When You Know You Are Being Lied To….

When You Know You Are Being Lied To…My Initial Thoughts on the CDC Whistleblower News

By Beth Clay August 27, 2014

While mainstream media have ignored the flurry the past two weeks after the Focus Autism Press Release, the Peer Reviewed Research paper by Brian Hooker, PhD, and the Autism Media Video, several online media outlets and social media have been a blaze with the news of a CDC employee reaching out to Dr. Hooker and coming clean about what I consider a well-orchestrated cover up of information about increased risks associated with vaccines. Specifically the timing of certain vaccines, the use of thimerosal in vaccines, and what is known about risks of brain injury from vaccines in general. Those who led this activity showed significant malfeasance and disregard for the health and well-being of children. They have violated the public trust and have dragged this entire controversy out for 15 years rather than address with integrity and openness the issue and move forward with solutions that improve the safety of vaccines and respect the individual person’s unique medical condition and rights to personal medical choice.

I am not part of this conversation because I have a child that was vaccine injured and became autistic.None of my children are on the spectrum.  I became involved because of my work, and I stay involved because I want to be part of the solution. I was the staff lead on the original House Oversight Committee’s investigation looking into concerns about vaccine injuries. The year was 1999. Two of our Subcommittees has been looking at different topics. Chairman Shays had taken on the reports of anthrax vaccine injures in the military and Chairman Mica had taken on a review of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and as part of that looked a bit into the Hepatitis B vaccine. I well remember meeting Mrs. Betty Fluke from Indiana who testified before the subcommittee about her experience both in the VICP and in getting access to the only treatments that might offer her relief. She had prior to the vaccine been a vibrant healthy woman – wife and mother- who when I met her wore leg braces and walked with crutches.

When we talk about the VICP, we typically think and talk about babies being injured, however; like more than half of the individuals who file claims in the VICP program, she was an injured adult.

Chairman Dan Burton elevated the issues up to the full committee and expanded the investigation. We initially were not looking at autism. Chairman Burton often times paraphrased a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

In all of our work on the Committee, we were looking for the truth. When it came to vaccines, while we were accused of being ‘anti-vaccine’, which was an absurd claim. We – both Chairman Burton and myself in truth were and are ‘pro vaccine-safety’.

We worked from the knowledge that vaccines hold a unique place in medicine in this country. They are the only drugs that are mandated by a government (states) as a condition of participation in schools, day cares, and some jobs (health care, school personnel, first responder, etc.) based on recommendations of the federal government (CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Because the government is abridging the freedom of Americans with these vaccine mandates, I anticipated that because it was a group of drugs that almost every American would receive, that the bar on approval -the safety requirements for approval would be elevated. Imagine my surprise and disgust to find just the opposite. There seemed to be a rush to get something approved and in the market place so that manufacturers could make their investment back. (Yes that was a discussion in one of the advisory meetings!) Both the FDA and the CDC Advisory committee membership were replete with conflicts of interest that were either ignored or waived – meaning that individuals participating in the approval process of drugs or their recommendations for inclusion on the recommended schedule (to be mandated by the states), had financial ties to the makers of vaccines. The CDC was so lax in its management of their advisory committee that they simply granted everyone a waiver ‘whether they needed it or not’.

After one of our first hearings, Barbara Loe Fischer, one of the founders of the National Vaccine Information Center, (NVIC) asked for a meeting. I scheduled our meeting for a day when Congress was out of session and Chairman Burton working back in the district. I usually took meetings in one of the Committee conference spaces, but this time I took Barbara down to my office and sat down at my desk. She and I had a great conversation and she urged me to shift our inquiry into the increased incidence of autism spectrum disorders. I listened and found her observations credible and worthy of taking to the Chairman. Anyone that has ever had a conversation with Barbara, or watched her in an interview will recognize that she is a wealth of knowledge and has an amazing recall. At the time, I thought she was unique. I would learn over the next few years that parents of children who are medically injured – who are vaccine injured – become experts and come to understand research and science to graduate degree levels.

We were wrapping up our meeting when the front desk of the Committee buzzed me with a call from the Chairman. Congressman Burton explained to me that both of his grandchildren had experienced serious adverse events from their immunizations and that he grandson had regressed into autism after his series of vaccines. He asked me to investigate and find out if this was an isolated reaction or if there were others whose children had regressed into autism as the result of vaccines. I turned back to Barbara and let her know we would be looking into autism. After Barbara left I took a moment to reflect on this ‘coincidence’.

I felt God’s presence in this moment and a clear message – “Listen up Beth – this is a big deal – you are going to be peeling the layers off a major public health controversy.”

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston Churchill

I’m not going to go through all the steps of our investigation at this time. We gathered tens of thousands of pages of documents, conducted numerous hearings, prepared reports, etc. We were thorough in our attempt to gather information and speak to experts. We were repeatedly frustrated and often had the impression that officials from our health agencies were less than forth coming. (Which is a polite way of saying, I felt like they were lying, but were masterful at it.) It was obvious that witnesses had been well rehearsed by agency lawyers in how to respond to questions and not really answer them. (You may recall the November 2012 comment of Dr. Colleen Boyle from the CDC who in response to the question about thimerosal still being in vaccines responded that it remained ‘only in multi-dose’ vials. She should have been more forthcoming and explained to the members of Congress (and the listening public) that most of the flu shots given each year are in ‘multi-dose’ vials and contain the mercury containing preservative thimerosal.)

We did bipartisan interviews under oath and in hearings. We were already in the investigation when the Simpsonwood meeting took place. We were not invited to the meeting or given a transcript voluntarily.

I was at that Boston IOM meeting when Dr. Tom Verstaeten issued his opening statement that he had ‘just that morning accepted a job with Glaxo’ and I realized that he had violated ethical standards of the department. Ethically, the moment he began discussions of a job offer with a vaccine manufacturer he should have recused himself from involvement with the study. His access to the data should have been immediately terminated. There has never been a mention of such a recusal, and he continued to be involved in the study after starting at Glaxo. When we began looking into the changes in the study design, and concerns about data manipulation, we wanted him to come back to the United States and be questioned under oath. He declined, and through Glaxo’s attorney’s agreed to have one telephone interview with us. We had a lot of “I do not recall’ type answers in that call. This is not an old man and it had not been so many years that his memory would have faded. I felt like the lawyers likely had written out messages on index cards and held them up to him to repeat in response to our questions to keep him from sharing too much.

Not only did I feel that we were not getting the whole truth (and I was not alone in that feeling), but I watched scientists from NIH, CDC, and FDA promote weak, poorly designed scientific studies on a host of topics as if they were solid, conclusion drawing research. Nowhere to my knowledge, except in this discussion, has population based epidemiology been used to answer toxicological questions. Always, the more ‘hard’ science of laboratory work and animal studies would be top priority.

How absurd is it that government doctors are saying it is okay to inject mercury of any kind into babies or pregnant women? Mercury of every kind has inherent risks and vulnerable populations should avoid it.

I had always held the National Academy of Science and the Institute of Medicine in fairly high regard. They are touted to be an independent scientific body. I would learn in truth they are an elite members club of the scientific community that contracts with the government and industry to conduct reviews. With the vaccine injury inquiry, we watched them take direction from the CDC and shortchange the independent review process. They proved unable to separate their desire to protect vaccine policies from the process and conduct a truly independent and rigorous review of the evidence of possible vaccine injury.

At every stage were obvious irregularities in process, from the manipulation of the thimerosal data to wash out links to autism; to changing the instructions to the IOM; to data from Denmark from studies that were fatally flawed from the outset being touted as reasons to end the debate. I heard scientists quoted in the media say that it was ‘settled science’ and that no other funds should be devoted to asking the question. Science is never ‘settled’. And yet, this notion was put forward and adopted because it was convenient for those who wanted this uncomfortable topic to fade out.

Maybe most egregious of all was Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sibelius’ bragging in a Reader’s Digest interview that she had instructed her press office to get the media to stop covering the parent led organizations that were questioning HHS on these issues. She the Secretary, like every federal official raised her hand and swore and oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and yet she admits to suppressing free speech and controlling the media!

“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.” Albert Einstein

Keep in mind, all of the irregularities and substandard research occurred before we knew about Poul Thorsen’s criminal activity. All of our concerns occurred before the latest news this month that the CDC had covered up data showing African American boys at an increased risk of autism if given the MMR vaccine before 36 months.

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” Elvis Presley

Whatever Dr. Thompson’s intentions were in reaching out to Dr. Hooker, and whatever does or does not happen in the future on this, the CDC has now admitted they left data out of the paper they published. Their partial admission is an admission that Dr. Thompson was telling the truth. How they choose to spin it doesn’t matter, because they chose not to share this data a decade ago with the public. They chose not to look at why African American boys had an increased risk of autism when getting the MMR before 36 months. They failed in their jobs and by all appearances committed scientific fraud.

Will the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton get involved in this? Will Dr. Ben Carson, the Congressional Black Caucus and President Obama speak up about this and seek justice?

Is anyone going to stand up for the tens of thousands of boys who have suffered preventable injury over the last ten years as a result of this travesty?

Over the last 15 years, I have watched parents be attacked and ridiculed by medical professionals and government officials for reporting their own personal experience with a child who was vaccine injured. I have watched a group of Special Masters express distain for petitioners in the VICP and issue rulings with such bias that I am shocked when they are not rejected by the judges who review them on appeal.

I have watched the orchestrated opposition take aim at all who dare speak out about vaccine injury. Does anyone recall what happened to Representative Bachmann during the presidential election cycle when she dared discuss vaccine injury? While members of Congress have not expressed fear of that type of retaliation, I have had Congressional staff express real concern that their bosses will be so attacked. There is a real fear to engage on this issue because of the risks of retaliation.

These truths are simple – some people have no problem with vaccines, while others have serious adverse reactions. Some children are born completely healthy and suffer serious adverse reactions to vaccines, or vaccine ingredients, and regress into the condition known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some children born with genetic or environmental factors that leave them susceptible for vaccine injury and regress into autism after one or more vaccines. Not all autism is vaccine related, but some cases are. How large a percentage is not known. (However I stood in the back of a room and when Dr. Bernie Rimland asked parents to raise their hands if their child regressed into autism after immunization most hands when up.)

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

I have said all along that the Public Health community’s response to the autism-vaccine issue has undermined the public’s trust. Today, with the knowledge that the agency knowingly covered up an increased risk in a specific population underscores this, they are contributing to an infection of distrust that is spreading through the public. Only by opening up this issue, and shining the light of day on the issue, and truly holding those individuals accountable who have participated in this corruption and cover up can we begin the healing process. “Anything short of this is simply continuing the problem. A simple I’m sorry might be helpful to some, but there is justice to be meted out. Eventually, I have to believe it will be.

It’s been 11 years since I resigned my Congressional position and entered the private sector. I have however remained involved in the issues. I feel a moral obligation to do so. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful country of Jordan and while there was privileged to visit holy sites. At the beginning of this, I had another one of those ‘coincidences’, when God was present and said “Pay attention Beth”…..a few hours later, sitting in a lovely restaurant the first family I saw enjoying their meal was a family with a young boy with autism. Autism is not simply an American issue, it is a global epidemic. Furthermore, the violation of the public trust by the CDC in this study has global repercussions. What of African boys? Are they at the same level of risk with MMR timing? Has the CDC quietly done such a study and simply not shared the results? Are we going to see Presidents of small African countries suspend vaccine programs because of this controversy? If so, it is not the fault of anyone who has spoken out about it, rather it will squarely be the fault of the CDC employees who participated in this conspiracy. I pray this does not happen, but have concerns that it may.

Dr. Thompson today issued a statement saying his will not answer any questions. I wonder if there are others ready to become full blown whistleblowers. Time will surely tell.



Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Surveys – Have Your Voice Heard

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is the required venue for to seek compensation for individuals who have suffered a serious adverse event from vaccines.  It has now been a decade since I worked for Congress and led an inquiry into this issue.  Sadly at the time we were unable to pass legislation to improve the program.  I hope that Congress will take this matter up again.

I have recently posted two surveys related to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  One for petitioners and one for the professionals who work within the system.  I will leave the survey open indefinitely, but  hope to get significant responses in July so I can prepare the first reports before September.

If you are or were a petitioner, or if you work within the program itself in some capacity, please take the appropriate survey.  I will post the reports on this site and share via email with those who participate.

Petitioners Survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VICP2014

VICP Professionals Survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VICPProf2014

This is an independent activity, not something I am conducting for a client.

If you have any questions, please email me at vicpsurvey@bethclay.com 

Thank you.



Appreciating Our Heritage and Our Independence

3g12417raa  I found this artwork entitled “Our Heavenbound Banner” online at the US Library of Congress (www.loc.gov).  It is among the thousands available online without restriction. The history of this artwork is from a time in our country’s history in which we were divided by civil war.  There is much we can learn today from our nation’s history and how we became so divided, and how we restored the Union.  This artwork was accompanied by the following verses:

“When Freedom from her mountain height/Unfurled her standard to the air, / She tore the azure robe of night / And set the stars of glory there. / She mingled with its gorgeous dyes / The milky baldrick of the skies, / And striped its pure celestial white / With streakings of the morning light. ” 

Why Study History:  Many of us have differing views of studying history.  Some love history and others do not find joy in its discussion or analysis.  Many of those I grew up with will well remember learning South Carolina history from Mrs. Sally McMillan.  Every day we came into her class room and a list of questions was written on the chalk board.  We were required to write those questions in our note book and prepare responses by the next day.  No laptop computers, no xeroxed copies or prepared work books.  The act of writing, likely helped each of us learn and remember the subject better as well as to strengthen our writing skills. After we wrote down our questions we would go through our homework and have classroom discussion.  Mrs. McMillan made history real for us.

What Others Have Said:  I am fascinated that some of the busiest people I know still find the time and value in studying our history. There are many who have expressed an opinion about the value of studying history.  For example:

  •  James Burke said, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you are.”
  • J. Frank Dobie said, “The man for whom history is bunk is almost invariably as obtuse to the future as he is blind to the past.”
  • Betinna Drew said, “The past reminds us of timeless human truths and allows for the perpetuation of cultural traditions that can be nourishing; it contains examples of mistakes to avoid, preserves the memory of alternatives ways of doing things, and is the basis for self-understanding…”

Why We Celebrate July 4th:  By the summer of 1776,  the 13 colonies  were embroiled in conflict with England for more than a year.  The Continental Congress was first organized in 1774 and served as the formal means by which the colonial governments coordinated against British rule during the early days of the American Revolution.  The role of the Congress was to balance the interests of the different colonies and to serve as the official liaison with the British. The Continental Congress would evolve into the national government.

June 1776, the Continental Congress was at the Philadelphia State House in their annual meeting. On June 7th, Virginia delegate, Richard Henry Lee proposed this resolution:

“Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”  

While the resolution was not immediately voted on, a Committee was formed to draft a  formal Declaration of Independence.  Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson. 3b50117r  The story of the crafting process is something we all should study.  In the hot humid summer, the Committee toiled to draft and come to agreement on the language.  Only after dedicating the process to God through prayer did the Committee come to full agreement.  The Continental Congress reconvened, making minor edits on July 3rd and then late in the afternoon of July 4 a vote was taken.   Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two — Pennsylvania and South Carolina — voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained. There is a story that I plan to explore why South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted not, and why New York abstained.  The story most of us learned as children was that John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence  “with a great flourish” so England’s “King George can read that without spectacles!”

imagesIN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.  The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Celebrations:  We determined as a nation to honor the day we declared our independence through celebration.  03448r  Across the country there are parades, fireworks, and music.  Families come together and have picnics, cook outs , and many take vacations. 

It is also a time that we should remember all those who have served this nation to enable us to fully realize our liberty.   soldieres home Man and women from all walks of life, have served in our military, put their lives on the line to stand in defense of liberty. From those who served during the Revolution such as General George Washington….

15711r images (1)     Beth Clay with Bob Dole to Senator Robert Dole, who survived what should have been a mortal wound in a battle in World War II, to come home and continue serving his country, to GRClayfrontStrom Thurmond (on the left) and my father (on the far right) who both served in the military (my father in combat in Korea)….and the 24 percent of men and 2 percent of women in our counry who are veterans today and those who volunteered to serve in uniform.  Thank you.   And to hold in prayer those who paid the ultimate price.  Freedom isn’t free.  Flags-and-Headstones

When I was in high school I took an interest in geneology.  It was something I was able to work on with my father, although we were 500 miles apart.  Our family, like our nation, had been torn apart.  Over the years, this interest in family and history helped bridge gaps and gave me a reason to engage grandparents and other relatives in sharing the stories of our family.  Before the age of the internet, my interest took me to the National Archives and the microfiche records.  Today, thanks to the internet and ancestry.com, many records are available online.  I’m working to expand our family history to include not just the direct ancestors but to fill in the gaps of the aunts, uncles and cousins. And coming to more fully understand who I truly am and the history of my family and how it relates to the history of this great country.  04131rMy father had always said we were distantly related to Henry Clay.  I have not yet traced back to that connection; however in 1999, the first time I came off an elevator at the Capitol  off the floor of the House Chamber, I looked up to see a series of murals one of which was Henry Clay.  At that point, I had not doubt that there is some family connection as he has some of the distinct facial features of the men in my family.

As we celebrate our independence today, there is much turmoil in our country and abroad.  There are more than 50,000 children who have come into the United States illegally and without their parents. What was originally a law enforcement matter has morphed into a humanitarian crisis.  In the middle east, as Muslims fast and pray through the month of Ramadan, Iraq, remains in turmoil, with terrorists attempting to take a major portion of the country and its valuable assets.  These terrorists present problems not just for Iraq, but also for Syria and Jordan and concerns in Saudi Arabia have led to a significant contingent of Saudi troops being positioned their border with Iraq.  These terrorists have disrupted the holy month with their aggression. Having lived in the Middle East, I am reminded daily as I review these issues, how blessed we are as a nation.

This week, a  dear friend from the region sent me an email that included the following:  

“America is much more than a geographical fact.  It is a political and moral fact , the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality…Dear  If your country is worth dying for in time of war let you resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace..I hope your dreams take you to the most special places your heart has ever known.”

My wish for each of you this Independence Day is that you truly live..enjoy this nation, revel in our history and believe in the power of God to see your dreams fulfilled.




I’ve Got a Bag of Lemons….

25 June 2014: One of the many posters I had on my wall as a teenager was one that said “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade” It is a stress management/coping strategy that has come in handy all these decades.

Sometimes it seems like everything stressful happens all at once. A few weeks ago, I had to make a quick trip to see my father, who lives six hours away. Now in his mid-eighties and firmly in the sixth state of Alzheimer’s, I know that each visit to the top of his mountain may be the last time I see him or the last time he recognizes me. Over the last few years, whether on the telephone or in person, his conversation cycle has gone from about 10 minutes, to about 5. Catching him early in the day is essential because as the day fades, so does his ability to focus. This last visit, we had a window in which I was truly blessed to connect with my Dad on a heart level. Those moments of when he was ‘daddy’ were amazing and I know a true blessing. Since that week my calls every few days to him have me concerned that he is moving from the sixth to the seventh and final stage.

No sooner was I back from Dad’s then my mom – who lives eight hours away in the opposite direction, had a health scare and I thought I was going to be headed home to South Carolina. I was able to advocate on her behalf to her doctor from here and did not have to make an emergency trip. I know that I have been truly blessed to have both of my parents living into their eighties, especially since both of them were heavy smokers for many decades.

There are a few other stress filled events that I’ll leave private, but I found myself feeling a little sorry for myself that it all seemed to be piling on at once. I relied on a breathing technique I learned a long time ago to take the edge off the stress, and spent some time in spiritual reflection as well.

And just when life really seems to be at its low point, just when I was feeling sorry for myself, one of my sons texted me an “I love you Mom” message out of the blue. Later that day, Yingling, my middle aged pug insisted on crawling up in my lap for some attention – and there is nothing more therapeutic than the unconditional love of a dog. The next day, I decided that I would take my poster theme literally and I picked up a bag or organic lemons and using organic sugar instead of my typical stevia, I made old fashioned southern lemonade.

Tonight I had a chance to attend the DC premier of the documentary Sound the Alarm produced by John Block. This one hour documentary, which will be released soon on Netflix shows autism across the lifespan and some of the challenges both emotional and financial that families living with autism face. Driving home, I realized that nothing I am dealing with comes close to being as challenging as what many autism families face every day.

So, I’ve got a bag of lemons and I’m going make some lemonade and put my life’s challenges in perspective.



Measles Outbreak Message from CDC – It’s Not Jenny McCarthy’s Fault!

24 April 2014

Promoting National Infant Immunization Week:  This afternoon, the CDC hosted the media on a call to promote an article entitled “Benefits from Immunization During the Vaccines for Children Program Era — United States, 1994–2013”  and to discuss the Measles outbreaks (also mentioned in the MMWR).  The timing of these outreach to media is in preparation for National Infant Immunization week that starts on Saturday.  Major media outlets on the call who were given the opportunity to ask questions included ABC, NBC, USA Today, Reuters, the AP, Washington Post, and Fox News Radio.

The Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director made opening comments and then Ann Schuchat, MD, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases office at CDC spoke and responded to the media questions.   Dr. Frieden commented how there had been a measles outbreak in 1990 when he first came to the CDC and stressed the importance of immunizations.  He then went on to state that this year marked the 20th anniversary of the Vaccine for Children’s program (VFC), which provides vaccines at no cost to children and that the program would save hundreds of thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars.  The annual budget for the VFC program is $4 billion.

Concern About Measles:  Dr. Schuchat discussed the 13 outbreaks of Measles across the United States and stressed that these outbreaks are directly the result of international travel.  The article uses the term ‘importation-associated measles’.  She repeated what is reported in the paper that there is an outbreak of measles in the Philippines.  While the CDC is concerned with parents who do not vaccinate, she confirmed that more than 99% of children are immunized in this country. (This means that in the United States, we are well above ‘herd immunity’).  Her comments included information included in the MMWR article, including that almost have of those investigated in the California outbreak had no vaccination documentation available (which is different than not being vaccinated) and that 19% had documentation of two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Medical Environment Poses the Greatest Risk:  Dr. Schuchart mentioned that the greatest risk to contracting measles at this time is actually in medical environments – hospitals, medical waiting rooms, etc.  She stressed that parents of unvaccinated children need to notify ambulance drivers that their child is not protected and to call ahead to hospital of doctor’s office to receive instructions on separate entrances and waiting areas.  Information about measles is available at http://www.cdc.gov/features/measles/.

The main thrust of this call was to promote vaccination.  It was stated during the call that about half of the 79 million children born in the 20 years of the VCF program has been eligible to receive their vaccines at no cost to the parents.  They stressed that by sending these vaccines out to private offices and keeping children in their ‘medical home’, there is better compliance with immunization policies.  She also stated that a new policy is for health care workers to obtain serologic evidence that they are protected from measles (i.e. a blood test.)  or to simply get another vaccine.  The same recommendation is being promoted for anyone traveling internationally, particularly to the Philippines.  There have been no measles deaths in the United States since at least 2005.

The Measles Outbreak is Not Jenny McCarthy’s fault: The first media question (from Fox News Radio) was whether comments made by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy are the reason parents are not vaccinating.  Dr. Shuchart’s response was no, that celebrities are not the greatest influence on a decision to vaccinate, that treating medical professionals are the strongest influence.  She went on to discuss the partnerships the CDC has with various organizations to provide tools for promoting immunization compliance.  A follow up question asked if the CDC had polling to indicate that doctors are increasingly complacent about vaccinating for measles. She indicated they do not, and reiterated that we have far less than 1 percent of children not immunized.

Mumps Component Not As Good:  A question was raised about the Mumps outbreak.  Dr. Schuchart’s response was that the outbreak is in vaccinated college students who live in ‘crowded’ environments and that unfortunately the mumps component is not as good as the measles component of the MMR vaccine.   One has to wonder what the CDC knows (and isn’t talking about) about the failure of the MMR to provide long term protection.

No Disclosure of Risks Associated with Vaccines:  There was no discussion on the call about the known side effects of the MMR vaccine, or who medically should not be vaccinated.  I quick reference to the MMR package insert finds,

When Not to Vaccinate:  The CDC provide Vaccine Information Sheet states provides the following instructions on who should not be vaccinated or who should delay vaccination:  “Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of MMR vaccine, should not get the vaccine. Anyone who had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of MMR or MMRV vaccine should not get another dose. Some people who are sick at the time the shot is scheduled may be advised to wait until they recover before getting MMR vaccine. Pregnant women should not get MMR vaccine. Pregnant women who need the vaccine should wait until after giving birth. Women should avoid getting pregnant for 4 weeks after vaccination with MMR vaccine. Tell your doctor if the person getting the vaccine: Has HIV/AIDS, or another disease that affects the immune system; Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids; Has any kind of cancer; Is being treated for cancer with radiation or drugs; Has ever had a low platelet count (a blood disorder); Has gotten another vaccine within the past 4 weeks; or Has recently had a transfusion or received other blood products. Any of these might be a reason to not get the vaccine, or delay vaccination until later.”

Known Risks Associated With MMR Vaccine:  Also provided on the CDC’s Vaccine Information Sheet is the following Admission that there are risks associated with the MMR vaccine.  “A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions… Fever (up to 1 person out of 6), Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20), Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75), If these problems occur, it is usually within 6-14 days after the shot…Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses), Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4), Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses), Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses), Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including: Deafness, Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness, Permanent brain damage.”  The CDC considers serious reactions very rare.

The MMR II Package Insert on the Merck Website warns not to vaccinate pregnant women as “Do not give M-M-R II to pregnant females; the possible effects of the vaccine on fetal development are unknown at this time.” And also warns not to vaccinate those who have a “hypersensitivity to any component of the vaccine, including gelatin. As well as Anaphylactic or anaphylactoid reactions to neomycin (each dose of reconstituted vaccine contains approximately 25 mcg of neomycin). Febrile respiratory illness or other active febrile infection”  Merck includes in this package insert (a document reviewed and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration) that among the adverse events reported include measles itself (MMR is a live virus vaccine, and any live virus vaccine has the slight possibility of causing the disease it is intended to protect against…the very reason we no longer use the oral polio vaccine in the USA), fever, dizziness, headach, malaise, vasculiltis, digestive system pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, lymphatic system thrombocytopenia, purpura, regional lymphadenopathy, anaphylaxis, musculoskeletal system arthritis, arthralgia, chronic arthritis (which is also possible from wild-type rubella).  Women are at higher risk for adverse and prolonged reactions in the joints (12-26%).  While rare, Encephalitis; encephalopathy; measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE); subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE); Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS); acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM); febrile convulsions; afebrile convulsions or seizures; ataxia; polyneuritis; polyneuropathy; ocular palsies; paresthesia have also been reported as well as death.  The package insert repeatedly states that a report of adverse event is not proof that the symptoms are caused by the vaccine.  However, the FDA would not require inclusion if the reports if there was not at least some concern that the vaccine was connected to the reaction. 

Taxpayer is paying for Health for the VICP Trust Fund:  As a follow up to the call, I reached out to the CDC Media office and asked for clarification on if the CDC pays the excise tax on the MMR vaccine.  During the call it had been mentioned that the CDC buys the vaccine at a discount and then distributes it.  The federal law that created the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) requires that an excise tax of 75 cents per antigen be paid to fund the VICP Trust Fund (the fund from which the few who make it successfully through the VICP are compensated.)  I received written confirmation, “Every purchaser pays the excise tax on the doses they purchase.  Yes, VFC funds pays excise tax on VFC vaccines.  Same is true for 317 funded doses with 317 funds paying the excise tax.  Of note, excise tax is 75 cents per antigen and not vaccine.  So, excise tax on MMR is $ 2.25/dose.”  What this means is that the taxpayer not only is paying for the vaccines for half of children in the United States, but is also funding half of the VICP Trust Fund.  This is the first instance I know of where the Federal Government is paying taxes to itself.  Are there other instances?

Will There Be Accurate Reporting:  Over the next week there will be a media blitz promoting vaccinations and discussing the measles outbreaks.  I wonder if the media will accurately report the true cause of the outbreak, or if they, like so many on social media will continue to blame parents who for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons have not vaccinated their children.  Given the CDC has confirmed that herd immunity is not at risk, this small number of Americans who have opted out of vaccines are not to blame, and should not be attacked.

Parental Rights Matter:  To be clear, I am not anti-vaccine. I believe that like most medicines, there is a time and place.  I also believe that we must be cautious with any medication given to pregnant women and children.  When I worked for Congress and was investigating vaccine injury issues, I found that vaccines had become so routine that parents and doctors were not as vigilant in looking at both the risks and benefits of these drugs.  As much as taxpayers are investing in vaccines, too little has been by industry (and government) in improving the safety of vaccines, in part because the public health community has spent the last 15 years intensely denying that vaccine injury.

Everyone I know who has opted out of vaccines, delayed or used an alternative schedule has done so with great through and concern.  They do not make this decision without reason. The final decision to immunize a child,  like all medical decisions  should remain in the hands of parents.  In this National Infant Immunization Week, may we remember that every child is unique, and that the decision to vaccinate must be based on that child’s personal and family history, the family’s religious and philosophical beliefs, and their environment – and that the final decision is the parents, not the governments and not the medical professionals in that child’s life.

The Full Moon and Holy Week

For Christians the world over, today, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and the last week of Lent. As a little girl, I was taught that Palm Sunday commemorated the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. I was taught that he rode in on a donkey and they people waved the palm branches and laid them on the ground to honor “He who came in the name of the Lord!” in the same tradition of those they held in high honor. Would these be the same people who called for his crucifixion later that same week? For active church goers, the week may have started off with a symbolic re-enactment of the Palm filled procession, with the cross bearer symbolizing Jesus, and will journey through the symbolism of Jesus being crucified, and being risen on Easter Sunday. Churches will have Sunrise services on Easter to celebrate Jesus rising from the tomb on the third day.

The timing of this holy week is closely aligned with the coming of spring. This year, after the long winter we have had, spring is as glorious as any I can recall. Somewhere over the course of our history, Easter became a time when, like the trees getting their new leaves, we all got new clothes, and as exciting as dying eggs, and getting jelly beans and chocolate, getting those new patent leather shoes and a pretty new spring dress complete with hat and lace gloves was equally exciting. Mingled in the religious traditions are the symbolisms of nature as well as materialism.

I am reminded that in two nights we will have a ‘blood red moon’ with the eclipse and that many consider this a dire warning of the fate of mankind. You and I could get caught up in this morbid, fear generating discussion, or we can celebrate that our Creator designed a world that is ordered, precise, and typically predictable. So predictable in fact that experts know centuries in advance the phases of the moon and when there will be lunar eclipses. We know that the sun will rise and that each day there is slightly more daylight than the day before as the season shifts from winter to spring and to then summer. I am also reminded of my time living in Jeddah during the holy season of Ramadan, a month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. It is the rising of the moon that ends their daily fast. After 30 days, the fast is broken when the first sliver of the crescent moon is spotted. Islam like Christianity and most religions has many traditions. The more I study, the more I find the common elements. Just as I can look up in the sky and know that my friends all around the world – from Abbeville to Houston and El Paso, from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to San Diego, from Baton Rouge to Amman and Bagdad are all looking up at that same moon.

Tonight, as I walked my dog under this magnificent full moon, encircled with a halo of its own, I felt the presence of God, and His love in every molecule of my breath. My days can be hectic and busy with calls, work, responsibilities, and a pages long ‘To Do’ list. So in moments like these when the night is quiet, the moon is high in the sky – my mind clears, my heart opens, and the Divine is there. Silly me, I know the Divine is always there, it is me that has the door to my heart closed, has my mind cluttered with the things that I think are important, and fills the hours of my days and nights with the stuff of life, forgetting that it is those moments that I recognize the presence of the Divine when I am truly living, feel truly and totally alive. And this is my wish for you this Holy Week, that no matter where in the world you are, no matter what religion or spiritual belief system, may you take the time this week to walk under this beautiful moon, clear and quiet your mind, open your heart and be aware of the Divine’s presence in your live, and our mutual love – a love that neither time nor distance can lessen.



On the Nature of Love and Friendship

A mere week ago was Valentine’s Day – the annual celebration of love.  I’m a huge romantic, so I fully appreciate what one of my favorite poets, Rumi wrote, “We are born of Love, Love is our mother.” 

For those of us not currently married or in a romantic relationship, we had a few choices on how to spend our February 14th.  We could:

  1. Have a pity party, complaining and residing in a negative place,
  2. Pull up the covers over our heads and hide from the world until the day passed, or
  3. Celebrate love in all its forms and be joyful for those who do have romance in their lives.

I decided last week to wait a few days before posting a new blog and during that time, I have had many blessed reminders of the various natures of love.  The list is long on the various types of love – obviously romantic love, but also the love a mother has for her children and grandchildren, a child for her  parent and grandparents, the love of siblings, cousins, and other relatives.  The love of all things beautiful, the love one has for her Creator, and the one I am going to focus on right now, the nature of love and friendship.

Friendship is sometimes defined as a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.  It is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association. There are many forms of friendship and certain characteristics are present in many types of friendship.  They include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding, and compassion, enjoying each other’s company, trust and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the other.

I am very fortunate to have traveled far wide and through my work met thousands maybe tens of thousands of people over the years.  I have friends I have known since I was six years old, whom I pretty much lost touch with after school until I joined Facebook.  The joy of those renewed friendships, even when we do not see each other often brings great joy and comfort in my life.  Those friendships helped create who I am as an adult.

I have people who came into my world professionally, and instantly bridged that world to personal friends.  Once many years ago I was on the stage at a major health conference with a panel of other speakers. I was there to talk about what we were working on in Congress, but I had an instant ‘connection’ with one of the other speakers and him with me.  A friendship was born on that podium and what I have termed the greatest taxi ride back to an airport in my life.  A ride we shared and in rapid fire discussion brought each other up to speed on our lives…as if we were meeting again after being apart for many years.  He has become a friend who I could tell anything to, who gives great advice, and never judges, who is now as much a brother as friend. We celebrate the joys, and lean on each other in the tough times and we co-create along our life paths.

There is the friend I met at a government meeting I was managing a year or two after my divorce, who I didn’t know had a book on the New York Times bestseller list.  All I saw at the time was a man wearing a really nice suit and Italian loafers who spoke in a South Carolina accent – a boy from home.  When we spoke, he never brought up anything about being famous, but instead we became fast friends. It was a couple of months later before I put together that he was the same guy my colleagues at work talked about, by then the fame didn’t get in the way of our friendship.  Over the years that friendship has stood the test of time and some rocky roads.  We may go a week, a month, or three months and not speak, and yet I know if I need a shoulder to cry on, someone to bounce an idea off of, or simply someone to make me laugh when the world irritates me, I can be sure the phone is going to ring and he will be on the other end of the phone calling me by his nickname for me.  And likewise, when its a full moon and he is in a mood to talk, I am there for him on the other end of the phone line, thousands of miles away, but right next door.

There are friends that I have made through my work whom I hold very dear, even though our friendship is limited to less personal matters, but for whom I would go to the ends of the earth to assist.

There are also the friends you love to grab a cup of coffee or lunch and catch up on girl talk with, the friends you most enjoy letting your hair down with.  There are friends who will join you in prayer and spiritual inquiry and friends who will drag you out dancing…and sometimes those are one and the same person!

And there are the friends who come into your life as you come down an escalator tired and rumpled from travel whose smile is not just on their lips but in their eyes – and that smile opens your heart to all the good and mysteries that the world has to offer.  Friends whom you don’t yet know the path your journey will take you, but for whom the miles do not matter.  Oh the joys and love in life that comes with friendship!

Who is the friend you first think of talking to when you have something exciting to share?

Maybe because we have had a February full of snow and gray days, and maybe just because it rings true, but I quite enjoy what Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

As we prepare to move from winter to spring, may we all be good gardeners for our friends.  I am in gratitude for all of my friends, old, new, renewed, and yet to blossom!  May we share the passions of life, joy and loving friendship!

Always – friends –  in love,


Living in Gratitude

The 2013-2014 winter season in the Washington, DC region has been one of the coldest in recent memory.  Early in the season I was grumbling at temperatures in the low 40s (Fahrenheit), today when the temperature rises above the freezing mark, it will seem almost warm considering the single digit temperatures and wind chill factors of much of the month of January.  I bring this up, because one of my goals for 2014 is to focus more on living in gratitude.  It is so easy in our crazy, stressful world to become cynical, to get wrapped up in complaining and focusing on the negative– because, it seems, everyone is complaining about something.  (And there are lots of things any of us can be complaining about!).  Complaining can be more contagious than the flu, and just like I take my Vitamin D3 and Silver, include more immune system supporting foods like onions, garlic, and citrus in my meals; I want to ward off catching the complaining bug by actively supporting living in gratitude.

In thinking about this concept, I can be grateful that the super cold weather will likely kill off invasive bugs that harm trees.  Trees as we all learned in elementary school play an important role in turning carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis.  And oxygen is essential to life!   I am also grateful for modern amenities such as electricity, heat pumps, the internet and my gloves!  These cold days and nights would be so much more challenging without them.  I am grateful for my west coast sister who calls to tease me that I need to move to San Diego where it is a mild 80 degrees.  After all, laughter makes every day better.

In thinking how challenging it has been to function in this cold weather, I am reminded that my father and his devoted wife Esther live on a farm on the top of a mountain five hours north of me in which every winter they have long stretches of weather much like this. The difference is they have horses that must be fed and tended to twice a day, and if a mare if foaling, more often than that.  I don’t know how Esther has managed all these decades, while also maintaining a job, and now caring for my father who is no longer able to help with the animals.  She does all this while also being very active in her church community, helping with the family apple orchard (first with her father and now with her brother) in the fall, and having a garden and other fruit trees from which she cans jams and vegetables in the summer.  I’m grateful that my father in finding Esther found a lasting stable relationship that has brought him joy and peace in his senior years, and that they have been able to live the country life in her home community.

I am grateful my mother’s health has improved over the last year since her surgery and since she gave up smoking (after more than 60 years).  I’m grateful that her talents with the creative arts such as quilting, crocheting and sewing keep her mind sharp and her hands nimble through these months, and give her purpose in her octogenarian years.

I am also incredibly grateful that I have the most amazing three sons and daughter on the planet!  They are smart, sassy, independent, healthy, and compassionate adults who are each finding their paths and passions.  I could not have been more blessed.  I am grateful that our Creator entrusted me with the privilege of being their mother.  The life lessons of parenthood and the shades of love that expanded in my being through this journey are a beautiful as any rose.

In thinking about the saying, darkest before the dawn, I believe I will have a tremendous appreciation for springtime in Washington and look forward to walking along the Tidal Basin when the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom.



Veterans Day – A Few Facts and Thoughts

November 11 – Veterans Day – What does it mean for you?  Is it simply a day off from work; a day not to get mail; this year the added bonus of a three day weekend; and a day to take advantage of Veterans’ Day sales?  There is nothing wrong with any of these, but will you also take time today, especially at 11 am, to remember those who have served our nation, put their lives at risk to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies?  Will you be participating in a local Veterans Day event – a parade or a ceremony?  Will you take time to tell a Veteran thank you today?  Are you flying a flag today?

History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, having been founded in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson as the first commemoration of the day in which the Allied nations and Germany when the armistice (temporary cessation of fighting) seven months before the official end of World War I.  The armistice went into effect at 11:00 on 11/11/1918.

President Wilson proclaimed: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”  It was designed to be a day in which local communities conducted parades, and public meetings and that all businesses would stop briefly at 11:00 in remembrance.

Congress would officially recognized Armistice Day with the passage of a concurrent resolution in June 1926.

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

In 1938, the 11 November was declared a legal holiday dedicated to the cause of world peace, and set aside to honor veterans of World War I.  In 1954, after World War II and the Korean Conflict, the word “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” and the day was expanded to honor all veterans.  The Secretary of the Veterans Administration was subsequently appointed Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee to insure the day continues to focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: “A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” (http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp)

Statistics on Veterans

The Veterans Administration is the second largest federal agency, with more than 300,000 employees.  The last of the 4.7 million World War I veterans have passed now.  Of the 16.1 million who served in World War II, 1.7 million are still with us.  This past summer, we lost one of these veterans, my dear friend, Clinton Ray Miller.

During the Korean War, 5.7 million who served, there are 2.275 million still with us.  Men and women like my father who grew up in the Depression, and now in their 80s and in declining health.  beth wtih dad1

In total between 1775 and 1991 more than 41.8 million Americans served in the military during war time.  (http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf)

 Modern Veterans

Do you realize that we have been at war for 12 years now?  We have men and women serving in at bases around the world.  This war is different than previous wars.  We are not fighting an enemy in uniform, officially representing a single or group of countries.

This is also a war without a draft.  We have relied heavily on our National Guard and Reserve Units.  These families have sacrificed much to have a father or mother – and sometimes both – deployed three or more times in the last 12 years.  For those in Special Forces Units, there have been 8-11 deployments.  This is a huge sacrifice to families and local communities where first responders were often also National Guard and were called up to active duty.

More than 2 million men and women deployed in the first 10 years of the Global War on Terror which began after we were attacked on 9-11-01.  More than 4,500 lost their lives in battle and more than 30,000 were wounded in action.  Because of the advances in battlefield medicine, many lives are saved under extraordinary conditions.  Men and women whose vehicles are blown up with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) survive, even with the loss of one or more limbs and serious brain injuries.

The Signature Injury:  More than 20% of the 2 million likely suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or a Traumatic Brain Injury (PTSD/TBI). What most of the public and even those in the military serve do not realize is that if you are close to an explosion, there is a concussive blast that everyone within close proximity is exposed and potentially injured by.  This is why so many have TBI – their brain was literally shaken up with each bomb blast.  The military has learned a lot and is now doing a much better job with ‘in the field’ evaluations.

Too many come home and self medicate with alcohol or other substances or get lost into  the cycle of off label prescribing of psych meds, all with black box warnings of suicide risk.  I heard on a news report last week that we lose another veteran to suicide ever 65 minutes.   This does not have to be.  We have not lost more veterans to suicide than we lost on the battlefield.

For someone who has watched my colleague, Dr. William Duncan devote the last 12 years of his life to making hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at 1.5 ata (the Harch Protocol) available to our war wounded, and seeing those in positions to make this available system-wide stand as barriers rather than facilitators, I am beyond frustrated.

HBOT 1.5 ata is oxygen delivered under slight pressure, is safe, effective and has an evidence base.  HBOT has been accepted for Medicare reimbursement and is routinely used for altitude sickness and ‘the bends’ in the military.  Tricare has reimbursed for some treatment but not all.

I have witnesses military medical leadership deny its benefit, tell Congress it cannot be adopted because it is ‘off label’ – a standard which if adopted would curtail the use of about 60% of medications within the VA/DOD health system including all but one of the anti-depressants being used with PTSD patients.  I’ve observed that the government was willing to fund and conduct poorly designed studies rather than work with a nation-wide network of established network of hyperbaric facilities.

I have also talked to numerous veterans and active duty military members at all levels of rank who have benefited from HBOT.  One officer I spoke with went through the best military medicine, but did not recover from his TBI.  He shared that with one medication, he for the first time thought about suicide.  It was only after he accessed HBOT, several years after his injury and forced retirement that he began to have recovery.

I also met a Navy Seal whose military career was saved after a training accident with the use of  HBOT.  He recovered and returned to a war zone, numerous times to be awarded some of the highest medals of valor for his acts.  I have seen the studies and data showing not only recover from brain injury but recovery of lots IQ points.  The 15 points recover is according to Dr. Duncan the difference in someone struggling to graduate high school and going on to graduate from college.

You may have seen the good work of my friend, Dr. Frank Lawlis with veterans using HBOT and other therapies on the Dr. Phil show.  His clinic in Texas (http://www.lawlispeavey.com/) is truly innovative and doing tremendous work.

If you want to learn more, or know someone that is living with PTSD and/or TBI, please visit International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation:  http://www.hyperbaricmedicalfoundation.org/.

I have a personal vision that HBOT can become a part of ‘material’ command – that all returning troops can receive HBOT and peer to peer counseling in the last 30 days of deployment as they are packing gear and equipment and preparing for their return stateside.  Such a plan would dramatically improve the health and well-being of our troops.

 Volunteers Making a Difference

There are many organizations that help veterans.  In every community around the country there are American Legion, VFW and DAV chapters.  They do amazing work in helping veterans and family members.  When I am on Capitol Hill, I am always impressed that it is members of these groups that come to Washington to push legislators to help veterans.  They engage and lead by example.  (http://www1.va.gov/vso/VSO-Directory_2012-2013.pdf)

One group that I would like to give a shout out to is the Twilight Brigade. (http://thetwilightbrigade.com/)  Their Chairman, Dannion Brinkley is a good friend, a USMC veteran and someone who walks the talk.  The Twilight Brigade was founded in the late 1990s to train volunteers to serve at the bedside of dying veterans.  Based in California they have chapters across the country and have trained more than 6,000 volunteers.  Too many of our veterans have no one to visit with them when they are in nursing homes and hospice units.  Volunteers like the Twilight Brigade improve those last months, weeks and days.  As someone who is a trained hospice  volunteer, I found the Twilight Brigade training was a tremendous supplement to the standard training.

The last time I was in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of seeing the Terry Fator Show (http://terryfator.com/).  He is an amazing talent, and the show made better knowing that he contributes the proceeds from the sales of the store outside his theater to veterans’ organizations like the Twilight Brigade.

 One of the Greatest Bids Adieu  

This past month, Congressman CW Bill Young of Florida passed away after more than 50 years of public service.  A high-school dropout born and raised in Pennsylvania, Congressman Young moved to the St. Petersburg area in 1945. He served in the Florida National Guard from 1948 to 1957, and was honorably discharged as a master sergeant.  After serving at the state level, he ran for Congress in 1970 and was re-elected 22 times.  At 82 years of age, he had announced his intention to retire after this term, but was hospitalized and later succumbed to a chronic injury related to the  back injury received in a plane crash in 1970.

Congressman Young was one of the ‘good guys’ on Capitol Hill.  He fought hard to improve health care at military and veterans facilities.  He used his position on the Appropriations to fund beach preservation activities and medical research.  Whomever is elected in his seat will have big shoes to fill.

As I was thinking about what I would write today, I realized that the last three of our Presidents, men who served as Commanders in Chief, never saw combat.  In fact, President Obama never served in the military.  As the 2016 presidential field begins to form, I for one hope that we have among the field of contenders  a few men and women who have served in uniform and know from personal experience the meaning of war.  I also hope that we elect more veterans into the House and Senate.

To veterans and their families and especially Elliott, Nathan, Gil, Dannion, Wayne, Steve, Ernie, Dan, Pat, Robert, Rob, William, and Luis – thank  you.



Musings on Gratitude

Gratitude: (1) A feeling of thankfulness or appreciation. (2) The quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.

The great American writer Henry Van Dyke wrote, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” These past few months I have reflected a great deal on the importance of gratitude. It is very easy to get wrapped up with all that is wrong with the world and the endless tasks before us for work and household and forget to look up at the sky as the sun sets and appreciate the colors created by the light reflecting on the clouds. By consciously seeking the positive, taking the time to look up, I find a connection to the Universe that fills me with appreciation of all that is, and the wonders and mysteries of nature.

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of traveling back to my hometown and attending my high school reunion. Driving into the town square that Friday afternoon brought back a rush of memories and a realization that there were numerous changes in this small town. Many of the mercantile establishments have closed, some vacant and for sale, and others replaced with new businesses. The economic challenges the Washington pundits talk about on the news shows is a stark reality in small towns across the country, including my hometown. The old diner is now a Chinese restaurant (which also sells jewelry in the window). My father’s last law office in the Opera House is now a Court Clerk’s office.

The historic hotel next to the Opera House is under new ownership and a new small monument honoring the daughter of a local family sits close to the monument of a famous war hero. There is a story there which one day I will learn.

The Winn Dixie Grocery Store Building down South Main Street, where my mother used to sign a check and send me to do the shopping and to buy her cartons of Kent cigarettes after I got my licensen is now the County Library. (And after 60+ years, she has finally stopped smoking – something for which I am most grateful.)

The weather was cold when we drove to the football stadium, bringing back memories of dozens of football games in high school sitting on the side lines as part of the marching band, cheering on our beloved panthers. I was told that the team was having a tough season, but that was not evident this night. They were victorious with a final score of 55-0 as a beautiful young lady was crowned Homecoming Queen. I live in the ‘politically correct’ world of the Washington, DC metro area, and was delighted that the tradition of a public prayer and Star Spangled Banner being sung before the game remained. God, Country, Family, Friends and Football – it was an amazing night.

Saturday about a third of our class and some spouses came together at a local country club for our reunion. The evening began with a walk down memory lane; Mary Lyn shared the names of the classmates who had passed – each story a tragedy of a light gone out too soon because of addiction, cancer, accidents, illness, and suicide.

The evening comments had a focus on gratitude. I believe the words of Aesop, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls” ring true when I recall the comments of David S. and Nathan T. David talked about being grateful for the leadership lessons of a high school football coach who understood that football and team sports is not just about playing a game (and winning), but about building character, inspiring dreams, and providing leadership training on the field and the locker room. Nathan T. shared memories of teachers and family members who helped him grow from the class cut up to one of our most loved classmates. Nathan might have chosen a life in ministry, he is a natural, but instead swore and oath to protect and defend, put on a Air Force uniform and served our country with distinction, all while he and his wife raised a child with autism. He could be bitter and angry, but instead he teaches us with his inspiring words about gratitude and the Divine.

Facebook has become an amazing tool for reconnecting with friends and sharing thoughts and events. Some of my friends are posting daily thoughts on gratitude throughout November leading up to Thanksgiving Day. I find them inspiring.

Growing up in this small southern town I had many great teachers – the lessons that stand out the most are not the history and grammar lessons, but the life lessons on character, integrity, and faith. One of my best friends growing up, Margaret, was not at this reunion. She likely does not know how grateful I am for her lasting friendship growing up, how she helped me keep my sanity when my family was splintered by a nasty divorce and subsequent tragedy a few years later. She was always resolute that I could get through the craziness and come out the other end with my sanity and my dreams intact. She was at times my rudder and at other times my life raft.  Other friends, Emma Jo, Caroline, and Nancy Jean were unable to attend due to personal or family illness. They too  were missed.

Carl Jung said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” The warmth of these and other friendships indeed has been and remains a vital element for the soul of This Child.

35 class reunion

Thank you.