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Archive for April, 2008

(NYT) – There’s no question that the case of 9-year-old Hannah Poling of Athens, Ga., has fueled the controversy about childhood vaccines. But what’s less clear is whether it will help unlock the mysteries of autism.

Hannah was 19 months old and developing normally until 2000, when she received five shots against nine infectious diseases. She became sick and later was given a diagnosis of autism.

Late last year government lawyers agreed to compensate the Poling family on the theory that vaccines may have aggravated an underlying disorder affecting her mitochondria, the energy centers of cells. (To read more about the decision, click here.) Vaccine critics say the Hannah Poling settlement shows the government has finally conceded that vaccines cause autism. But government officials say Hannah’s case involved a rare medical condition, and there is still no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism.

Hannah’s father, Dr. Jon S. Poling, a practicing neurologist in Athens and clinical assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia, says the case has shifted the autism debate forever and points to a promising new area of research.

Writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday, Dr. Poling says there is compelling evidence that mitochondrial disorders, like the one his daughter has, are strongly associated with autism.

To understand Hannah’s case, it is important to understand mitochondria, which act like batteries in our cells to produce energy critical for normal function…. Emerging evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction may not be rare at all among children with autism. In the only population-based study of its kind, Portuguese researchers confirmed that at least 7.2 percent, and perhaps as many as 20 percent, of autistic children exhibit mitochondrial dysfunction. While we do not yet know a precise U.S. rate, 7.2 percent to 20 percent of children does not qualify as “rare.” In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction may be the most common medical condition associated with autism.

Dr. Poling urges the Institute of Medicine and public health officials to pursue research into mitochondrial conditions, which he describes as a “breakthrough in the science of autism.’’ He writes:

National public health leaders, including those at CDC, must now recognize the paradigm shift caused by this biological marker with regard to their current position of dispelling a vaccine-autism link. In light of the Hannah Poling concession, science must determine more precisely how large the mitochondrial autism subpopulation is: 1 percent, 7.2 percent, 20 percent?

To be sure, many health experts do not agree with Dr. Poling’s conclusions. The case has “added nothing to the discussions of what causes or doesn’t cause autism,” said Dr. Edwin Trevathan, director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Friday, many of the main players involved in this debate — including Hannah’s mother and her grandparents, prominent vaccine skeptics and some of the government’s top vaccine researchers — took part in the federal government’s first-ever public meeting to discuss a government-wide research agenda to explore the safety of vaccines.

To read Dr. Poling’s complete essay, click here. Last month, Dr. Paul A. Offit, chief of the infectious diseases division of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explained his view that the Hannah Poling case has been mischaracterized by vaccine critics. To read the piece, click here. Hannah Poling’s parents wrote this response to Dr. Offit’s report. Last month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote this profile of Hannah and her parents.

It isn’t the vaccines that are causing the problem, it’s how and when the vaccines are given. Isn’t this so?

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WASHINGTON – Maybe it was because I was sitting in the back of the Senate chamber with three war protesters — grim-faced, chanting women dressed in black hooded cloaks, white makeup and blood-red hands — that I felt as though I were watching a production of “Macbeth” rather than a hearing on Iraq.

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” the witches in the play said. “Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

Many words hovered Tuesday in the Senate — including some pointed ones by the woman and two men vying to be commander in chief. But the words seemed trapped in a labyrinth leading nowhere.

The Surge Twins were back, but the daylong testimony of David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker before two committees seemed more depressing this time. As the Bard writes in “Macbeth”: “From that spring whence comfort seemed to come, discomfort swells.”

They arrived on the heels of the Maliki debacle in Basra, which made it stunningly clear — after a cease-fire was brokered in Iran — that we’re spending $3 trillion as our own economy goes off a cliff so that Iran can have a dysfunctional little friend.

Not good news, given Ahmadinejad’s announcement that his scientists are putting 6,000 new uranium-enriching centrifuges in place.

I like General Petraeus’s air of restrained competence and Ambassador Crocker’s air of wry world-weariness. But now they seem swallowed up by the fresh violence and ancient tribal antagonisms that they were supposed to be overcoming.

The guardians of Iraq offer more of the same — a post-Surge Pause or “consolidation and evaluation,” as the general generically puts it — and no answers about how we can stop our ward from aligning with our enemy.

The way forward, General Petraeus said, should be “conditions-based.”

Even in a place as prosaic as the Senate, this news spurred existential angst.

Senator Evan Bayh summed up the Dada nature of our plan in Iraq: “We’ll know when we get there, and we don’t know when we’re going to get there.”

A confused Chuck Hagel asked the pair: “So, where’s the surge? What are we doing? I don’t see Secretary Rice doing any Kissinger-esque flying around. Where is the diplomatic surge? … So, where is the surge? What are you talking about?”

Condi is too busy floating trial balloons about being John McCain’s running mate to bother about the fact that she was instrumental in two historic blunders: 9/11 and Iraq.

It’s hard to follow the narrative of our misadventure in Iraq. We went in to help the Shiites that we betrayed in the first Gulf War shake off their Sunni tormentors. But then, predictably for everyone except the chuckleheaded W. and Cheney, the Shiites began tormenting the Sunnis. So we put 90,000 Sunni Sons of Iraq — some of the same ones who were exploding American soldiers — on our payroll so they’d stop shooting at Americans and helping Al Qaeda. Our troops have gone from policing a Sunni-Shiite civil war to policing a Shiite-Shiite power struggle, while Osama bin Laden plots in peace as Al Qaeda in Iraq distracts us and drains our military resources.

Even some senators got confused.

John McCain seemed to repeat his recent confusion over tribes, mistakenly referring to Al Qaeda again as a “sect of Shiites” before correcting himself and saying: “or Sunnis or anybody else.”

And Joe Biden theorized that “The Awakening,” made up of Sunnis, might decide to get into a civil war with Sunnis, presumably meaning Shiites.

But Senator Biden asked a trenchant, if attenuated, question of Mr. Crocker about Al Qaeda: “If you could take it out, you had a choice, the Lord Almighty came down and sat in the middle of the table there and said, ‘Mr. Ambassador, you can eliminate every Al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or every Al Qaeda personnel in Iraq,’ which would you pick?”

Given the progress beating back Al Qaeda in Iraq, the ambassador replied, he would pick the hiding place of bin Laden.

“That would be a smart choice,” Mr. Biden noted.

Senator John Warner asked the essential question — the one that makes it clear that W. and Cheney hurt the national interest: Is the war making us safer here at home?

General Petraeus avoided answering. But he acknowledged that the “fragile” gains there are “reversible.” “The Champagne bottle,” he told Senator Bayh, “has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator.”

You know you’re in trouble when Barbara Boxer is the voice of reason.

“Why is it,” she asked, “after all we have given — 4,024 American lives, gone; more than half-a-billion dollars spent; all this for the Iraqi people, but it’s the Iranian president who is greeted with kisses and flowers?”

She warmed to: “He got a red-carpet treatment, and we are losing our sons and daughters every single day for the Iraqis to be free. It is irritating is my point.”

Ambassador Crocker dryly assured the senator from California that he believed that Dick Cheney had also gotten kissed on his visit to Iraq.

By Maureen Dowd

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(WP) – On Tuesday Iran announced it was installing 6,000 more centrifuges — they produce enriched uranium, the key ingredient of a nuclear weapon — in addition to the 3,000 already operating. The world yawned.

It is time to admit the truth: The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed. Utterly. The latest round of U.N. Security Council sanctions, which took a year to achieve, is comically weak. It represents the end of the sanctions road.

At home, the president’s efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program were irreparably undermined by November’s National Intelligence Estimate, whose “moderate confidence” that Iran has not restarted nuclear weaponization — the least important of three elements of any nuclear program — has promoted the illusion that Iran has given up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yet uranium enrichment, the most difficult step, proceeds apace, as does the development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

The president is out of options. He is going to hand over to his successor an Iran on the verge of going nuclear. This will deeply destabilize the Middle East, threaten the moderate Arabs with Iranian hegemony and leave Israel on hair-trigger alert.

This failure can, however, be mitigated. As there will apparently be no disarming of Iran by preemption or by sanctions, we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons.

This will be even more difficult than during the Cold War, when we were dealing with rational actors. We will, nonetheless, have to use the Cold War model in which deterrence prevented the Soviets from engaging in nuclear aggression for half a century — long enough for regime change to make deterrence superfluous. (No one lies awake today worrying about post-Soviet Russia launching a nuclear attack on the United States.) We don’t know how long the mullahs will be in power, but until they are replaced, deterrence will be an absolute necessity.

During the Cold War, we were successful in preventing an attack not only on the United States but also on America’s allies. We did it by extending the American nuclear umbrella — i.e., declaring that any attack on our allies would be considered an attack on the United States.

Such a threat is never 100 percent credible. But it was credible enough. It made the Soviets think twice about attacking our European allies. It kept the peace.

We should do the same to keep nuclear peace in the Middle East. It would be infinitely less dangerous (and therefore more credible) than the Cold War deterrence because there will be no threat from Iran of the annihilation of the United States. Iran, unlike the Soviet Union, would have a relatively tiny arsenal incapable of reaching the United States.

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush’s greatest contribution to nuclear peace would be to issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

This policy — the Holocaust Declaration — would not be tested during the current administration, because Iran is not going to go nuclear before January 2009. But it would establish a firm benchmark that would outlive this administration. Every future president — and every serious presidential candidate — would have to publicly state whether or not the Holocaust Declaration remains the policy of the United States.

It would be an important question to ask because it would not be uncontroversial. It would be argued that the Holocaust Declaration is either redundant or, at the other extreme, provocative.

Redundant, it would be said, because Israel could retaliate on its own. The problem is that Israel is a very small country with a small nuclear arsenal that is largely land-based. Land-based retaliatory forces can be destroyed in a first strike, which is precisely why, during the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union created vast submarine fleets — undetectable and thus invulnerable to first strikes — that ensured a retaliatory strike and, thus, deterrence. The invulnerability and unimaginably massive size of this American nuclear arsenal would make an American deterrent far more potent and reliable than any Israeli facsimile — and thus far more likely to keep the peace.

Would such a declaration be provocative? On the contrary. Deterrence is the least provocative of all policies. That is why it is the favored alternative of those who oppose a preemptive attack on Iran to disarm it before it can acquire nuclear weapons. What the Holocaust declaration would do is turn deterrence from a slogan into a policy.

It is, of course, hardly certain that deterrence would work on the likes of Ahmadinejad and other jihadists. But deterrence would concentrate the minds of rational Iranian actors, of whom there are many, to restrain or even depose leaders such as Ahmadinejad who might sacrifice Iran’s existence as a nation to vindicate their divine obligation to exterminate the “filthy bacteria” of the Jewish state, a “disgraceful stain [on] the Islamic world.”

For the first time since the time of Jesus, Israel (known as Judea at the time) is the home of the world’s largest Jewish community. An implacable neighboring power has openly declared genocidal intentions against it — in clear violation of the U.N. Charter — and is defying the international community by pursuing the means to carry out that intent. The world does nothing. Some, such as the Russians, are literally providing fuel for the fire.

For those who see no moral principle underlying American foreign policy, the Holocaust Declaration is no business of ours. But for those who believe that America stands for something in the world — that the nation that has liberated more peoples than any other has even the most minimal moral vocation — there can be no more pressing cause than preventing the nuclear annihilation of an allied democracy, the last refuge and hope of an ancient people openly threatened with the final Final Solution.

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(NYT) – Not content to botch immigration policy all by itself, Congress has handed large parts of the job to others to mishandle. It gave the homeland security czar the czarist powers to overturn any law and ignore any court to seal the border. Now Michael Chertoff is clear-cutting a forest of regulations to wall out Mexico by the end of the year. And through the program known as 287(g), his agency is parceling out duties to a growing number of local police and sheriff’s departments, raising an army of junior deputies in the war on illegal immigrants.
To see how unhinged things have become, it pays to zero in on the squalid doings in Maricopa County, Ariz. It is home to Phoenix, the country’s fifth-largest city, and the largest 287(g) program anywhere.
It is run by the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who has built a national reputation for toughness through years of cruelty to prison inmates and an insatiable appetite for publicity. Where most departments have only handfuls of officers trained to enforce federal immigration laws, Sheriff Joe, as he is known, has 160. Their efforts are supplemented by what the sheriff says, without apology, is a 3,000-member “posse.”
For months now, Sheriff Joe has been sending squads of officers through Latino neighborhoods, pulling cars over for broken taillights or turn-signal violations, checking drivers’ and passengers’ papers and arresting illegal immigrants by the dozen.
Because he sends out press releases beforehand, the sweeps are accompanied by TV crews and protesters — deport-’em-all hard-liners facing off against immigrant advocates. Being Arizona, many of those shouting and jeering are also packing guns. Sheriff Joe, seemingly addicted to the buzz, has been filmed marching down the street shaking hands with adoring Minutemen.
If this doesn’t look to you like a carefully regulated, federally supervised effort to catch dangerous criminals, that’s because it isn’t. It is a series of stunts focused mostly on day laborers, as Sheriff Joe bulldozes his way toward re-election.
The sheriff says he is keeping the peace, but it seems as if he is doing just the opposite — a useless, reckless churning of fear and unrest. Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix has denounced him, saying the raids are interfering with undercover city police officers and federal agents. The mayor of Guadalupe implored him to leave her community alone. State and county officials have pointed out that Sheriff Joe has ignored tens of thousands of outstanding criminal warrants while chasing day laborers and headlines. They say he has grossly violated the terms of his 287(g) agreement — which calls for federal oversight of local police — and have called on Washington to rein him in.
“Do you think I’m going to report to the federal government?” he said. “I don’t report to them. If they don’t like the contract, they can close it up. That’s all.”
“By the way,” he said, “we do have a 3,000-person posse — and about 500 have guns. They have their own airplanes, jeeps, motorcycles, everything. They can only operate under the sheriff. I swear ’em in. I can put up 30 airplanes tomorrow if I wanted.”
The federal government so far seems unconcerned.
“He has stayed within the bounds of the agreement,” Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of immigration and customs enforcement in Arizona, told The Arizona Republic. Jim Pendergraph, an I.C.E. official from Washington, told the paper that after driving to Guadalupe to watch Sheriff Joe in action: “I saw nothing that gave me heartburn.”
It’s past time for Congress to hold hearings on these agreements, starting with a subpoena for Sheriff Joe.
Bet Becky at ‘Just a Girl in short shorts talking about whatever’ will get a big kick out of this one.

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Former President Clinton has added to the falsehoods surrounding his wife’s tale of her trip to Bosnia 12 years ago. In Indiana on Thursday, Bill Clinton defended his wife’s mistake in claiming that she landed under sniper fire in Bosnia, accusing the media of treating her like “she’d robbed a bank” for confusing the facts.

The New York senator had repeatedly described a harrowing scene in Tuzla, Bosnia, in which she and her daughter, Chelsea, had to run for cover as soon as they landed for a visit in 1996. Video footage of the day instead showed a peaceful reception in which an 8-year-old girl greeted the first lady.

Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that she got the facts wrong in retelling the tale. Bill Clinton’s inaccuracies don’t involve long-ago memories, but misstatements about how his wife has handled the story.

THE SPIN:

“A lot of the way this whole campaign has been covered has amused me,” Bill Clinton said in Boonville, Ind. “But there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.

“Did y’all see all that? Oh, they blew it up,” the former president continued. “Let me just tell you. The president of Bosnia and Gen. Wesley Clark – who was there making peace where we’d lost three peacekeepers who had to ride on a dangerous mountain road because it was too dangerous to go the regular, safe way – both defended her because they pointed out that when her plane landed in Bosnia, she had to go up to the bulletproof part of the plane, in the front. Everybody else had to put their flak jackets underneath the seat in case they got shot at. And everywhere they went they were covered by Apache helicopters. So they just abbreviated the arrival ceremony.

“Now I say that because what really has mattered is that even then she was interested in our troops,” he said. “And I think she was the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone. And you would of thought, you know, that she’d robbed a bank the way they all carried on about this. And some of them when they’re 60 they’ll forget something when they’re tired at 11 o’clock at night, too.”

THE FACTS:

Bill Clinton has many of the facts wrong.

His wife didn’t make the sniper fire claim “one time late at night when she was exhausted.” She actually told the story several times, including during prepared remarks on foreign policy delivered the morning of March 17.

It’s also not true that she “immediately apologized for it.” Clinton has never apologized for the comments and only acknowledged that she “misspoke” a week after the March 17 speech when video of her peaceful tarmac reception emerged.

It’s also not true that she was the “first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone” – a claim that Hillary Clinton has also made when talking about the trip. Pat Nixon traveled to Saigon during the Vietnam war and Barbara Bush went to Saudi Arabia two months before the launching of Desert Storm.

The trip also was not in 1995, but 1996.

Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer responded to the former president’s remarks Friday by saying, “Senator Clinton appreciates her husband standing up for her, but this was her mistake and she takes responsibility for it.”

She’s also told her husband to quit talking about it.

“Hillary called me and said ‘You don’t remember this. You weren’t there, let me handle it.’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am,'” Bill Clinton, who was in Indiana campaigning for his wife Friday, told reporters.

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By now you may have heard how Bill Clinton dredged up his wife’s Bosnia debacle — which began with this interview with Sinbad the comedian — at a campaign stop in Indiana Thursday night.
Defending Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) embellishment of danger in Tuzla during her 1996 trip, the former president said: “This is a big deal to her. Some of you may have seen that she took a terrible beating in the press for a few days because she was exhausted at 11 o’clock at night and she started talking about Bosnia and she misstated the circumstances under which she landed in Bosnia. Did you all see all that?”
Our question is: If Sen. Clinton gets exhausted at 11 o’clock at night, how’s she going to answer that 3 a.m. phone call? We’re just askin…

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(MSNBC) – For only the second time in 85 years, Time magazine abandoned the traditional red border it uses on its cover. The occasion – to push more global warming alarmism.

The cover of the April 21 issue of Time took the famous Iwo Jima photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Marines raising the American flag and replaced the flag with a tree. The cover story by Bryan Walsh calls green “the new red, white and blue.”

Donald Mates, an Iwo Jima veteran, told the Business & Media Institute on April 17 that using that photograph for that cause was a “disgrace.”

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” Mates said. “Whoever did it is going to hell. That’s a mortal sin. God forbid he runs into a Marine that was an Iwo Jima survivor.”

Mates also said making the comparison of World War II to global warming was erroneous and disrespectful.

“The second world war we knew was there,” Mates said. “There’s a big discussion. Some say there is global warming, some say there isn’t. And to stick a tree in place of a flag on the Iwo Jima picture is just sacrilegious.”

According to the American Veterans Center (AVC), Mates served in the 3rd Marine Division and fought in the battle of Iwo Jima, landing on Feb. 24, 1945.

“A few days later, Mates’ eight-man patrol came under heavy assault from Japanese forces,” Tim Holbert, a spokesman for the AVC, said. “During fierce-hand-to-hand combat, Mates watched as his friend and fellow Marine, Jimmy Trimble, was killed in front of his eyes. Mates was severely wounded, and underwent repeated operations for shrapnel removal for over 30 years.”

Lt. John Keith Wells, the leader of the platoon that raised the flags on Mt. Suribachi and co-author of “Give Me Fifty Marines Not Afraid to Die: Iwo Jima” wasn’t impressed with Time’s efforts.

“That global warming is the biggest joke I’ve ever known,” Wells told the Business & Media Institute. “[W]e’ll stick a dadgum tree up somebody’s rear if they want that and think that’s going to cure something.”

Time managing editor Richard Stengel appeared on MSNBC April 17 and said the United States needed to make a major effort to fight climate change, and that the cover’s purpose was to liken global warming to World War II.

“[O]ne of the things we do in the story is we say there needs to be an effort along the lines of preparing for World War II to combat global warming and climate change,” Stengel said. “It seems to me that this is an issue that is very popular with the voters, makes a lot of sense to them and a candidate who can actually bundle it up in some grand way and say, ‘Look, we need a national and international Manhattan Project to solve this problem and my candidacy involves that.’ I don’t understand why they don’t do that.”

Holbert, a speaking on behalf of the American Veterans Center, said the editorial decision by Time to use the photograph for the cover trivialized the cause the veterans fought for.

“Global warming may or may not be a significant threat to the United States,” Holbert said. “The Japanese Empire in February of 1945, however, certainly was, and this photo trivializes the most recognizable moment of one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history. War analogies should be used sparingly by political advocates of all bents.”

Stengel also appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on April 17 and had no difficulty admitting the magazine needed to have a “point of view.”

“I think since I’ve been back at the magazine, I have felt that one of the things that’s needed in journalism is that you have to have a point of view about things,” Stengel said. “You can’t always just say ‘on the one hand, on the other’ and you decide. People trust us to make decisions. We’re experts in what we do. So I thought, you know what, if we really feel strongly about something let’s just say so.”

Time has been banging the global warming drum for some time now. In April 2007, Time offered 51 ways to “save the planet,” which included more taxes and regulation.

I am so disgusted – there is absolutely no reason why Brian Walsh should not be shot – better yet, let’s send him to Iraq as a soldier and see how he likes being a target. What a fucking prick. Probably went to school at Yale, the lowest educational organization in America.

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