Saturday, March 15, 2008


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Don’t believe the lies. They stopped using mercury in dog vaccines in 1935. The adverse reactions were too dangerous, Eli Lily reported. They removed mercury from cattle vaccines in the early 1990s; too damn harmful for the beasts of burden. But mercury-laced vaccines for your baby? The government said that was just fine.

Thanks to monstrous oversight by government health agencies, American infants were injected with high levels of mercury, part of a mandated program designed to protect our children. Just how much mercury was delivered into the bloodstreams of vulnerable babies? By the time New Jersey representative, David Weldon, demanded an answer to this very question in 2003, mercury was routinely used for as many as 30 infant vaccinations.

The truth was damning: a baby receiving all her recommended vaccines would, by the age of just two months, have received 118 times the acceptable daily dose of mercury for a full-grown adult.

Autism rates increased tenfold during a period in which the rate of mercury-laced vaccines, foisted on an unsuspecting public, tripled.

Coincidence? Only in the official memos of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unofficially, the truth was known. Leaked internal correspondence at the CDC shows department fears and an attempt to cover-up the mistake.

“We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits, and I am concerned,” noted one CDC advisor. The agency’s concern with its image greatly outweighed its desire to protect the health of 40 million infants vaccinated in the 1990s.

Peter Patriarca, then with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), voiced his alarm that his agency would be found “asleep at the switch for decades by allowing a potentially hazardous compound to remain in many childhood vaccines…”

This ‘potentially’ hazardous heavy metal was finally outlawed from the majority of infant vaccinations in late 2002, some 67 years after it was deemed a danger to canines. Even then, the CDC refused to admit its gross negligence, claiming there was no evidence that thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines to prevent bacteriological infections, had any negative affect upon children, and could not be linked to the sudden rise in autism.

The sudden removal of thimerosal in 2002 was parlayed as a precaution, and despite overwhelming evidence of a correlation between mercury and autism in infants, no government agency is yet willing to admit the link, not even the FDA which recommended pulling mercury from over-the-counter drugs in 1982.

Why do these agencies continue to stonewall?

In the 1970s, a mere one child in every 10,000 developed autism. By the late 1990s, when mercury was being used in MMR, HIB, and Hep-B vaccines, the rate had shot up to one child in every 500. Current statistics from the CDC now place rates of autism at one child in every 150.

Any admittance of mercury’s link to autism would cost the healthcare industry hundreds of billions of dollars. The recent class action lawsuits against both the asbestos and tobacco industries would pale by comparison. A link would also undermine the government’s program for child immunization and potentially set back our fight against diseases such as rubella by decades.

That the CDC, FDA and other agencies are able to deny mercury’s link to autism lies in ignorance. To this date, no comprehensive study detailing the affects of ethylmercury (metabolized by the human body through the injection of thimerosal) has been produced, despite its use in infant vaccines for 70+ years. Scientists make an incredulous assumption that ethylmercury behaves the same as methylmercury (metabolized through the consumption of fish) in the human body. The CDC may claim it is unaware of a link between mercury and autism simply because it hasn’t bothered to look.

Others have.

In 2001, members of Safe Minds published a report in the journal Medical Hypotheses, detailing the relationship between autism and mercury toxicity. They highlighted the case of Pink’s Disease, prevalent in the 1950s, which presented very similar symptoms to autism. Pink’s Disease was linked to the common use of mercury-laced tooth powder. Once the product was removed from store shelves, Pink’s Disease rapidly disappeared.

A 2003 study showed that healthy children excreted eight times more mercury through their hair than did autistic children, suggesting mercury was a root cause of the incurable disease.

A CDC study suggesting that the rise in autism might be attributable to diagnostic substitution (where doctors are more comfortable admitting the presence of autism rather than some other condition) has been debunked by Mark Bloxhill, a board member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Astonishingly, thimerosal was allowed to bypass mandatory toxicity testing, even after regulations for reviewing vaccines required it.

“The absence of appropriate preclinical testing of thimerosal is a staggering oversight,” FDA drug reviewer, Dr. Eric Colman wrote in 2002.

Today, vaccines for the flu shot still contain mercury. Pregnant mothers are expected to receive the shot as a standard preventative measure here in the United States.

Further complicity comes from the White House, where in July 2007 President Bush announced his intent to veto FY2008, a Health and Human Services Appropriation Bill that would have banned thimerosal from childhood flu vaccines. Clearly, the frightening increase in autism does not concern Washington, at least in the dens of those politicians whose children are fortunate enough to have escaped the autism lottery.

But with autism levels still increasing, many families have firsthand experience of the suffering and anguish this disease brings. As more parents, particularly politicians, doctors and lawyers, discover that their children share the fate of millions, alive but locked within the silence of autism, the pressure to provide answers becomes unavoidable. Soon, the State’s ability to manage the needs of the autistic community will require a tremendous financial influx, both within the health and education industries. The latter, at the local level, is already feeling the strain of coping with the special needs of so many victims of our vaccination programs.

In what might be a landmark case, the parents of a nine-year-old girl have successfully litigated that her autism was caused by vaccines. Jon and Terry Poling, from Athens, Georgia, claimed that a series of five vaccines given their daughter in one day, eight years ago, resulted in the onset of autism. Government officials agreed to pay the Polings from a federal fund that compensates people injured by vaccines. The compensation amount was not disclosed.

Terry Poling is a doctor, her husband a lawyer. Americans well-positioned to blow the lid off the vaccination-autism scandal are emerging. The Georgia case will result in similar appeals, further studies and, eventually, the end of lies.

One day, the personal suffering of enough doctors will clash with their career goals, and the love for our children will win out. Autism denies its victims a sure voice, and the CDC, FDA and other agencies have effectively stymied calls for review. But as the rates of autism continue to increase, while drug companies continue to circumvent regulation, while big Pharma continues to lobby Washington for special treatment, the evidence awaits to be discovered.

When it does, millions of young Americans will not be able to say, ‘I told you so.’ For them, any revelation of truth will come too late.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


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The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

H.P. Lovecraft

A belief in ghosts is as ancient as the campfire and the burial ground. Man’s fascination with death and the unknown fortunes beyond is matched only by his continuing quest to dispel the darkness with the clarifying light of knowledge.

Science plays the counterpoint to culture’s mythic, primitive instinct, which lingers still with the fear that things unseen yet go bump in the night.

But the old ways die slowly. Our scientific age refutes talk of spirits from beyond the grave, while polls suggest one in three Americans still cling to a belief that the dead sometimes return to haunt the living.

Now, a team from University College London has published findings which hope to demystify the legends. Ghosts, they claim, despite fervent eyewitness testimony, exist only in the observer’s head.

Publishing in the journal PLoS Computational Biology, Professor Li Zhaoping suggests that context is key in determining what we think we see. Our eyes deceive us, adding fanciful detail when conditions such as dim lighting provide insufficient material information.

It’s why indecisive brush strokes present as lucid details, says Zhaoping, referring to our innate ability to intuit minutiae from an Impressionist painting, noticing forms that the artist never put to canvas.

“The paintings are vague,” Zhaoping says. “But I speculate that perhaps because of the vagueness, viewers are free to use their vivid imaginations to fill in the details.”

It’s also why we perceive faces in marble tile, ships in clouds, even Jesus in potato chips.

“Everything we see is an hallucination generated by the virtual reality machine inside our head,” says Professor Mike Morgan of the City University London.

And when the right conditions present, the hallucination fools our senses into seeing phantoms.

The deliberate imprecision of Renoir’s brush strokes fuel our imaginations, much like the dimly-lit corridors of suspected haunted houses. The darkened context, married to a pre-existing openness to the supernatural, allow ghosts to rattle their chains. Few specters are spied in daylight. This, claims Zhaoping, is not coincidental.

Zhaoping and her colleagues asked 18 observers to concentrate on the center of a black computer screen. Every few seconds the observers were required to judge whether or not a small, dim, gray rectangle briefly flashed on the monitor. Test results suggested people have no trouble identifying the object’s presence when viewed against a bright, white background. But against a darker, poorly-illuminated background, observers often reported seeing the target when, in reality, it did not exist.

The experiment emphasizes what most in the scientific community have long believed: ghosts are nothing but the product of overactive imaginations.


But Zhaoping’s work falls short of proof, and ignores a significant percentage of ghostly encounters. The spirit world cannot be reduced to mere glimpsed sightings. There’s far more substance to ghosts.

Take, for example, events last month at a boarding school in Malaysia. The school was shut down for several days after hundreds of students saw apparitions flying around their classrooms in broad daylight. Hysteria ensured in dormitories and the assembly hall. Events repeated the next day, and many children were sent home with parents, while staff and Department of Education employees attempted to regain order.

Mass sightings such as this cannot be explained by Zhaoping’s team. The context for sensory deception did not exist as the events played out during daylight hours. Group hysteria can be induced by narcotics or environmental stimuli, but such paranormal activity, witnessed by so many, and over an extended timeframe, ought to send science back to the lab.

Ghostly encounters contain many more elements than poor lighting and momentary glimpses of uncertain shapes. The history of haunting makes for fascinating reading, and even a brief snapshot shows that any scientific theory needs to account for sustained visual and auditory phenomena. Many sightings even include olfactory clues and a measurable temperature change.

One of the earliest encounters is recollected by Pliny the Younger (circa 50 AD). He tells of the philosopher Athenodorus, who rented a property in Athens, only to be bothered by a restless spirit, complete with jangling chains. The revenant would appear before Athenodorus and beckon him follow to the courtyard. There, the philosopher dug and discovered the bones (and chains) of a man buried without proper funereal rites. After rectifying this injustice, the philosopher was never again bothered by his undead visitor.

In the First Book of Samuel, King Saul has the Witch of Endor summon the spirit of Samuel, while Jesus Himself is mistaken for a ghost by the disciples following the resurrection.

The city-states of Mesopotamia believed that to neglect the dead meant inviting the undead to practice evil upon the living. The later Greek states included many accounts of ghosts, some evil, others impartial to their breathing neighbors. One legend has Euthymus boxing a ghost at Temesa, rescuing a local girl as a result of his victory.

Most themes prevalent in ancient ghost stories are still present today. The account of Athenodorus could easily be modernized to any New England setting at the start of the 21st century.

Specters such as Resurrection Mary still prowl the streets of Chicago, since an initial encounter in 1934. Like many encounters, Mary is no mere fleeting image at the periphery of vision. Indeed, Mary is only recognized for the ghost she is after dematerializing. She often vanishes through the cemetery gates on Archer Road, in Justice, after a prolonged presence among the living, sometimes dancing in clubs, sometimes eliciting a ride ‘home’.

Stories of ghostly hitchhikers are popular urban legends, yet their roots lie in well-documented events, events which still occur today with alarming regularity.


What, then, are we to make of these ghostly goings-on?

Some, no doubt, are the remnants of dreams. The bedroom visitor is among the more popular spirits, and observers on the cusp of wakefulness are prone to fall foul of Zhaoping’s contextual hallucinations.

Electromagnetic energy in the immediate vicinity of observers can change melatonin levels within the brain, resulting in distorted perceptions. A thunderstorm produces significant electromagnetic build-up, and none may deny its association with ghost stories.

Cultural stimuli play their part, too. Some people are prone to experience paranormal phenomena more than others, and perhaps this prevalence is due to a deep-seated desire to encounter the unexplained, which in turn leads to the misconception of events.

The theories are as numerous as the spooky graveyards that dot our haunted heartland, but no one satisfies as an explanation. Beyond the work of GNM Tyrrell in 1953, little academic research into the phenomenon of ghosts has been carried out.

Perhaps an investigation into this otherworldly topic is too creepy for most scientists (and their careers). The chains of establishment may prove stronger than those binding the spirits to their spooky domains.

Regardless, the mystery of ghosts and ghouls is sure to haunt us to the grave… and perhaps beyond.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


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Somebody call the Pentagon. It seems Africa may be harboring the world’s first, most highly sought, weapon of mass destruction. The Ark of the Covenant, commissioned by God, covered in purest gold, carried before the armies of the Lord, able to devour armies and halt the flow of rivers, has been found. Twice.

That most fabled of artifacts, rediscovered in public culture thanks to the movie theatrics of Steven Spielberg and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which has remained lost to humanity for at least 1,500 years, has resurfaced in Africa. The only problem is where, exactly. Is it in Aksum, Ethiopia, brought there by Menelik, the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba? Is it in Zimbabwe, kept hidden by the Lemba tribe, true descendants of Moses himself? Or are both claims false, yet more examples of wishful thinking among scholars desperate to lay bare the divine, supernatural power of God?

The story of the Ark of the Covenant begins more than 3,000 years ago, when Moses ascended Mount Sinai and received explicit instruction from God on how to construct the Ark. It became a sacred container, holding the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments and other sacred objects, including the rod of Aaron, and a golden jar holding manna from the journey across the wilderness.

We know much about the Ark thanks to the explicit descriptions provided in ancient Jewish texts. The container was a cubit and a half broad and high, two and a half cubits long (approximately 2’5”H X 2’5”W X 4’3”D if we assume Egyptian royal cubits were used). The Ark was built from acacia wood, was covered in purest gold. Its upper surface or lid was a mercy seat and at each end stood cherubim, their faces turned toward one another.

In battle the Ark was carried by priests a kilometer or more before the army. Then it would be wrapped in a veil, possibly tachash skins and a blue cloth, concealed from the eyes of those carrying it. The Ark burned thorns and other obstructions in the road. Tradition speaks of sparks emanating from the Ark, killing serpents and scorpions in its path. To touch the Ark directly meant death. Indeed, it proved a cursed item for many that possessed it, including God’s chosen people.

Despite its power, the Ark could not guarantee success in battle. Joshua brought forth the Ark at Ai, but experienced defeat. Against Benjamin at Gibeah, Joshua again lost despite the Ark’s presence.

The Ark was taken by the Philistines after defeating the Hebrews during the time of Eli. The trophy was taken on tour through the Philistine lands, but misfortune followed it, whether at the Temple of Dagon, Ashdod, Goth, or Ekron. People were smitten with boils, took to their beds. Many died from symptoms which today would be identified as classic radiation poisoning.

So dreadful was the Ark’s affect upon the Philistines that they returned this most holy of objects to their enemy after only seven months. It was set in the field of Joshua the Beth-Shemite. Again, those that gazed upon the Ark or dwelt near its presence, were struck dead. Some sources say 70 died in this manner, yet other manuscripts suggest as many as 50,000 perished from close proximity to the Ark (recent excavations at Beth-Shemite has uncovered the remnants of a vast iron-ore smelting city, conducive with the theory that a vast city-state habited the region during the time of the Ark's presence).

These accounts provide the best clues as to the true nature of the Ark of the Covenant. Might this device represent the harnessing of hitherto unknown energies, a true WMD wielded in battle more than 3,000 years ago? Had God (or some entity deified as such) provided the blueprints and the technical know-how to its chosen culture, allowing the use of some drastically anachronistic weapon against its enemies? What else might the Ark be used for?

Texts suggest that the Ark was also used for God to converse directly with high priest. Was the Ark, then, also a communications device? And more, some accounts suggest that the Levites chosen to carry the Ark were, in fact, carried by the Ark, held aloft several inches off the ground by the powers emanating from it (the terms Levi, Levite, and Levitate may be synonymous).

That the artifact existed is accepted in general principal by scholars. Its rediscovery today therefore would represent both the culmination of religious espousal and the opportunity to crack open the heavenly mysteries which shroud early human history.

The search to locate the lost Ark has captured the imagination of scholars, treasure hunters and theologians alike. Each quest for it turns up yet another theory as to where it might be located. A Common site touted is beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s most precious shrines, now sits atop the spot where Solomon’s first temple once stood.

Others claim the Ark lies buried beneath the tomb of Tutankhamen, in France, or beneath a London tube station. Perhaps strangest is the theory that places it within the New World, whence came the Ark in the name Arkansas -- strange, but true!

Yet the ties to Ethiopia are stronger than most. The Ark fell out of history sometime around 586 B.C., during the Babylonian sacking of the temple in Jerusalem. Many believe King Nebuchadnezzar had the relic destroyed, but given the object’s value and power (both physical and spiritual) it is more likely the Ark was removed to a safer and now lost location.

There are suggestions that the Ark was never captured by the Babylonians, but that instead it was removed from the Temple prior to the attack and escorted to safety by prince Menelik, son of Solomon and Sheba, and taken to Ethiopia. The story is described within the Kebra Negast, which chronicles Ethiopia’s royal line. The Negast can be traced to the 14th century A.D. only, but faithful claim its origins lie in a 4th century Coptic manuscript, itself based upon earlier writings.

The links between Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christian faith and Judaism are many and often unexplainable. The region also claims to have been the hiding place of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, during the reign of King Herod, who sought the death of every male child under the age of two.

As was documented in a recent Smithsonian article, the Ark is believed to be housed in a temple within the town of Aksum in northern Ethiopia, not far from the shores of the Red Sea. Proving the case for the Ark in Ethiopia remains impossible. Only the chosen guardian of the temple is allowed to view the sacred artifact. Daily he is said to kneel before the Ark and pray. Once a year, on the Feast of St. Mary, the chapel gates are opened to the public, but access to the Ark remains forbidden.

Yet now a new wrinkle has developed in the endless quest. Welsh academician Tudor Parfitt claims to have found the Ark, in Zimbabwe.

A professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Parfitt has authored a new book entitled The Lost Ark of the Covenant, Solving the 2,500 Year Mystery of the Fabled Biblical Ark. Parfitt made a name for himself in the 1980s when he proved a genetic connection between the Lemba tribe of Zimbabwe and the descendents of Jewish Temple priests. Now, Parfitt claims the Ark made a voyage from Jerusalem and into the hands of the Lemba, which call the object ngoma.

The professor claims the Lemba migrated from Jerusalem via a spice route, arriving in the city of Senna, located in modern day Yemen. From a nearby port, the Lemba could conceivably sail down the African coast with the Ark. Parfitt’s search led him across the continent and eventually to a dusty museum in Harare. There, “amidst nesting mice, was an old drum with an uncharacteristic burnt-black bottom hole, the remains of carrying rings on its corners; and a raised relief of crossed reeds.”

Yet Parfitt’s drum fails to meet the specifications described in the Old Testament for the Ark. Furthermore, carbon dating pinned the Lemba object to circa 1350 AD. Parfitt claims the current Ark was created from the ruins of the previous one, which had destroyed itself.

Such a claim requires us to make several leaps of faith, although the Lemba connection to the ancient tribes of Israel – much like the links between Jerusalem and Ethiopia – require further research.

In the end, we may never know the final fate of the Ark. The prophet Jeremiah foretells that the Ark will never again be seen by man, and Revelation says is abides in the Temple of God, in Heaven. Thus, then, the most ancient of WMD proves to be just as elusive as its modern Middle-Eastern counterparts.