Saturday, June 15, 2013

Every phone call is noted and emails maintained by the US government. What don't they know? Why is there a concerted effort to shoot the messenger?

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
That is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights:  a list of rights guaranteed to all Americans by the founders of our great nation, through our Constitution.  It could not be clearer:  leave our papers and effects alone unless you can show probable cause to go after them-- and then provide a sworn oath and a description of what is to be seized.  I can give you the description of what the government is seizing:  all communications that travel electronically.  Everyone's.  No probable cause, no oath, no affirmation, no description of specific items.  Snowden (and others) claim the government can wiretap--listen in on--the contents of all phone calls, not just look at the numbers you called.  Electronic storage is cheap.  Did you get a look at the data center being built in Utah to handle the mountains of info being collected by NSA on us all?

According to Utah TV station KSL:
... The secrecy surrounding the project has led to speculation it will become a vast storehouse of personal communications of average Americans.
The facility is 1 million square feet of space, with a price tag well above $1 billion; and it will have an appetite for electricity that would embarrass Godzilla. Computers and cooling systems at the NSA's Utah Data Center will reportedly consume $40 million worth of power each year. The power company won't say if that widely reported estimate is valid...
Our Constitution and our guaranteed freedoms have been shredded by our federal elected leaders, although the President and every member of Congress has sworn to uphold them.  What a terrible joke it is.

Adding insult to injury, the same elected leaders are now stirring up a witches brew to destroy Edward Snowden, who had the temerity to inform us of the crime our government is committing against us.  How dare he, they seem to be saying.

Edward Snowden Backlash

He calls our attention to a serious transgression, committed against us and against our Constitution, and the Boehners and Feinsteins of the world call him a traitor.  Can someone give them a mirror?

In a victory for sanity, a Reuters poll this week shows that more Americans see Snowden as a patriot than a traitor.

The Daily Beast provides the flip side of the Boehner/Feinstein/WaPo coin.  Though many in the mainstream media have echoed Feinstein and Boehner's claims that Snowden is a criminal, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized nicely with a very clear discussion of the issues, the responsibilities of Congress, privacy and secrecy.

Danny Schecter at Common Dreams puts the story in perspective vis a vis alleged Chinese cyber hacking and Obama-Xi Jinping's summit at which such matters were being discussed.  Now it turns out we were doing the same cyber hacking that we accused China of doing.
With Snowden now seemingly on the run - in Hong Kong or elsewhere - the US press has piled on for a rabbit hunt, featuring article after article quoting officials on why he is a traitor. There is a snotty elitism to the putdowns citing his unimpressive educational background.
Snowden quickly became the media focus - if only because, once again, an individual's transgression is sexier to cover than an analysis of the institutional leviathan behind the chase...
We also learned most of the big internet brands played along, without disclosing anything, silenced by secrecy or being complicit due to a simple desire to stay on Washington's good side. Only Google seems to be fighting back, but after the fact. So much for all the sanctimonious privacy codes they all promote.
Clearly that old military-industrial complex, first condemned by President Eisenhower in 1960, now has expanded into a far larger behemoth, incorporating digital media, co-opting the internet, integrating the intelligence community, winning over Congress and the press, and giving the president even more power to launch cyber-wars and to target whomever he wants.
Colleen Rowley, the former FBI agent who made the cover of TIME Magazine for her 9/11 whistle-blowing revealed that this was another Obama-sanctioned initiative with deep roots in Cheney-Bush paranoia.
"The recent disclosures… should make us realise that John Poindexter's plan for 'Total Information Awareness' never died: It merely went underground and changed its name...
Alongside the escalation of surveillance and spying, the administration built its own paramilitary capacity and action army - reportedly run from the White House. Writer Fred Branfman who exposed Vietnam-era secret bombing, links all of this to: 
  • A fleet of 700 drones, operating from a growing number of secret bases. worldwide
  • The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) consisting of thousands of troops operating in dozens of nations
  • The first unit of American assassins in US history, who have illegally murdered many… and, according to Afghan President Karzai, helped strengthen the Taliban and destabilise his government
More whistle-blowers and journalists have reportedly been prosecuted under Obama than during the Bush-Cheney years, and, Branfman says, US executive branch agencies have "increased paramilitary training and equipment, and created secret police spying operations in thousands of states and cities around the nation".
He also cites earlier reporting in the Washington Post by Priest and Arkin, who revealed that the executive branch had created "a jaw-dropping 1,074 federal government organisations, and nearly two thousand private companies involved with programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, in at least 17,000 locations across the United States - all top secret".
In short, this incident is an outgrowth of an industry with high-paying jobs while the nation's economic growth remains static. The only stimulus is for the spooks.
This scandal should be a perfect "news peg" to help us connect the dots between what is being exposed today and how it relates to what we should have known, if we had been paying attention to earlier piecemeal disclosures...

Japan Health Ministry Withdraws its Recommendation for HPV Vaccines for Women/ Japan Times

Mika Matsufuji, second from right, and other members of the “Zenkoku Shikyukeigan Vaccine Higaisha Renrakukai” hold a news conference to explain possible side effects of a vaccination against cervical cancer in Tokyo on March 25. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Mika Matsufuji, second from right, and other members of the “Zenkoku Shikyukeigan Vaccine Higaisha Renrakukai” hold a news conference to explain possible side effects of a vaccination against cervical cancer in Tokyo on March 25. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Japan Times refers to halting both Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines. In the US, attention has focused on neurological abnormalities.  In Japan, these have occurred, but the expert panel focused on 38 recipients who developed chronic pain syndromes. I have seen a large number of chronic pain disorders (usually associated with fatigue, cognitive and sometimes personality changes) occur following anthrax vaccinations, so it seems logical that other vaccines may cause similar disorders.  Note that Gardasil was approved by FDA under a "fast-track" designation, without definitive evidence of either safety or efficacy at the time of licensure, and many studies are still in process that were required by FDA to issue the license.

Note also that two years after giving its approval, FDA required Merck to add warnings to the Gardasil label for muscle pains, joint pains and fatigue.   

FDA's MO is to warn in the label and continue to allow product sales without restriction, and continue to allow this and other vaccines to be promoted, and in some cases mandated, by federal and state authorities..           
The health ministry has issued a nationwide notice that cervical cancer vaccinations should no longer be recommended for girls aged 12 to 16 because several adverse reactions to the medicines have been reported.
“It is necessary to gather information immediately to accurately grasp how often (the side effects) are occurring,” said Mariko Momoi, who chairs the panel at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry that decided to suspend the recommendation. Momoi is vice president of the International University of Health and Welfare.
Cervical cancer vaccines are a recent addition to the regular vaccination list and were added after a revision to the Preventive Vaccination Law took effect in April...
Mika Matsufuji, 46, who represents an association of cervical cancer vaccination victims’ parents, said the health panel’s decision was a “big step forward.” Her daughter, who was vaccinated with Cervarix in 2011, lost the ability to walk and is now in a wheelchair, she said.
The group is calling for the vaccinations to be halted.
The panel said there was a strong possibility that severe prolonged pain was caused by some of the vaccinations. It concluded that active recommendation of cervical cancer vaccinations should thus be halted until a more complete picture of their side effects can be attained.
The ministry said this is the second time it has suspended a recommendation related to the regular vaccine program since problems cropped up with the Japanese encephalitis vaccine in 2005...

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun,

The health ministry decided June 14 to withdraw its recommendation for a vaccination to protect girls against cervical cancer after hundreds complained about possible side effects, including long-term pain and numbness.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is not suspending the use of the vaccination, but it has instructed local governments not to promote the use of the medicine while studies are conducted on the matter...
The government’s subsidy program for vaccination against cervical cancer started in 2010. The vaccination became regularly used in April this year under revisions to the Preventive Vaccination Law.
 Those subject to the vaccination range from six-graders of elementary schools to first-year students of senior high schools.
So far, an estimated 3.28 million people have received the vaccination. However, 1,968 cases of possible side effects, including body pain, have been reported.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

GMO Heat Rises Against Monsanto / Wall St. Cheat Sheet

Monsanto (NYSE:MON), the Missouri-based seed company, has stopped lobbying for GMO crops in Europe. The company is backing off because it has accepted that there is low demand for genetically modified plants in Europe. A Monsanto Germany spokeswoman, Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane said ”We’ve come to the conclusion that this has no broad acceptance at the moment.” She also noted that it was “counterproductive to fight against windmills.”
Monsanto has faced a lot of backlash in Europe.  Eight governments in the EU have already banned the company’s MON810 maize as well as other generically modified crops. This environmental protection provision is known as the “Safeguard Clause.”
For instance, the company has faced fierce protests in Germany. These protests prompted the government to enact provisions in 2009 because of concerns that allowing GMO crops would lead to environmental degradation. Other EU members including Greece, France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Luxembourg, and Poland have also enforced a ban on these crops.
A spokesman for Monsanto told the press that they are only going to sell their genetically modified seeds where they have broad support. This means only a few countries in Europe, such as Spain and Portugal. The company is looking in increasing its market share in various parts of the world, such as the traditional corn market in Ukraine. It is looking at Eastern Europe and South America as growth areas, especially after the reception it received in Western Europe.
South America has welcomed GMO crops unlike Europe, but there are still hurdles that Monsanto has to face there as well. Brazil is waiting for approval from China to use Monsanto’s seeds because China is a huge buyer of Brazil’s soybeans.

Vaccinating Maine Children: Doing it Better, Doing it Honestly / Meryl Nass

LD 754, a bill to require that a list of vaccine ingredients be provided to parents when their children are vaccinated, has stirred up a hornet's nest in Augusta.  The gist of what was written in a Bangor Daily News opinion piece and in a paper circulated by Representatives Pringle and Volk is:

           If parents were given a list of vaccine ingredients, a large number might choose not to vaccinate their children. 
           Parents might feel the medical provider did not support vaccinations.  
           Parents might take this as a veiled warning, rather than neutral information.
           The end result could be loss of herd immunity, leading diseases to circulate throughout the population in increasing numbers.

The assumption is that if people knew more about how vaccines are made and what they contained, more parents would not want to vaccinate their children.  

The implication is that the public must be protected and protection requires that parents remain ignorant of some possibly unpleasant facts, unless they make an independent effort to find those facts for themselves.

There are two elephants in the room that underlie the strong feelings engendered by the vaccine issue

*  Elephant #1:  People who vaccinate their children do not want to be put at risk by those who choose not to vaccinate, or who delay vaccinations.  According to CDC, only one percent of American children are unvaccinated, and ten percent receive delayed vaccinations or are partially unvaccinated.

Do these children put others at risk?  Ninety percent of US children are fully up to date with their vaccines. This should be more than sufficient to maintain herd immunity, if the vaccines they receive convey strong, persisting immunity.  But other factors should be considered:

  1. Some vaccine antigens only induce weak, short-term immunity
  2. A growing number of Americans do not develop immunity from the vaccines they receive or cannot safely receive them, due to being too young, receiving immune suppressing drugs, including corticosteroids, for cancer or autoimmune diseases or because they have an immunodeficiency disorder.
Partially or wholly unvaccinated children are wrongly being blamed for disease outbreaks. The US has had increasing numbers of cases of mumps, measles and whooping cough in recent years, but not for the reasons you might think.

According to CDC, over 75% of recent US cases of mumps and whooping cough have occurred in fully vaccinated individuals. Because these vaccines are relatively weak, vaccine-induced immunity, unlike the immunity derived from an infection, wanes rapidly. One recent study showed that only 3 years after receiving the recommended 2 lifetime doses of MMR vaccine, only 93.8% of children had measurable mumps antibody.

Even after receiving 5 doses of the childhood vaccine for whooping cough, immunity is often gone by the next recommended dose 6 years later.  Adding more doses does not fix this problem.

Even if the US were to achieve 100% vaccination rates, this would not prevent vaccine-induced immunity from wearing off, nor would it prevent disease importations from overseas.

Although the material you were given implies that the vaccinated are at risk from the unvaccinated, this is not the main cause of “vaccine-preventable” disease outbreaks in the US.

*  Elephant #2 is very threatening and confusing to parents, as well as to experts:  Do vaccines cause autism?  It is simpler to believe that a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who posited this connection in 1998 in the Lancet and then had his medical license revoked, was dead wrong.  But according to recent figures from CDC, a growing number of American children--2%--now carry an autism diagnosis.  Some of them (30%) developed normally, then regressed into autism at about 18-24 months, sometimes days after a vaccination.  There is still no explanation for this epidemic.  Its cost to society dwarfs those of childhood infectious diseases.

Many parents are understandably scared to vaccinate and scared not to vaccinate. No one has enough information to know what is best to do.  But the fact remains that some vaccines cause permanent neurologic disorders in some children.  The DHHS Vaccine Injury Table lists many disorders that the federal government accepts are the result of vaccine injuries.

It is established that vaccines may cause neurologic disorders and death.  What is not clear is how big the risk is for each child.  Without this information it is impossible to calculate the risks and benefits for vaccines.

Some families pay a terrible price for devastating vaccine injuries.  If serious vaccine injuries are a one-in-a-million-child occurrence, there is probably large benefit from vaccination.  But if they are a common occurrence, it might be safer to omit certain vaccinations. Yet no definitive research has clarified the frequency of vaccine injuries.  

Vaccine Safety and the Duty to Warn

Congress, the FDA and Supreme Court acknowledge that as a class, vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe.”  As noted in the DHHS Vaccine Injury Table, vaccines in some cases cause paralysis, encephalopathy, encephalitis, brain damage, anaphylaxis, chronic arthritis, polio, measles, and other serious medical problems, including death.

The dissenting Supreme Court opinion in the 2011 Brusewitz v Wyeth case, which removed all potential liability from vaccine manufacturers, points out the importance of proper directions and warnings for vaccines. The absence of adequate warning to consumers is considered a labeling defect.  “Congress created a presumption that, for purposes of §22(b)(1), “a vaccine shall be presumed to be accompanied by proper directions and warnings if the vaccine manufacturer shows that it complied in all material respects with” federal labeling requirements. 42 U. S. C. §300aa–22(b)(2).”  

Finding vaccines unavoidably unsafe, Congress specified that manufacturers had a duty to warn consumers. Now that many people are being vaccinated in supermarkets and drug stores, precluding any discussion with a medical provider, the duty to warn is even greater than when first required by Congress. Parents receive vaccine information sheets when their children are vaccinated, but often not until after the vaccine is administered.

The Future of US Vaccines

Clearly, what are needed are better vaccines:  those that will offer reliable, long-lasting immunity and reduce serious side effects to the lowest possible level. However, neither goal will be achieved under the current system, as there is no incentive for vaccine manufacturers to improve their products while the vaccines are mandated and their manufacturers protected from any liability by law.

Achieving this will require research into the causes and rates of vaccine injury, untainted by vested interests.

Furthermore, there is no incentive to create the very best vaccines for diseases of the future. To the contrary, some future vaccines are likely to be more dangerous than currently licensed vaccines. 

Although a swine flu vaccine used in Europe (Pandemrix) caused over 800 cases of severe narcolepsy in children, the vaccine adjuvant that most experts suspect was the culprit, ASO3, may soon be included in a US vaccine.  According to Reuters:

"The adjuvant in the Pandemrix vaccine is very potent and we think it may have played a role," says Markku Partinen, a neurologist at the Helsinki Sleep Clinic in Finland who has spent the past few years investigating what might be behind the link between the vaccine and narcolepsy.

If it is the reason for the spike in the disease, Partinen and other researchers think it may be because the adjuvant's strength boosted not just a good immune response but possibly an adverse one too.

Partinen was one of the first scientists to pick up a signal that something might be going awry in children in Finland vaccinated with Pandemrix in a nationwide immunization campaign against the H1N1 flu.

Since then studies in Sweden, Finland, Ireland and now Britain have found the risk of developing narcolepsy is between seven and 13 times higher in children who were immunized with Pandemrix than in those who were not.

Among the 800 cases of Pandemrix-related narcolepsy reported so far across Europe, many are children who say the life-long and incurable disease has all but wrecked normal life.”

Scientists believe AS03 may be the culprit in the narcolepsy cases though they have yet to decipher the precise nature of the association.

That uncertainty poses a challenge for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is considering an AS03-containing vaccine for use in the event of an H5N1 bird flu epidemic. Like Pandemrix, which has not been approved in the United States, it is made by GSK and is almost identical in structure.

A 14-member panel of advisors to the FDA voted unanimously in November to recommend the vaccine to protect against bird flu. The panel considered early studies from Europe showing an increase in the number of narcolepsy cases but concluded that the potential benefit of the vaccine outweighed the risk…’’


What should the Maine Legislature do?  Consider the following:

Ø    Manufacturers face zero risk of liability for vaccine injuries.  Many vaccinations are now given in the absence of medical providers, eliminating possible discussion of risks and benefits.  How can Maine best support the duty to warn consumers of potential vaccine risks and benefits? This duty falls on the manufacturer, but should also fall on the state when it mandates childhood vaccinations.  

Ø    Should the vaccine information statement be given to parents before their children are vaccinated?  Should parents sign a form that says they have read the statement before their children are vaccinated?  Should parents be given a list of ingredients in the vaccine?  Should parents be informed when ASO3 or a similar novel adjuvant is included in a vaccine?

Ø    Can Maine establish a data collection for regressive autism cases, to assess the temporal relationship between vaccinations and neurologic changes?

Ø    Maine is one of a small number of states that initiated school-based flu vaccine clinics in 2009.  Their value is questionable and cost significant.  The federal CDC grant for these clinics covered the last two flu seasons and has expired. Should the state continue to support them?  Perhaps the money saved could be spent on a study of vaccinations and their relationship to neurologic disorders in Maine.

Ø    Should the Maine legislature suggest to Congress that it revisit the issue of vaccine liability, in order to create incentives for better and safer future vaccines?

Genetically Modified Organisms: Want More Information?

Dr. Joe Mercola published an excellent short piece on GMOs this week here.

EarthOpenSource published a 123 page report on the science of GMOs, here.