Parents that don’t vaccinate

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From Dr. Moskowitz’s previous article in Pathways (issue 10), we learned that the theoretical effect of vaccines on the infectious diseases they are designed to protect against is misleading at best.

He also illuminated the potential long-term consequences of vaccines on an individual’s overall health and wellness. I would like to present what is known about the body’s immunologic response when exposed to a microorganism naturally as compared to the response generated by the conventional vaccines. Questions that this discussion will raise are:

 

Can the immune responses generated by the vaccines create a pattern of immune imbalance that actually compromises the child’s immune system?

Does the resulting pattern of immune imbalance promote imbalances in other body systems resulting in chronic health issues?

What is known about reversing the imbalance generated by vaccines and/or other immune stressors?

 

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We have known for decades that getting the childhood diseases naturally results in a permanent immunity to the specific microorganism. Getting the vaccines results in a temporary immunity, meaning that susceptibility is deferred and repeated booster shots will be required for the ENTIRE life of the individual. In the 80s, the specific immune mechanisms involved in vaccine-induced immunity was discerned. In the 90s, the same mechanisms in humans were explored. T cells (thymus cells) are the major cell in the immune system; they direct and control all immune responses as well as immune memory. Subsets of T cells are the T-helper cells (Th). T-helper cells coordinate and direct the safest and most effective immune response. Using Moskowitz’s measles example, we know that, when infected with the measles virus naturally via the nasopharyngeal route, the body produces a Th1 response that externalizes the infection and provides permanent immunity.1 Fever, rash, coughing, sneezing, etc are signs of the body ridding itself of this infection. Bypassing the normal body lines of defense by injecting a vaccine forces the immune system into an emergency-based Th2 response which serves to internalize the infection. You don’t get the disease but are susceptible to the disease later since the Th2 response results in poor immune memory. So, if a natural, viral (measles) infection results in a Th1 response, why don’t we make vaccines that could elicit the same response.

In 1995, Golding and Scott,2 published the need for strategies to make vaccines that would generate the “required” Th cell to the corresponding microorganism. Since that time, attempts to produce vaccines that would generate a “natural”- type response have failed. So, we are left with vaccines that generate “protective” responses as a second choice. How does this work? In vaccine-induced Th2 responses, called humoral responses, the body produces large quantities of specific antibodies that block the virus from entering cells. This response is why a vaccinated child doesn’t get a full blown infection and why the child won’t spread as many viruses into the environment. However, antibodies cannot get into cells to eliminate viruses once the viruses are in the cells or cannot kill infected cells themselves. Therefore, the body has no choice other than to internalize the virus and be chronically infected when the body is forced into a Th2 antibody response. The body is essentially constipated with viruses that it cannot expel!

Unvaccinated children who are exposed to measles will generate the immune response that is required to make permanent immunity as well as kick out the virus from the body. The normal, healthy body’s response to viruses is to externalize them. To suppress this natural response can be as hazardous to our health as suppressing waste elimination from the bowel or toxin release from the skin. Natural Th1 responses generate cell-mediated responses that serve to both neutralize viruses by producing antibodies and most importantly stimulate the immune cells necessary to kill any cells infected with viruses. The body works to externalize and eliminate viruses when the Th1 response is generated. So we understand now that when a Th2 response is induced, “it drives the infection deeper into the interior and causes us to harbor it chronically.”3 It is commonly held that the presence of antibody to viruses is a sign of a chronic on-going infection not a sign of immunity.4 Our bodies generally need to have Th1 cells to defend against viral, Gram-negative bacterial, and fungal infections, and tuberculosis, as well as to protect against cancer. Th2 response is necessary to protect against Gram-positive bacterial, parasitic infections, as well as to neutralize toxins from microorganisms and the environment. A balance of Th1/Th2 cells in the body is defined as immunostasis (or immune balance) and is required for optimum health and wellness. Vaccines promote a failure in immunostasis by making the Th2-type cells dominant.

Can the immune responses generated by the vaccines create a pattern of immune imbalance that actually compromises the child’s immune system?

We saw how a vaccine-generated Th2 response can burden the body and exhaust the immune system by forcing the body to deal with a chronic ongoing infection. A Th2 response to a specific virus infection will specifically suppress Th1 cells from becoming activated against the same virus. With the resulting failure to generate a Th1 response, cells infected with virus cannot be destroyed. Chronically infected cells, like nerve cells, can occasionally trick the immune system into reacting to and attacking similar nerve cells resulting in autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, Guillain Barré, etc. Cells chronically infected with live vaccine viruses also risk having the viruses mutate, trade genes with each other, as well as interact with the host cell DNA.5 The live vaccines used presently include, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chickenpox), and flu-mist. Overactive Th2 activity, underactive Th1 capability, chronic infection, potential for novel virus infection and autoimmunity characterize failed immunostasis or Th-cell imbalance in vaccinated children.

The classic work by Ader & Cohen,6 taught us that the immune system can be classically conditioned. Like Pavlov training dogs to salivate at only a ringing bell, the immune system can be conditioned into inappropriate responses through repeated vaccinations. Natural exposure to the environment and infectious diseases conditions immune responses to be more Th1 dominant; whereas repeated vaccine exposure conditions responses to be more Th2 dominant. A child with Th2-dominance is more susceptible to intracellular organisms such as viruses and is therefore more prone to chronic ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections. Children need a vibrant Th1 response to appropriately deal with the childhood intracellular viral infections, whooping cough, and hemophilus. Healthy immune systems are said to be in Th1/Th2 balance or “immunostasis.” Unhealthy immune systems are said to have a failure in or an imbalance in “immunostasis.” Parris Kidd,7 has compiled a fascinating review indicating that there may be a link between Th1/Th2 balance and disease. Diseases such as allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, cancer, tuberculosis, and AIDS, appear to result from a Th2-dominant immune response. It is imperative that we discern the impact of conditioning children’s immune responses to be more Th2 dominant and the consequences of this pattern on the incidence of the Th2-dominant diseases listed by Parris Kidd. When we become Th2 dominant, the antibody-producing part of our immune systems gets derailed like a freight train going a hundred miles per hour, out of control. E. Hurwitz et al has shown that unvaccinated children have less incidence of respiratory conditions, such as asthma and allergies, when compared to their vaccinated counterparts,8 thereby supporting Kidd’s hypothesis.

The focus of much current research is the role of inflammatory responses of varying degrees of severity serving as precursors to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic degenerative diseases being influenced by the different Th cells. Th2 immune responses direct and support bad, excessive inflammation whereas Th1 cells promote healthier type inflammation.

With evidence to support the adverse effects on the immune system by the vaccines, then why do we continue to vaccinate? The role of public health office is to reduce the incidence of infectious disease in the pediatric population. Vaccines generate protective immune responses on a temporary basis and reduce the incidence of infectious disease in the vaccinated kids as well as the unvaccinated kids. Why are the unvaccinated kids protected too? The risk of exposure to the disease is lessened when more individuals are vaccinated. As described, that happens because vaccinated children have tons of antibodies which neutralize infectious virus thereby lessening their ability to spread viruses to others. The phenomenon of unvaccinated children being protected by the vaccinated is known as herd immunity. Herd immunity is a welcomed effect of the vaccination process from a public health perspective. But, according to physicians like James Taylor,9 this may not be a good thing. Unvaccinated children progress into their adult years with a diminished chance of exposure to childhood diseases.

With the passage of time and the vaccinated population not getting their boosters, all become susceptible to the disease. Susceptibility to childhood diseases when we are adults greatly increases severe morbidity and mortality from those diseases. Parents and the powers that-be desire this vaccination approach in order to defer infectious disease to a later date so they do not have to stay home, miss work, and care for a sick child. Th2 dominance from vaccinations results in children being at risk of diseases arising from chronic ongoing infections as well as being vulnerable to the damaging effects of the infectious disease they were vaccinated against when they age and forget about getting booster vaccinations. On the other hand, there are parents anxious to expose their children to the childhood diseases through measles and chickenpox parties so a natural (Th1) immunity can be established early, provide lifelong immunity and appropriately condition the immune system to the natural environment.

 

Does the resulting pattern of immune imbalance promote imbalances in other body systems resulting in chronic health issues?

The 80s and 90s also brought us an explosion of research describing the various chemicals released by cells, especially the Th cells and the receptors on cell membranes capable of reacting to these chemicals. The chemicals (cytokines, interleukins) released by T cells act as signals interacting with satellite dish like receptors on all cell membranes, especially the cells of the nervous system. Similarly, chemical communication signals from the nervous system (neurotransmitters, neurohormones) can react with T-cell satellite dishes. T-cell chemicals can react and effect the entire brain.10 The concept that science now employs is psychoneuroimmunology. So, what you think can affect your nervous and immune systems as well as the immune and nervous system affecting how you think. So, when the immune system is out of balance and depressed, it sends out interleukins which react with the brain, generating depressed behavior, depressed moods and depressed thinking.11 This depression theme excites the sympathetic (flight or fight) nervous system and the cycle keeps on streaming out of control. Patterns of immune imbalance as seen with a Th2 vaccine-conditioned immune responses beget patterns of abnormal neurological and psychological patterns which can then affect all other body systems. Patterns of subluxation have been shown to result from and enhance sympathetic activity. Therefore, patterns of immune imbalance can generate subluxation and vice versa. Other factors that condition as well as support a Th2-dominant immune pattern and should be avoided are negative consciousness patterns, which generate stress, and antibiotics, which delete the normal Gram-negative bacteria and suppress Th1 cells, sugar, caffeine, trans-fatty acids, progesterone, antibiotics, mercury, oxidative damage etc.7

What is known about reversing the imbalance generated by vaccines and/or other immune stressors?

We know that a fetus thrives in a progesterone-rich maternal environment that is Th1 suppressive. But nature solves this by first exposing the baby to normal, probiotic bacteria while coming through the birth canal. These friendly Gram-negative bacteria from the mother stimulate Th1 activity in the neonate. Secondly, breastmilk contains the normal probiotic bacteria as well as the prebiotic chemicals that selectively supports the growth of the good bacteria and Th1 activity and discourages the growth of the bad fermenting-type bacteria. Colostrum and breast milk are also rich in the interleukins necessary to stimulate Th1 activity. It is understandable from this knowledge that breastfeeding is recommended for at least one year. Lastly, exposure to environmental viruses, other Gram-negative bacteria, and fungi will also stimulate neonatal Th1 activity. It is apparent that newborns who are delivered by C-section, not breastfed, and receive their baby shots have a remarkable squashing of their Th1 capability. Repeated vaccinations, poor nutrition, and nerve interference from subluxations, serve to support this failure in immunostasis. Things to do to reinforce Th1 activity and assist in reversing the immune imbalance generated by vaccines, C-sections, formula-only feeding, and other immunostasis disrupters, include developing positive, affirming consciousness behavior patterns and choices individually as well as within the family unit. Antioxidants, mushroom extracts, melatonin, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and GG, phytosterols and sterolins, and omega-3-fatty acids (fish oils) are just a few things that have been shown to increase Th1 levels. Chiropractic adjustments are also recommended to reduce the sympathetic nervous system influence on Th1 suppression. The summary table will review the roles of the Th1 and Th2 responses as well as list what is known to increase their respective levels.

Concerns for the future well being of our children should include yearly evaluations of their immune balance either through direct T-cell assessment or indirect analyses through cytokine evaluation. If children must submit to the current vaccine schedule12, their immune systems need to be evaluated for T-cell imbalances and all steps necessary employed to restore immune balance prior to the onset of chronic health issues. On the vaccine strategy end, it appears that the future focuses on the “dream vaccine.” This vaccine will consist of a large viral DNA strand containing spliced genes from all the microorganisms desired for vaccination. The genetically engineered DNA will be injected into the baby and then be integrated into the child’s cells. Once inside the cell, the vaccine DNA will be treated like the cell’s own DNA allowing the host cell to produce vaccine components over a prolonged period. So, the child’s cells will serve as their own vaccine manufacturing plant supplying the body with continuous booster stimulation for the immune system. Such implantation technology has already been implemented with the use of the Norplant device designed to release birth control medication over a 3 to 5-year period. Will the vaccine device generate the appropriate Th response? I cannot see how it can, but the real issue, from the public health standpoint, is not whether the appropriate Th response is generated but is a protective, antibody-generating response stimulated. So, we will end up where we began with regard to having vaccines generate Th2 responses only to replace that strategy with an implanted device that will condition the immune response the same way. The prospect of having our children implanted with a DNA-based vaccine device that promote an immune conditioning outcome over years is harrowing. Maintaining immunostasis as a result of this vaccine strategy will be a challenging struggle for years to come.

References:

  1. Abbas AK, Murphy KM, Sher A.  Functional Diversity of Helper T Lymphocytes.  Nature: 1996: 383  pp.787-793
  1. Golding S., Scott DE.,  Vaccine Strategy: Targeting Helper T Cell Responses.  Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 754:126-137,  May 31, 1995
  1. Moskowitz R., How Do Vaccines Work?  Pathways, Is. 10: 5-9, 2006
  1. Taylor,J.  Which Arm of the Immune Response most Likely Plays the Predominant Role in Host  Defense Against Influenza Virus: humoral or cell-mediated?  Medscape Feature, 1998, 08.98, p.443
  1. Urnovitz H.,  Archiving of Live Viral Vaccines.  From Proceedings of the First International Public Conference on Vaccination.  September 13-15, 1997.
  1. Ader R., Felten D., Cohen N.,  Psychoneuroimmunology.  Academic Press, 2nd edition, 1991.
  1. Kidd P., Th1/Th2 Balance: The Hypothesis, its Limitations, and Implications for Health and Disease. Alt. Med. Review, Vol.8 #3, 2003, p223-246.
  1. Hurwitz E., Morgenstern H. Effects of Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis or Tetanus Vaccination on Allergies andAllergy Related Respiratory Symptoms Among Childern and Adolescents in the U.S.  JMPT Vol. 23#2 Feb. 2000
  1. Taylor, J .  Herd Immunity: The Varicella Vaccine Is it a Good Thing?  Archives Peds. Vol 155#4 Apr. 2001.
  1. Pert C.  Molecules of Emotion.   Touchstone, 1997.
  1. Watkins A. Mind Body Medicine  – A Clinicians Guide to  Psychoneuroimmunology. Churchill Livingstone, 1997.

1 Year After Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Crime Rates & Drug Use Down, Economy Booming (VIDEO)

While residents have been enjoying dixie rolls, peppermint white chocolate, and truffles all made with marijuana, their economy and standard of living have both seen significant increases.

Colorado legalized weed endalldiseaseOn January 1st, 2014 the first legal marijuana stores opened in Colorado and began selling to anyone over the age of 21.  In their first year, more than 60 marijuana outlets generated $295 million dollars in sales, $51 million of which the state has collected in tax revenues.

Now that a year has passed, the impact of legalized marijuana on health, crime, employment, and economic growth have be calculated and will be presented to you right now.  “We found there hasn’t been much of a change of anything,” and “officers aren’t seeing much of a change in how they do police work,” said a Denver police officer.
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The Benefits of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado

CHILE-CANNABIS-LEGALIZATION-MARCH

Employment Soaring
The legalization of cannabis in Colorado has become a spectacle that has attracted countless tourists to the state, resulting in thousands of jobs created for state residents.

Crime Rates Down
Since the legalization of marijuana, Colorado has witnessed a decline in impaired driving, property crime and violent crime.  Even drug use is down since the legalization of Marijuana, providing evidence that just because it is legal, doesn’t mean people are going to do it more.
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Economy Booming
After collecting $60 million in taxes from marijuana sales, the mayor has used $4 million to create new programs to further improve the city.  Interestingly, the mayor is reported to be against the legalization of marijuana, yet he had no problem spending the money.

Legalization: More States to Follow

Even though many of us already knew that the legalization of marijuana would come with enormous benefits to people and to the standard of living for people living there, some of us had to see it for themselves. Colorado’s bold step forward in legalizing cannabis has shown us the positive effects it can have on the economy, and now we can prepare for more states to follow Colorado’s lead. Washington, Alaska and Oregon are now voting for legislation, and a final bill was recently filed to legalize marijuana in New York.

Scientists Develop Beer That Doesn’t Give You A Hangover

photo credit: Adrian Pike, “Beer,” via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Nausea, a very sore head, and possibly some feelings of regret and shame: it’s the dreaded hangover that none of us look forward to. One of the reasons that drinking too much alcohol causes you to feel so rough the next day is that it leads to an increase in urine production, which makes you dehydrated.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could chug away at your favorite beer without experiencing this unpleasant side effect? Well, it turns out that a group of Australian nutrition researchers have already been working on achieving just that, and managed to brew up a “hangover-free” beer last year. While it might make you feel a little less groggy the next day, it can’t unfortunately take away the beer goggles that inevitably accompany the sweet, amber nectar.

To make their wonder beer, scientists at Griffith University’s Health Institute addedelectrolytes—substances that affect the amount of water in your body—to two different commercial beers, one regular strength and one light. They then gave the beverages to volunteers that had just completed a rigorous work out.

Light beer laced with electrolytes was found to be three times more hydrating than normal beer, although the researchers caution that drinking alcohol after exercise is still not the wisest idea because it can have all sorts of nasty effects, such as decreased risk awareness. However, they accept that telling people what they should and shouldn’t do is often a fruitless endeavour, so working towards reducing danger is probably a better way to approach the situation.

“We know that beer is a very popular drink with people, particularly after sport or exertion,” scientist Ben Desbrow told ABC News. “From our perspective it’s about exploring harm minimization approaches that may still allow people to potentially drink beer as a beverage, but lower the risks associated with the alcohol consumption—and hopefully improve rehydration potential.”

Unfortunately, the beer was only found to be rehydrating when products with a low alcohol content were used. Apparently the participants couldn’t taste the difference, although I’m sure some beer connoisseurs are raising their eyebrows right now. We don’t mind offering our services as taste testers. Bottoms up!



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Could this be the next medicinal marijuana?

A healer in Colombia pours Ayahuasca, or yage, as part of a ritual.
A healer in Colombia pours Ayahuasca, or yage, as part of a ritual.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ayahuasca, or yage, is a brew made from a plant in the Amazon
  • Some believe it can help with mental trauma and PTSD
  • But there have been some deaths associated with it
  • Go inside an ayahuasca ceremony on “This Is Life With Lisa Ling” at 10 p.m. ET on CNN

(CNN) — Imagine discovering a plant that has the potential to help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts and paralyzing anxiety. That’s what some believe ayahuasca can do, and this psychedelic drink is attracting more and more tourists to the Amazon.

If you Google “ayahuasca,” you’ll find a litany of stories aboutHollywood celebrities espousing its benefits, as well as the dangers of this relatively unstudied substance that triggers hallucinations.

On this Sunday’s episode of “This Is Life,” Lisa Ling goes inside an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru and talks to the men and women who are drinking this potent brew in hopes that it will alleviate their mental and emotional traumas.

Here are six things to know about ayahuasca, which some call a drug and others call a medicine:

War vets are seeking it for PTSD

Former Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan LeCompte organizes trips to Peru for war veterans, like himself, who are seeking ayahuasca as a possible treatment for PTSD and other emotional and mental trauma suffered after multiple combat deployments.

Ryan LeCompte, right, talks with one of the veterans seeking ayahuasca\'s benefits.
Ryan LeCompte, right, talks with one of the veterans seeking ayahuasca’s benefits.

He says he’s aware of the risks, as there’s very little known about ayahuasca’s effect on the body, but he says “it’s a calculated risk.”

“Ayahuasca is a way to give relief to those who are suffering,” says LeCompte, who says many veterans are not satisfied with the PTSD treatment they receive when they return from combat.

“It’s just, ‘Here’s a pill, here’s a Band-Aid.’ The ayahuasca medicine is a way to, instead of sweeping your dirt under the rug, you know, these medicines force you to take the rug outside and beat it with a stick until it’s clean,” LeCompte explains. “And that’s how I prefer to clean my house.”

Libby, an airman 1st class, is one of the veterans who accompanied LeCompte to Peru to try ayahuasca for her PTSD diagnosis, which includes sexual trauma while on active duty. She says antidepressants made her more suicidal.

“I would like to wish not to die all the time,” she said, when asked why she was seeking ayahuasca. “I want that to go away”

It’s endorsed by some Hollywood celebrities

As more ayahuasca centers pop up in the United States, not surprisingly, celebrities including Sting and Lindsay Lohan have spoken publicly about their experiences with the substance — albeit illegal outside of religious purposes in the United States.

Lohan, who has struggled with addiction, called her ayahuasca experience “eye-opening” and “intense.” “I saw my whole life in front of me, and I had to let go of past things that I was trying to hold on to that were dark in my life,” she said on her OWN reality series “Linsday.”

Sting said he and his wife, Trudie Styler, traveled to a church in the Amazon where they tried ayahuasca, which the British singer said made him feel like he was “wired to the entire cosmos.”

It’s not a cure

Those of have tried ayahuasca say that any benefits — like with other drugs or medicine — must be combined with therapy.

“If you think you’re just going to take ‘joy juice’ … you’re nuts,” explained author and ayahuasca expert Peter Gorman, who settled in Iquitos, Peru, during the first wave of ayahuasca tourism in the 1990s.

“The five years of work to get rid of [mental trauma] is still gonna be on you.”

Gorman, author of “Ayahuasca in My Blood,” explains that ayahuasca can help “dislodge that negative energy” and show people what their life could be like without the negativity.

“[Then] you can go back home and work on getting rid of it.”

And it used to be taken by only the shaman

Gorman says ayahuasca traditions in the Amazon have changed since Western tourists began seeking its benefits.

“Traditionally, the shaman drinks [ayahuasca], he accesses other realms of reality to find out where the dissonance is, that if the shaman corrects, will eliminate the [symptoms] — could be physical, could be emotional, could be bad luck,” Gorman explains. “[Then] we Americans come, and we said we insist on drinking the damn stuff — we want our lives changed and we want that experience, so that certainly set things right on its head.”

You can even buy ayahuasca powders and extracts online and in the local markets in the Peruvian Amazon, but Gorman warns “you don’t know what it would be.”

As more and more Western tourists consume ayahuasca, Gorman says it has him worried. “I’ve had this feeling in my bones for five or six years that something could go slightly wrong here that could sour a lot of stuff.”

Some ayahuasca tourists have died

In April, 19-year-old Briton Henry Miller died after taking part in an ayahuasca ceremony in Colombia, according to various media reports. And Kyle Nolan, an 18-year-old from northern California, died under similar circumstances in August 2012 in Peru.

The shaman who provided Nolan with the ayahuasca and who initially lied about his death was sentenced to three years in prison, his mother, Ingeborg Oswald, told CNN.

There have been other reported deaths, as well as reports of physical and sexual assaults. Writer Lily Kay Ross says she survived sexual abuse by an ayahuasca shaman.

“We have to take seriously the potential for harm alongside the huge potential for benefit,” Ross says on a video on a fundraising website for the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council. “Standards of safety and ethics would go a long way in making sure that this kind of abuse isn’t experienced by anyone else.”

Ron Wheelock, an American shaman who leads an ayahuasca healing center in the Peruvian Amazon, says he fears there may be more deaths.

“I hate to say it, yes there probably will be,” he told Lisa Ling. “It’s in the cards”

There’s a movement to create safe ayahuasca

Through IndieGogo.com, the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council is raising money to create a health guide for ayahuasca centers in the Amazon, so tourists know which centers are safe and harvesting the plants in a sustainable manner that supports the local communities.

The idea would be to put the ESC’s logo outside ayahuasca ceremony sites to signify those centers that meet the council’s criteria for safety and sustainability.

In addition, there are efforts to study the medicinal benefits of ayahuasca so that it can be regulated and legalized in the United States, explains Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies.

“At a time when drug policy is being reevaluated, when marijuana looks like it’s on the road toward legalization, when psychedelic medicine is moving forward through the FDA and we can envision a time when psychedelics are available as prescription medicines, how ayahuasca should be handled in a regulatory context is really up in the air,” Doblin said.



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Where Did HIV Come From?

photo credit: Wellcome Images, via Flickr. B0002395 Cut-away model of HIV. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Everyone has heard of HIV. According to estimates by the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programe on HIV/AIDS, 34 million people around the world had HIV in 2010. Globally, around 6000 people die every day from HIV related illnesses. Yet the virus itself was only identified a few decades ago. Where did it all begin? How did HIV first get into the population, triggering one of the most devastating pandemics in history? This article is going to explore some of the main theories proposed so far to give you an insight into this complex but fascinating topic.

What Is HIV?

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the causative agent of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). There are actually two types of HIV; HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the dominant virus worldwide, whereas HIV-2 is largely confined to West African countries and those with links to this area such as France and Portugal.

HIV-2 is separated into eight groups, A-H, with group A being the most prevalent worldwide. Only groups A and B have been successfully transmitted between humans- the rest have been isolated cases with “dead end” viruses. HIV-1 is divided into 4 groups; M, N, O and P. M, which has been responsible for the majority of infections worldwide, is further divided into 9 different subtypes which dominate in different countries.

The HIV Conspiracy Theory

There are a few different ideas that have been put forward to explain how HIV came about. The two thrown around most, by far, are: “The government did it,” or “It was definitely people having sex with monkeys!”

There are lots of conspiracy theories surrounding HIV; some people do not believe it causes AIDS at all, and others believe that HIV is a man-made virus.

According to a 2005 survey of African Americans living in the US, almost 50% of the respondents believed that HIV was manufactured in a lab. Furthermore, over 25% believed that this was done by the government. A significant number also believed that it was created in order to control the population of black people/homosexuals.

There is absolutely no evidence in support these theories and a lot of evidence to suggest they’re baloney. Some of the earliest documented cases of HIV were in the late 1950s; it’s absurd to think that scientists would have had the knowledge or technology to create viruses back then. We only identified the structure of DNA in 1953. We’ve only just managed to create the first synthetic bacterial genome, let alone create a virus from scratch.

Creating a virus would require knowledge of genetic manipulation. We simply did not have the expertise to be able to achieve something like this at that time.

Tracing The Origin Of HIV

There exists an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest that HIV arose from cross-species transmission of closely related viruses that are found naturally in various primate hosts in Africa.

By looking at the genomes of these viruses, which are collectively known as simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV), and comparing them with those of the different types of HIV we can see that the SIVs are the closest relatives of HIV. Furthermore, geographical correlations exist between SIVs in their different hosts and HIV.

HIV-1 and HIV-2 have different origins as they arose from independent transmission events. Closely related SIVs have been found in monkeys called sooty mangabeys in Western Africa, which is the only region that HIV-2 is endemic in. Therefore, scientists conclude that HIV-2 has its origins in SIV infected sooty mangabeys.

HIV-1 is a little more complicated, but each different group (M, N, O and P) arose from a single transmission event. M and N have been traced back to SIV infected chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes), but the closest relatives of O and P have been found in gorillas.

Image credit: Chi King, via Wikimedia Commons. 

When Did HIV Enter The Population?

By looking at the genome sequences of different viruses over time, researchers can calibrate a “molecular clock” based on the rate of sequence change, or mutations. Scientists can then use this to infer the rate of evolution and thus determine approximately when the most recent common ancestor existed.

Using this technique, researchers estimated that HIV-1 group M originated in 1908 and group O in 1920HIV-2 groups A and B originated a bit later; approximately in 1940 and 1945, respectively.

We Know When, What About How?

There are a few different theories about how these viruses got into the population. The idea that humans copulated with primates and subsequently became infected tickles the fancy of some, but this idea is not taken seriously by experts in the field! (A gorilla? Really?!)

The simplest explanation is that humans came into contact with the blood or other secretions of infected primates which is perfectly plausible since, for example, sooty mangabeys were both kept as pets and slaughtered for bushmeat in West Africa, the same region that HIV-2 is most prevalent. It would be easy for infected bodily fluids to come into contact with broken skin during the butchering process.

Given the fact that medical resources are costly, it is plausible that during immunization programs in Africa, healthcare professionals would have shared needles, providing ample opportunity to spread infection through the population. This, coupled with an increase in international travel alongside sexual promiscuity and intravenous drug use, seems a logical explanation for the emergence of HIV.

Another theory is that humans became infected from contaminated oral polio vaccines. The vaccine in question was called CHAT which required the use of living tissue for production. The idea was that the kidney cells used in the production line came from SIV infected chimps and thus a large number of people were exposed. However, this theory falls down because as we have seen, not all of the HIVs came from chimps. It’s also extremely unlikely that oral vaccines would result in transmission since, unless compromised, the mouth is a pretty good barrier to infection. Furthermore, researchers found stocks of the vaccine used and when it was tested, no traces of SIV were found. This theory has therefore largely been refuted.

Oral polio vaccine administration. Image credit: Julien Harneis, via Wikimedia Commons.

In sum, while it is difficult to definitively prove where HIV came from, we can make assertions based on the best available evidence. This evidence points to a simian (monkey or ape) origin, not the government. Everyone loves to hear about a good conspiracy theory, but it really does not add up here.

Justine Alford received her PhD in life sciences from Warwick University in 2014. Her work focused on HIV and immunology. She has no conflicts of interest to declare.

Header image “B0002395 Cut-away model of HIV,” by Wellcome Images, via Flickr, used in accordance with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



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Scientists Develop Technique To Produce Self-Assembling Anticancer Molecules In Minutes

photo credit: Dr. Cecil Fox/NIH, via Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists from the University of Warwick have developed a simple technique for the production of a variety of self-assembling molecules that could be used to treat both cancer and infection. The small molecules produced, called peptides, work by mimicking the architecture of components of the body’s natural defense system. While the molecules have only been tested in cancer cell lines so far, the results of these studies were promising as they demonstrated both toxicity and selectivity. The work has been published in Nature Chemistry.

Peptides are small molecules naturally found throughout the body that perform a wide range of biological functions. Like proteins, they’re chains of building blocks called amino acids strung together by a type of bond called a peptide bond, but proteins are larger than peptides.

Scientists are interested in these molecules as potential agents to treat infections or cancer, but so far producing them artificially has been costly, difficult to scale-up and also resulted in molecules that behave in an undesirable way. Furthermore, traditional peptides administered as drugs are rapidly neutralized by the body, rendering them useless.

The new technique, pioneered by Professor Peter Scott and colleagues, relies on chemical self-assembly and results in the rapid production of 3D helical molecules. “The chemistry involved is like throwing Lego blocks into a bag, giving them a shake, and finding that you have a model of the Death Star,” Scott said in a news-release. “The design to achieve that takes some thought and computing power, but once you’ve worked it out the method can be used to make a lot of complicated molecular objects.”

Complex self-assembly of big molecules happens all the time in nature, for example in the production of proteins. Developing a technique to trigger this process artificially in the lab without expensive equipment, however, has been a challenge, but the Warwick researchers may have cracked it.

Professor Scott explains that their novel process involves mixing two different organic chemicals, an amino alcohol derivative and a picoline, with iron chloride in a solvent, such as water or methanol. Within minutes, the molecules start to self-assemble, forming strong bonds and folding into a helix. The process is very efficient because the assembly instructions are encoded within the chemical ingredients, negating the need for costly equipment.

After removing the solvent, the scientists are left with peptides in the form of crystals that mimic the active regions of certain defense molecules found naturally in the body. The resulting molecules are helical, positively charged and both water- and fat-loving (amphiphilic).

The researchers have tested these peptides on a human colon cancer cell line and they were found to be highly toxic, but it will be a long time before they can be tested in human trials. That being said, the peptides were also found to be very selective, which is promising.



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The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal

Opponents of marijuana-law reform insist that legalization is dangerous—but the biggest threat is to their own bottom line.

This story was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, did several stints in rehab after crashing his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill in 2006, a headline-making event that revealed the then–US congressman for Rhode Island had been abusing prescription drugs, including the painkiller OxyContin. Kennedy went on to make mental health—including substance abuse—a cornerstone of his political agenda, and he is reportedly at work on a memoir about his struggles with addiction and mental illness. In 2013, he also helped found an advocacy group, Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), which has barnstormed the country opposing the growing state and federal efforts to legalize pot.

Taking the stage to rousing applause last February, Kennedy joined more than 2,000 opponents of marijuana legalization a few miles south of Washington, DC, at the annual convention of the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA), one of the largest such organizations in the country.

“Let me tell you, there is nothing more inconsistent with trying to improve mental health and reduce substance-abuse disorders in this country than to legalize a third drug,” Kennedy boomed. The former congressman also praised his fellow speakers for standing up to the “extremist responses” from legalization advocates.

Given that CADCA is dedicated to protecting society from dangerous drugs, the event that day had a curious sponsor: Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxy-Contin, the highly addictive painkiller that nearly ruined Kennedy’s congressional career and has been linked to thousands of overdose deaths nationwide.

Prescription opioids, a line of pain-relieving medications derived from the opium poppy or produced synthetically, are the most dangerous drugs abused in America, with more than 16,000 deaths annually linked to opioid addiction and overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more Americans now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined. The recent uptick in heroin use around the country has been closely linked to the availability of prescription opioids, which give their users a similar high and can trigger a heroin craving in recovering addicts. (Notably, there are no known deaths related to marijuana, although there have been instances of impaired driving.)

People in the United States, a country in which painkillers are routinely overprescribed, now consume more than 84 percent of the entire worldwide supply of oxycodone and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone opioids. In Kentucky, to take just one example, about one in fourteen people is misusing prescription painkillers, and nearly 1,000 Kentucky residents are dying every year.

So it’s more than a little odd that CADCA and the other groups leading the fight against relaxing marijuana laws, including the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America), derive a significant portion of their budget from opioid manufacturers and other pharmaceutical companies. According to critics, this funding has shaped the organization’s policy goals: CADCA takes a softer approach toward prescription-drug abuse, limiting its advocacy to a call for more educational programs, and has failed to join the efforts to change prescription guidelines in order to curb abuse. In contrast, CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids have adopted a hard-line approach to marijuana, opposing even limited legalization and supporting increased police powers.

A close look at the broader political coalition lobbying against marijuana-law reform reveals many such conflicts of interest. In fact, the CADCA event was attended by representatives of a familiar confederation of anti-pot interests, many of whom have a financial stake in the status quo, including law enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical firms, and nonprofits funded by federal drug-prevention grants.

The anti-pot lobby’s efforts run counter to a nationwide tide of liberalization when it comes to marijuana law. In 2012, voters legalized pot in Colorado and Washington State; this year, voters in Alaska appear poised to do likewise. Since 1996, twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana or effectively decriminalized it, and a contentious ballot initiative in Florida may result in the South’s first medical marijuana law. Meanwhile, legislatures across the country are debating a variety of bills that would continue to ease marijuana restrictions or penalties. On the federal level, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has challenged the Drug Enforcement Administration in testy hearings, and many have called for removing marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which puts it in the same class as heroin and LSD.

The opponents of marijuana-law reform argue that such measures pose significant dangers, from increased crime and juvenile delinquency to addiction and death. But legalization’s biggest threat is to the bottom line of these same special interests, which reap significant monetary advantages from pot prohibition that are rarely acknowledged in the public debate.

The CADCA convention featured a roster of federal officials and members of Congress as well as a guest appearance by R&B singer Mario. The speakers talked with energy about the coming showdown over marijuana-law reform.

“We need to apply what Hank Aaron said about baseball to our movement today,” asserted Sue Thau, a CADCA consultant. “We need to always keep swinging!”

Buses were scheduled to ferry the participants to Congress for meetings, and Thau coached the assembled activists to emphasize the potential risks for young people, something that “everybody on Capitol Hill can agree on.” In addition to lobbying against marijuana-law reform, she encouraged everyone to preserve key federal funding streams, to “make sure all the programs that fund our field, every one of them,” are protected in the appropriations process for the coming fiscal year.

Ironically, both CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids are heavily reliant on a combination of federal drug-prevention education grants and funding from pharmaceutical companies. Founded in 1992, CADCA has lobbied aggressively for a range of federal grants for groups dedicated to the “war on drugs.” The Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, a program directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was created through CADCA’s advocacy. That law now allocates over $90 million a year to community organizations dedicated to reducing drug abuse. Records show that CADCA has received more than $2.5 million in annual federal funding in recent years. The former Partnership for a Drug-Free America, founded in 1985 and best known for its dramatic “This is your brain on drugs” public service announcements, has received similarly hefty taxpayer support while advocating for increased anti-drug grant programs.

The Nation obtained a confidential financial disclosure from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids showing that the group’s largest donors include Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, and Abbott Laboratories, maker of the opioid Vicodin. CADCA also counts Purdue Pharma as a major supporter, as well as Alkermes, the maker of a powerful and extremely controversial new painkiller called Zohydrol. The drug, which was released to the public in March, has sparked a nationwide protest, since Zohydrol is reportedly ten times stronger than OxyContin. Janssen Pharmaceutical, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that produces the painkiller Nucynta, and Pfizer, which manufactures several opioid products, are also CADCA sponsors. For corporate donors, CADCA offers a raft of partnership opportunities, including authorized use of the “CADCA logo for your company’s marketing, website, and advertising materials, etc.”

The groups’ approach to marijuana contrasts sharply with their attitude toward prescription-drug abuse. In March of this year, the heads of CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and other government officials urging them to keep marijuana listed as Schedule I, a designation indicating that it has no recognized medical use and is among society’s most dangerous drugs. “We are aware of a small chorus in the United States Congress (copied on this letter) who are calling for the rescheduling of marijuana,” wrote Arthur Dean, a retired general and the president of CADCA, and Stephen Pasierb, head of the Partnership. “[O]ur groups agree with the most recent Health and Human Services (HHS) determination that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug.”

 

CADCA’s website makes it clear that the organization—dedicated to a “world of safe, healthy and drug-free communities”—has adopted marijuana as its primary concern. The group’s stated policy priorities are to preserve and expand two federal drug-prevention grant programs and to oppose marijuana-law reform. CADCA has hosted training seminars to instruct community organizations in the best tactics for opposing efforts to legalize even medical marijuana. The group also offers template letters to the editor, sample opinion columns, talking points and other tips for pushing back against reform efforts.

Prescription drugs are another story. In this realm, both CADCA and the Partnership favor educational campaigns and limited pill-monitoring programs—measures that experts on painkiller addiction say are insufficient to deal with the burgeoning problem. CADCA’s site mentions prescription-drug abuse primarily in the context of expanding outreach programs funded through the Drug-Free Communities Act.

In February, the same month that CADCA held its convention, forty-two leading drug-prevention groups sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration to protest the recent approval of Zohydro. Notably absent from the signatories: CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. A policy paper posted by CADCA regarding prescription drugs doesn’t call for a shift in how the FDA regulates painkillers, arguing instead that federal drug-prevention grant programs should be expanded.

Asked about CADCA’s efforts to combat prescription-drug abuse, Thau replied that the group supports educational programs and drug-monitoring efforts, and also recently signed on to a bill—sponsored by Senator Ed Markey—that offers a civil-liability exemption to those who provide preventative medications to individuals experiencing an overdose. CADCA has also promoted voluntary drug “take-back” events that encourage people to bring their unused pharmaceuticals to a central location for disposal.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that industry groups haven’t opposed any of these measures. But they do oppose those restrictions that could eat into the industry’s profits. In 2012, for example, a group of doctors and drug-prevention advocates petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to change the prescription labeling of opioids so that they could be prescribed only for “severe pain,” rather than the “moderate to severe pain” stipulated under the current guidelines. Purdue Pharma opposed the plan, calling on the FDA to “maintain that the current indications for long-acting opioids are appropriate.” According to advocates who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity, the Partnership refused to join the push for new prescription guidelines. CADCA didn’t sign on either.

CADCA and the Partnership have also failed to call for action on current bills in Congress to crack down aggressively on painkillers, including the Stop Oxy Abuse Act, which would—in keeping with the suggestion of the doctors’ advocates who petitioned the FDA—allow OxyContin to be prescribed only for severe pain. The two anti-drug groups have not signed on to support the Safe Prescribing Act, which would move hydrocodone products like Vicodin and Lortab from Schedule III to Schedule II, making the product more difficult to prescribe. Nor, for that matter, have they endorsed any of the bills introduced by Representative Hal Rogers or Senator Joe Manchin to block the approval of new, stronger pain-killer drugs such as Zohydro.

“I think it’s hypocritical to remain silent with regard to the scheduling of hydrocodone products, while investing energy in maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I drug,” says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a New York psychiatrist who heads Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. Kolodny notes that there are legitimate concerns regarding marijuana legalization, particularly how the drug may be marketed and its effect on adolescents, so “I don’t think it’s inappropriate for them to be advocating on marijuana.

“But,” he adds, “when we have a severe epidemic in America—one the CDC says is the worst drug epidemic in US history—it makes you wonder whether or not they’ve been influenced by their funding.”

In some cases, both CADCA and the Partnership have directly promoted certain opioids. In 2010, Marcia Lee Taylor, the Partnership’s chief lobbyist, signed on to a letter with Will Rowe of the American Pain Foundation asking the Office of National Drug Control Policy to continue Medicaid reimbursements for so-called “tamper-proof” opioids, which cannot be crushed or snorted but can still be abused to deadly effect. (The American Pain Foundation has since shut down, following an investigation by ProPublica showing that the group relied heavily on money from opioid manufacturers and played “down the risks associated with…painkillers while exaggerating the benefits.”) In 2012, CADCA joined with Purdue Pharma and other opioid makers in signing a similar letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Prescription-drug manufacturers like Purdue Pharma, which made more than $27 billion in revenues from OxyContin alone since 1996, have faced ethical problems in the past. In 2007, Purdue Pharma and its top executives paid $634.5 million in fines for deceptive marketing that played down the addictive properties of OxyContin. Also that same year, the company agreed to pay $19.5 million to twenty-six states and the District of Columbia to settle claims that it illegally encouraged doctors to overprescribe the drug. But the company’s influence over anti-drug advocacy is less known.

Erik Altieri, a spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, argues that marijuana can provide a “great alternative for treating chronic pain and other types of ailments.” Pharmaceutical companies “don’t want to see another vendor on the market.”

In a written response to queries, retired general Arthur Dean, CADCA’s chair and CEO, said: “The funding CADCA receives in no way impacts CADCA’s policy efforts or strategic direction. Prescription drugs are legal medicines that serve a legitimate and often life-saving purpose in our society. CADCA has utilized some discretionary grants from industry sources, such as Purdue Pharma and several other companies, to develop programs and tools to help community coalitions prevent and reduce youth prescription drug abuse and the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine.” Asked about current proposals in Congress to rein in the way painkillers are prescribed, Dean replied: “CADCA has not taken a position on the proposed legislations.”

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Purdue Pharma and other opioid makers, including Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer and Alkermes. A spokesperson with Janssen told The Nation that the company funds CADCA to support “educational programs about the safe and responsible use of pain medicines.”

In May, CADCA sent out an action alert to its members, asking them to contact Congress and oppose an amendment in the House of Representatives that would block the DEA from targeting medical marijuana operations that are legal under state law. The measure passed later that month with bipartisan support.

Patrick Kennedy’s Project Sam is arguably the most visible group opposing marijuana-law reform, with the former congressman making the rounds on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maherand Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, among other cable and news programs. And yet this group, too, is rife with potential conflicts of interest.

Some legalization advocates have criticized Kennedy’s crusade against pot. Though the former congressman received many second chances in his struggle with alcohol and prescription drugs, he has opposed any move toward marijuana decriminalization that would afford similar leniency to others. After Project SAM began organizing opposition to Alaska’s legalization initiative this year, demonstrators in Anchorage paraded a giant check with the figure $9,015—the amount in campaign money that Kennedy received from the liquor and beer lobby while in office. Critics have also pointed out that Project SAM’s board and partners represent many of the interest groups that stand to profit from marijuana’s continued prohibition.

“Some of the folks active with Project SAM appear to have a financial interest in keeping marijuana illegal and promoting mandatory treatment for adult consumers,” says Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Colorado. For example, Ben Cort, Project SAM’s spokesman, leads a drug-treatment program in Aurora, Colorado.

Tvert points out that marijuana convictions often result in court-ordered rehab, which can provide an obvious incentive for treatment centers to oppose reform. In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Geo Group—a company that manages several for-profit treatment and detention centers—states that “any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” In short, marijuana-law reform can cut into revenues.

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, sits on Project SAM’s board of directors and frequently speaks out against medical marijuana. In comments to USA Today in January, Gitlow disputed President Obama’s comment that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol. “There’s no benefit to marijuana,” he said. “It’s simply that people want the freedom to be stoned. That’s all it is. And there’s a great deal of risk.”

What the USA Today piece didn’t mention—and what Gitlow hasn’t disclosed during his appearances on HLN TV, Southern California Public Radio and other local media—is that he serves as the medical director for Orexo, a pharmaceutical company that recently produced a new drug called Zubsolv. The product is an opioid substitute along the lines of Suboxone that, while designed to treat opioid addiction, is often abused for recreational purposes. As The New York Times reported, Suboxone has been linked to more than 400 deaths in the United States since 2003.

Last December, Dr. Mark Willenbring, former director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, raised concerns about Gitlow’s leadership of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, given his relationship with Orexo. “My concern is with the increasing public perception, especially in psychiatry and addiction treatment, that financial interests taint and discredit professional opinions,” Willenbring told the Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly.

Peter Bensinger, a former DEA administrator, and Robert DuPont, a former White House drug czar, now manage a consulting firm that specializes in workplace drug testing. The two work closely with Project SAM and have spoken at events with its leaders. Last year, for example, Bensinger and DuPont signed on to a Project SAM letter pressing the Justice Department to reconsider its decision to defer the enforcement of federal drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana. For that stance, they’ve come under fire from marijuana-law reformers like Howard Wooldridge of Citizens Opposing Prohibition for promoting “policies that line their pocketbook.”

 

Marijuana-law reform has created deep divisions within police agencies. A recent poll of officers found that nearly two-thirds believed marijuana laws should be reformed—with 36 percent agreeing that marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed; 14 percent supporting relaxed penalties; 11 percent supporting legalized medical marijuana; and 4 percent supporting decriminalization.

Yet strong institutional forces have kept nearly every law enforcement professional association opposed to reform. Starting with the Reagan administration, police departments were encouraged to seize and sell property associated with drug busts, which significantly augmented their revenue. Between 2002 and 2012, law enforcement agencies collected about $1 billion from marijuana arrests, according to Justice Department data.

It was also during the 1980s that federal grant programs requiring police to engage in drug enforcement were expanded, including the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program, which funds multijurisdictional drug task forces. The Byrne grants, which cover a range of drug enforcement actions including marijuana, provided over $2.4 billion for law enforcement agencies this fiscal year.

“It’s money,” says retired Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Stephen Downing, when asked why so many police organizations are lobbying against marijuana-law reform. “In many states, the city government expects police to make seizures, and they expect these seizures to supplement their budgets.” According to The Wall Street Journal, drug task forces in Washington State have predicted that asset-forfeiture revenues will decrease as a result of marijuana legalization.

Others dispute the notion. Bob Cooke, a former president of the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, asserts that “losing money from asset forfeiture is not why we believe [pot] should be regulated.” Instead, he argues, law enforcement agencies oppose legalizing marijuana because its use is inherently dangerous: “One try and it can ruin your life.”

But the fiscal impact on law enforcement has become part of the debate. Earlier this year, when Minnesota State Representative Carly Melin proposed a medical marijuana bill, she faced a backlash from police lobbyists. “There was a concern about losing federal grants tied to drug enforcement laws,” Melin says. “Asset forfeiture was briefly discussed as well.” She adds that law enforcement agencies approached her bill with “absolute opposition” but changed their position after widespread public pressure. Melin’s bill passed in May once patients and the parents of sick children began contacting lawmakers.

“It’s not hard to figure out that there’s a lot of money attached to enforcing marijuana laws,” Melin says. “Marijuana arrests still account for over 60 percent of drug arrests in Minnesota, so it’s still big business for law enforcement.” Minnesota’s numbers reflect the data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union, which show that marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests nationwide.

Similar dynamics have played out elsewhere. When Californians debated a legalization initiative in 2010—which was ultimately unsuccessful—the lead organizer of the opposition was John Lovell, a longtime police lobbyist in Sacramento. Lovell has made a career of channeling federal “drug war” grants to law enforcement agencies in the state—including millions of dollars for the California Marijuana Suppression Program, grants for overtime pay for police, and money for additional officers dedicated to marijuana eradication.

In Florida, the state sheriffs’ association, led by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, has become the public face of opposition to a medical marijuana referendum on the ballot this fall. Judd has deployed a number of arguments against the referendum, from the dangers of driving while high to increased workers’ compensation claims, to teenage addiction and increased respiratory illnesses.

But the annual strategic plan submitted to the Polk County Board of Commissioners by Judd’s office suggests another major concern. In it, Judd says that his force is “doing more with fewer resources” and that he’s had to cut seventeen deputy sheriff positions due to a lack of funds. Judd describes seizures from marijuana grow houses as a key revenue source for his department: seizing such property helps to “meet eligible equipment or other non-recurring needs that could not be met by local funding, thereby putting forfeited and unclaimed funds to work in crime prevention, for the taxpayer,” according to the document. Plus a Florida law enforcement newsletter describes the state’s marijuana eradication program—which brought in nearly $900,000 last year in forfeitures, and more than $1 million in previous years—as “an excellent return on investment.”

Downing, the retired LAPD deputy chief, notes: “The only difference now compared to the times of alcohol prohibition is that, in the times of alcohol prohibition, law enforcement—the police and judges—got their money in brown paper bags. Today, they get their money through legitimate, systematic programs run by the federal government. That’s why they’re using their lobbying organizations to fight every reform.”

Indeed, alcohol prohibition was ended partly through ethics reform. During Prohibition, the Eighteenth Amendment was enforced through a law called the Volstead Act, which exempted federal liquor enforcement agents from Progressive-era civil service exams. Without these exams, the Prohibition Unit became a vehicle for awarding patronage jobs to political allies. Almost immediately, these 18,000 federal jobs were marked by scandal and corruption. According to one Treasury agent, the “most extraordinary collection of political hacks, hangers-on, and passing highwaymen got appointed as prohibition agents.” They set up illegal roadblocks, killed innocent civilians, and extorted money from bootleggers rather than arresting them. The wet lobby successfully pushed to re-establish civil service exams for the Prohibition Unit in the late 1920s—a shift that embarrassed dry-lobby supporters, because nearly two-thirds of all agents couldn’t pass the entrance exam. Further weakening support for Prohibition, the Supreme Court declared it illegal in 1927 for local judges to pay themselves with a share of the fines collected from Volstead Act cases.

While not a perfect analogy, some marijuana advocates see the fight against Prohibition as a guide, since so many interest groups working to maintain the status quo today are tied to cash flows—whether federal grants or forfeiture revenues—that depend on keeping the drug illegal.

Prohibition provides “an incentive for these interest groups to keep seeking federal money to continue the ‘war on drugs’ [and] their own salaries,” says Representative Steve Cohen, one of the most outspoken proponents of legalization in Congress. Cohen adds that some of the most vociferous opponents of reform appear to be influenced by the money flowing from pot prohibition. “It’s a vicious cycle.”



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New Method Actually Cuts HIV Out Of Human DNA

Researchers from Temple University School of Medicine have developed a method to target and snip out HIV-1 DNA from infected cells which not only successfully eliminated the virus in the lab, but also immunized uninfected cells against infection. The researchers believe this may be a step towards a permanent cure for HIV and could even be translated into an effective mechanism for controlling other viral infections. The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



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HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating pandemics recorded in human history and continues to be a global burden. Since the dawn of this pandemic, it is estimated that around 75 million people have been infected with HIV and around 36 million have died as a result of infection.

Despite advances in knowledge and treatment, there is no vaccine and drugs are not curative. There are several reasons that therapies fail to eliminate the virus from the body, but one particular hurdle is the fact that HIV permanently inserts its genome into our own, a process called integration. The virus is then able to hide away in certain cells, creating what is known as a latent reservoir, replicating at very low levels. As soon as a patient stops taking drugs, replication is kick started. Furthermore, long-term use of toxic anti-HIV drugs can have health consequences. Therefore, in order for treatments to be effective, these reservoirs need to be permanently eliminated, which current regimens cannot succeed in.

In an attempt to tackle this problem, Temple scientists developed a two-stage system to snip out HIV-1 DNA from the host genome. HIV-1 is one of two types of HIV, the other being HIV-2. While both are important, HIV-1 is responsible for the majority of infections worldwide.

The researchers first targeted specific HIV-1 sequences called long terminal repeats (LTRs). These are repetitive DNA sequences located at both ends of the viral genome that are used to insert the HIV DNA into the host genome and also control viral gene expression. They did this by generating highly specific sequences of RNA called guide RNAs (gRNAs). They then used a bacterial nuclease enzyme called Cas9 which snips out the DNA between the two target sequences. This resulted in the complete excision of the HIV-1 DNA from the host cells with no off-target effects on the host genome. Host repair machinery then took over and stuck the DNA strands back together.

They found this to be successful in several different cell lines, including those that are the primary target for HIV. Furthermore, when the researchers added this system to uninfected cells it successfully prevented infection with the virus, indicating it could be used as a preventative measure as well as a treatment.

While the team has a long way to go before this can be used in humans, they believe this could lead to a valid method to cure HIV and are currently working towards preclinical studies. Furthermore, the approach could easily be personalized to suit the unique viral sequences of different patients, and maybe even developed to target other viruses.

Little Known Chinese Herb & Iron Kill 98% Of Cancer Cells In 16 Hours

blog-image-wormwoodby Christina Sarich

According to studies that were published in an issue of Life Sciences, artemesinin – a derivative of the wormwood plant used in Chinese Medicine – can kill 98% of breast cancer cells in less than 16 hours. The herb used alone caused a 28% reduction in breast cancer cells, but when paired with iron, sweet wormwood was able to eradicate cancer almost entirely. What’s more, normal cells were not negatively affected in the experiment by this treatment.

 

Artemisinin has been used in the past as a powerful anti-malarial herb, but it now has been proven to be a cancer-fighter, too. When subjects in the published study were given an iron supplement, which often accumulates in the breast tissue but especially so in cancerous cells, the artemisinin was able to selectively target ‘bad’ cells and leave ‘good’ cells alone.

“Taken together, our results demonstrate that the artemisinin disruption of E2F1 transcription factor expression mediates the cell cycle arrest of human breast cancer cells and represents a critical transcriptional pathway by which artemisinin controls human reproductive cancer cell growth.”

Read: Watercress Found to Block Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Iron accumulates in cancerous cells due to special receptors that help them in cell division, called transferrin receptors. Normal cells likely have these receptors as well, but cancerous cells have them in greater abundance, and thus can be targeted by the iron-artemisinin combination, like a 1-2 punch.

There have been many experiments now that prove this sweet wormwood derivative can effectively eradicate disease in the presence of iron. The extract has been used for thousand of years in China to treat malaria. The malaria parasite cannot live in the presence of artemisinin because they are iron-rich, but the treatment works just as well for cancerous cells, too. Bioengineers Henry Lai and Narendra Singh of the University of Washington, Seattle were the scientists who initially made this discovery. This is yet another example of a natural herb causing cancerous cell apoptosis.

While the sweet wormwood extract has been somewhat difficult to obtain for a fair price for countless years, it is now on its way to being mass-produced by biotech. Will the result be positive and promising?

Read: Study Shows How Radiation Treatment Makes Breast Cancer Worse

“It’s the volatility that really makes the supply chain for this life-saving drug just a complete train wreck,” says Jack Newman, chief scientific officer of the California-based biotech firm Amyris. ”When we first started talking about this,” Newman says, “we gave it 1,000 to 1 odds of ever working. “

French drugmaker Sanofi is expected to make 50 to 60 tons of artemisinin each year, striving to supply enough demand for the global market.

Sources:

Natural Society

Nine Foods you Should Never Eat Again

9foods

With so much misinformation out there about food and how it affects human health, making healthy food choices for you and your family can be difficult and confusing. There are a number of specific foods; however, that you will want to avoid in almost every circumstance because they provide virtually no health benefits while posing plenty of health risks. Here are nine foods you should never eat again if you care about preserving your long-term health:

1) White bread, refined flours. By definition, white bread and refined flours in general are toxic for your body because they have been stripped of virtually all vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other important nutrients. Because of this, the body does not know how to properly digest and assimilate these so-called foods, which can lead to health problems. Refined white flour has also been bleached with chlorine and brominated with bromide, two poisonous chemicals that have been linked to causing thyroid and organ damage. (http://drlwilson.com/ARTICLES/BREAD.htm)

2) Conventional frozen meals. Most conventionally-prepared frozen meals are loaded with preservatives, processed salt, hydrogenated oils and other artificial ingredients, not to mention the fact that most frozen meals have been heavily pre-cooked, rendering their nutrient content minimal at best (especially after getting microwaved again at home). With the exception of a few truly healthy frozen meal brands such as Amy’s and Organic Bistro, most frozen meals are little more than disease in a box, so avoid them in favor of fresh foods. (http://www.4us2be.com)

3) White rice. Like white bread, white rice has been stripped of most of its nutrients, and separated from the bran and germ, two natural components that make up rice in its brown form. Even so-called “fortified” white rice is nutritionally deficient, as the body still processes this refined food much differently than brown rice, which is absorbed more slowly and does not cause the same spike in blood sugar that white rice does. (http://globalnaturopath.com)

4) Microwaveable popcorn. This processed food is a favorite among moviegoers and regular snackers alike, but it is one of the unhealthiest foods you can eat. Practically every component of microwaveable popcorn, from the genetically-modified (GM) corn kernels to the processed salt and preservative chemicals used to enhance its flavor, is unhealthy and disease-promoting. On top of this, microwaveable popcorn contains a chemical known as diacetyl that can actually destroy your lungs. If you love popcorn, stick with organic kernels that you can pop yourself in a kettle and douse with healthy ingredients like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and Himalayan pink salt. (http://www.naturalnews.com)

5) Cured meat products with nitrates, nitrites. Deli meats, summer sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and many other meats sold at the grocery store are often loaded with sodium nitrite and other chemical preservatives that have been linked to causing heart disease and cancer. If you eat meat, stick with uncured, nitrite and nitrate-free varieties, and preferably those that come from organic, grass-fed animals. (http://www.naturalnews.com/028824_processed_meat_heart_disease.html)

6) Most conventional protein, energy bars. By the way they are often marketed, it might seem as though protein and energy bars are a strong addition to a healthy diet. But more often than not, these meal replacements contain processed soy protein, refined sugar, hydrogenated fat, and other harmful additives that contribute to chronic illness. Not all protein and energy bars are bad, of course — Thunderbird Energetica, Organic Food Bar, Boku Superfood, Vega Sport, PROBAR, and Zing all make healthy protein and energy bars. Just be sure to read the ingredient labels and know what you are buying.

7) Margarine. Hidden in all sorts of processed foods, margarine, a hydrogenated trans-fat oil, is something you will want to avoid at all costs for your health. Contrary to popular belief, butter and saturated fats in general are not unhealthy, especially when they are derived from pastured animals that feed on grass rather than corn and soy. And if animal-based fats are not for you, stick with extra-virgin coconut oil or olive oil rather than margarine. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027865_saturated_fat_health.html)

8) Soy milk and soy-based meat substitutes. One of the biggest health frauds of modern times, the soy craze is a fad that you will want to skip. Besides the fact that nearly all non-organic soy ingredients are of GM origin, most soy additives are processed using a toxic chemical known as hexane, which is linked to causing birth defects, reproductive problems, and cancer. Soy that has not been fermented is also highly estrogenic, which can throw your natural hormone balance out of whack. (http://www.naturalnews.com/026303_soy_protein_hexane.html)

9) “Diet” anything. Many so-called “diet” products on the market today contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda), both of which are linked to causing neurological damage, gastrointestinal problems, and endocrine disruption. Many diet products also contain added chemical flavoring agents to take the place of fat and other natural components that have been removed to artificially reduce calorie content. Instead, stick with whole foods that are as close to nature as possible, including high-fat foods grown the way nature intended, and your body will respond surprisingly well. (http://www.naturalnews.com)

Sources for this article include:
http://www.rd.com/slideshows/15-foods-you-should-never-buy-again/

Article Originally Posted on NaturalNews.com