Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bird Flu: Worldwide Pandemic or Chicken Little Alert?

Here is a picture and an MSNBC (4-20-06) story about bird flu or avian influenza. This story takes the position that fears about bird flu in the United States are overblown and may be "sapping money and attention from more serious health threats":

Doomsday predictions about bird flu seem to be spreading faster than the virus itself. But a small group of skeptics say the bird flu hype is overblown and ultimately harmful to the public’s health.

There’s no guarantee bird flu will become a pandemic, and if it does there’s no guarantee it will kill millions of people. The real trouble, these skeptics say, is that bird flu hysteria is sapping money and attention away from more important health threats.

“I have a bunch of patients coming in here who are more worried about bird flu than they are about heart disease,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. “The fear is out of proportion to the current risk.” [Full text]

The Voice of America has an avian flu site with good links. The VOA site tracks outbreaks of bird flu and the efforts of scientists all over the world to study, control, and erradicate this disease. The real danger is that this virus could change so that it could be transmitted from person-to-person.

In Russia, Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Russian Communist Party, has spread the ignorant anti-American canard that the U.S. government made the bird flu, but Russian researchers don't believe this. Russian researchers "believe the avian flu was carried into Russia by migratory wild birds" (3-16-06).

Another theory posits that domestic fowl are the principal carriers. Dr. Richard Thomas, an expert at Birdlife International, observed (2-28-08):

From the pattern of spread that we saw last autumn the spread [of the disease] just did not follow known migration routes. What it did follow, you can trace it from western China across to Eastern Europe," he says. "And you see a good correlation with the transport routes, with the railway that runs from Lanchow city heading west through Kazakhstan and southern Russia right away across to Romania.

The different theories are available at the avian flu site of the Voice of America and also at the links found there.

Unfortunately, there are still ignoramuses around---like the feather-headed Turkey Gennady Zyuganov---who have a medieval approach to diseases. In medieval times, Europeans didn't understand much about how diseases spread and blamed the Jews for poisoning their wells with plague. In medieval Europe, Jews lived in segregated ghettos and had less contact with their Christian neighbors. They had different sanitary practices and did not take communion in churches.

The NAZIS resurrected these medieval anti-semitic canards, which included claims that Jews were dirty and spread disease.

An excellent article in Wikipedia explains:

An antisemitic canard is a deliberately false story inciting antisemitism. The word "canard" is French for "duck," referring to a hoax. Despite being thoroughly disproved, anti-Semitic canards are often part of broader theories of Jewish conspiracies. According to Kenneth S. Stern,

"Historically, Jews have not fared well around conspiracy theories. Such ideas fuel anti-Semitism. The myths that Jews killed Christ, or poisoned wells, or killed Christian children to bake matzo, or "made up" the Holocaust, or plot to control the world, do not succeed each other; rather, the list of anti-Semitic canards gets longer. The militia movement today believes in the conspiracy theory of the Protocols, even if some call it something else and never mention Jews. From the perspective of history, we know that this is the type of climate in which anti-Semitism can grow."

Anti-semitic canards are spread by propagandists on the right and left as well as by extremists in the Middle East.

Anti-semitic canards were spread by the Soviet propaganda during a time of anti-semitic hysteria called the "Doctors' Plot." It was claimed that Jewish doctors in the Soviet Union were trying to exterminate the leadership of the Communist Party and the Soviet Army. Pravda spread this conspiracy about the Jewish doctors in a 1-13-1953 article.

Soviet anti-semitic canards were transformed into anti-American canards when the KGB spread the lie that the U.S. Army had created AIDS to kill black people.

In 1987, the Soviet media/KGB exploited the Russian people's xenophobia against China: They claimed that Brent Anderson, an American tourist in China who had become critically ill with AIDS, was really a "biological weapon" directed against the Soviet Union. According to this stupid lie, Brent had been sent on a mission to China by the CIA in order to infect millions of Chinese with AIDS because "China has a long border with the Soviet Union." [I read this article in Russian, probably in 1987.]

Why would the American government send a sick person to China in order to give the Russians AIDS?

State Department pressure made the KGB stop spreading this lie after Brent's death in 1987, but the anti-American canard continued to be spread. It resurfaced in Senator Obama's church 20 years later. Senator Obama's former Minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright told his congregation that AIDS was invented by the American government to kill blacks.

I think that Senator Obama should tell his old church that this lie came from the KGB. According to a 2005 State Department document, even the KGB has admitted that it spread this lie:

In March 1992, then-Russian intelligence chief and later Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov admitted that the disinformation service of the Soviet KGB had concocted the false story that the AIDS virus had been created in a US military laboratory as a biological weapon. The Russian newspaper Izvestiya reported on March 19, 1992:

"[Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists' 'crafty' plots were fabricated in KGB offices."

The KGB spread this lie to damage race relations in our country and to damage our reputation internationally, but this canard also had had an unanticipated effect: it made some young blacks believe that they have no future because the U.S. government is out to get them. This anti-American AIDS canard makes some young blacks careless about safeguarding their health.

This vicious and destructive KGB lie may be one reason why 80% of new HIV cases are young blacks.

It would be a good thing for Senator Obama to put a stake through the heart of this KGB lie. All he has done so far is say that he doesn't believe that "somehow" the American government made AIDS. He could really educate the public about how enemy propaganda can injure our people. Exposing the source of this lie would help race relations, encourage young blacks to be more hopeful about their futures, and safeguard our people's health. These are all goals that Senator Obama has espoused. He should have a press conference and explain all about this lie.

The AIDS canard is not the only lie about the American government spreading diseases. The ex-professor Ward Churchill was fired for fabricating research that claimed that the U.S. Army had deliberately spread AIDS to the Mandan Indians.

Many academics who consider themselves liberals defended Churchill, the purveyor of vicious anti-American canards. Churchill also claimed in the KGB-sponsored Covert Action Information Bulletin that FBI-backed death squads killed 342 Indians.

Churchill's fabricated "histories" about the American government being genocidal remind me of that infamous forgery and anti-semitic libel, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Canards about smallpox were used in the past to provoke Indians against whites, too. E. Wagner Stearn, Ph.D. and Allen E. Stearn, Ph.D, the authors of The Effect of Smallpox on the Destiny of the Amerindian (1945), wrote:

Mischief makers tried to provoke the Indians against the whites by telling them that they were to be exterminated by smallpox, introduced in clothing sent to them (102).

There is no evidence that the American Army ever deliberately infected the Indians with smallpox. There is some documentation that the British military considered giving Indians infected blankets during a war, but smallpox is normally not spread by fomite transmission but by close contact with the saliva of an infected person.

The discredited ex-professor Ward Churchill "cites" The Effect of Smallpox on the Destiny of the Amerindian (1945) by E. Wagner Stearn, Ph.D. and Allen E. Stearn, Ph.D. to give the impression that his claim is documented by these respected scholars. In fact, this book actually chronicles in painstaking detail the attempts of Americans to innoculate Indians against smallpox. Near the end of the book, the authors even write:

If, in the foregoing pages, some facts have been stated which incriminated the white conquerers and settlers, the history is replete with instances of great heroism and devotion of large numbers of white men throughout the centuries, who labored to alleviate the sufferings of, and finally brought the protection to, the conquered people through vaccination at their own trouble and expense (139).

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