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Speaker says vaccines and autism may be linked, a view denied by public health officials

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Ikram Mohamed told the audience that she has five children and has chosen to delay the vaccinations of four of them over fears of a link to autism.

A national speaker who believes there are links between vaccines and autism told a group of Somali-American parents Sunday night that they should choose whether to vaccinate their children by weighing risks and benefits.

He also said the government has lied in its previous vaccine research and that the danger of measles is overstated.

About 90 people met at Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis to hear Mark Blaxill, an editor of a website about what it calls “the autism epidemic,” present information on measles outbreaks, autism rates and what he said were the fraudulent results of a 2004 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the link between autism and vaccines, a theory that health officials have debunked.

“It should be the right of every parent and family to make their own decisions,” said Blaxill.

Blaxill’s visit comes in the midst of Minnesota’s second measles outbreak in seven years. As of Sunday morning, there were 32 cases of measles in Minnesota, including instances in Ramsey and Stearns counties as well as Hennepin County, where the majority are concentrated.

The Minnesota Department of Health says “all Minnesota children 12 months and older who have not received a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should get it now.”
Public health officials have said vaccination rates among Somali-Americans have fallen in recent years as more parents opt out due to autism fears.

Minnesota Department of Health officials have been trying to reverse the drop in immunization rates among that demographic through education, relying on community leaders to build trust and overcome doubt.
Twenty-eight of the confirmed cases have been among Somali-American children under age 5, all of whom are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against the highly communicable disease.

Blaxill — who says that he’s not anti-vaccine — also explained Minnesota law and how parents can opt out of vaccinations, providing forms and access to a notary public for parents. Several nonprofits advocating parental choice in vaccinations were present, including the Minnesota Vaccine Safety Council, Health Choice and National Health Freedom Coalition.

Others in the audience forcefully disputed the idea that vaccination causes autism, including a group of pediatricians.

Dr. Sheldon Berkowitz, who works at a Minneapolis clinic that treats many Somali-American patients, said Blaxill minimized the seriousness of measles.

“They’re our families,” said Paula Mackey, who works at the same clinic. “[Somali parents] are just trying to do what is right for their children, and this misinformation is hurting them.”

Attendees Sunday night had varied opinions about vaccines and autism, despite the fact that any link has been thoroughly discredited by the scientific community.

Measles can be dangerous, said parent Ikram Mohamed, but the illness only lasts a short time.

In contrast, “Autism is not a curable disease,” said Mohamed, as several Somali-American mothers in the front row cheered her on.

Mohamed, a mother of five who said she had delayed vaccination in four of her children due to fears about autism, said doctors need to inform parents that they can delay or opt out of vaccines.

Daub Hussein said he came to get more information about a topic that’s controversial not just for Somali-Americans, but for many African immigrant groups.

The meeting venue was changed just hours before the event from the Brian Coyle Community Center to the Somali restaurant located off Lake Street, which some said hurt attendance.

STAR TRIBUNE

Minnesota

Rep. Ellison, Rep. Emmer, and Colleagues Introduce Resolution Condemning Terror Attack in Mogadishu

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WASHINGTON — On the one-month anniversary of the October 14th terror attack on Mogadishu, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), along with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced House Resolution 620, which condemns the attack, expresses sympathy for its victims and their families, and reaffirms U.S. support for Somalia.

The October 14th terror attack killed more than 350 people, including three American citizens, and injured another 200—making it the single deadliest in Somalia’s history.

“It’s been a month since the terrible and cowardly attack on Mogadishu, and my heart still breaks for the people of Somalia and their families and friends here in the United States,” Ellison said. “The people of Somalia have shown incredible resilience— coming together not only as part of an inspiring effort to recover from this attack, but also to rebuild their nation in the spirit of peace and prosperity. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to express solidarity with the people of Somalia by strongly condemning the senseless violence, extending our condolences to all those affected by the attack, and reaffirming continued U.S. support for Somalia.”

“Just over a month ago, Mogadishu experienced a horrific and tragic terrorist attack,” said Emmer. “This attack hit close to home with three of our fellow Americans – including one Minnesotan – among the more than 350 men, women and children who lost their lives far too soon. I stand with my colleagues and the Somali community to condemn last month’s attack. I am proud to work with my colleagues to offer condolences and lend support as Somalia works to rebuild itself and its communities in the wake of this recent tragedy. Today, and every day, we stand against terror and join together to rid this world of evil.”
The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

“Strongly condemning the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017, and expressing condolences and sympathies to the victims of the attack and their families.

Whereas on October 14, 2017, a truck bomb filled with military grade and homemade explosives detonated at a busy intersection in the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, and took the lives of more than 350 people and injured more than 200 additional people;

Whereas at least three Americans, Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, were killed in the attack;

Whereas the Somali Government believes that Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, although no official claims of responsibility have yet been made;

Whereas Al-Shabaab has previously avoided claiming responsibility for Al Shabaab operations when it believes the operation may significantly damage its public image among Somalis;

Whereas the Department of State condemned ‘‘in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds in Mogadishu on October 14’’;

Whereas the Department of State stated that ‘‘the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity’’;

Whereas according to the Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism for 2016, Al-Shabaab is the most potent threat to regional stability in East Africa;

Whereas the United States continues to support counterterrorism efforts in coordination with the Government of Somalia, international partners, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mainly through capacity building programs, advise and assist missions, and intelligence support;

Whereas Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning in response to the attack;

Whereas the vibrant, bustling district of Mogadishu where the attack occurred is characteristic of the city’s revitalization, and the solidarity and efforts by the city’s residents to rebuild already are a testament to their resilience; and

Whereas Somalia has been a strong partner to the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017;

(2) expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for the victims of the attack and their families;

(3) honors the memories of Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, who were murdered in the horrific terrorist attack;

(4) recognizes the significant efforts to combat terrorism by the Government of Somalia, the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, and United States forces in Somalia;

(5) reaffirms United States support for the Government of Somalia’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity and combat terrorism in Somalia; and

(6) renews the solidarity of the people and Government of the United States with the people and Government of Somalia.”

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Canada

Somali youth project update (Project TooSoo)

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CBC —  For the past year, a group of young Somalis in Toronto has been learning how to re-claim the stories told about their community.

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Sports

Looking back on my Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace | Mo Farah

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I recently had the honour of being knighted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. When I came to the UK from Somalia aged 8, not speaking any English, who would have thought that my running would eventually lead me here? This was another very special gold medal for me and I am so honoured to have received it. Here’s a little glimpse of how the day went for me.

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