Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Lyme Disease Epidemic

           The tick season has arrived on Long Island, where I live, and the rest of the New York area, indeed through much of the United States. A deer tick just bit me. When I was a kid growing up in Queens in New York City my family went camping every summer out on Long Island, at Wildwood State Park in Wading River, and deer ticks were unknown.
As a Boy Scout doing intensive hiking and camping all over this region (I was an Eagle Scout) neither I nor anyone I knew was ever bitten by a deer tick,
But now deer ticks and other ticks, and Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, are a huge problem for all of us. Long Island was a hotspot for Lyme when it first emerged in the 1970s and still is, but it’s now just one of many hotspots in the area and across the U.S., indeed Lyme disease has spread around the world.
We’ve been hit by an epidemic.
The Empire State Lyme Disease Association, headquartered in Manorville on Long Island, is a leading organization in the U.S. in the fight against Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.
Eva Haughie, the association’s president, has counted getting 51 tick bites since 1999 and as a result her contracting Lyme disease nine times. “Ticks love me,” Ms. Haughie was saying last week. The first time she ended up “like an Alzheimer’s patient” and “couldn’t walk.” Long-term treatment with antibiotics has been critical for Haughie.
The association focuses on prevention and Haughie lives that personally. When she goes outdoors, she uses tick repellents including Avon Products’ “Skin So Soft” and lavender and rosemary oil.
 The association runs support groups, organizes conferences, disseminates educational information and engages with government officials.
And it has been dealing with a key treatment problem: the insistence of health insurance companies—following the guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America—that extended care of Lyme disease victims isn’t necessary. The claim is that a few weeks of treatment with antibiotics is all that’s needed. That is mostly true if Lyme disease is detected early, but detection is problematic. Only about half of the people bitten by a tick carrying Lyme develop the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite. And tests for the disease have often been unreliable.
Long-term care is vital—indeed produces miraculous results—for persistent cases.
That was the message of the documentary “Under Our Skin,” the winner of a host of film festival awards. “Eye-opening...frightening...powerful,” said the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times called the documentary “heart rending” and noted how it “takes aim at the medical establishment.”  
            It tells of how members of the panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that issued a key report calling for no long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme had financial connections to health insurance companies and other conflicts of interest.  It shows how health insurers don’t want to pay for long-term care of Lyme sufferers—so the medical system has been twisted to maintain such care isn’t needed. It exposes how dedicated doctors who’ve provided needed long-term care have ended up severely punished by the medical establishment.
            The producer and director of “Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, has been making “an update on the original.” It will be out in July and is titled: “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence.”
“What is emerging besides the major epidemic—are truth and hope,” Wilson told me in an interview from Sausalito, California, where his production company is based.
The update follows the Lyme victims featured in the original “Under Our Skin” who were saved by long-term treatment and it finds all of them doing fine.
“We’ve gotten deeper into the conflict of interest issues. We’re continuing to look at the—let’s call them—chronic Lyme denialists,” said Wilson. Among what’s examined is how Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now a U.S. senator) “forced” the Infectious Diseases Society of America to “reassess” its guidelines on treating Lyme, but after all, the guidelines were not changed. “It is shocking,” Wilson commented. It sure is.
For information about “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence,” visit www.underourskin.org.
Last year, he U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of Americans newly infected by Lyme disease each year is 300,000, ten times higher than has been officially reported.  This said a CDC official “confirms Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem.” Likewise, the effort to discourage long-term treatment for persistent Lyme victims is a tremendous public health scandal.
What is the origin of the Lyme disease epidemic?
Another huge scandal is quite likely here.
Michael Christopher Carroll in his best-selling book, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, links Lyme disease to Plum Island—an 840-acre island a mile and a half off the North Fork of Long Island on which the U.S. government’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center is located.
Carroll notes that Lyme disease “suddenly surfaced” 10 miles north of Plum Island “in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.” Indeed, that’s how the malady got its name, from the 1975 outbreak in the adults and children in Old Lyme. It was diagnosed by Dr. Wally Burgdorfer, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Thus the spirochete in a deer tick that transmits Lyme was named Borrelia burgdorferi.
Carroll in Lab 257 cites years of experimentation with ticks on Plum Island and the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.
Lab 257 documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment of a U.S. Army laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.
During World War II, “as lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea­—Traub worked directly for Adolph Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” states Lab 257.  The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease.
This became the mission, in a Cold War setting, at Plum Island.
And, states Lab 257, published in 2004:“The tick is the perfect germ vector which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”
“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book states, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951—they were inoculating these ticks.” Lab 257 goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de rigueur for Erich Traub.”
Traub was brought to the U.S. with the end of the war under Project Paperclip, a program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, came to America.
“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island. Traub was a founding father,” says Lab 257.
And Plum Island’s purpose, says the book, became what Insel Riems had been: to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union, ­with the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union having begun.
Traub also developed relationships in the U.S. before the war. He “spent the prewar period of his scientific career on a fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, perfecting his skills in viruses and bacteria under the tutelage of American experts before returning to Nazi Germany on the eve of war,” says Lab 257. While in the U.S. in the 1930s, too, relates Carroll, an attorney originally from Long Island, Traub was a member of the Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund which was involved in pro-Nazi rallies held weekly in Yaphank on Long Island.
Lab 257 tells of why suddenly the Army transferred Plum Island to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954: ­the Pentagon became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if its food animals were destroyed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the U.S.S.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans, ­not against food animals,” says Lab 257. “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war.”
Also making a link between Plum Island and Lyme disease is in an earlier book, The Belarus Secret: The Nazi Connection in America.
First published in 1982, it was written by John Loftus, an attorney, too. Loftus was formerly with the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice set up to expose Nazi war crimes and unearth Nazis hiding in the United States.
Given top-secret clearance to review sealed files, Loftus found a trove of information on America’s postwar recruiting of Nazis. He also exposed the Nazi past of former Austrian president and U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and his involvement as an officer in a German Army unit that committed atrocities during the war. Waldheim subsequently faded from the international scene.
            In The Belarus Secret Loftus tells of “the records of the Nazi germ warfare scientists who came to America. They experimented with poison ticks dropped from planes to spread rare diseases. I have received some information suggesting that the U.S. tested some of these poison ticks on the Plum Island artillery range off the coast of Connecticut during the early 1950's. . . Most of the germ warfare records have been shredded, but there is a top secret U.S. document confirming that 'clandestine attacks on crops and animals' took place at this time.”
He points to “the hypothesis that the poison ticks are the source of the Lyme disease spirochete, and that migrating waterfowl were the vectors that carried the ticks from Plum Island all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.” Loftus adds: “Sooner or later the whole truth will come out, but probably not in my lifetime.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Folly Beach

            Folly Beach. Yes, there really is such a place. It’s a poster child for the folly of dumping sand on the shoreline in the expensive and fruitless attempt to try to hold back the ocean and protect beach houses.
            In the Long Island village of Quogue, New York, Concerned Citizens of Quogue have included a current article about this beach in South Carolina in their current online newsletter (http://ccquogue.org/) and the group asks the question: “Quogue’s Own ‘Folly’ Beach?”
            Happening in Quogue is a conflict emblematic of the struggle involving the coast that’s been going on for decades on Long Island, heightened by the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. There’s a proposal for $14 million in taxpayer-funded sand dumping along the Quogue shoreline.

            Meanwhile, down south comes this news on the Concerned Citizens website.
            “Folly Beach—Huge waves kicked up by Friday’s storm scoured and swept away newly poured sands on the east end of this island,” begins the article from  The Post and Courier of South Carolina published last month.
And it wasn’t an encore of Sandy that did it, just another blow.
The cost to Folly Beach: some $30 million in dumped sand—gone with the sea.
“In little more than a month,” The Post and Courier says, Folly Beach homeowners “have lost much of the sand” dumped just a month earlier on the shore fronting their places.
 Some $30 million in sand placed on the Folly Beach shoreline. A month later, it’s all gone.
             The newspaper quoted the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Folly Beach project as saying that placing sand on the shore “doesn’t stop erosion. It protects properties. We put the required amount of sand out there. The sand didn’t hold up.”
And this was not the first time in recent years that loads of sand have been dumped on Folly Beach. It has been done again and again, at huge taxpayer cost. “The last time the work was done, in 2005, the cost was $12 million,” about “a third of the current cost,” notes The Post and Courier.
            This rise in price for coastal sand-dumping is “mirroring the soaring cost of beach nourishment across the country,” comments Concerns Citizens of Quogue.
The organization in its current newsletter also brings attention to a letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that summarizes comments it has received on the $14 million plan to dump 1.1 million cubic yards of sand on the Quogue oceanfront.
The comments are right on the mark and include:
·         “The relatively few homeowners affected by beach erosion in Quogue should consider relocating their homes landward.”
·        “All village taxpayers should not have to pay for a project which will directly benefit a relative few.”

·        “Since the longevity of large scale beach nourishment projects nationwide is variable at best and poor at worst, all concerned need to understand that the long term efficacy of the proposed project is not guaranteed. Funds expended to carry out the project could be wasted and there could be the expectation of the expenditure of additional funds to re-nourish the beach after the material from the first nourishment erodes.”

·        “Oceanfront property owners must know that they are taking on considerable risk when they purchase or otherwise acquire their properties. These property owners, not the municipality, should be responsible for maintaining them.”
         And there is my favorite statement: “The current development pattern on the barrier island in Quogue is unwise and unsustainable. The very large, very expensive, permanent homes which now exist on the oceanfront engender in the owners the understandable desire to protect them, at almost any cost, against the forces of nature, to the detriment of the beach and dunes. In the not so distant past, many people contented themselves with much smaller, less permanent, less valuable beach cottages, structures which they could afford to lose and/or replace if they were damaged by erosion or storms.”
            The DEC called on Quogue village’s “agent” on the sand-dumping project, First Coastal Corporation, to “review this letter” and comments “with the mayor and other village officials” and provide “responses to the issues raised.”
             The Quogue proposal is overshadowed by the plan of the Army Corps of Engineers to dump sand from Fire Island to Montauk Point, first advanced nearly 60 years ago but failing to occur because of the folly it has always represented. Post-Sandy, however, beachfront homeowners and some politicians are pushing for it anew.  A recent cost estimate for the sand-dumping along this 83-mile stretch of Long Island’s south shore: $700 million in taxpayer dollars.