Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.


Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.

Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

Expanded GUIDE TO SITE PURPOSE AND LAYOUT is in the lower blue section at the bottom of every home page.

Celia Farber fights back

May 9th, 2009

The New York Post has printed the following story today (May 9 Sat) on Celia Farber filing a suit for libel against the promoters of the HIV/AIDS paradigm who have harassed her with insults and false detractions in her long battle to report on the repressed debate on this important policy issue.

Page Six, the key gossip column in Manhattan run by Richard Johnson, has reported earlier on Celia Farber, as readers will recall, since Johnson is one of the few significant members of the press who is not swayed by the sometimes vicious attacks of the paradigm defenders who have the otherwise respectable New York Times in their pocket.

Given the abysmal cowardice and lack of professionalism of the Times and most other mainstream media in concealing by omission the important public policy issue that the AIDS paradigm may be dangerously incorrect (as readers here know all the literature of the field argues that it is quite wrong and has shown this from 1987 and increasingly since), Johnson probably deserves some kind of prize for his editorial stance.

Perhaps when Farber finally gets her Pultizer, he will share in the glory. :

Writer Hits Back at AIDS Rants

AFTER years of being attacked by a faction of the AIDS pharmaceutical/research community, journalist Celia Farber is fighting back with a libel suit.

Farber’s lawyers filed a 21-page libel complaint this week in Manhattan Supreme Court accusing Richard Jefferys, of the Treatment Action Group, of orchestrating a campaign against her last May when she was given the Semmelweis Clean Hands Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for an article she wrote in Harper’s in 2006, “AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science.”

The Harpers article gave credence to the work of Peter Duesberg, who believes HIV is a harmless “passenger” virus and not the cause of AIDS, and questioned the value of expensive antiretroviral drugs. Jefferys and his team blitzed the Semmelweis Society with e-mails claiming Farber had altered quotes and falsely misrepresented scientific papers.

The Semmelweis Society, in turn, launched its own investigation, and concluded the AIDS industry itself has all the characteristics of a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise that desperately needed whistleblowers. Farber, the daughter of talk legend Barry Farber, kept her award, though the battle to rescind it garnered fresh attacks, in which she was likened to Pol Pot, Stalin, Mengele, David Irving, David Duke and O.J. Simpson.

The former Spin columnist recently launched a new literary Web site called the Truth Barrier, with former New York Press editor John Strausbaugh. In appreciation for her work on AIDS, the artist Robert Crumb submitted an original drawing and a hand-written three-page letter expressing his despair over what he believes is the distortion of the AIDS story.

“Actually, Crumb’s letter was too true even for the Truth Barrier,” says Farber. “I redacted it. I don’t want these pharma-bullies attacking him next.”

The behavior of HIV/AIDS protectors

Perhaps it should be repeated for those new to this scientific debacle that Richard Jefferys is or at least was when we last checked one of the several people running the Treatment Action Group with the generous help of the drug companies which manufacture the dangerous and revolting drugs with which unfortunate gays and blacks are mismedicated for symptoms that have nothing to do with the antibodies they harbor to HIV (which itself has long left their bodies, it is clear, even if the test is a reliable indicator, which is not the case).

Jefferys is given to long and reliable sounding (to newcomers) rationalizations of the chasm between AIDS theory and AIDS facts as reported in the scientific literature, but no one should be misled. The best reference site in this field is Peter Duesberg’s site on AIDS at UC Berkeley, and the other sites listed in our blogroll on the right hand side of the front page of this blog, which have an asterisk beside their title.

The story of the Semmelweis awards given to Farber and Duesberg a year ago was written up here at the time. The report of the appalling behavior of the opponents to the awards who tried to sabotage them by discrediting the pair is at Politics briefly quash science in Washington furore

Whether the suit has a chance of success or not, it just might attract the interest of people who are not involved in the politics and science of AIDS, which is without doubt the sewer of science. In that case, in the Obama reform era where great scams and scandals are being forced into the light of day, with an administration willing to take action in cases where huge sums are at stake and people are pulling the wool over the eyes of officials and the public at large – a good description of the situation in AIDS for the last 22 years – it just might result in what the frantic hounds of hell are most desperate to avoid, a review of the field from outside.

This of course is what the defenders of the improbable nonsense that is the conventional wisdom in HIV/AIDS are always frantic to avoid, and why they are so venomous to deal with.

They will get their just deserts if Celia, having been driven finally to defend herself after two decades of calumny and vicious attacks for her resolutely objective investigative coverage of their antics, manages through this case to be their nemesis, as they have always feared.

Rewarding (to some) A-H1N1 flu hysteria grips globe

May 1st, 2009

Fauci fans the flames, the WHO uses the bellows, but so far, normal flu

Hundreds of schools closed, ships redirected, pigs slaughtered, VP Biden suggests avoiding the subway

President and even Forbes magazine say hold on, where’s the pandemic plague?

Communication from Cervantes: A history of false alarms, or, the Fauci Follies

Global panic seems to have taken hold on the flu front, as media sensationalism magnifies medical warnings into worldwide alarm. A key soccer match plays to empty stands in Mexico, gates locked against ticketholders; Mexican City restaurants, bars, movies, discos, theaters, gyms and swimming pools are closed for five days at a cost of $100 million a day; tourist ships are veering away from Mexican ports; one child dies and 433 schools are closed in the US; “swine flu” tops the Twitter meter; Egypt orders all pigs slaughtered; Britain with five cases orders 32 million face masks; thermal cameras are trained on air passengers from Japan to Turkey; and Lebanon discourages the traditional Arab peck on the cheek greeting. Cuba and Argentina stop flights to Mexico, and Hong Kong Taiwan and Russia are imposing quarantines on visitors with fever.

Update: Fri Jun 12 2009 Pandemic declared yesterday by WHO, first since Hong Kong flu 1968 which killed about 1 million world wide.
World wide H1N1 cases 29,669 so far. Deaths 145. Normal seasonal flu kills 250-500,000.
Mexico 6,241 Reported cases UK 1,000 reported cases (“The government has ordered 226m face masks, 34m respirators and 15.2m courses of antibiotics. (BBC)).
USA H1N1 cases estimated at 18,000 Reported 13,217 cases 45 deaths. Normal seasonal flu kills 36,000.
California 6 deaths.
New York City NYC officials estimate prob 550,000 cases in NYC with one tenth of 1 per cent hospitalized. New York City 12 deaths of about 530 hospitalized since mid-April (80 % had one or more underlying conditions putting them at risk).
Fear has already gripped Argentina, where thousands of people worried about swine flu flooded into hospitals this week, bringing emergency health services in the capital of Buenos Aires to the brink of collapse. Last month, a bus arriving in Argentina from Chile was stoned by people who thought a passenger on it had swine flu. (Mercury News)
Many rich countries like Britain, Canada and France signed contracts with pharmaceuticals long ago, guaranteeing them access to pandemic vaccine. WHO and others estimate that about 2.4 billion doses of pandemic vaccine could be available in about a year.(AP)
Here in NYC we were today personally informed by Alirio Orduna, ex Marine and Commander and Founder of the New York Military Youth Cadets, whom we happened to run into dressed in a spiffy white beribboned uniform waiting to go in to view the video “Cadet” (about instilling “military discipline”, said the Commander) at the Tribeca Film festival, that the “swine flu pandemic” is at the top of his concerns. We mention this merely as a random example of how far responsible people in New York City, the new epicenter of the flu in the US, are influenced by the media. (We attempted to allay Commander Orduna’s anxiety for his cadets but without discernible effect).

Epidemic of alarm

Meanwhile Dr Anthony Fauci gives testimony to Congress that the new flu is a cunning amalgam of bird flu, swine flu and human flu genes (if we heard him right; the CDC says that the virus combines human and three swine viruses from North America, Asia and Europe), and Senator Tom Harkin once again asks him if he is sure he has enough money to do all he needs to do in this and any other respect. WHO Director General Margaret Chan says that “It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic”, and raises the alert level to the second highest notch (that indicates the threat of epidemic, not the dangerousness of the virus). Robert Bazell on NBC Nightly News says other countries are not going to help us build up our reserves of vaccine which anyway won’t be available for six months, since it has to be tuned to this “new, frightening virus”.

President Obama momentarily calms us in telling the National Academy of Sciences “This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it is not a cause for alarm.” But then he immediately releases $1.5 billion in emergency funds, which Janet Napolitano his secretary of Homeland Security explains will be useful even if this viral tsunami dies off naturally, because “we may see a resurgence in the fall.”

Save the pigs! It’s normal flu outside Mexico

Another SARS scare which will deflate into nothing much at all? Or another 1918 flu pandemic? Not only does there seem to be no reason for panic, there seems to be little reason to worry unless you think the Mexican figures are very accurate. If they are it is true that 103 deaths in Mexico from 1614 reported cases, the deaths which initially persuaded everyone that a dire crisis loomed, was prima facie an impressive rate (1/16 or 6%). But certainly many more cases went unreported, being unhospitalized, and perhaps something else is involved, like access to medical care, or another infection going on at the same time, and of course normal flu can be fatal when it catches toddlers or seniors. In the US a normal flu season can catch up 5% to 20% of the population, and up to 36,000 people may die, though this is a far lower mortality rate of 6/2500 (0.24 %) to 6/10,000 (0.06%). Meanwhile the latest numbers from Mexico’s health minister Jose Cordova yesterday are that the flu is responsible for 15 confirmed deaths and 343 nonfatal cases, still a high number (15/358 or 4%), but the spread is now declining with Mexico’s crisis response.

Even Laurie Garrett, the renowned Council of Foreign Relations specialist in infectious disease, says we need to know how dangerous the virus is before knowing if the world alarm is justified. (Writing another book on the global spread of disease, she says we have to wait to see whether it resurges in Mexico when business resumes there after May 6, and if it passes through other species in the Southern Hemisphere winter and returns in a more lethal form, as the 1918 flu did).

In fact if you listen carefully to the expert sources drawn upon by the media you hear them saying time and again that there no other evidence so far of anything especially nasty. At this time of writing (May 1) there still isn’t international evidence that we have anything but a routine spread of mild flu. The CDC says that the flu lacks the virulence markers seen in the 1918 virus or the H5N1 bird flu, whatever they are (no one can say why the 1918 flu was so damaging in itself, it being blamed for 50 million deaths, though there are plenty of suggestions about other factors being involved in what was a very different age – no antibiotics to maintain hygiene or to fight bacterial pneumonia, war conditions, lack of proper nutrition, new vaccines [see below] etc).

Meanwhile the costs of alarm are great to certain sectors of the economy. Pig farmers are suffering bans on pork imports and Egypt is not the only country to have started to kill pigs, who are entirely innocent of infecting any diner since you can’t catch flu by eating pork. The market disruption may knock out a third of US hog producers, according to Chris Hurt at Purdue University, a WSJ source, costing them $270 million by June.

WorldFocus asks an NYU researcher

Has anyone behaved well? Well, Forbes magazine for one. Forbes magazine printed History Says Avoid Virus Hysteria by David Whelan on April 27:

Meanwhile, that year–and in every year this decade–between 30,000 and 50,000 American deaths were recorded from complications related to the seasonal flu. Another 40,000 people died in automobile accidents. And each year, gunshot wounds account for 30,000 deaths, around 4,000 people drown while swimming or boating and 60 people die from lightning strikes.

We also commend WorldFocus, the only TV news program we know of which bothered to interview an intelligent and succinct MD from the NYU School of Medicine, Martin Blaser, instead of the usual official or bureaucratic blatherer (amazing how little content there is such spokesmen’s advice) or TV “medical correspondent” whose job appears to be as reassuringly alarming as possible.

One cannot catch flu from eating pigs, the rather engagingly earnest and precise Dr Blaser stated firmly, and it is far too late to contain the spread of the flu world wide by banning travel. He did allow that quarantining travelers with fever might cut down on importation, “a good public health measure in the appropriate circumstances.” But Blaser reckoned the data showed this flu had been going on in Mexico since February, so we were already a few months into this epidemic. With many more cases surely unreported, he didn’t see anything abnormal in the rate of deaths. “So far outside of Mexico it’s been very mild, a typical influenza, not much different”. With summer coming, “it will knock it down; will it knock it down completely, I don’t know.”

Do we have a bias when assessing Dr Fauci’s advice?

In other words, we are facing the prospect of a normal flu, as every indication so far has suggested. Well, we can’t help thinking that this was fairly obvious from the start. But perhaps we are biased.

The testimony of Dr Fauci and others to Congress now always seems so blatantly self-serving to our eyes that we fear we may have been forever influenced by his performance to date in fostering, preserving and guarding the idea of AIDS being caused by an infectious virus in the face of the literature of the field which entirely contradicts this. (We still have to do the post we promised on How Dr Fauci Lied to Congress in his last appearance before the Senate Committee on Provisioning the NIH).

The result is that we are forced to keep a giant metaphorical salt cellar handy when listening to the unassailably neat Director of NIAID give testimony to those responsible for funding his department, or to Charlie Rose.

Still, all we really know for sure about Dr Fauci, apart from his unyielding sartorial impeccability, is that much of his own work in the tomes and journals of the overfunded field of HIV/AIDS itself defeats the conventional wisdom he retails to the media. The issue of whether he and others in the field of disease are given to exaggerating the dangers they detect in the cause of milking the public purse for more funds than strictly necessary is a judgment better assessed by more sophisticated and informed commentators here.

So we hereby append a recent communication from the inimitable Cervantes just bestowed on our Comments columns, since we feel that it deserves far more prominent placement. Running down the list of outrages in this sector of industry in the last few decades, it speaks to the point far better than anything we can find elsewhere to justify continuing cynicism in the face of Dr Fauci and colleagues’ efforts to inform us of their medical and scientific facts on A(H1N1).

A Short History of False Alarms, or, The Fauci Follies
Cervantes Says:
April 30th, 2009 at 11:15 am e
Hi, Everybody – Since Swine Flu hysteria has taken hold, I thought some perspective would be useful.

Here’s an abbreviated list of our U.S. CDC heroically proclaiming and combating killer epidemics:

1) Legionnaire’s Disease; A bacterial pneumonia that accounts for about 3% of all pneumonias in the U.S. Nothing new – just a big gathering of elderly Legionnaires in several hotels having yucky A/C systems with lots of the bacteria.

2) Hantavirus: Supposed to sweep the country, spread by mouse feces. I guess having 50 cent mouse traps and pet cats have warded off this disaster.

3) Mad Cow; Supposedly in meat, and passed to humans from diseased cattle having abnormal “prions” (don’t ask, it’s not worth it). Most certainly all created by organophosphate neuro-toxic chemicals topically applied to cattle to ward off parasites.

4) AIDS; Currently the U.S. has 50+ times AIDS cases and deaths than all other western countries, a little secret the nation’s press won’t publish. Deaths due to lethal antivirals and antiretroviral drugs given those having tests yielding “hiv” antibodies – even though the antibodies are not specific — . Abundant studies showing those not taking the antiretrovirals live to normal life expectancy (assuming they stop shooting up heroin, whiffing amyl nitrites, etc.). Current annual U.S. AIDS deaths 15,000; Canada 28; Germany 73, on and on. Do your own math, it’s worth it.

5) Hepatitis C; Currently about 8 thousand Americans die each year from this. How could they not die?- as they are given toxic medicines that are kissing cousins (ribavirin, for instance) of the antiretroviral AZT. (AZT is now almost totally dropped, but it killed 550,000 Americans having “hiv” antibodies. Look it up).

6) Human Papilloma Virus = cervical cancer; Drug company trials biased beyond control, FDA in on the fix; Gardasil vaccine rammed through; school systems bullied into required vaccinations. Result from vaccinations: 25+ dead; tens of thousands serious and paralytic reactions to the Gardasil – ongoing every day.

7) Autism or Asbergers/Austism Syndrome: A perfect timeline of autistic and similar syndrome cases rising catastrophically and exponentially along with the exponential increase of vaccinations, now up to 17 “diseases” and with shots totaling over 50 (many in combination). Little wonder with all the toxic elements in all vaccines, and being injected via bloodstream at fragile infant ages – as opposed to normal immune protections developed via respiratory/gastrointestinal routes (allowing extremely competent success in lifelong immunity). The CDC blesses all vaccinations, want even more! And now, Swine flu redux! Vaccinate!

8.) SARS: Virtually all who died in 2003 (the grand total of 775 around the world: comprising Canada with 43, All of Europe with 1, the USA with zero, Southeast Asia – Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. with 730), died from the drug ribavirin given in huge doses, and well known to immediately destroy red blood cells – called hemolytic anemia – “Ooops! the patient died!” Never an actual virus identified, but a corona virus was prime suspect, have to blame some virus, after all. Once ribavirin was dropped from treatment protocols, mortality dropped toward zero. Surprise! U.S. zero mortality perfectly aligned with decision of U.S. Health authorities to NOT use ribavirin.

9) Ebola: Still and always used to stir Fear. Realistically, it’s Hollywood bullshit.

10) Bird Flu Pandemic Hysteria Promotion: More accurately, should be called science fiction. Majority of U.S. and Europe 1918-1919 deaths directly brought by 3-4 new vaccines (smallpox, dyphtheria, typhoid, measles) newly brewed, and mandated to all the military, with millions of civilians joining in. Result: fierce, deadly septicemias and toxic reactions to these vaccines. Death tolls in China and India exaggerated 10-fold. Nothing like propaganda, even more so today. Real science available – ignored by the hysteria mongers, particularly CDC.

11) Tah – Daahhh! It’s 2009. And, now Swine Flu! Let’s see, a 2 year-old from Mexico, comes to Brownsville Texas, gets sick, taken to Houston Hospital April 13, dies 2 weeks later, blamed on Swine Flu. I can imagine the different, lethal antiviral drugs she was given. If anybody is interested, just google “tamiflu toxicity”. This absurd, deadly drug is an “antiviral” that the insane authorities are sending by the tens of millions doses around the country.

Let’s review: In 1976, a single soldier died at Ft. Dix allegedly from Swine Flu, with maybe up to 500 others “infected” but all healthy thereafter. Since 25,000 soldiers and civilians made up Ft. Dix, and only 500 became infected from the reallllllllly infectious swine flu virus, why didn’t the other 24,500 get infected? One death from pneumonia. Really deadly, this Swine Flu. And, by the way, there were no “antiviral” or “antiretroviral” drugs at that time – thus no soldiers were poisoned to death, yet blamed on a virus.

CDC should stand for “Centers for Disease Concoction” — or maybe more accurately, “Concocting Disease Clowns,” or most accurately, “Concocting Disease Criminals.”

Have a good day!, your medical reporter, located in the shadow of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID, Cervantes

This excellent little memo is more succinct than even Dr Blaser from NYU, and since one of the enduring truths we have noticed in public life is that those who are good analysts and attentively assess whatever is peddled to them by various “authorities” tend to be brief and to the point – wittily so, in fact, brevity being the soul of wit – we hold this virtue up to your notice as confirming the truth of what Cervantes writes.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply under researched in the matter.

Meanwhile, according to the WSJ today, the 1976 swine flu debacle involved rush vaccinating 40 million Americans, with some 500 cases of a neurological disorder linked to the vaccine, including about 25 deaths. The program was stopped and many vaccinated people filed injury claims.


Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild – Genetic data indicate this outbreak won’t be as deadly as that of 1918, or even the average winter.

How not to shake hands

An eccentric Englishman we know in New York uses the following solution to avoid shaking hands with anybody at any time at all: as the friendly hand is extended to him, he presses both his palms together like a praying mantis and bows like a Chinese mandarin, with a smile. This escapes the social obligation to touch another, but without causing offense.

Recommended movie

On the HHS front page today there is a fine video on the theme of washing your hands, Put Your Hands Together: Wash Your Hands to Help Prevent the Spread of Flu, distinguished for the calming effect of its almost Zen like meditation on an important but uncomplicated theme.

WHO, FAO and the Feds having agreed to call the flu A/H1N1 and not swine flu, other officials eg in Oklahoma resist on the grounds “that is what people are used to calling it”, says Tulsa City-County Health Department spokeswoman Melanie Christian. even though aware that the pork industry is at risk.

“There is no evidence that the new virus is circulating in pigs in Mexico or anywhere else and that pork consumption poses no increased risk of contracting the virus,” FAO said. Meanwhile, despite those assurances on pork being safe, Reuters reports that 16 countries have barred imports of at least some U.S. pork due to the situation.

It’s still safe to travel despite swine flu, authorities insist:

Federal health officials were reacting to comments by Vice President Joe Biden that he would not advise his family to fly on airplanes or use public transportation during the flu outbreak….

James May, CEO of the Air Transport Association, representing the nation’s airlines, called Biden’s comment “extremely disappointing.”

“The airlines have been working daily with government agencies, none of whom suggest people avoid air travel unless they are not feeling well,” May said in a statement. “The fact is that the air onboard a commercial aircraft is cleaner than that in most public buildings.”

Middle East Governments Respond Aggressively to Prevent Spread of Swine Flu

In Israel — where several people, including a little girl who lived in the house of one of the confirmed patients, are under observation in hospitals — travelers coming from Mexico into the country are forced to undergo a medical examination at the airport or other points of entry….

In neighboring Egypt, the government has begun widespread culling of the country’s 350,000 to 400,000 pigs, despite objections from global health experts who said that the widespread slaughter is unnecessary and a waste of resources. “The crisis today is in transmission from human to human. It has nothing to do with pigs,” said Joseph Domenech, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization chief veterinary officer.To handle the mass culling, army slaughterhouses were drafted into service to help overwhelmed pork slaughterhouses.

Pig farmers, many of them from the Christian minority that makes up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, are often desperately poor. On Thursday, they blocked streets and stoned vehicles of government health workers who came to carry out the government’s order. In one farming community north of Cairo, angry farmers battered the vehicles of government workers with such ferocity that the government retreated, and the pigs were spared.

In some cases, farmers have been promised the equivalent of $177 per head as compensation. In other cases, compensation has been refused as the pig farmers are told the meat will be frozen and they’ll have an opportunity to sell it later. One Islamic militant Web site carried comments saying the swine flu was “God’s revenge against the infidels.”

Meanwhile we now have a new Health Secretary

Kathleen Sebelius Sworn In as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, saying that

“It is an honor to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at such a pivotal moment in our history. I come to the Department as our nation confronts a serious public health challenge, the 2009 flu outbreak. My heart goes out to the families across the country and around the world who are feeling the impact of this health crisis.

In the coming days, I will work closely with President Obama and officials from across the government as we address this threat. I also want to recognize the dedicated staff at HHS for the work they are doing to protect public health and inform the American people about this crisis.

On my first day, I had the chance to meet some of the many professionals who serve our country here at the Department of Health and Human Services.

It is a great privilege to serve as your Secretary and I look forward to meeting more of you in the days ahead.”

Who is Kathleen Sebelius?

Secretary Sebelius has over 20 years of experience in state government, and has been a leader on health care issues for over a decade. She was first elected governor of Kansas in 2003 and was reelected in 2006. Throughout her tenure, Sebelius was lauded for her record of bipartisan accomplishment. She worked tirelessly to grow the state’s economy and to create jobs, to ensure that every Kansas child received a quality education, and to improve access to quality and affordable health care. As Governor, Sebelius expanded Kansas’ newborn screenings, put a renewed emphasis on childhood immunization and increased eligibility for children’s health coverage. More than 59,000 additional children were enrolled in health coverage during her time in office. Sebelius also worked closely with Kansas first responders and law enforcement to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies. In 2005, Time magazine named her one of the nation’s top five governors. Married to husband, Gary, a federal magistrate judge, for 34 years, they have two sons: Ned and John.

Catching flu on planes

Vice President Joe Biden’s off-the-cuff comments about places to avoid on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday — “I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” “I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway,” and “if you’re in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft.” — were quickly quashed by the White House and contradicted by the airlines, but what is the truth of the matter? On Matt Phillips’ WSJ Blog The Middle Seat Terminal, Dr. Mark Gendreau, vice chair of emergency medicine at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Vt. who has studied infectious disease on commercial airliners offered the following information:

Public health agencies investigated a number of tuberculosis scares on aircraft and through their investigations they found that the risk was greatest in people who were seated within two aisles of the person who is infectious…

SARS taught us a lot of things about infectious diseases on aircraft. There was a flight — Air China Flight 112 — it was a Boeing 737 that made a three-hour flight at the time with one ill gentleman on board. On that particular aircraft, which was a three-hour flight, there was a total of 21 people who developed a probable case of SARS as a consequence of being on that flight…

your exposure risk is principally close contact to that individual. And that can be any close contact such as getting up and chatting with someone seated in a different section of the flight, or — as I said before — being seated within two rows of the person on the flight…

The big thing about the two rows is that most infectious diseases — including influenza — spread by droplets. When we cough and sneeze what happens is these mucus particles, that are typically about five microns, get propelled. These droplets — which are contaminated with the virus particles — will typically be propelled or projected no more than three to five feet, which is about the distance of two rows…

Every single shred of scientific evidence and study that we know of shows that there is no diffuse contamination along the length of the aircraft cabin. That’s because the ventilation system is compartmentalized…

… what happened was that the aircraft shut down its ventilation system. I guess there were some technical problems and people were on the aircraft for about three hours with the ventilation system shut off. (They did open up the doors and let people come and go from the plane.) But more than 70% of the passengers came down with the flu, so that taught us a very important lesson. If the ventilation system isn’t working, you’re going to get infection.

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