Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

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Steve Jobs, poster boy heretic, dies prematurely

October 7th, 2011

World changer, but his personal aim was simple

Make consumer tech beautiful and user friendly – and flawless

Pulling ideal products from minds of the merely talented

Alone amid the mediocre top executives of tech marketing, he led towards perfection

Let’s hope that he wasn’t despatched early by medical myopia

RIP Steve Jobs - a man who knew his own mind and in pursuing his passion changed the world more than all the rest of his peers put together, enabling minds around the world by giving them the beautiful but above all intelligible means of exploiting Tim Berners Lee's fabulous creation, the World Wide Web, to a level undreamed of by that fellow genius and pioneer.Steve Jobs is, sadly and predictably, dead from pancreatic cancer, as long expected. Kept alive for seven years by the barbaric techniques of modern medicine when faced with a particular brutal form of cancer – surgery, poison and eventually a liver transplant – he finally died under the assault. Let’s hope that the alternative that is increasingly pointed to by recent decades of stunningly promising research into how phytochemicals – plant chemicals – aid the body in fighting off cancer was not neglected by his doubtless expensive medical consultants.

Did Jobs benefit from phytochemicals?

One might expect it probably was, of course. Awakening the medical profession to what may be the most important modern trend in medicine – how a range of chemicals extracted from food have proven especially over the last five years to be strongly effective against human cancer cells in the lab and in mice – is proving an uphill battle, even though a flood of research has appeared in mainstream peer reviewed journals in the last ten years.

Perhaps, however, it wasn’t . Perhaps Steve Jobs was helped by his own core character as instinctive heretic, if not also by good advice from his wife and other people who can be wiser than the professionals. We understand that Jobs was interested in alternative medicine, and did take advantage of what some Chinese herbalists had to offer. This may have helped keep him alive far beyond the three to six months his doctors originally forecast that he had left of life when he was diagnosed. Luckily, it was a rare kind of pancreatic cancer which forms about five per cent of the cases of this terrible killer, one which responds to surgery. Surviving seven years is evidence that he benefited from good treatment, though, as well as luck.

The great heretic, flipping the world of personal tech into art

It’s not surprising if Jobs was one of the few to take a look at what alternative medicine might have to offer him when he fell sick. After all, Jobs spent his life trying to move beyond the norm, forcing the merely talented to craft the ideal consumer tool from the geek idea of computers as digital engineering incarnated. He made ugly and unreliable products user friendly, beautiful to look at and reliably useful in ways which seem beyond the engineering and technical talent to concieve, for some reason. Even the marketing arm of computer companies seemed to think of this aspect only after Jobs led the way, and only Sony and eventually HP seemed able to compete in looks, though, saddled as they are with Bill Gates’ atrocious mishmash of an operating system, never caught up to Jobs in the realm of reliable and easy use.

Why was this range of virtues mysteriously beyond the leaders of other technology companies and their marketing people before Jobs showed the way, and even after he did so? The source of this odd design blindness to what now seems so obvious remains a bit of a mystery, but it must reside somewhere in the blocked mental arteries of of the group mind. Jobs thought for himself, on behalf of the average user. People who think in group terms cannot think independently very well, it seems.

So it wasn’t surprising to hear Jobs at the 2005 Commencement at Stanford where he gave the address saying the following:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Jobs was not a genius in mind but in action

What kind of genius was this man who changed the personal world of billions? The questions which Jobs asked were not after all rocket science. We remember ourselves asking them in print and on the Web as early as the mid nineties. Why shouldn’t computers be easy to use? Why shouldn’t they be reliable and easy to tinker with? Why shouldn’t their cases be colorful, chic and even simply beautiful in the manner desired, consciously or not, by all sane people, and most especially by women?

These are not difficult questions to pose and Steve Jobs was not a genius for asking them. What was unique was his strength of purpose in bringing them about. Like all pioneers and visionaries who try to move the mass of conventional me-too thought in any field, he faced a great group edifice of inertia born of lazy thinking and the general assumption that if consumers didn’t know better or demand better then there wasn’t any point in exerting oneself in one’s job to take the initiative and create something new and different in the realm of design or ease of use.

Jobs knew that he could put himself in the place of the buyer and work out what that buyer might grow fond of without that buyer telling him or even knowing what it was that he would like, once he experienced it. Jobs spurned focus groups for that reason. He liked to quote the hockey player Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,” and he often said that “it is not the job of the consumer to telll us what he wants. He doesn’t know until he sees it.”

Or as Jobs told Fortune more fully, quoted by James Stewart in his fine Times piece today, How Jobs Put Passion Into Products:

Mr. Jobs made no secret of his focus on design; in a Jan. 24, 2000, interview, Fortune magazine asked if it was an “obsession” and whether it was “an inborn instinct or what?”

“We don’t have good language to talk about this kind of thing,” Mr. Jobs replied. “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together. … That is the furthest thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started. This is what customers pay us for — to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”

Jobs the supreme heretic

The trait that you believe you know exactly what the world needs and wants is of course is shared by many crackpot inventors who are sure they know what the world needs, even if they show no sign of wanting it when offered, so it was truly Jobs genius to be correct in his forecasts, especially, for instance, in dreaming up the iPad when Microsoft’s clunky tablet computers had failed so dismally four or five years earlier. Jobs must surely have recognised the future of the iPad notion once he encountered the touch screen, which makes all the difference. But why didn’t others? Incidentally, the capacitive touch screen was invented at CERN in 1976, and the home of the LHC also boasts that it was where Tim Berners Lee invented the Web – on a NeXT screen!

Steve Jobs was a man who not only followed his own star, but brought the world along with him into a new era where the resources of the Web could be as portable as an iPhone. To us he is the epitomy of the maverick, the heretic, the originator who comes up with something new because he has freed himself of the chains of group think.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

What was truly marvelous though was the fact that he could combine all the roles needed – not only the independent minded visionary, but the team player who could lead a talented group to the world series without losing sight of his dream.

Here is the whole of that speech which he gave at the Commencement at Stanford in 2005:

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.
Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

CERN’s LHC: Black Holes Welcome, Regardless

April 22nd, 2011

Denials of danger depend on obsolete cosmic ray argument peddled shamelessly by top physicists

Treating the public as children, with swift change of ground if challenged

Could it be that safety arguments have all but expired, but no one cares that Earth could go pfft!?

Lisa Randall tenured theoretical physicist at Harvard and author of Warped Passages is not afraid of the LHC - in fact, she explained to Charlie Rose on March 30 what physicists hope and dream it will reveal  Like all well informed supporters of progress in science for the benefit of humanity we normally trust and celebrate the highly intelligent, benignly motivated and often extremely personable (Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, Brian Cox) physicists who lead the charge to uncover the truth at the core of physical reality as we know it.

From long experience in uncovering the truths found at the core of human nature, however, at least as exhibited by leading scientists in fields vexed by a mismatch between their claims and their published literature (HIV/AIDS and cancer, for example), we are sorry to see signs of public irresponsibility in the actions of the 3000 or more fine men and women in charge of the LHC and its pioneering research.

To be more specific, to ward off public scrutiny and the danger that the LHC might be put on hiatus while its safety is independently reviewed, top physicists, we have found, habitually reply to public safety concerns by quoting an argument which they know not to be true – for when challenged, they immediately admit it.

The well known argument we have in mind is what was helpfully labeled “Cosmic Ray 1″ by Brian Greene, famed string theorist and popular author, when we asked him at Philoctetes about the safety of the LHC two years ago at the session on Mathematics and Beauty on November 14, 2009. (The Philoctetes Center is a distinguished platform for discussion of creativity and the imagination in Manhattan). “Do you mean Cosmic Ray 1, ” he asked, “or Cosmic Ray 2?”

What’s wrong with Cosmic Ray 1?

Cosmic Ray 1 is simply the idea that cosmic rays of subatomic particles generated by supernovae have been whizzing at the Earth for aeons and if their impact on any particles they encounter had created planetivorous black holes we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. This implies therefore that there won’t be any such danger from similar collisions within the Large Hadron Collider.

Unfortunately this overlooks a very simple difference between conditions of such collisions in Nature and those inside the Large Hadron Collider. The first will give rise to particles which will fly away at speeds far in excess of the escape velocity of the Earth, so even if they include mBHs (mini Black Holes) or other fearsome entities they won’t linger to do any damage here. In the collider, however, the collisions between protons or lead ions are head on, like those of cars when one crosses the divider on a highway and smashes into another. So the debris may well be ejected at speeds well below terrestial escape velocity (25,000 mph) all the way down to nil, and thus any tiny black holes, strangelets etc will linger to cause whatever havoc they might be capable of.

In fact, this problem with the logic of Cosmic Ray 1 was noticed as early as 2003 by the celebrated British astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees in his doomwarning book “Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future In This Century–On Earth and Beyond”.

In other words, despite lay defenders of the LHC in Web discussions jumping to quote it as the decisive rebuttal to conCERN about the LHC, the argument has been dead at the starting gate for a decade.

The three card monte physicists play

Columbia string theorist and World Science Festival founder Brian Greene, Lisa Randall's classmate at Stuyvesant High School, has no fear of the LHC either, although he admits that the reason he gave the readers of his Op Ed in the New York Times why he was sure it was safe has been obsolete for a decade

But this drawback has not stopped Greene and others cheerfully telling the public that they can forget any worries about micro Black Holes being generated by the LHC on this basis. In his Op Ed piece for the New York Times on September 11, 2008 The Origins of the Universe: A Crash Course Green wrote:

The collider’s workings are straightforward: at full power, trillions of protons will be injected into the otherwise empty track and set racing in opposite directions at speeds exceeding 99.999999 percent of the speed of light — fast enough so that every second the protons will cycle the entire track more than 11,000 times and engage in more than half a billion head-on collisions.

And why wasn’t this effort to penetrate to the very edge of speed and the conditions at the beginning of the universe dangerous? Why? Cosmic Ray 1, of course!:

Micro Black Holes

Now for the possibility that’s generated the fuss.

Recent work in string theory has suggested that the collider might produce black holes, providing physicists with a spectacular opportunity to study them in a laboratory.

The common conception is that black holes are fantastically massive astrophysical bodies with enormous gravitational fields. But in reality, a black hole can have any mass. Take an orange and squeeze it to a sufficiently small size (about a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a meter across) and you’d have a black hole — with the mass of an orange.

Physicists have realized that the collider’s proton-proton collisions might momentarily pack so much energy into such a small volume that exceedingly tiny black holes may form — black holes even lighter than the one theoretically created by the orange, but black holes nevertheless.

Why might one worry that this would be a problem? Because black holes have a reputation for rapacity. If a black hole is produced under Geneva, might it swallow Switzerland and continue on a ravenous rampage until the earth is devoured?

It’s a reasonable question with a definite answer: no.

Work that made Stephen Hawking famous establishes that tiny black holes would disintegrate in a minuscule fraction of a second, long enough for physicists to reap the benefits of having produced them, but short enough to avoid their wreaking any havoc.

Even so, some have worried further that maybe Dr. Hawking was wrong and such black holes don’t disintegrate. Are we willing to bet the fate of the planet on an untested insight? And that question takes us to the crux of the matter: the collisions at the Large Hadron Collider have never before occurred under laboratory settings, but they’ve been taking place throughout the universe — even here on earth — for billions of years.

Cosmic rays — particles wafting through space — constantly rain down on the earth, the other planets and the wealth of stars scattered throughout the galaxy, with energies far in excess of those attainable by the Large Hadron Collider. And since these more powerful collisions haven’t resulted in astrophysical calamities, the collider’s comparatively tame collisions most assuredly won’t either.

So if the Cosmic Ray 1 argument is wrong, it reduces Greene by his own admission to betting the fate of the planet and the entire human race on an untested insight of the renowned Stephen Hawking, which is something of a responsibility for the wheelchair bound physics genius, especially since he has been wrong about major cosmological matters before, by his own admission.

A sop to the public

This brazen use of an argument which has already been exploded as a sop to the public is standard practice among leading physicists, as it happens. We have found it is shamelessly produced at every event where conCERN is expressed.

For example, just before being instructed by Professor Greene at Philoctetes (on November 14 2009 Sat) we had encountered two other very distinguished young physicist-astronomers, Gregory Gabadadze and David Hogg, at their own New York University, just after they had briefed a very large packed hall on the wonders of black holes and other galactic phenomena in a lecture (on September 29, 2009), labeled Hubble Trouble: The Expanding Universe and the Dark Energy Enigma. Both gave extensive replies to us and a small group of attentive listeners after their lectures, when we raised the topic of CERN’s dangers, dismissing them on the basis of Cosmic Ray 1.

David Hogg held forth gladly for several minutes as a group of listeners gathered round us at the post lecture reception, along these lines, until when he finished we asked gently if it was not true that that rationale had been debunked. Without a moment’s hesitation he acknowledged that indeed it had already been exploded, and without any sign of embarrassment went on smartly to invoke a quite different reassurance (what Brian Greene called “Cosmic Ray 2″, to be explained below) which has lately become almost as questionable.

Michael Tuts too

Michael Tuts of Columbia and US ATLAS Operations Program Manager at CERN is yet another physicist who could be cast in the remake of 2012, but let's hope his dismissal of danger doesn't bring it on in real lifeThe pattern of fobbing off public doubt by invoking a spurious rationale – in the manner of parents reassuring a child that everything will be alright as the plane heads for a dicey winter landing amid less than perfect visibility, if any at all – seems to be standard. Only the other week the handsome Columbia physicist Michael Tuts spoke at the Guggenheim. Tuts has an important role at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. As the US ATLAS Operations Program Manager he is the titular head of a pack of 400 scientists who are helping to spend $40 million a year in US tax dollars running the world’s greatest “scientific instrument”, as he calls it.

When the Guggenheim Work and Process series invited him to explain all to their arts audience recently, an unusual double header resulted. On a Sunday evening, he explained the Standard Model and the next evening (Feb 7 Mon, which we attended in the front row) he explained to his second packed house the exciting prospect that the LHC might complete the Standard Model by finding the Higgs boson, the final piece of the theoretical jigsaw, not to mention confirming the possibility of additional dimensions and bringing gravity into the fold to pair it with quantum physics for the ultimate “theory of everything”.

We were lucky enough to get to ask the last question. “Given the stature of at least one of the critics of the safety review of the LHC, isn’t there at least a tiny risk of major catastrophe in its operation at peak energies?” Needless to say, Dr Tuts confidently reassured us that there wasn’t, and the chief reason he produced upfront was none other than …. Cosmic Ray 1! And the meeting broke up.

Since there were then refreshments in the Guggenheim museum ground floor, however, where Tuts was surrounded by admirers, we were able to follow up by asking him there whether Cosmic Ray 1 had not been busted long ago by Martin Rees in 2003, if not earlier. To which he replied with admirable frankness, Yes, indeed, and he then proceeded to expound Cosmic Ray 2, that the existence of neutron stars and white dwarfs served the same purpose, to show that cosmic rays flying at heavenly bodies did not generate black holes to eat them up.

Why do they do it?

So we do have a pattern here. The only safety argument physicists use in public until it is challenged is Cosmic Ray 1, and they know it is invalid. Since Cosmic Ray 2 is their fall back position, it is now the sole safety argument they still have for stating that any black holes that are generated will not consume the planet. Why don’t they tell the truth, and state the neutron-white dwarf rationale straight off? Could it be because that justification is crumbling also?

We suspect that this may the case, because the Cosmic Ray 2 argument is indeed crumbling, for different reasons. But since this post is already too long for comfort, we will go over that ground in a later installment, which will deal with the risk of the LHC creating strangelets, which might turn our planet into a small asteroid of strange matter.

Let us simply end here by noting that CERN physicists are so determined to avoid interference from outside with their marvelous project that they use every propaganda tool they can to allay doubt and evade having to account for themselves.

Including asking us to bet on a horse that is dead at the starting gate, and they know it.

Kicking Mother Nature’s Shins: CERN’s LHC restart coincides with Japanese quake, may cause Big Bang 2

March 18th, 2011

Has the LHC already created a baby Black Hole? Strangelets? The Japanese earthquake? New startup proceeds…

Megacollider passed thru higher energy ALICE phase smoothly, claims CERN PR, but internal report notes “candidate” Black Hole earlier

Critics unrefuted, safety logic crumbling, and planet-consuming theoretical particles officially ruled out but privately expected

LHC run resumes at new energy peaks from March through 2012 before retooling, matching Mayan and Nostradamus dates of doom

German judge calls for a safety conference including critics

Fresh worry: will Higgs turn out to be an inflaton which will swallow CERN thru wormhole into new universe?

This is a CERN particle detector, impressive in size and colorful in design, but many worry that it is part of a mechanical monstrosity that may yet see Nostradamus and the Mayans vindicated in their supposed predictions of a catastrophic end to the joys and tribulations, ugliness and beauty of Life on Earth, unless the superannuated whiz kids who run it are hauled in front of a public review board of some kind and asked to explain what the theoretical risks really are, behind their curtain of public deceit, which has them smoothly fobbing off anxious members of the public with reasons for confidence which they know very well are false, but which save them from getting into the sole remaining line of argument (involving neutron stars and white dwarf stars) which is apparently equally frail, and thus admitting that they are prepared to gamble the fate of the world, and even their own wives, husbands, friends, lovers and children, on expectations which even the heroic master of string theory, Brian Greene, admits could be utter nonsense.
In theory if not in fact, all is not necessarily well at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, despite CERN’s proud parental press releases to the contrary. Yet the latest news is that the LHC has started up again, ignoring the opinion of a German federal judge that a public outside review is in order.

As a matter of fact, collisions resumed on March 2, after the beams of the world’s largest machine were quietly switched on and ramped up in February, the CERN brass having decided to ignore its previous plan for shutdown for inspection and renovation next year. The media were not invited, or even alerted, presumably in case the megasized toy fell apart, as it has done twice so far when started up in previous years.

Now that renewed high energy operation is a fait accompli sans catastrophe, however, the public has been informed, but without also notifying us – the 6.8 billion other humans riding the same planet as the clever, if apparently emotionally autistic, physicists operating the LHC – of the theoretical dangers involved in opening up the throttle to ever higher beam intensities.

Expanded list of risks

As things stand, in fact, the issue of safety is quite unresolved, with top physicists brazenly placating the public with an out of date, long ago refuted safety argument, while their own supposedly more viable private rationale crumbles. As the collider moves further into unknown territory, the list of dangers unearthed by those who have, unlike most of the media, troubled to actually read what CERN has published, and compared it with the current literature, has expanded now to at least six dire possibilities: mini Black Holes which might gobble the Earth, strangelets which might turn it into strange matter a la neutron star or white dwarf, rapid hydrogen bomb sized explosions which will wreck Geneva and the world economy, magnetic monopoles (ruled out by the same specious rationale as mini Black Holes), a vacuum bubble to restart the entire universe (denied for the same reason), earthquakes of which the catastrophe in Japan may just possibly be an example (coincidence, anybody?), and finally (you heard it here first) the possibility of producing the dreaded inflaton, which may swallow CERN into a baby universe grown to the diameter of 46 Earths in the first second.

On the face of it, yes, the world’s vastest and fastest working mechanism, the celebrated – among physicists and science buffs, at least – CERN collider outside Geneva, did pass through its potentially more dangerous ALICE phase smoothly before Christmas. Instead of protons, heavy lead ions were smashed into each other from opposite directions at new and record levels of energy before the plug was pulled for the holiday without visibly creating any untoward particles, as feared by the redoubtable LHC critics who belong to what we might call the “Very ConCERNed” Brigade.

Reasons for conCERN – about a CERNCon

CERN's James Gillies shows reporters the damage to LHC that resulted when its magnets blew up and leaked liquid helium all over the tunnel, but his willingness to explain to them the far greater theoretical dangers risked by escalating the beam energy to ever higher levels was a good deal less, for some reason, so that virtually no reporter takes the LHC critics seriously enough to cover their views, and their efforts to force CERN to undergo public review.By the “very ConCERNed” we mean the handful of interested and fairly expert observers who, having read and reviewed what CERN has published, not merely whatever has been reported by the assiduous stenographers who go by the name science journalists these days, believe the world is now dealing with a CERN shell game where valid doubts are concealed from the public eye.

In this “CERNCon”, the propaganda wool is being pulled over the eyes of the public by the PR apologists of an organized army of egghead boffins who won’t brook any interference with their rush to penetrate the inner sanctum of Mother Nature even at the risk of universal annihilation.

Readers of Science Guardian are of course fully cognizant of this phenomenon in other areas of science where funding has trumped truth and professionalism, most secretly in the case of cancer and most blatantly in HIV/AIDS, another field where scientists have far outpaced the will or capacity of almost all journalists to catch up with the mischief they are perpetrating.

Is the Higgs really the lethal inflaton?

In the case of the LHC, according to the critics’ theories the potential consequences are infinitely vaster, up to and including the destruction of life, our planet, the solar system and even the universe itself.

Not only that, but according to some conCERNed theoretical calculations based upon the very premises on which the LHC operates, it may be too late. The immense contraption which excites CERN physicists into a paroxysm of intellectual, aesthetic and social ecstasy may have already doomed us all by invisibly creating either a mini blackhole (mBH) or a strangelet, either or both of which may have now fallen to the center of the Earth and be busy decimating the only blue and white planet on which Life is known, from the inside out.

These CERNies happily applauding a moment when the LHC ramps up to renewed operation without actually falling apart are the torch bearers of Life on Earth who we fervently hope will not stumble and drop the flame before handing it on safely to the new generation of 6.8 billion plus human beings who will inherit the Earth from them as a sacred trust which some say should not be risked simply to satisfy the curiosity of superannuated whiz kids about the inner workings of Mother Nature, however intriguing the unknown may be to all curious mindsAdded to this, we now have papers in hand by British and Russian physicists which suggest that the Higgs boson, which CERN physicists are breathlessly and publicly hoping to turn up as the major prize of the current phase of tweaking Nature’s tail, may be none other than the notorious inflaton, an entity supposedly responsible, when it came into being just after the Big Bang, for inflating the universe from an invisible speck into a large football field, at least, and possibly its current, inconceivably vast size. (Now a busy field, this was initiated by F. Bezrukov, “The Standard Model Higgs Boson as the Inflaton,” Physics Letters B, 659:703-6, 2008).

Is it possible that the Higgs when it appears will immediately suck the CERN HQ though a wormhole into another, baby universe in the blink of an eye? We can only hope not. But according to what one can discern in a currently booming field treating the Higgs as an inflaton, this may be on the cards. And there does not appear to be at present any good reasoning offered to contradict this alarming possibility, judging from Brian Greene’s latest book, “Hidden Reality” (p279). Even the renowned physicist Frank Wilczek is now apparently equating the Higgs boson with the inflaton.

Derided but responsible critics

Normally, we hasten to note, we would be reluctant to join the LHC critics, the largely scorned but certainly socially and morally responsible observers who publicly, if so far ineffectively, have strenuously objected to the runaway operation of CERN’s gargantuan baby far beyond the restraining leash of public review.

These well intentioned and worry prone global citizens, however right they may be, don’t seem to respect the renowned physicists and engineers (see pic) who run the LHC as the brilliant, wise and highly competent specialists beyond ordinary ken that the general public seems to assume they are. On the contrary, they see the behavior of the LHC’s ministering echelons of physicists and engineers and their leaders as childish and irresponsible, in fact see them as thoroughly reprehensible and alarming arsonists of the planet, no better than tots armed with a box of matches and setting light to the living room curtains “to see what will happen”.

Naturally, we would not approve of this disagreeable skepticism in normal circumstances, where it would undoubtedly be the result of uninformed iconoclasm driven by Freudian patricidal impulses and unrestrained imaginative fears and not by logic and evidence, which is the pyramid on which valid science stands.

In this case, however, our long investigation behind the scenes has revealed that – Alas! – the nays have it, and the CERN-LHC affair is indeed yet another example of science out of control, and scientists getting away with (planetary, in this case) murder, so to speak, for lack of any outside reviewer in the media or the courts able to penetrate the dark veil of expertise with which they can shield their operations from outside view.

This is a CERN spectrometer ie the Atlas detector, which has been looking at the collisions of lead ions which took place before Christmas, much to the fear and chagrin of a group of physicist doomsayers who are very, very worried that a micro black hole - an mBH - might be created as the collision energy of the Large Hadron Collider rises unrestrained by anyone reading and crediting their theoretical analyses, which suggest there is a good chance that a mBH might well sink to the center of the planet and gobble it up over time - from days to a century - from the inside out, and though there was no sign of this publicly reported in the propaganda releases of the $10 billion operation, critics have discovered an unnerving entry in the  recent ALICE phase results summary for scientists and other insiders that signs of a black hole were indeed detected, but dismissed as impossible at that level of energy and therefore misleading.And they do have a point, in that it is now clearly established that said elite professional physicists are intent on escalating the beam energy of the LHC to higher and higher levels to explore conditions hitherto unseen since one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, while holding off public scrutiny with a misleading camouflage of gung ho propaganda and inaccurate public statements, the latter often self contradictory, CERN evidently being a large organization where the right hand knoweth not what the left hand is up to, as we will show.

A massive review is called for, we agree

So, having read fully into both sides of the issue, which it appears very few outsiders have troubled themselves to do (though the few that have are exemplary, and we will point to them) we conclude that the situation deserves a comprehensive review by objective parties unallied to CERN on any basis. In particular, given the abject fellow traveling of the science and general interest media, reduced by James Gillies, CERN spokesman and head of communication, to the role of notetakers so bewildered by the claims of experts that their critical faculties have been entirely spiked, we step up to the plate in the hope of persuading someone in the media to investigate (Pro Publica, anyone?).

Ideally, of course, a public review board or court should be set up, as a German judge has specifically opined:

German court pleads for CERN/LHC safety conference

While the world`s largest atom smasher, CERN`s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva/Switzerland, these days is going to be restarted after a two months break, a German Court, although rejecting a claim to oblige German CERN deputies to stop LHC`s scheduled high energy running, urges the German government to convene a safety conference on collider`s potential catastrophic dangers.

“The court points out its opinion that it should be possible to let discuss the various safety aspects that have been the issue of both safety reports of 2003 and 2008, within the framework of a safety conference“ – that`show chairman Mr. Niemeyer, chief judge at the German administrative court at Cologne, logged after three hours of intensive court hearing.

… Such catastrophic scenarios are even discussed in CERN`s safety reports but there are found to be all falsified.

However, the critics still regard their serious warnings as not having been disproved. They state that safety reports would have to be reviewed for reasons of fundamental new astronomical findings that appeared for the first time in 2009, thus a year after CERN`s last safety report, and postulate a safety conference including not only CERN and CERN-related scientists but also the critics.

…”Even though the administrative court in general repeated last year`s constitutional court`s decision, it has put out a strong new signal that cannot be ignored by German government and even CERN”, summarizes Mr. Möhring.

(Source at Achtphasen.net: http://tinyurl.com/6yvmtor)

What we will do is merely point out the contradictions, insufficiencies and evasions in CERN’s various publicly available statements and accounts of its activities, and ask for clarification, in the name of the people of the various 20 nations of ordinary citizens whose taxes are paying for this adventure, not to mention the rest of humanity whose future is mortgaged to the validity of CERN’s evidently increasingly hollow safety reassurances.

However, we know that long texts on the Web are troublesome for many people to read, so we will break up our treatment into several posts, of which this is the first.

Classic case of a system fighting exposure: Dreyfus

July 25th, 2010

Railroaded onto Devil’s Island, Dreyfus was without doubt an innocent patriot

Army officers used anti-Semitism, manufactured evidence to keep him there regardless

Intellectuals finally freed him, but truthfinding whistleblower was persecuted, Zola exiled, Dreyfus nearly shot dead

Modern science twisted by like irrationalities, especially in HIVnot/AIDS

The Dreyfus Affair which split France reminds us of the irrational social forces which explain how an innocent retrovirus and its defenders can even today be convicted of killing humanity despite enormous efforts by high ranking whistleblowers to point out that the scientific literature has high level reviews in the best scientific journals stating without refutation that this accusation is false, a global fantasy maintained by those who live by it and cannot afford for it to be subjected to rational examination.  Far better, they think, to exile whistleblowers and censor review, at whatever cost to other people's lives. Anyone who thinks the Dreyfus Affair is an irrelevant episode which has no bearing on modern life should read today’s well executed summary of this shameful story in the New York Times Book review, where Leo Damrosch boils down Ruth Harris’s new tome, Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion and the Scandal of the Century to its essence.

An entirely innocent man was convicted of espionage and suffered four years of hell on earth on the notorious Devil’s Island before his brother enlisted Emile Zola and other intellectuals to reverse the monstrous injustice, with the Army and conservatives resisting all the way with lies, manufactured evidence and persecuting the whistleblower who discovered the real culprit, not to mention attacking Zola for libel and hounding him out of the country. Even then a zealot nearly killed Dreyfus with a pistol after he was freed.

Sound familiar? There are parallels in every facet of the appalling story of how HIV(not)/AIDS zealots who believe that HIV causes AIDS have managed to maintain their entirely irrational paradigm in the face of an avalanche of books, articles, contrary scientific papers and critics of all stripes, from both inside and outside the system – in this case, Big Science, rather than the French Army.

Nothing could be more obvious than the innocence of this harmless wisp of retroviral RNA of all charges of harming humans brought against it, yet the bulk of the world’s population has been led to believe it a very damaging and ultimately fatal threat to their health, and that the antibodies they form to it which repel it from their bodies in short order somehow much later will ruin their immune system and kill them, and anyone they have miraculously transferred those antibodies to, in a sequence of reasoning which is irrational in every step and which contradicts the basic premises of infectious disease as demonstrated throughout the rest of medicine and its science.

Have a look at Damrosch’s review and you will get a very clear picture of what happened to Dreyfus, and how human behavior in the leading civilizations of this planet has not changed one iota from over a century ago.

July 15, 2010
At War With Itself
By LEO DAMROSCH
DREYFUS
Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century
By Ruth Harris
Illustrated. 542 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $35
The scandal known as the Dreyfus Affair still resonates after more than a century, though it has been blurred for most Americans by time and distance. It is the goal of the Oxford historian Ruth Harris to extricate the story from the myths it has generated, on both the left and the right, and to trace its tortuous evolution from 1894 to 1906 in all of its human complexity. Combining an even-tempered tone with generosity of imagination, she has achieved that goal, charting a steady course through the voluminous literature that the affair inspired and exploring the reactions of scores of soldiers, politicians, journalists, salonnières and ordinary citizens. A helpful “Dramatis Personae” at the end of the book lists nearly 150 people, all of whom are given substantial treatment during the course of the narrative.

Alfred Dreyfus grew up in a wealthy Jewish family in Alsace, a disputed eastern territory that many French people regarded as covertly German. He was 10 years old at the time of the Prussian invasion in 1870, when the French Army suffered a humiliating defeat, and he remained fiercely patriotic ever after, which motivated his choice of a military career. Intent on improving its leadership, the army began to promote officers on the basis of success in examinations rather than through the old-boy network, and Dreyfus was one of those selected for special training. The old-boy network was predictably resentful, especially when beneficiaries of the new policy were Jews, who numbered fewer than 100,000 in a nation of 38 million and were regarded by many as an insidious “enemy within.”

On Oct. 14, 1894, a few days after his 35th birthday, Captain Dreyfus spent the evening in his Paris apartment with his wife, Lucie, and their two young children. The next morning he was summoned unexpectedly to headquarters, subjected to a bewildering interrogation and placed under arrest. During the star-chamber trial that followed, he was never permitted to know the actual charges against him, which were based entirely on a torn-up bordereau, or memorandum, that a cleaning woman had retrieved from the wastebasket of the German military attaché. It was clear that someone was offering to sell low-level secrets to the Germans, and a chain of flimsy circumstantial evidence was said to point to Dreyfus. He wasn’t short of money and wasn’t entangled with women, two of the most frequent motives for espionage at the time, but his superiors decided that the handwriting on the bordereau was his, and an Alsatian-Jewish scapegoat was convenient.

Early in 1895 Dreyfus stood at attention in the courtyard of the École Militaire while an officer publicly broke his sword in two (Harris mentions that it had been broken and soldered together in advance to preclude any embarrassing difficulty). He was then condemned to solitary confinement in the ferocious tropical heat of Devil’s Island in French Guiana. He spent four appalling years there, forbidden to speak with his guards and with no knowledge of what was happening in France. As Harris comments, “Dreyfus, in fact, was one of the few French alive who knew nothing of the Dreyfus Affair.”

Alfred’s brother Mathieu, tireless in support despite constant threats, managed increasingly to attract the attention of politicians and journalists who suspected that in its zeal to defend its honor, the army had perpetrated a monstrous injustice. The “Dreyfusards” appealed to Enlightenment ideals of truth and justice, while conservatives, with the support of the Roman Catholic Church, argued for nationalist traditions that the army was held to embody. As Harris shows, allegiances were often complicated and illogical. Some important Dreyfusards were personally anti-Semitic, and some conservatives who believed that Dreyfus was innocent nonetheless were convinced that defending the army, and hence its persecution of Dreyfus, was more important than justice.

The case against Dreyfus, such as it was, began to unravel when Lt. Col. Marie-Georges Picquart stumbled on evidence that the real spy was Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, a commandant whose handwriting did indeed match that of the bordereau, and who did indeed need money to cover huge debts. In the tragedy of errors that followed, paranoid army leaders punished the whistle-blower Picquart and did everything in their power to protect Esterhazy. They even abetted the forging of a letter by a commandant, Hubert Joseph Henry, that allegedly confirmed Dreyfus’s guilt. Amazingly, after the forgery was exposed, the anti-Dreyfus press claimed that Henry had acted out of patriotism to defend his nation’s honor, and when he slit his throat in prison they proclaimed him a martyr.

In fact, the forces of reaction proved impervious to argument and evidence. The novelist Émile Zola became fascinated by the case and ignited a huge protest by analyzing its details in “J’Accuse,” a celebrated open letter to the president of the Republic. Zola was thereupon convicted of libel in a trial whose judge ruled nearly all the relevant evidence inadmissible and was forced to go into exile in England.

Dreyfus himself was brought back to France in 1899, a broken man after four years on Devil’s Island, and put on trial once more. His prosecutors claimed, as more recent governments have done, that national security forbade them to reveal secret evidence that would have been decisive if known, and he was convicted all over again. To forestall further controversy he was immediately granted an official pardon, which did nothing to clear his name. It was not until 1906 that a court finally declared him innocent. In 1908, after he had retired from the army, a would-be assassin wounded him slightly with a pistol; the attacker was tried and acquitted. Dreyfus died in 1935.

The story is clearly a very rich one, exposing the determination of military and political leaders to cover up their errors at all costs and, still more profoundly, the bigotry that foreshadowed the genocidal horrors of the 20th century. It was apparently at this time, too, that the word “intellectual” assumed its modern connotations, with writers and thinkers acquiring a prestige in public debate that they have retained in France to this day.

In the splendidly terse “Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters” (2009), Louis Begley brought a lawyer-novelist’s insight to untangling the deceptions through which Dreyfus was framed, and he suggests explicit parallels with post-9/11 legal abuses by the United States. More spacious, and also more densely detailed, is Frederick Brown’s “For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus” (2010), which traces the development of racist nationalism and reactionary Catholicism from the mid-19th century onward until they culminated in the Dreyfus Affair.

For readers who want a concise account of what Harris calls “the most famous cause célèbre in French history,” Begley’s book and Brown’s chapter will appeal. For the story in depth they should turn to Harris’s excellent “Dreyfus,” which deserves a wide audience for its patient, fair-minded exploration of human ideals, delusions, prejudices, hatreds and follies.

Leo Damrosch’s most recent books are “Tocqueville’s Discovery of America” and “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius.”

Anyone who remains innocently skeptical that today’s leaders of science and society and their unthinking followers can behave like braying asses in intellectual matters should read “Dreyfus” through for a good understanding of human folly, and how easy it is to mislead the faithful, even in science, when it turns political, and fights over its truths in the media rather than in peer reviewed journals.

Our not so modern era

What makes the Affair resonate so strongly even today, in this supposedly more enlightened Information Age, is that its exhibition of so many facets of crowd behavior in all its foolishness is still matched today in great issues ranging from the Iraq war to the nonscience of HIV/AIDS. For example, the US military adventures in Vietnam and Iraq were also initiated with deceptions and lies, with the Tonkin Gulf incident as imaginary as Saddam Hussein’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction.” Just as with the unfortunate Dreyfus, these false facts nevertheless became catalysts of huge waves of public feeling and misapprehension, with political responses from leaders in every social realm, and the truth of the matter quite irrelevant to the psychological forces called into action.

Likewise, the simple scientific misdirection published in Science in 1984 by Robert Gallo of the NIH that he had demonstrated that a retrovirus was the primary cause of AIDS (the key phrases being “strong evidence of a causative involvement of the virus in AIDS” and the “data suggest that HTLV-III is the primary cause of AIDS”), despite finding it in all too few AIDS patients (around a third) and despite finding the said virus thrived like Topsy in cultures of the very T-cells it was supposed to decimate, catalyzed a scientific boondoggle which is now the Worldcom of science, an enterprise whose essential bankruptcy is as yet unexposed behind the screening cloud of emotions and political and financial exploitation that has surrounded it for 26 years.

Whether Dreyfus’s sorry tale is worth going through page by unhappy page to see all the parallels with these modern debacles is probably dependent on how sophisticated the reader is in his/her perceptions of what is going on today, since the naive will probably feel it is all anachronistic old hat, now that we are free of all the problems such as anti-Semitism, blind trust in authority, belief that the law courts seek and find the truth, raging rumor mills and the tendency of a large national system such as the French Army to protect itself at the expense of justice for the individual, which France suffered then and which we don’t have any more.

If you do want to read up on this primer on mob politics and misdirection, however, we recommend the earlier book by Jean-Denis Bredin, “The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus”, which has all the important details knit together in a more effective, even novelistic dramatic structure, as against the comprehensive but rather plodding academic style of the current effort, which doesn’t add any updates which make any difference to the moral of the tale.

“Does it matter that Dreyfus was innocent? At Rennes, did Commander Merle, who wept while listening to Demange,, and Commandant Beauvais, who hesitated, it was said, until the last moment, believe that Dreyfus was innocent? It is not improbable, but his innocence was not enough to make them change their judgment. “I am convinced of Dreyfus’s innocence,” a French officer said to Emile Duclaux, “but if his verdict were up to me, I would convict him, again for the honor of the Army.” (Bredin, p.536)

The social principle that politics trumps truth in a court of law is one of the hardest lessons for the young idealist to learn. That it extends even into the heart of science is even more difficult to conceive, until one opens the Pandora’s box of skepticism about the claims of the generals of that Grand Armee, especially those in HIV/AIDS.

Wives get US military to aim at girls in Afghanistan, Wikileaks strikes again

July 18th, 2010

Greg Mortenson teaching Army new tactics of winning hearts and minds as both lose on the ground

Female power takes over US Army policy in history’s biggest quicksand, but can it overcome male doubledealing in millions to trillions of dollars?

If Army wives can redirect a juggernaut, why can’t Michele?

UPDATE: Wikileaks sends heat missile into US policymaking

The NYTimes sees fit today (Jul 18 Sun) to carry on the top left front page of its presumably well read Sunday edition a story by Elizabeth Bumiller on an Unlikely Tutor Giving Military Afghan Advice.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen joined Greg Mortenson at the opening of his latest of more than 130 mostly girl schools he has built in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as the US Army turns to "Three Cups of Tea" as its latest manual on how to achieve victory in Afghanistan ie leave without the Taliban taking over.Turns out the tutor is Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea”, and builder of more than 130 mostly girl schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the US Army under McChrystal has been paying a lot of attention to his ideas for the past year. The story gives the impression that “Three Cups of Tea” is now the unofficial army manual on how to achieve victory in Afghanistan ie how to leave it to the Afghanis without the Taliban taking over again. Mortenson’s answer, as we noted in an earlier post, is to educate the better half of Afghanistan, its women. And who is the group behind this sudden enlightenment after eight years of floundering in a military quicksand which has swallowed every other conqueror in history? Army wives:

“We will move through this and if I’m not involved in the years ahead, will take tremendous comfort in knowing people like you are helping Afghans build a future,” General McChrystal wrote to Mr. Mortenson in an e-mail message, as he traveled from Kabul to Washington. The note landed in Mr. Mortenson’s inbox shortly after 1 a.m. Eastern time on June 23. Nine hours later, the general walked into the Oval Office to be fired by President Obama.

The e-mail message was in response to a note of support from Mr. Mortenson. It reflected his broad and deepening relationship with the United States military, whose leaders have increasingly turned to Mr. Mortenson, once a shaggy mountaineer, to help translate the theory of counterinsurgency into tribal realities on the ground.

In the past year, Mr. Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute, responsible for the construction of more than 130 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, mostly for girls, have set up some three dozen meetings between General McChrystal or his senior staff members and village elders across Afghanistan.

The collaboration, which grew in part out of the popularity of “Three Cups of Tea” among military wives who told their husbands to read it, extends to the office of Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Last summer, Admiral Mullen attended the opening of one of Mr. Mortenson’s schools in Pushghar, a remote village in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains.

Cont:

Mr. Mortenson — who for a time lived out of his car in Berkeley, Calif. — has also spoken at dozens of military bases, seen his book go on required reading lists for senior American military commanders and had lunch with Gen. David H. Petraeus, General McChrystal’s replacement. On Friday he was in Tampa to meet with Adm. Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command.

Mr. Mortenson, 52, thinks there is no military solution in Afghanistan — he says the education of girls is the real long-term fix — so he has been startled by the Defense Department’s embrace.

“I never, ever expected it,” Mr. Mortenson, a former Army medic, said in a telephone interview last week from Florida, where he had paused between military briefings, book talks for a sequel, “Stones into Schools,” and fund-raising appearances for his institute.

Mr. Mortenson, who said he had accepted no money from the military and had no contractual relationship with the Defense Department, was initially critical of the armed forces in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as “laptop warriors” who appeared, he said, indifferent to the civilian casualties inflicted by the American bombardment of Afghanistan.

In its early days “Three Cups of Tea,” the story of Mr. Mortenson’s efforts to build schools in Pakistan, was largely ignored by the military, and for that matter by most everyone else. Written with a journalist, David Oliver Relin, and published in hardcover by Viking in March 2006, the book had only modest sales. Most major newspapers, including this one, did not review it.

But the book’s message of the importance of girls’ education caught on when women’s book clubs, church groups and high schools began snapping up the less expensive paperback published in January 2007.

Sales to date are at four million copies in 41 countries, and the book’s yarn is well known: disoriented after a 1993 failed attempt on Pakistan’s K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, Mr. Mortenson took a wrong turn into the village of Korphe, was nursed back to health by the villagers and, in gratitude, vowed to build them a school.

He returned to Pakistan a year later with a $12,000 donation from a Silicon Valley benefactor and spent most of it on school construction materials in the city of Rawalpindi — only to be told he could not get his cargo to Korphe without first building a bridge.

The story of that bridge, Mr. Mortenson’s relationships with Pakistanis, and the schools that followed appealed so much to one military spouse that in the fall of 2007 she sent the book to her husband, Christopher D. Kolenda, at that time a lieutenant colonel commanding 700 American soldiers on the Pakistan border.

Colonel Kolenda knew well the instructions about building relationships with elders that were in the Army and Marine Corps’ new counterinsurgency manual, which had been released in late 2006. But “Three Cups of Tea” brought the lessons to life.

“It was practical, and it told real stories of real people,” said Colonel Kolenda, now a top adviser at the Kabul headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force, in an interview at the Pentagon last week.

Colonel Kolenda was among the first in the military to reach out to Mr. Mortenson, and by June 2008 the Central Asia Institute had built a school near Colonel Kolenda’s base. By the summer of 2009, Mr. Mortenson was in meetings in Kabul with Colonel Kolenda, village elders and at times President Obama’s new commander, General McChrystal. (By then at least two more military wives — Deborah Mullen and Holly Petraeus — had told their husbands to read “Three Cups of Tea.”)

As Colonel Kolenda tells it, Mr. Mortenson and his Afghan partner on the ground, Wakil Karimi, were the American high command’s primary conduits for reaching out to elders outside the “Kabul bubble.”

As Mr. Mortenson tells it, the Afghan elders were often blunt with General McChrystal, as in a meeting last October when one of them said that he had traveled all the way from his province because he needed weapons, not conversation.

“He said, ‘Are you going to give them to me or am I going to sit here and listen to you talk?’ ” Mr. Mortenson recalled. The high command replied, Mr. Mortenson said, that they were making an assessment of what he needed. “And he said, ‘Well, you’ve already been here eight years, ” Mr. Mortenson recalled.

Despite the rough edges, Colonel Kolenda said the meetings helped the American high command settle on central parts of its strategy — the imperative to avoid civilian casualties, in particular, which the elders consistently and angrily denounced during the sessions — and also smoothed relations between the elders and commanders.

For Mr. Mortenson’s part, his growing relationship with the military convinced him that it had learned the importance of understanding Afghan culture and of developing ties with elders across the country, and was willing to admit past mistakes.

At the end of this month, Mr. Mortenson, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., with his wife, Tara Bishop, and two children, is going back for the rest of the summer to Afghanistan, where to maintain credibility he now has to make it clear to Afghans and a number of aid organizations that he has no formal connection to the American military.

Mr. Mortenson acknowledges that his solution in Afghanistan, girls’ education, will take a generation and more. “But Al Qaeda and the Taliban are looking at it long range over generations,” he said. “And we’re looking at it in terms of annual fiscal cycles and presidential elections.”

To turn the US Army in a new direction after eight years is quite a feat, and here we learn it was achieved by the wives atop the Army power structure ie the spouses of Christopher D. Kolenda, then commanding 700 American soldiers on the Pakistan border, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and General David H. Petraeus, now the Army commander in Afghanistan. Note that the actual first names of only the last two, Deborah and Holly, are mentioned by the Times female reporter, which seems odd.

Why doesn’t Mrs Kolenda deserve respect as the initiator of a vast expansion of US Army objectives in Afghanistan? Colonel Kolenda certainly took her point, judging from his piece in the Weekly Standard in October, 2008, How to Win in Afghanistan:It’s time to adjust the strategy.. At least, he included a reference to “Local governments desperately need to draw on the expertise of civilian partners from the international community to develop durable systems relevant to everyday life” amid his hard nosed assessment of spoiler factors in “winning” in Afghanistan including a dysfunctional timber trade and tax system.

The $200 billion pork barrel

How to win the war in Afghanistan is none of the business of this blog, of course, though we celebrate any advance in releasing the energies of the better half of the population of the world, which Greg Mortenson’s school building is part of.

But the influence of money on the behavior of large systems is our business, in that the influx of money into science from the post World War II federal funding of scientific research to the Wall Street exploitation of breakthroughs in biotechnology and medicine seem to us to account for much of the misbehavior we witness today in scientific leadership, since funding has become the first order of business in almost every field.

How does Afghanistan look from this point of view? A lost cause, we would say, unless things change. According to David Samuels in Harpers August issue, Barack and Hamid’s Excellent Adventure: Afghanistan’s president visits the White House , gigantic sums are being pocketed and dispensed as the powers involved cooperate in a clandestine game that has little to do with the headline stories we read in New York:

“Is your brother a CIA agent?”

The question refers to Hamid Karzai’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is regularly portrayed in the American press as a corrupt drug lord who charges huge fees for allowing trucks full of opium to cross the bridges over the Helmand River to Kandahar. Last fall, President Obama duly warned that he expected Karzai to establish tough new anti-corruption laws and remove his brother from the government of a country into which the United States would soon be sending 30,000 additional troops. Never mind that Afghanistan produces an estimated 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium; and that the Taliban pays Wali Karzai to ship opium through the territories he governs; and that the U.S. Army, under the ill-fated General Stanley McChrystal, relies on Wali Karzai for logistical support and subcontracts special tasks, which include killing people, to gunmen under his direct control; and that as a courtesy we no longer destroy the poppy crop; and that Wali Karzai happens to be the CIA’s landlord in Kandahar, renting them Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s old villa. After a few months of back-and-forth, the message got through, and on March 30 the New York Times reported that “Afghan and American officials have decided that the president’s brother will be allowed to stay in place,” quoting a senior NATO official as saying that Wali Karzai could be a big help to the ongoing American reconstruction effort. “One thing, he is a successful businessman,” the official said. “He can create jobs.”….

…an interview with former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, an arrogant creep who was forced out of his job as deputy U.N. envoy to Afghanistan and chose to express his unvarnished opinion of Karzai. “He can be very emotional, act impulsively,” said Galbraith, who repeated the word “emotional” three times in the course of the interview. In case viewers didn’t get the gossip-page code, Galbraith explained that “some of the palace insiders say that he has a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan’s most profitable exports,” leading a reporter to ask State Department spokesman Philip Crowley the next morning whether the United States had any reason to believe that Karzai was “like, hiding out in the basement of the palace doing bong hits, or something worse.” …

Eikenberry, a tall man in a good suit who used to be a lieutenant general, was opposed to the surge, because the Afghan government—whose ministers he knows better than any other American in the room does—was corrupt and unable to run the country effectively. Having spent more than twenty hours on a plane with Karzai and his ministers circumnavigating clouds of volcanic ash, Eikenberry is now even better equipped to evaluate the men in whose pockets much of America’s $276-billion investment in Afghanistan now resides. Appearing at a news conference in the White House briefing room on Monday, Eikenberry was asked whether his opinion of Karzai had changed. “President Karzai is the—he’s the elected president of Afghanistan,” Eikenberry said, falling back on the military man’s necessary obeisance to the idiocy of legal authority….
The fact that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate has been supplying the Taliban and even helping to plan attacks on Afghan and American forces is another inconvenient fact of the war that the leader of the free world would prefer not to deal with….

Yet there can be little doubt that a major source of money for the insurgency comes from payments made by elected Afghan officials and Wardak’s army, meaning that America is funding both sides in what is very clearly an Afghan civil war.

Cont. (much more)
A case in point is a recent scandal involving the defense minister’s own son, Hamed Wardak, a Rhodes scholar and class valedictorian at Georgetown University; his transportation company, NCL Holdings, won a $360-million Pentagon contract despite the fact that it wasn’t registered with the Afghan government and didn’t own any trucks. “Those accusations are without merit,” the defense minister responds, adding, correctly, that his son’s company has received the highest possible marks from the Pentagon.

I ask the minister about whether, in general terms, the logistics systems shared by the U.S. Army and the ANA might be susceptible to some form of graft. I note that Watan Risk Management and Compass Security, the two major companies that escort supply convoys across the country, are known to pay large bribes to the Taliban and even to stage attacks on convoys in order to raise their rates. Although the fee varies according to the number of trucks and what they are carrying, the average bribe required not to get shot at is reportedly somewhere around $800 per truck. Both companies are owned by relatives of President Karzai. A report published last year by the Center on International Cooperation at New York University estimated that the United States and its allies spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on payments to private security and trucking companies.

“We have a very good logistics system,” Wardak answers. “It works exceptionally well. There is proper institutional control. Accusations to the contrary are without any merit.”

To make him feel better, I ask whether girls’ schools are still being burned down in Afghanistan. “That does happen very regularly,” he assures me. Over the past year, he says, there have been approximately 600 attacks on schools that have resulted in the partial or complete destruction of their facilities.

The interior minister, Haneef Atmar, a tall, ascetic-looking man who walks with a cane and is known as one of the few competent ministers in Karzai’s cabinet, tells me that although corruption is indeed a problem, he has instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy for payments from contractors to the Taliban. He gives me his email address so we can talk further and then introduces me to a no-nonsense-looking military type named Kevin. “Kevin is my adviser,” he says. It turns out that every member of the Afghan cabinet has a minder who “controls” that minister, a locution that the minders not only do not avoid but in fact seem eager to stress, as in, “I control the minister of mines.” I ask Atmar when this meeting was planned, and he tells me, “About three weeks ago,” confirming my impression that this visit was more or less arranged on the fly, after someone in the administration determined that Karzai had outfoxed them. As it turns out, Atmar’s announcement of a zero-tolerance policy on payments to the Taliban is premature: he will be unceremoniously fired by President Karzai shortly after the cabinet returns to Kabul.

The State Department desk man for Afghanistan informs me that if I want a meeting with the minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, he will be appearing later at the Chamber of Commerce. Huge deposits of minerals including iron, copper, and lithium have been found in Afghanistan over the past few years. Last year, a contract for the Aynak copper deposit, thought to be worth some $88 billion, was awarded to a Chinese company in exchange for what American intelligence officials told the Washington Post was a $30-million bribe paid to Shahrani’s predecessor, Mohammed Ibrahim Adel, who was reported to be a close friend of Mohammed Karzai, one of the president’s brothers.

The problem with building anything in Afghanistan, the men tell me, is ensuring a consistent supply of fuel. There’s an eleven-inch pipeline that the Red Army built, and everything else needs to be trucked in, which means payoffs to the security companies and the local police, who are worse than the Taliban. I talk to a young American-born Afghan who grew up in Virginia and is now working in Afghanistan for an organization called SEIF, which was set up by CARE with funding from USAID. His job is to help small and mid-level entrepreneurs build packing plants in the countryside for dried fruit and nuts. I ask him how he thinks the war is going. “People in the rural areas are not happy with the last five or six years,” he explains. “They see billions of dollars being pledged for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. They don’t understand why they don’t see any of that money, why they don’t have roads, they don’t have schools, why they are still living in a mud hut.”…

I ask Ambassador Wayne how it is possible for the Chinese to pick up an $88-billion copper mine in the middle of a country in which America has spent more than $200 billion to no apparent purpose. “First is that the package that was put together was very massive,” he says, arching his eyebrows again. “Speaking frankly, there are all sorts of rumors about what else was happening.”

After the meeting, I ride with Minister Shahrani to the Willard Hotel, where we sit on pale yellow chintz-covered armchairs in a far corner of the lobby. In addition to the copper mine, he says, Afghanistan has the largest undeveloped iron-ore deposit in the world, for which bidding will soon ensue. “Everything will be done in the most transparent way possible,” he assures me. “We’re not Nigeria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

I try to imagine how that conversation goes. “So, you have already stolen billions of dollars, and you’ve deposited it in Geneva,” I say out loud, playing the role of Shahrani. “Be content with what you’ve stolen already. Please don’t steal more or the international community will be mad at us.” Shahrani smiles. The State Department minder—who has been sitting three feet away while pretending not to listen to us—looks up, but the minister waves him off. “No, let him ask questions,” he says. “All contracts will be made perfectly transparent,” he repeats, before launching into a long disquisition on the procedures and the road show for the iron-ore contracts, which will happen sometime this fall. The total worth of the additional unexploited mineral resources in Afghanistan may be between $1 trillion and $5 trillion. Whatever the real number is, it will provide plenty of incentive to keep fighting.

Ann Gearan of the AP, who has covered the State Department for years in the old-fashioned way, stands up to ask the Afghan president a final question. Is it really appropriate for the United States to be launching a major operation in Kandahar when the president is unable to remove his brother from office? Karzai nods politely. “Fortunately, officials who are elected by the people cannot be removed by the president,” he explains. The issues raised by the American press have now been understood better, he concludes, before stating firmly, “the issue is resolved.” Hillary Clinton turns her face toward the bright, shining lights. “I have nothing to add,” she says. The vision is real and ineluctable. America will win the hearts of the Afghan people by defeating the Taliban and educating women to go to the moon, and our president will be reelected at a cost of $6 billion per month and tens of thousands more lives, Afghan and American.

Sobering stuff. Also, somewhat disillusioning to all those that wish Greg Mortenson and his girls schools well.

After all, he built no fewer than 130 schools over several years in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the Taliban and other fighters have burnt down or crippled 600 in Afghanistan in the past year alone, so it would seem that the imagined transformation of Afghan society in support of the US Army might take a great deal longer than even a generation. Are the US Army prepared to stay the course? one might ask Colonel Kalenda.

Barack’s bedtime reading

So while we originally read the Times story as a heartening indication that perhaps our advice to the HIV/AIDS mythbusters to get to Michele somehow and let her insist that President Obama adjust US policy on AIDS in the right direction was not too wacky, we now realize that it may more difficult than it seems to actually change policy whatever success Michele has in getting Barack to make Peter Duesberg’s “Inventing the AIDS Virus” his bedtime reading.

After all, the amount invested so far in the totally spurious idea that HIV causes AIDS, a idea that is so scientifically silly it should be quickly rejected by any 14 year old who reads up on the topic, is calculated by some to exceed $400 billion, though the usual figure claimed in Vienna is half that.

UPDATE

WikiLeaks shoots heat seeking missile into Pentagon

Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, 22, is a champion leaker according to the suspicions of the Pentagon, which is fuming that he has given away the truly sorry state of "winning" the war in Afghanistan at such great cost to the lives and limbs of young American soldiers from the less privileged classes in this great democracy.  But most informed people were already aware of it.Today (Jul 26 Mon) the Wikileaks release of 92,000 Army records, more than 200,000 pages of detailed description of battle events from January 2004 through December 2009, delivered a body blow to current Afghanistan war policy possibly equivalent to the Pentagon papers undermining of Vietnam, though the documents are not as secret. The texts make clear that the war has not been going even as well as claimed by the White House, and why after $300 billion spent by the US the Taliban are stronger than ever.

They confirm the corruption and incompetence of the Afghan government, its army and its police, probable Pakistani ISI (Interservices Intelligence) support for the Taliban, at least until recently, that insurgents of all kinds have continually multiplied beyond official estimates and are now apparently using heat seeking missiles (Manpads, not Stingers) successfully against US helicopters, as they did against the Soviets, police cruelty to civilians sometimes as sadistic as the Taliban, and Army disregard of the lives of civilians who may be in a target zone without any hope of fleeing.

At the time of writing the Pentagon is fuming that this must have been the work of Bradley Manning, the 22 year old intelligence analyst they have in custody for releasing the video of the helicopter attack in which the Reuters correspondent got shot (see previous post, Bullets vs books: Greg Mortenson and the un-infowars), but Wikipedia isn’t saying, of course.

WikiLeaks Julian Assange has turned his site in just four years into the world's biggest secret buster. with ClimateGate, CopterGate and now AfghanGate to his credit.  Julian apparently believes that no large system should be allowed to keep secrets from the public, just as a matter of principle.The fundamental lesson for science here may be that what is needed for systematic scientific outrages such as the maintenance of the HIV/AIDS paradigm two decades after its expert debunking in top journals is a whistle blower who can expose internal memos and other correspondence which can give the game away to the public.

Unfortunately the only instance we know of where such a text was exposed was the incriminating memo written by some functionary at HHS asking why Peter Duesberg’s Cancer Research article in 1987, the one which first shot down the prima facie absurd HIV=AIDS claim, was not headed off at the pass ie not stopped before publication by intervention from the NIH or its agents.

Shortly after the Cancer Research paper appeared, a memo was sent from the office of the secretary of Health and Human Services, (HHS) with the words “MEDIA ALERT” that castigated the NIH for allowing the paper to have been published in the first place. “The article apparently went through the normal pre-publication process and should have been flagged at NIH,” it read. “This obviously has the potential to raise a lot of controversy…. I have already asked NIH public affairs to start digging into this.” The memo listed the few media outlets that had covered Duesberg’s review – primarily the New York Native, a gay weekly that has since gone out of business – and cited a few journalists by name it promised to check up on.

The notion that the NIH expects to vet every scientific paper in every cancer journal is surprising to people who think of science in the old fashioned, soft-fuzzy way. But to anybody who knows the system it is no surprise at all. The NIH exerts a militaristic control over the ideas that emanate from US government science, and the control extends to the media, who are rewarded and punished in accordance with their suspension of curiosity.
The NIH and all its branches are not only part of the “government,” they are part of the US military. Public Health has its roots in the military; the NIH began during World War I as an organization that solely focused on the health of soldiers. This remained its core mandate through World War II, after which it expanded to a more sweeping public health institution. Still, top NIH scientists hold military rank – the only openly stated one being the Surgeon General.
The NIH, UC Berkeley, the respectable science press, and needless to say the world’s many thousands of AIDS organizations choked on Duesberg like a bone lodged sideways in its throat. Ironically though, his achievements and reputation had lodged him deep in the system and it would take a while for them to expel him. (Celia Farber, The Passion of Peter Duesberg, at AIDS Wiki.)

Despite the fact that this notorious page has been displayed or at least quoted on the Web for years it seems to have made no difference at all to the success of HIV propagandists in selling the world on their lucrative idea, and that any challenge to it must be “dangerous” to the welfare of the public.

What is needed is 90,000 pages of such admissions but Alas there seems no chance of that. Although perhaps we should get in touch with Julian, just in case. He is reportedly miffed, however, that the copter killing video didn’t enough of a dent in the politics of Afghanistan’s civil war – for that is what it is now exposed to be – and that is why he released the current material, which is only part of the total, he states.

Meanwhile BradAss87 faces 52 years in prison.

From Huffington Post:

Jon Stewart Mocks Media for Wikileaks Reaction (Video) Watch for the final shot of Afghan soldiers smoking hits of opium before going on patrol with American soldiers one of whom complains it is impossible to get them to stop giggling.

From the Guardian:
Biting column by Simon Jenkins, A history of folly, from the Trojan horse to Afghanistan – By recording failure in meticulous detail, the leaked war logs bear devastating witness to our incompetence

Two Vienna AIDS Conferences, only one with good science

July 16th, 2010

HIV mythbusters precede Global AIDS Confab with truthseeking pow wow

Facing army of millions, scientific idealists try to correct its idea of the enemy

Naive Obama is no help at all, and John P. Moore is still well funded

Eric Goosby, Obama's point man on AIDS, evidently has no idea at all that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, that AIDS is not infectious, and that the black community is at risk of being ground up in the teeth of the HIV/AIDS monster through no fault of its own.  As US Global AIDS Coordinator he will fly into Vienna this weekend to share data, best practices, and lessons learned from the $200 billion worth of programs implemented so far by the global community of HIV/AIDS.  Is there any chance that in a walk around the city this weekend to recover from jet lag he may stumble across the AIDS Knowledge and Dogma meet and learn better?The world’s greatest HIV/AIDS gathering will cram Vienna next week, bonding over the latest ways attendees have worked out to milk the greatest funding cow any of them have ever encountered.

None other than Ambassador Eric Goosby, the US Global AIDS Coordinator, will lead the US delegation to the XVIII International AIDS Conference to join 25,000 other HIV/AIDS dogmatists “to discuss efforts to stop AIDS.”

From July 18 to 23, Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, will lead the U.S. delegation to the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. The conference brings together an estimated 25,000 participants, including scientists, health care providers, political, community and business leaders, government, non-governmental and multilateral organization representatives, and people living with HIV/AIDS, to discuss efforts to stop HIV/AIDS. Reflecting America’s leadership in the fight against global AIDS through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. will use this opportunity to share data, best practices, and lessons learned from PEPFAR-supported programs with the global community of HIV/AIDS program implementers.

Truth on the sidelines

The only fly in the ointment will be the rather smaller, but more truthful AIDS Knowledge and Dogma – Discerning the Difference: Conditions for the Emergence and Decline of Scientific Theories, Congress, July 16/17 2010, Vienna, Austria running today (Jul 16 Fri) and tomorrow in the same city, announcing in innumerable ways that the whole basis for their work, the supposed science of HIV/AIDS, is hollow at the core, which is one reason why it has got nowhere in 26 years in explaining how AIDS works or curing it. (HIV/AIDS patients treated with the standard drugs in the US are dying at the same rate as ever, 20,000 a year, give or take three thousand (the CDC and the WHO estimates vary)).

Peter Duesberg, whose courage and tenacity in sticking to his guns and the outcome of his impartial reviews utterly rejecting the idea that HIV can be the cause of AIDS sets a rare example in idealistic science in this day and age of journeyman professionals in science who believe whatever everybody else believes, will address the truth telling AIDS confab in Vienna  on Saturday morning at 10.20 am on how the impact of HIV/AIDS on Southern Africa has been indiscernible as the population has gone through the roof over the last decades, contrary to the reporting of the New York Times.Unlike the gargantuan main fair, the AIDS Knowledge and Dogma conference will be an excellent source of accurate information on HIV/AIDS. One might view it as nothing less than a celebration of truth and good science, as verified by the published record in the highest peer reviewed journals. Its basic theme – that HIV does not cause AIDS, and HIV/AIDS is not infectious – has been sounded since 1987 and 1989 in comprehensive reviews which have never been challenged in the same publications, Cancer Research and the Proceedings of the National Academy, let alone refuted there or anywhere else, contrary to the propaganda of all those living off the current dogma.

But will its message calling for a return to good science in AIDS penetrate the noisy ramparts of the celebration of the status quo? The sorry tale of how politics and propaganda have trumped the best published science over the last quarter century in HIV/AIDS bodes ill for the prospects of turning the direction in which the vast crowd of lemmings at the other gathering is running, which is over the cliff of destruction and into the sea of despair, albeit well funded despair.

Can truth prevail in the numbers game?

It really is quite extraordinary how successful the promoters of the established paradigm have been in protecting it from debunkers led by the best man in the field, which is what Peter Duesberg of Berkeley was and is, even now, despite the Nobels given to less deserving rivals which have been used to (a)ward off his critiques.

Remarkable, indeed, given that there are so many books out now, well over thirty at last count, describing this scandal in detail, books by very acute minds with a perfect understanding of the issue, such as Peter Duesberg himself (“Inventing the AIDS Virus, 1996″) the science editor Harvey Bialy (“Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg , 2004″), science critic Henry Bauer (“The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, 2007″ ) and the mathematician Rebecca Culshaw (“Science Sold Out, 2007″), two of whom (Duesberg and Bauer) will be speaking in Vienna.

Other distinguished speakers in the program include the worldly ex-Sunday Times investigative science and medicine journalist and author Neville Hodgkinson (AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science (Fourth Estate, 1996)), the sharp minded market researcher, author and drug critic John Lauritsen (Death Rush: Poppers and AIDS, “Poison by Prescription: The AZT Story (1990), and The AIDS War” and others), gynaecologist, obstetrician and AIDS in Africa expert Christian Fiala (author of “Do We Love Dangerously? – A Doctor in Search of the Facts and Background to AIDS”), the virus structure electron microscope researcher Etienne de Harven who has just published “Ten Lies About AIDS”, internal medicine specialist and co-author of “Virus Mania: How the Medical Industry Continually Invents Epidemics, Making Billion-Dollar Profits At Our ExpenseClaus Kohnlein (video in French), molecular biologist and radiologist Marco Ruggiero (video) (site), and award winning British science and medicine documentary maker (“AIDS—The Unheard Voices”) Joan Shenton, author of “Positively False: Exposing the myths around HIV and AIDS”. The excellent full length 2009 documentary expose of the rot at the core of the HIV paradigm, “House of Numbers” will be shown, along with a shorter German film from 1996, “AIDS – die grossen Zweifel (AIDS -the huge doubts)”.

But is anyone else listening?

All this material is quite enough to convince anybody listening there in Vienna (or who follows the links above, and reads the fine page of abstracts of the HIV truth conference) that HIV is the Worldcom of science, but the likelihood of it being heard by anyone from the main AIDS event seems remote. For twenty six years the response of everyone in the vast world of HIV/AIDS has been to turn a blind eye to anything which might threaten the central place of HIV in their scheme, and the funding that flows from that idea. As Upton Sinclair once remarked, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Though the ruling idea that HIV causes AIDS is as vulnerable to debunking as a sucked egg is to a sharp stick, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men of reason and disproof have so far failed to dislodge the Humpty Dumpty of HIV from atop his wall, because none of them can get anywhere near him. No one who matters in the system will discuss the topic.

Of course, the naivete of Presidents, officials, editors, charity celebrities, health workers and the general public when it comes to paradigm battles within science is not helpful. Or perhaps it is not naivete. After all, what recourse do people even in high position normally have to a second opinion in scientific matters, which are beyond their own understanding?

Like even scientists expert in other fields, they have to ask Joe, or Bill, or whomever they know or trust, in the established ranks, and this chain of collegial agreement extends outwards from a very small group of insiders in the know. The number of people in HIV/AIDS who are fully aware of its ramshackle, unbolted theoretical underpinnings can probably be numbered on both hands, and half of them probably refuse to admit even to themselves the weakness of believing that HIV causes AIDS. And as Peter Medawar observed in Advice to a Young Scientist, “a scientist who habitually deceives himself is well on the way toward deceiving others”.

Where is the candidate for change?

Suckered by the HIV/AIDS paradigm promoters: President Obama speaks before signing the $3.4 billion Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 on October 30, 2009 in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, DC.  Is it possible that Obama's success at getting into Ivy League schools made him forget his origins and turned him into an elitist, deaf to signs that the public is being misled?   Or is he simply naive, not having grown up with those that feed in the public trough?   And no, Ryan White did NOT die of AIDS, poor mistreated childIn such conditions it is probably unfair to blame even President Obama for going along with this appalling boondoggle, although a case could be made for expecting more from a sophisticated politician. After all, it was not beyond South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki to realize that if such highly qualified scientists still disagreed over the issue. something must be going on, and to demand open public discussion, if not reconciliation of views. Having examined the issue for himself, it seems clear that he concluded like every other intelligent and objective outsider who comes upon it that there is no reason to believe in the unique absurdities of HIV/AIDS, which are legion.

Not to mention the stark giveaway that in established circles reexamination of the HIV faith is verboten, which is why HIV mythbusters have to hold their conference separately in Vienna, in the Imperial court stables, or Hoffstallungen.

For as any child should be able to see, censoring disapproval of questioning of a belief in science is the mark of vested interests anxious lest the paradigm they are living off get toppled, and a signal of its weakness. The lethal degree of counterattack on anyone who raises doubts in HIV/AIDS is notorious, and the most obvious flag that a can of worms will be exposed if it is opened.

A world where no one reads the science

In a modern world where no one has time to read beyond the headlines of journal articles, and even expert reporters are not paid to do any investigation in scientific disputes, the general public rarely tries to read up on a scientific topic hiding behind mounds of jargon on all sides, and so we have a world where a scientific paradigm can be maintained forever floating on general opinion, maintained by censorship and propaganda and the enthusiastic fellow traveling of activists, and the enormous momentum of tens of thousands of organizations and their need for funding.

The Web, which was meant to save us from institutions and systems which might conceal the truth, has now been exposed as ineffective, despite the growing pile of video clips and now even films on You Tube. The number of attendees tells the story: 25,000 versus probably more than a hundred times less. The chance of change at the grass roots level now seems remoter than ever.

But then, truth is not a numbers game, and science is not a democracy. When will a truth seeking leader look into the matter, and rescue the situation?

Calling Mr Goosby

This is the ceiling of the Vienna Opera House, which might inspire thoughts of rising above materialism and feeding at the public trough in the leaders of HIV/AIDS next week, but on the other hand since opera is fiction it might only inspire them to greater flights of fancy which will pay off at the box office run by the NIH.Will Mr Goosby pass by the Imperial Court Stables, where the AIDS-Knowledge and Dogma congress is being held, despite the not very promising name of this venue, and grasp the baton? Will he report back to President Obama that things may be amiss? Will Michele take an interest, and be put in charge of a new White House AIDS Investigative Unit?

Perhaps the current trend led by New York State surreptitiously to test everyone on the country for HIV will turn up a positive somewhere in the White House power structure, perhaps Mr Goosby himself. Certainly that would provide a personal motivation to reexamine HIV skepticism on his part, at least, if he has heard of it at all.

Certainly if he ever troubled to read Peter Duesberg’s book or site, or Rebecca Culshaw’s slim but powerful book, Goosby would be privately persuaded, we feel. But who in this Blackberry era has time to read any book? And who in a world of overwhelming consensus would think that contrarian views are worth reading, especially one atop the pyramid of power, privilege and pay generated by that consensus for 26 years? Probably not Mr Goosby, even if his alternative was the drug regime that increasingly is used to attack the health of blacks here and in Africa.

Moore pipes down

I am John Moore, and I detest this blog, even though I admit it is well written and civil, because it is a denialist blog, which is my favorite word for those who doubt my favorite paradigm, that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS, who deserve only the most vicious attacks, including calling up their universities or employers and trying to get them fired, because this is a very dangerous way of thinking, which might put off patients from taking their drugs, not to mention my leadership of HIV microbicide research.  Meanwhile, we note that lately John P. Moore of Weill Medical College at Cornell, the lead propagandist in HIV/AIDS science notorious for attacking HIV skeptics as viciously as he possibly can (by his own account), has kept out of the limelight, so we doubt that he will be in Vienna hosting a panel on why the media should be censored of any mention of doubts about HIV, as he did in Toronto.

After all, the NIH listing of grants in 2009 in HIV/AIDS has him busy as the grantee of some eight projects amounting to $2,171,570 (click on PIName heading, then seek page 14).

All of them seem to be related to microbicides, where his last major result was that his microbicide actually assisted the passage of HIV, as we recall.

We doubt that the funding of the alternative AIDS – Knowledge and Dogma conference amounts to anywhere near this sum. Were we in charge at NIAID, however, we would allocate $2 million to it, and $20 million immediately to Duesberg, whose line of research in cancer seems more promising that the entire oncogene industry put together.

UPDATE: Russian English speaking TV has run segments featuring HIV Mythbusters during the week – see AIDS: questions remain unanswered – Jul 18 story with 8 video clips embedded. . (Thanks Carter and Questioning AIDS Forum where a couple more videos will be found of Neville Hodgkinson on YouTube from Russia Today and CrossTalk on the AIDS Industry – a TV news segment panel including Peter Duesberg.

Duesberg wins crossfire panel: The last one – Cross Talk – is a must see with Duesberg in a Crossfire type discussion where two stalwart defenders of the faith one from UNAIDS and one from the pharma side are pitted against Duesberg, who they try to repel as “dangerous” and a “murderer” 25 years out of date with his valid (they admit) complaints about AZT killing all the patients, but he is given adequate time to counter them by pointing out that his complaints are drawn from JAMA and the NEJ in the last few years where half (of the 17,000 (CDC) to 21,000 (UN) dying annually) AIDS victims in the US are now dying of symptoms not of AIDS but of drug toxicity, and is given the last victorious word on the topic with that unanswerable point.

A creditable performance by the news host, who did his research beforehand, it is clear, unlike almost all well paid interviewers and producers in the country which spawned this outrage to science, medicine and common sense.

Burzynski! Alternative medicine pioneer conquers tumors, FDA

June 17th, 2010

Riveting documentary exposes official misbehavior in suppressing cancer pioneer

NCI patented medicines while FDA tried to jail their Polish discoverer

Patients sob at their lucky escape from the forces which hold back progress

Stanislaw Burzynski has been rescuing children from radiation and chemotherapy with nontoxic remedies which seem to reliably boost the body's capacities to overcome cancer, and has many grateful adults to provide heartfelt testimony as to his achievement, as well as copious publications in the peer reviewed medical literature, and has excited envy at the NCI - but the FDA has done its best to send him to jail even as it cooperates with his trials. The fine, illusion busting, investigative cancer documentary “Burzynski”, whose limited, one week Oscar-qualifying run just ended at New York’s Cinema Village and in LA, is a must see for any intelligent observer of the politics of medicine in the US.

Readers should by no means credit the irresponsible reviews it suffered at the New York Times from freelancer Jeannette Catsoulis, the familiar Times’ pit bull for movies on unorthodox medicine or science, tho’ here able to complain only of the “visual aridity” of the documents presented which “destroy the film” and “trample the eyes”, while acknowledging that “director Eric Merola, presents Dr. Burzynski as a stoic victim of patent fraud, government harassment and scientific sabotage. No one appears to contest the efficacy of his treatment; the problem, the film suggests, is a pharmaceutical industry with nothing to gain — and much to lose — from the introduction of a highly successful, nontoxic competitor to chemotherapy and radiation”, or the Village Voice where Ella Taylor, evidently a tyro fresh to the vicious politics faced by alternative medicine pioneers, which is the topic of the movie, is so inattentive, seeing “no credible proof of the drug’s success” in this “conspiratorial rubbish”, that she had to edit her piece after publication, and raised a serious question as to whether negative reviewers actually sit through much of the movie.

More attentive takes listed at Movie Review Intelligence include Kevin Thomas at the Los Angeles Times and Ronnie Scheib at Variety, though we would choose James Van Maanen’s review and interview at TrustMovies as the best and brightest so far.

Reflex repression

Such flat dismissals of “Burzynski” are specimens of the same uninformed and possibly venal teacher’s pet hostility to novelty from outsiders that forms roadblocks to progress in every field, but especially medicine, where the media has a very bad track record in unfairly damning news of progress outside the dominant institutions – for example, the powerful expose of shoddy and unproven AIDS science in House of Numbers.

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All the major elements of what is wrong with modern medicine are present – the overwhelming official prejudice against novelty from outside the system, the distrust of independent unorthodox practitioners and the heartfelt testimony of their patients, the devotion of power to the defense of current treatment even though it achieves little and imposes its own horrendous torment on patients, and the immense influence of pharma on regulating officials who tend to end up with jobs in industry after they serve in government.
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This kind of unthinking resistance and counterattack is the theme of “Burzynski”, which exposes the irrational antagonism of FDA officials towards a successful maverick who has at the very least found a frequent cure for hitherto uniformly and rapidly fatal brain cancers.

Too many documents? The well arranged document-ary lives up to its description and proves its shocking and exhilarating case with documents more than personal interviews, it is true, and leaves out “balance” ie the standard defensive sources at the NCI and elsewhere. But this is either because those who stood up for him in the past wouldn’t talk any more (Petronas) or because Merola was discreetly avoiding the kind of vicious counterattack suffered by its hero by not alerting the vast and powerful opposition before his film could be released.

For “Burzynski” tells the tale of one of the most distinguished and successful pioneers of alternative medicine in cancer treatment, Stanislaw Burzynski MD PhD, his clinic, and the trials and tribulations faced by this sturdy optimist in fighting the vindictive, reflex hostility of FDA officials, self serving “quackbusters” paid by the insurance companies and other mindless servants of the status quo for over three decades.

Burzynski’s bright idea

Burzynski has a rock steady air about him, and even has a sense of humor about the irrational antics of his tormenters, possibly because he knows that he is on the right track with his magic wand in cancer tumorsThe Polish born, West Houston based Burzynski had a bright idea early in his career, when he noticed that certain harmless peptides are seen in the blood and urine of cancer patients at less than normal levels, and wondered whether they might be involved in the body’s natural defenses against cancer.

The result, as covered in his over 200 articles in predominantly peer reviewed journals, is that he has been treating cancer in patients since 1977 with a novel protocol based on boosting these constituents (now about twenty varieties of small peptides and amino acid derivatives, synthesized since the early eighties and called antineoplastons by Burzynski) with signal success, judging from his carefully kept records, voluminous publications on his lab work which shows they interfere with cancer cells, and the fervent testimony of his patients cured of different tumors, and their families.

As the film spends its first half hour demonstrating, his results are promising enough to deserve the opposite of the political and legal attacks that have dogged him every step of the way to the Phase III trials now finally in view. The egregious assaults on his work (and it seems clear, the lives of his patients) have included confiscation of his entire records for 14 years, costly prosecutions by local authorities with a view to jailing him for several lifetimes, luckily all in vain, and a blatant attempt on the part of NCI staff (including a woman who earlier served as his consultant) to rob him of his patents by supplanting them with their own.

Fair and lovely, and not dead

The grand claim made at the start, that this MD, PhD physician and biochemist has “discovered the genetic mechanism that can cure most cancers,” may be over reaching, but one thing is certain: Burzynski’s potions serve notoriously deadly and untreatable brain tumor patients better than the standard expensive and medieval regime of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy with its horrendous side effects which do little except delay death by a few months, if that. The horrors visited upon children with brain tumors without hope of real benefit by the orthodox priesthood in cancer are vividly described by parents who turned to Burzynski in the hope, quite often realized, that he could do better with his non toxic remedies.

Jodi Fenton has very good reason to feel she was saved by BurzynskiSome of the examples of his success are startling, with those diagnosed with fatal disease but lucky enough to come under the kind doctor’s care telling of their escape from the tortures of the damned years later, having won total remission and now flourishing in youth and beauty. When the current image of one condemned boy, now a handsome 18 year old, reached the screen the audience at the crowded penultimate showing at the Cinema Village burst out in applause.

The humorous twinkle in the stoic Burzynski’s eyes as he recounts the irrational but costly attacks of his enemies must reflect his utter certainty that he is on the right track, a confidence presumably bolstered when the official at NCI in charge of Phase II trials of his discovery, who went to the FDA (Michael Friedman), together with a consultant Burzynski once hired (Dvorit Samid) and a drug company which had offered to partner him (Elan Pharmaceuticals), paid him the compliment of trying to supplant his patents. Dvorit Samid was a believer in the promise of Burzynski’s method, but was banned by the NCI from mentioning Burzynski in her publications on the breakthrough, even as a reference.

An approach which makes sense

However unorthodox it may sound to the naive (and extracting useful products from urine is not as unusual as Ella Taylor the Voice reviewer seems to think – women all over have taken Premarin, an extract from horse urine, for years, for relief from symptoms of menopause) his protocol is officially recognized as promising both in these NCI patent applications and in the establishment of FDA approved Phase II and now soon (when the requisite millions are raised) Phase III trials.

Saving children from death and worse - the current conventional treatment for central nervous system tumorsThe principle is prima facie sensible and the proposed mechanism makes sense, and the results seem now well established. According to his careful records of FDA licensed patient treatment and outcome, it typically results in permanent remission in about a quarter of his cases compared with zero remission for orthodox treatment, if separate studies on the outcome of each approach are compared. The urgent public need, clearly, is for Phase III trials to be done as soon as possible.

Exactly how his urine extracts (can you say “antineoplastons”? its last syllable should be short, though in the film it is emphasized in the French manner) work their wonders is not fully detailed, but is generally supposed to be action against cancer gene expression. What is made crystal clear is the mechanism by which progress in medical science is stultified. Unless you have the ideal lawyer as Burzynski does in Richard Jaffe, who has a degree from Stanford in the Philosophy of Science, and whose Congressional testimony is featured on camera, you will be shot down by the FDA and put out of business.

If you are outside the great institutions it is almost impossible anyway to get the entrenched old guard to look open mindedly at your novelty in medicine, however good your results. In fact, they will naturally treat it as a threat to their present style of life, and counter attack (the HIV/AIDS establishment is a perfect example of this attitude, even though after 25 years there is no mechanism for the reigning and unproven claim). The FDA acts as the palace guard keeping newcomers outside, the media act as their barking dogs, and all the while Big Pharma bankrolls the status quo.

Dining on the public grave

His mother broke down sobbing when recounting how her son Dustin Kinnari was saved before a Congressional enquiry in 1996, and when the film showed his current state of 18 year old health, the audience in New York City burst out clappingIn carefully exploring how Burzynski himself is mistreated, the well developed expose takes the lid off what is nothing more than a disgusting can of political and mercenary worms dining off the corpse of the public interest in cancer.

All the major elements of what is wrong with modern medicine are present – the overwhelming official prejudice against novelty from outside the system, the distrust of independent unorthodox practitioners and the heartfelt testimony of their patients, the devotion of power to the defense of current treatment even though it achieves little and imposes its own horrendous torment on patients, and the immense influence of pharma on regulating officials who tend to end up with jobs in industry after they serve in government.

Such complaints have been widespread for many years but this film’s account is exceptional in its clear exposition of just how unjustified and automated are the official attacks on independents such as Burzynski. He is five times taken before grand juries even though they not only refuse to indict but jury members join in demonstrating with protesters in subsequent cases.

Abuse of power

The Texas authorities go after him at the bidding of the national office of FDA even though no law forbids his treatments locally (until 1995, when they changed the law), and eventually after losses in court the FDA begins to approve his work. Even so, his records remain confiscated for twelve years, preventing him from easily treating patients without laboriously Xeroxing his own records at the offices where they are held, which on the basis of past experience costs some patients their lives. A useless NCI trial conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center uses its own protocol, diluting the medication 170 times and evidently costing the nine patients their lives, according to Burzynski’s ignored protests. And why did it use patients who were so far advanced in their deterioration, that Burzinski’s medicine was unlikely to do much good? Was the renowned Mayo Clinic trying to sabotage his work?

All along the legal complaints do not suggest that his treatments are anything but harmless and beneficial (“the efficacy of antineoplastons in the treatment of human cancers is not of issue in these proceedings” – Texas State Board of Medical Examiners). In fact, by 1995 it is quite apparent and acknowledged by an expert at the Cleveland Clinic in the movie and other other establishment reviewers that the Burzynski treatment is both safe and evidently often stunningly beneficial, and will produce complete remissions in many more patients if they are not irradiated and drugged under the standard regimen beforehand, a regimen whose awful effects in at least one case produce a death even after Burzynski had erased the tumor completely.

Trail of stunning documents

Burzinski has a thriving practice but his chances of funding Phase III trials seem a little more complicated than they would be if the NCI handed over some of its public money for what looks like the anti-cancer leap of the quarter centuryA documentary maker cannot shoot film inside the minds of the actors in his drama, of course, but New York filmmaker Eric Merola powerfully suggests that money is at the root of all this evil as he takes filmgoers on a tour of the documents that expose all these horrid truths , bolstered with interviews mainly with Burzynski and Julian Whitaker MD, of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, California. Nicholas Patronas MD who was chief of neuroradiology at the NCI is featured not on camera but in Congressional testimony being highly supportive, as well as in a report on Burzynski’s cases.

Only the most cynical will find the journey dull. It is high drama, with lives at stake. Merola uses an effective technique to clarify and dramatize written material which is usually safely fenced off from prying public eyes by medical and official jargon. He reads judiciously selected phrases out loud as the camera jumps from one to the next, leaving out the obfuscating Latin, but ensuring the audience gets it from the horse’s mouth, not from a voiceover summary.

The real criminality

The bottom line is that the film portrays an endemic vice of the current medical culture, the unthinking, lethal prejudice against potential cures which are Not Invented Here which motivates attempts to kill the messenger at the same time as appropriating the gifts he bears. Burzynski seems a sterling character who can see the absurdity of the criminally irresponsible tactics of his opponents even as he points out that his own experience indicates they are costing patients their lives.

But for public servants to admit on the one hand that his ministrations are effective against deadly cancers immune to current regimens, and on the other try to railroad him into jail and take him out as a leading competitor in the medical Olympics of curing cancer, as the film documents, is self evidently crooked.

At least one lawyer is telling the filmmaker that the miscreants in his case deserve jail, and has offered to put them there (see James van Maanen’s excellent review and interview at TrustMovies: Seek out BURZYNSKI (maybe its doctor, too) in Eric Merola’s new documentary; Interview with the filmmaker

In summary, no one who is touched by cancer should fail to look into Burzynski for themselves, and obtain the DVD immediately from Eric Merola’s movie website, Burzynski the movie, which also features upcoming showings, such as the ones in Asbury Park, New Jersey, June 23-26, where Merola will appear for a post film panel discussion and a current breast cancer patient of Burzynski’s.

Best good news in cancer for years

For the first time for many people, they will see that alternative medicine has been offering better treatments for cancer as in other diseases for thirty years, unremarked in the media except for special mention usually accompanied by disparagement, and enthusiastically repressed by the saviors of the status quo. In this case, however, Burzynski and his workers have overcome the counter army and achieved buildings that cover two city blocks, FDA permission to proceed with Phase III trials, and a growing population of sick made well from the deadliest of tumors.

Let’s hope that this thorough expose of both the bad news and the best good news in cancer in years is on its way to an Oscar, since its story should be disseminated as widely as possible.

Salt Fights Back (with Science)

May 31st, 2010

Times exposes industry’s ploys to keep America salt-smitten

The cure: home cooking, sea salt, 2/3 tsp daily

But are the salt police scientifically correct?

Not your typical supermarket salt, these pink-brown chunks of salt from the Himalayas are as tasty as might be expected with 84 minerals allegedly present.A knockout piece about salt today (Sun May 30 2010) on the ever more investigative New York Times’ front page – The Hard Sell on Salt by Michael Moss – showing how intensely the salt industry is fighting to keep plenty of salt in the American diet, despite its proven depredations in the form of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Their solution: people can eat less, period.

That might be what they indeed have to do, since most (80%) of the salt Americans swallow is added to processed foods:

“Salt is a pretty amazing compound,” Alton Brown, a Food Network star, gushes in a Cargill video called Salt 101. “So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times.”

The campaign by Cargill, which both produces and uses salt, promotes salt as “life enhancing” and suggests sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee. “You might be surprised,” Mr. Brown says, “by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss.”

By all appearances, this is a moment of reckoning for salt. High blood pressure is rising among adults and children. Government health experts estimate that deep cuts in salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year.

Since processed foods account for most of the salt in the American diet, national health officials, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Michelle Obama are urging food companies to greatly reduce their use of salt. Last month, the Institute of Medicine went further, urging the government to force companies to do so.

But the industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy “delay and divert” and say companies have a powerful incentive to fight back: they crave salt as a low-cost way to create tastes and textures. Doing without it risks losing customers, and replacing it with more expensive ingredients risks losing profits.

Scientific prescription: 2/3rds teaspoon daily if at risk

The science of salt is simple enough. The body needs a balance between potassium and sodium, with more potassium than sodium. The current balance for too many people is more sodium than potassium, mostly in the form of sodium chloride, common salt.

One teaspoon of salt a day is enough, more may kill you - but will trying to reduce salt intake save your life?  Normal intake should be around one teaspoon (2 grams) of salt, give or take half a teaspoon. But for thirty years the typical American has been using more, sometimes up to ten times that amount, mostly unwittingly. Currently the average adult figure is 3.5 grams daily, just about the world wide average according to the industry Salt Institute’s quite informative page Food, Salt and Health.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a teaspoon and a half as optimal. The CDC says 145 million US adults (69 per cent) are now oversensitive to salt – those with high blood pressure, African-Americans and everyone older than 40 – who typically use 3.4 grams daily. Only 1 in 10 restrict themselves to 2/3rds of a teaspoon of salt a day, 1.5 grams, which is what they should do to avoid heart attacks and strokes.

Unfortunately, with the taste and texture of so much manufactured food heavily dependent on its added salt all this will be hard to reverse as long as American tastes lean toward the appalling rubbish – sorry, nutritionally low caliber snacks – many are used to enjoying.

The power that salt holds over processed foods can be seen in an American snack icon, the Cheez-It.

At the company’s laboratories in Battle Creek, Mich., a Kellogg vice president and food scientist, John Kepplinger, ticked off the ways salt makes its little square cracker work.

Cheezits might fall apart if they had less saltSalt sprinkled on top gives the tongue a quick buzz. More salt in the cheese adds crunch. Still more in the dough blocks the tang that develops during fermentation. In all, a generous cup of Cheez-Its delivers one-third of the daily amount of sodium recommended for most Americans.

As a demonstration, Kellogg prepared some of its biggest sellers with most of the salt removed. The Cheez-It fell apart in surprising ways. The golden yellow hue faded. The crackers became sticky when chewed, and the mash packed onto the teeth. The taste was not merely bland but medicinal.

“I really get the bitter on that,” the company’s spokeswoman, J. Adaire Putnam, said with a wince as she watched Mr. Kepplinger struggle to swallow.

They moved on to Corn Flakes. Without salt the cereal tasted metallic. The Eggo waffles evoked stale straw. The butter flavor in the Keebler Light Buttery Crackers, which have no actual butter, simply disappeared.

“Salt really changes the way that your tongue will taste the product,” Mr. Kepplinger said. “You make one little change and something that was a complementary flavor now starts to stand out and become objectionable.”

Moving the goalposts

High blood pressure is an increasing concern worldwide and more recently the level of blood pressure considered healthy was lowered. As Jane Brody wrote last September, in Too Much Salt Takes a Blood-Pressure Toll ,

Once, the prevailing medical opinion was that lowering an elevated blood pressure was hazardous because it would deprive a person’s vital organs of an adequate blood supply. But a few pioneering medical researchers thought otherwise and eventually showed that lowering high blood pressure could prevent heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and kidney disease — and save lives.

Even then, it was long thought that the only important indicator was diastolic pressure — the bottom number, representing the pressure in arteries between heartbeats. Further studies showed that the larger top number, systolic pressure, representing arterial pressure when the heart beats, was also medically important.

And as the various studies reached fruition, it became apparent that the long-accepted numbers for desirable blood pressure were too high to protect long-term health.

Now the upper limit of normal blood pressure is listed as 120 over 80; anyone with a pressure of 140 over 90 or higher is considered hypertensive. Those with pressures in between are considered prehypertensive and should take steps to bring blood pressure down or, at least, prevent it from rising more.

The change mirrors what happened with serum cholesterol, for which “normal” was once listed as 240 milligrams per deciliter of blood and is now less than 200 to prevent heart disease caused by clogged arteries.

It was also long thought that blood pressure naturally rises with age. Indeed, the Framingham Heart Study showed that when 65-year-old people whose blood pressure was below 140 over 90 were followed for 20 years, about 90 percent of them became hypertensive because their arteries narrowed and stiffened with age, causing blood to push harder against artery walls.

But in many societies where obesity is rare, activity levels are high and salt intake is low, blood pressure remains low throughout life. This is the best clue we have for the lifestyle changes needed to prevent illness and premature death caused by hypertension.

Back to home cooking

The simple solution to all this is to prepare properly nourishing and tasty real food at home, such as potassium rich fruit and vegetables, added to buffalo or other lean meat, fish and chicken prepared from scratch, organic if possible. Walking a few miles a day helps too.

The disciplined Dr Claude l'Enfant sets a very good example as he  warns the world against rising systolic (heartbeat) over dyastolic (between heartbeats) measurements of blood pressure.  His own levels at 81 are an exemplary 115 over 60, against the new health goal of 120 over 80.Dr. Claude Lenfant, who served as director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is now 81 and has a blood pressure of 115 over 60, a level rarely found among older Americans not taking medication for hypertension. His secret: a normal body weight, four or more miles of walking daily, and no salt used to prepare his meals, most of which are made from scratch at home.

In an interview, Dr. Lenfant, who now lives in Vancouver, Wash., said the problem of hypertension was rising all around the world and added that by 2020 the number of people with uncontrolled hypertension was projected to rise 65 percent. One reason is that doctors today are more likely to diagnose the problem, so it is reported more often in population surveys. “But I’m much more concerned about the fact that so much high blood pressure is not controlled,” he said, and called “therapeutic inertia” an important reason.

It is not enough for doctors to write a prescription and tell patients to return for a check-up in six months, he said. Rather, a working partnership between health care professionals and patients is needed to encourage people to monitor their pressure, adopt protective habits and continue to take medication that effectively lowers pressure.

French grey sea salt, quite delicious and fortifying at no more than one teaspoon and a half a dayOf course, many people nowadays do not know how to cook even a boiled egg, so this may not be feasible without forced retraining.

But if you do this, you won’t have any problem with salt. We have this on the best authority (the live in critic at SG HQ). But there are many more details in the Times article which should be pored over, if the whole situation is to be fully understood.

The picture it draws of the endless wriggling of the industry to get out of its plain duty to reduce salt in its food processing is marvelous to watch.

Back in the 1980s, some companies began offering low-sodium products, but few sold well. Surveys by the Center for Science in the Public Interest have found little change in salt levels in processed foods.

Sugar and fat had overtaken salt as the major concern in processed foods by the 1990s, fueling the “healthy” foods market. When the F.D.A. pressured companies to reduce salt in those products, the industry said that doing so would ruin the taste of the foods already low in sugar and fat. The government backed off.

“We were trying to balance the public health need with what we understood to be the public acceptability,” said William K. Hubbard, a top agency official at the time who now advises an industry-supported advocacy group. “Common sense tells you if you take it down too low and people don’t buy, you have not done something good.”

Science provides a loophole

But are they wrong? When the scientific studies are sifted, it does seem that reducing salt intake does not reliably improve health even as it reduces blood pressure – the latter effect established since 2001 (Study: Reducing salt really does lower blood pressure).

As one of the few science reporters who takes official pronouncements with a pinch of salt, John Tierney, pointed out in the Times in February, there is plenty of room for skepticism here, however doubtful the motivations of industry might be in promoting it. In When It Comes to Salt, No Rights or Wrongs. Yet. he was able to note the following:

Suppose, as some experts advise, that the new national dietary guidelines due this spring will lower the recommended level of salt. Suppose further that public health officials in New York and Washington succeed in forcing food companies to use less salt. What would be the effect?

A) More than 44,000 deaths would be prevented annually (as estimated recently in The New England Journal of Medicine).

B) About 150,000 deaths per year would be prevented annually (as estimated by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene).

C) Hundreds of millions of people would be subjected to an experiment with unpredictable and possibly adverse effects (as argued recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association).

D) Not much one way or the other.

E) Americans would get even fatter than they are today.

Don’t worry, there’s no wrong answer, at least not yet. That’s the beauty of the salt debate: there’s so little reliable evidence that you can imagine just about any outcome. For all the talk about the growing menace of sodium in packaged foods, experts aren’t even sure that Americans today are eating more salt than they used to…….

In other words, if you do get people to try to reduce salt intake, they may not succeed. But worse, while it may reduce blood pressure, this may involve other consequences which are not necessarily so beneficial.

The salt solution

The salt solution: like this Salt Institute model, your wife or sweetheart can prepare nourishing food at home and banish salt worries with restrained use of salt to taste - though the use of real sea salt as pictured earlier is the better choice.But even if people could be induced to eat less salt, would they end up better off? The estimates about all the lives to be saved are just extrapolations based on the presumed benefits of lower blood pressure.

(Tierney again:) If you track how many strokes and heart attacks are suffered by people on low-salt diets, the results aren’t nearly as neat or encouraging, as noted recently in JAMA (Reducing Dietary Sodium : The Case for Caution by Michael H. Alderman, MD – JAMA. 2010;303(5):448-449) by Michael H. Alderman, a hypertension expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. A low-salt diet was associated with better clinical outcomes in only 5 of the 11 studies he considered; in the rest, the people on the low-salt diet fared either the same or worse.

As the JAMA abstract puts it:

Authoritative recommendations, sometimes sanctioned by government, routinely call for reduced dietary sodium. However, when the strength of evidence is made explicit, it is generally acknowledged to be opinion or common “practice.”1 Advocates contend that the recommendation is justified because sodium restriction has been convincingly proven to lower blood pressure and that this will surely prevent stroke and myocardial infarction. Skeptics argue that modification of this single surrogate end point does not guarantee a health benefit as measured by morbidity or mortality. Instead, they note that salt restriction capable of reducing blood pressure also unfavorably affects other cardiovascular disease surrogates.

Diet is a complicated factor involving a multitude of interrelating nutrients. Genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors determine wide interindividual variation in sodium intake compatible with good health (end abstract).

Tierney continues:

“When you reduce salt,” Dr. Alderman said, “you reduce blood pressure, but there can also be other adverse and unintended consequences. As more data have accumulated, it’s less and less supportive of the case for salt reduction, but the advocates seem more determined than ever to change policy.

Before changing public policy, Dr. Alderman and Dr. McCarron suggest trying something new: a rigorous test of the low-salt diet in a randomized clinical trial. That proposal is rejected by the salt reformers as too time-consuming and expensive. But when you contemplate the potential costs of another public health debacle like the anti-fat campaign, a clinical trial can start to look cheap.”

So all in all, it seems that all the wise really need do is simply avoid processed foods for this and other nutritional reasons, stay with home cooking and add sea salt to taste.

This may involve unintended consequences of a benign nature, of course, such as stowing the Blackberry and switching off the screen and actually talking to the spouse and kids.

ADDENDUM: :

To heck with the salt police! Here’s a mildly amusing Time piece on America’s most outrageously non PC burger:

Hold the Bun by Joel Stein on the KC Bunless Burger

My first bite of KFC’s Double Down made me question why I ever used bread for sandwiches. By replacing the bun with two fried chicken breasts and putting bacon, cheese and glorified Thousand Island dressing in between, this culinary invention made me feel, for perhaps the first time in my sandwich-eating life, completely free — my fingers greasy, my mouth a mess, my testosterone pumping like Henry VIII eating a turkey leg and demanding a new wife to behead. It inspired me to plan a whole diet of breadless sandwiches: a hamburger that consists of two meat patties and an inner layer of condiments; a BLT that packs lettuce and tomato between crisscrossed pieces of bacon; a pastrami sandwich that entails my just shoving pastrami in my mouth…..

Beethoven May Not Have Died from Lead Poisoning

May 30th, 2010

Tests at Mt Sinai counter current theory

Civility breaks out among surprised Beethoven experts

Would that HIV?AIDS, cancer and other fields of scientific inquiry could learn that lesson

Beethoven was a happy and engaging personality in his early years, but by his fifties he was deaf and plagued with mysterious ailments centered on his stomach and nerves.  Now the seemingly credible hypothesis that he suffered badly from lead poisoning seems to have been debunked with new evidence from Mt Sinai, which has been peaceably taken into account by the scholars in the field.   Those familiar with the appalling behavior of scientists in certain other fields and their vicious defense of current belief against any review are wondering whether this civility could be transferred.James Barron in the New York Times today (May 29 Saturday) in Beethoven May Not Have Died of Lead Poisoning, After All reveals that Andrew C. Todd, a lead poisoning expert at Mt Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, has tested two skull fragments from Beethoven’s grave and found that the larger piece had only 13 micrograms of lead per gram, about average for a man of 56.

So although the smaller piece had more lead (48 micrograms) Todd appears to have toppled the long standing paradigm that his death in 1827 was due to lead poisoning, or at least called it into question.

Beethoven’s miserable ill health at the close of his life and the considerable pain he recorded in his letters (added to by the doctors who poured hot oil into his ears and drained fluid from his abdomen) were put down to lead poisoning after the lead content of his hair (click this link for technical discussion) and skull was found to be well above normal in tests thirteen and five years ago, at up to one hundred times the levels of modern urban man.

Scientists began speculating about what really killed Ludwig van Beethoven almost as soon as he was buried in 1827. He had complained of a “wretched existence,” with a long list of symptoms: abdominal pain, digestive trouble, colic, chronic bronchitis, foul body odors and extremely bad breath. And of course there was the hearing problem.

Beethoven began young and graceful, but in his fifties descended into a physical Purgatory and he is said to have asked on his deathbed that his brothers find out why Thirteen years ago scientists, including one who had investigated whether Napoleon died of arsenic poisoning and whether the paint on the Shroud of Turin dated to the time of Jesus, tested strands of Beethoven’s hair and ruled out syphilis as the cause of death. Unexpectedly, they found signs of acute exposure to lead.,

Five years ago tests on different strands of Beethoven’s hair and a tiny piece of his skull again pointed to lead. That, Beethoven scholars said, could have explained his infamous temper and his occasional memory slips. Some figured he had drunk too much cheap wine that was sweetened — in the custom of the 19th century — with lead to hide the bitterness.

But last week a lead-poisoning expert at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York tested the same piece of Beethoven’s skull that had been examined in 2005, along with another, larger, fragment. The researcher, Dr. Andrew C. Todd, said that over all he had found no more lead than in the average person’s skull.

The hair was obtained from Ira F. Brilliant, a real estate magnate who bought it for $7300 in 1994 at Sotheby’s in London, and the two skull fragments from Dr Meredith were among those originally taken home by a friend of Beethoven’s when his body was exhumed from a Vienna cemetery in 1863, and kept in his bedroom.

From the Argonne National Laboratories:   A X ray fluorescence chart of lead content in Beethoven's bones samples shows as much as a 100X as much as normal today.

As Russell Martin’s book Beethoven’s Hair : An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved suggested in 2000, lead seemed a likely culprit for the ill health that wracked the supremely gifted composer in his tortured last years, which were so very different from his youth as a charming and sociable man.

Meek concession by ruling dogmatists

After all, there were plenty of other reasons to suppose that the composer suffered from lead poisoning, since the plum wine he drank to excess (a treat suggested by his doctors) was sweetened in the 18th Century with lead, and the pencils Beethoven uindoubtedly chewed on contained lead, which also filled the china and the plumbing of the time. His symptoms of irritability, lassitude, headaches and muscular weakness fitted the hypothesis.

So it is quite surprising and even heart warming to find (judging from the article) that the scientists and scholars who had adopted this attractive theory are being surprisingly gracious in conceding its debunking from this one test of one fragment. Todd’s methods, like those conducted earlier by Dr William J. Walsh of Illinois, whose tests at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, involved “multiple measurements with X-ray fluorescence”.

Beethoven's hair, bought for $7300, contained a great deal of lead.  But his skull did not, it seems.Walsh now notes that Todd has only tested skull fragments and not the hair samples, but “agrees with the notion that Beethoven’s exposure to lead was a short term problem that came toward the end of his life.”

Whatever happened to the famous tendency of scientists like all academics to cling like barnacles to current theory and fight any revision to the death? William R. Meredith, the Beethoven scholar who carried the skull fragments from California to Mt Sinai, is surprised by the findings but amiably concedes it is “back to the drawing board” for all those concerned with why Beethoven died.

Perhaps it is the influence of James Barron, the Times reporter, which accounts for the geniality of the discussion. Or perhaps he discreetly omitted the more combative comments made to him in researching the event. Certainly one can ask why the one large skull fragment reading is so decisive when the smaller one contained four times as much lead, and when the skull bone grows much more slowly than hair and naturally will not register high doses of lead that quickly.

Where we really need an antidote to poison in science

Is James Barron’s style is just so elegant that the scientists were influenced into civility, where they might otherwise have burst out with more indignant objections? If so, we would suggest to the Times editors that Barron might be assigned to look into the notoriously unsustainable paradigm in HIV/AIDS, the belief engendered by Robert Gallo, Anthony Fauci, Luc Montagnier and David Baltimore that HIV has anything to do with AIDS.

In a speech in Washington, D.C., Mark Wainberg, MD, president of the International AIDS Society opined that the actions of the HIV skeptics warrant criminal prosecution.  AIDS vaccine researcher John Moore of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in Manhattan also told reporter Laurie Garrett "a charge of genocide would not be inappropriate."   Could it be that these intemperate remarks reflect their private knowledge that HIV/AIDS theory is, as the current movie House of Numbers has revealed, ridiculously unscientific?Perhaps his soothing manners might tone down the defensive alarm of defenders of this faith like the notoriously ungracious John Moore of Cornell, and the sinister Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University Aids Centre in Montreal and a Toronto AIDS conference organizer, both enthusiasts for jailing if not hanging those who publicly question their fond funding paradigm.

Both these men have instigated poison pen letters to university administrations and other employers of those who ask awkward questions about HIV/AIDS lore, seeking to have them ejected from their positions for not believing HIV is the cause of AIDS, in one case at least resulting in the victim failing to gain tenure at her university, after writing one of the best argued and most realistic books on the topic.

The excessive zeal with which the defenders of HIV/AIDS and its indefensible paradigm rush to suppress its questioning could do with public exposure in the Times. That a scientific belief needs shoring up by personal attacks on its skeptics is a very telling indication of its weak intellectual foundation, and the current certainty that the vast funding now attached to it is being poured down a very large rat hole.

The antics of HIV believers in trying to pin responsibility for many African AIDS deaths on Peter Duesberg and to undermine his position at Berkeley have reached morally disgusting levels in recent months, and we will post on them shortly.

All those who believe in good science in the public interest can only dream that the civility and open minds of Beethoven scholars and the scientists who are helping them out could somehow be transferred to HIV/AIDS, cancer research and other areas where the internal politics of the science is so corrupted and rife with self serving, anti scientific nastiness.

Bullets vs books: Greg Mortenson and the un-infowars

April 10th, 2010

US helicopter shooting of civilians shocks the world

Current wars in microcosm: a plague of fatal ignorance

How Greg Mortenson promotes peace better

OK boys let's see, anyone down there carrying a camera?The YouTube sensation of the past few days is the depressingly stark video record from 2007 of how easily US gunmen in helicopters can shoot unarmed Iraqis in flowing white robes, gathering in the street below in evidently friendly and relaxed fashion without a clue that they might be fired upon by the poorly trained soldiers sitting in the clattering machines overhead, who have imagined that a photojournalist’s camera lens is the barrel of an AK-47. The politically and morally labeled Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq has scored over 6 million hits now (April 17 update). It is not for the weak of stomach.

While the commenters (the Times stories have unusually articulate threads) quarrel over how culpable the US gunners are in their attitude that these were armed insurgents assembling to fight them, it seems very clear that they were under informed, to say the least, and taking lethal action partly because their imaginations filled in the gaps.

Here we have a tragic display of how dangerous it is to hand massive firepower to US soldiers of limited background and education (no fault of theirs, of course) without rigorous training in the modern problem of using an army in what is essentially a police action ie fighting rebels embedded in a civilian population in a foreign country, where there is no quick way to distinguish insurgents from innocent residents of the urban battlefield, in this case Baghdad, unless they actively use their weapons. Too often in the absence of good information the imagination rules:

“Let me engage,” the gunner demands, “can I shoot?”

A ground controller asks: “Picking up the wounded?” Seconds later the gunner asks again: “Come on, let us shoot.”

Permission is granted and a dust cloud envelopes a van and several Iraqis picking up bodies from a Baghdad square. Only afterwards do the crew of the American helicopter gunship realize that two children, now gravely wounded, are in the van. “Well,” one says, “it’s their fault for bringing kids into a battle.”

The sequence comes half way through 17 minutes of harrowing gun camera footage, authenticated by unnamed US military officials, in which the co-pilot of the Apache has already mistaken a Reuters photographer for an insurgent brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

In this case even given the noise that helicopters make overhead may be less than one imagines (though one informed blogger, Anthony Martinez, says “Up close helicopters are loud, the same isn’t necessarily true when they’re flying above you. You’d be surprised how quiet they can be in flight.”) there seems little doubt that the Iraqis must have known they were there and just assumed they would not be attacked, since they knew of no reason why they should be. As far as they were concerned they were acting peaceably out in the open and they were without weapons. Their behavior indicates no wariness at all.

As one commenter puts it:

DYORPEEPS Just to clear up for the idiots here.
There were NO weapons. At 3:40 you see a camera tripod. The other 2 have cameras, even Stevie Wonder can see those are not weapons.. They claimed they had AK47s. When did you see an AK47 that looked like a camera?
These guys wanted to kill and they were just making up anything they liked.
If you had an RPG, would you be standing? about casually in full view of a helicopter in a gang of 12 or so guys?

Gauging exactly what happened needs more than one viewing of this horror story (and as the Times story today reports WikiLeaks has a longer, 38 minute rather than 17 minute version at collateralmurder.com, which critics say makes clearer that clashes were ongoing in the neighborhood and that “one of the men was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade”), but it does seem that the sight of one man carrying a long lens camera or tripod in an apparently peaceful social assembly was far too easily transfigured into a gang of insurgents with multiple AK47s, and that the young US gunners were trigger happy, to say the least, apparently intent on acting out a video game in their heads rather than responsibly trying to hold back until they could be sure that what they guessed at was properly confirmed.

P4147705Particularly disgraceful is the followup after the shooting of the main group when a van enters the picture and the driver and his friend try to pick up a wounded man. No weapons are indicated and indeed it turned out later that the two children inside were being taken to school, but the gunners let fly a barrage of heavy ammunition which reduces it to an immobile smoking wreck. All the men were killed and the two children badly wounded (their scars, big as those after a heart transplant, were displayed in an interview on Democracy Now with the widow of the driver (video), conducted by Amy Goodman (also see Amy Goodman Conversation at Commonwealth Club (video):

(Comment): The wikileaks thing has two parts, the first part is debatable (they were not able to distinguish between civilians and combatants one way or another).

The second part is not, the man was identified as wounded, the vehicle as picking up dead and wounded. You can’t spin that to not be a war-crime. Denying medical attention to the children compounded it.

This was not a war-zone, this was a city, which under the rules of war America was obligated to secure from criminals. Using a helicopter unable to pick out children in a van constitutes a failure to make provision for identifying civilians and as such constituted a further possible war-crime.

Now this long clip is going to be viewed around the world and at the current rate may be seen by as many as 10 million people in the next month. The propaganda penalty could be greater than Abu Ghraib, since it offers such a long and convincing look at what collateral damage can really mean.

The 21 Century group think wars

And what is the key problem here? Surely it is the willingness to kill without sufficient information, in a striking parable of the fundamental problem in American actions in the Middle East for the last two decades. American policy and strategy in the Middle East in war and in diplomacy has suffered above all from lack of good information, from the inability to determine whether Saddam Hussein in fact had WMDs to our present inability to gauge Iran’s nuclear progress and intentions. Not to mention the inability to exploit good information when it does come in.

White House officials said later that no one had offered to resign at the meeting. However, it could prove harder to avoid either sackings or resignations when the outcome of a review into the intelligence handling is published later this week.

Former and serving officers are scathing about the way the operation in Afghanistan has been run and see it is part of an institutional weakness in the CIA and other intelligence-gathering agencies.

They said that the biggest US crisis in intelligence-gathering since 9/11 had been brought about mainly because no single agency is in charge, with a dozen agencies fighting for their own turf.

One of the most damning assessments came from a serving officer, Major General Michael Flynn, deputy head of military intelligence in Afghanistan. In a lengthy report published on Monday evening for a Washington thinktank, he and colleagues said the vast apparatus in Afghanistan was only marginally relevant. Analysts in Washington were so starved of information that “many say their jobs feel more like fortune-telling than detective work”, the report says.

Stepping back, one might see this tragic incident as one more example of how we have moved far into the new 21 Century Internet driven era of information/disinformation war, where physical battlefields are more and more irrelevant as they become more and more resistant to victory by force, given the inability to distinguish, defeat or root out the enemy. It is not just that the Army doesn’t serve well as a police force, though clearly it doesn’t adapt that well, with similar incidents (Civilians Killed as U.S. Troops Fire on Afghan Bus) causing havoc in Afghanistan now, leading even the Economist to wonder (When accidents stop seeming like accidents) if the nine year war there has amounted to any more than a “meaningless exercise of misguided violence”.

But how is it that good men go so far astray, so that hillybillies and homeboys from the backwoods and ghettos of America use civilians for target practice, having typed them as armed hostiles? Given the experience of this blog investigating the paradigm battlefields of science, where good and intelligent men and women seem to become hypnotized by their common ideology into losing all their professional skepticism and critical faculties, one obvious possibility is that they suffer from the social psychology of organized crowds and become unable to entertain any idea which conflicts with the shared assumptions.

Collateral alienation

Thus in the armed struggles now being played out where the US is actively seeking to change the political reality of faraway places by force, it seems that the individual soldier is behaving as if under this kind of hypnotic influence. Whether it is their fault is of course the great, Nuremberg question: Do the individual members of a modern social organization or ‘system’ – a group united by common ideology, in whatever form, from army to bureaucracy to corporation to scientific field – bear total personal responsibility for their actions, or are they excused because they are under the influence of – permeated by – group think, induced by authority and social psychology, and may be completely unaware of how their minds have been compromised?

One thing is certain, the new era is one where one cloud of group think confronts another – battles are over tribal and mental boundaries now, not geographical ones. Instead of the great global melting pot we all hoped for with the fall of the Wall, we had the ingredients separating out all over instead. The trend continues without slowing. The Middle East confronts America and Israel, and fanatics imbued by radical distortions of Islam confront the US as the standard bearer of global capitalism, just as the Sunnis confront the Shiites, the Kurds confront the Iraqis, the Israelis confront the Palestinians and the Arabs at large, the Hutu killed their Tutsi brothers, etc etc.

Ideological mind games are now the important battlefield, a field of combat where too much ground has been lost over recent decades by a US political culture that still seems too often baffled by and at odds with the cultures it is trying to win over. Now the Internet is rocket boosting this trend by giving a global propaganda platform to every group on earth even as it transforms the world into one living room (For Web’s New Wave, Sharing Details Is the Point).

But there are brilliant exceptions to US failure in the case of individuals who adopt a non military approach, and try to bridge cultures rather than take them over.

Mortenson shows the way

Greg Mortenson is winning with education, not explosivesOne shining example of the latter is Greg Mortenson and his Stones into Schools program, which is winning over Afghans wholesale in a way which the billions spent on Army operations never will. As Mortenson (follow him on Twitter) told Bill Moyers recently, he was captured by the local Taliban who seemed likely to cut his head off, he thought, but after he asked for a Koran to learn about their ideology, and they found out about his work building hundreds of schools, they released him with a $100 contribution to his local project.

His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.

Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.

He is one of few foreigners who has worked extensively for sixteen years (over 72 months in the field) in rural villages where few foreigners go.

TV newscaster, Tom Brokaw, calls Mortenson, “one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, who is really changing the world”.

Congresswoman Mary Bono (Rep – Cali.) says, “I’ve learned more from Greg Mortenson about the causes of terrorism than I did during all our briefings on Capitol Hill. He is a true hero, whose courage, and compassion exemplify the true ideals of the American spirit.”

Losing the information race

If winning the hearts and minds of the Middle East is the great objective, one wonders again how much progress will be made given the enduring cultural chasm and the ease with which the US has been vilified by Arab leaders and clerics, and the seeming inability of the US to curb collateral damage, some of it caused by insurgents, of course:

(Washington Post) But Abdul Ghani, an Afghan man who told The Washington Post in a telephone interview that he was the driver of the bus, said the soldiers “didn’t give me any kind of signal. . . . They just opened fire. No signal at all.”

(Reuters) The United Nations says new guidelines issued by the commander of NATO and U.S. forces last year have helped reduce the number of civilian casualties, but such incidents still cause deep anger among Afghans the foreign troops are meant to protect. While the United Nations says foreign and Afghan troops killed 25 percent fewer civilians last year than in 2008, civilian deaths rose overall, because the number killed by insurgents rose 40 percent.

More than 2,400 civilians were killed in 2009, making it the deadliest year of a war now more than eight years old. There are some 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, set to rise to 150,000 by the year’s end.

Likewise, where Al Qaeda is at work only good intelligence will prevent another 9/11 or worse, yet the record so far with the latest shoe bombing scares is not reassuring.

With the military taking up almost half of the budget’s discretionary spending and the US spending as much on force of arms as the rest of the world combined, the US achievement in recent military and foreign policy looks more and more like the creation of a vast headless monster which roams the globe blindly demolishing the lives of millions while its brain remains on the shelf.

Finally, however, we have a thoughtful President – someone who can talk, think and listen at the same time, as Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has put it (transcript and video), – who should know how to put this right, and is trying to do so (Analysts Say U.S. Intelligence System Overloaded, Out Of Date):

In a recent piece for “The Washington Post,” Hoffman (Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a member of the government’s National Security Preparedness Group) argued that after 9/11, Al-Qaeda’s leadership adopted a new strategy against the United States, which he calls a “death by a thousand cuts” approach.

He says it involves overwhelming the country’s intelligence-gathering system with meaningless data to confuse it; striking U.S. allies (like Spain and Britain) for supporting the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; recruiting “lone operatives” from countries without U.S. visa restrictions; and expanding their operations into failed and lawless states, like Yemen, where the previously little-known group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based.

Hoffman argues that the systemic failure of intelligence analysis and airport security that occurred in the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas was, at its core, “a failure to recognize Al-Qaeda’s new strategy.”

He says the redundancy that was built into the system after 9/11 to act as a safety net that would catch mistakes “isn’t enough, and it really boils down to a changing mind-set, as well, that sees Al-Qaeda as it is: this very dynamic, very evolutionary adversary, and that mandates that we prepare not just for yesterday’s threat but we need a system that’s more anticipatory and that’s better at preempting, as well.”

Following last week’s security review, President Obama ordered several immediate changes implemented throughout the intelligence community.

Deja vu

The parallel with the science infowars in HIV/AIDS, global warming, particle physics and other battlefields in science where theory is disputed, information is spun for the public, and entrenched power represses free speech, will not be lost on readers of this blog. The unhappy converts to the current spurious paradigm which persuades the ignorant to accept HIV as the cause of AIDS are not very different from the foolish and imagination driven soldiers in their helicopters overhead, when they victimize innocents with their medical bullets against the wrong threat.

Might does not make right

The anachronistic US determination to exert influence through military might in unwinnable situations has been hard to understand since Vietnam. Military might cannot win a propaganda war. Military might cannot win a guerrilla war. Military might cannot win against terrorism and suicide bombers.

Military might is certainly not the right weapon to police an international criminal conspiracy, which is all that Al Queda is, as the thoughtful Andrew Bacevich, the great skeptic on Iraq and Afghanistan, whose latest book is The Permanent War, tells Bill Moyers in his latest interview:

We don’t learn from history….There is this inexplicable belief that the use of military force in some Godforsaken country on the other side of the planet will not only yield some purposeful result but will produce significant benefits for the United States. We’re now in the ninth year of this war, the longest in American history, with no end in sight… a war utterly devoid of strategic purpose….if we could wave a magic wand tomorrow and achieve all of the purposes General McChrystal would like us to achieve, would the jihadist threat be sustantially reduced as a consequence? Is jihadism centered or headquartered in Afghanistan? …you only have to think about it for three seconds…it is an international movement.. it could come from Brooklyn. ..the notion that because the 9/11 was concocted in this country, as it was, somehow it will guarantee there won’t be another 9.11 is absurd.. the notion that we can prevent another 9/11 by invading and occupying and transforming other countries is absurd… Al Queda is not Nazi Germany…Al Queda is the equivalent of an international criminal conspiracy, a Mafia that draws its energy or legitimacy from a distorted understanding of a particular religious tradition..and the proper response is a police effort…ruthless and sustained to identify the thugs, root out the networks and destroy it …an effort which will never fully succeed in eliminating the threat, just as the NYPD isn’t able to fully eliminate criminality in New York City. (Full transcript is at this page at Moyers Journal

).

The uselessness and tragedy of thinking otherwise has never been better encapsulated than in this outrage video.

So who really deserves the Nobel Peace prize?

Perhaps US policymakers should ask Greg Mortenson’s advice. On the basis of his record to date it is not too much to say that it should have been Mortenson who got the Nobel Peace Prize, not Obama.

“By replacing guns with pencils, rhetoric with reading, Mortenson combines his unique background with his intimate knowledge of the third-world to promote peace with books, not bombs, and successfully bring education and hope to remote communities in central Asia.

Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

In 1993 Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach the peak of K2. Exhausted and disoriented, he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. Alone, without food, water or shelter, he stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health.

While recovering he observed the village’s 84 children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left the village, he promised that he would return to build them a school. From that rash, heartfelt promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time.

Greg Mortenson bringing books not bombsIn an early effort to raise money he wrote letters to 580 celebrities, businessmen, and other prominent Americans. His only reply was a $100 check from NBC’s Tom Brokaw. Selling everything he owned, he still only raised $2,400. But his efforts changed when a group of elementary school children in River Falls, Wisconsin, donated $623.40 in pennies, and who inspired adults to begin to take action. The 283 foot Braldu Bridge was completed in 1995 and the Korphe School was completed in 1996. Since then, he’s established 78 schools. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived an armed kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. Yet his success speaks for itself.”

Mortenson is the author of Three Cups of Tea, his autobiography, of which the above is part of a review, and last year of his Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here’s part of the review in the Washington Post bv Jay Matthews:

…. few new books are as well-timed as “Stones Into Schools.” Mortenson is the author of the most popular recent account of a part of the world at the center of American foreign policy. His views will influence how voters react to President Obama’s efforts in Afghanistan. However distasteful he finds the word “terrorism,” Mortenson makes no secret of his disgust with the Taliban. The heroes of this book are 14 riders, loaded with AK-47s, their horses “short legged and shaggy and iridescent with sweat,” who came across the Irshad Pass to Pakistan in 1999 and begged Mortensen to build a school in their remote part of Afghanistan. The school was built, and at the end of that struggle the author saw their triumph as a path to peace for all. “They had raised a beacon of hope that called out not only to the Kirghiz themselves, but also to every village and town in Afghanistan where children yearn for education, and where fathers and mothers dream of building a school whose doors will open not only to their sons but also to their daughters,” Mortenson writes, “including — and perhaps especially — those places that are surrounded by a ring of men with Kalashnikovs who help to sustain the grotesque lie that flinging battery acid into the face of a girl who longs to study arithmetic is somehow in keeping with the teachings of the Koran.” After some initial reluctance, he embraces the U.S. military as part of the effort to bring education to children so unimaginably far from civilization. Soldiers provide personal donations and transportation of materials for some of his projects. But Mortenson puts most of his faith in the Afghans themselves, particularly those who persuaded him to build more schools. He says they can crush the Taliban and overcome the country’s old cultural biases against educating girls. Mortenson may be unrealistic, but the past decade of his life has been one improbability after another. It is unfair to expect him to lose hope now. He wants the United States to stay and help his friends save their country. He’s on a roll, and he doesn’t see why he can’t carry everyone with him.

We’re with you, Greg.

UPDATE: Were the American gunners to blame? Further discussion

The AtWar blog at the Times has excerpts from military blogs which evaluate the video and whether the gunners were justified in panting to open fire.

Here’s an excerpt from Anthony Martinez’s post at A Look Inside. Martinez is an experienced viewer of aerial footage and says he would not have recommended firing, even though he observes two weapons as well as the camera lens:

I have spent quite a lot of time (a conservative estimate would be around 4500 hours) viewing aerial footage of Iraq (note: this time was not in viewing TADS video, but footage from Raven, Shadow, and Predator feeds)…

Between 3:13 and 3:30 it is quite clear to me, as both a former infantry sergeant and a photographer, that the two men central to the gun-camera’s frame are carrying photographic equipment. This much is noted by WikiLeaks, and misidentified by the crew of Crazyhorse 18. At 3:39, the men central to the frame are armed, the one on the far left with some AK variant, and the one in the center with an RPG. The RPG is crystal clear even in the downsized, very low-resolution, video between 3:40 and 3:45 when the man carrying it turns counter-clockwise and then back to the direction of the Apache. This all goes by without any mention whatsoever from WikiLeaks, and that is unacceptable.

At 4:08 to 4:18 another misidentification is made by Crazyhorse 18, where what appears to clearly be a man with a telephoto lens (edit to add: one of the Canon EF 70-200mm offerings) on an SLR is identified as wielding an RPG. The actual case is not threatening at all, though the misidentified case presents a major perceived threat to the aircraft and any coalition forces in the direction of its orientation. This moment is when the decision to engage is made, in error.

(note: It has to be taken into consideration that there is no way that the Crazyhorse crew had the knowledge, as everyone who has viewed this had, that the man on the corner of that wall was a photographer. The actions of shouldering an RPG (bringing a long cylindrical object in line with one’s face) and framing a photo with a long telephoto lens quite probably look identical to an aircrew in those conditions.)

I have made the call to engage targets from the sky several times, and know (especially during the surge) that such calls are not taken lightly. Had I been personally involved with this mission, and had access to real-time footage, I would have recommended against granting permission. Any of the officers with whom I served are well aware that I would continue voicing that recommendation until ordered to do otherwise. A few of them threatened me with action under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for doing so. Better officers than they, fortunately, were always ready to go to bat for me and keep that from happening. That said, if either of the clearly visible weapons been oriented towards aircraft, vehicles, troops, or civilians I would have cleared Crazyhorse 18 hot in a heartbeat and defended my actions to the battle staff if needed….

The point at which I cannot support the actions of Crazyhorse 18, at all, comes when the van arrives somewhere around 9:45 and is engaged. Unless someone had jumped out with an RPG ready to fire on the aircraft, there was no threat warranting a hail of 30mm from above. Might it have been prudent to follow the vehicle (perhaps with a UAV), or at least put out a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for the vehicle? Absolutely without question. Was this portion of the engagement even remotely understandable, to me? No, it was not.

All in all, the engagement clearly went bad. I would have objected when I was a private first-class pulling triple duty as an RTO, driver, and vehicle gunner. I would have objected when I was a sergeant working well above my pay-grade as the Brigade Battle NCO. My assessment is based on my experiences in that very theater of operations. I did not see a threat that warranted an engagement at any point. I did, however, see the elements indicating such a threat could develop at any moment.

Read the whole post and the informed comments there and the extraordinarily well expressed and fluent comments at the Times AtWar blog for a rounded out picture, but our own assessment of trigger happy, poorly trained US gunners acting on insufficient information remains. Be that as it may, the whole episode now stands as yet another example of how using an army to fight insurgents can create gigantic propaganda failures now that digital recording and the Web ensures that sooner or later we will have bad behavior leaks of enormous impact.

Esperanza says:
April 7, 2010 at 7:21 am
What a surprise. The US military kills reporters and covers it up!

I mean, what is there to say in defense of the obvious content of this footage? The people on the radio got hyped up after they saw the rifles and RPG and even more so when they saw the photographer crouching behind the wall and stupidly thought it was a man with an RPG. That was clearly a camera lens sticking out at 4:10 onward.

What needs to happen when events like this transpire is not a cover up, but a holding to account. Anyone involved with the mis-identification and subsequent murder of these people should have been relieved of their duties and discharged. It’s that simple. We cannot afford to have incompetent persons at the controls of such lethal measures with absolutely no accountability.

It’s clear that an Arab’s life and an Arab’s rights are not worth as much to the Pentagon as those of the homicidal incompetents heard on this video (they are the real “fuckin’ pricks”).

Of course we know this already – recall Abu Ghraib and the cover-up and the shelling of all those reporters in the Palestine Hotel and the cover-up, etc, etc, etc. So great, this blogger explains that WikiLeaks didn’t point out the weapons in the hands of some with whom the reporters were seen. So what? Does that alter the fact that these reporters were murdered? No.

“Keep shootin’” and wonder why we continue to be the #1 target for Muslim terrorists.

UPDATE 2: Psychologists explain Iraq airstrike Video: Stress of combat

New York Times finds psychologists to explain/excuse hillybilly target practice on defenseless civilians:

Experts Cite Conditioning and Heat of Combat to Explain Iraq Airstrike Video

Combat training “is the only technique that will reliably influence the primitive, midbrain processing of a frightened human being” to take another life, the colonel writes. “Conditioning in flight simulators enables pilots to respond reflexively to emergency situations even when frightened.”

The men in the Apache helicopter in the video flew into an area that was being contested, during a broader conflict in which a number of helicopters had been shot down.

Several other factors are on display during the 38-minute video, said psychologists in and out of the military. (A shortened 17-minute version of the video has been viewed about three million times on YouTube.)

Soldiers and Marines are taught to observe rules of engagement, and throughout the video those in the helicopter call base for permission to shoot. But at a more primal level, fighters in a war zone must think of themselves as predators first — not bait. That frame of mind affects not only how a person thinks, but what he sees and hears, especially in the presence of imminent danger, or the perception of a threat.

Among the 448 Comments so far:

Greg Mortenson with attentive listeners:  Give this man the Nobel Peace prize

C. Peter Herman
Toronto
April 7th, 2010
9:10 pm
The fact that these pilots are primed to see anyone as a potential threat is all the more reason why they should be trained to compensate for this bias. Police are trained to disambiguate threats, whereas soldiers,it seems, are trained to shoot first and count on getting exonerated by their superiors later.
Recommended by 158 Readers

Michael L.
New York
April 7th, 2010
9:10 pm
As a photographer and as someone who has combat photographers as friends, the mistaking of a camera for a weapon is disturbing enough, but this rationalization is appalling. No where in the video do the helicopter crew express concern that they are under attack. In fact they are so far away that the people on the ground seem completely unaware of them and even once the gunfire starts, they seem to have no idea where it is coming from. Tragic mistakes are made by cops and combat soldiers, but if technology is going to allow US soldiers to kill from such a distance, tighter rules of engagement are needed. And shooting up a minivan full of kids because it stopped to help injured people is not tight.
Recommended by 307 Readers

D Carter
Western NC
April 7th, 2010
9:39 pm
Anyone who watches the video while listening to the chatter of the pilots and gunners and then comes up with this kind of pseudo-scientific “psychological”/situational apologia is seriously lacking in any sense of ethical grounding. As other respondents have pointed out, the Apache crew members were clearly in no danger–the only adrenalin flowing was not fear, but the excitement of the kill.

Does “distancing” justify hoping that a dying man will pick up a gun so that he can be blown to bits with a 30 mm cannon? And forget about the children. Does the fear inherit in combat justify these crews pleading with their controller (and lying in the process) in order to be able to slaughter a wounded combatant and the two men who are trying to take him away to be treated?

And for those respondents who refer to “split second decisions,” look closely at the timeline. These men had ample time to assess the situation from a safe distance and then make their decisions.

Equally depressing is the fact that this video was reviewed at the time by military authorities who insisted that these action were justified by the rules of engagement. One can only assume that they regarded this kind of trigger-happy and reckless behavior standard operating procedure.

War is brutal, but–however tenuous–there are still rules that we can try and follow if for no other reason than that this kind of callous brutality–sanctioned by superior officers who should know better–will inevitably blow back on us abroad and at home.
Recommended by 245 Readers

R. Vega
Dallas, Texas
April 7th, 2010
9:42 pm
I agree we cannot simply condemn the soldiers for their callous remarks under the stress of combat. We can, however, condemn the system that led to that and many other instances of senseless deaths of civilians. We must also keep in mind that this was not your typical battlefield. Real people actually live in those neighborhoods. That helicopter was not under threat, in fact, the people on the ground seemed oblivious to its existence, and they did not even have an idea where the attack was coming from. They were gunned down even after being incapacitated and posing no real threat. Despite all the psychological mambo-jumbo, that is inexcusable. It may have looked like a video game, but that was no video game. A real leader, had there been one in that helicopter, would have known the difference. Commanders and their subordinates must have known that they could not go around indiscriminately shooting at anyone they thought could be threat. Instead of finding excuses, our leaders should be asking the hard questions, particularly as they pertain to the rules of engagement. Otherwise we are just providing more recruitment tools for the terrorism of years to come.
Recommended by 133 Readers

Michael A. Hoffman
Idaho
April 7th, 2010
9:26 pm
The New York Times furnishes a sophisticated psychological rationale for gunning down human beings from the air. Every possible excuse and alibi is offered to justify the carnage and dehumanization. The Times and the psychologists and academics its quotes omit one factor, however: the victims were not afraid of the helicopter gunship, they sauntered casually down the street. They obviously believed they were doing nothing wrong and had a considerable amount of faith in the decency of the US military. Moreover, your high falutin’ explainers failed to explain one aspect of the pilot’s depraved indifference to human life: when the pilot begged the wounded, crawling man to find a weapon and pick it up so the pilot could shoot him again. Ah yes, but that’s okay, he just a “soldier who is doing his job” –which is — to “destroy the enemy.” And what made these people enemies? Being Arab? I thought we settled all this at Nuremberg? Or perhaps Nuremberg does not apply to the USA? I’m going to file this article of yours under the heading, “Prima Facie Evidence of the War Fever that has Gripped the New York Times.” God help us all.
Recommended by 188 Readers

On the other side:

Robert Levine
Malvern, PA
April 7th, 2010
10:05 pm
This was no massacre. This was a combat situation. Armed insurgents in that area were killing Iraqi and American personnel. The reason the ground forces were in the area and prepared to show up in combat vehicles was because they had already been operating there against hostile forces. The smug presumptions of people responding here who have an obvious bias against anything the U.S. military is involved in is beyond stupid and dishonorable. As for the pilots, they did see side arms and these bad actors were armed because they are part of a continuing insurgency. We should never have initiated this second Iraq war, and the Bush administration prosecuted it with an incompetence that puts Katrina in a good light by comparison. The use of torture by amateur security consultants brought in from the outside was also stupid, ineffective, and ultimately damaging to the interests of the U.S, but make no mistake, the people we’re shooting at in Iraq want to see us dead, and they felt that way all over the Middle East before 9/11. When and wherever we send them in harm’s way, these brave American kids are defending the very jerks writing uninformed opinions on this page.
Recommended by 13 Readers

B. Bailey
Colorado Springs, CO
April 8th, 2010
12:34 pm
My initial reaction to this article was one of relief and gratitude. Gratitude that the NYT had the courage to speak on behalf of the war fighters who have been placed at ground zero in the war. After reading the comments here, the article seems only to have stirred the hornets’ nest. This has been a blood thirsty comment thread.

As an “old” Marine and the father of an active duty Marine infantryman who was deployed to Iraq and will soon return to Afghanistan, I’m angered and frustrated at the ignorant, myopic and narrow-minded pre-formed opinions regarding the men and women prosecuting our country’s war.

Wrongly targeted: In July 2007, on the streets of Baghdad, American helicopter troops gunned down men they too quickly identified as insurgents. The attack left 12 people dead, including Namir Noor-Eldeen, a 22-year-old Reuters photographer, right, and Mr. Saeed Chmagh, 40, left, a driver and assistant for the news agency, pictured in 2006.Here in Colorado Springs, we live with the war is a daily fact of life. Our familys and neighbors deploy. Our nightly news regularly parts the curtain of relative peace to reveal the memorials for the latest casualties (Ft. Carson’s 4th ID, 10th Special Forces Group and others have lost almost 300) from Iraq and Afghanistan. They also regularly give account of the psychological devastation wrought on young men and women pressed to kill (suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, spousal abuse, etc.). PTSD walks our streets. We know these people in their “real” lives back here in the U.S. and they are little different than any of you. They have families, they have hobbies, they have political opinions, and they also have morals and ethics. How dare you take a “snapshot,” a brief video clip viewed in isolation and lacking any real context other than what has been conjured by those rushing to judgement and condemn these men and women.

What no one here seems interested in is the fact that, when we enter the story and the WikiLeak posted video begins, this is an engagement already well underway with an unexplained backstory, these pilots had responded to a call for assistance from a ground patrol (the units variously identified by call signs “Hotel26″, “Hotel22″ and “Bushmaster26″ in the video) that had already been engaged by insurgents. The pilots seek clearance from “Hotel26″ to fire on the group they were surveilling so as not to inadvertently kill friendly troops. Hotel26 gives the Apaches the go ahead telling them that “We have no personnel east of our position.” The ground forces indicate where they last saw the insurgent, “Uh negative, uh, he was, uh, right in front of the Brad (Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and presumably call sign “Bushmaster26″).” Once the Apaches fire, you can hear “Bushmaster26″ saying, “We need to move, time now!” follow shortly by, “26, this is 26, we are mobile (on the move).” We later hear the ground element ask the pilots, “Can you walk us onto that location (the scene where the Apaches engaged the men on the street), over (give us directions)?” There is obvious tension on the ground.

Granted, the chatter between the pilots sounds sanguinary today, but in 2007, the height of the war in Iraq (More U.S. casualties, 961, than any other year according to iCasualties.org), this 37 minute clip was a heartbeat in an ongoing bloody battle where a lot of U.S. ground troops were dying in ambushes just like this one. Context, people…

Neither helicoptor pilots nor soldiers on the ground are patrolling Iraq and/or Afghanistan looking for opportunities to kill and most would rather take a bullet, and many have, rather than risk hitting innocent civilians. You have no idea the day-to-day restraint these men and women demonstrate nor at what cost. When you and/or your comrades are in very real danger and you are constrained or unable to react, it tears at your psychological fabric. Killing an innocent, regardless of circumstances, shreds it. Just ask a vet. And, comparing soldiers under fire (whether the pilots felt directly threatened or were responding to calls for assistance from those on the ground who were) to police in the city is a convenient but utimately false simile. Viewed in context, the behavior of the men under surveillance by the Apache crews, peering around corners, presumably in the direction of the ground patrol, while wielding an RPG and AKs immediately following an ambush, is suspicious at best. The pilots’ responsed by characterizing them as hostiles on an existing and active urban battlefield. In that context, their actions and language, while discomforting to the average person sitting in the comfort of their home or their local coffee shop, are ultimately better understood…unless you’re predisposed to see war criminals anywhere there’s an American uniform and then there’s no understanding…

Ironically, one of the places you’ll hear chatter very similar to that of the pilots in the video is in a hospital…ask an ER Tech or ICU nurse or doctor. Gallows humor in these environments is a defense mechanism just as the “video game” analogy used in the article is for the pilots. Unfortunately, the infantryman can’t disassociate quite as easily as he can often see the white in the other man’s eyes.

“War is Hell!” W.T. Sherman
Recommended by 22 Readers

For 2 Grieving Families, Video Reveals Grim Truth (see pic in the HIDE/SHOW discussion section above left).

Ahlam Abdelhussain, the widow of Saleh Mutashar who was killed when the gunship opened fire on a van, asks, "Why was he shot with his children in the car? They did nothing wrong. He was helping a journalist. What was his crime? For Mr. Noor-Eldeen’s family, the video seemed to bring closure for an event that had left many questions unanswered.

“God has answered my prayer in revealing this tape to the world,” said the photographer’s father, who taught his son how to take pictures. “I would have sold my house and all that I own in order to show this tape to the world.”

Families of Victims of 2007 US Helicopter Killing React to Leaked Video – Democracy Now segment featuring the team from Iceland interviewing the family:

Journalists from the investigative team in Iceland that released the now-infamous US military video on WikiLeaks traveled to Baghdad recently to meet with the family members of some of the twelve people killed in the 2007 attack. Ahlam Abdelhussain, the widow of Saleh Mutashar who was killed when the gunship opened fire on a van, asks, “Why was he shot with his children in the car? They did nothing wrong. He was helping a journalist. What was his crime? What was the crime of our children who are left with no father and no support?”

UPDATES

Oops! Obama dropped the ball on intelligence says Daily Beast column

Obama’s Dangerous Spy Game by John Lehman (May 25)

With the coming of the Obama Administration and its view that everything Bush did should be reversed, there was hope the president would make a new start with the DNI, and perhaps even read our 9/11 report. Those hopes were dashed when he put his pal Leon Panetta at CIA and then reversed attempts by Negroponte’s successor, John McConnell—and Blair—to exercise some of the powers over the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense that we had intended for the office.

While three successive DNIs have striven hard and accomplished some useful things, the intelligence community is now even more bloated and just as dysfunctional as it was before 9/11. The solution does not lie in yet another reorganization by a fourth powerless DNI. There will be no improvement until we have a president who gets it. Until then, the burden of keeping Americans safe from terrorism must rest outside the federal government, with individual centers of intelligence excellence like Ray Kelly’s NYPD Counterterrorism Office.

John Lehman was Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration and a member of the 9/11 Commission.

Personal testimony (Videos):

From Media Sanctuary

Innocence Lost: Ethan McCord recounts aftermath of Iraqi civilian massacre | UNPC 7/24/2010 (video)

The Rules of Engagement in Iraq Are a Joke: Elaine Brower & Ethan McCord | UNPC 7/24/2010 (video)

CERN Challenges the Gods

March 29th, 2010

Vast machine plunges into unknown as CERN evades international control, ramps up Large Hadron Collider to 7 TeV collisions

Officials and scientists knowingly mislead public as unanswered critiques accumulate

Appeals to UN and US, German governments rebuffed, CERN beehive mentality rules out response to outside concern

Possible happy outcome: everybody wrong

 Scientists at CERN

Look carefully at these faces. Would you entrust your life, and the lives of your children, and the lives of all present and future inhabitants of this planet. to these men and women, without at least a very careful review of what they are up to?

Disregarding the objections of a handful of critics, some very expert, who say it may be the greatest folly of mankind ever constructed, the council of CERN has given the go ahead to the thousands of scientists in charge of the fabulous $9 billion Large Hadron Collider to proceed with collisions at rates of 600 million or more a second at energies matching conditions one billionth of a second after the Big Bang, starting tomorrow, Mar 30, 2010, Tuesday, in the early morning.

If all goes as planned, the scientists running the Geneva based experiment will take all 6.8 billion of their fellow humans on an unprecedented joyride for the rest of this year and next further than ever before into hitherto unknown regions and dimensions of subatomic reality, possibly generating dark matter and hitherto unseen particles including a ‘God particle’ or Higgs boson to win Peter Higgs his Nobel, and/or mini Black Holes and extra dimensions to win Brian Greene his, not to mention supersymmetry and sparticles.

Also in view are local thermonuclear explosions at the rate of one H-Bomb a second, and/or a swarm of micro Black Holes (mBHs) and/or strangelets at the possible expense of the planet, the sun and even, if vacuum bubbles result, the entire universe, according to texts by critics ranging from students of Nostradamus and the Mayan calendar to top ranking theorists from Oxford, Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute of Physics.

What will happen now is unknown

For all these theories the proof is in the pudding, but so far, the record of CERN in putting together the wonderful machine doesn’t argue very convincingly that its work is reliably error free either on the engineering or the theoretical side.

Following the embarrassment of its first attempt at start up in September 2008, when the vast, supposedly excruciatingly carefully designed and finely honed contraption exploded within nine days, the repaired collider with its 27 kilometer circumference tunnel and four underground detectors too large to fit into St Peters Basilica was finally revved up this autumn from November 20 to December 16th to record collision levels of 2.36 TeV (teraelectronvolts), before being shut down for the winter. Unexpected results already appeared in the run in the form of an excess of mesons, particularly kaons, the building blocks of strangelets.

The achievement came after power mysteriously cut off on November 5 during a test and when scientists headed above ground they discovered a bird eating a baguette , a piece of which it had dropped and short circuited a compensating capacitor. Apparently CERN engineers are prone to forget electrical wiring safety measures such as insulation since the delay of over a year from September 2008 was laid to faulty wiring between two of the magnets causing the explosion.

"OK, so shall we write something on this before it goes in?   How about, 'Good luck, world!'"Lest we forget (most reporters on CERN have, it seems), there was also the theoretical miscalculation which caused similar embarrassment and heartbreak for all concerned on March 27 2007, when incorrect mathematics by Fermilab designers led to an explosion in the CERN tunnel, filling it with helium, just as would happen a year or more later after things had supposedly been put right. Apparently the design mistakes had survived multiple reviews:

(TimesOnLine) It appears Fermilab made elementary mistakes in the design of the magnets and their anchors that made them insecure once the system was operational.

Last week an apparently furious and embarrassed Pier Oddone, director of Fermilab, wrote to his staff saying they had caused “a pratfall on the world stage”. He said: “We are dumb-founded that we missed some very simple balance of forces. Not only was it missed in the engineering design but also in the four engineering reviews carried out between 1998 and 2002 before launching the construction of the magnets.”

Dr Lyn Evans, who leads the accelerator construction project at Cern, the European organisation for nuclear research, said the explosion had been potentially very dangerous.

“There was a hell of a bang, the tunnel housing the machine filled with helium and dust and we had to call in the fire brigade to evacuate the place,” he said. “The people working on the test were frightened to death but they were all in a safe place so no-one was hurt.” An investigation by Cern researchers found “fundamental” flaws that caused the explosion, close to the CMS detector, one of the LHC’s most important experiments.

Charging ahead

This year after the autumn trial of collisions at a record 1.18 TeV proved out the step by step approach has been abandoned and the proton beams have been running for a week at the new and historically astonishing pace of 3.5 TeV, three times the record level of last autumn, for a collision energy of 7 TeV, and head on collisions of protons start in a few hours. They will run at that level for the remainder of this year and thru 2011, before another year of shut down in 2012, while further upgrading is accomplished to allow beam power to be doubled to 7 TeV.

While the beam energy remains at the high new level of 3.5 teV the collision energy will be much greater towards the end of this year as the potentially much more dangerous ALICE experiment comes on line, for then instead of protons lead nuclei will be whizzing around the course and colliding head on, multiplying the collision energy around 90 times to over 500 TeV! The process demands astonishing accuracy which Steve Myers director for accelerators and technology at CERN compares to aiming needles across the Atlantic to hit each other head on.

That’s what is planned, at least, in line with the fervent hopes and dreams of the 1,700 scientists, engineers, technicians and students from more than 90 US universities and labs funded by the DOE and NSF, not to mention the rest of the 10,000 people from 60 countries who have designed and built the accelerator and its experiments.

Fending off the spoilsports

Critics and alarmists, that is to say, responsible people who worry that the safety reassurances of CERN officials are based on insufficient impartial review and who have discerned that human error may still complicate matters based on the past record are hoping that something else goes wrong, so that outside intervention will finally put a stop to the heedless rush to higher and higher levels of impact.

One reason is that the safety concerns of theorists such as Rainer Plaga (ex group leader at Max Planck Institute of Physics), Adrian Kent of Cambridge, Toby Ord of Oxford, and even Martin Rees (who now publicly cheers on CERN but whose book devotes a whole chapter of doubt to the LHC) have not been answered in any way since CERN safety theorists Giddings and Mangano chose the wrong equation in Plaga’s work to refute in 2008, an embarrassment they have apparently tried to live down with silence.

Meanwhile CERN personnel continue to dismiss serious concerns and reassure the public that the “probability (of global catastrophe) is zero” , which Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker of May 14, 2007 (Annals of Science: Crash Course) revealed to be a knowingly false pr statement ( “Engelen said that CERN officials are now instructed, with respect to the L.H.C.’s world-destroying potential, “not to say that the probability is very small but that the probability is zero.”). Meanwhile physicists everywhere repeat the invalid argument (now generally known as “cosmic ray 1″, and discredited in the CERN 2008 safety report) that the Earth has been subjected to cosmic rays for aeons without discernible problems.

“Give me a crystal ball”

But in fact the scientists and administrators involved also all admit that they have no idea what will, in fact, happen, and have offered no reason why the public should join them in crediting their own theorists’ papers any more than the paper of the ex-Max Planck group leader Rainer Plaga who urges a halt for review.

The kindest, most reassuring face in particle physics:  Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer is in charge of CERN for the next five years, and he says no one can foresee how Nature will reward the LHC.  How could anyone believe that this man would allow anything bad to happen?The truth is that the outcome of this imminent threefold jump in power is wide open, according to CERN director Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer himself at a CERN press conference on November 23, where the kindly looking Heuer informed the world, according to Concerned International, that it all “depends how kind nature is to us. If we would know, then it would be nice but I need a crystal ball in order to predict it…..Give me a glass ball, a crystal ball, then I would know but I don’t know what nature has for us.“

His colleague Verdee (CMS) assured the assembled press stenographers that this was quite right. “We have this standard model. […] So, we have these prejudices which we have just gone through. But nature could have a complete surprise for us and that would be also very interesting. So one should not rule out the fact, we’ve just listed these theory things but nature could have done something different.”

Giotto (ATLAS) added: “Research is called research because we are going to find, to look for something that a priori is not well known. […] This is part of the charm. And I personally will be very happy in fact, I will be very happy to find something that has not been foreseen and that nature in the end is always more simple and more elegant than the speculations of mankind and our theories.”

Indeed, the truth appears to be that no one has any idea what will transpire, which in one way is reassuring, since it suggests that the papers of the best informed critics such as Rainer Plaga are equally likely to be replaced by novelties. The biggest machine ever constructed will take a near light speed shot in the dark, and the result may indeed be a “complete surprise.” It may even be nothing at all, say some.

Nature explains why CERN scientists are so irresponsible

Whether this is a good basis for complacency is a matter for those put at risk to decide, some might argue, but the CERN leadership, such as it is, has decided for us. More specifically, the group think in place at CERN has more or less mesmerized all participants down to the worker bee level in this vast hive to ignore the simple logic of the situation, which is that if no one knows which theory is correct yet, bad things may happen to good people. Caution seems more in order than going at it gangbusters in what appears to be a determined attempt to see if we can achieve the end of the world if we really try our hardest.

CERN as giant beehive

The leaderless beehive thinking at CERN that has given rise to this phenomenon is well sketched in Nature’s current piece on The Large Human Collider, which describes how “Social scientists have embedded themselves at CERN to study the world’s biggest research collaboration. Zeeya Merali reports on a 10,000-person physics project.” Here are some key paragraphs:

Sergio Bertolucci, CERN’s research director, is acutely aware of the importance of cohesive collaboration. “This is an incredible social experiment,” he says, noting that roughly 10,000 physicists around the world are taking part in the LHC experiments and 2,250 of them are employed at CERN. Just reflecting on the size of the collaboration he co-manages makes Bertolucci’s head ache. “Imagine the organization needed when 3,000 people all want to know in advance if they can go home for Christmas,” he says.

Managers at CERN have endured a series of headaches since the LHC powered up in September 2008. A little more than a week after the collider came online, a faulty electrical coupling caused an explosion that brought the project to a halt for 14 months. That setback demoralized the scientists at CERN, particularly the graduate students, who worried about the fate of their degrees, says Roy. A graduate student herself, from the University of California, Berkeley, Roy has been camped out at CERN on and off for three years to observe the “language, taboos and rituals of this exotic community”…..

The arrogance of physicists at CERN, apparent from their behavior, is noted by the visiting sociologists who bear their scorn:

When Knorr Cetina first arrrived, physicists there were working on a smaller collider and their detector teams were less than one-tenth the size of today’s. “In those days 100 people in a team was considered huge,” she says. Knorr Cetina says she was met with friendly bemusement by particle physicists, who were helpful, but thought of a sociologist “as a poor cousin of real scientists”.

That attitude continues today, says Roy. “What can you say? Physicists are professionally contemptuous,” she says.

But judging from what Zeeya Merali writes, it seems that the arrogant physicists might do well to pay attention to the social scientists, as well as vice versa. Her story confirms that the image that many worried people have developed of all these superannuated whiz kids having been given a $9 billion box of matches to play with and liable to light the nearest living room curtain with the sole gleeful purpose of seeing what will happen

beehiveWhat’s especially interesting is the social scientists conclusion that that CERN physicists have been acting as a kind of enormous committee, with subcommittees, but without a real intellectual leader.

Social scientists say they earn the trust of the physicists at CERN by immersing themselves in the culture, just as they would with any other population. Knorr Cetina used this approach to unravel the politics of peacekeeping among the thousands of scientists at the lab.

When she first started, she says, “I expected the same lines of command we know from other complex organizations — industry or government”. But she didn’t find that hierarchy at CERN. Although there are spokespeople who hold positions of authority in the collaboration, there is no top-down decision-making because there are so many highly specialized teams working on different parts of the detector. Knorr Cetina says that at CERN, “the industrial model cannot work. One human simply cannot make technical decisions on such a large scale.

CERN’s unconventional structure stems in part from its history and philosophy. The lab was established on the Swiss–Franco border in 1954 to unite a Europe that had been fractured by war. “It’s a place for global collaboration, where science exists beyond the politics of nationality,” says Bertolucci. But within the lab, the idealism runs into the tensions of conducting actual research. “The paradox is that science is not democratic; we don’t determine who is right by a vote or the majority decision.”

“It’s a cognitive bubble that you can’t escape — that you don’t want to escape.”

If not an industry or a democracy, what is the structure? Knorr Cetina says that CERN functions as a commune, where particle physicists gladly leave their homes and give up their individuality to work for the greater whole. The communal lifestyle is encouraged by the fact that the laboratory stands on its own international territory. “Even the Swiss police cannot come in and grab us,” says Bertolucci. It has its own restaurants, post office, bank and other facilities. “You can live forever within CERN, without ever needing to visit nearby Geneva,” says Knorr Cetina. “It’s a cognitive bubble that you can’t escape — that you don’t want to escape.”

Bertolucci says that this immersion is essential to CERN’s success as a global enterprise. “People coming here from around the world don’t feel like they are visiting someone else’s country, they feel they are coming home.”

“The laboratory does feel like a commune with so many people coming from around the world to work towards a collective goal,” says Kevin Black, a postdoc with the ATLAS collaboration.

Not surprisingly then, this ‘commune in a cognitive bubble’ has difficulty seeing outside its blinkered vision to the real possibility that its theoretical models and its safety reports are untrustworthy, cognitively speaking, at least until reviewed by outsiders.

The schizophrenic group consciousness that on one side acknowledges privately that its theories are just theories and subject to radical revision depending on the outcome of the unprecedented Colossus’s experiments, and on the other side generates the ‘gungho let’s go full steam ahead’ policy is well expressed on a current LHC blog page, where a CERN physicist explains that no one should take physics theories too seriously.:

One our goals here on the US/LHC blog is to clarify a few public misconceptions about physics. One thing that the popular press seems to get consistently wrong is that people are married to their models—by which I mean “plausible, but speculative, frameworks for explaining natural phenomena.” Journalists will often write about a physicist’s pet model by starting with “Professor So-and-So believes that…,” as if Professor So-and-So goes to bed at night thinking of ways to explain to the world why his/her model is right and everyone else is wrong.
That’s not how science is done, not even speculative science. Just because someone spends some time developing a new idea, that doesn’t mean that they are doing so because they think it must be true. This may sound silly: if they don’t think its true, then why devote so much time to it?

All those pursuing the vexed question of the sanity of CERN’s overconfidence can thank the writer for that little gem of enlightenment.

As we noted in our previous post, there are three dangers inherent in the CERN insistence on going full speed ahead despite all the warning signals: strangelets turning the planet into a smoking asteroid the size of a baseball park, a micro black hole swallowing the earth from the core outwards, if not the sun, and/or the generation of a huge amount of energy equivalent to a thermonuclear bomb per second. Now we have learned of another possibility mentioned by Toby Ord of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, “a bubble of ‘true vacuum expanding outward at the speed of light, converting the universe into (a) different state apparently inhospitable for any kind of life (Turner and Wilczek 1982).” There goes the universe.

All these are theoretical dangers, but it seems inarguable they exist at some level of probability above zero, intentionally false assertions from the pr arm of the $900 million annual budget, 2500 employee CERN notwithstanding.

Critics rebuffed, but ConCERNed UN paper remains persuasive

Waiting to see what will happen....Meanwhile, the series of mishaps so far arising from mistakes in design and construction do nothing to bolster the confidence of skeptics in the 100% competence or thoroughness of CERN scientists and engineers, and like an unleashed Gargantua CERN is taking advantage of the lack of governmental oversight to move ahead, despite actions in US and German courts and an appeal to the UN to halt the process until outside review on behalf of the public at large can be completed.

All of these appeals have been rebuffed, and the critics were forced last week to go to the council of CERN itself, as they met for the last time to authorize CERN to proceed. Since all they were permitted to do was distribute their revised UN complaint text by ConCERNed International to the national representatives at the meeting, they had no apparent response there either.

All literate observers will find it worth reading their document of complaint, Critical Revision of LHC Risks and Communication, which has been shortened from its earlier version but is still 66 pages. It is hard to get through without agreeing with their point, which is sooner or later the rapid climb up ever higher levels of collision energy in colliders must come under review, and there is a very strong case for doing it right now.

But that won’t happen, and so we are all in for an interesting time over the next two years, especially since some of the effects forewarned by the theorists may not be immediately apparent (black hole consumption of the planet may take five or even fifty years, with little apparent effect on the surface). On the other hand if Plaga’s thermonuclear explosions come about at the predicted rate of one a second, it is possible that the entire CERN project and its staff, and large chunks of France and Switzerland near Geneva, will be obliterated in short order, together with modern civilization.

The start up of collisions in a few hours can be followed blow by blow on Twitter at CERN twitter.

UPDATE: Kick off runs into problem. Two posts just now – beam lost! (4am NYC) :

On webcast soon: A. Siemko to explain the cause of the beam loss. http://bit.ly/aQftoi
9 minutes ago via web

It’s all live! New photos: http://bit.ly/dfTGiF http://bit.ly/b5qbSu http://bit.ly/dvYahz – Watch the webcast http://bit.ly/aQftoi
30 minutes ago via web

Experts are still investigating the situation. It looks like the problem is with the machine protection system. We’ll keep you posted
12 minutes ago via web

Beams lost again…operators will need to study the situation now.
37 minutes ago via web

Looks like the critics may be right! They already lost the beams!! But they expect to have them up again and collisions within a couple of hours.

Previously:

The energy ramp has to happen slowly. It will easily take 30-40 minutes to get to the highest peak.
about 1 hours ago via web
The energy ramp has started – up to 3.5 TeV now!
about 1 hours ago via web
The live webcast has started! Follow it at http://webcast.cern.ch/lhcfirstphysics/
about 1 hours ago via web
Beams are in-operators have set the path to collisions. However, stable beams are needed before attempting the energy ramp again.
about 1 hours ago via web
A new injection of particles into the LHC has just started
about 2 hours ago via web
Operators are discussing the procedure for the new injection and ramp. See http://bit.ly/diGcFS
about 2 hours ago via web
Operators are ramping the energy in the machine without beams. See photo http://bit.ly/9TnMr4
about 3 hours ago via web
We will follow live the first high-energy collisions at the LHC: stay tuned!
about 3 hours ago via web
Hello, this is now Antonella speaking live from the CERN Control Centre
about 3 hours ago via web
Beams in! Optimising the beams before ramping < - Ramping means increasing the energy - This takes time...
about 4 hours ago via web
All lights are green. Injection of beams into the #LHC is being prepared.
about 4 hours ago via web
Live from the CERN Control Center - Arnaud is speaking. First attempt for collisions may take time. We will keep you up to date...
about 5 hours ago via web
Good morning. #LHC spent a good night with two stable beams at 3,5 TeV each. Next fill for collisions!
about 5 hours ago via web
#LHC is ready for first attempt at 7 TeV collisions tomorrow morning
about 14 hours ago via web

LIVE WEBCASTS are at LHC First Physics

Watch the cranking up of the 21st Century’s greatest marvel in a party atmosphere where scientists explain what is going on to Italian accented female TV reporter, and see how confident they are that their lost beam will be up and running again in a short while, and how atrocious the French accent of the English scientist who explains that is.

Eric Johnson drops Bunkerbuster on CERN

January 10th, 2010

Young lawyer’s remarkable treatise is thorough update on LHC danger, treated as legal issue

90 page analysis renders safety doubts respectable, highlights holes in CERN’s Swiss cheese safety claims

Author says he does not expect gamble with globe to be halted, but some hope he will have influence

CERN's Large Hadron Collider may have the ability to split the fabric of the universe, an inadvertent result of the plan to rev it up to full 7 TeV power in a couple of years, a step which shows no sign of being reassessed despite the alarming points that continue to be raised by qualified critics, and a record so far of vulnerability to design flaws, crumbling safety arguments from CERN, and revisions of theory which suggest a potentially catastrophic comedy of errors and incompetence.One of the more remarkable documents challenging the wisdom of scientific leaders has appeared on the Web. The paper has just been published in the Tennessee Law Review by an assistant law professor at the University of North Dakota, one Eric E. Johnson. A pdf version has been posted (Wed, Dec 30, 2009) on arXiv (“archive”) the physics papers site, at The Black Hole Case: The Injunction Against the End of the World by Eric E. Johnson.

The footnoted, precisely worded and well researched paper brings to bear the kind of legal reasoning that can be expected from a good, Harvard educated lawyer, member of a species that seems to be better trained in logic than the average scientist, one has to say.

All who wish to be fully briefed in the matter, and why they should take it seriously, should download and print out this exemplary analysis, which in its clarity and exposure of the folly of the scientists concerned is highly entertaining, as long as one overlooks the vast consequences in play which otherwise lend the utmost seriousness to the issue, once one is persuaded to take it seriously, which Johnson’s full analysis may lead you to do.

Dissecting the LHC defenses

Purporting to be a brief for any judge who might have to make a decision on the matter, his analysis in fact judiciously but thoroughly takes apart the defense of CERN scientists against LHC critics. It brilliantly illuminates the case for halting the LHC in Geneva (see previous post) while outside review of its risk of global catastrophe is carried out. Laying out the evidence from the papers that have been published Johnson notes, as we have, that contrary to some of the statements of CERN scientists and their public relations staff, the risk is clearly higher than zero, and there are many sociological reasons for for putting it on a leash. This, without even including all that can be said against CERN’s hypocritical public reassurance that safety is 100% assured, which we will add in later posts on this blog.

What should a court do with a preliminary-injunction request to halt a multi-billion-dollar particle-physics experiment that plaintiffs claim could create a black hole that will devour the planet? The real-life case of CERN’s LHC seems like a legal classic in the making. Unfortunately, however, no court has braved the extreme factual terrain to reach the merits. This article steps into the void. First, the relevant facts of the scientific debate and its human context are memorialized and made ripe for legal analysis. Next, the article explores the daunting challenges the case presents to equity, evidence, and law-and-economics analysis. Finally, a set of analytical tools are offered that provide a way out of the thicket – a method for providing meaningful judicial review even in cases, such as this one, where the scientific issues are almost unfathomably complex.
Comments: 90 pages, 1 table, published in the Tennessee Law Review, vol 76, pp. 819-908 (2009). Version2: fixes font rendering problems experienced with some pdf viewers
Subjects: Physics and Society (physics.soc-ph); History of Physics (physics.hist-ph)
Journal reference: 76 Tenn. L. Rev. 819 (2009)

The piece is available as a pdf download, also linked at the top right of the arXiv page. The presentation is factual and powerfully so, though politically discreet, as befits a professor who has a full teaching schedule at a respected school of law. It politely ends with saying that Johnson is not himself fearful opf the outcome of the LHC experiments, but merely providing a helpful brief for any judge that might have to deal with the matter. He is also respectful of the scientists involved, as can be seen by his phrase above, counting the scientific issues as “almost unfathomably complex”.

Who is Eric Johnson?

Who is this remarkable author, who has carried out such an exemplary piece of research and writing? Here is his biography, and introduction to his masterwork:

Assistant Professor of Law Eric Johnson of the University of North Dakota has written a thorough analysis of the LHC issue and how it might be treated by the courtsEric E. Johnson Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Dakota has written a 90 page summary of the problem the issue poses to the courts in the Tennessee Law Review . His paper is available as a pdf at The Black-Hole Case: The Injunction Against the End of the World, 76 Tennessee Law Review 819 (2009) (Eric E. Johnson is an interesting fellow, being a 2000 Harvard Law School graduate after the University of Texas at Austin (1994) who has a blog, Pixelization, on intellectual property and entertainment law, another, The Backbencher, a “humorous take on the law, laywering and his life as a law professor”, and has been “a top-40 radio disc jockey, a stand-up comic, and a consultant at an early-stage internet start-up. In 2005, he was awarded a patent on a headrest he invented for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.”) His earlier writings on the topic are collected on his site page Black Holes and the Law:

The Black Hole Case: The Injunction Against the End of the World

Eric E. Johnson
(Submitted on 30 Dec 2009 (v1), last revised 31 Dec 2009 (this version, v2))
What should a court do with a preliminary-injunction request to halt a multi-billion-dollar particle-physics experiment that plaintiffs claim could create a black hole that will devour the planet? The real-life case of CERN’s LHC seems like a legal classic in the making. Unfortunately, however, no court has braved the extreme factual terrain to reach the merits. This article steps into the void. First, the relevant facts of the scientific debate and its human context are memorialized and made ripe for legal analysis. Next, the article explores the daunting challenges the case presents to equity, evidence, and law-and-economics analysis. Finally, a set of analytical tools are offered that provide a way out of the thicket – a method for providing meaningful judicial review even in cases, such as this one, where the scientific issues are almost unfathomably complex.
Comments: 90 pages, 1 table, published in the Tennessee Law Review, vol 76, pp. 819-908 (2009). Version2: fixes font rendering problems experienced with some pdf viewers
Subjects: Physics and Society (physics.soc-ph); History of Physics (physics.hist-ph)
Journal reference: 76 Tenn. L. Rev. 819 (2009)
Cite as: arXiv:0912.5480v2 [physics.soc-ph]

In this article, I explore the LHC case having two goals in mind.
My first aim is to fill a gap in the reporter volumes. The black hole case has all the makings of a law-school classic. The clash of extremes provides an exceptional vehicle for probing our notions of fairness and how we regard the role of the courts. But jurisdictional hurdles have prevented any lawsuit from progressing to the issuance of an opinion on the merits, and no litigation on the
horizon appears likely to get there.

Therefore, I have endeavored to write up the case in a way that makes it ripe for review, discussion, and debate. In this way, I hope this article may serve some readers in the same way that Lon L.
Fuller’s “Case of the Speluncean Explorers” has served generations of law students by teeing up classic questions of legal philosophy.
My second purpose in writing is less playful. I intend to provide a set of analytical and theoretical tools that are usable in the courts for dealing with this case and cases like it. If litigation over the LHC does not put a judge in the position of saving the world, another case soon might. In a technological age of human-induced climate change, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, artificially intelligent machines, and other potential threats, the odds of the courts confronting a real doomsday scenario in the near future are decidedly non-trivial. If the courts are going to be able to play their role in upholding the rule of law in such super-extreme environments, then the courts need analytical methods that will allow for making fair and principled decisions despite the challenges such cases present.

In the pages ahead, I recount the LHC/black-hole controversy, looking into the purely scientific aspects of the debate as well as its social and political sides. Then, I review problems that face plaintiffs trying to enjoin the LHC’s operation. After that, I explore the judicial conundrums inherent in black-hole jurisprudence. Finally, I suggest new methods for judging the merits of cases of this kind.

The origin of his paper

Johnson’s mammoth paper indicates that his thoughts on the LHC were first worked out on a blog, PrawfsBlawg, where readers comments helped him refine his account. Those new to the topic may like to whet their appetite on these pages first, since they were written in October and November 2008, just before the LHC was switched on, only to fall apart for the second time, and the comments are fresh to the topic also.

Though the typically confident but thoughtless reassurances of under researched scientists immediately appear (“As a scientist by training and a 3L now, I think you’re putting shocking little faith in scientists. Do you think physicists would build a research machine capable of sucking the world in to it? (Weapon, maybe, but not something for research.) I understand that there’s a lot of FUD going around about this, but there isn’t a credible risk. – Posted by: Ben | Oct 22, 2008 8:23:55 AM) the approach taken by the author – to explore the legal recourse available to concerned outsiders – cleverly puts the inquiry on a firm footing.

Black Holes and the Law
Resources about the legal controversy over the safety of the Large Hadron Collider
:
It’s one of the most interesting and daunting judicial controversies to come around in a long time: A few very worried individuals claim that a brand new, multi-billion-dollar largest-of-its-kind particle accelerator under Switzerland and France, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, could create a black hole capable of devouring the Earth.
The controversy raises an number of fascinating questions and conundrums of jurisprudence, equity, remedies, civil procedure, evidence, epistemology, and international law.
This web page is an ongoing effort to collect information, documents, and links to enable people to explore this intriguing case.

Among the first comments is one by Luis Sancho, the lead plaintiff in the case brought against the LHC in Hawaii:

As the lead plaintiff of the case Sancho vs. Doe (Department of Energy), I might be considered biased towards the defence of the Natural Law that applies to this cause: any remote chance of mass-murdering – let us use the proper terms – 6 billion people must be considered an act of terrorism, which falls under the jurisdiction of the patriot act. When one considers the authority of truth, the laws of the scientific method and experimental evidence, it turns out that regardless of CERN’s marketing campaign and 13 billion $ budget, with its industrial, scholar and political interests, the risk is huge and it grows as scientific evidence grows. If one considers the lies, these days called marketing of CERN, the situation of criminal negligence is obvious……

Sancho is somewhat language challenged, as you can see, but this young physicist, a specialist in “time theory”, feels very strongly about the dangers involved and behind his language difficulty is apparently professionally qualified to comment with expertise, contrary to his dismissal by CERN, as he asserts:

the disqualification of cern on our credentials as scientists is bogus. And though i dont like to talk in personal terms, it seems needed to rebate (rebut) them. I am the world chair of the science of (time) duality, increasingly regarded as the most advanced theory of time, which studies the universe not as they do, with the single arrow of entropy, energy and death, but also with the arrow of information and life, that nuclear physicists still deny, but all other scientists today accept.

Sancho also correctly states that the CERN cosmic ray argument generally served up to the public and press is untrue, which as we have pointed out is confirmed by CERN’s own report, and justifiably complains of the media ignorantly accepting the statements of CERN without further research.

He provides links for readers to evaluate his claims further. The most accessible is a 6 minute video on YouTube at Quantum Roulette (June 25 2009) , which so far has garnered only 1539 views, and 9 comments (“either way. you can’t do anything? about it now. they’re protected. they could foresee idiots being afraid of everything, including the next step in advancement of our planet and be afraid of what “could happen”.” – ModelDoll) compared with 3,693,105 for this simple image of the Earth being swallowed by a black hole in 38 seconds, which has 13,859 comments (“I regret watching that.”- burgharboy), and is most viewed in the Soviet Union.)

Frank Wilczek reveals why LHC critics don’t worry boosters

The former six minute video is well worth viewing. For the record, it features a Scientific American cover (“Catastrophysics! – What makes a Star Blow up? The Mystery of a Supernova – Quarks!)…. a wide eyed Yves Schutz, “experimental physicist” in hard hat, explaining ALICE will smash massive lead nuclei together to create a quark factory of 1 million quarks a second…. the Frank Wilczek Ford-MIT lecture “The Universe is a Strange Place”, where Nobel physicist (in 2004, for the discovery of asymptotic freedom and the theory of the strong interaction) Wilczek warned quarks could detonate Earth into a supernova, and when asked if high energy collisions that produced black holes could be dangerous, said it was true that “otherwise respectable” physicists had suggested just such a thing…. then a view of the snow covered ground above the LHC, which “(commentator) will deliver a billion times the amount of power by the accelerator used to research the atomic bomb, enough energy to create a black hole,” …..then Frank saying “it is always a logical possibility when you do something that has never been done before, that it will lead to a catastrophe”…. subtitle on video as he talks reads CERN’s chief said “Frank is 10x smarter than I am, but he is naive…”

Frank Wilczek won the Nobel in 2004 for his theory of how subatomic particles behaved, but he doesn't take the theoretical danger of black holes at the LHC seriously, and reasons that if he is wrong no one will be alive to blame himNow Frank Wilczek continues with a surprisingly revealing statement: “I have never been so confident in making a prediction as when I was called to sit on a panel about an accelerator turning on and ending the world, predicting that it won’t is very safe because if your prediction is wrong—-” (throws hands up in air to audience laughter and nerdy, sounded with each breath sucked-in-Eric-Kandel-style giggle from the questioner)…. legend on video reads “so CERN instructed officials to say zero risk – New Yorker, then CERN paid Franz to sign a zero risk report, soon he won a Nobel prize, “OK so I think with that it is appropriate to end here and I will answer further questions in private thank you.”

The Wilczek syndrome

This of course is typical behavior these days on the part of physicists concerned with the CERN project and any other scientist these days (s in HIV/AIDS) where their public posture has to be more polite than honest about their own doubts.

The video then wrongly states that Wilczek afterwards wrote to Scientific American together with Walter Wagner, the physicist that originally raised safety concerns in regard top earlier US accelerators, implying that both were”warning against the risks of creating dark matter here on earth (commentator)”.

In fact Wagner wrote to Scientific American in 1999 rebutting the reassurances in a July letter from Wilczek, which was in response to Wagner’s earlier letter expressing concern. Wagner’s second letter is worth quoting here:

Man-made disasters have always been preceded by an excessive degree of arrogance on the part of the persons involved. The Titanic and Hindenberg disasters of earlier generations, and the Apollo launch-pad fire and Challenger disasters of our generation, all involved large numbers of scientists and engineers dedicated to the success of their project. In each such disaster, a key factor was overlooked or ignored, leading to deadly consequences…..
Also contrary to Frank Wilczek’s assertion, “strangelets” are a major theoretical problem at Brookhaven, and even if starting out very small (which theory shows they should), could prove quite aggressive by an overlooked mechanism……
Finally, Frank Wilczek seems to have overlooked a fundamental principle of physics. While admittedly cosmic rays have energies measured which exceed the 40,000 GeV of the RHIC, it is the center-of-momentum (COM) energy which is the fundamental criteria, not the earth-reference-frame energy. That is the very reason for building colliders, rather than fixed-target accelerators. An incoming cosmic ray, in order to mimic the RHIC, would be required to have about 4,000,000 GeV, which would produce a COM energy of about 40,000 GeV, the same as the RHIC COM energy. Reports of such cosmic rays are exceedingly rare, and have extremely wide error-bars….

Possibly the errors he pointed out were considered too impolitely phrased to print.

The video then features motion graphics and the voice of Wagner saying that “mini black holes could be created by smashing a proton into an anti proton with enough energy, and if one were created near a large concentration of mass, and started absorbing that mass before exploding, the black hole could reach a relatively stable half life and continue to grow. If this happened on the earth the mini black hole would be drawn by gravity towards the center of the planet absorbing matter along the way devouring the entire Earth in minutes.” Legend on the video reads “In 2009 LHC will make a black hole per second” as the Earth is shown disappearing down a broadening hole in its surface.

An independent legal mind

Eric Johnson, law professorWho is Eric Johnson? His email is Eric E. Johnson . His faculty listing at the school of law in the University of North Dakota is at Eric E. Johnson, which offers his bio at Eric E. Johnson, his course materials, and his courses.

Professor Johnson received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2000, where he was a member of the Board of Student Advisers and an instructor in legal reasoning and argument. He received his B.A. from the Plan II program at the University of Texas at Austin in 1994.

Eric Johnson, bane of CERN PRAfter law school, Professor Johnson was an associate in the litigation and intellectual-property litigation practices at Irell & Manella in Los Angeles, where his clients included Paramount, MTV, CBS, Touchstone, Immersion Corporation, and the bankruptcy estate of eToys.com. At Irell, Johnson’s matters included claims of patent infringement in the video-game industry, copyright infringement of a television series, breach of a motion-picture director’s contract, and breach of a profit-participation clause in a television executive-producer’s contract. Professor Johnson later became in-house counsel to Fox Cable Networks in Los Angeles, drafting and negotiating deals for Fox Sports Net (“FSN”) and Fox College Sports.

Laughter as a sign of originality

His bio page also lists his two blogs, Pixelixation, on intellectual property and entertainment law, and Backbencher. One is tempted not to mention the latter since it may create an impression of the professor as not serious enough to tackle the enormous substance of the gigantic issue he is dealing with in his paper, which many potential readers may then dismiss out of hand.

In fact, we have to admit that some of his posts on the Backbencher: The Hard Hitting Global Solutions You Demand!”are downright, shall we say, lighthearted. But then, as we have noted ever since knowing Peter Medawar, Jim Watson and Professor Peter Duesberg at Berkeley, a sense of humor is a sign of superior wit in more than one sense, even if the humor is a little childish at times – another mark of genius, as it happens, since playfulness is close both to children and godliness when it comes to originality.

Back in 1999, at the end of “the Nineties,” I wondered what the new decade, the first decade of the Third Millennium, would be called.

Would people refer to it as “the Aughts,” “the Noughts,” or “the Zeros”? Or would it be something utterly unique? To mark the fact that all years of this decade had two 0′s in the middle, and paying homage to Y2K anxieties and millennial armaggedon fears, I thought it would have been fun to call this decade “the Oh Oh’s.”

But what did we end up calling this decade? What name eventually stuck?

None.

The only person I have heard refer aloud to this decade by any name was me. I tried “the Aughts.” In case you noticed, it didn’t catch on.

The entire English speaking world wussed out. And that includes you, dear reader. The media, however, has been the worst. Now, as television and radio embark on their ritualistic decennial orgy of best-of-worst-of lists and overhashed clips, the feckless cowards in the media persistently and pusillanimously refer to this decade by no name other than “this decade.”

Not sure why this excellent author overlooked the obvious solution of calling the decade the “two thousands”, so we have commented there as follows:

Why not the “two thousands”? Is this too difficult for those with a tendency to lisp? How you can have overlooked this option is hard to fathom, professor, unless there is some reason for it. After all, your exemplary treatise on the CERN “Black Hole” issue is 98 pages of excellent prose, with some brilliant aphorisms at several points. How come such a language expert and fine writer can have overlooked such an obvious solution as “the two thousands”?

Given your writing talent, hope you don’t mind us mentioning that “media” is plural.

All this is in a very light vein, of course. But then, this is because Johnson has a lighthearted side, and has even been a stand up comic.

Outside of his legal career, Professor Johnson was a top-40 radio disc jockey, a stand-up comic, and a consultant at an early-stage internet start-up. In 2005, he was awarded a patent on a headrest he invented for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

Clearly, this law professor is not only a good analytical mind but also an inventive and original one, a paid up member of the elite club of better minds who think free of the chains of conformity and acquiescence to authority, social or ideological, that shackle most of us. Others that come to mind in a scientific context might be Richard Feynman, Peter Duesberg, or indeed any of the names listed at the top of this blog.

Such men often make their mark most impressively when they rethink the difficulties caused by large groups of lesser minds, even in fields other than their own. Johnson seems to have achieved exactly that in tackling the vexed issue of how the public and its agents should approach the unique problem posed by CERN, where a large pack of scientists with narrow expertise are accelerating to full speed ahead a large machine that some respectable theorists fear may have the power to demolish all we know, rather than simply expand our knowledge.

Since this post is already too long we will return to the main topic and pick out a few plums from Johnson’s masterwork in the next post.

Luc Montagnier punctures World AIDS Day balloon

December 1st, 2009

Global cult celebrates, unaware of AIDS leader busting main assumption

Nobelist to Brent Leung: HIV no threat to healthy people, no need for vaccine, microbicides

UK Independent demonstrates how media trash HIV/AIDS dissidents with gross bias

HIV/AIDS celebrations took place all over the world today though the media were more preoccupied with other topics such as Obama's speech on sending more troops to Afghanistan, and the New York Times didn't trouble to do an editorial or even publish an Op Ed pieceToday’s world wide celebration of non science in the form of HIV/AIDS propaganda and associated charity events will delight do gooders all over the earth, but it will profoundly irritate a lot of people familiar with the journal literature of the field.

Such scientifically literate observers are, after all, keenly aware that Peter Duesberg’s adamant refutation of HIV=AIDS, the basic rationale for delivering damaging drugs to AIDS sufferers here and abroad, stands unanswered in the same elite journals in which they were published.

Not we hope one of the rosy cheeked 11 year olds married off by Warren Jeffs to one of his henchmen in the days when his church was a dictatorship in which cult worship of Jeffs was inculcated into the women of his community who were thus made defenseless against gross sexual exploitation of them and their children, in a manner remarkably parallel to the fashion in which the strikingly anti-scientific, pseudo-scientific cult of HIV=AIDS has victimized men women and children world wide with inappropriate drugs justified by a scientific claim which remains unproven and debunked at the highest level in reviews which have never been refuted in the same journals.In other words, the basic theory which drives the enormous amounts of money devoted to “stopping AIDS” is not only unproven, but without any good evidence, scientifically absurd and maintained sacrosanct only by the politics of a church, a church very comparable to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints run by Warren Jeffs before his arrest for turning his community into a gang run dictatorship of polygamous child abuse.

So in the view of some we have a global party to celebrate a broken paradigm, busted every year by more and more evidence of its error, which never should have been adopted in the first place, and one which causes immeasurable suffering, in other words, the festivities are a misguided toast to corrupt scientific leadership and scientific illiteracy even within science, let alone among the educated public, and a belief system that, like that Mormon cult, is the flip side of what it purports to be.

But today, however, these sensitive observers will find some solace for this global insult to intelligence and scientific literacy in a video released today on YouTube by Brent Leung, in what amounts to him firing an Exocet missile at the gunboat of HIV defenders that have been harassing him with false accusations of bias and worse, an explosive that stands a good chance of tearing a very large hole in the mothership of HIV/AIDS itself.

Brent Leung is the director of House of Numbers, the current movie that brilliantly exposes the embarrassing fact that the generals of HIV/AIDS science agree more with the critics of the paradigm than with each other, and come up empty when asked to explain how HIV/AIDS makes any sense at all.

The film has had the HIV paradigm defense squad run by John Moore of Cornell-Weill in a state of hysteria, and mounting a desperate counter move in the form of an attack website (HouseofNumbers.org) to trash the entertaining and enlightening movie, a well executed enquiry that merely faithfully records the words of the leadership they support (see previous posts).

HIV discoverer Luc Montagnier says HIV no threat to healthy people

Luc Montagnier, who won the Nobel last year for discovering HIV but did not have to share it with Robert Gallo, cannot tell a lie.  He told Brent Lueng that anyone with a healthy immune system could get rid of HIV in three weeks, and if poor Africans were given decent food and clean water, they too could defeat HIV in thje same time.  He smiled as he told Leung this facsinating fact, and said "Not what Dr Fauci told you, eh?" Undoubtedly the most striking comment in House of Numbers was made by none other than Luc Montagnier, the Pasteur scientist who first discovered evidence of a retrovirus in AIDS patients, a dubious discovery for which he received the Nobel last year. Montagnier informed Leung and his audience that anyone with a healthy immune system could shrug off HIV in two or three weeks, and that even poor black Africans could do the same if they were given decent food and clean water.

This of course was precisely what Peter Duesberg and his thousands of fellow critics of the scientifically hollow paradigm of HIV-is-the-cause-of-AIDS have been saying all along ie for the last 23 years, earning the calumny of “denialist” and other labels for what is really nothing but common sense science which can be explained to a twelve year old.

More than any of the other conflicting and scientifically illiterate or questionable comments made by John Moore and others during the film, this remark of Montagnier’s threatened to bring down the whole house of cards that is the theory of AIDS that every scientist involved in this Enron of science is milking, especially since the film contrasted the belief they all proclaim with a portrait of reality in Africa that made it clear there was a much more sensible interpretation of HIV/AIDS, and it was in line with what Montagnier was saying.

Poverty and malnutrition, and the associated diseases especially TB, are almost certainly the real causes of supposed HIV/AIDS symptoms in Africa, and to give ARVs as a palliative, especially to pregnant women, is not a cure but a cause of worse health, since the TB goes untreated, and the all important good food and clean water is not emphasized as it should be.

This truth is so obvious that when they heard Montagnier expressed it in the film John Moore et al must have felt especially threatened, and they have evidently had a hard time handling it since, claiming that Montagnier was taken out of context or didn’t mean what he said, while canvassing accusations from participants that Brent Leung misled them in saying that his film was a study of how HIV/AIDS research had progressed.

In fact, the irony is that his stealth bomber of a film is exactly that – a study of how HIV/AIDS research has made no progress in making scientific sense in 25 years, and a clear suggestion why – all of this enlightenment out of the mouths of the top experts in the field.

Brent Leung’s HIV/AIDS depth charge – Montagnier on YouTube

As it turns out, the attacks of the paradigm death squad have now had the result they deserve. Today Brent Leung released the full segment of the interview where Montagnier makes his remarks on this theme, and it is up on YouTube today. Now that John Moore et al can no longer claim that the statement was taken out of context, it will be amusing to see how they try to wriggle out of this one.

Here’s what Montagnier said in full:

Brent Leung: You talked about oxidative stress earlier. Is treating oxidative stress one of the best ways to deal with the African AIDS epidemic?

Luc Montagnier: I think it is one way to approach. To decrease the rate of transmission because I believe HIV, we can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected. Our immune system will get rid of the virus within a few weeks, if you have a good immune system; and this is the problem also of Africa, of African people. Their nutrition is not very equilibrated, they are in oxidative stress, even if they are not infected with HIV. So their immune system doesn’t work well, already. So it’s prone, you know, it can allow HIV to get in and persist.

So there are many ways which are not the vaccine, – the magic name, the vaccine! – there are many ways to decrease the transmission just by simple measures of nutrition, giving antioxidants, proper antioxidants, hygiene measures, fighting the other infections. So they are not spectacular, but they could, you know, decrease very well the epidemic to the level they are in occidental countries, Western countries.

Brent Leung: So if you have a good immune system, then your body can naturally get rid of HIV?!

Luc Montagnier: Yes.

Brent Leung: Oh, interesting. Do you think we should have more of a push for antioxidants and things of that nature in Africa than antiretrovirals?

Montagnier: We should push for more you know a combination of measures, you know, antioxidants, nutrition advice, nutrition, fighting other infections, malaria, tuberculosis, parasites, worms, education of course, genital hygiene for women and men also, very simple measures, which are not very expensive but which could do a lot.

And this is actually my worry about the many spectacular action for the global funds to buy drugs and so on. and Bill gates and so on, for the vaccine. But you know those kind of measures are not very well funded, they’re not funded at all, or they are, you know, it really depends on the local government to take choice of this. But the local government they take advice of the scientific advisors from the (international?) XXXX institutions and they don’t get this kind of advice very often.
((Any reader who can fathom the incomprehensible word use by Montagnier at 2.48 min please advise – Ed.))

Brent Leung: There’s no money in nutrition, right? There’s no profit.

Luc Montagnier: There’s no profit, yes! Water is important, water is key.

Brent Leung: Now I think you said you were talking about if you have a built immune systemthat it is possible to get rid of HIV naturally. If you take a poor African who has been infected and you build up their immune system is it possible for them to also naturally get rid of it?

Luc Montagnier: I would think so.

Brent Leugn: OK. That’s an important, that’s an important point.

Luc Montagnier: It’s important knowledge which is completely neglected. You know, people always think of drugs and vaccine.

(grinning broadly) So this is a message which may be different from the other what you heard before, no?

Brent Leung: The closing?

Luc Montagnier (smiling): No, no, yes, my message is different from what you heard from Fauci or er..!

Brent Leung: Yes. It’s a little different.

Luc Montagnier (beaming and grinning widely): Little different!

Like Samson, Montagnier brings down the main pillar of the temple of AIDS

Inside this World AIDS Day balloon is a person wearing a T shirt reading "Prejudice is one of the worst side effects".   A better motto would be, "Thank you Luc Montagnier for bursting my balloon."All in all, a stunning shift in AIDS lore from the Nobel prize winning discover of HIV, the European leader now of world opinion in the science of AIDS, ever since Robert Gallo was sidelined by departure from the NIH after embarrassing investigations into the validity of his original lab work with the virus, and his humiliating omission from the Nobel prize award for the discovery of the virus which he, Gallo, had originally claimed for himself.

Why is this so stunning? Because Montagnier freely admits, indeed even emphasizes, that anyone with a healthy immune system has nothing to fear from the so called AIDS virus, which will be quickly defeated by the immune system.

No need for John Moore’s fruitless microbicides being further tested in drug company financed research on his hapless bonobos at Cornell-Weill Medical Center in Manhattan, nor for the billions being spent on the fruitless and irrational search for a vaccine for a virus which already easily vaccinates you against itself, nor for the cheap drugs for Africa which Bill Clinton hopes will redeem his moral reputation, an unlikely outcome in the long run if this kind of truth in AIDS finally finds its way into the reports of the uniformly bewildered media correspondents on AIDS at the New York Times and elsewhere, who have for so long acted as Xerox machines for the press releases of Dr Anthony Fauci at the NIAID, who it may impolitely but fairly be said is the chief drug pusher in the realm of HIV/AIDS.

The power of House of Numbers

Small wonder John Moore and the HIV defense league are excited about House of Numbers, and striving to ban its showing and the discussion panels which might follow (the Spectator of London tried to mount a showing and a panel a month ago, but retreated in the face of attacks from activists).

The fact remains, bottom line, the film makes a mockery of all that HIV scientists claim in their analysis of AIDS symptoms and their origin, simply by quoting their own words back to them. And no quotation is as powerful as Montagnier’s in damning the enormous effort they have provoked to bring dangerous drugs to Africans instead of good food and clean water.

No wonder Montagnier has a little mischievous smile which broadens into a massive grin at the end of the segment, when he volunteers to Leung that he is sure what he says is not the same as Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID told him.

Trashy Independent article trashes dissidents too obviously

This statement from Montagnier immediately outdates scurrilous press items trashing AIDS realists (”denialists”) such as today’s World AIDS Day propaganda from the Independent newspaper of London. We refer to the insult to truthseekers in science in the form of this not-so-independent article, Killer syndrome: The Aids denialists – Why does a small band of scientists and campaigners persist in denying the link between HIV and Aids, when the evidence that they are wrong is overwhelming? Rob Sharp reports”> wherein their correspondent Rob appears totally ignorant of the fact that it is late in the day to trash HIV/AIDS dissidents as “denialists”, not to mention that such prejudice is unprofessional, especially in science, where the reporter has no expertise to judge which side of a high level scientific dispute is likely to be right, nor any business coloring his report with his own opinion.

In the comment thread that follows, however, these and other points against what is written are made quite effectively by Michael Geiger and other AIDS realists – and significantly, John Moore himself was drawn into posting. Evidently the original and quite effective policy of avoiding all debate with his scientific critics trumpeted by Moore a few years ago is now null and void.

The HIVirus finally revealed, courtesy of the brushwork of one Sebastian Kaulitzski for the Independent, but which will serve to enhance the mental framework in which all readers of that not-so-independent minded rag will in future contemplate the scene in HIV=AIDS, more certain than ever before that their understanding is well served by the reports of Rob SharpThe scene in HIV/AIDS is heating up, with HIV defenders finally goaded into action by the serious challenge posed by House of Numbers which borrows its authority from the leaders of HIV ideology, and presents its results with a clarity that a child could understand. Its featured interviews and quotes from established HIV/AIDS authorities show that what we might suppose to be AIDS science is a self-contradictory mess, and what the real answer is once official outside review is not stifled as it has been for over two decades.

Meanwhile, in its coverage of how the WHO changes HIV treatment advice the Independent has see fit to inform us all how the Human Immunodeficiency Virus would look if microscopes were able to enlarge it to a decent size that we could all appreciate, courtesy of the hand of Sebastian Kaulitzki.

(Photo Left) The HIVirus finally revealed, courtesy of the brushwork of one Sebastian Kaulitzski for the Independent, art which will serve to enhance the mental framework in which all readers of that really not-so-independent minded rag will in future contemplate the scene in HIV=AIDS, more certain than ever before that their understanding is well served by the reports of Rob Sharp.

Global conCERN – Earth Down Tiny Black Hole Soon, Maybe

November 25th, 2009

Dazzling engineering switched on, running fine and will risk all after Christmas

Critics appeal to UN to stop boffins playing with nuclear fire, but threat disturbs few

CERN escapes oversight, shielded by PR and scientists’ denial

Unrefuted paper by top physicist argues dire possibilities but goes unread

Interior of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva: This magnificent sight is testimony to the mind of man and its brilliant ability to build a machine that can ape the moment one trillionth of a second after the universe began, as well as the confidence to switch it on in spite of the fact that no one has any real idea what will happen, but this courage and determination to explore the unknown may establish the existence of the Higgs boson to complete the Standard Model and the existence of extra dimensions needed to produce micro Black Holes and thus vindicate the popular author Brian Greene and his fellow string theorists, who otherwise have nothing in nuclear physics yet to back their speculations, keep their positions and win them a Nobel prize, but who of course are not influenced at all by any of that in supporting CERN in dismissing the chances of universal catastrophe as zero, and the critics' equally expert papers as not worth reading.

There was renewed excitement for thrill seekers around the world on Friday (Nov 20) as the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, otherwise known as CERN, fired up the Large Hadron Collider, its newly repaired $10 billion research gargantua/Christmas toy/doomsday machine which will explore the origins of the universe. Reports so far are that all is working smoothly in the LHC as proton beams whiz around its spectacular 17 mile racing circuit 330 feet under Switzerland and France in opposite directions, ready to crash into each other and reveal what happened the instant after the universe began.

A large part of the frisson of nervous pleasure generated by the biggest machine the world has ever seen derives, for some, from the thought that two thousand physicists are now playing with almost Godlike powers at recreating the way things were when galaxies didn’t yet exist. Respectable theorists have shown there is a not necessarily small chance that an inadvertent result may be the swift disappearance of the entire planet and possibly the sun as well into a small black hole, or if that is not our fate, the gigantic, gleaming, colorful contraption may spew forth sufficient “strangelets” to turn the world into an smoking asteroid of “strange matter” the size of a football field.

Supreme confidence in the unknown

Most people dismiss such notions as the scientific equivalent of “a dragon suddenly appearing in this room,” as a superconfident Brian Greene put it to us recently. The renowned string theorist and best selling author appeared at Philoctetes last weekend to discuss Mathematics and Beauty, and we took the opportunity to ask him where he stood on this neglected issue. His Op Ed contribution to the New York Times a year ago, The Origins of the Universe: A Crash Course, was unreservedly gung ho on going ahead with the LHC (Large Hadron Collider, hadrons being certain subatomic composite particles including protons and neutrons which combine quarks and antiquarks) to maximum power, but has been outdated, after all, by CERN’s safety report admitting that the chief reassurance he used, the familiar “we live with cosmic rays hitting the earth every day and remain unscathed” argument, was null and void.

Green wrote in the Times (Op. Ed. on the interesting date of September 11 2008):

Work that made Stephen Hawking famous establishes that tiny black holes would disintegrate in a minuscule fraction of a second, long enough for physicists to reap the benefits of having produced them, but short enough to avoid their wreacking any havoc.

Even so, some have worried further that maybe Dr. Hawking was wrong and such black holes don’t disintegrate. Are we willing to bet the fate of the planet on an untested insight? And that question takes us to the crux of the matter: the collisions at the Large Hadron Collider have never before occurred under laboratory settings, but they’ve been taking place throughout the universe — even here on earth — for billions of years.

Cosmic rays — particles wafting through space — constantly rain down on the earth, the other planets and the wealth of stars scattered throughout the galaxy, with energies far in excess of those attainable by the Large Hadron Collider. And since these more powerful collisions haven’t resulted in astrophysical calamities, the collider’s comparatively tame collisions most assuredly won’t either.

But the LHC safety report to the public from CERN (see summary page) now admits that micro black holes (mBHs) produced by the massive collider could stay on Earth (7th para.). Since the proton beams will crash into each other in opposing directions, anything they yield could move slowly, like the fragments produced by two cars in a head on collision:

“Those (mBHs) produced by cosmic rays would pass harmlessly through the Earth into space, whereas those produced by the LHC could remain on Earth.”

Greene’s reply to us at Philoctetes, which we will detail in a future post, was the above dragon concept, the cosmic ray argument part II (equally flawed, some argue) and that anyway it “isn’t my field.” Given that no reputable physicists are writing papers saying a dragon may appear, the analogy seemed doubtful. Also, this statement seemed overlook the fact that the Columbia University department Greene belongs to has a project at the LHC, and funnels money and expertise to it, not to mention that his Op Ed piece remains the most prominent personal reassurance in the States that we don’t have anything to worry about. But Greene hurried away to an ice cream shop afterwards avoiding further questions.

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“The current issue has all the earmarks of something that needs outside review – possibly fatal global consequences, a safety report entirely produced by CERN scientists, the typical schoolboy attitude of physicists satisfying their curiosity, great public expense, the commitment of large organizations to evading public scrutiny, the tendency of huge projects to become unstoppable juggernauts, and so on.”
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We also attended the triumphant double presentation on “Hubble Trouble” at NYU recently, where Gregory Gabadadze and David Hogg, two top young physicist/astronomers there, described the latest results on black holes, white dwarves and other components of the universe beyond human sensory experience. Afterwards we asked both about CERN, receiving extensive replies (which we will convey in more detail later) full of boisterous confidence even after both graciously acknowledged that the cosmic ray argument constantly waved at doubters was invalid.

A black hole of possibility

But, as the Fermilab director Pier Oddone told Dennis Overbye of the New York Times a year or more ago (see earlier post), the truth is that “That there are many theories means we don’t have a clue. That’s what makes it so exciting. ” In other words, no one really knows what will happen as the drain on the Geneva power grid rises up to ten per cent of the total and the beam energy surpasses the current 0.9 teravolts (1 TeV = 10_12 electronvolts) operation record held by the Tevatron at Fermilab at Batavia near Chicago heading to levels never before explored (seven teravolts) to reproduce the conditions of the universe a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

This is still the case. Nothing has changed since Fabiola Gianotti, a Cern physicist and the deputy spokeswoman for the team that built Atlas told Overbye in 2007, “Either we find the Higgs boson, or some stranger phenomenon must happen.”

Finding the “God particle” will complete the Standard Model of particle physics, and the planned production of mini black holes will imply extra dimensions do actually exist and thus will let string theorists off the hook of not yet having any actual physical results yet to show skeptics, but the truth is anything can happen. We have Brian Greene’s word for it in his Op Ed piece, Fermilab Director Pier Oddone has said the same thing, and Brian Cox, author of Why does E=Mc2, who might be said to be Britain’s version of Brian Greene, admits as much even while cheerfully if rather crudely dismissing fears of a black hole lunching on the planet as “a steaming pile of bollocks” on the Colbert Report a month ago.

Here is Brian Greene last year:

But the most exciting prospect of all is that the experiments will reveal something completely unanticipated, something that forces us to rethink our most cherished explanations.

Confirming an idea is always gratifying. But finding what you don’t expect opens new vistas on the nature of reality. And that’s what humans, including those of us who happen to be physicists, live for.

Can these men be trusted?  Two happy scientists at the controls of the CERN LHC as it started up in September 2008, only to fall apart almost immediately and take a year to repair and start up again on Friday, after 53 of the 9300 superconducting magnet units had to be removed and brought to the surface for repair after helium flooded the tunnel, following which a lightning strike put a transformer out of commission, and lately a small piece of bread shorted out the works for days.  On the basis of this record, would you trust these men, however worthy their motives, with the fate of the world? Rainer Plaga fires across CERN’s bows

Behind all the ridicule, however, there are some serious theoretical papers. One respectable theorist of disaster is physicist Rainer Plaga, previously a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich. He is now being being ignored by CERN and the media, but he has shown that CERN safety theorists managed to reject his argument last year only by picking on the wrong equation, and they have not come up with anything better since that embarrassment, despite promises.

Plaga has refined his initial paper, On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders, Version 1 through a second version, Version 2 (abstract), click this for full Version 2 pdf, in which he appended an explanation of how the attempted CERN rebuttal had confused his paper’s equations, into a third edition, of which this is the abstract at the physics site arXiv, On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders Version 3 (Abstract):

On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders

R. Plaga
(Submitted on 10 Aug 2008 (v1), last revised 9 Aug 2009 (this version, v3))
The question of whether collider produced of subnuclear black holes might constitute a catastrophic risk is explored in a model of Casadio & Harms (2002) that treats them as quantum-mechanical objects. A plausible scenario in which these black holes accrete ambient matter at the Eddington limit shortly after their production, thereby emitting Hawking radiation that would be harmful to Earth and/or CERN and its surroundings, is described. Such black holes are shown to remain undetectable in existing astrophysical observations and thus evade a recent exclusion of risks from subnuclear black holes by Giddings & Mangano (2008) and and a similar one by Koch et al. (2009). I further question that these risk analyses are complete for the reason that they exclude plausible black-hole parameter ranges from safety consideration without giving any reason. Some feasible operational measures at colliders are proposed that would allow the lowering of any remaining risk probability.
Giddings & Mangano drew different general conclusions only because they made different initial assumptions about the properties of microscopic black holes, not because any of their technical conclusions are incorrect. A critical comment by Giddings & Mangano (2008) on the present paper and a preprint by Casadio et al.(2009) – that presents a treatment of the present issue with methods and assumptions similar to mine – are addressed in appendices.

This is the paper (full version 3 in pdf form is at Full Rainer Plage Paper Version 3 pdf) that physicists involved in the enterprise at CERN and elsewhere are not bothering to read or are not even aware of, according to our interviewing. Their assumption appears to be that the initial CERN riposte rendered the paper invalid.

In fact, as Plaga makes clear, they foolishly chose the wrong equation to critique, and his polished third edition and its demolition of their assumptions and excessive confidence stands untouched, arguing that the world and all its inhabitants including you and me may well vanish down a black hole or in a third scenario that CERN has not even considered, that there is a distinct possibility that the greatest machine ever built could produce black holes generating an energy level equivalent to an H bomb every second, producing unprecedented global warming, multi continent earthquakes devastating civilization if not all of life, incinerating the 2200 physicists at CERN, Geneva and a large pie slice of France in the bargain.

Physicists joyride = planetary death ride?

Others like Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (in ten pages on collider risks in Our Final Hour) earlier (they have since retreated), and now prominent physicist Adrian Kent of Cambridge and space engineer and computer scientist Richard Wagner say that it could spew strangelets that will turn the earth into a smoking asteroid the size of a football pitch. Then there is the admittedly somewhat eccentric (he likes to include dirty jokes in his papers) all round wiz theoretical chemist and physicist (and immunology Ph.D) Otto Rossler, and attorney physicist and nuclear safety officer Walter Wagner, who say the world could go slowly down a black hole, which Plaga notes in passing that CERN has not disproved.

In other words, outlandish or not, it can be soberly maintained that the fate of the world is in the hands of physicists and bureaucrats who are acting like a bunch of overgrown schoolboys who are going ahead regardless of high level papers suggesting that dire possibilities are theoretically valid, and not even as extremely unlikely as generally supposed, ranging from tiny through 1 in 6 to 50% or even 100% in some doomsday analyses.

There is no indication in the literature yet that the sophisticated critics are any less correct in their analysis than the CERN scientists, and currently Rainer Plaga has the best of his CERN critics.

Doubts about the gung ho approach have also been voiced by respected physicists such as Adrian Kent of Cambridge. Tony Rothman of Princeton quotes the papers of the highly respected Russian physicist Grigory Vilkovisky in support of caution, and a group of well informed professionals including the theorist Otto Rossler (founder of endophysics, the Rossler attractor in chaos theory and visiting professor in theoretical physics) and the knowledgeable former federal radiation safety official (he studied physics and did cosmic ray research at Berkeley) Walter Wagner (founder of LHCdefense.org who has now appealed to US federal court after his Hawaii suit was ruled out of jurisdiction) appealed to the United Nations last Friday (Nov 20) as the LHC was cranked up.

That 73 page appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee and the Commissioner of Human Rights at the UN by conCERNed international and LHC Kritik (Critique), calls attention to the lack of oversight of CERN actions and asks the UN to intervene and insist on outside review for CERN’s plan to take the planet on a roller coaster thrill ride with no guard rail to prevent a drop into the chasm.

Enclosed are critical studies of the method used in the CERN risk studies, one from members of the “Future of Humanity Institute” of the University of Oxford and a review on the LHC safety assessment process by risk assesment expert and ethicist Dr. Mark Leggett concluding that CERN at this date has fulfilled not more than a fifth of the necessary criteria expected for a modern safety study.

As long as there is no clear evidence that the possible production of “micro black holes” (expected to be created by many CERN scientists) pose neither long- nor short-term danger to life and to planet Earth, CERN and the member states should not aim for their production in high energy experiments at all.

CERN LHC under repair yet againCynics however do not expect it to result in action fast enough to stop the fuse CERN has lit reaching high explosive. We use that metaphor advisedly since another possibility in the forefront of consideration is that heat radiation as powerful as a 12 megaton H Bomb every second may irradiate Geneva and a sizeable portion of France to a crisp in short order, according to Plaga’s calculations.

Panic over flu but end of world faced with calm fortitude

All in all, concerned citizens must wonder why scientists and their supporters in the media are ridiculing the critics when even the most infinitesmal chance of the biggest setback possible would seem to argue caution.

After all, the media have been happy to help stir up fear over the second coming of swine flu, which has now peaked at about two million cases so far in the US yielding 4000 deaths according to the CDC, compared with 20,000-50,000 for seasonal flu related deaths annually. There were plenty of sensational segments on national network television showing children in hospital dying from “swine flu” to the prayerful horror of their parents at bedside day and night, and 160 million vaccines were being rushed into production, with much popular clamor and even some cheating among people who want them as soon as possible.

Meanwhile excitement over the imagined consequences of the LHC has so far been confined to Hollywood (Angels and Demons), and amusing articles in the Times over whether the future is sending preventive measures:

A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to rescue his grandfather from a traffic accident.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site arXiv.org in the last year and a half.

There is no doubt that the LHC is the most exciting machine ever built, and inevitably whets the appetite of every red blooded physicist to start it up and take it out on the racing ciruit at top speed to see what happens, which of course since it has already gone wrong in unexpected ways none of the responsible senior officials and physicists at this international project would allow to happen unless everything was fully checked out as far as safety goes in advance.  What?  They have already gone ahead, you say?  Surely not.Despite all the signs that the physicists in charge have an almost comic inability to handle basic engineering tasks such as insulating the vast creation from lightning strikes and even bird droppings, the PR campaign of behalf of the LHC has effectively shut down public debate this year, and now the LHC has started up again without fanfare.

Captive congregation of $10 billion church

The difference, we imagine, is that CERN scientists are the high priests of a very rich and esoteric church, particle physics, whose texts are completely illegible to most mortals, and whose credibility is absolute with the general public. On the face of it, the idea that they are behaving like NASA sending up the entire world’s population including 1.8 billion innocent children on a spectacular joyride which might explode like the Challenger or vanish as it heads for regions of tiny space and time beyond our ken seems no more credible that the prognostications of Michel de Nostradamus, 1503-66.

The CERN LHC seems to have been foretold by Nostradamus, according to  those who see the analogy between two fish passing in opposite directions and two beams doing the sameThat notorious prognosticator did make a prediction that sounds rather ominous in this respect,as it happens. According to our reading of his text he advised everyone to leave Geneva around this time since there was a threat of “counter positive rays” dealing death and destruction to that city. The exact phrase was “Migrés, migrés de Genesve trestous, Saturne d’or en fer se changera, Le contre RAYPOZ (sic) exterminera tous” which, since the three metals named (Saturn means lead, to be collided in the ALICE experiment at CERN late next year, gold and iron) are or have been involved in collision experiments using beams moving counter to each other, offers juicy fodder for prophecy mavens.

The world keeps its nerve

So while the flu false alarm is trumpeted noisily in media world wide, whatever public concern was felt last year, when the LHC was first started up only to fall apart rather ignominiously, has largely dissipated, at least in the media. The whole issue has been successfully painted by the CERN publicity machine as one deserving of fictional treatment only, and Hollywood has been happy to oblige. Thus Angels and Demons offered a fine glimpse of the great 21 Century time and space galleon in its opening segments, and the just premiered 2012 overlooks CERN but has followed up with all kinds of imaginary threats derived from Mayan tablets and climate doomsayers to bring nervous Nellies into disrepute.

“Most of what’s claimed for 2012 relies on wishful thinking, wild pseudoscientific folly, ignorance of astronomy and a level of paranoia worthy of ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ ” Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles, and an expert on ancient astronomy, wrote in an article in the November issue of Sky & Telescope.

CERN LHC scientists at the Atlas controls, presumably hoping the darn operating system doesn't freeze up just when they inadvertently go over the danger mark in beam energy and plunge Geneva into darknessEven the New York Times’s previously helpful correspondent in this matter, the same Dennis Overbye, has done little this time on the topic other than write a jokey piece, Is Doomsday Coming? Perhaps, but Not in 2012, about speculation in some quarters that all the accidents that have interfered with the progress of the LHC so far – the latest being an a fowl or some other force of nature that shortcircuited its operation last week by dropping pieces of a baguette into its wires, if you can believe it – are visitations from a future than cannot survive if the LHC does rev up to its grand aim of over seven times the record set by the Tevitron (0.98 TeV).

Overbye took the opportunity to swipe at the CERN doubters rather offhandedly in passing: “All of this reminded me of the kinds of letters I received last year about the putative black hole at CERN. That too was more science fiction than science fact”.
The normally sensitive and alert New Yorker doesn’t seem interested, either, although Elizabeth Kolbert in 2007 caught the CERN officials telling the staff to say that the risk of things going wrong should always be said to be zero in answer to any public enquiry.

CERN’s chief scientific officer, Jos Engelen, is from the Netherlands. He serves under the director general, who is from France, and alongside the chief financial officer, who is from Germany. I went to speak to Engelen in his office; behind his desk a chart indicated when the various parts of the collider are supposed to be completed. It was a crazy quilt of multicolored blocks, with lines radiating in all directions. Engelen greeted me with a half-ironic cheerfulness that struck me as very Dutch. Among his responsibilities is dealing with the frequent calls and letters CERN receives about the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider will destroy the world. When I asked about this, Engelen picked up a Bic pen and placed it in front of me.
“In quantum mechanics, there is a probability that this pen will fall through the table,” he said. “All of a sudden, it will be on the floor. Because it can behave as a wave, it can go through; we call that the ‘tunnel effect.’ If you calculate the probability that this happens, it is not identical to zero. It is a very small probability. But it never happens. I’ve never seen it happen. You have never seen it happen. But to the general public you make a casual remark, ‘It is not identical to zero, it is very small,’ and . . . ” He shrugged….

Engelen said that CERN officials are now instructed, with respect to the L.H.C.’s world-destroying potential, “not to say that the probability is very small but that the probability is zero.”

Russian roulette, or caution?

CERN scientist hard at work repairing the LHC, where one of the 7200 or so scientists employed was taken off the job and accused of contacting Al Quaeda a few weeks ago.We would probably be in the same camp dismissing CERN anxiety as laughable if it weren’t for the fact that the realm of HIV/AIDS has shown so clearly that the advice of a distinguished scientist who is indubitably right can be swept under the carpet and then flattened by the steam roller of political propaganda and disinformation generated by those in charge of maintaining funding for huge scientific organizations, such as NIAID.

After all, it certainly seems like science fiction to suggest that the future is sending back signals that CERN’s gigantic adventurism is unacceptable, and sabotaging it accordingly. It is also hard to credit that so many responsible experts working in unison on a fabulous machine are prepared to risk their own lives, and the lives of their wives and children, let alone six billion other human beings, simply to find out whether the Higgs boson exists, and create the mini black holes which will support the string theorists in their dreams of glory and a Nobel prize, if there was the slightest chance that the entire globe would reduce to the size of a 2 cm marble and disappear into a black hole the size of a golf ball, as Rossler states.

But the history of internal disputes in science, particularly of the distinguished Duesberg’s fate in the hands of the distinctly lesser folk running AIDS science, tells us not to dismiss lightly members of the elite (such as Plaga or Adrian Kent) who challenge the mainstream.

The current issue has all the earmarks of something that needs outside review – possibly fatal global consequences, a safety report entirely produced by CERN scientists, the typical schoolboy attitude of physicists satisfying their curiosity, great public expense, the commitment of large organizations to evading public scrutiny, the tendency of huge projects to become unstoppable juggernauts, and so on.

That is why we will post further on this ridiculed topic by showing what the literature of the dispute actually conveys, and noting in full what three prominent physicists at NYU and Columbia admitted to us when we talked to them recently.

So far of course the world has emerged unscathed from similar anxious moments, such as start up of the Tevatron which was contested on similar grounds. The detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb was thought to risk the possibility that the atmosphere would catch fire and burn up. The research of Emil Konopinski suggested that it was safe (E. Konopinski, E. J, C. Marvin; Edward Teller (1946, declassified Feb. 1973). Ignition of the Atmosphere with Nuclear Bombs. Technical Report Los Alamos National Laboratory LA-602.)

But as noted previously, when we asked Hans Bethe once if there was 100% certainty, he denied it. “We were not completely sure.”

Given that speeding past the limit observed by the Tevatron is scheduled for the world’s biggest experiment before the New Year, the CERN public affairs group will no doubt begin crowing that the danger is over soon after, if nothing worrying seems to happen, but that may be premature.

The scenarios extant include waiting for several years as the black hole sinks to the center of the globe and digests the Earth from the inside out. Only after as long as four to fifty years will the complacent routines of everyday life eventually be disrupted as the surface finally crumbles and we and all our works all fly into a tiny golf ball of inner space.

Here is a preview of what we are in for if the nervous Nellies are right after all, viewed 3.5 million times so far.:

Black Hole Swallows Earth on YouTube

Or you may prefer a more poetic version:

Our Final Days

A list of papers and articles on the topic from experts is at LHC Defense – Experts and also LHC Defense – What Experts Say

Interesting facts from Hazel Morris about the LHC (It could hold 150,000 fridges full of sausages at a temperature colder than deep outer space etc)

“Defamation” doc defamed by Times

November 21st, 2009

Another example of how Times movie reviews play politics

Deft doc too hot to handle objectively, it seems

In fact, Defamation offers crucial evidence of political distortions

Israeli kids take in Auschwitz as some adults wonder if Jews should leave their past behind in justifying Israel's actions todayAn interesting case of politics distorting film reviewing in the Times occurred today (Nov 20 Fri) with the release of Defamation, a fine documentary study of the issue of how surprisingly little anti Semitism there is in the West today, and how this specter of past horrors is overused as a stick by the Jewish Defense League to raise funds and to beat back criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

This is today’s review of Defamation in the Times, which seems likely to reduce its audience in Manhattan to the small number of people who research a documentary slammed by the Times on the reasonable supposition that it is likely to be worthwhile if the paper cannot handle it objectively:

The Past in the Present

by Neil Genzlinger

In his disorganized and somewhat annoying “Defamation,” Yoav Shamir, an Israeli filmmaker, tries to stir up a tempest with the notions that “anti-Semitic” has become an all-purpose label for anyone who dares criticize Israel and that some Jews’ preoccupation with the past — i.e., the Holocaust — is preventing progress in the here and now.

These ideas deserve a thorough, dispassionate discussion, but what they get here is an imitation-Michael Moore treatment, with Mr. Shamir trying to catch his subjects in unguarded moments. Not helping is that some of those subjects, at least for an American audience, are overexposed. Mr. Shamir’s main fixation is Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the most prominent voices on Jewish issues in the United States, and he also zeros in on Norman G. Finkelstein, whose positions on matters related to Israel are well known from his books, like “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.”

Presumably Mr. Shamir’s film plays differently in Israel. In the United States, it feels like just another day on the Op-Ed page.

Contrary to this markedly superficial estimation, from a copy editor at the Times who has written many reviews and two plays, the lively film has won a full bouquet of well deserved awards and assuredly doesn’t deserve dismissal in such an offhand and lazily contemptuous fashion (what does “somewhat annoying” mean, one wonders?) Here’s a more capable and straightforward review in the Hollywood Reporter, , and a fuller one by Philip Weiss at his site, Mondoweiss, which give a much better picture of what the movie is all about. Here is Weiss:

Yoav Shamir’s great film, ‘Defamation’, offers a devastating and transcendent portrait of Foxman

by Philip Weiss (April 29, 2009)

I saw a great movie last night, the documentary Defamation, by Yoav Shamir, an Israeli filmmaker. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and it is about the consecration of anti-Semitism as the central mode of Jewish identity and the raison-d’etre of Jewish nationalism–it sustains Israel. The group of Israeli kids traveling to Majdanek carries the Israeli flag into the ruined gas chambers, and they all wear sweatshirts with the star of David and the word Israel on the back. The point of the film, stated by one of the sour concentration-camp tour-guides near the end, is that this is a miserable basis for Jewish existence, a cult of death and fear and mistrust. The Israeli kids are so indoctrinated they think that the Poles are out to kill them now, and they don’t go out of their hotel room.

The film is great journalism for Shamir’s tenacity at insinuating himself into the emotional life of events, and for his portraits: of Abraham Foxman, Charles Jacobs, John Mearsheimer, Uri Avnery, and Norman Finkelstein.

The Foxman portrait is the core of the film and at once devastating and sympathetic. We see him manipulating the Holocaust in a number of situations. The scenes of ADL staff coming up with anti-Semitic incidents in the US to keep the ball rolling are strictly farcical. There is even farcical music, as they tell you of threats that aren’t threats. Foxman is shown pressing Ukrainian president Viktor Yuschenko in a conference room over Holocaust remembrance/guilt. Later, in Rome, enroute to meet the Pope, Foxman tells Shamir that there’s a “very thin line” between the perceptions of Jewish power by anti-Semites and the actual power that Jews have in the world. “Jews are not as powerful… as our enemies think we are.” But we’re not going to try and convince them otherwise, he says. Yes: the man is going to meet the Pope. Of course Jews have power, and Foxman has no awareness of this.

Are Israeli kids being sacrificed to the politics of right wing extremists in Israel and the US, so that in the future reconciliation of Israel with the other inhabitants of the Middle East will be harder than ever?The portrait becomes transcendent at Babi Yar. Foxman gathers the board of the ADL at the Ukrainian massacre site and all the old Jews are talking about how Israel must be maintained because it may be necessary for all Jews in the world to go there, and then Foxman says a Hebrew prayer and his voice trembles and he is in tears. The scene gave me tremendous sympathy for Foxman. He is locked in his childhood of suffering. It makes perfect sense that he has projected his childhood demons on to the world, but they are just demons. The same point is made with an old Israeli journalist who has blue numbers tattooed on his arm and writes about anti-Semitism night and day. Well he has a fine reason, Shamir is saying.
(Click this tab for the rest of the middle portion of this very complete review)

The real blows to Foxman come from a couple of rabbis. A Rabbi Hecht in Brooklyn says, “I’m nervous about his reports… Are they accurate? He has to create a problem because he needs a job.” A Rabbi Dov Bleich in Kiev, who is Orthodox, says that anti-Semitism is not a problem, and that if these people only had a religious practice they wouldn’t need the church of anti-Semitism.

Shamir follows Foxman devoting an entire three-day conference in Israel to discussing Walt and Mearsheimer’s book. Charles Jacobs, then of the David Project, is there and comes off as a crazy man. He says, we always thought that antisemites were skinheads saying Kike, little did we know they would turn out to be softspoken college professors. David Hirsch, a sociologist from England, gets up to say, bravely, that not one word has been said about the occupation and the humiliation of the Palestinians, and this is the true context for much of the criticism of Israel. There is dead silence, and then people attack him. When Shamir says to Jacobs that this is sensible, Jacobs goes off on him. He says you are like the beaten wife who goes to the police station and blames herself and never blames the husband. You have accepted the world’s evil view of you, this is the problem with the left. Islamists think you are evil and you have accepted it.

It is too bad more journalism was not done of Jacobs when he was leading the assault on Columbia professors. He is so wildeyed and removed from reality he demolishes his own case.

Really it is terrible that so little journalism has been done about any of these people. How much journalism have we seen of John Mearsheimer and Norman Finkelstein. There are two scenes of Finkelstein, the first at DePaul before he has been cracked in the jaws of the Israel lobby, the second when he is tan and on the Boardwalk in Brooklyn and in his humble apartment. Now Finkelstein is as possessed by the Holocaust as Foxman—and the film is unkind to Finkelstein at the end, as a way of seeking to preserve its surface balance, making him out to be mad after he compares Foxman to Hitler–but Finkelstein is eloquent and fierce when talking about the Israelis’ use of suffering to justify the affliction of the Palestinians. The suffering is a package deal; it is “suffering wrapped in a club.” The suffering is cited as Palestinians are humiliated, degraded and tortured.

Earlier in the film, an Israeli girl on the Holocaust tour makes Finkelstein’s point. She says that when she sees the Jewish suffering at Auschwitz she doesn’t think that the Arabs have really suffered at all. Avraham Burg has also made this point: that Israelis too quickly forgave the Germans, for the money, and put the hatred on to the Arabs.
Back to Finkelstein. Shamir compares Finkelstein to the biblical prophets. He looks like a prophet, with his long face and large forehead and level blue eyes. He says that the Holocaust is used to prevent any criticism of Israel. He opens the radio (a quaint old expression) and “I hear nonstop about Sudan, I hear nonstop about Tibet, I hear nonstop about Darfur. The only place I hear excuses made for is Israel.”

As for Mearsheimer, he comes off as puckish, which he can be, and wise. It is a very affectionate portrait, Mearsheimer in his booklined Chicago office merely raising an eyebrow when Shamir asks him if he doesn’t have anti-Semitism deep inside him. “I’m not anti-Semitic, and I never had any doubt that I’m not anti-Semitic… My arguments are not in any way hostile to the Jews or the state of Israel.” He isn’t going to talk about how many of his friends are Jewish because that–a puckish smile–will only hurt his point.

The news in the film involves Mearsheimer. I blogged about that earlier today, Teddy Katz’s statement that Mearsheimer and Walt are blessings to Israel. Finkelstein echoes the point about the lobby. Holocaust education is not intended to enlighten; it is being used by “war mongers from Martha’s Vineyard, and war mongers from the Hamptons, and war-mongers from Beverly Hills and… Miami.” It’s a disaster for Israel, he says. A curse.
Many people speak of the occupation in the film. It goes unseen. In the Q-and-A that followed the premiere last night at the Tribeca Film Festival, Yoav Shamir also spoke hintingly of it, that as Jews we started out being walled and now we have put a wall about us in Israel. A delicate reference to the wall. He never showed it, he did show Auschwitz. The Palestinians are off stage. He can’t show the occupation, can’t show the wall. He wants to open as a feature in the U.S. and to be on television. Good luck to him. And oh how wise not to show us the occupation. It is enough for now that Americans heard from Finkelstein and Mearsheimer.

(P.S. The film is working. A Jewish woman in the audience said, “We have the situation in Israel that has lasted all these years– and we need a shift.” Jewish identity is changing.)

This is the film that the Times now sees fit to dismiss in a few lines. So much for All The News That Is Fit To Print.

One point of correction, however. Shamir does not make a fool of Finkelstein for raising a Nazi salute to show what he thinks of Foxman. He tells him, in fact, that the gesture may be misunderstood by viewers. In that way, he ensured it would not be.

No criticism of Israel, please

Apparently a film that has significant awards
(AMNESTY AWARD at CPH : DOX; Kopenhagen;Feature Film Competition Festival dei Popoli, Firenze/Florence, ITALY – The Peoples’ Award for Best Documentary (EUR 10,000);Nominated to the ASIAN PACIFIC SCREEN AWARD – best Feature length documentary 2009;THE TIMES BFI, London Film Festival, Grierson Award for Best Documentary 2009;ZÜRICH FilmFestival 09; Special Jury Mention;Nominated to the European FilmAcademy´s BEST EUROPEAN DOKFILM – PRIX ARTE;New York Tribeca Filmfestival – Special Jury Mention/Award; (Robert de Niros Festival);Paju 09; Grand Award of the Documentary Filmfestival of PAJU Prizren 09; Special Jury Mention Madrid, Documenta 09 – Audience Award and 3.000 Euro;Tel Aviv DOCAVIV 09 – First Research Award;STANLEY KUBRICK AWARD, at Traverse City 09, for Bold and Innovative Filmmaking(Michael Moore´s Festival!) but is a hot political potato in Jewish and Israeli circles (since it argues that the Israeli lobby uses the specter of anti-Semitism to deflect criticism of Israel’s abuse of Palestinians at the cost of frightening Israeli kids into thinking the whole world is against them) is another truth seeking film that the Times editors and management do not wish to deal with in a professional manner.

In fact the director Yoav Shamir does a skillful job showing what is really going on in this propaganda war, and makes a very good case that Israelis should move beyond the past and its horrors and not allow them to be used to avoid taking responsibility for their own cruelties today. The segments where the Israeli schoolgirls are finally reduced to sobbing fright by what they see of the remains and hear of the stories of Auschwitz is very moving.

Shamir also shows very well how academics who have described the problem are themselves trashed on this spurious basis. even if they themselves are Jewish and their parents are Holocaust survivors. But it is the extreme fantasies of the right wing defenders of using this weapon which make the biggest impression, along with the shameless fear-arousal of the JDL leader Abraham Foxman in his own cause as much as the defense of Jews against what is mostly a ghost in the West.

In this charming scene, professor John Mearscheimer clambers on top of his desk to raise his window shade, before climbing down to defend his book on the Israel Lobby and explain that he is not an anti-Semite, and does not have to search his soul to see whether he can deny this charge which is almost impossible to defend againstAll of which reminds us of House of Numbers, since this is another example of how documentary filmmakers today can throw light on the most difficult topics in an indisputable way that their print counterparts never achieved.

Video can offer eye witness evidence of human beings in action, giving themselves away with their own testimony, without being able to hide later behind claims that the scene or their words were misreported or misframed, at least as long as their shooting segment is long enough.

Of course, as in the case of House of Numbers, all hope is not lost. The New York Times may rise to their defense by publishing a cursory dismissal.

A trailer for Defamation is on this page at Indiewire.

Here is the director’s synopsis of the film:

What is anti-Semitism today, two generations after the Holocaust? In his continuing exploration of modern Israeli life, director Yoav Shamir (Checkpoint, 5 Days, Flipping Out) travels the world in search of the most modern manifestations of the “oldest hatred”, and comes up with some startling answers.
In this irreverent quest, he follows American Jewish leaders to the capitals of Europe, as they warn government officials of the growing threat of anti-Semitism, and he tacks on to a class of Israeli high school students on a pilgrimage to Auschwitz.

On his way, Shamir meets controversial historian, Norman Finkelstein, who offers his unpopular views on the manner that anti-Semitism is being used by the Jewish community and especially Israel for political gain. He also joins scholars, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer, while they give a lecture in Israel following the release of their book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, about the un-proportional influence the Israel lobby in Washington enjoys. Yoav visits Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, the must stop for all world leaders on their visits to Israel. While in Jerusalem, he drops by the house of his grandmother that offers her insight on the issue and declares that she is the “real Jew”.

The film questions our perceptions and terminology when an event proclaimed by some as anti-Semitic is described by others as legitimate criticism of Israel’s government policies. The film walks along the boundary between anti-Zionism, rejecting the notion of a Jewish State, and anti-Semitism, rejecting Jews. Is the former being used to excuse the latter? And is there a difference between today’s anti-Semitism and plain old racism that is affecting all minorities?

Opinions often differ and tempers sometimes flare, but in Defamation we find that one thing is certain – only by understanding their response to anti-Semitism can we really appreciate how Jews today, and especially modern Israelis, respond to the world around them, in New York and in Moscow, in Gaza and Tel Aviv.

That’s a perfectly accurate account of a film we urge all to see if they can, and ignore the potshots of the too quick on the draw Genzlinger. Sadly, it is media incidents like this that undermine the standing and the future of the New York Times, soon to be one of the handful of newspapers that will survive in the US in print form.

Let’s hope that this kind of abdication of journalistic responsibility will be rooted out as surplus editors and writers are removed from the Times’ still rather bloated rolls by the hurricane which is flattening print advertising.

Seaside Conference Reexamines HIV and AIDS

November 6th, 2009

Fine speaker line-up will brief all comers on hollowness of HIV wisdom

Duesberg and Geshekter on why African claims make no sense

Media are invited, but will they come?

The Waterfront Plaza Hotel in Oakland is a palace of enlightenment over this weekend as authorities on the vexed issue of why HIV/AIDS beliefs make no scientific or common sense at all hold forth for two day of conferencing, including Peter Duesberg himselfsA gathering of luminaries in the movement to review the current dogma in HIV/AIDS is meeting today, tomorrow and Sunday morning (Nov 6-8) at the Waterfront Plaza Hotel, Jack London Square, Oakland, California. Media are invited to all conference sessions including the documentary screening on Saturday afternoon at 4.30 of House of Numbers, and the cocktails after the keynote lecture today, Friday (Nov 6).

The speakers will include Peter Duesberg, the Berkeley professor who has stood against the paradigm for 22 years, John Lauritsen, the Harvard graduate and market researcher and author of AIDS: Death by Prescription, Etienne de Harven, expert on electron microscopy, David Rasnick, Henry Bauer, Charles Geshekter, Klaus Koehnlein, Robert Giraldo, Joan Shenton, and Tony Lance. Panelists will include Celia Farber and Gary Null, and the keynote speaker is Michael Tracy professor at the School of Journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Tracy is a specialist in media issues, public broadcasting and “the injustice of the American justice system.” Several years ago he said, “the news about AIDS was flagrantly wrong in fact and interpretation, but hugely successful in constructing a prevailing understanding, locking into modern consciousness the belief that here was one more bug to threaten us all.”

Here are the speakers biographies together with the abstracts of the talks (English and Spanish) (hit the icon, which is meant to display as a show button).

RA2009 SPEAKER BIOGRAPHIES

David Crowe
david.crowe@aras.ab.ca
David Crowe is a science critic and writer based in Calgary, Canada. He has a degree in biology and mathematics and has written extensively on HIV/AIDS, failures of modern medicine and telecommunications. He was one of the founders of the Green Party of Alberta, and is president of Rethinking AIDS and the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society.

Michael Tracey
michael.tracey@colorado.edu
Professor Michael Tracey has been Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado at Boulder since 1988. From 1981 to 1988 he was head of the London based Broadcasting Research Unit, then Britain’s leading think tank dealing with media issues. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Politics from the University of Exeter in 1971, and his doctorate from the Centre for Mass Communications Research at the University of Leicester in 1975. From 1975 to 1981 he was a Research Fellow at the Leicester Centre. Tracey has written eight books, including his 1983 biography of Sir Hugh Greene, Director General of the BBC from 1960 to1969, “A Variety of Lives; a Biography of Sir Hugh Greene” (Bodley Head) and his 1998 book, “The Decline and Fall of Public Service Broadcasting” (Oxford University Press.) Tracey has also written scores of articles on many different aspects of media and communication, but most notably dealing with the history, condition and future of public service broadcasting. He has also lectured in many different countries. From 1991 to 1998 he was a Trustee of the International Institute of Communications, and from 1994 to 1999, Visiting Professor and Chair of International Communications at the University of Salford. More recently he has produced documentaries, with his friend and colleague David Mills, and their work has appeared in the UK on Channel Four, ITV, and the American networks CBS, Court TV and A&E. They are currently – 2009 – developing a documentary series that will profile the lives of successful men who never knew their fathers. In 2008 he published his first e-book on http://www.scholarsandrogues.com. “From Xmas to August: an Essay on Murder, Media Mayhem and the Condition of the Culture” is about his decade-long involvement in the case of JonBenet Ramsey. He is currently working on a book of essays, “The Inner Moonlight: Literacy, Culture and the Future of Democracy” and writing the authorized biography of the life and times of the legendary British broadcaster Donald Baverstock. He lives with his wife, Jen, three dogs, Beau, Jess and Babe and his cat Miss Bardot, in a small hamlet at 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains west of Boulder.

Keynote Lecture
The talk reflects on a number of subjects and issues that confront not just the discourse around Aids, though that will be front and center, but also other areas of discourse. Taking a historical perspective the talk will consider the confluence of forces—political, medical-industrial, cultural—which so effectively closed down ways of thinking that did not accept the HIV-Aids hypothesis. It will suggest that here was a potent example—but far from being the only one—of the extraordinary capacity of key institutions and actors to shape the public imagination, to establish “understandings” in the public mind, to lead that public to see “this” way rather than “that,” with immense consequences for fashioning public policies that rest on ignorance not knowledge, and that serve particular interests but not the public interest. It will point to the way in which the cultural apparatus employs a political economy of fear because fear, like blood, sells, is something the public understands and seems to need: fear of the “other,”—think Muslim—of “death panels,” of “socialism, Marxism, fascism” often uttered in the same sentence, and fear of “the bug” that is going to decimate human kind. In other words, “fear” however perversely, has a crude fiscal utility: it sells. The talk will finally argue that in many ways one might see in the way in which the discourse around Aids evolved, or didn’t, of how counter-discourses were so successfully closed down a harbinger of what America has become, a closing down of the rational mind, a casting aside of the pursuit of truth and understanding, and their replacement with the almost willful pursuit of ignorance so long as that comports with, and feeds, distressed emotional needs as well as political and economic interests. In other words, the repressing of open discourse about HIV-Aids was yet one example of a society in deep betrayal of the vision of its founders, that a democratic society needs rational, open, honest debate if it is to thrive. There is, in effect, as the literary critic Lionel Trilling put it, a “moral obligation to be intelligent,” not blinkered, biased, closed minded.
Conferencia principal
La ponencia reflexionará sobre un número de cuestiones y temas que no se enfrentan exclusivamente al discurso en torno al SIDA, aunque será central y principal, si no también a otros discursos. Desde una perspectiva histórica, la charla considerará aquella convergencia de fuerzas – políticas, médico-industriales, culturales – que tan eficazmente bloqueó la manera de pensar de aquellos que no aceptaban la hipótesis VIH-SIDA. La charla sugerirá que este es un ejemplo fuerte – aunque lejos de ser el único – de la extraordinaria capacidad de la que disponen las instituciones y los protagonistas claves a la hora de determinar la imaginación pública para establecer “interpretaciones” en la mentalidad pública y para guiar a aquel sector del público a ver “esta” vía en vez de “aquella”. Asimismo, las inmensas consecuencias que esto tiene a la hora de diseñar unas políticas que se apoyan en la ignorancia en lugar del conocimiento, y que sirven a intereses particulares en lugar de intereses públicos. Indicará la manera por la cual el aparato cultural emplea la política económica del miedo, ya que el miedo, al igual que la sangre, vende, siendo esto algo que el público entiende y parece necesitar: miedo al “otro”, – piensen en musulmán – a los “death panels”, al “socialismo, marxismo, fascismo” pronunciados con frecuencia dentro de la misma frase, y miedo al “bicho” que va a diezmar al ser humano. En otras palabras, el “miedo” por perverso que sea, tiene una dura utilidad fiscal: vende. Por último, la charla argumentará que uno puede ver de muchas maneras la forma en la cual el discurso en torno al SIDA evolucionó, o no lo hizo, y como los discursos en contra de la corriente oficial fueron bloqueados con tanto éxito, siendo esto precursor de lo que los EE.UU. ha llegado a convertirse. Es decir, un cerramiento de la mente racional, un dejar de lado la búsqueda de la verdad y el conocimiento, y como esto fue substituido por la casi intencionada búsqueda de la ignorancia con el fin de que ello corresponda y alimente las necesidades emocionales afligidas además de intereses económicos y políticos. En otras palabras, la represión del discurso abierto sobre el VIH-SIDA fue un ejemplo más de una sociedad en profunda traición a la visión de sus fundadores, es decir, que la sociedad democrática necesita un debate racional, abierto y honesto para prosperar. Hay, de hecho, como el crítico literario Lionel Trilling lo expuso, la “obligación moral de ser inteligentes,” sin estrecheces de miras y sin ser parciales ni cerrados de mente.

John Lauritsen
john.lauritsen@verizon.net
John Lauritsen graduated from Harvard in 1963. He is a writer, retired survey research analyst, gay liberationist, AIDS dissident, and freethinker. His first major AIDS article, “CDC’s Tables Obscure AIDS-Drugs Connection”, was published in February 1985. Beginning in 1986 he wrote for the New York Native, which in eleven years would publish over fifty of his articles. His AIDS-dissident books include Death Rush: Poppers & AIDS (1986), AZT: Poison by Prescription (1990), The AIDS War (1993) and (co-edited with Ian Young) The AIDS Cult: Essays on the gay health crisis (1997).

History of AIDS controversy spanning three decades
This talk will analyze the underlying premises and assumptions of “AIDS”, a protean construct rather than a coherent disease entity. Particular attention will be paid to gay men, the group most targeted by the AIDS Industry, with a discussion of gay media, AIDS organizations, and the premier gay drug, “poppers” (nitrite inhalants).
Historia de la controversia SIDA que ya abarca tres décadas
Esta ponencia analizará las premisas subyacentes y las suposiciones sobre el “SIDA”, una invención de extremada variabilidad más que una coherente entidad patológica. Se prestará particular atención a los hombres gays, el grupo que más ha estado en el punto de mira de la industria SIDA, con un debate sobre los medios de comunicación gays, organizaciones del SIDA, y la droga gay por excelencia, los “poppers” (inhaladores de nitritos).

Peter Duesberg
duesberg@uclink4.berkeley.edu
Peter H. Duesberg, Ph.D. is a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He isolated the first cancer gene through his work on retroviruses in 1970, and mapped the genetic structure of these viruses. This, and his subsequent work in the same field, resulted in his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. He is also the recipient of a seven-year Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Institutes of Health. On the basis of his experience with retroviruses, Duesberg has challenged the virus-AIDS hypothesis in the pages of such journals as Cancer Research, Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of AIDS, AIDS Forschung, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapeutics, New England Journal of Medicine and Research in Immunology. He has instead proposed the hypothesis that the various American/European AIDS diseases are brought on by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT itself, which is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS. Since 1996, he has published extensively on the chromosomal (aneuploidy) theory of cancer. http://www.duesberg.com/

HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS — a new perspective
A recent study by Chigwedere et al., “Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa”, claims that during the period from 2000 to 2005 about 300,000 South African deaths from AIDS per year could have been prevented by available anti-HIV drugs. The study blamed those who question the hypothesis that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the cause of AIDS, particularly former South African President Thabo Mbeki and Peter Duesberg, for not preventing these deaths by anti-HIV treatments such as the DNA chain-terminator AZT and the HIV DNA inhibitor Nevirapine. Here we ask, (1) What evidence exists for the huge losses of South African lives from HIV claimed by the Chigwedere study? (2) What evidence exists that South Africans would have benefited from anti-HIV drugs? We found that vital statistics from South Africa reported about 12,000 HIV-positive deaths per year between 2000-2005. This figure is 25-times lower than the 300,000 lives per year estimated by Chigwedere et al. Moreover, the US Census Bureau and South Africa reported that the South African population had increased by 3 million during the period from 2000 to 2005 instead of suffering losses, growing from 44.5 to 47.5 million, even though 25-30% were positive for antibodies against HIV. A similar discrepancy was found between claims for a devastating AIDS epidemic in Uganda and a simultaneous explosive growth in its population. We conclude that the claims that HIV has caused huge losses of lives are unconfirmed and that HIV is not sufficient or even necessary to cause the previously known diseases, now called AIDS when antibody against HIV is detected. Further we call into question the claim that HIV antibody-positives would benefit from anti-HIV drugs, because these drugs are inevitably toxic and because there is as yet no proof that HIV causes AIDS.

La hipótesis VIH-SIDA anticuada ante el SIDA sudafricano — una nueva perspectiva
Un estudio reciente por Chigwedere et al., “Calculando los beneficios desaprovechados por el uso de medicamentos antiretrovirales en Sur África”, afirma que durante el periodo del 2000 al 2005 se podían haber prevenido aproximadamente 300,000 muertes anuales de SIDA en Sur África a través de los medicamentos anti-VIH disponibles. El estudio culpó a aquellos que cuestionan la hipótesis de que el virus de inmunodeficiencia humana (VIH) es la causa del SIDA, particularmente al anterior presidente sudafricano Thabo Mbeki y Peter Duesberg, por no prevenir aquellas muertes a través de tratamientos anti-VIH como son el terminador de cadenas de ADN el AZT y el inhibidor de ADN del VIH el Nevirapine. Nuestra pregunta aquí es, (1) ¿Qué evidencia existe sobre la gran cantidad de muertes en Sur África por el VIH que afirma el estudio Chigwedere? (2) ¿Qué evidencia existe de que los sudafricanos podían haberse beneficiado por medicamentos anti-VIH? Vemos que las estadísticas vitales de Sur África notificaron aproximadamente 12,000 muertes anuales por VIH entre el 2000 y el 2005. Esta cifra es 25 veces menor que las 300,000 muertes anuales calculadas por Chigwedere et al. Además, el US Census Bureau y Sur África documentaron que la población sudafricana en lugar de sufrir pérdidas incrementó en 3 millones de personas durante el periodo de 2000 a 2005, creciendo de 44.5 a 47.5 millones, incluso cuando del 25-30% dieron positivos a anticuerpos contra el VIH. Una discrepancia similar se halló en las afirmaciones sobre una devastadora epidemia de SIDA en Uganda y simultáneamente un crecimiento explosivo de su población. Llegamos a la conclusión de que las afirmaciones que el VIH ha causado gran cantidad de muertes no están confirmadas, y que el VIH no es suficiente o ni siquiera necesario para causar las enfermedades ya conocidas y ahora llamadas SIDA cuando van acompañadas de la detección de anticuerpos contra el VIH. Más aun, hacemos un llamamiento a que se cuestione la afirmación de que las personas seropositivas se beneficiarían de medicamentos anti-VIH, ya que estos medicamentos son inevitablemente tóxicos y porque todavía no hay prueba de que el VIH cause el SIDA.

Etienne de Harven
pitou.deharven@orange.fr
Etienne De Harven obtained his M.D. degree in 1953 from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, (where he later became “Professeur Agrégé” in Pathology). He specialized in electron microscopy at the “Institut du Cancer” in Paris. In 1956, he joined Charlotte Friend’s team at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York, the largest cancer research center in the United States, where he was in charge of electron microscopy research. It was there that he produced the world’s first description of a retrovirus budding on the surface of infected cells. He served as President of the Electron Microscopy Society of America in 1976. In 1981, he was appointed Professor of pathology and director of the electron microscopy laboratory at the University of Toronto, Canada, where he researched the marking of antigens on the surface of lymphocytes. He is former President of Rethinking Aids (2005-2008), a group comprising over 2600 scientists and other re-thinkers who refute the viral origin of AIDS. He recently published Ten Lies About AIDS http://books.trafford.com/07-2938

Questioning the Existence of HIV
Most unfortunately, AIDS Rethinkers have recently appeared divided on the issue of the existence or of the non-existence of HIV, one group claiming that HIV exists but is a harmless, passenger virus, while the other group asserts simply that HIV does not exist. Neither of these two stands is compatible with available scientific evidence.
Claiming a harmless passenger is not consistent with the name HIV that implies a causal relationship with immunodeficiency, a most serious pathological condition. Asserting simply that HIV does not exist is a fragile position that can hardly account for 1) the fact that typical retrovirus particles illustrated in the 1983, Barré-Sinoussi et al. Science paper, and 2) the fact that retroviral nucleic acid sequences are routinely amplified by PCR methodologies in attempts to measure an hypothetical viral load in AIDS patients.
Obviously, an alternative analysis is urgently needed that is consistent with all the scientifically published evidence. Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) provide such an alternative analysis that can no longer be ignored. As stated by myself in Pretoria in 2000, nobody has ever demonstrated by EM retroviral particles in the blood of patients tagged as presenting with a high viral load. An award, offered to whomever would demonstrate the opposite, has never been claimed. However, harmless viruses, when existing, are just as readily visualized by EM as pathogenic ones. The fact that they have never been observed in high viral load blood samples is therefore significant.
In conclusion, HERVs have interfered with HIV/AIDS research. Facing this fact makes it possible to correct several miss-interpretations that stand at the roots of the current HIV/AIDS dogma. Recognizing the role of HERVs in a coherent analysis of available data shall restore RA’s scientific credibility, consolidate a united front for RA, and provide RA with the strength of fundamentally redirecting AIDS research, far away from hypothetical exogenous retroviruses.
Cuestionando la existencia del VIH
Desafortunadamente, los “disidentes” del SIDA se han mostrado recientemente divididos sobre el tema de la “existencia” o “no existencia” del VIH. Mientras que un grupo alega que el “VIH existe pero es un virus inofensivo y pasajero”, el otro grupo simplemente afirma que “el VIH no existe”. Ninguna de estas dos posturas es compatible con la evidencia científica disponible.
Alegar que es “un pasajero inofensivo” no es coherente con la denominación “VIH” ya que esta implica una relación causal con la inmunodeficiencia, una condición patológica muy seria. Afirmar simplemente que el VIH no existe es una posición frágil y que apenas puede explicar 1) el hecho de que el artículo de Science de 1983 por Barré-Sinoussi et al. estuviese ilustrado por partículas típicas de retrovirus, y 2) el hecho de que se amplifiquen rutinariamente secuencias de ácido nucleico retroviral usando metodologías basadas en PCR con el fin de medir una hipotética carga viral en pacientes de SIDA.
Obviamente, se necesita con urgencia un análisis alternativo que sea coherente con toda la evidencia científica publicada. Los retrovirus endógenos humanos (HERVs) proporcionan dicho análisis alternativo que no puede seguir ignorado durante más tiempo.
Como indiqué en Pretoria en el 2000, nadie ha demostrado mediante EM la presencia de partículas retrovirales en la sangre de pacientes etiquetados como portadores de una carga viral alta. Nunca se ha reclamado un premio que se ofrecía a cualquiera que demostrase lo contrario. Sin embargo, mediante EM, los virus “inofensivos”, cuando existen, se visualizan con la misma facilidad que los que son patógenos. Por lo tanto, es significativo el hecho de que nunca se hayan observado en muestras de sangre con una carga viral alta.
En conclusión, los HERVs han interferido con la investigación sobre VIH/SIDA. Afrontar este hecho hace posible corregir varias interpretaciones erróneas que se levantan sobre las raíces del actual dogma del VIH/SIDA. En un análisis coherente de la información disponible, reconocer el papel que juegan los HERVs restaurará la credibilidad científica de RA, consolidará un frente unido para RA y proporcionará a RA la fuerza, fundamentalmente, para redirigir la investigación del SIDA, lejos de los retrovirus hipotéticos.

Charles Geshekter
chollygee@earthlink.net
Charles Geshekter is Emeritus Professor of African history at California State University, Chico. After earning his Ph.D. in History from UCLA, Geshekter has held three Fulbright Awards and his African field research was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ford Foundation and Social Science Research Council. His publications examine various aspects of modern Somali history, techniques of documentary film making, and reappraising the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Geshekter helped to establish the Somali Studies International Association, coordinated its first conference in Mogadishu in 1980, and co-edited the Proceedings of the 1st Congress of Somali Studies. During the United Nations intervention in Somalia, Geshekter was news analyst for CBS National Radio Network, KRON-TV/San Francisco, PBS, and numerous radio stations. In 1985, he produced a PBS documentary, “The Parching Winds of Somalia” for WQED-TV. Portions of the film were included in a McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour special program, “Somalia: Anatomy of a Tragedy” that was nominated for a 1993 Emmy Award. Geshekter was Program Coordinator for the 1989 Meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science/Pacific Division. From 1991-95, he served as Chairman for its History of Science Section and was on its Executive Council. In 1996, he was Chief Policy Advisor on Education Finance for the California State Assembly. He has worked for the Department of Justice as a consultant and researcher on African immigration issues. From 2000 to 2003, Geshekter was a member of the South African Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel.

The Deception and Dishonesty of African AIDS Statistics
For over 25 years, the media has bombarded the public with a barrage of figures purporting to tally AIDS cases and AIDS deaths in Africa. This presentation examines the empirical basis for those numbers and critiques the methodology used by AIDS agencies and its researchers to gather such data, interpret its meaning, and then use dubious statistics as the basis for requesting ever increasing amounts of funding.
As an example of how bogus claims come to form the basis to solicit funds and initiate interventions into African societies, the author will critique the findings of prominent AIDS investigators, published in The Lancet (2007-2008), that purported to show how male circumcision in Kenya and Uganda reduced a male’s chances of contracting HIV.
Fraude y engaño de las estadísticas del SIDA africano
Durante más de 25 años, los medios de comunicación han bombardeado al público con un aluvión de cifras pretendiendo cuadrar casos de SIDA con muertes por SIDA en África. Esta ponencia examina las bases empíricas de esos números y critica la metodología usada por los organismos oficiales del SIDA y sus investigadores para reunir tales datos, interpretar su significado y luego utilizar dudosas estadísticas como base para solicitar cada vez una mayor financiación.
A modo de ejemplo de como afirmaciones falsas llegan a formar la base para recaudar fondos e iniciar intervenciones en las sociedades africanas, la ponencia critica los hallazgos de destacados investigadores sobre el SIDA, publicados en The Lancet (2007-2008), que pretendieron demostrar como la circuncisión masculina en Kenya y Uganda reducía las probabilidades de contraer el VIH en varones.

Christian Fiala
christian.fiala@aon.at
Dr. Christian Fiala is a gynaecologist and obstetrician and currently working in Vienna, but has extensive experience in Thailand and Africa. April, 2007, he established the Museum of Contraception and Abortion. For almost 20 years he has been following critically the scientific and political discussion on the epidemiological aspects of AIDS and contributed actively. He was a member of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel in South Africa. Dr. Fiala has published many papers focused on the problems of AIDS in Africa and the definition of AIDS. is the author of the book “Do We Love Dangerously? – A Doctor in Search of the Facts and Background to AIDS” (Lieben wir gefaehrlich? – Ein Arzt auf der Suche nach den Fakten und Hintergruenden von AIDS) (1997); and the article in English, Aids: are we being deceived?

Aids in Africa — a call for sense not hysteria

“Can Africa be saved?” asked Newsweek on it’s front page as far back as 1984, reflecting the old Western belief that Africa is doomed to starvation, terror, disaster and death. This was repeated two years later in an article in the same journal in a story about Aids in Africa. The title set the scene: “Africa in the Plague Years”. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed “by mid-1991 an estimated 1.5 million Ugandans, or about 9% of the general population and 20% of the sexually active population, had HIV infection”. Similar reports were repeatedly published during the last 25 years. The predictions announced the practically inevitable collapse of the country in which the worldwide epidemic supposedly originated.
Today, however, one reads little about Aids in Uganda because all prophesies have proved false. Summing up, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics reported the results of the (ten-year) census in September 2002: “Uganda’s population grew at an average annual rate of 3.4% between 1991 and 2002. The high rate of population growth is mainly due to the persistently high fertility levels (about seven children per woman) that have been observed for the past four decades. The decline in mortality reflected by a decline in Infant and Childhood Mortality Rates as revealed by the Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys (UDHS) of 1995 and 2000-2001, have also contributed to the high population growth rate.” In other words, the already high population growth in Uganda has further increased over the past 10 years and is now among the highest in the world. Similarly economic development has shown a constant growth over the same period reflecting the energy and determination of Ugandans to improve their living conditions.
It is long overdue that we recognize obvious facts proving that all predictions about an Aids epidemic in Africa have been wrong because they were based on erroneous assumption. Consequently budgets need to be redirected so that they meet the actual needs of the local population. Furthermore, individuals and organizations who have deliberately taken advantage of the hysteria they helped to create, need to be held accountable.
www.altheal.org/statistics/fiala.htm?www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/327/7408/184-a

Sida en África — una llamada a la razón, no a la histeria
“¿Se puede salvar a África?” preguntaba Newsweek en su portada remontándose a 1984, reflejando la creencia de occidente que África está condenada a la hambruna, el terror, el desastre y la muerte. Esto se repitió dos años después en un artículo de la misma publicación incluido en un reportaje sobre SIDA en África. El título preparaba la escena: “Äfrica en los años de plaga”. La Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) confirmaba que “para mediados de 1991 se calcula que 1,5 millones de ugandeses, o aproximadamente el 9% de su población general y el 20% de su población sexualmente activa, tendrían infección por VIH”. Se han publicado informes similares de manera repetida durante los últimos 25 años. Las predicciones anunciaban el colapso prácticamente inevitable del país en el que supuestamente originó la epidemia mundial.
Hoy, sin embargo, se lee poco sobre el SIDA en Uganda. Porque todas las predicciones han resultado ser falsas. Resumiendo, el Uganda Bureau of Statistics notificó los resultados de un censo (de 10 años) en setiembre de 2002: “La población de Uganda creció a un ritmo medio anual de 3.4% entre 1991 y 2002. El alto índice de crecimiento de la población es debido principalmente a los continuos altos niveles de fertilidad (aproximadamente siete hijos por mujer) que se han observado en las pasadas cuatro décadas. El descenso en mortalidad reflejado por el descenso en los índices de mortalidad infantil tal y como muestran el Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys (UDHS) de 1995 y 2000-2001, también han contribuido al alto indice de crecimiento de la población.” En otras palabras, el ya existente alto índice de crecimiento de la población en Uganda ha incrementado aún más en los últimos 10 años, encuentrándose ahora entre los más altos del mundo. Igualmente, el desarrollo económico ha demostrado un crecimiento constante en el mismo periodo reflejando la energía y determinación de los ugandeses para mejorar sus condiciones de vida.
Hace mucho tiempo que se debió reconocer hechos obvios que prueban que todas las predicciones sobre la epidemia SIDA en África han sido erróneas porque estaban basadas en asunciones erróneas. Por consiguiente, los presupuestos deben ser redirigidos para que cumplan con las necesidades actuales de la población local. Más aun, se deben pedir cuentas a individuos y organizaciones que se han aprovechado deliberadamente de la histeria que ayudaron a crear.
www.altheal.org/statistics/fiala.htm
www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/327/7408/184-a

Roberto Giraldo
robgiraldo@aol.com
Roberto Giraldo MD, Specialist in internal medicine, infectious, immunological and tropical diseases from Universities of Antioquia (Colombia), Kansas and London. Independent AIDS researcher since 1981. Worked with the so-called HIV tests for 13 years at New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center. Author of several critical articles and books on AIDS. Former President of rethinking AIDS. Currently is Director of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine of the International Society of Analytical Trilogy in São Paulo, Brazil. www.robertogiraldo.com and www.trilogia.ws.

The role of the inner pharmacy in the prevention and treatment of AIDS
A short review of the literature on the Psychoneuroimmunology of AIDS. 1. The role of negative emotions on the genesis of seropositivity and on the development of AIDS. Description of the main personality characteristics, both in rich and poor countries, needed to develop seropositivity and AIDS. 2. Experience dealing with seropositive individuals and patients with AIDS indicates that external therapies, even natural measures, have very little value in the prevention and treatment of AIDS. The real 1healing comes from our inner doctor also known as our inner pharmacy. Revealing the power of consciousness in dealing with seropositivity and AIDS.
El papel de la farmacia interior en la prevención y tratamiento del SIDA
Breve revisión a la literatura sobre la psiconeuroinmunología del SIDA. 1. El papel negativo de las emociones en la génesis de la seropositividad y en el desarrollo del SIDA. Descripción de las principales características de personalidad, tanto en los países ricos como en los pobres, que son necesarias para desarrollar seropositividad y SIDA. 2. La experiencia en el trato con individuos seropositivos y pacientes con SIDA indica que las terapias externas, incluidas las medidas naturales, tienen muy poco valor a la hora de prevenir y tratar el SIDA. La verdadera curación viene de nuestro médico interior también conocido como farmacia interior. Mostrándose el poder de la conciencia a la hora de tratar con la seropositividad y el SIDA.

David Rasnick
drasnick@mac.com
David Rasnick received a PhD in chemistry (organic and biochemistry) from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a BS in Biology and a BS in chemistry. He has over 20 years experience in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry working on cancer, emphysema, arthritis, and parasitic diseases. He is former President of Rethinking AIDS: the group for the scientific reappraisal of the HIV hypothesis and former President of the International Coalition for Medical Justice. He was a member of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel of South Africa. He published Germ of Lies, a scientifically accurate but reader-friendly novel depicting of the AIDS blunder. Since 1996 he has been working closely with Peter Duesberg at University of California at Berkeley on the aneuploidy (or chromosomal imbalance) theory of cancer. http://www.davidrasnick.com

HIV drugs causing AIDS
It has never been shown that adults or children or fetuses in the womb taking the anti-HIV drugs live longer or at least better lives than a similar group of people not taking the drugs. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that ARVs cause AIDS-defining and other diseases and death. To hide this fact, the AIDS orthodoxy has come up with yet another syndrome given the oxymoronic name Immune Reconstitution Syndrome or IRS. The diseases of IRS are identical with the list of AIDS-defining diseases. IRS is nothing other than AIDS caused by the antiretroviral drugs.
Los medicamentos anti-VIH causan SIDA
Nunca se ha demostrado que ni adultos, ni niños, ni fetos en el útero tomando los medicamentos anti-VIH vivan más o por lo menos mejores vidas que un grupo similar de personas que no los tomen. Por el contrario, hay abundante evidencia de que los ARV causan enfermedades definitorias de SIDA además de otras enfermedades y la muerte. Para ocultar este hecho, otro síndrome más ha surgido por parte de la ortodoxia del SIDA, dándole el nombre oximorónico de Síndrome de Reconstitución Inmunológica o IRS (siglas en inglés). Las enfermedades del IRS son idénticas a las enumeradas en la lista de enfermedades definitorias de SIDA. El IRS no es más que SIDA causado por los fármacos antiretrovirales.

Claus Koehnlein
koehnlein-kiel@t-online.de
Claus Köhnlein received his MD in 1982 from the University of Kiel, Germany. From 1983-92, he trained in internal medicine in the Department of Oncology at the University of Kiel. Since 1993, he has been practicing internal medicine in Kiel and treating HIV-positive patients who are critical of antiviral treatment. Co-author of Virus Mania: http://www.amazon.com/Virus-Mania-Continually-Epidemics-Billion-Dollar/dp/1425114679

The treatment dilemma of HIV-positive patients as a result of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. The illusion of antiviral treatment.
The study that eventually led to FDA approval of AZT in 1987 was terminated after only 4 months because the treated group seemed to do better than the placebo group. In the following years, however, the mortality in both groups rose significantly. Most physicians thought that this was due to the HIV infection. However, it soon became clear that the recommended dosage of 1.5 g of AZT caused severe bone marrow suppression (AIDS by Prescription) and was killing large numbers of AIDS patients. The dosage of AZT was reduced several times to lower its toxicity and the mortality of patients taking the drug began to decline. Unfortunately, the decline in the mortality was wrongly attributed to the life-saving benefits of AZT (Pallela, 1998). In the mid 1990s, new treatments such as the HIV protease inhibitors were introduced. The HIV protease inhibitors turned out to be very good against fungal infections. The combinations of the cytotoxic antiviral drugs plus protease inhibitors are antibiotic treatments in the true sense of the word—they are anti-life. This may account for their successful short term effects in treating bacterial, viral and protozoal infections. Thus, the symptoms due to infectious diseases that are called AIDS in the presence of a positive HIV-test may improve when the drugs are first used. But soon, the combinations of anti-HIV drugs damage the liver, kidney, central nervous system and bone marrow, which is the very source of the immune system. It would be much better to treat the specific infectious diseases (e.g. TB) with recognized specific treatments instead of using the inevitably toxic anti-life cocktails.
El dilema del tratamiento de personas VIH-positivas como consecuencia de la hipótesis VIH-SIDA: La ilusión del tratamiento antiretroviral.
El estudio que finalmente llevó a la FDA a aprobar el AZT en 1987 se concluyó en sólo 4 meses, dado que el grupo bajo tratamiento parecía reaccionar mejor que el grupo placebo. Sin embargo, en los años siguientes la mortalidad en ambos grupos incrementó considerablemente. La mayoría de médicos pensó que eso era debido a la infección por VIH. Sin embargo, pronto se hizo evidente que la dosis recomendada de 1.5g de AZT causaba supresión severa de la médula ósea (SIDA recetado) y estaba matando a una gran cantidad de pacientes con SIDA. La dosis de AZT se redujo varias veces con el fin de bajar su toxicidad y la mortalidad de pacientes tomando el medicamento empezó a reducirse. Desafortunadamente, el descenso en la mortalidad fue erróneamente atribuido a los beneficios salva-vidas del AZT (Pallela, 1998). A mediados de la década de los 90, se introdujeron nuevos tratamientos como los inhibidores de proteasa. Los inhibidores de proteasa resultaron ser muy efectivos contra infecciones fúngicas. La combinación de medicamentos antivirales citotóxicos e inhibidores de proteasa son tratamientos antibióticos en el verdadero sentido de la palabra – son antivida. Esto podría explicar sus exitosos efectos a corto plazo a la hora de tratar infecciones por protozoas e infecciones bacterianas y virales. Por consiguiente, los síntomas debidos a enfermedades infecciosas, llamadas SIDA cuando van acompañadas de un resultado positivo a un test de VIH, podrían mejorar cuando los medicamentos son utilizados por primera vez. Sin embargo, las combinaciones de los medicamentos anti-VIH pronto dañan el hígado, los riñones, el sistema nervioso central, y la médula ósea que es la verdadera fuente del sistema inmune. Sería mucho mejor tratar aquellas determinadas enfermedades infecciosas (por ejemplo, tuberculosis) con tratamientos específicos reconocidos para dichas enfermedades, en vez de usar los inevitables cócteles tóxicos anti-vida.

Henry Bauer
hhbauer@vt.edu
Henry H. Bauer earned his Ph.D. in 1956 from the University of Sydney. He was trained as an electrochemist and reported his research in numerous publications. He is emeritus professor of chemistry and science studies, and emeritus dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. After his retirement in 1999, he was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration from 2000 to 2007. You can find details about his book The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory at http://failingsofhivaidstheory.homestead.com; the book collates and analyzes, for the first time, the results of more than two decades of HIV testing, revealing that common assumptions about HIV and AIDS are incompatible with the published data. Links to his other books are at hivskeptic.wordpress.com. His home page is henryhbauer.homestead.com

HIV/AIDS blunder is far from unique in the annals of science and medicine
I believe an enormous hindrance to Rethinking is that most people find it incredible that “everyone” could be so wrong about this for so long, but the history of science and medical science in particular shows it’s far from atypical. This wider historical context also has potential lessons for how the mainstream consensus might eventually be overturned.
El gran error VIH/SIDA está lejos de ser el único en los anales de la ciencia y la medicina
Creo que un enorme obstáculo para Repensar es que a la mayoría de la gente le parece increíble que “todo el mundo” pueda estar tan equivocado acerca de este asunto durante tanto tiempo. Sin embargo, la historia de la ciencia y la ciencia médica en particular, demuestra que está lejos de ser atípico. Este contexto histórico más amplio también ofrece lecciones potenciales sobre cómo puede ser derrocado finalmente el consenso de la opinión pública dominante.

Christopher Black
bar@idirect.com
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer and political activist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been involved in high-profile human rights cases investigating alleged war crimes and defending those accused of these crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Black is currently defending Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former head of Rwanda’s Gendarmerie or National Police Force, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. He and other defense lawyers went on strike in early 2004, claiming that the tribunal was being used by the U.S. for political ends and that a fair hearing was impossible. He has been the subject of several death threats as a result of his work at the Rwanda tribunal and the subject of threats and intimidation from the current RPF Rwandan regime. Christopher Black is listed as a member by the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. He was a signatory to a December 2008 letter which urged the journal Science to retract a number of scientific papers from the early 1980s in which Robert Gallo alleged HTLV-III (HIV) caused AIDS.

The Criminalization of Illness
The criminalization of people allegedly infected with a virus known as HIV is unique in history. No communicable disease has been criminalized in this manner. It is a phenomenon that has spread to many countries in the world. In some countries specific criminal laws have been passed, as in the UK and some US states for example, in others, such as Canada, the existing criminal law is used. I will briefly outline the various reactions to hiv in the criminal law and its contradictions and inconsistencies, and then discuss what I and others think really lies behind the criminalization of an infection whose existence is not established and whose role in AIDS is refuted.
La ciminalización de la enfermedad
La criminalización de las personas supuestamente infectadas con un virus conocido como VIH, es única en la historia. Ninguna enfermedad contagiosa ha sido criminalizada de esta manera. Es un fenómeno que se ha extendido a muchos países alrededor del mundo. Leyes penales específicas han sido aprobadas en determinados países, por ejemplo el Reino Unido y algunos estados de EE.UU., y otros, como Canadá, utilizan la ley penal existente. Resumiré brevemente las diversas reacciones al VIH por parte de la ley penal y sus contradicciones e inconsecuencias. Posteriormente hablaré sobre lo que yo y otros piensan de lo que en realidad subyace bajo la criminalización de una infección cuya existencia no se ha establecido y cuyo rol en el SIDA ha sido rebatido.

Universidad Libre Pereira Colombia Law Grouppe
joralogo@gmail.com
The “Free University of Pereira (Colombia) Law Group” is composed of three people. Jose Ramon Lopez Gomez is a university teacher of philosophy and law and has worked with people affected by HIV and AIDS for the past 5 years. Leon Dario Muñoz is a cancer specialist with more than 20 years experience. Rodrigo Andres Medina Diaz is a law student working on a thesis on AIDS and the law who has worked with people affected by HIV and AIDS for the past 3 years.

There are two main positions on the origins, diagnosis, treatment and understanding of AIDS and a Colombian law applies to physicians and patients and resulting from that established by UNAIDS in this regard. A group of teachers, students and researchers have known and studied the medical, the legal, the psychological, and nutritional Rethinking posed by Colombian MD Roberto Giraldo. Today is legally obliged to patients and physicians to follow protocols without taking into account that the Colombian law gives the possibility of applying the proposed cheap and effective treatments for RA. In the Faculty of Law at the Free University of Pereira in Colombia we have the task of studying what is nationally and internationally as legal for AIDS patients and physicians have a legal support for the proposal and receive treatment than those conventional do not give good results, but on the contrary, aggravate the situation of the sick. All our efforts are directed to seek legal action through which patients can claim and defend their rights to good health, to be fully informed, to choose between treatment options to one that better results and to foster better quality of life, even in the midst of his illness. also look through the same mechanisms that physicians can fulfill their Hippocratic duty of disclosure to the patient the whole truth about their illness and various treatment options for patients, as is their right, choose according to his will.
Repensando los aspectos jurídicos del SIDA en Colombia
Existen dos grandes posiciones sobre el origen, diagnóstico, tratamiento y comprensión del SIDA y hay una legislación colombiana aplicable a médicos y pacientes y derivada de lo establecido por la ONUSIDA al respecto. Un grupo de docentes, estudiantes e investigadores hemos conocido y estudiado lo médico, lo legal , lo sicológico, lo nutricional que plantea RA a través del MD colombiano Roberto Giraldo. Hoy en día se obliga legalmente a pacientes y médicos a seguir unos protocolos sin tener en cuenta que la legislación colombiana da la posibilidad de aplicar los baratos y efectivos tratamientos propuestos por RA. En la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Libre de Pereira Colombia nos hemos dado a la tarea de estudiar lo que hay nacional e internacionalmente en lo jurídico sobre SIDA para que médicos y pacientes tengan un apoyo legal para proponer y recibir tratamientos distintos a los convencionales que no dan buenos resultados sino que , por el contrario, agravan la situación de los enfermos. Todo nuestros esfuerzos están encaminados a buscar que mediante acciones legales los pacientes reclamen y defiendan su derechos a un buen estado salud, a estar totalmente informados , a escoger entre opciones de tratamientos a aquel que de mejores resultados y le propicie mejor calidad de vida, aun en medio de su enfermedad .Además, también buscaremos mediante los mismos mecanismos que los médicos puedan cumplir su hipocrático deber de darle a conocer al paciente toda la verdad sobre su enfermedad y las diversas opciones de tratamiento para que el enfermo, como es su derecho ,escoja según su voluntad.

Joan Shenton
joanshenton@clara.co.uk
Joan Shenton is founder and administrator of Immunity Resource Foundation. The is the author of Positively False: Exposing the myths around HIV and AIDS. She is an award winning television producer whose company Meditel Productions has specialized in science and medical programmes. She has made over 150 programmes for network television. In 1987 she produced the first documentary challenging the science behind the HIV/ AIDS hypothesis: AIDS—The Unheard Voices (Dispatches Ch4) which won the Royal Television Society Award for Journalism. There followed three further Dispatches documentaries on the subject, The AIDS Catch, AZT—Cause for Concern and AIDS and Africa. Sky News has broadcast Diary of an AIDS Dissident, AIDS Dissidents in Europe and AZT Babies. In 2000, she was granted an interview by the South African president Thabo Mbeki broadcast by M-Net South Africa – Search for Solutions—The Great AIDS Debate. Joan Shenton is currently compiling 15 years of archive material on the AIDS debate for the Immunity Resource Foundation website. http://www.immunity.org.uk/index.html

Censorship in the AIDS debate — the success of stifling, muzzling and a strategy of silence
My talk will offer examples from my own experience of some of the most sinister examples of censorship that I and my colleagues have endured, and describe how censorship, largely the result of a very successful strategy of silence adopted by the scientific orthodoxy, has prevented the truth from coming out about the cause or causes of what came to be called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. I have searched the Immunity Resource Foundation archive and found some filmed gems that have never before been broadcast. They include excepts from interviews with Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier, Sam Mhlongo, Huw Christie and others that reflect essentially, what we wanted to say but couldn’t.
Censura en el debate SIDA — el éxito de sofocar, de amordazar y de una estrategia de silencio
Mi ponencia ofrecerá ejemplos desde mi experiencia personal sobre algunos de los casos de censura más siniestros que yo y mis colegas hemos sufrido y describe como la censura, en gran medida el resultado de una estrategia de silencio adoptada con mucho éxito por la ortodoxia científica, ha impedido que la verdad salga a la luz sobre la causa o causas de lo que llegó a llamarse Síndrome de Inmunodeficiencia Adquirida. He buscado entre las filmaciones de los archivos de la Immunity Resource Foundation y he encontrado algunas joyas que nunca han sido retransmitidas. Incluyen extractos de entrevistas con Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier, Sam Mhlongo, Huw Christie y otros, que reflejan en esencia, lo que quisimos pero no pudimos decir.

Marco Ruggiero
marco.ruggiero@unifi.it
Marco Ruggiero, MD, PhD, is a professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Firenze, Italy. He has a specialization in clinical radiology and served as Lieutenant Medical Officer in the Italian Army. In 1984-86 he worked on signal transduction and protease inhibitors as a post-doctoral fellow at Burroughs Wellcome Co. (Research Triangle Park, NC) with Drs. Cuatrecasas and Lapetina. One of his papers on protease inhibitors was presented to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Nobel laureate Sir John Vane. Subsequently he worked as visiting scientist at the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology (Chief: Dr. S. A. Aaronson) of the National Cancer Institute (NIH, Bethesda, Maryland); his research was focussed on oncogenes and signal transduction. In 1992, he moved back to Firenze, Italy, where now he teaches in the Faculties of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery, and Engineering. He has been the tutor of many students preparing Bachelor or PhD. theses, several of which have been on AIDS with particular emphasis on the non-viral origin of the disease. He is the author of more than 100 scientific papers in journals such as Science, PNAS or Oncogene, and he has been recently appointed Author in Chief of the “Springer Reference Live: Cancer”. His website is: marcoruggiero.org

Religion, Politics, and AIDS in Italy: curious paradoxes from the Ministry of Health
According to the Vatican, AIDS is “a pathology of the spirit”, and not condoms, but “chastity and fidelity are the means to defeat the fatal virus”. The Vatican is highly respected by politicians and common people alike, which has led to curious paradoxes concerning HIV infection and AIDS. The most notable is that the Italian Ministry of Health appears convinced that AIDS is not (or not solely) caused by HIV. In Italy AIDS can be diagnosed in the absence of signs of HIV infection. As of May 2009, there is no surveillance system of new HIV infections, which allows manipulation of data concerning HIV infection. The Ministry of Health does not classify AIDS either as a relevant and particularly interesting infective disease or as highly frequent, or even susceptible to control interventions. AIDS in Italy is confined to two categories of people not particularly liked by the pervasive moral regime—gay men and drug addicts. In about 25% of paediatric AIDS cases the mother was HIV-negative. If the data and the definitions provided for by the Italian Ministry of Health are accurate and consistent, and assuming that the Ministry always uses the acronym “AIDS” to indicate the same pathologic entity, then we are forced to conclude that the Ministry is convinced that HIV is not the sole cause of AIDS in Italy.

Religión, política y SIDA en Italia: curiosas paradojas del Ministerio de Salud
Según el Vaticano, el SIDA es una “patología del espríritu”, y no son los condones, si no “la castidad y fidelidad los medios para derrotar a este virus mortal”. El Vaticano es tenido en mucha consideración tanto por los políticos y como por el pueblo, lo cual ha dado lugar a curiosas paradojas respecto a la infección por VIH y el SIDA. La paradoja más notable es que el Ministerio Italiano de Salud, parece estar convencido que el VIH no es la (o no es la única) causa del SIDA. En Italia, el SIDA se puede diagnosticar en ausencia de indicios que indiquen infección por VIH. A día de hoy, mayo de 2009, un sistema de censo nacional de nuevos diagnósticos de infecciones por VIH no está disponible, lo cual permite la manipulación de datos con respecto a la infección por VIH. El ministerio de salud no clasifica el SIDA ni como una enfermedad infecciosa relevante ni particularmente interesante, ni tampoco como una patología muy frecuente, ni siquiera como una enfermedad susceptible a intervenciones de control. El SIDA en Italia esta confinado a dos categorías de personas que no son de particular agrado del régimen moral dominante – hombres gays y drogadictos. Aproximadamente en el 25% de casos de SIDA pediátricos la madre era VIH-negativa. Si los datos y definiciones proporcionados por el Ministerio Italiano de Salud son precisos y consistentes, y asumiendo que el Ministerio siempre utiliza el acrónimo “SIDA” para indicar la misma entidad patológica, entonces estamos obligados a concluir que el Ministerio está convencido que el VIH no es la única causa del SIDA en Italia.

Daniele Mandrioli
mandry83@libero.it
Daniele Mandrioli, M.D, 26 years old. He obtained his M.D. degree in 2009 from the University of Bologna, Italy, including a thesis on the Chemical-AIDS hypothesis. His thesis work was supervised by Prof. Giovanni Pierini, toxicologist, and realised thanks to his experiences at Dr. Koehnlein’s practice in 2008. In 2007/2008 he was a Medical Student at Charité—Universitätsmedizin, Berlin. He is a member of the “Conflict of Interest Formation Program”, a group where Medical Doctors and Medical Students discuss conflict of interest in medicine, which was created by the Center for International Health, Bologna with the help of NoGraziePagoIo (Italian branch of Nofreelunch). In the summer of 2009 he attended the BSRT International Summer School on Innovative Approaches in Regenerative Medicine in Berlin.

The Italian epidemiology supports the chemical AIDS theory
The Italian epidemiology supports the chemical AIDS theory. The AIDS cases went down in the last 10 years just among the drug abusers (4737 to 680). This happened because of the decline in Heroin abuse. Moreover, in Italy just 1/3 of HIV-positive people use the anti-HIV drugs, which means that antiretroviral use cannot account for the decline in AIDS cases (from 5052 to 1144) in the last 10 years. Moreover, scanning electron microscope images (SEM) help us see how the immune system could be stressed by the impurities that we can find in a heroin doses.
La epidemiología italiana apoya la teoría química del SIDA
La epidemiología italiana apoya la teoría química del SIDA. En los últimos 10 años, sólo se redujeron los casos de SIDA entre los drogadictos (de 4737 a 680). Esto es debido a la caída en el abuso del consumo de heroína. Además, en Italia sólo 1/3 de los pacientes utilizan los ARV, por lo que esto no podría explicar el descenso en los casos de SIDA de los últimos 10 años (de 5052 a 1144). Asimismo, algunas imágenes al microscopio electrónico de barrido o SEM (siglas en inglés), nos ayudarán a ver como el sistema inmune podría estar estresado por las impurezas que se pueden encontrar en una dosis de heroína.

Karri Stokely
kstokely2@yahoo.com
Karri is a 43 year old mother of two children, ages 17 and 14. She and her husband, Joe, have been married for 19 years. Karri’s background is in emergency medicine; she worked as a Paramedic, then in out-patient surgery until she had her children. As a stay-at-home mom, she has successfully home schooled both kids for the past 12 years. “It has been such a wonderful experience, quite a blessing and a privilege to build relationships with them while home-schooling” says Karri. In her spare time, Karri enjoys exercise, reading, and teaching classes on whole/living foods nutrition. Karri makes her own herbal tinctures and believes the key to good health is through natural remedies, sprouting, juicing and organic, living foods. One of Karri’s favorite quotes is: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”—Hippocrates
Diagnosed with AIDS after a positive HIV test in 1996, Karri followed the current orthodox paradigm of treating AIDS for 11 years until she and Joe discovered there was another side to the story—One they had never heard or been told. Karri has fully regained her health and has successfully been off pharmaceutical drugs for 2 ½ years.
Karri and her family reside in Florida and you can find out more about them at: ww.myspace.com/rethinkaids

How I fell victim to the AIDS machine
My story is one of how I fell victim to the AIDS machine and how my husband and I found out the truth surrounding this controversy after I had been taking the HIV drugs for 11 years. I was given an AIDS diagnosis in 1996, based on nothing but a t-cell count. I experienced many side effects from the drugs over the years, ranging from nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, anemia, insomnia, wasting, and hair falling out. We were led to believe that these were all symptoms of HIV disease, or having full blown AIDS. My doctor never told us that these symptoms could be medication related. Since stopping all the medications in April 2007, I have fully regained my health and well-being, and all side effects have disappeared. I do have some concerns about any long-term, unseen damage these poisons may have done to me, but I try not to worry about it, as I live my life as healthy as possible.
Como caí víctima de la máquina SIDA
Mi historia trata sobre como caí víctima de la máquina SIDA y como, tras llevar 11 años tomando los medicamentos anti-VIH, mi marido y yo descubrimos la verdad en torno a esta controversia. En 1996 me diagnosticaron SIDA basado únicamente en un recuento de células T. Sufrí muchos efectos secundarios producidos por los fármacos que iban desde náuseas y vómitos, calambres musculares, anemia, insomnio, consunción y caída del cabello.
Nos hicieron creer que estos síntomas eran propios de la enfermedad por VIH, o un estadio SIDA completamente desarrollado. Mi doctor nunca nos informó que estos síntomas pudiesen estar relacionados con la medicación. Desde que deje de tomar los medicamentos en abril del 2007, he recuperado íntegramente mi salud y bienestar, y todos los efectos secundarios han desaparecido. Tengo algunas preocupaciones acerca de cualquier daño que me haya podido causar estos venenos a largo plazo y que haya podido pasar inadvertido, pero intento no preocuparme de esto mientras vivo mi vida de la manera más sana posible.

Noreen Martin
noreenelaine@hotmail.com
After having survived cancer, hepatitis, and having been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, she knew that it was time to make major changes in her life, as she did not think that modern medicine holds out much hope for life-threatening diseases. Having to cope with these diseases in a lifetime would probably be enough to push most people over the edge. However, Noreen found that all the hurdles that one has to overcome in life only go to make one stronger. She has never accepted that these diseases, or any other for that matter, were incurable. She believes that the body and the mind have a great healing capacity if given time and the proper ingredients to work with. She has since rebuilt her health, is not on anti-retroviral medication, but takes an enhancer called low dose naltrexone. She has completed a nutritional course and a master herbalist program and soon will have a Bachelor of Science in Holistic Nutrition. She is also working on a naturopathy degree. Noreen’s program of recovery started by getting educated about health issues, then she proceeded to detoxification, eliminated negative influences and added positive ones which included vitamins, supplements, and herbal products. She paid special attention to all of the food and drinks which went into her body, including products used on the body. Her health wasn’t destroyed in a day, neither does she think it could be rebuilt in a day. She took one day at a time and pressed forward with good health habits and a positive attitude. Her latest book is Perfect Immunity Against Disease

AIDS, Big Deal, Next!: A journey to hell and back with AIDS
A journey to hell and back with AIDS that nearly killed me to wonderful health without the HAART. When life gives one lemons, make lemonade as there is always a silver lining to be found in any situation!
SIDA, no es para tanto, ¡El siguiente!: Un viaje de ida y vuelta al infierno con el SIDA
Un viaje de ida al infierno con el SIDA que casi me mata y de vuelta a una maravillosa salud sin los HAART. Cuando la vida te da un limón, haz limonada ya que en cada situación no hay mal que por bien no venga!

Tony Lance
tonylance@mac.com
Tony Lance is a freelance writer and editor living near Nashville, TN. He’s been active in the rethinking community since 1997 when he co-founded the HEAL-Atlanta chapter (now defunct). From 2004-2008 he ran an Alive and Well-affiliated peer support group in NYC. In 2008 he wrote an article exploring the connection between intestinal dysbiosis and immune dysfunction in gay men that was published on Dr. Henry Bauer’s blog.

Challenges faced by gays who question HIV/AIDS with implications for dissidents
For several decades HIV/AIDS has been a rallying point for the gay community, bringing it together against a perceived common threat and, in the process, catalyzing the gay rights movement. Consequently, there is a shared sense of pride in this group about the manner in which they’ve responded to the issue, inextricably linking HIV/AIDS to the collective esteem of many gay men and women. Where does that leave those in the community who question HIV/AIDS? What challenges does that pose for dissidents at large?
Desafíos a los que se enfrentan los gays que cuestionan el VIH/SIDA y sus consecuencias para los disidentes
Durante varias décadas el VIH/SIDA ha sido un motivo de reivindicación para la comunidad gay, aunándola contra lo que se percibe como una amenaza común y, en ese proceso, catalizando el movimiento por los derechos de los gays. Por consiguiente, existe en este grupo un sentimiento compartido de orgullo sobre la manera en que han reaccionado a la cuestión, vinculando de manera inextricable el VIH/SIDA a la estima colectiva de muchos hombres y mujeres gays. ¿Dónde deja esto a aquellos en la comunidad que cuestionan el VIH/SIDA? ¿Que desafíos plantea esto para los disidentes en general?

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That's odd - the more HIV we find the more AIDS diagnoses and AIDS deaths tail off.  This seems very odd - is it possible?  Something must be very wrong, somewhere.  Let's ask Anthony Fauci to explain.Notably absent from the impressive lineup are some of the best authors of books against the prevailing wisdom, including Rebecca Culshaw author of Science Sold Out, and Harvey Bialy, author of Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS. To some extent this absence reflects the vicious politics used to repress the view that HIV/AIDS science is profoundly incorrect and in urgent need of review and revision, which will undoubtedly be the theme of the conference.

The Rethinking AIDS 2009 Conference “will consist of talks that question the widely held dogma that HIV causes AIDS, including whether HIV exists, whether it is sexually transmitted, whether HIV tests are accurate and whether AIDS drugs are safe and effective. The social, psychologic and legal impacts of an HIV diagnosis will also be considered, as well as alternative health approaches for people whose health has been damaged by an HIV diagnosis, by the prescription of AIDS drugs or who have been diagnosed with an AIDS-defining illness.”

Brent Leung’s excellent documentary House of Numbers, revealing the disarray of leading scientists who promote the current paradigm and propagandize in its favor will be shown on Saturday afternoon at 4.30pm. Joan Shenton’s talk will also include her own found gems of the kind that decorate House of Numbers: statements by HIV/AIDS scientists which support the statement and claims of their critics, such that the critics are vindicated by the very people that strive so determinedly to silence them. “I have searched the Immunity Resource Foundation archive and found some filmed gems that have never before been broadcast. They include excepts from interviews with Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier, Sam Mhlongo, Huw Christie and others that reflect essentially, what we wanted to say but couldnh’t.”

Media are invited to all conference sessions including the documentary screening and the Welcome Cocktail after the Keynote Lecture today, Friday (Nov 6) (register in advance by filling out the attached registration form and emailing it back to or call Siggi Sachs at (510) 717-8635.

Here is the program:

Rethinking AIDS 2009 Conference

Friday November 6th

Opening Session
6:00
Welcome and introduction of Keynote Speaker by David Crowe (Calgary, Canada)
6:15
Keynote Lecture: The media, HIV/AIDS, and the making of public “understandings”
by Michael Tracey (Boulder, CO, USA)
7:15 Welcome Cocktail

Saturday November 7

Morning Session Chaired by Charles Geshekter
8:00 1. History of the AIDS controversy spanning three decades by John Lauritsen
(Dorchester, MA, USA)
8:40 2. HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS—a new
perspective by Peter Duesberg (Berkeley, CA, USA)
9:20 3. Questioning the existence of HIV by Etienne de Harven (Saint Cézaire, France)
10:00 Coffee Break
Chaired by Helen Lauer
10:30 4. The deception and dishonesty of African AIDS statistics by Charles Geshekter (Chico, CA, USA)
11:10 5. Aids in Africa—a call for sense not hysteria by Christian Fiala (Vienna, Austria)
11:50 6. The role of the inner pharmacy in the prevention and treatment of AIDS by
Roberto Giraldo (São Paolo, Brasil)
12:30 Lunch

Afternoon Session

Chaired by Christian Fiala
2:00 7. HIV drugs causing AIDS by David Rasnick (Oakland, CA, USA)
2:40 8. The treatment dilemma of HIV-positive patients as a result of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: The illusion of antiviral treatment by Claus Koehnlein (Kiel, Germany)
3:20 9. HIV/AIDS blunder is far from unique in the annals of science and
medicine by Henry Bauer (Blacksburg, VA, USA)
4:00 Coffee Break
4:30 Screening of Brent Leung’s documentary, House of Numbers

7:00 Conference Banquet ($100)

Sunday November 8th

Morning Session Chaired by Roberto Giraldo

8:00 10. The criminalization of illness by Chris Black (Toronto, Canada)
8:30 11. Rethinking legal aspects of AIDS in Colombia by Rodrigo Andres Medina Diaz, Jose Ramon Lopez Gomez (Universidad Libre Pereira Colombia Law Group, Pereira, Colombia)
9:00 12. Censorship in the AIDS debate—the success of stifling, muzzling and a strategy of silence by Joan Shenton (London, UK)
9:30 Coffee Break
Chaired by Joan Shenton & Dale DeMatteo
9:45 13. Religion, politics, and AIDS in Italy: curious paradoxes from the Ministry of Health by Marco Ruggiero (Florence, Italy)
10:15 14. The Italian epidemiology supports the chemical AIDS theory by Daniele Mandrioli (Bologna, Italy)
10:45 15. How I fell victim to the AIDS machine by Karri Stokely (Lakeland, FL, USA)
11:00 16. Challenges faced by gays who question HIV/AIDS with implications for dissidents by Tony Lance (Nashville, TN, USA)
11:15 Panel discussion: Panelists: Celia Farber, Gary Null, Joan Shenton, and Michael Tracey Moderator: David Crowe
12:00 Closing Remarks

Conference organized by Rethinking AIDS
website www.rethinkingaids.com
or contact at info@ra2009.org

Whether any of this will have any influence on the political scene in this high spending arena is a question. Currently the leaders of HIV/AIDS are clamoring as loudly as ever for increased funding, and the idea that spending is based on a grand error maintained by self serving scientists against all logic and evidence is not something that will make itself heard until the New York Times opens up its columns to all the news fit to print on this issue, or some other watershed change comes about.

Meanwhile, one wonders about the priorities of the conference organizers themselves when they schedule the remarkable and rarely heard analyst John Lauritsen and the distinguished Peter Duesberg to speak at the ungodly hours of 8 am and 8.40 am on Saturday morning.

It reminds us of the New York conference of Rethinking AIDS where Peter Duesberg, the key speaker, was rushed off stage before he could even complete his presentation, not to mention answer any questions, so that the program schedule could be maintained.

Neglected genius – Peter Duesberg in Newsweek

October 11th, 2009

After 25 years of abuse, and dedicated work on the only really promising line in cancer research while cut off from NIH funding, it is understandable that the great man and leading scientist in his field might look a little unexcited by the prospect of a profile by a Newsweek reporter, however charmingAnother salute to the cancer pioneer which still assumes he is a fool on HIV

The single world authority featured on why Duesberg is misguided? None other than Seth Kalichman!

Glimpses of Duesberg’s cup of political poison – but now there is one big antidote

Peter Duesberg has a profile in Newsweek, The World’s Most Reviled Genius:Can the scientist who denied the cause of AIDS be trusted to cure cancer? By Jeneen Interlandi, which unlike most scientists in the new field publicly salutes his leadership on aneuploidy as the probable key to cancer, and points to his long rejection of the reigning HIV religion in AIDS as the reason why his colleagues continue to try and ignore his “genius” as they have done for 25 years.

As usual in Duesberg coverage, the article is schizophrenic – respectful enough, even admiring if it weren’t for its pervasive, insultingly thoughtless assumption that Duesberg must be wrong on AIDS, but as usual it treads carefully to avoid mentioning any details of his (intellectually) overwhelming arguments and journal articles against the world’s most specious and deadly – and silliest – scientific claim, details which might tip off officials, politicians and the public as to why his AIDS debunking should be taken seriously after all.

His humorous use of the word “schwarzes” to refer to blacks and “homos” for gays, and a couple of jokes swallowed straight by the earnest scribe at lunch, are quoted as the other persuasive reason why Duesberg is not taken seriously, and there are many tragic hints of the vicious undermining of his work still being applied at Berkeley. But the piece does make clear that the bureaucratic boneheads are sabotaging what is very probably the most important cancer work being done today, work which deserves a million dollar disbursement from the NIH $10 billion share of the Obama rescue without delay. If this strangling of Duesberg’s work continues it may eventually turn out that the man who could have saved the Federal government hundreds of billions in misapplied spending on HIV/AIDS was also prevented from saving the nation from cancer 25 years or more earlier than otherwise.

Peter Duesberg has grown accustomed to all of the slights that come with a life in intellectual exile. The 72-year-old molecular biologist no longer expects an invitation to present his research at the big conferences in his field or to meet with any of the scientists who visit the University of California, Berkeley, where he works. Nor is he surprised when his manuscripts are inexplicably rejected. But in an open lecture this past May, when a visiting scientist claimed that practically no one had investigated the role chromosome damage plays in cancer, it was a step too far. Duesberg himself has been hammering away at that very question for years. He’s published peer-reviewed papers on the topic, given a recent talk at the National Cancer Institute (his first there in 15 years), even hosted two small conferences of his own. So when the speaker solicited audience feedback, he jumped up immediately. “Excuse me,” he said into the microphone. “But I am nobody.”

He wasn’t always. In the past three decades, Duesberg has been described as a genius, a martyr, and a genocidal lunatic—often by the same person, usually amid the fierce debates and international headlines that come with major scientific breakthroughs. In 1971, at the age of 33, he became the first scientist to identify a cancer-causing gene—a biological holy grail that secured his place among an elite group of the country’s top researchers. Tenure at Berkeley and a coveted spot in the National Academy of Sciences followed. So did rumors of a Nobel and millions in grant money from the National Cancer Institute.

Then in 1988, Duesberg broke ranks with his colleagues and postulated that the newly discovered human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) was not the cause of AIDS. Rather, he declared, it was a harmless passenger virus, found by coincidence in patients whose illnesses stemmed from a constellation of other factors including malnutrition and substance abuse. For this, he was summarily cast out of Eden: Grant money evaporated. Graduate students disappeared. Nobel laureates stopped inviting him to dinner. Of course, he might have been forgiven—or at least forgotten—were it not for his consultation with Thabo Mbeki in 2000. When Duesberg advised the South African president not to bother with antiretroviral medication programs (he still believes the drugs are more toxic than the virus), his adversaries say he condemned hundreds of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people to death. Consorting with Mbeki to such disastrous ends fixed Duesberg as more than a mere pariah. From then on, he was Duesberg the mass murderer.

Since then, the fallen hero has toiled in what amounts to scientific purgatory—a smaller lab with private funding where he continues his cancer research. The shadows have proved both a refuge and a prison for Duesberg—freeing him to pursue less conventional ideas, but preventing his colleagues from taking those ideas seriously. His stubbornness has made him one of science’s most disturbing paradoxes—a self-avowed outsider searching desperately for a way back in. While he implores his colleagues to open their minds about cancer, he continues to keep his own closed about HIV, insisting still that the virus does not cause AIDS. To honestly evaluate his latest work, we will have to separate science from scientist.

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For decades now, researchers have been operating (to the tune of billions of dollars) under the assumption that cancer is the work of oncogenes: human genes that have mutated or viral genes that insert themselves into the host’s DNA. According to current dogma, oncogenes cause cells to divide uncontrollably, spurring a cascade of additional mutations that eventually results in a tumor. So far, this hypothesis has led to a number of apparent cul-de-sacs: some faltering attempts at gene-replacement therapy, a growing roster of targeted drugs that work only for some patients (and usually not for very long), and, more recently, the Cancer Genome Atlas—a concerted effort by the National Cancer Institute to sequence the genomes of 10,000 tumor samples, described by more than a few insiders as a colossal waste of time and money.

Duesberg has a different hypothesis. According to him, tumors are created not by the accumulation of individual mutations, but by wholesale changes in the structure and arrangement of a cell’s chromosomes. “It’s the difference between changing a couple of words in a sentence and ripping the entire set of encyclopedias apart,” he says. The upheaval is so great that a tumor effectively constitutes a new species—one that grows like a parasite inside its host. Duesberg says that characterizing these upheavals is the best way to understand how cancer begins. Two decades into his scientific exile, some scientists think he might actually be on to something. Something big enough to change the way we look at cancer.

The defining trait of any given species—the thing that distinguishes it from all other species—is not so much its genetic code as its karyotype: the number and size of chromosomes into which that code is organized. Humans and cats and worms all share numerous genes in common, but each has a different karyotype: cats have a total of 38 chromosomes, worms 12. And with a few rare exceptions, humans have two copies each of 23 different chromosomes. Cells that deviate significantly from this blueprint—by making five copies of one chromosome, for example, or only one copy of another—usually die pretty quickly. But sometimes, Duesberg says, a cell will chance upon a new karyotype that doesn’t kill it. These cells are called aneuploid, and they tend to grow and divide in rapid and unstable fashion. Eventually, he says, they evolve into something that can grow uncontrollably anywhere in the body.

It turns out that almost all solid tumors are aneuploid, and this little-examined fact may have implications for the way some cancers are diagnosed and treated. For example, the karyotypes of prostate and cervical tumors can be used to predict whether a given lesion is likely to become malignant, and thus help determine whether surgery is warranted. Swedish doctors are beginning to make use of this information, but aneuploidy receives little attention in the U.S., where the vast majority of funding still goes toward oncogene research. Part of the problem may be entrenched viewpoints that hinder innovation. But another problem may be Duesberg himself.

For five minutes, at least, the embattled scientist can be charming. When I met him at the Caffe Strada just a few blocks east of Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue, he rode up on an old -Schwinn, gave me a hug, and bought me a scone. He is loquacious and grandfatherly. He has bright blue eyes, a warm smile and a thick German accent that makes him endearingly difficult to understand. It’s at 10 minutes that he begins to betray himself. In explaining the impact chromosome changes can have on health, he lumps being a woman and having Down syndrome into the same category. “One happens when you add an extra copy of chromosome 21, and the other,” he says, half joking, “when you take away the Y chromosome and put an X in its place; you lose all the IQ genes.” He calls black people Schwarzes, and gay people homos, and as an example of how evolution can go awry, he compares Nobel laureate James Watson to E. coli. His assistant, Josh Nicholson, describes these constant gaffes as fingernails-on-a-blackboard irksome. “But he’s not racist,” Nicholson says. “He’s just from a different era, when people actually talked like that.”

In fact, Duesberg grew up during World War II, a Catholic in Nazi Germany. Both parents were prominent doctors; his father volunteered as a medic in the Nazi Army to avoid being forced into the Nazi political party. And Allied forces firebombed his house one Christmas Eve while his family huddled in a shelter. He recalls his formative years fondly, but it’s clear that that time still hangs over him: in casual conversation, Duesberg repeatedly refers to the war, the Holocaust, and the idea of being a “good German”—almost always in some comparison to his current situation. Being cast out of the mainstream, for example, is like being herded onto a train by the Gestapo, never to be seen again.

At Berkeley, Duesberg has long since been relegated to the small, cluttered corner of a decaying building, where he and Nicholson have done their best to conduct research on a shoestring. For a recent series of tumor experiments, Nicholson bought mice from a pet shop in downtown Berkeley and snuck them into the lab. (Lab animals are supposed to be housed in a separate veterinarian-run animal facility, and only by investigators who have obtained the necessary approvals, but all of that costs money.) Campus officials found them out halfway through the six-month project. Despite Duesberg’s pleas to let them finish up, the mice were confiscated and killed. The data were lost. “We are the pauper scientists,” he says, recalling the incident. “Always begging on our knees. Ever since HIV.”

In truth, Duesberg had marked himself as an iconoclast even before the discovery of HIV. He came to Berkeley in 1964, after finishing his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Frankfurt. Back then, scientists still believed that yet-to-be-discovered viruses were the root cause of all cancers, and Duesberg quickly joined the likes of David Baltimore and Robert Gallo in the hunt for these viruses. Duesberg was the first to score a win. He sequenced the entire genome of RSV—a chicken virus believed to trigger tumor growth—and identified the offending gene, called src, which was thought to cause rapid, unchecked cell growth when it inserted itself into the host genome. Soon after, Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus found an analogous src gene in human cells that, when mutated, did the same as the viral form of the gene. Almost immediately, the tribe of cancer researchers split into two factions: one continued searching for cancer viruses; the other turned its attention to human oncogenes. Duesberg had already begun to suspect that neither was the smoking gun.

For starters, some known carcinogens like arsenic and asbestos did not seem to cause mutations. On top of that, no single mutation was enough to turn a normal cell cancerous. Over the years, researchers have accounted for this by expanding the list of required mutations. In breast cancer alone, some 250 mutations are now thought to play a role. But several researchers have noted that a cell’s chances of hitting on the exact combination of required mutations would make cancer a rare event, not a common disease.

In his quest for another instigator, Duesberg stumbled upon aneuploidy, something almost all tumors had in common. The aneuploidy nature of cancer was no secret—German scientist Theodor Boveri first noted it in 1914—but it had long since been written off as a consequence of cancer, not a cause. In 1984 Duesberg began to question this presumption. Doing so meant trivializing two decades’ worth of his own oncogene research, but he says that was fine by him. “Science is a game,” he says.” And I was prepared to lose.” But just as he was fleshing out his new hypothesis, a mystery epidemic seized the nation; the towns and cities surrounding Berkeley’s campus were at its very epicenter.

Duesberg concocted his AIDS hypothesis in the frenetic early days of the epidemic, when the balance of evidence had not yet tipped in favor of HIV. At first, he proceeded along perfectly respectable avenues of inquiry—mapping out the epidemic use of poppers, a nitrite drug that had become a cheap and popular way of getting high—and showing that it correlated strongly with the AIDS epidemic. His results were published in Science and Nature, and for a brief moment it appeared that his hypothesis was at least plausible.

But as a consensus formed around HIV as the cause of AIDS, Duesberg refused to budge. He clung to the outliers: HIV-positive patients who never developed full-blown AIDS, and patients with all the symptoms of AIDS but no detectable HIV. When his colleagues offered potential explanations for each, he challenged their interpretations of the data. Before long, the so-called golden boy had alienated himself from all but a few friends. “He was irritating too many people at once,” says George Miklos, an Australian scientist who helped map the human genome. “He was challenging the HIV work and raising all these uncomfortable questions about oncogenes. Nobody wanted to hear it. So they wrote him off as crazy.”

Experts who have followed Duesberg’s career say he is not so much crazy as pathologically stubborn. “He is like a big-game fisher who loves the fight too much,” says Seth Kalichman, a social psychologist whose recent book on HIV-deniers included a whole chapter on Duesberg. “He’s destined to lose because he won’t give any slack. It’s tragic because he’s clearly a brilliant thinker and could have had much more to offer.” While it’s clear that Duesberg craves a return to respectability, he refuses to cede any ground to his adversaries. “If you go on your knees,” he says, “then they say, ‘We knew you were wrong all along—now you’ve admitted it!’ ”

In recent years, cancer researchers have begun to take up the questions that Duesberg laid out 25 years ago—reexamining the role of aneuploidy and other forms of chromosome instability in tumor formation, and figuring out how they tie into the mutation model. “The relative contribution of each is now one of the biggest questions in cancer,” says Thomas Ried, a scientist at the National Cancer Institute who recently invited Duesberg to present his aneuploidy research.

But even as some of his ideas rise to the top, Duesberg himself remains stuck at the bottom. Few scientists who have turned their attention to aneuploidy bother to cite Duesberg’s work. His lab is down to its last $50,000, and this past year Berkeley officials relieved him of his only remaining teaching duty. Even some scientists who don’t agree with Duesberg say that he has been treated unfairly. “The ideological assassinations that he has undergone will remain an embarrassing testament to the reactionary tendencies of modern science,” Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, wrote in 1996.

Duesberg’s old life still haunts him at every turn. At an opera this past spring, he spotted Jay Levy, a friend from the good old days who has since become a laboratory director and lead HIV researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. “I called over to him, and I think at first he was trying to pretend he didn’t hear me,” Duesberg says. “And I think he was looking over his shoulder the whole time—afraid someone would see us together.” But the two men talked through the intermission, mostly about the fun they used to have. “He used to throw these fantastic parties,” says Duesberg. They also talked science, sparring a bit over Levy’s latest work on latent HIV infection. Recalling the evening weeks later, Duesberg admits that he misses his old friends and the intellectual rigor of their exchanges. “The whole dissident idea attracts a lot of crazies,” he says, his voice trailing off into a sigh. “And then all of a sudden, without realizing it, you’ve become one of them.”

The glaring omission in all this

Apart from the mistakes of fact in this skillful piece which suggest that checking standards are melting away at Newsweek along with ads, and misphrasing (some of both ways of misleading readers are highlighted by us in bold) the foolishness of this kind of coverage, of course, is that there is no hint that Duesberg’s arguments and evidence against HIV in AIDS were presented in the leading journals of science, fiercely peer reviewed by reviewers anxious to find as many flaws as possible, often doubly and trebly reviewed by more reviewers than normal, and thus thoroughly tempered, tested and in effect proved irrefutable.

Then they were never directly and successfully refuted by opponents in the same journals, despite promises to do so, but instead, spiked and swept under the carpet after truncated public discussion only by political and editorial opposition generally hidden from public view.

This ultimately left the issue to be decided on the public level by officials, editors, patients and other lay outsiders who are usually scientifically uninformed, unaware of the internal science politics and generally unable to read the literature. These innocents are easily confused and persuaded by the handful of lower ranking HIV fellow travelers such as Seth Kalichman, who are nowadays usually confined to blogs and blog threads unless they write a book.

All of these HIV promoters are motivated by the same unwarranted premise of the Newsweek writer, which is the scientifically naive assumption that a globally received wisdom and established claim must be correct, and that its politically unsuccessful critic must be wrong.

This ignorant assumption is what leads to the kind of mistake we find at the end of this piece – Duesberg obviously said he might now often be viewed as a crazy, not that he had become one – or the reversal of logic in the subhead, The World’s Most Reviled Genius:Can the scientist who denied the cause of AIDS be trusted to cure cancer? , which would make more sense if it read The World’s Most Reviled Genius: Could the scientist who has created a whole new field in cancer be right about AIDS after all?

That Newsweek should join the rest of the mainstream media in sinking to this low point in science coverage is disappointing to those of us who have always admired it as a tough minded alternative to Time.

Duesberg’s new vindication

The beauty of the current situation, however, is that the well executed expose by Brent Leung of the disarray of HIV/AIDS authorities and ideas in his new movie House of Numbers is quite enough to give anyone who wants to assess the situation for themselves, without even reading the literature, all they need to see and hear to know, without any doubt whatsoever, who is right in this dispute.

The leading figures in the field of HIV AIDS will tell them directly, on camera.

Don’t overlook the Comments

The Comment thread is extensive and features the wittily scathing “Nick Naylor” giving the plodding but rather poisonously misleading Snout – oops, not the ubiquitous Snout after all, unless renamed – Bennett and Kalichman a good thrashing.

But of course the fundamental issue here is not funny, it is a matter of life and death:

Posted By: whereistheproof @ 10/11/2009 8:26:40 AM

I owe Peter Duesberg my life. When diagnosed HIV+ in the early 90-ties i witnessed how many fellow patients died of AZT and later combo therapy. When I began asking questions that no one could answer, Peter Duesberg offered an hypothesis that made sense. I nearly died taking nevirapine. I stopped taking all ARV’s, regained my weight fully, and now 22 years after initial diagnosis am as healthy as any one.

Gallo and his friends have made millions based on tests that are flawed, based on lab experiments that were never peer reviewed, the outcome as the previous poster already noted clearly falsified by Gallo himself.

Peter Duesberg saved my life – as excentric as he may be. Listening to Gallo’s ideas would have killed – Gallo is the king of mediocracy! and it kills people!


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