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Jun 13, 2007
Focus: Health
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By ANDREW BRIDGES, Associated Press WriterMon Jun 11, 7:11 PM ET;_ylt=AqyIomNUIbkWAoaaFFj8fcha24cA

In excruciating detail, an Arizona mother on Monday described severe autism and devastating health problems that plague her 12-year-old daughter and asked a court to find common childhood vaccines were the cause.

The test case is being closely watched by nearly 5,000 families of autistic children who have lodged similar claims for compensation from a federal fund.

The case of Michelle Cedillo, of Yuma, Ariz., is the first alleging a vaccine-autism link to be heard in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. It and eight other test cases are important because they will guide the handling of the other pending claims. Most contend that a mercury-rich preservative called thimerosal is to blame for the impaired social interaction typical of the disorder.

Should they prevail, the families will be eligible for compensation from a federal vaccine injury fund established by Congress to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines by shielding manufacturers from lawsuits. No autism claim has been paid from the fund thus far.

Large scientific studies have found no association between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal.

Government attorney Vincent Matanoski dismissed much of what the plaintiffs are expected to present during the three-week hearing as conjecture or speculation.

"You'll find their hypotheses untested or, when tested, have been found false," Matanoski said.

Theresa Cedillo said her daughter suffered five days of fever, her temperature often spiking to 105 degrees, after receiving a measles, mumps and rubella vaccination at age 15 months. Michelle was a happy, robust, responsive and loving child — in short, normal — but hasn't been the same since, her mother told the court.

Wearing noise-canceling headphones, Michelle was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair at the start of the proceedings. She stayed only a short time, moaning audibly several times. Besides autism, Michelle suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, glaucoma and epilepsy. In addition, her bones, weakened by years of malnourishment, are prone to breaks, Theresa Cedillo said. Everything she eats is pumped in through a feeding tube, except for crackers and water.

"Clearly the story of Michelle's life is a tragic one," Special Master George Hastings Jr. said in thanking the family for allowing theirs to be the first test case. Hastings pledged he and two other special masters would listen carefully to all evidence.

Theresa Cedillo and husband Michael allege thimerosal-containing vaccines weakened their daughter's immune system and prevented her body from clearing the measles virus after she was immunized. That theory is one of three alleged by the thousands of plaintiffs. The others claim either thimerosal or the measles vaccine alone caused their children's autism.

"We hope to find out what happened and hopefully get the help she needs," said Theresa Cedillo, who takes care of her daughter full time at home.

The burden of proof is easier than in a traditional court. Plaintiffs only have to prove that a link between autism and the shots is more likely than not, based on a preponderance of evidence. But many parents say their children's symptoms did not show up until after their children received the vaccines, required by many states for admission to school.

"These are families who followed the rules. These are families who brought children in for vaccines. These are families who immunized their children," Cedillo attorney Thomas Powers said. Later, outside court, he cast aside any suggestion his clients were anti-vaccine.

Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction. Those affected often have trouble communicating, and they exhibit unusual or severely limited activities and interests.

In 1999, the U.S. government asked vaccine manufacturers to eliminate or reduce the use of thimerosal in childhood vaccines to limit infant exposure to mercury. Today, the preservative is no longer found in routine childhood vaccines but is used in some flu shots.

The nine test cases will be heard consecutively over the next year. A ruling in the Cedillo case could take months or longer, attorneys said.


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Posted: Jun 13, 2007 11:56pm
Feb 21, 2006

Federal court allows schools' Jewish and Muslim symbols, bans Christian nativity
Associated Press (via ^ | Thu, Feb. 09, 2006 | Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld New York City's policy on school holiday displays, which allows symbols of Jewish and Muslim holidays but prohibits Christian nativity scenes. Santa Claus, reindeer and Christmas trees are permitted.

The 2-1 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court judge, who said allowing secular symbols neither advanced nor inhibited religion.

The appeals court said no objective observer would believe the city wanted to communicate to its million-plus students "any official endorsement of Judaism and Islam or any dismissal of Christianity." Instead, the court said, the purpose was to use holidays to encourage respect for diverse cultural traditions.

Dissenting Judge Chester Straub objected that the policy "utilizes religious symbols of certain religions, but bans the religious symbols of another."

The original case was filed by Andrea Skoros, a Roman Catholic mother of two sons who attended public schools, who said the policy promotes Judaism and Islam while conveying disapproval of Christianity. Her purpose was not to bar Jewish and Muslim symbols but to have schools add Nativity scenes.

Skoros' lawyer plans to ask the full 2nd Circuit to review the case or, if that fails, to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Posted: Feb 21, 2006 8:17am
Jan 5, 2006

Posted 1:00 AM Eastern by David Bresnahan January 3, 2006
Summary: Despite three court rulings that cell phone tracking by government agencies without a court order is illegal, a fourth court ruling has now authorized blanket spying. The government can now use cell phone data to track physical location, without a search warrant or probable cause.

NEW YORK -- A federal court issued an opinion permitting government agencies to use cell phone data to track a cell phone's physical location, without a search warrant based on probable cause. The ruling seems to be in line with recent revelations about President Bush authorizing secret, warrantless wiretaps. The court opinion on Dec. 20, 2005 went largely unnoticed by the media or the public, but may have major ramifications on privacy rights and issues. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York issued the opinion, despite three previous rulings to the contrary by other judges. There is no party to appeal, so the ruling paves the way for government agencies in all states to begin cell phone tracking without legal difficulty. There was only one party in each case that was rejected by other courts, the same party in the case that was given approval -- the Department of Justice. The DOJ did not appeal the cases it lost, and there is no party to appeal the case it won. "What other new surveillance powers has the government been creating out of whole cloth and how long have they been getting away with it?" commented the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation on it's web site. The DOJ revealed an attitude that a court order is not needed in the brief submitted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brown: "A cell phone user voluntarily transmits a signal to the cell phone company, and thereby 'assumes the risk' that the cell phone provider will reveal to law enforcement the cell-site information." When the issue comes up in other courts there will be no case of appeal for judges to review for guidance, creating the more likely situation that each subsequent case will be easier and easier for the DOJ and other government agencies to win, say legal analysts commenting in various blogs. Legitimate needs for tracking have been used by commercial vendors and government agencies to justify monitoring of all consumers with a cell phone. The checks and balances put in place to protect individual privacy, such as court orders, are in jeopardy by blanket use of tracking systems that have no accountability, according to government watchdog groups and privacy advocates. National Engineering Technology Corporation (NET) is actively negotiating with various state department of transportation agencies to track cell phone users, without their permission. The data will be used to study traffic flow and provide information to various systems and third parties to notify drivers of ways to avoid traffic congestion. News stories tell of car thieves captured because a toll transponder, or other Global Positioning System (GP device in a car used to identified their location. Web sites already exist that enable the public the ability to track the location of cell phones. These sites advertise services to do things such as know the location of a teenager, or find a lost child. The present traffic systems do not capture the personal information available from each cell phone, but opponents of cell phone tracking express concerns about the potential for that information to easily be included with the simple click of a computer mouse. The DOJ was previously turned down by other judges in New York, Long Island, and Texas. Each time the DOJ included a request to capture the dialing information of incoming and outgoing calls, as well as physical location of each phone. The previous judges rejected the requests stating that investigators cannot track cell phones without going through the hoops necessary for getting a traditional search warrant.

Tomorrow part 2: "Government Tracking Cell Phones Without Court Orders" © 2006 - - All Rights Reserved
-- If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers. Thomas Pynchon If evidence of a fact is clear, positive, uncontradicted and of such nature it cannot rationally be disbelieved, the court must instruct that fact has been established as a matter of law. Roberts v. Del Monte Properties Co., 111 CA2d. 69 (1952). They will do whatever we let them get away with. Joseph Heller When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
-- Have a great day - 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 harass our People, and eat out their substance The rights of the individuals are restricted only to the extent that they have been voluntarily surrendered by the citizenship to the agencies of government. City of Dallas v Mitchell, 245 S.W. 944 (818) 703-5037 voice Citizens Law Hour 7pm to 8pm Pacific Time Monday thru Thursday join the group on Paltalk (download from go into the misc group then Citizenship Law Hour) Or listen to the Law Hour at
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Posted: Jan 5, 2006 6:22am


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