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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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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AIDS misinformation after 25 years – Frontline and UN celebrate


Shameless ignorance of the scientific literature to be marked by massive UN meet, inaccurate PBS four hour review

“AIDS after 25 years” is the title of the huge UN talkfest next week, May-31 to June 2, which will be matched by a four hour paradigm propaganda film on PBS, on the same theme.

Everyone in both of these events no doubt will march in goose step to the Gallo- Baltimore- Fauci- NIH- CDC- Science- Nature- New York Times- Time- Newsweek- PBS- AAAS- NAS- NSF- UN- WHO theory of AIDS, which has successfully evaded both an initial complete demolition in the scientific literature, a gathering list of objections since and now even the myriad corrections and dismissals of its own mainstream papers (uninfectious HIV, anyone?) for a whole two decades.

Now it seems that once again the HIV=AIDS hypothesis will rise next week like a hot air filled Zeppelin above the UN and the East River to command a global view of HIV?AIDS as its own shadow spread from horizon to horizon around the world, ready to steal the peace of mind of two billion Indians and Chinese as the next major market for AZT and other chain terminators and protease inhibitors, known lethal drugs chasing a will o’the wisp virus that in most patients today, thankfully enough, is claimed as yet to cause nothing but a decrease in CD4 T cells, if that.

That, at least, is what the newer global estimates of HIV?AIDS actually imply. This is so, since what used to be called AIDS and involved one of the thirty plus rather more impressive symptoms on the AIDS list, has now expanded into an “HIV/AIDS” category which includes anyone supposedly with antibodies to HIV that might have a cough and diarrhea, since just these are held symptoms enough to indicate the actual lower CD4 count in the vast regions where such a sophisticated test is probably not currently available for those unable to pay for it, which is most HIV?AIDS sufferers.

We doubt, however, that this more optimistic view, of most HIV/AIDS as a labeling mania that now includes even millions and millions of peope in normal health, will be made visible to the many officials, NGO activists and reporters at the UN, or in the Frontline documentary, or their patrons, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton or the drug companies, who help promote the standard uninformed view of the HIV?AIDS story, which will surely be the one conveyed by four hours of review on PBS.

In fact, we know it won’t since we have already read a review of the film, brought to our attention by a kind correspondent. There is nothing in
“>70 Million and Counting, by Robert Abele, in LA Weekly
, which appeared today (Wed May 24) which indicates that the Frontline film suggests anything amiss in the standard story line of “HIV?AIDS”, despite the mainstream papers in science which now say in effect it is all entirely impossible.

Let’s examine this rather appalling piece of evidence of the thrall in which grown men and women of the media are held by a fairy tale which has now no remaining valid basis in the scientific literature. That the usually tough minded skepticism of the Frontline film makers dissolved in the face of this affront to common sense, let alone good science, is not particularly surprising, perhaps. A documentary update of the history of AIDS can hardly be assembled without the cooperation of the major players in this theatrical melodrama, and it is an established fact that none of them will cooperate in any way with any writer or filmmaker that entertains the critique of HIV?AIDS in his or her reporting in any serious way whatsoever.

The best example of this is the way in which Eleanor Burkett of the Miami Herald paid the price for covering doubts about whether HIV?AIDS was the right answer to HIV?AIDS. Her calls were not returned therafter and she had to find a new topic to write about. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, evidently meant what he said when he wrote in an NIH newsletter that journalists who were so politically foolish would suffer exactly that fate – a severe curtailment of access.

But there is something a little sad about the lickspittle extreme of utter credulity managed by the LA Weekly reviewer, whose exposure to the pressures of covering showbiz apparently leaves him no room for independent thought whatsoever. But then, this is nothing to complain about, since it is no worse than the performance of any of the mainstream science reporters we know of.

Review examined with NAR BS meter in hand

Reading through the review with our patented NARBS detector switched on, to read and measure misleading HIV?AIDS “facts” on a scale from 1 (understandable mistatement) to 10 (egregious distortion of reality so fundamental as to split time and space asunder) we find the following:

70 Million and Counting ((NARBS meter 10!! The recent CNN special with Bill Clinton counted 42 million infected with HIV, and even the WHO hasn’t dared reach over 50 million yet, as far as we know))

LA Weekly

The clash of politics and morality in The Age of AIDS

By ROBERT ABELE

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 – 3:00 pm

The two-part Frontline documentary The Age of AIDS, a sobering TV history of one of the world’s most brutal pandemics ((NARBS meter 10!! – there is no possibility of HIV ?AIDS being a pandemic, since the effective rate of transmission of the supposed cause, HIV, is nil)), plays like a disturbing series of short tragedies linked by compassion, befuddlement and despair. And, of course, absurdities.

It’s an overwhelming saga, and a lot is covered in series producer Renata Simone’s four hours, including the growth of awareness as AIDS went from being a casually dismissed four-H concern — homosexuals, hemophiliacs, Haitians and heroin users — to a plague that affects everybody ((NARBS meter 8!! – HIV?AIDS visibly does not affect heterosexuals in the US, as has been established for fifteen years, and probably nowhere else either)) as well as the prejudices that stirred gays to new heights of empowerment and activism, while fostering a crippling social stigma in an increasingly decimated black population.

With clear-eyed patience and seriousness, The Age of AIDS shows that while HIV needed no help in replicating itself inside humans ((NARBS Meter 10!! HIV replication in the human body is swiftly reduced to zero by the immune system, which replaces virtually all HIV by antibodies within weeks)), its most helpful friends were traits already well-lodged in humans: ignorance, apathy, fear and prejudice. Watching with 2006 hindsight, those initial emotionally fraught skirmishes in the early ’80s between well-meaning health experts in San Francisco and liberated gay men who wanted their bathhouses kept open seem historically quaint compared to today’s more dispiriting conflicts between moralizing forces and commonsense warriors. Take the anti-condom, pro-abstinence movement that has characterized President Bush’s grand-gesture money disbursement and often-sidelined prevention programs that were working in parts of the world that have seen the most dramatic rising numbers of new HIV cases. As former amFAR (Foundation for AIDS Research) president Merv Silverman says in the film, “Without question, politics has been one of the driving forces behind the spread of this disease.” ((NARBS Meter 0! – This statement is entirely true!))

The herky-jerky, valiant, then flawed efforts to counter AIDS and stop it from spreading since the first cases emerged 25 years ago are less a case of one step forward and two steps back, but rather a few steps forward and then — to note the number of new cases every year — five million steps back. A discouraging snarl of politics and morality, capitalism and Third World geography has stymied the global fight. ((NARBS Meter 6! Nothing has stymied the global fight against HIV?AIDS more than the fact that it is entirely without valid support in the scientific literature. Nothing stymies a fight against a disease more effectively that not being aware of its true nature, in this case as fact rewritten as fiction.))

On the medical front, the documentary revisits the way scientists struggled to pinpoint the disease’s source, which ultimately led to the Congo and the determination that the 70 million that have been infected so far can be traced to one transmission between chimpanzee and man. ((NARBS Meter 10!! – No one has in fact been infected by HIV except by their mothers, or possibly through a needle or gay sex, so the idea that a chimp first infected a human is no more than a tribute to the enduring silliness of the human race, as embodied by Robert Gallo and the people who believe his theorizing)). Then there’s the race for a cure, which brought early hope that AZT and the eventual drug combos — the triple cocktail — would extend the lives of those with HIV. Says on-camera interviewee William Dodge, an early patient in the cocktail trials with an almost touching sense of his place in history, “There was the world of HIV prior to me, and the world of HIV from my time forward.” Part of that new world, though, was a whole new fight with pharmaceutical companies over the affordability of such vital treatment. ((NARBS Meter 8!! There is no evidence that any decline in HIV?AIDS fatalities was the result of the drug cocktail approach))

One of the strongest arguments the film makes is how much good can be done when all elements of a country’s infrastructure align to better people’s lives, when social desire and political desire see eye to eye and a financial commitment emerges, and likewise, what damage indifference and neglect can do. While close-mindedness was hampering an effective response from U.S. leaders, for example, Uganda took a bold, direct approach; its president, Yoweri Museveni, preached tolerance, easing fears about transmission, and distributed condoms. In Brazil, the government passed a law guaranteeing retroviral treatment for AIDS to all its citizens. It took Ronald Reagan seven years, meanwhile, just to mention AIDS for the first time in public. And, as the film explains, his first speech on the topic — at an amFAR event in 1987 — segued weirdly and discouragingly from a plea for understanding to a push for intolerance when he cited the disease as a reason to keep foreigners out of the country.

And if one needed any proof that before the WMD fiasco other administrations believed experts got in the way of policy, there’s a damning interview with speechwriter Landon Parvin, who says that when he started working with Reagan on his amFAR remarks, he realized that Reagan and Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had never had a single conversation about AIDS. Plus, Parvin was asked by an Oval Office staffer to remove a mention that one couldn’t get the disease from mosquitoes. Says Parvin, “It didn’t make much sense to have White House staff second-guessing a medical doctor, but it happened.”((NASBS Meter 5 – Little does Mr. Parvin know, but in fact second-guessing scientists, let alone medical doctors, may be the only way to prevent the “pandemic” of HIV?AIDS from infecting every man, woman and child on the planet, given the historical rate of expansion of labelling other ailments as HIV?AIDS))

Bill Clinton naturally comes off better — more knowledgeable and compassionate in his interview for the documentary — but the filmmakers don’t let him off the hook either, citing his refusal to back needle-exchange programs, a proven quasher of new HIV cases. “The country wasn’t ready for it,” Clinton says. ((NARBS Meter 3 – As a Rhodes scholar and a seasoned politician of consummate skills, Bill Clinton has little excuse for not being fully briefed on the politics and science of HIV?AIDS, other than the cynical fact that the truth is irrelevant to his role on the political stage))

Arguably the saddest story of miseducation, though, is South Africa’s, where President Thabo Mbeke, under the sway of denialist scientists like UC Berkeley’s Peter Duesberg, questioned publicly whether HIV causes AIDS, leading to irreparable damage to the country’s efforts to get drug treatment to citizens. He banned AZT and triple cocktails, calling them “too toxic.” Perhaps the most wretched irony of all is that Mbeke was handpicked by Nelson Mandela, and Mandela’s son would eventually die of AIDS.((NARBS Meter 10! – There really is no excuse for series producer Renata Simone setting aside her knowledge of the existence of this high level scientific dispute. We happen to know that she was told about it at a lunch with a reliable independent informant fifteen years ago; he remembers a “sweet little girl” who wielded “the tremendous power” of being responsible for all the AIDS coverage at WGBH Boston, who told him plainly that if she covered the dissent she would lose all her access to the NIH and her official sources. After a decade and a half she is still ignoring not only the obvious permanent strength of the scientific objections but also the respectability and credibility of the objectors.))

Obviously this isn’t the most upbeat of topics, even though the on-camera talking heads present a wide spectrum of thoughtful, intelligent and inspiring leaders, from progressive scientists like David Ho ((NASBS Meter 8! Ho won a Time cover with his Ptolemaic theory of how the scientifically innocent HIV could reverse what was evidently the normal operation of the immune system as indicated by the perfectly conventional signs of success in defeating an antigen, but his tortuous mathematical calculations have been exploded since in the mainstream literature)) to grass-roots activists like Noerine Kaleeba, who founded Africa’s first AIDS support organization, to UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot, and even a glamour humanitarian like Bono ((NARBS Meter 6! – It is time for glamourous humanitarians to doublecheck their sources if they are to pressure world leaders on their priorities)). But Simone and her writer/director colleagues William Cran and Greg Barker know better than to equate celebrity charm with cheap positivism. ((NARBS Meter 7! Actually, Cran and Barker should know better than to equate nonsensical nonscience with a serious policy goal and join in peddling it as worthier of more funding than cancer and heart disease which kill as many as thirty times more people in this country than HIV?AIDS.)) And in the end, even after four hours of viewing, I found myself unable to forget a description in the first minutes of Part I from UCSF professor of clinical medicine Molly Cooke, who said of those early casualties at San Francisco General Hospital: “Patients would die of their own dementia the way 80-year-olds do — curl up in bed and die. And these were young men.”((NARBS Meter 6! These redoubtable Frontline employees an their compliant reviewer haven’t noticed that the symptoms of HIV?AIDS have changed over the years in the US, and from the US to a totally different list of symptoms overseas? Alas, expecting film makers even at Frontline to give up pressing emotional buttons in favor of investigating or even scratching the surface of the inconsistencies of the picture they are presenting seems hopeless indeed.))

So once again on PBS it seems that even Frontline will present four hours of nothing but the propaganda of conventional wisdom on HIV?AIDS next Tuesday at 9 pm, with nary a bow in the direction of the true idealists of HIV?AIDS, the dissenters frantically waving from the sidelines as the (mis)leaders of this modern medical crowd madness walk in on the red carpet with their stars to receive their Oscars in the form of treacly, pc worshipful acclaim from reviewers such as Robert Abele, LA Weekly.

What’s next? Given the horrendous bedsharing of NIAID researchers and drug company representatives exposed in Harper’s “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science” piece by Celia Farber in its March issue, one mustn’t be surprised if the PBS sponsors for this fatally misleading presentation, perhaps even of the documentary itself, include the drug companies selling the key drugs being marketed for HIV?AIDS.

Let’s see.

(show)

70 Million and Counting

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The clash of politics and morality in The Age of AIDS

By ROBERT ABELE

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 – 3:00 pm

The two-part Frontline documentary The Age of AIDS, a sobering TV history of one of the world’s most brutal pandemics, plays like a disturbing series of short tragedies linked by compassion, befuddlement and despair. And, of course, absurdities.

It’s an overwhelming saga, and a lot is covered in series producer Renata Simone’s four hours, including the growth of awareness as AIDS went from being a casually dismissed four-H concern — homosexuals, hemophiliacs, Haitians and heroin users — to a plague that affects everybody, as well as the prejudices that stirred gays to new heights of empowerment and activism, while fostering a crippling social stigma in an increasingly decimated black population.

With clear-eyed patience and seriousness, The Age of AIDS shows that while HIV needed no help in replicating itself inside humans, its most helpful friends were traits already well-lodged in humans: ignorance, apathy, fear and prejudice. Watching with 2006 hindsight, those initial emotionally fraught skirmishes in the early ’80s between well-meaning health experts in San Francisco and liberated gay men who wanted their bathhouses kept open seem historically quaint compared to today’s more dispiriting conflicts between moralizing forces and commonsense warriors. Take the anti-condom, pro-abstinence movement that has characterized President Bush’s grand-gesture money disbursement and often-sidelined prevention programs that were working in parts of the world that have seen the most dramatic rising numbers of new HIV cases. As former amFAR (Foundation for AIDS Research) president Merv Silverman says in the film, “Without question, politics has been one of the driving forces behind the spread of this disease.”

The herky-jerky, valiant, then flawed efforts to counter AIDS and stop it from spreading since the first cases emerged 25 years ago are less a case of one step forward and two steps back, but rather a few steps forward and then — to note the number of new cases every year — five million steps back. A discouraging snarl of politics and morality, capitalism and Third World geography has stymied the global fight.

Keep Reading

On the medical front, the documentary revisits the way scientists struggled to pinpoint the disease’s source, which ultimately led to the Congo and the determination that the 70 million that have been infected so far can be traced to one transmission between chimpanzee and man. Then there’s the race for a cure, which brought early hope that AZT and the eventual drug combos — the triple cocktail — would extend the lives of those with HIV. Says on-camera interviewee William Dodge, an early patient in the cocktail trials with an almost touching sense of his place in history, “There was the world of HIV prior to me, and the world of HIV from my time forward.” Part of that new world, though, was a whole new fight with pharmaceutical companies over the affordability of such vital treatment.

One of the strongest arguments the film makes is how much good can be done when all elements of a country’s infrastructure align to better people’s lives, when social desire and political desire see eye to eye and a financial commitment emerges, and likewise, what damage indifference and neglect can do. While close-mindedness was hampering an effective response from U.S. leaders, for example, Uganda took a bold, direct approach; its president, Yoweri Museveni, preached tolerance, easing fears about transmission, and distributed condoms. In Brazil, the government passed a law guaranteeing retroviral treatment for AIDS to all its citizens. It took Ronald Reagan seven years, meanwhile, just to mention AIDS for the first time in public. And, as the film explains, his first speech on the topic — at an amFAR event in 1987 — segued weirdly and discouragingly from a plea for understanding to a push for intolerance when he cited the disease as a reason to keep foreigners out of the country.

And if one needed any proof that before the WMD fiasco other administrations believed experts got in the way of policy, there’s a damning interview with speechwriter Landon Parvin, who says that when he started working with Reagan on his amFAR remarks, he realized that Reagan and Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had never had a single conversation about AIDS. Plus, Parvin was asked by an Oval Office staffer to remove a mention that one couldn’t get the disease from mosquitoes. Says Parvin, “It didn’t make much sense to have White House staff second-guessing a medical doctor, but it happened.”

Bill Clinton naturally comes off better — more knowledgeable and compassionate in his interview for the documentary — but the filmmakers don’t let him off the hook either, citing his refusal to back needle-exchange programs, a proven quasher of new HIV cases. “The country wasn’t ready for it,” Clinton says.

Arguably the saddest story of miseducation, though, is South Africa’s, where President Thabo Mbeke, under the sway of denialist scientists like UC Berkeley’s Peter Duesberg, questioned publicly whether HIV causes AIDS, leading to irreparable damage to the country’s efforts to get drug treatment to citizens. He banned AZT and triple cocktails, calling them “too toxic.” Perhaps the most wretched irony of all is that Mbeke was handpicked by Nelson Mandela, and Mandela’s son would eventually die of AIDS.

Obviously this isn’t the most upbeat of topics, even though the on-camera talking heads present a wide spectrum of thoughtful, intelligent and inspiring leaders, from progressive scientists like David Ho to grass-roots activists like Noerine Kaleeba, who founded Africa’s first AIDS support organization, to UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot, and even a glamour humanitarian like Bono. But Simone and her writer/director colleagues William Cran and Greg Barker know better than to equate celebrity charm with cheap positivism. And in the end, even after four hours of viewing, I found myself unable to forget a description in the first minutes of Part I from UCSF professor of clinical medicine Molly Cooke, who said of those early casualties at San Francisco General Hospital: “Patients would die of their own dementia the way 80-year-olds do — curl up in bed and die. And these were young men.”

FRONTLINE: THE AGE OF AIDS | PBS | Tuesday, 9 p.m.

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5 Responses to “AIDS misinformation after 25 years – Frontline and UN celebrate”

  1. DB Says:

    With big pharmaceutical companies as corporate sponsors, PBS is loathe to rock the boat in regard to “AIDS”. They completely fail their mission as “public” television in their cowardice and complicity.

  2. Martin Kessler Says:

    As in previous posts on this site, if say Nicholas Kistoff or John Stossel or even Paul Krugman published (or televised in the case of Stossel) even a hint of criticism of the HIV/AIDS paradigm, assuming they could get it past their editors, they would probably be fired – especially at the New York Times. The mere mention of Peter Duesberg in terms other than condemnation is akin to being a devil worshiper or worse. We are really living in a Parmacacy ( a term coined by Thomas Szasz and also a title of one of his recent books ).

  3. Truthseeker Says:

    On that point, do we know for sure that the drug companies sponsor PBS?

  4. DB Says:

    Am I missing something, truthseeker?

    When I watch PBS and they say “tonight’s programming brought to you in part by…(name of pharmaceutical company)” or when I see one of their supposed non-commercials featuring a pharmaceutical company…am I not understanding something here?

    From the website FAIR (fairness and accuracy in reporting)…

    New York Times: Applauding the Unsung Heroes of a Global Crisis on PBS’s ‘Rx for Survival’ (4/12/06) by Alessandra Stanley
    A new PBS documentary on global health is underwritten by pharmaceutical giant Merck, leaving Stanley to write:

    Showcasing the drug company Merck as a major sponsor of the two-hour film seems a bit much. However much the mandate of public television has changed with the times, most viewers still expect PBS to provide programs that commercial networks are reluctant to broadcast and that are free of corporate self-interest, bias or just bad taste. Merck’s credit — a gauzy opening advertisement that vaunts the company’s selfless contributions to global health under the company slogan, “Where Patients Come First” — suggests all three.
    And:

    When a drug company underwrites a documentary about health crises in which drugs, vitamins and vaccines are so obviously critical, there is a chance that viewers will wonder if there are any hidden quid pro quos. And the more those boundaries are crossed on commercial television, the more viewers crave black-and-white accountability from public stations.
    One story in particular from the special that might make viewers wonder: “Ernest Darkoh, an African-born doctor trained in the United States, who spearheaded one of the first and most successful H.I.V. treatment programs in Botswana, an initiative partly supported by Merck.”

    If I’m missing something here, please inform me. I don’t want to mischaracterize.

  5. Truthseeker Says:

    On the contrary, DB, you are not missing anything. We just meant to say that we didn’t have any specifics in hand yet, and now you, being more alert, have provided them.

    Excellent stuff, even though it realizes our pessimism, about this and about the general corruption of PBS from what was intended by the word “public” in the phrase “public broadcasting service”. These “public service announcements” from companies have morphed into plain ads now.

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