- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Flu shot, anyone?

Gotten your flu shot yet? Whether you have or not, one leading congressman’s warning might frighten you more than the needle.

If your doctor hasn’t told you, Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, feels it is his duty to inform Americans about the “contents” of their influenza vaccines.

“As we approach the flu season, many of you will visit the doctor’s office and receive an annual influenza vaccine. This might prevent the flu, but what else will it do?” Mr. Burton said. “You should be aware that the vaccine you are about to receive contains thimerosal — a mercury-laden preservative.”

Mr. Burton says scientific evidence “continues to accumulate” regarding a biologically plausible connection between the preservative and certain neurological disorders. Some scientists have attributed the growth in Alzheimer’s disease and autism to mercury found in certain vaccines.

During his chairmanship of the Government Reform Committee, Mr. Burton held numerous hearings on possible adverse effects of thimerosal.

As for a second opinion, we call upon Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee — a doctor in real life — who actually reminded friends in his Christmas cards last year: “Don’t forget your shots: flu shot annually.”

Handshakes and hugs

President Bush says major networks and newspapers in this country have purposely ignored positive developments in Iraq.

Now, two congressmen — a Democrat and a Republican — have returned from the war-torn country to voice a similar complaint.

“To be sure there are pockets of violence, but we also saw so many pockets of hope and joy that all too often don’t make the evening news,” says a joint statement issued by Reps. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, and Jim Davis, Florida Democrat, who “embarked on this trip as congressmen with diverse backgrounds, from different states and from opposite parties.”

Saying “we returned to America united,” the congressmen cite universities and hospitals that have reopened, newspapers that are being published, and extensive police training — six months ago there were no police on duty in Iraq; today there are more than 40,000.

“The Iraqi school that we visited was filled with eager young children thirsting for knowledge,” the lawmakers said. “As classes let out and we waded past Iraqi parents waiting to pick up their children, the handshakes, hugs and cheers were incredible.”

Read all about it

One reporter who has visibly stood out from the pack in Iraq is Dr. Bob Arnot, MSNBC’s special foreign correspondent who previously reported for NBC and CBS News.

Leaving his Baghdad hotel, bombed only last month, and returning to Washington in recent days (he departed yesterday for Asia), Dr. Arnot delivered an hour’s worth of riveting commentary on the Iraqi situation to students and faculty of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, alma mater of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and former prisoner of war.

Given his language and medical skills, Dr. Arnot, the former medical director at National Emergency Services, said he periodically found himself acting as a translator between Marines and prisoners, and as the closest doctor to a casualty he frequently abandoned his microphone and stepped in to help.

“The students could almost feel the bullets whizzing by,” G. Craig Stewart III, EHS’s associate director of development, said yesterday.

Dr. Arnot said contrary to reports, U.S. military morale remains very high in Iraq, adding that the majority of Iraqi citizens he interviewed are happy to be rid of Saddam Hussein. His views reflect a recent Gallup poll finding that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Baghdad’s 6.3 million citizens think ousting Saddam “was worth any hardships they have personally endured since the invasion.”

Findings that you might now be reading for the first time.

Leading by example

President Bush yesterday welcomed the 2003 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs to the White House Rose Garden, where he singled out forward Danny Ferry.

“He and I share an interesting relationship,” Mr. Bush told the crowd, noting that Mr. Ferry’s father, Bob, also won an NBA championship ring — only the second father and son combination ever to do so.

“If you get my drift,” Mr. Bush said. “We’re members of the famous fathers club. You’ll see where only the second son of a president’s office is in a minute.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccasl[email protected]

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