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.
----------------------------------------------

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

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

BEST VIEWED IN LARGE FONT
Expanded GUIDE TO SITE PURPOSE AND LAYOUT is in the lower blue section at the bottom of every home page.

Press and paradigm guards piling on Perth duo

October 27th, 2006


But legal eagles should spot the lie of the land

The Aussie press, having labeled the Perth duo “self styled experts”, is now quoting local paradigm guards as saying their claims are “insane”, old hat and disproven years ago, and certainly not the opinion of the Perth hospital where Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos works, nor of an associate professor in epidemiology at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research.

Well, of course not. Let’s hope the judge can see that this is inevitable. All paradigms are supported by the generals and the army of mainstream believers before they are overthrown. That’s what future Nobel prize winners have to contend with in almost every case. The issue is whether this is a paradigm that hold less water than a colander, or something that can be defended by pointing to the literature.

Given Peter Duesberg’s extensive and unrefuted critique over two decades, the choice is pretty clear for any outsider who reads the material, who unlike the faithful doesn’t have to vouchsafe “HIV is the virus that causes AIDS through sex” as a necessary oath to win community patronage.

Presumably legal minds are likely to appreciate this is possible, and to discern the politics behind the pronouncements that disparage and dismiss the Perth arguments out of hand.

Doubts on HIV’s existence ‘insane’

Clara Pirani, Medical reporter
27 October 2006

AIDS experts have labelled claims by a Perth researcher that HIV does not exist as outrageous and dangerous nonsense.

Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, a medical engineer at Royal Perth Hospital, said on Wednesday that HIV was not a retrovirus and could not be transmitted by sexual intercourse.

At a leave-to-appeal hearing on behalf of Andre Chad Parenzee – an HIV-positive man convicted of endangering the lives of three girlfriends and sentenced to 15 years in prison – Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos said the existence of HIV had yet to be proved. She is a founder of the Perth Group of researchers who argue AIDS is not linked to HIV.

Andrew Grulich, associate professor in epidemiology at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, described the group’s claims as “insane”.

“They have a very long and convoluted argument that has been comprehensively disproved many times,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Perth Hospital said yesterday that the hospital did not share the views of Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos. She said Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos did not work in HIV research or with AIDS patients.

Professor Grulich said the evidence that HIV exists was irrefutable. “How did the death rate from HIV and AIDS drop from 1000 a year to less than 200 a year in the space of one to two years when those drugs were introduced, unless there is a virus that these drugs are targeting?” he said.

“What they say is outrageous and quite dangerous because it encourages people to not be concerned about transmission.”

Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos said the techniques used by Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo, the scientists who discovered HIV in 1983, were flawed.

However, David Harrich, a molecular virologist from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, said their techniques had been re-tested and verified many times since 1983.

Coverage is expanding, and giving the Perth experts a fair shake: Accused denies existence of HIV

The Australian —” SA
Accused denies existence of HIV
Jeremy Roberts
October 26, 2006
AN HIV-positive man convicted of endangering the lives of three girlfriends is attempting to turn conventional science on its head by denying the existence of the virus that leads to AIDS.

Andre Chad Parenzee was convicted in February of endangering the lives of three women and faces 15 years in prison. One of the women now has HIV.

This week, he enlisted the expert evidence of two self-styled researchers – both members of the so-called Perth Group – who have used the witness stand to attack the “HIV myth”.

In what is believed to be an international legal and medical first, South Australian Supreme Court judge John Sulan has set aside two weeks effectively to put HIV on trial.

Prosecutors have prepared several expert witnesses to shore up more than two decades of global research – which underpins public health and safe sex campaigns – that HIV causes AIDS and is contracted through unprotected sex.

Prosecutors objected in this week’s leave-to-appeal hearing to Parenzee’s witnesses’ status as “experts” but Justice Sulan said he would address the objection after their evidence was heard.

The court heard argument from Parenzee’s counsel, Kevin Borick, who is working pro bono, that his client’s conviction cannot stand if HIV is based on flimsy science.

His expert witnesses received no money for their appearance this week, but their airfares from Perth were paid for by Parenzee’s mother.

Perth-based medical physicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, who has a Bachelor of Science and works as a medical engineer at Royal Perth Hospital, told the court that HIV was mistakenly identified by a French scientific team in 1983, which was headed by Luc Montagnier.

In a 50-page Powerpoint presentation, Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos said AIDS had nothing to do with HIV, which – if it existed at all – was not a retrovirus and not transmitted between people by sexual intercourse.

Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos argued that HIV had never been isolated, and was only identified in 1983 by a process called “reverse transcription”, which is said to create retroviruses.

She said the reverse transcription observed by Dr Montagnier in 1983, the so-called “discovery of HIV”, was not specific to HIV.

She said the main risk factors for getting AIDS remained the passive role in anal intercourse, and intravenous drug use.

Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos claimed AIDS was caused by prolonged exposure to semen, which oxidised cells, degrading them and led to numerous other serious illnesses – the AIDS-related illnesses – which end in death.

Secondly, she cited numerous scientific papers that concluded that vaginal sex did not transmit HIV.

Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos cited a 1997 published paper by University of California researcher Nancy Padian that calculated the risk of a male transmitting HIV to a female at 0.0009 per cent, for each act of vaginal intercourse.

According to the Padian paper, a man would have to have sex with his wife three times a week for 27.4 years to expose her to a 95 per cent risk of passing on HIV.

Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos’s colleague at the Perth Group, Val Turner, testified that the testing of HIV was “indirect” – it measured the presence of proteins and antibodies in blood assumed to be triggered by HIV.

Mr Turner said there was no test to directly detect HIV.
®®

George Orwell on AIDS reporting

October 26th, 2006


Andrew Sullivan quotes the master, but fails him

Oprah, Kristof also show Orwellian traits, but not the kind he would approve of

Uberpundit Andrew Sullivan was on Travis Smiley’s straight shooting interview show on PBS just now, hawking his new book, The Conservative Soul, and as unpredictable as ever.

Today this ever young conservative critic tells us that he feels that in the forthcoming elections conservatives should lose their seats, and he is even looking forward to it, as it is nothing less than what they deserve for so royally screwing up their time at the top, not to mention fooling him that there were WMDs in Iraq.

That is not too relevant here, of course. What was interesting, however, given his uncritical acceptance of the standard line in HIV∫AIDS, is the quote he then chose from George Orwell:

“One of my heros is George Orwell, and he said: To see what is in front of your nose is a constant struggle.

Refreshing humility, we thought, given the irony of the remark in the light of Sullivan’s determined credulity in the matter of HIV∫AIDS.

The truth about the meds

Andrew then informed Travis that “I was diagnosed with a fatal illness 13 years ago – HIV – and one of the things that came to me was, Tell the truth. Why are we journalists if we don’t tell the truth?”

More irony, perhaps. Still, if he is still taking the meds, as he earlier blogged, he seems to be doing alright. It is becoming clear that some people thrive on these things, or at least, are not particularly affected by them. Only a certain portion of patients are seriously affected, even though, as the recent big HAART study in the Lancet showed, those who are not ill before treatment tend to get AIDS symptoms very much earlier now. In fact, the mean (for those who get symptoms within the year) is two months. That is to say, half of those who get AIDS in the first year get it within two months of starting HAART.

Since they have no symptoms beforehand, it looks very much as if it is HAART that gives them the symptoms. In fact, it is hard to think of any other source.

But lively Andrew seems to be doing OK, as we say, unless he was sweating for some other reason than the heat from the studio lights. The point is that some people can survive HAART well enough, including presumably Magic Johnson, a robust athlete, after all, if he really is taking HAART as he claims in the ads.

What’s important is that this phenomenon shouldn’t be seen as contradicting the fact which has emerged from the Lancet and the JAMA studies this summer, which is that HAART gives people “AIDS”, and eventually kills many of them, doesn’t rescue any more from death now than it did nine years ago, and its success in diminishing the presence of the virus to “undetectable levels” only demonstrates that HIV has nothing to do with “AIDS” symptoms.

More AIDS lore on Oprah

Tomorrow, Oprah Winfrey continues her massive disinformation campaign on HIV∫AIDS with her 21 million viewers. She recently was seen interviewing Senator and future President Barack Obama and congratulating him and his wife on risking the HIV test in Kenya, thus encouraging a million more people (Oprah’s estimate) to fall in line with the CDC goal of testing everyone in the world.

Her program tomorrow will feature six beautiful women who will be said to have unfortunately contracted the virus from incautious liaisons with men who are HIV positive. How this is accomplished will not be investigated, nor will Nancy Padian be featured on the show.

The Hans Christian Anderson of AIDS

Seems to us that Oprah should have Nicholas Kristof on her show next, with or without Andrew Sullivan. Kristof is a world champion swallower of HIV∫AIDS fairy tales, as we have pointed out before, and now occupies a leading role as HIV∫AIDS propagandist. He recently visited Africa and filed a series of heartrending tales based on on-the-spot reporting.

His column The Deep Roots Of AIDS on September 19 was the pinnacle of achievement for the Times’ most expert ladler of HIV∫AIDS lore. Here is what readers learned:

70 years ago, a man in a remote forest in Cameroon “butchered a sick chimpanzee, and the AIDS virus was born”.

What made the chimp sick was SIV, genetically close to the main human variant of HIV.

The first proven case of AIDS dates from 1979 in Kinshasa, Congo, downriver from the forest.

The world can’t tackle global poverty unless we tackle AIDS effectively.

Pascal Nttomba was the breadwinner for 20 in his family, which lived in a nice wooden house in Yokadouma, Cameroon, and sent his children to technical school. Then he became sick, and neither traditional healer nor doctor could save him. ARVs are available only in the cities, as in most of Africa, so Pascal died. Now the family is destitute.

Hermine, 19, is prepared to save it by taking up with a sugar daddy, but this common arrangement in Africa has led to high infection rates among young women.

In a world of voluntary testing none of the family has been tested for HIV, and this “tip toeing approach” is costing millions of lives.

Unless we have routine testing the world is on track for a worldwide death toll of 70 million by 2020.

Unless they opt out, people in high prevalence countries should be tested “whenever they enter the medical system, marry, enter the armed forces, take a job in the civil service or get pregnant”.

This program of testing for all should be part of President Bush’s “fine program against AIDS” which will save 9 million lives and will be “Mr Bush’s best legacy”, and it should be extended with “even more money”.

AIDS is killing 8,000 people every day worldwide, and infecting 14,000 more, so we need a “more aggressive approach” if future Pascals are not to die and future Hermine’s are not to be sold into sexual slavery.

No better encapsulation of every element of the HIV∫AIDS fairy tale than this could possibly be imagined. Every scientific statement is contradicted by the scientific literature. Is Kristof in the employ of NIAID as a ‘consultant’? Is he a dinner buddy of Anthony Fauci or Mathilde Krim? Or does he do his scientific research simply by reading glossy pamphlets from the UNAID and WHO?

We intend to write to him and find out, but only when things have calmed down. At this very moment he is involved in battling to protect his sources for articles he wrote about the anthrax scandal in 2001, which a magistrate has just demanded he produce.

The Deep Roots Of AIDS

September 19, 2006

The Deep Roots Of AIDS

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

It was about 70 years ago, evidence suggests, that a man somewhere in this remote forest area of southeastern Cameroon butchered a sick chimpanzee — and the AIDS virus was born.

Chimpanzees here carry a strain of simian immunodeficiency virus (the monkey version of H.I.V.) that is genetically close to the main human variant. So the scientific betting is that the virus jumped to humans here and then traveled with human hosts by river south to Kinshasa, Congo, and then eventually to the wider world. The first proven case dates from Kinshasa in 1959.

I’m traveling with Casey Parks, the student who won my contest to accompany me on a reporting trip, and we’ve been talking to people about AIDS here in its possible birthplace because the world can’t address global poverty unless we tackle AIDS effectively — and in places like this, it’s obvious that still isn’t happening.

We met the family of Pascal Nttomba beside the fresh mound in the garden where he was buried two weeks ago. Mr. Nttomba was the breadwinner for the 20 people in the family.

The Nttombas were relatively well off, living in a nice wooden house and sending their children to technical schools to learn vocations that would take them up a notch in the world. But then Pascal became sick.

He could no longer work, and the family used all its savings to try to cure him — first paying a traditional healer and then a doctor. Neither did any good, although the doctor charged more.

In theory, antiretrovirals are available here to control the disease. But they are mostly for middle-class victims in the cities, and as in most of Africa, an ordinary person in a remote area has next to no chance of getting the drugs. And so Pascal died, and now the family is destitute.

”There’s nothing to eat in the house, since this morning,” said his father, Valeré. The women in the family were planning to scour the fields for cassava leaves to cook for dinner. They say they can also go into the forests to look for edible wild plants, but malnutrition looms.

The children in technical school have dropped out, because there is no money. One of them is Hermine, a 19-year-old, who is now at risk of being approached by an older sugar daddy offering gifts in exchange for being his mistress, a common arrangement in Africa that has led to high infection rates among young women.

”I’d do it,” she acknowledged — after all, the family needs money.

The family’s predicament underscores how the virus not only kills people but also further impoverishes the world’s poorest. And while the hardest-hit countries in southern Africa are doing a bit better against AIDS, others in the middle range like Cameroon or India haven’t woken up to the severity of the problem.

An essential challenge is that 90 percent of those with H.I.V. worldwide don’t know it, and you can’t begin to tackle the disease when no one knows who has it. Here, for example, neither Pascal’s wife nor any other member of his family has been tested.

The mantra has been ”voluntary counseling and testing,” but this tip-toeing approach is costing millions of lives.

It’s time to move to routine testing. Sure, that will cause difficulties; despite efforts to safeguard privacy, some who test positive will become pariahs and will be driven from their villages. But the present approach is even worse and is on track for a worldwide death toll of 70 million by 2020.

So unless they specifically opt out, people in high-prevalence countries should be tested whenever they enter the medical system, marry, enter the armed forces, take a job in the civil service, or get pregnant. That should be coupled with a pledge to try to make treatment available to all who test positive.

That emphasis on testing could be incorporated into the extension of President Bush’s fine program against AIDS, which will save some nine million lives and is up for renewal next year. That program, which provided huge increases in spending and will be Mr. Bush’s best legacy, should be extended with even more money, while dropping its obsession with abstinence-only programs.

With AIDS still killing 8,000 people every day worldwide — and infecting 14,000 more — we need to acknowledge that the present strategy isn’t adequate. We need a more aggressive approach, built around greater testing, so that we don’t go through another few decades with the Pascals of Africa dying needlessly and the Hermines selling themselves into sexual bondage.

Times Is Ordered to Reveal Columnist’s Sources

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

October 24, 2006

Times Is Ordered to Reveal Columnist’s Sources

By NEIL A. LEWIS

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 — A federal magistrate judge has ordered The New York Times to disclose the identities of three confidential sources used by one of its columnists, Nicholas Kristof, for columns he wrote about the investigation of the deadly anthrax mailings of 2001.

The order, issued Friday by Magistrate Judge Liam O’Grady, requires the newspaper to disclose the identities of the three sources to lawyers for Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who has brought a defamation suit against The Times. The order was disclosed Monday.

Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the newspaper would appeal the ruling.

Dr. Hatfill, a germ warfare specialist who formerly worked in the Army laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., has asserted that a series of columns by Mr. Kristof about the slow pace of the anthrax investigation defamed him because they suggested he was responsible for the attacks.

Five people died in the attacks. Although the federal authorities identified Dr. Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the case, they have not charged him with any crimes.

At a deposition on July 13, Mr. Kristof declined to name five of his sources for the columns, but two have subsequently agreed to release him from his pledge of confidentiality. Judge O’Grady’s ruling identifies the remaining unnamed sources as two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a former colleague or friend of Dr. Hatfill at Fort Detrick.

The judge ruled that the laws of Virginia applied and that under that state’s law, reporters have only a qualified privilege to decline to name their sources that may be outweighed by other factors.

He wrote that for Mr. Hatfill to have a chance of meeting his burden of demonstrating that he was defamed by the columns, he “needs an opportunity to question the confidential sources and determine if Mr. Kristof accurately reported information the sources provided.”

Mr. Kristof wrote about a government scientist he initially referred to as Mr. Z, saying he had become the overwhelming focus of the investigation. In August 2002, he wrote that Dr. Hatfill had acknowledged he was Mr. Z. at a news conference in which he said he had been mistreated by the news media.

The lawsuit was originally dismissed by a federal judge in Virginia in 2004. A divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond reinstated the case and the full appeals court, by a 6-to-6 vote, declined to overturn that ruling. The Supreme Court declined to intervene last March.

Judge O’Grady wrote: “The court understands the need for a reporter to be able to credibly pledge confidentiality to his sources. Confidential sources have been an important part of journalism, which is presumably why Virginia recognizes a qualified reporter’s privilege in the first place.”

He said Virginia law required the use of a three-part balancing test as to whether there is a compelling need for the information, whether the information is relevant and whether it may not be obtained any other way.

HIV on trial in court down under

October 25th, 2006


Appeal for ‘HIV murder’ being argued on rethinker grounds, gaining media coverage

Spurs ultimate fantasy of trial for HIV proponents for iatrogenic genocide

Thrilling news on “Hank’s You Bet Your Life” today, see Wrongful Sentence: HIV Finally on Trial in Australia”. Theoretical arguments for and against the HIV∫AIDS paradigm are being aired in court this week in Adelaide, Australia, as a judge determines whether a case will be permitted to go to appeal.

Otis, who is apparently now running Barnesworld under the direction of Dr Harvey Bialy, will be getting a blow by blow account filed by a reader, ‘Hollywood’, over the next two days. According to the news reports so far, the defense lawyers for a HIV+man convicted of endangering women by sleeping with them are arguing to be allowed to appeal on two main grounds: that HIV cannot be transferred through heterosexual sex, as studies show, and that proof is lacking that HIV actually exists.

We doubt that the second argument will get very far, since few other people can understand it fully and even Peter Duesberg says it is wrong. But the first one is proven by mainstream studies which cannot be dismissed, and are hard to interpret any other way, even though the HIV∫AIDS faithful try valiantly to do so, as Nancy Padian now does on the authoritatively misleading AIDS Truth website.

Moreover, this is a court and the minds involved are legal eagles who can think analytically better than most scientists, certainly those in HIV∫AIDS, so the Padian imitation of a pretzel won’t wash.

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Newsflash

Wed Oct 24: The likelihood of the case being decided on the narrow legal ground of whether the law has been adhered to or not suggests that the prisoner will not get off, because he knew that if he was told he was HIV positive, he had to tell his female partners, and he didn’t, and whether the science and the law was justified or not is irrelevant.

However, according to a Comment by Marcos Andrin of Argentina on the site of AdelaideNow a court decision in Argentina in 1997 did let five doctors go free on the grounds that there is no proof that HIV causes AIDS:

This is no news for me. In 1997 one Court of Appeals in my country declared not guilty 5 doctors who were acussed of infecting several patients during a dialisis procedure. The court said “there is no scientific proof that HIV is the cause of AIDS”….

Posted by: Marcos Andrin of Argentina 12:12am today

Marcos, if you read this, please let us know more.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Meanwhile Australian health officials are on the alert, worried that the case may undermine two decades of ‘safe sex’. Obviously, the prosecutor will attack the credentials of the members of the Perth Group who will testify, Valentine Turner and Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos. But this will probably be in vain.

Check out the affidavit from Turner that the case is based on at the Rethinking AIDS site, Affidavit. It shows respectable credentials and is a written and well argued compendium of problems with the paradigm. We think the court is likely to find it intelligible, and perhaps the media too. The case seems likely to proceed to appeal, where the arguments will be fully aired in public.

This advance to a new airing of rethinker arguments in the courts realizes the hopes and plans which were discussed by Rethinking AIDS, the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of HIV∫AIDS, when they met in New York City in early June. A teleconference call was mounted with lawyers in Australia and the US and Canada to share ideas and information.

As Dean Esmay comments at Barnesworld, however, it will be an uphill battle to get anti-HIV arguments to be taken seriously when the overwhelming consensus is thought to be against them. “Without trying to be negative, I expect the courts will determine that the “scientific consensus” is enough to keep the man convicted, and that the existence of scientific dissenters is not enough to overturn a conviction.”

However, the full airing of the arguments and the new basis for reporters to convey some of them to the public will surely grant additional respectability and currency to them unless the prosecutor manages to trash the credentials of Turner and Papadouplos entirely, which doesn’t seem likely given the quality of the affidavit, their success in publishing in peer reviewed journals, and their respectable status as members of the Australian medical community.

Even so, any respect from the media will be grudging. Already, you can see how editors will treat the Perth experts – by putting ‘experts’ in quotes of questionability, as they have done in the headline below.

Nonetheless, this is the HIV∫AIDS cliffhanger of the week and probably of the next few months, and it represents what may be the first big step along a path that could lead to the legal, business and political communities becoming aware that the scientific leaders of HIVAIDS have pulled a fast one, and sacrificed many lives to boot.

In that case, as we have speculated before, it may well be that the officials and scientists who have crippled and prevented proper scientific debate and review both inside the field and outside it for twenty years may have to answer for it in the court of public opinion, in hearings on the Hill and perhaps even in the courts of law, though the latter seems a stretch.

But with the leaders of WorldCom and Enron drawing sentences of 25 years and 24 years respectively, perhaps it is not inconceivable. HIV∫AIDS is, after all, the Enron of science.

We’d suggest that Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Robert Gallo, at least, should buy condominiums in Rio or Macao, just in case.

See Man to challenge existence of HIV in courtin Australian Yahoo.

Tuesday October 24, 02:10 PM

Man to challenge existence of HIV in court

An HIV positive man convicted of endangering the lives of three former partners through unprotected sex is appealing against his conviction, claiming the HIV virus does not really exist.

It is believed to be the first time the existence of HIV has been challenged in a court of law.

Andre Chad Parenzee is awaiting sentence for having unprotected sex with three women who were unaware he was carrying the HIV virus.

But his lawyer, Kevin Borick, today argued that Parenzee’s conviction should be quashed because there is no scientific proof that HIV actually exists.

Mr Borick will call evidence from two Western Australian based scientists, who will argue that the virus has never been isolated, current testing regimes are inconclusive and that there is no proof HIV is transmitted sexually.

Prosecutors plan to call evidence from five HIV experts, who will claim that Parenzee’s defence argument was debunked by the scientific community in the 1980s.

HIV, sex not linked, ‘experts’ tell court from Adelaide Now.

HIV, sex not linked, ‘experts’ tell court

COLIN JAMES, LEGAL AFFAIRS EDITOR

October 25, 2006 12:15am

Article from:

Font size: + –

Send this article: Print Email

SOUTH Australian prosecutors have been forced to defend claims made by a prominent lawyer that HIV cannot be spread by sexual contact.

Criminal barrister Kevin Borick, QC, yesterday began a four-day hearing in the Supreme Court in a bid to prove HIV – which causes AIDS – is not transmitted sexually.

Mr Borick is seeking leave to appeal against the conviction of an Adelaide man, Andre Chad Parenzee, 35, who had unprotected sex with three women despite knowing he was infected with HIV.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has spent several months gathering scientific evidence to refute claims made by two “experts” engaged by Mr Borick that HIV cannot be sexually transmitted.

The pair – physicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and emergency physician Dr Valender Turner – are part of an organisation called the Perth Group, which has spent two decades trying to overturn scientific findings on HIV.

The case is being closely monitored by state and federal health officials, who are concerned it could undermine more than two decades of public education about the need to practice safe sex.

In his opening address yesterday, Mr Borick told Justice John Sulan it was “the first time a Supreme Court has been required to consider the evidence on this issue and to deliver judgment”.

“No evidence for sexual transmission of HIV can be found even in the best conducted studies published from the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States of America and Africa,” he said.

“The evidence and arguments we will advance in support of the basic propositions are not new. In fact, they first surfaced shortly after the claim HIV was ‘discovered’ in 1983.

“The reaction from the relevant scientific community and the medical community is one of disbelief.”

Mrs Papadopulos-Eleopulos, from the Royal Perth Hospital, yesterday spent several hours using a slide presentation to explain to Justice Sulan her long-standing theory on why HIV cannot be sexually transmitted.

The case will continue today with evidence from Dr Turner, a part-time consultant with the Western Australia Department of Health, on why the testing for HIV is allegedly flawed and inaccurate.

Companies back down on HIV∫AIDS claim

October 20th, 2006


Astonishing revelation on Barnes blog by Culshaw

Elite critics reach critical mass on expanded blog

In an extraordinary development, companies making HIV tests are backing down on their claim that HIV is the undisputed cause of AIDS.

Mathematician Rebecca Culshaw has just posted a very important note on the blog Barnesworld, now renamed “You Bet Your Life”, at Dear Dr. Culshaw: “Well, What About Those Tests?”.

Culshaw has discovered that the inserts with AIDS tests show that the companies that make them have been backing down over the past year or two in the firmness of their statements that HIV is the cause of AIDS. She writes:

I doubt even more that the majority of medical practitioners are aware of the subtle but significant shift in the language used in HIV test kits since the beginning of the AIDS era. For example, from 1984 until the very recent past, test kit inserts contained the unambiguous statement “AIDS is caused by HIV”. In 2002, the OraSure toned down that statement to say: “AIDS, AIDS-related complex and pre-AIDS are thought to be caused by HIV.”But just this year, in a remarkable – and potentially significant – shift in thinking, the trend seems to be toward making an even less committal statement. For example, Abbott Diagnostic’s ELISA test insert contains the following sentence: “Epidemiologic data suggest that the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by at least two types of human immunodeficiency viruses, collectively known as HIV.”

Vironostika appears to be even less willing to support a true causal role, as their 2006 test kit insert says: “Published data indicate a strong correlation between the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and a retrovirus referred to as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).”

This remarkable shift in corporate conviction is as yet unexplained, but we suspect it has a lot to do with the appearance on the Web over the last two years of a copious amount of intelligent material undermining the sanctity of the paradigm, now increasingly crippled by mainstream papers removing the pillars of evidence supporting it.

Barnesworld heats up

One blog which has mercilessly tweaked the noses of the poobahs of paradigm power who act as the priesthood preserving the HIV∫AIDS claim from media and scientific review is of course Barnesworld, now retitled ‘Hank’s “You Bet Your Life”‘, which is run by a West Coast lawyer under the pseudonym of Hank Barnes, who among other credits has mercilessly gone after John Moore of Cornell for his sins in misleading the public with his pretence that the scientific review of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm by its critics is not worth answering.

Recently the site has become more of a must read as it has expanded its offerings to include posts which are reprints of key material offered by the best HIV∫AIDS critics over the years, prepared by a new young partner, Otis, as well as original posts by the same elite group.

A couple of days ago a notable excerpt from science writer, editor and professor Harvey Bialy’s seminal book Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg, Harvey Bialy: “I Remember Maddox” detailed a similar backing down by Nature editor John Maddox from an adamant hostility to Peter Duesberg’s critique of HIV∫AIDS nonsense to an acknowledgement of its merit, and an opening of its pages to his latest critique, a surrender that unfortunately didn’t last very long (the volatile Bialy is pictured here with his peacable pet parrot Attila):

The years since 1995 have been much kinder to the points raised above, and that Peter and I elaborated in the remainder of the Genetica essay, than they have to David Ho and his fanciful notions of what constituted viral and cellular dynamics in an AIDS patient and how to measure them — ideas that have been thoroughly repudiated in the scientific literature. This is a fact of such common knowledge that stating it requires no reference.But as with so much else in AIDS there is an enormous disconnect between what is told to the media to tell to the public and what is really so as acknowledged now even in the best journals, like JAMA.

Although the waffle language is closer to what is found in difficult to negotiate UN resolutions than the prose expected of esteemed journals only a few short decades ago, the students in PH253 and the rest of the attentive audience will not miss the inescapable, and only proper scientific conclusion after 20+ years of assuming HIV was appropriately named*. And that conclusion is?

It’s not the virus. Our bad.

Another post this week republished part of science journalist and author (AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science, Fourth Estate, UK, 1996) Neville Hodgkinson’s review of how Uganda has failed to realize the dire predictions of AIDS doomsayers that 30 per cent of its population would be dead by now of AIDS. That is at Neville Hodgkinson on AIDS in Uganda.

Over the next 15 years, prestigious newspapers and magazines across the globe repeatedly published similar reports; the consensus was that a devastating proportion of the Ugandan population was doomed by Aids to premature death, with all the consequences on families and the society as a whole. Their predictions announced the practically inevitable collapse of the country in which the worldwide epidemic supposedly originated.The data seemed authoritative. By mid-1991, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was estimating that 1.5m Ugandans, nearly a tenth of the general population and a fifth of those sexually active, had the HIV infection. WHO predicted that in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, child deaths in the 1990s could increase by as much as 30% because of Aids. In November 1996, the agency reported that more than three million children were already feeling the direct impact of Aids in Uganda alone.

Today the public prints and airwaves are still full about the African “Aids crisis”. But you will read little about Aids in Uganda. The reason: all prophecies have proved false, as the results of a 10-year census published last year has shown. Uganda’s population grew at an average annual rate of 3.4% between 1991 and 2002, one of the highest growth rates in the world, due to persistently high fertility levels (about seven children per woman) and a decline in infant and childhood mortality rates. Economic development has also shown constant growth over the same period reflecting the energy and determination of Ugandans to improve their living conditions. Fewer people are testing HIV-positive and nationally, the figure is now put at around 5%.

Further down is a replay of Peter Duesberg’s analysis of the same topic, Peter Duesberg on AIDS in Africa, presented to the South African AIDS Advisory Panel convened by President Thabo Mbeki in 2001, just before the Durban AIDS Conference.

Thus African AIDS is certainly not one of the historical microbial epidemics described by Camus and Anderson (see above). Since no immunity has emerged in over a decade the restriction of African AIDS to a relatively small fraction of the large reservoir of susceptible people indicates non-contagious risk factors that are limited to certain subsets of the African population.In view of the very small share (0.6%) that the African AIDS epidemic seems to hold on Africa’s total mortality, the question arises whether the mortality claimed for AIDS is in fact new and can be distinguished from conventional mortality, or whether it is a minor fraction of conventional mortality under a new name.

In its mix of new and old contributions by elite HIV∫AIDS critics, Barnesworld is now asserting itself as the leading group blog attacking the HIV∫AIDS paradigm on the Web.

Why gays love their ARVs

October 19th, 2006


GMHC provides opportunity to speak to gays about their meds

The art is therapy, the science is a mystery, and psychology rules

Last night GMHC in New York City celebrated “the first 25 years of the fight against AIDS” with an art opening – a show of the art of gay men with AIDS, giving us another opportunity to meet more gay men with HIV that are “on the meds”, and talk to them about their experience and their thoughts about their predicament.

As it happened on the way there we passed this huge ad on the 51st Street subway platform for what we were told later was the most popular ARV medication at present, Truvada. If you enlarge it (two clicks for maximum size) you will be able to read the anti gay graffiti (mild) and also the impressive list of horrible side effects risked by those who take it.

Truvada’s dangerous success

The extraordinary ability of the drug industry to announce such a grotesque list of expected side effects without impairing the willingness of the patient who reads the ad to swallow the pills is reminiscent of the tobacco industry, and its labelling of cigarette packs as deadly without much effect on consumption, or the TV ads for drugs with innumerable unpleasantnesses attached.

The fact that gay men can take these drugs without investigating their fundamental rationale is the mystery we wanted to solve in a few more friendly chats with the subjects. Presumably their confidence in the meds is a tribute to their trust in the medical profession, in HIV∫AIDS science, and the pharmaceutical industry, which seems odd, since gay activists distrust the latter on the grounds that they love profits more than patients.

There is also the point that these days almost everybody double checks the knowledge of their physicians by searching the Web, since they suspect probably correctly that by the time the docs have seen their patients and worked out how to get paid by filling in forms in triplicate they have little if any time to skim more than the latest headlines in JAMA and the NEJ. Exactly why the gay patients on the meds do not read the copious intelligent material on the Web questioning the drugs and their theoretical relevance to immune system dysfunction, or do not take it seriously, is also a mystery, at this stage, when some 24 books have been written and so much activity has been seen on the Web in the last two years.

This is an closeup photo which will enlarge to readability if you click it once or twice, whereupon you can see the full list, which includes so many stated risks, that as far as we are concerned they would, if we read them, prompt us instinctively to throw the stuff with great alacrity into the nearest garbage can and wash our hands of the whole pack of doctors and health workers who peddled such dangerous substances as cures for anything at all, since the potential cost is clearly not worth it if there is the slightest doubt that it does anything less than save your life for sure, and such a list of detrimental impacts by itself raises overwhelming doubt that there can be any wise rationale behind it, even if we knew nothing about the literature which rejects HIV:

Buildup of acid in the blood leading to nausea and muscle weakness, a medical emergency which may need hospital treatment immediately;

Serious liver problems with liver enlargement and fat in the liver, turning the skin and whites of the eyes yellow;

Flareup of Hepatitis B virus;

Kidney problems;

Possible bone damage;

Changes in body fat distribution (ie ravaged face, neck humps, fat on belly;

Dizziness;

Diarrhea

Vomiting

Headache,

Abdominal pain

Depression,

Rash,

Gas,

Skin disoloration (spots and freckles).

Plus, watch out if you are taking other ARVs, your health care provider may need to adjust your therapy and follow you more closely.

Reviewing this forbidding list of the crippling effects you risk by taking this chemotherapy, one had to wonder anew how it is that anyone carry on taking the pills for long without encountering problems severe enough to stop, or at least to prompt one to doublecheck the necessity of carrying on. But as we understand it, patients fervently believe in the efficacy of the regimen, as if it were some kind of manna from heaven, or wafer of communion in the church of the blessed paradigm.

We hoped to find out some indication of the roots of this irrationality at the show opening party, which was held for the thirty or more painters and photographers with HIV that were invited by GMHC and the Ryan Chelsea Clinton Community Health Center to contribute works.

Searching for rationality

Entering the Ryan Chelsea Clinton Community Health Center after navigating round a block long white limo parked outside, we found Everett Faulkner, a tall, good looking older African American standing against the wall nursing a soft drink, who turned out to be one of the two photographers whose work had been chosen for the show. His photo was that of a train engine he had found in the Danbury Train Museum, a splendid streamlined monster which loomed impressively over his camera lens, a beautiful artefact from an earlier age when rail engineering was aesthetic as well as practical.

We chatted to Everett about his picture, which he said was one of many he has taken as a freelance photographer of trains, landscapes, and other topics; he listed a few, and we noticed that none of them involved people. Clearly, Everett was an independent by nature. So we asked him whether he was on the meds, and how he felt. He told us amiably he has been on them since 1999, and he felt fine, he hadn’t suffered major symptoms, and he counted himself “lucky”. We asked him whether he had tried giving up taking them, and he said he had found that when he went off them for a short time, he felt worse, so he had returned to using the drugs. The only thing he complained about was fatigue, which meant he wasn’t able to stand for very long.

Had he ever heard of people questioning the whole rationale of the drugs, we asked. He said he had but he hadn’t really looked into it himself. We found ourself telling him what we thought – that we wouldn’t trust the scientists who peddled the paradigm with our wallet, and that we saw that the idealists who sacrificed gain to hold on to their view were the critics, who were penalized and censored. Not surprisingly, perhaps, we found him only mildly interested in what we said, but not overly curious – after seven years of taking the drugs, it didn’t seem that he could easily entertain the idea that he might have been misled, and it wasn’t something that caught his imagination.

We took a picture of him with one of the two curators of the art show, Michi Yamaguci, who said he liked Everett’s work, and then went to examine the art, which turned out to be mostly untalented daubs, serving self expression and presumably comforting to the patients, but with little or no artistic value. Were we wrong to conclude that the general intelligence of the artists was not that high? It is hard to be intelligent when ill, because it takes the edge off the mind and the psyche, and many of the artists and others present were noticeably sweaty faced. Moreover, we have to report we recognized that peculiar sense of detecting germs when talking to some people that we recall from past exposures to AIDS patients taking medications.

But anyway, there was another good photographer, who had two works in the exhibition, a night shot of a silhouetted urban skyline, and a picture of a little girl staring into his camera with particularly open gaze.

That author, Mitchell Stout, posed with both works and afterwards we struck up a conversation with him too along the same lines. He said he had been taking the meds religiously for some years, but he also counted himself “lucky” because he hadn’t suffered terribly bad effects, except gas. Had he ever taken a drug holiday? Yes, once, for three weeks. He hadn’t felt any ill effects from it. So why did he go back on the drugs? It seemed he was simply being a dutiful patient. We asked why he didn’t just stop and see what happened? “Oh I am not a lab rat!”, he said indignantly. Anyhow, he earnestly assured us, the virus is extremely cunning, and you never knew what it might do next. We suggested that maybe given the criticism of the validity of the drugs, perhaps he might consider it. “Oh no”, he said, “You’re talking to the wrong person here! Excuse me, I have to go find someone.”

The impression we got was that taking the drugs was rooted in his life as some part of his identity now, and the idea of any change was disturbing to him. He gave us the impression that any idea that he had been doing the wrong thing for years was a matter of challenging his life philosophy. The troubled science was clearly a subject which he was simply not equipped to handle.

At this point we gave up our investigation, deciding that these glimpses of the deep rooted nature of the meds as part of a philosophy and culture were enough to suggest that seeking to provoke any independent thought on the part of these recipients of GMHC patronage was a waste of time by definition. Their meds were part of a complex cultural system, a gay mentality that incorporated the whole ethos as part of gay identity, at least in these circles. It seemed to go far deeper than the gay politics we had imagined, the Don’t Blame Us, Blame the Virus ethos, which has always seemed too weak to sustain HIV and lethal drugs as sacred. We left, after checking in with the GMHC media representative, and getting on his email list for future events.

As the Comments on this blog will show, this very topic then came up without any prompting by us today on the thread under the Buy a red nano, save an African life post. One comment in particular from Dan seemed to mirror our sense of what was involved in talking to the GMHC artists.

The intertwining of “AIDS” to our identity runs so deep for so many gay men, that they cannot even imagine a world without “AIDS”. It’s ours. We own it. Don’t you truthseeker, a heterosexual, even try to take away this most basic, fundamental part of our character/identity.

Thinking over our talks with the GMHC artists this matches precisely the impression we got. It also explains so much other stuff to do with gays’ trust in their doctors on this life threatening subject. Why do grown men docilely accept the Kool Aid of ARV’s from the hands of their physicians, led as they are by Dr Fauci and the pharmas, but criticized so powerfully and without refutation by distinguished scientists and experienced commentators on the Web and in books, not to mention journals? Why do they do this so meekly even when their very lives are at stake? Why, when activism is the very hallmark of gay AIDS on every other basis – such as wrenching drugs from the hands of researchers before trials have been completed?

For this writer it all harks back to the experience he had long ago at the San Francisco AIDS conference of 1989, when a writer for Vanity Fair, a sophisticated urbanite capable of writing worldly pieces on the most demanding topics, was told of the validity of the critique of HIV∫AIDS and advised to research it for himself, since he was HIV positive and taking meds, at that time meaning AZT, at much higher and more lethal doses than prescribed as part of HAART today. He wouldn’t really listen, even when we put a draft of an assigned article for Harper’s magazine through his door later (opened a crack for his hand to stretch through and take it), a few months before he died.

Matthew Grace panics the GMHC

But a similar incident that was even more striking was the amusing but depressing and telling incident which happened a year or so ago to filmmaker and nutritionist Matthew Grace, author of A Way Out: Disease, Deception and the Truth about Health. Grace is an extreme skeptic about modern medical treatment for ailments, having been diagnosed with “multiple schlerosis and spinal cord degeneration” and being unable at one point to stand or even move his legs.

Given little hope of recovery from this crippling state, he refused all conventional treatments and fought his way back to health and impressive strength and vitality using his own precriptions for nutrition and exercise. His book has a photo on the back which in itself is a remarkably strong argument for the validity of his theories, however extreme. For as it shows, there is no one in New York who looks healthier and stronger than the rugged jawed, thick biceped, smooth skinned Grace, veins and muscles rippling in the picture and straight backed and glowing with health in real life.

Grace has been lecturing on the HIV∫AIDS theory for some years, attacking it as yet another example of the misguided venality and commercial fiction of a drug based medical culture. He has also been filming a documentary, and one day he arrived at GMHC, where several representatives of the gay activist group were delighted to meet with him and be filmed advancing their platform. having been told that his topic was “Heroes of AIDS”. Half way through the interview, Grace announced that he wanted to contribute $150,000 to the work of the organization, and produced a check for that amount made out to GMHC.

He said, however, he had one stipulation. What was that? the GMHC people asked. “That you show me convincingly why you believe that HIV causes AIDS”, said Grace. Apparently this resulted in an instant uproar and the summary folding of the interview session, with Grace and his crew ushered out to the sidewalk as if they were enemies threatening the whole foundation of GMHC’s social and cultural existence.

The question raised, of course, is why there is such alarm if this foundation stone is investigated, and if it is so cracked and vulnerable to examination, why is such a large and active gay activist body governing the health and treatment of a large part of the gay community built on such a rickety foundation?

The answer, of course, is much more deeply rooted than a discussion of the science would indicate.

How medicine mistreats aged

October 18th, 2006


Jane Gross’s piece on oldies quietly nails financial distortion of medical careers

Surgery planned for a complaint cured by antibiotics

A front page piece in the Times today points up the basic flaws in medicine today by showing how it fails to deal properly with aged patients. The cause of the problem: high technology makes it far more profitable to ignore the elderly, who usually don’t need it.

One old lady of 97 was probed and tested in a hospital to diagnose her sudden change in behavior, and then lined up for surgery – until a geriatrician recognised it was merely a silent infection, and cured her in days with an antibiotic.

But when Mrs. Foley saw a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center, surgery proved unnecessary. The geriatrician, Dr. Rosanne M. Leipzig, suspected a silent infection — something the other doctors had missed because Mrs. Foley had no fever, as old people rarely do.

Indeed, within days, antibiotics had done the trick. For the Foley family, it was a welcome result. They had reason to count themselves fortunate to have found a doctor who specialized in treating the elderly.

The piece by jane Gross is remarkable for quietly noting the basic flaws in the practice of medicine today that have come with expensive high tech equipment and the way in which it has influenced interns to choose superspecialities like radiology and orthopedic surgery – $400,000 a year – rather than geriatrics -$150,000 – even though the latter field is the most interesting, the most complex, and the most deserving of good minds.

The most memorable discouragement came during his residency, from a pulmonologist, Dr. Shah said.

“When I passed him in the hall, he would shake his head and mutter, ‘Waste of a mind,’ ” he said. “My retort was always that the geriatric population is often the most complicated, not only medically but also socially and psychologically, and that was exactly the specialization you should want your top students going into.”

The result is that most hospitals haven’t a clue how to diagnose elderly patients correctly. Judging from the article, the elderly would be better to steer clear of hopsitals as long as they can.

That lack of training can lead to misdiagnosis, because it is often tricky to tell the difference between physical, psychological and cognitive conditions in this age group. That was the case for Rita Zaprutskiy, 75, of Houston who went to the emergency room with a painful arthritic knee, had surgery, was given an array of pain medications and then seemed to lose her mind.

Four hospitalizations and six months later, Mrs. Zaprutskiy’s daughter said, the family was urged to put her in a nursing home because of severe dementia. Instead, her daughter, Yelena Schwarz, tried one last psychological evaluation, at a county hospital, and unwittingly wound up in a geriatric unit. There the doctors knew, from the sudden onset of her symptoms, that Mrs. Zaprutskiy did not have dementia, but rather treatable psychiatric conditions, including depression.

All in all, the article makes some terrific admissions and is a vivid description of how money distorts the shape of what used to be viewed as a vocation as much as a profession. Luckily hospitals are trying to correct the problem, including a novel program at the University of Oklahoma where elderly patients “regale” students at lunch with stories from their lives.

October 18, 2006

Geriatrics Lags in Age of High-Tech Medicine

By JANE GROSS

Margaret Mary Foley, 97, just wasn’t herself. Overnight, she stopped eating, went from mildly confused to disoriented, and was unable to urinate. When her panicked family rushed her to the emergency room, doctors did invasive tests, difficult for a woman her age, and then suggested surgery.

But when Mrs. Foley saw a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center, surgery proved unnecessary. The geriatrician, Dr. Rosanne M. Leipzig, suspected a silent infection — something the other doctors had missed because Mrs. Foley had no fever, as old people rarely do.

Indeed, within days, antibiotics had done the trick. For the Foley family, it was a welcome result. They had reason to count themselves fortunate to have found a doctor who specialized in treating the elderly.

Even as the population ages and more people like Mrs. Foley need them, geriatricians are in short supply. It is a specialty of little interest to medical students because geriatricians are paid relatively poorly and are not considered superstars in an era of high-tech medicine. In fact, the credo of geriatric medicine is “less is more.”

In 2005, there was one geriatrician for every 5,000 Americans 65 and older, a ratio that experts say is sure to worsen. Of 145 medical schools in the United States, only 9 have departments of geriatrics. Few schools require geriatric courses. And teaching hospitals graduate internists with as little as six hours of geriatric training.

The mismatch between supply and demand is “a troubling issue for us,” said Dr. Leo M. Cooney, a professor at Yale University School of Medicine. In a good year, Dr. Cooney said, one of 45 internal medicine residents decides to be a geriatrician.

The rest, he said, choose “super specialties” like cardiology or oncology. This, despite the fact that geriatricians reported the highest job satisfaction of any specialty in a 2002 survey in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Interest is also low at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, which has a rare requirement that medical students do a four-week rotation in geriatrics. Eighty percent said it was time well spent, but less than 10 percent considered it as a career, said Dr. Marie A. Bernard, chairwoman of the geriatrics department. “They want to do laser-guided this and endoscopic that,” Dr. Bernard said.

Caring for frail older people is about managing, not curing, a collection of overlapping chronic conditions, like osteoporosis, diabetes and dementia. It is about balancing the risks and benefits of multiple medications, which often cause more problems than they solve. And it is about trying nonmedical solutions, like timed trips to the bathroom to improve bladder control.

But these are common-sense remedies in a health care system that rewards the heroics of specialists, in both compensation and prestige. The best-paid doctors are those who do the most procedures; radiologists and orthopedic surgeons top the list with average annual incomes of $400,000. Geriatricians, who do a residency in internal or family medicine and then a fellowship in geriatrics, are near the bottom, at $150,000 a year.

While fellow residents followed the money, Dr. Amit Shah, who had the luxury of no medical school debt, chose a geriatrics fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, despite being dissuaded by many people.

The most memorable discouragement came during his residency, from a pulmonologist, Dr. Shah said.

“When I passed him in the hall, he would shake his head and mutter, ‘Waste of a mind,’ ” he said. “My retort was always that the geriatric population is often the most complicated, not only medically but also socially and psychologically, and that was exactly the specialization you should want your top students going into.”

Reimbursement drives doctors’ compensation. Gastroenterology, for instance, became more lucrative — and popular — once Medicare, which sets the standard for most other health insurance, began paying for screening colonoscopies. Geriatricians joke that they are waiting for the invention of a geriscope, so that they too can bill for procedures.

Meanwhile, much of what they do — communicating with family members, discouraging unnecessary tests — is time consuming but not reimbursed.

Another disincentive is the lowly status of geriatrics at most of America’s medical schools, which expect more ambitious choices from top residents like Dr. Shah. In Britain, where every medical school has a geriatrics department, it is the third most popular specialty. Reimbursement there goes up with the age of each patient, a formula that improves compensation.

Historically, the explanation for not requiring geriatric training in this country has been that a majority of hospital patients are old, and thus doctors-in-training absorb what they need to know by osmosis. Nonsense, said Dr. Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York and the first chairman of geriatrics at Mount Sinai. “All patients have hearts,” Dr. Butler said, “but that doesn’t make all doctors cardiologists.”

One proposed solution to the shortage is for geriatricians to limit their practice to the frailest of the elderly, generally those past 85, along with a subset in the 65-to-85 age bracket who have complicated needs. According to a 2002 study at Johns Hopkins University, 20 percent of those 65 and older have at least five chronic conditions.

Another solution, gaining a foothold among the nation’s top academic geriatricians, is to focus on teaching the core principles of their specialty to everyone, be they surgeons or discharge planners, because it is unrealistic to assume there will be enough geriatricians to go around.

“If we got to the point where everybody in the health care system was an expert in caring for older people, we wouldn’t need geriatricians,” said Dr. Cooney of Yale. “Or we wouldn’t need them as frontline providers. We’d be like consultants, making sure everyone else was as skilled as possible.”

Specialists, internists and emergency room doctors without sufficient training in geriatrics can pinpoint their own inadequacies. In recent surveys by The Journal of the American Medical Association, many said they were unprepared to deal with end-of-life decisions, communication with family caretakers, depression and other issues of aging.

That lack of training can lead to misdiagnosis, because it is often tricky to tell the difference between physical, psychological and cognitive conditions in this age group. That was the case for Rita Zaprutskiy, 75, of Houston who went to the emergency room with a painful arthritic knee, had surgery, was given an array of pain medications and then seemed to lose her mind.

Four hospitalizations and six months later, Mrs. Zaprutskiy’s daughter said, the family was urged to put her in a nursing home because of severe dementia. Instead, her daughter, Yelena Schwarz, tried one last psychological evaluation, at a county hospital, and unwittingly wound up in a geriatric unit. There the doctors knew, from the sudden onset of her symptoms, that Mrs. Zaprutskiy did not have dementia, but rather treatable psychiatric conditions, including depression.

One way to sharpen the skills of assorted specialists is to welcome them at continuing education classes for geriatricians. At a popular Mount Sinai seminar called “The Hazards of Hospitalization,” a nongeriatrician asked Dr. Helen M. Fernandez how she would deal with a 90-year-old woman in the emergency room with dizziness.

After hearing the woman’s history, Dr. Fernandez said she would fight against admission. “You need to be brave enough to march down to the E.R.,” she said, “and tell the attending she’s your patient and you want to peel her off some of her meds before doing a full cardiac work-up.”

In another course, “The 10 Minute Geriatric Assessment,” Dr. Fredrick T. Sherman told students to “get the focus off the stethoscope” and watch their patients move around. Can a woman get out of a chair without pushing off with her hands? That means she can still use the toilet. Can a man put on his socks? If not, he will soon need someone to dress and bathe him.

“We want to know what they can do and what they can’t do,” Dr. Sherman said. “That’s a better predictor of the future than a head-to-toe exam.”

A new form of geriatric training comes from elderly patients recruited as mentors, like Alberta Harris, 85, who lunches with students at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, regaling them with stories of her life. Residents learn other lessons when they visit the elderly at home. Many doctors consider family members impositions on their time. Seeing them as day-to-day caretakers makes it clear that in geriatrics, an adult daughter, like Mrs. Zaprutskiy’s, is an essential ally.

Ordinary floor nurses can also bring a geriatric sensibility to a hospital. An institute at the New York University School of Nursing helps small community hospitals identify nurses with an affinity for the elderly and provides them with a training curriculum and guidance on how that nurse can be a resource to others.

To increase the number of specialists, N.Y.U. and other nursing schools are building a cadre of geriatric nurse practitioners. Many work in hospital units reserved for the frailest patients, who can spiral downward quickly from a setback like a skin infection or a broken rib.

Mrs. Zaprutskiy was treated in such a unit, run by Dr. Carmel Bitondo Dyer of the Baylor College of Medicine. On a recent visit, while her daughter and doctor discussed the case, Mrs. Zaprutskiy played Russian and Yiddish folk songs on a piano in the day room, her crooked fingers moving gracefully across the keyboard.

Ms. Schwarz wondered if her mother’s psychiatric condition had been caused by medication. Dr. Dyer said there was no way of knowing for sure. But misdiagnosis and overmedication of the elderly is common.

“We see it all the time — elderly people who go from hospital to hospital with no results,” Dr. Dyer said.

“When patients are diagnosed correctly and care is managed accordingly, we see great improvements,” she continued. “Sometimes we don’t cure them; we just make them feel better. But that’s a good thing.”

Laura Griffin contributed reporting.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Can the Times be relied on?

October 18th, 2006


Years of misleading readers on HIV∫AIDS creates suspicions of wider rot

For example, microwave ovens and nutrients

Taking a break from the irrationality of HIV∫AIDS to a lighter topic we know very little about, microwaving food and whether it loses nutrients and taste, and whether the Times is any more authoritative on that important theme, we note the following:

Yesterday’s “REALLY?” column (Tues Oct 17) by Anahad O’Connor is part of a weekly series where the New York Times helpfully offers readers its verdict on whether popular claims are valid or not, based on science.

Is it unfair and an illusion based on knowledge of the atrocious performance of the newspaper in the realm of HIV∫AIDS science that one views this text with a jaundiced eye, and wonders about its accuracy?

This is the column, with comment:

October 17, 2006

Really?

The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR

THE FACTS They are a staple in kitchens everywhere, but for about as long as microwave ovens have been around, people have suspected that the radiation they emit can destroy nutrients in food and vegetables.

Your mileage may vary. but we have always found microwave ovens destroy the taste of food, and after keeping one around for the sole purpose of sanitizing kitchen cleaning rags (dampened and cooked in the microwave, they could quickly be sterilized), we tossed it on orders from the boss to save space.

According to most studies, however, the reality is quite the opposite. Every cooking method can destroy vitamins and other nutrients in food. The factors that determine the extent are how long the food is cooked, how much liquid is used and the cooking temperature.

This seems already to overlook the one great distinction of the microwave, as we understand it, which is that it cooks by agitating the molecules of water, fats and sugar inside food at 2450 million cycles per second and thus heating and boiling the water inherent in the food.

Since microwave ovens often use less heat than conventional methods and involve shorter cooking times, they generally have the least destructive effects. The most heat-sensitive nutrients are water-soluble vitamins, like folic acid and vitamins B and C, which are common in vegetables.

Does Anahad even understand the microwave process? This suggests he does not. The point about microwaves is not that they heat food hotter than other means of cooking, but faster, by agitating the internal molecules etc. In other words, from the inside out, as it were, rather than the outside in. A microwaved stalk of broccoli will heat up at every point, rather than from the surface inwards as in boiling water.

In studies at Cornell University, scientists looked at the effects of cooking on water-soluble vitamins in vegetables and found that spinach retained nearly all its folate when cooked in a microwave, but lost about 77 percent when cooked on a stove. They also found that bacon cooked by microwave has significantly lower levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines than conventionally cooked bacon.

This information sounds reliable, and makes sense, since obviously boiling a vegetable in water will leach its water soluble constituents out of it, as all of us can see when we look at the colored liquid when the vegetables are cooked, and anyway, boiling bones in soup leaches out the goodness from the marrow, so we know it will do it to vegetables.

The information about bacon is interesting. Is this because microwaving doesn’t heat bacon to high temperatures and burn it? Bacon, of course, is one of the essential foods worth risking a heart attack over, but any news of a way to block its ill effects is welcome.

When it comes to vegetables, adding water can greatly accelerate the loss of nutrients. One study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2003 found that broccoli cooked by microwave — and immersed in water — loses about 74 percent to 97 percent of its antioxidants. When steamed or cooked without water, the broccoli retained most of its nutrients.

What on earth does Anahad mean with this? Apparently he means cooking broccoli in water in a container in a microwave, thus boiling the water around it. This seems absurd. Is this how people microwave broccoli? One would have thought they would simply microwave the raw vegetable, which would be quicker and prevent the leaching.

Anyhow, the whole point of the question was to compare microwaving with other ways of cooking in its loss of nutrients, surely, never mind about using it to boil the vegetables in water. And surely taste interests everybody and is dependent on nutrient preservation or loss? Why no mention of taste?

THE BOTTOM LINE Microwave ovens generally do not destroy nutrients in food.

The whole column seems not to answer the question that the claim posed, which is whether microwaving destroys more nutrients than rival methods. Obviously boiling water leaches out nutrients, but that’s just a red herring. We want to know whether a microwave loses nutrients in its pure, microwaving mode. We are only told that it retains “most” of the nutrients”.

The whole thing smacks of a stressed Anahad doing a superficial job, perhaps due to shortage of time, on a matter of keen interest to foodies everywhere. Perhaps Anahad does not realize the skepticism with which readers who are familiar with the HIV∫AIDS debacle will now approach anything in the Times to do with science.

The fallibility of the Times is not just revealed by comparing its record in covering HIV∫AIDS with the scientific literature of the field, of course. In the last few years, there have been more than one giant embarrassment for its editors, from front page reporter Jayson Blair’s humiliating exposure as a fiction writer who filed stories bylined in the South from his apartment in New York City, to the revelation that Judith Miller was suckered by her high level contacts in the Bush Administration into insisting that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

To our mind, however, the most annoying incompetence of the Times is the daily irritation produced by its inadequate search engine. Take the above Anahad O’Connor column, for instance. At this moment, 3.11 am on Wednesday morning, October 18, asked to find “Anahad O’Connor” the search engine cannot produce any more recent column of Anahad’s than the October 10 “REALLY?” column on “THE CLAIM — A plane’s back row is the safest place to sit. ” (Answer: No seat is safer than any other. But you improve the odds by flying non-stop, avoiding multiplying the dangerous landing and taking off phases of flight.)

Yet a search for “microwave nutrients” will produce Tuesday’s column.

Ten years into the Web revolution proper and the New York Times cannot even get its act straight on the search engine which is probably the most visited page on its site.

Is it not time that this vital organ of current history employed fact checkers and reviewed its performance as a news data base, which is surely what it will soon turn into before being swallowed up by the Wikipedia, which is already updating its entries the same day as relevant events happen.

Times critiques Libya’s deadly nonsense

October 14th, 2006


Editorial rejects political fantasy blaming Bulgarians for HIV positive babies

Sets itself a good example with brief appearance of scientific reasoning to save lives

The Libyan HIV∫AIDS insanity continues. The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor are still seriously in danger of execution in Libya because they are held responsible for spreading HIV among hundreds of babies in the hospital they worked in.

The New York Times editorial board comes to their defense very strongly today (Sat Oct 14) in every way they know of, except of course the one basis that really makes the story worthy of being called a “medical-legal travesty” of reason and justice, which is that HIV is not in fact an instrument of death, contrary to the claims of a paradigm which is scotched in numberless ways in the literature including a number of recent mainstream papers which, as we have pointed out, remove the main pillars of the paradigm.

In other words, the main authorities of the belief in HIV∫AIDS themselves have quietly contradicted in mainstream scientific papers the platform they stand on, and if the New York Times editorial writer would continue applying his/her mind to the problem in Libya a little longer and widen his/her focus to the paradigm itself, the editorial position could be even more enlightened.

But the New York Times has no inkling of this, of course, and its defense of the Bulgarian nurses rests on the obvious falsity of the Libyan claims even according to the analysis of Luc Montagnier, who says that the infections emerged before the accused started working at the hospital and continued to spread after they were thrown in jail.

Needless to say the Times editorialist only has to do a little more reading of what “one of the world’s greatest experts on H.I.V., Dr. Luc Montagnier” has said about the topic of HIV∫AIDS to discover that the relatively civilized (relative to his Stateside confreres in HIV∫AIDS) Montagnier believes that HIV is not sufficient to cause AIDS anyway and that nutritional factors are crucial.

Maybe the editorial board should think some more about the situation and apply their new interest in science to the fundamental HIV∫AIDS belief they support in their news columns with the incessant refrain “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS”, as included in this very editorial.

Otherwise, when the world finally comes to its senses about this failed paradigm, which still has no genuine support in the literature after 22 years, they will find themselves partly responsible for these six deaths if God forbid they happen as well as innumerable other ones among AIDS patients who are given ARVs.

October 14, 2006

Editorial

A Medical-Legal Travesty in Libya

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are facing the death penalty in Libya based on preposterous charges that they deliberately infected hundreds of children with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. This looming miscarriage of justice demands a strong warning to the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, that his efforts to join the ranks of peaceable nations will suffer if the medical workers are made the scapegoats for the failure of Libya’s own health system.

The doctor and nurses, who had been working at a hospital in Benghazi, were arrested in 1999. They confessed under torture, according to human rights organizations, but later protested their innocence. The charges that they deliberately infected more than 400 children were clearly bogus.

One of the world’s greatest experts on H.I.V., Dr. Luc Montagnier, testified that the real cause of the infections was poor hygienic practices at the hospital. The infections emerged before the accused started working at the hospital and continued to spread after they were thrown in jail.

It seems clear that the government wanted to deflect public outrage by accusing foreigners of committing a horrific crime — rather than acknowledging the negligence of Libya’s health system.

The six medical workers were convicted and sentenced to death in 2004, while nine Libyans who worked at the same hospital were acquitted. The convictions were overturned by the Libyan Supreme Court, which ordered a retrial. Defense attorneys fear the same outcome this time. The attorneys are calling for another independent scientific assessment of the case because the evidence offered by Dr. Montagnier and an Italian scientist was tossed out by the courts.

Thus far the United States and European nations have focused on setting up an international fund to care for victims of the tragedy and to upgrade equipment at the hospital — in hopes that will be enough to get the medical workers set free. Libya is demanding substantial compensation as well, analogous to what it paid to families of the victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

That seems a grotesque overreach given that the nurses and doctors are the victims here. The White House holds Libya up as a model for other nations to follow in renouncing weapons of mass destruction. Libya must also be judged by how it respects human rights and the rule of law.

Tough stuff, right on the mark. When will they apply the same mind set to HIV∫AIDS itself?

Or is that too much to hope for, that the world’s greatest newspaper free itself of the shackles of censorship that Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID has imposed on the media for 22 years?

Here is a Nature/Reuters report from 20 Sept:

Nature

Published online: 20 September 2006; | doi:10.1038/443254b

Lawyers call for science to clear AIDS nurses in Libya

International pressure needed to save health workers from death penalty.

Declan Butler

Lawyers defending six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya have called for the international scientific community to support a bid to prove the medics’ innocence. The six are charged with deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998, so far causing the deaths of at least 40 of them.

On 28 August, when the prosecution was scheduled to close its case, the Libyan prosecutor called for the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to be sentenced to death. Attorneys from Lawyers Without Borders, who are handling the defence of the six, have responded by calling for the international community to request that the court order an independent scientific assessment, by international AIDS experts, of how the children became infected.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor stand accused of infecting hundreds of children with HIV.

L. LARBI/REUTERS

The medics were condemned to death in May 2004, but the Supreme Court quashed their convictions last December, following international protests that the first trial had been unfair. It ordered a retrial, which has run intermittently since 11 May at the Criminal Court of Benghazi, based in Tripoli. A verdict is expected within weeks.

But the scientific community has so far shown relatively little interest in the case, says Emmanuel Altit, a member of the Paris bar and a volunteer with Lawyers Without Borders, who has in the past defended inmates at Guantanamo Bay. “We have knocked on a lot of doors, but we have not had much help; we hope this will change.”

It’s scandalous. This is a complex affair, and it is impossible to judge it without a scientific basis.

One reason for the lack of interest, he says, is the widespread notion that the trial is a sideshow, and that the “real decisions” will be made by diplomats (see Libya’s travesty). Altit argues that diplomacy has so far failed to secure results, and that the medics’ release will only be secured by using scientific evidence to fight the case in the Tripoli courtroom. He hopes that exposing the “emptiness” of the prosecution case will ramp up enough international pressure to force governments to take action.

At present, the case has been sidelined by broader geopolitical interests in the opening of oil-rich Libya to international relations, says Antoine Alexiev, another defence lawyer on the case. The United States decided in May to re-establish diplomatic relations with Libya. And Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has been given red-carpet treatment at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels — without mention of the medics’ situation.

First report

During the first trial, the Libyan government did ask Luc Montagnier, whose group at the Pasteur Institute in Paris discovered HIV, and Vittorio Colizzi, an AIDS researcher at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, to examine the scientific evidence. The researchers carried out a genetic analysis of viruses from the infected children, and concluded that many of them were infected long before the medics set foot in Libya in March 1998. Many of the children were also infected with hepatitis B and C, suggesting that the infections were spread by poor hospital hygiene. The infections were caused by subtypes of A/G HIV-1 — a recombinant strain common in central and west Africa, known to be highly infectious.

But the court threw out the report, arguing that an investigation by Libyan doctors had reached the opposite conclusion. Montagnier believes the judgement was based at least partly on mistranslation from English to Arabic of the term ‘recombinant’ — instead of referring to natural recombination of wild viruses, as intended, it was interpreted to mean genetically modified, implying human manipulation.

According to Alexiev, the decision to throw out the report removed all scientific content from the case, leaving a series of prejudgements, and confessions extracted under torture. “It’s scandalous,” he says. “This is a complex scientific affair, and it is impossible to judge it without a scientific basis.”

Montagnier, whose efforts helped secure a retrial in the first place, says he too is upset by how events in Tripoli are progressing. “It’s a rerun of the first trial,” he says. “It’s embarassing politically for Gaddafi, but there is the pressure of the parents, who absolutely need to find a scapegoat. Of course this can’t be the Libyans, so it falls on the medics.”

The defence is scheduled to plead on 21 September, but Altit is not convinced that the science will be fairly heard. All attempts by the defence to present its arguments have been “systematically blocked”, he claims, for example by switching the schedule. “The trial should be fair and equitable; until now it has been anything but.”

Legally, the Montagnier/Colizzi report cannot be reinstated after having been thrown out, so the defence is pinning its hopes on persuading the court to appoint an independent science panel to produce a new report. The Tripoli court has resisted all such calls, says Alexiev. “We are hitting a wall, and that is unlikely to change before the end of this trial.”

The defence is therefore resigned to probably losing the current trial, he says, and is setting its sights on the six’s last chance: a final appeal in the Supreme Court, which could convene immediately after the Tripoli verdict, currently expected in November. “We need to convince the Supreme Court to nominate that international scientific assessment,” he says.

“If international pressure isn’t stronger before the appeal, the risk is large that they will be condemned to death,” predicts Michel Taube, co-founder of Together Against the Death Penalty, a French non-governmental organization. “To avoid that outcome, diplomacy is not enough. We need international mobilization.”

Only a combined pressure from lawyers and scientists as well as politicians will make a difference, agrees Altit. If the Supreme Court refuses a scientific assessment, then the international community will be able to ask: “What has it got to hide?” he says. “And if it agrees to a scientific investigation, then we will win.”

Buy a red Nano, save an African life

October 13th, 2006


Finally, eyeball proof that HAART works: Alicia visits Mombasa, with crew

Child dies on ARVs, after 14 years without ARVs. Why is Bono overlooked by the Nobel Committee?

Have the critics of HIV∫AIDS misled us? That’s what we are forced to ask after today’s Oprah Winfrey show, and NBC news, which was devoted to Bono and his new Red campaign to raise money for ARVs for needy Africans.

Not only did Oprah and Bono demonstrate that buying red versions of cool gear could save the lives of children with AIDS in Africa. But Alicia Keys reported finding out from her emotionally moving visit (with film crew) to Mombasa that some African children are not given ARVs for years after they are born with HIV, and may die as a result, even when they finally are given the drugs.

The clinic is dispensing ARVs to needy children now, however, courtesy of Oprah’s Angel network. But, we are shown, it may be too late. Sudi, one child photographed by her video crew as Alicia sat with his family trying to be encouraging, cried because he hadn’t had drugs until he was fourteen, though now he was getting them. You could see the tears running down his cheeks. Back in the studio, Oprah enquired after Sudi’s health, and Alicia with lowered voice confided that the poor child had “passed away” a week later. Well, it was a miracle that he had survived so long, Oprah pointed out, since he hadn’t been able to get the drugs until he was 14.

Having seen all this eyewitness testimony on screen with our own eyes we feel somewhat aggrieved. How could we have been taken in so easily by all the claims of HIV∫AIDS critics that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and that the drugs aren’t any good for you? They simply don’t fit what one sees on the screen.

Well, now they can’t keep on saying this, because Oprah, Alicia Keys and Bono have told us and 22 million other viewers how much better the Africans feel when they are discovered to be suffering from HIV and are given ARVs at last, courtesy of those who buy red gear, whereby a portion of the price goes to Bono’s Red movement to deliver ARVs to the needy.

“Now customers can buy the best music player in the world and do something to help the world at the same time,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re honored to work with Bono, (RED) and this team to contribute to an incredibly important initiative and help change the way people think about AIDS in Africa.”

Several other companies are offering red-colored products in support of Bono’s charity. The Gap is selling several red-colored clothing items, and Motorola is offering a red-colored RAZR.

Apple Offers Red iPod to Fight AIDS

Apple Offers Red iPod to Fight AIDS

By Ed Oswald, BetaNews

October 13, 2006, 2:06 PM

Apple said Friday that it had teamed up with U2 front man Bono to offer a special edition of the iPod Nano. However, unlike the full-size iPod that was designed for the band, this music player supports Bono’s charity Red, which fights diseases in Africa, primarily AIDS.

The 4GB Nano is enclosed in a red case, and will sell for $199 USD. For each unit sold, Apple will donate $10 to the Global Fund to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. In addition, the iPod includes a special $25 Red iTunes Gift card, although it didn’t specify what percentage would go to charity.

“Now customers can buy the best music player in the world and do something to help the world at the same time,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re honored to work with Bono, (RED) and this team to contribute to an incredibly important initiative and help change the way people think about AIDS in Africa.”

Several other companies are offering red-colored products in support of Bono’s charity. The Gap is selling several red-colored clothing items, and Motorola is offering a red-colored RAZR. While the some of the products have been available in the UK since April of this year, Friday marks the first day the products became available in the US.

“It’s wonderful to see this incredible level of commitment from companies that are willing to lend their creativity in the fight against AIDS in Africa, the greatest health crisis in 600 years,” Bono said in a statement.

Yes, readers, we are going to go out and buy a red Nano at once, or at least, as soon as we need one. For we saw with our own eyes Oprah Winfrey and Bono today showing us how if they buy a red $79.99 Motorola phone with two year contract, that will yield $17 for ARV medicine for those in need. Oprah scooped up ten, which meant $170, enough for ARVs for one African for one year. This was after she bagged ten red iPods, each of which meant $10 more drugs for Africans with HIV, and before she collected ten Armani red T shirts, and ten Armani Bono type wraparound sunglasses.

“This is so cool!” said Oprah. “Thank you Apple!” as she left the Apple store and with her arm round Bono’s shoulders continued on a Red item shopping tour of Chicago, with crowds of fans kept back behind ropes at the doorways of the stores, some of whom Oprah handed Armani sunglasses.

“That was so much fun!” she said.

Back in the studio, she welcomed Alicia King – “Don’t we all love her?!” – offering her a red T shirt. But Alicia turned it down, because she will buy a red T shirt herself to support the movement. She was just back as mentioned from visiting the family care clinic in Mombasa hospital. We see her visit on camera. She tells them she is so glad that they are feeling better on the medicines the Oprah Angels are able to provide.

On screen, Alicia sits with the HIV doomed family. One is Sudi, with tears running down his cheeks. Sudi hasn’t improved. He is the one that has had HIV since he was born, but only got medicines when he was 14, courtesy of Oprah’s Keep a child alive! network. But HIV has got him in its grip, regardless, and a week after Alicia’s encouraging visit, she reports, he died. But as Oprah notes cheerfully, it is amazing he stayed alive so long without treatment. Alicia agrees. She informs us that he would still be alive today if he had had ARVs when he was 3 years old.

“It is the simplest thing to save a life in Africa. It is so simple!” says Alicia.

Drugs have immediate effect

It wasn’t just Alicia, either, who told us how important and effective ARV drugs are in Africa. The woman in charge of the hospital gratefully described how the ARVs do good visibly and immediately to the chilren. “They start gaining weight, their height just shoots up astronomically, they have no fever, no infections, they no longer cough. A year later you can’t tell the difference between children with HIV and those without.”

How can HIV∫AIDS critics argue with that direct testimony?

Alicia reports that there are 25 million already dead from AIDS in Africa. “These children look at me and say if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be alive today.”

At this point, the basic facts having been established and a solution to the AIDS threat in Africa having been provided through shopping, it was time for the entertainment factor to be escalated, and so we were treated to Alicia Keys and Bono singing an unprecedented, never to be repeated duet: “Don’t give up Africa!”

Picture of a skeletal child…slogans appearing on the screen and melting away…”Don’t give up Kenya.”… “Don’t give up Uganda.”… “Don’t give up Zimbabwe.”… Don’t give up South Africa”…as the two mellifluous voices of the two superstars sigh, coo and squeak their way through the sentiment of the day… “It gonna be alright… Don’t give up, Please don’t give up. Whatever may come, whatever may go.. that river’s flowing… that river’s flowing. Don’t give up. There’s no reason to feel ashamed… Somewhere there’s a place. Africa…UHHHH FREEEEE KA AHAHAHAHAHAH….”

Bono’s launch of his Red campaign also won a mention on NBC news tonight. According to NBC announcer Brian Williams, the money “will help save the estimated 6500 Africans that die from AIDS every day.”

So where is the Nobel prize for AIDS?

The only people who seem to be insufficiently impressed so far are the Nobel Peace prize committee, who once again passed over Bono to celebrate a man who has brought a way of making a living to millions.

The lead singer of U2, born Paul Hewson in 1960, was among the favorites for the peace prize in the past two years. This year’s contenders also included former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“Over 60 percent of the money we took went on Bono, so it’s a bit of a disappointment for punters,” said Ken Robertson, a spokesman for the Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power Plc. “I’ve no doubt he’ll win it at some stage, perhaps when they need to re-energize it.”

Do the Nobel Peace Commitee know something we don’t? It’s not just Bono they haven’t favored, but where is the Nobel prize for Robert Gallo, once the most referenced scientist in the world, who first came up with the theory that HIV caused AIDS, and has stuck with that view through a pile up of contrary evidence over 22 years that would have defeated a lesser man?

Perhaps they are thinking of a combined Gallo Bono Peace prize, which would avoid getting into the embarrassing science of the matter.

But this would of course overlook the giant contribution of Anthony Fauci of NIAID in protecting the paradigm from nosy media reporters and others who might discover that it has not so far been proven in the scientific literature, which has on the other hand produced more reasons for rejecting it that you can shake a stick at.

Given that Anthony Fauci has pointed out that the solution to HIV∫AIDS may well be to add more HIV to stimulate the immune system (see previous post, NAR nominates Dr Anthony Fauci for Nobel – he has found the solution to AIDS), not to mention that HIV entry blocks the cell suicide of infected cells, and that antioxidants will stop HIV replication, perhaps he and Gallo, who first showed that HIV was not the cause of AIDS, and who has also shown antioxidants can protect the cells against cell suicide, can share a Nobel in Medicine for their contribution, now endorsed by the glamor and authority of Oprah Winfrey and Alicia Keys, as well as the renowned Bono.

Nobel Peace Prize Overlooks Rocker Bono for Bangladeshi Banker

Nobel Peace Prize Overlooks Rocker Bono for Bangladeshi Banker

By Sara Marley

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) — As Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh won the Nobel peace Prize at 5 a.m. New York time, the Irish rock star Bono announced the Red charity in the U.S., backed by Gap Inc., Converse Inc. and Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks.

Motorola Inc. and Apple Inc. introduced Red-branded products in separate statements at the same time, with a portion of sales going to HIV and AIDS programs in Africa. Bono is appearing on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” today to promote the initiative.

The lead singer of U2, born Paul Hewson in 1960, was among the favorites for the peace prize in the past two years. This year’s contenders also included former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“Over 60 percent of the money we took went on Bono, so it’s a bit of a disappointment for punters,” said Ken Robertson, a spokesman for the Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power Plc. “I’ve no doubt he’ll win it at some stage, perhaps when they need to re-energize it.”

Last year’s peace prize went to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Egyptian director general, Mohamed ElBaradei. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist, won in 2004.

Bono has been mentioned as a candidate for the peace prize since at least 2003, with the likes of Pope John Paul II, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko.

Geldof Too

Another Irish singer, Bob Geldof, 55, was nominated by a former member of Norway’s Parliament this year. He set up the 1985 Live Aid and 2005 Live 8 concerts to raise awareness and money in the fight against poverty. Australian bookmaker Centrebet gave each singer the same odds of winning, 33-1.

Bono wrote “Walk On” for 1991 Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, according to the World Entertainment Network.

Motorola will start selling a red version of its Razr phone in the U.S., donating $17 per handset sold to Bono’s charity, Leslie Dance, a Motorola vice president, said in an interview on Oct. 11.

Apple announced a $199 Red special edition iPod nano with a $10 donation to Bono’s Global Fund for each sale.

Apple has teamed up before with U2, which won five Grammy awards this year with the album “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” The first black U2 iPod, with the band members’ autographs etched on the back, was introduced in November 2004.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Marley in London at smarley1@bloomberg.net .

Last Updated: October 13, 2006 09:55 EDT

Nobel for the Big Bang, not for Halton Arp

October 11th, 2006


Times fanfare for Mather and Smoot doesn’t mention fly in ointment of Big Bang

Arp’s redshift problem another paradigm flaw swept under carpet?

Dennis Overbye’s piece on the Big Bang Nobel in the Times last week (Wed Oct 4) was guaranteed to give inattentive Times readers a warm fuzzy feeling in its story of merit long recognized and now rewarded, a paradigm confirmed with yet another seal of approval, and universal agreement on a popular idea. But to heresy mavens who know to look for them, it was interesting also to see hints of lingering problems with the theory, even though a certain scientist wasn’t likely to be mentioned.

In fact, the success story of the Big Bang paradigm also contains familiar examples of the same politics of paradigm power seen at work in HIV∫AIDS – censorship of a highly respected scientist, ostracism and exile of the same for sticking to unpopular ideas, and the distorting effects of the politics of popularity and success.

COBE proves Big Bang with tiniest measurements

The story in the Times reported this year’s Nobel award to the two physicists who led 1,000 scientists, engineers and technicians who worked on the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite launched in 1969. Their measurement of the microwave radiation in the universe thought to be left over from the Big Bang and the irregularities they found bolstered the Big Bang as the only theory which could account for the phenemona.

A result was a resounding confirmation of a universe born in a terrific explosion of space and time 14 billion years ago and in which the ordinary matter that makes up stars and people is overwhelmed by some mysterious “dark matter.”

“What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe and its evolution,” Dr. Smoot said in a news conference on the results in 1992. About a map showing the splotchy seeds of galaxy formation, he famously said, “If you are religious, it is like looking at God.”

The work led to a wave of theorizing about the dark matter and dark energy that permeates the universe and pushes it apart in “what is known as a preposterous universe”, says Overbye, who doesn’t explain what he means by “preposterous”. Is the paradigm nicknamed ‘the preposterous paradigm’? If so, why?

The work “set cosmology in the track to our present well-based theory of the expanding universe,” according to James Peebles, a cosmologist at Princeton, and Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, chimes in with the assertion that COBE and its measurements had heralded a “golden age” of “precision cosmology”.

A dream realized

COBE allowed precise measurements of the “lumps” in the distribution of the radiation which were hot and cold spots (we are talking of variations of a hundred thousandth of a degree here) which were so small that hopes of measuring them seemed like a “pipe dream”.

In April 1992, however, Dr. Smoot electrified a meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington by reporting that the COBE Differential Microwave Radiometer had seen and mapped the lumps.

Cosmologists now believe that these lumps or ripples are a result of quantum fluctuations, tiny jitters in the force fields that filled the universe when it was a fraction of a millionth of a second old.

A cosmologist at MIT, Max Tegmark, says the discovery of cosmic microwave fluctuations was as revolutionary for physics as the discovery of DNA was for biology. “These fluctuations are our cosmic DNA, the blueprints encoding how the baby universe would develop.”

Exciting stuff. These guys can measure fluctuations of a hundredth of a thousandth of a degree left over from the universe’s birth when it was a fraction of a millionth of a second old. Now they are getting the second Nobel seal of approval, following the 1978 award to Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Labs, who first heard the cosmic background radiation as a persistent radio hiss in 1964.

That was when the Big Bang rose to unchallenged ascendancy in the paradigm wars in cosmology, Overbye writes, and

overnight, the few partisans of the rival steady-state theory of an unchanging universe melted away. But the only way to be sure was to measure the microwaves in all directions and at all wavelengths from space, away from atmospheric distortions and influences.

The tool for this task was COBE.

Forgive us in our ignorance if we say it seems to us that cosmology is getting almost as fanciful as nuclear physics in accounting for experimental results, and that it seems possible that refinements might be made in the Big Bang paradigm in the future, even if it is not toppled. “The COBE results provide increased support for the Big Bang scenario” wrote the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in citation, a small concession to those who might object that the theory has its skeptics still.

That pride in the paradigm may cometh before a fall, or anyway that in describing the universe things since COBE have become almost unbearably tangled again, see George Johnson’s piece in the Week In Review on Sunday:

If only it had been that simple. Six years after COBE, another Berkeley scientist, Saul Perlmutter, found something that almost no one had expected. By now, it was assumed, the universe should have settled down, expanding at a steady pace or even slowing, braked by its own gravity. Instead it appeared to be in overdrive, not ballooning as violently as it had in the inflationary era but expanding at a faster and faster rate. Something seemed to be pushing on the accelerator — what has come to be called dark energy, a mysterious kind of anti-gravity.

Shoehorning the new ingredient into the prevailing framework has created new Nobel-sized problems.

Oh, for the Simple Days of the Big Bang

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

October 8, 2006

Oh, for the Simple Days of the Big Bang

By GEORGE JOHNSON

FOURTEEN years ago, when a Berkeley astronomer named George F. Smoot declared that he and his satellite, the Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE, had detected the astrophysical equivalent of the fingerprints of God, his euphoria was easy to understand. For a few happy years, one of the last big pieces of the cosmological puzzle seemed to be in place — an explanation why the universe has blossomed into such an interesting place to live.

Had it not been for the whorls and dimples Dr. Smoot and his NASA collaborator, John C. Mather, found in the background radiation — the afterimage of the Big Bang — there would be no cosmic scenery. No galaxies or other vast conglomerations of matter, just a smooth expanse of visual nothing. Kansas instead of Colorado.

Subsequent discoveries have muddled the picture, so much so that last week’s announcement that the two men will share a Nobel Prize in physics was almost bittersweet — an occasion to celebrate a pivotal moment in science but also to look back with nostalgia on more innocent times.

The creation story supported by the data from the COBE satellite had seemed almost tantalizingly complete. Dr. Smoot’s smudges themselves weren’t sticky enough to gather particles into globs the size of the Milky Way or the Virgo supercluster. But if you spiked the Big Bang with an invisible additive called dark matter — a clumping factor — and hot-rodded the theory with a brief, early burst of rapid expansion called cosmological inflation, you could get the tiny irregularities in the background radiation to sprawl into something like today’s sky.

If only it had been that simple. Six years after COBE, another Berkeley scientist, Saul Perlmutter, found something that almost no one had expected. By now, it was assumed, the universe should have settled down, expanding at a steady pace or even slowing, braked by its own gravity. Instead it appeared to be in overdrive, not ballooning as violently as it had in the inflationary era but expanding at a faster and faster rate. Something seemed to be pushing on the accelerator — what has come to be called dark energy, a mysterious kind of anti-gravity.

Shoehorning the new ingredient into the prevailing framework has created new Nobel-sized problems. Basic physics predicts that if it exists at all, this repulsive force should be extremely large. Instead, the dark energy is infinitesimal and no one has been able to say why.

Except, that is, for followers of a controversial doctrine called the anthropic principle. There is no fundamental reason, they say, why the dark energy is so weak. It is just that if it were much stronger, space would have expanded too rapidly to harbor stars and, ultimately, life. The implication is that there is a multitude of possible universes, each with its own physics. Naturally, we are in one where it is possible for us to exist.

Depending on their temperament, physicists find the idea of a spectrum of universes each ruled by different laws either liberating or a source of despair. Since the days of the Greek philosophers, the reigning assumption, more mystical than scientific, has been that things are necessarily the way they are. There is one universe and lurking somewhere within is a deep principle that explains why the strength of gravity, the speed of light, the heft of matter — all the constants of nature — have taken certain values.

With Smoot and Mather, science seemed closer to finding the key — a hope that now sometimes seems as egotistical as the pre-Copernican belief that we live at the center of creation instead of on a hospitable rock orbiting an obscure star in an obscure galaxy in a universe that may be obscurer still.

More recently this faith in our own uniqueness has been tested again by a related finding in superstring theory, which began some 30 years ago as an attempt to pull all the numbers of the cosmos from a few basic calculations. Just as x + y + z = 42 has many solutions (infinitely many if you allow fractions or negative numbers), so do the equations of superstring theory. By one reckoning, the number of conceivable universes, each with a different dose of dark energy, is so vast that it is “measured not in the millions or billions but in googols or googolplexes.” (Before it was retooled into the name of a search engine, a googol was defined as 10 to the power of 100 and a googolplex as 10 to the power of googol.) Why we find ourselves in, say, universe number 110,310,077,252 would again be a tautology: if we weren’t we wouldn’t be here to ask. There may yet be a way out of the muddle with some insight that focuses superstrings into a beam illuminating the one true theory.

But new ideas, some physicists complain, are a dime a dozen. What they crave is new data, perhaps from the Large Hadron Collider scheduled to go online near Geneva next year. What is discovered there might do for physics what the COBE measurements did for cosmology in 1992: provide some long-needed reality testing.

If not there is always Plan B. Maybe physicists in another universe are coming closer to an answer.

Halton Arp, establishment heretic

We do know of one simple reason for saying that the Big Bang may not be entirely nailed down yet and that is the remarkable saga of Halton Arp, a protege of Edwin Hubble himself, who fell from grace with the US cosmological fraternity when he discovered a large number of huge anomalies which didn’t fit into the Big Bang very well. He was prevented from speaking to conferences here on the topic, and in the end was effectively exiled to the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

The red shift dilemma

Arp discovered a number of galaxies associated with quasar pairs where, according to the red shift, the quasars appeared to be receding very rapidly from us, while the galaxies appeared relatively close by, receding much more slowly. Yet the two entities were observed to be linked together. In other words, the red shift calculation on which the description of the shape and behavior of the universe is currently based cannot be correct after all. Something has to explain the “peculiar galaxies” which Arp has found, enough of them to fill a reference volume which finds a place on the shelves on leading astronomers.

This is how it is described at Arp’s site, which has A Short Biography of Halton C. Arp:

Halton C. Arp received his Bachelors degree from Harvard College in 1949 and his Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology in 1953, both cum laude. He is a professional astronomer who, earlier in his career, conducted Edwin Hubble’s nova search in M31. He has earned the Helen B.Warner prize, the Newcomb Cleveland award and the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award. For 28 years he was staff astronomer at the Mt.Palomar and Mt. Wilson observatories. While there, he produced his well known catalog of “Peculiar Galaxies” that are disturbed or irregular in appearance.

Arp discovered, from photographs and spectra with the big telescopes, that many pairs of quasars (“quasi-stellar objects”) which have extremely high redshift z values (and are therefore thought to be receding from us very rapidly – and thus must be located at a great distance from us) are physically connected to galaxies that have low redshift and are known to be relatively close by. Because of Arp’s observations, the assumption that high red shift objects have to be very far away – on which the “Big Bang” theory and all of “accepted cosmology” is based – has to be fundamentally reexamined!

A more detailed discussion of the specific issue of “intrinsic redshift” and why Arp is said to be wrong is here at the Wiki: Intrinsic redshift

A scholar and a gentleman

Having met Halton Arp, at the 2001 Conference on Science and Democracy in Naple’s Institute for Philosophical Studies, perhaps the only conference in the world which gives respect and a platform to science’s otherwise damned heretics, we were surprised to hear how badly he was treated in the US for coming up with this difficulty, and for sticking with it. In manner and bearing he is clearly a gentleman and a scholar, and as his Wiki entry notes, his survey of galaxies is a solid reference.

His papers and observations are as sharp and combative as ever, as can be seen from his web site which carries them. For example, Astronomy By Press Release – News From A Black Hole

Accretion processes onto Black Holes are supposed to enable them to radiate high energy X-rays. When X-ray telescopes found strong X-ray sources in galaxies they said, aha, this is too strong to be an X-ray star so it must be a black hole in orbit around a star – a binary with a massive black hole revolving around it. Discovery of these now MASSIVE Black holes was so exciting that innumerable papers have appeared showing the X-ray positions and deep photographs at the positions the objects.

Strangely, when these objects were seen optically no one took spectra in order to see what they actually were. Finally a paper appeared in a refereed Journal where the authors showed the spectra of two of them to be that of high redshift quasars! Just to cement the case they looked at previously identified quasar in or close to galaxies and in 24 out of 24 cases the quasars belonged to the class of Ultra Luminous X-ray Sources.

This result is a double disaster in that the massive Black Holes turned out to be high redshift quasars, not a Black Hole in a binary star. Perhaps worse, they have been accepted as members of nearby galaxies and therefore cannot be out at the edge of the universe. Bye bye Big Bang and all that fundamental physics. (This result was not put out as a press release.)

The Halton Arp entry in the Wiki on Halton Arp describes all this in more technical detail, but doesn’t fully explain why the issue should be such a sore point. The standard line is that telescopes have been radically improved since Arp came up with his observations and accompanying theorizing which conflicted with the Big Bang, and that the galaxies which have high red shift are in fact very far away.

Since Arp originally proposed his theories in the 1960’s, however, telescopes and astronomical instrumentation have advanced greatly. QSO’s are now generally accepted to be very distant galaxies with high redshifts. Moreover, many objects that are high-redshift counterparts to normal nearby galaxies have been idenfitied in many imaging surveys, most notably the Hubble Deep Field[2]. Moreover, the spectra of the high-redshift galaxies, as seen from X-ray to radio wavelengths, match the spectra of nearby galaxies (particularly galaxies with high levels of star formation activity) when corrected for redshift effects. Very few astronomers today accept any of Arp’s hypotheses on QSO’s or galactic redshifts.

Notice the appeal to the popularity of an idea as a reason to have confidence in it, which is hardly proven by the history of HIV∫AIDS, and anyway is by definition a bad idea. Science is not a democracy where truth is decided by votes.

There is more to it, at least as far as Arp is concerned:

Nonetheless, Arp has not wavered from his standpoint against the Big Bang and still publishes articles stating his contrary view in both popular and scientific literature, frequently collaborating with Geoffrey Burbidge and Margaret Burbidge[3]

A film was made in 2004 about this by Randall Meyers, “The Cosmology Quest” released by Floating World Films. It has been shown in the US and many other countries in film festivals, to astronomy clubs and at conferences, and on Norwegian TV four times. The film shows that the steady state alternative is still alive and kicking with Arp and a few other holdouts, though there is no sign of it regaining momentum any time soon.

The reviews on Amazon of the DVD are here.

They suggest that there is still no satisfying explanation for the discrepancy, and that it is still possible to wonder who is right, and suspect that the complete lack of discussion might reflect the psychology of paradigm power more than can be intellectually justified.

The disgrace of science is the censorship

Certainly the censorship of Halton Arp’s ideas in the US seems no more justified than any other repression of free speech, particularly in science. As Jefferson wrote in 1779, one of this country’s founding principles is “that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate.”

In the world of cosmology it seems we have another instance of the unpleasant character of successful scientists, whose ideas become vessels for their pride, arrogance, ambition, envy and personal spite, instead of the professional objectivity which the naive suppose would be the rule, particularly in cosmology of all places.

The sad truth appears to be that the majority of professional scientists, like the majority of human beings, are much more powerfully ruled by the attractions of success than they are by the objective contemplation of truth.

Perhaps they should be reminded that it was Hitler who said that “success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong,” and hold themselves to a higher standard.

We are of course referring to the realm of HIV∫AIDS as much as cosmology.

Two Americans Win Nobel in Physics

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

October 4, 2006

2 Americans Win Nobel in Physics

By DENNIS OVERBYE

Two American astronomers who uncovered evidence on the origin of the universe and how it grew into galaxies were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday.

The astronomers, John C. Mather of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and George F. Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, will split the prize of 10 million Swedish kroners, about $1.37 million.

Dr. Mather and Dr. Smoot led a team of more than 1,000 scientists, engineers and technicians behind the Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE, satellite launched in 1989. Its mission was to study a haze of microwave radiation thought to be a remnant of the Big Bang that started the universe.

In its citation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wrote, “The COBE results provided increased support for the Big Bang scenario for the origin of the universe, as this is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by COBE.”

The satellite measured the temperature and distribution of the microwaves, including the detection of faint irregularities, the seeds from which things like galaxies could have grown. A result was a resounding confirmation of a universe born in a terrific explosion of space and time 14 billion years ago and in which the ordinary matter that makes up stars and people is overwhelmed by some mysterious “dark matter.”

“What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe and its evolution,” Dr. Smoot said in a news conference on the results in 1992. About a map showing the splotchy seeds of galaxy formation, he famously said, “If you are religious, it is like looking at God.”

The announcement of the prize delighted astronomers who had long anticipated a Nobel for the COBE work, which led to a wave of theorizing and experiments that have contributed to the emerging picture of what is known as a preposterous universe, full of dark energy pushing it apart as well as dark matter.

James E. Peebles, a Princeton cosmologist, said, “COBE was deeply important. Those two measurements set cosmology on the track to our present well-based theory of the expanding universe.”

Michael S. Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said the COBE measurements had ushered in an era of “precision cosmology” that continues to this day. “This is likely to be the first of a number of prizes in cosmology in this golden age we find ourselves in,” Dr. Turner said.

This was not the first prize for work involving cosmic background radiation, which was discovered as a persistent radio hiss by Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson of Bell Laboratories in 1964. They received a Nobel in 1978. Measurements by them and a rapidly growing army of radio astronomers, including the late David T. Wilkinson of Princeton, suggested that the microwaves were uniform and fit the spectrum of a so-called black body with a temperature of about 3 degrees Kelvin above absolute zero, the signature of a dying Big Bang fireball when the cosmos was only 400,000 years old.

Overnight, the few partisans of the rival steady-state theory of an unchanging universe melted away. But the only way to be sure was to measure the microwaves in all directions and at all wavelengths from space, away from atmospheric distortions and influences.

The tool for this task was COBE.

Dr. Mather, who was born in 1946 in Roanoke, Va., and grew up near Rutgers University in rural New Jersey, studied at Swarthmore College and then at the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked for NASA his entire career.

He has been involved with the satellite since 1974, when it was first a gleam in NASA’s eye. Until then, he said at a news conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, he had been hoping to get out of the microwave work because it was too difficult. “But here I am,” he said.

Dr. Mather served as overall project scientist for the COBE mission and headed one of its three instrument teams, in an experiment to measure the spectrum of the microwaves precisely. Praising the COBE results as a “huge team effort,” he recalled that his perspective was that “this was a mission that was impossible.”

The satellite was launched in 1989, after a delay caused by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. The results from Dr. Mather’s instrument, the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer, or Firas, established that the Big Bang afterglow had a perfect black body spectrum with a temperature of 2.725 degrees Kelvin.

Dr. Smoot, who was born in 1945 in Yukon, Fla., and studied physics as an undergraduate and a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was lead investigator for a COBE instrument designed to measure spatial variations in the microwaves.

Astronomers knew that the radiation could not be completely uniform because the universe today is not uniform. Matter is concentrated in galaxies. According to the standard theory, the seeds for these galaxies should show up as slight hot and cool spots in the relic of the Big Bang fireball. Many cosmologists, however, worried that these lumps, amounting to a hundredth of a thousandth of a degree, according to the best theories, were beyond detection.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a cosmologist at Case Western Reserve University, said, “People had hoped to see lumps, but it almost looked like a pipe dream.”

In April 1992, however, Dr. Smoot electrified a meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington by reporting that the COBE Differential Microwave Radiometer had seen and mapped the lumps.

Cosmologists now believe that these lumps or ripples are a result of quantum fluctuations, tiny jitters in the force fields that filled the universe when it was a fraction of a millionth of a second old.

Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at M.I.T., said: “I think the discovery of cosmic microwave fluctuations was as revolutionary for physics as the discovery of DNA was for biology. These fluctuations are our cosmic DNA, the blueprints encoding how the baby universe would develop.”

The seeds in COBE’s map correspond to superclusters of thousands of galaxies, the largest assemblages of matter in the modern universe. In discussing the results in the 1990’s, Dr. Smoot said that it was partly to emphasize the gigantic scale of these fluctuations, as well as their importance, that he had made the comment about seeing God.

He received a fair amount of ribbing in the news media for that comment. In an interview with The New York Times in 1992, he said, “It really is like finding the driving mechanism for the universe, and isn’t that what God is?”

Key South African HIV∫AIDS critic Sam Mhlongo dies

October 7th, 2006

Professor Sam Mhlongo, MD, one of the most stalwart practical critics of the African HIV∫AIDS pandemic story, who found his own experience of patients and their ailments differed wildly from the official version, has lost his life, according to Joan Shenton, who was phoned by Janine Roberts and reports that the doctor was killed in a road accident yesterday afternoon.

Joan Shenton interviews Mhlongo

The news has stunned all who knew him. Charles Geshekter has spoken for many dissidents and others in writing that “Sam was a consummate professional, a dear and wonderful friend, a devoted husband and a role model for schoilars, teachers, physicians, and critical thnkers around the world. South Africa and the world has lost a courageous lion of a leader.”

Professor Sam Mhlongo, M.D., returned to South Africa in 1998 after spending 36 years in exile in England during apartheid. He earned his medical degree from the University of London and practiced there for 30 years specialising in cardiology. During that time he was president chairing the Cross Medical School in London and was director of ‘African History and Current Affairs’.

After returning to South Africa he was appointed Head of the Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care at the Medical University of Southern Africa, now called the University of Limpopo, MEDUNSA Campus. He founded the Pfunanani Health Research Trust South Africa in 2001.

He has authored and co-authored numerous books and articles on a broad range of subjects, most notably “Forced removal of the Mamatola tribe” in 1967, ”Workers Strikes in South Africa” 1973, “Social classes in South Africa 1975”, “Atenolol post myocardial infarction”, ” Handbook of family practice” in 2000.

He has been medical science editor of African Reclamation Forum since 1999. He was a member of the Royal College of Physicians of the African Caribbean Medical Association and he was its secretary from 1994 to 1998. He is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners UK and member of the Presidential AIDS panel of South Africa.

UPDATE: The Silkwood syndrome

Although there is no evidence yet that Mhlongo’s death was anything but a traffic accident on the way to work in Johannesburg from his home, if there was foul play (as his fellow HIV∫AIDS critics now inevitably wonder) it would be part of a trend world wide which has seen journalists in particular eliminated by professional killings.

The latest is the death on Putin’s birthday, Saturday (Oct 7) of Anna Politkovskaya, 48, severe critic of Putin (“a cynical liar” who condones torture of schoolboys in the Czechen war, she reported) and the 13th journalist killed in Putin’s reign (and the 100th to die since Glasnost in 1986), with Putin a suspect, Gorbachev calling it an outrage, and Bush calling Putin to ask questions. Meanwhile there are revelations on the BBC that suggest US Army troops deliberately fired at the ITN correspondent that died in 2003.

Anna’s funeral was held today:

The investigative reporter’s body was then laid to rest under cold and rain-filled skies.

Police said about 3000 people attended.

Among them were the Norwegian, Swedish and US ambassadors, as well as a who’s who of Russian human rights activists, but there were no high-ranking government officials.

President Vladimir Putin, who has been criticised for not reacting earlier, said during a trip to Germany that her murder had been “cruel”.

However he then sought to minimise her work as “extremely insignificant”.

The New York Times Editorial today, Oct 10 Tues,

Another Killing in Moscow:

Anna Politkovskaya, gunned down over the weekend in Moscow, was the 13th Russian journalist killed since Vladimir Putin became president — and one of the bravest. We may never know who killed her because politically motivated crimes have a way of never being solved in Mr. Putin’s Russia.

There is no question about whom Ms. Politkovskaya held responsible in years of unflinching reporting from Chechnya: the Russian Army and Mr. Putin himself. When he finally got around to acknowledging her death yesterday it was in a cold-blooded statement that the authorities “will take every step to investigate objectively the tragic death of the journalist Politkovskaya.”

Ms. Politkovskaya was 48, the mother of two grown children. She lived alone, in part because of the dangers of her job. On Saturday, she was about to deliver a major report to her newspaper about torture in Chechnya when a killer ambushed her and fired four shots from a silenced Makarov pistol, one in her heart and three in her head.

Police investigators seized all her research materials from her home and her office at Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent newspapers still functioning in Moscow. We hope they lead to arrests, and not a cover-up. It is hard to be optimistic.

The murder of Ms. Politkovskaya — like the murder last month of Andrei Kozlov, the deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank who was trying to reform the banking system — had the stench of a political assassination. It would be hard to imagine that Mr. Putin’s Kremlin, swollen with oil riches and power, could not find those who ordered her murder or so many others.

It is also hard to fathom why a president with Mr. Putin’s hunger for respect would allow his country to sink so steadily in the world’s esteem. Yet the former K.G.B. officer has presided over a systematic degrading of Russians’ freedoms.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia has been the third deadliest country for journalists over the past 15 years, after Iraq and Algeria. Despite the active hostility of the state, and the clear and ever-present danger, reformers have continued to speak up. Ms. Politkovskaya believed, as did Mr. Kozlov and many others, that Russia could become a freer country. We hope that her terrible death will rally those who share her faith.

The news report in the Times, Journalist Critical of Chechen War Is Shot Dead:

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

October 8, 2006

Journalist Critical of Chechen War Is Shot Dead

By C. J. CHIVERS

MOSCOW, Oct. 7 — Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian journalist and author who made her name as a searing critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was found dead on Saturday in her apartment building, shot in the head with a pistol, the authorities and her colleagues said.

Ms. Politkovskaya, 48, was a journalist with few equals in Russia. She was a special correspondent for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and had become one of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates.

In recent years, as the Russian news media faced intensifying pressure under the administration of President Vladimir V. Putin, she maintained her outspoken stance. And she became an international figure who often spoke abroad about a war she called “state versus group terrorism.”

She was a strident critic of Mr. Putin, whom she accused of stifling civil society and allowing a climate of official corruption and brutality.

She was found dead by a neighbor shortly after 5 p.m. A Makarov 9-millimeter pistol had been dropped at her side, the signature of a contract killing, Vitaly Yaroshevsky, the deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, said in a telephone interview.

“We are certain that this is the horrible outcome of her journalistic activity,” he said. “No other versions are assumed.”

In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States “urges the Russian government to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation in order to find, prosecute and bring to justice all those responsible for this heinous murder.”

The former Soviet president Mikhail S. Gorbachev, a shareholder of the newspaper where Ms. Politkovskaya worked, called her killing “a savage crime.”

“It is a blow to the entire democratic, independent press,” he told the Interfax news agency. “It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us.”

Accounts about where she died conflicted, with some law enforcement authorities saying she was found inside the entrance of her apartment building and others saying she was in the elevator.

The police said a security video camera had recorded the image of her presumed killer: a tall young man in dark clothes and a black baseball cap. They said a search for him had begun.

Ms. Politkovskaya, who had two adult children, had worked for Novaya Gazeta since 1999, and covered the second Chechen war and the terrorist siege of a Moscow theater in 2002. One of her books, “A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya,” recorded her impressions of the war’s unrelenting and often macabre cruelty, and the manifest corruption of many of its participants.

She wrote of torture, mass executions, kidnappings to gain ransom and to eliminate rebel suspects, and the sale by Russian soldiers of Chechen corpses to their families for proper Islamic burial. Her writing cemented her place as one of the war’s most vocal domestic critics.

“The army and police, nearly 100,000 strong, wander around Chechnya in a state of complete moral decay,” she wrote. “And what response could one expect but more terrorism, and the recruitment of new resistance fighters?”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been one of the world’s more difficult and dangerous countries for journalists. The climate has continued in recent years; at least 12 journalists have been killed in Russia in contract-style murders since 2000, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

None has been solved, including the contract killing in 2004 of Paul Klebnikov, the American editor of Forbes magazine’s Russian-language edition.

Ms. Politkovskaya had received death threats in the past, and at least once had left the country fearing for her safety. In 2004 she claimed to have been poisoned while en route on an airplane to cover the public school siege in Beslan; she passed out on the flight but survived. Mr. Yaroshevsky also said that Novaya Gazeta had briefly placed her under protective guard a few years ago.

But as prosecutors opened an investigation into what they called premeditated murder, her colleagues expressed astonishment that she had been killed in such a fashion, saying her public stature had seemed to lend her an aura of invincibility.

“She was doing such risky things for such a long time that it seemed she had transcended the danger,” said Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of Center Demos, a Moscow-based human rights organization. “I am ashamed to say it, but we all felt she was next to a monument, and that she was an icon.”

Ms. Lokshina said she had been with Ms. Politkovskaya two weeks ago in Stockholm, and that nothing seemed out of order. “She never spoke about any current threats,” she said. “Everything seemed quite normal. She seemed happy and never referred to anything suspicious.”

Mr. Yaroshevsky said that Ms. Politkovskaya had been at work on Saturday finishing an article for the Monday paper about torturers in the government of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin premier of Chechnya. He said the story included evidence and pictures.

In an interview in April with The New York Times, Ms. Politkovskaya said she had evidence of torture in Chechnya by Mr. Kadyrov’s police and other gunmen, including at least one witness who had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov himself. Mr. Kadyrov has always vigorously denied such allegations.

Mr. Yaroshevsky said there were no immediate theories about who might be behind her killing, and noted that it might be convenient for an enemy of Mr. Kadyrov to kill Ms. Politkovskaya in order to blacken the Chechen premier’s name.

The paper had been expecting her to file the article on Saturday night, he said, and she had apparently been killed after she left her apartment for a trip to a nearby store. The RTR television station reported that investigators believed that she had been followed throughout the day.

Tina at the Times anoints DDT, Arata Kochi

October 5th, 2006


WHO malarial chief is dynamo, brings DDT spray back

Conservatives given credit, too. Million lives a year will be saved

Will AIDS elite also claim credit at their trial?

Having written in support of bringing back DDT to save the children of the poor world (Times on malaria: the solution is to deliver expensive drugs), we are gratified to see support today (Oct 5 Thu) in the Times for the new Bush-WHO move to bring back DDT spraying.

The Editorial Observer in the Times today is Tina Rosenberg, a prize winner enlightened on every global issue with the unfortunate exception of HIV?AIDS, writing a remarkable endorsement of the revival of DDT spraying in poor countries (indoors only) to combat malaria:

This is excellent news for the humans in Africa. DDT both repels mosquitoes and kills them. It is the cheapest, longest lasting and most effective insecticide, and it will not threaten the ecosystem. Unlike in the past, DDT will now be sprayed inside houses once or twice a year in minute amounts.

Along the way in The Revival of a Notorious Solution to a Notorious Scourge she makes the following points: more than a million die each year from the dread disease, Arata Kochi (pic), the new WHO malaria chief, is the dynamo at the center of the change, the US recently decided to pay for DDT spraying after years of selfish hostility to it by Western countries on exaggerated environmental grounds, nets haven’t worked because they weren’t free, and cheap medicine doesn’t work anymore because the disease is resistant to it.

Bald eagle eggs weighed more than babies

The most egregious aspect of the whole saga has been the elitist attitude of the US and Europe, which showed through when Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” turned extremism against DDT into pc environmentalism, after which the fact that DDT had proved stunningly effective at wiping out malaria here and round the world didn’t count any more against bald eagle eggs in the political calculation of William Ruckleshaus.

DDT was the most important insecticide in the eradication of malaria in the United States, and in malaria control in southern Europe, Asia and Latin America. With DDT, malaria cases in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, dropped from 2.8 million in 1946 to 17 in 1963.

But Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” documented how DDT, sprayed over crops and over cities, built up in the ecosystem, killing birds and fish. William Ruckleshaus, the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT in 1972 for all but emergencies.

Tina slips in an apology from the aged Ruckleshaus in 2004, which seems as patronizing as ever:

This was the right decision — for the United States. Malaria was no longer an issue, and Washington needed to ensure that it would not be used on crops. But the decision had deadly consequences overseas. “If I were a decision maker in Sri Lanka, where the benefits from use outweigh the risks, I would decide differently,” Mr. Ruckleshaus told me in 2004. “It’s not up to us to balance risks and benefits for other people.”

Yes, except that Africa’s malaria programs are financed by donors and vetted by the world’s health establishment, which is dominated and financed by the United States and Europe, where DDT is also banned. People in rich countries felt it would be perceived as hypocritical to push a product in poor countries that they had banned at home. Even malariologists who knew DDT could be used safely dared not recommend it.

DDT wasn’t pc, so experts and conservatives arguing for it were brushed aside, and a million children a year died. A sad story, with some of the main elements of the HIV?AIDS debacle in it – pc politics trumping reality, experts brushed aside, the right judgement stained by coming from conservatives, illness and death weighing little in the balance.

Interestingly, the Time’s non partisan editorial credit goes to two conservatives in the Senate for the US funding breakthrough:

Conservatives in the Senate, led by Tom Coburn and Sam Brownback, have forced a revolution in Washington’s malaria programs. America now promotes effective malaria drugs, gives away bednets, and has brought back house spraying — including with DDT.

The AIDS pandemic’s angelic side

Ms Rosenberg even credits one more big factor for the renewed interest in the disease – the AIDS pandemic.

The AIDS pandemic has raised interest in third-world disease, and malaria financing has more than doubled in the last three years. African countries are also learning from South Africa, which doesn’t have to depend on donors. Since 2000, South Africa has been successfully beating malaria using the new medicines and house spraying with DDT

So the independence of South Africa from the need to wait upon Western donors allowed it to go ahead and save its children’s lives regardless of Western selfishness and wrong opinion. Well, well. What does that say to President Mbeki about the virtues of maintaining his own counsel in AIDS, one wonders?

Anyhow, AIDS panic has led to increased attention and money for malaria, saving more lives every year, potentially, than have been lost in the West to AIDS so far. So AIDS has in one way been a blessing.

So is AIDS a good thing after all?

The moral quandary for those who disapprove of a paradigm which has sent hundreds of thousands to their sickbeds and needless deaths is this. If AIDS has inadvertently helped to save the lives of a million children a year, is it all worth it in the scheme of things?

Can Anthony Fauci, Robert Gallo, Mark Wainberg, Robin Weiss, John Maddox, David Ho, John Moore and David Baltimore plead for leniency on this basis, when they enter their pleas as defendants in the upcoming Nuremburg Trials II of recalcitrant AIDS officials suggested by Larry Kramer, which when Kramer finally faces up to what is really going on we expect will be more properly be directed against those who have stood in the way of review of the evidently deadly paradigm, now exposed in both the highest level theoretical reviews and in the recent studies and reviews of the mainstream literature as inexplicable and rationally unsustainable in its key premises?

After all, what’s a few hundred thousand dead and a few million mismedicated compared with 44 million dead Africans, mostly babies? Surely the color of their skins cannot weigh in this balance?

Stupidity as a viable defense

But of course, the stalwarts of the HIV?AIDS paradigm guard can always plead stupidity. No one can possibly prove that any of these people had any idea that their favorite paradigm might really be wrong after all, can they? Which of them is demonstrably bright enough for such a charge to stick? Even CalTech president emeritus and Nobel prize winner David Baltimore made such an fool of himself in the Baltimore Affair trying to repress Margot O’Toole that he lost the Presidency of Rockefeller, so even he might have a good chance of copping the same plea in AIDS – except for the fact that he set a precedent for trying to repress the truth, which will be precisely the charge in the new Nuremburg Trial.

Arata Kochi, troublemaker

Of course, stupidity is not a word which is voiced much in genteel high level circles in government or science, however often it is thought.

Frankness on that front is however one of the charms of the new malarial chief at the WHO. Arata Kochi refreshingly admitted calling his new staff at the WHO that very word at times, after the previous chief was kicked out. Talking to the Times last month, Kochi made it pretty clear what he thought of the previous occupant too (W.H.O. Supports Wider Use of DDT vs. Malaria):

Dr. Kochi’s new policies and abrasive style have stirred the small world of malaria experts. Dr. Allan Schapira, a senior member of the W.H.O. malaria team who most recently oversaw its approach to insecticide spraying, resigned last week.

Reached Thursday on his cellphone, Dr. Schapira declined to comment on his reasons, except to say that they were professional. He did not return messages left Friday.

His successor, Pierre Guillet, a medical entomologist, said Dr. Schapira quit because he was uncomfortable with the new approach on insecticide spraying.

There are fierce debates among experts over when it is best to use indoor spraying or mosquito nets impregnated with insecticides that last up to five years, though most agree that both spraying and nets are important tools.

Dr. Kochi said in an interview that half the professional staff of the W.H.O.’s malaria program has left “one way or the other” since he took over in October. He described Dr. Schapira as the “main brain” behind the past approach.

“He was professionally insulted by me,” Dr. Kochi said.

In answer to a question, Dr. Kochi acknowledged that he had indeed told members of the staff in meetings that they were stupid. “They are very inward looking, and they do not communicate outside the malaria field,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The Times’ Celia Dugger wrote that amusing report, which made Kochi sound a little over the top. But whatever works, works. He has helped to transform WHO and US policy and saved the lives of millions, it appears. We nominate this man for the post of chief advisor to Bill Gates and Bill Clinton on global disease matters, and for the Secretaryship of the UN when it comes up.

Few people deserve personal credit for saving a million lives a year. Maybe he’ll get the Nobel Peace Prize.

If so, this will encourage troublemakers everywhere, and truth may break out all over, even in HIV?AIDS.

W.H.O. Supports Wider Use of DDT vs. Malaria

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

September 16, 2006

W.H.O. Supports Wider Use of DDT vs. Malaria

By CELIA W. DUGGER

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 — The World Health Organization on Friday forcefully endorsed wider use of the insecticide DDT across Africa to exterminate and repel the mosquitoes that cause malaria. The disease kills more than a million people a year, 800,000 of them young children in Africa.

Dr. Arata Kochi, who leads the group’s global malaria program, unequivocally declared at a news conference on Friday that DDT was the most effective insecticide against malaria and that it posed no health risk when sprayed in small amounts on the inner walls of people’s homes. Expanding its use is essential to reviving the flagging international campaign to control the disease, he said.

Dr. Kochi has powerful allies on DDT and, more broadly, on using insecticide sprays, in Congress and the Bush administration — an odd bedfellows coalition for an agency of the United Nations, which has often been at odds with the White House.

At the news conference, Adm. R. Timothy Ziemer, who leads President Bush’s $1.2 billion malaria undertaking, stood at Dr. Kochi’s side and described spraying with insecticides as a tool “that must be deployed as robustly and strategically as possible.”

The health organization’s news release quoted Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.

“Finally, with the W.H.O.’s unambiguous leadership on the issue, we can put to rest the junk science and myths that have provided aid and comfort to the real enemy — mosquitoes,” said the senator, a medical doctor.

Dr. Kochi said the most substantive change in the W.H.O.’s guidelines on the use of insecticides would extend the reach of the strategy. Until now, the agency had recommended indoor spraying of insecticides in areas of seasonal or episodic transmission of malaria, but it now also advocates it where continuous, intense transmission of the disease causes the most deaths.

Dr. Kochi’s new policies and abrasive style have stirred the small world of malaria experts. Dr. Allan Schapira, a senior member of the W.H.O. malaria team who most recently oversaw its approach to insecticide spraying, resigned last week.

Reached Thursday on his cellphone, Dr. Schapira declined to comment on his reasons, except to say that they were professional. He did not return messages left Friday.

His successor, Pierre Guillet, a medical entomologist, said Dr. Schapira quit because he was uncomfortable with the new approach on insecticide spraying.

There are fierce debates among experts over when it is best to use indoor spraying or mosquito nets impregnated with insecticides that last up to five years, though most agree that both spraying and nets are important tools.

Dr. Kochi said in an interview that half the professional staff of the W.H.O.’s malaria program has left “one way or the other” since he took over in October. He described Dr. Schapira as the “main brain” behind the past approach.

“He was professionally insulted by me,” Dr. Kochi said.

In answer to a question, Dr. Kochi acknowledged that he had indeed told members of the staff in meetings that they were stupid. “They are very inward looking, and they do not communicate outside the malaria field,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Dr. Kochi earlier headed the W.H.O.’s tuberculosis campaign until he was forced out after his blunt manner alienated important partner organizations.

He has brought the same in-your-face approach to malaria. In January, he demanded that 18 drug companies — all named — stop selling some forms of a new malaria drug he believed could speed up drug resistance. If they did not comply, he threatened to try to disrupt sales of their other medicines.

In April, he accused the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, through which rich countries finance health campaigns, of ignoring W.H.O. rules that forbid treating malaria with herbal-based therapy alone — a charge that Dr. Bernard Nahlen, a senior adviser at the Global Fund, called “outlandish” on Friday.

There are now 17 African countries using at least some indoor spraying of insecticides to combat malaria. Only 10 of them use DDT — Eritrea, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Swaziland, South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia — the W.H.O. said. Too many countries in Africa have shied away from DDT, Dr. Kochi said, because of the nasty environmental reputation it earned in an earlier era when it was widely sprayed on crops — dangers that do not apply when spraying small amounts indoors.

DDT has carried a special stigma since the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which helped set off the environmental movement in America by documenting how mass spraying of DDT entered the food chain, causing cancer and genetic damage and threatening to wipe out some bird species, including bald eagles.

The nonprofit group, Beyond Pesticides, distributed news releases on Friday opposing the W.H.O.’s new policy, saying a dependence on pesticides like DDT “causes greater long-tem problems than those that are being addressed in the short-term.”

Dr. Kochi said some African countries had also been reluctant to use DDT because of fears that European countries would block food exports if crops were tainted by even minuscule amounts of DDT. In an interview, he called on leaders of the European Union to publicly encourage African countries to use DDT against malaria. Uganda, for one, has not used it because of what Dr. Kochi called “a bureaucratic standoff between the ministry of health and the ministry that oversees trade.”

A spokesman for the European Union, Alain Bloedt, said Friday that it was too late in the afternoon to get a reply.

Dr. Kochi said he himself did not worry about whether he would lose his job if he took on too many influential players. Success will require many difficult changes, he said. “I don’t want to fail.”

The Revival of a Notorious Solution to a Notorious Scourge

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

October 5, 2006

Editorial Observer

The Revival of a Notorious Solution to a Notorious Scourge

By TINA ROSENBERG

Of all the wars in Africa, the most deadly is between humans and mosquitoes. More than a million Africans die of malaria every year, the vast majority of them small children. Malaria shrinks the economies of countries where it is endemic by 20 percent over 15 years. One reason the mosquitoes are winning is that the world had essentially discarded its single most effective weapon, DDT.

But Washington recently resumed financing the use of DDT overseas, and the dynamic new malaria chief of the World Health Organization, Arata Kochi, has said that the W.H.O., too, endorses widespread indoor house spraying with DDT.

This is excellent news for the humans in Africa. DDT both repels mosquitoes and kills them. It is the cheapest, longest lasting and most effective insecticide, and it will not threaten the ecosystem. Unlike in the past, DDT will now be sprayed inside houses once or twice a year in minute amounts.

DDT was the most important insecticide in the eradication of malaria in the United States, and in malaria control in southern Europe, Asia and Latin America. With DDT, malaria cases in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, dropped from 2.8 million in 1946 to 17 in 1963.

But Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” documented how DDT, sprayed over crops and over cities, built up in the ecosystem, killing birds and fish. William Ruckleshaus, the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT in 1972 for all but emergencies.

This was the right decision — for the United States. Malaria was no longer an issue, and Washington needed to ensure that it would not be used on crops. But the decision had deadly consequences overseas. “If I were a decision maker in Sri Lanka, where the benefits from use outweigh the risks, I would decide differently,” Mr. Ruckleshaus told me in 2004. “It’s not up to us to balance risks and benefits for other people.”

Yes, except that Africa’s malaria programs are financed by donors and vetted by the world’s health establishment, which is dominated and financed by the United States and Europe, where DDT is also banned. People in rich countries felt it would be perceived as hypocritical to push a product in poor countries that they had banned at home. Even malariologists who knew DDT could be used safely dared not recommend it.

The United States, which used DDT irresponsibly to wipe out malaria, ended up blocking much poorer and sicker countries from using it responsibly. Under American pressure, several Latin American countries that had controlled malaria stopped using DDT — and in most of them, malaria cases soared.

The other reason for DDT’s demise was donor tightfistedness. DDT has to be sprayed inside houses, an activity that needs to be carried out by governments. In most African countries, this means donors must pay. They balked, and insecticide-treated bednets became bureaucrats’ preferred solution. Donors liked the program because it was cheap and sustainable, as consumers would buy the nets — often at subsidized prices. But it has failed. The nets work — but even at $5, few can buy them. The most recent data show that only 3 percent of African children sleep under treated nets.

The eradication of malaria in rich countries turned out to be the worst thing that happened for people with malaria in poor countries. Malaria lost its constituency, and the money dried up. Throughout Africa, until recently, countries were using chloroquine to cure malaria, a medicine that cost pennies, and so could be bought by rural families. But mosquitoes had become resistant to it. And donors were unwilling to spend the money for effective medicines.

But this is changing. The AIDS pandemic has raised interest in third-world disease, and malaria financing has more than doubled in the last three years. African countries are also learning from South Africa, which doesn’t have to depend on donors. Since 2000, South Africa has been successfully beating malaria using the new medicines and house spraying with DDT.

Conservatives in the Senate, led by Tom Coburn and Sam Brownback, have forced a revolution in Washington’s malaria programs. America now promotes effective malaria drugs, gives away bednets, and has brought back house spraying — including with DDT.

Malaria soared because the forces allied against it quit the battlefield. Now the humans are back.

In Europe, fish oil after heart attacks – but not here

October 3rd, 2006


Times reporter in Rome discovers amazing difference in treatment

Classic example of how US system defeats natural antidotes

Real solution is obvious – but far away

The seventh and eighth most searched keywords at the Times today were “health” and “science”, one ahead of “bush”. And we bet it is because of the article on taking fish oil after heart attacks, which is the second most emailed article.

What Elizabeth Rosenthal in Rome has found out will confirm the worst fears of those who suspect the drug companies and the FDA are somehow in cahoots against the welfare of Americans, refusing to give us what the Europeans in their more ancient wisdom hand out freely to their sick and diseased – in this case a key nutritional supplement which protects patients from dying after they have a heart attack.

Her article is polite and balanced in the Times manner so one has to read it closely to find out exactly what is going on. But it seems according to In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S. that the big Italian study ten years ago showed a sizeable indication that purified fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids, can reduce deaths over three years by 20 per cent, and sudden deaths by forty per cent, if you dose heart attack patients within 24 hours after the event.

But there was a minor imperfection in the methodology – the study control group was untreated, rather than given a placebo – so the FDA will not accept the study’s impressive results, even though regulators in Spain, France, and Britain approved the prescription fish oil version, brand name Omacor, by 2004, and in Italy, according to the chief of cardiology at the Rome hospital Rosenthal quotes, every patient who survives a heart attack goes home with a prescription, and it is “considered tantamount to malpractice in Italy to omit the drug.”

Plenty of authoritative sources in the US support the practice too, Rosenthal finds, including a study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine last month which said it was “important advice” to give patients.

But in the US patients are not given omega-3’s, nor are they offered information on it on the Omacor manufacturer’s Web site, which when it finds out you are a US citizen steers you past the information to a page where heart attacks are not mentioned! Instead, cardiologists and hospitals routinely offer more expensive and invasive treatments, in the form of pills and implanted defibrillators:

But in the United States, heart attack victims are not generally given omega-3 fatty acids, even as they are routinely offered more expensive and invasive treatments, like pills to lower cholesterol or implantable defibrillators. Prescription fish oil, sold under the brand name Omacor, is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in heart patients.

“Most cardiologists here are not giving omega-3’s even though the data supports it — there’s a real disconnect,” said Dr. Terry Jacobson, a preventive cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “They have been very slow to incorporate the therapy.”

Whose fault is it?

So is this the fault of the drug companies, whose ads and salesmen steer the US medical fraternity to the drugs and tools they sell, and who in the absence of FDA approval for Omacor cannot even mention the European solution? Hardly. The lack of FDA approval means they can make no money out of it, without a hugely expensive clinical trial.

Because prescription fish oil is not licensed to prevent heart disease in the United States, drug companies may not legally promote it for that purpose at conferences, in doctors’ offices, to patients or even on the Internet.

“If people paid more attention to guidelines, more people would be on the drug,” Dr. Jacobson said. “But pharmaceutical companies can’t drive this change. The fact that it’s not licensed for this has definitely kept doctors away.”

For example, on Solvay Pharmaceutical’s Web site for Omacor, www.solvay-omacor.com, the first question a user sees is, “Are you a U.S. citizen?”

If the answer is yes, the user is sent to a page where heart attacks are not mentioned. (In the United States, Omacor is licensed only to treat the small number of people with extremely high blood triglyceride levels.)

So community doctors do not learn how to use the drug. Lack of F.D.A. approval also means that insurers will not pay for treatment with Omacor. Approval from the agency for the use of the drug in heart disease is not expected soon.

A study published last month in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that only 17 percent of family doctors were likely to prescribe fish oil to their patients, including patients who had suffered a heart attack. There was a great need, the authors concluded, to “improve awareness of this important advice.”

A lousy system, but why?

Clearly this is a lousy system in some respect or other. But what is the flaw? Maybe heart attack victims should rise up and storm the gates of the FDA and the NIH, and demand their rights. Why should they not be told about fish oil, have fish oil prescribed, see fish oil ads and read about them on the Web?

Come to think of it, why does this stuff need a precription anyway? Is pure fish oil a danger to your health in some way? The entire Mediterranean tradition says not. The Italians and the Greeks flourish on their delightful cuisine with minimal heart attacks, and as the article notes scientists have theorized as we all have that it’s the fish that do it, along with the wine.

And why does it have to be pure? According to Rosenthal,

over-the-counter preparations of fish oil have much less rigorous quality control and are often blends of the two fish oils know to be beneficial in heart disease with other less useful fatty acids.

For that reason, Dr. Jacobson of Emory gives the prescription drug, “off label,” to cardiac patients, even though the F.D.A. has not approved it for that use. “Then I know exactly what they’re getting, and there is no mercury,” he said.

So according to this the dangers of non-precription versions are “less useful fatty acids” and “mercury”. Is that a reason not to have generic fish oil available?

Still, hard to see why the company with the license for the drug in the US doesn’t seem in a hurry to go through the necessary trials in the US and market Omacor here. Could it be the cost of such trials, which involve hundreds of millions of dollars?

Marylou Rowe, a spokeswoman for Reliant Pharmaceuticals, which owns the license for the drug in the United States, said that further trials of Omacor would be needed for it to be licensed for heart attack patients in the United States. But she refused to discuss a timetable.

Why is is “ethical” to withhold fish oil and not HAART?

The whole story is a classic study of what is wrong with the health delivery system in the US. The FDA is placing a giant hurdle for an obviously beneficial natural compound to jump over before it can be part of the system, and while it is kept from being prescribed all the experts salute its benefit and even pop omega-3 pills themselves.

Rather embarrassing parallels can be seen in the world of HIV∫AIDS where it is becoming rather evident that what the top scientists know and talk about quietly among themselves is a lot more enlightened than what they release for public consumption.

For example, the aforementioned JAMA study below breaking the link between the virus and immune cell depletion which is now causing a little debate in Science and elsewhere, where the authors of the study plainly say it knocks out a basic assumption of the paradigm, but are careful to state their faith in the paradigm itself at every public opportunity to avoid getting in Dutch with Dr Fauci.

We have a friend who recently had a heart attack and was carted off to hospital for a triple by pass. Apparently we now have the duty of briefing him on the need to ask his cardiologist about omega-3 fatty acids when we see him next. Evidently the system cannot now be trusted in this simple matter.

As for the methodological weakness of the massive Italian study which brought the good news in the first place, is this really important enough for the FDA to hesitate before giving permission to cardiologists to prescribe them if they wish?

the landmark Gissi-Prevenzione trial of fish oil had methodological weaknesses: the patients treated with prescription fish oil pills were compared with untreated patients, rather than with patients given a dummy pill. This meant that, despite impressive results, the trial did not meet the F.D.A.’s standards for approval. Yet by 2004, regulators in almost all European countries, including Spain, France and Britain, had approved Omacor for use in heart attack patients.

Obviously not.

After all, if the FDA officials can see their way to forgiving the need for placebo groups in trials of the most dangerous HIV∫AIDS drugs, why is it so hard for them to forgive a slight methodological weakness in a huge trial of a familiar natural substance that the entire world agrees is good for you and rule that it would be “unethical” to withhold it from Americans after heart attacks?

The real solution is far, far away

The story highlights the basic problem with the current profit based system, where “the fundamental premise of US health care is that patients suffer from a deficiency in drugs,” as Robert Houston has wittily observed.

What is needed is for the government to finance nutritional and other approaches to combating ill health which cannot be patented and/or cannot ever be profitable enough to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to finance clinical trials to win approval from the FDA (up to $900 million according to a Tufts University study).

But of course in their extreme capitalist frenzy it is unlikely that our present rulers or their party will ever recognize the fact that economics has a welfare dimension which cannot be reliably covered by the activities of profit making companies, unless government takes action in some way to provide incentives.

So for the moment we will just have to hope that the senior guilt trips of robber barons and other highly successful entrepreneurs and investors such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will include the idea of funding unprofitable avenues of research into alternatives to profitable drugs.

What we are saying is simple: someone should call or phone Bill Gates, Bill or Hilary Clinton, or any other parties of influence and get either government officials or rich men to fund the trials of natural alternatives so that the FDA has more to license than the latest profit making synthetic drug to come down the pipeline after trials which in HIV∫AIDS at least are notoriously corrupt and which novel chemicals are generally unpredictable in terms of side effects when mixed with numbers of other commercial drugs given the patients, as is so often the case with seniors.

In a sane system it may be that the NIH should be spending $3 billion a year on such trials, starting, for example, with selenium and its relevancy to the health of the immune system.

Under the current system the products of mother nature are effectively banned in favor of synthetic drugs, because they cannot be patented so if any company pays for expensive trials it cannot be sure of payback, since companies with competing versions will be free to come in and exploit the market without any upfront cost.

What’s even more egregious is the kind of thing that happened with AZT where the government paid for invention of the drug and the trials and then handed over the patent to Burroughs Wellcome who proceeded to jack up the price and make money killing people with high doses of this DNA chain terminator branded as Retrovir.

(In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S. by Elizabeth Rosenthal:

October 3, 2006

In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S.

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL

ROME — Every patient in the cardiac care unit at the San Filippo Neri Hospital who survives a heart attack goes home with a prescription for purified fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids.

“It is clearly recommended in international guidelines,” said Dr. Massimo Santini, the hospital’s chief of cardiology, who added that it would be considered tantamount to malpractice in Italy to omit the drug.

In a large number of studies, prescription fish oil has been shown to improve survival after heart attacks and to reduce fatal heart rhythms. The American College of Cardiology recently strengthened its position on the medical benefit of fish oil, although some critics say that studies have not defined the magnitude of the effect.

But in the United States, heart attack victims are not generally given omega-3 fatty acids, even as they are routinely offered more expensive and invasive treatments, like pills to lower cholesterol or implantable defibrillators. Prescription fish oil, sold under the brand name Omacor, is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in heart patients.

“Most cardiologists here are not giving omega-3’s even though the data supports it — there’s a real disconnect,” said Dr. Terry Jacobson, a preventive cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “They have been very slow to incorporate the therapy.”

The fact that heart patients receive such different treatments in sophisticated hospitals around the world highlights the central role that drug companies play in disseminating medical information, experts said.

Because prescription fish oil is not licensed to prevent heart disease in the United States, drug companies may not legally promote it for that purpose at conferences, in doctors’ offices, to patients or even on the Internet.

“If people paid more attention to guidelines, more people would be on the drug,” Dr. Jacobson said. “But pharmaceutical companies can’t drive this change. The fact that it’s not licensed for this has definitely kept doctors away.”

For example, on Solvay Pharmaceutical’s Web site for Omacor, www.solvay-omacor.com, the first question a user sees is, “Are you a U.S. citizen?”

If the answer is yes, the user is sent to a page where heart attacks are not mentioned. (In the United States, Omacor is licensed only to treat the small number of people with extremely high blood triglyceride levels.)

So community doctors do not learn how to use the drug. Lack of F.D.A. approval also means that insurers will not pay for treatment with Omacor. Approval from the agency for the use of the drug in heart disease is not expected soon.

A study published last month in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that only 17 percent of family doctors were likely to prescribe fish oil to their patients, including patients who had suffered a heart attack. There was a great need, the authors concluded, to “improve awareness of this important advice.”

The fact that fish oil is also sold as a nutritional supplement has made it harder for some doctors to regard it as a powerful drug, experts said.

“Using this medicine is very popular here in Italy, I think partly because so many cardiologists in this country participated in the studies and were aware of the results,” said Dr. Maria Franzosi, a researcher at the Mario Negri Institute in Milan. “In other countries, uptake may be harder because doctors think of it as just a dietary intervention.”

In the largest study of fish oil — conducted more than a decade ago — Italian researchers from the Gissi Group (Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto), gave 11,000 patients one gram of prescription fish oil a day after heart attacks. After three years, the study found that the number of deaths was reduced by 20 percent and that the number of sudden deaths by 40 percent, compared with a control group.

Later studies have continued to yield positive results, although some scientists say there are still gaps in knowledge.

This summer, a critical review of existing research in BMJ, The British Medical Journal, “cast doubt over the size of the effect of these medications” for the general population, said Dr. Roger Harrison, an author of the paper, “but still suggested that they might benefit some people as a treatment.”

Dr. Harrison said he believed that people should generally increase their intake of omega-3 acids, best done by eating more fish.

Still, he acknowledged that it was difficult to eat foods containing a gram of omega-3 acids each day. “If you ask me do I take omega-3 supplements every day, then, embarrassingly, the answer is yes,” said Dr. Harrison, a professor at Bolton Primary Care Trust of the University of Manchester in England.

“I, too, am caught up in this hectic world where I have little time to shop and prepare the healthy foods I know I should be eating,” he said.

It seems natural for Italy to be at the forefront of the fish oil trend and home to the largest clinical trials. Scientists have long noted that Mediterranean diets are salubrious for the heart and theorized that the high content of broiled and baked fish might be partly responsible.

But the landmark Gissi-Prevenzione trial of fish oil had methodological weaknesses: the patients treated with prescription fish oil pills were compared with untreated patients, rather than with patients given a dummy pill. This meant that, despite impressive results, the trial did not meet the F.D.A.’s standards for approval. Yet by 2004, regulators in almost all European countries, including Spain, France and Britain, had approved Omacor for use in heart attack patients.

Marylou Rowe, a spokeswoman for Reliant Pharmaceuticals, which owns the license for the drug in the United States, said that further trials of Omacor would be needed for it to be licensed for heart attack patients in the United States. But she refused to discuss a timetable.

The American College of Cardiology now advises patients with coronary artery disease to increase their consumption of omega-3 acids to one gram a day, but it does not specify if this should be achieved by eating fish or by taking capsules. But over-the-counter preparations of fish oil have much less rigorous quality control and are often blends of the two fish oils know to be beneficial in heart disease with other less useful fatty acids.

For that reason, Dr. Jacobson of Emory gives the prescription drug, “off label,” to cardiac patients, even though the F.D.A. has not approved it for that use. “Then I know exactly what they’re getting, and there is no mercury,” he said.

He said he tells patients who cannot afford the prescription version that they can take the over-the-counter supplements, although there is uncertainty about the dose and they probably need three to four pills a day.

In Europe, meanwhile, research on prescription fish oil, which is now thought to act by stabilizing cell membranes, has gained momentum. The Gissi Group is conducting two huge trials using fish oil in patients with abnormal heart rhythms and in patients with heart failure.


Bad Behavior has blocked 144 access attempts in the last 7 days.