Obliterate Conformity

Half a decade ago or so I interviewed a former CDC expert for a History Channel piece. He used to be in charge of containing several outbreaks in Africa with Ebola and Marburg, the MERS outbreak in Malaysia, and couple of other hemorrhagic close calls. After leaving CDC, he was working out of a small university in South Texas where he ran the virology department. Somehow I got the feeling he had become an outcast at CDC, and they’d set him up to shut him up. I tracked him down after reading an article about his African ventures.

He was happy enough in the little town, had his own Biosafety Level-4 containment unit and several cute thesis students who required a lot of attention. He wore dirty clothes, played the drums, smoked sans filters, and early on the meeting slipped me a whiskey flask during a shooting break. I thought about the usual work ethic question for half a second and took a sip. He became as stiff as a German sports announcer when the camera lights were on so I had little to loose. Maybe the flask contained a question: was I to be trusted?

As time went by and I listened to his stories, I said no to the sips. I went for gulps. We eventually drove over to his house to get a full Jameson. By then I drank straight out of the bottle, sitting on his dirty living room carpet while his Labrador licked my face. We both smoked inside. The place was a total mess, the opposite of Bio Safety on Any Level, but that was the point. He was lovable. He was a virological Vonnegut, his disheveled brilliance was mixed with the type of suicidal humor that had already given up on humanity.

“Do you fish?” he would ask and guffaw, and I would not understand the question, but laugh back at the way he was laughing at me. Later in a side note he explained how three of his CDC buddies had retired to a remote lake in Canada. “Hahaha! They can’t fish shit!” I took another swing.

Rewind half a day, while we are still both kind of serious. He had modeled a computer program that replicates the behavior of a cell under microbial attack, but then scaled it up to match earthly dimensions. The model contained all the known outbreaks since the Middle Ages. In retrospect I think this is what got him his job in Texas, far away from public limelight (except from tiny indie producers).

His life thesis was about understanding the macro-level implications of virological attacks. When a cell reaches a critical mass of population, nature invariably starts to ping it with attacks, a self-preservation algorithm that strives for balance, with a set trajectory that is not random but perfectly predictable. Small attacks in gently increasing intervals increase until it hits the S-curve, at which stage the virus can mutate billions of times per day (per hour / per minute / per second…) to seek for the perfect loophole to take out a large chunk of a species (like say Ebola becoming airborne and set on the human genome).

The current Ebola outbreak reminded me of how this brilliant character used to laugh. And of course his timeline prediction for the end of the human species.

“5-10 years,” he’d burp, “max, haha!”

“Learn to fish!” He waved goodbye and then fell backwards into his dusty den.

For a year or so we exchanged emails and shared news. And sometime later that little town in Texas was destroyed by a hurricane and I never heard from him again.

Published in HoneyColony and DisInfo.

If you’ve vaccinated your child with MMR (an immunization vaccine used against measles, mumps, and rubella), you may not like the latest whistleblower revelations originating from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the very agency whose primary job is to keep Americans safe from health threats. According to the whistleblower, CDC has been manipulating and suppressing scientific data that links MMR and autism.

Today, one in 68 kids develop autism, a 30 percent increase from two years ago. In 2010, the figure was one in 150. The historical rate is four out of a thousand. Some studies propose that the increase in autism cases is due to new diagnostic methods and a wider interpretation of autism itself, but that may not appease all parents.

More than 5,500 cases alleging a causal relationship between vaccinations and autism have been filed under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims between 2001 and 2009.

The MMR vaccination, which contains the mercury-containing organic compound thimerosal, was introduced in 1971. It requires two doses. The first injection is given to babies within a month of their first birthday. The second is given before school, between the ages of three and five. No federal vaccination laws exist, but all 50 states require certain vaccinations for children entering public schools. Depending on the state, children must be vaccinated. In other words, you have no choice.

The giant pharmaceutical company Merck sells drugs and vaccines like MMR with a turnover of $50 billion per annum. In 2011, they paid a $900 million fine for Vioxx painkiller that produced 40,000 lethal heart attacks (and gave another 80,000 surprised citizens a remarkable jolt). They also developed Fosamax, a drug for osteoporosis that can cause bone to rot.

Merck was selling Vioxx to 25 million Americans before they were forced to shut down via class action. But it wasn’t really a problem for them. Merck has a few billion set aside for these sort of legal cases.

But vaccines are special.

In the case of vaccines, the manufacturers don’t even need a legal budget, because The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act protects them from lawsuits. Reagan signed this act into law in 1986.

A sensible, slightly worried current or future parent might google “MMR and autism” and see what comes up. The first hit would be Wikipedia’s “MMR vaccine controversy” piece, which states that the link between MMR and autism is centered around a “1998 fraudulent research paper” and that “anti-vaccination activities result in a high cost to society,” amidst other detailed information.

The same, sensible parent will most likely feel better again. Later, when the kid begins to demonstrate savant-like qualities in building 30-foot high Lego towers while being void of other faculties, the same sensible parent may Google the topic again.

Eventually, the sensible parent has to decide who or what to believe. On one polar end, they have the conspiracy theorists equating vaccination with depopulation. On the other end, they have a nationally accepted mindset: vaccination saves lives.

The gray area between the two is tough to navigate. Parents can read pro-con arguments on vaccines. They can dig through independent historical highlights like this one from RobertScottBell.com:

“When vaccination programs were expanded after the war, the number of autistic children increased greatly… (When) the U.S. occupied Japan and forcibly vaccinated the children: their first case of autism was diagnosed in 1945.”

Parents may listen to a holistic MD who believes that a child is more susceptible to an injection like MMR when the mother is minerally deficient (and because of soil depletion, most of us are, in fact, minerally deficient). But the alternative experts are increasingly absent from mainstream media, and parents are unlikely to read any of that.

It’s understandable, then, that a lot of sensible parents don’t make up their minds. At all.

At this rate, the incidence of autism will reach one in five children in less than two decades.

P.S. The baby in the picture is perfectly healthy.


Infogram Source: http://elearninginfographics.com/autism-and-learning-infographic/