Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Were Kansas voting machines programmed like VWs to record votes incorrectly only under certain conditions?/ IVN

by David Yee at IVN:
The VW case of tampering with the computing in their automobiles for emission tests once again highlights just how easy it is for a computer to “do” whatever it’s programmed to do — even if for nefarious reasons. With a simple switch inserted into the program, the output is factual when circumstances are one way and are tainted when it’s another way.
This is the fundamental claim that Dr. Beth Clarkson is making in the Kansas voting recount case. While Republicans were ahead, the votes were counted correctly, while Democrats (and independent Greg Orman) were ahead, it was almost like a switch was turned on to skew the results back to Republican.

So what’s the fundamental difference? Both the U.S. and German governments have pounced on VW’s software issues, launching full investigations, and assessing huge fines.
What has happened in any of the cases involving likely voter tampering of machines? Nothing.
Dr. Clarkson stated in her latest news letter that she now has both legal representation and a date for discovery — so the case is moving through the wheels of justice slowly.
But this is a sad reality. We jump on statistical anomalies that alert us to potential food contamination in our food supply, we test our water supplies daily for the same reason, and we test cars to make sure they are upholding legal emission standards. So why on earth are we not testing voting machines, something that has a complete and irreparable impact on our republican form of government?
The unwillingness of state officials, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (the chief election officer), to do anything is only making this worse. And the problems will continue to get worse as America’s voting machines continue to age — with the oldest being about 15 years on average. These machines use outdated and unsupported operating systems, but they are still deemed “safe” for elections?
There has to be a balance between the quick delivery of election results on election night and the integrity of the vote itself. Because once human eyes are taken out of the equation, the fraud becomes greater and much harder to find.
For me, I’m alright with going to bed on election night not knowing the winner if it means that the system is more secure and our republic isn’t being ruled by “cyber-criminals” the next day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

China Probes Ex-Official Who Oversaw Clinical Trials for Bribery/ Bloomberg

Drugs and devices licensed in the US often rely on data generated overseas for FDA approval.  It should come as no surprise that FDA oversight of foreign clinical trials may be weak or nonexistent, and that drug/device approvals today seem more and more likely to be based on data whose reliability is far from assured...especially when the stakes are so high.  The cost of doing business for big pharma has included fines of billions of dollars, when they are occasionally found out.  

From the point of view of a physician, prescribing newly licensed drugs to patients is a nerve-wracking activity, as I have no assurance they are as safe and effective as claimed.  And they are assuredly more expensive than the old standards.  From Bloomberg

Chinese prosecutors announced a bribery investigation into a former national health official who for at least a decade oversaw clinical drug trials and implemented hospital policies. Wang Yu, the former director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s bureau of medical administration, has been arrested and is being investigated by prosecutors in the southwestern province of Sichuan, China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate said on its website Tuesday. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that Wang was suspected of violating Communist Party discipline, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named because the probe wasn’t public.
Before retiring last year, Wang was responsible for supervising trials of drugs and medical devices, as well as drafting policies for medical institutions. The prosecutor’s statement Tuesday provided no details about bribery allegations against him.
The health industry is facing greater scrutiny in China, with the government in September fining British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc 3 billion yuan ($484 million) for paying bribes to win customers in the world’s most populous country. Authorities also last year started a preliminary probe into the business practices of foreign medical-equipment makers, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Real Afghanistan Surge is in Heroin Production and Tripled Opium Cultivation since the US military arrived/ UN and US Government documents

Recently I worked in another Maine city and was astonished at the number of patients I encountered who were using heroin. I had never seen anything like it, during a lifetime practicing medicine. In New Hampshire, it was said, deaths from heroin now exceed deaths from car accidents. Massachusetts (population under 7 million) had 1,000 deaths related to (all) opioids in 2014, "the highest ever recorded. According to CDC, in the two years between 2010 and 2012, heroin overdose rates in the Northeast tripled.  

The US now has 600,000 heroin users, triple the amount of five years earlier, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.  Or it may instead have between 800,000 and 2.6 million, according to RAND report estimates published by the White House in 2014.

I've heard stories on NPR about insufficient state funding of heroin treatment facilities. I've heard about plans to make the antidote Narcan (naloxone) available to drug users, for overdoses. (Since I wrote this piece, a nasal spray version of Narcan has been approved for narcotic overdoses by FDA, and the drug may now be purchased without a prescription.) Another popular angle I've seen repeated over and over (and one currently pushed by the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy) claims legal prescriptions for narcotics increased, then became harder to get, so users switched to heroin, which was also cheaper.

Marijuana used to be claimed the "entry" drug to heroin, but now prescription narcotics have assumed that role. How times change. 

The narrative that has been presented to us implies that massively increased heroin use has nothing to do with increased supply. (This violates the laws of arithmetic and economics, not to mention common sense.) In Europe, West Asia and Russia, everyone knows their rising numbers of addicts reflects a huge increase in available heroin.  But the media obscure that fact, here.

If increased prescriptions for controlled substances was the primary cause of the heroin epidemic, then Americans would also be using more cocaine.  The massive increase in ADHD drug prescriptions (presumed "entry" drugs for cocaine) should have caused a cocaine explosion.

While prescriptions for narcotics (hydrocodone and oxycodone) increased 4.5-fold between 1991 and 2007 in the US, prescriptions for ADHD stimulants rose even more, by 7-fold, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse testimony to Congress in 2008

Total number of prescriptions dispensed by US retail pharmacies  - shows trends increasing from 1991 to 2007, see caption

But in fact, the DOJ-DEA 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary notes that cocaine availability "remains stable at historically low levels throughout most domestic markets along the East Coast."  A RAND Report noted, "From 2006 to 2010, the amount of cocaine consumed in the United States declined by about 50 percent — an unprecedented change over five years."  There has been a parallel decline in methamphetamine use.

So prescription drug users are switching to heroin, but not switching to cocaine.  Might this be because we have no large military-CIA presence currently in cocaine-trafficking areas, as we did during the 1980s Contra war in Nicaragua, when cocaine use was at high levels? (Coca plants are only grown in South America's Andes.) According to a 2010 UN document"Based on seizure figures, it appears that cocaine markets grew most dramatically during the 1980s, when the amounts seized increased by more than 40% per year".  (See this 1987 Senate hearing and this for evidence of CIA and State Dept. connivance with cocaine trafficking by the Contras.)

You can frame stories about the current heroin problem in many ways.  But the real heroin story isn't being discussed--which is that since the US military entered Afghanistan in 2001, its opium production doubled, per the UN Afghanistan Opium Survey 2014, page 34.  The area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan has tripled. And the resulting heroin appears to more easily make its way deep into our rural, as well as urban communities. CDC noted, "Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013." By 2014 there were 10,500 heroin overdose deaths, 6 times as many as in 2001.

The graph below is from the 2014 UN Opium Survey:

The world supply of opium increased 5-fold between 1980 and 2010according to the UN."Afghanistan account[s] for around 90% of global illicit opium production in recent years. By itself, Afghanistan provides 85% of the estimated global heroin and morphine supply, a near monopoly."(see pp 37-38).    
“The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, sustaining criminal networks, and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups,” John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan reconstruction, said in an October 2014 letter to the heads of the Departments of Defense, State and Justice, which have all played major roles in the failed drug intervention effort. “Despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counter-narcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013."
Despite the (now) US $8.4 billion spent to defeat this trade, it just keeps growing.  The costs of US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan total "$110 billion, after adjusting for inflation, [which] exceeds the value of the entire Marshall Plan effort to rebuild Western Europe after World War II" according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, speaking in May 2015.

The Special Inspector General noted elsewhere that, "US reconstruction projects, particularly those devoted to “improved irrigation, roads, and agricultural assistance” were probably leading to the explosion in opium cultivation."

Only 1.2% of the acreage used for Afghan opium production (which is estimated at 224,000 hectares or 554,000 acres) was eradicated in 2014, according to the UN. Burma (now Myanmar) is the world's second largest producer of opium, according to the UN, currently growing only about 10% as much as Afghanistan. But Mexico has increased production and is #3.

According to the UN World Drug Report, in the 1990's Afghanistan supplied opium that was converted into half the world's heroin production.  According to University of Wisconsin Professor Alfred McCoy, the rapid 1980s rise in Afghani opium production came about through CIA efforts to create, arm and fund the mujahedeen using opium sales. (After defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan the mujahedeen morphed into Al Qaeda).  By 2010, Afghanistan supplied 90% of the world's total heroin.

But the DEAWhite House and other official US sources claim that US heroin derives almost entirely (96%) from Latin American-grown opium (based on seizures of shipments); the DEA in 2014 claimed that Latin America was the source for the vast majority of US heroin, with southwest Asia (i.e., Afghanistan) accounting for only 4% of US heroin in 2012. 

This is highly unlikely.  In 2008, the UN estimated that the US and Canada accounted for 13% of global heroin use.  Ninety-five percent of global heroin derives from Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand and Laos. Latin America (mainly Mexico, with a small amount from Colombia) does not produce enough to supply even half of US heroin, let alone 96%. In fact, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy undercut its own claim when it noted Mexico had (only) 10,500 hectares under poppy cultivation in 2012 and Colombia 1,100 hectares in 2009, while Afghanistan had 154,000 hectares in 2012 and 224,000 hectares in 2014 per UN estimates.

This DEA claim, based on heroin interdiction, suggests something entirely different: that heroin shipments coming by air from Afghanistan are at lower risk of being seized than heroin coming from Latin America. Might some be entering via official government channels, when so much materiel and so many people (soldiers, aid workers, diplomats and contractors) fly directly between the US and Afghanistan? [At the same time, some Afghan-origin heroin does enter the US by way of Mexico.]

Putting aside the issue of the provenance of the US heroin supply for the moment, surely we can look at heroin as we would any other global commodity.

Congruent with the 1980s mujahedeen fight against the Soviets [here is the bland UN phrasing] : "...the Soviet invasion in 1979, [which] triggered the mass production of opiates in Afghanistan"and then -- in a repeat performance -- congruent with the US presence in Afghanistan since 2001, Afghanistan rapidly expanded opium production, and the global supply of heroin increased concomitantly. The price dropped as a result. New buyers entered the market. And the US now has, at least, several hundred thousand new addicts.  Russia and the rest of Europe (with overland access to Afghanistan) have even more. The resulting social problems are hugely tragic and hugely costly for millions of families, and for our societies as a whole. 

If we start being honest about why there is a major heroin epidemic, maybe we can get serious about solving the problem with meaningful eradication and interdiction. Aerial spraying of crops with herbicides or similar methods has been prohibited in Afghanistan, but it works. In 2014, Britain's former Ambassador to Afghanistan (2010-2012) called for legalization and regulation of illicit drugs as one means of attacking the problem.  

Looking beyond the Mexican border for heroin, and inspecting all flights from southwest Asia, including military and CIA flights, could have a large impact on supply as well.

Serious measures are needed.  Total world production of opiates always gets consumed: historically, the market for opiates has been extremely elastic.  Land under poppy cultivation (in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle and Mexico) continues to increase. Without meaningful efforts to reduce opium production and entry of narcotics into the US, the epidemic of heroin addiction could become a considerably bigger problem than it is today.

UPDATE:  From the Sept 7 Wall Street Journal, we learn that a US "friendly fire" airstrike in southern Afghanistan on Sept 6 "hit a 30 member elite counternarcotics police unit as they were on a mission...

At least 11 died in "one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in the country in recent years." Here is the Reuters story. The US denied the strike in Helmand province, but admitted to airstrikes in the adjacent province of Kandahar. According to the Guardian, "The US is the only member of the NATO coalition known to have carried out bombing raids in Afghanistan this year." The AP/WaPo on 9/8/15 reported that, "Brigadier General Shoffner [Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications in Afghanistan] said 'based on information we received [on 9/8], we feel it is prudent to investigate the airstrike our forces conducted in Kandahar.'"

The airstrike killed approximately as many people as died in counternarcotics efforts in all Afghanistan throughout 2014.

UPDATE:  Helmand is the major opium-producing province in Afghanistan; military efforts in Helmand are managed primarily by the UK.  In 2010, the magazine The Week accused UK soldiers of importing heroin back to Europe and Canada in military planes.

UPDATE:  I have marshalled considerably more evidence about the false narratives that been spread regarding the current heroin epidemic.  Their purpose is to misdirect us away from the true cause (massively increased heroin entering the US) and solutions (interdicting or destroying the Afghan opium crop).  

Since I wrote this piece, the US's top General in Afghanistan, John Campbell, told Congress we need a five year plan for US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan. What precisely are we doing there?  What does CIA do there? Why has the US military been prevented from stopping opium production in territories it controls?  Does an even worse Afghan heroin epidemic in Russia affect US strategic thinking?  What did Hillary Clinton know and do about rising Afghan heroin production during her time as Secretary of State?  Why aren't these questions being asked of our Presidential candidates?

Let me credit Professor Alfred McCoy's work, which provided me historical background: he is probably the world's foremost scholar on the subject of the global production and trade in illicit drugs.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

"One Less" country--Japan--swallows Merck's lies about its HPV vaccine; Japan establishes guidelines and special clinics to treat HPV vaccine-injured girls/ Medscape

Vaccine injuries are real.  They can be serious and often fail to respond to treatment. The most serious injuries are usually to the brain. Vaccine injuries may cause death. The US' federal vaccine injury compensation program has paid out $3.18 billion dollars in compensation for vaccine injuries since the program was established in 1988. 
Yet with the stoking of fears over measles and the claimed desperate need for vaccine mandates in 2015, these truths about vaccine injuries have been overlooked, or deliberately ignored by the media.
It is hard to believe, but there is lack of proof that HPV vaccines actually prevent cervical cancer.  That is why I have published an excerpt from FDA's initial Gardasil approval letter below.  Gardasil HPV vaccine was licensed under "fast-track" authority by FDA in 2006 with limited data and its manufacturer, Merck, was required by FDA to collect data through 2017 to determine whether Gardasil really does prevent cancer:
  1. You have committed to collaborate with the cancer registries in four countries in the Nordic Region ( Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark) to assess long-term outcomes following administration of GARDASI®. In this study, approximately 5,500 subjects enrolled in Protocol 015 (one half from the placebo group that will have been vaccinated shortly after approval) will be followed for a total of 14 years. Two major goals of this study are: 1) to assess the long-term effectiveness of GARDASIL® by evaluating biopsy specimens for presence of HPV 6/11/16/18-related incident breakthrough cases of CIN 2/3, AIS and cervical cancer, VIN 2/3 and vulvar cancer, and VaIN 2/3 and vaginal cancer; and 2) to assess whether administration of GARDASIL® will result in replacement of these diseases due to vaccine HPV types with diseases due to non-vaccine HPV types. This study is designed to accomplish these goals as discussed in the June 6, 2006, submission to your BLA. The final protocol for this study will be submitted by December 8, 2006. Patient accrual for this study was previously completed in the context of Protocol 015. This study will be completed by December 31, 2017, (14 years from initiation of the last patient enrolled in Protocol 015 in the four Nordic countries). The final study report will be submitted by December 31, 2018...--from FDA to Merck
Furthermore, the Gardasil label explicitly notes that recipients must still have regular PAP smears, precisely because it is not clear Gardasil prevents the development of cancer, while PAP smears enable early detection and treatment before a cervical lesion evolves into cancer:
"...Limitations of GARDASIL Use and Effectiveness:• GARDASIL does not eliminate the necessity for women to continue to undergo recommended cervical cancer screening..."
So the vaccine may work.  Or it may not.  But that has not stopped some states and countries from recommending or requiring this vaccine (intended for a sexually transmitted disease) for all children in junior high school.  Rhode Island just mandated HPV vaccine for all 7th grade students in July 2015. 

How safe are HPV vaccines? We lack reliable data, but there are many reports of serious injuries. 

Now Japan (after 358 vaccine injuries judged serious and 2,000 adverse event reports) has not only rescinded its recommendation that girls receive this vaccine, but has also established guidelines and special clinics for evaluating and treating illnesses caused by the Gardasil and Cervarix HPV vaccines.
From Medscape:
"Japan has put in place a scheme to manage symptoms, especially generalized chronic pain, that have arisen after human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination given to adolescents to protect against cervical cancer.
Although there have been assurances on the safety of HPV vaccination from many official medical bodies since the vaccines were first introduced — Gardasil (Merck & Co.) in 2006 and Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline) in 2009 — there have also been persistent reports of rare cases of adverse events. These include case reports in the medical literature of complex regional pain syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.
In July 2015, the European Medicines Agency announced that it was conducting a safety review of HPV vaccines, which was requested by Denmark, where reports of adverse events after HPV vaccination have been widely reported in the media.
Japan withdrew its recommendation for HPV vaccine in 2013, and has not reversed that decision because of concerns from the public about adverse events, which included long-term pain and numbness, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.
Since then, various symptoms, especially generalized chronic pain after injection, have been reported.
Last month, guidelines for the evaluation and management of symptoms that begin after HPV vaccine injection were issued to healthcare professionals. The guidelines were edited and approved by the Japan Medical Association (JMA) and the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences (JAMS).
In addition, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has issued a list of medical institutions where people can visit when they have symptoms after HPV injection; there is at least one in each prefecture. Healthcare workers at those selected institutions are educated by the JMA. However, this does not mean other institutions cannot accept those people with symptoms. The ministry has also issued information regarding HPV vaccine-related health problems and questions, with a telephone helpline..."