Monday, April 22, 2013



Having directed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for most of the past four decades, Dr. James E. Hansen retired this month to devote himself to the scientific activism that has brought both awards and catcalls during his long and distinguished career. On April 24, he will receive the Ridenhour Courage Prize in Washington, D.C., for “bravely and urgently telling the truth about climate change.”

Hansen recently spoke with The National Memo about the dangers of global warming, the benefits of nuclear power, the failures of both Republican and Democratic administrations, the imperatives of scientific advocacy – and how a carbon tax might actually replace “cap and trade,” which seems to be disintegrating in Europe.

Now 72, Hansen is the son of a tenant farmer who studied with the legendary space scientist James Van Allen at the University of Iowa, before going on to postgraduate work in the Netherlands and at Columbia University, where the Goddard Institute is located.  He joined NASA in 1972, planning to study the effect of gas clouds on the climate of Venus, but eventually realized that investigating climate changes on Earth was “probably more important – a planet that is changing before our eyes and has people living on it.”

By 1981, his team at NASA-Goddard published its first major paper on carbon dioxide and climate in the journalScience, which prompted page-one coverage in the New York Times.

“We said we can’t burn all the coal without producing a very different planet,” Hansen recalls. But “it wasn’t until 1988 that I gave testimony which got a lot of attention, and that was because that was the year of a heat wave and tremendous drought in the Midwest United States.” Hansen’s warnings increasingly irked the Republican oilmen in the Reagan and Bush administrations, who tried to silence or fire him, but they never drove him out.

“Being at NASA and having the access to both computing capability and satellite observation capability is kind of the ideal research situation to try to understand global climate change. So of course I preferred to stay in the government — and I was fortunate that [the late] Senator John Heinz, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, came to my rescue when John Sununu [chief of staff in the first Bush White House] was on the warpath and wanted to have me fired.”

Publicly, he remained quiet for 15 years. “But the message in the science had become clearer and clearer…It was well accepted by [2004] that the planet really was getting warmer and the cause was human-made greenhouse gases. And yet the policies still took no account of that, and the plan was to build more and more coal-fired power plants.”

He finally spoke out again at the University of Iowa – “to make clear that the Bush administration was not taking effective action.” That speech “drew the attention of the Bush administration,” he says, laughing, “and they decided to assign someone to keep track of me and prevent me from speaking out.” (Eventually the Times reported that, too.)

In recent years, Hansen has been arrested in climate protests at the White House and elsewhere, and in retirement plans to intensify his activism.

Freed from the strictures of government, he plans to assist in “legal actions against state and federal government for not adequately protecting the rights of young people and future generations. And also contributing to the cases where they’re trying to stop coal exports from the West Coast – and the [Keystone] tar sands pipeline. In May I’m going to Europe for a week to try to persuade some governments there that they should be putting an extra fee or tax on tar-sands oil because it is more damaging per unit of energy than the easily extractable oil.”

In order to remain effective, “I really have to say on top of the science, so most of my time will be spent on scientific research…But I also want to be involved in trying to make clear the implications of the science for policy. It seems to me that scientists are well trained for connecting dots – and I never quite understood why even the really good NASA high-level people would always caution me to ‘stick to the science, don’t mention policy.’”

Catastrophic climate change can be averted, Hansen says, but only if we start “putting an honest price on the fossil fuels that includes their environmental costs, both their effect on human health, those costs being paid completely by the public, their effects in air pollution and water pollution, but also their effects on climate.”

He scorns the current “dishonest” cap-and-trade scheme. “You have to have a simple system which is transparent and which actually reduces the fossil fuel use. There’s really no value added by bringing the big banks into the problem. But with the cap-and-trade [system], the prices fluctuate and because there’s so much politics involved the prices can collapse, and so no one has any confidence in that system.

“And the banks of course” – he laughs – “JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, they have skilled trading units, hundreds of highly capable people who will make big dollars out of trades – but it adds nothing of value to the system, and where does that money come from? It doesn’t come out of thin air, it comes out of the public, the people, paying more for their energy. “

The so-called cap-and-trade “offsets,” which award carbon credits for preserving trees, “can be really hokey, really hard to verify – and they don’t actually pay attention to the physics of the problem, which tells you that the fossil fuel carbon that you put into the atmosphere will stay in the climate system for millennia….That means that there is a limit on how much fossil fuel you can burn. And they’re trying to trade other things in there as if they were equivalent to this fossil fuel carbon, but they’re not.”

Instead, Hansen favors a simple carbon tax, or what he calls “fee and dividend,” with a rising surcharge on fossil fuels that is rebated in full to all taxpayers.

“The reason for the fee is simple – it really needs to be collected at the domestic mine or port of entry so that it’s just across the board – but unless you’re giving that money to the public, the public will never allow the fee to continue to rise because they will see the impact on the cost of gasoline at the pump and in their utility bills until there are some alternatives.”

The alternative that Hansen favors – a rapid worldwide expansion of nuclear power — is highly controversial among environmentalists, to say the least.

“I just published a paper with [fellow Goddard scientist] Pushker Kharecha, in which we point out the number of lives that have been saved by nuclear power. And that’s nuclear power of the early generations, 50-year-old technology.  Even with that old technology the accidents that did occur — the number of lives lost – was very limited in comparison to the number that are killed every year by coal, by the air and by water pollution from fossil fuel burning and fossil fuel mining. “

Hansen believes that new cooling systems and advanced reactor designs can answer concerns about accidents like the meltdown at Fukushima, Japan – “that’s solvable now” — and how to dispose of radioactive waste. “With a fourth generation of nuclear power, you can have a technology that will burn more than 99 percent of the energy in the fuel. It would mean that you don’t need to mine uranium for the next thousand years. We have got enough excess weapons material and nuclear waste to provide the fuel for many centuries.”

Hansen knows this isn’t a popular viewpoint. “There are certain environmental organizations – especially the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council – which are just dead set against nuclear power. And I understand where they were coming from, several decades ago.”

Today he worries that solar, wind, and other renewable sources will not soon provide sufficient reliable energy. “I think that nuclear is probably needed but I’m quite happy to just say ‘let’s put a rising price on carbon and let the market decide.’ I hope that Germany or California is successful in their efforts to get these so-called renewables to provide most of the energy but I think that’s unlikely…If we would put this price on carbon it would favor renewables, and it would favor energy efficiency, and it would favor nuclear power – it would favor anything that is carbon-free. That’s the way to do it – not by government deciding, this is the winning technology.”

He stands with the environmentalists in strong opposition to the Keystone XL project, however. “If you make that pipeline, that sort of guarantees that over time, you’re eventually going to exploit a lot of that [tar sands] resource. And it doesn’t make any sense economically if you look at it – the only reason they go ahead with it is that it’s partly subsidized and it’s not made to pay for its cost to society. If we could stop it and get any sort of a price on carbon that even partially reflects the cost of CO2 to society, then tar sands would simply not be exploited.”

According to a paper he will soon release, “simple economic modeling shows that if you put a moderate rising price on carbon — $10 a ton, going up $10 a ton for 10 years — by the end of 10 years you would reduce United States emissions by 30 percent.

And that’s 10 times or 11 times more than the volume of the Keystone pipeline. So there are much more effective ways of assuring our energy independence and contributing to stabilizing climate than trying to develop more fossil fuel sources.” Government should also adopt much tighter regulations to conserve energy in appliances, buildings, and transportation, he adds.

Politically, Hansen urges Americans to support Citizens Climate Lobby, a group advocating a simple flat carbon fee, with the money distributed to the public. He is considering whether to help found a “grandparents” movement against climate change. “But frankly in the United States it looks very difficult with our present two parties to get prompt action. I think we need a third party. Money has too big an influence on our politics in Washington and somehow we need to do something about that.”

Saving Our Ravaged Planet … And Ourselves

Earth Day cometh — the 43rd year of this national  focus on the state of our globe. So, how is Earth doing? Should we be weeping … or cheering?

The first step to any recovery is recognition of the obvious: Earth has a problem. In fact, beaucoup problems. For example, despite the squawking of profiteering polluters and professional deniers, our very atmosphere — without which everyone and everything is dead — is rapidly being degenerated by our own addiction to fossil fuel, literally altering Earth’s climate in disastrous ways. Yet, as we burn, energy corporations blithely fiddle.

They’re fiddling with tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada, uncaring about the vast amounts of ozone-destroying carbon that will be released by ripping open Northern Alberta’s boreal forest to get at the junk oil, or about the extra carbon-dioxide contamination that will come from processing this especially toxic sludge at Big Oil’s Gulf Coast refineries.

Also, they’re fiddling with the Earth itself, by fracking deep underground shale to bring gas and oil — plus more ozone-depleting methane — to the surface. And they’re still fiddling with the priceless ecology of America’s ancient Appalachian Mountains and streams by exploding off the mountaintops — merely to make it easier and cheaper for Big Coal to extract the ozone-killing carbon.

There are plenty of horrors to make you weep this Earth Day. But tears don’t bring change. That comes only from the determined effort of ordinary grassroots people to organize, strategize and mobilize. The good news for our Earth and our own existence is that such people are on the move in every part of America. They’re confronting the greedheads and boneheads, creating effective energy alternatives, forging fresh and sensible polices, lifting heads out of the sand — and producing the change we must have.

The courageous and tenacious mountaineers of Appalachia, for example, are at last beginning to score big victories in their long, hard fight against the coal giants, including winning an agreement last November from one, Patriot Coal, to cease all mountaintop-removal coal mining.

Also, from Vermont to California, the frackers are getting fracked, as local groups are winning fights in city halls, legislatures and courts to stop the rampant exploitation of their land, water and communities. And, all across the country, including in the reddest of red states, grassroots advocates are producing a sensible shift from fossil-fuel dependency to renewable fuels and conservation.

That’s what Earth Day is about, so don’t weep — cheer the progress we’ve made, and join the movement for more.

In fact, some communities are going so far as to imagine achieving “net zero.” That’s the wonky name attached to an elegant idea, namely a conversion to total renewable energy, complete recycling and a culture of conservation to bring humankind’s carbon footprint into a sustainable balance with a healthy earth.

Now, imagine the least likely place you’d expect this net zero ideal to take root — and even flourish. How about oil-saturated Texas? Yes! On an Army base, no less. Astonishingly, America’s sustainable energy future is being pioneered in El Paso on a sprawling military base named Fort Bliss, home to 35,000 soldiers.

The post already has a 1.4 megawatt solar array and rooftop solar panels on all base housing (generating 13.4 megawatts of energy), and it’s in partnership with El Paso Electric to complete a 200-acre, 20-megawatt solar farm by 2015.

It also has a plan with the city of El Paso to convert the post’s waste into energy, and it’s engaged in wind, geothermal and conservation projects. Adding to the effort, base officials are encouraging the use of energy-efficient vehicles — and even building bicycle lanes throughout the base.

The Army! Who knew they cared?

Practically everyone on the base is committed to achieving the goal of net zero by 2018, meaning the base will generate all of the energy it uses — and do it with renewables. The troops have planted nearly 15,000 trees and have become converts to recycling. To encourage the latter, the base commander, Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, has put the million-dollar-a-year recycling revenue that Fort Bliss earns into skating parks, exercise facilities and other morale-boosting recreation projects.

“Everybody is getting involved,” he says, noting that the effort is changing behavior and fostering a conservation culture, which he hopes “our soldiers will take with them when they go on.”

There’s hope for the Earth when even the Army begins to care, take action and change attitudes. In this case, let’s all “join the Army.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Gardasil Changed My Life

Judicial Watch announced it has received documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that its National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) has awarded $5,877,710 dollars to 49 victims in claims made against the highly controversial HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. To date 200 claims have been filed with VICP, with barely half adjudicated.

“This new information from the government shows that the serious safety concerns about the use of Gardasil have been well-founded. Public health officials should stop pushing Gardasil on children.” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

…Miller responded to the doctors who complained to her about the article and has offered them space for a rebuttal in the May issue of Western New York Family magazine, which has a circulation of about 25,000, she said. O’Connor also offered a handful of pediatricians with whom she exchanged emails an opportunity to expound upon their views in an interview on her radio show. “They all turned me down. If they had something to say, I’d like to hear it,” she said…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

HPV Vaccine Safety: Has the CDC abandoned its mission?

HPV Vaccine Safety: Has the CDC abandoned its mission?

By Norma Erickson

What would happen if a vaccine turned out to cause more health problems than the disease it was meant to protect against? Are medical consumers watching this scenario unfold with HPV vaccines?

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) states 90% of all HPV infections clear on their own with no symptoms or medical treatment. Yes, human Papillomavirus (HPV) may be one of the most commonly sexually transmitted viruses in the country, but in the vast majority of cases there are no serious health consequences to being exposed to human Papillomavirus.

In those cases where infections with the same genotype of HPV persist over time, abnormal cervical lesions may develop. These abnormal lesions (CIN), classified 1, 2, or 3, are typically called ‘precancerous’ lesions. Not many people are aware of the fact that most CIN1 lesions go away on their own within two years. 25-50% of CIN2 lesions regress on their own within the same two year time frame. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), World Health Organization, the results of a pooled analysis of studies published between 1950 and 1993 indicated only 12% of CIN3 lesions progress to invasive cervical cancer.


“Despite women’s frequent exposure to HPV, development of cervical neoplasia is uncommon. Most cervical abnormalities caused by HPV infection are unlikely to progress to high-grade CIN or cervical cancer, as most of them regress by themselves. The long time frame between initial infection and overt disease indicates that several cofactors (e.g., genetic differences, hormonal effects, micronutrient deficiencies, smoking, or chronic inflammation) may be necessary for disease progression. Spontaneous regression of CIN may also indicate that many women may not be exposed to these cofactors.”

Please note this manual was designed to teach medical and nursing personnel in developing countries where diagnostic and therapeutic expertise is not readily available. In other words, the progression from HPV exposure to potential development of cervical cancer is similar in both developing countries and developed countries. It also indicates that several cofactors (risk factors) may be needed for HPV exposure to progress to abnormal lesions, much less cervical cancer.

What does this mean for the average medical consumer?

·        HPV has not been proven to cause cervical cancer without other risk factors being present.

·        Persistent infections with high-risk HPV genotypes may lead to the development of cervical cancer if other risk factors are present.

·        According to the IARC, risk factors that contribute to the development of cervical cancer precursors and cervical cancer include infection with certain oncogenic types of human Papillomavirus (HPV), sexual intercourse at an early age, multiple sexual partners, multiparity (giving birth two/more times, or giving birth to twins), long-term oral contraceptive use, tobacco smoking, low socioeconomic status, infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, micronutrient deficiency and a diet deficient in vegetables and fruits.

These are all facts that CDC officials know, or should know. Given this, how can these same CDC officials recommend and promote the universal use of HPV vaccines in an attempt to eliminate one risk factor involved in the development of cervical cancer?

Of equal concern is that the CDC knows the cervical cancer death rate in the United States has decreased substantially due largely to the introduction and wide use of pap smears.

The CDC would certainly know the side effects of pap smears, which are mild and limited to:

·        Slight pelvic discomfort or pain during the procedure
·        Temporary abdominal cramping during or shortly after the procedure
·        Mild vaginal bleeding for up to 24 hours following the procedure

CDC officials also know that pap smears can identify abnormal cervical lesions long before they progress to cervical cancer. The CDC knows pap smears already provide a safe, affordable, necessary and effective means of preventing cervical cancer and cervical cancer deaths.

Despite all of this knowledge, the CDC wholeheartedly recommends two HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, claiming both protect against cervical cancer in women.

However, because pre-licensure clinical trials often do not detect rare adverse events or adverse events related to special populations, the CDC and FDA are both responsible for ongoing safety monitoring of HPV and other vaccines.

Vaccines continue to be monitored for safety after they are licensed. This is because pre-licensure trials are often too small to detect rare events and special populations may not be adequately represented. Since licensure, CDC and FDA have been closely checking the safety of HPV vaccines through 3 monitoring systems. These systems can monitor adverse events (health problems) already known to be caused by vaccines, as well as detect rare adverse events that were not identified during pre-licensure clinical trials. The 3 systems are:

·         The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)–an early warning public health system that helps CDC and FDA detect possible side effects or adverse events following vaccination.

·         The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) – collaboration between CDC and several health care organizations which monitors and evaluates adverse events following vaccination.

·         The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network – collaboration between CDC and medical research centers in the U.S. which conduct research on adverse events that might be caused by vaccines.

VAERS relies on voluntary data reporting. Even the CDC acknowledges that adverse events may be 10 to as much 100 times the number actually reported.

The CDC claims, “These vaccine safety studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe.”

A simple analysis of the VAERS database alone does not support the CDC’s claims. The chart below illustrates adverse events reported after Gardasil and Cervarix compared against reports after the 13 other vaccines recommended for ages 7-18, for the period of time HPV vaccines have been on the market. Why do HPV vaccines appear to be vastly over represented in the adverse events database?

Does this not indicate some sort of safety signal?
We discussed above the three side effects reported after pap smears, none of which are life threatening. Compare them to the following list of new medical conditions reported to VAERS after HPV vaccines:

Abortion/Stillbirth/Miscarriage, Addison’s Disease, Adrenal failure/problems, Allergies, Anxiety/Panic attacks, Appetite loss, Arthritis, Asthma attacks, Autistic–like symptoms, Autoimmune Disease (Lupus/Mixed Connective Tissue Disease), Back pain, Bacterial Vaginosis, Bladder issues, Bleeding gums, Blindness, Bloating, Blood Sugar Issues, Bloody stools, Brain fog, Brain Inflammation, Brain lesions, Bronchitis, Cervical cancer, Chemical sensitivity, Chest pains, Convulsions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Constipation, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Death, Degenerative disk disease, Dehydration, Depression, Diabetes, Diarrhea, Dizziness, Dyslexia, Dysplasia, Early Onset of Menopause, Enlarged fallopian tubes, Enlarged liver, Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Extreme pain in the tailbone area, Fainting, Fatigue, Fertility problems, Fever, Fever blisters, Fibromyalgia, Food allergies, Gallbladder issues, Genital Warts, Gray film on teeth, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Hair growth in strange places, Hair loss, Hallucinations, Hand/Leg Weakness, Hashimoto’s Disease, Head pressure, Headache, Hearing loss (Temporary/Permanent), Hearing sensitivity, Heart Palpitations, Heart arrhythmia, High levels of metals in blood: aluminium, mercury, Hot/Cold Intolerance, HPV, Infertility, Insomnia, Itching, IUD discomfort, Joint pain, Kidney Failure, Kidney issues, Knee pain, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Light sensitivity, Lip spots, Liver Failure, Loss of bladder control, Lupus, Memory Loss (short-term/long-term), Menstrual cycle changes, Metallic taste in mouth, Migraines, Miscarriage, Mood Swings, Moles, Mononucleosis, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), MS-like symptoms, Muscle aches, Muscle spasms, Muscle tension, Nausea, Neurological reactions to fungal metabolites, Neurological symptoms , Night sweats, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Numbness, Other types of cancer, Ovarian failure, Paleness, Paralysis, Pancreatitis, PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome), Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), Pelvic pain, Personality changes, Pins/Needles in Extremities, Pleural effusion, Pneumonia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (Orthostatic Intolerance), Random twitching of extremities Rash, Reynaud’s Phenomenon (loss of blood circulation to hands and/or feet), Regression, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ruptured ovarian cysts, Seizures, Sensitivity to commercially processed citric acid, MSG, sulfur and other additives, Severe nerve pain syndrome, Shortness of breath, Sleep Apnea, Slurred speech, Smell sensitivity, Sore throat, Sound sensitivity w/Anxiety, Stomach ache, Stomach pain, Sudden drops in blood pressure, Swelling/Edema, Swollen lymph nodes, Thyroid Issues, Thrombosis Toothaches/Teeth Changes, Tremors: hand and/or leg, Uterine spasms, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Vision loss (Temporary/permanent), Vision Problems – abnormal pupillary function/dilation, Vomiting blood, Weight gain or loss (20 – 30 lbs)

Keep in mind, a report to the VAERS system does not mean the symptoms were caused by the vaccine administered before the new medical condition appeared. A report to the VAERS does not mean the new medical condition is NOT causally associated with the vaccine either. VAERS is simply an ‘early warning’ system. It is up to the CDC and FDA to examine the reports to determine whether or not a safety signal exists.

Any reasonable person looking at the data would struggle to understand how the CDC can recommend the addition of HPV vaccines to the cervical cancer prevention protocol when there is such disparity between potential adverse events?

Any reasonable person would wonder how the CDC can recommend HPV vaccines as a good strategy for cancer prevention when pap smears have already reduced the cervical cancer rates so significantly without all of these potential risks, not to mention at a much lower cost to individuals and society? 

Let’s examine the CDC’s mission statement

“For over 60 years, CDC has been dedicated to protecting health and promoting quality of life through the prevention and control of disease, injury, and disability. We are committed to programs that reduce the health and economic consequences of the leading causes of death and disability, thereby ensuring a long, productive, healthy life for all people.”

·        Accountability — as diligent stewards of public trust and public funds, we act decisively and compassionately in service to the people’s health. We ensure that our research and our services are based on sound science and meet real public needs to achieve our public health goals.

·        Respect — we respect and understand our interdependence with all people, both inside the agency and throughout the world, treating them and their contributions with dignity and valuing individual and cultural diversity. We are committed to achieving a diverse workforce at all levels of the organization.

·        Integrity — we are honest and ethical in all we do. We will do what we say. We prize scientific integrity and professional excellence.

Is the CDC living up to its mission statement?

CDC officials know continued pap screening is recommended by both HPV vaccine manufacturers, despite vaccination status because there are high-risk HPV genotypes not targeted by either Gardasil or Cervarix.

The CDC knows there are no reported deaths or permanent injuries reported after pap smears.

The CDC officials know or should know all of the facts outlined above.

Medical consumers need to ask themselves:

Has the CDC abandoned its mission in an effort to promote potentially dangerous vaccines of questionable benefit?