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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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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.
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Times falls short on Bird Flu, unaware of scientific literature

March 28th, 2006

16 million PubMed papers unknown to Times reporters

The New York Times science reporters and editors are operating under a severe handicap. These stalwarts are clearly unaware of the existence of PubMed, a database available courtesy of the NIH for more than a decade even on a simple home computer, which provides immediate access to the world’s stock of medical papers published in peer reviewed journals.

The database access is provided by the NIH, and will yield abstracts of the papers in a list for free to anybody interested who cares to fire up a browser and type in the word “PubMed” into a search engine. PubMed will list the papers and provide abstracts for any topic you care to ask about. If you belong to an organization like a university library you get the whole paper, not just an abstract.

This miracle is apparently as yet unknown to the New York Times, however. Their Bird Flu squad, assigned to produce a special section on Bird Flu today, evidently failed to consult this modern marvel of information in preparing their pieces. Neither the cause of this flu’s deadliness nor the ready cure for it are covered in their roundup, even though solutions to both of these puzzles are provided in the literature and have been for some time, as noted in our earlier posts on the topic.

Bird flu’s deadly power is to cause the immune system to overreact and produce Tumor Necrosis Factor or TNF in the lungs, which handicaps breathing so severely that nearly half of the unfortunate Asians who have caught it have, like the soldiers of the first World War, turned blue and died in short order.

The cure for such a cytokine storm is none other than our friendly nutritional factor, Vitamin A, in the form of carrots, fish oil and similar. Two studies showing this are out and easily found in PubMed by anyone who can get past the semi-illiterate jargon of the titles and abstracts of medical literature.

But the Times Bird Flu squad shows no sign of performing any better than the celebrated AIDS reporters and commentators of that august journal, including the hard working Larry Altman and the elegantly professorial Nicholas Wade, who despite their combined forty two years experience in the field, have not yet cottoned on the fact that HIV as a candidate for causing AIDS is about as likely as using a bicycle to get to the moon, according to the many as yet unrefuted papers of a certain Berkeley professor, as well as plain common sense.

Possibly their neglect of the scientific literature in both fields has to do with the pain of wading through the jargon which is the stock in trade of professionals in these fields, which is only really interesting when you realize that it conceals ignorance and illogic, almost as often as it conveys good information, in these two fields.

Surely it is distasteful to men whose main role in life is writing elegantly clear exposition for the readers of the Times to have to chew on literary concrete any more than they have to. With both of them evidently unaware that the theory of HIV was scuttled by unanswerable objections almost as soon as it left the launch ramp and splashed into the sea of ignorance and dutiful stenography that allows almost any claim by scientists to win immediate acceptance in the media, they lack the motivation to read any more of the standard literature than they have to in AIDS, and presumably are similarly disinclined to tackle any more of the bird flu papers than they have to, also.

Well, we don’t necessarily blame them. It is hard for middle aged men to catch up with the new toys of the new era. We doubt if either of them own an iPod, or do much text messaging. The PubMed data base is probably equally alien and incomprehensible to these traditional literary folk.

And after all, the officials of the NIH don’t appear to be setting any better example. Although we tipped him off four months ago NIAID director Anthony Fauci and his cohorts still seem unaware that they could save $7 billion by simply asking one of their secretaries to point a browser at the very data base which their own institution has bestowed upon the American people, miraculously transforming every kid or blogger with a keyboard into a medical authority more informed than the combined staff of Cornell and the Mayo Clinic.

PubMed is Easy to Use

Simply enter your search topics – one or more terms – and click Go. PubMed can be searched using MeSH terms, author names, title words, text words or phrases, journal names, or any combination of these. Retrieved citations are displayed and their associated abstracts can be selected for viewing. A unique feature of PubMed is the ability to instantly find related articles for any citation.

Additional search modes offer the ability to perform more complex searches by specifying data fields, age groups, gender, or human or animal studies. A special clinical queries page provides customized searches for studies based on etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment of a particular disease. Systematic reviews of a topic and medical genetics can also be searched here. Search results can be viewed or downloaded in various formats, including a format suitable for bibliographic management software.

PubMed’s LinkOut feature provides access to a wide variety of relevant web-accessible online resources, including full-text publications, biological databases, consumer health information, research tools, and more. Currently citations from more than 4,600 journals are linked to the full-text on publishers’ web sites. Users may have to register, or there may be a fee or subscription required to access the full-text.

Here is the overall Times guide to Avian Influenza, pages which contain all the articles in the Science section today.

The CDC has plenty of relevant articles on its own web site, if that is easier for Tony Fauci or Nicholas Wade to deal with. Just type “cytokine” into the CDC search slot, gentlemen, and you’ll find papers such as this one, the fifth listed. Not that the CDC has been very alert in its own use of PubMed. The paper was written in July last year, but according to the dating the CDC finally found it and listed it little more than a week ago, on March 21, 2006. Evidently the staff of the CD are almost as PubMed challenged as the NIH or the Times.

The paper (as we noted in our original November 20 post here nearly five months ago) explains that bird flu’s A-H5N1 virus occupies the lungs and intestines primarily and creates Tumor Necrosis Factor-α (TNF-α) in the lungs in a cytokine storm produced by an overreaction of the immune system.

It’s title is
“>Uiprasertkul M, Puthavathana P, Sangsiriwut K, Pooruk P, Srisook K, Peiris M, et al. Influenza A H5N1 replication sites in humans. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2005 Jul [date cited].

Here is the entire text.

Past Issue

Vol. 11, No. 7

July 2005

Influenza A H5N1 Replication Sites in Humans

Mongkol Uiprasertkul,* Pilaipan Puthavathana,* Kantima Sangsiriwut,* Phisanu Pooruk,* Kanittar Srisook,* Malik Peiris,† John M. Nicholls,† Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit,* Nirun Vanprapar,* and Prasert Auewarakul*

*Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand; and †University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People’s Republic of China

Suggested citation for this article

Tissue tropism and pathogenesis of influenza A virus subtype H5N1 disease in humans is not well defined. In mammalian experimental models, H5N1 influenza is a disseminated disease. However, limited previous data from human autopsies have not shown evidence of virus dissemination beyond the lung. We investigated a patient with fatal H5N1 influenza. Viral RNA was detected by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction in lung, intestine, and spleen tissues, but positive-stranded viral RNA indicating virus replication was confined to the lung and intestine. Viral antigen was detected in pneumocytes by immunohistochemical tests. Tumor necrosis factor-α mRNA was seen in lung tissue. In contrast to disseminated infection documented in other mammals and birds, H5N1 viral replication in humans may be restricted to the lung and intestine, and the major site of H5N1 viral replication in the lung is the pneumocyte.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 is the first avian influenza virus that was documented to cause respiratory disease and death in humans (1–3). In 2004, it caused widespread disease in poultry in Asia (4) and led to human disease in Thailand and Vietnam, with reported fatality rates of 66% and 80%, respectively (5,6). With the emergence of a second wave of disease outbreaks in poultry in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, this disease poses a global threat to human health (4). Additional human cases have been reported since August 2004. The high pathogenicity of this virus in avian species is associated with readily cleavable hemagglutinin (HA), but other amino acid residues in HA and neuraminidase have been recently reported to be involved in avian pathogenicity (7). In mice, some H5N1 virus strains cause a disseminated infection and death, and this phenotype was associated with specific amino acid substitutions in PB2 and the multibasic cleavage site in HA (8). Natural infection of felines with H5N1 viruses also resulted in disseminated infection (9). However, the pathogenesis of H5N1 disease in humans is more obscure. Despite severe and generalized clinical manifestations, the result of multiple organ dysfunction, previous limited autopsy data failed to show evidence of viral replication beyond the respiratory tract (10,11). The tissue tropism of the virus in humans has also not been clearly established by immunohistochemical analyses (10,11). The absence of detectable viral antigen–positive cells in previous reports may relate to the fact that the patients died during the late phase of the disease after intensive treatment with antiviral drugs. In this report, we investigated a case of fatal H5N1 disease in a child for tissue tropism caused by the virus in the lungs and other organs.

Methods

Patient and Virologic Diagnosis

Detailed clinical description of the patient is reported elsewhere (12). The patient was a 6-year-old boy who had a progressive viral pneumonia that led to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death 17 days after onset of illness. He was initially treated with multiple broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents. Virologic diagnosis of H5N1 infection was made on day 7 of illness. After oseltamivir became available in Thailand, he was treated on day 15 of his illness with this agent until he died. He was also treated with methylprednisolone on day 15 until death and with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor for leukopenia from day 5 to day 10 of illness.

Virologic diagnosis was made by antigen detection, viral culture, and reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on a nasopharyngeal wash specimen as described (12) and was confirmed by seroconversion of neutralizing antibody against H5N1 virus. The virus was identified as avian influenza virus (H5N1) by whole genome sequencing. The virus was an avian virus with no evidence of genetic reassortment with human influenza viruses. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the viral genomic sequence formed a distinct cluster with other H5N1 viruses isolated from humans and poultry in Thailand and Vietnam, but it was still related to the previously described H5N1 viruses circulating in southern China. As with other viruses isolated from poultry in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, this virus was also a genotype Z virus (4).

Pathologic Examination

Autopsy was carried out by standard techniques, and precautions were taken to minimize risk of transmission of infection. The tissue obtained was prepared for routine histologic analysis, and a portion was stored at –70°C for further study. For RT-PCR, fresh unfixed specimens were minced into small pieces in lysis buffer of an RNA extraction kit (RNA Wizard, Ambion, Austin TX, USA). Total RNA was then extracted according to the manufacturer’s protocol. RNA was also extracted from paraffin-embedded tissues by sequential extraction with TriZol reagent (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA, USA) and the RNAEasy kit (Qiagen, Valencia, CA, USA) after digestion with proteinase K. RT-PCR for H5 was then conducted on extracted RNA by using One Step RT-PCR kit (Qiagen) with the H5 specific primer pairs H5F (5´-ACTCCAATGGGGGCGATAAAC-3´) and H5R (5´-CAACGGCCTCAAACTGAGTGT-3´) (13). An RT-PCR for glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) mRNA was done in parallel to control for the amount and quality of RNA as described (14). Strand-specific RT-PCR was carried out by a method similar to RT-PCR for viral RNA detection, except that only 1 primer was added at the reverse transcription step.

For immunohistochemical analysis, sections were deparaffinized and rehydrated. Antigenic site retrieval was accomplished by heating each slide in a microwave oven at 700 W for 15 min in 0.05 mol/L citric acid buffer, pH 6.0, and cooling for 20 min at room temperature. Endogenous peroxidase activity was blocked by incubating the slides in 0.3% H2O2 for 30 min at room temperature. Sections were incubated with 20% normal goat serum (Dako, Glostrup, Denmark) for 20 min at room temperature and then with an anti-influenza A nucleoprotein monoclonal antibody at a 1:100 dilution (B.V. European Veterinary Laboratory, Woerden, the Netherlands) for 1 h at room temperature. Slides were rinsed 3 times in 0.05 mol/L Tris-buffer, pH 7.6, 0.1% Tween 20 and incubated with horseradish peroxidase–conjugated goat anti-mouse immunoglobulin at a 1:400 dilution (Dako) for 30 min at room temperature. The slides were washed as above, developed with diaminobenzidine (Dako), and counterstained with hematoxylin. Some slides of lung tissue were double-stained with a monoclonal antibody (1:50 dilution) against surfactant (Dako).

Cytokine Expression

Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interferon- (IFN-γ), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) mRNA were detected in the extracted RNA by an RT-PCR with previously described primer pairs (15–17). Plasma levels of TNF-α and IFN-γ were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Pierce Endogen, Rockford, IL, USA) and compared with samples from 3 H3 influenza–infected patients and 5 healthy persons.

Results

Figure 1

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Figure 1. Microscopic shape of the lung showing proliferative phase of diffuse alveolar damage and interstitial pneumonia…

Figure 2

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Figure 2. A) Detection of H5 influenza viral RNA in lungs, intestines, and spleen by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction…

Figure 3

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Figure 3. Immunohistochemical analysis showing influenza A antigen-specific staining in nuclei of cells lining the alveoli (A)…

The autopsy showed proliferative phase of diffuse alveolar damage, interstitial pneumonia, focal hemorrhage, and bronchiolitis. The pneumocytes showed reactive hyperplasia without virus-associated cytopathic changes (Figure 1). Superimposed infection by fungus, morphologically consistent with aspergillosis, was seen in some areas of the lung. The lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow showed slight histiocytic hyperplasia. No evidence of hemophagocytic activity was seen. The liver had mild fatty changes, activated Kupffer cells, and slight lymphoid infiltration in the portal areas. The brain was edematous, and small foci of necrosis were found. Intestines, kidneys, heart, and other organs showed no remarkable changes.

H5-specific RNA was detected in the lung, spleen, and small and large intestines by RT-PCR (Figure 2A). Control reactions without the reverse transcription step were negative, confirming that the PCR amplicon was not contaminated. The successful extractions of RNA from all organs were confirmed by the amplification of GAPDH mRNA (data not shown). We also tested whether the RNA was genomic RNA from virion or replicating RNA and mRNA from productively infected cells. To determine this, we conducted strand-specific RT-PCRs. Positive- and negative-stranded viral RNA was found in the lung, small intestines, and large intestines, but only negative-stranded RNA was detected in the spleen (Figure 2B). Because of the absence of positive-stranded RNA, which would serve as mRNA and the template for genome replication, we concluded that viral replication was absent or very low in the spleen and that the viral RNA detected in the spleen was probably nonreplicating virion RNA. No evidence of viral RNA was seen in the adrenal glands, brain, bone marrow, kidneys, liver, or pancreas. Results of the RT-PCR for viral RNA in plasma were also negative.

Immunohistochemical analysis detected influenza A virus antigen-positive cells in lung tissue. The staining was localized in nuclei of alveoli-lining cells. Positive cells were found in 4 of 9 blocks of lung tissue. The shape and location of the antigen-positive cells indicated that they were type II pneumocytes. To confirm this, we used surfactant as a marker of type II pneumocyte (18). We double-stained slides from adjacent cuts with anti-influenza A and anti-surfactant monoclonal antibodies and showed that all influenza virus antigen–positive cells with nuclear staining showed intracytoplasmic staining of surfactant (Figure 3). Slides stained only with antibodies to surfactant showed intracytoplasmic, not intranuclear, staining. This finding confirmed that viral antigen–positive cells were type II pneumocytes. Although viral mRNA was present in the intestines, viral antigen was not detected in 4 blocks of tissue from the small and large intestines. In accordance with the absence of viral mRNA in other organs, viral antigen was not detected in those tissues. We also tested 2 blocks of tissue from the trachea. We did not detect any positive staining in columnar epithelium, which is the usual target for influenza virus infection in humans (19), which suggests that the virus targeted primarily lung tissue and not airway epithelium. Similarly, we did not find viral antigen in bronchiolar epithelium in the lung sections. Columnar epithelium in both the trachea and bronchiole was intact, thus providing adequate columnar epithelial cells for evaluation. The lack of pathologic changes is consistent with the absence of viral infection in these tissues.

The high pathogenicity of the H5N1 avian influenza virus has been proposed to be caused by induction of proinflammatory cytokines (20). Cytokine dysregulation could be the major cause of tissue damage in humans, especially in organs in which productive infection does not take place and cell damage cannot be accounted for by cytolytic viral infection. To investigate this aspect of viral pathogenesis, we tested for the presence of cytokine mRNA in tissues from various organs. We detected TNF-α mRNA in lung tissue, but not in other organs (intestines, stomach, spleen, brain, bone marrow, kidneys, liver, and pancreas) of this patient, or in lung tissue of patients who died of other causes (Figure 2C). We did not find any increase in levels of IFN-α, IFN-γ, and IL-6 mRNA in organs of this patient when compared with control tissues from healthy persons.

In accordance with previous reports showing the increased levels of serum cytokines, we found high levels of interferon-induced protein 10 in serum samples collected on day 5 (37,000 pg/mL) and day 10 (4,300 pg/mL) of illness. These levels are comparable to those reported in H5N1-infected cases (10). However, we could not detect any significant levels of TNF-α and IFN-γ in these samples.

Discussion

Detailed autopsy data on patients with H5N1 disease are limited, and our data provide an insight into the pathogenesis of H5N1 virus in humans. We provide evidence that H5N1 viral replication is not confined to the respiratory tract but may also occur in the gastrointestinal tract. However, a fecal sample was not available for detection of virus. Although viral RNA was detected in the spleen, no evidence of viral replication was seen in this organ. The patient was treated with an antiviral agent for 2 days before death, which could have lowered the level of viral replication in the examined tissues. However, we still found viral mRNA in lungs and intestines, indicating that the viral replication was still ongoing. Viral replication in lungs and intestines was greater than in other sites. Our data agree with previous reports of human cases and cases in experimentally infected macaques, which also suggest that H5N1 influenza virus replication takes place predominantly in the lungs (10,11,21). We also show that type II pneumocytes, not columnar tracheal epithelial cells, are the major site of H5N1 viral replication in humans. Type II pneumocytes are surfactant-producing, alveolar epithelial cells and progenitor cells of both type I and type II cells. This cell type has been shown to contain sialic acid in newborn human lung (22). Whether the availability of the receptor alone determined the site of H5N1 infection needs further investigation.

Infection of the gastrointestinal tract by avian influenza virus, including H5N1, is common in avian species (23,24). However, involvement of the gastrointestinal tract in H1 and H3 influenza infection is rare in humans (25). A patient with H5N1 influenza virus infection was reported to have diarrhea as the initial symptom, which raises the question of whether the gastrointestinal tract may is another site of viral replication and shedding, similar to its function in avian species (26). In another recent report of a patient with a fatal H5N1 infection and severe diarrhea and encephalitis in Vietnam, the virus was found in a rectal swab (27). Our data confirm that H5N1 influenza virus replication can occur in the gastrointestinal tract even in the absence of diarrhea. However, we do not know the extent of viral shedding in stool in this patient. The absence of pathologic changes in the intestine, despite the viral replication, is intriguing.

The absence of viral antigen in the trachea indicated that the upper airway is probably not an active site of the viral replication. This finding is in marked contrast to the circumstances with human influenza, in which the upper respiratory tract and the tracheal and bronchial epithelium are primarily targeted (19). The predilection of H5N1 influenza virus for the lower airways may explain why detecting virus in upper airway specimens for diagnosis of H5N1 infection in humans is difficult (1). This finding also implies that specimens from the lower respiratory tract, such as sputum or bronchoalveolar lavage, would have a higher sensitivity for viral detection than an upper respiratory specimen, such as nasopharyngeal aspirates or throat swab specimens. Our data showing the absence of viral antigen in columnar epithelial cells contrast with a recently published report that H5N1 viral replication took place selectively in ciliated bronchial epithelial cells in an in vitro culture model (28). Whether this result was due to properties of specific viral strains or a difference attributable to the in vitro model needs further clarification.

In contrast to previous reports (10,11), we did not find prominent hemophagocytosis in any of the organs. The presence of hemophagocytosis in these reports supports the cytokine dysregulation model of pathogenesis. Whether the young age of our patient or prior treatment with immunosuppressive corticosteroids affected this manifestation in this patient is unclear.

TNF-α mRNA was detectable in the lungs but not in other tissues. This finding is in agreement with previous observations that H5N1 viruses isolated from human disease hyperinduce production of cytokines, most prominently TNF-α, in cultured human macrophages in vitro (20,29). The simultaneous presence of viral mRNA and cytokine mRNA in the same organ suggests a direct induction of cytokine in productively infected cells. In accordance with this finding, we also found that the viral isolate from this patient induced a high level of TNF-α production from primary human macrophages, which is comparable to the previously described strains (M. Peiris, unpub. data). However, we could not rule out the possibility that the superimposed fungal infection might have played a role in the induction of TNF-α in this patient. The hemagglutinin of the 1918 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus also appears to hyperinduce production of cytokines and chemokines in a mouse model of disease (30).

In conclusion, we have documented that H5N1 disease in humans is one in which viral replication is restricted to the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. The multiorgan dysfunction observed in human H5N1 disease, despite the apparent confinement of infection to the lungs, has remained an enigma. The hypothesis that cytokine dysregulation may contribute to the pathogenesis of severe H5N1 disease (20) remains a possibility. An understanding of the pathogenesis of human H5N1 disease is important in preparing for a pandemic.

Acknowledgments

We thank Kobporn Bunnak and Raweewan Khanyok for expert technical assistance.

This study was supported by a research grant from the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of Thailand.

Dr. Uiprasertkul is a pathologist at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok. His primary research interest is the pathogenesis of viral diseases.

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Suggested citation for this article:

Uiprasertkul M, Puthavathana P, Sangsiriwut K, Pooruk P, Srisook K, Peiris M, et al. Influenza A H5N1 replication sites in humans. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2005 Jul [date cited]. Available from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol11no07/04-1313.htm

Comments to the Authors

Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Prasert Auewarakul, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 2 Prannok Rd, Bangkok 10700, Thailand; fax: 66-2-418-4148; email: sipaw@mahidol.ac.th

If this paper, which is intelligible to any layman as far as we can judge, is too difficult for a Times editor or reporter to understand, they can always contact the author for further explanation – Prasert Auewarakul, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 2 Prannok Rd, Bangkok 10700, Thailand; fax: 66-2-418-4148; email: sipaw@mahidol.ac.th

Seems to us that even a Times reporter, even one of Wade’s baffling inability to handle a theoretical challenge to HIV over two decades, should be able to understand this sentence, at least:

TNF-α mRNA was detectable in the lungs but not in other tissues. This finding is in agreement with previous observations that H5N1 viruses isolated from human disease hyperinduce production of cytokines, most prominently TNF-α, in cultured human macrophages in vitro.

Of course, then the question becomes, what is the antidote for a cytokine storm of TNF in the lungs? According to the CDC easy guide to Avian Influenza, their staff have no idea, since the advice about treatment is no different than for regular flu:

How is avian influenza in humans treated?

Studies done in laboratories suggest that the prescription medicines approved for human influenza viruses should work in treating avian influenza infection in humans. However, influenza viruses can become resistant to these drugs, so these medications may not always work. Additional studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of these medicines.

In other words, they haven’t a clue that in the last year not one but two studies have been published confirming what other papers have already established, which is that a little Vitamin A does very nicely in knocking out this rather unpleasant phenomenon which otherwise would result in termination of the patient’s breathing ability.

This may be because nutritional factors do not interest the CDC or the Times since they have not much to do with the great engine that drives the bulk of disease research these days, the enduring hope that a profit making drug will be the answer. We have no idea, of course, whether this scurrilous speculation has any truth to it.

However, we should point out that as we have mentioned before the nutritional approach in this case is respectable to a degree that even the Times and CDC cannot argue with, namely, the Harvard School of Public Health.

The paper to refer to is Effects of Vitamin A Supplemnentation on Immune Responses and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes, from Clinical Microbiology Reviews, July 2005, pages 446-464, by the estimable Eduardo Villamor and Wafaie W. Fawzi.

If any of the staff of the Times or the CDC, or for that matter Tony Fauci or his secretary, wish to phone up Eduardo and get the gen from the horse’s mouth, his telephone is 617-432-1238. His email is evillano@hsph.harvard.edu.

Since the cost of a phone call these days is a few cents, and the potential saving to the US and the governments of the rest of the world would probably approach $10 billion, not even counting the economic loss from bird flu panic if the flu is detected in the US, let alone the lives of birds around the world currently threatened with execution though suffocation or being burned alive, and not to mention the dispiriting prospect of chicken off the menu of all but the most expensive restaurants, we hope that it will be made.

Of course, if Anthony Fauci wishes to send even a fraction of this saving our way, we will not be embarrassed.

South Park comments on the HIV?AIDS debate

March 27th, 2006

Religion and pseudo religion as enemies of free speech

Curiously appropos, HIV debunkers will surely think, when they see the November episode lampooning Scientology, in which Stan is informed by the leader of Scientology about how things really work inside the church.

This is the exchange between the leader of Scientology and the kid Stan, after Stan falls into the hands of Scientologists with their E meters, who persuade him that his reading indicates he is depressed though he didn’t know it, but then when they give him a bigger test, his score is so high that they decide he is L. Ron Hubbard reborn:

Stan: It’s not about the money, it’s about the message, right?
Leader: Wait a minute, Whoah, whoah. You don’t actually believe that crap do you? Dummy! Brainwashed alien souls! E meter and theta levels! Those people out there buy that crap but I thought you were smart enough to see what was really going on. What’s better than telling people a stupid story and havng them believe you? Having them pay you for it stupid?
Stan: But why me? Why do you need me to write something or lead you?
Leader: Because if these people all think you are the reincarnation of L Ron Hubbard, then they they’ll buy your new writings and you and I together will make $3 million.
Stan: $3 million?
Leader: That’s how a scam works! But this is a scam on a global scale! Do you f-ing get me now?
Stan: Yeah, yeah, I get you.
Leader: Then keep writing L. Ron, your people are waiting…..

(Later) Leader: Fellow scientologists, our prophet has finished his writing and he will now read it to you before making it available to you at a nominal fee..
Stan (unable to get started):…I… I… Look, I can’t do this. You know, we all want to know who we are and where we cam from. Sometimes we want to know so badly we will believe anything. I am not L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology is just a big fat global scam!
Leader: Oh. Oh. We are gonna sue you!
Stan: What?
Leader: Yes you think you can say our religion is a lie?! We are gonna sue you, buddy!
Stan: But you told me it was a lie!
Leader: Oh now you are putting words in my mouth. You are so sued! You can’t make fun of Scientology. Kid we are gonna sue your a*s and your b**ls. How dare you mock our founder you little punk! You’ll be hearing from our lawyers tomorrow.
Stan: OK sue me! Go ahead. I’m not scared of you. Sue me!

This may seem a reassuring example of free speech in action in comedy, but in digging around to try and find the entire script, we discovered that on the contrary, it seems to be an example of free speech that was soon restricted by pseudo-religion.

First the episode, Trapped In The Closet (a technically first class youtube.com feed if you have broadband), was reported by CNN and others to have triggered the resignation of Isaac Hayes last week from providing the voice of the Chef, since Hayes is a scientologist, as are Tom Cruise and John Travolta. According to the BBC Hayes objected to the ridicule of religion, a status now claimed by Scientology:

Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 14:06 GMT

South Park backs Chef for series

The 10th season of South Park will open in the US on Wednesday with a new episode featuring Chef, days after the departure of soul singer Isaac Hayes.

It will dispel speculation that the Chef character, which Hayes voiced, was to be axed after Hayes left over the show’s satirising of religion.

A recent episode parodied the Church of Scientology, to which Hayes belongs.

It is not yet clear who is providing Chef’s voice, said a spokesman for US TV channel Comedy Central.

The series, which has been running since 1997, tells the story of four boys in the dysfunctional Colorado town and regularly deals with sensitive subjects and satirises famous figures.

A synopsis of the new episode titled The Return of Chef states that the boys notice “something about Chef that seems different. When Chef’s strange behaviour starts getting him in trouble, the boys pull out all the stops to save him.”

Hayes left South Park last week, saying the show was insensitive to “personal spiritual beliefs”.

“There is a place in this world for satire but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs begins,” he said.

Co-creator Matt Stone said Hayes would be released from his contract and had the best wishes of the South Park team.

Stone said: “In 10 years and over 150 episodes of South Park, Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons or Jews.

“He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show.”

In a recent episode, one of the gang, Stan, did so well in a Scientology test that church followers thought he was the next L Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded Scientology.

Hayes did not take part in that episode, Trapped in the Closet, which was first broadcast in the autumn.

A planned repeat scheduled for last week was cancelled at the last minute in favour of two repeats featuring Isaac Hayes as Chef.

But all this may be just a prime example of the unreliability of the media these days, for this report was later corrected by Roger Friedman on Fox411 at FoxNews which reported that Isaac Hayes had not been particularly offended, and had not resigned, but that it had been done for him by some other scientologist, a woman who had issued the statement. According to FoxNews via MediaGab Hayes had a stroke three months ago and is recovering at home, which is why he has not been able to appear in South Park recently.

Friday, March 24, 2006 at 12:00 PM

From MediaGab

Actors and Actresses

Isaac Hayes may not have quit “South Park” at all – or at least not willingly. Turns out Hayes has been away from Comedy Central’s hit show for the past three months because he had a stroke.

According to foxnews.com, he’s at home recuperating and did not issue the press release which said he was quitting because the show made fun of his faith.

That release was put out by fellow Scientologist Christina “Kumi” Kimball, a fashion executive for designer Craig Taylor.

According to foxnews.com, “Hayes loves ‘South Park’ and needs it for income. He has a new wife and a baby on the way.”

In other words, someone issued a statement on behalf of Isaac Hayes which he didn’t subscribe to, and Matt Stone replied (possibly knowingly, since it would generate publicity anyway) without checking with Hayes, and other news stories were written on the basis of the first news stories, followed by a mass of comment.

Then the repeat really was pulled, courtesy of Tom Cruise.

Meantime, Tom Cruise may have gotten Comedy Central to pull its repeat of “South Park”‘s Scientology spoof last week, but the result is that episode is all over the Web. You can see it for free at youtube.com.

Not only that, the Comedy Central Web site has four clips from the 21-minute show. And it also says that “Trapped in the Closet” will air this Wednesday at 10 p.m.

So whether or not Cruise actually did use influence at Viacom/Paramount to get the show pulled from last week’s schedule, here it is, bigger and better than ever. Of course, no one would have cared one way or another if “Trapped” simply had aired on schedule.

Of course, no one could blame Cruise, John Travolta or even R&B singer R. Kelly for being upset about the episode. They are poked fun at mercilessly.

In the episode, Stan, one of the “South Park” characters, is solicited into Scientology. He gives them $240 and takes an EMeter test. This convinces the higher-ups that Stan is the reincarnation of the group’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

That would be bad enough, wouldn’t it? But Cruise visits Stan in his bedroom and winds up hiding in his closet when Stan tells him he’s not the greatest actor. Thus is born the line “Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet.”

It’s repeated dozens of times. Travolta soon joins Cruise in Stan’s closet. He won’t come out, either. And when they do, there is the ecstatic announcement that they’ve “come out of the closet.”

You get the picture. But nothing in “Trapped in the Closet” is any worse than anything “South Park” creators Stone and Parker have done before. Just rent “Team America” and see what I mean.

So the pulling of the episode was apparently not even due to Hayes, but to Tom Cruise, according to Reuters. Given that the episode said quite plainly that Scientology was a scam with a stupid story, one can imagine that the entire organization was frantic to prevent a repeat:

Two days later, Comedy Central abruptly pulled a scheduled repeat of that episode, titled “Trapped in the Closet.” Sources close to the show said the rerun was canceled after Cruise threatened to boycott promotion of his upcoming film, “Mission: Impossible III,” for sister studio Paramount Pictures.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it seems clear that Scientology now has influence on US entertainment media, even as large an outfit as Viacom, through the membership of Cruise and other celebrity members. We are watching with interest to see if the scientologists take up the challenge and sue South Park for what was a straightforward depiction of their church operation as a scam.

Meanwhile the creators of South Park are digging in. So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!

‘South Park’ Battle ‘Has Just Begun’

March 18, 2006

(AP)

Quote

“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!”

“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone

(AP) “South Park” has declared war on Scientology.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the animated satire, are digging in against the celebrity-endorsed religion after a controversial episode mocking outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise was yanked abruptly from the schedule Wednesday, with an Internet report saying it was covert warfare by Cruise that led to its departure.

“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!” the “South Park” creators said in a statement Friday in Daily Variety. “Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies… You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!”

The Internet blogger hollywoodinterrupted.com said Thursday that Cruise threatened to not promote “Mission: Impossible 3,” a surefire summer blockbuster, if the offending episode ran. Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, as is Paramount, which is putting out the film.

But Cruise’s representative, Arnold Robinson, told The Associated Press Friday that the mega-star made no such demands.

“Not true,” Robinson said. “I can tell you that he never said that.”

A call by The Associated Press to a Paramount representative was not returned Friday.

The episode in question, “Trapped in the Closet,” which first aired last November, shows Scientology leaders hailing Stan, one of the show’s four devilish fourth-graders, as a savior. A cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won’t come out. An animated John Travolta, another famous Scientologist, enters the closet to try to get him out.

The battle began in earnest earlier this week when Isaac Hayes, another celebrity Scientologist and longtime show member, voicing the ladies’ man Chef, quit the show, saying he could no longer tolerate its religious “intolerance and bigotry.”

“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

“Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored,” he continued. “As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”

Stone and Parker didn’t buy that either.

On Monday, Stone told The Associated Press, “This is 100 percent having to do with his faith in Scientology…He has no problem, and he’s cashed plenty of checks, with our show making fun of Christians.”

A Comedy Central spokesman said Friday that the network pulled the controversial episode to make room for two shows featuring Hayes.

“In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for,” the spokesman said.

©MMVI, The Associated Press.

Abdul at least has Condoleeza and W on his side


Put this together with the latest outrage in Afghanistan where the unfortunate Abdul Rahman’s very life is in danger even though the latest report is that he is to be freed, since at least one cleric has called for him to be torn limb from limb if he is let go, and one begins to realize the roots of belief even in science may be the religious impulse.

A religious attitude where if you convert to another religion you are threatened with death, as in the case of Abdul, is not much different except in degree from the behavior of the HIV faithful when they are confronted with skepticism. Whether their behavior is appropriately described by the South Park script is another question.

Given the almost childish weakness of the HIV?AIDS paradigm in every major respect it is hard not to think it is. But since they seem to combine the insecurity of the religious when they face sharp analysis with the bullying attitude of the Scientologists, a combination of religious feeling and scam motivation is strongly suggested.

However, as we have often said, we agree with Lang that discussions of motivation are always impure speculation and that the science has to be decided on its own merits.

Hundreds protest reports Afghan convert to be freed

Hundreds protest reports Afghan convert to be freed

Monday, March 27, 2006 Posted: 1009 GMT (1809 HKT)

A source close to the case says that Christian convert Abdul Rahman “could be released soo

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — Hundreds of people protested in a northern Afghan city following reports that a man who faced a possible death penalty for converting to Christianity would be released, officials said.

About 700 Muslim clerics and others chanted “Death to Bush” and other anti-Western slogans in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday, officials told The Associated Press.

Clerics have called for protests across Afghanistan against both the government and the West, which had pressured President Hamid Karzai’s administration to drop the case against Abdul Rahman.

On Sunday, a Western diplomat and Afghan officials close to Karzai told CNN that Rahman would be released soon.

Other sources in the Afghan judiciary said the case against Rahman had been thrown out on technical grounds and sent back to prosecutors to gather more evidence.

Those same sources said Rahman may not be released.

Karzai has been under growing international pressure to find a way to free Rahman without angering Muslim clerics who have called for him to be killed.

The Afghan Cabinet discussed the case Saturday, but results of that meeting were unknown. A government source familiar with his case said on Friday he would be released in the coming days.

On Sunday, The Associated Press quoted an official as saying an Afghan court had dismissed the case against Rahman because of a lack of evidence. (Watch Washington’s view of the case — 2:05)

The official told AP the case had been returned to prosecutors for more investigation and that Rahman would be released in the meantime.

“The court dismissed today the case against Abdul Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. AP said the official has been closely involved with the matter.

“The decision about his release will be taken possibly tomorrow,” AP quoted the official as saying. “They don’t have to keep him in jail while the attorney general is looking into the case.”

Abdul Wakil Omeri, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, confirmed to AP that the case had been dismissed because of “problems with the prosecutors’ evidence.”

He said several family members of Rahman have testified that he has mental problems.

“It is the job of the attorney general’s office to decide if he is mentally fit to stand trial,” he told AP.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said questions were now being raised as to whether Rahman would stay in Afghanistan or go into foreign exile, AP reported.

The judge presiding over Rahman’s case told Reuters the case had flaws and had been referred back to prosecutors. But he declined to elaborate on the flaws or say if the review would delay the trial, which had been due to begin in coming days.

“The case, because of some technical as well as legal flaws and shortcomings, has been referred back to the prosecutor’s office,” the judge, Ansarullah Mawlavizada, told Reuters.

Earlier Sunday, AP quoted prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari as saying that doctors would examine Rahman on Monday to determine whether he was mentally fit to stand trial.

“It has been said that he has mental problems,” the prosecutor said. “Doctors will examine him tomorrow and will then report to us.”

According to an interview published Sunday in an Italian newspaper, Rahman said he is fully aware of his choice and is ready to die for it.

“I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die,” AP quoted Rahman as telling the Rome daily La Repubblica.

“Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us,” he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

The newspaper did not interview Rahman directly but sent him questions through a human rights worker who visited him at a Kabul detention facility. Authorities have barred journalists from seeing Rahman.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she could not confirm that an Afghan court had dismissed the case and stressed the U.S. needs to respect the sovereignty of Afghanistan, which she called a “young democracy.”

“Unlike the Taliban, it actually has a constitution to which one can appeal,” she told CNN’s “Late Edition.” “We as Americans know in democracy, as it evolves, there are difficult issues about state and church — or, in this case, state and mosque.

“We expect that, given our own history, that we would know Afghans have to go through this evolution.”

Asked if U.S. Christian missionaries should be encouraged to go to Afghanistan, Rice told NBC: “I think that Afghans are pleased to get the help that they can get” but added “we need to be respectful of Afghan sovereignty.”

Rahman, 41, faces trial on charges of converting to Christianity — a death-penalty offense under Afghanistan’s constitution, which is based on Islamic law.

Rahman reportedly converted 16 years ago while he was a medical aid worker for an international nongovernmental organization (NGO).

The case reflects a gulf between Afghanistan’s conservative and clerical judiciary and the fledgling Western-backed democracy led by Karzai.

“We’ve been very clear with the Afghan government that it has to understand the vital importance of religious freedom to democracy,” Rice said.

U.S. troops overthrew Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, which had harbored al Qaeda, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

U.S. troops are still battling Taliban and al Qaeda remnants in parts of the country.

Also on Sunday, AP quoted officials as saying Rahman had been moved to a notorious maximum-security prison outside Kabul that is also home to hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda militants.

Rahman was moved to Policharki Prison last week after detainees threatened his life at an overcrowded police holding facility in central Kabul, a court official said on condition of anonymity, AP reported.

Gen. Shahmir Amirpur, who is in charge of Policharki, confirmed the move and said Rahman had been begging his guards to give him a Bible, according to AP. (Full story)

Journalist Tom Coghlan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNN.

Rebecca keeps her poise amid Web storm

March 22nd, 2006

Canadian trained, principled and lucid


The estimable Rebecca Culshaw has written a follow up piece on Why I Quit HIV: The Aftermath.

A seasoned academic analyst and mathematician, Rebecca is a strong character who is not at all thrown by the whirl of email she received, which was often supportive as well as including the usual idiocies. The latter annoyance included the suggestion she take a shot of blood from an advanced HIV?AIDS patient to show she has the courage of her convictions. That would prove nothing, as she points out.

A few individuals kindly suggested that I inject myself with the blood of a late-stage AIDS patient. While such an act might sensationalize my viewpoint, there are a number of problems with such an “experiment.” First, I can only imagine the non-HIV contaminants that might be found in such blood. Second, the data and results contained in the literature are sufficient to cast doubt on HIV. But most importantly, such an “experiment” would hardly settle anything, given the “latency period” of 10-15 years for progression to “AIDS.”

There is something reassuring as well as admirable in the way Rebecca dispenses with the plethora of misunderstanding and misinformation that greeted her perfectly straightforward statement (see earlier post Culshaw, yet another beauty with scientific sense, speaks out). So there are people who keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs! Rudyard Kipling would be proud.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

(Here is the full poem, “If”, in which Kipling continued what looks like very pertinent advice to all wavering between loyalty to their HIV dependent labs across America and the new view they may have developed recently.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

In this decisive spirit Rebecca writes:

Many people insisted that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I offer no alternative explanations for AIDS. There are many alternative explanations for “AIDS,” or severe immune deficiency. The immunosuppressive effects of malnutrition, chronic drug abuse (pharmaceutical as well as recreational), parasitic infections, psychological stress, and other risks were well-established long before “AIDS” became recognized in the early 1980s. The fact is that most (but not all) AIDS patients do belong to risk groups whose members are subject to one or more of the above assaults. This fact can be checked by reading the annual CDC surveillance reports, although drug use is hidden because the CDC gives priority to “sexual transmission.” And I should point out that the correlation between positive antibody tests and immune deficiency doesn’t necessarily imply that HIV is the cause. To shamelessly steal an analogy from Peter Duesberg, just because long-term smokers often tend to develop yellow fingers along with lung cancer, does not mean that yellow fingers cause lung cancer. This is what we refer to in statistics as a “lurking variable” – correlated but not the cause, and hence confounding the issue. In any case, pointing out the flaws in an existing theory in no way obliges me to produce an alternative.

What an excellent summary, intelligible even to the legion of logic-challenged supporters of HIV that float to the surface of the Web like stunned fish when a grenade of reason is tossed into their lake. Serge Lang would be delighted that a mathematician was demonstrating the lucidity that results from good mathematical training.

One post on a blog in response is a prize specimen of rationalization in the face of failure: apparently the writer thinks that if people die from the drugs administered to them for being HIV positive, this only proves how effective the drugs were in combating the dread virus!

And finally, a random blogger at LibertyPost.org appears to be lauding the toxicities of protease inhibitors:

“And worse, she claims that protease inhibitors are killing HIV patients, ‘And the leading cause of death in HIV-positives in the last few years has been liver failure, not an AIDS-defining disease in any way, but rather an acknowledged side effect of protease inhibitors, which asymptomatic individuals take in massive daily doses, for years,’ when that’s exactly what you would hope for (mortality drastically decreasing to the point that more deaths were the result of side effects) if protease inhibitors were in fact EFFECTIVE treatment for AIDS.” posted on 2006-03-03

However, it is unpleasant to see that even a mathematician has to worry about losing work if she refuses to join in what she has concluded is a superstition.

Many people inquired what impact the article would have on my job or career. I have not quit my job, nor have I been fired (so far). I’ve simply abandoned one area of research – I doubt I’ll ever be able to publish in mathematical biology again, but that was the risk I knew I was taking. Thank you all for your concern.

Let’s note that she is careful not to state the university in Texas where she is now an assistant professor. Her lack of confidence in her mathematics department’s politics is certainly no recommendation for that institution, which we hope is not Austin.

In a sane world she would state her university with pride and they would welcome the advertisement with pride in having on their faculty a young professor who is strong minded enough to speak up when she discerns that the officials of NIAIDS are parading past the crowd not even in their underwear, but stark naked.

Why I Quit HIV: The Aftermath

by Rebecca V. Culshaw

From LewRockwell.com

I want to start with an apology. I regret that I have not been able to individually answer every email I’ve received in the wake of my essay, “Why I Quit HIV,” which recently appeared on Lew Rockwell. I am grateful for this forum, and I hope that I will be able to clear up some confusion people appear to have experienced. I’d also like to express my gratitude for the many, many positive and indeed inspirational letters I’ve received.

Now I’d like to address some common questions I received.

Many people inquired what impact the article would have on my job or career. I have not quit my job, nor have I been fired (so far). I’ve simply abandoned one area of research – I doubt I’ll ever be able to publish in mathematical biology again, but that was the risk I knew I was taking. Thank you all for your concern.

A few individuals kindly suggested that I inject myself with the blood of a late-stage AIDS patient. While such an act might sensationalize my viewpoint, there are a number of problems with such an “experiment.” First, I can only imagine the non-HIV contaminants that might be found in such blood. Second, the data and results contained in the literature are sufficient to cast doubt on HIV. But most importantly, such an “experiment” would hardly settle anything, given the “latency period” of 10-15 years for progression to “AIDS.”

Many people insisted that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I offer no alternative explanations for AIDS. There are many alternative explanations for “AIDS,” or severe immune deficiency. The immunosuppressive effects of malnutrition, chronic drug abuse (pharmaceutical as well as recreational), parasitic infections, psychological stress, and other risks were well-established long before “AIDS” became recognized in the early 1980s. The fact is that most (but not all) AIDS patients do belong to risk groups whose members are subject to one or more of the above assaults. This fact can be checked by reading the annual CDC surveillance reports, although drug use is hidden because the CDC gives priority to “sexual transmission.” And I should point out that the correlation between positive antibody tests and immune deficiency doesn’t necessarily imply that HIV is the cause. To shamelessly steal an analogy from Peter Duesberg, just because long-term smokers often tend to develop yellow fingers along with lung cancer, does not mean that yellow fingers cause lung cancer. This is what we refer to in statistics as a “lurking variable” – correlated but not the cause, and hence confounding the issue. In any case, pointing out the flaws in an existing theory in no way obliges me to produce an alternative.

I did receive several emails from people like myself who work or have worked with AIDS every day, people who have growing doubts or who have abandoned the theory altogether. These include doctors, pharmacists, biologists and social workers.

“I volunteer in a Community Health Center, which was started twenty years ago, mainly for HIV positive people, though our clientele has expanded to all sections of our community. Also, as a former physician and then a psychiatrist, I was never able to understand this mysterious ‘disease’, and your writing has clarified a lot of that mystery.”

And there was also the following quote, from a social worker who works with HIV-positive prisoners:

“Having worked with women with HIV in a prison environment, they always seemed more scared than sick.”

The letters that particularly affected me were those from people diagnosed with HIV, or who have lost loved ones to AIDS. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they are convinced their friends and lovers died from AZT poisoning rather than HIV. I have nothing to offer but my utmost sympathy. I’ve received mail from people who are HIV-positive and healthy for years without any AIDS medications. I have also gotten more letters than I was expecting from people whose lives have been seriously affected by false positive diagnoses, including a man who lost his position in the military after a positive HIV test, despite being at very little risk, and despite having had malaria and numerous vaccinations. He’s out of work now.

“I am a low-low-low-low risk group guy who has been diagnosed with HIV as a part of yearly tests (military). As a hetero[sexual], monogamous (10 years with one NEG[ATIVE] partner), non-IV drug using male…I was skeptical. However the “system” is not skeptical and it has subsequently tubed my previously successful career…The fact that I have had malaria and about a billion weird immunization shots (incl[uding] Anthrax) has not been brought up as possible source of false positive.”

For everyone who has been affected by AIDS in one way or another, and for those of you who have an abiding concern about doing science correctly, please know that I read all of your letters and you are in my thoughts. What I wrote was very personal, but it was also intended to serve another purpose: the average person should be aware of all the information that exists, not just what’s been fed to us through the government propaganda machine. The individual citizen should be able to make informed choices about their health and their life. Let’s not allow overzealous, misinformed public health agencies to take away that right from us.

The article also attracted some comments from the blogosphere. The following comments appeared at a blog called Aetiology, which is owned and maintained by Seed magazine:

“That’s rich. First, as I mentioned, she’s a mathematician. I don’t know what her background is in infectious disease epi[demiology] (I contacted her but she did not respond), and she obviously shows little understanding of molecular biology in her comments about PCR (by her logic, any microbe shouldn’t cause us harm because they are so tiny).” March 9, 2006 10:43 AM

Yes, I am just a mathematician. I’ve never treated an AIDS patient, nor have I worked with HIV in the lab. But in the course of my work, I have studied both the microbiological and epidemiological aspects of AIDS, and the current HIV theory fails to explain either of these. Ever more convoluted explanations for HIV pathogenesis and epidemiology are not the signs of a mysterious virus, but rather the signs of a theory that is being shaped to fit the facts.

The following quote, as well as the quote above, indicate some confusion over what I had to say about PCR. This comes from an aspiring microbiology student:

“To understand my shock at the content of this article, you have to understand how incredibly steeped in the doctrine of the AIDS generation current education in Microbiology is. In the several years I have been working on my B.Sc, I have taken probably five courses that featured HIV or AIDS as prime examples of their precepts, have taken a course from one AIDS researcher, and have read about AIDS from several more. The idea of the AIDS virus has been one of the best known and studied examples of classical virology that we’ve ever had…I haven’t read the whole article yet, but from the part I’ve read, it seems that it’s written by a disgruntled HIV mathematician who got out of the race when she discovered that her paradigm and that of the establishment in this medical research field were radically different. From what I read, her science seems fine, except for some pretty disdainful and poorly-educated opinions on some of the best-used and most well-understood DNA techniques, such as PCR, or Polymerase Chain Reaction (the technique used by crime-scene units to amplify very small amounts of DNA so it can be identified, matched or analyzed):

If something has to be mass-produced to even be seen, and the result of that mass-production is used to estimate how much of a pathogen there is, it might lead a person to wonder how relevant the pathogen was in the first place.

First of all – to say this, a person needs to have absolutely no concept of how small DNA is, the degree of virulence of the pathogen being studied, and essentially no concept of how microbiology works. In short – a mathematician.” The AIDS “Theory.”

To be very clear, I did not mean that HIV cannot be pathogenic because it is so small, I meant it cannot be pathogenic because it is so sparse; there is so little of it to be found. I was comparing PCR to a Xerox machine, rather than a magnifying glass. We need the Xerox machine because traditional virus culture techniques fail to detect HIV. Worse yet, PCR is used to measure “viral load,” but this quantitative use of PCR has never been validated. As mathematician Mark Craddock has said, “If PCR is the only way that the virus can be detected, then how do you establish the precise viral load independently of PCR, so that you can be certain that the figures PCR gives are correct?” An alarmingly simple question, when you think about it; perhaps too simple for an AIDS establishment already fully committed to “surrogate markers,” protease inhibitors and “combination therapies.”

And finally, a random blogger at LibertyPost.org appears to be lauding the toxicities of protease inhibitors:

“And worse, she claims that protease inhibitors are killing HIV patients, ‘And the leading cause of death in HIV-positives in the last few years has been liver failure, not an AIDS-defining disease in any way, but rather an acknowledged side effect of protease inhibitors, which asymptomatic individuals take in massive daily doses, for years,’ when that’s exactly what you would hope for (mortality drastically decreasing to the point that more deaths were the result of side effects) if protease inhibitors were in fact EFFECTIVE treatment for AIDS.” posted on 2006-03-03

Finally, I received a series of odd emails from a prominent government HIV researcher, which includes the following quote:

“The AIDS denialists are making some noise about you being the ‘latest PhD researcher’ to refute HIV as the cause of AIDS. The document they are citing…does not contain any new research, but only repeats a lot of the standard denialist disinformation.”

The opening of this email begins with the use of the pejorative and entirely unnecessary term “denialist,” and this was followed by an “elucidation” of various aspects of virology that I imagine were intended to persuade me to change my mind, despite the fact that the arguments given were precisely those arguments that led me to doubt HIV in the first place.

The arguments I presented were not intended to be “new research,” but rather a short summary of the rather substantive questions that scientists such as Peter Duesberg and others have raised, which have still not been adequately answered. If the AIDS establishment is so convinced of the validity of what they say, they should have no fear of a public, adjudicated debate between the major orthodox and dissenting scientists to settle the matter once and for all. Yet all the major AIDS researchers have averted such a public debate, either by claiming that the “overwhelming scientific consensus” makes such a debate superfluous, or by saying that they are “too busy saving lives.” In place of public debate, clearly politically motivated documents such as the Durban Declaration remain the establishment’s standard response to dissenting voices. Even a cursory reading of this pathetic document reveals it to be a statement of faith, designed to divert attention from dissenters at the very moment when they were threatening to expose the orthodoxy in South Africa in 2000.

To clarify an issue that has caused some confusion, it was not the mathematical models themselves that caused me to doubt HIV, but rather the scientific literature on which the models are based. Billions of dollars have been spent on HIV, and this has not led to a greater understanding of the virus, but rather to a series of unproven or incorrect speculations which have been widely trumpeted in both the scientific and lay press. Such a track record is indicative of institutional problems in modern biomedicine.

The famous Ho/Shaw 1995 Nature papers are a typical example of this phenomenon. These were the papers largely responsible for popularizing HAART (the so-called “Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy”) and the “Hit hard, hit early” regime as a treatment for “HIV disease” and “viral load” as a measure of treatment success. The mathematical models used in these papers were claimed to show that HIV replicated furiously from day one – in contrast to earlier evidence suggesting it to be quite inactive. Even now, few people are aware that these conclusions were based on very poorly constructed mathematical models. Anyone who has taken a first course in differential equations can see that, if analyzed properly, the models predict the onset of AIDS within weeks or months after infection by HIV, before antiviral immunity. (For anyone interested in a mathematical refutation of the Ho paper, I refer you to Mark Craddock’s analysis. Similar criticisms have been directed at the Shaw paper.)

This example illustrates a central flaw in the HIV theory. The vast majority of the literature I’ve seen uses what is known as circular logic – you assume that something will happen, and then you mold the definitions, models, experiments, and results to support that conclusion. Craddock describes a typical example of circular logic in the Shaw paper:

“They are trying to estimate viral production rates by measuring viral loads at different times and trying to fit the numbers to their formula for free virus. But if their formula is wrong, then their estimates for viral production will be wrong too.”

Such tactics, by definition, are excellent at maintaining the façade of a near-perfect correlation between HIV and AIDS, and of providing seemingly convincing explanations of HIV pathogenesis. But the resultant science does little to expand our actual understanding.

To fully appreciate how such tactics became common, one needs to revisit the beginning of AIDS science. In 1984, HIV was announced as the cause of AIDS at a press conference before any supporting literature was published and had a chance to be critiqued by the scientific community. By the time the supporting papers were published, the lay press had all but declared HIV to be “the AIDS virus,” and debate in the scientific arena was squelched. The current commonly used orthodox tactic of arguing by intimidation and forcing the conclusions to fit the facts became entrenched. Consider the time period in the scientific literature, when HIV went from being “the probable cause of AIDS” (1984) to simply “the cause of AIDS” (1985). What changed? What happened to make scientists come to such certainty? If you look at the actual papers, you’ll see quite clearly that the answer is: Nothing.

Returning to the Ho/Shaw papers, these have essentially been debunked by both establishment and dissenting researchers, on biological as well as mathematical grounds; they are now acknowledged to be wrong by the scientific community, and it remains a mystery how they were ever able to pass peer review in the first place. It is often asked, “Why should we care at this point? Those papers are 11 years old; our understanding has progressed since then.” The short answer is that “viral load” and combination therapies are used to this day, despite the fact that they were originally based on these incorrect papers. Although current therapeutic regimens have been scaled back from the “Hit hard, hit early” dogma that was popular ten years ago, the fact remains that a large population of people have been, and continue to be, treated on the basis of a theory that is fundamentally unsupportable.

Yet there is another answer to this question which is even more fundamental. It is a curious fact that few HIV researchers seem to be bothered by the events surrounding the Ho/Shaw papers. You might imagine that people might “care at this point” because of concern over the integrity of science. You might imagine that people might feel an urge to discuss how the papers got published, and if other such mistakes have happened since that time. You might imagine that the failure of the peer review process to detect such patently inept research would send off alarm bells within the HIV research community.

You would be wrong.

HIV researchers know the Ho/Shaw papers are wrong, yet they continue along the clinical path charted by the papers. They know that the quantitative use of PCR has never been validated, yet they continue to use “viral load” to make clinical decisions. They know that the history of HIV/AIDS is littered with documented cases of fraud, incompetence, and poor quality research, yet they find it almost impossible to imagine that this could be happening at the present moment. They know their predictions have never panned out, yet they keep inventing mysterious mechanisms for HIV pathogenesis. They know many therapies of the past are now acknowledged to be mistakes (AZT monotherapy, Hit hard, hit early), yet they never imagine that their current therapies (the ever-growing list of combination therapies) might one day be acknowledged as mistakes themselves.

As a final thought, I am often asked, “How could medicine have made such a big mistake? How could so many people be wrong?.” I believe the answer lies in the disintegration of scientific standards that have resulted, in large part, from the changing expectations of academic scientists. I’m an assistant professor, and my father is also a professor in the physical sciences, so I have had plenty of opportunity to see exactly how research expectations affect the quality of work we produce. It is clear to me that the pressure to obtain big government grants and to publish as many papers as possible is not necessarily helping the advancement of science. Rather, academics (and in particular, young ones) are pressured to choose projects that can be completed quickly and easily, so as to increase their publication list as fast as possible. As a result, quality suffers.

This lowering of scientific standards and critical thinking has been apparent in many aspects of research for some time, and after several generations of students, it is now beginning to infiltrate the classroom – the textbooks and the undergraduate curriculum. It is germane at this point to indicate that many of the common arguments presented in response to the queries of HIV/AIDS skeptics are essentially some form of appeal to the use of low standards. (For example, “You don’t need a reference that HIV causes AIDS,” “The fact that HIV and AIDS are so well correlated indicates that it must be the cause,” “HIV is a new virus, and new viruses will meet new standards,” “Koch’s postulates are outdated and don’t apply in this day and age,” “We don’t need to worry about actual infectious virus, viral ‘markers’ should suffice,” or “Real scientists do experiments; they don’t write review articles on the literature.”) All of these observations are eloquently summed up, again by Craddock:

“Science is about making observations and trying to fit them into a theoretical framework. Having the theoretical framework allows us to make predictions about phenomena that we can then test. HIV “science” long ago set off on a different path…People who ask simple, straightforward questions are labeled as loonies who are dangerous to public health.”

It is this decline in scientific standards that I point to, when I am asked how so many people could be so wrong. Given the current research atmosphere, it was almost inevitable that a really, really big scientific mistake was going to be made. But we can still have hope for the future – hope that institutional and political pressures will no longer continue to cost lives, and hope that we will soon see honest dialogue and debate, free of name-calling and intimidation.

March 21, 2006

Rebecca V. Culshaw, Ph.D. [send her mail], is a mathematical biologist who has been working on mathematical models of HIV infection for the past ten years. She received her Ph.D. (mathematics with a specialization in mathematical biology) from Dalhousie University in Canada in 2002 and is currently employed as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at a university in Texas.

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com

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How scientists block dissent from the media in HIV?AIDS

March 20th, 2006

Why journalists should be permitted to give their individual judgement

The expertly handled Lia Miller media piece last Monday An Article in Harper’s Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V.:

The New York Times

March 13, 2006

An Article in Harper’s Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V.

By LIA MILLER

In his last issue as the editor of Harper’s Magazine, Lewis Lapham has left a parting gift for his successor: a firestorm in the media and among AIDS researchers.

The source is a 15-page article in the March issue, titled “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science,” by Celia Farber. Ms. Farber, a longtime magazine journalist, has been a polarizing figure because she has frequently written about the position of “AIDS dissidents,” who argue that H.I.V. does not cause AIDS.

The Harper’s article centers on a clinical trial in Uganda for the drug Nevirapine that was later criticized for poor methodology and treatment of some test subjects. But the final third of the article focuses on the tangentially related topic of Dr. Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading AIDS dissident, and his strained relationship with the National Institutes of Health.

Soon after the article’s publication, rebuttals to Dr. Duesberg’s theories and to other aspects of Ms. Farber’s article were posted on Web sites like The Nation (www.nation.com) and www.poz.com. A 37-page document, written by eight prominent AIDS researchers, was posted on the Treatment Action Campaign Web site (www.tac.org.za), a group that campaigns for greater access to H.I.V. treatment in South Africa. Harper’s received a surge of letters and phone calls.

Roger Hodge, who will succeed Mr. Lapham at Harper’s next month, said that Mr. Lapham initially assigned Ms. Farber an article about Dr. Duesberg’s cancer research, but the assignment was changed when news of the drug trial broke. Mr. Hodge edited the article.

“We knew, of course, that everyone would be upset,” he said, adding that the article was thoroughly fact-checked. “This is a very contentious subject. We have gotten some very, very thoughtful responses. But other pieces have generated a lot more mail.”

John P. Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and one of the authors of the Treatment Action Campaign’s rebuttal, said he was shocked when he first saw the article. He said it seemed apparent that Mr. Hodge wanted to “teach the controversy” of Dr. Duesberg’s ideas, a controversy that he said AIDS researchers had resolved long ago. He added that Harper’s reputation had “taken an irreparable hit.” Dr. Duesberg didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Benjamin Ryan, an editor at large at HIV Plus magazine who writes a monthly health column on Gay.com, said he had lost faith in Harper’s. He said, as did many scientists, that the article was poorly fact-checked and had glaring errors.

Ms. Farber says that neither she nor Harper’s endorse Dr. Duesberg’s position, but that she is simply reporting on an unpopular view. “People can’t distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent,” she said.

“I’m very familiar, since 20 years, with the hysteria end of the spectrum, the rage that breaks out when one touches certain tenets of dogma,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “Anger has been the dominant emotion in AIDS for a long time, almost the only emotion that seems to really function. Anger is connected to fear. I understand it. I’m used to it. I hope we can transcend it.”

Mr. Hodge said the magazine stood behind the article and Ms. Farber.

“The fact that she’s been covering this story does not make her a crackpot — it makes her a journalist. She’s a courageous journalist, I believe, because she has covered the story at great personal cost.”

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

was interesting for what it revealed about the way reporters have been handicapped in covering the HIV?AIDS dispute by a clever Catch-22 used on them by those trying to escape scrutiny of the paradigm.

The New York Observer with its usual smarts fastened onto that aspect in a Daily Transom comment on Celia Farber in Harper’s, which highlighted a problem which has long corrupted HIV?AIDS journalism: print reporters operate with one hand tied behind their back when they investigate issues in the science of HIV?AIDS. Even after twenty years, during which they build up exceptional expertise and instinct for truth in this area, they have to be careful to maintain the stance of “objectivity”, and not express any opinion of their own as to which side is right.

Ms. Farber says that neither she nor Harper’s endorse Dr. Duesberg’s position, but that she is simply reporting on an unpopular view. “People can’t distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent,” she said.

What could possibly have confused people about the difference between description and outright dissent?

The one thing we do know, “categorically,” is that the myths that have sprung up from Africa about AIDS are “positively absurd,” [Farber] exploded, citing theories that HIV is rampantly spreading AIDS throughout Africa. “this really lifts off into science fiction.” […] “I suspect “they” got to him [Nelson Mandela]–Jimmy Carter and all those believing AIDS is pandemic in Africa, Black Africans know that to be loved by the West, you talk their line all the way–especially on AIDS.”

—Interview with Celia Farber, Dec 1, 2005, The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.

Celia Farber: Has the Dissenter Become the… Dissentee?

The March Harper’s carries a piece by Celia Farber, who has written about AIDS—and HIV denialists such as Peter Duesberg—for 20 years. Says today’s New York Times:

Ms. Farber says that neither she nor Harper’s endorse Dr. Duesberg’s position, but that she is simply reporting on an unpopular view. “People can’t distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent,” she said.

What could possibly have confused people about the difference between description and outright dissent?

The one thing we do know, “categorically,” is that the myths that have sprung up from Africa about AIDS are “positively absurd,” [Farber] exploded, citing theories that HIV is rampantly spreading AIDS throughout Africa. “this really lifts off into science fiction.” […] “I suspect “they” got to him [Nelson Mandela]–Jimmy Carter and all those believing AIDS is pandemic in Africa, Black Africans know that to be loved by the West, you talk their line all the way–especially on AIDS.”

—Interview with Celia Farber, Dec 1, 2005, The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.

“Everybody who was wrong got journalism awards. Everybody who was right got all but driven from the profession,” Farber said.

Farber exposed the conspiracy between profit-hungry drug companies, researchers who wanted more funding, homosexuals who didn’t want the disease to be known as “the gay plague,” and conservatives who wanted to turn back the sexual revolution.

—March 19, 2004, New York Post, “Straight AIDS Myth Shattered.”

“Suffice to say, AIDS professionals will be aghast,” Farber declares. “Unless, of course, they’ve decided to take their cash and their ribbons and helicopter off to their chalets where they can hope to live out their days in anonymity.” [Rian] Milan’s findings debunk myths that the scientific community has been spreading for 20 years.

—Nov 4, 2001, New York Post, on the publication of Rian Milan’s “AIDS in Africa: In Search of the Truth” in Rolling Stone.

I fell silent, realizing from years of reporting on this issue how futile it is to argue when the big club of HIV has been pulled out. Like the child’s game of rock, paper, scissors, HIV is always the rock and the scissors.

—Celia Farber, 1998, Mothering, “AZT Roulette.”

March 13 05:58 PM | Filed as: Media

Comments

Celia Farber’s claims of objectivity and commitment to journalism – that her job is to “ask questions” – is about as sincere as Pat Robertson claiming the same of the homosexual lifestyle. At least Robertson wears his bias proudly on his chest.

Farber is a crank, a sad excuse for a journalist and unfortunately for the Harper’s fact-checkers, a patent liar – always has been on the HIV/AIDS topic. There are purveyors of misleading information – she is not one of them. Farber just outright lies. She treats scientific facts surrounding HIV/AIDS with the same care a termite does a piece of wood – she hacks it up, leaving nothing but a pile of unrecognizable shavings.

Many people have lost their lives by her words. She’s pathetic.

Posted by: Kate | March 13, 2006 07:55 PM

It is ludicrous for Farber to suddenly proclaim in 2006 that she is only the messenger. She has written on and argued for the denialist position for at least a decade and half. She wrote about nothing else in SPIN Magazine for years. There was never any question that she was espousing her own views. No one should be surprised by this new claim of being the messenger though. Her writing has been blatantly dishonest and misleading from day one. Like her apparent mentor Peter Duesberg, she simply ignores the principles of science, hiding all evidence contrary to her views while spotlighting the few specks of data that seem, at least to the untrained eye, to bolster her case. I have come to believe that HIV denialism, like Holocaust denialism, is a mental illness deeply rooted in problems accepting authority and an inability to admit error. Though sometimes harmless, in matters as grave as AIDS it has become criminal behavior resulting in the loss of thousands of lives.

Posted by: Martin Delaney | March 14, 2006 06:41 PM

what I loved was Harper’s editor Rodger Hodge telling the Times about the great personal cost to Farber of her “brave” reporting….really, Rodger? A greater personal toll than, say, losing both parents to AIDS, as more than 10 million African children have? Rodger Hodge, Rick MacArthur, and Harper’s should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 15, 2006 09:34 AM

Celia Farber is an extraordinarily gifted journalist who has had the temerity to report on an amazing scientific controversy that the national media and HIV/AIDS agencies would prefer to ignore or dismiss. This is the fact that some highly qualified scientists, including retrovirologists and Nobel laureates, believe that evidence is lacking that HIV causes AIDS. In reporting on the other side as well in the AIDS debate, Ms. Farber has acted as a truly objective journalist should and performed an outstanding public service. Her writings have helped to compensate for the extremely onesided party-line reporting that has typified the AIDS issue. Her article in Harper’s is a masterpiece that exposes the corruption in AIDS research and should merit the author a Pulitzer prize.

Posted by: Robert Houston | March 15, 2006 01:29 PM

What is the point of the Transom piece? Is it that sympathy for one side disqualifies one from writing about an issue? Then there would be no qualified journalists on anything, and HIV believers likewise should be silenced. Or was the point that journalists or editors who have a personal opinion on a scientific issue should issue conclusive scientific endorsements? This would be equally absurd.

The first three commentators engaged in scurrilous smear-tactics typical of HIV activist groups, which have become little more than goon squads for the government and the drug companies which finance them. One of the commentators leads a group – is it Project Misinform? – that is heavily bankrolled by the makers of HIV drugs. He speaks of “the loss of thousands of lives” from “denialism” when the nearly universal feature of longterm AIDS survivors has been refusal to take the drugs. In Lederer’s article in the current POZ (April), Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., founder of AMFAR, charges that “1200 mg a day of AZT (the first approved dose in the ’80s) killed thousands, as did so-called early intervention.” It was not Peter Duesberg but Robert Gallo who ignored the principles of science by announcing in 1984 that HIV was the cause of AIDS though it was absent in 64% of the AIDS patients he tested.

Posted by: Diogenes | March 18, 2006 02:10 PM

That last comment about the absence of HIV in most AIDS patients was a bit startling so I checked it out. The discovery paper for HIV (then called HTLV-III) states in the abstract: “Retroviruses… designated HTLV-III were isolated from…26 of 72 adult and juvenile patients with AIDS” (R.C. Gallo et al. Science 224:500, May 4, 1984). That’s only 36%, meaning that HIV could not be found in 64% of AIDS patients. To claim it the cause of AIDS on such a flimsy basis is a violation of Koch’s first postulate, which requires that the putative pathogen be found in all cases of the disease. This means that the “denialists” are correct: HIV failed the basic scientific principle for establishing causation.

This was one of the many striking points raised by Prof. Peter Duesberg in his critiques of the HIV theory. I have read several of his papers on AIDS and found them to be thoughtful, comprehensive, and meticulous in reviewing the data. Rather than “hiding all evidence,” as Mr. Delaney falsely claims, Duesberg examines it with respect to established scientific principles. His June 2003 paper (J. Biosci.) showss in Table 4 how the 17 claims of the HIV theory have each been disproven. In checking his references, I found they always accurately supported his statements. Ms. Farber’s quoted statements also ring true and are a refreshing change from the standard “group-think.”

Posted by: Researcher | March 19, 2006 02:17 PM

We have to agree with this, insofar as it points to a handicap of the few critical HIV?AIDS reporters which the defenders of HIV?AIDS have always taken advantage of, which is the absurdly blanket rule that all reporters (and editors) on the topic should be ‘objective’, and merely report on the two sides of the issue in a balanced fashion and refrain from coming to any conclusion of their own, but let the reader make up his or her mind.

The unbiased reporter

The comments provoked by this stricture are among the best so far. We like Diogenes’ comment best:

What is the point of the Transom piece? Is it that sympathy for one side disqualifies one from writing about an issue? Then there would be no qualified journalists on anything, and HIV believers likewise should be silenced. Or was the point that journalists or editors who have a personal opinion on a scientific issue should issue conclusive scientific endorsements? This would be equally absurd.

The first three commentators engaged in scurrilous smear-tactics typical of HIV activist groups, which have become little more than goon squads for the government and the drug companies which finance them. One of the commentators leads a group – is it Project Misinform? – that is heavily bankrolled by the makers of HIV drugs. He speaks of “the loss of thousands of lives” from “denialism” when the nearly universal feature of longterm AIDS survivors has been refusal to take the drugs. In Lederer’s article in the current POZ (April), Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., founder of AMFAR, charges that “1200 mg a day of AZT (the first approved dose in the ’80s) killed thousands, as did so-called early intervention.” It was not Peter Duesberg but Robert Gallo who ignored the principles of science by announcing in 1984 that HIV was the cause of AIDS though it was absent in 64% of the AIDS patients he tested.

Posted by: Diogenes | March 18, 2006 02:10 PM

The laughable idea that the reporter doesn’t develop an informed view of his or her own derives from a standard practice in journalism of not using reporters who are partisan in a dispute to cover that dispute, which a priori is reasonable enough. Like judges who are related to a defendant, they must recuse themselves.

The problem is that no distinction is made between a partisan and a reporter who studies and reports on a scientific issue where the evidence backing opposing judgements about the explanation of phenomena is in dispute , ie the facts backing a theory.

The reporter who draws on many sources on both sides of such a factual dispute about the validity of a theory may well end up one of the most expert lay observers in the field. His or her opinion of which side is right becomes very valuable to those who cannot spare the time to follow the science, or may not be able to understand it without long study, but who have to make policy decisions.

But the politics of HIV?AIDS have become so twisted that it is only those who agree with the paradigm of HIV=AIDS that are allowed to express their own opinion, usually extending to disparaging those who would disagree with them.

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“lack of objectivity”, a rule which has had the result in the case of HIV?AIDS that those who report on the dissident view have been almost completely shut out of mainstream journalism for two decades.

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This places a peculiar handicap on the reporters in HIV?AIDS. The burden is that if they are sufficiently interested to thoroughly fathom the science for themselves, perhaps simply by covering it long enough in their reporting, they tend to make up their own minds about who is right, the paradigm supporters or their critics. But they are not allowed to say so without losing their license to report on the topic.

The statement “I personally believe Duesberg is right” immediately disqualifies them from being the “objective” reporters so much beloved in journalistic myth here in the US. They are seen as “biased” in favor of Duesberg’s position. For some reason, however, offering a partisan opinion is fine if they support the paradigm, which history shows those with only a shallow exposure to Duesberg’s critique tend to do, often adding a little scorn and derision of Duesberg to boot.

If you conclude Duesberg is right, you are not ‘objective’

Those reporters who decide that it is Duesberg who is the reliable scientist in this altercation have plenty of reason to do so, since his critiques are enduring, repeated over the years without having to adjust significantly to new data (with one exception, the alleged`success of the HAART regimen in helping HIV?AIDS patients live “normal lives”), validated (refereed by peers who would dearly love to contradict him but apparently cannot do so effectively and so fail to stop publication of his papers in reputable journals) and are in effect endorsed by more hostile examination than any of the conventional papers in the field. They are treated differently, however. People with this judgement don’t get hired because they are not “objective” ie biased in favor of the consensus.

This seems a total misapplication of the standard rule of US journalism that reporters should not be involved in the politics of a field they cover, and should not take sides in a political dispute they report lest they be accused of “lack of objectivity”, a rule which has had the result in the case of HIV?AIDS that those who report on the dissident view have been almost completely shut out of mainstream journalism for two decades.

On the other hand, the evident bias of Larry Altman, Nicholas Wade and other science reporters and editors at the New York Times should have been questionable according to the conventional journalistic view, since they chose sides in a dispute with equal professional credentials on both sides (if anything, Peter Duesberg with his impeccable record, exceptionally generous NIH funding and early membership of the National Academy was in fact superior in reputation to Robert Gallo). But they have felt perfectly fine hewing to the paradigm position, and no one has criticized them for being partisan.

It is not only this one-sided license which is wrong. It is also the fact that the topic is science, which is meant to be a non-political activity. In political or social disputes, editors may well wish to hire reporters who are not taking part in the theater they are covering. But this is science we are reporting.

Of course, the thinking probably goes along these lines: the HIV?AIDS paradigm supporters quote the most established scientists in senior positions, and credit the majority opinion in the field. This is what editors prefer. Thus it seems perfectly OK for Times reporters to go along with those in power and support the conventional view in a scientific dispute. After all, what better sources could they use than those at the top of a field?

But in the case of HIV?AIDS, the paradigm skeptic Duesberg and many of his top supporters are equally well or better qualified as a reliable source. There are few if any better qualified than Peter Duesberg to make a good judgement on the paradigm issue. Not only is he clearly an exemplary scientist, since his work won him awards, golden boy funding from the NIH, a seat in the Academy at an early age, and even talk of him qualifying for the Nobel in the letter column of Nature, but he has never been accused of lowering scientific standards, or publishing questionable papers, as both Robert Gallo and David Baltimore, his chief opponents in the matter, have been.

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What is tragic is that they may be defending the paradigm at the cost of their own lives.

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And of course he has studied the whole question a lot longer and more thoroughly perforce than his opponents, apparently believing that it is the science that is at issue and not the politics.

So why shouldn’t the Times reporters give him equal time?

We imagine it is because against all logic then they would be considered not “objective”. But how ridiculous, whatever the reason, that they should have ignored Duesberg and the critique of HIV?AIDS for twenty years, except for barely three or four short news items and a review of his book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, by an insultingly inferior scientific mind.

A scientific issue, not political

Whether HIV is the cause of AIDS is a scientific issue, not a political one. It is a scientific issue that has been intensely politicized, but it is still not a political issue. The rush of activists to the defense of the paradigm, apparently at the implicit bidding of the drug companies who fund most or all of them, according to the Harpers article, is motivated by various emotions, none of them scientific.

The defense of the paradigm by the scientists standing on top of it is also possibly motivated by politics and psychology, rather than pure professionalism or innate love of truth, because their status and remuneration are heavily dependent on it. Many accuse them of this self-interest in their judgement. No one knows if this is true, of course, and whatever their motivations, they are irrelevant to the decision of who is right, and these intense politics just interfere with real science.

Certainly AIDS activists and their political demands have interfered with HIV?AIDS science from the start, pushing to release dangerous drugs early from incomplete trials before science has validated their effect. And they are still at it, according to the piece by Farber, which mentions that most if not all major activist groups in this arena are funded by the drug companies, and always have been. What activists are most active in is defending the ruling paradigm against challenge, acting in effect as the palace guard of the HIV?AIDS scientific elite. What is tragic is that they may be defending the paradigm at the cost of their own lives.

The tragic irony for the press in its turn may be that with the oddly unbalanced demand for “objectivity” HIV?AIDS reporters at the Times and elsewhere have ended up allied with the activists in shutting out the paradigm critique. They have become palace guards for the paradigm too.

For editors in the media, following the rule of hiring only uninvolved, objective reporters to cover an issue, have seldom hired reporters who are open minded to the dissident case, but published instead the ones who follow the established paradigm line that any challenges are spurious by definition.

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If the issues in science are not to be fathomed by outsiders, especially expert, worldy and perceptive writers and reporters with no initial axe to grind themselves, how will government officials ever hope to escape being taken in by a baseless paradigm which scientists succeed in getting funded, which is what has happened in this case according to all the critics?

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Thus they too have betrayed their own interests and policy and have used the reporters who are biased, rather than the ones who are objective when they first approach the story. In the case of Nicholas Wade of the Times for example, and probably most others, they have hired and published reporters who by their own admission (recently made to us after a CUNY panel) have not recently kept up with the papers Duesberg has so carefully prepared under such intense (and therefore validating) peer review. Surely such reporters are the ones who should be doubly banned from taking sides in a scientific dispute if they have not even read the source material.

This is the giant flaw in the system that can be seen in the Lia Miller article last week, sticking out like a sore thumb for everyone to see. The sad irony is that Harper’s editor Roger Hodge and writer Celia Farber, who have set such a proud example in not knuckling under to the ignorant media consensus on HIV?AIDS and instead explored the topic for themselves and made up their own minds, as good reporters and editors do, are evidently sticking to this very rule in the current affair, even though they are the ones who should break it and firmly stand up for the validity of Duesberg’s views as they have thoroughly researched them.

Handcuffed by a misapplied rule

For as the Observer points out, given the opportunity to say to Lia Miller of the Times that Duesberg appears to them to be right, neither Celia or Harpers editor Roger D. Hodge is willing to say this. Handcuffed by the obligatory myth of “objectivity” of US journalism, even after preparing a 15 page article over two years (with Celia over twenty years seasoned experience in this area) on this disputed issue in science, they apparently feel forced to pretend they haven’t made up their own minds.

As the Transom points out, in fact Farber clearly has made a judgment, as her interviews show. And why shouldn’t she? It may not be the scientific judgement of a scientist, but it is the highly informed opinion of a perceptive researcher in the field. We see reason to believe that Roger Hodge has made up his mind too, at least on the basis of becoming well informed on the case in editing the article and getting it into a form that he, as Harper’s new editor, would have to stand behind as valid. But if the two of them have made up the minds, they don’t want to tell us, because it is not their business as journalists to be “partisan”, as Hodge has put it to us.

Not being professional scientists, they have no authority to decide for all of us about scientific questions, for sure. But after unusually careful study – which certainly in Hodge’s case was utterly objective, since as far as we know he had never heard of the issue before the first draft of the article came in – their opinion is better informed than most people outside science, and most people in it.

And if the issues in science are not to be fathomed by outsiders, especially expert, worldly and perceptive writers and reporters with no initial axe to grind themselves, how will government officials ever hope to escape being taken in by a baseless paradigm which scientists succeed in getting funded, which is what has happened in this case according to all the critics?

We for sure want to know what they think. And we don’t view it as in any way compromising their journalistic professionalism to tell us. They should be prepared to give the public guidance, since they both presumably approached the subject with impartiality in the first place, and have studied it exhaustively. In fact, they are among the best people to ask who do NOT have an axe to grind. It is the paradigm scientists and their followers who are “partisan.”

Of course the absurdity is that their opinion is anyway inherent in the article and the way it is written for all to see. The mere fact that it is assigned, and successfully written, edited and published, implies the endorsement of the writer and editor of the material as worth taking seriously as an alternative viewpoint. If Hodge didn’t believe Duesberg was making valid points which have not been answered successfuly by the defenders of HIV?AIDS, he surely wouldn’t give him so much valuable space in his magazine. Harper’s instead would also point out key defects in his position and show that he had been convincingly answered and wasn’t able to refute the replies. The article would more prominently feature people who disagreed with him and deplored his influence.

It is time for this rule in journalism to be reassessed, and for reporters to be permitted to talk as individuals about this scientific dispute without being handcuffed by those in power.

(More in Comments below)

Duesberg on the coming bird flu global catastrophe: don’t bet on it

March 19th, 2006

Jay Leno anyway has bright idea on how to ward it off

Asked to give his view of the current bird flu global megathreat, Peter Duesberg finally found time to write the following email, which he copied to a group of insiders, including the editor of Harper’s, Roger D. Hodge, Lia Miller, the New York Times business media reporter, and Dean Esmay, who put it up on his blog, Dean Esmay blog, where it has attracted a number of comments, ranging from sensible to demented.

McKiernan:

Thank you, Dean.

Peter Duesbergs words are most welcome indeed if only to point to the madness, covertness and greed within the operations of the CDC and the moneyed interest groups in the health care and big pharma industries.

3.15.2006 1:11am

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willem:

Duesberg nails it. Perhaps we need to rename the discipline; change it from “Public Health” to “Political Health” to better reflect its role and function within society. The public hype and declaratory posturing about “getting ready” has been a bit bizarre. The opening point made by Duesberg may be the most important thing we have going for us; though I’m not sure the relative terrain is quite as good as we might hope given the national problem of inflammatory diseases that currently plague our population.

I’m grateful H5N1 remains essentially a disease of birds, but I am still concerned we could yet see the recombinant we fear. Should that occur, it will be entirely it’s own thing, and it will hit human populations in exactly the way Duesberg points out that H5N1 has not. I wouldn’t hold out much hope for vaccines or antiviral drugs in the first few months of such an outbreak. It would sweep through vulnerable populations with considerable finality.

3.15.2006 1:29am

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matoko-chan (mail) (www):

lol.

another reason we won’t die of bird flu is that we aren’t kept penned up like chickens so we can spread it.

I totally agree with Duesberg.

My take on it, Waiting for Captain Trips

we need to be researching mutagenic drugs and RNAi’s that would work on all RNA viruses, even man-made ones.

like in bioterrorism.

3.15.2006 1:47am

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Mike (mail):

He echoed my thoughts regarding the susceptibility of the populations of 1918 to a flu, especially the conditions of military life and how vast numbers of, literally, herded humans were moved from continent to contintent.

Anyone ever see photos of military transports? RMS Olympic was carrying about 5,000 a trip, when as a liner she was designed to carry about 2,000. Anyone else ever hear of a “forty-or-eight”?

Those conditions just aren’t present, especially in the developed world where proper sanitation is done and potable water is in abundance.

3.15.2006 7:31am

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sherard (mail):

This is just common sense. As, frankly, is the theory that HIV does not caue AIDS. At any snapshot in time, anything is theoretically possible, but as time passes, when the expected outcome does not come to pass, the theory becomes less and less viable.

The funniest thing is the disclaimer in every article about bird flu – “health officials fear the flu may mutate and become contagious between humans”. Yeah, and until then it’s a complete nothing. And when the press has been saying that same thing for MONTHS, eventually you have to start wondering if it’s even remotely likely.

3.15.2006 8:04am

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Scott Kirwin (mail) (www):

Sorry, but I don’t buy Duesberg’s argument:

The reason why the Flu was so successful in 1918 was primarily the “terrain”, namely the millions of immuno-deficient hosts and hostesses starved and stressed by 4 years of war.

If this was true, one could assume that the most “immuno-deficient hosts” would be the elderly and the young. However the 1918 strain did not target them. Most of those who died from the disease were in their prime – a fact which terrified people at the time.

In addition the 1918 virus did not kill people directly: What killed them was the overreaction of their immune systems responding to the virus. If Duesberg’s argument was true, then those with weakened immune systems should have better survived the disease.

Unless he believes that these immune compromised people acted as carriers of the disease who exposed those with healthy immune systems that then went into overdrive and killed them…

Clarification is needed methinks.

3.15.2006 9:09am

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Eric R. Ashley (mail) (www):

Forty men, or eight horses.

3.15.2006 10:02am

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McKiernan:

Major cause of death during the 1918 pandemic was untreatable pneumonia.

3.15.2006 10:12am

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zach.:

sherard,

The funniest thing is the disclaimer in every article about bird flu – “health officials fear the flu may mutate and become contagious between humans”. Yeah, and until then it’s a complete nothing.

duh. but the fear is not an irrational one. the flu virus is tricky enough to do this. perhaps one of the reasons it hasn’t happened yet is that thousands of dedicated people around the world are trying their best to respond to this “non-crisis” and keep it contained? duesberg’s dismissal of what the H5N1 has already caused is ludicrous. it has killed several people in china and tons of birds. it has not developed the ability to jump from human to human because it has not to date recombined with a human flu virus. that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and regardless of the unlikelyhood of such an event i don’t think it’s beyond the pale for health workers to sound the alarm and by doing so reduce the likelyhood even further.

3.15.2006 10:13am

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mariner:

I agree about the “Political Health Service”.

Other “epidemics” they’ve been flogging for years are “handgun violence” and “domestic violence”.

3.15.2006 11:06am

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Hank Barnes (mail):

Ask me if I’m worried that the sun will one day burn out.

I’m not — it’s too remote

Ask me if I’m worried that the one day a meteorite will one day strike the earth causing much harm.

I’m not — it’s too unlikely

Ask me if I’m worried that one day I will be struck down by a lightning.

I’m not — it’s too unlikely.

Ask me if I’m worried that a few Nigerian ostriches (or is it European geese?) have contracted flu-like symptoms, which will somehow mutate into a super-duper, new virus, that will be transported across continents by swarms of infected flocks of our avian brethren.

Well, NO, I’m not.

I’m sorry, it’s just bullsh%t. Wrapped in hype, surrounded by exaggeration, encased in fear-mongering, propelled by Chicken-Littles at the CDC, who enjoy scaring the populace and pharmaceutical executives who need new and exotic diseases in order to market and sell new and exotic test kits, vaccines and drugs. All the better if the massive research $$ is funded by the Gov’t, picked up by the taxpayers.

So, NO, I ain’t worried about no stupid bird flu!

Barnes

3.15.2006 12:02pm

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Mike (mail):

You got Eric. Forty men or eight horses per boxcar. Lovely. In those kind of crowded conditions, when the healthy men were breathing the air of the unhealthy, literally stacked on top of each other as they moved through military posts built from scratch to handle large numbers of men for only a few years, is it any wonder such an epidemic could sweep through them?

And is it any wonder in permanent cities with adequate sanitation and potable water there wasn’t quite the sweep?

3.15.2006 12:22pm

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Mrs. du Toit (www):

Scott,

One of the theories regarding the 1918 pandemic on “prime health” targets was that many of these men were at war in the 5 years previous.

The theory is that there was lighter strains of the flu that these guys weren’t around to get and it made them more vulnerable to the 1918 strain.

Add to that the fact that young people are generally more mobile (spreading the disease among themselves).

On the current strain, however, anything can happen. Even if WHO and the CDC are as incompetent as he suggests, that should make us more prepared than less–they can’t predict in the affirmative or the negative. Catastrophes can happen and being prepared isn’t being paranoid–it means you are less likely to appear in a news loop on FoxNews standing on your house looking like an idiot. So while I agree that there may be an irrational fear with respect to the Bird Flu, if that makes a few more thousand people have water and supplies on hand in an emergency, it will be better for them (and all of us) in the long run.

3.15.2006 1:00pm

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Hank Barnes (mail):

Yawn.

Do y’all remember the hype over Y2K? True, I ain’t a computer geek, so I’m not exactly clear what the potential apocalyptical claims were (massive economic disruptions?) or whether they materialized (I’m pretty sure they didn’t).

My take then and now is that it was B.S.

We are experiencing a bizarre medical equivalent of Y2K — where medical authorities are hyping deadly “flu-variants” or other diseases that sound bad to the average Joe, but don’t do squat.

Liam Scheff has a great article with virologist, Dr. Stefan Lanka, who reminds those ‘fraidy cats among us:

In one litre of sea water, there are over 100 million viruses of various kinds very different from each other.

Dr. Lanka, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, notes that if we continue on the same path, the CDC might pass a law requiring us to wear full-body condoms, when we take a refreshing dip in the ocean.

Barnes

3.15.2006 1:12pm

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McKiernan:

My expertise at predicting the failure of eminent catastrophic pandemic flu events increases in direct proportion to the coming of the end of the flu season. While life is uncertain, its polar opposite is certain.

3.15.2006 1:21pm

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Angel:

dear Dean, I’m really trying to write to Doc. Peter Duesberg and hoping for an answer for too long now…I wish why he could not reply to me EVER!!!

I started writing to him from the time my husband was helth and HIV positive…then I wrote to him so many times on his web site when My husband got sick…and I also wrote to him when My husband died asking for help and for some clear answer from his point of view also for my self!!!

I arrived to think that he does not want to reply…and that made me think …Why he says that the orthodoxis doctors does not want to answer to ANY question about HIV and AIDS that are not about what they believe, when he does the same???I mean I know that he should have so many eamil but I really thought that mine at that time were a little bit more Urgent…Christine also wrote me to write to him.

Now i’m wondering , by the time you are able to speak to him…can you plaese ask him why he does not reply to his email???

I’m sorry to ask you soemthing like that but I really want to write and ask him lots of things…if his problem isthe money i can also try to pay for his time…

Thank you for your help!!!

PS: Is his email the one that you find on his web site???

Ciao

Take care

3.15.2006 5:34pm

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Dean Esmay:

Yes, his email is public. Yes he is busy but he does answer most emails. It may be that your English is not so good… I know he reads six languages, perhaps you should try something other than English?

But I would note that Duesberg could only guess on what happened to your husband. We know that people die from immune failure, no one has denied this. We also know people have died from the medications used to treat HIV–no one denies this anymore either. There are people with catastrophic immune failure who are HIV-, and no one denies that (although few seem very interested in them or what happens to them).

3.15.2006 5:51pm

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karishma (mail):

Prof. Duesberg’s reply made me think of another potential reason why there’s so much hype about an imminent flu pandemic.

People are just too well nourished these days, and thus have optimally maintained immune systems, for microbes to attack more than just the fringes of the ever growing human herd. That in fact is their historical share.

People most at risk of dying from the flu are those with weak immune systems – the young, the old, and those with diseases / treatments that weaken the immune system.

Since we are currently seeing a huge number of health-obsessed baby booners enter that ‘old’ category (age >65 is the std cutoff), they are naturally worried about anything that could disproportionately affect them. The fact that the rest of us would be far less affected is not much consolation, I guess…

3.15.2006 8:04pm

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Mike (mail):

But karishma, the conditions that encourage epidemics are not present in the developed world, with adequate heat and sanitation and nutrition for the vast bulk of the population.* And that really is the kicker, as the easy access for a disease to besiege the human system is not there as it was for all human history, up until this century.

Outhouses were once standard, but are gone, except for those who camp in rustic campsites. As an example.

*Lack of nutritious food is not the problem now.

3.15.2006 8:24pm

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Vic Stein (mail):

“People most at risk of dying from the flu are those with weak immune systems – the young, the old, and those with diseases / treatments that weaken the immune system.”

Of course! That’s why so many people with otherwise robust immune systems died in 1918: because they were secretly taking AZT!

If Duesberg is one thing, it’s consistent. Consistently narrow about how every single disease must work: all conforming to the same neat little box. From reading him, you’d think that there is such a thing as a universally “robust” immune system that is simply impregnable, making the contraction and spread of disease rare and impossible.

Fact is, the fact that the CDC is excitable (and, to be fair, a lot of the warnings they issued spurred people into actions that helped stop the spread of feared, but over-hyped disease) isn’t really a particularly relevant issue when looking at any individual pathogen and its potential for havoc. Still, I remain unconvinced that bird flu is any particular worry at the moment.

3.16.2006 5:13pm

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Dean Esmay:

Vic: Did people with otherwise robust immune systems die of the 1918 flu? I’ve not seen evidence of that. Yes it was a lot of young people, but we had poorer nutrition, poorer sanitation, people in living conditions that would be considered uncivilized today, and we had medical practices that often didn’t make sense (like, doctors and nurses would wear medical masks with the noses exposed because they thought you couldn’t get infected through your sinuses–really).

And I don’t see anything to suggest that Duesberg believes there is such a thing as a universally “robust” immune system, merely the view that for an infectious microbe to ravage a population, probably that population has to have some immune problems already–poor nutrition, poor sanitation, crowded living conditions, and so on.

If you think that’s wrong, I’m curious: can you name an infectious epidemic that ravaged a huge percentage of the population that did not fit that description–i.e. poor sanitation, poor nutrition, crowded living conditions, etc.?

3.17.2006 4:18am

(link)

Angel:

Dear Dean,

Maybe YOU are RIGHT…YOU FINALLY GOT THE PROBLEM!!!

Only, stupid person,foolish,thick-headed, dumb, fool, idiot person LIKE YOU are can UNDERSTAND what I write and want to say!!!

Is MAYBE for that Reason that you were able to answer to my message???

I really am shokked about all the stupidity,nonsense, stupid remark that I read in your KIND Reply to my message!!!

I will NEVER let you offend myself or any one in my life.

You do not even KNOW WHO I’m, You do NOT KNOW WHAT I want and wanted to ask to Dot. Peter Duesberg, How could you!!!

For sure my English is not good, I know that…It’s not my language, are you able to WRITE AND SPEAK ITALIAN, FRENCH and Spanish Like ME???!!!

I really am very confused about people like you, I just want to tell you that you are RUDE, IMPOLITE, Bad Mannered, ILL-BRED.

I just asked you a suggestion to how comunicate with Dot Peter Duesberg.

I NEVER TOLD YOU WHAT I WANT TO ASK TO HIM…NEVER!!!

…You are looking for intellingent people to speak with…but how intelligent are you giving these kind of reply to people that you DO NOT KNOW!!!

Maybe Dot. Peter Duesberg is not interested in what I have to ask to him…but He is and he will be always a perfect polite human been…

and this type of Class, quality is not something that you can BUY…reading all the books that you read!!!

Whatever…I’m just here spending too much time writing to YOU and it does not worth it!!!

Sincerely

3.17.2006 6:05pm

(link)

Dean Esmay:

You are taking offense at something you should not take offense at, Angel. I am being honest with you and making a sincere suggestion. And I do have some idea what you want to ask him since you have described it in the past.

I am sorry if you are offended, but, your English is sometimes hard to understand. Dr. Duesberg speaks 6 languages. You might try writing to him in French, which I am pretty sure he reads, and possibly he knows Italian but I’m not sure.

3.17.2006 10:23pm

The Duesberg flu comment is interesting for a number of reasons. In the first place, it appears he was a pioneer in the genetic analysis of the flu virus, so he speaks with some authority. Unfortunately, he doesn’t answer the $7 billion question, which is how likely it is that the virus will mutate into another version which will attack humans as lethally as the 1918 flu. Of course, no one knows this, and no one will as long as the WHO runs an exclusive data base on the topic.

Judging from what we have seen in the relatively few humans reportedly struck down so far by the non-mutated version, this will be because it generated the immune overreaction or cytokine storm in the lungs which causes you to suffocate from TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor), and the description of the 1918 flu (fast death in 24 hours from “pneumonia”, which doesn’t normally act so quickly) suggests this is what happened then.

Duesberg doesn’t appear to be aware of this finding which is plentiful on PubMed as we have pointed out earlier, and instead simply accounts for the lethality of the 1918 flu by saying that it was the result of immunodeficiency from the starvation and stress of war, which as one commentator points out may not be good enough.

The reason why the Flu was so successful in 1918 was primarily the “terrain”, namely the millions of immuno-deficient hosts and hostesses starved and stressed by 4 years of war.

Secondarily, one can speculate that the 1918 flu strain may also have been a “new” recombinant to the 1918 population and thus more successful than a more established seasonal strain may have been. As I found in 1968, flu, unlike practically all other animal viruses, has multiple RNA segments, equivalent to multiple chromosomes and thus can readily form new recombinants – the reason why we have seasonal flus, but have measles, mumps, polio, pox etc. only once in a lifetime.

His third point is that the CDC does not have a good record predicting epidemics, and is unlikely to be any better at it with this one. What we need to know is how often the virus mutates in the lethal direction, and it seems clear that no one does. Apparently this variant has been around for eight years at least without turning infectious to humans, and flu hasn’t produced a lethal variant of this type since 1918, so presumably the chances are low and may be negligible. We need research to tell us what the chances are, if it can. Apparently with only one precedent in history, it cannot, though.

Thirdly, the odds that the Centers for Disease Control alias World Health Organization ever predicts an epidemic prior to its arrival are not good: They have predicted in past several years numerous epidemics or “pandemics” such as the flu, the hanta-virus, anthrax, the rotavirus, the Ebola virus, the West Nile virus, “mad cow” epidemic, the Sars-virus epidemic, an epi-pandemic of “random, eg. heterosexual non-drug user-AIDS” – but none of these ever materialized (see, Inventing the AIDS Virus, Regnery publishing, Washington DC, 1996). The last one that came close to an epidemic was polio in the 1950s and that was not predicted by American public health scientists.

Fourth, the currently hyped prospective Flu pandemic has long missed its chances. It has been hyped almost daily in the San Francisco Chronicle since November. But all that happened was a dead chicken in Nigeria, a hamster in Germany, two sick (dead?) kids in Turkey, a euthanized swan in Sweden, several dead or euthanized chicken in Iraq (Yes Iraq!!) etc. That is not the pattern of a potential killer microbe. All “new” killer viral or microbial epidemics of the past have spread exponentially within weeks to months and then declined exponentially owing to the induction of immunity or death of susceptible hosts – take Albert Camus’ “Plague” as a classical example.

The current Flu propaganda is thus a mix of ignorance and and self-interest and an exploitation of general ignorance by the CDC, WHO, the vaccine, pill and test-kit manufacturers of our universities and pharma companies, and of our “science” journalists, who need to fill their daily columns – and must sell their aging vaccine stocks before they decompose and their Tamiflu pills before the summer.

But despite hyping in dozens of microbial Godots – no Godot has come since polio. People are just too well nourished these days, and thus have optimally maintained immune systems, for microbes to attack more than just the fringes of the ever growing human herd. That in fact is their historical share. The 150 million+ Flu pandemics are hype for fund raising by the ever more costly science/health armies in search for real enemies. Their success is based on the invisible monsters of the microbial epidemics of the (earlier) times, when nutrition lacked vitamins, proteins and sanitation or was lacking all together – and on the never failing microbial and viral horror phantasies of our science writers, politicians and Hollywood producers.

Regards, Peter.

The idea that we are all well nourished these days and therefore immune to a 1918 type flu seems to be well founded. Flu travels around the world in normal circumstances and kills nearly 40,000 in the US annually, we are told. In fact, as Peter Doshi has shown, this figure is probably wildly exaggerated, possibly by one hundred times. If the flu variant which invades people retains the characteristics of H5N1 ie the same lethal TNG generating effect of the 1918 flu, it will presumably suffocate those with vitamin-poor nutrition, if Vitamin A levels really are the key that two studies so far have found (see earlier posts). But it won’t badly affect those with plenty of the vitamin in their nutrition, it seems clear, according to those studies.

Distributing extra doses of Vitamin A to the poorly defended would not be a Herculean task. There is an established aid program doing just that in many countries, rescuing the very young from a deficit of that vitamin which causes other ailments. This infrastructure is already in place in nearly a hundred countries.

So we agree wholeheartedly with Duesberg’ complacency in the face of this gigantic scare, on which so much is being spent to avoid what many are now saying will be a total economic and social shutdown lasting many weeks, unless half the bird population of the planet is executed in time.

Certainly the media are coming out of this one just as badly as they have in HIV?AIDS over two decades, exposed as entirely the slaves of ignorant scientists (ones who don’t even read their own literature) and their friendly aides, the scaremongering officials who play the public in exactly the way the other article in Harper’s this month points out (“Viral Marketing:The selling of the flu vaccine”, the one after the Farber article, where Peter Doshi deconstructs the blatantly self-promotional pr strategy of CDC officials from their own description).

How annoying it must be for the HIV?AIDS scare promoters to find that this year their thunder is being stolen by the Bird Flu crowd. Still, NIAID director Anthony Fauci must be thankful that his budget is still pumped up when it would otherwise have been deflated by the cutting of HIV?AIDS funds this time around.

The best suggestion for warding off bird flu we have heard so far (apart from our own recommendation that you run to the corner drugstore and buy some multi vitamin pills (see ALERT – Vitamin A is probably simple antidote to bird flu, mainstream literature shows and Bird flu flap continues needlessly. The antidote is Vitamin A, it’s clear) is Jay Leno’s, which is for the Statue of Liberty to be turned into a giant scarecrow.

Surgeon Don Miller writes of Duesberg as modern Copernicus

March 14th, 2006

A ten cannon salute on LewRockwell.com may be the best short guide to the HIV?AIDS mess

Is Lew Rockwell some kind of magnet for minds tough enough to handle the HIV?AIDS paradigm controversy objectively, rather than go into hysterics over the very idea that conventional wisdom is wrong?

On February 23 a solid piece written by a surgeon, Donald Miller was posted at A Modern-Day Copernicus:

Peter H. Duesberg. Miller is a cardiac surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is a member of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness and writes articles on a variety of subjects for LewRockwell.com. His web site is Donald Miller.

Apparently Miller was converted by David Rasnick in a talk that colleague of Duesberg’s gave to the 2003 meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. He then read Harvey Bialy’s irrefutable guide to the politics and science of HIV?AIDS and cancer, where Duesberg has also upturned a popular but sterile paradigm, Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS: A Scientific Life & Times of Peter H. Duesberg (2004).

Not only has Miller prepared what now may be the best short guide to Duesberg’s overwhelming challenge to and expose of HIV?AIDS and cancer genetics as scientifically unfounded, but he is refreshingly different from most writers of such guides: he is willing to say plainly that Duesberg is right and the “germ theory of HIV/AIDS is wrong”.

Read A Modern-Day Copernicus:

Peter H. Duesberg if you are trying to catch up with this issue rapidly, and you don’t have the Harpers Farber piece handy.

Miller has also written on evidence based medicine, in Miller DW and Miller CG. On Evidence, Medical and Legal. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 2005 (Fall);10(3):70-75, which concludes that “Medicine needs to develop a better understanding of the nature of evidence and of evidential proof, by emulating law’s approach to evidence. Law in turn needs a better understanding of the shortcomings of medicine’s approach to evidence.”

This and his reliable handling of the Duesberg affair suggests that his April 2, 2004 paper on “Afraid of Radiation? Low Doses are Good for You” might be worth reading by skeptics on that topic to see if there is anything to it after all. PDFs of both articles are at the Donald Miller site.

The Times talks – but only in the Business Media section – to remove the sting in Harper’s tale

March 13th, 2006


Why the basic import of Duesberg is not going to be faced soon on 43rd Street

A nicely judged, “objective”, resolutely uninvolved piece, written over the weekend by Lia Miller for the New York Times’ Business section, An Article in Harper’s Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V., is buried far from immediate notice today, Monday March 13, on page C5, noting, after three weeks silence, the Harpers piece and the teapot tempest it has brewed, but leaving the larger question strictly unaddressed: is Duesberg conceivably right?

The dissenters in HIV?AIDS must be pleased, for the article is shorn of the usual disparagement which creeps into every mainstream story on the dissenting view. But the science reporters and editors, particularly Larry Altman, must be slightly nervous that curiosity on the big question they have neglected so long might grow.

In his last issue as the editor of Harper’s Magazine, Lewis Lapham has left a parting gift for his successor: a firestorm in the media and among AIDS researchers.

The source is a 15-page article in the March issue, titled “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science,” by Celia Farber. Ms. Farber, a longtime magazine journalist, has been a polarizing figure because she has frequently written about the position of “AIDS dissidents,” who argue that H.I.V. does not cause AIDS.

Celia Farber is handled with care as a “long time journalist” rather than an insufferable “denialist”, editor Roger D. Hodge is allowed to confirm upfront that the piece was thoroughly fact checked, a scientist at Cornell who signed the 37 page rebuttal at TAC (Treatment Action Campaign of South Africa, which has posted it at TAC) is allowed to opine that Harpers’ reputation had taken an “irreparable hit” but not to quote specifics, “leading AIDS dissident” Duesberg was phoned but not reached, a magazine and Web gay columnist and “many scientists” are permitted to allege without a single example that the piece was “poorly fact-checked and had glaring errors”, Farber and Hodge are quoted as declining to take responsibility for Duesberg’s views, but merely for “covering dissent”, with Hodge standing behind Celia as no “crackpot” but “a courageous journalist” who has covered the story as a journalist at the cost of “great personal cost”.

On the while a nice job, in the inimitable Times style of handling a hot potato with tongs a foot long, which enables a reporter who knows nothing of the issue to cover the ground without a misstep.

Making the topic of Lia Miller’s assignment the lively reaction the Harpers article has provoked in certain quarters made it unnecessary for the Times reporter to read let alone report the Harpers article in detail, which presumably was the intention of the Times editors. It allowed the Times to deal with the topic and let the pressure off a little without placing itself in the line of fire. After all, if the Times has allowed itself to be led by the nose by a handful of misguided scientists and NIH officials who have willfully ignored the scientific literature for twenty years, which is the implication of the Duesberg section of the Harper’s piece, it has much to answer for.

Still, those copies of Harpers must be still lying on desks and perhaps even on the bedside table of more than one key figure at the Times, who must be asking questions of Larry and his colleagues, such as Nicholas Wade, who only recently has been thinking and writing about paradigm overthrow as we have reported earlier. We mentioned Duesberg to him a couple of months ago and were surprised to hear that he had neglected to read his Journal of Biosciences 2003 paper. Perhaps he has now.

The whole disturbance still threatens to turn into a scientific Katrina and puts these pillars of the HIV?AIDS established view into a slight pickle. For the Harpers article presents a problem for the Times if Farber’s coverage of Duesberg is taken seriously, for what it will lead to ultimately, if the can of worms is finally opened up fully, and Duesberg is eventually vindicated after a proper public illumination of his views and the twenty year failure of the scientists who run HIV?AIDS to produce argument or evidence to refute them, is a very grave accusation, far more momentous than anything the Times has faced to date in its recent history of having its credibility dented by its own Jayson Blair and Judith Miller’s misreporting, let alone the festering sore of its failure to report Stalin’s genocide long ago.

This is the accusation that its virtual complete omission of Duesberg’s views from its news and opinion columns over the years, and its occasional prejudicial damning of them when it has infrequently mentioned them, comprises a grave failure in journalistic responsibility to report the science of HIV?AIDS accurately and even handedly.

*****************************************************

If that unjustified assumption (that HIV causes AIDS) is as wholly wrong as Duesberg’s peer reviewed papers since 1987 say it is, (the Times has) been partly responsible for a waste of public funds running into the hundreds of billions world wide, and the premature deaths of thousands of people, including many prominent in the arts in New York City.

*****************************************************

The Times’ implicit endorsement of the conventional wisdom of AIDS in treating it as gospel over two decades, and mentioning Duesberg hardly at all, except in a dismissive review of his 1996 book, Inventing The AIDS Virus, by an insultingly inadequate mind in the mid-nineties, (this review , “Inventing the AIDS Virus” (April 7, 1996), by June E. Osborn, is mysteriously missing now from the notoriously inadequate Times search engine) but Duesberg’s letter in response to this shameful and abortive editorial disrespect is a classic:

AIDS and Drugs

(NYT) 589 words

Published: May 19, 1996

To the Editor:

In her review of my “Inventing the AIDS Virus” (April 7), June E. Osborn writes: “This book is destructive of personal morale, prevention efforts and public understanding both of H.I.V./AIDS and of biomedical science in general. It has the potential to wreak serious harm at a crucial point in the AIDS epidemic.” At the same time, Dr. Osborn faithfully defends the H.I.V.-AIDS orthodoxy with “enormous bodies of evidence . . . that firmly implicate H.I.V. in AIDS” but without being able to provide the one paper that proves that H.I.V. causes AIDS.

Yet 12 years and $35 billion after starting the war on AIDS in the name of the hypothesis that H.I.V. causes AIDS, America has no vaccine and no drug, has lost over 300,000 lives to AIDS and has yet to save the first AIDS patient. This is a sad testimony to the inability of the scientific and medical community to deal with AIDS properly.

In such a situation the scientific method calls for new, alternative hypotheses to compete with the unproductive H.I.V.-AIDS hypothesis. The scientific method functions very much like the free market economy: it provides the taxpayer and the patient with the most competitive and productive scientific theory.

“Inventing the AIDS Virus” has done exactly this. It provides a coherent and extensively documented alternative AIDS hypothesis. It is proposing that American and European AIDS is the medical consequence of the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and of antiviral drugs like AZT. This hypothesis is a synthesis and extension of the Centers for Disease Control’s very own pre-1984 “life style” hypothesis of AIDS, and of many recent studies that document the toxicity of AZT. The drug-AIDS hypothesis is very testable and could prevent, even cure, AIDS at a fraction of the annual $7.5 billion Federal AIDS budget currently invested in the unproductive H.I.V. hypothesis. In the light of the drug hypothesis, H.I.V. is a harmless passenger virus, and AIDS is an entirely preventable, and in part curable, consequence of the drug epidemic.

One would expect Dr. Osborn to give an alternative to the failed H.I.V. hypothesis some serious consideration. Yet there is not a single complimentary sentence in her review. Wearing her H.I.V.-AIDS blinkers, she not only misunderstands but also misrepresents the drug-AIDS hypothesis.

For example, contrary to Dr. Osborn’s assertion, “Inventing the AIDS Virus” does not assert that “gay men in whom AIDS was diagnosed in the early years . . . were not being truthful if they denied drug use.” The book documents with dozens of references that if asked, gay men with AIDS all reported abundant recreational drug use.

Also, contrary to Dr. Osborn, I do not “dismiss” AIDS in other countries. Both Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 and an appended scientific paper deal extensively with AIDS in other countries and its causes, which are malnutrition, parasitic infection and poor sanitation.

In the face of our AIDS epidemic and in the name of science, I object to a partial and political review of my book. Isn’t our common enemy AIDS rather than Peter Duesberg and other H.I.V. dissidents? Should AIDS be the winner of this debate because dissidents must be losers? Wouldn’t it be prudent to divert a few million dollars from the annual $7.5 billion AIDS budget into just one alternative hypothesis?

Peter Duesberg Berkeley, Calif.

) suggests that the responsible reporters in the area did not ever take the time to read Duesberg’s papers properly, since it is inconcievable that anyone intelligent and versed in the science could fail, if they did so, to respect his arguments as valid criticisms of the status quo, refereed as they were in the highest journals by peers who, politically speaking, were certainly nervous, and anxious to find as much fault as they could, and prevent publication of these “dangerous” views, which if they were as sound as the peer reviewers were forced to acknowledge, were not dangerous at all to AIDS patients, whom they would rescue from noxious drug regimens which would be revealed as misdirected, but a danger to the welfare and position of the HIV?AIDS scientists themselves.

To put it bluntly, if the New York Times has thus unjustifiably lent its weight to the dominant paradigm which Duesberg has so thoroughly critiqued and rejected over so many years by reporting only one side of the dispute, and using the HIV assumption in all its coverage without concern over its validity, in fact, reinforcing it with the mantra repeated in almost every report, “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS”, it has, if that unjustified assumption is as wholly wrong as Duesberg’s peer reviewed papers since 1987 say it is, been partly responsible for a waste of public funds running into the hundreds of billions world wide, and the premature deaths of thousands of people, including many prominent in the arts in New York City.

March 13, 2006

An Article in Harper’s Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V.

By LIA MILLER

An Article in Harper’s Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V.

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format

March 13, 2006

An Article in Harper’s Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V.

By LIA MILLER

In his last issue as the editor of Harper’s Magazine, Lewis Lapham has left a parting gift for his successor: a firestorm in the media and among AIDS researchers.

The source is a 15-page article in the March issue, titled “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science,” by Celia Farber. Ms. Farber, a longtime magazine journalist, has been a polarizing figure because she has frequently written about the position of “AIDS dissidents,” who argue that H.I.V. does not cause AIDS.

The Harper’s article centers on a clinical trial in Uganda for the drug Nevirapine that was later criticized for poor methodology and treatment of some test subjects. But the final third of the article focuses on the tangentially related topic of Dr. Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading AIDS dissident, and his strained relationship with the National Institutes of Health.

Soon after the article’s publication, rebuttals to Dr. Duesberg’s theories and to other aspects of Ms. Farber’s article were posted on Web sites like The Nation (www.nation.com) and www.poz.com. A 37-page document, written by eight prominent AIDS researchers, was posted on the Treatment Action Campaign Web site (www.tac.org.za), a group that campaigns for greater access to H.I.V. treatment in South Africa. Harper’s received a surge of letters and phone calls.

Roger Hodge, who will succeed Mr. Lapham at Harper’s next month, said that Mr. Lapham initially assigned Ms. Farber an article about Dr. Duesberg’s cancer research, but the assignment was changed when news of the drug trial broke. Mr. Hodge edited the article.

“We knew, of course, that everyone would be upset,” he said, adding that the article was thoroughly fact-checked. “This is a very contentious subject. We have gotten some very, very thoughtful responses. But other pieces have generated a lot more mail.”

John P. Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and one of the authors of the Treatment Action Campaign’s rebuttal, said he was shocked when he first saw the article. He said it seemed apparent that Mr. Hodge wanted to “teach the controversy” of Dr. Duesberg’s ideas, a controversy that he said AIDS researchers had resolved long ago. He added that Harper’s reputation had “taken an irreparable hit.” Dr. Duesberg didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Benjamin Ryan, an editor at large at HIV Plus magazine who writes a monthly health column on Gay.com, said he had lost faith in Harper’s. He said, as did many scientists, that the article was poorly fact-checked and had glaring errors.

Ms. Farber says that neither she nor Harper’s endorse Dr. Duesberg’s position, but that she is simply reporting on an unpopular view. “People can’t distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent,” she said.

“I’m very familiar, since 20 years, with the hysteria end of the spectrum, the rage that breaks out when one touches certain tenets of dogma,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “Anger has been the dominant emotion in AIDS for a long time, almost the only emotion that seems to really function. Anger is connected to fear. I understand it. I’m used to it. I hope we can transcend it.”

Mr. Hodge said the magazine stood behind the article and Ms. Farber.

“The fact that she’s been covering this story does not make her a crackpot — it makes her a journalist. She’s a courageous journalist, I believe, because she has covered the story at great personal cost.”

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


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