Monday, July 28, 2014

Is the Yellowstone Volcano Overdue?


For a while people have been saying that the Yellowstone volcano is overdue for an eruption. The figures thrown around have been between 40,000 and 60,000 years overdue.

Wait, Yellowstone is a volcano? Yup.

In fact, Yellowstone National Park is primarily a part of the Yellowstone Caldera, a massive volcano which measures 34 by 45 miles (1,530 sq. mi.) in size. Because it is so large, it lacks the commonly recognizable features of a volcano and it took geologists a long time to really figure out the scope of what Yellowstone was. Yellowstone is of course famous for its geysers, hot springs, and mud pots. All of those incredible sights, which have amazed onlookers for centuries and attracts well over 3 million visitors a year, belies the fact that this natural wonder is a very special type of volcano (a super volcano) with the potential for a very special and destructive type of eruption: a super eruption.

The visible features of the caldera, like geysers, boiling springs, and the countless small earthquakes are all evidence to the reality that Yellowstone sits atop a magma chamber 6,600 cubic miles in volume! For some perspective, that's enough to stuff to build a wall 1 mile high and a mile wide that stretches from New York to Afghanistan.


As we all know, the Earth's crust moves over an ocean of liquid rock thousands of miles deep. Because the crust is relatively thin, it can break and fracture which creates the various tectonic plates and fault lines, and causes earthquakes, and volcanoes. There are certain places where magma (the molten rock making up the mantle) concentrates in the upper reaches of the mantle and remains for millions of years, like a giant boiling pillar of fiery death. As the crust moves over these "hotspots", long chains of volcanoes form. The best known hotspot lies under Hawai'i and it's why there are a series of volcanic islands. Yellowstone is another such hotspot, and over the past 16 million years there have been seven major calderas which formed as the crust moved (right to left) over the relatively stagnant hotspot. This has actually left the region with an arch of extinct volcanoes and the current active caldera which formed 2.1 million years ago.

(Location of the Yellowstone hotspot over time. Number indicates millions of years before present.)

As I said, the current active Yellowstone caldera formed 2.1 million years ago as the product of the last three super eruptions which were, 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago respectively. The last super eruption which occurred created the Lava Creek Tuff formation, a layer of volcanic debris and ash which covered an area some 1,500 miles wide at its greatest extent. Such super eruptions can cause total chaos, alter global climate, and if one were to happen today, millions could die in the US within a few months and many more across world as "the world's breadbasket" (America's plains) became inhospitable to plant life. 

  
Doing some quick figuring - 3 eruptions over 2.1 million years - one see that these eruptions happen about once every 700,000 years, and since the last one was 640,000 years ago, we find that Yellowstone is not "overdue". In fact, the differences between the first and second eruptions and the second and third eruptions are 800,000 and 660,000 years respectively. This makes the average interval more like 730,000 years. The "40,000 years overdue" myth comes from a common misconception that the eruptions occur every 600,000 years. 

Humans love stability and predictability, but the world in which we live is neither stable nor precisely predictable. While there have only been 3 super eruptions in the last 2.1 million years, Yellowstone has had smaller eruptions as early as 2,270 years ago and others as far back as 16.1 million years ago. Although hotspots may last for millions of years, they do dissipate, and just like volcanoes, none last forever. There is no guarantee that any volcano will erupt again, and certainly there is nothing saying it "must" erupt. Indeed there is no such thing as an overdue eruption, earthquake, or asteroid hit. We assign odds and averages just to help us contextualize things which are far out of our control and that rarely have any real predictability.

In Yellowstone, things like earthquake swarms and ground swells could signal an impending eruption, but more often than not, when these events happen they tend not to be connected to one another. 

Only time will tell if Yellowstone will blow its top and send us all to our doom. The reality is, it could happen tomorrow, or 90,000 years from now, or never. The odds of it happening in any given year are 1 in 730,000 and the odds that we could actually do something about it are something like 1 in 2,948,321,110,479.5

So no, it is not overdue. Sit back and relax, or better yet, take a vacation to Yellowstone and see the awesome natural beauty that 6,600 cubic miles of magma can produce. 

Further Reading

Future Activity at Yellowstone, U.S. Geological Survey

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gardasil kills 1 out of 912. True or False?

GARDASIL® is a vaccine manufactured by MERCK which is used to prevent certain strains of HPV (human paploma virus), a virus which has infected 79 million Americans, with 14 million new cases per year, and is a major cause of cervical cancer (70%), as well as several other cancers. Gardasil was approved in the U.S. in 2008 and has been approved for use in 120 other countries.

As with all vaccines, there seems to be an ever increasing fear of them and people love to spread dramatic and scary memes across the interworlds to "prove" the evils of the anti-vax flavor of the month. The fight against Gardasil began immediately, but I'd like to take the time to address a specific claim.



The "Common Sense Show" and "Liberty Beacon" websites have "fact" laden articles about the dangers of Gardasil and attack the evil pharmaceutical industry for making money off the corpses of your slaughtered daughters. Most of the outrage seems to stem from page 8 of the Gardasil product information pamphlet. And their conclusion is that the vaccine kills 1 out of every 912 patients.

So, let's look at page 8.

The results of clinical trials reported looked at 29,323 patients. Of those, 15,706 were actually given the vaccine, 13,023 were given a control, and 594 were given a saline (salt water) placebo. The control was amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate (AAHS), which is a commonly given drug to enhance immune activity.

Of the 258 "adverse effects" listed, 128 (0.8%) were from those given the vaccine and 130 (1%) came from those given the control. Now, the definition of "adverse effects" is anything from a simple rash or headache, all the way up to infection and death. During clinical trials the entire health of the patients are looked at and they do not make the distinction between specifically proven connection and non-proven, because these particular studies aren't for that determination. They only allow you to see if there is a statistical likelihood of connection.

The most common adverse effect for those given the vaccine was appendicitis, with 5 cases or 0.03% of the total trial population.

For the deaths, there were 40 reported. Out of 15,706 people given the actual vaccine, 21 died or 0.1%. However, 38% of those deaths were NOT caused by the vaccine. As I said, they must report all injuries & deaths during these studies including: 5 from car crashes, 2 from suicide, and 1 from somebody getting shot. So really, the death rate that conceivably could be related to Gardasil (but not proven to be) was 0.08% - or 1 out of every 1,208.  For context, the overall death rate for the United States is 8 per 1,000! Cancer death rates tend to be far higher.

Plus, of the remaining 13 non-accident/self-inflicted deaths, five were from other types of cancers, 1 occurred after a surgery, and 1 died from some kind of chemical poisoning.

Conclusion

I cannot stress this enough, based on this report alone you can't make a determination that the vaccine caused the deaths. Which, makes the 1 in 912 figure completely out of context and false for the purposes of the claim that Gardasil caused these deaths. I'm also not sure where the 1 in 912 figure comes from: as noted, the death rate for those given the vaccine (21 out of 15,706) is 1 out of 1,208, and the death rate for the whole trial (40 out of 29,323) equals 1 in 1,396.

As I discussed in my flu vaccine entry, there is no such thing as a perfectly safe drug, be it man-made or naturally growing herbs. By definition, a drug/medication is any substance which alters the internal chemistry of the body to illicit a healthy outcome. There is no way to ensure a healthy outcome. It all boils down to risk vs. benefit. Each year, 225,000 women die from cervical cancer and a further 470,000 will develop the disease. Even in the United States, the fiver-year survivability rate is 68%, meaning you still have a 32% chance of dying.

You tell me which is the greater risk?

Regardless, I'm not here to debate anything other than the specific claim that Gardasil kills 1 out of every 912 people. The judgement is a resounding FALSE. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

"Jesus is English!" - Bachmann

There are several memes going around, primarily on Facebook, which claim Rep. Michele Bachmann said during a Fox News show, "if English was good enough for Jesus when he wrote the Bible, it should be good enough for Coke." The alleged quote is in response to the controversy over Coca Cola's Superbowl commercial in which the song "America the Beautiful" is sung by various people in their native languages.

There is also a related meme purporting to quote Rep. Bachmann defending herself in making the original statement, also on Fox News - of course.


The source of this image is the Facebook group "Christians for Michele Bachmann". However, after looking through the posts made by the group it becomes very obvious, or perhaps not so obvious, that the group is about nothing more than satire - at worst they're deliberately trying to spread lies and misinformation. What I find more disturbing is that the image has been shared nearly 30,000 times directly (and who knows how many indirect shares, reposts etc.) and that people are using it as "evidence" of Rep. Bachmann's "stupidity" and the dangers of organized religion. 

No matter where you stand on Rep. Bachmann or religion, I find it disgusting that people are using something with no verification to support & promote a certain position. Spreading lies, rumors, misinformation, etc. all leads to the further degradation of available information, entrenching division, hatred, and causes undue to harm to the reputation of very real human beings. If you think someone or something is stupid or wrong, use real evidence to back it up. There is no need to create lies. Doing so is beyond childish.

As for the statement itself, the phrase "if English was good enough for Jesus...." has actually been floating around the Internet for years and has been attributed to dozens of other people, each time with a different ending. The phrase itself however goes back even further. Miriam Ferguson (1875-1964) is alleged to have said, sometime in the 1920s, "if English was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas" speaking in reference to bilingual schools. Although variations of the phrase might actually go back to the 1880s and used derogatorily against Christians, and could make it very unlikely that Ferguson was actually the originator of the phrase. 

I know people can't help themselves but to spread funny or shocking memes, especially if it re-enforces their own prejudices. But as a rule of thumb, if it sounds too idiotic or shocking - fact check it! Try to find a real news article, or a video showing the person actually saying it. If a politician, or anyone in the public light, truly said something completely insane you can be sure that the news media will pick it up and their detractors would run with it. So do us all a favor, take 30 bloody seconds and make sure what you're about to post is true.

--Jacob Bogle
Facebook page

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

United States Inc.



Is the United States of America a Corporation?

One of the more understandable misunderstandings on the Internet is the notion that the United States federal government (and by extension the country as a whole) is in reality a corporation with its own set of rules, CEO's etc. This theory is held by many and is parroted across hundreds of websites and online forums, some with seemingly strong arguments. To complicate matters they point to a series of  laws which, on the surface, may appear to validate their claims. I hope to be able to explain where the misunderstandings come from and to clear up the whole issue.

These are the two laws which are the most quoted:

28 USC § 3002 - Definitions
(15) “United States” means—
        (A) a Federal corporation;
        (B) an agency, department, commission, board, or other entity of the United States; or
        (C) an instrumentality of the United States.

And the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 which creates a city government for the District of Columbia. You can find the full text of the Act here.

An example of the most common claims and arguments can be found here. Aside from claiming the US government is a for-profit corporation, it naturally asserts that we are and have been under the control of the evil Rothschild international bankers and that since some people think our "current" government is unlawful, that their minority opinion holds with the full force of law and is actionable i.e they do not have to follow any laws set forth after 1871 (a fantasy of the highest order).

The "Definitions" controversy rests in the meaning of "a Federal corporation." The rest of the issues arising from 28 USC § 3002 are really rather basic. This section is saying that for the purpose of identifying what is or is not a part of the United States federal government, the "United States" may refer to EITHER; a Federal corporation; an agency, department, commission, board of other entity of the United States; or an instrumentality of the United States.

As of 2011 there are 17 federal corporations. According to a report on federal corporations by the Congressional Research Service "The federal government does not possess a general incorporation statute as states do. Each government corporation is chartered through an act of Congress." Federal government corporations include the Postal Service, the Federal Reserve and the TVA. The definition does NOT say that the federal government *is* a corporation but rather, federal corporations (like the TVA) are part of the federal government of the United States.

English is a tricky language and words take on new popular meanings and tones, especially words that have a modern negative connotation, like "corporation." A person with only a cursory understanding of the law or only focusing on the "definitions" section could easily come to the wrong conclusion. This section has been used to great effect and unfortunately most people never step outside of themselves and their distrust of all things government to actually research the issue themselves. A meme showing evil bankers with "the United States is a corporation" will be passed along the Internet simply because people do not trust government and the meme reinforces pre-held biases; it reinforces a negative image and people are all too eager to indulge themselves.

The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 was an act to formally give a government to the District of Columbia which, up to that point, had been governed as a mixture of municipalities and counties within District boundaries. Let me give you some more background.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress (with the approval of the affected States) the power to create a district in which to hold the seat of government. This district, 10 miles squared (not 10 square miles, but 10 miles on each side), was formally placed under the direct control of the Congress.

The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 allowed Congress to retain control over the city itself, known as the City of Washington, however the remaining territories were divided into Washington County and the County of Alexandria. The cities of Georgetown and Alexandria, who had existed prior to 1801 and which existed within the 100 square mile federal territory, were allowed to keep their city charters. In 1802, the City of Washington was granted its own charter. The mayor of the City of Washington was to be appointed by the President.

The citizens within the District were no longer citizens of Maryland or Virginia and were thus disenfranchised. This disenfranchisement is what led Virginia, in 1846, to ultimately reclaim the territory it had ceded to the District.

Next, comes the Act of 1871. This act repealed the individual charters of Georgetown and Alexandria, brought them in with Washington County (since the County of Alexandria now belonged to Virginia), and brought the whole area under one single government, the District of Columbia. Nowhere in the law's text does it say anything about the government of the United States being a corporation. Additionally, Congress repealed the Act in 1874 and replaced the system of direct Congressional governance for the local government of the District in favor of a more direct rule system. The District of Columbia would then be ruled by a three-member Board of Commissioners until 1967 when it was replaced with a mayor and city council who would be appointed by the President. This was changed once again by the 1973 Home Rule Act. 

What is a corporation?

The word "corporation" has several meanings, however it is generally understood as a legal entity that has been incorporated (in one way or another) by a legislative act. A fair amount of confusion arises because the modern American understanding of the term is somewhat different than the original English definitions. In the U.S., the term tends to mean a business, but the term really means that it is now an entity which can be sued, do business (activity), etc. without respect to the individuals who made it or control it. Basically, an incorporated entity can act and be brought to court. 

The notion that the term "corporation" is solely an entity with its own separate laws and whose only purpose is to make money is an utter misconception. Cities, states, colonies, nations, and yes, businesses have been incorporating themselves for centuries. 

In the American system of government, States hold the power to grant or refuse the incorporation (or home rule) of a city, county or other body. However, since the federal district was explicitly authorized by the Constitution and Congress was given direct control over the district, it took an Act (or Acts) of Congress to set it up. 

Final words

Under federal law, for an entity to become a corporation there must be an Act of Congress creating that corporation. And as we have seen, Congress has created multiple federal corporations. There are no Acts incorporating the United States, only the District of Columbia; which is not the same thing as the government of the United States, no more so than the City of Nashville is the government of the State of Tennessee.

In the Supreme Court case, United States v. Cooper Corporation (1941), the Court said: "We may say in passing that the argument that the United States may be treated as a corporation organized under its own laws, that is, under the Constitution as the fundamental law, seems so strained as not to merit serious consideration."

This view is additionally supported by the doctrine of "sovereign immunity," which states that the government of the United States, or of the individual States, or of certain tribal entities, may not be sued unless the government first allows it. A business/company/corporation can be sued.

The government of the United States and the entity of the District of Columbia are not one and the same. The District of Columbia is no different than the incorporated cities of Nashville, Sacramento or Atlanta when compared to the Constitutional governing bodies (the governments of the States) that reside within their limits. 


Sources & additional reading:

Federal Corporations - by the Congressional Research Service (PDF)

District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 - text of the Act

District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 - text of the Act

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Water Fluoridation



I usually use this blog to debunk myths, clear up misunderstandings, and generally oppose a certain idea or view. This post is going to be different. Instead of opposing the theory that water fluoridation is bad for you I intend to show, with clear evidence, that it is indeed harmful. I'm not going to use conspiracy sites or "anti-fluoride" sources. I am however, going to use well established science and research reports from very credible sources. I'm writing this to give those interested in the topic easily accessible information and a clear understanding of the issue without all of the baggage that usually accompanies many groups who discuss this topic.

The purpose of adding fluoride to water supplies is to reduce tooth decay. In 1945 the city of Grand Rapids became the first US city to add fluoride to the water supply to prevent tooth decay and by 1951 water fluoridation became an official policy of the US Public Health Service. As of 2006 over 61% of the national population is in reach of fluoridated water via public water supplies. In 1994 the World Health Organization recommended that fluoride levels be between 0.5-1 mg/liter of water.[1]

The three main forms of fluoride added to water are: sodium fluoride, fluorosilicic acid (also known as hexafluorosilicic), and sodium fluorosilicate. These chemicals are released into public drinking water at a steady rate and, for the average person, fluoride levels can be somewhat controlled. However, if a person drinks more or less water from public water supplies than assumed by the government it is impossible to determine the efficacy of the program. Some will drink less and receive little to no benefit and others will drink more, raising the risk of health problems.

How it works

Fluoride primarily works topically, that is to say it works when it is contact with a person's teeth. Fluoride interacts with the tooth enamel to help harden it and slow down the demineralization process which causes cavities. Fluoride itself does not prevent cavities from forming but rather slows down their rate of growth.[2] Additionally, once swallowed fluoride has almost no effect on a person's teeth.[3]


Health Risks

Dental fluorosis 

The most well-known negative health effect of water fluoridation is called dental fluorosis which is caused by an excessive amount of fluoride exposure during tooth development. In most people the condition is mild and only causes minor cosmetic problems. In severe cases, the damage can be very noticeable and require extensive dental work. Around 40% of all dental fluorosis cases can be traced back to water fluoridation. The CDC even reports an increase in cases as the fluoridation program expands.

Skeletal fluorosis

Simply put, skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease caused by fluoride accumulating in the bones (and teeth) of a person. Skeletal fluorosis develops more slowly than dental fluorosis and can lead to severe join damage and bone pain. According to the World Health Organization:

"Ingestion of excess fluoride, most commonly in drinking-water, can cause fluorosis which affects the teeth and bones... It is believed that fluorosis affects millions of people around the world."

While the percentage of people affected is low relative to the number of people ingesting fluoridated water, it is nonetheless a very real risk. There are also no effective treatments known and even simple bone fractures will take much longer to heal in those affected.[4]

Mental development problems

Water fluoridation affects children far more than adults. This fact (among others) has been generally ignored by governments and many medical establishments for decades. One of the more disturbing health problems associated with water fluoridation is that of developmental delays. Recently, Harvard University in conjunction with China Medical University conducted a meta-analysis of 27 studies relating to fluoride and child brain development. According to their study they "found strong indications that fluoride may adversely affect cognitive development in children." The report also stated that "researchers conducted a systematic review of studies, almost all of which are from China where risks from fluoride are well-established" and "virtually no human studies in this field have been conducted in the U.S." which begs the question, Why?

Here is the study itself and the report on the study can be found here.

Fluoride toxicity

Like all chemicals, fluoride is potentially toxic when ingested in large amounts. Fluoride naturally exists in large quantities (greater than recommended levels) within the ground water of certain regions all over the world. Areas include the American southwest, large parts of China, Libya, Ethiopia, and India where 60 million people are estimated to have had some level of fluoride poisoning.[5] Fluoride poisoning can occur from ingesting contaminated water (naturally or otherwise) or by ingesting fluoride containing products like toothpaste and mouthwash. Children are far more likely to suffer acute poisoning and in the US 80% of toxicity cases over a 5 year period were children under the age of 6.[6] Common symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea while chronic (long term) poisoning will lead to skeletal fluorosis and other similar illnesses. Severe poisoning, either acute or chronic, can lead to death.

In 2006 the US National Research Council conducted a review of water fluoridation and recommended, in part because of naturally occurring fluoride levels, that the CDC and EPA lower its maximum contaminant level goal (the maximum recommended amount in public water supplies which is 4mg/liter this is 4 times the level suggested by the WHO).[7a/b] To-date, the EPA has not lowered their recommended maximum levels. However, in 2011 the US Human and Health Services Dept ad CDC did lower its recommended level to 0.7mg/liter which was the lowest level in their original safety range of 0.7-1.2mg/L.[8][13]

Ethics and Costs

The universally recognized gold-standard to cavity prevention is regularly brushing your teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste. In fact the single common factor among nations in the decline in tooth decay is the usage of fluoridated toothpaste, and questions have been raised as to the needfulness of continuing mass water fluoridation in light of modern oral hygiene practices.[9] Water fluoridation has also been aimed at poorer communities and countries where dental problems occur at a higher rate than the rest of the world. One problem with this is that these third-world countries lack the proper infrastructure and technical know-how to implement wide-spread water fluoridation and according to a study published by the journal Clinical Oral Investigations toothpaste remains the only viable option (and it is the best option for oral heath in general). A person's health is a matter of personal responsibility and effective toothpaste can be purchased for as little as $1. Water fluoridation removes individual choices out of the equation and forces potentially serious side effects on entire populations.

Then there are the financial costs. Water fluoridation costs around $0.99 per person per year on average (although in some places it's as low as $0.15 or as high as $15.50).[10] And while the cost of water fluoridation when weighed against the costs of dental bills is very low we have seen that fluoridation gives no benefit to the person once they swallow the water yet gives them all the associated risks. Brushing ones teeth is more effective than solely relying on water fluoridation; furthermore, when proper brushing is combined with water fluoridation there is almost no added benefit. There are also other alternatives (although more expensive) which have a greater ability to prevent tooth decay such as dental sealants. Sealants can prevent 33-86% of cavities and last for 5-10 years, compared to 40% for water fluoridation which you must ingest day-after-day.[11]

On top of the human ethics and costs there are also environmental considerations. Water fluoridation causes massive amounts of fluoride to be dumped into the environment which can lead to great harm. The Sierra Club has been vocal about their opposition to mandatory water fluoridation.[12]

Solutions

Thankfully there are solutions. 

The most immediate solution is simply buying a quality water filter for your home. This will remove the fluoride from your water but they do cost money. It will also require you to actually brush your teeth properly! (which you should be doing anyways)

In the US, water fluoridation is not mandated on a federal level. The federal government regulates the maximum amount allowable, but cities and states can determine how much they wish to put into their water supplies -up to the maximum- or decide not use fluoridation at all. There is a growing movement to have cities opt-out of state mandates for water fluoridation and the reason(s) each community has to refuse the program varies. 

In the end it is about principle. The principle to allow each individual to decide whether or not to ingest a certain substance; the freedom of choice. The freedom to not pour millions of gallons worth of fluoridated water into the environment, the freedom to not risk the health and mental capacity of their children or themselves. The freedom of taking responsibility for their own health and well-being, to make an educated choice and take the benefits (or harm) that may come with it. 

Germany, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, Finland, India, South Korea, Vietnam, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Norway, and Scotland have all either had fluoridation programs and ended them or have rejected fluoridation all together. 

In the US, New Hampshire now has a law (HB-1416) which requires water departments to warn customers of the risks posed to infants. There have also been large numbers of US cities which have rejected fluoridation including: Tyrone, PA, Wichita, KS, Crescent City, CA, Albuquerque, NM, College Station, TX and many others. 

I'd like to ask you to please think on all of the information I've provided you and to consider joining the campaign against water fluoridation. 

For more information please visit:


And a shout out to a local group: Tennesseans Against Water Fluoridation (Facebook page)

Sources:

1. Fluorides and Oral Health, WHO (PDF)
2. Dental Fluorosis, Clinical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine (Sage Journals)
3. Prevention and reversal of dental caries, J. D. Featherstone, University of California
4. Reversibility of skeletal fluorosis, British Journal of Industrial Medicine
5. Water, Technology Review India (published by MIT)
6. Acute fluoride toxicity, Journal of Public Health Dentistry
7a. Fluoride in Drinking Water, US National Research Council (530 pages)
7b. CDC statement letter on USNRC report, (PDF)
8. US lowers limits for fluoride in water, Reuters
9. Community water fluoridation, Clinical Oral Investigations
10. Recommendations for using fluoride, CDC
11. Present and future approaches for the control of caries, Journal of Dental Education
12. Policy on fluoride in drinking water, Sierra Club
13. CDC Fluoride Fact Sheet, CDC

Author's note: I will occasionally update this article by adding diseases whenever I can find substantial evidence for other fluoride related illnesses from credible sources and any additional new information.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Morgellons

(Alleged fibers "growing" in dish)

Morgellons (Morgellons Disease) is a syndrome characterized by crawling and stinging skin sensations, persistent skin rashes/lesions, and the appearance of "unknown" fibers on and beneath the skin. The cause(s) of Morgellons are unknown but many believe it to be caused by a conspiracy involving chemtrails, population control efforts, HAARP, nano-bioweapons etc.

Modern Morgellons first came to light in 2001 when a woman, Mary Leitao, claimed her two-year old son developed sores on his lips and complained of "bugs". Leitao has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and had worked in a local hospital. She said she examined the sores with her son's toy microscope and found fibers of different colors.[1]  She took her son to 8 different doctors who were unable to find any cause or known illness. Dr. Fred Heldrich, from John Hopkins, examined her son and found nothing. He further stated that Mrs. Leitao should seek psychological help.[1] In 2002 Leitao founded the "Morgellons Research Foundation" (MRF) and since that time the Foundation claims that it has received 12,000 case reports from people around the world.

Fast forward a few years and Leitao's story makes national news. This mysterious condition was discussed on several TV shows, including ABC's Medical Mysteries. But, despite the coverage and outpouring of purported sufferers, numerous medical studies have repeatedly failed to find any cause. This has led to a vast number of theories ranging from the targeted infection of the population by governments to aliens.[2] Some have even suggested that these fibers act as tiny antennas connecting us to mind-control programs.

Now, let us look at the facts:

The CDC began actively investigating Morgellons in 2007 after an extensive letter-writing campaign. In 2012 the CDC released their findings after studying 115 patients. They found no infective agents or environmental causes. In conclusion, they noted that this syndrome closely resembles delusional infestation (also known as delusional parasitosis) more than a new condition.[3][4]

There was also a study done by the Mayo Clinic which looked at 108 patients. The study was conducted from 2001-2007 and the results released in 2011. The study included examining skin biopsies and they found no evidence of a skin infection. The Mayo Clinic likewise raised the point that the sufferers are exhibiting the same signs and symptoms of delusional infestation.[5]

After studying the fibers they concluded they were bits of clothing and other everyday fibers (cotton, nylon etc) as well as things like gravel and oil that the sufferers had scratched into themselves.[5]

What about the wine test?

There is a Morgellons "test" that you can find online.[6] Basically, by washing your mouth with red wine for 5 minutes and then spitting into a cup you can determine if you have been infected. If you see stringy bits in the cup you are a victim. Aside from the odd issue of only using red wine (and not beer, vodka, etc) it is somewhat curious that this would be such an easy test and yet so many doctors have failed to detect these "nano-pathogens" in skin and blood samples.

Perhaps there is something more mundane at work? Wine tasters have always noticed "stuff" in the wine they spit out. They have known about this since before airplanes even existed. The mechanism at work is referred to as astringency. Astringency is the drying, roughing and sometimes puckering sensation that is experienced after tasting most red wines. Red wines also contain tannin's which can interact with your saliva (and the proteins therein) and cause a gritty sensation as well as bind together and form "super structures" which you can see.[7][8] So, fairly obviously, if you swish wine or other tannin containing substances in your mouth for an extended period of time you are likely to find bits of stuff in it once you spit it out. 

What about the people/groups involved in scientifically proving Morgellons?

Raphael Stricker is the author of "Morgellons disease: Analysis of a population with clinically confirmed microscopic subcutaneous fibers of unknown etiology" published by Dove Medical Press. However, he is also a disgraced doctor who was found guilty of falsifying data and excluding information which did not support his hypothesis.[9] And while the fact that he lied in the past is not 100% evidence that his data is currently untrustworthy it is nonetheless an important factor to keep in mind. Stricker is also associated with the Morgellons Research Foundation. The misconduct findings list him as an M.D however; I'm not sure what kind of doctor he actually is. I've found veterinary microbiologist, intern, scientist and others associated with his name. 

Dove Medical Press is an open access (free) journal. Further investigation reveals that DMP has a number of somewhat disturbing problems which, in my mind, makes them a non-credible source.[10][11][12]  

Randy Wymore is an associate professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oklahoma. He has been very active in studying Morgellons, in particular the fibers. Supporters often cite his work as evidence of Morgellons, specifically Wymore's first test in which he concluded "There's something real going on here. Something we don't understand at all." The problem is that science needs more than one test, more than one study and results MUST be repeatable or else it's just a theory. After additional studying, Wymore's fibers have been identified as: cotton, nylon, human hair, down from a pillow and other known substances. Wymore further admits "We have not yet exactly replicated the exact results of the forensics people in Tulsa."[13]

Clifford Carnicom is a computer consultant and former researcher & manager with various government agencies. According to his site he holds a Bachelors of Science. He founded the Carnicom Institute which claims to do "scientific research" on environmental and health issues.[14] Carnicom claims to have done a large amount of research into chemtrails and Morgellons and his "work" has been widely cited online in support of Morgellons being caused by some government chemtrail conspiracy. Interestingly, on his site there is a disclaimer which reads in part "The Institute does not perform any medical diagnosis. Any presentation, opinion or expression [by an Institute representative] in no way implies or denotes endorsement by the Institute." The Institute has two board members, Carnicom and a former music teacher.  


A man named Jay Reynolds has taken considerable pain to research the claims made by Mr. Carnicom. Reynolds concludes:


"No medical reports, material analysis, or documentable and confirmable evidence has been presented which supports the hypothesis that chemical or 
biological agents are currently being delivered or can be associated with 

jet contrails."


The relevant pages and information can be found here:[15][16][17]

The Institute's Morgellons research page also discusses the red wine test and lists a number of symptoms including: eye "floaters", joint pain and stomach problems.[18] The symptom list is not intended to be inclusive implying that there are many more symptoms. When just about anything can be associated with Morgellons (just do a Google search) it makes it very difficult to actually determine what is or is not a direct symptom and opens the door for anyone to claim they're sufferers and no one would dare doubt them. 

Carnicom claims to have a new "improved" method for researching "webs" that fall out of the sky. They look suspiciously like a cotton or nylon net which has been cut up and wrapped over a stick.

(Image from Carnicom)

Others claim that heavy metals like gold and silver are being dumped into the air along with the pathogens that cause Morgellons. Gold especially is practically harmless to humans. They also claim that 12,000 families in the US have been infected with Morgellons (which differs greatly from the MRF's claim of 12,000 *individual* cases - the world over). So after the countless chemtrails, the millions exposed, only 12,000 are infected?[19] Sounds more like a failure than any well-oiled conspiracy to doom us all.  

Morgellons from the 1600s? 

An interesting note of history is a letter by Sir Thomas Browne which was first published in 1690.[20] In it he writes:

"Hairs which have most amused me have not been in the Face or Head, but on the Back, and not in Men but Children, as I long ago observed in that Endemial Distemper of little Children in Languedock, called the Morgellons, wherein they critically break out with harsh Hairs on their Backs, which takes off the Unquiet Symptomes of the Disease, and delivers them from Coughs and Convulsions." 

And there are a number of other similar descriptions throughout the last 500 years. Could it be that a small minority suffer from this long forgotten rare illness while others suffer from delusion? Only further research will give us the end truth but there is little doubt that the modern and common claim of Morgellons is more legend than reality.

Bottom Line:
There is no credible evidence for this syndrome of being anything but a psychological illness and mass hysteria which has fed off lies, misinformation, ignorance and simple fear. Morgellons has no clear diagnosis criteria, no clear set of symptoms and is nearly identical to delusional parasitosis.[21][22] No one likes to admit they've either been the victim of a hoax/myth or that they have a psychological disorder.


Doubt, ignorance and fear can cause otherwise reasonable people to see, feel or think just about anything. Does this alone mean that people aren't experiencing itching or crawling sensations? No. Get a group of friends together and start talking about lice. Before you know it there will be people scratching and running off to a mirror to see if they have bugs in their hair. Just because you "feel" something doesn't mean your body is responding to an external physical stimuli.

We are surrounded by fibers from our clothes, blankets, napkins, paper, home and car upholstery, from each other, pets and even spider webs. The hairs on our body have wildly varying thicknesses, colors and shapes. Contrails (the trail of "smoke" behind a plane) have been observed since at least the 1940's, just because people confuse them or misidentify them doesn't mean much.


Instead of admitting the possibility that people like Mr. Carnicom have been taking advantage of the fear and ignorance surrounding this issue for their own benefit proponents will resort to the last stand of all conspiracy theorists: That the government and the millions of independent, private scientists the world over are all part of some vast plan. That "they" have been so blinded by formal education (even though the theorists claim to use the very same information and methods as academia) that they simply cannot discover what is clearly before their eyes. A perfect trump card, you either "see the light" or you're a part of it.

So tell me, which is more realistic?

Sources:
1. Mom fights for answers on what's wrong with son, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2. Radiation & Chemtrail Assault, Food Freedom (blog)
3. CDC Study
4. Delusional Infestation, Clinical Microbiology Reviews (an introduction to the illness)
5. Morgellons, Medpage Today
6. Red Wine Spit Test, Beforeitsnews.com
7. Red wine astringency, Wine Aroma Dictionary
8. Food Chemistry 3rd Edition, pg 657. By Owen Fennema (hosted on Scribd)
9. Final findings of scientific misconduct, National Institutes of Health
10. Richard Poynder interviews Dove Press publisher, Open Access News
11. Predatory Open-Access Publishers, Jeffery Beall, University of Colorado-Denver (PDF)
12. DMP and academic fraud, DailyKos
13. Morgellons: A hidden epidemic or mass hysteria? The Guardian
14. The Carnicom Institute: Mission
15. Reynolds 1, his FOIA requests
16. Reynolds 2, chemtrail "web" info
17. Reynolds 3, an example of a claim by Carnicom being found false
18. Carnicom's Morgellons page
19. GeoEngineering Exposed, a blog roll with posts tagged "Cliff Carnicom"
20. A Letter to a Friend, Sir Thomas Browne (University of Chicago)
21. Morgellons Disease? A study published in Dermatologic Therapy (Wiley)
22. Morgellons: contested illness, a study published in Sociology of Health & Illness (Wiley) (PDF)


Additional Reading:
Morgellons' Wikipedia article
Morgellons Watch, a skeptic site
Morgellons related thread (supporters and opponents) 
Hair, Wikipedia
Contrail, Wikipedia 

Moregellons-like descriptions:
Sir Thomas Browne and the Disease Called the Morgellons, by C.E. Kellett MD 1935

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thanks and Suggestions

When I started this blog I had little expectation that it would become as popular as it has. In its first 4 months it had been read less than 1,000 times, it's now read 500 times a day! So I would like to thank everyone who has visited, commented and shared the posts you've enjoyed.

The entries I make tend to be about issues I come across via my Facebook feed so there isn't much regularity. It would be difficult to post a new entry every day, even every few days, given my other obligations. However, I would like to start making posts on a somewhat regular basis. With that said, I'd like to ask your input.

What myths, lies or misunderstandings would you like me to research and clear up? I am currently working on an article about "Morgellons Syndrome" but other than that I don't have anything definite in the works. So please, if you have any suggestions (or criticisms, likes, dislikes, etc) leave them in this post's comment section.

Again, thank you all very much!

--Jacob
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