just way too big. It requires leadership and continuous management over time. Coleen Boyle is clearly one of the leaders and, in my opinion, is the single-most-guilty person in the whole thing.
Me: “Continuous management over time” is another word for ongoing cover-up isn’t it?
Mark: Yes exactly. They’ve got an orthodoxy of interpretation. There's a “right way” to look at the data and a “wrong way” to look at the data; there are “good outcomes” and there are “bad outcomes.” It’s not an even-handed, straight-up view of the facts.
They will advertise the hell out of the studies that advance their policies and will tweak until it's acceptable any inconvenient evidence to the contrary. So it's really biased. It requires management. And it’s a moral choice.
Me: Yes, and a pretty serious choice when you think about the ongoing numbers – 1 in 68. It seems to me like we’re watching them succeed at this at the moment. It just seems so malignant that I wonder how to stop it.
Mark: I don't know. But I think at some level we have a little microcosm here of things that are enraging all kinds of Americans against the establishment, coming from the left, from the right, from libertarians, from the Tea Party. There’s a range of very fundamental critiques of Washington – a primal scream that says let's change the culture in Washington.
Me: Maybe that's hopeful -- the idea that this is part of a pattern that is becoming more and more evident to people of all stripes, who are maybe more open to looking at things freshly.
Anyway, thanks for shedding light on all this. I think it’s an important thing to do.
Mark: You bet.
"This year’s Tribeca Film Festival will include a screening of a film by Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor who was stripped of his medical license after authoring a discredited study that implied a link between vaccines and autism," wrote Anna Merlan. "A spokesperson for the film tells Jezebel that there will be 'celebrity support' for the film at the screening."
"Wakefield," she continued, "claims the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are ignoring a link between vaccines and autism, especially among African American boys. That claim has been extensively debunked."
Oh really. The piece is one of those tarred-by-association things, the implication being that Tribeca is inviting in a crank. Kind of like those articles you see that say "Rand Paul [or whoever questioned vaccine orthodoxy in any given news cycle] once belonged to an organization of doctors that once suggested that something once happened to a child who got 27 vaccines at once. That suggestion has been widely debunked."
But it looks like the festival isn't going to fold, offering this perfectly sensible statement: “Tribeca, as most film festivals, are about dialogue and discussion. Over the years we have presented many films from opposing sides of an issue. We are a forum, not a judge.”
Let's remember that Jezebel is a sister publication of Gawker, which just lost its shirt, and every other shirt in the known and all possible universes, by believing it was newsworthy to air a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with his best friend's wife. The hundred-million-plus verdict will probably put the whole outfit out of business, and even as a journalist it's hard to feel too bad for an entity whose editor testified thusly, according to the New York Post:
A.J. Daulerio, 41, was sitting ramrod straight in the Florida courtroom during the awkward moment when he was asked on video by Hogan’s lawyer, “Can you imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy?”
Daulerio answered flatly, “If they were a child.”
“Under what age?” attorney Charles Harder asked.
“Four,” he said.
“No four-year-old sex tapes, OK,” Harder said.
A few weeks ago they were bouncing bank shots off consensus candidate for Most Hated Human Martin Shkreli, he of the million-percent drug markup and lopsided grin while taking the Fifth Amendment. With the addition of a twirly mustache, he’d be the perfect person to tie the damsel on the railroad track (that would be Snidely Whiplash for cartoon newcomers).
First of all, let him take the Fifth in peace. That’s what it’s there for, and he is kinda under indictment at the moment, after all. Second, it’s been pointed out before that Shkreli is a great distraction from the real misdeeds of pharma (including, I would argue, triggering the autism epidemic via vaccines).
In the same way, screaming at people about the lead in Flint is the perfect foil when the bigger issue is the toxic poisoning of America by special interests that fund an obeisant governing class. Exhibit A, of course, is Congress itself -- and the government’s own vaccine mandates, its “cover-up court” and its flabbergasting insistence that flu shots containing industrial-waste-grade mercury are just fine for pregnant women and for infants.
Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland who was having a go at Michigan’s governor this week over Flint, used to care about that, too, as you might recall. In November 2012 he played to the crowd of parents and told the CDC’s Coleen Boyle:
“’There's something wrong with this picture. When you've got this combination of shots, and you go from 1-in-10,000 to 1-in-88, it seems to me somebody would say, 'Wait a minute. Let's put the brakes on this,'" he said. "’I wish you could see the people behind you. There are grown men crying behind you... Let's err on the side of keeping children safe, even if we have to do a pause and give children one shot per day.’"
Playing to the audience seems to be a Cummings specialty. He told Shkrelli: "You can look away if you like, but you should see the faces of the people you affect," Cummings said. "You are known as one of the bad boys of pharma."
Congress has more to answer for than Shkreli does when it comes to pharma whoredom, and more to answer for than Michigan’s governor when it comes to the toxification of America. Like answering for its own creation, the ill-advised vaccine “court” and compensation scheme (and I do mean scheme), and its own massive failure in not revisiting its catastrophic consequences (the autism epidemic). Talk about an Oversight!
Like answering for making it impossible to negotiate drug rates for Medicare and tossing another trillion dollars their way. Like answering for crashing through the revolving door faster than Julie Gerberding. (See Billy Tauzin, former head of PhMRA. Wikipedia: “Two months before resigning as chair of the committee which oversees the drug industry, Tauzin had played a key role in shepherding through Congress the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill.”)
Now, as Anne Dachel has reported, Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam tried to raise the William Thompson CDC whistleblower issue with Cummings. You’d think Cummings, after saying “something’s wrong with this picture” of multiple vaccines and a soaring autism rate, would take the logical next step and demand Thompson himself be called as a witness. (Even if Chaffetz said no, the public stink would be progress). Instead, Cummings told Muhammad before hanging up, he is “pro-vaccine” despite all the ersatz empathy for the audience. And Chaffetz, I happen to know, has chit-chatted with a who's who of autism advocates including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who you think might get a little professional courtesy from both sides of the aisle.
People are tired of lawmakers in high dudgeon who promptly forget what they’re angry about until the next chance to act tough presents itself. I thought it was just me, but people are starting to notice.
“I’m really glad these lawmakers took their moment in the sun to look so tough,” Mika Brzezinski scoffed on Morning Joe Friday, speaking of the Flint session. “I don’t want to ever hear those people again. I’m so sick of Washington.”
“And you wonder why Congress has an 11 percent approval rating?” said Steven Rattner.
No, actually, you don’t.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I can’t walk down the street anymore without being assailed by evidence that we live in a toxic world and that, healthy though we may be at the moment, there is always something lurking around the corner.
Like Alzheimer’s. Coming out of Starbucks today I saw a new building for assisted living going up. Right next to the smiling couple on a banner covering the chain link fence was the news that two – not one, but two! – floors would be devoted to memory care. I’ve heard Alzheimer’s called the autism of adulthood, which means that fewer and fewer of us are going to get out of this world with our minds intact. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
“By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 and older affected in 2015.” (By the way, the group’s slogan, “the brains behind saving yours,” does nothing to make me think they are going to get a grip on this disease anytime soon. Yuck!)
Anyone who reads this blog already knows the damage inflicted on a generation and a half – and counting – by the autism epidemic. We hear the latest numbers are coming out later this month, but whether it’s 1 in 68, or 1 in 30 boys, or 1 in 50 based on the CDC’s own phone survey of parents of kids 6 to 17 in 2011-2012, or 1 in 25 as Andy Wakefield says it really is right now, or the 1 in 2 that MIT professor predicted for a couple of decades from now – well, it’s way too much.
Add ADHD on top of that, along with declining academic proficiency, asthma, allergies and so on. And that’s just the A’s, and that’s just the kids.
It appears the Seven Ages of Man that Shakespeare described have been reduced to a list of age-appropriate disabilities – all of it attended to by the only flourishing sector of the economy at the moment, health care.
Still, a ghastly end awaits an awful lot of us after all this lovely health treatment. Make it past 85 and you’ll have a one in three chance of having Alzheimer’s. One in nine of those over 65 (which I will be next year) have it.
I've listened to Donald Trump talk and talk and talk and I've waited and waited and waited for someone to state the obvious -- the man is a compulsive talker. I mean, clinically compulsive. Trump is just like half a dozen folks I've known over the years who really and truly can't stop talking. It's not bluster or bravado, necessarily. I worked with a woman who would say something perfectly interesting. And then say more along those lines. And then segue into another very interesting topic, upon which she opined at considerable length and with many interesting sub-points about which there was, apparently, an infinite amount remaining to be said. Infinity is an interesting concept. For example, what is infinity times infinity and how can one person fill it with nothing but words, words and more and more words? You get the idea; in an hour or so, anyone would have to say to themselves -- because there was certainly no opportunity to say it to her -- that this person has some kinda deal where she can't shut up!
That's Trump. From the University of Google, I've learned that people who talk incessantly are often really insecure, and stopping for even a moment would let the truth start whispering in their ear and reduce them to blubber -- so they blabber blather. This sounds a bit like psychobabble to me.
The other association appears to be with ADHD. I'm going to say I think Trump is a good candidate for that diagnosis. It's not just the talking. It's the steaks, the condos, the gilded home in Trump Tower, the golf courses, the TV show, the Miss Universe TV show, the book, the other books, the finest wine on the East Coast (which is no guarantee you won't gag to death!), the water, the running for president, the magazine, the airline, the university, the lawsuits that he won't settle because those people gave glowing reviews and if you settle with them it just invites other people to sue about other things, about which a great deal more can be said. And so on.
Now, what causes ADHD? Why is there an epidemic of it? Mercury and other toxins cause ADHD, in my view. I've done a lot of research on this. In The Age of Autism, we mentioned that a doctor named Still in England in the 1800s was the first to describe ADHD in pollution-clogged London. He also was the first to describe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. And as we know, kids today have a lot of both -- Case 1, Donald T., had autism and JRA -- in his day it was still called Still's disease.
Last week I wrote about the wild and crazy horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and speculated that he got mercury-poisoned because his father had general paralysis of the insane, a form of syphilis that we believe was caused by the mercury treatment then in vogue. That's what reminded me of Trump, in fact -- no, not syphilis, that's got nothing to do with him -- but one of the symptoms of GPI/aka/mercury poisoning.
That symptom would be grandiosity. Epic, endless megalomaniacal self-referential nonstop gaudy fabulous HUGEness! You could just about diagnose GPI on the basis of the delusions of grandeur these people reliably had in the later states of their illness.
And they couldn't stop talking about it! Gold! Jewels! Power! The noted German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin wrote:
“The patient thinks he possesses extraordinary physical strength, can lift 10 elephants, is 800 years old, 9 feet tall, the most beautiful Adonis in the world, weighs 400 pounds, increases 25 pounds every week, has an iron chest, sinews like a man-eater, an arm of silver, a head of pure gold, travels a thousand miles a minute, can fly. He is infinite, has died and again come to life, can have intercourse with 100 women, has 1,000 million boys and girls, a compressed brain, has run a race with the grand duke. His urine is Rhine wine; his evacuations are gold. Ten years ago he had an enormous chancre, his sexual organs and fingers are constantly getting larger; his brain is still growing; he has an immense movement of the bowels.”
God give me the strength to leave the thing about "the sexual organs and fingers constantly getting larger" alone. Leo Kanner, of autism fame, also wrote about GPI and described one patient thusly:
“He has several delusions of grandeur. He has two million dollars in a bank. He takes care of all the houses, all the horses, all the cattle, all the farms, and everything. He is to be married to a young preacheress of a very good family. He is the best man in the world next to Jesus Christ. When he marries that girl he will be able to make people very rich; he is going to be a powerful man; he will become President of the United States. ”
And maybe he will!
Trump himself, of course, believes and states -- correctly and courageously, in my view -- that too many vaccines too soon are behind the autism epidemic. He was born in June of 1946, an early boomer, a son of wealth who, according to him, multiplied a small nest egg -- a piffle, a mere million, into billions and billions and billions -- many more times over as Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes.
Upscale New York City after the war was a perfect moment to get vaxxed early and often with thimerosal. The diphtheria shot containing mercury had been around since 1930, and was combined with tetanus in 1947; pertussis was added in 1949. (See our second book, Vaccines 2.0.)
Vaccines and mercury caused the autism epidemic. ADHD is part of the autism epidemic. Non-stop talker Donald Trump pretty clearly has ADHD and smacks of GPI grandiosity. And that's why I think the Donald is dusted.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
You may never have heard of him, but H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most widely admired and influential writers of supernatural horror fiction in American history. He was indisputably the creepiest:
“We followed the local death-notices like ghouls, for our specimens demanded particular qualities. What we wanted were corpses interred soon after death and without artificial preservation; preferably free from malforming disease, and certainly with all organs present. Accident victims were our best hope.”
Eek! Ick! No more!
I was reminded of Lovecraft last week after mentioning AOA Contributing Editor Teresa’s Conrick’s amazing find -- an article by a Danish doctor titled, “Is General Paresis [GPI] Dependent Upon Previous Treatment With Mercury?”
Check it out. To treat syphilis, patients in the late 18th and early 19th centuries had been getting 400 treatments with mercury ointment, not to mention the injections. The idea was to prevent GPI, the worst outcome of the disease and invariably fatal after a period of wild insanity and declining physical stamina. But when the use of mercury stopped, GPI – which came on an average of 15 years after the initial infection -- fell off the cliff.
Pointing to half a millennium of malpractice, Mark Blaxill and I proposed this theory in our 2010 book, The Age of Autism. The idea was that using mercury to treat syphilis created rather than prevented GPI, the worst form of the disease. And a lot of the people who were caregivers and exposed to the mercury treatments themselves – nurses, domestic help, daughters living at home who helped their ailing parents -- went on to develop mercury-induced illnesses, like hysteria, that were also misdiagnosed.
I’ve read Lovecraft for years – a guilty pleasure up there with my Forensic Files obsession I admitted to a couple of weeks ago – so I was amazed recently when everything – syphilis, mercury treatment, GPI “Asperger’s,” the caregiver effect – came together in the surpassingly strange world of H.P. Lovecraft. The light went on from reading a bio of him. (Oh, and he was a horrible racist to the point of nutty obsession.)
Born into New England aristocracy in 1890, his privileged and sheltered world came crashing down in 1893 when his father, Winfield, on a trip to Chicago, suffered "some kind of attack or seizure," according to his biographer, S.T. Joshi.
The father ended up in an asylum in Providence, where he died in 1898. "It is now clear that Winfield was suffering from syphilis," Joshi writes. "In all likelihood, he had contracted it from a prostitute in his late twenties, long before he and Susie [his wife] were married."
Joshi speculates "this whole series of events must have been traumatic for Lovecraft and, especially, for his mother." While H.P. (born 1890) showed early gifts -- "A precocious boy, Lovecraft was a rapid talker at the age of two and could recite Mother Goose poems from the tabletop" - he was too high strung to succeed in school by day, and plagued many nights by ghastly dreams. He later suffered a complete mental breakdown, and has been subject to speculation, given his misanthropic and bizarrely obsessive personality, that he might have had what we now call Asperger's disorder.
I wouldn’t pin Asperger’s on him without a lot more evidence, but the idea that he might have been mercury poisoned and showed some of the same symptoms of other mercury poisoned kids is not out of the realm of possibility in my mind. In fact, it’s well within it.
Lovecraft’s mother also fared poorly. Her health failed in 1919, capped by an epic nervous breakdown from which, like her husband, she never recovered. She was hospitalized that year and died in 1921.
All this makes good Freudian sense as a family drama that shaped the life and work of a brilliant but very dark mind. But as someone who has studied the natural history of such illnesses for many years, I see all the signs of unrecognized toxic injury leading to outcomes that are never understood for what they are.
When Winfred Lovecraft collapsed in Chicago in 1893, his syphilis infection, contracted years earlier, had clearly progressed to GPI. And GPI is caused, as we've postulated, by long years of treatment with mercury.
The paper Teresa Conrick found was from 1938 by Povl Heiberg, M.D., Copenhagen's Deputy Medical Officer, titled "Is General Paresis [GPI] Dependent Upon Previous Treatment With Mercury?"
Heiberg noticed that as arsenic and other substances replaced mercury as a treatment for syphilis in the early 20th century, GPI cases declined dramatically:
“The working hypothesis which explains best the form of this curve with its gradual rise followed by a rather abrupt fall, apparently headed for the zero level, is the hypothesis about the causal significance of the mercury therapy to the development of general paresis. About 1870 the use of mercurial ointment for intermittent and protracted treatment became more common in Copenhagen, and later this was the prevailing form of treatment through a considerable length of time. Since 1924, however, mercurial ointment has been replaced almost entirely by other remedies."
"Intermittent mercurial treatment" was recommended for up to 10 years "to avoid the development of general paresis." That’s a whole lotta mercury: Heiberg cites "the case history of a male patient recorded by a Copenhagen specialist of high repute. The antisyphilitic tratment was instituted shortly after the infection was contracted, and it was continued through 9 years. Mercurial inunction (rubbing on the skin) was employed in seances (80-50-60-60-35-60-50), making a total of 395 inunctions. Most likely, each inunction consisted of 3 g. of mercurial ointment (33%). His wife went through a similar intermittent and protracted treatment."
If that was the case with Winfield Lovecraft -- and it was the standard of care at the time, especially for those with the income to afford "good" medical treatment -- it could also have been for his wife, Susie, too. Or she may have administered his treatment and also absorbed an ungodly amount of mercury. The question really becomes, how could their only child NOT have been exposed to mercury one way or the other -- in the womb, via breast-feeding, through skin-to-skin or household contact?
This fits with a theory we lay out in our book chapter "The Age of Hysteria." There we proposed, apparently for the first time, that many of Freud's early cases of "hysteria" -- the ones that shaped his epochal psychodynamic theory of behavior -- were actually the result of exposure to mercury in the home or workplace. Freud himself noted that most of his severe patients were either nurses -- where medicinal mercury would have been ever-present in the late 1800s -- or had fathers who suffered with general paraylsis of the insane.
"Now a strikingly high [italics in original] percentage of patients I have treated psychoanalytically come of fathers who have suffered from tabes [neurological complications of syphilis] or general paralysis [GPI]. In consequence of the novelty of my method, I see only the severest cases," he wrote.
Freud's oversight would haunt the history of psychiatry to the present day, and likely the psyche of H.P. Lovecraft as well. Freud’s landmark book, Studies on Hysteria, was published in 1893, the same year Winfield Lovecraft collapsed.
As I noted, H.P. was something of a hyperlexic savant, remarkably verbal at age 2, writing stories as a child, penning an astonishing 80,000 letters, reinventing the horror genre in the shape of his own nightmares. Another of my hypotheses is that savant qualities can be an outcome of mercury exposure, that in rerouting the normal development and operations of the brain, it is not surprising that special gifts, obsessions, aptitudes, phobias might emerge.
I also can't help noticing Lovecraft's extraordinary dreams. Many of Freud's patients, of course, had dreams they recalled in vivid detail that became a basis, once "interpreted," for resolving psychodynamic conflicts. A classic case of Freud's was the Wolf-Man, whose dream of seven white wolves in a tree outside his window became, in Freud's mind, a window into his infancy and its traumas (including witnessing the primal scene) that carried directly into adulthood. That, dear reader, is gibberish, because sometimes a white wolf in a tree is just a wolf in a tree. The Wolf-Man, as we've shown, was unquestionably mercury-poisoned by treatment for abdominal problems, a fact Freud blew right past in his obsession with family dynamics as the root of mental illness.
Freud made his worldwide reputation with "The Interpretation of Dreams," published in 1899 – many of them probably mercury induced. As for Lovecraft, "he experienced horrible nightmares in which bizarre creatures he called 'night-gaunts' would plague him. He described these creatures as 'black, lean, rubbery things with bared, barbed tails, bat-wings, and no faces at all.' They would clutch him by the stomach and carry him off on nameless voyages and the boy would frequently wake up screaming. Dreams and nightmares of this sort, some of them highly detailed and full of bizarre imagery, afflicted Lovecraft throughout his life, and several of them served as the basis of his weird tales."
Once again, I suspect, the half-dead oozing corpse of mercury has slithered out of its evil crypt and grabbed another innocent in its fetid talons. Lovecraft can’t be the only one. In the near future I plan to talk about others, including the brilliant but doomed poet Sylvia Plath.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism
Complete this sentence: “The importance of ending the autism epidemic pales in comparison to …”
I can think of a couple of responses – The importance of ending the autism epidemic pales in comparison to total global annihilation from an act of God -- being hit by a meteor – or man -- through thermonuclear war. I mean, who really cares if we’re totally wiped out?
After that, I can’t think of too much that pales in comparison to ending a disabling epidemic now affecting 1 in 30 boys, or whatever the exact recent calculation is. Not to mention the other disorders and disabilities linked to this environmental nightmare.
And now to my point: The importance of ending the autism epidemic would not pale in comparison to the horror of electing Donald Trump as president. Would it?
I feel pretty free to say this because, as is well known by anyone who bothers to look, I’m a progressive by background and have sought a progressive solution to the environmental roots of the autism epidemic.
But since most progressives aren’t interested in that, why are we still interested in most progressives? Specifically, why are people like us backing people like Bernie Sanders, who doesn't have a ghost of a chance of becoming president anyway?
An AOA commentator wrote this week:
In case you did not see this, here is Bernie Sanders on autism (Rachel Maddow show, 9/17/15):
"I think the evidence is overwhelming that vaccines do not cause autism. And it really is a little bit weird for Trump - who, I presume, has no medical background - to be raising this issue. And obviously it is a concern. When somebody like that says it, you're gonna find thousands of people now who are gonna hesitate to give their kids the shots, and bad things may happen."
Given his statements, Bernie Sanders is not educable on this subject.
paulI will be voting for Trump.
For backers of Sanders and other “non-Trump candidates” (as Mitt Romney woodenly put it this week – I miss him!), I invite them to complete one more sentence: “I’m voting for X Y, a candidate whose position is that vaccines do not cause autism and that the science is settled, because I nonetheless think we can win this battle to end the autism epidemic in the following way: …”
While Rand Paul was in the race, I think his governing philosophy and his willingness to listen to the parents of vaccine-injured kids was a reasonable road to take. Perhaps even a better one, for those who found Trump simply too odious.
But now? Is odiosity a reason to perpetuate the autism epidemic? Not to recite my resume, but I’ve covered politics in Washington for three decades. I was an editor at USA Today and the Washington editor of UPI. This place doesn’t care about you, my friends. They care about power and money (which are by now one and the same). As my venerable former colleague Mark Benjamin used to say, “The one thing you need to understand about Congress is, Congress sucks.” I’m not getting where the path to victory starts, apart from the door to the Oval Office. So many of my good friends have worked so hard just to try to get a congressman to show up for a 15-minute briefing only to be stuck with bored interns pretending they will fill the boss in. Now that does pale in comparison!
I can recall many conversations with folks who said that what it would take to win would be for a young president to be elected, have a totally normal kid, and the world to watch him or her regress after the MMR and/or flu shots. (I’m not sure even that would do it, frankly – he’d just be labeled a kook.) We’ve all scanned family photos of newly nominated grandees and wondered if this child or that one might look autistic. We don’t wish it on them, but we are desperate for someone with some authority to understand in their bones, not just in their position papers, what’s going on.
In other words, we all realized that the path to winning is blocked off in so many ways that it would take somebody who already has power to make any difference at all. The key was having power and being willing to use it, not being a D or an R or a nice guy or gal or a jerk or a boor or someone who uses swear words.
The idea that a major party nominee would say, and get away with saying, that vaccines cause autism would have been inconceivable a year ago. Now we seem almost blasé about it. Perhaps people think Trump can't get elected or, like the rest of ‘em, wouldn’t do anything about it once elected. Yes, perhaps. Tell me, where are better odds, because I will be happy to bet them.
Speaking of odds, I worry that we won’t win, and I mean that in the world-historical sense, which is why I’m not sure how choosy we really think we can be about the path to victory. That’s not a bleak assessment, it’s just acknowledging one of the possible outcomes, and the fact that things don’t always work out to our hearts’ desires. We don’t like that. As a college roommate used to say with a huge grin first thing in the morning while I was barely awake, “Every day in every way things are getting better and better!”
They’re not, necessarily. I’ve heard Andy Wakefield express the same contrarian sentiment -- that whether or not this issue is resolved in our lifetime, or in fact ever, we have to consistently do the right, and skillful, things to try to bring it about. We do them, but we can’t know for sure whether they're making a dime's worth of difference.
When you get a sense of history about battles like this one – Paradigm Wars, as Mark Blaxill and I called them in our 2010 book The Age of Autism – you see how uncertain the outcome can be, and that time is not on the little guy’s side. Fairly often, the bad guys win and then they bury the corpse called Truth without an obituary or a proper funeral.
Let me briefly venture into a cautionary tale. As we wrote in our book, the evidence is very strong that when the medical establishment got hold of the syphilis epidemic when Columbus brought it back from the New World, they made a historic, five-century mess of things – and got away scot-free.
Because the early wave of syphilis in the naïve European population was especially hideous, with skin eruptions that disfigured people and often killed them, the doctors of the day attacked the bacterium with mercury salves. And because mercury is biologically “active” – it affects living things – it did subdue (kill) the surface manifestations, which seemed miraculous in the face of such suffering. Then doctors starting turning mercuric chloride (far worse than elemental mercury) into drinkable potions, and finally -- far worse than drinkable potions -- into injections of mercuric chloride.
That’s nuts, and it made many of the recipients (and providers) of this “modern treatment of syphilis” crazy as well. We show that it actually created the worst form of syphilis, the aptly named general paralysis of the insane (GPI).
This killed far more people, and for far longer, than syphilis itself. And – here is the point – except for a few obscure nods in the direction of this cause, the medical profession has never taken responsibility. I have a cousin who is a doctor and who read our chapter on syphilis with astonishment – it made perfect sense, but he had always been taught that GPI was just a tragic outcome of long-term syphilis infection.
Yet doctors knew, suspected, or should have known all along that they were causing this catastrophe, not preventing it. A few did. After our book came out, Teresa Conrick spotted an amazing article by a Danish doctor titled, “Is General Paresis [GPI] Dependent Upon Previous Treatment With Mercury?”
Check it out. Patients had been getting 400 treatments with mercury ointment, not to mention the injections. When that stopped, GPI fell off the cliff.
The title could really be something like, “Did we just kill millions of people over 500 years in the worst mass poisoning in history while trying to treat a disease that wasn’t even fatal?” The honest, open recognition of the enormity of what had gone on might have led to an understanding of mercury’s dangers in humans before the whole Pink Disease debacle (from teething powders and diaper ointments) killed babies in the 20th century. Not to mention the whole autism thing (or Freud’s mercury-poisoned “hysteria” cases.)
Nobody paid a price, even the price of acknowledging the truth.
And so I say ending the autism epidemic is no certain thing, as much as we like to encourage each other and appeal to the better angels of our collective nature.
Message: We’d better take our chances when we get ‘em. Don’t count on the perps walking in handcuffs or holding a press conference to acknowledge their grievous errors. Do we really want to settle for a piece in The Journal of Obscure Disorders in 100 years that says “early vaccine compounds now appear to have used toxic ingredients and formulations that triggered brain damage that was then called ‘autism.’ Fortunately, the march of medical progress has since led to much safer vaccines.”
No, we want a reckoning, restitution and justice -- now or as soon as humanly possible.
Right now we have a presumptive major party candidate who says too many vaccines, too soon are destroying the minds of our kids. People should make whatever judgments they want, but I'd like to know they've reckoned with the truth that the importance of ending the autism epidemic doesn't pale in comparison with very much at all.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Editor’s Note: I’ve often said that the community that has grown up around Age of Autism is the best thing about it – from our Contributing Editors to our commenters and Facebook friends to those who donate or simply read (simply reading is the heart of the matter for a blog, anyway). We appreciate all of you.
Many comments are so well thought out and add so much to the conversation that I wish we could run them as standalone posts – and sometimes, such as today, we do. This comment below by Ted Kuntz shows how destructive and wrong it is to divide a complicated and critical conversation into two supposedly warring camps – vaccine backers and anti-vaccine zealots.
So please read it and at the end I’ll make a few comments, not to argue with the observations but to add a couple of my own. – Dan Olmsted.
In response to this article: Waking Up To Vaccine Reality:
The media tend to portray the “dialogue” about vaccines as a debate between two groups of people – pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. As a participant in countless conversations about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines I've learned there are many more factions participating in this process. It’s helpful to know who we might be in conversation with. They include:
- Pro-Vax Crusaders -- These are the most staunch adherents to the current vaccine paradigm. Followers of this position are resolute in their belief that vaccines are “safe and effective” and that “vaccine injury is rare and an unfortunate but necessary cost of protecting the greater good”. Those with the most extreme position are “crusaders” who believe everyone must be vaccinated with or without their consent. They believe the ‘greater good’ trumps the medical ethic of informed consent or individual rights and freedoms. They also believe “the science is settled” and are committed to silencing and censuring any discussion about vaccine safety and effectiveness.
- Compliant Vaxxers -- These members include those who vaccinate themselves or their children, not out of a well-informed choice, but rather out of compliance with current practices and societal beliefs. The decision of whether to vaccinate, with which vaccines, and when is transferred to doctors, nurses, and other “health authorities”. They simply comply with the recommendations of these “health authorities” and hold the belief that “they wouldn’t recommend vaccines if they weren’t safe and effective.” They may not be advocates of mandatory vaccinations, but also do not fully embrace informed consent.
- Hesitant Vaxxers -- These members include those who are beginning to question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. They witness the rising rates of autism, neurological and immunological disorders, seizures, and allergies. They continue to participate in the vaccine program but do so hesitantly. They may delay in getting themselves or their children vaccinated or decide not to receive all vaccines. They are uncertain about what is the best decision for themselves and their children and remain susceptible to persuasion/coercion from the media and medical industry.
- Reluctant Vaxxers -- These members include those individuals who vaccinate because of state/government mandates and other coercive and punitive measures. They believe they have no choice but to succumb to vaccinations, and/or they live in a community where medical choice and informed consent no longer exist (California/Australia).
- Regretful Vaxxers -- This group consists of those individuals and parents who may have once been pro-vaxxers, compliant, hesitant, or reluctant vaxxers, and then experienced severe adverse effects, injury, and/or the death of a loved one following a vaccination. They are regretful of their decision to vaccinate and wish they had done more research on the topic before complying. Their goal is to alert others to the potential consequences of vaccination that they have personally experienced. They actively question the vaccine dogma and are strong advocates for informed consent and safer vaccines.
- Anti-Vaxxers -- This is a small but well educated group of individuals, most often scientists, researchers, medical professionals and sometimes parents who recognize the biological, neurological and/or immunological consequences of injecting vaccine ingredients into the human body. They are open and direct in expressing their concern about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination program.
- Financial and Political Benefactors -- This group consists of individuals and groups (vaccine manufacturers, medical industry, CDC, politicians, media) who have a financial and/or political stake in protecting the current vaccine paradigm. They are strong advocates of “more of the same” and dismiss any concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness. These individuals and organizations are more committed to protecting the vaccine program than in protecting individuals. They hold the position that - "Any possible doubts, whether or not well founded, about the safety of the vaccine (program) cannot be allowed to exist." They advocate for mandatory vaccinations and an increased vaccination schedule.
- Internet Trolls -- This is a group of individuals who are employed by the medical industry to discourage public discussion about vaccine safety and effectiveness. They “troll” Internet websites, opinion columns, and comment sections of media to bully, intimidate, and silence anyone who expresses concern about vaccine safety and effectiveness. Their means of engagement is primarily personal attacks and name calling.
Hope this helps those new to the discussion.
A Regretful Vaxxer who is on his way to becoming an Anti-Vaxxer."
So that is Ted’s much more reasonable look at the spectrum of vaccine safety concerns than the usual media caricature. To that I’d like to add one more category, suggested by Kim Stagliano after Laura Hayes brought this useful discussion to the fore. Kim said:
“Perhaps another layer? Where would those who emphasize vaccine choice fit in? The ‘never for my kids but you do what you want” group? Or the “I want just polio but NOT Gardasil’ – they are also important in the dialogue.”
The vaccine choice option is important to me, too. The fundamental idea that parents, as proxies for the developing child, have the right to make these decisions seems fundamental. I wrote last week about how some candidates, such as Rand Paul, who favors less government intrusion overall, see that as the crux of the matter. And Donald Trump, when he links autism with too many vaccines too soon, is essentially pointing to overreach by the medical bureaucracy that denies parents the chance to space out and select vaccines as they see fit.
As Mark Blaxill has framed the issue, if market forces – the economic model we claim to follow in this country – were allowed to function, the vaccines that most people felt were safe and necessary would survive, and ones like Gardasil and hep B at birth and chickenpox and – well, a lot of them, would lose out.
Something tells me that the more nuanced view Ted writes about here – along with the focus on choice that Kim and I believe is fundamental – is going to be getting a lot more attention in the next four years than it did in the last eight. And I say that regardless of who becomes president – the issue has been joined, and as the autism rate soars, it will only get bigger.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Don’t speak ill of the dead, the solons say: De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“Of the dead, nothing unless good.”) Of their work product, though, the truth should always be told.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, wrote the majority opinion in Bruesewitz v Wyeth, the decision that put vaccine safety issues permanently out of reach of a jury of our peers. Instead, a vaccine “court” of arrogant "special masters" created in 1986 bottles up the truth – that vaccine injury is far worse, and far more common, than the government and the pharmaceutical industry want you to know, and that one of those injuries is autism.
Scalia’s 2011 decision -- slamming the door to a federal court appeal by families denied compensation in vaccine "court" -- ingests every talking point of the “vaccines are God” crowd and disgorges them as the basis for a wrongheaded legal decision. Writing for the majority, Scalia said:
“For the last 66 years, vaccines have been subject to the same federal premarket approval process as prescription drugs, and compensation for vaccine-related injuries has been left largely to the States. Under that regime, the elimination of communicable diseases through vaccination became ‘one of the greatest achievements’ of public health in the 20th century.'” (The quote is from the CDC.)
This wonderful state of events, Scalia goes on, was disrupted by misplaced concerns over vaccine side effects. “But in the 1970’s and 1980’s vaccines became, one might say, victims of their own success. They had been so effective in preventing infectious diseases that the public became much less alarmed at the threat of those diseases, and much more concerned with the risk of injury from the vaccines themselves.
“Much of the concern centered around vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DTP), which were blamed for disabilities and developmental delays. This led to a massive increase in vaccine-related tort litigation.”
Well, yes, it did – because the DTP shot was in fact responsible for disabilities and developmental delays; if not, why was it reformulated? You’ve got to be an Offitoid to argue otherwise.
Scalia displayed a rosy-eyed view of the vaccine “court’s" effectiveness. “Fast, informal adjudication is made possible by the Act’s Vaccine Injury Table,” he declared. Oh please. As we all know, the “court” has become a Ground Hog Day of delays and diversions in which government lawyers essentially act as intermediaries for the drug companies.
As the Unanswered Questions report has shown, it is where the autism epidemic goes to hide – despite the rejection of 5,000 vaccine-autism claims, they’ve compensated many cases of autism following vaccine-induced encephalopathy. Just don't say the word autism, successful claimants have found.
Scalia spends much of his opinion dancing on the head of a pin – “(a) Section 300aa–22(b)(1)’s text suggests that a vaccine’s design is not open to question in a tort action. If a manufacturer could be held liable for failure to use a different design, the ‘even though’ clause would do no work. “
Autism families don’t really care whether a) Section 300aa–22(b)(1) does no work. They care that the government does no work to confront the autism epidemic, which in my view is being driven by excessive vaccination.
Vaccines are not victims of their own success; people with autism are victims of the liability-free vaccine "court," which took a far more limited childhood immunization schedule and turned it into a profit center for pharma.
Scalia and his colleagues sealed all the exits, even in a case of vaccine injury as clear-cut as Hannah Bruesewitz herself. In our book Vaccines 2.0 published last year, Mark Blaxill and I wrote:
Consider the case of Hannah Bruesewitz, who “hours after a diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, developed catastrophic brain injury and a lifelong seizure disorder,” according to the Eizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy.
Every journalist who has been at it for a while (in my case, four decades or so) has a treasure trove of bone-headed mistakes they can recount.
-- A friend of mine at the paper back in Danville wrote up a short item about a drunk driver being arrested by a state trooper. What could possibly go wrong? Well, you could inadvertently switch the names of the state trooper and the drunk driver. ...
-- Filling in for the county government reporter, I ignored something called the “multiplier” and wrote that taxes were going up when, in fact, they went down for the first time in years. My editor said the subsequent story, which we artfully attributed to “new information,” was the first time the paper ran a (disguised) correction bigger than the original article.
-- OK, one more, told to me by an assistant city editor from Kansas, possibly apocryphal but too good to omit. A paper in his home state had two big front-page stories the same day – a dilapidated barn burned down, and the mayor’s wife died. You may sense where this is going: Under the barn photo the headline read, “Mayor’s Wife Dies at 70.” Under the mayor’s wife? “Old Eyesore Gone at Last.”
So, mistakes happen. It’s funny in retrospect, but not so much at the time. The trick for journalists is to learn how easy it is to get things wrong before we look like complete idiots when it really matters.
By that standard, Steve Silberman, John Donvan and Caren Zucker look like complete idiots to me. They make mistakes in their new books on autism (the former’s NeuroTribes and the latters’ In a Different Key) that suggest they don’t really know what they’re talking about. And they don’t know it in a way that shows the biased a-s-s-umptions they substitute for real reporting.
Several AOA contributors, in particular our indefatigable Anne Dachel, have pointed up the macro-mistake of both these books – the idea that autism has been around forever and basically needs TLC rather than a massive public health response. To my mind, a mistake this big requires getting a lot of little things wrong, little things that add up to a complete lack of mastery. “To compare great things to small,” as Milton put it, here are a few.
NeuroTribes, by Silberman, says that parents first raised concern about mercury in vaccines. No -- it was the government.
“After an outcry from organizations like (Barbara Loe) Fisher’s National Vaccine Information Center, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the American Academy of Pediatrics asked vaccine manufacturers to remove thimerosal from the their products. …”
No, no, no! The FDA was ordered by Congress to look at medicines that contained mercury, leading to the government announcement in 1999, leading to parents’ outcry.
You make this kind of mistake when you think the idea that mercury might be dangerous in vaccines is so absurd that the crazy anti-vaccine parents must have started it; when you think Fisher is a wild-eyed loon who can help you make whatever point you want.
Ditto In a Different Key. The authors report that in response to 9/11, Congress added the infamous “thimerosal rider” to the bill creating the Department of Homeland Security, sparing Eli Lilly from liability.
“The discovery of the rider caused a brief outcry,” they write. “Families were now obliged to pursue their cases through a process known as vaccine court.”
That was some “brief outcry”! Donovan and Zucker appear not to know it was repealed under massive public pressure, and not just from anti-vaccine nut jobs. Thus it had no effect on whether families were obliged to pursue their cases through vaccine court.
In a Different Key mangles the other foundational issue for vaccine safety concerns – Andy Wakefield’s study in 1998. According to Zucker and Donvan, the study reported that, “the measles virus was present in all 12 children.”
No! If you’re going to spend seven years on this, read the damn paper! I sent that to Andy, who commented: “Absolute garbage! The Lancet paper makes no reference to detection of measles virus. A later paper by Kawashima from Japan, on blinded samples of cases and controls, found measles genetic material in some autistic children. He published this result.”
But of course, since Andy is a fraud, he must have said that!
History is built of blocks called facts. Before you try to interpret the edifice they create, you need to make sure the foundation is solid.
One more: Silberman completely mangles a story about Leo Kanner, before he discovered autism. It's not worth untangling the whole thing here, but it totally confuses the way Kanner went about looking for a neurological form of syphilis in Native Americans. Silberman makes a cautionary tale out of his messed-up version, portraying Kanner as a glory hound intent on sniffing out a disorder to stamp his name on -- as he would subsequently do with autism, in Silberman's fevered version of things.
I could go on and perhaps I will in a follow-up because there is much more here – Zucker and Donvan misspell my name, for cryin’ out loud – but let me just say again that, as a journalist, these kind of mistakes are red flags. How much, to compare great things to small, should we rely on the depth of their understanding of the autism-as-epidemic argument? How much should we care about Donvan and Zucker's column in the Washington Post Saturday doling out tips to presidential candidates and calling a vaccine link “scaremongering”?
“The autism world, like the world in general, needs less discord,” they write, spreading the kind of soothing caca that suits their mistaken, mistake-prone view of autism.
No! The autism world needs a loud and persistent revolution with as much unpleasantness as is required until eyesores like that are gone at last.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Editor's Note -- This AOA article excerpted from 2014 looks at cases of anencephaly in Washington state and whether pesticides or some other environmental factor might be involved. An update from the Washington health department (consider the source) is here. With the Zika virus now in the news, we thought it was worth reminding readers that anencephaly has been on the radar before.
Trouble in Ecotopia
By Dan Olmsted
Today I'd like to mention further evidence that links pesticides with neurological and developmental mayhem, including but not limited to autism, especially along the "left coast" of the United States, stretching from the San Joaquin and Central Valleys of California up through Napa and the orchard and wine counties of Washington State. This temperate and fertile arc, sometimes referred to as Ecotopia, began blooming with fruits and vegetables when industrial agriculture, pesticides and irrigation started taking hold at the end of the 19th Century. It now accounts for a large percentage of the nation's food supply -- and increasingly, a number of unusual outbreaks that point to toxins.
In our AOA series in 2011, The Age of Polio -- How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic, we demonstrated how the first use of pesticides containing lead and arsenic in the late 19th century triggered the first outbreaks of poliomyelitis. The polio virus up till then had been a benign stomach bug, or enterovirus, but we proposed that the ingestion of lead and arsenic in children with an active polio infection allowed the virus to gain access to the nervous system, where it killed cells at the top of the spinal column (the anterior horn), leading to temporary or permanent paraylsis and, sometimes, death. Early epidemics in the San Joaquin and Napa regions as well as orchard country in Washington State are the kind of associations, overlooked at the time and ever since, that point to the true, manmade nature of polio epidemics.
Earlier this year Mark and I tracked a new outbreak, of two dozen or so cases of partial paralysis in California children, and suggested pesticides could have played a role there. Medical experts suspect an enterovirus, interestingly. We suspect that whatever else was going on, pesticides probably played a role. We reported that the parents of one child owned a vineyard (reminiscent of that Napa polio outbreak more than a century ago), and had also remembered their daughter ate fresh raspberries the morning she got sick. The doctors, she told us, didn't seem interested. (The child also got an IV at the hospital right before her arm suddenly, and permanently, went limp, possibly suggesting provocation polio, in which a needle stick can create an opening for an enterovirus to reach the nervous system). A second child who has been identified lives in an LA exurb built on farmland so intensively farmed it has an apricot named for it. (Moorpark.)
Lately, the arc of mayhem has been migrating further north, where another "mystery outbreak" has baffled researchers. According to NBC, "Mysterious Birth Defects: No Answers, Only Questions, Experts Say":
"Since 2010, at least 30 babies — now 31 — have been diagnosed with anencephaly in a three-county area of central Washington state that includes Yakima and Sunnyside. ... That’s a rate of 8.7 per 10,000 births in the region, far higher than the national rate of 2.1 cases for 10,000 births."
Among the possibilities are a nearby nuclear plant and "pesticides, grain molds, nitrates in water supplies and other concerns previously tied to the problem. ... One factor that’s certain to get attention is the low rate of folic acid use in the region. Low levels of the B vitamin in early pregnancy are known to increase risk of anencephaly, spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Sixty percent of women in the three-county area don’t take folic acid as recommended — a figure that climbed to 80 percent to 90 percent in those whose babies were studied."
Seriously, not enough folic acid? My money is on toxins, particularly pesticides. Another recent article pointed to illnesses caused by a phenomenon known as pesticide drift in the same areas. According to oregonlive.com in May:
If you’ve been wondering what’s up with the suit filed by two whistleblowers against Merck for allegedly hiding the fact that the mumps vaccine doesn’t work – well, so have we.
Now a timeline has emerged, although you might need a telescope to see its further reaches. An Amended Scheduling Order was released this month that extends deadlines even longer: “dispositive motions” to be filed by December 20, 2017 – basically two years from now; “motions involving class certification” by May 3, 2018. That looks like the earliest a trial could start, and it’s not hard to see the whole thing going into 2019, if not a new decade entirely.
This for an allegedly blatant fraud against taxpayers that occurred last decade – in 1999!
A key date appears to be October 31 of next year, when a status report from both sides is due on whether “the parties would consent to alternative dispute resolution” – in other words, I believe, to settling out of court.
Backed by a major California law firm that knows how to write powerful briefs and has a lot of material to work with, the whistleblowers – Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski – haven’t budged. Attempts by Merck to get the suit thrown out on all kinds of grounds (such as, unbelievably, that the FDA knew about it and didn’t care, so why should anyone else!) failed in federal court in Philadelphia.
Discovery of documents must also be completed by that October date. Discovery – the delivery of relevant material that might help make a case – is exactly what private firms of all kinds dread, and one reason you see so many settlements where terms are not disclosed, nobody admits any wrongdoing and the whole thing goes away. The big firms pay millions to defend themselves, so what’s a few more million out of billions in profits to buy someone off? Most people can’t resist the temptation given that they could lose everything in court.
That’s why getting to discovery in this lawsuit is the crux of the matter – it’s so rare, and there’s so much at stake. That includes billions in potential penalties for Merck if it’s found the firm defrauded the government, which pays hundreds of millions a year for the MMR – the mumps, measles, and rubella shot. Merck has the only license to manufacture any of the MMR components in the United States, and in the worst outcome for Merck it could lose that lucrative monopoly entirely.
There is no discovery allowed in the so-called “vaccine court” that has so far thwarted thousands of parents who claimed their child’s autism was due to the MMR, the mercury in some vaccinations, or a combination of both. The judges who threw out all the cases ridiculed the families for having no evidence to that effect, a Catch-22 if ever there was one.
So while it seems like bad news that this case is stretching so far into the future, the fact that it is still headed for daylight is kind of a miracle. If it makes it all the way, you have to wonder what a jury will make of some of the Merck documents already disclosed – such as the one in which a Merck official told subordinates that their job was to show that the mumps vaccine met federal licensing standards, when it clearly did not. To bridge the gap, according to the suit:
“Merck set out to conduct testing of its mumps vaccine that would support its original efficacy finding. In performing this testing, Merck’s objective was to report efficacy of 95 percent or higher regardless of the vaccine’s true efficacy. The only way Merck could accomplish this was through manipulating its testing procedures and falsifying the test results. … Krahling and Wlochowski participated on the Merck team that conducted this testing and witnessed firsthand the fraud in which Merck engaged to reach its desired results. Merck internally referred to the testing as Protocol 007.”
Naming a secret project after a British spy with a license to kill might have seemed amusing inside Merck; perhaps not so much in an American courtroom.
It is also worth pointing out that lawsuits like this are typically long slogs, but sometimes pay off big-time. An example is close at hand: For instance, Merck just paid $830 million to settle a lawsuit with shareholders over the painkiller Vioxx. That drug was pulled from the market 11 years ago, in 2004; since then, the company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for violating drug laws; paid $900 million; and settled 50,000 lawsuits by patients in 2007 for nearly $5 billion.
Before it settled, Merck engaged in a tobacco-style scorched earth policy of fighting every individual claim of harm or death from the drug, denying all, even after it became clear that thousands of people had died from heart attacks and strokes and Merck had been, shall we say, not forthcoming about the implications of its own studies of the drug’s safety. (The master of that approach, its chief lawyer, was rewarded with the chairmanship of the company.)
You may remember the heavy marketing of the drug – skater Peggy Fleming in a TV ad holding her sore ankle, hardly the appropriate audience for a heavy-duty painkiller. That pill-popping approach to a compound not much better, and far more dangerous, than aspirin mirrors the mumps vaccine hype: According to research Mark Blaxill and I have done, the vaccine is unnecessary, given the mildness of most mumps infections in early children. Now, thanks to the vaccine, outbreaks are showing up more and more in adolescents and young adults, in whom it can cause sterility and other complication.
That’s because, according to the whistleblowers, it doesn’t even work.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Why is it that so many writers seem to have an anaphylactic reaction to the fact that the first case of autism in the medical literature recovered remarkably when treated with gold salts?
The short answer is because it suggests that the mainstream has gotten autism very wrong, and from the very first. Neither parent-blaming nor genetic anomalies nor ABA nor Floortime could explain how treating someone with a different diet, or certain kinds of medicine or alternative methods, could trigger a visible improvement in their symptoms, let along the kind of recovery seen in Donald T.
Donald, as you may know, was Case 1 in Leo Kanner’s 1943 description of 11 children with a theretofore-unknown syndrome that Kanner called “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.”
Mark Blaxill and I tracked Donald down in 2005, and in 2007 met him in his hometown of Forest, Mississippi. Meanwhile, others were on the case. John Donvan and Caren Zucker, doubtless in possession of our 2010 book the Age of Autism which outlined our reporting on Donald, made a suspiciously well-timed splash the day before with an article in the Atlantic and a gig on Good Morning America, with the always-eager-to-diminish-autism George Stephanopoulos presiding.
I don’t doubt Donvan and Zucker independently identified Donald; it wasn’t that hard to do. I don’t blame them for publicizing their work at the same time as ours (I suppose they think they “scooped” us by landing one day before, although our book had been out for review for weeks), nor do I object to the fact that their take on Donald was a very pleasant feature story – the lovely people of Forest adopted him as their own little Hobbit (he is very short and suffered from failure to thrive, a sign of what really happened), and now he had found his own little place in the Shire. If only all the townsfolk of the world would be so kind, they implied, we’d have no problem with autism at all. Now they've recapitulated all that and much more in their new book "In a Different Key -- The Story of Autism," which along with the recent "Neurotribes" paints autism as just another part of human diversity that has always been with us.
Yeah, right. Our book laid out an entirely different scenario, in which we showed that Donald really was among the earliest handful of cases that came to be called autism. That the reason was the commercialization of ethyl mercury in seed disinfectants, lumber preservatives and multidose vaccines, and that the march of industrial progress, not for the first or last time, had inadvertently (and carelessly, given the known toxicity of ethyl mercury) launched the Age of Autism (see our book, the video on our home page, and my column last Saturday).
Let’s set that aside for a second and talk about the fact that Donald, according to his brother, Oliver, developed an acute case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in early adolescence and was near death by the time his parents got him the right diagnosis and treatment at the Campbell Clinic in Memphis. That treatment was intravenous gold salts over several months, during which time his JRA lifted, with the exception of one fused finger bone.
During that time, his brother told me, Donald’s autism symptoms also cleared up to the point that he was able to take his place in the community, go to college, work at the family bank and become president of the Kiwanis.
Interesting, no? Well, no, not interesting, nothing to see here according to Donvan and Zucker’s account. In a footnote, where pesky ideas that threaten the main narrative go to die, Donvan tells a different story, one that acknowledges ours but finds every reason you could think of, and a few you couldn’t, to dismiss it out of hand.
You see, the fact that Case 1 had not just autism but (another) autoimmune disease – rheumatoid arthritis -- interests them not at all as any kind of clue to causation or treatment. What they want to do is tear down any association between the gold salts (biomed) and the improvement in Donald’s autism.
Donvan reports that Donald’s mother, long dead, believed that the fevers induced by JRA, when they weren’t nearly killing him, improved his symptoms. Now, fevers do sometimes seem to have some effect on autism – usually temporary, alas, as I understand it.
But to Donvan, that’s the ticket out of having to consider a sustained anti-inflammatory treatment as anything to do with Donald’s recovery, which he also disputes, saying Donald is clearly still autistic. (Many parents would be thrilled with that kind of “autism” in their adult children.)
Donvan attributes the fever cure concept to Donald’s brother, and makes it sound like our description of gold salts as the source of his improvement is rampant, self-interested speculation by anti-vaccine kooks. "In his initial reporting, Olmsted went so far as to suggest gold salts had cured Donald's autism," they write.
Except, that’s what Donald’s brother told me in his law office above the square in Forest back in 2005! He said a Dr. Hamilton in Memphis “began to treat my brother with gold salts – two or three months. He just had a miraculous response to the medicine. The pain in his joints went away.”
And then Oliver dropped the bomb I wasn’t expecting: “When he was finally released the nervous condition he was formerly afflicted with was gone. The proclivity toward excitability and extreme nervousness had all but cleared up, and after that he went to school and had one more little flare-up when he was in junior college they treated with cortisone.”
Later in the interview, still processing this unexpected idea, I came back to the gold salts and asked Oliver again if it really seemed like the decisive event: “It sure did,” he said. “He became more sociable.” Oliver added, “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Donvan also criticizes me for suggesting Donald had moved off the autism spectrum, but when I asked Oliver if Donald had autism he said, “No, he doesn’t. It’s just in certain areas.” Again, some peculiarities, some traits, but c’mon John, the first guy ever reported in the literature got so much better that, if he’d started out like that, he’d never have been in the medical literature in the first place. This is where the diagnostic category itself, as opposed to a concept like auto-immune environmental injury, serves the status quo. The medical establishment controls the category, and you'd best not tamper with it.
Two years later, in 2007, Mark and I met Donald and, sitting around his kitchen table in Mississippi, talked (on tape) about his early life. We ran it in our book in Q and A form.
“Q: There was a mention in some of the medical papers that when you had the gold salts therapy, all of a sudden some of the behaviors and some of the other problems got better. Do you remember that?
A: No, I don’t really remember that.
Q: Did your parents say, though, that you seemed to get a lot better in terms of your relationship with the rest of the world and that sort of thing at that point?
A: Yes, as I got older, things got a whole lot better.
Q: And did they think that had something to do with it, those gold salts treatments?
A: I have a feeling it might.
Q: And the behaviors they were calling autistic, did those change most after the first one?
A: Yes, it seems like they changed.
Q: But you don’t remember that kind of change taking place?
A: No, I don’t remember, really.”
Unlike this conversation, my earlier interview with his brother was not on tape. Reporters don’t like to share their notes, but here are two pages of mine. They show Donald’s brother, not me, musing about his amazing recovery from gold salts.
Now, maybe gold salts were not what helped Donald, although I think they did; it is at least an idea worth taking seriously and keeping on the table as the number of injured kids soars. The meta-point here is that folks like Donvan can’t stand the idea and its implications, and toss in everything they can think of to discredit it. Maybe he was already getting better. Maybe he didn't really get that much better. Maybe it was the fevers. Maybe it's the lovely people of Forest. JRA has nothing to do with autism. Autism is not autoimmune, dammit! Etc. ... Just like parents who report that removing certain items from the diet, or using chelation, or supplements, are treated like kooks. Yes, if you always ignore the evidence, people who insist on paying attention to it will remain kooks!
What can I say? I report what people tell me, and Oliver told me his brother’s JRA and his autism – in my view, a couple of co-morbid autoimmune afflictions triggered by early exposure to ethyl mercury – both cleared up with history's first biomedical intervention. Donald thought so, too, but was too young and too sick to know for sure. What a missed opportunity for the world to begin to understand what created this new disorder and what might help alleviate, and even stop, it. If the doctors who saw those early cases suspected the environmental clues that were there to see, we'd be living in a very different world today. One such clue to causation is biomedical recovery from both JRA and autism in Case 1.
But with causation comes culprits, both the compounds that triggered it and the powers that be who let it happen and allow it continue to this day.
And that, I think, is why so many have anaphylactic reactions to Donald T. and gold salts.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at some of the bad ideas that combine to cause the ongoing autism epidemic – including the very bad one that there is no epidemic.
In fact, that is the worst idea of all, because it stops discussion before it starts. If there’s no epidemic, then there’s no environmental factor in play. Autism is part of life, one might even say part of God’s plan. Ergo, we should put all our efforts into helping the affected while ignoring the causes and the calamity, as Hillary Clinton’s feckless proposal this week manages nicely.
You can see that play out in a recent spate of books by authors who want to normalize autism and make it seem, in the Church Lady’s word, so very special, as opposed to so very disastrous.
Thus in the new Smithsonian, John Donvan and Caren Zucker find a few pre-Civil War case descriptions that might include autistic features and conclude, “Still, the dominant narrative has been that real rates are going up, and the United States is in the midst of an autism ‘epidemic,’ even though most experts see that as a highly debatable proposition. Moreover, the 'epidemic' story has helped crystallize the notion that 'something must have happened' in the near past to cause autism in the first place. Most famously, some activists blamed modern vaccines—a now discredited theory.”
That paragraph shows the potency of the "no epidemic" premise -- no epidemic, no vaccine link to autism, no need to worry your pretty little head.
So much for bad ideas. Now for the best one: Listen to the parents. After pondering the trajectory of autism and thinking about reader comments, I realized this is really the universal antidote to the “autism awareness” and “no epidemic” idiocy.
First of all, most parents don’t think autism is any kind of blessing. Discussing the book Neurotribes, “Greg” commented on AOA:
“Bad Idea number 15, the neuro-diversity movement and autism as a gift: It's a gift to be a non-verbal kid, past early childhood and still in diapers. And, if you're high functioning autistic adolescent, sitting at home on your butt, unemployed and waiting for your aging folks to look after you, your autism is also most definitely a gift.”
And “Reader” said:
“Stoopid idea number 7: Pretending that autism is a good thing as in Neurotribes. Yeah it's just great that 30% of people with autism communicate not at all or minimally, 82% unemployment for adult autists, high number wandering and drowning deaths relatively, high murder suicide rates. High numbers with sensory and pain issues. It's just f'g great.”
But the main reason to listen to parents is that they know what happened to their children. As The New York Times famously wrote: “On Autism’s Cause, It’s Parents Versus Research.” Yes, it is, and the steady drumbeat of parental testimony about vaccination, illness, regression and autism trumps the conflicted, contorted “research.”
As Sarah Bridges wrote in Spectrum magazine about RFK Jr.: “In 2006, Kennedy wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine called Deadly Immunity. The response to his piece was overwhelming: following the publication, Kennedy received thousands of letters and emails from all over the world. 'The astounding thing was how alike all of them were and that people from Mississippi to New Delhi shared such identical experiences. Here is the typical scenario I heard: A mother took her toddler to the doctor where he received a spate of vaccines, became ill that night, often with a fever, sometimes with seizures, then lost the language he had, developed stereotyped behavior and regressed into a looking-glass world of debilitated relationships and social isolation. Essentially,' Kennedy adds, 'their lives were plunged into unimaginable agony.' It seemed imperative to Kennedy to keep getting the story out to prevent the catastrophe from damaging other children.”
Not listening to parents unites mainstream media and medicine. Listening to them unites RFK Jr., this humble blog, Andy Wakefield and many others. In no other universe but Autism Denial would this kind of evidence be dismissed as mere "anecdote" and relegated to the dust bin, while CDC studies exonerating the MMR and thimerosal are treated as gospel.
Last week I wrote about my adventures in the 1970s as a young investigative reporter. I’m convinced, on the basis of long experience, that if journalists were as deaf to other concerns as they are to the reality of vaccine-driven autism epidemic, Richard Nixon would still be president (or something like that). The idea that we needed to listen to our readers was drummed into us. The idea that doctors need to listen to their patients – and, as Andy puts it, “listen to the mother” when the patient is an infant – is still the best idea in medicine.
As commenter Ottoschnaut put it: “Bad Idea: 'Ignore the hundreds of thousands of first hand, eyewitness reports of parents who witnessed vaccine injury unfold in real time.'”
That, of course, is why the “discredited” vaccine-autism debate rolls on, because thousands of parents know exactly what happened, way too credible and way too many to silence with appeals to conflicted, self-interested, shoddy “research” that suggest ordinary people can’t be trusted, that wisdom belongs to the priestly class, in this case the medical, legal, and journalism establishments.
This can’t last forever, especially when the damage keeps rising at the rates we are seeing now -- at epidemic rates. Our main task is to find the most effective and direct and immediate ways to blast through this denial of the age of autism, help sick kids and share the truth with anyone willing to listen. More and more people are.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
Back in the 1970s when I started as a full-time journalist, I covered the usual beats – police, fire, the courts, city hall, in my hometown on Danville, Ill. (That's me in a contemporary rendering from, gosh, 40 years ago this new year.)
I’d show up at what we called “the cop shop” at about a quarter to seven in the morning, copy down arrest reports, make the other rounds and then go back and write them up for that afternoon’s paper. If I had time and the cops were in the mood, I’d check in with them on what was going on. There was one detective who always seemed to know. On his office wall, although I didn’t focus on it at the time, was a dollar bill that had been cut up in small pieces and reassembled in the shape of a question mark.
One day, someone came to us and told an amazing story, one that was kind of hard to believe. He said that earlier in the decade, a number of police officers, some of who were still there, had been involved in a burglary ring. They would break in somewhere – backing their cruiser through the bay of an auto body shop, say, or busting out the glass in the door of a drugstore. They’d take what they wanted, and then they’d call in the incident. So not only would they get the dough, or the bottle of Scotch, or the new car battery, they’d get the credit for discovering the break-in.
This was interesting -- in fact, it was sensational -- but how would you prove it, especially at this late date? That’s when “the source” said something that really made me pay attention: One detective who knew about the burglary ring found a way to remind everyone of it, he said. That detective took a dollar that he suspected had been stolen in one of the break-ins, cut it into small pieces, made it into a question mark, framed it and put it on his office wall. Suddenly, I realized he was telling the truth.
I went back and looked at what, if anything, had been written at the time about suspicions that the cops were crooks. The only thing I found was an editorial – from my own paper! – saying that murmurs that some cops were doing bad things were scurrilous, and if anyone had information to the contrary, they should come forward.
It’s a long story, but based on information we developed from this new source, a grand jury convened, called witnesses including the cops under oath, and issued a report. The report named officers who participated in the burglaries – one category – or who knew and had a duty to report it – a second category. The statute of limitations had expired, but the naming and shaming was a necessary purgative, since some of these names were still police officers. It needed to be known.
The upshot: Sometimes, “conspiracy theories” are true. Sometimes, the bad guys get away with it, abetted by the idea that such a claim seems so unlikely and so unfair to those who put their lives on the line every day.
Now let’s talk about autism. We’ve been publishing articles and comments lately about bad ideas that perpetuate the autism epidemic, and one of them is that a vaccines-autism link is a “conspiracy theory,” end of discussion. Daily Kos, as I’ve written, called it a CT and won’t let in any such comments. The idea that vaccine safety concerns are just a fancy name for "anti-vaccine" and are kooky has really become a meme.
This meme links vaccine-autism concerns, 9/11 trutherism and Sandy-Hook-never-happened into one big lump and expect those of us concerned about vaccine safety to try to explain how we got such a crazy collection of counter-factual ideas.