Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Signing off for awhile

Had a blast. Learned a lot. Met so many great people.

Life changes compel me to put the blogging aside for now. Had my own rose-colored glasses shattered. Time to regroup.

Hope to be back at this sometime soon...


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pandemic Flu Awareness Week

Another cogent argument from Dr. Ralph Faggotter of Healthy Skepticism in Australia.

This was in response to a message I sent to our listserv letting everyone know that Oct 3 – 9 is Pandemic Flu Awareness Week (this is not a spoof but an earnest effort by a group of very concerned citizens to help us prepare for the potential crisis.)

Dr. Faggotter wrote:

Every now and then the Media goes into a collective feeding frenzy over an issue which is entirely imaginary. (Think Saddam's WMDs). (On the other hand, the Media often fails to report on monumentally significant real events such as the collapse of the Larsen B ice-shelf in 2002 which was one of the most important events of the last 14,000 years and scarcely rated a mention in the mainstream media).

One such imaginary event is the 'Bird Flu Pandemic'. Type 'Bird Flu Pandemic' into Google and you will come up with 1/2 a million hits. Now the skeptically inclined might be wondering what this is all about.

The Avian Flu Virus lives in its Avian hosts as it has done for centuries. Every now and then a human is accidentally cross-infected. At the same time every creature on earth from the size of bacteria upwards is in the same position.

Think of the millions of viruses which live in the bacteria which live in our tummies. There are millions of different viruses out there which have non-humans as their natural hosts but which can potentially jump across to humans or other species on occasion. But the very factors which make a virus well adapted to one host are likely to make it poorly adapted to another host. This is why viral infections in humans, where humans are not the natural host, tend to fizzle out rather than spread (with some notable exceptions).

In order for the Avian Flu Virus to cause a serious pandemic in the human population it would have to undergo some serious evolution. It would have to learn how to be spread by aerosol droplets rather than excreta, and how to transmit from human to human without losing its infectivity or virulence.

This is a big ask. Sure it could happen soon, but more likely it will happen long after we are all dead from other more probable causes which we failed to notice because we were too busy jumping at shadows.

The skeptic always likes to ask- "Who stands to benefit from all this publicity?" The beneficiaries can be loosely divided into 4 groups-

  • The Media- which thrives on hype and fear.
  • Governments- which can divert attention away from their failings and expand their powers by appearing to be 'seizing the initiative'.
  • Pharmaceutical companies- which manufacture anti-viral agents and vaccines.
  • Academics, researchers and 'public health experts'- who are looking for funds for their work.

Friday, October 07, 2005

How would YOU spend $3.9 Billion

While so many of us in developed countries focus our attention on the not-yet-real avian flu pandemic, wringing our hands and federal budgets to figure out how to protect our own lives, the World Bank has some data to help put all of our concerns into a new perspective:

From Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene account for a large part of the burden of illness and death in developing countries:

Approximately 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year cause 2.2 million deaths, most – 1.7 million – are children under the age of five, about 15% of all under 5 deaths in developing countries.

Diarrheal diseases account for 4.3% of the total global disease burden (62.5 million DALYs). An estimated 88% of this burden is attributable to unsafe drinking water supply, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. These risk factors are second, after malnutrition, in contributing to the global burden of disease.

Does this not cause you to pause and wonder if, just maybe, last week’s Senate vote to provide $3.9 billion in emergency funds to plan for and react to a bird-flu outbreak in the USA could have been allocated to a more pressing human health need?

Worse than how easily we can be whipped into a frenzy about dangers that may (or may not) lurk in our own dark corners, is how easily we can ignore the appalling living conditions in which the majority of the world’s people live. Be they in Asia, Africa or the poorest neighborhoods in America, my guess is that most people in the world don’t have the time or energy to worry about some future virus they may never live to see.

Enough kvetching - here's a challenge for you – and I’ll offer a prize to the person who responds with the most creative and compassionate idea.

If you were in the Senate, how would you vote to spend $3.9 billion?

Back up your idea with an argument or two.

I’ll mail one person a copy of a fantastic book called, “The Power of Giving: Creating abundance in your home, at work, and in your community.” I think the message in this book is so important that I bought four copies to give away – I have one left.

I’d love to see some creative thinking. And I’ll let you all decide who I should mail the book to. Please post your ideas. Debate and/or support each other’s ideas.

Herbinator, Lil Bobo, Alisa, Gina, Free Thinker, Omni, Dawn, The Fly, Caron, Pam, Salem Watchen, Polanco, Bryan & Cherene, Toad734 …and the rest of you… Think of the power we would have if all of us engaged in some collective problem-solving together!

And if you think your blog readers may have some good ideas for how to spend US tax-payer money, send them on over to Shattering Rose-Colored Glasses where new ideas are always welcome.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

You say "pandemic," I say "fear mongering"

It’s flu season again! Every year, right after back-to-school season, the government, media and pharma marketers kick the flu season into high gear.

Since the small and unfortunate SARS “outbreak” that killed a few hundred people in North America two years ago, fear of a global flu pandemic has grown to well, pandemic proportions. But since SARS did not make a comeback last year, seems the dread Avian flu is the preferred poster child about which to panic – compared in most cases to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

The stats to be found about deaths caused by the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic vary widely. Most researchers and writers claim that between 20 and 50 million people died…some say 20 percent of the world population succumbed to that flu, which, given the population of 1.8 billion at the time, would mean that as many as 360 million people contracted the Spanish flu.

So, today, we have almost four times the population that we had in 1918: there are close to 6.5 billion people on Earth…and, since 2003 we’ve had under 100 deaths from Avian Flu, all of which have occurred among people who live in close proximity to their fowl…so, I’m at a loss to understand how the American government can compare the Avian Flu to the Spanish Flu without cracking a sly smile and high-fiving their pharma friends (stock prices will soar if this flu pandemic ever really flies).

So, what about that Spanish flu of 1918? What do we know about it and why it spread around the world with such apparent ease? War was certainly a factor and American soldiers have been fingered as one of the main targets for both spreading and dieing from the flu. (Hmm…maybe there is reason to make the comparison after all, given how many American soldiers are taking roots all over the world today…)

If you pick up any newspaper, turn on any TV news in the next weeks and months, you’ll hear lots of breathless hyperbole about the imminent, unstoppable and deadly flu pandemic that is on the verge of ravaging the Earth. You’ll be told to get your regular flu vaccine, and your avian flu shot, and your anti-terrorist immunizations, and then you’ll willingly ask for antidepressants, and anti-panic pills, and high blood pressure medication because the world is such a scary place to live these days. I want my Mommy!

Here are a few thoughts from people whose ideas you won’t see covered by the mainstream media:

Vaccine, Not Virus Responsible for Spanish Flu
Who knows if this story from the Irish Examiner, May 2003, has any teeth. I don’t. But what strikes me are two lines of text:
This disaster occurred when viruses were unknown to medical science. It took a British science team to identify the first virus in man in 1933.
Throws just a little light on why it’s so hard to get a good sense of how many people died of the Spanish flu, no? Maybe throws into question not only how many people died, but exactly what they died from …odds are we’ll never know, given the medical data of the time was not able to tell us, and that revisionist history is rampant in cases of disease-caused deaths. But there are a few theories out in the world. Among them…

Murder by Injection by Eustace Mullins (page 138)
"Medical historians have finally come to the reluctant conclusion that the great flu "epidemic" of 1918 was solely attributable to the widespread use of vaccines. It was the first war in which vaccination was compulsory for all servicemen. The Boston Herald reported that forty-seven soldiers had been killed by vaccination in one month. As a result, the military hospitals were filled, not with wounded combat casualties, but with casualties of the vaccine. The epidemic was called "the Spanish Influenza," a deliberately misleading appellation, which was intended to conceal its origin. This flu epidemic claimed twenty million victims; those who survived it were the ones who had refused the vaccine."

Vaccination Mythology
Reprint of part of a letter sent by John P Heptonstall (Director of Morley Acupuncture Clinic and Complementary Therapy Centre) to the British Medical Journal, January 24, 2000.

"The 1918 'Spanish Flu' started in American military Camp Funston, Fort Riley, USA amongst troops making ready for W.W.I - taking on board vaccinations, recruit training and all. It eventually killed about 40,000,000 people worldwide. That flu strain only appeared briefly once again, according to the US Atlanta CDC. This was in 1976 and again it struck at the US army camp Fort Dix, USA, amongst recently vaccinated troops (and no one else EVER); Fort Dix is known to have been a vaccine trial centre. Was the world's greatest 'influenza' scourge another well-hidden vaccine disaster?"
And finally, a paragraph from The Survival Factor in Neoplastic and Viral Diseases by Dr. William Koch. This book is out of print. Published in 1958. I suspect the data he cites here could be verified, but sadly, that is not on my list of things to do today.

"In 1918, the US Army forced the vaccination of 3,285,376 natives in the Philippines when no epidemic was brewing, only the sporadic cases of the usual mild nature. Of the vaccinated persons, 47,369 came down with small-pox, and of these 16,477 died. In 1919 the experiment was doubled. 7,670,252 natives were vaccinated. Of these 65,180 victims came down with small-pox, and 44,408 died. In the first experiment, one-third died, and in the second, two-thirds of the infected ones died."

One more finally - check out the wiki encyclopedia's entry on the Spanish Flu. There are many sources of info cited - none of which/whom could be labelled as anti-medico freaks, so they should be considered reasonably credible. Read between the lines, not just what's said explicitly.
If you decide to skip the annual flu vaccine this year, and want to keep healthy, the best advice I’ve seen so far is to stay away from the target population that seems to be the virus’ mechanism for reaching out and touching someone: toddlers and elementary school-age kids.

And if you have kids that you can’t give away just yet – I recommend isolation of the whole family. You can’t be careful enough…in case you haven’t heard, there’s a killer flu on the horizon…

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The raw (and ugly) truth about the war on drugs

Great article at NewsTarget.com about America's love affair with prescription drugs and fear of illegal drugs.

Here's a snippet:
But wait a minute, you say. Those legal drugs are different from marijuana. They're FDA-approved drugs, prescribed by a doctor. They have a medical purpose.

Oh really? Ritalin has a medical purpose? What medical symptoms does Ritalin treat, then? What measurable physiological state is addressed with Ritalin? There are none, of course. Ritalin is an authority drug. It keeps children in line. It makes teachers feel less stress and parents feel less guilt. Ritalin is a mind-altering narcotic, and yet millions of children are on it today. Its purpose is not to help children, but to make life more convenient for those who manage children.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

We truly are a vaccine nation

Where to start? I think first, with a deep breath. Or two…or three…

I just spent a week participating in a workshop with Lynne Twist, probably the most effective individual donor fundraising in the world today and, a woman who is the embodiment of integrity. I learned more about myself in her workshop than I even knew I needed to learn!

One of the principles Lynne helped me recognize was the difference between taking a position on an issue, and taking a stand for an issue. I have long struggled with my film Vaccine Nation because although, for my own family, I hold a strong position (I will not allow myself or my son to be vaccinated), that position is not what I want to communicate in my film. I believe that all parents should make every decision about their children’s health for themselves – and, most importantly, that every decision must be a well-informed decision.

With the guidance of Lynne Twist, I was finally able to articulate what I stand for, as distinct from and able to exist alongside, my own position on vaccinations.

In a phrase, I stand for living in the Socratic tradition of asking questions of systems that individuals and societies take for granted. A high-falootin’ way to say, I believe that people have the right to question authority.

So this article from my favourite source of medical mayhem actually had the effect of causing me to hold my breath for so long I now feel dizzy and faint.

Here’s the headline:
Pediatricians Would Give Vaccine-Averse Parents the Boot

And one of the opening paragraphs:

In a survey of 302 pediatricians who provide routine vaccinations in a primary care setting, 39% said they would dismiss from their care families who refused all vaccinations, and 28% said they would terminate their relationship with a family who refused select vaccinations.
The author of this “Teaching Brief” goes on to advise,

Physician concerns about liability should be addressed by good documentation of the discussion of the benefits of immunization and the risks associated with remaining unimmunized.

That one sentence captures exactly why I quit my full-time job four years and have invested thousands of hours researching, writing and seeking funding to make the film Vaccine Nation.

What about telling the parents of that perfect 2-month old they're holding in their arms that there are risks associated with the vaccine? What arrogance to think that because doctors are in a position that society has given power to, that they have the right to selectively share information with patients and with parents of infants, who would not be patients were the vaccine culture not so embedded in North American society? They get those first shots at their "Healthy Baby Check-up!"

I actually feel nauseous. In fact, I can’t stop weeping. This is so troubling.

The problem is, we parents believe in our doctors without questioning them. By the millions we march our healthy infants, and toddlers, and 5-year olds, and teenagers into the doctors’ offices for shots that have never actually been proven to prevent disease. For shots that have caused so many children to suffer disabilities, and even die, that the vaccine-makers do not stand behind the safety of their own vaccines.

In 1986, the Institute of Medicine acknowledged that childhood vaccines can cause brain and immune system dysfunction. In response, and because the vaccine manufacturers refused to acknowledge the potential harm (they refused to engage in lawsuits), Congress established the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. They also established a fund to pay off vaccine-victims and their families. To date, despite the burden of proving a causal link between a vaccine and an adverse vaccine event, almost $656 million has been paid out to American families who have suffered a vaccine-induced injury.

Check the stats here, at the US Department of Health and Human Services website. (And if you ever wondered what the monetary value of your infant is in the United States, here’s your answer: "Awards for death cases are capped at $250,000 plus attorneys' fees/costs.")

So, once you’ve taken a look at the facts, please write to tell me where you stand. If you stand with me, if you believe that parents need to be given the respect to be trusted to make informed health decisions on their children’s behalf, then join me in the work that I have committed to do.

To change the current system we need stories. Share yours. Connect me to people who have stories. Doctors who don't force vaccinate. Parents who have taken a stand against the system. Children who have refused the hep b vaccine. Stories of courage and questioning.

We need money - $250,000 to make a film that will expose the truths that have been hidden about vaccines and the so-called, vaccine-preventable-diseases. (It’s not that much…just the cost of one vaccine-preventable death.) If the annual flu shot is provided by your workplace, whether you have the shot or not, I encourage you to take up a donation for this film, when the nurses and needles are in your office. If just a couple of hundred people took this initiative, we would have funding to get started by Christmas.

And I need moral support. Since my son was born nine year ago I have fought for my right to refuse vaccinations so many times I sometimes find myself tired of the fight. But I love my son so deeply, and the children he plays with, and the kids he’ll one day meet in college and all the people who will never even directly touch his life, that I continue to stand for what I believe in: truly informed consent. Even when it means I take punches for my stand. Knowing that others are with me, hoping for the same thing I am, is sometimes just what I need to hear to keep my faith that change can be made and will come.

I am grateful for all the blessings I have received and that I have the tools to write this blog today.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Killing us for profit

I’ve been away. Off-the-grid for a whole week. No newspapers. No radio. No TV. No Internet. (And no drugs, legal or otherwise).

Just downloaded a week’s worth of email messages. Among them all my various and sundry health story alerts.

Here are the headlines that caught my eye:

MedPageToday: Lilly to Include Warning about Suicidal Thoughts on Strattera Label

New York Times: F.D.A. Orders New Warning on an Attention-Deficit Drug

The gist of this new research is that kids who take Strattera to help treat their ADHD are more inclined to have thoughts of suicide than kids put on placebos.

The best quote in the New York Times article has to be this one:
"We believe Strattera is a safe and effective treatment option, and attention deficit disorder has its own risks for people who stop taking the medication based on something they hear," said Dr. John Hayes, vice president for Lilly Research Laboratories. "We are advising people who have concerns to consult their physician."
The risk of suicidal ideation is high enough to have the typically toothless FDA step in and demand a black box warning, yet the company that produces Strattera is messaging that it could be riskier to go off the drug…maybe, but the obvious spin made me dizzy.

MedPageToday: Manufacturer Warns of Potential Birth Defects with Paxil

Forbes: New Warning Issued on Paxil

The nut of this research is that pregnant American women who take the antidepressant Paxil in their first trimester are more likely to give birth to babies with major congenital malformations. A little side story is that a Spanish study found that babies born of moms on Paxil had the highest rates of neonatal withdrawal syndrome.

And no surprise, the makers of Paxil, GlaxoSmithKline, stand by their drug and caution that while there appear to be risks to taking Paxil while pregnant, there are also risks of withdrawing from using the drug while pregnant.

The solution seems pretty easy for both of these drugs and the risks of withdrawal effects: don’t take them in the first place.

If your kid is hyper, start by changing his diet. Replace some of his screen time with judo or soccer.

If your wife-of-child-bearing-age is depressed, talk to her…go for nice walks after a healthy dinner…work with her to determine why she’s unhappy and change the situation.

Is living a life without behaviour and mind-altering pharmaceuticals really that hard? Move to British Columbia if you’re having trouble kicking the legal drug habit. We’ll set you up with some nice, calming ganja... deep breath in ... ahhh ... deep breath out ... feels good.