Friday, March 25, 2016

What is Lyme Disease?

Australia has lots of ticks but Lyme-type diseases in Australia seem to be caused by a different organism to that seen in North America -- so the same therapy does not work

"I’VE been diagnosed with Lyme disease but no one believes me," my patient says, handing me a thick pile of blood test results from America.

I’m immediately concerned. She’s obviously unwell and looking for answers, but I’ve seen patients with similar results and I’m worried she’s being scammed.

Lyme disease is real, but there’s no scientific proof that it’s occurring in Australia. My patient has never travelled to an area known to have Lyme disease, so I know she’s been given the wrong information somewhere along the line.

Borrelia is the cause of Lyme disease and this bacteria is transmitted to humans via tick bites in North America and Europe.

My patient explained that after months of fatigue, muscle pain and headaches she wasn’t getting anywhere with her usual doctor. In desperation, she consulted Dr Google and quickly diagnosed herself with Lyme.

She read internet forums and learned about a "Great Australian Lyme Conspiracy", where regular doctors don’t believe that Lyme even exists, but she felt hopeful when she discovered the name of a charismatic Lyme practitioner.

She travelled a long way to attend his Lyme clinic and he backed up her diagnosis. He explained that local pathology labs never gave correct results, but a special lab in America would confirm their fears.

She sent her blood overseas and paid more than a thousand dollars to receive a positive diagnosis of Lyme disease from an unaccredited lab.

Pathology labs in Australia are asked to comply with strict guidelines. They’re closely monitored and accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), an organisation that ensures patients receive accurate results.

Patients who’ve been bitten by ticks in Australia have their blood tested at accredited labs all the time, but so far we haven’t seen a test come back positive for Borrelia infection.

Lyme activists will tell you that NATA-accredited labs don’t detect Borrelia because their machines aren’t sensitive enough to pick it up. The truth is that unaccredited labs aren’t specific enough, and tend to deliver positive results for Borrelia whether you’ve got Lyme disease or not.

My patient was told that Borrelia was all through her body, eating her joints and rotting her brain, and her Lyme practitioner recommended a long course of high-dose antibiotics.

Panicked by this horrific news and desperate to get her old Lyme-free life back, she obediently commenced treatment. Six months on and feeling much worse than when she’d started, she attended my clinic looking for more help.

When this all began, she was definitely sick. Australians are getting a mysterious illness from tick bites all the time. We don’t know what it is, but we know it’s not Lyme.

Lyme activists are not known to be scientific, but are known to be politically powerful. In 2013 they pressured the Australian government to investigate Lyme disease and in response, the Chief Medical Officer formed the Clinical Advisory Committee on Lyme disease (CACLD).

In 2014 the CACLD concluded that there was "no routine finding of Borrelia in ticks in Australia" and recommended that further research was necessary to find a cause of this mysterious illness affecting Australians. An updated statement was released in February 2016 by the Department of Health, reiterating that "so far there is no conclusive evidence of a causative agent in Australia".

It’s already bad enough that Australian patients are provided with unvalidated results, but even if they were infected with Borrelia, the therapy offered by Lyme practitioners doesn’t follow therapeutic guidelines.

Using up to four weeks of antibiotics is the treatment recommended to eradicate Borrelia. This makes most people feel better, but some patients continue to feel unwell after Borrelia is long gone. This is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and is caused by the bacteria triggering the immune system to cause chronic inflammation.

Local patients don’t get better from their first month of antibiotics (because they don’t have Lyme disease) so some practitioners try harder and increase the dose or extend the treatment for 12 months or more, and it still doesn’t work.

My patient fell into this camp. She felt worse than when she’d started treatment and I diagnosed her with severe jaundice due to drug-induced hepatitis. In other words, she was bright yellow because the high-dose antibiotics were causing liver failure.

I sent her straight to hospital in an attempt to save her liver and her life.

She was definitely unwell to begin with, but science is yet to confirm the cause of her mysterious tick-borne disease. Treating her blindly for Lyme was not the right way to go.

Political pressure from Lyme activists has resulted in a Senate Inquiry which is now underway. I’m hopeful that the Senate will uncover the actual ‘Great Australian Lyme Conspiracy’, where vulnerable patients are being scammed with expensive unaccredited tests, where unscientific and untruthful diagnoses are handed out, and where inappropriate and bogus treatments are endangering the lives of already unwell people.

Please note that this information is not an opinion, but has been written in consultation with some of Australia’s leading infectious disease physicians and pathologists.

Let’s end the conspiracy and work together to find the true cause of this mysterious illness with science-based medicine. It’s only then that we might be able to find a cure.


We'll take back Iranians with pride: Zarif

Iran will take back failed asylum seekers "with pride" but only if they return voluntarily from Australia. 

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop held wide-ranging formal talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Canberra on Tuesday during the first visit by a senior Iranian minister in 13 years.  The pair discussed combating people-smuggling, boosting trade ties and global security issues.

Following the meeting, Dr Zarif said it was within Canberra's legal right to deport Iranians.

"We cannot force anybody to come back to Iran but if anybody wants to come back voluntarily, we always take our citizens with pride," he told reporters.

The prospects of securing a deal for the mandatory return of 9000 failed asylum seekers to Iran is looking slim with negotiations still in early stages.

A group of 30 Iranian democracy supporters rallied on the lawns of Parliament House protesting human rights abuses and the execution of political prisoners including women and children.

"Our message to the foreign minister is clear, stop the hangings in Iran, stop killing innocent people," spokesman Mohammad Sadeghpour told AAP.

Dr Zarif said he was happy to talk about human rights but warned about the need for a more serious approach to discussions.

"Where human rights does not become an instrument of political pressure," he said.

Ms Bishop also raised Iran's controversial missile tests - namely the political circumstances surrounding the timing and how Iran was being perceived by the global community.

She said the proper legal process was for the UN Security Council to consider the matter.


Australia's boom made everybody richer but inequality remained

It's highly likely that you can't have it both ways. The poor don't create economic growth.  Rich people do. And "The poor ye always have with you"

Australia's 25 years of sustained economic growth in a highly unpredictable and volatile global economic environment is truly remarkable and unprecedented at the world stage. The country's outstanding run, however, stands out alongside increased public concern that poverty has remained  high and increasing, particularly for certain population groups.

The Poverty Report published in 2014 by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reports that 2.55 million Australian residents lived below the poverty line in 2012.  This is about 14 per cent of all Australian residents in 2012.

One widely held view has been that Australia's economic growth does not reach the poor as fully as it does other members of society. This demands the question, "How good has Australia's economic growth been for the poor?"

To set the scene, an overview of significant economic events from that point on is instructive. In 1993, Australia was just coming out of a deep recession, and the Hawke-Keating government led recovery by continuing on with the economic liberalisation reforms that lifted the economy up in the mid-1980s. 

When the Liberals were voted to power in 1996, the Howard government moved swiftly to reduce government expenditure, prioritise a return to budget surplus and instigate industrial relations reforms to further speed up economic recovery. The short-term pains that accompanied these reforms were rationalised as unfortunate but necessary for achieving economic efficiencies critical for the long-term growth performance of the economy.

It was apparent that equity was less important as a reform goal, despite the political rhetoric.

In the 1990s, Australia's economic performance was characterised by low inflation targeting and high productivity. The first is a lesson learned from the last recession, and the latter is a result obtained from a long process of labour pro-market reforms dating back from the 1980s and which culminated in a formal shift towards enterprise bargaining early on in the Howard regime. Australia grew strongly under these policies. Towards the end of the decade, the country's economic growth was quite robust so much so that the economy got through the severe Asian financial crises of 1998 virtually unscathed.
Tax and mining

In the 2000s, the Australian economy continued to grow strongly on the back of a successful tax reform program introduced in the early years, and the Australian mining boom. Experts estimate the boom to have officially started in 2004, when Australian minerals had a surge in commodity prices and a tremendous increase in the trade of terms, particularly with China.

A second stage is identified to have begun in late 2005, when sustained international demand for our minerals led mining companies to reinvestment their superprofits by opening up new mines, building new infrastructure and acquiring/developing new technologies – all to accommodate growth in demand. It is this capital investment stage that is known to have peaked in 2013, and signalled the end of the mining boom. Through that 2004 to 2013 period, Australia had a change of government.

As well, the global recession of 2008 seriously threatened the stability of the economy.  The Australian economy, however, continued to grow through all these hurdles, albeit at reduced rates. Fact is, the economy did so well that Australia topped the list of countries that were least affected by the global financial crisis, where this included China, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden among others.
Gap grows wider

So, back to the question: Is Australia's growth good for the poor? Our research investigations show that between 1993 and 2009, mean household incomes steadily increased by 76 per cent or 4.7 per cent per annum. So incomes were growing as the economy was growing.  Our calculations, however, also reveal that economic inequality – the gap between the rich and the poor, as measured by the Gini coefficient – increased by 8.6 per cent over that same period.

A deeper look into this showed that inequality levels worsened relatively slowly between 1993 and 2003, at a total overall rate of just 2.4 per cent for the entire 11-year period (or about 0.22 per cent each year); while inequality levels rose sharply by 8.6 per cent overall between 2003 and 2009 (this translates to a 1.4 per cent increase in inequality level each year in that  six-year period). So, the gap between the rich and the poor increased as the economy grew, and it increased more sharply after the global financial crisis.

With regards to poverty, our calculations show that national poverty rates appeared steady at 11 per cent between 1993 and 2010, but in fact, poverty estimates followed a U-curve path during that 17-year period. More specifically, we found that poverty rates decreased by 10 per cent between 1993 and 1998; but from 1998 to 2010, poverty rates increased by about 0.6 per cent per annum or a total of 6.4 per cent. This latter 13-year period can be further divided into 1998-2003 and 2004-09, where the second period incorporates the global recession of 2008.

Our calculations show that poverty rates increased during both four-year periods, but it is curious to find  that the increase in poverty rates during the recession-free period of 1998-2003 was larger than the increase in poverty rates observed in the recession-riddled period of 2003-09.

Proper econometric analysis needs to be undertaken to determine any causal effects of growth on poverty and inequality, but these results from our initial explorations are telling. Overall, we find that average household incomes increased as the economy grew in the 1990s, but economic inequality also increased through the period.

Poverty rates appeared to have decreased with growth in the early years, but this did not last, presumably because the global crisis dominated outcomes in the economy including an increase in overall poverty levels in the last few years.
The lessons

What do these tell us about long-run growth and poverty reduction?  First is that economic growth is a powerful instrument for reducing poverty. Empirical evidence supports this statement and the experience of many advanced and emerging countries demonstrate the powerful influence that growth can have on poverty alleviation.   Second is that inequality can worsen as the economy grows.

This is what we find for Australia, and it implies that the income of poor households grew slower than the growth of average income, and/or that the income of the rich grew faster than the average income. Third is that economic growth is not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. As we can see in Australia, poverty can increase even whilst the economy is growing.

For any government, it is very clear that the aim to reduce poverty levels over a desired period of time must have, at its core, measures to promote rapid and sustained economic growth.


Some refugees refused asylum in Australia over security concerns

Some people wanting to come to Australia under the expanded refugee program have been flagged as security risks, Justice Minister Michael Keenan says.

The Abbott government last year pledged to take 12,000 extra refugees from Iraq and Syria as part of a one-off intake.

As of last week, fewer than 30 refugees had been resettled in Australia under the program, although about 9,000 people were partway through the security check process.

Mr Keenan told the ABC today strict security checks had been put in place to ensure no-one viewed as a risk would be granted asylum in Australia.

He could not provide a number of those refused asylum, but said the number was "relatively minimal".

"I understand there's been a couple of people ... flagged within that process and again the Australian people should be reassured that [when] 12,000 do arrive in Australia, [they] have been rigorously vetted and they will not pose any security risk."


SA Police settle homeless man’s $100,000 brutality lawsuit out of court, second man now missing

ONE of two homeless men who were bashed by a baton-wielding SA Police officer in the city has received an out-of-court settlement — while the other has gone missing.

On Thursday, the Adelaide Magistrates Court heard Christopher John Mackie had been offered a settlement in his $100,000 lawsuit.

All that remains is for Mr Mackie — who left SA and has refused to return, still fearful after his ordeal — to sign off on the offer.

However his friend, Shaun Robert Jones, will receive no money after the court dismissed his claim for want of prosecution.  The court was told Mr Jones went missing in Alice Springs last October, and the search for him had since been called off.

Last year, Mr Jones and Mr Mackie filed excessive force and assault compensation claims against SA Police and Constable Matthew Schwarz.

The lawsuits arose from an incident at Whitmore Square in
December 2012, which was filmed by Channel 7 and, when shown on television and, caused a public furore.

Mr Jones and Mr Mackie were charged over the incident and, at trial, Const Schwarz admitted striking them repeatedly because he feared his weapon “wasn’t working”.

The court condemned his evidence, threw out the charges and ordered SA Police pay $35,000 in court costs.

On Thursday Andrew Carpenter, for the men, said Mr Mackie’s claim was close to being resolved.  “We have reached an in-principle settlement and need only for the terms to be finalised,” he said.

“We have the difficulty of trying to get instructions from our client, who has since last year moved to a remote part of Australia.  “He’s quite scared of returning to the state based on the assault.”

Mr Carpenter asked for six weeks to obtain his client’s signature, and said he could “neither reject nor agree to” SA Police’s application to dismiss Mr Jones’ claim.

“We’ve had no instructions ... I was advised by Mr Mackie in October last year that Mr Jones was missing,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with missing persons in the NT, multiple times, and of late they had called off the search.”

Magistrate Brionny Kennewell granted the adjournment, dismissed Mr Jones’ claim and refused SA Police’s application for costs.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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