Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

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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.

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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

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

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

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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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

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Toadstools at the Times

June 28th, 2007

Public Editor speaks up for free debate, unaware of Times’ deadly HIV∫AIDS bias

Science joins in, giving Moore a free pass, but he trips up on excess

Even crackpot vegans deserve a hearing

clarkhoyt.jpgIn The Danger of the One-Sided Debate by Clark Hoyt the Public Editor of the New York Times talked last Sunday (June 24) about the Op-Ed page and discussed whether the Times has a responsibility not to run pieces by terrorist groups, and also, when carrying a politically provocative piece, whether it should make sure that an opposing view was also run.

This is interesting. Both issues seem highly relevant to the simmering paradigm quarrel in HIV∫AIDS, and the Times’ highly questionable behavior in mostly not carrying news and comment on the topic.

In fact over more than two decades, the paper of record has recorded as little news of the challenge to HIV as the cause of AIDS as possible. The name of Peter Duesberg has been featured a grand total of 16 times in 22 years, while the acronym “AIDS” has been mentioned 33,870 times. The only opinion the Times has carried in book reviews, columns and Op-Ed pieces have been squarely on the side of repressing the views of the distinguished scientist and his allies as decisively as possible.

moore.jpegThe title of the last Op-Ed piece on the topic by none other than our friend John P. Moore of Cornell, was Deadly Quackery, a label which told readers all they needed to know without even skimming the poorly argued and contemptuous column, whose style was as far from the collegial tone of genuine scientific debate as a drunken rape is from a chaperoned date.

The fact that the Times is highly vulnerable to the criticism of its own Public Editor in a great scientific battle of which he is unaware is what makes Mr Hoyt’s column dealing with two other issues on the Op-Ed page interesting.

Hamas terrorism, but how about HIV∫AIDS terrorism?

First, apparently last week the Times outraged some readers by giving a platform to a Hamas spokesman after its violent takeover of Gaza, so that he could make it clear “What Hamas Wants”.

One Joe Pensak of Massachusetts objected that this wasn’t balanced journalism, it was “more the dissemination of propaganda in the spirit of advocacy journalism” from a terrorist group which advocates flying the Palestinian flag over every inch of soil now occupied by Israel.

Replying to terrorist propaganda

The complaints of Joe and many other readers didn’t get very far with the editors. Andrew Rosenthal, editor of the editorial page, replied that he was under no obligation to “provide the kind of balance you find in news coverage” on the Op-Ed page and his deputy in charge of the page, David Shipley, explained that

“the news of the Hamas takeover of Gaza was one of the most important stories of the week….and this was out opportunity to hear what Hamas had to say.”

Presumably this is what they would reply to any complaints that their coverage of the HIV∫AIDS dispute has been one sided.

Hoyt speaks up for responsible journalism

Clark Hoyt in his role as the Public Editor mustered a judicious spirit in the wake of these unyielding pronouncements and summed up as follows:

Op-Ed pages should be open especially to controversial idea, because that’s the way a free society decides what’s right and what’s wrong for itself. Good ideas prosper in the sunshine of healthy debate, and the bad ones wither. Left hidden out of sight and unchallenged, the bad ones can grow like poisonous mushrooms.

Free debate the lifeblood of truth

mushroom.jpegWell, Clark, we certainly agree with those sentiments. So we wonder how is it that the Op-Ed page published this diatribe by John P. Moore of Cornell on June 11 last year and never ran anything presenting the other side of the HIV∫AIDS debate since?

The Op-Ed piece, Deadly Quackery, was, we are forced to say, a scientifically foolish piece of political propaganda from beginning to end, and certainly no definitive reply to the well established and long running objections to the HIV∫AIDS paradigm in the best peer reviewed journals.

Moore must have reminded discerning readers of the White House style of late in dealing with the crumbling of the Iraq rationale, since his piece consisted mainly of flat claims and denials without much reference to good evidence, served up with uncalled for ad hominem bias and garnished with misplaced appeals to concern for the social consequences of questioning HIV∫AIDS.

H.I.V. causes AIDS. This is not a controversial claim but an established fact, based on more than 20 years of solid science. It is as certain as the descent of humans from apes and the falling of dropped objects to the ground.

So why reiterate the obvious? Because lately, a bizarre theory has gained ground — one that claims that H.I.V. is harmless, and that the antiretroviral drugs that curb the growth of the virus cause rather than treat AIDS. Such talk sounds to most of us like quackery, but the theory has emerged as a genuine menace to public health in the United States and, particularly, in South Africa.

Neutral observers (such as this blog, politically speaking) could be forgiven for interpreting that as “a genuine menace to the welfare of those in science defending the paradigm and gaining large grants to research microbicides which only boost HIV transmission according to the latest studies”.
Here is the full text of Moore’s mad tilt if you wish to read it again: The New York Times
June 4, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Deadly Quackery
By JOHN MOORE and NICOLI NATTRASS

H.I.V. causes AIDS. This is not a controversial claim but an established fact, based on more than 20 years of solid science. It is as certain as the descent of humans from apes and the falling of dropped objects to the ground.

So why reiterate the obvious? Because lately, a bizarre theory has gained ground — one that claims that H.I.V. is harmless, and that the antiretroviral drugs that curb the growth of the virus cause rather than treat AIDS. Such talk sounds to most of us like quackery, but the theory has emerged as a genuine menace to public health in the United States and, particularly, in South Africa.

The theory, which we call AIDS denialism, has gained such currency with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa that his administration is reluctant to expand access to antiretroviral drugs. Despite generous allocations from the country’s Treasury and substantial assistance from foreign donors, only a quarter of those needing antiretrovirals receive them. This response is poor by the standards of middle-income countries, but it is especially troublesome in South Africa, which has more H.I.V.-positive people than any other country.

American AIDS denialists are partly to blame for South Africa’s backsliding AIDS policy. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the health minister, has described antiretrovirals as poisons. She is supported in these views by Roberto Giraldo, a New York hospital technologist who says AIDS is caused by deficiencies in the diet, and who served on President Mbeki’s AIDS advisory panel in 2000. The minister promotes nutritional alternatives like lemons, garlic and olive oil to treat H.I.V. infection. Several prominent South Africans have died of AIDS after opting to change their diets instead of taking antiretrovirals.

Another American AIDS denialist, David Rasnick, a regular letter-writer to South African newspapers, absurdly claims that H.I.V. cannot be transmitted between heterosexuals. Mr. Rasnick now works in South Africa for a multinational vitamin company, the Rath Foundation, conducting clinical trials in which AIDS patients are encouraged to take multivitamins instead of antiretrovirals.

In the past, South Africa’s Medicines Control Council acted swiftly to curb such abuses, and the Medical Research Council condemned AIDS denialism. But recent high-level political appointments of administration supporters to both bodies have neutered their influence. In South Africa, AIDS denialism now underpins a lucrative nutritional supplements industry that has the tacit, and sometimes active, support of the Mbeki administration.

By courting the AIDS denialists, President Mbeki has increased their stature in the United States. He lent credibility to Christine Maggiore, a Californian who campaigns against using antiretrovirals to prevent transmission of H.I.V. from mothers to children, when he was photographed meeting her. Two years later, Ms. Maggiore gave birth to an H.I.V.-infected daughter, Eliza Jane, who acquired an AIDS-related infection last year and died at age 3.

Mother-to-child H.I.V. transmission is now rare in the United States, thanks to the widespread use of preventive therapy and the activities of organizations like the National Institutes of Health and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Sadly, this is not so in South Africa, where many children are born infected and then face short, painful lives. The health and lives of American children are also still under threat: a small clique of AIDS denialists is trying to block the provision of antiretrovirals to H.I.V.-infected children in the New York City foster care system.

Until recently, AIDS researchers and activists in the United States tended to regard the denialists with derision, assuming they would fade away. Unfortunately, this has not happened. Harper’s Magazine recently published an article by Celia Farber promoting the denialist view. There is a real risk that a new generation of Americans could be persuaded that H.I.V. either doesn’t exist or is harmless, that safe sex isn’t important and that they don’t need to protect their children from this deadly virus. A resurgence of denialism in the United States would have far reaching effects on the global AIDS pandemic, just as it already has in South Africa.

The AIDS denialists use pseudoscience and non-peer-reviewed Internet postings to bolster their false claims about H.I.V. The real facts about this virus have been uncovered by scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health, the British and South African Medical Research Councils, the Pasteur Institute and many other national research organizations. The public should seek AIDS truth from the latter sources.

It is sad when selling magazines and vitamin supplements is considered more important than promoting public health and scientific truth. The truth is that H.I.V. does exist, that it causes AIDS and that antiretroviral drugs can prevent H.I.V. transmission and death from AIDS. To deny these facts is not just wrong — it’s deadly.

John Moore is a professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University. Nicoli Nattrass is the director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.

Any question of consequences depends on who is right of course, which is not a matter which is settled by propaganda of this type, since as this blog has pointed out time and again the scientific literature with its study results consistently embarrasses and contradicts the paradigm enthusiasts such as Moore.

Mushrooms galore

mushpois.jpegMoore’s poisonous toadstool in this case was partially edible, actually, since it was a good example of how those who stand on uncertain ground go overboard in asserting their claims. Despite its adamant opening (“HIV is the cause of AIDS. etc”) it entirely begged the central question at issue ie who is right about HIV, the point on which weighing the “dangers” of criticism versus the “dangers” of making a very large mistake depends.

And as a horrendously one sided statement on an unsettled issue of international importance, it was a troubling indication of how partisan some scientists become when their paradigm investment is threatened. The Times was surely irresponsible in not running a counter column. A balancing reply was urgently needed if readers are to have a chance of understanding the reasons the backstage debate still is live and kicking after twenty three years.

No replies allowed

As it turned out not even one letter objecting to any of this was printed, and several were sent. A capitulation from the South African ambassador insisting that the government was rolling out ARVs at a record rate was printed under the title South Africa and AIDS .

What was desperately needed to restore balance was an Op-Ed in response, written from a scientific point of view contradicting every piece of unacceptable reasoning and evidence advanced by Moore in the socially irresponsible manner which characterizes his style of answering HIV∫AIDS doubts.

As we have said, to our mind this signals nothing more powerfully than his own internal doubt on the matter. This has to be what generates so much such adamant and unscientific certainty in his writing (see AIDSTruth.org, Moore’s counter dissident site for more excess along these lines) in lieu of productive discussion.

Thus in the end the Times piece was probably more of an embarrassment than an asset to the senior officers of the paradigm defense army with its fatal “Methinks he doth protest too much” style, as Queen Gertrude would have put it in Hamlet.

bulldogchampion.jpegWe dare say that as AIDSTruth.org has grown in adding more and more indiscreet ad hominem attacks and inadequate responses to scientific questions, the unfortunate Cornell research star is increasingly exposed as an energetic but half blind British bull dog whose barking and random grabbing of trouser cuffs does more to wake up sophisticated observers to the low grade politics of the field than a billboard in front of the Capitol.

Science’s Cohen fails again

The recent Science piece by Jon Cohen, HIV/AIDS: AIDSTruth.org Web Site Takes Aim at ‘Denialists’ celebrating the existence of his 150 views a day site allows Moore to demonstrate his talent for officiously closeminded insult to a sympathetic scribe who as we recall was once humiliated by Serge Lang, the Yale mathematician who was so appalled at Cohen’s blindness to the problems with official statistics in the HIV∫AIDS debate that he refused to be interviewed by him, writing to the editor of Science to tell him why.

As far as we are concerned AIDSTruth does the public a service by posting the text of this piece (Science 15 June 2007 Vol. 316. no. 5831, p. 1554) for the comparison it allows between Moore’s mushrooms and the quote from Peter Duesberg, who despatches the entire site with one verbal stake through the heart:

Peter Duesberg, a prominent cancer researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, whom colleagues have pilloried ever since he first questioned the link between HIV and AIDS in 1987, remains unswayed by the Web site, which he derides in an e-mail interview as a “scientifically worthless mix of ad hominems, opinions, intolerance, and religious energy–instead of a theory and facts.” Duesberg maintains that “many essential questions” about what he calls the “HIV-AIDS hypothesis” remain unanswered.

Seems to us that any rational reader seeing this remark side by side with Moore’s debating style will understand that good science is more likely to be found at Peter Duesberg’s site where all his excellent papers are immediately available than at AIDSTruth.org, whose style Moore is obviously very proud of but which may strike readers in a way that he does not expect:

Launched by AIDS researchers, clinicians, and activists from several countries, AIDSTruth.org offers more than 100 links to scientific reports to “debunk denialist myths” and “expose the denialist propaganda campaign for what it is … to prevent further harm being done to individual and public health.” The site also has a section that names denialists and unsparingly critiques their writings, variously accusing them of homophobia, “scientific ignorance of truly staggering proportions,” conspiracy theories, “the dogmatic repetition of the misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or mischaracterization of certain scientific studies,” and flat-out lies. “There was a perceived need to take these people on in cyberspace, because that’s where they operate mostly, and that’s where the most vulnerable people go for their information,” says immunologist John Moore, an AIDS researcher at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.

Judge for yourself, dear reader, where the mushrooms are likely growing in HIV∫AIDS.
HIV/AIDS: AIDSTruth.org Web Site Takes Aim at ‘Denialists’
Science 15 June 2007
Vol. 316. no. 5831, p. 1554
Jon Cohen

For 20 years, a small but vocal group of AIDS “dissenters” has attracted international attention by questioning whether HIV causes the disease. Many AIDS researchers from the outset thought it best to ignore these challenges. But last year, another small and equally vocal group decided to counter the dissenters–whom they call “denialists”–with a feisty Web site, AIDSTruth.org. It has started to attract international attention itself. “It’s great,” says Mark Wainberg, head of the McGill AIDS Centre in Montreal, Canada. “We really need to get more people to understand that HIV denialism does serious harm. And we were in denial about denialism for a long time.”

Launched by AIDS researchers, clinicians, and activists from several countries, AIDSTruth.org offers more than 100 links to scientific reports to “debunk denialist myths” and “expose the denialist propaganda campaign for what it is … to prevent further harm being done to individual and public health.” The site also has a section that names denialists and unsparingly critiques their writings, variously accusing them of homophobia, “scientific ignorance of truly staggering proportions,” conspiracy theories, “the dogmatic repetition of the misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or mischaracterization of certain scientific studies,” and flat-out lies. “There was a perceived need to take these people on in cyberspace, because that’s where they operate mostly, and that’s where the most vulnerable people go for their information,” says immunologist John Moore, an AIDS researcher at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.

Peter Duesberg, a prominent cancer researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, whom colleagues have pilloried ever since he first questioned the link between HIV and AIDS in 1987, remains unswayed by the Web site, which he derides in an e-mail interview as a “scientifically worthless mix of ad hominems, opinions, intolerance, and religious energy–instead of a theory and facts.” Duesberg maintains that “many essential questions” about what he calls the “HIV-AIDS hypothesis” remain unanswered.

Two factors led Moore and like-minded thinkers (who now number 11) to take off the gloves and hit back with AIDSTruth.org , which went online in March 2006. One was an article in that month’s issue of Harper’s magazine, “Out of Control, AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science,” which chronicled Duesberg’s travails for challenging dogma and also questioned the safety and effectiveness of an anti-HIV drug that’s widely used to prevent transmission from an infected mother to her baby. Moore and other Web site co-founders wrote a 35- page critique of the article. The second trigger was the situation in South Africa. “Many people who had fought denialism in the early 1990s had lost interest in the subject, but in South Africa, it was at its peak,” explains another founder of the Web site, Nathan Geffen of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign. Geffen and others worried that his government might use the Harper’s article to justify further inaction. “South Africa has more people living with HIV than any other country, and it’s also been a place where AIDS denialism has had political support with terrible results.”

The no-frills Web site receives no funding, doesn’t pay contributors, and features no ads. It refuses to debate whether HIV causes AIDS, which it says “is as certain as the descent of humans from apes and the falling of dropped objects to the ground.” It has also posted articles by authors of peer-reviewed publications who believe their findings have been distorted by people trying to prove that HIV/AIDS is a ruse. “The denialists tend to be grotesquely inaccurate,” says Richard Jefferys, an activist with the Treatment Action Group in New York City who also helped start the site. “It’s almost like the more outrageously inaccurate the claim is, the more they repeat it.”

To the delight of Jefferys and others, a Supreme Court judge in Australia in April cited a debunking article on AIDSTruth.org in a closely followed case that involved a man convicted of endangering life for not revealing he was infected with HIV to sexual partners. The man appealed, claiming that no studies prove HIV causes AIDS. His defense consisted of two “expert” witnesses, one of whom was extensively questioned about allegations that she had misused a researcher’s results on sexual transmission of HIV. The questions were inspired by an editorial posted on AIDSTruth.org . The judge concluded that neither defense witness–both of whom are branded as denialists on AIDSTruth.org –was qualified to express opinions on these questions. “There’s a constant concern that by rebutting these things, you’re giving them more credence–there’s a thin line between slaying the monster and feeding it,” says Jefferys. “The judge’s decision made the Web site seem really worthwhile.”

AIDSTruth.org has seen its popularity rise from about 60 unique visits a day to 150. But as Moore notes, “we’re certainly not high up in the Google rankings.” Then again, he argues, any effective rebuke to the “anti-scientific” opinions that attract so much attention is worth the effort. “If you ignore the denialists, they’re not going to disappear,” says Moore. “And they don’t like the fact that we can get in their faces. They’re used to being unchallenged.”

Intellectual terrorists at work

mushpoi.jpegBut good ideas prosper in the sunshine of healthy debate, as the man said, so why was Moore allowed to get away with pulling the Times into his strategy of not allowing AIDS dissent a voice if he can possibly help it? Especially since the whole affair fits very well the definition of allowing terrorists a voice in the Times as propaganda without reply, as Joe objected.

In our view Moore and his fellow members of the goon quad in the defense of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm can be counted as intellectual terrorists because they perpetrate intellectual violence in the form of ad hominem attacks, refusal to debate, and censorship of recognition and reporting of a respectable paradigm dissent, not to mention phone calls to employers and colleagues of dissidents which have been reported from Moore and other paradigm priests.

The valid debate is thus veiled from the unknowing public even though it has been led by a scientist who without argument from anyone is an elite practitioner and academic whose objections have to be taken seriously, especially when the uncollegial public responses to him are not on the same intellectual level.

********************************************
This failure of reporting and editing will quite possibly be the greatest black mark in the newspaper’s history, far greater than the failure of individual reporters.
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With its violence and propaganda, by any reasonable standard this style of response is social terrorism with its flexing of political power, financial sanctions and professional ostracism, and if the Times coverage is not balanced outsiders will (as they do) get quite the wrong impression of the value of the points that are made by respectable critics against a paradigm whose logical flaws, according to the scientific literature, have been fatal from the very beginning of a long flight sustained scientifically only by hot air and misrepresentation of evidence.

Historical threat to Times’ stature

judithmiller.jpgHere is the crux of the problem: we have the public debate of a very large issue affecting the health of tens of millions cut off by Moore and his colleagues with the active cooperation of the world’s greatest newspaper, not to mention the leading science journal in the US. Not a shining example of the way the New York Times should meet its responsibilities and one that when exposed in the fullness of time will reduce the trust of readers a very large notch.

This failure of reporting and editing will quite possibly be the greatest black mark in the newspaper’s history, far greater than the failure of individual reporters such as Judith Miller

Even before she served 85 days in jail last summer for refusing to testify about her conversations with then-vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Miller wrote, she had “become a lightning rod for public fury over the intelligence failures that helped lead our country to war.” Miller, whose prewar stories about whether Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction were later disavowed by the Times as inaccurate, said she regretted “that I was not permitted to pursue” the story further.

or Jason Blair:

Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception

A staff reporter for The New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found. The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.

jayson-blair.jpgThe reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.

Vegans should be allowed a defense

Meanwhile the fount of wisdom that is Clark Hoyt goes on to consider the similar imbalance of the Op-Ed page in publishing a critique of extreme vegans (*pron. according to the dictionary with a soft g not a hard one, in case you didn’t know) without including a voice of dissent.

This wasn’t the case, however, with a May 21 op-ed by Nina Planck, an author who writes about food and nutrition. Sensationally headlined “Death by Veganism,” Planck’s piece hit much closer to home than Yousef’s. It said in no uncertain terms that vegans — vegetarians who shun even eggs and dairy products — were endangering the health and even the lives of their children. A former vegan herself, Planck said she had concluded “a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.”

Her Exhibit A was a trial in Atlanta in which a vegan couple were convicted of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty in the death of their 6-week-old son, who was fed mainly soy milk and apple juice and weighed only 3.5 pounds. The column set off a torrent of reader e-mail that is still coming in — much of it from vegans who send photos of their healthy children or complain bitterly of being harassed by friends and relatives using Planck’s column as proof that their diet is dangerous.

In this it’s pretty clear that the couple simply starved the baby to a skeletal death and the issue of whether all nutrients necessary to health are included in a vegan diet is not really involved.

But Planck had taken the opportunity to launch a severe critique, and Hoyt reasonably felt that it was unfair not to provide some rebuttal, and let readers decide who was right.

If there was another side, a legitimate argument that veganism isn’t harmful, Planck didn’t tell you — not her obligation, Rosenthal and Shipley say. But unlike the Middle East, The Times has not presented another view, or anything, on veganism on its op-ed pages for 16 years. There has been scant news coverage in the past five years.

There is another side.

Rachelle Leesen, a clinical nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told me that Planck’s article “was extremely inflammatory and full of misinformation.” She and her colleague Brenda Waber pointed me to a 2003 paper by the American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization for food and nutrition professionals. After reviewing the current science, the A.D.A., together with the Dietitians of Canada, declared, “Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.”

Even though Planck replied with 250 studies from the ADA she seems to be grinding the wrong axe since the child had obviously died of not enough food, rather than the wrong kind, says Hoyt. So a reply was valid and desirable.

Charles Boring, the Fulton County prosecutor who handled the case, told me it was “absolutely not” about veganism. Planck and Shipley said they were aware of the prosecutor’s contention. Shipley said, “We were also aware, though, that the convicted couple continues to insist that they were trying to raise their infant on a vegan diet.”

But the jury didn’t believe them, and leaving that out put Planck’s whole column on a shaky foundation.

Op-ed pages are for debate, but if you get only one side, that’s not debate. And that’s not healthy.

Why so many mushrooms, Clark?

We heartily agree with the last sentence and suggest that Clark trot over to the Science Section and ask the CDC trained Larry Altman why they have not found someone to reply to the Moore Op-Ed “Deadly Quackery” in over a year.

mushroompoisonous.jpegCould it be by some chance that it reflects the power of the sleek-suited Dr Anthony Fauci at NIAID and his edict many, many years ago in the AAAS Observer in 1989 that

“AIDS has created a whole new interaction between scientists and the press (…) Journalists who make too many mistakes or who are too sloppy are going to find that their access to scientists may diminish”?

Surely not. It is difficult to imagine that one bureaucrat, even a man who was called a hero by President Reagan, could have such influence over the greatest newspaper in the world.

But what are those poisoned mushrooms doing growing on the desks of so many editors at the New York Times?
The New York Times
June 24, 2007
The Public Editor
The Danger of the One-Sided Debate
By CLARK HOYT

THE op-ed page of The New York Times is perhaps the nation’s most important forum for airing opinions on the most contentious issues of the day — the war in Iraq, abortion, global warming and more.

“We look for opinions that are provocative,” said Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the editorial page. “Opinions that confirm what you already thought aren’t that interesting.”

But some opinions provoke more than others. Two very different columns by guest contributors, one last week and one last month, caused enormous reader outcries and raised important questions. Are there groups or causes so odious they should be ruled off the page? If The Times publishes a controversial opinion, does it owe readers another point of view immediately? And what is the obligation of editors to make sure that op-ed writers are not playing fast and loose with the facts?

The most recent column was by Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas, the party elected to lead the Palestinian government and a group dedicated to the destruction of Israel. He wrote Wednesday about “What Hamas Wants.”

Many readers were outraged, complaining that The Times had provided a platform for a terrorist. One, Jon Pensak of Sherborn, Mass., said that allowing Yousef space in The Times “isn’t balanced journalism, it is more the dissemination of propaganda in the spirit of advocacy journalism.”

Well, yes. The point of the op-ed page is advocacy. And, Rosenthal said, “we do not feel the obligation to provide the kind of balance you find in news coverage, because it is opinion.”

David Shipley, one of Rosenthal’s deputies and the man in charge of the op-ed page, said: “The news of the Hamas takeover of Gaza was one of the most important stories of the week. … This was our opportunity to hear what Hamas had to say.”

I agree that Yousef’s piece should have run, even though his version of reality is at odds with the one I understand from news coverage. He wrote blandly, for example, about creating “an atmosphere of calm in which we resolve our differences” with Israel without mentioning that Hamas is officially dedicated to raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” which would mean no more Israel.

Op-ed pages should be open especially to controversial ideas, because that’s the way a free society decides what’s right and what’s wrong for itself. Good ideas prosper in the sunshine of healthy debate, and the bad ones wither. Left hidden out of sight and unchallenged, the bad ones can grow like poisonous mushrooms.

Rosenthal and Shipley said that, over time, they try to publish a variety of voices on the most important issues. Regular op-ed readers have seen a wide range of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have a lot of other information to help judge Yousef’s statements.

This wasn’t the case, however, with a May 21 op-ed by Nina Planck, an author who writes about food and nutrition. Sensationally headlined “Death by Veganism,” Planck’s piece hit much closer to home than Yousef’s. It said in no uncertain terms that vegans — vegetarians who shun even eggs and dairy products — were endangering the health and even the lives of their children. A former vegan herself, Planck said she had concluded “a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.”

Her Exhibit A was a trial in Atlanta in which a vegan couple were convicted of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty in the death of their 6-week-old son, who was fed mainly soy milk and apple juice and weighed only 3.5 pounds. The column set off a torrent of reader e-mail that is still coming in — much of it from vegans who send photos of their healthy children or complain bitterly of being harassed by friends and relatives using Planck’s column as proof that their diet is dangerous.

If there was another side, a legitimate argument that veganism isn’t harmful, Planck didn’t tell you — not her obligation, Rosenthal and Shipley say. But unlike the Middle East, The Times has not presented another view, or anything, on veganism on its op-ed pages for 16 years. There has been scant news coverage in the past five years.

There is another side.

Rachelle Leesen, a clinical nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told me that Planck’s article “was extremely inflammatory and full of misinformation.” She and her colleague Brenda Waber pointed me to a 2003 paper by the American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization for food and nutrition professionals. After reviewing the current science, the A.D.A., together with the Dietitians of Canada, declared, “Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.”

Planck said she was aware of the A.D.A.’s position but regarded it as “pandering” to a politically active vegan community.

I won’t rehash the scientific dispute in a case in which Planck has her experts and the A.D.A. paper cited more than 250 studies, but I think The Times owes its readers the other side, published on the op-ed page, not just in five letters to the editor that briefly took issue with her.

I even question Planck’s Exhibit A, poor little Crown Shakur, who was so shriveled at his death that doctors could see the bones in his body. His death, she wrote, “may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.”

Maybe, if by nutrition you mean a discussion about whether you feed a baby anything at all.

The prosecutor argued — and the jury believed — that Crown’s parents intentionally starved him to death. News coverage at the time said that the medical examiner, doctors at the hospital to which Crown’s body was taken and an expert nutritionist testified that the baby was not given enough food to survive, regardless of what the food was.

Charles Boring, the Fulton County prosecutor who handled the case, told me it was “absolutely not” about veganism. Planck and Shipley said they were aware of the prosecutor’s contention. Shipley said, “We were also aware, though, that the convicted couple continues to insist that they were trying to raise their infant on a vegan diet.”

But the jury didn’t believe them, and leaving that out put Planck’s whole column on a shaky foundation.

Op-ed pages are for debate, but if you get only one side, that’s not debate. And that’s not healthy.
The public editor serves as the readers’ representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly in this section.

Darwin plus

June 26th, 2007

Times essay salutes need for Darwin 2.0 at last

Douglas Erwin’s decency misleads him somewhat

Paradigm change not joyful to some, Doug

darwin.jpegAnyone who has heard top creationist intellectuals in action knows they are as clever as any Jesuit in pointing to holes in our understanding of evolution and how it works, holes in which they find God hiding, but which others expect to be filled with science anon.

As the fine exhibition on Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History last year showed, this cleverness has led to a certain panic among evolutionists, who too often have pretended that the gaps don’t exist, and that mutation plus the Darwinian struggle explains all, as in the “modern synthesis”.

The exhibition studiously avoided all mention of the creationist argument, treating it as beneath contempt, which it probably is, logically speaking. But as we have noted in previous posts, much has been learned in the past decade which is filling in the gaps in our understanding of how new species pop up, which is the fundamental puzzle the modern synthesis doesn’t solve.

This morning the New York Times Science section is devoted to a nice set of pieces entirely devoted to “Evolution” and saluting these advances, and the changes in the paradigm they herald. “This special issue of the Science Times is an attempt to help make sense of evolution, as a living, changing science” says the introduction.

The key essay on the paradigm issue is Darwin Still Rules, but some Biologists Dream of a Paradigm Shift by Douglas H. Erwin, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a research professor at the Santa Fe Institute, home of the farthest out, beyond the edge scientific and other thinkers in the nation, and possibly on the planet.

Douglas Erwin is Senior Scientist and Curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and a part-time research professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He began studying the end-Permian mass extinction in the early 1980s and has traveled many times to China, South Africa, and Europe seeking its causes and examining its consequences. His work on the end-Permian event stems from an interest in evolutionary innovations; extinction events are classically seen as generators of evolutionary novelty. Erwin studies patterns and time frames of biotic recovery, focusing particularly on gastropods of the Permian and Triassic. Erwin takes a broad look at the evidence and controversies concerning the end-Permian event in his book Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago (Princeton University Press, 2006).

dougerwin.jpgParadigm shift coming…sometime

“Is Darwin due for an upgrade?” Erwin asks and the answer he gives in a tactfully fudged manner aiming not to offend anybody is “yes”. But it is hard to nail down exactly why. He focuses on the new findings in evolutionary developmental biology, or “evo-devo”, which have shown how much goes on in the embryo where little changes can alter the shape of the resulting life form wholesale.

The developmental mechanisms involved can be experimented with, Erwin notes, with “exciting” results involving wingspots on butterflies and the gut of sea urchins and starfish, showing which genes are the essential core genes or kernel which cannot be modified without stopping the embryo’s development completely.

The Achilles’ heel of the modern synthesis, as noted by the philosopher Ron Amundson, is that it deals primarily with the transmission of genes from one generation to the next, but not how genes produce bodies. The recent discoveries in the new field of evolutionary developmental biology, or evo-devo, that the gene Pax-6 controls the formation of eyes in mice and humans, Nkx2.5 heart formation, and a suite of other genes the formation of the nervous system, has provided a means to investigate the genetic and developmental mechanisms influencing how the form of organisms has evolved, not just their genes. Perhaps the most exciting area in evolution is in exploring how rewiring the circuitry of genes produces different arthropod appendages, or wingspots on butterflies.

Eric H. Davidson, a colleague of mine at CalTech, has dissected the network of interactions between the genes that build the gut of sea urchins and starfish during development. When he compares these gene networks, there is a core of about five genes whose interactions are essential to forming the gut, and which have been preserved for some 500 million years.

One advantage developmental biologists have over paleontologists is that they can experiment on the development of these animals. Most of the genes in this network can be removed, and the developing embryo finds a way to compensate. But these five core genes, which form what Davidson calls a kernel, cannot be modified: change any one of them and no embryo forms at all.

Unfortunately he stops short of clearly explaining how this line of research will produce additional evolutionary mechanisms to add to Darwin and mutation. If anything he emphasizes how the mechanisms being elucidated in the embryo’s developmental process lead to restrictions on the path along which the organism can evolve. “Once the kernel formed it locked development onto a certain path.”

What creationists keep pointing out is the lack of adequate (to them) explanation of how complex systems such as eyes arise from random mutation and survival competition, and what Erwin describes doesn’t answer this question, though he hints that it will.

What we need we daresay is something more along the lines of Lynn Margulis’ conception of simpler elements merging to form more complex species. She is surely right on the micro level in saying that microorganisms evolved through symbiotic merging, and that one way to view a human being is a vast agglomeration of cellular life forms.

But do larger forms merge in some way to form new species? Presumably not, but something has to account for the abrupt transition between species observed in the fossil record, and the modern synthesis doesn’t do it.

Transitions between species documented by the fossil record seemed to be abrupt, perhaps too abrupt to be explained by the modern synthesis. If this were generally true, it could render irrelevant much of natural selection occurring within species, because just as mutations are produced randomly with respect to the needs of a species, with selection shaping these into new adaptations, new species might evolve randomly with species selection shaping them into evolutionary trends. This challenge was greeted with less than fulsome praise by evolutionary biologists studying changes within species. The resulting hubbub has yet to fully die down. But the newer work cuts closer to the core of the modern synthesis, and is potentially more revolutionary, because it addresses the fundamental question of how really new things happen in the history of life. What brought about the origin of animals, or the invasion of land?

Erwin’s essay doesn’t seem to suggest anything very specific as an additional mechanism, except a sort of modern mix of Lamarck and Gaia whereby species might change their environment and this might feed back into their own adaptation.

But just as the erosive power of a river changes the future options for the course of the river, so evolution itself changes future evolutionary possibilities. This can happen in simple ways, as termites construct their own environment by building termite mounds. These mounds may last for dozens or hundreds of years and provide a sort of ecological inheritance for generations of termites.

The first cyanobacteria turned carbon dioxide into oxygen and set off a revolution that completely changed the chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere. Most species modify their environment and this often changes how selection affects them: they construct, at least in part, their own environment. As evolutionary biologists we have little understanding of what these processes mean for evolution.

All in all, the essay hints at expected change without really showing much movement in the paradigm to date. But even that simple acknowledgment of the need for the paradigm to evolve is refreshing after the peculiar silence on the topic at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Does all this add up to a new modern synthesis? There is certainly no consensus among evolutionary biologists, but development, ecology, genetics and paleontology all provide new perspectives on how evolution operates, and how we should study it. None of these concerns provide a scintilla of hope for creationists, as scientific investigations are already providing new insights into these issues. The foundations for a paradigm shift may be in place, but it may be some time before we see whether a truly novel perspective develops or these tensions are accommodated within an expanded modern synthesis.

The political innocence of good scientists

darwinbeagle.jpegOne thing we did conclude as soon as we started reading the Erwin rumination was that among real scientists who are genuinely more interested in reality that what works career-wise, there is still a certain naivete as to what is happening in some realms of research where scientific activity is being warped by vast sums of money, where paradigms with no proven merit whatsoever may be sustained and promoted far beyond their due date of replacement by forces of human nature far beyond science

Here is how Erwin views the possibility of a paradigm shift – with excitement, joy and anticipation.

There is nothing scientists enjoy more than the prospect of a good paradigm shift.

Paradigm shifts are the stuff of scientific revolutions. They change how we view the world, the sorts of questions that scientists consider worth asking, and even how we do science. The discovery of DNA marked one such shift, the theory of plate tectonics another.

Many scientists suffer from a kind of split personality. We believe that this is the most exciting time to be working while yearning for the excitement of a revolution. What ambitious scientist would not want to be part of a paradigm shift? Not surprisingly, this yearning occasionally manifests itself in proclamations that a revolution is at hand.

This is how good scientists think and feel. How telling that there is no sign whatsoever of these attitudes in HIV∫AIDS.

If anything, the exact opposite prevails. Top scientists in HIV∫AIDS seem to view the prospect of paradigm change with the same distaste they might feel at discovering a dead rat amid the bounteous feast they are dining on royally at the top table.

The New York Times
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June 26, 2007
Essay
Darwin Still Rules, but Some Biologists Dream of a Paradigm Shift
By DOUGLAS H. ERWIN

Is Darwin due for an upgrade? There are growing calls among some evolutionary biologists for just such a revision, although they differ about what form this might take. But those calls could also be exaggerated. There is nothing scientists enjoy more than the prospect of a good paradigm shift.

Paradigm shifts are the stuff of scientific revolutions. They change how we view the world, the sorts of questions that scientists consider worth asking, and even how we do science. The discovery of DNA marked one such shift, the theory of plate tectonics another.

Many scientists suffer from a kind of split personality. We believe that this is the most exciting time to be working while yearning for the excitement of a revolution. What ambitious scientist would not want to be part of a paradigm shift? Not surprisingly, this yearning occasionally manifests itself in proclamations that a revolution is at hand.

To understand the current tumult it helps to understand how our evolutionary framework developed. It was constructed from the 1930s to 1950s by early geneticists, paleontologists and others, who disagreed about the efficacy of natural selection in driving evolutionary change (Darwin’s big idea) and about the nature of the underlying genetic variation upon which natural selection could act. What they came to agree on was called the modern synthesis, and it established an intellectual zeitgeist that continues today, and has been continually adapted, in the best evolutionary fashion, to encompass new discoveries.

That synthesis holds that mutations to DNA create new variants of existing genes within a species. Natural selection, driven by competition for resources, allows the best-adapted individuals to produce the most surviving offspring. So adaptive variants of genes become more common. Although selection is often seen, even by biologists who should know better, as primarily negative, removing poorly adapted individuals, Charles Darwin understood that it was a powerful creative tool.

It is the primary agent in shaping new adaptations. Computer simulations have shown how selection can produce a complex eye from a simple eyespot in just a few hundred thousand years.

In the past few years every element of this paradigm has been attacked. Concerns about the sources of evolutionary innovation and discoveries about how DNA evolves have led some to propose that mutations, not selection, drive much of evolution, or at least the main episodes of innovation, like the origin of major animal groups, including vertebrates.

Comparative studies of development have illuminated how genes operate, and evolve, and this places less emphasis on the gradual accumulation of small genetic changes emphasized by the modern synthesis. Work in ecology has emphasized the role organisms play in building their own environments, and studies of the fossil record raise questions about the role of competition. The last major challenge to the modern synthesis came in the 1970s and 1980s as my paleontological colleagues, including the late Stephen Jay Gould, argued for a hierarchical view of evolution, with selection occurring at many levels, including between species.

Transitions between species documented by the fossil record seemed to be abrupt, perhaps too abrupt to be explained by the modern synthesis. If this were generally true, it could render irrelevant much of natural selection occurring within species, because just as mutations are produced randomly with respect to the needs of a species, with selection shaping these into new adaptations, new species might evolve randomly with species selection shaping them into evolutionary trends. This challenge was greeted with less than fulsome praise by evolutionary biologists studying changes within species. The resulting hubbub has yet to fully die down. But the newer work cuts closer to the core of the modern synthesis, and is potentially more revolutionary, because it addresses the fundamental question of how really new things happen in the history of life. What brought about the origin of animals, or the invasion of land?

The Achilles’ heel of the modern synthesis, as noted by the philosopher Ron Amundson, is that it deals primarily with the transmission of genes from one generation to the next, but not how genes produce bodies. The recent discoveries in the new field of evolutionary developmental biology, or evo-devo, that the gene Pax-6 controls the formation of eyes in mice and humans, Nkx2.5 heart formation, and a suite of other genes the formation of the nervous system, has provided a means to investigate the genetic and developmental mechanisms influencing how the form of organisms has evolved, not just their genes. Perhaps the most exciting area in evolution is in exploring how rewiring the circuitry of genes produces different arthropod appendages, or wingspots on butterflies.

Eric H. Davidson, a colleague of mine at CalTech, has dissected the network of interactions between the genes that build the gut of sea urchins and starfish during development. When he compares these gene networks, there is a core of about five genes whose interactions are essential to forming the gut, and which have been preserved for some 500 million years.

One advantage developmental biologists have over paleontologists is that they can experiment on the development of these animals. Most of the genes in this network can be removed, and the developing embryo finds a way to compensate. But these five core genes, which form what Davidson calls a kernel, cannot be modified: change any one of them and no embryo forms at all. There is no reason to think that there was anything unusual about how this kernel first evolved some 500 million years ago (before sea urchins and starfish split into different groups), but once the kernel formed it locked development onto a certain path. These events, small and large, limit the range of possibilities on which natural selection can act. These questions about mechanism were not even being asked under the modern synthesis.

The failure to consider how biodiversity grows reflects an even more troubling flaw in the modern synthesis: it lacks any real sense of history. This may sound odd, as evolution is about history. A geologist would describe evolutionary theory as uniformitarian: “The present is the key to the past.” This is the principle we use that by understanding how processes operate today we can understand past events. Evolutionary theory assumes that the processes we can study among fruit flies disporting themselves in a laboratory capture the broad sweep of evolutionary change.

But just as the erosive power of a river changes the future options for the course of the river, so evolution itself changes future evolutionary possibilities. This can happen in simple ways, as termites construct their own environment by building termite mounds. These mounds may last for dozens or hundreds of years and provide a sort of ecological inheritance for generations of termites.

The first cyanobacteria turned carbon dioxide into oxygen and set off a revolution that completely changed the chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere. Most species modify their environment and this often changes how selection affects them: they construct, at least in part, their own environment. As evolutionary biologists we have little understanding of what these processes mean for evolution.

Does all this add up to a new modern synthesis? There is certainly no consensus among evolutionary biologists, but development, ecology, genetics and paleontology all provide new perspectives on how evolution operates, and how we should study it. None of these concerns provide a scintilla of hope for creationists, as scientific investigations are already providing new insights into these issues. The foundations for a paradigm shift may be in place, but it may be some time before we see whether a truly novel perspective develops or these tensions are accommodated within an expanded modern synthesis.

Douglas H. Erwin is a senior scientist at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution and a research professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

Plunder at the top

June 23rd, 2007

Smithsonian was Larry Small’s piggy bank

Hedge fund mentality pervades the US – including science

larrysmall.jpgIt isn’t much of a surprise that Larry Small, who exited recently as head of the nation’s (and the world’s) greatest museum complex, has now been exposed to a public lashing by a report on his activities while in the job. Small seems to have spent a large amount of his time taking the day off, serving on other boards and raising money from corporations by turning over exhibitions to their public relations staff.

Smithsonian as shopping mall

The whole scandal was stage center in 2002 when top scholars and authors sent the literary equivalent of a bomb in the mail as a New Year’s present. The elite critics wrote a letter to Chief Justice Renquist, chancellor of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, accusing Small of selling out to sponsors. The very relevant website Commercial Alert carried this Washington Post account by Philip Kennicott: Open Letter Berates Smithsonian’s Small

The letter, signed by scholars from the nation’s top universities, authors and at least one former director of a major Smithsonian museum, faulted Small for allowing corporate and individual sponsors to have what the letter argued was too much say in the content of exhibitions they sponsor, and for allowing corporations to place their logos on Smithsonian buildings, exhibition halls and other spaces.

“If Mr. Small is permitted to continue his agenda, the Smithsonian will become much like a shopping mall, with virtually every inch devoted to the promotion of a corporation or its products,” the letter says.

pilemoneycash.jpegApparently Mr Small’s admiration for commerce included extending his own acquisitive instinct to the petty cash of the Smithsonian, which he raided for various expenses such as a plane to fly around in, whose financing was carefully concealed from prying eyes, as privately arranged with Mr Small when his arrival six years ago at the Smithsonian was negotiated.

The attraction of having this well connected professional boardroom director in the driving seat was his supposed success at raising funds from kissing up to his buddy corporate chieftains, it appears, but no one seems to have anticipated that Mr Small might naturally feel that he deserved some of the proceeds himself to oil his own royal style. Mr. Small resigned in March amid growing controversy over his lavish expense-account spending.

From 2000 to 2006, the report said, he also took nearly 70 weeks of vacation — about 10 weeks a year — and spent 64 business days serving on corporate boards that paid him a total of $5.7 million. Rather than rein him in, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents stood passively by, the report said, allowing him to spend the institution’s money on copious personal expenses and to treat the board as irrelevant to decision making.

“It appears that the board reported to him rather than the secretary reporting to the board,” the report said. “The committee was told by a regent that Mr. Small ‘did not listen to the opinions of the Regents’ and ‘did not seek input from the Regents.’ ”

Having printed news of this report on Thursday (Smithsonian Ex-Chief Criticized in Report by Robin Pogrebin), the Times today (Sat June 23) runs a short editorial The Fall of Mr. Small’s Empire summing up the various “deeply troubling” outrages perpetrated by Larry behind his veil of secrecy, where the Board of Regents was basically told to mind its own business. But its only point is to suggest quietly that perhaps this time someone with the requisite skills could be found inside the institution, rather than going to the cosy club of business leaders, many of them busily despoiling corporations of excessive salaries and stock options as enthusiastically as Mr Small, as if this was the only source of management and fund raising skills.

it will be essential to turn away from the underlying falsehood of Mr. Small’s tenure — that his background as a corporate executive made him a better manager than the men and women who came up through the Smithsonian. The goal, of course, is to find leaders with strong management skills and a full respect and understanding of the institution and what it is owed. All Mr. Small seemed to care about was what he thought the Smithsonian owed him.

Money as the root of bad science

This is surely a story which deserves a more thoughtful response. Perhaps we are oversensitive to the idea that science is a place where such exploitation is likely to occur, given the fact that the story of the exploitation of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm is, in our view, the Worldcom of science. But it seems to us that science is full of people who pursue it as a vocation they love and who are slow to see that over the last couple of decades, people have come swarming in who are much more motivated by ambition and venality, not to mention all the other human frailties listed in the logo of this site. Of course the Smithsonian is more of a museum than a microbiology lab but the same principles surely apply.

Transforming the landscape: billions

pilethaimoney.jpgThe sums of money involved in modern science are now huge, with the budget of the NIH for example running at about $29 billion annually the last we looked. Seems to us that where you get a great influx of money into any sector of the economy, older values are going to be pushed aside if they are not defended strongly. As far as we are concerned, this is what has happened in HIV∫AIDS, where the paradigm has had all the earmarks of a dead horse ever since it left the starting gate, but which has been carried round the course on a flatbed truck with its enthusiastic promoters holding it up and moving its legs as they shout down the questioners in the crowd and the multimillions have poured in to fuel the ever expanding operation.

The money tide

pilemoney.jpegFollow the money trail as they say and you find exploitation almost anywhere you look in the US economy, so why should science be immune?

Take hedge funds, for example, where at least three of the managers that run these secretive investment vehicles for the wealthy are making more than $1 billion a year. As a few nosy economists from the academic world have shown in recent years, the outrageous charges and fees applied by these Wall Street confidence men can amount to 60% per cent of the gains achieved, wiping out the advantage to investors who might just as well have just put their money in an ordinary mutual fund tied to the Dow Jones, without the huge risk.

In fact the Dutch economist Harry Kat at the University of London Sir John Cass Business School has now worked out software which will do the job just as well as most hedge fund managers for a fee of around five per cent, and gives hedge fund managers the chance to simply buy and run it (it is named FundCreator) and do something else entirely with their work day at the pool or beach without any of their investors noticing, and to pocket the difference.

Perks for the managers

In other words, while a very few top performing hedge funds consistently make very good gains all of those are closed to new investors and the vast majority are just charging four to six times as much as the advantage they claim, protected by secrecy, the same principle followed by Mr Small, As the Times editorial states, his perks were much bigger than his predecessor but his fund raising was less successful. In fact, it was worse than Michael Heyman, who he replaced in 2000.

It’s hard to decide which is more troubling: the 950 days that he and his deputy took off in their 7 years, the $5.7 million he earned by serving on several corporate boards or the lavish expenses the institution coughed up on his behalf.

His salary skyrocketed. Mr. Small was not as successful a fund-raiser as his defenders claim, and they overstate the case. Furthermore, he was never as successful as his predecessor, Michael Heyman, though he was paid, in his last year, 2 1/2 times Mr. Heyman’s salary.

niaid.jpegCensorship is secrecy too

How different is this story from the HIV∫AIDS scandal? Secrecy is key, in the sense that the NIAID’s effective censorship of the mainstream science reporters led by Dr Anthony Fauci, its head, has imposed a silence on the topic of the paradigm review which has allowed the paradigm promoters to exploit it very effectively while holding off all review except, after more than twenty years, one resounding article of fifteen pages in Harpers, the earlier series by Neville Hodgkinson in the Sunday Times of London, and apart from a smattering of pieces over the years, virtually nothing else in the press and media apart from 25 books which almost nobody influential has bothered to read and digest.

Now there are a number of sites on the Web which provide all that doubters need to know, but how influential they are at the moment is a question. A critical mass of outrage and political influence has yet to form.

Behind the curtain, dissidents all

The fact that the main current protectors of the paradigm, such as Tony Fauci and John P. Moore, can be quoted from the scientific literature and the papers they have written themselves to reveal that they agree with their critics on the most important points is very little known outside this blog, just as the habit of Mr Small pocketing as much of the running expenses of the Smithsonian as he could manage in his six years was little known until insiders penetrated the curtain drawn around it.

When will the general public and influential leaders wake up to the fact that modern science and those that pay for it are in need of protection from leaders who will give in to the financial pressures and temptations which have grown so much larger decade by decade since the Second World War, when the notion of federal funding of research first found a footing? A prime example is the amount of money which now flows along the arteries of the part of the system pumped by the HIV∫AIDS paradigm, which is just enormous. With Bush promising $30 billion and corporate sources getting ever more involved led by the Gates Foundation, this is undoubtedly the most richly rewarding Virus ever.

Hitchens’ religious impulse

June 13th, 2007

HIV∫AIDS science snookers author of God Is Not Great

Intellectual vulnerability of normally acerbic critic of fond fantasies

dawkinsrichard_lres.gifIt’s been five years since Richard Dawkins appeared at the high tech entertainment conference TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) in Monterey, and told the rich elite of Hollywood and Silicon Valley that he wanted the atheists among them to come out of the closet.

It was time, he said, for people to stand up and stand for their non-belief, given that a few months earlier 19 Allah-inspired lunatics had flown jumbos into the World Trade Center in the belief they would then enjoy seventy four virgins each in Hotel Paradise.

After this plea for sanity he was escorted to lunch by about seven of his most enthusiastic admirers among the audience. One of them turned to this magazine correspondent as we walked along and said, “You won’t mention my name, will you?”

Atheists break out of the closet

Since then, however, progress has been made. Dawkins’ The God Delusion is on the best seller lists, after a wave of respectful coverage of atheists in magazines as mainstream as Wired which kicked off the new era by publishing The Church of the Non-Believers a nicely sympathetic survey of Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett by Gary Wolf, who only wavered toward the end, after allowing the three big New Atheist authors to drive one nail after another into God’s coffin.

Atheists are stepping up to the plate and scoring home runs against the best that the religious minded can pitch at them, and in only a couple of years we have a whole new literature of disbelief, something that anyone like us who treasures reason, evidence and the scientific approach to reality can only applaud.

What is interesting is that much of it has been achieved by Sam Harris, a scientist who has a remarkable talent for diplomacy. We first noticed him on CSpan, talking to an audience in a California synagogue and telling them in effect that the petty superstitions of their Judaic beliefs were, like the dogmas of Christianity and Islam, so much irrational hogwash which only excited tribal conflict between believers, problems ranging from petty difficulties over diet to to mass murder by airplane.

Instead of throwing their skull caps at him, the congregation sat enthralled, asking respectful questions and afterwards asking him to sign their copies of The End of Faith, his initial masterwork in this vein. Sam Harris has a magical reasonableness in his winning style, causing no offense even as he shows people that what they believe in is absurd. Somehow he makes them fellow members of the Club of Common Sense, as comfortable as if they had thought of it themselves.

Now he has written Letter to a Christian Nation, equally devastating to the gobbledegook we all (speaking as a fully paid up member of the Church of England here) subscribed to while growing up. Anyone who likes having unexamined beliefs skewered should rush to order this book.

Exploding with tact

The point is that skepticism on religion has now entered polite conversation at last, thanks partly to the tactful way in which Sam Harris can address believers. This manages to satisfy the widespread convention that we must respect each other’s religious beliefs, however zany. The protocol doesn’t make much sense, if you think about it. Are religious beliefs so vulnerable to close examination?

It would seem so, otherwise why should we be afraid of the challenge, and equate it to blasphemy? Does God need protection from reason, the supposedly God given ability which separates humans from animals? It seems that the confusion is between a man and his belief, as if the two are one, and any undermining of the belief is an ad hominem attack. This confusion is telling, we believe. It suggests that religious belief is rooted deep into the brain and body, far below the level of ratiocination.

The paradox is that Sam Harris is preaching exactly the opposite of this exaggerated politesse, as it happens. He says it is time to stop automatically “respecting” people’s religious nonsense, and do our best to get rid of it once and for all. Do we really have to believe that Mary was a virgin? He doesn’t believe so. Dawkins of course has always urged that religious beliefs shouldn’t be ruled by I’m OK, You’re OK, and the very idea seems to make him a little bad tempered. Tactful or not, both seem to agree that people should be discouraged from finding comfort in fantasies which end up causing tribal conflict.

Hitchens with flamethrower

hitchens470.jpgNow Christopher Hitchens has come on the scene with God Is Not Great, which in the spirit of straightforward contradiction of its title makes no bones about scornfully dismissing the whole pack of lies which make up most religious schemes, established or not. We say bully for him. Hitchens is a class act who brings excellent language to bear on political hypocrisy and scammery on all kinds, and it is time he turned and applied his skills to the grandest target of all.

However, we are saddened to see that his otherwise shining pages are flawed here and there by his unthinking participation in a religion which he may not even be aware exists as such, but may now have a congregation large than any of the established myths he is skewering. This is the scientific religion of HIV∫AIDS, of which the central dogma, as yet without any confirming proof or even evidence which resists objective examination, is that the retrovirus HIV causes AIDS.

We found this for example on pages 48 and 49:

A condom is, quite simply, a necessary but not sufficient condition for avoiding the transmission of AIDS….

We do not know how many people in Africa have died or will die because of the AIDS virus, which was isolated and became treatable, in a great feat of humane scientific research, very soon after it made its lethal appearcne. On the other hand, we do know that having sex with a virgin–one of the more peopular local cures–does not in fact prevent or banish the infection….

(At least two major and established religions) also harbor the belief that the AIDS plague is in some sense a verdict from heaven upon sexual deviance

The major generals of AIDS

The high priests of the HIV∫AIDS faith now include President William Clinton, who will accept an award and give a speech at the gathering of the Global Business Coalition Against AIDS at the American Natural History Musuem tonight, and who earlier this year garnered another award from business for his HIV∫AIDS drug enabling at the TED Conference in Monterey; Anthony Fauci, the smooth suited leader of NIAID at the NIH, Jeffrey Sachs, of Columbia University, Bono, Bill Gates, and now it appears Richard ‘Virgin Airlines’ Branson, the balloon flying impresario with the alchemic touch who is also appearing at the AMNH tonight.

While Hitchens would not normally take what such eminent and distinguished leaders of the business community say for gospel, it appears that the difficulty is that in this case, we are talking about science, and science does not come within the expertise or understanding of literary giants even of the stature of the talkative, chain smoking “Never call me Chris” Christopher, a friend of Martin Amis and a columnist in Vanity Fair who teaches a course in liberal studies at the New School in Manhattan.

Hitchen’s scientific paralysis

When we informed him a few years ago at the Columbia Faculty Club that HIV∫AIDS was a scientific religion rather than a proven hypothesis, and appeared to have almost everything against it as far as reason and evidence were concerned, he could only plead that he was unable to question science, since he was totally unable to read its literature.

More recently, Celia Farber got on the phone with him and tried to enlighten him as to what was going on, but again, he could only say that in effect his hands were tied by lack of understanding of science and he was forced to accept whatever he was told.

This is a familiar keynote of writers about politics, we find, even when they write about the politics of AIDS. We have mentioned before in this blog that a young author of a doomsaying book about AIDS told us the same thing about the science of the matter – “I just accept what the scientists tell me.”

We wonder how many members of the general public realize how far beyond critical examination HIV∫AIDS science is, even when its politics are discussed in the media. It is not just the censorship exerted upon science writers by the NIAID strategy of repressing any enquiry as to the rights and wrongs on the paradigm. It is that liberals in general suffer from mental paralysis if they so much as glimpse a page of scientific discussion.

Literati need to be less naive

Perhaps it would all change if literary critics and creators would understand the simple proposition that a scientific belief, like any academic ruling conventional wisdom which serves as a paradigm in a field off which its people live and flourish, can turn into a religion, a sacrosanct dogma which cannot be examined without the questioner being rejected and reviled as a heretic beyond the tribal pale, even when he or she may be an elite member of the science’s most exclusive club, its priesthood.

Luc Montagnier, the discovered of HIV, found that out years ago when he had the temerity to arrive at the San Francisco AIDS Conference with the news that a mycoplasma was the sine qua non of HIV∫AIDS. Gallo and Fauci et al would not allow him on the premises. Poor Montagnier, more of a gentleman than any of them, had to give his press conference in a hotel, and fly straight back to Paris afterwards.

That is why we are glad that religion in general is getting its comeuppance from the New Atheists these days, even extending to a nice ABC 20/20 examination over two hours a month or two ago. Their debunking was gently done, but often made faith look foolish, especially when the rather comely new female head of the atheists’ organization spoke.

Mormon madhouse

A similar effect was won on PBS by the recent saga of the history of the Mormons and their founder Joseph Smith, with his silly tale of finding tablets in a field out back of his farmhouse, who were made to look farcical with their claims of native Americans being descendants of Israelites shipped to the Americas before Columbus, despite lack of DNA or archaeological evidence. Perhaps Governor Romney will be able to explain all this better during his run for the Presidency.

Defenders used the word “intellectualism” to label the reasonable objections brought against this twaddle, but we say, if Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens and other preachers like to pull all the stops out against the religious impulse running away with rationality and common sense, let them. Then perhaps people will realise better what can happen or is happening in fields like HIV∫AIDS, which currently all the evidence indicates is the Worldcom and Enron of science rolled into one, competing with Christianity and Islam for the title of the world greatest religion.

Religion in science

There really is a great danger is not recognizing the power of the religious impulse and its tendency to spread in any field of human endeavor. In the coverage of the Mormons on PBS recently, for example, their young missionaries made it clear that they were so far gone in their fervor while on their obligatory mission in foreign countries that they would have willingly strapped on bombs if so ordered.

Jonathan Miller spoke at the New School some time ago in a panel, and we went to hear him out of admiration for his style as director and host of interesting scientific coverage on PBS. But when we told him that scientists like any other humans could suffer from the religious impulse he denied it vociferously.

We understand why, but it is this kind of exaggerated faith in good science and the way it is done at the top which is the dangerous naivete which good people such as Miller must be educated out of.

Especially such important and sanitizing critics as Christopher Hitchens.

Bono’s Vanity Fair shows ARVs saving Africa

June 11th, 2007

The Lazarus Effect – Before and After photos

Bono-Clinton-GBC AIDS propaganda tsunami

But Gay and Lesbian Times prints sane piece

The latest glossy issue of Vanity Fair, with Bono as guest editor, has reached subscribers in the nick of time, rescuing Anthony Fauci, the NIAID and the CDC from their current embarrassment over Andrew “They told me I wasn’t infectious” Speaker eluding their net by reentering the US via Canada.

Speaker looked so healthy with his “deadly” extensively drug resistant XDR TB that the unlucky border agent didn’t stop him, assuming that the order to do so was discretionary. (One wonders, do border guards apply the same enlightened principle apply to people who are HIV positive, currently barred from entering the US without a waiver?)

The guard’s behavior seems sensible enough. Apparently Speaker’s TB behaves much the same as other forms of TB, the ones which drugs do deal with effectively. That is to say, it sits quietly in the system and will only become active if the immune system is damaged by some other cause. One third of the people in the world carry inactive TB.

At the hearings, which mostly seemed to worry about why the guard had relied on his own common sense, Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director CDC confirmed that Speaker was not highly contagious.

A few facts about TB

Here’s a pretty good rundown of the story with these and other official facts: U.S. Tuberculosis Case Raises Questions on Global Disease Issues

Obviously TB is a major concern globally with 9 million cases and 1.6 million dying each year, according to official statistics. Now there are said to be 50,000 cases of XDR TB annually, and building, as TB evolves beyond the current drug armory. If it really has only a five year outlook for survival, we wish Mr Speaker well.

But we cannot help wondering, if a normally healthy immune system keeps TB down, why the panic, with the unfortunate Speaker now publicly branded with the reputation of being selfish and more interested in getting married in Italy than preserving fellow passengers from his non contagious infection, which plenty of them have already albeit in a less drug resistant form?

We ask merely for information. Somehow we sense yet another exhibition of how important alarmist press coverage is to the funding campaigns of health apparatchiks.

Glossy proves meds work fine

Anyhow, the new Vanity Fair is certainly an even bigger score in propaganda terms for Anthony Fauci, since Bono fills its pages with everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Clinton to Barack Obama confirming that AIDS drugs must be delivered in huge quantities if the suffering population of the sub-Sahara is not to be decimated.

In fact, there is a special photo segment where individual cases of before-and-after are presented. We doubt that there will be a single influential reader left unpersuaded by this late-night-TV style presentation of the value of the “meds”.

118_04631.JPG‘Before’ in every case is a haggard, ravaged and scared looking black face with bloodshot eyes and hopeless expression. ‘After’ is six months later, shining, vibrant and with an enormous white grin, free of pestilence and despair and brimming with confidence and gratitude.

Why meds work – another view

Not that we argue with the truth of this representation. As we have explained rather often in this blog, the antiretroviral cocktail can undoubtedly give the impression of great short term benefit, since it is an effective poison which can immediately defeat the parasites which infest starving, disease ridden and malnourished people, or indeed anyone with a weakened immune system.

In other words, in the short run, ARVs are an effective substitute for a strong immune system. Not to mention that antibiotics and that excellent immune restorative, food, are often bundled with ARVs in Africa.

The issue, however, is whether the drugs have anything to do with HIV and its supposed threat to the immune system, as yet unproven and unexplained by the medical or scientific literature.

With TB so rampant in Africa, and known to cause a positive HIV∫AIDS antibody test (see previous posts and Comments) perhaps ARVs are effective against many patients because they have TB.

Why Dr Manto makes sense

Given the serious and eventually often fatal effects of the drug cocktail on the liver and kidney, however, it would seem a poor bargain for the patient who entrusts his or her welfare to modern Western medicine, rather than the beetroot, potatoes and other vegetable supplements to ARVs advocated by Dr Beetroot, the admirable Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, MD.

We sympathise with Dr Manto’s disgust with the medically ignorant activists who have insulted her in Toronto and since, and we well understand why she withdrew from the recently AIDS conference in South Africa. (See Manto’s boycott casts pall over Aids talks.

Unfortunately, the 4000 delegates in Durban were more than delighted with Manto’s retreat and at the prospect of more ARVs to be delivered to South Africa in future, with the warm support of David Allen, the spokesman for the Gates Foundation (see here S.Africa AIDS summit ends with unity, call to arms)

Drug pushers all

Meanwhile Bill Clinton is expressing decisive confidence in the power of the drugs he has done so much to raise money for to rescue Africa from its AIDS misery. Asked by a reporter recently how the drugs did, he gave them his celebrity endorsement: “Very well”. He recently struck a $100 million deal to deliver even more of them for even less. As he told us earlier, his reasoning remains that if the drugs work, then HIV must cause AIDS.

It is disappointing that like everyone else in the top socio-political firmament the former Rhodes scholar has fallen for this naive line of argument, but we can only remind readers that this is politics, and that with a wife running for President and a reputation of his own to be recovered, Clinton would have to change into a 21st Century Gandhi before we could reasonably ask him to consider whether this is good logic or not, let alone expect him to do anything about it if it isn’t.

After all, the next thing on his calendar is accepting a nice award from the Global Coalition to Fight AIDS at the Natural History Museum, where he will give the keynote speech. Here is the Media Advisory sent out by the pr man, David Stearns, about this corporate promotional event:Media Advisory: Former President Bill Clinton and Special Guests Honor Private Sector Fight Against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria at 2007 GBC Awards Gala

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 5, 2007

Former President Bill Clinton and other Special Guests to Honor Private Sector Fight Against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria at 2007 GBC Awards Gala

What: The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria will honor former President Bill Clinton at its 6th Annual Awards for Business Excellence Gala. The Gala will also honor eight leading companies from the energy, pharmaceutical, beverage, entertainment and financial industries for their best practice programs in the fight against the three epidemics.

More than 700 high ranking guests from the private sector, national governments, NGOs, multilaterals and other champions from the HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria fields will gather to pay tribute to corporate best practices and mobilize additional business action in the effort.

Who: GBC honoring President Bill Clinton for his outstanding leadership on HIV/AIDS and global health. Other featured speakers & guests will include: GBC President & CEO Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson; Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx; Zambian author and noted AIDS activist Ophelia Haanyama Orum; NBA star Samuel Dalembert of the Philadelphia 76ers; Malaria No More Co-Chair Ray Chambers, GBC Executive Director Dr. John Tedstrom, Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine and Gala Chair Amy Robbins.

When: Wednesday, June 13, 2007; 7 p.m.

Location: American Museum of Natural History, Milstein Hall of Ocean Life
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, New York

Media Contact: Media interested in attending must RSVP in advance to:

David Stearns
GBC Media Relations Manager
212.584.1633 (direct) / 646.361.8058 (mobile)
dstearns@businessfightsaids.org

About GBC
The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC) is an alliance of 220 international companies leading the private sector fight against these three epidemics. GBC works to leverage the business sector’s unique skills and expertise – including comprehensive workplace policies; community programs; core competencies; leadership and advocacy and public-private partnerships – in the global drive to eradicate these deadly illnesses. The official focal point of the private sector delegation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, GBC maintains offices in New York, Paris, Johannesburg, Beijing, Geneva, Nairobi, Moscow, and Kiev.

www.businessfightsaids.org / www.businessfightsmalaria.org / www.businessfightstb.org

A candle lights at GLT

Meanwhile, a tiny counter to this overwhelming propaganda tsunami, sent around the world by Bono and Vanity Fair (complete with upfront ads for Changing the World by buying Red items at Gap – “introducing BabyGap and GapKids (product Red)”) is offered as a sop for dissidents contemplating all this who do not have their Therapy Buddy handy.

The Gay and Lesbian Times in San Diego has managed a less rabid than normal article on the media-censored (by NIAID and Dr Anthony Fauci, John P. Moore, etc) scientific dispute on whether HIV is the valid cause of AIDS or not.

AIDS dissidents: blinded by pseudoscience or asking the right questions? by Pat Sherman is a good effort in that it is fairly balanced and the dissidents are not discredited out of hand. In fact, they are treated with respect and quoted at reasonable length, sounding more scientific than some of the comments of John P. Moore.

This may be a first for a gay journal, other than the late lamented Native of New York City, Chuck Ortleb’s brave but doomed venture which questioned HIV∫AIDS think from the beginning, only to be defeated by activist supporters of the gay-exculpating theory.

Some nice admissions and telling stories

There is even at least one damaging quote from a mainstream researcher, who apparently is too young to understand the policy of Total Impenetrable Wall of Non-admission of Any Flaw followed by the paradigm protectors senior to him.

However, Dr. Davey Smith, an assistant adjunct professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at UCSD, said it has been his experience that the virus hasn’t been mutating.
“There’s been a bunch of papers around about that,” said Smith, who agreed to answer some specific questions about HIV, so long as they were removed from the issue of the AIDS dissidents. “I don’t think there’s really much difference between the virus that is circulating now and the virus that was circulating 20 years ago.”

Historian Charles Geshekter is given some space to suggest exactly how evasive the paradigm establishment is in HIV∫AIDS and why:

Earlier this year, Geshekter was invited to discuss his views with other dissidents and AIDS researchers in Mexico City, in anticipation of the upcoming International AIDS Conference, to be held in Mexico City in August 2008.
Ricardo Rocha, a veteran journalist with TV Azteca, had scheduled a televised debate between dissidents and AIDS researchers as part of a three-hour series questioning established HIV/AIDS science.
The researchers agreed to the debate on the condition that they first be granted one hour of airtime alone to explain the prevailing AIDS theory and refute the dissidents’ claims. When their segment was over, the Mexican researchers declined to stay for the televised debate.
“We were watching this live in another room,” Geshekter recalled. “When Ricardo said, ‘We’ll have a chance to debate later the efficacy and the toxicity of Nevarapine and AZT and any number of these other chemicals that are given to people to fight HIV,’ they said, ‘We’re not going to be here for the second segment.’ Ricardo tried to shame them. He told them, ‘If you’re not here, I’m going to have your four seats with your names on them vacant on the set and I’m going to explain to the audience why you’re not there.’ When that program was over, they scurried out the back door.”
Geshekter said he also suspects that too much is at stake to have even one stone lodged at what he views as a scientific glass house.
“If I come along and I say that [current AIDS theory] is a fruitless, lost, counterproductive and barren hypothesis, I’m basically saying that 25 years of an enormous amount of energy and advertising and money has been sent down a rat hole,” he said. “That absolutely cannot be accepted…. This is not about science any longer. This is a religious crusade, and anyone who challenges the religious crusade must be punished, because that’s a heresy.”

AIDS dissidents: blinded by pseudoscience or asking the right questions?
by Pat Sherman
Published Thursday, 07-Jun-2007 in issue 1015

It’s seemingly as implausible as if the moon landing had been faked on a Hollywood soundstage. It’s the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories. Yet a group of highly accredited scientists contends it’s true: that HIV is not the cause of AIDS and that pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organization, governments and AIDS researchers are all in collusion to suppress the truth and keep the multi-billion-dollar HIV/AIDS gravy train rolling.
These “AIDS Denialists,” as the scientific establishment pejoratively refers to the group, include Nobel Prize recipients, Africa historians, chemists, statisticians and virologists.
They say that the first U.S. AIDS cases were caused, not by HIV infection spread through unprotected sex, but by illicit drug use, amyl nitrate sniffing and exposure to antibiotics used to combat venereal diseases rampant in the 1970s – a hypothesis that gained some traction in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but that AIDS researchers thought had subsided.
“[The AIDS dissident movement] basically says that every scientist, every physician and every clinician out of the hundreds of thousands of professionals working worldwide on this is either some kind of malicious scumbag who will do anything for money, or we’re all stupid,” said AIDS researcher John P. Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University, the recipient of AIDS drug manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $500,000 “Freedom To Discover” grant and the man HIV dissidents refer to as the most “unashamed” spokesperson for the AIDS establishment.
Despite the dissident scientists’ credentials, each has, more or less, been discredited, excommunicated or labeled a “crackpot” or purveyor of pseudoscience for disputing a correlation between HIV and AIDS. However, a March 2006 article in Harper’s magazine gave the theory serious attention. Although it was published 22 years after then President Reagan’s secretary of health and human services, Margaret Heckler, and virologist, Robert Gallo, announced the discovery of HIV, and one might have expected the response from the HIV/AIDS establishment to have been a collective yawn, the article instead sounded universal alarm among those in the HIV/AIDS field.
HIV educators and researchers swiftly mobilized to counter the arguments put forth in the article, “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science,” by longtime AIDS dissident Celia Farber. And media from The Nation to the New York Times denounced the story, even while conceding that the first half of the article, which exposed gross mishandling of HIV drug trials in Africa and the United States, was a solid piece of investigative journalism. The Columbia Journalism Review, while deriding Harper’s for racing “right over the edge of a cliff,” offered temperate praise for the first half of Farber’s article, stating: “Her argument is that AIDS has become an industry and a certain kind of sloppiness has entered the search for new anti-retroviral drugs. So far, so good, and if this were the only story Farber hoped to tell, we might well be tipping our hat to her.”
But it was not the only story the former Spin magazine reporter had to tell. Citing the man considered to be the founding father of AIDS dissidents, University of California, Berkeley molecular and cell biologist, Peter Duesberg, Farber painted a grim picture of a profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry, one knowingly promoting the “false” notion that HIV causes AIDS in order to peddle its toxic drugs – drugs Farber, Duesberg and other AIDS dissidents point to as the current cause of AIDS in the U.S. and Europe.
Moore and a group of researchers and AIDS activists promptly fired back at Harper’s. Demanding a retraction with at least 50 corrections and clarifications, the team launched its own Web site, aidstruth.org, to refute the claims Farber put forth. Far from being merely an objective refutation of the dissidents’ argument, the site includes speculation about Duesberg’s presumed homophobia and a “humor” section with an entry titled, “Crank How to – a definitive step by step guide” (i.e. “Step one: Develop a wacky idea”).
“The reason we take these people on is because they kill people,” Moore said. “If you persuade someone that HIV is harmless and then that person engages in unsafe sex or doesn’t take effective therapies, you’re killing that person. We didn’t want to see any resurgence of this nonsense in the mainstream American media.”
While Moore and others have taken on the dissidents with fervor, the majority of those in the HIV/AIDS field refuse to debate the dissidents or address their questions about the mysterious nature of HIV.
Asked for a response to the dissidents’ claims, a spokesperson for the UCSD Antiviral Research Center issued the following statement, in part: “A number of investigators at UCSD Medical Center … [and] School of Medicine all agree that knowledgeable people no longer engage in debate with HIV deniers because of the overwhelming scientific evidence that HIV causes AIDS and the lack of willingness of these HIV deniers to accept this overwhelming evidence.”
One San Diego-based HIV researcher who has worked on HIV drug trials agreed to comment on the dissidents’ views only on the condition that his anonymity be protected.
“I can totally understand how someone would want to deny the presence of this horrible thing, especially if someone had it,” he said. “Denial is a basic, human psychological protective mechanism. However, you can’t usually reason somebody out of denial, ever – and the more exposure they get and the more people put it up as a legitimate theory, the more play it gets and the more harm it does in the community.”
Certainly, it would seem scientists such as Duesberg, a tenured professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, the recipient of the Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Institutes of Health and a once-revered expert in the field of retroviruses, would have everything to gain from jumping off the denial bandwagon.
“I could easily conform,” Duesberg told the Gay & Lesbian Times. “I would be right there up on top again.”
Since he began questioning the accepted model of HIV in 1987, Duesberg hasn’t received a dime in government funding.
“Since I questioned HIV/AIDS, I’m only teaching the lab course,” he said. “I haven’t had a graduate student in 15 years.
“Some of [the students], under the condition of anonymity, tell me that this is what they were told. ‘You spent a lot of time and paid a high price to get into Berkeley. Duesberg is not the way to go…. This will kill your career.’ They have done a fairly good job excommunicating me.”
However, not all Duesberg’s work has been dismissed. Known for isolating the first cancer gene in 1970, his theory that cancer is caused by irregularities in the chromosomes, not the genes, was published this year in Scientific American. While lauding his ideas, however, the journal carefully covered its tracks in regard to Duesberg’s unpopular HIV theories, via an editorial labeling him “a pariah with good ideas.”
When questioned as to why AIDS, if not caused by a virus spread through anal intercourse, was first only found in gay men – bypassing Liza Minnelli and other heterosexual denizens of the Studio 54 drug scene – Duesberg’s answer hinted more at his alleged conservative views than any solid ideas about science.
“You don’t see it in the entire gay population,” he said. “You’re looking at a very small minority of the gay population who come to San Francisco or New York from the Midwest and so forth and they try to make it there as gay guys. There’s peer pressure among them to have 20 or 30 dates in a weekend and wear a leather jacket – God knows what it is.”
In order to have this much sex, Duesberg contends, gay men acquired a ravenous appetite for toxic drugs.
“Heterosexuals tend to get married or tend to go steady, so then the fun is over in this regard,” Duesberg said. “What we call the 10-year latent period of HIV is a euphemism for the time it takes to cause irreversible damage by drug use. It’s the same with alcohol; it’s the same with smoking.”
Lingering questions
Dissenters also contend that HIV has yet to be isolated.
“I don’t know whether HIV exists or not,” said retired Virginia Tech professor of electrochemistry, Henry Bauer, author of The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory. “What’s clear is that HIV tests do not detect viral particles – only antibodies – and it’s clear that they’ve never been isolated.”
Duesberg said the problem with HIV is that it behaves markedly differently than typical viruses, which reproduce rapidly. The average 10-year period it takes from the time someone is infected with HIV to the time they receive an AIDS diagnosis is circumspect, he said.
“There cannot be a slow virus,” Duesberg maintained. “If there is one, whoever proves it deserves the Nobel Prize in virology and in biochemistry…. A virus replicates like a biological chain reaction. It doubles its template every 20 minutes. This is not a process you can slow down or stop…. There’s no way this thing could be delayed for 10 years…. They keep dancing around [the issue], with guys like [Pawel] Liberski inventing ‘slow viruses,’ but it’s a term for not knowing what happened.”
Moore attributed Duesberg’s statement to “pure ignorance.”
“It just demonstrates he doesn’t read or understand HIV literature,” Moore said. “It’s just a silly statement based on how he thinks a virus should behave. He has no … right to claim that he knows everything about how every virus interacts with every human or animal immune system…. Where is the law of virology that says a virus can only interact with an organism in one particular way? … It’s like saying that all mammals are the same or all plants are the same. They’re not.”
Bauer is part of a group of scientists with an interest in questioning scientific orthodoxies. He said he recently pored over what he believes to be the most comprehensive collection of HIV test data analyzed to date, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) files and medical journals at Virginia Tech.
Bauer believes it is not sexual transmission that makes one susceptible to HIV infection, but racially determined genetic factors.
“The HIV test data do not look like what you get for a sexually transmitted agent,” Bauer said. “Any group that you look at, child-bearing women, Marines, blood donors, whatever, the variation of the likelihood of a positive-HIV test with AIDS is the same….
“Overall,” Bauer said, “it’s roughly that African-Americans test HIV-positive five times or more than white Americans; Asian-Americans test positive about two-thirds as often as white Americans…. Amongst homosexuals, you find these racial disparities in the same order – [though] they’re not as great.”
Bauer conceded, however, that the high rate of HIV-positive [test results] among gay men is something that needs to be studied.

“[The AIDS dissident movement] basically says that every scientist, every physician and every clinician out of the hundreds of thousands of professionals working worldwide on this is either some kind of malicious scumbag who will do anything for money, or we’re all stupid.

“There are plenty of gay men who have been HIV-positive for 20 years without becoming ill and without having antiretroviral treatment,” he said.
Time will tell
Bauer points to numerous cases throughout history in which long-held scientific theories have been proven incorrect.
For example, in 2005, two Australians won the Nobel Prize in physiology for proving that it is bacteria, not stress, that causes ulcers – a previously discredited theory. In 1976, a Nobel Prize was awarded to researchers who proved that Kuru, a brain disease found among New Guinea natives, was not caused by a lentivirus, which is what HIV is believed to be, but by prions, the source of Mad Cow Disease.
AIDS in Africa: Same name, different disease?
Charles Geshekter, an economist and Africa specialist in the history department at California State University, Chico, has long criticized the definition of AIDS in Africa, claiming that it is “not a microbial problem to be controlled through sexual abstinence, behavior modification, condoms and drugs (the so-called “ABCs” of AIDS interventions),” but a misnomer for a set of pre-existing conditions such as diarrhea, high fever, weight loss and a dry cough.
Geshekter said he formed his view based on his travels in the Great Horn region of Africa, which includes Ethiopia and Somalia, in the 1970s and 1980s. He questions how the AIDS establishment was able to collect such firm statistics on Africa.
“I was always aware of how hard it was to get good, reliable statistics on those things in Somalia,” Geshekter said. “I started to wonder: ‘Where did they get these numbers from? How are they so reliable and accurate about AIDS cases in Congo or Uganda or Rwanda or Tanzania?’ I knew that statistical record-keeping in Africa was a very chancy, very irregular matter…. Africa has the lowest record of reliable statistics for epidemiology, for death and illness because of the shortage of practitioners and the shortage of infrastructure for collecting that kind of data.”
After looking into the matter, Geshekter said he began to question the definition of AIDS in Africa as put forth during a World Health Organization conference in 1985.
“In 1985, testing for HIV antibodies was hardly ever done in Africa, so they came up with a clinical symptoms definition, a working definition of AIDS. When I saw what those symptoms were, I realized that I got those symptoms any time I worked in the Bush in Somalia: high fever, persistent cough, chronic diarrhea for 14 days, and a 10-percent loss of your body weight over eight weeks…. There’s never been a time that I hadn’t worked in the Bush in Somalia, drinking camels’ milk, on a very sketchy diet, under a tropical sun, that I didn’t suffer from all of those symptoms. Yet not being an African, I could get on an airplane and fly … [back to] Chico and I was cured of ‘AIDS.’ So, there was something illogical, inconsistent and very screwy about the whole definition.”
However, Moore and others explain that the symptoms of AIDS in Africa are consistent with existing diseases because of the way AIDS works.
“What the individual with a damaged immune system suffers from depends on the prevalent infections that are around at the time and the place that he or she lives – opportunistic infections that generally won’t kill people,” Moore said. “In Africa, a very common cause of death from AIDS is tuberculosis infection because it’s far more prevalent in Africa than it is in Europe and North America, and many of the people who die in Africa now die of the multi-drug resistant forms of tuberculosis.”
Geshekter further questions how AIDS is being spread in Africa. He said the view of Africa as a sexually promiscuous society doesn’t mesh with his observations in the country.
“It was completely at variance with everything I’d ever seen or heard or read about regarding sexual activity, generally, in Africa, … [that] Africans are wildly promiscuous people for whom disloyalty to one’s spouse and sex on a regular loose basis is just part of their culture. It was a perfect piece of fiction created from a whole cloth from people who had spent very little time in Africa themselves.”
Science or religious crusade?
Earlier this year, Geshekter was invited to discuss his views with other dissidents and AIDS researchers in Mexico City, in anticipation of the upcoming International AIDS Conference, to be held in Mexico City in August 2008.
Ricardo Rocha, a veteran journalist with TV Azteca, had scheduled a televised debate between dissidents and AIDS researchers as part of a three-hour series questioning established HIV/AIDS science.
The researchers agreed to the debate on the condition that they first be granted one hour of airtime alone to explain the prevailing AIDS theory and refute the dissidents’ claims. When their segment was over, the Mexican researchers declined to stay for the televised debate.
“We were watching this live in another room,” Geshekter recalled. “When Ricardo said, ‘We’ll have a chance to debate later the efficacy and the toxicity of Nevarapine and AZT and any number of these other chemicals that are given to people to fight HIV,’ they said, ‘We’re not going to be here for the second segment.’ Ricardo tried to shame them. He told them, ‘If you’re not here, I’m going to have your four seats with your names on them vacant on the set and I’m going to explain to the audience why you’re not there.’ When that program was over, they scurried out the back door.”
Geshekter said he also suspects that too much is at stake to have even one stone lodged at what he views as a scientific glass house.
“If I come along and I say that [current AIDS theory] is a fruitless, lost, counterproductive and barren hypothesis, I’m basically saying that 25 years of an enormous amount of energy and advertising and money has been sent down a rat hole,” he said. “That absolutely cannot be accepted…. This is not about science any longer. This is a religious crusade, and anyone who challenges the religious crusade must be punished, because that’s a heresy.”
Chemical or virus?
Duesberg and others question why there has been no AIDS vaccine after nearly two decades as Heckler promised would be forthcoming within two years during her April 1984 HIV press conference.
“Tying [HIV] to a virus doesn’t do it,” Duesberg said. “Every year it’s not going to work. That’s how it’s going to be. With these billions of dollars [spent], I consider that as proof of my hypothesis that it’s chemical and isn’t a virus.”
However, Moore said the search for a vaccine is far more complex.
“It’s an extraordinarily difficult scientific problem that is defeating the finest scientists working in the field. It’s because HIV is different than other viruses that interact with the human organism in much simpler ways…. If it were as easy to deal with as yellow fever virus or poliovirus it would have been done years ago….
“HIV is a member of the lentivirus family of retroviruses,” Moore said. “It’s been very difficult to make vaccines in animals against other lentiviruses with similar properties.”
To a degree, inconsistencies also exist in what mainstream researchers hold to be true about the nature of the AIDS virus.
For example, another reason it has been so difficult to produce a vaccine, Moore believes, is the “incredible variation in the HIV genome.”
“It’s a very, very variable virus because it mutates so rapidly,” Moore said.
However, Dr. Davey Smith, an assistant adjunct professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at UCSD, said it has been his experience that the virus hasn’t been mutating.
“There’s been a bunch of papers around about that,” said Smith, who agreed to answer some specific questions about HIV, so long as they were removed from the issue of the AIDS dissidents. “I don’t think there’s really much difference between the virus that is circulating now and the virus that was circulating 20 years ago.”
Finding a vaccine has been difficult, Smith said, because of the way the virus works itself into DNA.
“Once it gets into the bloodstream and it integrates into the person’s own DNA, it lives there … and we can’t get it out,” Smith said. “Even though we can start someone on therapy and we can keep the virus from producing copies of itself, we can’t get it out of the DNA form. Once we stop the therapy, it just makes more copies of itself.”
Keeping an open mind

“There are plenty of gay men who have been HIV-positive for 20 years without becoming ill and without having antiretroviral treatment.”

Wading through the science on both sides of the issue is so complex it can be a crazy-making endeavor for the average person seeking health information.
One former medical journalist, who also requested anonymity due to a conflict with his current position, said that, despite his outspoken criticism of the dissidents’ view, he feels it is not helpful for the AIDS establishment to ignore the dissidents altogether. The ongoing cycle of investigation, debate and analysis of the facts, after all, remains the crux of science.
“I have never thought that it’s helpful,” he said. “Certainly in science, like all human activity, there is a tendency [toward] institutional discouragement against rocking the boat, so whatever the orthodoxy is, those tend to be self-perpetuating. That is a legitimate criticism. On the other hand, there is a point at which it’s reasonable to say, this has been answered already. The reason you’re still raising the question is because you’re not listening.”
All in all, a remarkably helpful piece in that for once an editor has allowed into his/her paper the kind of informative and balanced coverage of the controversy that in normal circumstances would be written all the time in most of the media, but which in this field has been curbed by the hostility and silence of scientists who evidently feel that the paradigm is so hard to justify and so full of weaknesses at every point that they dare not expose it to free debate and free reporting.

In this, any student of the scientific literature has to agree with them.

American Inventor reality

June 7th, 2007

Poignant crackpot show suggests source of HIV∫AIDS infatuation among scientists

But is there a lesson for HIV dissidents? Will “everything be alright”?

Why HIV dissidents may need a Therapy Buddy

p6072349.JPGAmerican Inventor is back! It has reappeared tonight (Wed Jun 6) on ABC in all its former camp glory, with even more useless, uninventive and often scatological ideas than last year put forward by possessed crackpot amateurs, frequently furious at their rejection by the judges.

Their honest wrath is especially directed at the obligatory toffee nosed Brit judge, the critical Peter Jones (click pic left), who like Simon Cowell (who happens to be co-creator of the show) is quite liable to tell contestants they are “utterly mad” if he thinks so.

Fellow judges Pat Croce and blonde Sara Blakeley are kinder, in the polite American tradition of saving other people’s feelings, and George Foreman is kindest of all. But as a fellow Brit it seems to us that Cowell is often bluntly saying what anyone uninvolved can see, which is that most of the contestants are deluded.

Is it science in microcosm?

We think there is a lesson in all this for all paradigm challengers. American Inventor may be a parable for the ways ideas are bought and sold in HIV∫AIDS science, at least in some crucial respects. The parade of nonsense may be at the low end of the intellectual spectrum, but the human factors are similar.

One question in both reality show and in HIV∫AIDS science is, why don’t the aspiring inventors or the scientists who are their counterparts – the ones who came up with the new and (as insiders said then) the very silly idea of HIV as the cause of AIDS twenty two years ago – see it?

Well, evidently, as American Inventor shows, for any average human, fathering (or mothering) an intellectual idea can be much the same in emotional terms as parenting a child.

Daddy or Mommy feel the same fierce loyalty, devotion and deluded overvaluation of their brain’s unique offspring as the parents of human babies do.

And equally clear, according to the show, is the fact that the inventor’s friends and loved ones either have equally bad judgement or are unwilling to tell him/her the obvious, for in every case no one has been willing to rain on the inventor’s parade, however unlikely his/her brainwave product.

An abundance of bad ideas in good faith

To any outsider not invested emotionally or financially in the outcome it is immediately obvious that most of the clumsy inspirations on American Inventor are not good ideas:

A jacket and cap with straps to hold your head straight while sleeping in a plane seat (“Are you mad? Must be mad! Definitely no!” says Jones);

Paper with drawings that turn colorful when peed on (to be put into the toilet to encourage children to “go”) which a realtor, Bridgette, had spent $11,000 to develop, but luckily did not have a child on hand to demonstrate as such (“what happens when you poo?” asks Jones);

A strap-on feeder pouch for a dog to be sick in (“You’ve invented something that doesn’t need to be invented” – Jones )

A personal aluminum sack to escape house fires in (“I’m speechless!” – Jones).

Anger at critics

None of these was the next Great American Invention worth $1 million investment, clearly. But it was useless to ask the inventors. All of them thought they were front row contenders, and were extremely put out, even angry, when they were not recognised as such.

Sound familiar? The phenomenon of personal hostility towards critics on the part of the chief HIV∫AIDS paradigm promoters is well known.

Mark Wainberg of Montreal, President of the International AIDS Society and Canada’s best known and most aggressive defender of the status quo, has called for the imprisonment of those “psychopaths” who advocate a formal review and reassessment of the hypothesis that HIV is the root cause of AIDS ills.

mark_weinberg.jpgWainberg is notorious in this paradigm war for suddenly getting up, removing his microphone and storming off the set when he was being interviewed on camera by Robin Scovill, a documentary maker who asked him what he thought of the Duesberg challenge. It was a quintessential American Inventor moment.

(The clip can be found under the name Free To Question (click here) at The Other Side of AIDS, the site of the documentary that resulted. For earlier posts on Wainberg, search this front page for his name in the index on the right.)

Bad ideas, utmost conviction

Slightly better though not particularly inventive was the next undeserving inspiration:

The Auto-Bib (paper bib for eating in an auto, which half of American drivers do at least once a week – accepted as an LA finalist, tears, hugs from the family, yells).

But things went downhill from there with

The Boom-Brella (umbrella with speakers attached inside),

The Household Sponge Gloves with sponge built onto palm and fingers. (“I say Yes!”- Foreman),

The Sober-Key (key with alcohol breath detector “I have one similar device in my car already!” says Sara; “But does it stop you using your car!?” asks Foreman),

The Potty Sniffer (seat-attached deodorizer with fan sniffs contents of toilet bowl and emits scent when necessary – “I vote yes, I give a lot of parties! – Foreman),

The Diaper-Wiper (Handiwipes stuck to each diaper in a pack, from a 10 year old boy who cries bitterly into his huge Mom’s stomach when rejected as uninventive, and finally

The A-Cycle, a bicycle with large spinning wheels attached to the normal wheels. This from Steve, who before his audition is revved up to the max, shouting “I am the American Inventor!” and banging on the door of the judge’s room.

The wheels attached as hubcaps will have environmental messages on them, he explains, even though they spin and keep spinning when the bike stops.

Steve is summarily rejected, but is initially incredulous. “Are you serious? This is about saving and changing lives!” he replies, standing stock still in shock and disbelief and apparently undecided as to whether to leave or advance on the increasingly nervous judges. There is a whiff of mad aggression in the air. Is Steve totally under control?

Finally he walks out, muttering “I put my life into those wheels! This is ridiculous! I am not monkeying around! You guys are going to see this all over the world! Don’t worry, I am not going to snap, guys!”

“You had my back, right, George?!” says Pat to ex-heavyweight champion George Foreman. “Oh yeah” laughs George.

Out of the mouths of babes

The entertainment value of all this striving human frailty arises from the unlikelihood of the “inventions” combined with the resentment of the contestants and their defensive remarks.

A high point is the rejection of a cute little 10 year old girl’s brainwave of an “Indoor Camping Kit”, complete with a miniature fake fire, a Smars “roaster that actually roasts Smars” and some sound effects.

p6072314.JPGThe cute one smiles winningly and confidently, until she realizes she is rejected, when she looks down and mutters (about Peter Jones) “I want to punch him really badly!”

“REALLY REALLY BADLY!” she adds more loudly, warming to the thought.

Another summary rejection is earned by a man who explains that he has made a machine that runs forever on one fill of salt water, but that he hasn’t had time to get it ready.

The blindness of authority

However, there was at least one item the appeal of which Jones did seem to misunderstand.

Why reject the Protector, a small display of moving messages attachable to a car back window which will signal to other drivers “Help! Kidnapped!” when you are carjacked and put into the trunk, where you can switch it on? “Are you kidding me?” says Jones, turning it down.

“One day when he is stuffed into a trunk he will is not going to think this idea is so silly!” says the husband of the husband and wife team darkly, once they are safely outside the judging room doors.

But Jones did like Guardian Angel, a fireman’s idea of a device to attach to a fake Christmas tree to sound an alarm and douse it with water if it catches fire, which is often a cause of the death of children. The fireman made it through.

Faith in a very bad idea

All of this must have spoken to any dissident in HIV∫AIDS watching the program, for the phenomenon of extremely strong faith in and fondness for a very bad idea is familiar to all jaundiced critics of that disputed paradigm.

The inverse difficulty of getting a good idea through the head of some judge new to it is also familiar to critics, who universally find that interest in reviewing the HIV∫AIDS paradigm is minimal to zero among scientists in the field, scientists outside the field, doctors, health workers, patients or the population at large.

Of course, this is not too surprising. Ideas that differ from conventional wisdom in any sphere are generally viewed with a jaundiced eye, with most present wondering if the iconoclast is nuts. Not to mention that, in common with some of the American Inventions, there is even an unwelcome scatological aspect to HIV∫AIDS to discourage close examination.

But the apathy with which heterosexuals view the possibility that their romantic life has been queered by scientific nonsense funded at vast public expense, and that numerous gays and Africans have been sacrificed in this cause, and billions wasted which could have gone into cancer or African health infrastructure, shows how much easier it is to be skeptical of novelty than the status quo, in the Peter Jones mode.

“Everything will be alright. Believe it.”

On the other hand, HIV∫AIDS dissenters may have found faint encouragement in the finale of the program, which was a lesson in making a triumphant comeback. This was provided by a determined contestant from last year trying again, who proved that faith in his product and perseverance in promoting it could triumph over its perceived inherent absurdity as judged by Peter Jones.

p6072322.JPGRichard Kopelle’s My Therapy Buddy is a large soft anthropomorphic toy with no more than a smiley for a face on its round head. It is designed to comfort insecure adults, who can cuddle it as it tells them in a somewhat computerized tone that “Everything is going to be alright!”.

This inspiration was rejected summarily last year by Jones, on the somewhat illogical grounds that “If I needed a cuddly toy to tell me it’s alright I would know everything was not alright!”

“This is American Inventor, not British Inventor!” responded Kopelle, 61, meaning that Jones just didn’t understand the American market.

Apparently he was right, since he has brought a pair of My Therapy Buddys back to compete again, claiming that in the year intervening that it has become a “national phenomenon”. (According to his web site, it is for sale at $70, and many comments on the Web are enthusiastic).

This time he has better luck. “Richard, can I hug one?! asks Sara. “I happen to think that the judges last year were wrong!”

“I know I am not crazy!” says Richard. “Peter has been my nemesis for a year. It’s difficult for some men to understand we need a touch. Everybody goes through some bad times once in a while. Everybody needs a Therapy Buddy. Peter, you need to hug this thing!”

“I am never going to hug that thing!” says Peter.

“Everything is going to be alright! Believe it!” says the toy.

Therapy Buddy is right, as it turns out. The toy “invention” is voted in to the LA finals. Richard wins a ‘Yes’ from Pat, Sara and George, and thus a place in the LA finals. “Good gracious me!” exclaims Peter Jones. “You’ve passed the Therapy Buddy! Everything is not alright!”

“I’m vindicated!” cries Richard, embracing and dancing in circles with his male partner outside. “I am ecstatic but I am not surprised, cos I know the American public is with me and this is going to be the Great American Invention!”

Do dissidents currently need a Therapy Buddy?

therapybuddytshirt.jpgDissidents in HIV∫AIDS seem to have been somewhat winded by the gross failure of Harpers Magazine’s 15 pages of exposure of the skulduggery, mendacity and misguided science in the field in March last year to incite its less perceptive and independent minded peers in the magazine realm, such as Atlantic and the New Yorker, into similar investigations.

They may like to take courage from this story of how perseverance pays. Or at least, purchase a Therapy Buddy.

For in recent weeks it appears that some key figures in the fight for good science in this area have retired at least temporarily from the fray.

Harvey Bialy posted the last contributed post on his critical blog You Bet Your Life on May 12 and has announced to colleagues that he considers that he has said everything necessary on the topic for the time being, and has retreated into a Buddhist sanctuary presumably to cleanse his soul of bitterness.

Celia Farber has found another role in bringing justice and human rights to the world and for the moment at least is also leaving the field to other contestants.

Even we recognize the sad lack of response to the Harpers article – and the uninformed nature of Specter’s recent piece in the New Yorker, as we noted in our recent post – as an indication that the likelihood of making headway against the mountain of human politics that HIV∫AIDS has engendered is not much greater than Don Quixote moving the Great Cheops pyramid without splintering his lance.

In fact we judge that with Bill Clinton about to get an award from the Business Coalition to Fight AIDS, with $30 billion now to be poured into the Federal HIV∫AIDS trough by George Bush, and with the New Yorker and all the other elite media still under the unbroken spell of the NIAID, as shown by the new Vanity Fair, a fat issue on Africa edited by Bono, it does not seem that anything but a sudden perception of political advantage for a leading politician, or a positive AIDS test for the son or daughter of a billionaire, or a very sensational court case inside the United States, will make any difference at all to the status quo and its continuing global expansion.

As a result, while we are not planning to buy a Therapy Buddy ourselves we also feel that we have said quite enough on this topic in past posts to show any interested reader both sides of the debate.

We therefore will be expanding to other paradigm war fronts in future to show other examples of how modern science is now a very different system than it was half a century ago, and how progress through paradigm replacement – by definition the only major progress in science – is now increasingly difficult in every field where vast sums are poured in from the public and the private sectors.


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