Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
August 3, 2018 (posted August 6, 2018)
Mr. President: In a few weeks time, school will resume in many countries, and quite a
few parents now worry about the dangers of vaccination. Are they real or false?
What are the facts?
First, a word on what we can believe to be real. Some might remember Ripley's
Believe It or Not? We are all fascinated by the odd, the unusual, even more so when
science with its mundane explanations takes away the mysteries of life. So it is that
reasonable people begin to believe in the incredible. We want to.
Take the case of chemtrails -- a theory that trails left by jet airplanes high in the sky
are chemical sprays. Why would anyone do that? The reasons vary. They want to
change the climate, control our minds, lower life expectancy, reduce fertility or cause
sterilization for population control, spread aluminum that causes Alzheimer's but
Monsanto profits from a GMO seed designed to grow with it, and so on.
The physics experts tell us it is relatively simple: Jet engines exhaust water vapor
which condenses in the cold of higher altitudes. Called contrails (a contraction of
condensation and trail), an acute observer will note they correspond to the number of
engines on the airplane. Numerous scientists, scientific bodies, the Environmental
Protection Agency and independent journalists have investigated and debunked
chemtrails without eradicating the idea.
The results of a nationally representative 1000-person poll published last October
finds that only 32 percent believe chemtrails are 'false'. A good 25% percent are
'unsure' and 15 percent, think they are 'somewhat false'. The rest consider them
somewhat true' (19 percent) or 'true' (9 percent). Note that just a one-third minority
categorically rejects a complete hoax despite the efforts of scientists and government
agencies. Perhaps a natural skepticism of officialdom doesn't help. Of course, the
blame rests squarely on some internet sites and social media (with its echo
chambers) where chemtrail discussion, instead of debunking the idea, favors it and
propagates conspiracy theory.
But there is another belief worse than chemtrails germinated by fake science. It has
led to actual harm. For one reason or another, people known as anti-vaxxers (Trump
among them) are refusing vaccinations for their children; thus an alarming global
increase in measles -- an illness that can cause hearing loss and, in rare cases, even
Developing countries have their own unique problems with vaccination. Pakistan
trying to eliminate polio has experienced deadly violence against vaccinators because
Taliban leaders have proclaimed it a means of sterilizing Muslims.
But there are problems in developed countries also: A survey in Australia showed
one in three parents having concerns with vaccination. In response, some health
facilities are refusing to treat unvaccinated children. Australia is not alone; the U.S.
too has a vaccine dilemma and Europe is not exempt.
As preparation for the school year often requires vaccination shots, here is a brief
review of what we know about vaccines, the origins of the anti-vaxxer movement and
the available facts.
The prophet of anti-vaxers is Andrew Wakefield, whose origins are in the U.K. He is a
doctor, who was barred from practicing medicine there following his fake study
connecting autism to the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and
rubella. Several later studies have proven Wakefield dead wrong.
A refusal to vaccinate has been a key driver of recent measles cases in the US. A
disease once considered eliminated here has now returned, and in 2014, 667 cases
were recorded, though numbers have declined since then. Often the cause is a
holiday trip contact and transmission to someone who has not been vaccinated;
appalling to think about when the two-dose vaccination regimen renders 97 percent
For anti-vaxxers, there are two other troubling reasons: Some believe the injection of
attenuated, that is weakened, viruses can cause harm. Then also there is anxiety
about thimerosal in some vaccines as it carries traces of mercury. But thimerosal has
not been used in child vaccines for nearly two decades. And while the MMR vaccine
uses a combination of attenuated viruses, it has been in use without causing harm
since 1971. It has prevented an estimated 52 million cases of measles and over 5000
Belief and miracles have been a natural companion for humans. About 2000 years
ago, there was a miraculous virgin birth. Now, some scholars contend it was all a
translation error misinterpreting the word for 'maiden' as 'virgin'. Others argue that
'maiden' in the culture of the time automatically implied virginity because unmarried
young women were expected to be chaste. Who is correct? Heaven knows!