Saturday, October 30, 2010

Community nurses in Hong Kong: only 27% reported willingness to accept swine flu vaccine in June 2009/BMC Infectious Disease

"Similar to previous findings conducted in hospital healthcare workers and nurses, we confirmed that the willingness of community nurses to accept influenza A (H1N1) vaccination is low. Future studies that evaluate interventions to address nurses' specific concerns or interventions that aim to raise the awareness among nurses on the importance of influenza A (H1N1) vaccination to protect vulnerable patient populations is needed."

The pdf of the full text article is here.

Killing Reconciliation/ The Nation

How "US Special Operations Forces are sabotaging the very strategy for reaching a political settlement that US officials claim to support" and murdering Taliban fighters who laid down their weapons and agreed to work with the government.

Amy Goodman interviews the author on Democracy Now! here.

Seminar Nov. 29, 2010 on the anthrax letters investigation

The University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) and The UC Washington Center
Cordially invite you to attend a seminar:

The Anthrax Mailings Investigation

Monday, November 29, 2010, 1:00 – 5:30 pm

UC Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW

FBI has closed the 2001 anthrax mailings investigation.  The alleged preparer and mailer of the anthrax, U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins, committed suicide, so the case was never tried in court.
A group of experts (see agenda below) assembled by Kenneth Dillon at Scientia Press and UCLA-based researchers Dr. Peter Katona and Prof. Michael Intriligator, will discuss the investigation, the scientific aspects, the lessons learned, and the broader implications of the case.  (Speaker bios are attached.)

Please RSVP, acceptances only, to Joseph R. McGhee at the IGCC Washington office:  Phone (202) 974-6295; Fax (202) 974-6299; email: .  For more on IGCC, see


1:00 pm:  Registration, coffee and tea
1:30 pm:  Welcome:  Peter Katona, UCLA, Master of Ceremonies
1:45 pm:  Panel I:  The Science of the Case
3:00 pm:  Break
3:15 pm:  Panel II:  The Investigation
  • Moderator:  Lewis Weinstein, author, Case Closed
  • Scott Shane, New York Times
  • Ross Getman, author, Anthrax and al Qaeda
  • Paul Kemp, attorney of Bruce Ivins
4:30 pm:  Panel III:  Lessons Learned and Broader Implications
  • Michael Intriligator, UCLA
  • Peter Katona, UCLA
  • Leonard Cole, Rutgers University, author, The Anthrax Letters
                                             5:30 pm:  End 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

U.S. nuclear missile base (50 nuclear missiles) loses communication with Washington/CBC

"A computer failure caused a break in communication with 50 nuclear missiles at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming during the weekend, military officials said Tuesday."  The military did not see fit to inform the President until today, 3 days after the incident.  You didn't really think Obama was running this show, did you?

Iraq war logs: Frago 242 – a licence to torture/ Guardian

How the newly released US military files reveal an instruction to ignore detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities; what that meant on the ground; and just how far up the chain of command the order went, from the Guardian.

Australian flu vaccine has all kinds of problems, but not sure why it causes seizures at 9x normal rate/ The Australian

Excerpts from the Australian:
The Health Department has exposed drug company "inconsistencies" but ruled them out as the cause of fits in children given a flu vaccine.
CSL's world-first combination of seasonal and swine flu strains was suspended for the under-fives in April, after it triggered febrile convulsions in young children at nine times the usual rate.
The Health Department's drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, yesterday circulated the latest findings of a six-month investigation into the vaccine scare, pointing to an unusually high level of protein in CSL's Fluvax vaccine.
The TGA revealed that its audits of CSL's laboratory in Melbourne in May and June had observed "a number of inconsistencies with good manufacturing practices", to be followed up in a third audit next month.

"The TGA . . . was satisfied that the observations did not present an increased risk to the quality, safety or efficacy of CSL's vaccine products.  [Seizures are not a safety problem?!!]

The TGA said an investigation led by Nobel laureate Peter Doherty had not found a conclusive cause of the convulsions.
But the "current working hypothesis" was that the strain of swine flu used in this year's seasonal flu vaccine appeared to contain a higher than usual level of a protein called neuraminidase.
"Excess neuraminidase enzyme activity may be pyrogenic (producing fever) and may thus be contributing to the increase in febrile reactions in young children receiving the vaccine for the first time," the TGA said.

The TGA also revealed it would continue its suspension of Fluvax for healthy under-fives next year.
"Despite extensive analysis, the biological basis for the excess cases of fever and febrile convulsions remains unclear, and it is therefore important to effectively mitigate the risks by limiting exposure to those at greatest risk," it says.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells yesterday called on the TGA to release details of audits that found deficiencies in 136 of the 139 laboratories manufacturing medicines in Australia.
"We must have more transparency," Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said.

Glaxo pays the USG $750 million for selling tainted drugs--but no patients were (officially) harmed, of course,

GlaxoSmithKline Plc agreed to pay $750 million to settle a U.S. government false-claims lawsuit over the sale of defective drugs.
The affected drugs included the antidepressant Paxil CR and the diabetes treatment Avandamet.
“We regret that we operated the Cidra facility in a manner that was inconsistent with current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements and with GSK’s commitment to manufacturing quality,” PD Villarreal, a Glaxo senior vice president, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The false claims arose out of chronic, serious deficiencies in the quality assurance function at the Cidra plant and the defendants’ ongoing serious violations of the laws and regulations designed to ensure the fitness of drug products for use,” the government said in court papers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005 seized some Paxil CR lots after it was discovered that the pills sometimes split inappropriately, according to court papers. Some of the pills lacked an active ingredient.
“We did not uncover any evidence that patients were harmed from these adulterated batches,” Ortiz said today. “It is critical we keep pressure on companies to follow FDA standards and play by the rules.”

Nick Clegg: "I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at."/ Guardian

From the Guardian:
[UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was] asked if there should be an inquiry into the role of British troops, [and] said: "I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at.  "People will want to hear what the answer is to what are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking."
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Monday night is expected to add further details based on the logs of alleged abuse directly by coalition forces. Only two cases of alleged involvement of British troops have so far been mentioned.
Within the huge leaked archive is contained a batch of secret field reports from the town of Samarra. They corroborate previous allegations that the US military turned over many prisoners to the Wolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry's special commandos.
In Samarra, the series of log entries in 2004 and 2005 describe repeated raids by US infantry, who then handed their captives over to the Wolf Brigade for "further questioning". Typical entries read: "All 5 detainees were turned over to Ministry of Interior for further questioning" (from 29 November 2004) and "The detainee was then turned over to the 2nd Ministry of Interior Commando Battalion for further questioning" (30 November 2004).
The field reports chime with allegations made by New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time. He told Guardian Films : "US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing," while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.
An interview conducted by Maass in 2005 at the improvised prison, accompanied by the Wolf Brigade's US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.
The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.

...Lawyers said the reports may embroil British as well as US forces in an alleged culture of abuse and extrajudicial killings...

Monday, October 25, 2010

After Service, Veteran Deaths Surge/ Bay Citizen

From the Bay Citizen:
... An analysis of official death certificates on file at the State Department of Public Health reveals that more than 1,000 California veterans under 35 died between 2005 and 2008. That figure is three times higher than the number of California service members who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the same period. The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs said they do not count the number of veterans who have died after leaving the military.

... The data show that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age with no military service. They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident.

"These numbers are truly alarming and should wake up the whole country," said United States Representative Bob Filner, Democrat of San Diego, who is the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. "They show a failure of our policy..."

UN calls on Obama to investigate human rights abuses in Iraq/ Guardian and Todayonline

From TodayOnLine:
LONDON - The United Nations has called on United States President Barack Obama to order a full investigation of the involvement of US forces in human rights abuses in Iraq, after the massive leak of military documents by the WikiLeaks website.

The intelligence logs show how the US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and generally unpunished.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, the UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak, who has spent years investigating allegations of US participation in extraordinary rendition and the abuse of detainees held by coalition forces, said the Obama administration had a legal and moral obligation to fully investigate credible claims of US forces' complicity in torture.

A failure to investigate, Mr Nowak suggested, would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise its obligations under international law.

UN human rights agreements oblige states to criminalise all forms of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse.

The principle of "non-refoulement" also prohibited states from transferring detainees to other countries that could pose a risk to their personal safety.

The documents, which cover the period in Iraq from 2004, have prompted claims that this principle has not been observed. The files contain evidence that US forces were ordered to turn a blind eye to abuses committed by the Iraqi authorities...
And from the Guardian:
The call, by the UN's chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, came as Phil Shiner, human rights specialist at Public Interest Lawyers in the UK, warned that some of the deaths documented in the Iraq war logs could have involved British forces and would be pursued through the UK courts. He demanded a public inquiry into allegations that British troops were responsible for civilian deaths during the conflict...

The logs paint a disturbing picture of the relationship between US and Iraqi forces. Nowak said that UN human rights agreements obliged states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse...  The files contain evidence that US forces were ordered to turn a blind eye to abuses committed by the Iraqi authorities.
Numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death...
[Nowak] noted that neither the US nor Iraq had ratified the international criminal convention that would see officials from either country brought before the international courts for war crimes...
... the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record "no investigation is necessary" and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are detailed in the logs...

On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of "bad kidneys", was found to have "evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen"...

Assange highlighted how the reports documented 109,000 deaths – including 66,000 civilians, of which 15,000 were previously undocumented. "That tremendous scale should not make us blind to the small human scale in this material. It is the deaths of one and two people per event that killed the overwhelming number of people in Iraq."

Alice in Afghaniland: Karzai gets bags of cash from Iran and US acquiesces/ CNN

Why are we still turning Afghanistan into chopped liver?  Why are we spending our children's blood, money we don't have, and our reputation on Hamid Karzai and his country, which has been the destroyer of empires and may yet destroy ours?  What precisely is the treasure our leaders are seeking?  I feel like the USA has gone down Alice's rabbit hole.  We citizens don't know what the rules are, nor what the endgame is.  And our pawn Karzai collects bags of cash from us and our sworn enemy.  You explain it to me.

From CNN:
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan acknowledged Monday that he has received cash payments from Iran.

The president said Iran has "asked for good relations in return and for lots of other things in return" for the cash. "And we've also asked for lots of things in return in this relationship, so it's a relationship between neighbors." He also said the cash was given "to people outside."

His comments followed a report in The New York Times that Iranian officials gave Karzai bags of cash.
Karzai equated the cash from Iran with assistance the United States has provided to Afghanistan. He also said the United States is and has been aware of Iran's help.

"We are grateful to Iran for the help that they are giving and to those receiving that help under my instruction," he said.

"The cash payments are done by various friendly countries to help the president's office and to help, dispense assistance in various ways to the employees around here, to people outside, and this is transparent and this is something that I have discussed," Karzai told CNN.

"Even when we were at Camp David with President Bush, this is nothing hidden."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gouging the US government on anthrax vaccine/ Guardian

From the October 20 Guardian (UK):
Military contractors' epic overcharging
The government needs to know the true cost of the products it's purchasing to avoid getting fleeced by unscrupulous suppliers
anthrax vaccination in US military
A soldier being inoculated for anthrax in 2000.

The Pentagon has paid the manufacturer of BioThrax $1.3bn, for a vaccine that an independent report calculates cost only $250m to produce. Photograph: AP/Dave Bowman
An anthrax vaccine of contested quality has paid out over $1bn in profit to a small company in Maryland, despite the fact that the company neither invented the product nor built the production facilities. A new report by Scott Lilly, my colleague at the Centre for American Progress in Washington, has the details: Emergent BioSolutions has billed the Pentagon $1.3bn for BioThrax, which he calculates cost the company roughly just $250m to manufacture. Lilly comments:
"It is hard to imagine that any attempt to reduce federal outlays and shrink the size of the budget deficit will be credible if it does not address the issue of government contracts that pay extraordinary profit margins."
... BioThrax is considered a "commercial item" – despite the fact that consumers cannot buy it on the open market. Originally developed by military scientists at Fort Detrick, Maryland, in the 1960s, the state of Michigan public health service obtained a licence to produce the vaccine in 1970. At the time, BioThrax was used to help protect mill workers in the textile industry who processed animal hair contaminated with naturally-occurring anthrax.

In 1998, the state of Michigan sold off the facility for an effective cash price of $2.25m – including 28 buildings containing 250,000 square feet of floor space; 59 acres of land and the government licence to manufacture BioThrax.

Today, it has become very clear that BioThrax is both old and very inadequate. A 2002 review of the vaccine by the Institute of Medicine concluded that BioThrax caused swollen arms and muscles, as well as joint pain. According to some campaigners, it may even have resulted in the death of some individuals.

The new owners, which are now a publicly-listed company named Emergent BioSolutions, have three in-house and 24 contract lobbyists. (Lilly explains that, to put Emergent's lobbying in perspective, one might compare it with Merck, one of the most heavily represented companies in Washington, with close to 40 registered lobbyists. To have the same ratio of lobbyists to revenues as Emergent, Merck would have to hire more than 4,000 additional lobbyists.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

NIH's Experts Estimate 59% of the US population is already immune to swine flu

Tony Fauci (head of NIH's NIAID), alsong with David Morens and Jeffrey Taubenberger, both renowned flu experts, have run the numbers and concluded that a majority of Americans are already immune to swine flu, either from last year's vaccination (62 million) or a prior exposure.  Most of those exposed never got sick.

In a paper titled, "The 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Virus:  What Next?" they note that 19% of Americans (60 million people) had immunity even before the swine flu outbreak was identified in Mexico in March 2009, based on seroprevalence data.  They estimate another 20% of Americans (61 million people) were naturally infected since March 2009 with the swine flu virus.

The authors write,
Given the relatively low number of infections estimated so far for persons older than 50 years and the possibility that standard measurements may underestimate immunity, there may be a higher degree of population protection than predicted. [i.e., greater than 59%--Nass]
... we do not know the extent to which preexisting cross-reactive antibodies can prevent infection or disease. It is noteworthy that in past pandemics (e.g., the 1957-1958 pandemic), significant numbers of persons with probable prior exposures but without detectable cross-reactive antibodies seem nevertheless to have been protected, as were some people with low-level cross-reactive antibodies against distantly related viruses 

Which begs several questions:  If a majority of us are already immune to H1N1 (swine) flu, how many of us are immune to the other components of this year's flu vaccine?  If those vaccinated last year are considered still immune to swine flu, aren't those people vaccinated last year with the seasonal flu vaccine still immune, in general, to the other components of this year's flu vaccine?

Since H1N1 is not a highly virulent virus, and there remain significant questions about the safety of the 2010 vaccine, especially in children, why are we pushing universal vaccination against it? 

Why not do serologic testing and only offer vaccine to the minority of Americans who remain susceptible?

And how can you possibly justify firing workers who refuse vaccination when they may already be immune to what the vaccine contains?  I'd love to see that litigated in a courtroom, especially for healthcare workers who are likely to have much higher levels of immunity that the average person, since they are in contact with those who are sick!