Norway eradicates mrsa by reducing antibiotic use

December 31, 2009

OSLO, Norway – Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.

Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia this year, soaring virtually unchecked.

The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway’s public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway’s model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.

“It’s a very sad situation that in some places so many are dying from this, because we have shown here in Norway that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be controlled, and with not too much effort,” said Jan Hendrik-Binder, Oslo’s MRSA medical adviser. “But you have to take it seriously, you have to give it attention, and you must not give up.”

The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat.

Now, in Norway’s simple solution, there’s a glimmer of hope.

Dr. John Birger Haug shuffles down Aker’s scuffed corridors, patting the pocket of his baggy white scrubs. “My bible,” the infectious disease specialist says, pulling out a little red Antibiotic Guide that details this country’s impressive MRSA solution.

It’s what’s missing from this book — an array of antibiotics — that makes it so remarkable.

“There are times I must show these golden rules to our doctors and tell them they cannot prescribe something, but our patients do not suffer more and our nation, as a result, is mostly infection free,” he says.

Norway’s model is surprisingly straightforward.

• Norwegian doctors prescribe fewer antibiotics than any other country, so people do not have a chance to develop resistance to them.

• Patients with MRSA are isolated and medical staff who test positive stay at home.

• Doctors track each case of MRSA by its individual strain, interviewing patients about where they’ve been and who they’ve been with, testing anyone who has been in contact with them.

Haug unlocks the dispensary, a small room lined with boxes of pills, bottles of syrups and tubes of ointment. What’s here? Medicines considered obsolete in many developed countries. What’s not? Some of the newest, most expensive antibiotics, which aren’t even registered for use in Norway, “because if we have them here, doctors will use them,” he says.

He points to an antibiotic. “If I treated someone with an infection in Spain with this penicillin I would probably be thrown in jail,” he says, “and rightly so because it’s useless there.”

Norwegians are sanguine about their coughs and colds, toughing it out through low-grade infections.

“We don’t throw antibiotics at every person with a fever. We tell them to hang on, wait and see, and we give them a Tylenol to feel better,” says Haug.

Convenience stores in downtown Oslo are stocked with an amazing and colorful array — 42 different brands at one downtown 7-Eleven — of soothing, but non-medicated, lozenges, sprays and tablets. All workers are paid on days they, or their children, stay home sick. And drug makers aren’t allowed to advertise, reducing patient demands for prescription drugs.

In fact, most marketing here sends the opposite message: “Penicillin is not a cough medicine,” says the tissue packet on the desk of Norway’s MRSA control director, Dr. Petter Elstrom.

He recognizes his country is “unique in the world and best in the world” when it comes to MRSA. Less than 1 percent of health care providers are positive carriers of MRSA staph.

But Elstrom worries about the bacteria slipping in through other countries. Last year almost every diagnosed case in Norway came from someone who had been abroad.

“So far we’ve managed to contain it, but if we lose this, it will be a huge problem,” he said. “To be very depressing about it, we might in some years be in a situation where MRSA is so endemic that we have to stop doing advanced surgeries, things like organ transplants, if we can’t prevent infections. In the worst case scenario we are back to 1913, before we had antibiotics.”

Forty years ago, a new spectrum of antibiotics enchanted public health officials, quickly quelling one infection after another. In wealthier countries that could afford them, patients and providers came to depend on antibiotics. Trouble was, the more antibiotics are consumed, the more resistant bacteria develop.

Norway responded swiftly to initial MRSA outbreaks in the 1980s by cutting antibiotic use. Thus while they got ahead of the infection, the rest of the world fell behind.

In Norway, MRSA has accounted for less than 1 percent of staph infections for years. That compares to 80 percent in Japan, the world leader in MRSA; 44 percent in Israel; and 38 percent in Greece.

In the U.S., cases have soared and MRSA cost $6 billion last year. Rates have gone up from 2 percent in 1974 to 63 percent in 2004. And in the United Kingdom, they rose from about 2 percent in the early 1990s to about 45 percent, although an aggressive control program is now starting to work.

About 1 percent of people in developed countries carry MRSA on their skin. Usually harmless, the bacteria can be deadly when they enter a body, often through a scratch. MRSA spreads rapidly in hospitals where sick people are more vulnerable, but there have been outbreaks in prisons, gyms, even on beaches. When dormant, the bacteria are easily detected by a quick nasal swab and destroyed by antibiotics.

Dr. John Jernigan at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they incorporate some of Norway’s solutions in varying degrees, and his agency “requires hospitals to move the needle, to show improvement, and if they don’t show improvement they need to do more.”

And if they don’t?

“Nobody is accountable to our recommendations,” he said, “but I assume hospitals and institutions are interested in doing the right thing.”

Dr. Barry Farr, a retired epidemiologist who watched a successful MRSA control program launched 30 years ago at the University of Virginia’s hospitals, blamed the CDC for clinging to past beliefs that hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of infections like MRSA. He says it’s time to add screening and isolation methods to their controls.

The CDC needs to “eat a little crow and say, ‘Yeah, it does work,'” he said. “There’s example after example. We don’t need another study. We need somebody to just do the right thing.”

But can Norway’s program really work elsewhere?

The answer lies in the busy laboratory of an aging little public hospital about 100 miles outside of London. It’s here that microbiologist Dr. Lynne Liebowitz got tired of seeing the stunningly low Nordic MRSA rates while facing her own burgeoning cases.

So she turned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn into a petri dish, asking doctors to almost completely stop using two antibiotics known for provoking MRSA infections.

One month later, the results were in: MRSA rates were tumbling. And they’ve continued to plummet. Five years ago, the hospital had 47 MRSA bloodstream infections. This year they’ve had one.

“I was shocked, shocked,” says Liebowitz, bouncing onto her toes and grinning as colleagues nearby drip blood onto slides and peer through microscopes in the hospital laboratory.

When word spread of her success, Liebowitz’s phone began to ring. So far she has replicated her experiment at four other hospitals, all with the same dramatic results.

“It’s really very upsetting that some patients are dying from infections which could be prevented,” she says. “It’s wrong.”

Around the world, various medical providers have also successfully adapted Norway’s program with encouraging results. A medical center in Billings, Mont., cut MRSA infections by 89 percent by increasing screening, isolating patients and making all staff — not just doctors — responsible for increasing hygiene.

In Japan, with its cutting-edge technology and modern hospitals, about 17,000 people die from MRSA every year.

Dr. Satoshi Hori, chief infection control doctor at Juntendo University Hospital in Tokyo, says doctors overprescribe antibiotics because they are given financial incentives to push drugs on patients.

Hori now limits antibiotics only to patients who really need them and screens and isolates high-risk patients. So far his hospital has cut the number of MRSA cases by two-thirds.

In 2001, the CDC approached a Veterans Affairs hospital in Pittsburgh about conducting a small test program. It started in one unit, and within four years, the entire hospital was screening everyone who came through the door for MRSA. The result: an 80 percent decrease in MRSA infections. The program has now been expanded to all 153 VA hospitals, resulting in a 50 percent drop in MRSA bloodstream infections, said Dr. Robert Muder, chief of infectious diseases at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “You save people pain, you save people the work of taking care of them, you save money, you save lives and you can export what you learn to other hospital-acquired infections.”

Pittsburgh’s program has prompted all other major hospital-acquired infections to plummet as well, saving roughly $1 million a year.

“So, how do you pay for it?” Muder asked. “Well, we just don’t pay for MRSA infections, that’s all.”

____ap, 12/31/09

Martha Mendoza is an AP national writer who reported from Norway and England. Margie Mason is an AP medical writer based in Vietnam, who reported while on a fellowship from The Nieman Foundation at Harvard University.


Woods scandal a boon to Internet publications

December 10, 2009

The Tiger Woods sex scandal has been a boon for online publications, even though it hasn’t generated the same amount of Internet traffic as Michael Jackson’s death or President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Provocative remarks by Yahoo Inc. CEO Carol Bartz at an investor conference in New York this week illustrate how major Internet channels and niche publications are benefiting from the Woods controversy.

Known for her off-color commentary, Bartz told financial analysts Tuesday that the Woods story is “better than Michael Jackson dying” for helping Yahoo make money, because it is easier to sell ads against salacious content than morbid stories.

“It’s kind of hard to put an ad up next to a funeral,” she said.

In response to a question, Bartz even said Woods will “absolutely” help Yahoo make its numbers this quarter, a comment the company now says was meant to be a joke.

Google Inc. and Yahoo, which combined process more than 80 percent of all Internet searches in the U.S., said they’ve seen a significant spike in traffic from people looking for information on the golf superstar and his alleged extramarital affairs. Yahoo says searches for Woods’ name are up more than 3,900 percent over the last 30 days. Neither Google nor Yahoo would provide specifics about how many more people were searching.

Time Inc. says its Web site, which averages 2.4 million unique viewers a month, has seen traffic spike 600 percent since the story about Tiger broke after the Thanksgiving holiday. The traffic is similar to levels the publications sees only during major golf championships, said Scott Novak, spokesman for Sports Illustrated Group, which publishes

Presidential speech banned in schools but Capitalism screams loudly

November 1, 2009

A teacher writes about her experience when QSP, a fundraising company owned by Time Inc., visits her school.
[caution: don’t read this while eating]

“The screaming is the opening to the annual school fundraiser assembly, kicking off a couple of weeks of good, capitalist behavior by our country’s youngest army of salespeople.

They will be rewarded for their efforts with prizes: The baby hoodie keychain/cellphone/music player holder is the teeny starter, with an electric guitar, iPod touch, or $250-dollar American Express card at the other end, for those who can outsell the rest.

Even better? Students who sell fast will be entered into a drawing, their names being placed into the money machine, a chamber with air blowing money around. Keep what you catch.

QSP hires the bubbliest, most cheerful motivators in order to get the kids pumped up about selling! Presented in a tone of voice with ever-more exclamation points!!!

“Time Inc. can breach the school walls to talk to kids, but the president of the United States cannot.

In my school a message was sent to teachers that, though not forbidding the showing of the president’s speech, did suggest to any teacher reading between the lines that playing this speech was discouraged, and anyone wishing to do so would have to jump through hoops.

It seems that private business trumps the government, no matter how much money the government dishes out.

Food Inc

October 22, 2009

WBAI, 9 am Oct 22

Hammer and Sickle High

September 8, 2009

The communist plot to infiltrate America’s schools is almost complete.

At least, that is, according to Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party who recently testified, “As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology”-referring to the commander in chief’s scheduled address of the nation’s schools on Tuesday, September 8th.

Right-wing talk-show hosts like Glenn Beck have made Obama’s speech to the children their vein-popping tirade du jour and ABC News reported that some school districts in six states–Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota–are refusing to air President Obama’s speech to students. A small but noisy set of parents have pledged that they will keep their kids home from school on Tuesday rather than allow their children to be brainwashed by 21st century Bolshevism. Racism simmers beneath much of the vitriolic opposition to Obama and has even boiled over into open bigotry, as Teresa Kopec, a parent from South Carolina reported, “I just got anonymous phone call calling me a ‘n*gger loving communist’ for giving pro-Obama statement to local paper.”

What sedition is Obama planning to spread that has conservatives frothing at the mouth?

The White House released an outline of Obama’s address that reveals he will take up such known socialist themes as getting good grades. The administration has also prepared a Leninist lesson plan to accompany the speech that suggests, “Teachers might conduct a ‘listening with purpose’ exercise based on the themes of inspiration and challenges.”

Regardless of how cross-eyed with rage they get, the right-wing couldn’t be more erroneous when they spittle about Obama’s desire to paint the White House-or the schoolhouse-red. I should admit that I haven’t read all three volumes of Das Kapital, but I don’t think Marx ever said anything about workers of the world uniting to bailout bankers with hundreds of billions in taxpayer money. Jettisoning even his tepid public option, Obama is poised to cave to the for-profit health insurance companies. But it’s in education-through his relentless push for the privatization of the public schools in the form of charter schools-where Obama’s dedication to the free market put him in a class of his own.

The public schools represent one of the last free public government services guaranteed to all-and one of the last great frontiers for corporate America. With the right-wing school voucher programs discredited, the school privatization movement has reinvented itself with a liberal veneer in the form of the charter school lobby. Charter schools operate by taking public money and placing it in schools that are outside of public oversight, and are run by independent charter associations or for-profit entities. Often times the CEOs of these charters garner bloated salaries and-just like health insurance companies-they often deny applicants deemed “high-risk.”

Obama’s charisma and liberal credentials have helped put the charter school movement on the fast track-along with his Race to the Top Fund, designed to pressure school districts around the country to turn significant portions of their schools into these unaccountable charters or be cut off from the desperately needed federal dollars. As the Washington Post reported, “President Obama is leaning hard on the nation’s schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid-and the threat of withholding it-to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers.” It seems the plan is working with the recent news that the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted 6-1 to authorize opening up over 250 schools to bids by charter schools and other outside entities.

Obama defended the Race to the Top Fund saying, “It’s not based on politics, it’s not based on who’s got more clout, it’s not based on what certain constituency groups are looking for, but it’s based on what works.”

But the fact is, charter schools rival investment banks for best example of the failure of the free market. In the largest study on charter schools to date, Stanford University found in their Walton Family (of Walmart infamy) funded study that students in more than 80 percent of charter schools either performed the same as-or worse than-students in traditional public schools on mathematics tests. More damning, thirty-seven percent of charter schools students posted gains that were “significantly below” what their students would have realized if they had enrolled in their local traditional public schools instead.

For Obama to truly earn the socialist moniker his right-wing antagonists have branded him with, this is the speech he would need to deliver to the children of America:

As another school year begins, I have chosen to address the nation’s children because dramatic changes are needed if we are to ever attain a society fit for you to grow up in.

I have come to realize the hypocrisy of scolding America’s youth for not taking more personal responsibility for their future when we don’t ask the same of America’s elite.

Today, I pledge to nationalize the banks that took hundreds of billions of dollars from your parents in the form of taxpayer bailouts after sabotaging the global economy. I will use the proceeds to provide a single-payer “Medicare for All” health system that can ensure students come to school healthy and ready to learn. Furthermore, I will withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and with the money and morality saved from not killing people around the world, build the strongest public school system the world has ever seen.

Remember to always study hard-with all the new jobs I am creating in healthcare and education we will soon need smart young people like you working to meet the needs of millions who previously were neglected.

If Obama delivers this speech on Tuesday, I would be happy to write an apology to Glenn Beck requesting forgiveness for not heeding his warning of creeping socialism.
Jesse Hagopian

Ban Factory Farms & Forced Vaccinations

September 5, 2009

from Organic Consumers Asso.

ALERT UPDATE (August 29, 2009): From NaturalNews: A new bill, the “Pandemic Response Bill,” S. 2028, has passed the Massachusetts state Senate and is now awaiting approval in the House. This bill suspends virtually all Constitutional rights of Massachusetts citizens and forces anyone “suspected” of being infected to submit to interrogations, “decontaminations” and vaccines.

It also sets fines up to $1,000 per day for anyone who refuses to submit to quarantines, vaccinations, decontamination efforts or to follow any other verbal order by virtually any state-licensed law enforcement or medical personnel. You can read the text yourself here:…

IF YOU LIVE IN MASSACHUSETTS, please take action to stop this bill from becoming law. IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE MASSACHUSETTS, scroll down to take action.

Despite years of warnings by public interest organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association and the Humane Society of the U.S., earlier this year, drugged-out pigs and chickens on intensive confinement factory farms have incubated a highly infectious H1N1 virus that set off a global pandemic.

This so-far only moderately virulent but rapidly spreading strain of influenza, which contains genetic material from pigs, birds and humans, has already infected 162,000 people and killed almost 1,800 people across the world, including the United States. The World Health Organization has warned that although the current H1N1 Swine Flu is far less deadly than the Bird Flu, it could mutate into a much more dangerous strain. As the flu season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, profit-obsessed drug-makers are racing to supply governments with vaccines and medicines. There are numerous concerns about the safety of these measures, including:

A leaked memo revealed that the swine flu vaccine has been linked to paralysis.

The fast-tracked vaccine contains novel adjuvants, including dangerous squalene which was in all probability responsible for Gulf War syndrome.

If the greed of drug companies prevails over safety concerns, vaccines will be pushed on a frightened, ignorant and passive public through the school system, work places and free vaccination programs. Schoolchildren could be first in line for the swine flu vaccine this fall — and schools are being put on notice that they might be turned into shot clinics.

It is important to know that you can avoid quasi-forced vaccinations of yourself and your children. Plus, there are homeopathic alternatives for treating and building a natural immunity to the swine flu.

Mercury Amalgrams

September 2, 2009

As Obama Warns of Hazards, the FDA Approves Mercury Dental Fillings
Mercury Mischief


President Obama has proposed covering the costs of his new medical plan with “smarter” medicine, meaning the adoption of procedures that eliminate inefficiencies and stress prevention. At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on August 11, 2009, he gave the example of a diabetic needing to have a foot amputated, at a cost of $30,000 to $50,000. It would have been smarter to counsel the patient on diet and weight loss and monitor his medications before amputation was required. The insurance company would have saved money and the patient would have saved a foot.

The 2008 Obama/Biden Plan for a Healthy America also stressed preventive approaches to disease, including the reduction of toxins to which the body is exposed; and chief among these toxins was mercury. The Plan stated as a fundamental goal:

“Reduce Risks of Mercury Pollution. More than five million women of childbearing age have high levels of toxic mercury in their blood, and approximately 630,000 newborns are born at risk every year. The EPA estimates that every year, more than one in six children could be at risk for developmental disorders because of mercury exposure in the mother’s womb.”

As a Senator, Obama was responsible for extensive legislation reducing environmental exposure to mercury, including a ban on the export of elemental mercury, and legislation to phase out the use of mercury in the manufacture of chlorine.

Mercury can get into the blood by various routes, and one that has been lately in the news is the mercury found in the thimerosol in vaccines. Another source that made the news in July is the mercury released from dental fillings by chewing. The World Health Organization has stated that between 3-17 micrograms of mercury are released into the body each day by chewing, compared to only 2-5 micrograms from fish and all other environmental sources combined. In 1990, the New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial calling mercury amalgam fillings “possibly the chief source of exposure [to mercury] of a large segment of the U.S. population”.

Surprise FDA Ruling

When mercury amalgam made the news on July 29, 2009, however, it was not to warn of its hazards. Rather, it was to report the FDA’s surprise ruling that mercury fillings are safe. The ruling came after years of foot dragging by the FDA and a wave of consumer lawsuits. A growing consumer movement had amassed so much evidence for the dangers posed by mercury dental fillings that when a court finally ordered the FDA to come out with a ruling, the plaintiffs announced, “We won!” But instead of the declaration they expected, the FDA imposed no restrictions on the use of mercury amalgam. Dentists were not even required to inform their patients that “silver” fillings are composed mostly of mercury. The FDA conceded that it did not know if amalgam was harmful to children under six, pregnant women, or nursing mothers, but it took no steps to protect them. It even pulled from its website an existing neurological risk advisory that said, “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.”

Consumer advocates were stunned, as the FDA had earlier agreed to strengthen its warnings against mercury amalgam fillings. The evidence against mercury amalgam dental fillings was considered so compelling that Sweden, Norway, and other countries had already banned their use entirely. Degussa, Germany’s largest producer of amalgam and the world’s largest producer of metals for dentistry, completely shut down its amalgam production after a federal court ruled that dentists who used it faced legal liability. The FDA was expected to follow suit.

Why its unexpected about-face? Charles Brown, of the National Counsel for consumers for Dental Choice, suggests it had to do with a change in personnel. In May 2009, Dr. Margaret Hamburg succeeded to the post of FDA Commissioner. The Wall Street Journal noted that for five years before that, she served on the board of Henry Schein Inc., a $4 billion firm that distributes medical and dental supplies, including vaccines. Brown wrote skeptically:

“Washington is famous for the revolving door — those in the party out of power take highly paid corporate positions, then return to government to bail out their benefactors. The new FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, worked in the Clinton Administration, then went out and became a director at the dental products colossus Henry Schein, earning a quarter million dollars a year for the handful of hours it takes to be a director. Corporations do this because they know the other party will return to power, at which time the corporations will call in their chits.”

Science or Politics? The Liability Question

Beyond that potential conflict of interest, there was likely to have been heavy pressure from the American Dental Association, the professional union of dentists. If mercury amalgam were officially declared to be toxic, an estimated two billion mercury amalgam fillings might have to be replaced at practitioners’ or insurers’ expense, not to mention the flood of lawsuits for medical injuries that would follow.

Dentists could hardly defend by pleading ignorance of mercury’s harmful effects, since its health risks have long been known. Lewis Carroll alluded to the toxic effects of mercury in his nineteenth century character the Mad Hatter. Felt hat workers exposed to mercuric nitrate were observed to exhibit emotional symptoms including sudden anger, depression, loss of memory, timidity, insomnia, irritability, hallucinations, delusions and mania, a condition referred to as “mad hatter syndrome.” The manufacturer of the product Dispersalloy, consisting of capsules of metal powder mixed with liquid mercury and placed in the patient’s mouth, has a warning on its website stating:

“Inhalation of mercury vapor over a long period may cause mercurialism which is characterized by fine tremors and erethism………Erethism may be manifested by abnormal shyness, blushing, self-consciousness, depression or despondency, resentment of criticism, irritability or excitability, headache, fatigue and insomnia. In severe cases, hallucinations, loss of memory and mental deterioration may occur.”

Among other disturbing studies prompting consumer concerns was one reported in August 1990 by Drs. Lorscheider and Vimy of the University of Calgary in Alberta, in which twelve radioactive mercury amalgam fillings (a typical number for a human adult) were placed in the mouths of sheep. A control group received fillings made of an inert material. Within thirty days, the sheep that got the amalgam had lost half their kidney function. The study showed that mercury in amalgam fillings is not locked in the teeth but spreads through the body to the organs. Similar data have been reported for monkeys. The isotope labeled mercury showed poisoning of the internal organs and the brain of both sheep and monkeys.

Studies in humans include one conducted at the University of Kentucky, showing significant elevations of mercury in the brains of 180 Kentucky residents who were autopsied after dying of Alzheimer’s disease. When the concentrations of trace elements were analyzed, the most important imbalance found was an elevation of mercury. In studies of the cadavers of accident victims, those with a mere five amalgams had three times the amount of mercury in their brain tissues as cadavers without amalgams.

Other studies have linked mercury fillings to multiple sclerosis. In one reported by Colorado State University researcher Robert Siblerud, MS patients having amalgams were compared to MS patients whose amalgams had been removed. The former group was found to have significantly lower levels of red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, T-Lymphocytes and T-8 suppressor cells (indicating lowered immunity). They also had 33 percent more flare-ups of their symptoms during the previous year. In another study, mercury levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of MS patients were shown to be eight times higher than in controls. Siblerud observed that MS was first described by a French doctor in the mid-1830s, less than a decade after silver/mercury fillings were first promoted in Paris.

All of which suggests that the FDA’s July 31 ruling was based more on politics than science. The effects of mercury amalgam fillings on the patients themselves apparently carried less weight than its effects on the balance sheets of medical professionals and insurance companies.

If we are going to have “smarter medicine” that realy keeps people well, we need to get politics out of medicine. We need a government agency that explores and funds solid research into what keeps people healthy and what makes them sick, an agency that makes its determinations independently of lobbies, drug detail men, funding from industries standing to benefit from the results, or revolving doors into and out of those industries.

Written in consultation with Richard Hansen, D.M.D., co-author of The Key to Ultimate Health: Non-Toxic Dentistry.

Ellen Hodgson Brown is the author of Web of Debt: the Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. She can be reached through her website.

China – new lead poisoning case

August 31, 2009

China reports new lead poisoning case
Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:30am EDT
BEIJING, Aug 31 (Reuters) – More than 200 children living beside an industrial park in southwest China have been found to have excessive lead in their blood, state media said on Monday, in the third such case reported in the last month.

Health authorities tested around 1,000 children in a neighbourhood of the city of Kunming, the official China Daily said.

“Their levels are all higher than 100 micrograms of lead in each litre of blood but lower than 200 micrograms per litre,” the newspaper quoted a medical doctor, Wu Ling, as saying.

Lead poisoning can build up slowly and occurs from repeated exposure to small amounts of lead which can harm a child’s mental development. Health problems get more severe as the level of lead in the blood gets higher.

Parents are blaming the poisoning on a nearby industrial park, the report added, though the local environmental protection bureau denies there is a direct link with industrial pollutants.

The environmental bureau said the case has been caused by factors such as exhaust emissions.

“There are thousands of children in Dongchuan district and other areas, so I wonder why only the kids around the industrial park have been found to have excessive lead in their blood,” a local mother was cited as saying.

Earlier this month, more than 800 children living near a metal smelter in northwest Shaanxi province were found to have dangerous amounts of lead in their blood, and more than 150 were sent to hospital. [ID:nPEK70724]

The same problem also dogs heavy metals bases in Hunan, Henan, Yunnan and Guangdong provinces.

At least three lead smelters in Henan province and two in Shaanxi province were ordered to temporarily halt production after protests against pollution at a lead and zinc smelter in Shaanxi. [ID:nPEK*70724] (Reporting by Huang Yan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Internet facilitates trade in endangered species

August 26, 2009

Cyber-traffic’ endangering primates in Cameroon
by Reinnier Kaze Reinnier Kaze Mon Aug 24, 3:28 am ET

YAOUNDE (AFP) – Advertisements on the Internet to woo buyers into taking “playful primates” from Cameroon into their homes have become one of the primary means of further threatening already endangered species.

Such sales would be illegal, since dealing in primates is forbidden in the central African country. In the past three years, however, the Internet has led to a flourishing trade in endangered species, according to an environmental activist in the front line.

Ofir Drori directs a small non-governmental organisation, the Last Great Ape Organization (Laga-Cameroon), which works in conjunction with the Cameroonian ministry of forestry and wildlife to try to stem the lucrative trade in beasts both dead and alive.

“Kiki is ready for a new family. He has gentle and charming manners. Kiki is handsome and playful,” reads an advertisement on the Internet to sell a chimpanzee from Cameroon.

The ad says that the chimpanzee comes with “veterinary health documents, a “permit” from CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and a year’s health care guarantee.”

CITES, whose ban on trade in listed endangered species is a ban on international trade, does not, however, issue such individual “permits”.

The seller alleges that he lives in the forested region of Kilum and “is incapable of giving Kiki the good home and all the care that he deserves,” but the whole advertisement is a scam.

Laga-Cameroon tries to infiltrate the black market sales networks and carry out investigations in conjunction with the police. They found and partially dismantled eight groups of Internet fraudsters between 2007 and August 2009.

“To begin with, we thought that the sellers we found on the Internet were simple swindlers, who extorted money without providing the product announced,” Drori said. But some of the traffickers were genuinely dealing in endangered species, including animal heads and hides for use as trophies, he said.

In February, the police arrested a 27-year-old man who had in two years made 22 sales on the Internet, mainly for the skulls of primates, but it took a team effort to track him down.

Authorities in the United States helped Laga and Cameroonian officials to locate him via his exchanges on the Internet, and the man now faces up to 20 years in jail.

To reassure clients, the cyber-dealers use a false sales permit, with the forged signature of the wildlife minister. They are able to do this because trading in some protected species is legal under a quota system.

In 2008, another trafficker was arrested while he was trying to sell turtles to a Malaysian importer with the help of a Cameroonian accomplice based in China.

John Sellar, the enforcement assistance chief at CITES in Geneva, said that “the Internet certainly facilitates illegal trade in wildlife, but it is very difficult to assess the scale,” in email comments to AFP.

“We are aware of some of the work that has been conducted in places like Cameroon with regard to trade in primates and recognize that the Internet is used to sell live animals,” he said. But he said the majority of such offers he has seen “are simply criminal frauds” to scam people out of money, with no intention to supply live animals.

He said CITES has issued fraud warnings and “in general are examining trade that is facilitated by the Internet.” In fact the anonymity of the Internet has helped law enforcement agencies in catching some criminals, he said.

To initiate contact with clients, the dealers generally place advertisements on specialist websites, and demand is high in the United States, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Belgium and South Africa, particularly for primates like gorillas and chimpanzees.

A successful sale can be rewarding. A baby chimpanzee sold locally for 75 euros (105 dollars) can sell for 100 times or even 200 times that much abroad.

The Internet has “a potential that can facilitate connections between the buyers abroad and the local dealers,” Drori said. “One of the things that up until now has prevented a massacre of animals has been the absence of such a connection.”

A specialist in wildlife crime who asked not to be named added that people trying to prevent the traffic were hindered by corruption and “complicities in the public administrations, the banks, airports and the police.”

“For the struggle to make progress, the authorities should get more involved,” the source added.

Overdosing on ADD drugs

August 24, 2009

8/24/09 – AP
Calls to poison control centers for U.S. teenagers who have overdosed on attention deficit drugs rose 76 percent over eight years, researchers reported.

Millions of people take ADHD drugs including Novartis AG’s Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, and Shire Plc’s Adderall and Vyvanse. Annual U.S. sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008, according to data from IMS Health.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is marked by restlessness, impulsiveness, inattention and distractibility that can interfere with a child’s ability to pay attention in school and maintain social relationships. Amphetamines or methylphenidate drugs can calm and focus the brain.

Prescriptions of amphetamines rose 133 percent from 1998 to 2003, and abuse of these drugs rose, too, the researchers found. “We’re seeing a disproportionate rise in the calls related to amphetamines,” said Dr. G. Randall Bond, director of the Drug and Poison Information Center at the hospital.

“One thing we don’t know for sure is whether the increased calls for help are the result of simply more abuse or the escalating severity of consequences.”

ADHD affects between 8 percent and 12 percent of children and 4 percent of adults worldwide.