Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

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

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

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

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

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

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

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

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Condemned Libyan nurses cleared in Nature


Their fate still in balance, but top scientists show children infected earlier through poor hygiene

Might outside Nobel reviewers reject HIV itself?

From the point of view of an HIV∫AIDS dissenter debunker denialist skeptic cynic heretic critic (a troublemaking type of which we would certainly thoroughly disapprove, if we were not forced to agree with these black sheep in science when they challenge the claim that HIV causes immune problems, since the literature backs them up in every respect we have checked) the developments in the Libyan Attempted Baby Murder by HIV court case get curiouser and curiouser.

The case is a cliffhanger. Will the court condemn the Egyptian doctor and five nurses for purposely infecting hundreds of babies with HIV and hepatitis, or will it see reason and abandon this superstitious witchhunt in favor of admitting that the Benghazi hospital practiced poor hygiene?

A retrial of the six health workers ended in Tripoli last month. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty after five Libyan experts in H.I.V. and AIDS stood by their 61-page report, written in 2003, that found that the infections of the Libyan children had resulted from an intentional act.A Libyan court is expected to deliver a verdict on Dec. 19.

The six medical workers, who have protested their innocence and said their confessions were made under torture, arrived in Libya in March 1998. They have been detained since 1999.

Which way it goes has wider ramifications than some people may realize. If Quaddafi does finally step in and tell the court to back off when it renders a verdict on December 19, and let the group go free after seven years in the Libyan prison system, not renowned for its pleasant conditions, this will be a triumph for science and common sense.

Or will it? Judging from the sketchy reports of the BBC and Reuters, the knights of science have shown that the viruses in the babes are all too old a vintage to have arrived after the Bulgarians came to help out in the hospital, so they could not have been responsible for the mini epidemic.

A team of international scientists who reconstructed the history of the virus from samples from the Libyan children has shown that a subtype of H.I.V. began infecting patients at Al Fateh Children’s Hospital in Benghazi before the foreign medical team arrived.“The evidence shows the chain of infection started a few years before the arrival of the foreign staff accused of causing it deliberately,” Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, a molecular virologist at Oxford University, said in an interview.

This makes sense even to HIV∫AIDS critics who don’t believe HIV causes any problem to babes anyway. ounds as if the Libyans will have to back down, at least if Quaddafi reads Nature.

But what will be the outcome of the Libyan affair, if this happy ending is achieved? If justice is served the nurses and the Egyptian will be compensated for the six year prison term already served. But something else is going to happen: HIV science will be made to look more expert and correct than ever.

That is, unless the same calibre of scientist decided to join in a similar review commission for HIV∫AIDS. Then, perhaps, the same conclusion might be reached, that the many thousands of pages of HIV∫AIDS papers which have so far failed to demonstrate any good reason to suppose that HIV causes AIDS, and forty three reasons why not, are based on “supposition” and “conjecture”:

There has been mounting international pressure on Libya to hear independent scientific evidence.International experts say the scientific report used in the trial was nothing but ‘conjecture’ and ‘supposition’.

Last month 114 Nobel Laureates wrote an open letter to Colonel Gaddafi urging the appropriate authorities to hear independent science-based evidence, and reaffirming the need for a fair trial.

Perhaps 114 Nobel laureates can be assembled to write to Dr Anthony Fauci to urge that an independent review commission be appointed. They would have to be drawn from other fields, since scientists in the field appear to have a religious conviction that HIV causes AIDS even in the absence of confirming evidence, other than data collected and analyzed on that very assumption.

With one already in the bag, Kary Mullis, the inventor of PCR, a breakthrough which has saved well over a hundred lives by springing innocent convicts from prison, it seems possible that Walter Gilbert might revisit his earlier public uncertainty that HIV was the right answer. Now that he has presumably got to know Jim Watson well by working at Cold Spring Harbor, perhaps the two of them can discuss the matter and decide to reopen the case.

That would leave 111 to go, but once these names are on the page it seems that a counter Durban Declaration could get going, and perhaps even rapidly build and complete once other scientists take a second look and muster their courage to sign, even though Dr Fauci would object strenuously to this “dangerous” line of thinking.

If the nurses are executed, there will be a strong parallel with the behavior of the NIAID in condemning millions to the idea that HIV is the cause of AIDS illnesses around the word, without review. In the latter case, the number of lives past and present at stake in the case of HIV vs Debunkers amount to at least 65 million and going strong. 25 million are dead, hundreds of thousand in this country from what debunkers insist is mismedication aimed at HIV.

Allegations by the accused that their confessions were obtained only after torture led to an investigation of the officers involved and the judgement was overturned by the supreme court. But despite admissions by one of the policemen that dogs and electric-shock equipment were used in the interrogations, all 10 policemen involved were acquitted.In May, two years after the accused were first sentenced to death, a retrial began. Francois Cantier, director of the organisation Lawyers Without Borders in France, which is advising the defence, has said the accused, exhausted by the ordeal, have lost all hope. At a recent hearing, he said, they shouted for the nightmare to be over, even if it meant dying….

Whether international pressure and diplomatic manoeuvrings influence the outcome may never emerge, but the final fate of the accused may not become public for days or even weeks after the defence gives evidence this week. For the families of Benghazi, there is at least the knowledge that lessons have been learned from the tragedy and that their children are now getting the best care possible. With aid from Europe, the US and elsewhere, Benghazi hospital is being transformed and the city will have a world-class infectious disease centre. Its staff have been trained extensively in the best techniques to control and prevent the spread of HIV.

The Palestian prisoner, Ashraf al-Hazouz, who is unlikely to work again as a doctor because of damage to his fingers sustained during his interrogation, was interviewed after being refused bail at the beginning of the retrial in May. “We are also victims like those children, but we hope that this tragedy will end soon,” he said.

With Qaddafi reportedly offered $3 billion reparations if he lets the five nurses and one doctor go, by the same arithmetic the West should be willing to pay whatever small sum it takes to mount a review commission on HIV to save 60 million lives, on the chance that the leading scientist in the field, the thousands of academics and professionals who support him from Nobel prize winners to top quality journalists, authors of some 25 books, and HIV positive people willing to put their lives on the line are not wrong in saying that the scientific literature tells them so.

Nightmare in Benghazi (Mail and Guardian, Ian Sample, Nov 6)

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Nightmare in BenghaziIan Sample

06 November 2006 11:59

Bulgarian nurses Valentina Siropulo, Valia Cherveniashka, Snejana Dimitrova peer from a Libyan People’s Court cage in Tripoli in this 2002 file photo. (Photograph: AP)

On Wednesday, in Jdeida prison on the outskirts of Tripoli, five nurses and a doctor prepared themselves for the worst: word that after seven years in prison, they were to be executed by firing squad. The six, who left their countries to work at the Children’s Hospital in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, were arrested and locked up after being accused of deliberately injecting HIV-tainted blood into more than 400 children. Since then, at least 52 of the children have died from run-of-the-mill infections that a working immune system would ordinarily shrug off.

What happened at Benghazi hospital is a monumental tragedy, but the chain of events that followed has been absurd, arbitrary and terrifying. Colonel Moammar Gadaffi, the country’s leader for 37 years, claims that the HIV outbreak was orchestrated by either the CIA or Mossad, the Israeli security service, who, he says, designed a potent form of HIV for the medical staff to spread. World experts who have visited the hospital and pored over medical records beg to differ. They found a hospital where poor practice and unsterilised equipment was the norm, a hospital where an HIV outbreak was an accident waiting to happen. They say the outbreak began before the accused arrived and continued after their incarceration. They found no signs of wrongdoing. They say the six have become scapegoats in an awful bid to deflect attention from a health service gone badly wrong.

This week defence lawyers for the prisoners addressed a court, which in September heard the prosecution’s case for a death sentence. They argued that confessions, since retracted, by three of the six — Ashraf al-Hazouz, a Palestinian doctor, and two Bulgarian nurses — were obtained only after an interrogation process in which they were stripped, beaten, attacked by dogs, electrocuted and, in at least one case, sexually assaulted with a police baton. They planned to ask the court to appoint two independent scientific experts, both of whom have experience of sudden HIV outbreaks, to give their own views of what took place at Benghazi. But the defence was not hopeful.

It would not be the first time scientists have been asked for an opinion on what happened in Benghazi. Shortly after the six were arrested in February 1999, the Gadaffi Foundation asked the man who discovered HIV, Luc Montagnier, a professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and Vittorio Colizzi, one of Europe’s most eminent HIV experts at Tor Vergata University in Rome, to visit the hospital and investigate. Their report did not go down well with the government. “We found that in many cases, children were infected before the [accused] even arrived at the hospital,” said Montagnier.

The children also had unusually high levels of hepatitis C infection, leading the scientists to suspect that dirty needles and catheters were to blame for spreading infections throughout the wards. Their report gave a damning assessment of medical practice at the hospital. “There is an impressive absence of procedures, guidelines, clinical protocols, safety measures, training of personnel, psychological support, communication capacity, etc, etc,” they wrote. The outbreak, they concluded, almost certainly began with a single child, a patient zero, who arrived at the hospital in April 1997 infected with a sub-Saharan strain of HIV. The virus from patient zero spread devastatingly, inevitably. But it was not spread intentionally.

To Libyan officials, the report was unacceptable. It did not help that the tragedy happened in Benghazi, a city where Gadaffi does not enjoy strong support. The report was put to one side and a second team of doctors, this time Libyan non-specialists, was appointed to interpret its findings. They reached the opposite conclusion, not least, says Montagnier, because of a fatal mistranslation that saw the correct word “recombinant”, meaning a specific strain of HIV, interpreted as “genetically modified”, suggesting the HI virus was man-made. In May 2004, long after Gadaffi had offered to reconsider the case in return for £3-billion compensation and the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer jailed for the Lockerbie bombing, the Libyan courts ordered the six to be executed, for “undermining­ the security of the state”.

Nine Libyans also arrested in the investigation were acquitted. “They didn’t like our conclusion that they were not guilty,” says Montagnier. “I think they are intentionally ignoring the scientific evidence because they want a scapegoat. I don’t see any other reason.”

But what might have seemed an appalling conclusion to a cruel affair was far from over. Allegations by the accused that their confessions were obtained only after torture led to an investigation of the officers involved and the judgement was overturned by the supreme court. But despite admissions by one of the policemen that dogs and electric-shock equipment were used in the interrogations, all 10 policemen involved were acquitted.

In May, two years after the accused were first sentenced to death, a retrial began. Francois Cantier, director of the organisation Lawyers Without Borders in France, which is advising the defence, has said the accused, exhausted by the ordeal, have lost all hope. At a recent hearing, he said, they shouted for the nightmare to be over, even if it meant dying.

The case has fallen largely off the media radar, but mounting pressure from the scientific community and intense diplomatic efforts have been under way to secure what one diplomat called “a resolution everyone can live with”. The goal, pursued by officials from Europe, the United States and other countries, has been a delicate compromise that will see the accused spared and give the families justice, without denting the pride of the Libyan leader. “It’s clear that a death sentence and the execution of the [six] would play very badly with Europe and many other countries around the world,” said one Western diplomat, who asked not be named. He said life sentences would also be unacceptable.

Pressure is also mounting from scientists who are appalled that crucial evidence is being ignored in the trial. Last month, a letter to the London Times newspaper from a group of British scientists called for global authorites to “exert their utmost influence on President Gadaffi to prevent what might amount to judicial murder”. Last Friday, 44 of the world’s leading scientists wrote to the US journal, Science, calling for the prisoners to be released. “What has happened to the accused sends a chilling message to all healthcare workers who choose to work in difficult circumstances to deliver life-saving care to HIV-1-infected or at-risk people worldwide,” they wrote.

Whether international pressure and diplomatic manoeuvrings influence the outcome may never emerge, but the final fate of the accused may not become public for days or even weeks after the defence gives evidence this week. For the families of Benghazi, there is at least the knowledge that lessons have been learned from the tragedy and that their children are now getting the best care possible. With aid from Europe, the US and elsewhere, Benghazi hospital is being transformed and the city will have a world-class infectious disease centre. Its staff have been trained extensively in the best techniques to control and prevent the spread of HIV.

The Palestian prisoner, Ashraf al-Hazouz, who is unlikely to work again as a doctor because of damage to his fingers sustained during his interrogation, was interviewed after being refused bail at the beginning of the retrial in May. “We are also victims like those children, but we hope that this tragedy will end soon,” he said. — © Guardian News & Media Ltd 2006

New Evidence Disputes Libya’s Case in H.I.V. Trial (Reuters)

Study backs Libya HIV case medics (BBC)

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December 7, 2006New Evidence Disputes Libya’s Case in H.I.V. Trial

By REUTERS

LONDON, Dec. 6 (Reuters) — Scientists have produced new evidence that casts doubt on charges against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused by Libya of deliberately infecting 426 children with the virus that causes AIDS in 1998.

A team of international scientists who reconstructed the history of the virus from samples from the Libyan children has shown that a subtype of H.I.V. began infecting patients at Al Fateh Children’s Hospital in Benghazi before the foreign medical team arrived.

“The evidence shows the chain of infection started a few years before the arrival of the foreign staff accused of causing it deliberately,” Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, a molecular virologist at Oxford University, said in an interview.

A retrial of the six health workers ended in Tripoli last month. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty after five Libyan experts in H.I.V. and AIDS stood by their 61-page report, written in 2003, that found that the infections of the Libyan children had resulted from an intentional act.

A Libyan court is expected to deliver a verdict on Dec. 19.

The six medical workers, who have protested their innocence and said their confessions were made under torture, arrived in Libya in March 1998. They have been detained since 1999.

The international team of scientists, whose findings were published online Wednesday by the journal Nature, analyzed the genetic code of H.I.V. and hepatitis C viruses from the children to determine when the outbreaks started. “All of them give a date for the start of the epidemic around the mid-1990s,” Dr. de Oliveira said.

He added that a team of 10 specialists from around the world who reviewed the research concluded that the results were “extremely solid.”

The medical workers were sentenced to death by firing squad after being convicted in a trial in 2004. The verdict was quashed last year by Libya’s Supreme Court, and the case was sent to a lower court.

In an open letter to the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, published last month in Nature, more than 100 Nobel laureates in the sciences called for a fair trial for the medical workers.

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BBC NEWS

Study backs Libya HIV case medics

Scientists have cast doubt on charges that five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor deliberately infected Libyan children with HIV.

The medics could face the death penalty if found guilty by a court in Tripoli later this month.

An international team analysed samples taken from the infected patients.

Writing in Nature, they said their work showed the HIV subtype involved began infecting patients in Libya well before the medical workers arrived in 1998.

All the lines of scientific evidence point in the same direction

Dr Tulio de Oliveira

Oxford University

An initial trial condemned the medics to death in 2004, but the Libyan Supreme Court overturned the verdicts, and ordered a retrial.

The defendants are accused of knowingly infecting more than 400 children with HIV in the eastern town of Benghazi.

The medics say that they were tortured into giving false confessions.

The first trial lasted almost six years, and the medics have been in jail since 1999.

They say the children were infected through poor hygiene – and a body of scientific work supports their claims.

History of outbreak

The researchers worked on blood samples collected by a network of European clinical research centres that are involved in treating the infected children.

By analysing mutations in the genetic material of the HIV virus found in the samples they were able to reconstruct the history of the outbreak.

Lead researcher Dr Tulio de Oliveira, from Oxford University, said: “All the lines of scientific evidence point in the same direction, towards a long standing infection control problem at the hospital, dating back to the mid 1990s or earlier.”

Dr Thomas Leitner, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has provided forensic evidence in many HIV cases.

Writing in Nature, he said the latest research was “compelling evidence that the outbreak had started before the accused could have started it.”

There has been mounting international pressure on Libya to hear independent scientific evidence.

International experts say the scientific report used in the trial was nothing but ‘conjecture’ and ‘supposition’.

Last month 114 Nobel Laureates wrote an open letter to Colonel Gaddafi urging the appropriate authorities to hear independent science-based evidence, and reaffirming the need for a fair trial.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/health/6213054.stm

Published: 2006/12/06 18:01:12 GMT

© BBC MMVI

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