Scientists Question Safety Of New Airport Scanners

From NPR:

After the “underwear bomber” incident on Christmas Day, President Obama accelerated the deployment of new airport scanners that look beneath travelers’ clothes to spot any weapons or explosives.

Fifty-two of these state-of-the-art machines are already scanning passengers at 23 U.S. airports. By the end of 2011, there will be 1,000 machines and two out of every three passengers will be asked to step into one of the new machines for a six-second head-to-toe scan before boarding.

About half of these machines will be so-called X-ray back-scatter scanners. They use low-energy X-rays to peer beneath passengers’ clothing. That has some scientists worried.

‘Potential Risk’

“Many people will approach this as, ‘Oh, it must be safe, the government has thought about this and I’ll just submit to it,'” says David Agard, a biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco. “But there really is no threshold of low dose being OK. Any dose of X-rays produces some potential risk.”

Agard and several of his UCSF colleagues recently wrote a letter to John Holdren the president’s science adviser, asking for a more thorough look at the risks of exposing all those airline passengers to X-rays. The other signers are John Sedat, a molecular biologist and the group’s leader; Marc Shuman, a cancer specialist; and Robert Stroud, a biochemist and biophysicist.

“Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer,” Agard says.

The San Francisco group thinks both the machine’s manufacturer, Rapiscan, and government officials have miscalculated the dose that the X-ray scanners deliver to the skin — where nearly all the radiation is concentrated.

The stated dose — about .02 microsieverts, a medical unit of radiation — is averaged over the whole body, members of the UCSF group said in interviews. But they maintain that if the dose is calculated as what gets deposited in the skin, the number would be higher, though how much higher is unclear.

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Obama Declares Swine Flu a National Emergency

This will get the sheep lining up for their shots. Also, it gives the government the authority to do pretty much any damn thing they please, as far as implementing some type of marshall law. It’s just a case of how far they want to take it. It basically gives them a blank check in that regard.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, giving his health chief the power to let hospitals move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect noninfected patients.

The declaration, signed Friday night and announced Saturday, comes with the disease more prevalent than ever in the country and production delays undercutting the government’s initial, optimistic estimates that as many as 120 million doses of the vaccine could be available by mid-October.

Health authorities say more than 1,000 people in the United States, including almost 100 children, have died from the flu, known as H1N1, and 46 states have widespread flu activity. So far only 11 million doses have gone out to health departments, doctor’s offices and other providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials. Continue reading

Don’t fire Tasers at the chest, manufacturer warns

From Raw Story:

WASHINGTON — The US manufacturer of the Taser stun gun has advised police not to aim the weapons at the chests of suspects after admitting heart risk concerns for the first time.

Taser International stressed that suffering an “adverse cardiac event” after being zapped was “extremely unlikely,” but human rights groups say hundreds of people have been killed by the electroshock weapons.

In a bulletin dated October 12, the Arizona-based company issued new guidelines saying it had “lowered the recommended point of aim from center of mass to lower-center of mass for front shots.”

“When possible, avoiding chest shots with ECDs (Electronic Control Devices) avoids the controversy about whether ECDs do or do not affect the human heart,” it explained.

“Researchers have concluded that a close distance between the ECD dart and the heart is the primary factor in determining whether an ECD will affect the heart. The risk is judged to be extremely low in field use,” it said.

Tasers, which pack a 50,000-volt punch that can paralyze targets from up to 10 meters (30 feet) away, are used by several police forces around the world, including in Britain, Canada, France, Greece, Israel, and the United States.

Human rights activists have long criticized the stun guns, challenging previous claims from the manufacturer that they are a safe, non-lethal alternative to handguns.

More than 350 people died between 2001 and December last year after being stunned by the weapons, according to Amnesty International, which has been monitoring Taser-related deaths.

Scientists Grow Mice Heart Muscle Strip that Beats

From CNSNews:

Washington (AP) – Scientists have grown a piece of heart muscle – and then watched it beat – by using stem cells from a mouse embryo, a big step toward one day repairing damage from heart attacks. Think of Dr. Kenneth Chien as a heart mechanic. “We’re making a heart part and (eventually) we’re going to put the part in,” is how he describes the work by his team of Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers.

Lots of work remains before trying that dramatic an experiment in people. But regenerating damaged heart muscle is a holy grail in cardiac care.

Doctors today have lots of treatments to prevent a heart attack. But once one strikes, there’s no way to restore the heart muscle it kills. Gradually the weakened heart quits pumping properly, leading to deadly heart failure.

Hence the focus on embryonic stem cells, master cells that can give rise to any tissue in the body. Until now, scientists haven’t known how to coax those cells into producing pure cardiac muscle.

Instead, researchers have tried injecting heart attack survivors with mixes of different kinds of stem cells, next-generation types like those found in bone marrow. The idea: Perhaps once those cells were inside a damaged heart, ones capable of growing cardiac muscle would receive a “get to work” signal and take root. There’s been little success so far.

The new research, published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, promises a more targeted approach.

“It’s not the home run,” cautioned Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is spending millions on research nationwide into cardiac regeneration. “But it’s a major advance that’s helping to move the field forward in a very significant way.”

Embryonic stem cells give rise to more specialized organ-producing stem cells. The team from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Mass General recently discovered a master heart stem cell present in both human and mouse embryos.

But could they control it enough to make just the kind of heart cell they wanted to grow? They’d have to winnow out the daughter cell whose only job is to grow the muscle fibers of the ventricle, or pumping chamber.

Chien genetically engineered mice so that certain cells in the embryos’ developing hearts would light either fluorescent red or green. As he watched the embryos grow, where the colors overlapped signaled developing heart muscle. Sure enough, when the team plucked out those cells, they were pure ventricle generators.

Next Harvard engineers pitched in with a special scaffolding. The team “seeded” the scaffolding with these ventricle stem cells, and a thin strip of mouse heart muscle grew right in the laboratory.

Not only that, it spontaneously beat, the team reported in Science and at a National Institutes of Health meeting this week on the state of cardiac regeneration.

“This looks like the kind of work a normal heart tissue strip would do,” said Chien, director of Mass General’s Cardiovascular Research Center. “We went from embryonic stem cells to an organ.”

What next? This was not a fully developed piece of heart muscle but a thin strip. To be usable, it would have to be thicker, more three-dimensional, for more beating strength. It also needs a nourishing blood supply. So a next big challenge is pinpointing which daughter to those master heart stem cells will grow blood vessels.

The NIH’s Nabel said the experiment also offers a possible new opportunity for cell therapy _ that perhaps injecting the precise muscle-generating cell directly into a damaged heart would have a better chance of sticking and working.

The Harvard team wants both methods tried.

“We’re not saying this is going to happen tomorrow,” said Chien, who also is working on repeating the work with human cells. “I believe within five years,” it might be ready to try with people.

Merck Wins U.S. Approval for Gardasil Vaccine in Boys

From Bloomberg:

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) — Merck & Co.’s Gardasil, a vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer in women, won U.S. regulatory approval for preventing genital warts in boys.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the vaccine for use in males ages 9 to 26, Merck said today in a statement.

Gardasil protects against a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus, or HPV, that can lead to cervical cancer in women and genital warts and cancer of the penis and anus in men. Gardasil, approved for females ages 9 to 26, is given mostly to school-age girls as a U.S.-recommended routine vaccination. Expanding the shot’s use could revive sales, which declined 5 percent last year, analysts have said.

“This is an important milestone, because the use of Gardasil can now help protect boys and girls and young men and women from certain diseases caused by this common virus,” said Richard Haupt, executive director of Merck Research Laboratories, in the company’s statement.

Approval in boys could add as much as $200 million and $300 million in annual sales, said Leerink Swann & Co. analyst Seamus Fernandez in a research report last month. Gardasil generated revenue of $1.4 billion last year.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, fell 6 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $33.24 at 1:26 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Difficult Market

Selling Gardasil for boys could be a struggle for Merck because the public-health benefit may not outweigh the expense, Fernandez said. It would cost more than $100,000 to vaccinate enough boys to get one year of additional life compared with less than $50,000 for girls, according to a study by Harvard University researchers presented in June to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Merck’s studies show it would cost $50,000 for both boys and girls. Merck’s study used a cost of $400 per vaccine with 100 percent protection.

Researchers used a measure called quality adjusted life years, or QALYs, that evaluate years of life saved as well as assigning a fraction of a year for years spent without certain diseases.

Merck will expand a patient rebate and dose replacement program to help cover the cost of the vaccine for 19- to 26- year-old men without health insurance and those with private insurance with partial or no coverage for the shots, according to the company’s statement.

Company Study

In a Merck-funded study released last year, researchers gave 4,065 boys and men ages 16 to 26 the vaccine or a placebo, then tracked them for signs of infection with HPV. After about 30 months, three men getting Gardasil developed genital warts and none had pre- cancerous growths linked to the HPV virus, compared with 28 cases of warts and three pre-cancerous lesions in the placebo group.

Gardasil, which is given in three shots over a six- month period, protects against infection caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 — four of the 40 types of the virus found in the genital area. More than 1 million cases of genital lesions, which can lead to cancer, occur in men and women in the U.S. each year, and 30 million cases occur worldwide, according to Merck.

While 20 million Americans are infected with HPV, most will be able to fight off the infection naturally. About 1 percent of sexually active men in the U.S. will develop genital warts from HPV, the CDC said. Gardasil is already approved for males in 40 countries worldwide.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Shannon Pettypiece in New York at spettypiece@bloomberg.net.

Flu vaccines revealed as the greatest quackery ever pushed in the history of medicine

From NaturalNews.com:

(NaturalNews) Prepare to have your world rocked. What you’re about to read here will leave you astonished, inspired and outraged all at the same time. You’re about to be treated to some little-known information demonstrating why seasonal flu vaccines are utterly worthless and why their continued promotion is based entirely on fabricated studies and medical mythology.

If the whole world knew what you’re about to read here, the vaccine industry would collapse overnight.

This information comes to you courtesy of a brilliant article published in The Atlantic (November 2009). The article, written by Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer, isn’t just brilliant; in my opinion it stands as the best article on flu vaccines that has ever been published in the popular press. Entitled Does the vaccine matter?, it presents some of the most eye-opening information you’ve probably ever read about the failure of flu vaccines. You can read the full article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/2009…

Perhaps its impressive narrative shouldn’t be too surprising, though, since writer Shannon Brownlee is also the celebrated author of a phenomenal book on modern medicine entitled Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer (http://www.amazon.com/Overtreated-M…) (http://www.naturalpedia.com/book_Ov…).

While I’ve never done this before, I’m going to summarize this article point by point (along with some comments) so that you get the full force of what’s finally been put into print.

This information is so important that I encourage you to share the following summary I’ve put together. Email it to family, friends and coworkers. Or post it on your blog or website (with a link and proper credit to both NaturalNews and The Atlantic, please). Get this information out to the world. People need to know this, and so far the mainstream media has utterly failed to make this information known.

(The really good information begins after around a dozen bullet points, so be sure to keep reading…)

Continue reading

Study prompts provinces to rethink flu plan (Canada)

From The Globe and Mail:

Patrick White

Winnipeg — From Monday’s Globe and Mail Last updated on Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2009 01:44PM EDT

A “perplexing” Canadian study linking H1N1 to seasonal flu shots is throwing national influenza plans into disarray and testing public faith in the government agencies responsible for protecting the nation’s health.

Distributed for peer review last week, the study confounded infectious-disease experts in suggesting that people vaccinated against seasonal flu are twice as likely to catch swine flu.

The paper is under peer review, and lead researchers Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and Gaston De Serres of Laval University must stay mum until it’s published.

Met with intense early skepticism both in Canada and abroad, the paper has since convinced several provincial health agencies to announce hasty suspensions of seasonal flu vaccinations, long-held fixtures of public-health planning.

“It has confused things very badly,” said Dr. Ethan Rubinstein, head of adult infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba. “And it has certainly cost us credibility from the public because of conflicting recommendations. Until last week, there had always been much encouragement to get the seasonal flu vaccine.”

On Sunday Quebec joined Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia in suspending seasonal flu shots for anyone under 65 years of age. Quebec’s Health Ministry announced it would postpone vaccinations until January, clearing the autumn months for health professionals to focus on vaccinating against H1N1, which is expected to the more severe influenza strain this season.

“By the time the H1N1 wave is over, there will be ample time to vaccinate for seasonal flu,” Dr. Rubinstein said.

B.C. is expected to announce a similar suspension during a press conference Monday morning.

Other provinces, including Manitoba, are still pondering a response to the research.

New Brunswick is a lone hold-out, announcing last week it would forge ahead with seasonal flu shots for all residents in October, as originally planned.

So far, the study’s impact is confined to Canada. Researchers in the U.S., Britain and Australia have not reported the same phenomenon. Marie-Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s director of vaccine research, said last week the Canadian findings were an international anomaly and could constitute a “study bias.”

An international panel is currently scrutinizing the research data. “The review process has been expedited, so we’re hoping for a response within days,” said Roy Wadia, spokesman for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Dr. Rubinstein, who has read the study, said it appears sound.

“There are a large number of authors, all of them excellent and credible researchers,” he said. “And the sample size is very large – 12 or 13 million people taken from the central reporting systems in three provinces. The research is solid.”

The vaccine suspensions do not apply for people over 65. Seniors are considered more susceptible to severe seasonal flu symptoms. At the same time, they carry antibodies from a 1957 pandemic that seem to neutralize the current version of H1N1.

Even if the statistical link is proven, the medical link between seasonal flu shots and H1N1 remains mysterious. One hypothesis suggests seasonal flu vaccine preoccupies the cells that would otherwise produce antibodies against H1N1.

But, according to Dr. Rubinstein, the research shows that people who received the seasonal shot during the 2007-08 flu season remained vulnerable to swine flu well into 2009 – an interval that should provide most immune systems ample restoration time.

“We don’t understand the mechanism,” Dr. Rubinstein said. “At the present time it is quite perplexing.”