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News, views and reviews measured against professional literature in peer reviewed journals (adjusted for design flaws and bias), well researched books, authoritative encyclopedias (not the bowdlerized Wiki entries on controversial topics) and the investigative reporting and skeptical studies of courageous original thinkers among academics, philosophers, researchers, scholars, authors, and journalists.

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Halton C. Arp wki/obit/txt/vds/txt/txt/bk/bk, Henry Bauer txt/blg/ blg/bks/bk/txt/bk/vd, John Beard bk, Harvey Bialy bk/bk/txt/txt/rdo/vd, John Bockris bio/txt/ltr/bk, Donald W. Braben, Peter Breggin ste/fb/col/bks, Darin Brown txt/txt/txt/txt/txt/vd, Giordano Bruno bk/bio/bio, Frank R. Buianouckas, Stanislav Burzynski mov, Erwin Chargaff bio/bk/prs, James Chin bk/vd, Nicolaus Copernicus bk, Mark Craddock, Francis Crick vd, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw txt/bk, Roger Cunningham, Charles Darwin txts/bk, Erasmus Darwin txt//bk/txt/hse/bks, Peter Duesberg ste/ste/bk/txt/vd/vd, Freeman Dyson, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman bio, John Fewster, Rosalind Franklin, Bernard Forscher tx, Galileo Galilei, Walter Gilbert vd, Goethe bio/bk/bio, Nicolas Gonzalez tlk/rec/stetxt/txt, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Etienne de Harven bk/txt/vd, Alfred Hassig intw/txt, Robert G. Houston txt, Steven Jonas vd, Edward Jenner txt, Benjamin Jesty, Adrian Kent vd, Thomas Kuhn, Fred Kummerow, Stefan Lanka txt/txt/vd, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen vd, Paul Lauterbur vd, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, James Lovelock, Andrew Maniotis, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, Christi Meyer vd, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Luc Montagnier txt/txt/vd, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling prs/vd/vd/vd, Eric Penrose, Roger Penrose vd, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick /vd, Robert Root-Bernstein vd, Sherwood Rowland, Otto Rossler, Harry Rubin, Marco Ruggiero txt/txt/intw/vd, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan vd, Erwin Schrodinger, Fred Singer, Barbara Starfield txt, Gordon Stewart txt/txt, Richard Strohman, Thomas Szasz, Nicola Tesla bio/bio, Charles Thomas intw/vd, Frank Tipler, James Watson vd/vd, Alfred Wegener vd, Edward O. Wilson vd.

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

The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeletons of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life. - Arthur Koestler

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 that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures. One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison. – Bertrand Russell

A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open. – Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)

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Science at Javits: Book Expo Promises Cutting Edge Reads

May 27th, 2013

Once Again, Trade Bash Adds Buzz to Science Between Two Covers

Books Still Central for Information Seekers, Paper or E-text

More Science Best Sellers? A Few Early Picks

This week (Thu 29 thru Sat Jun 1 2013) the BEA – Book Expo America – takes over Javits again with a roaring Niagara of books in all shapes and colors on every theme for the delectation of tens of thousands of booksellers, reviewers, reporters and now even more than the one thousand consumers than last year, who are allowed in as “Power Readers” for $49 on the final day to share in the swag.

Even with the galloping advance of e-books, the gigantic BEA remains the most important annual event at that venue, where the continuing supremacy of the book as the richest information package and as literate entertainment is celebrated. The trade event is for booksellers to meet authors, with some tickets available for consumers on Saturday, and is essential for editors and reviewers of books in every field.

Reign of the printed book continues while e-books develop

As anyone who works seriously with any area of research and scholarship knows, the physical book has long been not only a beautiful thing but the finest source on almost any topic, an invaluable storehouse of the best new and old ideas and data available.

This especially applies to science in a media world where science reporting is rarely investigative and where journal articles are generally unreadable by the public. Books may be the only good source of corrections to misleading claims by scientists who obtain political backing in Washington, although they may have no effect (there have been as many as forty exposing the absurdity of HIV/AIDS theory, without changing the consensus). Paper volumes are also still very easy and quick to refer to, to handle and to mark, and their distinct page layouts enable the mind to retain what they say more effectively than the indistinguishable pages of e-text.

There is no reason we know of why ebooks can’t catch up in richness of presentation and manageability, to add to their advantages of Search and hyperlinks, and footnotes and color illustrations are becoming more common. But in either form the book still reigns supreme, holding its position at the heart of the literate culture much better than newspapers, it seems. One reason is that authors put their heart and soul into their books, and happily take personal responsibility for their quality and usefulness.

The result is that printed books usually have higher quality content than other media in terms of breadth and depth of research and independent perspective on important issues. They also tend to be more novel and original in their approach and inhabit the cutting edge of their topics more often than group discussions on stage or television, where the demands of politesse and reputation – not to mention media politics – discourage too much novelty and difference in views.

Crowd sourced and group serviced Wikipedia entries and Web sites do well enough in keeping up to date if they are well maintained, but they are too often taken over by the dominant faction in a controversial issue who will erase any attempts to include the other side’s views. Even so, Wikipedia entries may be up to date on basic information but even then they are rarely as new, comprehensive and well thought out as a book, which is almost always much more than a collection of Wiki entries on a topic.

Why books are still best

Needless to say, the information in a physical book is far easier to manage mentally except for searching for an individual name or phrase, the one thing for which electronic versions are ideal. The main thrust of an author’s determination is to produce a physical book, which the serious reader will prefer for reading, review and reference for myriad reasons.

One is that the hands on mode not only aids the memory enormously with its tactile and visual cues but also it enables markings of important or beloved portions with pencil, Post-It or a real movable and often pretty Bookmark which allow reference faster even than electronic search, in fact instantaneously.

Vast market though science boom fading

This manageability is undoubtedly why the printed book is not fading away in favor for the e-book but is still vast in terms of sheer numbers in most categories. Despite a huge falloff in the business of reprinting public domain titles the number of printed books from traditional publishers in the US rose in 2011 to about 350,000, according to Bowker, though the gain of 6% was entirely caused by the boom in self publishing. Self-published books totaled 211,269 in both ebook and printed form while traditional houses maintained print output level.

Sadly, science books declined 13 per cent in 2011 but nonetheless we found many exceptional titles at the BEA last year in finished or proof form, heralding the bumper crop of bestsellers in the present season. We expect the same this year, when the BEA runs from Wednesday May 29 to Saturday June 1st, with exhibits displayed from Thursday May 30 and accommodating consumers on the final day.

Titles in the pipeline

Here are three potentially interesting picks from the proofs pipeline:

    Breakpoint: Why The Web Will Implode, Search Will Be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know About Technology is in Your Brain, by Jeff Stibel (Palgrave Macmillan Jul 23)

Stibel is a brain (neuro) scientist and chairman of BrainGate which uses chips to allow the disabled to control electronics with thoughts. Something of an Internet futurist, he predicts that all networks reach a breaking point and collapse, like MySpace, and that will include Facebook and Google. Stibel (also CEO of the Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp and on the board of Brown’s Entrepreneurship program Tuft’s Gordon Institute and USC’s Innovation Institute) seems the right, realistic guide to the creative destruction of the Internet, and he makes some intriguing predictions, such as the emergence of megabrains fueled by crowdsourcing, all inspired by his study of ants and termite colonies, among other things which point the way to a future where networked quality will replace quantity.

    Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection by Ethan Zuckerman (Norton, June 17)

One of Foreign Policy’s list of top 100 Global Thinkers, Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, and an Internet activist who blogs at a high level on policy and trends. He maps the current state of the Internet and explains why it has yet to form a truly connecting community and what we have to do to establish one worldwide. Early blurbs by friendly colleagues include ““Weaving a rich tapestry of stories, data, and theories, Rewire challenges many of our core assumptions about globalization and connectedness and how the Internet affects us. It is a book well worth reading.” and “No one is in a better position than MIT and Harvard’s Ethan Zuckerman to confront the Internet’s failure to connect us across cultures. Zuckerman’s astounding range, careful reasoning, and superb storytelling make Rewire an essential and urgent read,” but our copy indicates that his enlightened and wide ranging survey is a little long winded and its final conclusions too general to please an impatient reader.

    The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers by Curtis White (Melville May 28 2013)

White is a novelist and essayist and social critic whose platforms stretch from Harpers to Playboy, whose previous book The Middle Mind was praised by the wide ranging literary supernova and suicide David Foster Wallace as acute, beautiful and true. The book is a challenge to the reductionism which has invaded biology and neuroscience in recent decades, joining others who insist that consciousness and the mind is, like cellular development and DNA, far too rich and complex to be reduced to one factor alone, such as brain scans or DNA. White tilts at those who he suggests have rejected religion in favor of science as the answer to all questions on morality, creativity and the origin of life and existence, and urges that we move away from “scientism” and its material reductionism and take up Romanticism as something our technology obsessed society desperately needs.

Whether this is a justified argument for more humanity in our lives or whether it strays into the usual liberal confusion between the internal world of the imagination and the external world in examining “truth” and urging that we use our imagination more for solace and community remains to be seen, but the title is attractively provocative. Scientists have been known for a long time to be emotionally truncated, like doctors, in the service of their profession, and especially in communicating its joys of discovery to others, though this is now changing. Luckily emotions have entered the analysis of studies from economics to psychology over the last half century and even scientists now seem to generally understand that we share with other animals a brain body connection that cannot be separated, and in fact should be emphasized and even celebrated.

It is not easy to see how far Curtis White goes beyond this recent truism from a limited reading of the densely written proof, which is enjoyably cranky but demands a complete reading to capture its ultimate import. But White is billed as urging mpore poetry and philosophy in our public discussions, and it is hard to argue with that in an era where cost cutting has erased the arts in many schools across the US. But the book seems inconsistent in making early attacks on Hitchens and Dawkins as too reductionist in dismissing the benefits of religion, yet soon White is having fun debunking the simplified version of creativity peddled by Jonah Lehrer is his best seller, which had to be withdrawn after it turned out he had made up some blatantly unlikely quotes on behalf of Bob Dylan to confirm the thesis of the book.

University beauties

The Autumn/Winter catalogues of Harvard and other university presses promise the following titles which seem of special interest:

The Perfect Wave With Neutrinos at the Boundary of Space and Time by Heinrich Päs, Professor of Theoretical Particle Physics at Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany. Almost weightless and able to pass through the densest materials with ease, neutrinos seem to defy the laws of nature. But these mysterious particles may hold the key to our deepest questions about the universe, says physicist Heinrich Päs. In The Perfect Wave, Päs serves as our fluent, deeply knowledgeable guide to a particle world that tests the boundaries of space, time, and human knowledge. The existence of the neutrino was first proposed in 1930, but decades passed before one was detected. Päs animates the philosophical and scientific developments that led to and have followed from this seminal discovery, ranging from familiar topics of relativity and quantum mechanics to more speculative theories about dark energy and supersymmetry. Many cutting-edge topics in neutrino research—conjectures about the origin of matter, extra-dimensional spacetime, and the possibility of time travel—remain unproven. But Päs describes the ambitious projects under way that may confirm them, including accelerator experiments at CERN and Fermilab, huge subterranean telescopes designed to detect high-energy neutrino radiation, and the Planck space observatory scheduled to investigate the role of neutrinos in cosmic evolution. As Päs’s history of the neutrino illustrates, what is now established fact often sounded wildly implausible and unnatural when first proposed. The radical side of physics is both an exciting and an essential part of scientific progress, and The Perfect Wave renders it accessible to the interested reader.

World AIDS Day Yet Again, Undisturbed by Rationality

December 1st, 2012

Intelligence of readers, viewers insulted by scientists and media daily, as positive tests demonstrate HIV already defeated

Blacks, youths expected to keep “epidemic” fantasy here going, though slowing globally

Why critics have no effective influence on official fiction

Today, World AIDS Day will be celebrated with the usual attendant clamor in groups that stand to benefit from the attention it receives – gays, NGOs, scientists, officials, charities, drug companies, etc. Most of the public will take it for granted that the fanfare and the begging cans are all in a good cause, to save the unhappy souls who might fall victim to the notorious retrovirus, HIV.

We have already been treated this week to a piece in the Times telling us that California will vote on forcing actors in the “sex film industry” to use condoms (the mandate passed), a thick UNAIDS report that 30 million have died and 34 million remain harboring HIV, but that many southern African countries have made tremendous progress against HIV/AIDS, European television coverage of advances against HIV/AIDS in southern Africa, news on NPR that blacks and youth are now the hotspots of HIV’s rampage in the US, a speech by Hilary Clinton looking forward to a future where no child is born with HIV as drug treatment is expanded worldwide, and the obliging appearance of Dr Anthony Fauci on PBS Newshour to reassure its middleaged audience that a tipping point is nigh – when those treated will outnumber those catching the virus.

As Ray Suarez summed up: “Lots of reasons to be encouraged and a lot of challenges ahead.”

Or in other words, the same as last year and every year for the past twenty, with the unchanging central pillar in the form of an outstretched hand, palm upwards.

A simple primer in the HIV fantasy

Sorry, but we beg to differ. Ever since we have been familiar with the so called science of HIV/AIDS, that is, for the last quarter century, it has been clear to us (as it is to many other people) that this is one of the most remarkable examples in history of the universal stupor induced in people by established authority, in this case the authority of science and government.

But why is it that so few, even among AIDS patients whose health and lives are at stake, subject what they are told to the litmus test of simple common sense? Why have most Americans with functioning minds and the willingness to use them on official wisdom given HIV/AIDS a free pass?

Why you should cherish your positive “AIDS test”

After all, you really don’t have to know any complicated science to see through it. The core ideology of this vast scientific-medical-industrial-government-charity complex is so simple yet so contrary to common sense and established science in every major respect that anyone should be able to see through it who understands the word “antibodies”.

For HIV antibodies is what the test is for, not for HIV. It is even inaccurate in detecting HIV antibodies, since it cross reacts with as many as 80 other things, thus scoring positive when you may have none at all in you. But that is not the fatal flaw in the scheme. The unutterable silliness at the heart of HIV/AIDS is that the test is for antibodies, as it has to be. Because after they appear there is virtually no detectable virus in patients, even dying ones.

So a positive result in an “AIDS test” means that the supposedly unfortunate testee is full of antibodies to HIV, HIV which entered his or her body at some earlier point, but is now banished forever by the body’s natural defenses, antibodies specific to HIV. So you are now in no danger whatsoever from HIV any more, even if it was actually destructive (no scientist has ever proved that HIV destroys anything). You don’t harbor it, you harbor antibodies to it – the body’s usual guarantee that you won’t be bothered by an agent again.

The scientists involved have come up with all kinds of convoluted theory as to why you are still, they claim, in danger of coming down with HIV/AIDS in ten or twenty years, but none of this wriggling has enabled them to escape the simple fact that the tests are designed to find people with antibodies, simply because there is effectively no HIV left after they appear.

This point is not noised abroad, of course. Instead, this successful defense by HIV antibodies, a standard immune response, is simply denied. From the NIAID web site:

HIV Vaccines
Historically, vaccines have been our best weapon against the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, including smallpox, polio, measles, and yellow fever. Unfortunately, we do not have a vaccine for HIV. HIV has unique ways of evading the immune system and the human body seems incapable of mounting an effective immune response against virus. As a result, scientists do not have a clear picture of what is needed to provide protection against the virus.

After all, the public purse is being milked by NIAID to sustain a massive effort to find a “vaccine”, and any admission that HIV works very well as a vaccine against itself would threaten the household budgets of not a few well paid researchers. But it does provide an opportunity for amusement for anyone who cares to ask the experts after a panel why not patent HIV as a very effective vaccine, as we have done, and watch the wriggling.

Of course, this simple fact of HIV vaccinating itself leads to the enormous question why we are all being told that an epidemic is just around the corner, if we don’t limit the number of positives in the US with preventive drugs which will stop them transmitting HIV to someone else. After all, antibodies are not infectious, from one person to another. There is no HIV left. So what is “transmitted”?

The answer must be, nothing. An HIV epidemic is therefore impossible. But surely this must be confirmed in the scientific literature, if it is true? And indeed it is. Nancy Padian, a decorated HIV/AIDS general, carried out the largest ever study of potential transmission within heterosexual couples in the nineties only to find there was no transmission whatsoever, as one would expect. This embarrassing revelation has been swept under the carpet, with her Wikipedia entry incorrectly reporting that she demonstrated transmission, and an HIV promoting website featuring her own denial stating that it proved the opposite.

In short, the evidence for the sexual transmission of HIV is well documented, conclusive, and based on the standard, uncontroversial methods and practices of medical science. Individuals who cite the 1997 Padian et al. publication (1) or data from other studies by our research group in an attempt to substantiate the myth that HIV is not transmitted sexually are ill informed, at best. Their misuse of these results is misleading, irresponsible, and potentially injurious to the public.

In fact, the paper states infection rates far too low to support an epidemic, and even those are not actual, but supposed to have occurred before the study.

Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight-times more efficient than female-to-male transmission and male-to-female per contact infectivity was estimated to be 0.0009 (95% CI 0.0005-0.001). Over time, the authors observed increased condom use (p < 0.001) and no new infections. Infectivity for HIV through heterosexual transmission is low.

“Low” as in non existent during the study, during which there were “no new infections”. We had the pleasure of congratulating her on this signal result of proving nil transmission at a Washington NIAID conference, as reported here earlier, to which she replied weakly, “Well, it transmits better in Africa”.

Such HIV proponents who insist that HIV does transmit in the dark continent desperately offer various insulting fantasies of African sexual customs unknown in the US, or claim that the epidemic there is achieved through dirty needles in clinics. But the awkward fact remains: the biggest study in the US showed no transmission among heterosexuals, so all claims to the contrary must be unscientific. Certainly the proven science matches the experience of heterosexuals in the US, where contrary to the loud alarms raised by Oprah Winfrey et al in the eighties, there has been no discernible heterosexual epidemic.

Be that as it may, the bottom line remains. An HIV/AIDS pandemic based on HIV transmission is an impossibility according to the basic science of the matter, and any studies which claim heterosexual transmission must be mistaken. Thus, the claims of HIV/AIDS numbers rising in blacks and in youth which the CDC has peddled in the last week, in the run up to World AIDS Day, must be based on studies which have not been carried out properly, by definition, as far as they concern heterosexuals.

Of course, this fatal flaw at the core of HIV/AIDS propaganda is not the only obvious proof that HIV is not the culprit for any AIDS symptoms. The rest of the theory reeks of claims that no rational peson can believe. Do you want to buy some HIV for your lab? It will arrive flourishing in cultures of T cells, the very immune cells it was originally thought to attack. While the grand theorists of HIV/AIDS such as Anthony Fauci have given up claiming that HIV kills T cells, the propaganda continues to imply it does:

From avert.org: Why is it difficult to develop a vaccine for HIV and AIDS?

Developing a vaccine is a very difficult challenge for scientists. There are many reasons for this, including:

Nobody has ever recovered from HIV infection, so there is no natural mechanism to imitate
HIV destroys the immune system cells that are meant to fight against it
Soon after infection, HIV inserts its genetic material into human cells, where it remains hidden from the immune system
HIV occurs in several subtypes, each of which is very different from the others
Even within each subtype, HIV is highly variable and constantly changing
There are no good animal models to use in experiments although the use of non human primate (NHP) models could become a more significant model for HIV vaccine design and testing in the future.

Freezing minds

Anyone at all familiar with the true science of HIV/AIDS knows why each of these statements is fatuously misleading, but this is not our point. The point is that the minds of almost all who read this tripe are frozen into acquiescence. How else can one explain why, if HIV has no practical effect discernible to scientists or anyone else other than to create antibodies to itself, people have accepted that one needs to “recover” from it, and that down the line one will get AIDS symptoms, wither and die, unless one is given drugs which are clearly themselves responsible for the deaths that follow (17,000 a year, says the CDC, predominantly from symptoms of liver and kidney failure which have nothing to do with HIV)?

And those irrationalities are hardly all. For those of a more scientific taste, allow us to go back to our post from last World AIDS Day and once again list the incredibilities inherent in HIV/AIDS’s global ideology, which together clearly mark the money printing paradigm as the world’s greatest piece of science fiction:

So what exactly is it that you believe in when you accept HIV as the cause of AIDS? Let us count the ways, and see how you like them. To believe in HIV/AIDS, you have to believe in

-an infectious viral disease causing a global epidemic where the virus’s rate of infection is zero among heterosexuals
- a cell killing retrovirus, when retroviruses are otherwise known never to kill cells
- a virus which is provided to labs in immortal cultures of the same human T cells it is said to kill off in people
- a transmissible, fatal virus that hardly be found in most patients, even dying ones, only antibodies to it
- a disease where patients merely with antibodies can nevertheless somehow transmit the agent and die of the disease
- a disease whose nature varies radically from place to place, being almost entirely a homosexual and drug user ailment in North America and Europe, but entirely heterosexual elsewhere
- a disease that correlates with drug use in North America and Europe, yet is to be prevented by a bowl full of damaging and ultimately lethal drugs
- a disease whose mechanism, including an up-to-twenty-year delay in onset, is as yet quite unexplained
- a cell killing disease that also causes cell multiplying cancer, with no trace of the virus in the cancer
- a disease said to be a killer epidemic in Haiti and South Africa, with no significant change in overall mortality, and long endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where a population explosion nonetheless has added 200 million people in the last decade, to 800 million, with a growth rate of 2.5% annually.
- an epidemic mapped in Africa by the World Health Organization almost entirely without the benefit of AIDS tests
- a disease for which the tests are not for the agent but for antibodies to it
- a disease for which the tests cross react with many other agents
- a viral epidemic without initial exponential growth or bellshaped rise and fall, which has maintained level prevalence in the US for 30 years (at around 1 million positives)
- a viral epidemic which has not found immunity anywhere
-a killer disease where no doctor, nurse or researcher working with it has caught the disease
- a disease with risk group, lifestyle, and malnutrition specific symptoms
- a disease whose every symptom is shared with other diseases–in fact, a disease which would in every case be counted as those other diseases except for the supposed presence of antibodies to the “virus that causes AIDS”
- a viral epidemic without a sign of a promising vaccine despite the best funded army of researchers in history
- a viral disease which quickly achieves the antibodies of vaccination of its own accord
- a virus transmitted 25-50% through birth which has produced no epidemic among children.
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As we have often said, anybody who knowingly believes in the above list we would like to contact us, since we have a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn that we would like to sell them for an extremely large sum of money.

The HIV/AIDS pyramid

There have been many effective critics who have deconstructed HIV/AIDS lore over the years, but still this pyramid of nonscience seems only to grow more solid and immovable each year. The critics have included everyone from the finest scientist in the field, Peter Duesberg of Berkeley, to expert and lay authors of some forty books, infuriated and excited by their discovery of how they have been misled, and how obvious the impossibility of HIV causing illness becomes once the official distorting spectacles are removed.

Another brave new book

Such books continue to come out. The latest, with the refreshingly blunt title AIDS: They Suckered US, Greatest Blunder in Medical History, is self published by Noreen Martin from Charleston, a writer and nutritional consultant who recounts her own sudden decline nine years ago from a mysterious ailment which weakened her immune system and was diagnosed as HIV/AIDS. This was one patient who read up on the topic for herself, however, and she soon took her treatment into her own hands, rejecting AIDS drugs for what she believed to be the saner approach of restoring her immune system with diet and supplements, and now feels thoroughly vindicated by the result. Her book assembles a mound of her research on alternative thinking on AIDS which she presents uncritically but with the uninhibited enthusiasm and despatch of an autodidact who has reliably detected error in established dogma.

The book is not by a professional researcher, its assembly is not smoothly edited, and Martin simply assumes the credibility of all her sources, even business Web sites, if they are in line with her beliefs, leaving readers to make up their own minds about what they will credit. But with her copious and complete gathering of so much useful information, all will surely see how consistent the data in her alternative medical approach is, and be influenced if not persuaded. She has found like so many others that even though her starting point was only to second guess standard practice and peer reviewed research, the alternatives to standard medicine form a coherent and convincing whole.

Her book is up to date enough to include the famous remark by Luc Montagnier, the senior French scientist in Paris who won the Nobel for discovering HIV in 2008, unguardedly telling Brent Leung, the maker of the revelatory documentary House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic, that HIV presents no threat to a healthy person, who will shrug it off in a week:

Leung: If you take a poor African who’s been infected and you build up their immune system, is it possible for them to also naturally get rid of HIV?

Luc Montagnier:I would think so. It is important knowledge which is completely neglected. People always thinks of drugs and vaccine.

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

Luc Montagnier: There’s no profit, yes.

A fine piece of guerilla interviewing. As Francis Bacon noted four centuries ago, “A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open.” Quite how Dr Montagnier reconciles his assurance that HIV is not by itself the cause of AIDS, the premise on which his medal was awarded, with his acceptance of that medal without mentioning this interesting fact, we leave up to connoisseurs of professional standards in science to tell us.

In fact, it is worthwhile to note here that the full transcript of the House of Numbers interview actually contains the following:

Luc Montagnier: “… I believe HIV, we can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected. Our immune system will get rid of the virus in a few weeks, if you have a good immune system; and this is also the problem with African people; their nutrition is not very equilibrated, they are in oxidative stress, even if they are not infected with HIV, so their immune system doesn’t work well already, so it is prone, you know, to allow HIV to get in and persist. So there are many ways, not the vaccine, many ways to decrease the transmission, just by simple measures of nutrition, giving anti-oxidants, proper anti-oxidants-hygiene measures, fighting the other infections.”

Leung: “If you have a good immune system, then your body can naturally get rid of HIV?”

Luc Montagnier: Yes.”

Brent Leung’s documentary House of Numbers is a classic documentary (here’s a free copy on YouTube if you don’t have the well deserved monetary payment it asks for the triple DVD at the documentary’s site) which is the definitive investigative work on film that exposes the embarrassing disarray in theory and opinion of the world’s top HIV scientists, and how they often contradict the paradigm they are trying to defend. In this case, the man who graciously accepted an award for the being the discoverer of HIV, a discovery whose importance hinges on its status as the cause of AIDS, is repeating the opinion he has actually publicly held for twenty years, that by itself the notorious retrovirus is harmless.

Adding to Martin’s credibility, more and more alternative medicine in diet is being backed up by mainstream research, which shows in the lab at least that phytochemicals can be more effective against cancer cells, for example, than drugs. Certainly Noreen’s rejection of HIV is aligned with the views of Peter Duesberg, the best innovative researcher in cancer and the most prominent reviewer in the field of HIV/AIDS, who has argued in leading science journals and extensive lectures since 1987 that HIV cannot be the cause of AIDS. That alone, for many, will guarantee the credibility of Noreen Martin’s work.

But her book is only the latest of some forty well informed volumes dismissing the standard claim in HIV/AIDS, on which annual spending rests which amounts to tens of billions annually. Numerous articles have appeared over the years in the mainstream press challenging the idea, as well as more scientific articles in leading peer reviewed journals debunking it. Conferences have been held, lectures given. The Web carries copious material, ranging from one of Duesberg’s finest lectures, to a Dutch collection at VirusMyth by Robert Laarhoven of most of what has been written against HIV, to an up to date news and analysis site Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society run by a Canadian executive, David Crowe. The best academic level site is HIV Skeptic by emeritus professor and expert on scientific controversy Henry Bauer, author of The Origin, Persistence, and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory (2007). There is a specialized AIDSWiki which features entries which haven’t been bowlerized by HIV defenders, unlike those on Wikipedia. Then there is OMJ, the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice, a site of news and editorial by Clark Baker, a criminal investigator. Even this site features most of the key material in posts since 2005, in well informed discussions in comment threads and in the blogroll down the side of the page on the right).

Why HIV/AIDS dogma is immovable

Yet after twenty five years it can be fairly said that HIV heresy has got precisely nowhere in terms of altering the official story or the medical profession’s or the public’s views.

Why this defeat of rationality? We count the following among the most important factors repressing public review of HIV/AIDS:

Overwhelming official endorsement

Not only has President Obama showed no sign of seeing through the HIV/AIDS fairy tale, but he has endorsed the effort, having Clinton announce expanded drug treatment funding and putting up a very large red AIDS ribbon on the North portico of the White House today. Thus he joins every other president since Reagan in backing the strenuous efforts of NIAID and UNAID to “find a cure”, as NBC News put it today, meanwhile applying billions of tax payer dollars to that end and expanding access to “lifesaving drugs” to demolish the health of AIDS victims around the world. With the seal of approval from every official body inside science and out, and from every scientific body, innumerable charities and NGOs and the Hollywood actors that support them from the late Elizabeth Taylor on downwards, the standard HIV/AIDS dogma has become the most automatically approved cause in the culture, with instant reflex suspicion of the sanity and possible “homophobic” motives of anybody who calls it into question.

Media running dogs

The mainstream media from the New York Times on down have uncritically and irresponsibly taken a position in a scientific debate which they do not investigate or understand, with rare exceptions simply repeating the standard dogma of HIV causing AIDS and serving as its leading propagandists. The rest of the media follow the Times like their own Pied Piper, with a very few brave exceptions, the best known of which is Harpers, which published a long piece by the best writer in the field, Celia Farber, only to abandon the politically embarrassing initiative after a counter attack from scientists and activists invested in the HIV scheme was mounted. So too have corporations, from the AIDS drug companies which fund NGOs and gayactivists defending the status quo to corporations climbing on the band wagon, such as Chevron, which bought three pages of the ad-starved issue of Time this week to state that “We Agree” (that AIDS is Going to Lose).

Money talks, reason walks

Those foolhardy enough to take up their scientific or literary cudgels for the cause of reform in HIV/AIDS tend to give up over time, as defenders of HIV very well know. The imbalance in resources is huge, with billions spent on HIV propaganda (which is embedded in every official, industry, research, professorial, NGO and charitable action in the arena), and the media coverage they get. Scientists will lose funding support from their colleagues if they open their mouths to object – Peter Duesberg, once the golden boy of grant seeking at the NIH, has not had a public penny to spend in twenty five years. Any critical journalist and author will be starved of assignments and foundation support, indeed, reliably bankrupted if he or she tries to pursue truth in the area too long without a second career or private income. Questioning HIV is the third rail of professional medical or science journalism, as its handful of practitioners know, though the gratitude of patients who with their help find another path to health is overwhelming.

Time silences dissent, reinforces consensus:

The longer HIV proponents manage to hold off reviewers, the more firmly they consolidate their rule. In the end, they win by default.

Like a Middle Eastern dictator who holds on against a popular uprising with violence, the scientists who protect HIV from questioning have spread fear throughout the scientific and media community. Any researcher who brings up the HIV issue in a scientific forum today would be in danger of being referred to a psychiatrist. Dr Anthony Fauci stated publicly early on that any reporter who raised the topic of hostile HIV critiques at the NIH would be spurned as incompetent.

Dealing with this kind of pressure is impossible for all but the toughest idealist, one without spouse or children as hostages to fortune, one prepared to sacrifice his or her career if need be. Such types are as rare as Nader. Few are prepared to resist the kind of tactics that have been employed in the now silenced AIDS debate – the phone calls behind their back to employers and universities labeling them dangerous, the scotching of their appearances to state their case on television (to be replaced at the last moment by spokesmen for the paradigm), the attack on editors who see fit to publish their views, sometimes costing them their jobs.

As a result, both scientific and journalistic heretics eventually retire into silence on the topic, isolated and bereft of publishing platforms or live appearance stages to air the topic. Their absence quiets the debate. Eventually, those not directly involved assume they have been defeated in argument and by new evidence. The assumption becomes universal, even among sophisticated observers.

Thus we recall attending the meeting celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pope’s Academy of Science inside the Vatican, and explaining to a senior member of the academy, a Belgian, the doubts about HIV’s role in AIDS and that Peter Duesberg’s rejection of the hypothesis in top journals against strict peer review had never been refuted on the same high level, in fact had never been answered in the same journals.

“I am glad you told me. I was following that earlier and thought he was right”, he said. “I just assumed when I stopped hearing about it that he had lost the argument.”

The irony of course is that the success of HIV proponents in silencing heretics in HIV/AIDS is that indeed, they have won the argument.

An unmentionable topic

Then finally, last but perhaps not least, there is the simple fact that the topic is essentially unmentionable in polite society, since it evokes a raft of distasteful images, from holloweyed, skeletal AIDS victims at the door of death to the sexual high jinks of gays which most people prefer not to think about over dinner. Like a skunk which stinks when you kick it, the topic simply subjects heterosexual conversationalists to a concern over whether they are gay, and if not, why the interest in the topic, which is certainly not going to help them impress women?

Politically sensitive gay readers may object to us pointing this out, since the reaction obviously contains a certain amount of prejudice, or “homophobia”, not on our part but on the part of the typical conversationalist. Then of course there is the tiresome reaction of many people to any idea which engenders cognitive dissonance of a major order, which is essentially discomfort, usually resolved by labelling the perpetrator misguided if not insane. We distinctly remember the moment when a middle aged gay man outside the New School after a panel on HIV/AIDS who seemed to think he was bonding with us over shared views only to discover – horror of horrors – that we were heretical on the topic, whereupon he literally scooted away about thirty feet to place a comfortable distance between himself and his newly discovered candidate for burning at the stake.

Delusions we are all heir to

Finally, the dominant factor may well be the flaws in reasoning inherent in human nature which have been illuminated in several books recently, notably the best seller Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Drawing on decades of research in psychology that resulted in a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman takes readers on an exploration of what influences thought example by example, sometimes with unlikely word pairs like “vomit and banana.” System 1 and System 2, the fast and slow types of thinking, become characters that illustrate the psychology behind things we think we understand but really don’t, such as intuition. Kahneman’s transparent and careful treatment of his subject has the potential to change how we think, not just about thinking, but about how we live our lives. Thinking, Fast and Slow gives deep–and sometimes frightening–insight about what goes on inside our heads: the psychological basis for reactions, judgments, recognition, choices, conclusions, and much more. –JoVon Sotak

Others which are less comprehensive but more readable include The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life by Robert Rivers,

“Self-deception has long been a dark, opaque side of our behavior, but the author brings a bright flashlight to his investigation of why we alter information to reach a falsehood…. Trivers examines our biases and rationalizations, denials and projections, misrepresentation and manipulations, and his writing is comfortable and suasive, resulting from his familiarity and command of the subject’s broad application and investigative history…. A gripping inquiry. Trivers is informal but highly knowledgeable, provocative, brightly humorous and inviting. – Kirkus Reviews

and the amusing and telling You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, who writes the blog of the same title. (Interestingly, McRaney provides a ironic example of the Physician, Heal Thyself problem that Kahneman has described, which is that expertise in the pitfalls of thinking does not guarantee an author notices them in his own beliefs. His article Spinners of Web: AIDS crusaders in the Deep South on a milieu where many have had positive tests for HIV antibodies shows that despite his expertise he has been taken in hook, line and sinker by the HIV claim.)

Whether you’re deciding which smartphone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic. But here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us—but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human.

Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them. But often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter—covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency—is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.

Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.

All these volumes detail the delusions that afflict mankind in general at every corner of their supposedly lucid reasoning process, and show precisely why a grand delusion may live on despite its debunking by brilliant and persistent critics, since it is supported by the common delusions of the crowd of normal human beings who believe it. In other words, most of us have to make a serious and prolonged effort to think straight if our beliefs are going ever going to be in line with reality.

For example,

(From a Guardian review of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow by Oliver Burkeman): Take the famous “Linda question”: Linda is a single 31-year-old, who is very bright and deeply concerned with issues of social justice. Which of the following statements is more probable: a) that Linda works in a bank, or b) that Linda works in a bank and is active in the feminist movement? The overwhelming majority of respondents go for b), even though that’s logically impossible. (It can’t be more likely that both things are true than that just one of them is.) This is the “conjunctive fallacy”, whereby our judgment is warped by the persuasive combination of plausible details. We are much better storytellers than we are logicians.

Relevant pages are at Scientific American on Trivers, Guardian on Robert Trivers, Guardian on Daniel Kahneman

Myth making at the heart of culture

All of these kinks in human reasoning arise not from neuronal inefficiency at navigating logic per se but from the corrupting effect of emotions on reason. Since there is no sluice gate to close between brain and body, objective reasoning is impossible without a very great effort to remove their influence, which is made very difficult by the fact that we all tend to be blind to the effect in ourselves (present company excepted, of course).

So if myth can be said to be belief founded in emotion rather than reason, then mankind’s love of myth may be the final factor in the triumph of HIV/AIDS ideology, a force against which reason is generally powerless, as in religion. The mechanisms of religion – the unison of crowd behavior, the love of authority, the tribalism, the wish fulfilling fantasy, the healing power of story – are all engaged by the power of myth, and HIV/AIDS is a powerful myth, which through its appeal to everyone from scientists to gays clearly binds groups and enforces subscription to a biblical text. Prising a believer away from his or her belief in HIV as a deadly virus is as difficult as separating the Bible from the Pope.

Against such a force, the hapless individual heretic in HIV/AIDS, however well credentialed, is reduced to the status of a mouse facing a juggernaut.

Obama Wins: Sandy, Christie, Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Youth Save The Obacon

November 6th, 2012

Obama win coming up, according to job rating, betting sites

Dissing Hispanics, women, poor, auto bailout, Big Bird, Olympics, Romney fails

Wins declining whites, seniors, but alienates expanding rainbow, women, youth

Final score: Blacks turn out, Obama wins popular vote by three million

The results of today’s Presidential election are already in hand at 3pm New York time, according to the two reliable indicators we consult: the judgment of the best betting sites, and the job approval level of Obama, which has risen by 5% since Sandy promoted him from plaintive professorial self justifier to captain of the ship in a megastorm and major general of federal succor in the aftermath of Sandy.

One Irish betting site is so confident of the outcome that it has already paid off bettors to the tune of $650,000:

No need to wait until the last chad is counted — heck, no need to wait until the polls close on Nov. 6 to find out who won the U.S. presidential election. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has called the victory for President Barack Obama, even putting its money where its mouth is by pre-emptively paying out a whopping $650,000 on Obama bets.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Irish betting firm took out a half-page ad in the Irish Times newspaper, which read, “Sorry Romney, you’re not black or cool. We’re paying out early on an Obama victory.”

Why are betting sites a reliable guide? According to The Wisdom of Crowds, it is because each bettor is thinking through the problem and making up his/her own mind for him/herself. This is when crowds become wise. If they are indulging in a lemming like stampede, they are as foolish as the rest of us.

From Publishers Weekly
While our culture generally trusts experts and distrusts the wisdom of the masses, New Yorker business columnist Surowiecki argues that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.” To support this almost counterintuitive proposition, Surowiecki explores problems involving cognition (we’re all trying to identify a correct answer), coordination (we need to synchronize our individual activities with others) and cooperation (we have to act together despite our self-interest). His rubric, then, covers a range of problems, including driving in traffic, competing on TV game shows, maximizing stock market performance, voting for political candidates, navigating busy sidewalks, tracking SARS and designing Internet search engines like Google. If four basic conditions are met, a crowd’s “collective intelligence” will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don’t know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. “Wise crowds” need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people’s errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are “smarter” than if a single expert had been in charge.

Two more signals to clinch it

The job approval rating is another reliable guide, where Obama now scores 51% or above, a level where no president has lost a re-election and about where Bush was when he won re-election in 2004.

A third indicator is coming in now, which is the exit poll of voters emerging from the booths. The question “Who do you think will win?” is reportedly the best guide to the actual outcome (rather than “Who did you vote for?”). This question may already be confirming Obama’s win.

Obama’s Achievement

This result seems rational to us, and also promising. Rational because Obama has achieved so much against the headwind of Republican intransigence, and promising because with Obama no longer a re-election target, there may be a little more room for cooperation between the parties on vital issues, such as immigration reform, a drug truce and curbing military force.

For what did Obama already get done in the face of Republican-Tea Party intransigence? Quite a long list of achievements, despite severely disappointing progressives who hoped for much more from their professorial political orator who promised communal hope and change, only to find that divisive party politics tied his hands at almost every turn, and who doubt that what he learned in the White House now justifies killing American citizens with drone strikes.

There is also the strong feeling Obama has done too little for the middle class he now claims to stand up for, lavishing free money on Wall Street and failing banks while giving homeowners ineffective help on foreclosures and failing to attack unemployment directly by successfully bringing in a New Deal program of infrastructure repair of road and rail, jobs for teachers and firemen, and similar rebuilding.

Not to mention the complaint that he is completely ignoring the poor, the new unmentionable, as Tavis Smiley and Cornell West point out in their new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us, which treats the greatest wound in the body economic, America’s widening chasm between the 1 and the 99%. And not to mention the 2.3 million incarcerated in the US, safely castrated from voting then or later, many of them for picayune drug offenses (see Eugene Jarecki’s documentary The House I Live In, which won the Sundance Grand Jury award this year arguing for a drug truce).

A very long list of gains

Nevertheless, among Obama’s sometimes signal achievements which Romney wanted the voters to overlook are his arranging for Obamacare to cover 31 million uninsured Americans from 2014, with subsidies for those who cant afford it, plus moves to curb the spiralling cost of health care, a great open wound in the American budget, rescuing the economy from another Great Depression, with net jobs increasing twelve months later and ever since to a total of 3.7 million so far, reining in Wall Street’s fraudulent exploitation of everybody else with Dodd-Frank in 2010, weakened though it was, recapitalizing banks at zero cost to the government, saving the auto industry at a cost of $16 billion or less, kicking predatory banks out of student loans, reforming credit rules, stimulating education with Race to the Top state grants, doubling fuel efficiency by 2025, extending unemployment payments, cutting payroll taxes, and budgeting more for veterans health, tuition and hiring.

On the foreign front Obama has removed the military from Iraq and set plans to remove them from Afghanistan, ordered the successful killing of Osama Bin Laden and retrieved a trove of Al Quaeda documents, significantly supported the exit of Quaddafi and Mubarak from the world stage, significantly improved America’s image abroad, turned US foreign policy to focus on Asia, tightened sanctions on Iran mercilessly, reduced warheads hand in hand with Russia, tripled AmeriCorps, reined in the Star Wars missile defense, and moved the military budget from overwhelming military force to concentrate on intelligence and cyberwarfare,

In terms of social justice he has repealed Don’t Ask Dont Tell, reduced penalties for crack, stopped opposing gay marriage, expanded fair pay rules for women, funded improved school tests, cracked down on cheating non-profit colleges, begun closing filthy coal plants, put two pro-choice women on the Supreme Court, tightened food safety rules, expanded wilderness and protected rivers, tightened restrictions on tobacco, told federal agencies to reduce environmental impact, updated and streamlined space exploration, invested $90 billion in green technology, ordained whole grains and doubled fruit and veg for school lunches, expanded hate crimes prosecution to cover sex, gender and disability, operated for an unprecedented time without Presidential or executive scandal, speeded up Gulf oil spill compensation, created the recovery.gov site to defeat fraud in stimulus spending with transparency, subsidized rural broadband, taxed tobacco to expand child health coverage, declared carbon dioxide a regulated pollutant, released stem cell research from Bush era restrictions, repaid cheated black and native American farmers, saved $4 billion by canceling the F-22.and rebuilt FEMA to handle crises such as Sandy effectively.

Reelection will help to extend this list by confirming acceptance of Obama’s role as leader of a more enlightened and color blind America.

Updates:
11.15 pm NYC time, Obama win announced by networks, AP.
1 am At 303 to 206, Romney concedes in brief and gracious speech which suggests exit from politics forever. (final count with Florida will be 332-206)
1.40 am Back on top, Obama gives buoyant address suggesting he has been newly inspired and determined to overcome division – including sitting down with Mitt Romney at some point in the future – and move forward at the head of the winded but still greatest national economy on earth.

“In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward….

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet…

You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do….

Voice of the people: Obama blowout!

Obama seems to have won through canny campaigning which defeated Republican guru Karl Rove and his and other superPACS, a supremely slippery Romney and use the infinite reach of political ignorance available in democracy to allow people in Kansas and elsewhere to be misled into voting against their own interests. While first reports had the country remaining more or less 50-50 in the presidential popular vote, it has become clear that Obama actually has decisively won the popular vote by more than three million, 61,122,638 to 58,130,991 (Nov 8), and with a Florida win to come will have 332 electoral votes, a total better than Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, and Bush in both George ‘W’ elections!

So with the Tea Party tail wagging their party dog the Republicans have paid a heavy price for alienating minorities, immigrants, gays, women and the young as the country slowly turns from white to rainbow, regardless of Romney’s claim to more ably rescue the economy.

That is why as far as we are concerned one key line in Obama’s acceptance speech was:

I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

But not everyone is listening yet, as CSPAN makes clear as it keeps its finger on the pulse of the average voter:

“America has turned its back on God” says a caller on CSPAN next day, Mark in Brownsville Texas. “We are going to turn into a third world country”.

Kareen, a Democrat in Escandido, added this explanation of the day’s events: “We took God out of this world. We don’t recognise him. We cant do anything on our own. You see, God, he is the leader, we have to realise that. You know. And he put put Obama there because he wanted him there. He will work through Obama. And the Republicans have got to stop and think. They are like they’re Pharaoh. So we need to come together we need to love God and there will be peace.”

“I voted Republican and now Mr Obama is in office when is Congress going to start proceedings to impeach him over the Libya affair?” asked David from Cherry Creek in New York.

Removing the filibuster roadblock

Is there a chance that one of the most worthless extremes of the democratic parliamentary structure might now be erased?

Democratic Senate majority leader Senator Harry Reid gave a short press conference at midday on Wednesday with some promising news. He says he wants to do away with the filibuster in the Senate, which allows any Senator to block any bill with less than 3/5 (60 votes) support with a phone call threatening a filibuster (the House did away with the move long ago). The filibuster rule can be erased by a majority vote (50) on the first day of the January or March session, or at another time with a 60 vote majority, though the change can also be filibustered:

“Yes, I have plans to change the filibuster rule. The rules have been abused and we are going to do away with the filibuster and make the Senate a place where we can get things done.”

On compromise, in general however, he would only say that “I am going to do everything within my power to work together, but I want everyone to understand they can’t push us around.” Retreat on taxing the rich was not going to be an option, as Obama also has emphasized, though in “all the exit polls, everyone agrees that the very rich have to help a little bit.” Climate change is also extremely important, he said, and he is hoping to move forward on that.

C’mon Obama, time to push back

Now Obama turns from the poetry of campaign rhetoric to governing in prose, as Mario Cuomo famously put it, many are hoping his new energy will turn into real leadership cunning.

The difficulties remain, even though his mandate is much greater than anyone thought at first (many commentators hadn’t caught up with the total even by Nov 12). The Senate is under Democratic control at 54-45-1, but the House is firmly Republican at 233-193. So without cooperation and compromise or successful bulldozing/charming/manipulation by Obama the prospect of moving forward is no better than before, especially with the Tea Party vowing to hold the Republican leadership’s “feet to the fire” at the National Press Club the day after the election, Wednesday, to make sure that “the values of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets” are respected, according to Jenny Beth Martin, the Tea Party Patriots’ National Coordinator.

In another bad sign, after his victory was in the bag Obama tried to call John Boehner the House speaker and Senator McConnell the Senate minority leader and both are reported to have said they were already in bed and couldn’t talk. However, public pressure is bound to mount behind raising taxes for the rich at least by closing loopholes and Boehner was sounding more open minded on taxes in general Wednesday, according to the Washington Post:

The speaker on Wednesday opened the door to increased tax revenue as part of a bipartisan deal to tame the soaring national debt, saying that Republicans are “willing to accept new revenues.” In formal remarks to reporters, Boehner said he is willing to break with the orthodoxy of many influential Republicans out of a desire to “do what’s best for our country.”

With his decisive popular win all must hope that Obama will gather his political resources and treat his major win as a mandate to push ahead determinedly with whatever he wishes to leave as a legacy, centrist though his instincts might be. But handling the Republicans carefully is a must if they are to cooperate while they are licking their wounds.

After all, the people as a whole have now firmly rejected the radical right wing economics of Koch Industries favorite and Ayn Rand worshipper Paul Ryan (lost his home county, his hometown and his home Ward, saved only by gerrymandering) and its long ago exploded anti Keynesian policies of government austerity, trickle down for the poor, and tax rebates for the rich in times of economic difficulty. They have also voted to get rid of Citizens United in Montana and Colorado, and Vermont and Maine voted overwhelmingly for Senators against it. Only gerrymandering saved the Republicans majority in the House, it seems clear.

So Obama will perhaps (we idealistically hope) make getting rid of the big money distortion of elections a priority even though he and his campaign proved that it does not trump transcendent political values and fears. That, and forcing the superrich and corporations to pay more than no tax at all, and show strong leadership on global warming. One thing seems ripe fruit for the picking after steering away from the fiscal cliff and that is immigration. Republicans revising their platform will presumably start with that.

Among those non-fiscal issues that lawmakers now appear eager to discuss is immigration reform — and Boehner said his chamber will take up the issue in the next session.

But the greatest hope of all, if possibly the least likely, is that Obama will do something significant to prise the death grip of the superrich off the throat of the body politic so that once again this dying democracy can regain some of the opportunity it used to provide the rest of us, and especially the new generation, to do better than their parents in improving their lot.

The second term jinx

Let’s hope that Obama keeps a steady hand on the tiller and doesn’t suffer from the overconfidence and staff deterioration that the New York Times notes often leads second term Presidents into dangerous territory (eg FDR packing the Supreme Court, Reagan and Iran-Contra, Nixon and Watergate, Clinton and his intern):

Overwhelming victory can often lead to second-term hubris, persuading a president that the country thinks he can do no wrong. As Lou Cannon, the Reagan biographer and Washington Post White House reporter, observed: “Landslides are dangerous to the victor.” Roosevelt lost only two states in 1936; Nixon lost only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in 1972.

Reagan lost only one state in 1984, and the next two years were “the least successful of Reagan’s 16 years in office,” including his years as governor of California, Mr. Cannon said. Even a narrow victory can create overconfidence. In 2004, George W. Bush won 50.7 percent of the vote, which was no landslide (even compared with his 48.3 percent share four years earlier). But he treated the victory as a huge mandate, and plunged ahead with a plan to privatize Social Security in 2005, as he had promised during his re-election campaign.

But the Social Security plan went nowhere. Republicans cringed, and Democrats eagerly united in opposition.

Second-term presidents are also lame ducks, parrying ambitious would-be successors in the opposition and in their own party. Dwight Eisenhower often complained of the recently enacted 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms. But earlier presidents faced the same problem, because tradition back to George Washington had established the same term limit, until Roosevelt ran for his third term.

However, Obama has now said in his first press conference of his new era that he is fully aware of the danger. “I’m more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms,” he said. “We are very cautious about that. On the other hand, I didn’t get reelected just to bask in reelection.”

On the other side of the aisle, when Republicans went overboard chasing down Clinton, it resulted in Democratic gains in the 1998 mid term election. Apparently, attacking the President on a personal matter was not a winning card for the opposition then, as it was not this time either, in terms of the underlying racism which was entrained against Obama before and during the election (Obama lost white voters to Romney by 20 points, the widest margin for a Democratic presidential candidate since Mondale lost to Reagan in 1984, but still most of his nationwide vote came from whites, the same 39% share of white voters that Clinton won in 1992).

It is now up to Obama to lead the nation and the world into the future while the Republicans are regrouping from confusion and disarray.

Results:

Presidential campaign spending
Obama $932,013,388
Romney $1028,213,064

Congressional and presidential election spending $6 billion
Annual marketing budget of Procter and Gamble $3 billion
AT&T $1.9 billion General Motors $1.8 billion
Spending on Elizabeth Warren vs Scott Brown in Mass. Senate race $68 million
Average campaign staffer salary Republican $6,437 Democratic $3,074
Amount pledged by Obama top donors (Univ Ca affiliated) $1,092,906
By Romney top donors (Goldman Sachs affiliated) $994,139
Number of Presidential

Obama wins hands down, but hands still tied

Crowd attending Obama victory speech 2012: 10,000
2008 240,000

Romney wins declining white share, seniors, Obama wins rising rainbow of blacks, Hispanics, even Cubans in Florida

Obama won 51% to 48% of popular vote.
Obama 62,085,892 Romney 58,777,012 Total 120,862,904
Update: Final count Obama wins popular vote by over 4 million.

Obama 126 electoral votes over Romney 332-206 62% 38% win.
(Compare: 2008 192 Obama over McCain. 2004 Bush 35 over Kerry 2000 Bush 5? over Gore. 1996 Clinton 220 over Dole. 1992 Clinton 202 over Bush. 1988 Bush over Dukakis 315 1984 Reagan over Modale 512 1980 Reagan over Carter 440 1976 Carter over Ford57 1972 Nixon over MacGovern 503 1968 Nixon over Humphrey 110 1964 Johnson over Goldwater 434 1960 Kennedy over Nixon 84.)

After redistricting, House Democrats down 193 to 192 and Republicans down from 242 to 233. Republican majority down from 49 to 41.

Romney wins whites

Share of white non Hispanic votes 2004 79% 2008 74% 2012 72%
Median age of whites in US 42
Obama defeated by Romney among whites 59% to 39%

Romney wins men

Share of male voters: Obama 45% Romney 52%

Obama wins women

Obama 55% Romney 43%

Romney wins seniors

Share of 65+ voters: Obama 44% Romney 55%

Blacks turn out for Obama, though fewer than in 2008

Share of Black vote 2004 11% 2012 13%
Median age blacks in US 33
Black men 87% for Obama Black women 96% for Obama
Share of 13% Black vote by men 5% share by women 8%
Michigan 2008 Black vote 12% 2012 Black vote 16%
Missouri 2008 Black share of vote 13% 2012 16%
North Carolina 23% and Florida 13% same as 2008 in 2012 but voter turnout total much larger
Ohio Republican share of black 2000 9% 2004 16%
Ohio black share of vote 2008 11% 2012 15%
Obama 96% of black vote in Ohio, his margin of victory.
Virginia 93% of black votes for Obama
But total black votes for Obama 1.6 million fewer than in 2008

Share of Hispanic vote in total 2004 6% 2012 10%
Obama 69% Romney 29&
Median age Hispanics in US 25
“If Romney had got share of Hispanic vote Bush won in 2004 he would be President elect
right now” -
Share of Asian vote in total 2004 1% 2012 3%
Obama 74% Romney 25%

Distrusted Bain Capital wiz Romney loses bid to run weak economy still blamed on Bush

23 million out of work, but 3 million jobs unfilled.
Average CEO pay in 1965 20 x average worker’s.
Average CEO pay in 2011 231 x average worker’s.
Proportion of Americans who pay any income tax: 55%
(Taxes paid by the rest eg poor widows seniors welfare include payroll, sales, property, state, local, gasoline, liquor taxes)
Since 1978 share of income growth to bottom 90% zero.
Share of wealth in 2010 owned by top 400 = share of wealth in 2010 owned by bottom 150 million.
Fiscal cliff: $2-3,500 tax hike for average household (midnight Dec 31)
Budget cut $110 billion in 2013 alone (starts Jan 2), $1.2 trillion over ten years
Unemployment back over 89.1%

Wine Science: Myhrvold Makes Wine Taste Better – With A Blender

October 10th, 2012

Nathan Myrhvold Blends Fine Wine – In a Blender

Winemakers Fooled in Blind Tests, Choose His Blend as Best

His Well Equipped Inventiveness May Promise a Malaria Breakthrough, Better Nuclear Reactor

A current Times Talk features Times man Jeff Gordinier interviewing the bouncy billionaire Nathan Myhrvold, who made a fortune at Microsoft helping to pick the pockets of consumers by selling them Windows systems that reliably ruined the working hours of all who used them. Having given up his job as Microsoft CTO Myrhvold spent some of his ill gotten gains on an enormous kitchen where he investigated the science involved in cooking, which has won him a TED talk and wide renown for a multi volume book on his findings, Modernist Cuisine, published in a rather inconvenient format that only a computer executive could love, but still a dazzling encyclopaedia of real food science which has comprehensively cornered the market in this wonderful topic. A smaller book, Modernist Cuisine at Home, came out recently.

Be that as it may, one result he claims is of interest to those who have long been impressed by the fact that high priced wines seem to fail to win first place in blind taste tests far too often to believe that they are reliably better than cheaper ones. Judges ratings of any wines in competition have been shown to be very inconsistent. The tests often lack rigor in design, moreover.

In the last ten years Fred Franzia of the label Charles Shaw has confirmed this suspicion by turning the retail wine business upside down by mass manufacturing cheap wine in California, maturing it in vast vats as big as grain silos for as short a time as six weeks and then selling it for $3 a bottle (New York price, $2 “two buck chuck” elsewhere) to win connoisseurs in Manhattan through Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. Rival Whole Foods picked up on this opportunity and now sells its own $2 or 3 bottles of red and white which are equally good.

Now Myrhvold is appearing on stage at TED and at the Times telling one and all that even expensive wines can be improves dramatically by simply decanting them into a blender and pressing the button for a half minute or so. He claims to have embarrassed and excited a top Spanish winemaker with a demonstration and a blind test which had him on the phone to his vineyard manager asking what the heck is going on, since he had chosen the blended version of his wine over the untouched. Myrhvold wrote a piece for Business Week on the topic, How to Decant Wine with a Blender.

Wine lovers have known for centuries that decanting wine before serving it often improves its flavor. Whatever the dominant process, the traditional decanter is a rather pathetic tool to accomplish it. A few years ago, I found I could get much better results by using an ordinary kitchen blender. I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving. I call it “hyperdecanting.”

Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.

But set up a proper blind taste test to avoid subconscious bias among the tasters. That’s a bigger problem than you might imagine. Researchers who examined the voting records of wine judges found that 90 percent of the time they give inconsistent ratings to a particular wine when they judge it on multiple occasions.

To avoid bias, use a “triangle test,” which is a scientifically rigorous way to test for a perceptible difference between wine prepared two different ways. Get as many judges as you can—10 is the minimum to get good statistics. Give each judge three identical glasses, and label the glasses X, Y, and Z.

Hyperdecant half a bottle of wine, and save the other half of the bottle to use for comparison. Out of view of the judges, pour an ounce or so of wine into each glass. The undecanted wine should go into two of the glasses, the hyperdecanted wine into the third, or vice versa. Vary the order of presentation among the judges so that not all are tasting the hyperdecanted wine first or last. Record which wine goes into which glass, and have the judges guess which two of their wines are the same.

You’ll probably find that hyperdecanting does clearly change the flavor of the wine. To determine with scientific rigor whether your tasters prefer the hyperdecanted wine requires a more complex trial called a “paired preference” test, or “square” test. But a blind side-by-side comparison works passably well, too, and requires no math.

Myhrvold is the ex-chief technology officer of Microsoft, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, and author of Modernist Cuisine.
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A recent PBS NovaScienceNow hour with David Pogue featured Myrhvold talking of his findings in this field.

Myrhvold is an example to the rest of us with his relentless curiosity in so many fields, one must add. Here is his latest invention, a way to combat malaria:Could this laser zap malaria? – TED

His comments seem more timely than ever as the latest malaria vaccine trial (Malaria Vaccine Candidate Gives Disappointing Results
By Donald G. McNeil)
has shown how difficult it is to develop a really effective vaccine for this deadly parasite, which excites only limited immunity by itself. The claim is that one third of infants less than a year old were successfully immunized:

Three shots of the vaccine, known as RTS, S or Mosquirix and produced by GlaxoSmithKline, gave babies fewer than 12 weeks old 31 percent protection against detectable malaria and 37 percent protection against severe malaria, according to an announcement by the company at a vaccines conference in Cape Town.

Last year, in a trial in children up to 17 months old, the same vaccine gave 55 percent protection against detectable malaria and 47 percent against severe malaria.

The new trial “is less than we’d hoped for,” Moncef Slaoui, chairman of research and development at Glaxo, said in a telephone interview. “But if a million babies were vaccinated, we would prevent 260,000 cases of malaria a year. This is a disease that kills 655,000 babies a year — 31 percent of that is a very large number.”…

Like an H.I.V. vaccine, one against malaria has proved an elusive goal. The parasite morphs several times, exhibiting different surface proteins as it goes from mosquito saliva into blood and then into and out of the liver. Also, even the best natural “vaccine” — catching the disease itself — is not very effective. While one bout of measles immunizes a child for life, it usually takes several bouts of malaria to confer even partial immunity. Pregnancy can cause women to stop being immune, and immunity can fade out if someone moves away from a malarial area — presumably because they no longer get “boosters” from repeated mosquito bites.

Of course, HIV is another kettle of fish altogether, since it confers 100% immunity all by itself. Apparently Donald McNeil is unaware of this fact, or has been confused by NIAID propaganda peddled with the incomparably inventive Dr Anthony Fauci at the helm.

The truth, of course, is that anyone suckered into an HIV test who comes out positive should remember that means he/she is full of antibodies, and even if you choose to believe HIV causes any trouble to any body, which good science firmly denies, you are therefore immune to it, if you contained any of it, which you don’t.

A positive HIV test is the most positive thing you could possibly score, and you should be very happy about it – except for the fact that a grotesque superstition fills the world and will make you the subject of a witch hunt, a lynch mob and crowd fear and disgust.

Two TED transcripts of Myrhvold talks – Malaria and penguin shit, Nuclear Reactor etc
(Press the Tab to see the text, if you wish)

NATHAN MYRHVOLD on Malaria http://www.ted.com/talks/nathan_myhrvold_could_this_laser_zap_malaria.html
We invent. My company invents all kinds of new technology in lots of different areas. And we do that for a couple of reasons. We invent for fun — invention is a lot of fun to do — and we also invent for profit. The two are related because the profit actually takes long enough that if it isn’t fun, you wouldn’t have the time to do it. So we do this fun and profit-oriented inventing for most of what we do, but we also have a program where we invent for humanity — where we take some of our best inventors, and we say, “Are there problems where we have a good idea for solving a problem the world has?” — and to solve it in the way we try to solve problems, which is with dramatic, crazy, out-of-the-box solutions. Bill Gates is one of those smartest guys of ours that work on these problems and he also funds this work, so thank you. So I’m going to briefly discuss a couple of problems that we have and a couple of problems where we’ve got some solutions underway. Vaccination is one of the key techniques in public health, a fantastic thing. But in the developing world a lot of vaccines spoil before they’re administered, and that’s because they need to be kept cold. Almost all vaccines need to be kept at refrigerator temperatures. They go bad very quickly if you don’t, and if you don’t have stable power grid, this doesn’t happen, so kids die. It’s not just the loss of the vaccine that matters; it’s the fact that those kids don’t get vaccinated. This is one of the ways that vaccines are carried: These are Styrofoam chests. These are being carried by people, but they’re also put on the backs of pickup trucks. We’ve got a different solution. Now, one of these Styrofoam chests will last for about four hours with ice in it. And we thought, well, that’s not really good enough. So we made this thing. This lasts six months with no power; absolutely zero power, because it loses less than a half a watt. Now, this is our second generations prototype. The third generation prototype is, right now, in Uganda being tested. Now, the reason we were able to come up with this is two key ideas: One is that this is similar to a cryogenic Dewar, something you’d keep liquid nitrogen or liquid helium in. They have incredible insulation, so let’s put some incredible insulation here. The other idea is kind of interesting, which is, you can’t reach inside anymore. Because if you open it up and reach inside, you’d let the heat in, the game would be over. So the inside of this thing actually looks like a Coke machine. It vends out little individual vials. So a simple idea, which we hope is going to change the way vaccines are distributed in Africa and around the world. We’ll move on to malaria. Malaria is one of the great public health problems. Esther Duflo talked a little bit about this. Two hundred million people a year. Every 43 seconds a child in Africa dies; 27 will die during my talk. And there’s no way for us here in this country to grasp really what that means to the people involved. Another comment of Esther’s was that we react when there’s a tragedy like Haiti, but that tragedy is ongoing. So what can we do about it? Well, there are a lot of things people have tried for many years for solving malaria. You can spray; the problem is there are environmental issues. You can try to treat people and create awareness. That’s great, except the places that have malaria really bad, they don’t have health care systems. A vaccine would be a terrific thing, only they don’t work yet. People have tried for a long time. There are a couple of interesting candidates. It’s a very difficult thing to make a vaccine for. You can distribute bed nets, and bed nets are very effective if you use them. You don’t always use them for that. People fish with them. They don’t always get to everyone. And bed nets have an effect on the epidemic, but you’re never going to make it extinct with bed nets. Now, malaria is an incredibly complicated disease. We could spend hours going over this. It’s got this sort of soap opera-like lifestyle; they have sex, they burrow into your liver, they tunnel into your blood cells … it’s an incredibly complicated disease, but that’s actually one of the things we find interesting about it and why we work on malaria: There’s a lot of potential ways in. One of those ways might be better diagnosis. So we hope this year to prototype each of these devices. One does an automatic malaria diagnosis in the same way that a diabetic’s glucose meter works: You take a drop of blood, you put it in there and it automatically tells you. Today, you need to do a complicated laboratory procedure, create a bunch of microscope slides and have a trained person examine it. The other thing is, you know, it would be even better if you didn’t have to draw the blood. And if you look through the eye, or you look at the vessels on the white of the eye, in fact, you may be able to do this directly, without drawing any blood at all, or through your nail beds. Because if you actually look through your fingernails, you can see blood vessels, and once you see blood vessels, we think we can see the malaria. We can see it because of this molecule called hemozoin. It’s produced by the malaria parasite and it’s a very interesting crystalline substance. Interesting, anyway, if you’re a solid-state physicist. There’s a lot of cool stuff we can do with it. This is our femtosecond laser lab. So this creates pulses of light that last a femtosecond. That’s really, really, really short. This is a pulse of light that’s only about one wavelength of light long, so it’s a whole bunch of photons all coming and hitting simultaneously. It creates a very high peak power and it lets you do all kinds of interesting things; in particular, it lets you find hemozoin. So here’s an image of red blood cells, and now we can actually map where the hemozoin and where the malaria parasites are inside those red blood cells. And using both this technique and other optical techniques, we think we can make those diagnostics. We also have another hemozoin-oriented therapy for malaria: a way, in acute cases, to actually take the malaria parasite and filter it out of the blood system. Sort of like doing dialysis, but for relieving the parasite load. This is our thousand-core supercomputer. We’re kind of software guys, and so nearly any problem that you pose, we like to try to solve with some software. One of the problems that you have if you’re trying to eradicate malaria or reduce it is you don’t know what’s the most effective thing to do. Okay, we heard about bed nets earlier. You spend a certain amount per bed net. Or you could spray. You can give drug administration. There’s all these different interventions but they have different kinds of effectiveness. How can you tell? So we’ve created, using our supercomputer, the world’s best computer model of malaria, which we’ll show you now. We picked Madagascar. We have every road, every village, every, almost, square inch of Madagascar. We have all of the precipitation data and the temperature data. That’s very important because the humidity and precipitation tell you whether you’ve got standing pools of water for the mosquitoes to breed. So that sets the stage on which you do this. You then have to introduce the mosquitoes, and you have to model that and how they come and go. Ultimately, it gives you this. This is malaria spreading across Madagascar. And this is this latter part of the rainy season. We’re going to the dry season now. It nearly goes away in the dry season, because there’s no place for the mosquitoes to breed. And then, of course, the next year it comes roaring back. By doing these kinds of simulations, we want to eradicate or control malaria thousands of times in software before we actually have to do it in real life; to be able to simulate both the economic trade-offs — how many bed nets versus how much spraying? — or the social trade-offs — what happens if unrest breaks out? We also try to study our foe. This is a high-speed camera view of a mosquito. And, in a moment, we’re going to see a view of the airflow. Here, we’re trying to visualize the airflow around the wings of the mosquito with little particles we’re illuminating with a laser. By understanding how mosquitoes fly, we hope to understand how to make them not fly. Now, one of the ways you can make them not fly is with DDT. This is a real ad. This is one of those things you just can’t make up. Once upon a time, this was the primary technique, and, in fact, many countries got rid of malaria through DDT. The United States did. In 1935, there were 150,000 cases a year of malaria in the United States, but DDT and a massive public health effort managed to squelch it. So we thought, “Well, we’ve done all these things that are focused on the Plasmodium, the parasite involved. What can we do to the mosquito? Well, let’s try to kill it with consumer electronics.” Now, that sounds silly, but each of these devices has something interesting in it that maybe you could use. Your Blu-ray player has a very cheap blue laser. Your laser printer has a mirror galvanometer that’s used to steer a laser beam very accurately; that’s what makes those little dots on the page. And, of course, there’s signal processing and digital cameras. So what if we could put all that together to shoot them out of the sky with lasers? (Laughter) (Applause) Now, in our company, this is what we call “the pinky-suck moment.” (Laughter) What if we could do that? Now, just suspend disbelief for a moment, and let’s think of what could happen if we could do that. Well, we could protect very high-value targets like clinics. Clinics are full of people that have malaria. They’re sick, and so they’re less able to defend themselves from the mosquitoes. You really want to protect them. Of course, if you do that, you could also protect your backyard. And farmers could protect their crops that they want to sell to Whole Foods because our photons are 100 percent organic. (Laughter) They’re completely natural. Now, it actually gets better than this. You could, if you’re really smart, you could shine a nonlethal laser on the bug before you zap it, and you could listen to the wing beat frequency and you could measure the size. And then you could decide: “Is this an insect I want to kill, or an insect I don’t want to kill?” Moore’s law made computing cheap; so cheap we can weigh the life of an individual insect and decide thumbs up or thumbs down. (Laughter) Now, it turns out we only kill the female mosquitoes. They’re the only ones that are dangerous. Mosquitoes only drink blood to lay eggs. Mosquitoes actually live … their day-to-day nutrition comes from nectar, from flowers — in fact, in the lab, we feed ours raisins — but the female needs the blood meal. So, this sounds really crazy, right? Would you like to see it? Audience: Yeah! Nathan Myhrvold: Okay, so our legal department prepared a disclaimer, and here it is. (Laughter) Now, after thinking about this a little bit we thought, you know, it probably would be simpler to do this with a nonlethal laser. So, Eric Johanson, who built the device, actually, with parts from eBay; and Pablos Holman over here, he’s got mosquitoes in the tank. We have the device over here. And we’re going to show you, instead of the kill laser, which will be a very brief, instantaneous pulse, we’re going to have a green laser pointer that’s going to stay on the mosquito for, actually, quite a long period of time; otherwise, you can’t see it very well. Take it away Eric. Eric Johanson: What we have here is a tank on the other side of the stage. And we have … this computer screen can actually see the mosquitoes as they fly around. And Pablos, if he stirs up our mosquitoes a little bit we can see them flying around. Now, that’s a fairly straightforward image processing routine, and let me show you how it works. Here you can see that the insects are being tracked as they’re flying around, which is kind of fun. Next we can actually light them up with a laser. (Laughter) Now, this is a low powered laser, and we can actually pick up a wing-beat frequency. So you may be able to hear some mosquitoes flying around. NM: That’s a mosquito wing beat you’re hearing. EJ: Finally, let’s see what this looks like. There you can see mosquitoes as they fly around, being lit up. This is slowed way down so that you have an opportunity to see what’s happening. Here we have it running at high-speed mode. So this system that was built for TED is here to illustrate that it is technically possible to actually deploy a system like this, and we’re looking very hard at how to make it highly cost-effective to use in places like Africa and other parts of the world. (Applause) NM: So it wouldn’t be any fun to show you that without showing you what actually happens when we hit ‘em. (Laughter) (Laughter) This is very satisfying. (Laughter) This is one of the first ones we did. The energy’s a little bit high here. (Laughter) We’ll loop around here in just a second, and you’ll see another one. Here’s another one. Bang. An interesting thing is, we kill them all the time; we’ve never actually gotten the wings to shut off in midair. The wing motor is very resilient. I mean, here we’re blowing wings off but the wing motor keeps all the way down. So, that’s what I have. Thanks very much. (Applause)

TED video II on his general interests of great variety from penguin shit to new nuclear reactors.

http://www.ted.com/talks/nathan_myhrvold_on_archeology_animal_photography_bbq.html

So, I’m in Chile, in the Atacama desert, sitting in a hotel lobby, because that’s the only place that I can get a Wi-Fi connection, and I have this picture up on my screen, and a woman comes up behind me. She says, “Oh, that’s beautiful. What is it? Is that Jackson Pollock?” And unfortunately, I can be a little too honest. I said, “No, it’s — it’s penguin shit.” (Laughter) And, you know, “Excuse me!” And I could sense that she thought I was speaking synecdochically. (Laughter) So, I said, “No, no, really — it’s penguin shit.” (Laughter) Because I had just been in the Falkland Islands taking pictures of penguins. This is a Gentoo penguin. And she was still skeptical. So, literally, a few minutes before that, I downloaded this scientific paper about calculations on avian defecation, which is really quite interesting, because it turns out you can model this as something called “Poiseuille flow,” and you can learn an awful lot about the physics of the avian rectum. Actually, technically, it’s not a rectum. It’s called a cloaca. At this point, she stops me, and she says, “Who are you? Wha — what do you do?” And I was stuck, because I didn’t have any way to describe what I do. And so, in some sense, this talk today is my answer to that. It’s a selection of a random bunch of the stuff that I do. And it’s very hard for me to make sense of it, so I’m not sure that you can. It’s the kind of thing that I sit up late at night thinking about sometimes — often at four in the morning. So, some people are afraid of what I do. Some people think I am the nerd Tony Soprano, and in response, I have ordered a bulletproof pocket protector. I’m not sure what these people think, because I don’t speak Norsk. (Laughter) But I’m not thinking “monsteret” is a good thing. I don’t know, you know? So, one of the things that I love to do is travel around the world and look at archaeological sites. Because archaeology gives us an opportunity to study past civilizations, and see where they succeeded and where they failed. Use science to, you know, work backwards and say, “Well, really, what were they thinking?” And recently, I was in Easter Island, which is an incredibly beautiful place, and an incredibly mysterious place, because no matter where you go in Easter Island, you’re struck by these statues, called the moai. The place is 64 square miles. They made, so far as we can tell, 900 of them. Why on Earth? And if you haven’t read Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse,” I totally recommend that you do. He’s got a great chapter about it. Basically, these people committed ecological suicide in order to make more of these. And somewhere along the line, somebody said, “I know! Let’s cut down the last tree and commit suicide, because we need more identical statues.” (Laughter) And, one thing that isn’t a mystery, actually, was when I grew up — because when I was a little kid, I’d seen these pictures — and I thought, “Well, why that look on the face? Why that brow?” I mean, it’s such a powerful thing. Where did they get that inspiration? And then I met Yoyo, who is the native Rapa Nui-an guide, and if you look at Yoyo’s face, you kind of figure out where they got it. There’s many mysteries, these statues. Everyone wants to know, how did they make them, how did they transport them? This woman in the foreground is Jo Anne Van Tilberg. She’s the leading archaeologist working Easter Island today. And she has studied the statues for 20-some years, and she has detailed records of every single statue. The one on the page here is the same that’s up there. One interesting problem is the stone isn’t very hard. So, this used to be completely smooth. In fact, in many of the statues, when you excavate them, the backs are totally smooth — almost glass smooth. But after 1,000 years out in the weather, they look like this. Jo Anne and I have just embarked on a project to digitize them all, and we’re going to do a very high-res digitization, first because it’s a way of preserving them. Second, we have these ideas about how you can algorithmically, then, learn a few of the mysteries about them. How long have they been standing in what positions? And maybe, indirectly, get at some of the issues of what caused them to be the way they are. While I was in Easter Island, comet McNaught was there also, so you get a gratuitous picture of a moai with a comet. I also have an archaeological project going on in Egypt. “Going on” is perhaps a little bit strong. We’re trying to get all of the permissions to get everything all set, to get it going. So, I’ll talk about it at a future TED. But there’s some amazing opportunities in Egypt as well. Another thing I do is I invent stuff. In fact, I design nuclear reactors. Not a joke. This is the conventional nuclear fuel cycle. The red line is what is done in most nuclear reactors. It’s called the open fuel cycle. The white lines are what’s called an advance fuel cycle, where you reprocess. Now, this is the normal way it’s done. It’s got the huge advantage that it does not create carbon pollution. It has a lot of disadvantages: each one of these steps is extremely expensive, it’s potentially dangerous and they have the interesting property that the step cannot be performed in anyone’s backyard, which is a problem. So, our reactor eliminates these steps, which, if we can actually make it work, is a really cool thing. Now, it’s kind of nuts to work on a new nuclear reactor. There’s — no reactor’s been even built to an old design, much less a new one, in the United States for 25 years. It’s the kind of very high-risk, but potentially very high-return thing that we do. Changing into a totally different field, we do a lot of stuff in solid state physics, particularly in an area called metamaterials. A metamaterial is an artificial material, which manipulates, in this case, electromagnetic radiation, in a way that you couldn’t otherwise. So, this device here is an invisibility cloak. It may not seem that, but if you were a microwave, this is how you would view it. Rays of light — in this case, microwave light — come in, and they just squish around the cell, and they come back the other side. Now, you could do that with mirrors from one angle. The cool thing is, this does it from all angles. Metamaterials, unfortunately — A, it only works on microwave, and B, it doesn’t work all that well yet. But metamaterials are an incredibly exciting field. It’s — you know, today I’d like to say it’s a zero billion dollar business, but, in fact, it’s negative. But some day, some day, maybe it’s going to work. We do a lot of work in biomedical fields. In this case, we’re working with a major medical foundation to develop inexpensive ways of diagnosing diseases in developing countries. So, they say the eyes are the windows of the soul — turns out they’re a window to a whole lot more stuff. And these happen to be my eyes, by the way. Now, I’m also very interested in cooking. While I was at Microsoft, I took a leave of absence and went to a chef school in France. I used to work, also while at Microsoft, at a leading restaurant in Seattle, so I do a lot of cooking. I’ve been on a team that won the world championship of barbecue. But barbecue’s interesting, because it’s one of these cult foods like chili, or bouillabaisse. Various parts of the world will have a cult food that people get enormously attached to — there’s tremendous traditions, there’s secrecy. And I’m trying to use a very scientific approach. So, this is my latest cooker, and if this looks more complicated than the nuclear reactor, that’s because it is. But if you get to play with all those knobs and dials — and of course, really the controller over there does it all on software — you can make some terrific ribs. (Laughter) This is a high-speed centrifuge. You should all have one in your kitchen, beside your Turbochef. This subjects food to a force about 50,000 times that of normal gravity, and oh boy, does it clarify chicken stock. You would not believe it! I perform a series of ghoulish experiments on food — in this case, trying to calibrate a mathematical model so that one can predict exactly what the internal cooking times are. It turns out, A, it’s useful, and for a geek like me, it’s fun. Theory is red, black is experiment. So, I’m either really good at faking it, or this particular model seems to work. So, another random thing I do is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. And you may be familiar with the movie “Contact,” which sort of popularized that. It turns out there are real people who go out and search for extraterrestrials in a very scientific way. In fact, almost everybody in the movie is based on a real character, a real person. So, the Jodie Foster character here is actually this woman, Jill Tarter, and Jill has dedicated her life to this. You know, a lot of people risk their lives in a brief act of heroism, which is kind of cool, but Jill has what I call slow heroism. She is risking her professional life on something that her own calculations show may not work for a thousand years — may not ever. So, I like to support people that are risking their lives. After the movie came out, of course, there was a lot of interest in SETI. My kids saw the movie, and afterwards they came to me and they said, “So, Dad, so — so — that character — that’s Jill, right?” I said, “Oh, yeah, yeah — absolutely.” “And that other person, that’s someone — ” I said, “Yes.” They said, “Well, you know that creepy rich guy in the movie? Is that you?” I said, “Well, you know, it’s just a movie! Come on.” (Laughter) So, the SETI Institute, with a little bit of help from me, and a lot of help from Paul Allen and a variety of other people, is building a dedicated radio telescope in Hat Creek, California, so they can do this SETI work. Now, I travel a lot, and I change cell phones a lot, and the one person who always gets updated on all my cell phones and pagers and everything else is Jill, because I really don’t want to miss “the call.” (Laughter) I mean, can you imagine? E.T.’s phoning home, and I’m not, like, there? You know, horrible! So, I do a lot of work on dinosaurs. I’m known to TEDsters as the guy that has sex with dinosaurs. And I resemble that remark. I’m going to talk about a different aspect of dinosaurs, which is the finding of them. Now, to find dinosaurs, you hike around in horrible conditions looking for a dinosaur. It sounds really dumb, but that’s what it is. It’s horrible conditions, because wherever you have nice weather, plants grow, and you don’t get any erosion, and you don’t see any dinosaurs. So, you always find dinosaurs in deserts or badlands, areas that have very little plant growth and have flash floods in the spring. You know, skiers pray for snow? Paleontologists pray for erosion. So, you hike around and — this is after you dig them up, they look like this. You hike around, you see something like this. Now, this is something I found, so look at it very closely here. You’ve got this bentonite clay, which is — sort of swells up and expands. And there’s some stuff poking out. So, you look at that, and you look up close, and you say, “Well, gee, that’s kind of interesting. What are all of these pieces?” Well, if you look closely, you can recognize, actually, from the shape, that these are skull fragments. And then when you look at this, you say, “That’s a tooth. It’s a big tooth.” It’s about the size of a banana. It has a big serration on the edge. This is what Tyrannosaurus rex looks like in the ground. And this is what it’s like to find a Tyrannosaurus rex, which I was lucky enough to do a few years ago. Now, this is what Tyrannosaurus rex looks like in my living room. Not the same one, actually. This is a cast, which I had bought, and then, after buying the cast, I found my own, and I don’t have room for two. You know. So, the thing that’s wonderful for me about finding dinosaurs is that it is both an intellectual thing, because you’re trying to reconstruct the environment of millions of years ago. It’s something that can inform all sorts of science in unexpected ways. The study of dinosaurs led to the realization that there’s a problem with asteroid impact, for example. The study of dinosaurs may, literally, one day save the planet. Study of the ancient climate is very important. In fact, the Mesozoic, when dinosaurs lived, had much higher CO2 than today, was much warmer than today, and is one of the interesting proof points for the effects of CO2 on climate. But, besides being intellectually and scientifically interesting, it’s also very different than the other things I do, because you get to hike around in the badlands. This is actually what most dinosaur research looks like. This is one of my papers: “A pygostyle from a non-avian theropod.” It’s not as gripping as dinosaur sex, so we’re not going to go into it further. Now, I’m also really big on photography. I travel all over the world taking pictures — some of them good, most of them not. These days, bits are cheap. Unfortunately, that means you’ve got to spend more time sorting through them. Here’s a picture I took in the Falkland Islands of king penguins on a beach. Here’s a picture I took in Alaska, a few years ago, of Orcas. I’d gone up to photograph Orcas, and we had looked for a week, and we hadn’t seen a damn Orca. And the last day, the sun comes out, the Orcas come, they’re right by the boat. It’s fantastic. And I get lots of pictures like this. Then, a little bit later, I start getting some pictures like this. Now, to a human audience, I need to explain that if Penthouse magazine had a marine mammal edition, this would be the centerfold. It’s true. So, there’s more and more activity near the boat, and all of a sudden somebody shouts, “What’s that in the water?” I said, “Well, I think that’s what you call a free willy.” (Laughter) There’s a variety of things you can learn from watching whales have sex. (Laughter) The first thing you learn is the overwhelming importance of hands. They don’t have them. (Laughter) I think Paul Simon is in the audience, and he has — he may not realize it, but he wrote a song all about whale sex, “Slip-Slidin’ Away.” That’s kind of what it’s like. The other interesting thing that I learned about whale sex: they curl their toes too. (Laughter) So — where do you go putting all of these disparate pieces together? You know, there’s a tremendous amount of wisdom in finding a great thing, passion in life, and focusing all your energy on it, and I’ve never been able to do that. I just — you know, because, yes, I’ll focus passion on something, but then there will be something else, and then there’s something else again. And for a long time I fought this, and I thought, “Well, gee, I really ought to buckle down.” And you know, when I was at Microsoft, that was so engrossing, and the whole industry was expanding so much, that it did tend to crowd out most of the other things in my life. But ultimately, I decided that what I really ought to do is not fight being who I am, but embrace it. And say, “Yeah, you know, I — this whole talk has been a mile wide and an inch deep, but that’s really what works for me.” And regardless of whether it’s nuclear reactors or metamaterials or whale sex, the common — or lowest common denominator — is me. That’s it, thank you. (Applause)

Clinton Adding $11 Billion to $62 Billion CGI Pledges with Latest Fest

September 23rd, 2012

Annual Meeting of the 1% on How to Help the 99%

Clinton Leads Main Discussions With Usual Flair

But How Valid Is the Information They Rely On? Less than 100%

The list of celebrated political and business leaders at the latest CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) meeting in New York City this weekend (running Sunday 23 to Tuesday 25) is more dazzling to the naive than ever, capping several weeks of public glory for a notoriously attractive politician whose mental and social skills are reckoned among the highest of all by his admirers and his critics both, even as his motivations and values are reckoned questionable by many, including most notoriously by the late Christopher Hitchens, author of the scathing phillipic No One Left To Lie To and always delighted by exposure of the human frailty behind public reputation, whoever it might be:

The 42nd president of the United States was not infrequently accused of being needy, greedy, and tantrum-prone, as well as over-fond of fast or junk food. But try this, about his Muscovite counterpart, from an entry dated Oct. 18, 1994:

“Yeltsin did not always cope with the pressure. President Clinton said Yeltsin’s chronic escapes into alcohol were far more serious than the cultivated pose of a jolly Russian. They were worrisome for political stability, as only luck had prevented scandal or worse on both nights of this visit. Clinton had received notice of a major predawn security alarm when Secret Service agents discovered Yeltsin alone on Pennsylvania Avenue, dead drunk, clad in his underwear, yelling for a taxi. Yeltsin slurred his words in a loud argument with the baffled agents. He did not want to go back into Blair House, where he was staying. He wanted a taxi to go out for pizza. I asked what became of the standoff. ‘Well,’ the president said, shrugging, ‘he got his pizza.’ “

Both Romney and Obama will appear on Tuesday at separate times (Romney first, then Obama for lunch) to address the well funded members of the 1% who have paid $20,000 to attend. The underlying interest of course is to network and schmooze, just as they do at Davos. But the dominant theme as always will be the involvement and leadership of Clinton, who is in his element at these affairs as ringmaster, booster and commentator with an endless stock of personal anecdotes in every area addressed.

What these most important people actually say at these events on well chewed topics such as The Global Health Workforce and Integrating Social and Environmental Value into Core Business may not always be fresh in terms of facts and ideas on big problems, since those at the top of business and politics are naturally mostly dependent on what they are told by their advisors, and they are already well covered by the media. What is valuable is the direction and energy of their leadership, and CGI provides a forum to hear them on this basis that is more or less unmatched even by Davos, or Charlie Rose, who is more personal in his one on one format. But all the speakers at CGI are boosted by the electricity generated by Clinton himself.

The world can watch too – and join in with questions

The less VIP panelists can be more newsworthy on their more specialist topics in the issue based breakout sessions, such as Uncovering the Multiplier Effect of Investing in Women, since they are usually well informed by hands on experience.

But one key aspect of CGI for the public is that the great politico-business-charity gathering is now streaming its main events very efficiently indeed, providing a desktop window into current attitudes and thinking among this elite and their proteges for the rest of us which is fairly unmatched. Viewers can judge for themselves how interesting and enlightening they find the talk but now they can join in via Facebook and Livestream or Twitter -#cgi2012 – and write in their own questions and raise the topics they want, if they are lucky.

Perhaps of general interest is the interview of Chelsea Clinton by Charlie Rose (go down the page to find it), which suggests that Clinton’s daughter, already a seasoned television correspondent, will go much further in public life.

Cancer test breakthrough by high school student

In the past cynical observers might have felt that the event served too much as a platform for the privileged as they roll out their cliched but goodhearted ambitions in standard business jargon, but this time for some reason it now seems impossible to be cynical, as Chelsea Clinton remarks in her session on The Case for Optimism in the 21st Century (“given all the research that says there is such a thing as an optimist gene, it is probably impossible for anyone to be cynical in my family!”).

Now we have such participants as Jack Andraka, a student at North County High School, who raised funds for his basement project for a litmus test for cancer and produced one “168 times faster, 26,000 times cheaper. and 400 times more sensitive than the current gold standard”. He got turned down by all but 2 of the 200 donors he applied to initially, but was awarded more than $100,000 at the recent science fair.

At CGI participants describe the how of their projects rather than the why, which is usually taken for granted. Unfortunately the direction they choose is typically based on standard wisdom which is not always well informed by investigative research, so may be in need of revision.

HIV/AIDS continues to be the prize exhibit in this regard, where everyone assumes that the more drugs served up to the unfortunate blacks in Africa for the cheapest price is the best possible goal for those working to relieve their suffering from disease and malnutrition, without any awareness that there is an unresolved dispute in science on this point, and that many who have studied the subject feel that simple common sense would dictate otherwise. But of course since their host is well known for his pursuit of this goal, it is unlikely that any of them would find it conceivable that it is wrong.

These are accomplished actors and doers rather than thinkers, which is why the CGI is such a prominent and powerful event with its flavor of getting things done, rather than pointing the way. But for that very reason it is doubly sad that they should be misled in a major way on this front, where Clinton’s leadership has been unfortunately very successful.

Worldwide access almost as good as press access

“The three-day meeting will focus on designing for individual lives, our environments and the systems we rely on including food, an inclusive economy, and good governance.”

The hope is that the well connected and powerful VIPs who attend will turn out their pockets for the poor and underprivileged round the world and thus win membership of the highest strata at CGI, those who appear on stage to stand by President Clinton as he announces their planned contribution. To date the total of these pledges now exceeds $62 billion.

The 99% can check out all the plenary sessions for free if they go to CGI’s Web site and view the CGI 2012 Webcasts where they can see streaming which will be available later as well. Added to this is a twitter stream at clintonglobal and a CGI Facebook page.

This access is almost as good as that afforded to the members of the press, whose privileges have been reduced from the early days when they were allowed to mingle with the attendees at the coffee breaks and attend the break out sessions as well as the main events to being stuck downstairs in the press room watching the events on screens or sitting on a dais at the back of the main hall watching the huge screens on either side of the stage, on which the pygmy figures of the live speakers sit, too far away for one to make out their expressions directly.

The advantages the press has is that they may arrange interviews with participants and watch the small group discussions on the screens in their basement press room, and attend the press conferences on the same floor. Let’s hope they will bring back a trove of rich material from these unique opportunities rather the sycophancy that CGI seems to want to impose on the press nowadays with its heavily guarded access.

Biggest power party in the world

Both the Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf and the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi will be joining the following glittering array of celebrity, political and business influentials:

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Felipe Calderón, president of Mexico; Denzil L. Douglas, prime minister of the Federation of Saint Kitts & Nevis; Ralph E. Gonsalves, prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Atifete Jahjaga, president of the Republic of Kosovo; Goodluck E. Jonathan, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Paul Kagame, president of the Republic of Rwanda; Kamla Persad-Bissessar, prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; Hashim Thaçi, prime minister of the Republic of Kosovo; Timothy F. Geithner, secretary of the treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, finance minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama; Tom Golisano, CGI’s founding sponsor, and founder and chairman of the board of Paychex; Condoleezza Rice, founding partner of RiceHaleyGates LLC; Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize-winner; and Carlos Slim Helú, founder, Fundación Carlos Slim will join the CGI Annual Meeting with the theme “Designing for Impact”; Regina M. Benjamin, surgeon general, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Cheryl D. Mills, counselor and chief of staff, U.S. Department of State; Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive officer, The Coca-Cola Company; Arif Naqvi, founder and group chief executive of Abraaj Holdings; Peter G. Peterson, chairman, The Peter G. Peterson Foundation; Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; Reeta Roy, chief executive officer of the MasterCard Foundation; and Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, U.S. Department of State; Linda Zecher, president and chief executive officer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt;Previously announced participants at the 2012 CGI Annual Meeting include: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC; His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco; Madeleine Albright, chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group; Joyce Banda, president of the Republic of Malawi; Walter A. Bell, chairman of the board at Swiss Re America Holding Corp; Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance; Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom; Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO; His Majesty King Juan Carlos I, Kingdom of Spain; John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco; Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation at the World Wildlife Fund; Chelsea Clinton, board member of the William J. Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative; Hillary Rodham Clinton, secretary of state, U.S. Department of State; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme; David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, Inc.; Salma Samar Damluji, chief architect at Daw‘an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation; Mallika Dutt, president and CEO of Breakthrough; Jay S. Fishman, chairman and CEO of the Travelers Companies, Inc.; Anne H. Hastings, chief executive officer of Fonkoze Financial Services; Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States; José Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States; Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the American Institute of Architects; Antony Jenkins, group chief executive at Barclays PLC; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia; Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group; Klaus Kleinfeld, chairman and CEO of Alcoa Inc.; Kay Krill, president and CEO of ANN INC.; Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist at the New York Times; Sasha Kramer, co-founder and executive director of Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL); Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author, journalist, and deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations; Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of Overseas Private Investment Corporation; Molly Melching, founder and executive director of Tostan; António Mexia, chief executive officer, EDP – Energias de Portugal, S.A.; Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children; Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank; Jayaseelan Naidoo, chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); Reema Nanavaty, director of economic and rural development at Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA); Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, Inc.; Denis O’Brien, chairman of Digicel Group; Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation; Clarence Otis, Jr., chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, Inc.; Stephan Ouaknine, chairman, managing partner, and CEO of Inerjys Ventures Inc.; Johanna Ralston, chief executive officer of the World Heart Federation; Navinchandra Ramgoolam, prime minister of the Republic of Mauritius; Jim Rogers, chairman, president, and CEO of Duke Energy Corporation; Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods Inc.; Robert E. Rubin, co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury; Kiran Sethi, founder and director of the Riverside School, Ahmedabad – India; Luis A. Ubiñas, president of The Ford Foundation; Rajiv Shah, Administrator of United States Agency for International Development; Porfirio Lobo Sosa, president of the Republic of Honduras; Lynn Stout, distinguished professor of corporate and business law at Cornell University Law School; Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson; Daniel Yohannes, chief executive officer of Millennium Challenge Corporation; Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the United Nations Development Organization; and Jochen Zeitz, chairman of the management board and CEO of PUMA AG Rudolf Dassler Sport.

It seems reasonable to assume that the motivation of all these VIPs and semi-VIPs who are coming is not purely to work unselfishly on how to benefit less privileged groups on the planet we all share, so it might be concluded that the value of meeting one’s peers in person in conducive surroundings is at least $6,666 a day for the participants, which says something about the limitations of virtual conversations on the phone and Internet.

Designing for impact

Exactly what effect the huge sum claimed of $62 billion for projects promised and funded by attendees (Update: $73.1 billion by the end of this session) has had on the societies in which it has been spent remains to be assessed, however, and there seems to be some feeling that some of it has not had the effect intended, for this year’s theme is “Designing for Impact,” which “will examine how the Commitments to Action that CGI members make can be structured to achieve the most positive, measurable results.” Since CGI began in 2005, members have made nearly 2,300 commitments that “are already improving the lives of 400 million people all over the world,” says Clinton.

To this end of sharpening the impact of these thousands of initiatives the eighth CGI will “conduct Design Labs facilitated by the following leading design experts: Kate Canales, Director of Design and Innovation Programs, Southern Methodist University; John Cary, Founder and Editor, PublicInterestDesign.org; Krista Donaldson, Chief Executive Officer, D-Rev: Design Revolution; Heather Fleming, Chief Executive Officer, Catapult Design; David Janka, Levinthal Fellow, Stanford University Institute of Design; Patrice Martin, Co-Lead and Creative Director, IDEO.org; Liz Ogbu, Scholar in Residence, Center for Art and Public Life, California College of the Arts; Sandy Speicher, Education Lead, IDEO; Sarah Stein Greenberg, Managing Director, Stanford University Institute of Design; and, Jocelyn Wyatt, Co-Lead and Creative Director, IDEO.org.”

Apart from raking in $20,000 each from probably a thousand or more attendees Clinton also has managed to involve a number of corporate donors to boost the CGI coffers. These include

The 2012 CGI Annual Meeting is sponsored by Abraaj Capital, American Federation of Teachers, Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos, APCO Worldwide, Barclays, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cisco, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Delos Living, Deutsche Bank, Diageo PLC, The Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy Corporation, ExxonMobil, The Ford Foundation, Varkey GEMS Foundation, The Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Hewlett Packard Company, Inter-American Development Bank, InterEnergy, Jive Software, Knoll Inc, Laureate International Universities, Microsoft Corporation, NRG Energy Inc, Procter & Gamble, The Rockefeller Foundation, Shangri-La Industries, Standard Chartered Bank, Starkey Hearing Foundation, Swiss Reinsurance Company, Tom Golisano, Toyota Motors Corporation, United Postcode Lotteries, The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, and Western Union Financial Services Inc.

    Update

On Tuesday morning, Mitt Romney delivered a strong call for encouraging prosperity abroad through free trade and aid as the best answer to those who threaten us from other nations.

Saying that foreign aid must play a role in bringing peace to the Middle East, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the case today for what he calls “prosperity pacts” that would aim U.S. assistance packages at nations that develop “the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.”

President Obama at Tuesday lunch called for strong action against human trafficking both abroad and within the United States, citing terrible examples of suffering and asking the attendees to rise and applaud some victims who has escaped and were now working to save others.

President Clinton joined him in emphasizing how the issue remained a “very big deal” and asking for more money for a cause which was failing to get the financial support he had hoped for.

(see also within PROGRAM below)

The PROGRAM

Here is the three day program:

PROGRAM Click tab for CGI THREE DAY PROGAM
OPENING PLENARY SESSION
12:00 PM -
1:30 PM

Designing for Impact ? Metropolitan Ballroom, 2nd Floor

In a world of seven billion people, the demand on natural and man-made resources is greater than ever before. Yet we also have more human capital than ever before. The power and ingenuity of seven billion individuals, when collectively applied to our greatest challenges, can foster a healthier, more prosperous, and more sustainable planet.

• How can we utilize our abundance of global capacity to invent better tools, build effective interventions, change behaviors, and work creatively and collaboratively to design a future worth pursuing?
• How are we designing our individual lives, our environments, and the global systems we employ in order to have impact on the challenges at hand?
• How can we better design our world to create more opportunity and more equality?

Remarks:

Tim Brown, Chief Executive Officer, IDEO
Linda Tischler, Senior Editor, Fast Company Magazine

Moderator:

President Bill Clinton, Founding Chairman, Clinton Global Initiative; 42nd President of the United States

Participants:

Michael T. Duke, President and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

BREAKOUT SESSIONS
2:00 PM -
3:30 PM

How can we provide reliable and safe energy to those in need? * New York East, Third Floor
Design Lab

Influencing Behavior and Attitudes * New York West, Third Floor
Commitment Workshop

Strengthening the Field of Impact Investing * Empire West, Second Floor

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
2:00 PM -
3:30 PM

Financial Inclusion for Youth * Carnegie East, Third Floor

Making a Business Case for Land Rights * Carnegie West, Third Floor

The Global Health Workforce * Liberty 5, Third Floor

Women Transforming Security: The Untapped Resource * Riverside Suite, Third Floor

BREAKOUT SESSIONS
4:00 PM -
5:30 PM

How can we advance women-owned businesses in the developing world? * New York East, Third Floor
Design Lab

Integrating Social and Environmental Value into Core Business * New York West, Third Floor
Commitment Workshop

Turning Inspiration Into Action: Advancing the Individual * Empire West, Second Floor
Broadcast Conversation

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
4:00 PM -
5:30 PM

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Highlighting Action * Liberty 5, Third Floor

Designing for Consumers at the Base of the Pyramid * Riverside Suite, Third Floor

Sustainable Tourism * Carnegie West, Third Floor

TOPIC DINNERS
6:30 PM -
9:00 PM

Africa at the Turning Point
Hosted by Barclays

Grand Challenges, Energy and Innovation: New Approaches for Breakthrough Results
Hosted by Duke Energy

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Hosted by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women

Leadership Matters: Crisis or Success, How Leaders Make a Difference
Hosted by Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos

Women in the Economy: What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Headed
Hosted by ExxonMobil

7:15 PM -
9:00 PM

Boosting Green Entrepreneurship
Hosted by United Postcode Lotteries

Reimagining College Affordability and Financial Aid: How Can We Help More Students Earn Degrees?
Hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Future of Social Investment Through the Eyes of Leading Humanitarian Groups
Hosted by Procter and Gamble

Tomorrow’s Leaders, Today: The Role of Youth in Changing Our World
Hosted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

MONDAY Sep 24 2012:

REGISTRATION
8:00 AM -
9:00 PM

Registration * Hudson Market

SPECIAL REMARKS
9:00 AM -
9:15 AM

Designing Diplomacy for the 21st Century * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Remarks:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

PLENARY SESSION
9:00 AM -
10:00 AM

Women and the Built Environment: Designing for Opportunity * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Women play a key role in designing more productive, inclusive built environments. Studies show that involving women greatly improves outcomes across a wide variety of issues, ranging from public health to environmental conservation. Yet current urban planning efforts often overlook the value that women can bring to their communities.

• How can women be empowered with the decision-making and management responsibilities needed to design environments that work better for everyone?
• How can more inclusive design approaches unlock access to key services, expand economic opportunities, and reduce inequality?

Moderator:

Nicholas D. Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times

Participants:

Joan Clos, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN-HABITAT
Salma Samar Damluji, Chief Architect, Daw’an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation
Elizabeth Heider, Senior Vice President, Skanska USA Building Inc.; Chair, Board of Directors, U.S. Green Building Council
Jonathan Reckford, Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity International

SPECIAL SESSION
10:30 AM -
11:30 AM

Business by Design: Growth and Opportunity * Empire West, Second Floor
Broadcast Conversation

Champions of Action * New York East, Third Floor
Keynote

Strategic Philanthropy: How To Think Bigger and Do Better * New York West, Third Floor

PLENARY SESSION
12:00 PM -
1:00 PM

The Early Years: An Irresistible Investment Opportunity * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Starting children on the right path has one of the highest returns of any social investment, with early childhood development programs returning as much as $18 for every dollar invested. High quality early childhood education programs develop the foundation for critical workforce skills that boost economic growth and reduce long-term social costs. Furthermore, ensuring essential nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life can increase a country’s GDP by two to three percent.

• How can health, care and education programs be designed as integrated, holistic systems for early childhood development?
• What are the most effective interventions, and how can they be scaled up?
• How can corporations and governments design programs that empower parents, teachers, and community health workers to provide the care and life skills children need to thrive?

Moderator:

Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF

Participants:

Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi
Bill Goodwyn, Chief Executive Officer, Discovery Education, Discovery Communications Inc.
Carolyn S. Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children
Jay Naidoo, Chairman, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

BREAKOUT SESSIONS
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM

Empowering Girls Through Education * Empire West, Second Floor

Financing for Impact and Scale * New York West, Third Floor
Commitment Workshop

How can we design healthier urban environments that help prevent chronic diseases? * New York East, Third Floor
Design Lab

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM

Designing an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem * Liberty 3, Third Floor

Regional Meeting: India * Carnegie East, Third Floor

Regional Meeting: Latin America * Carnegie West, Third Floor

Resilience Through the Arts * Liberty 5, Third Floor

BREAKOUT SESSIONS
3:30 PM -
5:00 PM

Haiti: Lessons for the Future * New York West, Third Floor
Commitment Workshop

How can we ensure more children benefit from early childhood education? * New York East, Third Floor
Design Lab

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
3:30 PM -
5:00 PM

An Inclusive Media * Carnegie East, Second Floor

Safe and Sustainable Transportation * Carnegie West, Third Floor

Trafficking and Slavery * Liberty 5, Third Floor

Waste: Global Issues, Local Perspectives * Liberty 3, Third Floor

SPECIAL EVENT
6:00 PM -
8:00 PM

At the Chef’s Table: A Pre-Show Tasting Event * Empire East/West, Second Floor

As a prelude to the Clinton Global Citizens Awards, guests will be invited to dine on inspired cuisine from some of New York’s best restaurants. Curated by a selection of the city’s finest chefs, this event will feature tasting menus from their own restaurants, as well as dishes prepared by recommended leading chefs who have shaped the New York culinary scene.

Participants:

Butter, Alex Guarnaschelli
Clover Club, Julie Reiner
Marea, Michael White
Morimoto, Masaharu Morimoto
Recette, Jesse Schenker
Commerce Restaurant, Harold Moore
Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson
Scarpetta, Scott Conant
Tertulia, Seamus Mullen

CLINTON GLOBAL CITIZEN AWARDS
8:00 PM -
10:00 PM

Clinton Global Citizen Awards * Metropolitan Ballroom, Third Floor

The Clinton Global Citizen Awards recognize extraordinary individuals who have demonstrated visionary leadership in solving pressing global challenges. The evening’s program will include special appearances by individuals who, through their work, embrace the mission of an integrated, shared world.

—————————————————
TUESDAY SEP 25 2012

BREAKFAST
7:30 AM -
8:30 AM

Track Breakfast * New York East/West, Third Floor

Kick-start the final day of the 2012 Annual Meeting and network with other CGI members that share similar topical interests.

CGI Track Managers and Account Executives will be in attendance to provide information on year-round engagement opportunities for CGI members and member organizations.

REGISTRATION
8:00 AM -
3:30 PM

Registration * Hudson Market

SPECIAL REMARKS
9:00 AM -
9:15 AM

Special Remarks * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Remarks:

Mitt Romney, Former Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Romney on How Prosperity is the Way to Combat Evil

Boston Globe

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney is unlikely to win Bill Clinton’s vote, but that doesn’t mean he can’t soak up a bit of the popular former president’s luster.

The two men stood side by side Tuesday as Clinton introduced Romney before the GOP candidate’s speech to Clinton’s annual global conference in New York. Clinton recalled working with Romney to save AmeriCorps, and praised the former Massachusetts governor’s efforts to persuade fellow Republicans to support the national service program.

Romney, taking the podium, returned the compliment.

‘‘If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good,’’ he said, prompting loud laughter and applause from the crowd.

It was a clear nod to Clinton’s speech praising President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention earlier in September, and the slight uptick in the polls that Obama enjoyed soon after.

‘‘All I have to do now is wait a few days for that bounce to happen,’’ Romney quipped.

Such moments of bipartisan levity have been rare in a campaign marked by harsh accusations, heavy-handed rhetoric and relentless attack ads between the presidential campaigns and the outside groups that support them.

Obama’s campaign currently is running one such ad against Romney that uses a clip of Clinton’s convention speech where the former president says Romney wants to ‘‘take us back to the policies that got us into trouble in the first place.’’

But any resentment was noticeably absent Tuesday as Clinton and Romney appeared chummy, patting each other on the shoulder and chatting onstage after Romney’s speech.

‘‘That was good,’’ Clinton told the man hoping to dislodge Clinton’s party from the White House.

Before the speech, Romney spoke backstage with Clinton and Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, said Romney spokesman Rick Gorka. He declined to say what they discussed.

Clinton has an outsized influence on the presidential election more than a decade after he left office. Both Obama and Romney have pointed to Clinton’s economic leadership as an example for the nation, citing prosperity and a federal budget that was balanced under his leadership.

Clinton is using the full weight of those credentials to boost Obama’s bid. In his convention speech, he systematically rebutted Romney’s attacks on Obama, accusing the Republican of pushing an economic plan that doesn’t add up.

NPR:

Romney Touts ‘Prosperity Pacts’ To Help Middle East, Developing Nations
By Mark Memmott
Saying that foreign aid must play a role in bringing peace to the Middle East, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the case today for what he calls “prosperity pacts” that would aim U.S. assistance packages at nations that develop “the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.”

Romney was addressing the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, a forum that will host President Obama later today.

If he’s elected in November, Romney said (per his prepared remarks):

“To foster work and enterprise in the Middle East and in other developing countries, I will initiate ‘Prosperity Pacts.’ Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.

“We will focus our efforts on small and medium-size businesses. Microfinance has been an effective tool at promoting enterprise and prosperity, but we must expand support to small and medium-size businesses that are too large for microfinance, but too small for traditional banks.

“The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.”

Romney introduced that proposal by saying he is “often asked why, and what can we do to lead the Middle East to stability, to ease the suffering and the anger and the hate.

“Religious extremism is certainly part of the problem. But that’s not the whole story.

“The population of the Middle East is young, particularly compared with the population of the West. And typically, these young people have few job prospects and the levels of youth unemployment across the region are excessive and chronic. In nations that have undergone a change in leadership recently, young people have greater access to information that was once carefully guarded by tyrants and dictators. They see the good as well as the bad in surrounding societies. They can now organize across vast regions, mobilizing populations. Idle, humiliated by poverty, and crushed by government corruption, their frustration and anger grows.

“In such a setting, for America to change lives, to change communities and nations in the Middle East, foreign aid must also play a role. And the shape that role should take was brought into focus by the life and death of Muhammed Bouazizi of Tunisia, the street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring.

“He was just 26-years-old. He had provided for his family since he was a young boy. He worked a small fruit stand, selling to passers-by. The regular harassment by corrupt bureaucrats was elevated one day when they took crates of his fruit and his weighing scales away from him.

“On the day of his protest, witnesses say that an officer slapped Bouazizi and he cried out, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.’

“I just want to work.

“Work. That must be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs for people, young and old alike. Work builds self-esteem. It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding. Work will not long tolerate corruption nor quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hard-working men and women.”

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

PLENARY SESSION
9:00 AM -
10:00 AM

The Future of Food * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

The current food system is not sustainable. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the world’s use of increasingly scarce water supplies, and deforestation for food production generates more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. Despite these associated environmental and social costs, one-third of the food generated for human consumption continues to be lost or wasted. With global demand expected to double in the next 25 to 50 years, current modes of production and patterns of consumption must change to ensure global food security.

• How can the global food system be redesigned to yield more, healthier food, while reducing our ecological footprint?
• How can greater access to markets, new approaches to distribution, and local sourcing bolster food quality and workers’ livelihoods, while reducing waste and improving resilience to extreme conditions?

Moderator:

Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation

Participants:

Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Market Transformation, World Wildlife Fund
Clarence Otis, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Darden Restaurants, Inc
Irene B. Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, Kraft Foods, Inc.

SPECIAL SESSION
10:30 AM -
11:30 AM

Communication by Design: Inspirational Change Agents * Empire West, Second Floor
Broadcast Conversation

The Case for Optimism in the 21st Century * New York East/West, Third Floor

SPECIAL REMARKS
12:00 PM -
12:15 PM

Special Remarks * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Remarks:

President Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

The President spoke of the scourge of human trafficking, which was operating not only in foreign countries but in the US, which the Administration has made a top priority. He cited some very shocking examples, such as Marie, the young Congo girl abducted by an army and repeatedly raped, bearing five children who were all killed in the conflict. who escaped to triumph over her adversity and who now stood up in the audience, with two other women victims turned victors and advocates, at the call of the President to be applauded by the whole conference.

President Obama Unveils Landmark Actions To Fight Human Trafficking
The president said it was time to call human trafficking by its real name: “modern slavery.”

By ELIZABETH FLOCK

President Barack Obama unveiled major actions to fight human trafficking at home and abroad in a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting Tuesday, a problem the U.S. has long sought to control.

Just hours after his Republican challenger Mitt Romney spoke to the same audience, arguing broadly that free trade and aid were the key to a better world, Obama chose to focus his speech on the single issue of trafficking, saying it was time to call it by its real name: “modern slavery”.

Obama told the assembled audience it was time to turn the focus on fighting trafficking within American borders.

“The ugly truth is that this goes on right here,” he said. “It’s the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker… The teenage girl—beaten, forced to walk the streets. This should not be happening in America.”

The president announced a new assessment of the scope and scale of human trafficking in the U.S., ticking off a host of occupations the U.S. would enlist to help, including law enforcement officers, bus and truck inspectors, teachers and educators.

The State Department estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked to the U.S. every year, but the real number is likely much higher. It estimates there are up to 27 million victims of modern slavery worldwide.

Obama also said Tuesday that the U.S. would better fight traffickers using technology. The State Department is already employing the technology of websites like SlaveryFootprint.org, which tracks the everyday household items—like toys, T-shirts or telephones—that are made with the help of slave labor.

Anna Kolhede, spokeswoman for Slavery Footprint, said a new “Free World” app was just unveiled that will teach companies how to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains.

The president said Tuesday he had also signed a new executive order to ensure the U.S. would “lead by example” on trafficking-free government contracting. “We’re making clear that American tax dollars must never, ever be used to support the trafficking of human beings,” Obama said. “We will have zero tolerance. We mean what we say. We will enforce it.”

The president talked, too, of new efforts to help victims of human trafficking recover, promising better access to treatment, legal services and job searches, as well as a simpler visa process for victims brought to America against their will.

The Obama administration has mostly focused its energies in the past four years on going after traffickers. A record number of human traffickers were charged last year in the U.S., and the State Department recently passed sanctions against the worst human trafficking offenders around the world.

But the administration had never before launched an initiative of this size aimed at tackling the issue.

“There has actually never been this amount of time dedicated to talking about [human trafficking] in a public forum—by any government figure,” says Kolhede. “And the fact that it’s coming from the president… It’s absolutely historic.”

President Clinton followed Obama’s remarks by emphasizing the need of the NGOs at work in this arena for more funding. “This is one of the few areas where we have not got as much financial support as I hoped we would when we first focused on the issue about four years ago…This is still a very big deal and I thank the President for bringing it up today and we need to do our part too.”

PLENARY SESSION
12:00 PM -
1:00 PM

Working Capital: Creating Value for Business and Society * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Even as corporations and financial institutions serve as economic drivers, they are too often perceived to be prospering at the expense of the societies and environments in which they work. Global polls indicate that banks and financial services are currently experiencing historically low public trust, while simultaneously less than half of citizens believe their governments will do what is right. As countries and companies seek economic recovery, there is an opportunity to redefine the role of capitalist models as providers of social and environmental good.

• How can our capital systems create new markets to serve the under-served?
• How can governments find a balance between protecting consumers and encouraging competitiveness and market growth?

Moderator:

Richard Stengel, Managing Editor, TIME Magazine

Participants:

Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive, Abraaj Holdings
Lynn Stout, Distinguished Professor of Corporate & Business Law, Jack G. Clarke Business Law Institute – Cornell Law School
Jochen Zeitz, Chief Executive Officer, Sport & Lifestyle Division and Chief Sustainability Officer, PPR; Chairman, PUMA

BREAKOUT SESSIONS
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM

How can we protect the poorest from debilitating shocks, such as unforeseen illness or crop failure? * New York East, Third Floor
Design Lab

Integrating Women into Global Supply Chains * New York West, Third Floor
Commitment Workshop

Leading by Design: Governing Our Global Community * Empire West, Second Floor
Broadcast Conversation

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM

Barriers to Broadband Access * Carnegie West, Third Floor

Employee Engagement: Internal Champions for Shared Value * Riverside Suite, Third Floor

Resilient Cities * Carnegie East, Third Floor

Uncovering the Multiplier Effect of Investing in Women * Liberty 5, Third Floor

CLOSING PLENARY SESSION
3:30 PM -
5:00 PM

Closing Plenary * Metropolitan Ballroom, Second Floor

Participants:

President Bill Clinton, Founding Chairman, Clinton Global Initiative; 42nd President of the United States
Mohamed Morsi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

=========================================================

Video highlights from the 2012 Annual Meeting on CGI YouTube channel.
CGI Facebook page
Follow CGI on Twitter @clintonglobal
Photos from CGI
Press releases
Webcasts of sessions:
Designing for Impact
How can we provide reliable and safe energy to those in need?
How can we advance women-owned businesses in the developing world?
Integrating Social and Environmental Value into Core Business
Turning Inspiration Into Action: Advancing the Individual
Designing Diplomacy for the 21st Century
Women and the Built Environment: Designing for Opportunity
Champions of Action
Strategic Philanthropy: How To Think Bigger and Do Better
The Early Years: An Irresistible Investment Opportunity
Financing for Impact and Scale
How can we design healthier urban environments that help prevent chronic diseases?
Haiti: Lessons for the Future
How can we ensure more children benefit from early childhood education?
Special Remarks Mitt Romney
The Future of Food
The Case for Optimism in the 21st Century
Special Remarks Barack Obama
Working Capital: Creating Value for Business and Society
How can we protect the poorest from debilitating shocks, such as unforeseen illness or crop failure?
Integrating Women into Global Supply Chains
Leading by Design: Governing Our Global Community
Closing Plenary
—————————————–

Science Libel Wars: Celia Farber Appeal Exposes Richard Jefferys’ Underhand Calumny

September 13th, 2012

Tells How Drug Company Financed HIV Defender Libeled Seasoned Reporter and Duesberg

Falsehoods Exposed In Machinations of Jefferys and others in Battle to Stop Semmelweis Awards

Standards in Gutter as HIV Flack Fomented Lynch Mob Threatening Her Career and Even Life

As we made clear in our last post on the topic, the public debate on the rights and wrongs of established science in the arena of HIV/AIDS has been severely distorted by science and social politics inside and outside the field.

Part of the huge problem is that the very few reporters and writers who are prepared objectively to tackle the topic of why and how the dogma of HIV/AIDS is clearly wrong have run into almost insuperable career problems. The NIAID PR personnel won’t allow their scientists to talk to them, the drug companies won’t return their calls, editors tell them to find another topic, publishers fire editors who publish them, and there is a large baying pack of lay hounds allied to the standard dogma for financial, social or psychological reasons who will suffocate any support they win on blog threads, even changing Wikipedia entries back to suit HIV propaganda if any illuminating changes are made there.

In other words, a big factor in the restriction of truth about good science in HIV/AIDS in public is the great number of people outside science who will attack and attempt to defeat public review of the official dogma, as viciously if they were defending a religion, and the critics were religious heretics, deserving to be burned at the stake. In this they are following the edict of HIV researcher John Moore of Cornell, a fairly rabid propagandist who once famously wrote in an ill considered email that his efforts to curtail HIV heresy would amount to all out war, objectivity be damned:

This is a war, there are no rules, and we will crush you, one at a time, completely and utterly.” John P Moore, PhD, Cornell Weill; AIDS researcher to AIDS dissident Michael Geiger, 27 January 2007.

Subverting truth with lies

Perhaps the worst behaved of the science outsiders who have followed John Moore’s lead in take no prisoners warfare in public discussion is the remarkable Richard Jefferys of the drug company financed Treatment Action Group, who careful readers of this site will recall tried very hard to put a spanner in the works of the Semmelweis Society, when they proposed to give both Celia Farber and Peter Duesberg the Semmelweis Award for Whistleblowers.

Jefferys failed in this effort, but not for lack of trying underhanded methods to scotch the award ceremony which eventually took place. Just how vicious and extreme were his attacks in word and action on Celia Farber’s reputation and peace of mind has not been fully made clear until this week, when the lawyers for this renowned investigative reporter on the HIV sham made it all transparent in their current appeal against the summary verdict which earlier blocked her libel case against Jefferys and two other miscreants involved on November 2 last year.

The “perfected” appeal was refiled last week, Sept 6 Thu 2012. It deals with the mistakes in judgment and law that Judge York surely made in prematurely dismissing the libel suit, and clarifies the nature and culpability of Jefferys et al in their literally obscene machinations off the public stage to silence Celia Farber and Peter Duesberg and prevent them from receiving the award for their bravery and public service.

The Appeal gives the Story

Here are some key parts:

Justice York was wrong to shelter Richard Jefferys’ false accusations of fraud against Celia Farber under the constitutional umbrella of “marketplace of ideas”:

Plaintiff-Appellant Celia Farber (“Farber”) brings this appeal to this Court because Justice York committed reversible errors in giving constitutional license (under cover of fostering the oft-cited “marketplace of ideas”) to Defendant-Appellee Richard Jefferys’ (“Jefferys”) false accusations of journalistic fraud against Farber, a journalist who has reported in the tradition of a war reporter (i.e. covering conflict) on the thousands of prominent scientific and medical experts who fall within the “dissident” views surrounding the idea that HIV is a new pathogen that causes AIDS and who has thereby attracted the ire of AIDS activists, such as Jefferys and his cohorts who sought to silence the expression of dissident views.

Justice York counted Jefferys factually erroneous, or to put it bluntly, lying emails as “protected speech” in a “robust public debate”, hardly the right way to characterize Jefferys’ efforts to spread fear and hysteria and to wage war to silence Celia Farber’s reporting, a campaign which led to threats on her life:

In erroneously categorizing Jefferys’ defamatory e-mail as “protected speech,” Justice York conflated the idea of “robust public debate” with Jefferys’ ongoing campaign to destroy Farber’s reputation as a journalist and spread fear and hysteria to engage others to wage war against Farber, which was intended to silence her and which has even led to threats on Farber’s life.

Jefferys’ emails to Semmelweis members to get them to withdraw their award to Celia Farner included outright factual misrepresentation, ie knowingly fraudulent assertions, which he was to prove unable to back up with any proper examples when challenged:

The accusation that Farber was a “liar” was part of a statement that she “for many years” has used journalistic “fraud” that included “altering of quotes from scientific literature” and “false representations from published papers, etc.”; and the accusation was made in an e-mail and not a letter to the editor or op-ed column.

Hollow assertions with malice

Justice Louis B. York, the appeal notes, prevented the presentation of evidence that Jefferys was motivated by malice and was grossly irresponsible by preventing discovery (the demand for relevant papers to be produced by the defendant), which was unfortunate for all who want to spill all of this particular can of worms onto the table (side note: the brief uses the word “genocide” here and elsewhere when evidently “homicide” is meant, a mistake with a certain irony since the deaths of tens of thousands of AIDS victims from knowing mismedication is certainly likely to be labeled genocide by activists if the full story of HIV scientists manipulating public policy ever comes out):

When deciding on the issues of actual malice and gross irresponsibility, Justice York failed to allow the parties the benefit of full discovery and effectively thumbed his nose at the rules governing summary judgment, never citing and never applying those rules but instead making various pronouncements that were at best fact-finding contrary to the rules governing summary judgment and did not reflect a balanced view of the record.

In concluding that Jefferys was engaged in protected public discourse, Justice York dismissed relevant evidence which tended to raise an issue of fact as to Jefferys’ “actual malice,” and, instead, took Jefferys’ hollow assertions at face value when he claimed to have written his literary genocide in reliance on various papers and articles supporting the hypothesis on HIV/AIDS of Dr. Robert Gallo. Justice York erred in his reliance on Jefferys’ assertion that he quoted from medical journals to show “eight inaccuracies” in Farber’s writings, notwithstanding that the record demonstrated Jefferys’ obvious inability to show any inaccuracy, let alone fraud, on Farber’s part or the lack of a single example of how Farber’s work has ever been challenged for inaccuracy or fraud by any periodical that has published her work. Justice York accorded no weight to Farber’s evidence and concluded that Jefferys was merely wrong or confused or giving his opinion when writing the e-mail that “launched a thousand ships” to destroy Farber’s career. Jefferys’ attack was not an example of the “marketplace of ideas,” but, instead, exhibited the very gross irresponsibility and reckless disregard of the truth that falls outside of the scope of protection under the
First Amendment.

Fortunately, the appeal allows a full statement of the true qualifications of Celia Farber and her journalistic achievement, a substantial edifice against which Jefferys and the other hounds of hell baying at Farber’s heels in their defense of the indefensible can throw themselves as hard as they wish without effect – so they resorted to lies. Small wonder that they did so, since maintaining the rationality and usefulness and validity of the theory that HIV causes AIDS symptoms, which has none of these virtues, necessarily involves lies, and no surprise that they are now accused of libel in asserting slanderous falsehoods in attacking Farber’s integrity and reputation.

Farber Has Been A Well-Respected Journalist Since the 1980′s Without Incident And Without Retraction By Any Periodical.

Farber, a veteran magazine journalist, began her work as a print journalist in high school in her native Sweden and continued as a print journalist while attending college in New York, starting to write for the US rock magazine SPIN in 1986. Her first “beat” was AIDS, a subject she reported on between 1986 and 1994. She edited and frequently wrote SPIN’s AIDS column which she created, called “Words From The Front.” These “columns” often grew into lengthy, investigative feature articles that required global travel, including across Sub-Saharan Africa and across Europe.

In 1987-88, the column featured the second print interview in the U.S. media of virologist Peter Duesberg, allowing him to explain his published contention that retroviruses, including HIV, are harmless. The following month, SPIN published a response from virologist Dr. Robert Gallo, in which Dr. Gallo, in colorful but abusive terms, declared why he felt Dr. Duesberg was wrong and he was right, about HIV being the cause of AIDS. This argument soon bloomed into extensive coverage of the burgeoning “HIV debate” which Plaintiff Farber was assigned to cover assiduously over the coming decade. (R. 807-809.)

Farber, prior to 2006, wrote publications for numerous periodicals, including Rolling Stone, (German) Vogue, Interview, New York Post, New York Press, Salon, The Herald on Sunday (Scotland,) Stop Smiling, Alive, Media Post, as well as numerous online literary and journalistic outlets. She was invited to lecture on journalism around the world, including London, Buenos Aires, Nairobi, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and elsewhere. In 1994, she spoke at the American Association For The Advancement of Science (“AAAS”) on a panel that included Nobel Laureate Dr. Kary Mullis and other distinguished scientists. Her writings were used as course material in several college media and science courses, and she continues to lecture to journalism students to this day. She also wrote scripts for VH-VH-1, BBC radio, Swedish Radio (Sverige’s Radio) and co-produced a documentary film for BBC, in addition to appearing on numerous radio and TV shows, including CNN, The Today Show, Politically Correct with Bill Maher, The Charlie Rose Show, ESPN, and the Keith Olbermann Show on MSNBC. (R. 807-809.)

Since the start of her career in 1986, not a single periodical has ever accused Farber of fraud, lies, or even inaccuracies.

In other words, Celia Farber is a seasoned and accomplished writer and journalist who has built a substantial career by delivering copy to a wide variety of publications and editors and her accuracy in reporting has never been questioned – aside of course from the egregious antics of the HIV goon squad, of which Jefferys has always been a leader, even attempting to muddy discussion on this site.

That a clear and accurate factual statement of this affair has now been made available to the public, which can read for itself the clear evidence for the way in which public review and discussion of the unproven and so far useless HIV claim has been headed off by dirty tricks from the HIV goon squad, is not only a blessing for Celia Farber but a helpful contribution to public understanding of what is going on in the science and politics of HIV/AIDS.

Officials and their staff, politicians and others with influence can read the appeal on the Science Guardian page here and make better informed decisions about the validity of the current dogma and the need for review. One thing they should bear in mind is the enormous violence involved on the social and psychic level when such lynch mobs are fomented by lies from HIV defenders.

Why the case is justified

In the case of Celia Farber, perceptive onlookers have long been aware of the damage perpetrated on her career and her psyche by these attacks, which have been ongoing ever since she began to cover the topic of whether HIV made any sense as the cause of AIDS more than twenty five years ago. The wave of crowd assault engendered by the efforts of Jefferys in the Semmelweis affair was a psychic tsunami in its effect on a reporter whose livelihood depends on the trust of editors and whose public reputation rests on the confidence of readers.

Asked about its effects recently Farber likened it to a “cancer that gums up the whole works and prevents you from functioning, a solitary hell that even those close to you can’t fully understand.” The finely calibrated social antennae used in reporting and writing on a literary level – the level practiced by Farber in her magazine work, which reached a high point with her remarkable piece Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science in Harpers in March 2006 and which was celebrated in a book collection, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS published by Melville House 2006 – are suddenly exposed to the social violence of an abusive mob. Like this week’s sacking of the US embassy in Tripoli in which an absurd home movie resulted in the death of the ambassador and two colleagues, the results can be fatal to both career and life:

“When you are targeted by systemic abuse, as all whistleblowers know, it can cripple you. It doesn’t happen right away, it happens over time. The worst thing for me was when everything fell silent, after the initial faux storm in 2006, when all hell broke loose around my Harper’s article. Friends disappeared, colleagues, even people in intimate relationships. This cancer is designed to metastasize to every organ in the body of your life. You lose your footing, and feel more and more vulnerable. You’ve been pariahed, an “un-person”.

“Exile, betrayal, social ostracization, all these things are catastrophic to the human psyche. The ancient Greeks felt that exile is a worse punishment than death. There is a sense of being in a cell, alone. That is the worst part. When I stopped being able to earn a living, when even an editor of a major publishing house that commissioned me to ghost write a book about O.J. Simpson’s case started screaming in a board meeting that I was a discredited denialist…I began to crack. It gets harder and harder to hold your head high.

Suffering that assault can lead to severe depression for whistleblowers of all stripes, and for a preternaturally sensitive social reporter who lives by her awareness of the reality behind the surface of people’s faces and words it is not surprising that Farber suffered by her own account

“shame..deep shame over being a failure at providing for your family…depression came like a typhoon, landing me finally in hospital. The pain was unrelenting. We’re not designed to withstand this kind of lunacy. In short, it was hell. My whole life was shredded, I disintegrated, and I had no idea how to stop the process.”

This is the kind of damage which social lynching can do, which is why it is an effective weapon against heresy of any kind, and why free thinking is not as common a virtue as one would wish. But for the purposes of covering the Semmelweis Affair and Farber libel suit, it must be pointed out and recorded how damaging libel can be, and how justified a suit for damages for libel can be.

Prevailing against judicial prejudice

As the appeal goes forward, it remains to be seen, however, whether it can win against the impediment which blocks review of any kind in this arena – the innate prejudice judges like the rest of the establishment have against the challenge to authority, especially in science.

Can libel actions ever succeed against the entrenched prejudice of courts in favor of the supposed expertise of scientists peddling a globally accepted dogma, such as HIV/AIDS, however logically inane and scientifically incredible that dogma might be, as it is in the case of HIV/AIDS?

Those supporters of letting a little rational light into the world of AIDS on behalf of all its victims who were disappointed when Farber’s libel suit against HIV defenders ran into summary dismissal last year, while now hoping that her appeal will succeed, might have been forgiven for thinking at the time that the answer to that important question is No, such actions can never succeed.

For last year it seemed more than likely that part of the problem was that the Judge York believed that HIV/AIDS dogma must be by definition be true and good science, and therefore a reporter like Celia Farber, who more than any other has attempted to make the politics and bad science of HIV/AIDS clear to the world, must by definition be on the wrong side of authority in science and health and therefore a poor reporter, just as the claimed libel stated.

As we have seen, and the appeal makes clear, this is the opposite of the truth, as proper study of the scientific literature will confirm. But will the appeal succeed against this prejudice, even though it should be irrelevant to the decision, and any judge who feels it should recuse himself from the chair in this case?

We shall see. But many hope that Farber will succeed in her appeal and that this will be yet another step in what could finally lead to the ultimate resolution of the HIV/AIDS debacle in the downfall of the dogma

We are referring to the recent court decision in Fort Bragg in favor of a man accused of endangering his lovers by not telling them he was HIV positive. As noted in recent comments, this decision suggested that the prosecution was unable to convince the court that being HIV positive necessarily endangered any lover.

If this trend continues – and another case recently suggests that it might, slowly – then the resolution of the scientific scandal of HIV/AIDS might come in the courts.

Let’s hope for a successful resolution of the Farber suit as a windsock blown in that direction.

Matt Ridley in Wired: Apocalypse Not in 2012

August 29th, 2012

Reprieve for major dangers foreseen so far

No doomsaying has passed the test of time – yet

But why are Matt Ridley’s sources so often friends of industry?

Surrounded by the gloom and doom of attention getting Cassandras from global warmsters to the Mayan Calendar pointers (Dec 21 is D-Day, folks!), we were wondering just how factual and scientific all the liberal lefty PC pantywaist forecasts of catastrophe really are.

Now we are reassured, for the time being anyway.

For the quite reliable Matt Ridley (author of the respected The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, whose content is summarized here by Matthew McGoodwin, and most recently The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, in which the ex-banker theorizes that trade specialization is the key to human progress and escape from Nature’s limitations) has a resolutely optimistic piece in the current Wired (published Sunday August 19 2012) .

He has usefully posted on his website a copy of his article, Apocalypse Not, including the references and links he was unable to include in the print version, and a few extras cut from the print version for space reasons.

So we can check for ourselves on what data he bases his conclusions.

Here is the piece he posted on his web site with his live links: Apocalypse Not.

A history of failed predictions of doom

I have a long article on apocalyptic predictions in Wired Magazine. Here’s a version with about 70 links to sources. I have also added in a few paragraphs on falling sperm counts and on species extinction: these were edited from the published version of the article for space reasons.

“Who or what will cause the 20120 apocalypse?” This is the question posed by the website 2012apocalypse.net. “Super volcanos? Pestilence and disease? Asteroids? Comets? Antichrist? Global warming? Nuclear war?” the site’s authors are impressively open-minded about the cause of the catastrophe that is coming at 11:11 pm on December 21 this year. but they have no doubt it will happen. after all, not only does the Mayan Long Count calendar end that day, but “the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.”

Case closed: Sell your possessions and live for today.

When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives. And the prophets of apocalypse always draw a following-from the 100,000 Millerites who took to the hills in 1843, awaiting the end of the world, to the thousands who believed in Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who forecast the final rapture in both 1994 and 2011.

 Religious zealots hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Consider some of the environmental cataclysms that so many experts promised were inevitable. Best-selling economist Robert Heilbroner in 1974: “The outlook for man, I believe, is painful, difficult, perhaps desperate, and the hope that can be held out for his future prospects seem to be very slim indeed.” Or best-selling ecologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s ["and 1980s" was added in a later edition] the world will undergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Or Jimmy Carter in a televised speech in 1977: “We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

Predictions of global famine and the end of oil in the 1970s proved just as wrong as end-of-the-world forecasts from millennialist priests. Yet there is no sign that experts are becoming more cautious about apocalyptic promises. If anything, the rhetoric has ramped up in recent years. Echoing the Mayan calendar folk, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight at the start of 2012, commenting: “The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Over the five decades since the success of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the four decades since the success of the Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth in 1972, prophecies of doom on a colossal scale have become routine. Indeed, we seem to crave ever-more-frightening predictions-we are now, in writer Gary Alexander’s word, apocaholic. The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes.

So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated. True, we have encountered obstacles, public-health emergencies, and even mass tragedies. But the promised Armageddons-the thresholds that cannot be uncrossed, the tipping points that cannot be untipped, the existential threats to Life as We Know It-have consistently failed to materialize. To see the full depth of our apocaholism, and to understand why we keep getting it so wrong, we need to consult the past 50 years of history.

The classic apocalypse has four horsemen, and our modern version follows that pattern, with the four riders being chemicals (DDT, CFCs, acid rain), diseases (bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, mad cow disease), people (population, famine), and resources (oil, metals). Let’s visit them each in turn.

(Cont. – Click this tab)

The first horseman: chemicals

Silent Spring, published 50 years ago this year, was instrumental in the emergence of modern environmentalism. “Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all,” Al Gore wrote in his introduction to the 1994 edition. Carson’s main theme was that the use of synthetic pesticides-DDT in particular-was causing not only a massacre of wildlife but an epidemic of cancer in human beings. One of her chief inspirations and sources for the book was Wilhelm Hueper, the first director of the environmental arm of the National Cancer Institute. So obsessed was Hueper with his notion that pesticides and other synthetic chemicals were causing cancers (and that industry was covering this up) that he strenuously opposed the suggestion that tobacco-smoking take any blame. Hueper wrote in a 1955 paper called “Lung Cancers and Their Causes,” published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, “Industrial or industry-related atmospheric pollutants are to a great part responsible for the causation of lung cancer … cigarette smoking is not a major factor in the causation of lung cancer.”

In fact, of course, the link between smoking and lung cancer was found to be ironclad. But the link between modern chemicals and cancer is sketchy at best. Even DDT, which clearly does pose health risks to those unsafely exposed, has never been definitively linked to cancer. In general, cancer incidence and death rates, when corrected for the average age of the population, have been falling now for 20 years.

By the 1970s the focus of chemical concern had shifted to air pollution. Life magazine set the scene in January 1970: “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support … the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution … by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” Instead, driven partly by regulation and partly by innovation, both of which dramatically cut the pollution coming from car exhaust and smokestacks, ambient air quality improved dramatically in many cities in the developed world over the following few decades. Levels of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, ozone, and volatile organic compounds fell and continue to fall.

In the 1980s it was acid rain’s turn to be the source of apocalyptic forecasts. In this case it was nature in the form of forests and lakes that would bear the brunt of human pollution. The issue caught fire in Germany, where a cover story in the news magazine Der Spiegel in November 1981 screamed: “THE FOREST DIES.” Not to be outdone, Stern magazine declared that a third of Germany’s forests were already dead or dying. Bernhard Ulrich, a soil scientist at the University of Göttingen, said it was already too late for the country’s forests: “They cannot be saved.” Forest death, or waldsterben, became a huge story across Europe. “The forests and lakes are dying. Already the damage may be irreversible,” journalist Fred Pearce wrote in New Scientist in 1982. It was much the same in North America: Half of all US lakes were said to be becoming dangerously acidified, and forests from Virginia to central Canada were thought to be suffering mass die-offs of trees.

Conventional wisdom has it that this fate was averted by prompt legislative action to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from power plants. That account is largely false. There was no net loss of forest in the 1980s to reverse. In the US, a 10-year government-sponsored study involving some 700 scientists and costing about $500 million reported in 1990 that “there is no evidence of a general or unusual decline of forests in the United States and Canada due to acid rain” and “there is no case of forest decline in which acidic deposition is known to be a predominant cause.” (See also: here and here.) In Germany, Heinrich Spiecker, director of the Institute for Forest Growth, was commissioned by a Finnish forestry organization to assess the health of European forests. He concluded that they were growing faster and healthier than ever and had been improving throughout the 1980s. “Since we began measuring the forest more than 100 years ago, there’s never been a higher volume of wood … than there is now,” Spiecker said. (Ironically, one of the chief ingredients of acid rain-nitrogen oxide-breaks down naturally to become nitrate, a fertilizer for trees.) As for lakes, it turned out that their rising acidity was likely caused more by reforestation than by acid rain; one study suggested that the correlation between acidity in rainwater and the pH in the lakes was very low. The story of acid rain is not of catastrophe averted but of a minor environmental nuisance somewhat abated.

The threat to the ozone layer came next. In the 1970s scientists discovered a decline in the concentration of ozone over Antarctica during several springs, and the Armageddon megaphone was dusted off yet again. The blame was pinned on chlorofluorocarbons, used in refrigerators and aerosol cans, reacting with sunlight. The disappearance of frogs and an alleged rise of melanoma in people were both attributed to ozone depletion. So too was a supposed rash of blindness in animals: Al Gore wrote in 1992 about blind salmon and rabbits ["hunters now report finding blind rabbits; fisherman catch blind salmon."], while The New York Times reported “an increase inTwilight Zone-type reports of sheep and rabbits with cataracts” in Patagonia. But all these accounts proved incorrect. The frogs were dying of a fungal disease spread by people; the sheep had viral pinkeye; the mortality rate from melanoma actually leveled off during the growth of the ozone hole; and as for the blind salmon and rabbits, they were never heard of again.

There was an international agreement to cease using CFCs by 1996. But the predicted recovery of the ozone layer never happened: The hole stopped growing before the ban took effect, then failed to shrink afterward. The ozone hole still grows every Antarctic spring, to roughly the same extent each year. Nobody quite knows why. Some scientists think it is simply taking longer than expected for the chemicals to disintegrate; a few believe that the cause of the hole was misdiagnosed in the first place. Either way, the ozone hole cannot yet be claimed as a looming catastrophe, let alone one averted by political action.

[The next chemical scare was "endocrine disruptors", chemicals that mimic sex hormones. In a book entitled Our Stolen Future, published in 1996, many plastics, pesticides and other man-made chemicals stood accused of changing the sex of fish, shrinking the penises of alligators and depressing the sperm counts of men. "Chemicals that disrupt hormone messages have the power to rob us of rich possibilities that have been the legacy of our species and, indeed, the essence of our humanity. There may be fates worse than extinction," warned the three authors melodramatically.

In 1992, Danish researchers reported that human sperm counts had fallen by 50% in 50 years, but they did so by comparing different studies in different places at different times. Other studies failed to replicate the results and by 2011 the sperm-count fall had been laid to rest as a myth following a 15-year study of Danish national-service recruits, which found "no indication that semen quality has changed". It also noted that "there is only very limited epidemiologic evidence to support the broader endocrine disruption hypothesis". Few researchers now believe there was ever much of an issue here.]

The second horseman: disease

Repeatedly throughout the past five decades,the imminent advent of a new pandemic has been foretold. The 1976 swine flu panic was an early case. Following the death of a single recruit at Fort Dix, the Ford administration vaccinated more than 40 million Americans, but more people probably died from adverse reactions to the vaccine than died of swine flu.

A few years later, a fatal virus did begin to spread at an alarming rate, initially through the homosexual community. AIDS was soon, rightly, the focus of serious alarm. But not all the dire predictions proved correct. “Research studies now project that one in five-listen to me, hard to believe-one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years. That’s by 1990. One in five,” Oprah Winfrey warned in 1987 (Quoted in “Bias”, by Bernard Goldberg. Regnery Publishing 2002.)

Bad as AIDS was, the broad-based epidemic in the Americas, Europe, and Asia never materialized as feared, though it did in Africa. In 2000 the US National Intelligence Council predicted that HIV/AIDS would worsen in the developing world for at least 10 years and was “likely to aggravate and, in some cases, may even provoke economic decay, social fragmentation and political destabilization in the hardest hit countries in the developing and former communist worlds.”

Yet the peak of the epidemic had already passed in the late 1990s, and today AIDS is in slow retreat throughout the world. New infections were 20 percent lower in 2010 than in 1997, and the lives of more than 2.5 million people have been saved since 1995 by antiretroviral treatment. “Just a few years ago, talking about ending the AIDS epidemic in the near term seemed impossible, but science, political support, and community responses are starting to deliver clear and tangible results,” UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé wrote last year.

The emergence of AIDS led to a theory that other viruses would spring from tropical rain forests to wreak revenge on humankind for its ecological sins. That, at least, was the implication of Laurie Garrett’s 1994 book, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. The most prominent candidate was Ebola, the hemorrhagic fever that starred in Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone, published the same year. Writer Stephen King called the book “one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read.” Right on cue, Ebola appeared again in the Congo in 1995, but it soon disappeared. Far from being a harbinger, HIV was the only new tropical virus to go pandemic in 50 years.

In the 1980s British cattle began dying from mad cow disease, caused by an infectious agent in feed that was derived from the remains of other cows. When people, too, began to catch this disease, predictions of the scale of the epidemic quickly turned terrifying: Up to 136,000 would die, according to one study. A pathologist warned that the British “have to prepare for perhaps thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of cases of vCJD [new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human manifestation of mad cow] coming down the line.” Yet the total number of deaths so far in the UK has been 176, with just five occurring in 2011 and none so far in 2012.

In 2003 it was SARS, a virus from civet cats, that ineffectively but inconveniently led to quarantines in Beijing and Toronto amid predictions of global Armageddon. SARS subsidedwithin a year, after killing just 774 people. In 2005 it was bird flu, described at the time by a United Nations official as being “like a combination of global warming and HIV/AIDS 10 times faster than it’s running at the moment.” The World Health Organization’s official forecast was 2 million to 7.4 million dead. In fact, by late 2007, when the disease petered out, the death toll was roughly 200. In 2009 it was Mexican swine flu. WHO director general Margaret Chan said: “It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.” The outbreak proved to be a normal flu episode.

The truth is, a new global pandemic is growing less likely, not more. Mass migration to cities means the opportunity for viruses to jump from wildlife to the human species has not risen and has possibly even declined, despite media hype to the contrary. Water- and insect-borne infections-generally the most lethal-are declining as living standards slowly improve. It’s true that casual-contact infections such as colds are thriving-but only by being mild enough that their victims can soldier on with work and social engagements, thereby allowing the virus to spread. Even if a lethal virus does go global, the ability of medical science to sequence its genome and devise a vaccine or cure is getting better all the time.

The third horseman: people

Of all the cataclysmic threats to human civilization envisaged in the past 50 years, none has drawn such hyperbolic language as people themselves. “Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet,” says Agent Smith in the filmThe Matrix. Such rhetoric echoes real-life activists like Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: “We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion … Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.”

On a “stinking hot” evening in a taxi in Delhi in 1966, as Paul Ehrlich wrote in his best seller, The Population Bomb, “the streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people.” Ehrlich’s conclusion was bleak: “The train of events leading to the dissolution of India as a viable nation” was already in progress. And other expertsagreed. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” said Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970. Sending food to India was a mistake and only postponed the inevitable, William and Paul Paddock wrote in their best seller,Famine-1975!

What actually happened was quite different. The death rate fell. Famine became rarer. The population growth rate was cut in half, thanks chiefly to the fact that as babies stop dying, people stop having so many of them. Over the past 50 years, worldwide food production per capita has risen, even as the global population has doubled. Indeed, so successful have farmers been at increasing production that food prices fell to record lows in the early 2000s and large parts of western Europe and North America have been reclaimed by forest. (A policy of turning some of the world’s grain into motor fuel has reversed some of that decline and driven prices back up.)

Meanwhile, family size continues to shrink on every continent. The world population will probably never double again, whereas it quadrupled in the 20th century. With improvements in seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, transport, and irrigation still spreading across Africa, the world may well feed 9 billion inhabitants in 2050-and from fewer acres than it now uses to feed 7 billion.

The fourth horseman: resources

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter went on television and declared: “World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But sometime in the 1980s, it can’t go up anymore. Demand will overtake production.” He was not alone in this view. The end of oil and gas had been predicted repeatedly throughout the 20th century. In 1922 President Warren Harding created the US Coal Commission, which undertook an 11-month survey that warned, “Already the output of [natural] gas has begun to wane. Production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate.” (Quoted in Bradley, R.L. 2007. Capitalism at Work. Scrivener Press. P 206.) In 1956, M. King Hubbert, a Shell geophysicist, forecast that gas production in the US would peak at about 14 trillion cubic feet per year sometime around 1970.

All these predictions failed to come true. Oil and gas production have continued to rise during the past 50 years. Gas reserves took an enormous leap upward after 2007, as engineers learned how to exploit abundant shale gas. In 2011 the International Energy Agency estimated that global gas resources would last 250 years. Although it seems likely that cheap sources of oil may indeed start to peter out in coming decades, gigantic quantities of shale oil and oil sands will remain available, at least at a price. Once again, obstacles have materialized, but the apocalypse has not. Ever since Thomas Robert Malthus, doomsayers have tended to underestimate the power of innovation. In reality, driven by price increases, people simply developed new technologies, such as the horizontal drilling technique that has helped us extract more oil from shale.

It was not just energy but metals too that were supposed to run out. In 1970 Harrison Brown, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, forecast in Scientific American that lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would all be gone by 1990. The best-selling book The Limits to Growth was published 40 years ago by the Club of Rome, a committee of prominent environmentalists with a penchant for meeting in Italy. The book forecast that if use continued to accelerate exponentially, world reserves of several metals could run out by 1992 and help precipitate a collapse of civilization and population in the subsequent century, when people no longer had the raw materials to make machinery. These claims were soon being repeated in schoolbooks. “Some scientists estimate that the world’s known supplies of oil, tin, copper, and aluminum will be used up within your lifetime,” one read. In fact, as the results of a famous wager between Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon later documented, the metals did not run out. Indeed, they grewcheaper. Ehrlich, who claimed he had been “goaded” into the bet, growled, “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”

[Far from being congratulated for this feat, Simon was widely attacked. So he offered one of his critics, William Conway of the New York Zoological Society, a bet on species extinction: "I'll bet that the number of scientifically-proven species extinctions in the world in the year 2000 is not even one-hundredth as large as the 40,000 as conventionally forecast; any other year will be fine, too."

The estimate of 40,000 species going extinct a year came from the conservationist Norman Myers in 1979, though it was originally more an assumption than a measurement: "Let us suppose that, as a consequence of this man-handling of natural environments, the final one quarter of this century witnesses the elimination of one million species - a far from unlikely prospect. This would work out, during the course of 25 years, at an average extinction rate of 40,000 species per year."

Not that Myers's number was much different from those being suggested by others. The Harvard biologist E.O.Wilson has regularly spoken of 27,000 species going extinct each year, a number reached by calculating how much habitat is being lost and applying a mathematical formula called the species-area curve. However, a recent study by Stephen Hubbell and Fangliang He, of the University of California at Los Angeles, found that these "estimated" extinction rates are "almost always much higher than those actually observed" -- loss of forest habitat does not result in species loss at the rate predicted by the theory.

This may explain why actual recorded extinction rates, though bad enough, are so much lower than predicted. Whereas Wilson's 27,000 annual extinctions should be producing 26 bird and 13 mammal extinctions a year, in fact, on a comprehensive list kept by the American Museum of Natural History, extinctions of bird and mammal species peaked at 1.6 a year around 1900 and have since dropped to about 0.2 a year. So far 1.3% of mammals (69/4428) and 1.4% of birds (129/8971) have gone extinct in four centuries.

Each extinction is a tragedy. But this is a far cry from the extinction rates forecast by Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, (75-80% of species by 1995), Paul and Anne Ehrlich (50% by 2005) and Thomas Lovejoy for the Global 2000 Report to President Carter (15-20% by 2000).]

Conclusion

Over the past half century, none of our threatened eco-pocalypses have played out as predicted. Some came partly true; some were averted by action; some were wholly chimerical. This raises a question that many find discomforting: With a track record like this, why should people accept the cataclysmic claims now being made about climate change? After all, 2012 marks the apocalyptic deadline of not just the Mayans but also a prominent figure in our own time: Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who said in 2007 that “if there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late … This is the defining moment.”

So, should we worry or not about the warming climate? It is far too binary a question. The lesson of failed past predictions of ecological apocalypse is not that nothing was happening but that the middle-ground possibilities were too frequently excluded from consideration. In the climate debate, we hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate “lukewarmers” a voice: those who suspect that the net positive feedbacks from water vapor in the atmosphere are low, so that we face only 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming this century; that the Greenland ice sheet may melt but no faster than its current rate of less than 1 percent per century; that net increases in rainfall (and carbon dioxide concentration) may improve agricultural productivity; that ecosystems have survived sudden temperature lurches before; and that adaptation to gradual change may be both cheaper and less ecologically damaging than a rapid and brutal decision to give up fossil fuels cold turkey.

We’ve already seen some evidence that humans can forestall warming-related catastrophes. A good example is malaria, which was once widely predicted to get worse as a result of climate change. Yet in the 20th century, malaria retreated from large parts of the world, including North America and Russia, even as the world warmed. Malaria-specific mortality plummeted in the first decade of the current century by an astonishing 25 percent. The weather may well have grown more hospitable to mosquitoes during that time. But any effects of warming were more than counteracted by pesticides, new antimalarial drugs, better drainage, and economic development. Experts such as Peter Gething at Oxford argue that these trends will continue, whatever the weather.

Just as policy can make the climate crisis worse-mandating biofuels has not only encouraged rain forest destruction, releasing carbon, but driven millions into poverty and hunger-technology can make it better. If plant breeders boost rice yields, then people may get richer and afford better protection against extreme weather. If nuclear engineers make fusion (or thorium fission) cost-effective, then carbon emissions may suddenly fall. If gas replaces coal because of horizontal drilling, then carbon emissions may rise more slowly. Humanity is a fast-moving target. We will combat our ecological threats in the future by innovating to meet them as they arise, not through the mass fear stoked by worst-case scenarios.

Ridley an Industrial Apologist?

All very impressive at first glance. Time and again over the recent past – since Malthus, in fact – the gloomsters have been shown to exaggerate the dangers and disasters we face, as adaptation outpaces resource use.

But one notices that Ridley’s links perhaps inevitably draw on many sources which are suspect to right thinking liberals, such as the Heritage Foundation, Reason Magazine, and so on. Still, we know of no a priori reason to assume they are incorrect.

The debunking of alarmism fits with Ridley’s top drawer background, which started with the best that the UK has to offer. Here is his CV as posted on his web site:

Welcome to Matt Ridley

Matthew White Ridley, FRSL, FMedSci (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English journalist, author, biologist, and businessman. He is best known as a writer of science books including the The Red Queen (1994), the best seller Genome (2000) and the controversial The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010). Ridley is one of only two people to have been short-listed twice for the prestigious Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. In 2011, he won the Hayek Prize, which “honors the book published within the past two years that best reflects Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty.” Ridley also gave the Angus Millar on “scientific heresy” at the RSA in 2011.

BIOGRAPHY

Ridley was educated at Eton College from 1970–1975 and then went on to Magdalen College of the University of Oxford and completed a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours in zoology and then a Doctor of Philosophy in zoology in 1983.

Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington correspondent from 1987 to 1989 and American editor from 1990 to 1992.

Ridley was non-executive chairman of the UK bank Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, in the period leading up to the bank’s near-collapse. He was the first chairman of the International Centre for Life, a science park devoted to life sciences in Newcastle, and he served in this position for seven years. He formerly had been a governor of the Ditchley Foundation, which organises conferences at its stately home in Oxfordshire. He is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association.

Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist (4th Estate) was shortlisted for the 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson prize.

Eton and Magdalen, and a Viscount to boot. Social ambition is not part of his makeup, clearly. But is he prejudiced in favor of the status quo, perhaps, or even tainted with financial investments in current energy technology?

Let’s hope not. There is certainly no reason to suppose so, a priori. Meanwhile, it does seem that much liberal PC anxiety is pantywaist doomsaying which lacks objective authority.

Red Flag: His Acceptance of HIV/AIDS Lore

As far as the individuality, depth and thoughtfulness of Ridley’s professed skepticism the piece contains a very big alert flag, however, in the form of Ridler’s mention of AIDS, which shows that he has not seen through this most hollow of all threats peddled by HIV scientists and the vast section of the world population who now follow their lead:

A few years later, a fatal virus did begin to spread at an alarming rate, initially through the homosexual community. AIDS was soon, rightly, the focus of serious alarm. But not all the dire predictions proved correct. “Research studies now project that one in five-listen to me, hard to believe-one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years. That’s by 1990. One in five,” Oprah Winfrey warned in 1987 (Quoted in “Bias”, by Bernard Goldberg. Regnery Publishing 2002.)
Bad as AIDS was, the broad-based epidemic in the Americas, Europe, and Asia never materialized as feared, though it did in Africa. In 2000 the US National Intelligence Council predicted that HIV/AIDS would worsen in the developing world for at least 10 years and was “likely to aggravate and, in some cases, may even provoke economic decay, social fragmentation and political destabilization in the hardest hit countries in the developing and former communist worlds.”
Yet the peak of the epidemic had already passed in the late 1990s, and today AIDS is in slow retreat throughout the world. New infections were 20 percent lower in 2010 than in 1997, and the lives of more than 2.5 million people have been saved since 1995 by antiretroviral treatment. “Just a few years ago, talking about ending the AIDS epidemic in the near term seemed impossible, but science, political support, and community responses are starting to deliver clear and tangible results,” UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé wrote last year.

However, that Ridley doesn’t see through HIV/AIDS indicates the superficiality of his own examination of that material, and perhaps his other topics too. After all, as we have pointed out over 25 years, HIV/AIDS with its mapping of people with HIV antibodies rather than with HIV, and its claim of any epidemic let alone pandemic of contagious disease from these very untransmissible antibodies, is such an obvious nonstarter scientifically that a graduate in zoology, even from Oxford, should see through it straightaway.

Yes, too many of his references for comfort seem to be associated with industries defending their turf or other sources of right wing and libertarian propaganda, also. But it is a standard feature of debates on these topics that the optimists and debunkers tend to wield more data and to sound more like hard headed realists.

For some reason, those who favor left wing views seem to be averse to science and don’t often wield data with the same relish as the right wingers. On the other hand, any lack of scientific studies to quote backing up concern over genetically modified food and other disputed advances in technology may only reflect the underfunding of such research, rather than the absence of ill effects.

Shining path to the future

Nonetheless Ridley’s essay does suggest that extremism in the cause of doomsaying is more likely to serve as effective attention getting than actually to reflect the most likely outcome, given the huge uncertainly in prediction from even the best models.

There is also the endless fertility of human invention which keeps moving the edge of the cliff farther away with every wave of new technology and farther exploration of possibilities, most of them currently inconceivable, and which do seem so far to be endless.

Of course, Malthusian limits can’t be put off forever, by definition. There is bound to be a limit to population expansion as long as we live in traditional human bodies on one planet and don’t change into a race of Mekons, whose brains are supported on little flying saucers. Physics dictates it.

But as Ridley cheerfully points out, so far, so good.


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