A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Vaccination Nation: Interview with Barbara Loe Fisher

On this edition of James speaks with Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit charity established in 1982. For the past three decades, she has led a national, grassroots movement and public information campaign to institute vaccine safety reforms and informed consent protections in the public health system.

Loe Fisher has researched, analyzed and publicly articulated the major issues involving the science, policy, law, ethics and politics of vaccination to become one of the world's leading consumer advocacy experts on the subject. NVIC is not "anti-vaccine," as mainstream news media might encourage the public to believe. Rather, it is pro-safe vaccines and exists to ensure the informed consent of the parents and patients who chose to vaccinate.

One of the most important things parents can do is recognize the clinical signs of an adverse reaction their children may exhibit to one or more vaccine administrations. Understanding, for example, the symptoms of brain inflammation is essential "because brain inflammation has been associated with vaccinations since small pox vaccine" since the early 1900s. "Almost any vaccine can do that."

When Loe Fisher's son was two-and-a-half, he suffered an adverse reaction to the DPT vaccine.

I knew what my child was before the reaction. My son was extremely bright. He was saying words at seven months. He was speaking in full sentences by the age of two. He knew his upper and lower-case alphabet. He knew his numbers up to 20. He could identify the words in the books we read together.

Yet after the DPT shot, "he regressed, physically, mentally, and emotionally," she recalls. "He no longer knew his alphabet. He could no longer identify words. He became very, very chronically ill, with constant diarrhea, respiratory and ear infections. He became emotionally fragile [with a] low frustration level, no concentration - he couldn't concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time."

[embedded content]

Despite being well-educated and coming from a family of medical practitioners, Loe Fisher lacked sufficient information to identify the symptoms of her son's adverse reaction. Not until she viewed the 1982 documentary, and consulted the professional literature did she realize how the medical community was well aware of the dangers the vaccine posed to children.

"There in the pages of , , and , were clinical descriptions of exactly what I'd seen that day. So the doctors were discussing with each other in the medical literature about what DPT vaccine could do to the brains of babies, but they didn't tell the mothers, and that's why I felt strongly that there needed to be an organization that would educate people about things like recognizing a vaccine reaction, so it can be written down in the medical record [and] reported to the government."

The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which Loe Fisher was instrumental in the passage of, required that parents be informed of potential adverse reactions and that documentation be maintained and collected of such reactions, yet this is often ignored because there are no penalties for healthcare practitioners who fail to abide by the Act.

The United States is one of the wealthiest and most technologically-advanced countries in the world. It also has the most highly-vaccinated children and adolescents, with at least 95% of children entering kindergarten today following the full vaccine regimen consisting of several dozen shots. Yet such aggressive vaccination policies don't translate to a healthier nation. "We have the largest number of children in our history who are suffering with chronic diseases and disabilities," Loe Fisher notes.

I'm not saying that all of this is due to vaccinations, but you certainly can't leave off of the research table the big question, which is, Has the increase in the number of vaccines children are getting in the last thirty years been a co-factor in the rise of the number of children suffering with things like learning disabilities, asthma, autism, and diabetes.

The major news media have made raising vaccine awareness a constant struggle because they typically frame the vaccine awareness issue in simplistic terms. "It's been very difficult to do this work," Barbara notes, because there's been so much opposition from those in positions of power - in government, in industry, and in the medical trades. With the media, it's gotten very, very ugly since about 2007-08. At one point in 2009 the Secretary of Health and Human Services gave an interview with a journalist, and that journalist reported that [HHS] has instructed the media to not cover people who criticize vaccine safety, which would include me.

Indeed, the Department of Health and Human Services wields tremendous power in its oversight of vaccine recommendation and safety, while also maintaining close ties with the pharmaceutical industry. The NVIC has since 2011 been calling for vaccine safety oversight to be vacated from HHS, because in the Department of Health and Human Services these public health officials are in charge of not only vaccine safety oversight, but they also license vaccines, they take money from drug companies to fast-track vaccines, they partner with drug companies to develop and share profits from vaccine sales, they make national vaccine policies that get turned into state vaccine laws, and they also decide which children will and will not get a vaccine injury compensation award. Our point is that it's too much power for one federal agency.

About the author

DPT: A Shot in the Dark The Consumer's Guide to Childhood Vaccines (1997); Vaccines, Autism & Chronic Inflammation: The New Epidemic (2008) and Reforming Vaccine Policy & Law: A Guide (2014) The Greater Good.

Stress: A new trigger of Alzheimer's?

The connections between stress and physical and mental health are undeniable. Studies have found links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues.

This includes reduced immune function, increased inflammation, high blood pressure, and alterations in your brain chemistry, blood sugar levels and hormonal balance, just to name a few.

According to recent research, stress also appears to be related to onset of Alzheimer's disease, which currently afflicts about 5.4 million Americans, including one in eight people aged 65 and over.1

It is projected that Alzheimer's will affect one in four Americans in the next 20 years, rivaling the current prevalence of obesity and diabetes. There is still no known cure for this devastating disease, and very few treatments. Alzheimer's drugs are often of little to no benefit, which underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime.

Fortunately, there's compelling research showing that your brain has great plasticity and capacity for regeneration, which you control through your diet and lifestyle choices.

Avoiding gluten and casein, or wheat and dairy primarily, appears to be of critical importance, as is making sure you're getting plenty of healthful fats (including demonized saturated fats). Casein is the primary protein found in dairy, and can be problematic for dairy intolerant individuals. However, it's also found in human breast milk. Additionally, raw dairy is generally well tolerated by casein sensitive individuals, but contraindicated for those with a severe allergy.

Fasting also has a remarkably beneficial influence on your brain health. At the end of this article, I share my best tips for maintaining healthy brain function well into old age.

Stress May Be Related to Clinical Onset of Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers in Argentina recently presented evidence suggesting that stress may be a trigger for the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The research was presented at the annual World Congress of Neurology in Vienna. According to lead author, Dr. Edgardo Reich2

"Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia.

Though I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system. It is an observational finding and does not imply direct causality. Further studies are needed to examine these mechanisms in detail."

The study found that 72 percent - nearly three out of four - Alzheimer's patients had experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis. In the control group, only 26 percent, or one in four, had undergone major stress or grief. Most of the stresses encountered by the Alzheimer's group involved:

  • Bereavement; death of a spouse, partner, or child

  • Violent experiences, such as assault or robbery

  • Car accidents

  • Financial problems, including "pension shock"

  • Diagnosis of a family member's severe illness

When you consider all the adverse biological effects that stress and anxiety causes, it might not be such a stretch that severe stress could trigger Alzheimer's. For example, researchers have found links between emotional distress and physical pain,3 chronic inflammation4 and even stillbirths.5 It can also wreak havoc on your gut health, which is critical to maintaining mental and physical health.

Most recently, Forbes6 reported the findings of a study7 exploring the role of stress in rewiring your brain - in this case, altering your sense of smell:

"Two brain circuits that don't typically "talk" to each other - one linked to our sense of smell and another linked to emotional processing - can become cross-wired when we experience stress-induced anxiety. The result is that stressful experiences transform normally neutral odors into bad ones...

'After anxiety induction, neutral smells become clearly negative,' explains Wen Li, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center, who led the study. 'People experiencing an increase in anxiety show a decrease in the perceived pleasantness of odors. It becomes more negative as anxiety increases.'

How Stress Causes Disease

When you're experiencing acute stress, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which prepare your body to fight or flee the stressful event. Your heart rate increases, your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood flow increases and parts of your immune system become temporarily suppressed, which reduces your inflammatory response to pathogens and other foreign invaders.

When stress becomes chronic, however, your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.

This is in large part how stress "predisposes" you to getting sick in the first place. And, in the event you do get sick, emotional stressors can make your symptoms worse, especially if the stress is severe or longstanding.

For example, research presented at this year's annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Miami, Florida, found that ruminating on a stressful incident can increase your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in your body.8 It was the first study to directly measure this effect. Inflammation, in turn, is a hallmark of most diseases, from diabetes to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's.

Tips for Reducing Work Stress

Polls have shown that work is the number one source of stress in people's lives. In a recent survey9 of more than 2,000 people, 34 percent of respondents reported that their work life was either "very" or "quite" stressful. One in five people also reported developing anxiety due to work-related stresses. In a related article, Forbes magazine10 lists nine tips to reduce work-related stress, such as:

  • Adding personal touches to your work space, such as photographs or art work, and live plants

  • Keeping your work space clean and organized

  • Learning to handle or ignore interruptions

  • Incorporating relaxation exercises into your work day

  • Improving your communication skills

Conquer Your Stress and Anxiety with Energy Psychology

While it's not possible or even recommended to eliminate all stress from your life, you can provide your body with tools to compensate for the bioelectrical short-circuiting that takes place when you're stressed. Using energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can help reprogram your body's reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life, thereby reducing your chances of experiencing adverse health effects. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and meditation are also important "release valves" that can help you manage your stress.

EFT was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineering graduate specializing in healing and self-improvement. It's akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist.11

By doing so, you help your body eliminate emotional "scarring" and reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors. Since these stressors are usually connected to physical problems, many people's diseases and other symptoms can improve or disappear as well. For a demonstration, please see the following video featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman, in which she discusses EFT for stress relief. However, for serious problems it is far preferable to see an experienced EFT therapist as there is a significant art to the process that requires a high level of sophistication if serious problems are to be successfully treated.

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Brain Function and Avoiding Alzheimer's Disease

The beauty of following my optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat virtually ALL chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. Remember, while memory loss is indeed common among Westerners, it is NOT a "normal" part of aging, and cognitive changes are by no means inevitable.

As explained by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter in a recent interview, Alzheimer's is a disease predicated primarily on lifestyle choices; the two main culprits being excessive sugar and gluten consumption. Another major factor is the development and increased consumption of genetically engineered (GE) grains , which are now pervasive in most processed foods sold in the US. His book, Grain Brain , provides a powerful argument for eliminating grains from your diet.

Knowing that it is a preventable disease puts the power into your hands. People who experience very little decline in their cognitive function up until their deaths have been found (post-mortem) to be free of brain lesions, showing that it's entirely possible to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place... and one of the best ways to do this is by leading a healthy lifestyle.

  • Avoid sugar and fructose . Ideally, you'll want to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin resistance or any related disorders.

  • Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they don't belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don't belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer's.

  • Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high quality probiotic supplement.

  • Increase consumption of healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3. Beneficial health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.

  • Also make sure you're getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.

  • Reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones, which is the fat that your body mobilizes when you stop feeding it carbs and introduce coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats into your diet. A one-day fast can help your body to "reset" itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar.

  • As part of a healthy lifestyle, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more, please see this previous article.

  • Improve your magnesium levels. There is some exciting preliminary research strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood brain levels, but a new one, magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the future for treating this condition and may be superior to other forms.

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.

  • Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.

  • Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3. This is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However, other sugars (sucrose is 50 percent fructose by weight), grains and lack of exercise are also important factors. Lowering insulin will also help lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer's.

  • Vitamin B12 : In addition to the research presented above, a small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology12also found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12, the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by two percent. Remember, sublingual methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.

  • Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, such as the one described in my nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements with folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.

  • Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.

  • Avoid aluminum, such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.

  • Exercise regularly. It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,13 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in their brains and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's. I would strongly recommend reviewing the Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations.

  • Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.

  • Eat blueberries. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases. Like any fruit though, avoid excesses here.

  • Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.

  • Avoid anticholinergic and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.

  • Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.

Sources and References

1. Alzheimer's Association 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures

2. Medical News Today September 30, 2013

3. Medical News Today March 25, 2013

4. Medical News Today March 16, 2013

5. New York Times March 27, 2013

6. Forbes September 28, 2013

7. Journal of Neuroscience September 25, 2013: 33(39); 15324-15332

8. See ref 2

9. Medical News Today March 21, 2013

10. Forbes, 9 Ways to Create a Stress-free Work Environment

11. EFT Universe.com - List of Practitioners

12. Neurology October 19, 2010: 75(16); 1402-3

13. Journal of Neuroscience, April 27, 2005: 25(17); 4217-4221

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://ift.tt/jcXqJW.

5-year-old Palestinian girl hit by settler car succumbs to wounds

Einas Khalil

© MaanImages/al-Quds

Ramalla-- A young Palestinian girl who was struck by an Israeli settler vehicle earlier Sunday has succumbed to her wounds, medics told Ma'an.

Einas Khalil, five, died after being hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler near the central West Bank town of Sinjil, medical sources at Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah said.

The girl and young Nilin Asfour were walking on the main road near the village when they were hit, and were taken to the hospital in Ramallah where their wounds were described as serious.

Einas passed away hours later.

Residents of Sinjil accused the settler of deliberately hitting the girls.

Israeli police arrived at the scene shortly after the incident and opened an investigation into whether it was deliberate, locals said.

Over 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.


Vaccine Injury: The critical role of Microflora

There are gaping holes in vaccine science, especially the critical role of microflora in mediating vaccine effects, including adverse ones.

The purpose of these articles is to call attention to gaping holes in vaccine science, issues never before studied:

  1. How childhood vaccines may affect flora balance and colonization, and

  2. How existing flora (microbial predisposition) may affect vaccine response leading to injury.

In Part 1, we explored microbes as the underlying beauty of diversity in explaining how children react differently to vaccines. It's known gut dysbiosis contributes to inflammation and poor vaccine response. This means imbalanced flora leads to vaccine failure. Children born with imbalanced flora may be prone to powerful vaccine reaction of the immune system leading to injury. Important microbes such as protective Bifidobacteria may be reduced or absent.

Some groups with microbial predisposition based on ancestral dietary habits may be predisposed to vaccine reaction and higher risk of injury. How childhood vaccines affect flora balance, short and long-term, remains unknown. And there are no studies about how the infant microbiome may predispose a child to vaccine injury.

By the CDC's own admission, African American boys may be one such group prone to vaccine injury: an increased risk of autism. One important microbial factor possibly explaining both poor vaccine response and vaccine injury is reduced or absent Bifidobacteria. Instead of doctors suggesting parents give their children Motrin or dangerous, glutathione-lowering Tylenol before and after vaccination, perhaps anti-inflammatory probiotics are in order to enhance vaccine response and protect from injury. This is the science of probiotics as vaccine adjuvants, except scientists aren't considering how probiotics may guard from injury. They're only interested in vaccine response to improve efficacy.

Before Dr. Brian Hooker's paper detailing significantly increased risk of autism by MMR vaccination in African American boys was retracted by its publisher, even stripped of its title, the Mayo Clinic was busy pondering why the African American immune system produces twice as many antibodies to the current rubella vaccine as Caucasians and Hispanics. They have no explanation other than genetics in disregard of microbial regulation of genes and immune response.

Here's Dr. Gregory Poland, head of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Vaccine, wondering aloud (video):

"The vaccine in essence is working differently. The question is, why? It's the same vaccine in human beings administered the same way and yet it stimulates a very different set of gene expression and protein secretion, that protein being antibody that protects us when we see the virus. We may be able to reduce the amount of side effects."

What Dr. Poland is not factoring is gene-microbe interaction and how people have different flora balance. Why is the Mayo Clinic focused on genes when microbiota are known to switch genes on and off, regulating gene expression? Reducing risk of side effects may be better approached through microbial DNA testing to determine an individual's flora balance prior to vaccination.

Dr. Hooker attempts to explain the discrepancy by way of vitamin D levels, known lower in African Americans while vitamin D deficiency is pandemic not based on skin color, but flora balance. Vitamin D isn't just about sunshine as commonly touted by experts. Some studies paradoxically find vitamin D levels lowest in the brightest months. The rickets epidemic in the UK is considered a matter of low sun exposure and poor diet while beaches are polluted with sewage ten times over legal limits. Children in Bangladesh are not suffering rickets due to wearing too much sunblock. The epidemic is more likely tied to high rates of gestational diabetes leading to gut dysbiosis in newborns beginning in the womb. It's no accident all the major gut diseases include vitamin D deficiency where these diseases are matters of microbial overgrowth. Microbes make and break vitamin D. They produce precursors of the hormone, vitamin D, and the enzymes responsible for its degradation. Moreover, small intestinal malabsorption due to gut dysbiosis leads to vitamin and mineral deficiency associated with hormonal imbalance. We're only beginning to learn how gut microbiota affect hormone levels. Bifidobacteria control inflammation by way of increasing hormone-secreting endocrine cells and improving gut barrier function.

Dr. Hooker also cites a 2010 paper where the Hepatitis B vaccine administered at birth results in higher rates of autism in nonwhite boys. "Non-Hispanic white boys were 64% less likely to have autism diagnosis relative to nonwhite boys." Armed with this information, why would any doctor allow an African American male newborn HepB vaccination within 12 hours of birth per cruel CDC schedule?

And what of newborns of all races and both genders potentially predisposed to vaccine injury based on microbial predisposition? Not only are genes passed from mother to child, but so are her microbes which interact with genes. With gut imbalances and diseases such as obesity, diabetes,Celiac and Crohn's on the rise affecting future generations, we're also seeing higher rates of vaccine injury.

Microbial-gene interaction is at the core of the problem, overlooked and underappreciated. Scientists are too quick to blame genetics when addressing vaccine injury without considering how microbes turn genes on and off like light switches. It's complicated by the fact that genes also regulate flora balance, a two-way street. Microbes regulate host genes while genes regulate microbial activity. We're in this together.

Blood antigen secretor status is normally considered controlled by genes. Bifidobacteria are found significantly reduced in non-secretors where African Americans were found to have the highest percentage of non-secretors.

Gene-microbe interaction is an intracellular phenomenon not yet part of our sterile textbook landscape. The Kreb's cycle, for example, is still taught as sterile process disconnected from the web of life. There are no diagrams of the Kreb's cycle integrating intracellular microbes doing the backstroke in cytosol of cells, releasing toxins, aldehydes and free fatty acids affecting energy metabolism.

The playing field of this interaction is the gut where 70% of the body's immune system resides. So, why would African Americans produce twice the antibodies by vaccination compared to other races per Mayo Clinic?

To answer this question, let's take a close view of where these antibodies are produced in the gut, Peyer's patches and cryptopatches. This is a groundbreaking 1990 electron microscope imageof a sheep's ileum, last section of small intestine where the immune system is intimately associated with lymphatic and nervous systems, nerve bundles and fibers known as vagal afferents of the gut-brain, interface of microbes and their hosts:

The adaptive and innate immune systems work together to guide homeostasis of intestinal microbiota. But it's a two-way street as "a balanced indigenous microbiota is required to drive the normal development of both mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue, the epithelial barrier with its secretory IgA (and IgM) system." Our immune system controls flora balance by intestinal IgA and SIgA while flora controls the immune system.

Antibodies in breast milk were found to give lifelong benefit in regulating gut microbiota and gene expression while antibody excretion is enhanced by microbes such as bifidobacteria : a circle of life where antibodies control flora and flora stimulate antibodies. Breastfeeding improves vaccine response; certainly a matter of flora balance due to probiotics and prebiotics in breast milk where breastfed infant gut flora is up to 90% bifidobacteria. Might breastfeeding also decrease risk of vaccine injury?

T-cells called intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) live in and are born from intestinal cryptopatches and Peyer's patches where they help B-cells become IgA producers dependent on colonization of bacteria, a reciprocal interaction. Bifidobacteria in particular play a strong role in this formation of antibodies. Bifidobacteria may also play a role in B-cell maturation where antibodies are not required for immunity against some viruses.

There are several studies detailing bifidobacteria inducing antibody production, strain dependent. Bifidobacterium breve was found to increase antibodies produced in Peyer's patches as adjuvant of an oral influenza vaccine. Another bifidobacteria strain was found to activate immune response in lymphatic tissue of both small and large intestine. Bifidobacterium infantis was found protective in salmonella infection by inducing production of regulatory T-cells (Tregs). Bifidobacterium breve was tested in fermented milk, found to enhance B-cell and antibody production in Peyer's patches.

Elevated antibodies are known in autism indicating microbial imbalance and infection. For example, elevated anti-gliadin (IgG) antibodies may correlate with yeast overgrowth as gliadin is part of the fungal cell wall. Elevated measles antibodies known in autism is subject of great dispute as it may indicate abnormal immune reaction to vaccination.

The mighty Human Microbiome Project has yet to venture deeply into the small intestine, an equivalent of inner outer space. We're only beginning to understand how microbes influence health while vaccine scientists parrot age-old fallacy without evidence that children are born with sterile intestines, condoning vaccination within 12 hours of birth. Scientists are also revealing the unappreciated role of gut microbiota in immune response to vaccination. But in general, vaccine scientists have been living in a sterile world in utter disregard of microbial impact on immune response leading to injury. A particularly ominous example is high incidence of protozoans known in autism and how they may affect immune response in vaccination. Vertical, placental transmission of protozoans is known.

CDC protocol should be reduced and begun much later in life to allow the immune system, reliant on flora, time to develop, protecting children from injury. Microbial DNA (PCR) testing of meconium and routine stool testing pre-vaccination for biomarkers such as bifidobacteria may help avoid vaccine injury. An alternative is not to risk injury by vaccination, instead concentrating on building long-term natural immunity via optimal flora balance including nutrition.

How an abnormal immune reaction caused by vaccination leads to intestinal injury resulting in gut-brain malfunction such as autism will be explored in Part 3.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://ift.tt/jcXqJW.

Nine creepy Orwellian technologies that will soon be inside you...

Given the frenzy of interest following the announcement of the Apple Watch, you might think wearables will be the next really important shift in technology.

Not so.

Wearables will have their moment in the sun, but they're simply a transition technology.

Technology will move from existing outside our bodies to residing inside us.

That's the next big frontier.

Here are nine signs that implantable tech is here now, growing rapidly, and that it will be part of your life (and your body) in the near future.

1. Implantable smartphones

Sure, we're virtual connected to our phones 24/7 now, but what if we were actually connected to our phones?

That's already starting to happen.

Last year, for instance, artist Anthony Antonellis had an RFID chip embedded in his arm that could store and transfer art to his handheld smartphone.

Researchers are experimenting with embedded sensors that turn human bone into living speakers.

Other scientists are working on eye implants that let an image be captured with a blink and transmitted to any local storage (such as that arm-borne RFID chip).

But what takes the place of the screen if the phone is inside you? Techs at Autodesk are experimenting with a system that can display images through artificial skin.

Or the images may appear in your eye implants.

2. Healing chips

Right now, patients are using cyber-implants that tie directly to smartphone apps to monitor and treat diseases.

A new bionic pancreas being tested at America's Boston University, for instance, has a tiny sensor on an implantable needle that talks directly to a smartphone app to monitor blood-sugar levels for diabetics.

Scientists in London are developing swallowable capsule-sized circuits that monitor fat levels in obese patients and generate genetic material that makes them feel "full".

It has potential as an alternative to current surgery or other invasive ways to handle gross obesity.

Dozens of other medical issues from heart murmurs to anxiety have implant/phone initiatives under way.

3. Cyber pills that talk to your doctor

Implantables won't just communicate with your phone; they'll chat up your doctor, too.

In a project named Proteus, after the eensy body-navigating vessel in the film Fantastic Voyage, a British research team is developing cyber-pills with microprocessors in them that can text doctors directly from inside your body.

The pills can share (literally) inside info to help doctors know if you are taking your medication properly and if it is having the desired effect.

4. Bill Gates' implantable birth control

The Gates Foundation is supporting an MIT project to create an implantable female compu-contraceptive controlled by an external remote control.

The tiny chip generates small amounts of contraceptive hormone from within the woman's body for up to 16 years.

Implantation is no more invasive than a tattoo.

And, "The ability to turn the device on and off provides a certain convenience factor for those who are planning their family.", said Dr Robert Farra of MIT.

Gives losing the remote a whole new meaning.

5. Smart tattoos

Tattoos are hip and seemingly ubiquitous, so why not smart, digital tattoos that not only look cool, but can also perform useful tasks, like unlocking your car or entering mobile phone codes with a finger-point?

Researchers at the University of Illinois have crafted an implantable skin mesh of computer fibers thinner than a human hair that can monitor your body's inner workings from the surface.

A company called Dangerous Things has an NFC chip that can be embedded in a finger through a tattoo-like process, letting you unlock things or enter codes simply by pointing.

A Texas research group has developed microparticles that can be injected just under the skin, like tattoo ink, and can track body processes.

All of these are much wiser choices than the name of a soon-to-be-ex.

6. Brain-computer interface

Having the human brain linked directly to computers is the dream (or nightmare) of sci-fi.

But now, a team at Brown University called BrainGate is at the forefront of the real-world movement to link human brains directly to computers for a host of uses.

As the BrainGate website says, "using a baby aspirin-sized array of electrodes implanted into the brain, early research from the BrainGate team has shown that the neural signals can be 'decoded' by a computer in real-time and used to operate external devices."

Chip maker Intel predicts practical computer-brain interfaces by 2020.

Intel scientist Dean Pomerleau said in a recent article, "Eventually people may be willing to be more committed to brain implants."

"Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts."

7. Meltable bio-batteries

One of the challenges for implantable tech has been how to get power to devices tethered inside or floating around in human bodies.

You can't plug them in.

You can't easily take them out to replace a battery.

A team at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is working on biodegradable batteries.

They generate power inside the body, transfer it wirelessly where needed, and then simply melt away.

Another project is looking at how to use the body's own glucose to generate power for implantables.

Think the potato battery of grammar school science, but smaller and much more advanced.

8. Smart dust

Perhaps the most startling of current implantable innovations is smart dust, arrays of full computers with antennas, each much smaller than a grain of sand, that can organize themselves inside the body into as-needed networks to power a whole range of complex internal processes.

Imagine swarms of these nano-devices, called motes, attacking early cancer or bringing pain relief to a wound or even storing critical personal information in a manner that is deeply encrypted and hard to hack.

With smart dust, doctors will be able to act inside your body without opening you up, and information could be stored inside you, deeply encrypted, until you unlocked it from your very personal nano network.

9. The verified self

Implantables hammer against social norms.

They raise privacy issues and even point to a larger potential dystopia.

This technology could be used to ID every single human being, for example.

Already, the US military has serious programs afoot to equip soldiers with implanted RFID chips, so keeping track of troops becomes automatic and worldwide.

Many social critics believe the expansion of this kind of ID is inevitable.

Some see it as a positive: improved crime fighting, universal secure elections, a positive revolution in medical information and response, and never a lost child again.

Others see the perfect Orwellian society: a Big Brother who, knowing all and seeing all, can control all.

And some see the first big, fatal step toward the Singularity, that moment when humanity turns its future over to software.

UFOs in West Virginia: 10 witnesses, 4 low-flying UFOs, 3 big as football fields

© on.aol.com

Unidentified Flying Objects have been spotted throughout history around the world. Widely defined as any airborne object that cannot be identified, most associate appearances of UFOs with aliens. Is the truth really out there?

A UFO sighting in southern West Virginia has been reported that not only presents multiple witnesses of the objects in question but also the witnessing of multiple unidentified flying objects during the sighting. reported Oct. 17 that ten men working at a coal plant in Marmet, West Virginia, saw the four flying objects as a collective. Three of the UFOs were massive, the size of football fields. They were all flying extremely low to the ground - and deathly silent.

© Rcsprinter123, Creative Commons

Originally reported on the Mutual UFO Network website, the actual sighting took place at 10 p.m. on October 12, 2014. It was quiet all around, according to the reporting witness. The plant had shut down. The guys had just finished some pipe repairs and were leaning against their vehicles.

One of the guys pointed at the sky. "What is that?" he asked.

Everyone looked up. The first of what would be three huge flying objects was headed toward them.

"We all looked up and saw a triangle-shaped object outlined in white lights the size of a football field coming up the hollow from the southwest [Beckley, WV area]," the witness reported. "It might have been 300 to 500 feet above us. It was moving very slow and made no noise. We watched for about 3 or 4 minutes as it disappeared over the trees.

"A few minutes later another one showed up behind it - the same shape and size and no noise. Another one showed up after that, same as before.

"After these three went by a small object with lots of red flashing appeared at the end of the line formation. They were all headed northwest towards Charleston, WV."

The reporting witness said that all the guys were "amazed" that there was absolutely no sound, no noise whatsoever coming from the UFOs - especially "as close as they were, and their sizes." And it all took place in the space of 15 minutes.

So what did the ten men see? Could it have been a case of group or mass hallucination as some will surely suggest? Or is there a reason UFOs - whether manmade, alien, or faux - were traveling between Beckley and Charleston, West Virginia in mid-October?

In the comments section on the MUFON web page, the question was posed that, given so many witnesses, why did not one of them capture an image with a cell phone camera? Karen King of the Appalachian UFO Research Society suggests that in many areas of West Virginia cell phone reception is limited and/or sporadic, which might account for the absence of phones and, therefore, photos of the four UFOs.

Two weeks prior to the Marmet UFO sighting, a couple in Elkins, West Virginia, reported a low-flying massive triangular-shaped UFO, according to International Business Times. Flat black, it blocked out the stars in its passage. It had three lights, a dim white one and two orange hourglass-shaped lights. The couple that filed the report with MUFON noted that the UFO had no distinguishing control features (like a canopy or windows) and as they moved toward it, it seemed to move toward them. The reporting witness said it was not military or a regular aircraft, because he was familiar with their general characteristics. And most remarkable of all, instead of flying away, the UFO simply disappeared, as if using "a cloaking device," the witness said.

Australian government's anti-immigrant poster shocks planet

No Way Australia

© Irish Central.com

Advance Australia Fair - or retreat Australia unfair?

Don't come to Australia, you'll drown.

That's the hard hitting message being sent out by the current Australian government to asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants, in the hope it will discourage more of them from ever setting out for its shores.

The controversial new government approved poster - which has already been printed in 17 languages - reads: "No way. You will not make Australia home."

The blunt language and the ominous imagery, part of the Australian government's Operation Sovereign Borders program, ensured the poster became a global internet sensation this week. To underline the Australian government's point that the danger isn't worth it, the new poster presents a tiny boat being tossed by a threatening sea.

Critics are already calling it the anti-tourist campaign of the century.

But the Nonprofit Refugee Action Coalition of Sydney has responded angrily to the campaign, claiming that "almost all the deaths at sea have been caused by the appalling response of Australia's search and rescue services, who have been told to prioritize stopping boats, not saving lives."

Green immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the press: "This document is in incredibly poor taste. The fact that it came from the Australian government is a disappointing indictment on our once generous nation which helped to draft the Refugee Convention."

It's certainly a marked change of tone from the old days. Back in 1928 Australia was advertising itself as a land of opportunity - but the people it was advertising to lived in the UK and northern Europe.

After the Second World War the country even offered British immigrants a subsidized boat trip for just ten pounds to their new land of opportunity.

Now critics say that it's ironic that a country founded by Europeans (at the documented expense of the indigenous peoples who lived there) now has the gall to declare itself off limits to foreigners.

Threatening asylum seekers sailing to flee oppression and violence in their own countries has struck most commentators as needlessly cruel.

[embedded content]

Donetsk People's Republic hoisted 30-meter flag in central Donetsk

© AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

A thirty-meter black-blue-red flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) was hoisted on Sunday in central Donetsk on the occasion of one of the first national holidays, the Flag Day.

"Regrettably, we have too few holidays now, but this holiday we will remember for years to come. Each of the occupied cities - Slavyansk, Mariupol, Kramatorsk, and others - will host our flag sooner or later," DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko said.

According to a correspondent, about 2,000 people gathered on Sunday in Donetsk's central Lenin Square. Representatives from various DPR districts carried in a giant flag measuring 30 by 14 meters made by residents of all towns of the republic. Denis Yurchenko, a bronze medalist of the Olympic Games in Beijing, and several other city residents made a number of final symbolic stitches. On a signal from Zakharchenko, the flag was hoisted on the facade of one of the buildings surrounding the square.

"We have withstood much and are yet to withstand much. We are a united people and we shall overcome anything," Zakharchenko said. "We will make our city better, we will restore everything that was destroyed and will live in the most beautiful city - let our enemies be envious."

No violations were reported during the festivities.

Corrupted and psychopathic 'art': Paris's giant 'butt plug' installation vandalised

A controversial artwork in the centre of Paris said to resemble a giant green sex toy was apparently vandalised overnight Friday, after critics decried the 80-foot installation as a "humiliation" for the French capital.

Called "Tree", the piece by US artist Paul McCarthy was erected in Paris's upmarket Place Vendôme on Thursday as part of the FIAC international art festival which begins next week.

© @Flosh (Twitter)

Paul McCarthy's 'Tree' artwork lies limp after apparently being vandalised

The inflatable artwork is intended to represent a Christmas tree, according to McCarthy, but has caused outrage among some due to its resemblance to an anal plug sex toy, prompting calls for city authorities to remove it.

Feeling has been so strong that McCarthy, 69, has said he was slapped three times in the face by a passer-by as the artwork was unveiled.

Some angry Paris residents now seem to have taken matters into their own hands, with photos posted on Twitter overnight Friday showing the installation lying on its side and looking limp and deflated after apparently being vandalised.

French journalist Renaud Pila tweeted that the FIAC took the decision to deflate the artwork after a number of saboteurs cut the cords holding it up.

The art festival later announced that McCarthy had decided against reinflating the piece as "the artist was worried about potential trouble if the work was put back up".

McCarthy himself said: "Instead of a profound reflection about objects as a mode of expression with multiple meanings, we have witnessed violent reactions."

It follows a social media outcry over the artwork, with French conservative group Printemps Français (French Spring) among those criticising the piece.

© Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 80-foot installation was erected in the Place Vendôme in central Paris on Thursday.

"A giant 24-metre butt plug has been erected at Place Vendome," the group tweeted. "Place Vendome disfigured, Paris humiliated!"

But the attack on the artwork has prompted an equally strong reaction among others, including Paris's deputy mayor Bruno Julliard.

"Shame and humiliation for France - not the temporary inflatable artwork on the Place Vendome, but the fools who have degraded it," he tweeted.

McCarthy has asserted the piece is indeed a Christmas tree, but admitted to Le Monde Friday that he was partly inspired by the shape of a butt plug.

"Originally, I thought that a butt plug had a shape similar to the sculptures of [Romanian artist] Constantin Brâncusi. Afterwards, I realised that it looked like a Christmas tree," the artist told the newspaper.

"People can be offended if they want to think of it as a plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction."

Improve your mood by changing the way you walk

children walking

Change in walking style can influence your mood

It's well-known that when we're in a good mood, our style of walking tends to reflect how we feel: we bounce along, shoulders back, swinging our arms in style.

Sometimes, just from our gait, it's more obvious to other people how we feel than to ourselves.

Now, a new study finds that it also works the other way around: people who imitate a happy style of walking, even without realising it, find themselves feeling happier (Michalak et al., 2015).

The study had participants walking on a treadmill after looking at a list of positive and negative words.

While on the treadmill each person's gait and posture was continuously measured and fed back to them visually.

On the screen they had to try and move a bar either one way or the other by changing their walking style.

Although they didn't realise it, walking in a happy way made the bar move in one direction and walking in a depressed way moved it the other.

Nikolaus Troje, who co-authored the study, explained:

"They would learn very quickly to walk the way we wanted them to walk."

Afterwards, they were asked to write down as many of the positive and negative words that they'd been shown earlier.

Those who'd been walking in a happy, upbeat way remembered more of the positive words, suggesting they were happier.

The study also found that those who walked in a slumped, round-shouldered, depressed way, remembered more of the negative words.

This ties in with research on people who are depressed: they have a strong tendency to remember negative events, rather than the positive.

A bias towards recalling negative events is part of the vicious cycle that perpetuates a depressed state of mind.

Troje continued:

"If you can break that self-perpetuating cycle, you might have a strong therapeutic tool to work with depressive patients."

So: shoulders back, swing those arms, and let's see you bounce along!

Mysterious military X-37B space plane lands after nearly two years in orbit

© Boeing

Recovery crew members process the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base after completing 674 days in space. A total of three X-37B missions have been completed, totaling 1,367 days on orbit.

The US Air Force's unmanned, X-37B military space plane made an autonomous runway landing on Friday, Oct. 17, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., concluding an orbital test flight nearly two years in duration on a record breaking mission whose goals are shrouded in secrecy.

The Boeing-built X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), successfully de-orbited and safely touched down on Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:24 a.m. PDT, concluding a 674-day experimental test mission for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

This was the third flight of an X-37B OTV vehicle on a mission known as OTV-3.

"I'm extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing," said Col Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, in a statement.

"Everyone from our on console space operators to our airfield managers and civil engineers take pride in this unique mission and exemplify excellence during its execution."

The OTV is somewhat like a miniature version of NASA's space shuttles.

The reusable space plane is designed to be launched like a satellite and land on a runway like an airplane and a NASA space shuttle. The X-37B is one of the newest and most advanced reentry spacecraft.

A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif, following a successful 674-day space mission.

OTV-3 also marked the first reflight of an OTV vehicle.

The OTV-3 mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Dec. 11, 2012, encapsulated inside the payload fairing atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41.

All three OTV missions have launched from Cape Canaveral and landed at Vandenberg.

The first OTV mission launched on April 22, 2010, and concluded on Dec. 3, 2010, after 224 days in orbit. The second OTV mission began March 5, 2011, and concluded on June 16, 2012, after 468 days on orbit.

Here's a video of the OTV-3 landing:

[embedded content]

Video Caption: The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 3 (OTV-3), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:24 a.m. Oct. 17. Credit: USAF

"The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Boeing, and our base support contractors, have put countless hours of hard work into preparing for this landing and today we were able to see the culmination of that dedication," said Balts.

The 11,000 pound state-of -the art reusable OTV space plane was built by Boeing and is about a quarter the size of a NASA space shuttle. It was originally developed by NASA but was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2004.

Altogether, the OTV vehicles have spent 1,334 days in Earth orbit.

The OTV's can stay on orbit far longer than NASA's shuttles since their power is supplemented by solar panels deployed from the vehicles open cargo bay.

"The landing of OTV-3 marks a hallmark event for the program" said the X-37B program manager. "The mission is our longest to date and we're pleased with the incremental progress we've seen in our testing of the reusable space plane. The dedication and hard work by the entire team has made us extremely proud."

"With a program total of 1,367 days on orbit over three missions, these agile and powerful small space vehicles have completed more days on orbit than all 135 Space Shuttle missions combined, which total 1,334 days," said Ken Torok, Boeing director of Experimental Systems, in a statement.

© Boeing

Recovery crew members process the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base after completing 674 days in space. A total of three X-37B missions have been completed, totaling 1,367 days on orbit.

"The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies," according to an Air Force statement.

The Air Force says that the next X-37B launch on the OTV-4 mission is due to liftoff from Cape Canaveral sometime in 2015.

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

© Ken Kremer

US Air Force X-37B OTV-2 mini space shuttle is encapsulated in 5 meter payload fairing and bolted atop an Atlas 5 rocket at Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida prior to 5 March 2011 launch. This up close view of the nose cone holding the secretive X 37-B shows the umbilical line attachments.

Brazil, India and China taking steps to reduce income inequality, tackle poverty

india poverty

© AP Photo/ Altaf Qadri

An Indian squatter smokes as others sleep on rented cots at a public park near Jama Masjid, or the Grand Mosque, in New Delhi, India, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014.

There are still too many people living in poverty, but the world is making progress in tackling the problem, largely thanks to such countries as Brazil, India and China, Professor David Hulme, Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, told RIA Novosti Friday.

"There are still too many people living in poverty, but one good thing to note is that things are getting better, the world is making steps to address extreme poverty, and this is largely due to the work of countries like Brazil, India and China tackling poverty and reducing inequality in their countries," Hulme said.

On October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is commemorated.

The UN initiative was first introduced in 1993 to promote the importance of eliminating poverty in the world.

"On this day we recommit to think, decide and act together against extreme poverty - and plan for a world where no-one is left behind. Our aim must be prosperity for all, not just a few," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement published on the organization's website Friday.

The Brooks World Poverty Institute Director also acknowledged the importance of learning from various countries, which have experience in fighting poverty.

"The rest of the world, including Northern countries like the US and the UK should therefore be looking at countries that have worked to reduce that poverty , and what lessons could be shared with the rest of the world," Hulme said.

Speaking about the ways of eradicating the problem, the expert stressed the significance of raising global awareness of poverty.

"We need NGOs, governments and charities to work with the public so that poverty becomes as unacceptable as apartheid," Hulme stressed.

Bloodthirsty rabbit joins the long list of critters currently attacking humans!

Canada's Revenue Agency bullies birdwatchers for political activity

Canadian Bird Watchers being watched by CRA

A small group of nature lovers in southern Ontario enjoy spending weekends watching birds and other wildlife, but lately they're the ones under watch - by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.

Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website.

The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."

A copy of the five-page March 11 letter, signed by Valerie Spiegelman of the charities directorate, was obtained by CBC News.

Officials in the naturalist group are declining comment about the cannon shot across the bow, apparently for fear of attracting more attention from the tax agency.

Member speaks out

But longtime member Roger Suffling is speaking up, saying the issue is about democratic freedom and not about arcane tax rules.

"Effectively, they've put a gag on us," he said in an interview, noting that the letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies.

"You can piece together the timing," said Suffling, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. "The two things are very concurrent."

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq responded to the group's complaint in a March 14 letter - or just days after the Canada Revenue Agency letter arrived - and Suffling is convinced the two events are linked. Aglukkaq's office denies there's any link, saying the agency operates independently.

Suffling said that if government is using the tax agency as a "pit bull to stifle dissent, then there's something very wrong."

The group, with annual revenues of just $16,000, has also had a guest speaker to talk about the oilsands, and has publicly defended the Endangered Species Act from being watered down.

Suffling said members of the group are older, small-c conservative, "not radical in the least sense."

Political activity audits

The Canada Revenue Agency

CDA UN 20140923

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq speaks at the UN earlier this year. A member of a naturalist club in Ontario suspects Aglukkaq was behind a warning letter his group received from the Canada Revenue Agency about political activities. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

launched a special program of so-called political activity audits after Budget 2012 provided $8 million for the project, later topped up to $13.4 million.

The rules say a charity can devote no more than 10 per cent of its resources to political activities, and none to partisan activities, but critics say the guidelines are fuzzy or can be Byzantine in their complexity.

A special squad of 15 auditors has so far targeted some 52 charities, many of them critical of Conservative government policies. Environment groups were hard hit in the first round in 2012-13, but the net has since widened to snare social justice and poverty groups, among others.

So far, no group has been deregistered, but the audits have been expensive and disruptive for charities, many of which operate on a shoestring.

Critics cite 'advocacy chill'

Critics say the program has led to "advocacy chill."

"What we've seen and what we've heard is this nervousness," said Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of the charities lobby Imagine Canada, based in Toronto.

"Whether it is increased scrutiny, increased attention of the scrutiny, we're not entirely sure what's causing it. It does seem, though, to be top of mind for everybody right now."

Canada Revenue Agency officials say they do not target any one charitable sector, and are choosing groups impartially, without input from the minister's office.

The decision to launch an audit is also not based on any group's position on the political spectrum, charities directorate chief Cathy Hawara has said.

The agency also has another tool in its arsenal beside audits. "Reminder letters" are issued to some groups to warn that Canada Revenue Agency analysts have been watching their political activities, and may launch full audits if things aren't rectified.

So far, 23 such letters

snowy egret

A snowy egret takes flight in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region. A local naturalist club has come under scrutiny by the Canada Revenue Agency for allegedly paying too much attention to politics and not enough to wildlife. (Contributed by Brett Woodman)

have been issued, including to the Kitchener-Waterloo group, though the agency won't say exactly which groups are on the list, citing the confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act.

"The local naturalists' club was silenced when its views became known to government and it was silenced for voicing public concern, not for breaking the rules," Suffling wrote on a recent blog.

"How many other inconvenient charities are there out there?"

The Canada Revenue Agency declined interviews. But spokesman Philippe Brideau sent an email indicating said the decision about whether to launch a full audit or to issue a reminder letter comes after an initial screening process based on internal files as well as publicly available material.

"Where the regular activities of a registered charity appear charitable and the political activities appear to have minor issues or to be increasing or changing, following an office review/monitoring, a reminder letter informing the charity about the rules for political activities may be sent," he said.

Brideau declined comment about the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, citing confidentiality.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

Evolutionary trait in pathogen cryptococcus gattii allows it to bypass strong immune responses

New research into a rare pathogen has shown how a unique evolutionary trait allows it to infect even the healthiest of hosts through a smart solution to the body's immune response against it.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have explained how a particular strain of a fungus, , responds to the human immune response and triggers a 'division of labour' in its invading cells, which can lead to life-threatening infections.

Once inhaled, the pathogen can spread through the body to cause pneumonia or meningitis. The outbreak strain of this fungus differs significantly from other strains because it threatens the lives of healthy people -- those with a strong immune response -- rather than those usually considered at risk of infection.

Professor Robin May, from the University of Birmingham, explained, "It is important to point out that the risk to any individual is still very low: the fungus is non-contagious and cannot be passed between humans, or indeed from animals to humans, so we're not presenting a doomsday scenario here."

"But by understanding how this particular lineage behaves once in the body, we have provided an insight into the key mystery of why it is virulent in immunocompetent people -- that is those with a strong immune system."

When invaded by an outbreak strain, the host body creates reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS form an essential part of the antimicrobial defence in mammals and works to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens by cleansing the body of invasive cells. A strong ROS reaction usually makes people less susceptible to infections, but in the case of Cryptococcus gattii the tables are turned and the fungus uses this reaction to its own benefit.

The study, published in , outlines how the unique pathogen uses the release of ROS as a signal to trigger a 'division of labour' in the intracellular fungal population.

"We don't often think of invasive cells working as a team, if you will, but this seems to be a smarter response. When they encounter ROS, the cells adopt different roles. Some sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others, and form a protective barrier that allows the rapid growth of neighbouring cells -- allowing the establishment of the pathogen. This isn't something that we've seen before."

The outbreak is believed to infect humans who inhale spores or yeast from soil or leaves of certain tree species, such as Eucalyptus and some fir species. Though most people don't become infected, those that do tend not to experience any effects until between two and fourteen months after exposure.

Treatment of the disease is usually a combination of IV therapies and anti-fungal medication.

The disease, once thought to be restricted to tropical regions, gained attention after a reported case in British Columbia, Canada in 1999. Over 450 cases have since been reported in North America, making it the largest ever outbreak of a life-threatening fungal infection in healthy people.

Previous research has sought to identify how this particular lineage of came to appear in North America from a likely origin in the Amazon Rainforest. A number of suggestions have been put forward, from climate change to the migratory patterns of humpback whales, though Professor May is sceptical.

"It's unlikely that climate change, or indeed whale migration, is behind this. However it got there, though, it really is a fascinating story of evolution. displays unique traits and has adapted to new environments in such a way that it presents us with a chance to make huge strides in understanding how these pathogens operate and, hopefully, make sure we are a well prepared to deal with future outbreaks."

'Space Bubbles' may have downed key Afghan rescue mission


© news.agu.org

Soldiers walk to the ramp of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter that will return them to Kandahar Army Air Field. New models will help predict the impact of plasma bubbles on future missions.

Twelve years ago, a U.S. military rescue mission in Afghanistan went horribly wrong. A Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. troops failed to receive a crucial radio message and was shot down over the snow-covered peak of Takur Ghar.

But the radio failure was not caused by malfunctioning equipment. Instead, a giant, 62-mile-long (100 kilometers) "plasma bubble" made up of clouds of electrically charged particles was responsible for the communication blackout, new research suggests.

Michael Kelly, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), in Laurel, Maryland, started to put the pieces together after reading a journalist's account of the Battle of Takur Ghar. He suspected the radio failure was caused by a little-known space weather effect caused by these mysterious plasma bubbles.

Ionospheric Scintillation

© www.jhuapl.edu

Plasma Bubbles: Tendrils of low-density charged particles with turbulence at their edges can skew radio frequency waves passing through them.

During daylight hours in the upper atmosphere, radiation beaming down from the sun rips electrons from their atoms. But once the sun sets, the electrons start recombining with their atoms. This recombination process happens faster in the lower atmosphere because there are heavier particles there, and electrons recombine faster with molecules than they do with single atoms. Since the plasma in this part of the atmosphere is less dense, it rises and burrows into the denser plasma above. This causes giant bubbles of charged particles to form, similar to the way air bubbles rise from a submerged diver.

The huge bubbles of charged particles are invisible, but they can bend and warp radio waves. In 2002, the Chinook helicopter was flying over Afghanistan in the spring, which is the height of plasma bubble activity, Kelly said.

Military officers based in Bagram, Afghanistan, issued a fateful radio warning to the helicopter crew to stay away from al-Qaeda forces on the mountaintop, but the message was scrambled and lost. The helicopter crash-landed, and seven individuals were killed.

To figure out what went wrong, in March 2002, Kelly and a team of researchers used data from a NASA satellite mission called TIMED, which launched in 2001 to study the composition of Earth's upper atmosphere. "The TIMED spacecraft flew over the battlefield at about the right time," Kelly said.

Joseph Comberiate, co-author of the study and a physicist at APL, developed a method to convert the 2D images from the NASA satellite into 3D models of the plasma bubbles. The model showed that on March 4, 2002, the day of the Battle of Takur Ghar, a plasma bubble loomed above the unlucky helicopter.

Still the bubble was probably not big enough to be solely responsible for the radio communication failure, according to the researchers' model. The mountainous terrain had likely already made the radio signals weak, and the presence of the plasma bubble could have interrupted this weakened signal, causing a complete radio blackout.

In the future, the researchers hope to use the new model to predict the formation and movement of plasma bubbles. The model uses data from satellites to find the bubbles and then uses a wind and atmospheric model to predict which way the bubbles will drift. The researchers are now studying whether the U.S. military might be able to use this tool to predict when and where radio communication could be lost.

"The most exciting part for me is to see something go from science to real, potential operational impact," Comberiate said.

The study was published Sept. 12 in the journal .