Thursday, April 22, 2010

Study Shows Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet Works?

According to a recently published study, the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet may work.  I did not read this study yet so I am not sure of all of the details, but I do know that this is the longest (2 year) and largest (72 children) of the GFCF diet done so far.  And, according to the abstract, the study authors are tentatively saying that the group on the diet showed a significant improvement on a number of measures.

It will be interesting to see what this study actually says.


The ScanBrit randomised, controlled, single-blind study of a gluten- and casein-free dietary intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Whiteley P, Haracopos D, Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Parlar S, Jacobsen J, Seim A, Pedersen L, Schondel M, Shattock P.

There is increasing interest in the use of gluten- and casein-free diets for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We report results from a two-stage, 24-month, randomised, controlled trial incorporating an adaptive 'catch-up' design and interim analysis. Stage 1 of the trial saw 72 Danish children (aged 4 years to 10 years 11 months) assigned to diet (A) or non-diet (B) groups by stratified randomisation. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS) were used to assess core autism behaviours, Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales (VABS) to ascertain developmental level, and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - IV scale (ADHD-IV) to determine inattention and hyperactivity. Participants were tested at baseline, 8, and 12 months. Based on per protocol repeated measures analysis, data for 26 diet children and 29 controls were available at 12 months. At this point, there was a significant improvement to mean diet group scores (time*treatment interaction) on sub-domains of ADOS, GARS and ADHD-IV measures. Surpassing of predefined statistical thresholds as evidence of improvement in group A at 12 months sanctioned the re-assignment of group B participants to active dietary treatment. Stage 2 data for 18 group A and 17 group B participants were available at 24 months. Multiple scenario analysis based on inter- and intra-group comparisons showed some evidence of sustained clinical group improvements although possibly indicative of a plateau effect for intervention. Our results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcome for some children diagnosed with ASD. In the absence of a placebo condition to the current investigation, we are, however, unable to disqualify potential effects derived from intervention outside of dietary changes. Further studies are required to ascertain potential best- and non-responders to intervention. The study was registered with, number NCT00614198.

PMID: 20406576 [PubMed - in process]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Analyzing the Media's Interest (aka Joseph's Folly)

Yesterday I wrote a rebuttal to something that Joseph posted at Natural Variations.  Joseph was trying to show that the media was loosing interest in the so-called "antivax" movement and used a chart he made up to prove his point.  I thought his analysis was  flawed and pointed it out to him but he obviously felt his analysis was valid.

So I did what every sarcastic person would do and wrote a rebuttal  here that tried to point out how silly his analysis was.  I did this by doing a similar analysis on the topic of neurodiversity.  What I wrote was what meant to be a tongue in cheek analysis of how disinterested the media was in the neurodiversity movement (fortunately for most people with autism, the media seems to have very little interest in playing up autism as some sort of gift).

Joseph saw what I wrote and responded with a misinterpretation of what I said.  He seemed to think that I reproduced his initial result, even though I thought I was quite clear that I felt the entire analysis was bogus. I did not initially go into any great detail at the time about what was wrong with what he was saying, but since he has chosen to continue the error, I though it might be a good idea to show exactly where his analysis is flawed.

So, lets me start at the beginning at the root of the problem, the raw data that Joseph used in his analysis.  The data was obtained by doing simple searches on Google news archive for specific search terms.  Each term was searched for a specific year (1997 to present), and the number of articles per year was collected.  Using Google news archive as a source of data is the first major problem and, in my opinion, makes his entire analysis almost meaningless.

The problem, simply put, is consistency.  If you are looking at how a specific value changes over time, you had best be measuring the same thing for each data point.  The problem with Google news archive is that the media sources that go into it change quite frequently.  If you search for articles in 1997 it might use 100 sources (as an example), but the same search for 2007 could be looking in 500 sources.  These source might have some overlap between the two periods or they could be completely different.

The other problem with Google news archive is that it might not be representative of the media as a whole.  Some major publishers have decided to exclude their materials from the archive while others, such as the Associate Press, might be included multiple times due to syndication. Yet another problem would be that a source such as the New York Times would have as much weight as some random small town paper in the article count, or possibly more.  Quality doesn't count, just quantity.

The end result is a lack of a consistent data set.  Each year worth of data is likely coming from a different set of publishers and no two years would be measuring the same thing.  If you are trying to look at a trend, you want to be measuring the same thing for each data point.

A much better approach would have been to pick several large media organizations that have been in business since at least 1997 and look at the number of articles that each of these published on the subjects over the years.  This approach would have a consistent set of sources, eliminate duplications, and would allow less credible outlets to be excluded.

So the problem is that Joseph is not comparing apples to apples and his yearly numbers don't even represent the same thing each year.  Garbage in, garbage out.

But lets set that problem aside for a moment and look at the actual raw numbers.  The numbers below represent the number of articles per year from Google News Archive that come up for the search terms "autism" and "autism and vaccine". Please note that value from 2010 is an estimate that I created using the values to date from 2010. I used a relatively simple way of estimating but it should be accurate enough for these purposes.


The question before us is whether the media is become more or less interested in the vaccine/autism connection, and to do that we need to assess whether the interest is growing, declining, or staying the same.

Just looking at the raw numbers above, a few things are clear.

First, the number of articles about autism has exploded , increasing more than tenfold since 1997.  But do you notice the increases in 1998 and 2007?  Each of those is about a 60 percent increase (61%, 56%) and I have to wonder if they are caused by changes of data sources in Google news archive.

Second, the number of vaccine/autism articles has grown as well.  The values start out relatively small and grow rather rapidly until they reach their first peak in 2002-2004.  The value then drops drastically the next year and stays low for two years before bouncing back beyond its former peak in 2008.  The following two years go down slightly, but still are higher than the last peak in 2002-2004.  Again, I have to wonder if the sharp drop in 2005 and the equally sharp rise in 2008 aren't results of changes in Google news archive.

If you look at the chart below, the trend in vaccine/autism articles is clear.  The number of vaccine/autism articles is going up with time.  I added a simple three period moving average to the chart to show the general trend of the numbers (a moving average smooths out the irregularities in the data and helps to show the general direction).

If we were just measuring interest by number of articles, there is clearly an increase in interest over time.  But Joseph went beyond this, so lets keep going.

If you remember what the two sets of numbers represent, you will see that the vaccine/autism set is a subset of the total autism set.  Or in other words, the vaccine/autism articles are only a part of the total interest in autism.  So lets look at the total number of vaccine/autism articles compared to the autism articles to see if there is a relationship.

As you can see, these two number tend to move together. When there are more articles about autism there are more about vaccine/autism and, when there are less about autism, there tend to be less about vaccines/autism. One of the ways you can measure this relationship is with a correlation, and these two data sets are highly correlated (~ 0.76).

So we know the topics tend to move together, so the next question is what is the overall trend for both sets?

There are clearly more articles for both sets as time goes on, but is there consistent pattern of growth in the number of articles, showing an increasing interest, or is there a slowdown, showing a decrease?  One way to measure this is to look at the year over year change of each value, expressed as a percentage.  If interest in a topic is growing, you expect to positive growths each each.

As you can see from the above chart, both topics seem to increase most years. The vaccines/autism shows growth in 9 of the 13 years while the autism topic in general has growth 11 of the past 13 years. The average yearly growth for vaccines/autism is 44% and the average growth for autism is 23%.  It would have been nice to see a more consistent patter of growths (percents all trending  up or down), but the real world isn't as clean as that.

So we have an overall increasing number of articles and most years are showing a positive growth, so why does Joseph think that interest in vaccine/autism is shrinking?  The answer is that he didn't directly answer that question, he answered a different one. 

If you remember, the question is whether the media is becoming less interested in writing about the possible vaccine/autism connection, and Joseph used a chart similar to the one below to show that it was.

But look closely at what the chart actually shows, and you will see the trick.

The chart isn't showing you the trend in the vaccine/autism articles.

What the chart shows is the relationship between the number of vaccine/autism articles and the total number of autism articles.  So, the question that Joseph is answering is whether the number of vaccine/autism articles is growing as fast as (or faster than) then total number of articles about autism.  And the answer to that question is that the vaccine/autism articles - as a percentage of all articles - is going down.

But that wasn't the question.  If the number of autism articles were constant, or changing slightly, then this analysis might make sense.  But, if you look at the raw numbers above, you can see that the autism numbers are growing rapidly.

Lets me make this simple.  On the chart above for 2002, you can see the value is almost 18 (17.6 to be exact), that value is a percentage.  Look at the value for 2009, the value is about 6 percent.  This is the trick, which value is larger?  Did the number of articles (interest) increase or decrease between these two time periods?  If you just consider the percent values on the chart, you would think that you have less interest in 2009 and 2002.  But, in reality, the number of articles in 2009 was 10% higher than 2002, not lower - yet Joseph would have you believe that there was a drop in interest between those two years.

Percentages can only be compared if they have the same denominator.  In this case, the denominators aren't even close and the result is the analysis is skewed.

Let me make this even simpler, which is more - 20% of 100 or 10% of 400?  (Hint, the 10% is more)

So what is the answer to the real question?  Is the media's interest in the vaccine/autism story growing, shrinking, or staying the same?  The chart below should tell you the answer.

The number of autism articles  has been growing quickly, but the overall interest in the vaccine/autism articles has not been shrinking.  As a matter of fact, if you look a the numbers above, you can see that the interest in the vaccine/autism topic has also been growing slightly, just not as fast as the autism topic as a whole.

Joseph's analysis is simply wrong.

Rethinking Autism

How many times have you heard that autism is genetic or that autism is present from birth? I know I run across those statements quite often when I read stories about autism in the media and even in scientific studies. But the more I read, the more I have to wonder if statements like these are correct.  Is autism somehow a part of who a person is or is it rather a condition that develops in response to the interaction between a person's genes and the environment?

Why is it that, after years and years of searching for the genetic culprits behind autism, we still have no clear picture as to what genetic changes could be responsible for the majority of cases of autism.  Sure, we have found some changes that are in some tiny group (1% - 2%) that might play some role in autism.  If you add up all of these small groups, you might make it to 10% or 20% of all cases but that is a big if built on the back of an even larger maybe.

Overall, the idea that autism is predominately genetic has not gotten us very far in our pursuit to understand what autism is and how it can be treated or cured. The good news is that some scientists are (finally) seeing the problem and research is slowly shifting from genetic based studies toward ones that look more at the biology and possible environmental triggers of autism.

Consider this opinion article that was just published in the online journal Autism Insights that talks about the preconceived notion that autism is psychiatric condition, present from birth, and how this idea has held back research into the cause, prevention, or cure of autism. I think the conclusion of the article summarizes the problem better than I could ever hope to and, since the article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, I am including the text below. Enjoy.


Reconceptualizing Autism: Moving Beyond the Behavioral to Address Cause, Cure and Prevention
Kerrie Shandley and David W. Austin
Autism Insights 2010:2 25-30

Conclusion -

Some 70 years have passed since autism was first identified, yet we are no closer to understanding what it is caused by, nor how the condition may be cured or prevented. We argue that this lack of progress is at least partially attributable to Kanner and the manner in which he conceptualized autism as a parentally-mediated psychopathology. Why do we need to be concerned about this? Simply put, autism is a devastating condition, lifelong in duration, with the majority of afflicted individuals requiring supported living arrangements. The majority of sufferers will never engage in meaningful employment, marry nor have children, and cannot engage in meaningful conversation. Autism affects not only the individual, but the family unit and community as a whole.

To avoid simply treading the same unfruitful path of the previous 70 years, we would suggest an urgent revision of autism as a disease state such that its operationalization in major diagnostic systems such as the DSM and International Classification of Diseases recognizes biological variables known to be associated with autism. The affect of this would be to facilitate a more multi-disciplinary and inclusive range of health disciplines to research the biological bases of autism. Improving our understanding of these bases is a fundamental way of addressing the touchstones of medical research into autism; cause, cure, prevention and treatment.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Media's Interest in the Neurodiversity Movement

Over at the Natural Variation blog, Joseph has a post up where he is trying to say that the "anti-vax" movement is losing steam. Ignoring for a moment the pejorative label "anti-vax", the idea behind the post is that media is losing interest in stories about a possible connection between vaccines and autism and the number of submissions to VAERS claiming autism is falling.

I think both measures are of questionable value, to say the least. Google news archive only includes selected sources while ignoring others, such as blogs or sites behind paywalls, so it can hardly be though of as an accurate measure of interest. As for VAERS, it wasn't meant to do this sort of tracking nor is it an accurate measure of all children who had a reaction to a vaccine - especially for controversial relationships like autism.

Or in other words, Joseph's charts don't show anything meaningful.

But, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I decided to do my own version of Joseph's analysis, this time on the media's interest in the neurodiversity movement. So without further ado, here are two pretty charts for you to look at.

In the following charts, the "Neurodiversity" label refers to the number of stories returned by Google News Archive per year for the search term "neurodiversity and autism". The "Vaccine" labels refers to stores per year for the term "autism and vaccine". Finally, the "autism" label refers to stories per year for the term "autism".  Obviously, the data for 2010 is incomplete as it is only April.

The first chart is absolute number of stories per year in each of the three categories. See if you can find the "neurodiversity" point (hint, it hit its high point in 2008 with 35 stories).

This second chart is the number of stories for neurodiversity and vacancies, represented as the number of stories per 100 (or basically percent of stories per topic). To make it easier to find the neurodiversity line I made it extra bold in this chart.

I think the conclusion is clear.  While it is possible that the "anti-vax" movement is losing steam, the neurodiversity movement isn't even on the radar.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Misbehaving Possum Bites Left Brain Right Brain

via Photobucket by chrissssy_xo
Left Brain Right Brain's habit of publishing content with questionable accuracy has come back to bite them again.  The problem this time was caused by one "Evil Possum" aka David N. Brown, when he accused Age of Autism of staging a hoax.

The incident started when Age of Autism ran a series of stories about a Danish researcher, Dr. Poul Thorsen, who allegedly absconded with a few million dollars from Aarhus University.  Dr. Thorsen also happened to be one of the authors of a study that "disproves" the notion that thimerosal and autism are linked.  As the study itself is badly flawed - even without this problem with an author so I didn't think much of the story at the time.

But, it seems the good folk at Left Brain Right Brain decided that Age of Autism was being less than truthful about the incident and ran a story with the heading "Another Hoax from Age of Autism".  In this story, the person calling themselves Evil Possum all but flat out accuses AoA of forging documents in an effort to create a story were there is none.  The original story is no longer available on the site nor is it available in Google's cache, so you will just have to take my word for it.

One of the authors from AoA took slight offense at the story and threatened legal action if the accusations of a hoax were not removed from the LBRB site.  LBRB caved to the demand, changed the title and wording of the story slightly, and posted an terse apology.

If that was the end of the story, there wouldn't be much to write about, just the standard nonsense from LBRB.  However, a few days later the misbehaving possum popped up again with another story, this time citing "fresh evidence" that the about how the facts from AoA were flat out wrong. This "evidence" included an analogy involving a spam email, a traveling friend, and a mugging, I kid you not.  This second post was quickly debunked, this time by friendly fire from LBRB's own resident groupies.  If the story was bad enough that the even the regulars were complaining, then it had to be really bad.

Fast forward to a few days ago when AoA ran a story about the incident.  This time they went on the offensive, calling out Kev personally (the owner of the LBRB site) for allowing the stories to be published on LBRB in the first place.

LBRB, of course, responded with a Bush-esque "mistakes were made" sort of statement that partially admitted that there just might have been a problem while at the same time repeating the original allegations that the whole thing might have been a hoax.  And then of course, the post goes right back to denial land and says that "Age of Autism regularly lies about those it sees as opponents", thus proving that they have the authors have the collective mentality of a two year old (they did it first!).

But wait, it gets even better.  Apparently, the "Evil Possum" is unwilling to roll over and play dead, even when his arguments are completely debunked, and is now circulating an e-mail that accuses AoA of libel against him and threatening to sue.  Another blogger has posted the text of the e-mail with his comments here.  If you read nothing else from this entire exchange, I suggest you read this e-mail, it is priceless.

I can't even begin to understand the thought process behind the idea that you have a right sue to when someone calls you on your own false statements.  It hurts my head just to think about it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ari Ne'eman Does Not Talk About Autism

Ari Ne'eman does not talk about autism.

Or at least he doesn't talk about what I understand the word "autism" to mean.  If you look on the web or ask any medical expert, you will get a fairly consistent definition of what the word means.  To pick one of the first sources that appears when you search for "autism" on Google (The Mayo Clinic), autism is -

Autism is one of a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that appear in early childhood — usually before age 3. Though symptoms and severity vary, all autism disorders affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.

It's estimated that three to six out of every 1,000 children in the United States have autism — and the number of diagnosed cases is rising. It's not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting of autism, a real increase in the number of cases, or both.

What is clear is that though there is no cure for autism, intensive, early treatment can make an enormous difference in the lives of many children with the disorder.

I think that most people would agree the above definition is what we mean when we talk about autism.  Unfortunately, Mr. Ne'eman does not seem to be among those who would agree.  I am not sure of exactly how he defines the word but as you will see below, he isn't talking about what you and I call autism.

As the picture at the top of the post says, autism is not a tragedy but ignorance is.  I would agree completely with that statement.  A person who has autism is not a tragedy but rather needs help to overcome their disability.  But ignorance of autism means - especially in one who should know better - is tragic.

Mr. Ne'eman, as a young adult with autism, should have a better understanding of what exactly autism is and what challenges it brings to children.  Yet he talks almost exclusively about his own needs and the needs of other similar people who have taken refuge in the idea that autism is some sort of culture rather than a developmental disorder.  He should know better but either fails to grasp the problems that autism that causes for children or chooses to ignore them.

I think have already made my opinion on Mr. Ne'eman clear, so this time I will let his words stand for themselves.  The following are a collection of quotes from articles about Mr. Ne'eman or ones that he has written himself.  As you read the quotes below, keep in mind the definition of autism above, and then you be the judge of whether he is talking about autism.

Who is Ari Ne'eman
Ne'eman is a master networker, a guy you'd think was born in a campaign office and bred in the halls of the Capitol. He's fluent in policy-speak and interacts seamlessly with high-level officials (he's just had lunch with the acting vice chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and inquisitive reporters alike. He's formal but sociable and has a well-timed sense of humor.

The day will come when Asperger's will be recognized for what it truly is: a difference, not a disability, and in many ways an advantage.

Ne'em describes Asperger's and autism as disabilities — but with a twist. "We're disabled by society," he says. "What disables us is, for instance, an education system that's only designed to meet the needs of one kind of student, or societal prejudices which say that autistic people will never be able to live in a community."

"Autism disorders exist along a spectrum, with great variance from one person to another. Ne'em argues that his condition is part of his identity, the same way gender or ethnic background might be. "We are proud of who we are," he says"

"Too often, he says, the voices of those with autism are supplanted or diminished by those who do not have it. Ne'eman is especially troubled by those who argue that autism is a disorder to be eradicated – and not a culture to be embraced."

The object of autism advocacy should not be a world without autistic people — it should be a world in which autistic people can enjoy the same rights, opportunities and quality of life as any of our neurotypical peers.

As with previous civil rights movements regarding race religion, gender, and sexual orientation, we need an autism and disability advocacy that aims to change our society's institutions — from our educational system and places of public accommodation to more specialized infrastructures such as those for long-term care.

In many instances, the answers are not yet apparent for us, particularly in realms like communication, which poses one of the most pressing and important areas of challenge for our community. However, our existing autism advocacy and research agendas have not placed finding solutions to these issues high on their agendas, preferring to focus on environmental or genetic research aimed at providing for "cure" or "recovery," If we make the effort, we are likely to find ourselves surprised by what a true civil rights struggle will yield for us.

Autism is not a medical mystery that needs solving, he argues. It's a disability, yes, but it's also a different way of being, and "neurodiversity" should be accepted by society. Autistic people (he prefers this wording to "people with autism," a term many parents use, because he considers the condition intrinsic to a person's makeup) must be accommodated in the classroom and workplace and helped to live independently as adults—and he is pushing to make this happen for everyone on the spectrum.

Even a cursory glance at the magazine of the Autism Society of America reveals many such examples, with advertisements for vaccine recovery and Applied Behavioral Analysis, whose initial aversive-heavy experiments claimed to bring half of all children subjected to its methods to "indistinguishability from peers." These programs lack the research foundation they claim. For example, Ivar Lovaas' promise of recovery through ABA was based on the theory and methods used with "feminine boys" at-risk for homosexuality (Rekers & Lovaas 1974). That fact alone should give anyone pause.

The oft-cited concept of "recovery" from autism is not only scientifically unsupported but also dangerous in that it removes the very supports that made progress possible for many people with autism. Moreover, by equating developmental progress with a change in the fundamental character of our brains, the recovery concept denies the natural growth and skill acquisition that occurs for all individuals, regardless of disability. It is unreasonable to assume that autistics will be the same at age 30 as at age 3. The claim that addressing the challenges and behavioral difficulties associated with the autism spectrum can result in a fundamental re-wiring of a person's brain, to the point that he or she is no longer autistic, is ridiculous.


I could go on but I think the point is clear.  Mr. Ne'eman is not talking about autism and definitely should not be representing people with autism on the National Council on Disability.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm Against Ari Ne'eman Serving on the National Council on Disability

As I said a week ago, I am against Ari Ne'eman being serving on the National Council on Disability.  Mr. Ne'eman's views on autism preclude him from being able to properly represent the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from autism.

The problems with Ari Ne'eman, as I see them, are as follows

1. Mr. Ne'eman is against curing autism.

2. Mr. Ne'eman is against researching the genetics of autism.  Yet without an understanding of the genetic basis of autism, it will be almost impossible to find effective treatments or a cure.

3. Mr. Ne'eman is against mainstream autism treatments like ABA yet sanctions thoroughly debunked quackery like Facilitated Communication.

4. Mr. Ne'eman ignores the needs of the silent majority of people who suffer from autism.  He ignores those who are most disabled by autism and instead focuses almost exclusively on those who are barely impaired by their condition

If you feel the same way, I would ask you sign the online petition opposing his appointment here.

Alternatively, if you are uncomfortable with the petition or if your representative in the US Senate happens to be on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee, you can contact your representative directly and let them know you are opposed to Mr. Ne'eman serving.

You can track the status of the nomination from this page, just type "PN1303-111" into the search box and click the search button.  From what I gather from the status page, Mr. Ne'eman was asked on March 10th to testify in front of the senate committee but I haven't found any record of him doing so.

Lets stop this appointment from happening.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The US Govt Admits to Causing the Autism Epidemic

Earlier today, April 1st, 2010, the United Statements government issued a terse statement admitting that they might have caused the current autism epidemic. Speaking on behalf of the government, General Edward Nathan Vironment, had this to say about the situation - "Oops, sorry about that".

According to the statement, in the mid 1980s the US Government, in the light of the looming threat of global warming, formed a task force to investigate how to prevent the Earth from overheating. This task force consisted of officials from the armed services, NASA, and the Department of Agriculture. The task force immediately ruled out fixing the source of the problem - after all, Americans didn't want to have to change their lifestyles, they just wanted the problem to go away. So for the next several years the task force met until they finally hit on what seemed to be a good solution.

Since there was nothing that the task force could do about the actual problem, they decided instead to try to cool down the Earth instead. The plan was to spread a substance known as Floating Low Atmospheric Particles, Agent F.L.A.P for short, in the air and hope that it would reflect enough of the sun's heat to allow the Earth to stay cooler.

The plan was initially tested by releasing Agent F.L.A.P. from the ground in New Jersey. That failed to cool anything down, so the next attempt was to release the substance from helicopters over Missouri. When that the plan didn't work, the task force went to its final option and released Agent F.L.A.P over the entire continental U.S. from the space shuttle. This last step seemed to finally do the trick - although the result in the northeastern US was the blizzard of 1993.

Having successfully combated global warming without asking a single American to give up anything, the task force congratulated itself on a job well done and handled the project off to the Army and NASA to run.

And that is where the real trouble began.

The program was included as a line item in the regular budget for the Army and NASA and everyone forgot about it. But the program has been still been operating for all of these years, silently dumping an ever increasing amount of Agent F.L.A.P. into the atmosphere. That is, until earlier this year when brave soul actually read the federal budget, noticed the expense program, and investigated what was going on.

The investigation lead to an internal review by the Army and NASA and today's statements by General E.N. Vironment.  According to the general, the program has "not worked exactly as planned" over the years as global warming is still a problem and, with the notable exception of the blizzard of 1993, Agent F.L.A.P. "hasn't done diddly squat" .

Expect, that is, for possibly causing autism. It seems that Agent F.L.A.P consists of 20% mercury and, in a health study conducted earlier this year by the CDC, all children exposed to the substance developed autism within a year. The CDC called this finding "not significant", pointing out that the children's autism could have been caused by something else - like space aliens.

(In the statement issued earlier today, NASA denied that space aliens exist and pointed out that none have visited lately.  The Army added that the aliens were scared away by Agent F.L.A.P since they didn't want to develop autism).

However, as General E.N. Vironment said earlier today, spreading Agent F.L.A.P. over the US "might not have been the best idea" and that there "might be some small relation" between this substance and autism. The government is now launching a study, lead by Dr. Brad Iased, to take a closer look at the question. The results of this study are expected to be released in 2150, or whenever hell freezes over, which ever comes first.

Stay tuned for more information.