By Monday morning, Mohammed’s computer was no more useful than a paperweight. It wouldn’t load BIOS- every time he turned it on it would beep twice and shut down. By Wednesday he was out of a job, employed at a company that required him to file daily reports from home on his laptop. Mohammed’s wife had been out of town that weekend, and he had decided to spend the few days relaxing on his couch surfing the internet. A link on the popular social media site Facebook had brought him to the website of the The Toronto Star to read an article about vacationing in Dubai.
“I rarely go on the website of The Star“, Mohammed confessed to me over a cup of tea in his cramped one bedroom apartment he shares with his wife, Sabbah, in Mississauga. “I did have a subscription to the paper years ago that I read as I was first learning English.”
Just three hours after he visited the page on The Star website, Mohammed’s computer crashed. All his files were lost.
Family pictures, files from work, home movies that were transferred to digital copy before being lost in a house fire five years ago. “We lost several photos of my late mother”, says Sabbah through tears, “She passed a few years ago and my brother had sent pictures from Egypt- but he was imprisoned a few months later and I fear we might never get the original photos back.”
….the virus that destroyed Mohammed’s computer- along with his hopes, dreams and family memories- came from the website of The Star…. Mohammed is not alone, either. Raising Doubts has found at least ten other people who have contracted a computer virus within four days of visiting a page on The Star’s website.
“The worst of it is that I lost my job because I was unable to do my daily reporting, my job requires me to log onto the reporting site from a list of trusted machines- and my laptop was necessary to do what I do.” Mohammed is applying for emergency Social Assistance, hoping that it will stop the bleeding long enough to find a career that allows his family to stay in their apartment before the eviction notice inevitably comes at the end of the month.
Though there is no conclusive evidence that the virus that destroyed Mohammed’s computer- along with his hopes, dreams and family memories- came from the website of The Star, though it seems entirely possible given the timeline of events. Mohammed is not alone, either. Raising Doubts has found at least ten other people who have contracted a computer virus within four days of visiting a page on The Star’s website. Computer experts claim that the public should exercise caution when surfing the internet, even if they only frequent sites they believe to be “trusted” websites.
Further investigation by Raising Doubts has uncovered an even more disturbing fact: Readers of The Star might not be safe even when they read the newspaper instead of the digital copy.
Hundreds of people who have daily delivery subscriptions to The Star have turned up dead in the last several months. George Maynard, beloved husband of Melanie and father of two young children, passed away last March at the age of 42 for reasons that to this point have baffled his doctors. He also had daily home delivery of The Toronto Star to his home in Markham, which he started just four months earlier during a subscription drive at a local trade show. Melanie doesn’t want to place the blame on The Star, but is still looking for an answer as to why she is left widowed- caring for two devastated fatherless children.
“Toxins from the ink used in newspapers could reasonably be absorbed through the skin, causing any number of health problems to people who might have a sensitivity.” – Dr. Xaing Suh Lin
“George loved to read the paper every day before going to work. He used to read the sports section first and then take the front section with him for his GO Train commute to the city. None of us (Melanie or her grieving children- Alex, 12 and Becky, 8) really ever read the paper, just George. But Becky used a few clipping from the paper in a school project a few weeks ago and she had flu like symptoms and stayed home this week. I’m a little bit concerned. Recently we switched lining our hamster cage with shredded newspaper and poor Gooper died within a few weeks of the switch. He was only two years old.”, recalls Melanie- bravely choking back tears. “My Naturopath told me that these things might be related, and is now suggesting I put the entire family on a special herbal supplement that she says will help boost our immune system.”
Melanie’s Naturopath is Xaing Suh Lin, N.D.- who practices out of her storefront in Markham. “The skin is the largest organ in the body, and it is a breathing organ”, she says, “Toxins from the ink used in newspapers could reasonably be absorbed through the skin, causing any number of health problems to people who might have a sensitivity.” Dr. Xaing says that although there is no conclusive proof that ink from The Star newspaper caused George’s death or the other health issues facing his grief-ridden family “there is no reason to believe that these issues are not related to the newspaper, either.”
Melanie’s family physician doesn’t see a link between The Toronto Star and George’s unexpected death. He refused to be interviewed for this feature. “My doctor says this is all just a coincidence, but it seems like a lot of things happened over a very short span after we got the subscription”, Melanie says.
Raising Doubts has subsequently learned that The Toronto Star has been found in eight Emergency Rooms at various local Hospitals and at every home for the elderly that we have been able to contact. If the newspaper is responsible for health issues it seems inadvisable to have it in places where immunocomprimised people gather.
The people we interviewed for this story just want answers. They also want people to be better informed. Mohammed understands the risk of surfing the internet, but thinks that if The Star website was the reason for his life being so horribly disrupted then the paper has a duty to inform it’s readers that it might not be a safe corner of the internet. Melanie says that her family wants to know if the newspaper played a part in the death of her husband of 15 years- but also wants the public to be aware of the possible risks involved with reading the newspaper. “Maybe they could print a warning on the front page of every issue, warning people that there is a potential for harm”, says Melanie.
The Star was unavailable for comment at the time of publishing.
Editors note: This article is meant to illustrate what is wrong with The Toronto Star’s investigative report on the HPV vaccine Gardasil. The original article can be read here, as well as some good analysis of it here and here.