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Finding the Truth
Stop the Mercury. Start the Cure. June 2008
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Media Bias on Autism Continues - So What's New?
 
A Message from SafeMinds President
tkw

The recent media bias in the TIME magazine article on vaccines and coverage regarding the purpose of the Green the Vaccines Rally, held in Washington D.C. and led by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, are worth writing about this month. The mainstream media rarely bothers to publish scientific studies or scientists' commentaries supporting an autism-vaccine link. Meanwhile, the media continues incorrectly portrays parents concerned about vaccine safety and links to autism as desperate and anti-vaccine, similar to the coverage at the DC rally. It goes without saying that one of my favorite pictures from the rally was, "Hey Reporters, do your homework!" The media either has a hard time keeping up when it comes to the science on this matter, or they have appointed themselves gatekeepers to keep legitimate information about vaccine safety away from public discussion.

There was a time when I was ignorant of the autism-vaccine link and would have never believed that mercury was present in vaccines at levels higher than government safety limits. It wasn't until I met my late and dear friend Liz Birt , co-founder of SafeMinds and many autism organizations supporting this cause, that I became a believer. Liz showed me the rich and growing literature on the subject of autism, mercury, and vaccines that the media had decided to ignore. After reading the findings and recommendations of the 2003 Congressional Report Mercury in Medicine - Taking Unnecessary Risks and other independent studies, it was easy to believe that my trust in the CDC as a watchdog for immunization safety had been betrayed. My family's experience is not unique and we are in very good company. Many agree with Jenny's statement at the Washington Rally - we don't want to see another child join our club.

Within the last month, research findings were presented by University of Pittsburgh scientists and colleagues at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) that provided more evidence of a vaccine-autism link. Infant monkeys given vaccines officially recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) exhibited autism-like symptoms. Another animal study, this time by researchers in Peru, investigated outcomes in young hamsters given vaccine-level mercury. They also found pronounced adverse effects. The tragedy is that these types of basic safety studies typically conducted in animals prior to a medical product's use in humans have never been conducted on the current childhood immunization schedule. They should have been conducted as routine practice by Federal agencies responsible for vaccine safety.

Major media outlets failed to report on either of these studies and their demonstration of the CDC's evasion of their responsibility to oversee vaccine safety. Little has changed since the 2003 report on the CDC's conflict of duty in monitoring vaccine safety and their continued offerings of poorly designed epidemiological studies as a substitute for the basic science and clinical studies recommended by the Institutes of Medicine in 2001. The media's lack of journalistic integrity only enables the CDC to continue their current practices.

What's new? Concern regarding vaccine safety and an autism link has breached the boundaries of the autism community and seeped into the public consciousness. Its growth is likely to continue as vaccine court continues and alternate communications channels are accessed by parents. Adding fuel to this fire of concern are Federal agencies dragging their feet in conducting the studies necessary to assure vaccine safety.

It is time to force the issue and take away vaccine safety and oversight from the CDC, as provided in a bill introduced into Congress, H.R. 1973: Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act of 2007, will do if passed.

Contact your Congressman and ask for their support of this important legislation.


David Kirby, Best Selling Author on Vaccines and Autism
 
Speaking Engagement in Boston

Controversial Journalist Who Covers the Autism-Vaccine Debate to Speak About Political and Scientific Developments and Updates to His Book "Evidence of Harm"-

David Kirby, the New York based investigative journalist and author of the NY Times Bestseller, "Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic - A Medical Controversy," will speak at a Town Hall Meeting at Brown University to discuss recent developments in what has become perhaps the most contentious medical debate of our time.

Mr. Kirby, a former contributor to The New York Times and a regular writer for The Huffington Post, is to offer a free public lecture in Boston, Mass.

Boston, Mass

Free public lecture and open Q/A session on Friday, June 27, 6:00-9:00PM at Northeastern University, in the Behrakis Health Science Building, (Building #26), Room 10.

Among the subjects to be addressed by Mr. Kirby are:

1) A recent case in the US Vaccine Court in which the federal government conceded that vaccines induced autism in one little girl - and updates on other cases in the court.

2) Growing evidence of a link between mitochondrial dysfunction and autistic regression, and case studies of several ASD children with mitochondrial issues.

3) State-of-the-art research underway at top universities on the connection between environmental toxins, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, glutathione depletion, neuro-inflammation and autistic encephalopathy.

4) Declarations by the Presidential candidates that autism is epidemic and calling for more research into vaccines and mercury as possible causes.

5) Recent studies linking ASD risk with heavy metals and other contaminants in air pollution.

These visits are sponsored by Generation Rescue, Autism Research Institute, National Autism Association, Coalition for SAFE MINDS, and Talk About Curing Autism.

"Evidence of Harm," debuted on The New York Times bestseller list in 2005, and is still widely read today. It won the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award in 2005 for Best Book. Kirby has appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's Larry King Live, NBC's The Today Show, MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, CNN Headline News, Air America, and hundreds of other radio and television stations around the world. He has been invited to speak at the US Federal Claims Court's Judicial Conference, this November in Washington, DC.

David Kirby is available for media interviews before and during his visit. Please contact him directly at dkirby@nyc.rr.com.

More information about Evidence of Harm is available at www.evidence ofharm.com.

Mr. Kirby's essays at Huffington Post can be viewed at www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby


Drug Reverses Mental Retardation in Mice
 

SafeMinds editorial comment on new findings on rapamycin treatment for tuberous sclerosis and possibly autism, and the possible link to mercury.

Several recent studies (Ehninger 2008, Meikle 2008, Hofbauer 2008) have suggested that rapamycin, an immunosuppressive drug, can ameliorate symptoms in tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Many individuals with TSC have autistic features. In most but, not all cases, TSC arises from one of two genetic abnormalities that lead to abnormal production of a protein complex. The target of this protein complex inhibits a signaling pathway called "mammalian target of rapacycin" or mTOR. mTOR is a central controller of cell growth, size, survival and proliferation.

One mechanism of mTOR acts through effects on mitochondrial function (see, for example, D'Souza 2007, Cunningham 2007, Floyd 2007, Nobukuni 2007). The role of mitochondria in autism has been the subject of much discussion and scientific activity lately. SafeMinds has provided analyses showing how mercury, including thimerosal, disrupts mitochondrial function. mTOR is involved in the control of mitochondrial oxidative activities. Click here to read more.

Newswise - UCLA researchers discovered that an FDA-approved drug reverses the brain dysfunction inflicted by a genetic disease called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Because half of TSC patients also suffer from autism, the findings offer new hope for addressing learning disorders due to autism. Nature Medicine publishes the findings in its online June 22 edition.

Using a mouse model for TSC, the scientists tested rapamycin, a drug approved by the FDA to fight tissue rejection following organ transplants. Rapamycin is well-known for targeting an enzyme involved in making proteins needed for memory. The UCLA team chose it because the same enzyme is also regulated by TSC proteins.

"This is the first study to demonstrate that the drug rapamycin can repair learning deficits related to a genetic mutation that causes autism in humans. The same mutation in animals produces learning disorders, which we were able to eliminate in adult mice," explained principal investigator Dr. Alcino Silva, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our work and other recent studies suggest that some forms of mental retardation can be reversed, even in the adult brain."

"These findings challenge the theory that abnormal brain development is to blame for mental impairment in tuberous sclerosis," added first author Dan Ehninger, postgraduate researcher in neurobiology. "Our research shows that the disease's learning problems are caused by reversible changes in brain function -- not by permanent damage to the developing brain."

TSC is a devastating genetic disorder that disrupts how the brain works, often causing severe mental retardation. Even in mild cases, learning disabilities and short-term memory problems are common. Half of all TSC patients also suffer from autism and epilepsy. The disorder strikes one in 6,000 people, making it twice as common as Huntington's or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Silva and Ehninger studied mice bred with TSC and verified that the animals suffered from the same severe learning difficulties as human patients. Next, the UCLA team traced the source of the learning problems to biochemical changes sparking abnormal function of the hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a key role in memory.

"Memory is as much about discarding trivial details as it is about storing useful information," said Silva, a member of the UCLA Department of Psychology and UCLA Brain Research Institute. "Our findings suggest that mice with the mutation cannot distinguish between important and unimportant data. We suspect that their brains are filled with meaningless noise that interferes with learning."

"After only three days of treatment, the TSC mice learned as quickly as the healthy mice," said Ehninger. "The rapamycin corrected the biochemistry, reversed the learning deficits and restored normal hippocampal function, allowing the mice's brains to store memories properly."

In January, Silva presented his study at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke meeting, where he was approached by Dr. Petrus de Vries, who studies TSC patients and leads rapamycin clinical trials at the University of Cambridge. After discussing their respective findings, the two researchers began collaborating on a clinical trial currently taking place at Cambridge to examine whether rapamycin can restore short-term memory in TSC patients.

"The United States spends roughly $90 billion a year on remedial programs to address learning disorders," noted Silva. "Our research offers hope to patients affected by tuberous sclerosis and to their families. The new findings suggest that rapamycin could provide therapeutic value in treating similar symptoms in people affected by the disorder."'

The research was funded by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Autism Speaks and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation). Silva and Ehninger's coauthors included Yu Zhou, Carrie Shilyansky and Weidong Li of UCLA; and Sangyeul Han, Vijaya Ramesh and David Kwiatkowski of Harvard Medical School.
Source: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences


Vaccine Watch
 
Posted by Sharyl Attkisson on CBS News Blogs

After a decade of denying any possible association between vaccines and autism, the government quietly settled a vaccine-autism case last fall. When news of the case leaked out to the public months later, government officials labelled the case of Hannah Poling an "anomoly." The truth is, nobody is in a position to know whether Hannah's case is an exception. Government officials have told CBS News that they have not tracked vaccine-autism claims to see how many of them might involve children with the same undetected mitochondrial disorder Hannah had... one that may have made her susceptible to side effects from vaccines, triggering her autism. Government officials have also acknowledged to CBS News that they haven't looked for common denominators in other autism-related cases which have been compensated in federal vaccine court. Yes, there are other cases that have been paid. As CBS News has reported, the government has been settling vaccine injuries that resulted in autism and/or autistic symptoms since at least the early 1990's, while at the same time telling the public there is no cause for concern. Not all of the cases are published, but some of them are and can be found by searching legal case databases. That... with the help of some well-placed sources... is how CBS News turned up at least nine more cases... and counting. Considering that only a tiny fraction of vaccine-autism claims find their way to the little-known vaccine court, these cases are just a sampling of the total that may actually exist in the population. Further, according to knowledgeable sources, vaccine injuries compensated in the past due to encephalopathy (or brain damage) "often" resulted in autism, but the autism label was not used. Again, the government does not track how many of the encephalopathy cases involved children who got autism or ADD after their vaccinations.

One important factor is often lost in the discussion of a handful of cases: the fact that the debate has shifted from whether vaccines have any relationship to some cases of autism... to what is the role of vaccines in some cases of autism. And how big is the pool of cases. If vaccines can trigger autism in any way, directly or indirectly, that contradicts all the rhetoric and dogma heard from many public and government health officials for the past decade. And it supports what many other researchers have been saying for a decade, often to deaf ears, even after they published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Which is probably why Hannah's case is resonating under the radar in the medical community. A government conference has now been scheduled for later this month to examine mitochondrial disorders like hers and autism or neurological "triggers" (i.e. vaccines). See below.

Workshop

Mitochondrial Disorders of Childhood: Testing, Potential Relationships to Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Triggers for Neurological Deterioration June 29, 2008

Workshop Goals and Objectives

"Mitochondrial Disorders of Childhood: Testing, Potential Relationships to Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Triggers for Neurological Deterioration" is a workshop to be held on Sunday June 29th after the close of the United Mitochondrial Disease Meeting in Indianapolis at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis. The workshop will convene 11 experts in mitochondrial disorders or autism to discuss how the neurology of mitochondrial disorders might inform autism research.

The conference is sponsored by a number of Federal agencies including DHHS, CDC, FDA, NINDS and NIMH. Observers are welcome as seating allows.

SafeMinds board member Jim Moody will be attending this meeting. For more information, please click here.


CDC: Vaccine Study Used Flawed Methods
 
David Kirby The Huffington Post

(NOTE: My original post on this topic mischaracterized the 2003 CDC vaccine investigation as an "Ecological Study," which it was not. I am reposting this piece to reflect that information accurately, but also to point out that many of the weaknesses identified in the CDC's data and methods apply to the published 2003 "retrospective cohort" study, as much as they do to any future "ecological" ones. I regret and apologize for the error.)

A new report (PDF) that CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding has delivered to the powerful House Appropriations Committee casts new light -- and new doubt -- on the data and methodology that the CDC used in its landmark 2003 study that found no link between mercury in vaccines and autism, ADHD, speech delay or tics.

Gerberding was responding to a report from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the CDC's vaccine database, and showed how the weaknesses, in particular, would have to be addressed in conducting further studies of thimerosal and autism.

These weaknesses included: uncertainties in case ascertainment, heterogeneity of business practices within and across HMOs in the database and their systematic changes over time, misclassification of exposure status, and the inability to control for temporal changes in awareness, diagnostic practices and potential confounding factors.

Many of these weaknesses should be taken into account when moving into the future, but they also apply to CDC studies that have been done in the past, including the methodology that was employed in the CDC's flagship thimerosal safety study of 2003.

To begin with, the NIEHS panel had "identified several areas of weaknesses that when taken together reduce the usefulness of the project for conducting an ecologic study design to address the potential association between exposure to thimerosal and the risk of autism."

Ecological studies are large, epidemiological analyses of risks and trends using data from large populations without making efforts to link outcomes to actual individual patients. The 2003 CDC study was not, strictly speaking, an "ecological study," but rather a "retrospective cohort study."

CDC researchers did go back and review some of the charts of the children diagnosed with the outcomes under study -- though this accounted for less than 1% of all children enrolled in the study.


Chlorine Factories: Still Major Sources of Mercury Pollution
 
From SafeMinds Environmental Committee Chair Scott Laster

Oceana's "Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination" has produced an important report, "Cleaning Up: Taking Mercury-Free Chlorine Production to the Bank", which can be downloaded here.

Mercury has been used in chlorine and caustic soda production for more than one-hundred years. Technology that eliminates the need to use mercury in chlor-alkali production has been readily available for just as long. Yet, in the United States, five chlor-alkali plants have still not committed to stop using the outdated mercury-cell technology to produce their products. In 2005, these five plants reported emissions of more than 4,400 pounds of mercury into the air. On average, these plants release more than four times the average amount of mercury released from a typical power plant; earning them the title "The Filthy Five."

Oceana's report adds up the costs of using mercury in chlorine production and notes the benefits of mercury-free technology. Since 1974, at least 115 chlorine factories have decided to switch, or are currently switching, to mercury-free technology around the world. The new technology is more energy efficient and can be used to increase chlorine production. It may seem expensive to convert, but the technology can pay for itself in less than five years.

Oceana has publised the most extensive report to date focusing on the conversion of mercury-cell chlorine factories to more environmentally and economically sound mercury-free technology. The report shows that shifting has major economic benefits to the companies.

Key Findings:

* Both the ERCO plant in Wisconsin and the Olin plant in Tennessee are the number one mercury air polluters in their states, while Olin in Georgia and Ashta in Ohio are the third largest source of mercury air pollution in their respective states. PPG in West Virginia emits nearly twice as much mercury as the average power plant.

* If the five plants eliminated mercury use in chlorine production, nearly 4,400 pounds of reported mercury emissions could be eliminated each year. This does not include mercury that is "lost" and not monitored at the plant, an amount estimated to rival releases from power plants in certain years.

* Although the cost of converting to mercury-free technology runs in the millions of dollars (as detailed in the report), analysis shows the majority of costs would be recovered within five years from energy savings, increased capacity and eliminating millions of dollars in mercury-related fines, upgrades and treatment costs.

* Plants that have shifted see increases in energy efficiency between 25 and 37 percent. Since electricity can make up half of total production costs, this can vastly improve profitability.

* Many plants also have increased production capacity by approximately 25 percent in the process of converting to mercury-free technology.


NAA's National Autism Conference Nov 13-16 2008
 
nac

HOPEISM. NOW AFFECTING 1 IN 150.

It starts with that one parent. Grandparent. Friend of a friend. They mention something they heard, tried, researched. So you look into it. You research it. Analyze it. Get a doctor's help with it.

And for some parents, it could prompt slight progress in their child, significant leaps, or even recovery.

We've seen enough to know it's possible.

Very.

So if you're new to the diagnosis, or simply want to keep learning and connecting, we invite you to the National Autism Association's 2008 National Autism Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Because together, anything's possible.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL AUTISM CONFERENCE (NAC):

In response to the growing needs of families and professionals impacted by autism, the National Autism Conference has assembled the best of the best in terms of conference presenters and relevant topics. NAC has also lined up some very special events surrounding our presentation schedule to allow parents and caregivers well-earned time for relaxing.

WHERE:
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

WHEN:
November 13 -16, 2008 REGISTRATION:
Now pre-registering at www.nationalautismconference.org (early registrants qualify for savings)


Two Upcoming Federal Meetings on Autism
 
Public Can Attend or Send Comments

Please see the announcements below for details regarding two upcoming meetings on autism:

There will be a meeting of the Strategic Plan Workgroup of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-416) taking place on July 8th, 2008 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. The meeting will review and comment on the draft IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research. The meeting will be an online conference call with web-based presentation. Audio of this workgroup meeting will be accessible to the public via a teleconference phone link, and web-based access to information will be displayed at the meeting via computer/projector. To access the meeting, please click here.

The call-in phone number is: (888) 455-2920. The pass-code necessary to access the meeting is 3857872. The contact person for this meeting is: Azik Schwechter, Ph.D., National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, 6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8203a, MSC 9657 Rockville, MD 20852, (301) 443-7613, schwechtera@mail.nih.gov

This workgroup meeting will be open to the public through a conference call phone number and a web presentation tool on the Internet. Individuals who participate using these electronic services and need special assistance, such as captioning of the conference call or other reasonable accommodations, should submit a request at least 96 hours prior to the meeting. Members of the public who participate using the conference call phone number will be able to listen to the meeting but will not be heard. There may be an opportunity for members of the public to submit written comments during the workgroup meeting through the web presentation tool. Submitted comments will be reviewed after the meeting. If you experience any technical problems with the conference call-in phone number or web presentation tool, please contact GoToWebinar at (800) 263-6317. To attend this meeting, the following is computing capabilities are required: A) Internet Explorer 5.0 or later, Netscape Navigator 6.0 or later or Mozilla Firefox 1.0 or later; B) Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server or Vista; C) Stable 56k, cable modem, ISDN, DSL or better Internet connection; D) Minimum of Pentium 400 with 256 MB of RAM (Recommended); E) Java Virtual Machine enabled (Recommended)

A meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee [under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-416)] will take place on Tuesday, July 15, 2008 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the campus of the National Institutes of Health at the Natcher Conference Center, Rooms E1 and E2, 45 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD. The meeting will be open to the public, with attendance limited to space available. Individuals who plan to attend and need special assistance, such as sign language interpretation or other reasonable accommodations, should indicate these needs when registering for the meeting. Click here for the registration website.


Looking for an easy way to support SafeMinds?
 
Go Shopping!
Igive Logo

That's right, go ahead and buy something for yourself -- a new CD, the latest bestseller, everyday essentials like pet food or vitamins, even a computer. But first join www.iGive.com/SafeMinds.

Every time you shop at one of the over 680 name-brand stores in the iGive.com Mall, we'll receive a donation of up to 26% of each purchase you make, at no cost to you.

Remember, donating to SafeMinds won't cost you a thing. But we'll miss out on a lot of extra dough, if you don't join. So visit www.iGive.com/SafeMinds now. Membership is free and your privacy is guaranteed.

Click here to join.


A-Champ Announcement
 
New York Assembly Bill A 10942

It's official, New York Assembly Bill A 10942, the "worst vaccine bill ever" and the mandatory meningococcal vaccine bill it morphed into late in the session are dead. And they were killed by parents who just aren't going to let pharma kick them around anymore.

Another vaccine bill that would have allowed minors to get vaccines for sexually-transmitted diseases without parents permission or knowledge went down to an ignominious defeat when the Assembly Health committee refused to even consider it.

This represents the fourth defeat in a row, with no wins, for the vaccine industry in New York, last year an mandatory HPV bill was killed.

As usual with most vaccine bills in New York, they were submitted late in the session which limits the time that the opposition has to make arguments against a proposal. The original A 10942 was submitted at the request of the Health Department and would have caused a sweeping restructuring of NY vaccine policy; all CDC recommended vaccines would have become mandatory for all children, including those too young to enter school, and all new CDC recommended vaccines would automatically become mandatory.

A 10942 was greeted by a rally of hundreds of parents from all around the state, many were parent of vaccine-injured children, others though have healthy children and would like to see them stay healthy. A broad cross section of organizations were involved, autism organization, holistic health groups, libertarians, and many others came together for the first time in joint political action. Legisltive aides report a flood of phone calls, faxes, letters and emails in opposition.

The legislature responded with scaling the bill back to require the menigoccocal shot for seventh graders. This new version was introduced last Friday and on Monday there were new demonstrations by parents both in Albany and in front of the Long Island office of State Senator Kemp Hannon who introduced the meningitis legislation. The bill died today with the adjournment of the legislature.

Organizers of the successful campaign will be holding meetings and conferences to make sure that in the next session of the legislature that the philosophical exemption bills sponsored by State Senator Frank Padavan and Assemblymember Mark Alessi are passed. And in a new twist on vaccines rights, New Yorkers will be working to introduce legislation that will drop vaccines from the mandatory list. The first target will be hepatitis b, a shot given to newborns ostensibly to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.


Wishing Won't Cure Autism . . .
 
But Research Will
wistful

Support SafeMinds today. Every donation makes an impact. Click here to make a donation.


Visit The Age of Autism
 

The Age of Autism is the nation's first daily Web newspaper for the environmental-biomedical community - those who believe autism is an environmentally induced illness, that it is treatable, and that children can recover. For the most part, the major media in the United States aren't interested in that point of view, they won't investigate the causes and possible biomedical treatments of autism independently, and they don't listen to the most important voices - those of the parents. Visit the website at www.ageofautism.com.



The Coalition for SafeMinds (Sensible Action For Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders) is a private nonprofit organization founded to investigate and raise awareness of the risks to infants and children of exposure to mercury from medical products, including thimerosal in vaccines. SafeMinds supports research on the potential harmful effects of mercury and thimerosal. Our mission is to end the health and personal devastations caused by the needless use of mercury in medicines.

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