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.