The Private Battle Over Public Property, Democracy

Corrupt Public Servants Helping Corporations Pillage, Bankrupt Nations

Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United v. FEC decision, which opened the door to corporate donations in federal elections. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, with the same right to influence politics as voters.

Unfortunately, corporations can’t vote with a ballot, so they vote with cash, influence and obstruction, which blurs the lines of corruption and fascism. In many cases, the corruption eliminates competition, while promoting favoritism. Of course, such deceit undermines and erodes capitalism. It’s my perspective that any assault on democracy or free-market capitalism is terrorism, not citizenship.

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Meanwhile, many of these same neo-corporations have moved their headquarters to small tiny islands to avoid additional regulations and corporate taxes. They want access and influence, even subsidies, without any of those messy responsibilities associated with citizenship.

“We must achieve a free sort of election campaign, not financed,” the Pope told an Argentine magazine this week. “Because many interests come into play in financing of an election campaign and then they ask you to pay back. So, the election campaign should be independent from anyone who may finance it. Perhaps public financing would allow for me, the citizen, to know that I’m financing each candidate with a given amount of money.”

The Pope’s remarks come in the midst of corruption scandals in his native Argentina. Global advocates of campaign finance reform embraced his message.

“We have just gained a great new ally with a worldwide voice for public financing campaigns,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of Democracy 21. “We greatly appreciate his words and wisdom on this subject.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed the Pope’s “call for an end to the contaminating influence of money in our democracy.”

Shock doctrine and disaster capitalism

Compounding the problem is the fact that the assault on entitlements and public services in many countries goes unchecked as corporate welfare takes nations closer and closer to the verge of bankruptcy. Unfortunately, down is the new up in the world of neo-capitalism.

Crisis capitalism is nothing new. The United States helped pioneer this freak form of economics thanks to Milton Friedman and his disciples at the University of Chicago. Friedman’s handlers within the U.S. government found that with enough pain, people will turn over everything that they own, including their nation, to corporate pillagers. I urge you to explore this background for yourself in a must-read book, The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. Hopefully, you have read this powerful expose’. If not, it serves as a blueprint for the constant crises that dominate national agendas.

U.S. debt rising

As Klein reveals, the U.S. and corporate interests around the world have helped overthrow many functioning democracies with the use of debt. Shots are rarely fired. This philosophy is coming to a nation near you now. The chart above shows the U.S. debt as an example. If the U.S. defaults, the constitution could be suspended. A so-called bailout might emerge. It will look more like a looting of public and personal property. Take a look at some of the privatization taking place in Detroit as part of its bailout. In the U.S., the postal service and the VA hospitals also are prized takeovers. Look at any bailout of a public entity over the past 150 years and you will see that the pattern is time tested. Chile is a great example. There are many more. In the process, competition is not part of the process. The end game is to create unchecked monopolies around utilities, while pillaging pensions and other assets. I have no problem with privatization in many cases, but competition must remain part of the equation. Otherwise, it’s pure extortion.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to give away public land and land-use permits for pennies to the right corporations. It subsidizes multiple industries. It’s gutting public schools and exploiting public lands for the benefit of private interests. It’s stalling progress on environmental protection and climate change for private profit. Make no mistake about it–the tail is wagging the dog. Citizens are being betrayed. Patriotism is being tested by all sides of the equation in every nation around the world right now. We all have a duty to tune in, stand up and speak out. Demand a return to citizen democracy.

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Killing Wolves Backfires On Ranchers

Pack Disruption Detrimental To Livestock

The best way to control wolf populations and minimize livestock predation may be to stop shooting, trapping and poisoning them, Washington State University researchers say.

A review of 25 years of data from lethal control programs from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services found that shooting and trapping the carnivores leads to more dead sheep and cattle in subsequent years, rather than less.

wolf conservation

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, WSU wildlife biologist Rob Wielgus and data analyst Kaylie Peebles say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly.

Predator control and sport hunting are often used to reduce predator populations and livestock depredations, – but the efficacy of lethal control has rarely been tested. We assessed the effects of wolf mortality on reducing livestock depredations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from 1987–2012 using a 25 year time series. The number of livestock depredated, livestock populations, wolf population estimates, number of breeding pairs, and wolves killed were calculated for the wolf-occupied area of each state for each year.

wolf consevation


The trend continues until 25 percent of the wolves in an area are killed, a rate of removal that is unsustainable for maintaining the species. Researchers found that killing one wolf increases the odds of depredations four percent for sheep and five to six per cent for cattle the following year. If 20 wolves are killed, livestock deaths double.

Work reported in PLOS ONE last year by Peebles, Wielgus and other WSU colleagues found that lethal controls of cougars also backfire, disrupting their populations so much that younger, less disciplined cougars attack more livestock.

Wielgus did not expect to see the same result with wolves.

“I had no idea what the results were going to be, positive or negative,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see what happened.’ I was surprised that there was a big effect.”

Wielgus said the wolf killings likely disrupt the social cohesion of the pack. While an intact breeding pair will keep young offspring from mating, disruption can set sexually mature wolves free to breed, leading to an increase in breeding pairs. As they have pups, they become bound to one place and can’t hunt deer and elk as freely. Occasionally, they turn to livestock.

Wielgus said wolves generally account for between .1 per cent and .6 per cent of all livestock deaths — a minor threat compared to other predators, disease, accidents and the dangers of calving. He encourages more non-lethal interventions like guard dogs, “range riders” on horseback, flags, spotlights and “risk maps” that discourage grazing animals in hard-to-protect, wolf-rich areas.

“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” Wielgus said, “and society has told us that that’s not going to happen.”

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Corruption, Ignorance The Greatest Threats To Democracy

My Fellow Americans

I just read a hate-laced email about Muslims, democrats and those disenfranchised by the current events in America and the world. I usually let such ignorant commentary pass, but I couldn’t let this one go.

I salute any citizen that questions this corrupt swamp that was once our government, but misguided messages are buying into the deception, fraud, corruption and hate spewed by that propaganda machine. Before we dive into the deep end of the pool, let’s get our facts straight because ignorance kills (not guns).

stop corruption in America

First of all, yes, our government has already been overthrown. It was an inside job completed on November 22, 1963. Eisenhower warned us about the threat of the military-industrial complex. He wasn’t talking about Muslims or illegal aliens.

Eisenhower was trying to warn us that a government that is so entrenched with corporate interests as to falsify wars and other current events to enrich banks and arms dealers can’t serve the interests of “we the people.” This pattern is fully exposed in a great book called the Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. We now have crisis managers in government, not leaders. It’s called crisis capitalism. Government-driven crises now dominate the landscape and they are driving bad policy, stripping us of our rights and property, and bleeding us to death (and doing their best to instigate a civil war).

Shock doctrine and crisis capitalism

Our government has the destructive model down cold. Uncle Sam has been overthrowing healthy democracies around the world for profit for more than a century. It had nothing to do with the “spreading of democracy” or true capitalism. The weapon of choice has been economic warfare and bankruptcy. Our war to liberate Cuba in 1898 became a land grab that blew up in our face. We used the marines to steal Hawaii from an unarmed queen (for the benefit of the sugar companies). We couldn’t have won WWII without the Russians. But after the fall of Berlin, and then convincing the Russians to push the Japanese out of mainland Asia, we instantly declared war on them to justify the continued arms race. The Vietnam war would have ended in 1965 if Kennedy were not assassinated (an inside job for many motives). Bush Inc. said it best– “Mission Accomplished.” The list goes on and on. Watch a great series on Netflix called the Untold History of The United States by Oliver Stone. The best piece of modern history (since 1900) that I have seen. All backed up by detailed facts.

Unfortunately, the greatest threat to the survival of the U.S. constitution is bankruptcy. It’s not far away. While the public is being whipped into a frenzy about guns and Muslims, default will end the American dream without a shot being fired. We are funding this great nation three months at a time. Government shutdowns are threatened four times per year just to get the public conditioned to the dysfunction. Once we default on our debt payments to China, we get to start all over again with a new constitution that won’t include the first amendment or the second or the third…(do you speak Mandarin or Russian?) Trump has been selected by the machine to help guide us into financial default. (As a warm-up, he’s already taking aim at Social Security and he put a bankruptcy expert on his cabinet.)

U.S. debt at record level

Those who are tired of paying taxes to cover your Social Security, Medicare, VA benefits, regulations to protect your food and water (the neoconservatives are modern day fascists, masquerading as republicans and democrats), would love to pull off the greatest inside job of all time. Meanwhile, these same thieves have no problem taking taxpayer money. Do you know how much money the feds give to the oil industry each year for doing nothing, but taking our public lands and contaminating our air and water? Billions. Is that free-market capitalism?

When the walls start caving in on corrupt governments, they start manufacturing crises. They produce propaganda to divert attention to false threats, including phantom terrorists and religion. Every religion has its extreme and destructive factions. Remember the crusades when religion was used as a tool for conquest. Why hasn’t the world declared war on the Catholic church for lying, stealing, contributing to genocide and abusing children on a grand scale (and covering it up).

Did you know that Islam worships the same god that you do? Did you know that Islam believes in the old testament, including Mary, Jesus and Christmas? Why aren’t those with big mouths and narrow minds bashing the Jewish faith for not accepting the prophet Jesus? That’s devil-talk for most hard-line religious zealots.

VA hospital scandal

If we keep buying lies issued by corrupt governments, we are nothing but stupid sheep who deserve what we get. Muslims aren’t the ones killing our war veterans by denying them access to medical care. Muslims aren’t the ones causing 20 of our war veterans to commit suicide every day. Muslims aren’t contaminating your food and water supplies in ways that are contributing to autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, endocrine disruption and much more. We have met the enemy. They’re thumbing their nose at us. Trump is merely a puppet and a pawn to this misguided, rigged system. Answers begin with the truth.

land application sewage sludge

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What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease Infectious

As you probably know, Alzheimer’s disease is no laughing matter. It’s deadly, incurable and spreading like wildfire. As we discuss in this article, there are several contributing factors to the epidemic. One cause of Alzheimer’s disease is spreading through our daily environment, including our food and water.

Approximately 50 million people around the world have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia today. The number of victims is skyrocketing. The threat is so severe that health officials expect the numbers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease to triple by 2050, if not sooner. That doesn’t count the thousands of people who are dying from the disease every day. That number also is escalating.

Alzheimer's disease epidemic

Unfortunately, a ravenous form of neurodegenerative disease is rising among people of all ages around the world. The scientific name for this family of neurodegenerative disorders is Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). 

TSEs include Alzheimer’s, mad cow, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, chronic wasting, Huntington’s, scrapie and possibly Parkinson’s. The operative word here is “transmissible.” There is no species barrier.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions.

prion disease epidemic

Many factors are contributing to the Alzheimer’s disease epidemic. Prions are now the X factor. Industry and government are not accounting for them or regulating them. They are ignoring the threat completely, which violates the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 in the United States. Other nations also are ignoring laws developed to protect food, air and water.

“There is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine.

TSEs also mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in deer. TSE has been found in mink, moose, mice, sheep, cats, elephants, dolphins and many other mammals. Sea mammals are extremely vulnerable, but they aren’t being tested. Sick mammals on land and at sea are a canary in a coal mine. Their sickness confirms an alarming epidemiological trend among humans. An environmental contagion is responsible for the spike among many mammals. There is no species barrier.

This family of disease is caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). Prion disease is unstoppable and the pathogen spreads through bodily fluids and cell tissue, including blood, urine, feces, saliva and milk.

The genesis of deadly prions are multiple. They can arise spontaneously within the body as a result of injury or brain trauma. They may be triggered by genetics in some cases. They can be introduced to the body through food, water and other contaminated items.

Unfortunately, the disease pathology is compounded by the victims themselves. Victims produce deadly prions and discharge them into their homes and surrounding environment, including hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices and many other places infinitely. Wastewater treatment plants have been collecting, incubating and redistributing deadly prions and disease for years. They are becoming deadlier every day.

sewage treatment plant and disease

Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Hospitals have admitted exposing patients to deadly prions through infected surgical devices. So far, dental providers have not discussed the issue in public.

Given these deadly dynamics, caregivers and family members can contract prion disease from a person with dementia. Unfortunately they are not being warned accordingly, which is contributing to the global epidemic. It doesn’t require direct contact with the person, but few caregivers are immune from personal contact. We all must take the appropriate precautions because people and animals with prion disease represent an environmental nightmare. Public and private protocols demand reform and we need your voice to demand change to help stop the Alzheimer’s epidemic.

As stated earlier, victims of prion disease spread the pathogen through their bodily fluids and cell tissue. Prions mutate, migrate and multiply with unparalleled efficiency. These killer proteins are unstoppable.

Although there are many causes of Alzheimer’s and other prion diseases, the epidemic is being mismanaged on many levels around the globe. As such, we are recycling the pathogen that causes Alzheimer’s right back into our food and water. We’re dumping these killer proteins on parks, golf courses, ski areas and school grounds.


biosolids land application and disease

For example, the practice of dumping the sewage from billions of people back into our environment adding fuel to the Alzheimer’s epidemic. Applying biosolids to cropland, or any watershed, demands reconsideration. The use of reclaimed wastewater for drinking water is reckless. Since prions are in the bodily fluids of its victims, sewage management is a top concern. Sewage plants can’t detect or stop prions. Just ask the US EPA. Therefore, putting biosolids on parks, crops and golf courses is a very bad idea. Meanwhile, recycling wastewater is an even worse idea. It’s safe to say that every sewage system in the world has been used by a person, if not millions, of people with Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sewage systems are prion incubators that should be isolated to protect our watersheds, crops livestock and water supplies.

Prion Epidemic Not Limited To The Elderly. We all are vulnerable due to widespread denial and mismanagement. The average age of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s alone is dropping for this reason. Caregivers, family members and others near Alzheimer’s patients are at risk of transmission of the disease. Ask your local coroner if he/she will touch the body of a person who died of prion disease–especially Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (just Google “coroners and CJD protocol”). Researchers have confirmed the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s. The Nobel Laureate who discovered prions has confirmed that Alzheimer’s is a prion disease.

biosolids land application LASS

Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are indistinguishable. Medical professionals cannot tell the difference and the diagnoses are just a guess.

However, it appears that CJD is caused by a more aggressive mutation of prion than Alzheimer’s. Despite the mass confusion, the protective and sterilization protocols for Alzheimer’s and CJD are not the same and millions of people are being exposed to prion disease as a result.

Since the disease barely existed a century ago, Alzheimer’s and several related diseases fit the definition of a global epidemic now. Caregivers and family members must arm themselves with facts that can save their life. Stakeholders must arm themselves with facts that can promote reform because all infected mammals shed infectious prions in their blood, saliva, mucus, urine and feces. Prions also have been found in milk. In essence, the entire body of a victim is contaminated and must be managed accordingly.

To date, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of deadly prion disease. Although there are multiple causes, reckless policies around the world are contributing to an unstoppable environmental pathogen that is spreading further every day. Our eBook discusses several more causes of the disease and sources of the pathogen.

chronic wasting disease caused by prions

Prions are associated with an entire family of neurological disorders that are killing people, wildlife and livestock around the world. These deadly diseases are known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” TSEs include Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, scrapie, chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease. The disease has killed many species of mammals including dolphins. Victims permanently contaminate the world around them with their bodily fluids. Once contaminated with prions, items cannot be sterilized.

Please join us and advocate for the truth and reform to help contain the Alzheimer’s disease epidemic.


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Wild Horses Deserve Better Treatment

Mustangs Under Pressure On Public Land

I drove out of Phoenix this week and stumbled across some small herds of wild horses. It’s been years since I last saw mustangs in Colorado. This treat really recharged my own spirit.

I’ve always loved horses. I rode competitively as a kid in small western events. I showed my horses in 4-H until I switched to sports. Then I grew older and grew away from my horses and I still regret it to this day. Like others, I just ignorantly assumed life was good for the horses of the world, while I spent my time defending abandoned kids and endangered species.

slaughter horse in U.S.

Fortunately, more of us have been called to action by the horse advocates. Like you and others, I’ve been actively advocating against horse slaughter and against the BLM stampedes by bounty hunters in helicopters–followed by horrifying conditions in holding pens (see photo below). But something about seeing these beautiful animals again through new eyes inspired me to push even harder for reforms that will end the abuse of the animals and the taxpayers. If everyone could see these magnificent creatures living unbridled lives in the wilds of the West–especially the policymakers in Washington, DC, who seem to be blind to the public will and the best use of public funds.

Unfortunately, the majority of mustangs are not roaming free like this mare and yearling above (but they must fight for their lives every day). Thousands of mustangs are locked up in stark corrals with no break from the wind or the subzero nights like those in the photo below. They don’t have a fighting chance. It’s totally up to their caretakers and mother nature.

It’s a complicated issue. But we’re talking about public lands and public property. We’re talking about taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize the private interests of a few oil and gas companies, agricultural interests and a few hunters. We have a wild horse and burro program that is misguided at best. Even the National Academy of Sciences has recommended ending the program and the Government Accounting Office has documented the waste. The time for reform is now.

Wild horses held by the BLM.

It’s the age of austerity in America. Make the next cut at BLM. Save lives and taxpayers dollars by ending the wild horse and burro cleansing program. These horses were here before the white man stole the land the first time. Write to the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. Tell her what you think about animal abuse and taxpayer abuse for the enrichment of private interests. Reach her via Twitter @SecretaryJewell

I applaud the warriors who defend our mustangs, wolves and other wild creatures around the world. Hopefully, government policy will shift to represent the will of the people, while standing against abuses of animals and taxpayers.

wild horse roundups

Finally, my big adventure this week reminded me how important it is for us to see animals in their natural habitat to really connect. We need to understand the threats that our expanding human footprint is putting on our diminishing wild spaces. Thanks to all of those dedicated souls who risk life and limb to photograph and film the amazing creatures in our world in ways that inspire us. May we all stay connected with the wild places and the wild creatures that Mother Nature/Almighty have created. May we all be better defenders and neighbors in the future.

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Horse Slaughter Back In New Mexico

Land Of Enchantment Will Kill Horses

About five miles from this southeastern New Mexico town’s famed UFO museum, tucked between dairy farms, is a nondescript metal building that could be home to any number of small agricultural businesses.

slaughter horse in U.S.

But Valley Meat Co. is no longer just another agricultural business. It’s a former cattle slaughterhouse whose kill floor has been redesigned for horses to be led in one at a time, secured in a huge metal chute, shot in the head, then processed into meat for shipment overseas.

It’s also ground zero for an emotional, national debate over a return to domestic horse slaughter that has divided horse rescue and animal humane groups, ranchers, politicians and Indian tribes.

And Tuesday, it moved one step closer to becoming the first plant in the country in more than six years to slaughter horses, with a successful inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At issue is whether the majestic symbols of Western culture are livestock or pets, and whether it is more humane to slaughter them domestically than to ship tens of thousands of neglected, unwanted and wild horses thousands of miles to be slaughtered in Mexico or Canada.

Front and center in the debate is Rick De Los Santos, who along with his wife, Sarah, has for more than two decades worked this small slaughterhouse, taking in mostly cows that were too old or sick to travel with larger herds to the bigger slaughterhouses for production.

Now, with cattle herds shrinking amid an ongoing drought, De Los Santos says he and his wife are just trying to transform their business and make enough money to retire. They’re seeking to slaughter domestically some of the thousands of horses that De Los Santos says travel through the state every month on their way to what are oftentimes less humane and less regulated plants south of the border.

“They are being slaughtered anyway. We thought, well, we will slaughter them here and provide jobs for the economy,” De Los Santos said.

Instead, Valley Meat has been ensnarled in a yearlong political drama that has left the plant idle and its owners the target of vandalism and death threats – warnings that increased after humane groups found a video a former plant worker posted of himself cursing at animal activists, then shooting one of his own horses to eat.

“People are saying, `We will slit your throat in your sleep. We hope you die. We hope your kids die,'” De Los Santos said. “Sometimes it’s scary. … And it’s all for a horse.”

Indeed, voicemails left on the company’s answering machine spew hate and wishes for violence upon the family.

“I hope you burn in hell,” said one irate woman who called repeatedly, saying, “You better pack your (expletive) bags (expletive) and get out of there because that place is finished.”

The couple have hired security and turned over phone records to federal authorities. They are, nevertheless, surprisingly candid about their plans, offering media access to the 7,200-square-foot slaughterhouse with one kill floor and two processing rooms that De Los Santos says can process 50 to 100 horses a day.

“It’s complicated, this industry of feeding the world,” Sarah De Los Santos says matter-of-factly. The meat would be processed for human consumption and exported to countries in eastern Europe and Asia.

Attorney Blair Dunn says agriculture officials found no issues at Valley Meat Co. during Tuesday’s inspection and told the owners they are recommending a grant of inspection be issued immediately.

The plant passed a similar inspection last year but then was told it couldn’t begin operations until the USDA developed an acceptable test to measure the horse meat for drug residue.

It wasn’t until the plant sued the USDA for blocking its application that the agency earlier this year agreed to move forward with the inspections necessary to allow Valley Meat Co. and about a half-dozen other plants around the country to slaughter horses.

But the Obama administration wants to prohibit such slaughters. The administration’s 2014 budget request excludes money for inspectors for horse slaughter plants, which would effectively keep them from operating.

The USDA did not respond to an email from The Associated Press asking about the inspection process and whether a drug test has been developed.

But Dunn said Department of Justice lawyers repeatedly have assured him that there are no impediments to the plant opening. Dunn says he expects final approval for the plant to come in a matter of days.

Wild horses held by the BLM.

“Everyone is talking about this as a humane issue,” De Los Santos said. “This is not a humane issue. It’s politics.”

Humane groups and politicians including Gov. Susana Martinez and New Mexico Attorney General Gary King strongly oppose the plant. They argue that horses are iconic animals in the West, and that other solutions and more funding for horse rescue and birth control programs should be explored over slaughter.

Fueling opposition is a recent uproar in Europe over horse meat being found in products labeled as beef.

Still others are pushing for a return to domestic slaughter. Proponents include several Native American tribes, the American Quarter Horse Association, some livestock associations and even a few horse rescue groups that believe domestic slaughter would be more humane than shipping the animals elsewhere.

They point to a 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found horse abuse and abandonment increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for federal inspection programs in 2006. Because rescue groups can’t take care of all of the horses in need, tens of thousands have been shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico.

In this mostly agricultural town, touted on its welcome sign as the Dairy Capital of the Southwest, there is surprisingly little uproar over the plant.

“I was against it,” said Larry Connolly, a retiree having coffee at Starbucks last week. “Then I started talking to some ranchers. They said they were for it. So I’m neutral.”

Local horse trader and former rancher Dave McIntosh said opening the plant would be the “best thing for the welfare of horses.”

But Sheriff Rob Coon said he believes most people in town oppose the plant. His office was inundated with calls and emails from irate people after the horse-killing video was discovered online last month. The former Valley Meat worker posted the video more than a year ago in response to animal activists opposed to horse slaughter.

“A lot of the ranchers are for it, simply because they want a place to take a horse rather than starve it out,” he said. “But it’s not our society. We don’t eat horses.”

Coon said his department has met with other local agencies in preparation for protests and potential trouble should the plant get the green light to open. But he clearly longs for the day when Roswell – whose main street is populated with statues of green extraterrestrials – was known for a rumored 1947 UFO landing, and little else.

“I was just telling our county manager: `What happened to our aliens?'” Coon said.

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Prions Not Phased By Sewage Treatment Processes

Deadly Prion Proteins Survive Wastewater Treatment Process

By Michael Woods

Scientists in Wisconsin are reporting in a paper scheduled for the July 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology that typical wastewater treatment processes do not degrade prions. Prions, rogue proteins that cause incurable brain infections such as Mad Cow disease and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Alzheimer’s disease are difficult to inactivate, resisting extreme heat, chemical disinfectants, and irradiation. In fact, prions are known to migrate, mutate and multiply.

Until now, scientists did not know whether prions entering sewers and septic tanks from slaughterhouses, meatpacking facilities, or private game dressing, could survive and pass through conventional sewage treatment plants.

sewage treatment plant and disease

Joel Pedersen and colleagues used laboratory experiments with simulated wastewater treatment to show that prions can be recovered from wastewater sludge after 20 days, remaining in the biosolids, a byproduct of sewage treatment sometimes used to fertilize farm fields.

Although emphasizing that prions have never been reported in wastewater treatment plant water or biosolids, the researchers note that existing tests are not sufficiently sensitive to detect the extremely low levels of prions possible in those materials. In other words, they have never been proven to be free of prions or capable of stopping them from being released back into the environment with discharges or sewage sludge.

land application sewage sludge

As such, wastewater treatment plants are spreading this infectious waste far and wide because they are incapable of stopping prions. All by-products and discharges from wastewater treatment plants are infectious waste, which are contributing to the global epidemic of neurodegenerative disease among humans, wildlife and livestock. Sewage treatment plants can’t detect or stop prions. Just ask the U.S. EPA and the industry trade organization—the Wastewater Effluent Federation. Sewage sludge (biosolids) and wastewater reclamation are causing widespread contamination.

Once unleashed on the environment, prions remain infectious. They migrate, mutate and multiply as they infect crops, water supplies and more.

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Deer, elk, moose and reindeer are now contracting prion disease from humans. To help cloak the epidemic, it’s called chronic wasting disease (CWD). Deer with CWD are proverbial canaries in a coal mine.

chronic wasting disease caused by prions

When cattle are exposed to prions, it’s being called mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, which is just a clever way of saying transmissible spongiform encephalopathy). Species barriers are a myth and part of the cover-up.

Unfortunately, prions linger in the environment, homes, hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices and beyond infinitely. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. If they can’t stop prions in the friendly and sterile confines of an operating room, they can’t stop them in the wastewater treatment plant.

biosolids land application and disease

The risk assessments prepared by the U.S. EPA for wastewater treatment and sewage sludge are flawed and current practices of recycling this infectious waste is fueling a public health disaster. Many risks are not addressed, including prions and radioactive waste. They don’t mention prions or radiation because there is no answer. Most nations are making the same mistake. We’re dumping killer proteins on crops, parks, golf courses, gardens, ski areas, school grounds and beyond. Wind, rain and irrigation spread these contaminants and many more throughout our communities and watersheds. It’s time to stop the land application of sewage sludge (LASS) in all nations. Safer alternatives exist.

For more information, read “Persistence of Pathogenic Prion Protein during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes,”

Contact the leading expert on prions in soil and sewage sludge, Joel A. Pedersen. Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Phone: (608) 263-4971

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More Mismanagement of Deadly Mad Cow Disease

Prion Pathogen Highly Contagious

After eight years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reopened the comment period for its rule on what cow parts may be used in human products Monday because research completed since the interim rule was published has revealed traces of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and deadly prions in parts of the intestine currently allowed in human food and drugs.

mad cow disease

Since there is no way to ever sterilize the production line once infected with prions, just one infected animal part will contaminate the production line forever. Food, cosmetics, gel caps, lotions and other products could kill you and your family. Even our water supplies have been compromised due to prion mismanagement, including sewage mismanagement.

The report is alarming. Again, it shows that regulators are protecting the public health with blind faith, ignorance and incompetence. We must demand that deadly prions be regulated based on proven safety as opposed to one of a proven risk (ie. dead people). It took them eight years of status quo to raise this flag and countless products have been contaminated in the interim. As a result, we can only guess how many families have been exposed to this deadly and incurable prion disease. This is reckless, negligent and unforgivable. It’s criminal. It’s bioterrorism.

In 2005, FDA issued its interim final rule, “Use of Materials Derived From Cattle in Human Food and Cosmetics,” which stated that a cow’s small intestine was safe for use in human products as long as the portion called the distal ileum had been removed. At the time, the distal ileum was known to be a potential reservoir for BSE, also known as mad cow disease, but other parts of the small intestine were considered safe.

mad cow disease and prions

Since that time, studies have found low levels of BSE in other parts of the cow’s intestine, including the proximal ileum, jejunum, ileocecal junction, and colon, prompting concerns that perhaps the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which regulates meat safety) and FDA should also prohibit these parts from use in human foods and cosmetics. Of course, they should be kept out of rendering facilities, where they can be recycled back into products and animal feed (including pet food). In fact, we should demand answers about where the risky parts, such as the distal ileum, spinal cords, eyes, tonsils, and other specified risk material (SRM) are going now.

“The infectivity levels reported in these studies were much lower than the infectivity levels that were previously demonstrated in the distal ileum,” notes FDA. (It only takes one prion to kill you, so, I’m not feeling any safer despite this disclaimer.)

In light of these findings, FDA has reopened the comment period on its 2005 interim final rule in order to hear from anyone who has information on the topic. These are questions that should have been asked long ago.

When the FDA announced the reopened comment period, it stated that it believes that the trace levels of infectivity found in these other parts of the intestine don’t pose a risk of human exposure to BSE in the United States. That’s nonsense. Prions migrate, mutate and multiply. They can’t be stopped. So to say that the levels of infectivity are low further demonstrates the FDA’s and USDA’s incompetence or willingness to tolerate and unleash risks to the public.

“We want to hear from other people,” says Sebastian Cianci, spokesperson for FDA. “From what we’re seeing, we’ve concluded that there wouldn’t be a measurable reduction of risk from removing other parts. However, we want other people to weigh in before a final determination is made.”

In reaching its conclusion, FDA says it also considered a recent opinion from the European Union Food Safety Authority on the risk of BSE from parts of the small intestine other than the distal ileum. Why aren’t they actively seeking and sharing this information on a global basis? The bad news is that other prion risks remain unchecked and or mismanaged. The pathways to prion contamination in food, water, products and our healthcare systems are numerous.

A look at the opinion handed down from EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards shows that the group was unable to draw a conclusion about the safety of other parts of a cow’s intestine. Bullshit. It’s time to put all of the facts on the table and keep all risks off of our dinner table and out of our homes and hands. prions have been classified as a “select agent” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Research is tightly controlled and extremely limited. Why are the USDA and FDA conducting chemistry experiments with them in our food, water, cosmetics and other products? What gives them the right to turn every human on the planet into a guinea pig? Any person or agency that violates the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Prevention Act of 2002 is, by definition, a terrorist.

“Due to limitations in the data currently available, an accurate quantification of the amount of infectivity in the intestinal parts other than ileum of Classical BSE infected cattle at different stages of the incubation period cannot be provided,” says the panel in its conclusion. Unfortunately, given the dangers of prions, it only takes one to multiply into millions. It only takes one prion to kill you. Quantification of this dynamic is very simple math.

The reopened comment period has been posted in the Federal Register. You can access it  here. Comments can be submitted by clicking the “Submit a Formal Comment” button.

Thanks to Gretchen Goetz and Food Safety News for their contribution to this article.

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform

Firearm Debate Missing Key Points

Corruption Killing United States

It’s easy to blame violence in America on guns. It’s an easy target after a long series of massacres waged upon kids. It’s easy to blame violence on people with mental illness—sick people are another easy target. Unfortunately, guns and violence are just symptoms of a democratic system that is broke and a sick nation that is under siege on many fronts. Before we can end the violence, we need to remove barriers to a healthier nation.

gun control in America

Other symptoms of a sick society include suicide among our kids, elderly and veterans. The list also includes homelessness, drunk driving, substance abuse, and child abuse. We can’t afford to overlook white-collar crime, mortgage fraud, and corruption. And we can’t ignore the battles waged against law enforcement officers and their families. Wars waged (and lives lost) for phantom enemies and the enrichment of banks and defense contractors. Don’t forget the terror felt by families that have no health insurance. Or the threat of contaminated food, air and water.

In my opinion, violence in America is a symptom of weak citizens and an unhealthy government–a government that no longer serves its citizens and perpetuates injustice and tolerates fraud. The U.S. has pointed at similar conditions in other countries as fascist. Therefore, let’s defend this great nation from such a threat–real or perceived. We can’t afford to let this nation devolve into a state where majority no longer rules and the will of the people is often ignored. Healthy capitalism and free-market competition are becoming myths and illusions. Further erosion of our economic strength and national health are unacceptable.

stop corruption in America

Misguided corporations that serve only shareholder wealth and growth are forcing this country and others into moral bankruptcy. We can’t afford to fund our schools and healthcare systems, but we can bail out fraudulent banks. We can’t defend our citizens from Wall Street fraud, but we can buy bullets and bombs and wage war and spread our perverted version of democracy around the world. We recruit soldiers with lies and let them commit suicide on the streets when they return home. With values such as these, what exactly are we defending?

A handful of corrupt companies that our country defends so viciously are dictating the outcomes of elections and the agendas under our capitol domes. The people (including our kids, seniors and veterans) are caught in the crossfire of this injustice and the symptoms are exploding in classrooms, emergency rooms, neighborhoods and the workplace. Wall Street is creating a nightmare on Main Street. Only the stakeholders and shareholders can fix the problem. We need to demand reason, justice, fairness and a return to the American way–the values that our forefathers fought for so bravely.

government relations

It’s easy to point blame, but we have met the enemy and it’s us. We are all guilty for believing lies and not standing up for justice and democracy at every turn. We are all guilty for chasing the American dream and taking a few wrong turns. Greed, fear, complacency and misplaced trust are killing this great nation. If Wall Street has become the only barometer of a healthy nation, may god help us all.

I wish that guns were the problem and that gun reforms were the solution, but the current debate is off target, narrow-minded and reckless. In fact, this misguided discussion runs the risk of causing more harm than good. Given the present tone and ignorance, people who need to seek help with an emerging mental health issue are likely to suffer in silence to avoid being labeled “crazy” and “violent” or exposing themselves to bias, discrimination and possible violence. Anything that stands in the way of effective treatment will just compound the problems and contribute to an unhealthy country. Anything that stands in the way of a healthier nation must be confronted–whether it’s policy, greed, ignorance or funding. Obstructions to common sense and common will are unacceptable.

For example, people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators. Unfortunately, millions of our friends, family and neighbors with mental illness go undiagnosed and untreated because of the stigma generated by reckless and ignorant conversations. In addition, our healthcare system as a whole is too fragmented to identify most of our friends and neighbors with mental health issues and it’s improperly funded to help the majority of those who want help. Unfortunately, special interest groups have obstructed meaningful reforms that can save money, save lives and provide earlier intervention and better outcomes. Meanwhile, people shooting from the hip with reckless statements and solutions will drive people away from the behavioral health systems that can help them. We can’t afford any obstructions to a healthier America.

Furthermore, privacy laws protect the identities of a person who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Secondly, stigma, inadequate funding, poor integration of healthcare services and ignorance within our communities prevents millions of people with emerging or persistent mental health conditions from ever being diagnosed.

Therefore, universal background checks are not the silver bullet prescribed by some of those who are dominating the debate over responsible gun ownership. However, we should do everything within our power to keep guns out of the hands of all dangerous people, especially convicted criminals. Background checks and closing gun-show loopholes might help. I’ll let the experts wrestle with those issues. However, I challenge those who are rabid about defending the second amendment to defend our entire democracy, not just pieces of it.

government corruption

I don’t have all of the answers, but we can use the gun-reform conversation to again highlight the problem with our government and with ourselves. For example, according to a CBS News/New York Times polls, a common-sense measure such as universal background checks on gun buyers is favored by 92 percent of Americans. And that number includes 89 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of households with NRA members.

Meanwhile, a handful of so-called leaders—our state and national legislators—are holding the nation hostage on the orders of special interest groups and corporations. Why is the will of the people no longer part of the deliberative process in America the Beautiful? Why are the people tolerating this obstruction to a reasonable conversation and a vote?

These same leaders are obstructing constructive reforms in many aspects of government, including sustainable energy, safe food and water, and other common-sense solutions to pressing problems. As a result, our nation is getting sicker and poorer everyday. People are slipping through the cracks of this unresponsive system. Have we all lost our backbone for better and healthier government?

We all have blood on our hands and we all are victims for mismanaging this great democracy. Homeland security is a myth if we don’t defend our rights and speak out for our needs and for our neighbors. Homeland security is a myth if we don’t hold parents responsible for their own homes, including the acts (and health) of their children.

Fortunately, in modern society, we don’t have to exercise the second amendment to get our democracy back on track. The pen is mightier than the sword (and the gun) in our pursuit of a healthier America.

If we take care of our nation, our neighbors and our own families, violence will take care of itself. Step up on all levels. Be a responsible parent and an active patriot. Sign petitions. Write to your elected officials and your local media. Run for office. Demand inclusiveness, accountability, transparency and reform on all fronts. Demand responsiveness and less favoritism. Don’t tolerate fraud or corruption at any level. defend the entire constitution and the entire nation.

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If we want peace, health and prosperity, we must demand more from our leaders and from ourselves. Make elected and appointed leaders enforce the laws that we have and don’t let anyone stand above those laws. Silence is acceptance.

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Wall Street Criminals Walking Free and Easy

Wall Street Corruption Goes Unpunished

The corruption on Wall Street allows insiders to make money on the way up–and even more on the way down.

So far, not a single Wall-Street junkie has gone to jail. The so-called war on terrorism seems to have a blind spot. When we all know who pulled the trigger and who looked the other way, why is it that not one of these crooks has been arrested? Yet, Elliot Spitzer, who was hot on their trail, got knocked to his knees over ethical misconduct.

election 2016 USA

PBS’s Frontline explores the issue in a report, (watch in full here). The show found that the Department of Justice made minimal effort to bring those responsible for Wall Street’s fraudulent activity to justice.

The longstanding excuse from the White House is that there is not enough evidence to secure convictions against these executives. Although DOJ Criminal Chief Lanny Breuer claims the Obama administration would love to bring cases against those who committed such felonies, he insists he simply must back off.

While it seems fair to avoid losing trials, what is preposterous is the notion that out of hundreds of such potential cases against Wall Street heads, not a single one was deemed to have sufficient evidence. This excuse is proven even more ludicrous when Frontline interviews reporters who found employees who were willing to blow the whistle to prove criminal intent, as well as people who worked for the DOJ who saw specific Wall Street cases with more than adequate evidence that were not pursued anyway.

stop corruption in America

Furthermore, it’s not as if the Department of Justice has a pristine reputation for only pursuing the most clear cut of cases. As Forbes points out, just last year, the DOJ prosecutors moved forward on a weak case against baseball pitcher Roger Clemens that resulted in a not guilty verdict. “The loss should be a wake-up call for the Department of Justice, which has failed at times to use prosecutorial discretion and good judgment in high-profile cases in recent years,” said the Forbes article, which outlines a whole series of DOJ misfires.

In other words, it’s a joke for the White House to pretend it only pursues slam-dunk cases.  Skipping over all Wall Street felonies shows a disturbing bias. The DOJ can tell Frontline that it is merely a “professional decision,” but it is remarkable that it is choosing to exercise unprecedented “professionalism” in the face of Wall Street tossing aside ethics for the sake of profits.

Perhaps most telling was a speech Breuer gave saying he lost sleep at night contemplating the possible ramifications that prosecuting a large financial institution could have on the overall economy. When Frontline asked whether he should be have taken into account outside factors when deciding cases to prosecute, Breuer agreed, citing a “responsibility” to bring negative consequences on those who had nothing to do with the banks’ mistakes.

government relations

However, the job of a federal prosecutor is to prosecute criminal activity, not worry about the fate of the banks. Besides, if Breuer is primarily concerned with the welfare of the general population as he suggests, it leaves the question why is he valuing a potential harm to Americans over the certain suffering that occurred because of bank fraud? Why let that go unpunished?

When no steps are taken to punish this criminal behavior, it sends a clear message to the elite: you are immune from prosecution and the rules do not apply to you.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has said that it does not like its portrayal on the Frontline story and refuses to cooperate with the show in the future. One would assume that it would continue to cooperate with the bankers, however.

Also, since the airing of Frontline’s report, it has been announced that Breuer will step down from his role with the Department of Justice. Maybe he can get a cushy Wall Street job as a thank you for his lack of vigilance like so many politicians before him.

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CJD Kills North Carolina Boy

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Taking Younger Victims

By Andrew Kenney

It wasn’t bacteria or a virus that plagued young Michael Mendy’s body and mind. He did not inherit his symptoms from his mother or father. Nothing toxic was in his blood. An autopsy reveals that he died of prion disease. And while he was sick, Michael’s parents had no explanation.

“I had to figure it out. I had to find an answer. I had to find a doctor that could help him,” said Michael’s mother, Kathleen Mendy, who lives in western Cary. “You don’t think you’re going to come across something that nobody’s ever seen.”

Michael Mendy dies of CJD

But they had. Dozens of specialists and three years of suffering brought no diagnosis. Michael died a year ago, at age 16. And only then did the explanation and the terrible significance of his case emerge.

Doctors estimate that fewer than one in 100 million young people will share Michael’s journey. The sports nut and East Cary Middle School student was killed by a disease that mostly afflicts the elderly. Michael was a heart-wrenching outlier, apparently among the youngest ever to suffer a spontaneous ravaging of the brain.

biosolids land application

Kathleen Mendy thinks it started on Michael’s 13th birthday in 2009. On that January day, another boy knocked Michael’s head to the court during a basketball game. He was playing again a minute later, his mother watching with a tinge of worry.

The symptoms of a years-long illness crept in that weekend, during a mother-son Super Bowl trip to Florida. That’s where she first saw Michael’s confusion, his unsure movements and his inexplicable crying.

It seemed at first like the troubling wake of the teen’s second concussion in three months, but that theory would erode and change. Across the next three years, in a nightmare that kept unfolding, the brawny teenager would drop almost half his body weight, spend months in the hospital, lose his speech and lay debilitated by simple infections.

The printed record of Michael’s hospital visits and test appointments is three and a half pages long. It documents an increasingly desperate search, listing 140 days in the hospital, 91 visits with doctors and 426 therapy appointments from 2009 to 2012.

“I always thought he would get better,” Kathleen Mendy said. “I used to always tell him, ‘Michael, one day you’re just going to run out of your bedroom, and you’re going to come running downstairs, and you’re going to be all better.’ ”

land application sewage sludge

While his friends went on to high school, Michael was confined to a wheelchair and fed through a tube. His care grew so intense that his mother brought on a full-time medical aide. His father, divorced from his mother, drove in from Florida each time he entered the hospital, and Kathleen Mendy’s family often visited from New York. Each treatment was more esoteric than the last. By the end of 2011, the Mendys had seen more than 30 doctors, medical specialists, faith healers and alternative practitioners.

“I tried chiropractors, reflexology, myofacial therapy,” Kathleen Mendy said. “I tried everything.”

The realization came to Kathleen Mendy on the last night of January 2012, the 22nd day that Michael spent in a UNC hospital bed. He’d been kept alive in an intensive-care unit by a breathing machine while an infection took hold of his lungs. The mysterious disorder had left his body unable to respond. The memory shakes Kathleen Mendy to tears. The scene sticks in her mind.

“Not until the night before he died, is when, honestly, it hit me,” she recalled.

The doctors laid a choice before his parents that night. Michael could go home with a tracheotomy and a ventilator, but they believed he’d live just a few months longer. Or doctors could remove him from life support. Michael’s parents didn’t want him to suffer anymore. He died on Feb. 1, 2012.

sewage treatment plant and disease

Only months later would Michael’s family learn the reason for his degradation and death. An autopsy showed that the teenager died of sporadic fatal insomnia, a subtype of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

“I’m so glad I didn’t know what it was” before Michael died, Kathleen Mendy said. “Because then I wouldn’t have had hope.”

“This disease is a descent into hell,” said Florence Kranitz, president of The Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation in New York City.

She saw her own husband die in 2001 of an ailment similar to Michael’s. Since then she has heard the stories of many of the 300 CJD victims her organization identifies each year, including cases of fatal insomnia.

“We get this phone call, and tragically it’s the same phone call over and over again,” Kranitz said. “They’ve never heard of this disease.”

The story she heard from Kathleen Mendy fit the profile, with one beguiling exception. Almost everyone afflicted by CJD subtypes are older than 45, except those who contract a variant of the disease genetically or through contaminated beef, which Michael had not.

biosolids land application and disease

Michael’s case quickly drew the attention of national experts, including Pierluigi Gambetti, director of the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center in Ohio. Gambetti, a pioneering researcher, examined Michael’s brain and in April identified his disease as sporadic fatal insomnia.

He’d later take hours to talk with Kathleen Mendy about her son’s death. Sporadic fatal insomnia and CJD, he explained, are part of the still-mysterious field of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Some of these ravages of the brain, such as so-called mad cow disease (another form of prion disease), begin with an infection of prions, or pathogenic proteins, from the outside. CJD in the young also can be caused by prions, often transmitted during surgery.

Prions and Prusiner win Nobel Prize

Like a virus, a prion can essentially “breed.” The virus hijacks human cells, and the prion reshapes other proteins into its own mutated form. And when a prion or virus propagates enough, it can destroy its host.

But there’s a crucial difference: The prion also can come from within. Gambetti believes that Michael’s disease began when the boy’s brain misfolded a protein, creating a prion instead. The defect may then have multiplied out of control and ruined the delicate balance of the body.

It’s not uncommon for the body to make mistakes. Neurons and other cells normally catch and eliminate prions before they replicate. These defensive systems may grow weaker with age; some people may also inherit weaker defenses.

But Michael was a teenager, with no apparent family history of neurodegenerative diseases. Gambetti put the odds of such a case at one in 100 million in the general population; another doctor said it was one in 600 million. In fact, Michael may be among the youngest ever to be affected by a neurodegenerative disease without an inherited or outside cause.

“We just haven’t seen this disease affect someone this young,” said John Trojanowski, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gambetti, who played a key role in the discovery of fatal insomnia, theorizes that Michael’s illness was random, despite the odds. It may be that, by chance or some unknown factor, Michael’s brain perfectly bred its own pathogen.

“The bodies of all animals are a marvel of things, in positive and negative,” Gambetti said. “They can do things striking for the good, but also for the bad.”

Nearly a year after Michael’s death, Kathleen Mendy finds love and support from family, friends and Compassionate Friends, a local group. But the extreme rarity of Michael’s case is isolating.

When she attended a CJD conference last summer with her twin sister, they met the families of people who had mostly died in middle and old age.

Some nights she goes up to her only child’s room. It’s lined with dozens of sports team caps and trophies. Athletes’ names are still painted on the blades of his ceiling fan, and the UNC comforter is still on his bed. All that’s new is the shrine on the desk, where Michael’s photo stands near a glazed statue of praying hands.

“Sometimes I think I’m OK, and other times it’s like it just happened last night. It’s like a rollercoaster,” Kathleen Mendy said.

She may have as many logical answers now as she’ll ever get – a medical, if not a spiritual description of why Michael died.

She still doesn’t know what it was that made her son vulnerable. She believes Michael’s concussions triggered his illness, but his doctors haven’t confirmed the idea.

“I’m a little bit resolved that I’ll never hear the answer,” she said. “It would be nice to know, but if I don’t know it, it’s not what matters now.”

She finds hope instead in the idea that she could help others; she’s thinking of writing a book and becoming a public advocate for those who suffer with CJD.

Meanwhile, as Michael’s birthday and the first anniversary of his death approach, Gambetti and one of Michael’s former doctors are preparing to present his case to their respective medical communities. As painful as the case is, “its rarity may contribute to expand the knowledge on this terrible disease,” according to Gambetti.

He hopes his research will one day allow much earlier diagnosis and treatment of fatal insomnia. Such a breakthrough could key medical progress across the spectrum of prion-related diseases, which are fatal in practically all cases.

Gambetti’s research into Michael’s case will soon yield a more immediate result too: He’ll be able to tell caregivers that sporadic fatal insomnia can strike not just the mature, but perhaps people who are just beginning their lives.

And with Michael’s story spreading, the next stricken family may at least know the harrowing path ahead.

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Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Takes Teenager

Girl Died Rapidly From Neurological Disorder

When 15-year-old Claire McVey appeared reluctant to eat in front of her family, her mother Annie assumed she was just having teen wobbles about her weight. But Claire was showing the first signs of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (prion disease) or vCJD – a condition that would leave the bubbly teenager dead within six months. It’s the human form of mad cow disease and an overall prion epidemic that is spreading exponentially.

annie and claire mcvey

It was in 1996 that Annie, like all mothers, was horrified to learn that dozens of people had been infected with an incurable degenerative brain condition caught by eating beef from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE (there are other vectors of concern).

“Being vegetarian, I always cooked meat-free dishes at home but my two children would occasionally eat meat elsewhere,” says Annie who lives in Kentisbury Ford in Devon. “When I heard about BSE being passed on to humans I was horrified. I wasn’t going to risk my children’s health so I immediately stopped Claire and her brother from eating all meat. What I didn’t know was that it was already too late.”

It was four years later, in July 1999, that Annie, who worked as a risk manager at their local district hospital, first noticed her daughter had become withdrawn and was behaving oddly.

“She stopped eating in front of us,” she recalls. “At first I thought she might be developing an eating disorder but it was more an anxiety about people seeing her eat. Then she started to have an issue about going to school and she didn’t want to wear her shoes. I couldn’t understand what had got into her.”

Worried, Annie took Claire to see their GP, who diagnosed the teenager with suspected depression. But still feeling uneasy about her daughter’s behavior, she arranged for Claire to see a pediatrician.

“After carrying out a neurological examination he told me that he suspected Claire had a brain tumor,” recalls Annie. “My world just fell apart.”

land application sewage sludge

Claire was immediately admitted to Frenchay Children’s Hospital in Bristol, 100 miles away, for more tests.

“Over the next week she was tested from head to toe,” says Annie. “She had MRI scans, a lumbar puncture, biopsies, neurological testing and seemingly every blood test going but the doctors couldn’t find anything.”

Yet Claire’s health was deteriorating rapidly. She had trouble with her balance, felt very weak and couldn’t walk.

“Eventually, they told me the news I’d dreaded the most,” recalls Annie. “Claire had suspected vCJD. It was like being punched in the stomach. I knew what it meant. Claire was being handed a death sentence.”

Since doctors are not able to confirm a patient had vCJD until a brain biopsy is conducted after their death, there were no more answers.

All Annie could do was take Claire back to the home they shared with Annie’s partner, Wayne, and Claire’s older brother.

“Back home, Claire asked me if she was going to die,” recalls Annie. “All I could say was that I didn’t know. She said she was scared that it would hurt, so I promised Claire that if there was any pain I would make sure it was relieved. She seemed eerily calm, like she’d accepted her fate. I could hardly believe what was happening.”

Over the next four months, Claire grew weaker and weaker, rapidly becoming less and less mobile. She was on medication to ease her anxiety and painkillers for her muscle spasms. She needed help dressing herself and eating and drinking but as she didn’t want to go back to hospital, a place was arranged for Claire at Little Bridge House, a children’s hospice in Fremington near Barnstaple. There, staff doted on Claire and she was able to find peaceful moments, listening to music in their sensory room.

“As time went on she couldn’t move at all,” says Annie. “She began to slur her speech and I wondered if she’d remember me the next day.”

biosolids land application and disease

Claire spent Christmas at home, returning to the hospice a few days later. She had been excited about the millennium New Year’s Eve but, fading rapidly, she slept through all the celebrations.

“The next morning she couldn’t believe she’d missed it all,” says Annie. “When the nurse asked what she’d like for breakfast she requested Buck’s Fizz! Then she asked to be lifted into her chair so she could go around and say ‘Happy New Year’ to everyone. I think that was her way of saying goodbye – she died 10 days later on January 11. Her brother and I were sat by her side as Claire slipped away in her sleep.”

Over the following months the pain of losing her daughter took its toll and in November 2000 Annie began to experience problems with her own health. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and chronic fatigue. She developed an autoimmune disorder, which left her weak and immobile. Too weak to get out of bed, Annie felt eaten up by grief.

“I was in a terrible place,” she says. “I was devastated, frustrated and unable to do anything. All I could think about was Claire and what had happened to her. I felt consumed by anger that the government compensation promised was taking so long, not just for me, but for the vCJD families still caring for people. These families were going through the worst time of their lives and finding the process of getting compensation very difficult. I wanted to do something to help but the legal process confused me. I needed to understand it, to make sense of it, so in 2004 I decided to study law through the Open University,” says Claire. “My aim was to support families so they could get a care package and be compensated fairly.”

Wheelchair-bound and still suffering from debilitating fatigue, Annie made it her mission to complete her degree.

During her six years of study with the OU she put her learning into practice, too, regularly fighting tooth and nail for the rights of other vCJD families (prion disease). Although Annie, now 54, did receive a payout in 2006, she was dismayed by the system that compensated families purely on the basis of how well they could express the severity of their suffering. So in 2010, she and other families took their case to the High Court, claiming the compensation scheme was flawed. Although their challenge and a subsequent Court of Appeal action failed, Annie was able to find peace in the fact she had done everything she could.

prion disease epidemic

“The judge said he sympathized with our case but he had to apply legal principles,” she says. “It was disappointing but we kept it in the public eye for a long time. We made our mark.”

Later that year, Annie graduated with a Bachelor of Law honors degree, which she dedicated to Claire’s memory during the ceremony. She now plans to take a masters degree in Medical Ethics.

“I cannot praise the Open University enough,” she says. “It allows people like me, who can’t go to university full time, to study for a degree. The quality of the courses and the support they have given me has been excellent.”

And Annie is still putting her studies to good use.

“There are so many downtrodden people out there because they don’t know where to start with the law,” she says. “I work for a couple of unions, looking at cases, giving them advice, assisting their members and helping them with personal injury claims.

“When you have a law degree in a small town, everyone comes for help. I’m very busy and quite content with that. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile.”

And despite the hardships she has endured, she remains upbeat.

“Losing Claire was the worst moment of my life,” she says. “I’m in a life that doesn’t feel real. I’m waiting for my girl to come back but she won’t. It is a physical pain. But what I went through was nothing compared to Claire.

“I’ve had a good life. I may be incapacitated but whenever I feel sorry for myself she pops into my head. Claire was interested in law and she might well have gone on to study it herself if she’d had the chance. She missed out on so many chances so I’m determined to make the most of mine.”

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform