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Though most recent criticism of Sanjay Gupta is due either to his close ties with pharmaceutical sponsors, irresponsible support for their questionable products like Gardasil and Voixx, or his infamous attack on a popular supporter of single-payer health care in which Gupta cited incorrect data, I am deeply concerned with his apparent lack of awareness regarding public safety in the handling of meat which might be contaminated with the prions which cause CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.

Reliable information on CJD is especially crucial to people who live close to areas known to harbor CWD infected deer herds. The lives of friends and families may depend on responsible advice from trustworthy sources.

Though in my state, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources responsibly publishes precautions for butchering and consuming meat from harvested deer, the likelihood of contracting CJD by ingesting improperly butchered meat rises sharply if a false sense of safety results from erroneous information spread by other traditionally trustworthy sources, such as CNN or the U.S. Surgeon General.

Remarkably, in a March 13, 2006 interview with Anderson Cooper, Gupta not only denied that any human CJD cases have ever occurred in this country, but recklessly advised that normal cooking would destroy any infectious agents. Both statements are contrary to widely available and well established data, including that published by United States Center for Disease Control.

COOPER: So, people eating meat should not be concerned?

GUPTA: No. You know, eating regular meat, you're probably not going to come in contact with these prions, this -- this -- these disease-containing particles. And, if you cook it using a meat thermometer, it should kill off whatever infectious agents there are anyway, so, really, really very little concern. There has never been a case of the human form of mad cow disease, known as CJD -- there has never been a case of it in this country."

From the United States Center for Disease Control:

Three cases of vCJD have been reported from the United States. By convention, variant CJD cases are ascribed to the country of initial symptom onset, regardless of where the exposure occurred. There is strong evidence that suggests that two of the three cases were exposed to the BSE agent in the United Kingdom and that the third was exposed while living in Saudi Arabia.

The CDC findings are conservative in their reluctance to recognize the abundance of sources describing cases of BSE or CWD to human CJD infection within the U.S. Though the 36,000 plus hits from a Google search for, "human form of mad cow disease" does not alone confirm this, article after article from legitimate sources provide an overwhelming body of evidence placing both of Gupta's claims well outside mainstream medical consensus.

But Gupta's most astonishing blunder is in regard to the durability of prions, the infectious agent of CJD.

From the Wisconsin DNR Deer08Regs:

The disease (CWD) is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion, which can survive cooking temperatures.

From Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, 9/12/2005, by Thomas Wisniewski, MD, Associate Professor, Departments of Neurology, Pathology, and Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine:

A few seemingly sporadic cases (CJD) in young men in Michigan may point to transmission to hunters from deer or elk with chronic wasting disease (CWD)...Because hunters eat the meat of these animals, there is a potential for the prion disease to cross from hunted to hunter.

Prions are highly resistant to heat, ultraviolet light, radiation, and disinfectants that normally kill viruses and bacteria. Prions may infect humans who eat meat from (BSE) infected cattle. Even cooking meat infected with BSE does not eliminate the prions or the risk.

From Deadly Feasts: The "Prion" Controversy and the Public's Health, by Richard Rhodes:

Infectious material drawn from victims of spongiform diseases can be bombarded with radiation, soaked in formaldehyde, baked at 700 degrees -- and it remains infectious.

Though BSE-transmitted CJD deaths remain lower in the U.S. than in many other countries, Gupta's claim that it simply doesn't occur here leaves the impression that CWD or BSE to human crossover is virtually impossible, which for a trained physician is astounding. Misinforming the public by contradicting well established findings that prions cannot be destroyed by cooking is both irresponsible and negligent, and as human lives are involved, possibly criminally so.

If Sanjay Gupta is actually nominated for United States Surgeon General, I think we have more than a few questions regarding both his accuracy and his responsibility.

Originally posted to jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 05:17 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Surely that is more of an issue (5+ / 0-)

    for the FDA and the CDC and not the Surgeon General.

  •  Gupta has become nothing more than a publicity (10+ / 0-)

    hound, IMHO, just as most of the "reporters" on CNN are.  He's so busy chasing the cameras, I can understand why he has difficulty keeping up with medical truths.

    When I first heard his name being bandied, I thought it was a joke.  I still can't fathom that this would be the person Obama would select for this position.  He might be a skilled surgeon.  He might be a good doctor.  But when someone is that much of a publicity hound, I just don't think he should be the SG.  There are so many other more qualified if lesser known choices out there.  What would even make Obama Think of this guy for that position?  I truly don't get it.

  •  OMG he thought prions could be destroyed (4+ / 0-)

    by cooking??

    Maybe he already has eaten too much beef.

    An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.

    by rini6 on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 05:26:55 PM PST

  •  have a hard time believing a faculty neurosurgeon (4+ / 0-)

    at emory would not know about a prion disease. it's almost laughable. i hope this isn't true and he's just schillin. b/c i dont see what stops him from being SG

  •  There is way too much opposition to Gupta (5+ / 0-)

    From the bloggers to the MSM... There are a lot of pundits that are expressing their dismay with the potential pick too.  

    My prediction:  Gupta will claim finacial responsibilities too great for him to accept the Surgeon General post.

    This is PE Obama's way of giving the bloggers something to do while he needs cover for something else.  My opinion of course.

    "Handle every stressful situation like a dog. If you can't eat it or hump it, piss on it and walk away."

    by winter outhouse on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 05:47:12 PM PST

  •  CJD is NOT a huge problem in the USA..... (3+ / 0-)

    http://www.cdc.gov/...

    Incidence is estimated at 1 per million people annually or 300 people per year.

    Most cases (estimated 85%) are sporadic caused by misfolded proteins which trigger the misfolding cascade.  There are some inherited diseases where this occurs, giving a predisposition.  A much small number are transmitted, possibly from eating neural tissue like brains, eyeballs or spinal cords of infected organisms, handling such tissues in mortuary preparation, and to a much lesser extent, eating meat from infected animals.  There isn't much risk period of getting CJD in the USA and less risk of getting the transmissible form.  So even if Sanjay wasn't 100% accurate about reducing your risk of getting transmissible CJD by cooking meat, he was right that this isn't something to worry about compared with say, smoking cigarettes (legal), drinking alcohol (legal) or many other food related problems (diabetes, obesity, imbalanced diets without fruits and vegetables).

    You are worried about something that isn't a big problem in the USA.  Even in the rest of the world, where there is transmissible CJD, is is not a common problem.  

    If we spend money testing each and every cow for a problem that isn't big or significant, when we could spend that money on a solution to some other problem, then that is bad public health policy.

    If I have a serious reservation about Gupta, it is that he doesn't understand epidemiology well enough to explain it to ordinary Americans.  I wish he had explained it using genuine risk assessment data, rather than discussing food cooking.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 05:57:08 PM PST

    •  I read all that stuff from the CDC today. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eastmt, lenzy1000, Pris from LA

      You're right, it's one in a million. But there's about 300 million of us here.

      I eat venison, and so do my friends.

      Many of us butcher the deer we eat, and share it with our friends and family.

      The very least I expect from my government is the truth, or to appoint truthful administrators. I know that's expecting a lot.

      The least I expect from myself is to keep my friends and family safe from unnecessary hazards. And I thought others might feel the same.

      Apparently, not everybody.

      "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

      by jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 06:09:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  you don't get it still..... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SnowCountry

        most of it isn't contagious.  1% is 3 out of the 300 annual cases.  There are specific recommendations on not eating venison.  It has been discussed for over a decade to not eat infected venison, freeze the meet and test it before eating.  Its too bad Gupta didn't check that.  

        A neurosurgeon who daily handles brains is probably at greater risk of CJD than you are- especially if they have a biopsy of someone infected that exposes them to the tissue of the CJD victim.  They wear protective gear, but this is much more risky level of exposure.

        You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

        by murrayewv on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 06:25:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I actually DO get (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          esquimaux, eastmt

          that everything you say is technically correct.

          What I don't get is your dismissive attitude toward the admittedly tiny number of people who might suffer an unnecessary and gruesome death because of misinformation.

          It is too bad that Gupta didn't check that out, and it's too bad that your reply has the compassion of a microprocessor.

          "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

          by jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 06:34:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And while I'm here, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eastmt

            let me point out that I never intended to take on the really big problems. I don't have the big numbers behind this concern.

            I'm just trying to fill in one of the many holes in the safety net which I think we deserve from our government. And it's really just a matter of deserving the truth.

            "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

            by jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:07:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am not dismissive to these people..... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SnowCountry

              but Americans have a serious problem not being able to distinguish a real issue from the PR flavor of the day they worry about.  BSE in the USA was avoided because our FDA (you remember, those folks everyone here criticizes) wouldn't let that type of animal food be used.

              The problem is people are attacking Sanjay Gupta using BSE ignorance as the weapon, when it is more sensible to understand that telling people to worry endlessly about the meat they eat is missing the big picture of risk.  It is reverse PC guys.  We can't afford to have a Surgeon General who worries about BSE and CJD when there are MUCH bigger risks that never get discussed.  

              Yes, Sanjay gave bad information about cooking temperatures.  But BSE isn't a big problem in the USA- and any assertion otherwise really needs a little data.  USDA is checking regularly to sample, and people want to add tags to track animals origins to farms and tests- which folks here regard as a conspiracy against smaller farmers half the time.  

              I find inaccurate information about BSE is an example of opinion vs. reporting on real issues.  I could list a dozen examples where folks here get whooped up about some issue and then miss the point.

              Last week folks were complaining that people were being turned away from giving transfusions because they had sex with males.  Seriously.  They didn't understand that this was a real problem and all the virus out there couldn't be immediately detected before a transfusion occurred just by testing.  I don't care what activities people engage in, but they should be aware they are at additional risk of getting and spreading blood born pathogens.

              Health care policy requires an assessment of risk based on real numbers, not an emotional reaction.  I was appalled at the BSE epidemic.  It was shamefully handled in Great Britain under Thatcher and anyone could have pointed out the potential problems with the feed- they sure did in the USA.  Any any scientist could have forseen the risk of an epidemic of CJD after the animal epidemic.  

              People complained about grammar in the letter from Conyers.  The real issue is that Gupta shouldn't be dragged into some BSE discussion when it is not a serious problem but should focus on a real opportunity to improve America's health.  Sorry if it offends folks here, but there you go.  Its a blog.

              You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

              by murrayewv on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:45:22 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I hope that microprocessor (0+ / 0-)

                has lots of heat dissipation.

                I hear they pop at about the same temperature that destroys prions.

                "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

                by jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:57:07 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  O.K., so (0+ / 0-)

                Last week folks were complaining that people were being turned away from giving transfusions because they had sex with males.  Seriously.  They didn't understand that this was a real problem and all the virus out there couldn't be immediately detected before a transfusion occurred just by testing.  I don't care what activities people engage in, but they should be aware they are at additional risk of getting and spreading blood born pathogens.

                Who was being turned away? That would have to include men and women "folks", right?

                And I actually DO care what activities people engage in, unless it's private activity. You seem to have a pronounced interest in those who are at additional risk of blood born (certainly, you must have meant borne) pathogens.

                Care to help me by clearing up just who are "they" who are at additional risk?

                Go ahead, assess the risk, make the donuts, do whatever it is the software tells you to do.

                Sheeeesh.

                "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

                by jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 08:27:42 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Have you ever donated blood? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  SnowCountry

                  There is a questionnaire.  The Red Cross asks if you spent time abroad, in Africa and asks about male homosexual activity.  The Red Cross asks you not to donate if you don't qualify according to their risk factors.  So donors are turned away or rather, being asked to be honest.  CJD exposure was also a reason for rejecting a blood transfusion.  They also reject anyone with elevated liver enzymes.

                  Red Cross still tests the blood.  But there is a risk that you will be recently HIV or Hepatitis B infected and not yet have a positive test.  Personally, I would make every effort to avoid a transfusion.  I support the development of non-blood transfusions, but that technology is tough.  You can't make things 100% safe- and sometimes you will die without a transfusion.  

                  The Red Cross was sued for not taking enough care in the early days of HIV.  We have drug treatments for HIV, but it is still a serious illness as is Hepatitis B.

                  According to JAMA, in 2006, "an estimated 56,300 new HIV infections occurred - a number that is substantially higher than the previous estimate of 40,000 annual new infections." link

                  The death rate among people with AIDS has also remained relatively stable in recent years; there were an estimated 14,627 deaths in 2006. Since the beginning of the epidemic, an estimated 565,927 people with AIDS have died in the USA.

                  link  There are greatly reduced risk of both Hep B and Hep A- a huge success for vaccination.  But the new rate is still 100,000 people with Hepatitis in 2005 according to the CDC link

                  We are going on and on about CJD which affects 300 new, unfortunate people a year.  Who is asking what is Gupta's HIV or Hepatitis policy, which affects over 150,000 people a year and are actively infectious?  

                  There is a huge problem of people fearing something that isn't really terribly dangerous, because it happens so rarely.  We are afraid of sharks, but they don't usually kill you as much as driving to the beach.

                  You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

                  by murrayewv on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 09:35:06 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I respect your passion on the issues of (0+ / 0-)

                    HIV and transfusions. Perhaps you should submit a diary on that topic. I would be glad to support you there.

                    If that was your diary topic, I would feel your diary was being slighted by someone mocking your efforts by steering the conversation to an issue with even greater casualty counts, like hunger and starvation.

                    Seriously, I'm just trying to save a few people from the remote risk of misinformation contributing to their grisly CJD deaths; your efforts are laudable, but kind of out of place here. Try to focus, please.

                    I'm afraid of sharks, too, though I've never been in an ocean; and I'm aware that driving is statistically more dangerous. But I certainly would be suspicious of a marine biologist who would tell me there is absolutely no danger in smearing my body with tuna blood before swimming with sharks.

                    "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

                    by jorogo on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 07:30:40 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  excellent comment on this in Time..... (0+ / 0-)

                with regard to nut allergies.  link

                Now I have a friend with a child with a severe Brazil nut allergy so I am sympathetic that there are visits to emergency rooms and this could cause death.  The first big attack was very terrifying.  It certainly wasn't imaginary- and nuts are highly allergenic for people with propensity for developing allergies.

                Instilling in the general public the idea that nuts are a "clear and present danger" does little beyond heightening panic. "There are kids with severe allergies, and they need to be taken seriously," he says, "but the problem with a disproportionate response is that it feeds the epidemic."

                There's even some evidence to suggest that establishing nut-free zones or nut-free schools may be detrimental to children's health, and increases their risk of developing nut allergies. A study cited by Christakis in his article revealed that, of 86,000 Jewish children living in the U.K. and Israel, those who had more exposure to peanuts earlier in life were less likely to become allergic later on. In the U.K., where peanuts are an infrequent part of the diet, nearly 2% of the children studied developed allergies; in Israel, where peanuts are a common part of the diet, from infancy onward, only 0.17% of children had a nut allergy.

                So take care, but remember all the other, possibly more serious risks for children.

                3.3 million Americans are allergic to nuts, and even more — 6.9 million — are allergic to seafood. But of 30 million hospitalizations each year, just 2,000 are due to food allergies, and about 150 people die annually from serious allergic food reactions. That’s the same number of people killed by bee stings and lightning strikes combined. About 10,000 children are hospitalized annually with traumatic brain injuries from sports, 2,000 children drown each year, and about 1,300 die in gun accidents, he writes.

                link

                 

                You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

                by murrayewv on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:18:14 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  It's the Surgeon General. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, Tetris

    I just can't get that worked up over it.

    Gupta is wrong on the use of heat to destroy prions, technically correct about CJD cases in the United States, but absolutely right about the amount of worry one should expend about it.

    Americans are many hundreds of times more likely to die from a car accident while driving to McDonalds than from contracting mad cow disease from a Big Mac. If Gupta makes a statement discouraging seat belt usage, then I'll be concerned.

    "It is often pleasant to stone a martyr, no matter how much we admire him"...John Barth

    by Giles Goat Boy on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 06:12:46 PM PST

  •  Mad cow scares the hell out of me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eastmt

    Luckily, it doesn't seem to be causing mayhem in the U.S.... yet.

    The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.

    by Tetris on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 06:54:06 PM PST

  •  Obama has repeatedly told us all (0+ / 0-)

    that he will pick people that he not necessarily is in complete agreement with.

    We all knew that - right -- and that especially as liberals/progressives that what we wanted is not really going to be taken into consideration (and that has certainly been correct so far - right??)

    So why do you even bother bitching about this - and any number of the other decisions??

    I cannot for the life of me understand the surprises of his choices

    "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

    by sara seattle on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:14:52 PM PST

    •  I think we should expect (0+ / 0-)

      that Obama's choices are in agreement with the facts and the truth.

      This isn't policy, it's a recognized and settled safety issue that this guy got wrong, with lives in the balance.

      It's not like playing politics with opposing factions in Mideast policy, it's more like confronting the reality that smoking is detrimental to your health.

      What's the disagreement?

      And who's bitching? We're trying to discuss here.

      Do you want recipes instead? Why are you here?

      "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

      by jorogo on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:49:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  WTF (0+ / 0-)

        Do you want recipes instead? Why are you here? -

        Aren't you just the sweetest little thing - your mother must just adore you.

        and since I've been here long before you - if you do not like it here -- you can leave

        "Proud to proclaim: I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal"

        by sara seattle on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 10:23:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My mother died (0+ / 0-)

          of a degenerative brain disease.

          I'm so sorry to have wasted your time "bitching" about my silly little CJD issue here.

          I'm also sorry to have overestimated the compassion of this community.

          It was, however, very thoughtful of you to admit:

          I cannot for the life of me understand...

          "As a scientist, I'm constantly working with materials that threaten life on a global scale, and, sometimes, they spill..." -Dr. Forrester.

          by jorogo on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 07:39:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Gupta has steadfastly denied the possible link of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorogo

    vaccines to Autism. Even after the Hannah Poling case was won in court, he continued to back the same schedule for vaccinating infants-kids.

    Even though 48,000 troops had severe adverse reactions to multiple vaccination administration with research done by the DoD,  Gupta has supported the CDC advisory that 'those with compromised immune systems' maybe adversely effected.

    No studies have been done about multiple vaccinations. All tests have been done on the safety of an individual vaccine.

    The DoD results:
    http://www.ageofautism.com/...

    Seems to me that a 'neuro surgeon' would want more scientific studies with an alternate schedule of vaccinations like the Brits use. Please, it seems that an error on the side of caution would be called for given the serious rise in autism and the severity of this condition.

    Stop MGD and all that lovin' the big PhRMAs.

    "...fighting the wildfires of my life with squirt guns."

    by deMemedeMedia on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:17:44 PM PST

    •  OK- thats one in favor of Gupta for me..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SnowCountry

      I agree that vaccines are not the cause of autism except in exceptional situations of a severe mitochondrial risk.  We are traveling the world giving people measles vaccinations to eliminate the hundreds of thousands of deaths of children, especially in Africa while folks here are convinced that the vast majority of America's scientists and physicians are lying to them.  

      I would love it if the Surgeon General worked on autism diagnosis and risk.  Its a big issue but ending vaccination of children is extraordinarily unsupported by data.  

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

      by murrayewv on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 09:47:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not calling for an end of vaccinations...it calls (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jorogo

        for a rescheduling of the way the vaccines are given.

        I would suggest that you look at the 'failure' to research the use of multiple vaccines at the same times.

        "...fighting the wildfires of my life with squirt guns."

        by deMemedeMedia on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 10:45:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  there is an age when children get infections..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SnowCountry

          and immune system issues.  As long as someone does an experiment and generates results to use to test a hypothesis, I will be supportive.  Consensus scientific thought developed on the internet from folks who just really want there not to be any vaccines is having a negative affect on public health.

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 05:35:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  But what's his position on masturbation? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA

    "Injustice wears ever the same harsh face wherever it shows itself." - Ralph Ellison

    by KateCrashes on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:22:52 PM PST

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