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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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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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Researchers shoot wing off HIV drug rationale

July 30th, 2006


HIV hides in guts, immune to expensive ARVs

Years of hideous side effects for nothing?

“I thought you would be interested to read this article from The Times”, writes a thoughtful correspondent, MG, and indeed the latest effort by Sam Lister, the health correspondent of the Times of London, seems worth noting.

According to his story yesterday (Sat Jul 29) HIV hides itself in the intestines to beat drugs, ARVs (antiretrovirals) are now shown to have no effect on HIV in the guts, where the nightmare virus establishes itself securely to attack the 70% of the immune system located there.

The scientists found that the virus that causes Aids took hold in intestinal tissue of patients receiving antiretroviral therapy (ARV). There it continued to replicate and suppress the immune system even though blood samples showed that the drugs were working.

Professor Satya Dandekar, who led the study, said that, while ARV could be quite successful in reducing HIV’s presence in the blood, the virus still thrived. “The real battle between the virus and exposed individuals is happening in the gut immediately after viral infection,” she said. “We need to be focusing our efforts on improving treatment of gut mucosa, where massive destruction of immune cells is occurring.”

Professor Dandekar, head of the university’s department of medical microbiology and immunology, said that gut-associated lymphoid tissue accounted for 70 per cent of the body’s immune system, and that restoring its function was crucial to destroying the virus.

So why take ARVs at all, then, if HIV can and will easily hide out in the guts and do its dirty work on 70% of the body’s immune system cells there?

That’s too simple, according to the study authors at Davis, whose research is supported by the NIH. They do not come to this obvious conclusion. On the contrary, their prescription is to start treatment earlier.

Thomas Prindiville, the study’s co-author, said that starting treatment earlier significantly improved the chances of restoring immune function.

“If we are able to restore the gut’s immune response, the patient will be more likely to clear the virus,” Professor Prindiville said. “You can’t treat any infectious disease without the help of the immune system.”

How early is early? Judging from the monkey studies a year ago April that first suggested this line of thinking, because they found that simian immunodeficiency virus decimated immune cells in the guts of monkeys within days, early means patients should receive ARVs within a few days.

Those who keep up with the newsflow of this paradigm will recognize this as a contribution to the current campaign to expand testing to the entire population of the United States as soon as possible.

In fact, it takes us one step closer to justifying prophylactic medication for everyone “at risk” in the US. Except for one thing – the mysterious fact that this wholesale destruction within days of the 70% of our CD4 cells in our gut doesn’t seem to have any long term effect. Everything soon goes back to normal for as long as twenty or thirty years – however long the “latent” period is.

Granted that the report may be garbled but the item seems to show that there is no limit to how new findings can be twisted to serve the cause of what is no longer a scientifically based enterprise in any meaningful way.

The Times July 29, 2006

HIV hides itself in the intestines to beat drugs

By Sam Lister, Health Correspondent

HIV can avoid the powerful drugs that sufferers take to destroy it by hiding in their guts, scientists have discovered.

The scientists found that the virus that causes Aids took hold in intestinal tissue of patients receiving antiretroviral therapy (ARV). There it continued to replicate and suppress the immune system even though blood samples showed that the drugs were working.

The scientists from California University said that results of their three-year study, published in the Journal of Virology, showed HIV treatments needed re-evaluation.

Professor Satya Dandekar, who led the study, said that, while ARV could be quite successful in reducing HIV’s presence in the blood, the virus still thrived. “The real battle between the virus and exposed individuals is happening in the gut immediately after viral infection,” she said. “We need to be focusing our efforts on improving treatment of gut mucosa, where massive destruction of immune cells is occurring.”

Professor Dandekar, head of the university’s department of medical microbiology and immunology, said that gut-associated lymphoid tissue accounted for 70 per cent of the body’s immune system, and that restoring its function was crucial to destroying the virus.

The study suggests that earlier ARV and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs could achieve this. It also urges gut biopsies on all patients receiving ARV as a way of monitoring their condition.

“We found a substantial delay in the time that it takes to restore the gut mucosal immune system in those with chronic infections,” Professor Dandekar said. “In these patients the gut acted as a viral reservoir that keeps us from ridding patients of the virus.”

Doctors have long relied on measuring HIV’s presence in the blood and T-cell counts. T-cells, also called T-helper cells, organise the immune system’s fight against viruses. However, their numbers are reduced when HIV enters the body, leaving carriers vulnerable to infection.

Earlier research by Professor Dandekar and her team supports the claim that patients with high numbers of T-cells in their gut tissue were likely to live longer.

Thomas Prindiville, the study’s co-author, said that starting treatment earlier significantly improved the chances of restoring immune function.

“If we are able to restore the gut’s immune response, the patient will be more likely to clear the virus,” Professor Prindiville said. “You can’t treat any infectious disease without the help of the immune system.”

The scientists followed ten patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy, known as HAART. Three of the patients were treated within six weeks of finding out they were HIV positive.

Here’s a more informed report from RxPG News:

RxPG News

Jul 30th, 2006 – 02:34:25

HIV hides from drugs in gut, preventing immune recovery

Jul 30, 2006, 02:32, Reviewed by: Dr. Priya Saxena

“This is the first longitudinal study to show that, while current HIV therapy is quite successful in reducing viral loads and increasing T-cells in peripheral blood, it is not so effective in gut mucosa”

By University of California, Davis, UC Davis researchers have discovered that the human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS, is able to survive efforts to destroy it by hiding out in the mucosal tissues of the intestine. They also found that HIV continues to replicate in the gut mucosa, suppressing immune function in patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy–even when blood samples from the same individuals indicated the treatment was working.

“This is the first longitudinal study to show that, while current HIV therapy is quite successful in reducing viral loads and increasing T-cells in peripheral blood, it is not so effective in gut mucosa,” said Satya Dandekar, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis Health System and senior author of the study.

“The real battle between the virus and exposed individuals is happening in the gut immediately after viral infection,” she said. “We need to be focusing our efforts on improving treatment of gut mucosa, where massive destruction of immune cells is occurring. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue accounts for 70 percent of the body’s immune system. Restoring its function is crucial to ridding the body of the virus.”

Results of the study suggest that patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy should be monitored using gut biopsies and that the gut’s immune function be restored through earlier antiretroviral treatment and the use of anti-inflammatory medications.

“We found a substantial delay in the time that it takes to restore the gut mucosal immune system in those with chronic infections,” Dandekar said. “In these patients the gut is acting as a viral reservoir that keeps us from ridding patients of the virus.”

Physicians treating HIV-infected patients have long relied on blood measurements of viral load and T-cell counts when choosing a course of treatment. Viral load is the number of viral particles in a milliliter sample of blood. T-cell counts reflect the number of CD4+ T-cells in the sample. These cells, also called T-helper cells, organize the immune system’s attack on disease-causing invaders. They are, however, the targets of the virus and their numbers decrease as the amount of HIV increases, leaving the body vulnerable to a variety of infections.

Last year, Dandekar’s team published a study of HIV-infected patients who, despite the lack of treatment, had survived over 10 years with healthy levels of T-cells and suppressed viral loads.

“We looked at their gut lymphoid tissue and did not see loss of T-cells there. This correlated with better clinical outcomes,” Dandekar explained.

Those results prompted Dandekar and her team to undertake the current study in which they set out to evaluate the effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy, known as HAART, on viral suppression and immune restoration in gut-associated lymphoid tissue. They followed 10 patients being treated with HAART, taking blood and gut samples before and after three years of treatment. Three of the patients were treated during four to six weeks of first being infected with the virus. The other participants were known to be HIV positive for more than one year.

Hoping to figure out why HAART does not work as well in the gut, Dandekar and her colleagues further examined the post-treatment of gut-associated lymphoid tissue samples. They found evidence of inflammation, which disrupts tissue function, promotes cell death and upsets the normal balance of gut flora. They also found that the activity of genes that control and promote mucosal repair and regeneration were suppressed, while the genes responsible for the inflammatory response were more active than in normal tissue.

Dandekar said these results suggest anti-inflammatory drugs may improve antiretroviral treatment outcomes. She also pointed out that genes involved with the repair and regeneration of gut-associated lymphoid tissue would make excellent drug targets.

Researchers then compared HAART outcomes in those who chose to be treated within the weeks of exposure to those with chronic infection. They discovered that newly infected patients had fewer signs of inflammation at the beginning of the study and experienced greater recovery of the gut mucosal immune system function by the end of it.

Dandekar and her colleagues are currently following additional patients being treated with HAART. Unpublished data on these patients supports the current findings, said Thomas Prindiville, a gastroenterology professor at UC Davis and a co-author of the study.

“What we continue to see is that restoration of immune function is more likely when treatment is started early,” said Prindiville. “Starting HAART before T-cell counts fall below 350 cells per cubic milliliter, would preserve immune function and hasten its full recovery.”

The team of physicians and researchers plan to keep testing ways of improving the efficacy of antiretroviral therapy in gut-associated lymphoid tissue. These include treating gut inflammation, starting treatment earlier and using gut biopsies to monitor treatment success.

“If we are able to restore the gut’s immune response, the patient will be more likely to clear the virus,” Prindiville said. “You can’t treat any infectious disease without the help of the immune system.”

– Results of the three-year study appear in the August issue of the Journal of Virology

jvi.asm.org

Global warming: does industry funding make scientist a liar?

July 29th, 2006


Utilities pony up for Michaels, who resists consensus

Which paradigm is most distorted by money?

Tucked away on page 26 of the Times today, this AP report: Utilities Pay Scientist Ally On Warming. It raises the age old question, can scientist accept funding from industry without being compromised, at least in reputation, and is that stain justified?

On reputation the answer seems to be, no. As soon as the Times carries the story, the typical reader will reject him as one of the bad guys. Whether this is justified or not, however, is not so easy to decide.

In a nutshell: Virginia’s state climatologist, Patrick J. Michaels, is a fellow of the Cato Institute and a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. He doesn’t agree with the consensus on global warming and has a staff who analyse other scientists’ global warming research. After he complained in public to “Western business leaders” about running out of money, a utility company passed the hat and raised $250,000 so far in pledges and contributions.

WASHINGTON, July 27 — Coal-burning utilities are contributing money to one of the few remaining climate scientists openly critical of the broad consensus that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying global warming….

The critic, Patrick J. Michaels, is a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and Virginia’s state climatologist.

Dr. Michaels told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign for him last week and has raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges….

This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the Washington advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

Others, however, view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues. One environmental scientist, Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford University and current editor in chief of the journal Science, said skeptics like Dr. Michaels were lobbyists more than researchers.

“I don’t think it’s unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical,” Dr. Kennedy said….

Dr. Michaels said the money would help pay his staff.

“Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question,” he said.

Come on Dr Michaels, don’t be ingenuous, this is news precisely because of the suspicion that he who pays the piper calls the tune. This is “industry buying science”, says the advocacy group president. But is it? Let’s try defending him.

Seven reasons to take industry money

First, since Michaels formed his views by himself, as far as we know, and has already made them clear all over the place, the money is not going to change them, is it? As well as journal articles, he has written columns and a book on the topic, “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.”

Secondly, why shouldn’t he accept money from people who like his research because of conclusions he has already come to? He needs money to do work, just like everyone else. Someone has to pay fo his research staff. Who else is going to give him money? Should he apply only to private foundations which don’t have a position on the issue? If so, where are they, and even if he can find them, why should they care to give him money unless he fits their agenda in some way?

Third, OK, maybe there are foundations who support good science, period, and don’t care how it comes out. They must want to support scientists who just want to analyze the issue objectively, independently of politics.

But is there any example of this you know of? The only one we know of is Robert Leppo, the one man among six million millionaires who stepped forward to fund Peter Duesberg in combating the HIV/AIDS paradigm and continuing his vital cancer research. He doesn’t care in the end whether Duesberg is right on the science of HIV?AIDS, though he trusts him as a fine scientist to get it right, he is simply concerned as a libertarian with Duesberg’s ability to do excellent research without being ostracized and unfunded by the tyrannical and vengeful censorship imposed on HIV?AIDS paradigm reviewers.

Sure, all patrons everywhere will receive special consideration from their beneficiaries. Even Duesberg’s actions and ideas are going to be circumscribed in some way in his dealings with Leppo. He probably won’t get into a heated argument with him over politics, for example. But will he change his scientific ideas? Assuredly not, since he will not be asked to by a patron who has no investment in the issue except the freedom of science.

Fourthly, of course, Michaels sounds ingenuous when he says ““Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question.” The problem he has to deal with is that we all think that his objectivity will be influenced by his gratitude towards utility company executives. If he changes his conclusion too radically, after all, their support will evaporate. But what he is saying here out loud is that he doesn’t expect it will be influenced. He doesn’t view the utilities as his puppetmasters. He rejects the suspicions of those who do not trust him to make up his mind on the basis of good research with an independent mind. Is there any proof that he is lying?

Fifthly, reason also indicates he might even actively resist bias and therefore acquire a little bias in the other direction, pushed also by the embarrassing attacks of global warming activists and the Times coverage.

Sixth, if he does change his position radically after receiving the funds, he will then be admired by others for his integrity, and he can hope to find support from them. So receiving the funds does not prevent him from changing his conclusions, at least after a decent interval, to avoid giving the impression that he took money under false pretenses.

Seventh, he has already shown integrity by taking a stand against the consensus, placing him in an embarrassing minority position, not to mention making him a suspect as an industry tool.

Anti-consensus doesn’t mean bad guy, either

All these factors seem to argue that Michaels shouldn’t be automatically condemned for his industry support. On the other hand, people being what they are…somehow we know that the money is tainted… don’t we?

We admit we can’t really make up our mind where it all comes out, and we empathize with the editor in chief of Science, Donald Kennedy, who calls Michaels both a bad guy and a good guy – a “lobbyist more than a researcher”, yet adds that “lobbying is not unethical”. Huh? Doesn’t combining both roles compromise the research more than the acceptance of industry money?

Perhaps not if Michaels genuinely feels strongly about conclusions he has come to independently. Why shouldn’t he lobby for his own views? He has reason to be proud of them if he argues against a huge consensus, and is not stupid, because he thereby proves he is a courageous and principled man, a man of integrity. Unless and until he is rewarded for it with sizeable industry money, that is. Then we have to wonder if that was the motivation all along.

Trouble is that outsiders cannot judge

In the end, perhaps as scientists who look for evidence we should reject all such suspicions as irrelevant and unprovable speculation that intelligent people should ignore. Perhaps Michaels’ views should stand or fall according to whether it is supported by the data he points to.

That would get rid of all the emotional and political smog that obscures the view.

But most people are not able to assess the vast scientific data themselves, so they have to rely on reputation and credentials, and for other scientists to assess the issue independently, and not be biased against Michaels just because he is against a vast consensus.

For consensus is not a guarantee of truth in science. By definition, each time a paradigm is replaced consensus is proved wrong. Science is not a democracy and its truths are not decided by vote.

It would much easier if all scientists were very intelligent and unbiased and had the time to give complex issues their due, but Alas this is not the case, as HIV?AIDS has shown.

This is why the unanswered questions in HIV?AIDS must be debated and solved instead of censored. It has the most important lesson of all to teach us, which is that modern science with all its panoply of technology and expertise can still make grand mistakes which send the consensus in the wrong direction.

When political intervention sends consensus down the wrong path, HIV?AIDS shows, and censorship prevents review of the situation, consensus consolidates and the lesser minds in the field join the compromised leaders in defending the paradigm from criticism.

What is overlooked is that overturning consensus is the normal process of progress in science.

Money is the root of bad science

Simply put, the tyranny of power politics can kill good science and promote bad as rapidly as it can kill democracy. Big money is the death of science, because big money is power. Since apparently the worst case of this to date is HIV?AIDS, this is why it will be good for all of science to break the NIAID censorship and expose the paradigm to public review

That is why Dr Michaels should get his funding from some other source, and why society should help him do so, even though the consensus says he is wrong.

The New York Times

Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

July 28, 2006

Utilities Pay Scientist Ally on Warming

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON, July 27 — Coal-burning utilities are contributing money to one of the few remaining climate scientists openly critical of the broad consensus that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying global warming.

The critic, Patrick J. Michaels, is a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and Virginia’s state climatologist.

Dr. Michaels told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign for him last week and has raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.

The utility, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, based in Sedalia, Colo., has given Dr. Michaels $100,000 of its own, said Stanley R. Lewandowski Jr., its general manager. Mr. Lewandowski said that one company planned to give $50,000 and that a third planned to contribute to Dr. Michaels next year.

“We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists,” Mr. Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to undertake a counterattack on “alarmist” scientists and specifically Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” which lays much of the blame for global warming on heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.

Mr. Lewandowski and Dr. Michaels, who holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin, have openly acknowledged the donations and say they see no problem. But some environmental advocates say the effort clearly poses a conflict of interest.

“This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the Washington advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

Others, however, view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues. One environmental scientist, Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford University and current editor in chief of the journal Science, said skeptics like Dr. Michaels were lobbyists more than researchers.

“I don’t think it’s unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical,” Dr. Kennedy said.

Dr. Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.” He also writes research articles published in scientific journals.

He has been quoted by major newspapers more than 150 times in the last two years, according to a LexisNexis database search. He and Mr. Lewandowski say that their side of global warming is not being heard and that the donations resulted from a speech Dr. Michaels gave to the Western Business Roundtable last fall.

Dr. Michaels said the money would help pay his staff.

“Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question,” he said.

Is there a scientific consensus on global warming?

What we need is a disinterested observer. Here we are, an article written today by a history of science professor who did the study on the topic, called Naomi Oreskes:
PERSPECTIVE”>Global warming: Signed, sealed and delivered

By Naomi Oreskes

Yes, she says. There is a consensus. She did the study, and contrary to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Richard Lindzen recently, it has not been refuted. And a history of science professor must be disinterested, surely, unless she is pally with everybody in the field, which come to think of it, is likely:

To be sure, there are a handful of scientists, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen, the author of the Wall Street Journal editorial, who disagree with the rest of the scientific community. To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence.

Those few who refuse to accept it are not ignorant, but they are stubborn. They are not unintelligent, but they are stuck on details that cloud the larger issue. Scientific communities include tortoises and hares, mavericks and mules.

Global warming: Signed, sealed and delivered

By NAOMI ORESKES

07/30/2006

An op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal a month ago claimed that a published study affirming the existence of a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming had been refuted. This charge was repeated again in a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the journal Science, and I’m here to tell you that the consensus stands. The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal — the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street Journal didn’t even get my name right!)

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that “most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Since the 1950s, scientists have understood that greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels could have serious effects on Earth’s climate. When the 1980s proved to be the hottest decade on record, and as predictions of climate models started to come true, scientists increasingly saw global warming as cause for concern.

International evaluation

In 1988, the World Meteorological Association and the United Nations Environment Program joined forces to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. The panel has issued three assessments (1990, 1995, 2001), representing the combined expertise of 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, and a fourth report is due out shortly.

Its conclusions — global warming is occurring, humans have a major role in it — have been ratified by scientists around the world in published scientific papers, in statements issued by professional scientific societies and in reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society and many other national and royal academies of science worldwide. Even the Bush administration accepts the fundamental findings. As President Bush’s science adviser, John Marburger III, said last year in a speech: “The climate is changing; the Earth is warming.”

To be sure, there are a handful of scientists, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen, the author of the Wall Street Journal editorial, who disagree with the rest of the scientific community. To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when the new evidence strikes at their core beliefs and values.

Earth scientists long believed that humans were insignificant in comparison with the vastness of geological time and the power of geophysical forces. For this reason, many were reluctant to accept that humans had become a force of nature, and it took decades for the present understanding to be achieved.

Those few who refuse to accept it are not ignorant, but they are stubborn. They are not unintelligent, but they are stuck on details that cloud the larger issue. Scientific communities include tortoises and hares, mavericks and mules.

A historical example will help to make the point. In the 1920s, the distinguished Cambridge geophysicist Harold Jeffreys rejected the idea of continental drift on the grounds of physical impossibility. In the 1950s, geologists and geophysicists began to accumulate overwhelming evidence of the reality of continental motion, even though the physics of it was poorly understood. By the late 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics was on the road to near-universal acceptance.

Yet Jeffreys, by then Sir Harold, stubbornly refused to accept the new evidence, repeating his old arguments about the impossibility of the thing. He was a great man, but he had become a scientific mule.

For a while, journals continued to publish Jeffreys’ arguments, but after a while he had nothing new to say. He died denying plate tectonics. The scientific debate was over

So it is with climate change today. As American geologist Harry Hess said in the 1960s about plate tectonics, one can quibble about the details, but the overall picture is clear.

Yet some climate-change deniers insist that the observed changes might be natural, perhaps caused by variations in solar irradiance or other forces we don’t yet understand. Perhaps there are other explanations for the receding glaciers. But “perhaps” is not evidence.

The greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, warned against this tendency more than three centuries ago. Writing in “Principia Mathematica” in 1687, he noted that once scientists had successfully drawn conclusions by “general induction from phenomena,” then those conclusions had to be held as “accurately or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined.”

Climate-change deniers can imagine all the hypotheses they like, but it will not change the facts nor “the general induction from the phenomena.”

None of this is to say that there are no uncertainties left — there are always uncertainties in any live science. Agreeing about the reality and causes of current global warming is not the same as agreeing about what will happen in the future. There is continuing debate in the scientific community over the likely rate of future change: not “whether” but “how much” and “how soon.” And this is precisely why we need to act today: because the longer we wait, the worse the problem will become, and the harder it will be to solve.

Naomi Oreskes is a history of science professor at the University of California, San Diego.

(updated 10/3/2005)

Of course, one cannot help wondering if Naomi is competent to assess whether the consensus is right or not, which is another question. Still, that wasn’t her purpose.

But why do we imagine that she probably categorizes Duesberg as a mule, if she has heard of him at all?

Perhaps she would pause if she learned that Duesberg did not take money from industry.

Anti HIV campaigners winning on all fronts

July 25th, 2006


Gallo corrected, Bialy triumphant on Amazon and fearless blog matador skewers sacred bull at Barnesworld

Lynn Margulis endorses Bialy and doubts

Padian is the sword in the heart

Questioners of HIV∫AIDS are currently winning the paradigm war, it seems, with advances on several new fronts. The Harpers article in March, like a beachhead in Normandy landing an army, has proved armor plated in the fact of false critique and calumny. It has now been followed up by successes on two fronts on the Web.

The Correcting Gallo “56 errors refuted” issued by Rethinking AIDS two weeks ago examined at length and rejected all the 56 objections of Robert Gallo and a group of pro-paradigm activists. Every single claim was faulty, it turned out, when compared with the scientific literature, which apparently is not bedtime reading for Gallo any more, since he doesn’t yet seem to understand that direct T cell killing by HIV has been ruled out.

Now Harvey Bialy has routed John Moore on Amazon, with Moore forced by Amazon to replace his childishly dismissive review of Bialy’s exemplary book, “Aneuploidy, Oncogenes and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg”, with a rewrite (it was against the rules to include the referral to his misleading AIDSTruth.org site), and now a new champion in the form of Lynn Margulis, member of the National Academy and alert to the unjust trashing of Duesberg for some years now. Margulis’s review is worth quoting in full:

Bialy’s message in his hotly contested book Oncogenes, aneuploidy, and AIDS. A scientific life & times of Peter H. Duesberg is of crucial importance to everyone with an interest in the science that should underlie the practice of medicine. “Oncogenes” are defined as “cancer-causing genes”, “aneuploidy” refers to any anomalous number and arrangement of chromosomes in a nucleated (plant, animal, protist or fungal) cell. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to an illness, a constellation of opportunistic infections and pathologies in a patient with diminished capacity for production of the repertoire of antibodies typical of healthy people. In 1984 a virus now named the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was announced to be the cause of AIDS. Duesberg disagrees. Duesberg’s accessible, comprehensive and scientific book, Inventing the AIDS Virus that explains why is more an epiphenomenon of the controversy than its cause. Bialy defends Peter Duesberg.

Duesberg’s real sin, as Bialy reports, was his review paper in the most prestigious scientific journal in the United States, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) that questioned the data and interpretations claimed to prove that. Duesberg found a troubling lack of evidence and a number of glaring anomalies in the body of literature.

Duesberg’s paper caused such an uproar in the medical research community that it led to rewriting of the rules for submission by members of their own scientific articles for the PNAS. His questions are still valid. Lives are at stake. We find the paucity of evidence published in standard peer-reviewed primary scientific journals that leads to the conclusion that “HIV causes AIDS” appalling. No amount of moralizing censorship, rhetorical tricks, consensus of opinion, pulling rank, obfuscation, ad hominem attacks or blustering newspaper editorials changes this fact. The conflation “HIV-AIDS” may be good marketing but is it science? No. Yet certainly the political and economic implications of the term “HIV-AIDS” are staggering. (See Harper’s March 2006 article “Out of Control” by Celia Farber).

Peter Duesberg continues his splendid 35-year research career at the University of California at Berkeley where, since 1986 he has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences and hence, eligible to publish any of his own scientific work. Although his government research funds (like ours, on a far smaller scale) were cut from $350,000 per year to zero, he continues investigations into the cause of cancer with work on aneuploidy.

Harvey Bialy’s book may be hard at times for readers with little or no background in this arcane science, but its riveting narrative documents the troubling censorship and punishment of a tenacious scientist seeking answers. Unjustifiably labelled “denialists”,”homophobes”, “charlatans”, or “Nazis”, Bialy and Duesberg are foremost excellent scientists who follow David Bohm’s adage “Science is the search for truth, whether we like it or not”. It strains credulity to ascribe any other motivation to their stance.

Here one has to feel sorry for Moore and friends, for such an indictment of their own attitudes from such a sterling source has to be a source of lasting embarrassment socially for these defenders of their beneficent faith.

Just for good measure, it is backed up by Rebecca Culshaw, the mathematician who finally threw up her hands at the task of making sense of modeling HIV∫AIDS’s supposed biology and publicly announced her refusal to engage any more in this nonsense on Lew Rockwell’s site recently (see Why I Quit HIV and Why I quit HIV – The Aftermath; also Math Professor: Why “HIV/AIDS” Doesn’t Add Up):

Although some of the book’s devastating – and fascinating – moments do indeed come when Bialy is exposing some of the more distasteful tactics behind what is surely the most politicized medical issue in history, by focusing on AIDS, many reviews will likely draw attention to a book that is equally important for what it reveals regarding the politics, and the science, of cancer research.

Beginning with Peter Duesberg’s unwelcome criticisms of the single gene mutation theory of carcinogenesis and leaving the reader with an introduction to the current theory of aneuploidy on which Duesberg now focuses his attention, Bialy weaves a tale of the man and his mission, which is simply to find out truth. Would that so many scientists have similar motives.

Amusingly, the Moore brigade has responded to this magisterial judgement with a frankly dimwitted review so obviously dripping with ill motivated prejudice that it serves as Exhibit A for the prosecution:

3 of 22 people found the following review helpful

Mr. Bialy’s opus. Science fiction at its worst., July 19, 2006

Reviewer: Manny Kimmel (Ohio) – See all my reviews

Mr. Bialy’s journeyman’s prose never fails to bore. He creates a parallel universe in which the modern-day plague of AIDS is a fiction created by greedy and ambitious scientists, politicians, activists, Pharma executivies, and other assorted henchmen.

Against this backdrop of evil, we are given a Christ figure, played by a scientist at a California university who would save the world from the great lie that is AIDS. Oddly, Mr. Bialy’s descriptions of our hero smacks of a schoolgirl crush. Would that we had learned whether this curious realtionship was ever consummated.

Mr. Bialy takes a halfway good science fiction story idea (what if HIV were harmless??) and beats it to death with excrutiating, ham-handed detail.

Life is too short for this kind of drivel. Shame on me for wasting several hours of my life on this nonsense. Shame on YOU if you repeat my mistake.

Ahem.. “Would that we had learned whether this curious realtionship was ever consummated”? Doesn’t the homophobe detector swing wildly at that remark? Bialy is famously passionate for exotic women, Mr “Kimmel”, and married his current wife under romantic circumstances in Cuba, as you would know if you were familiar with the actors in this affair. No doubt we will find out eventually if this is a penname for Moore or some lab intern trying to curry favor, but this illiterate sally is precisely what the author of the book in question delights in, for it tends to more persuasively recommend the book as important and interesting than any direct praise can by itself. Indeed, when last heard from Bialy was in seventh heaven at the rate copies were disappearing from the warehouse.

Meanwhile, today we have yet another positive review from a respected source, Gerald H. Pollack, professor in the department of bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle:

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Stimulating and Thought Provoking, July 25, 2006

Reviewer: Gerald H. Pollack – See all my reviews

(REAL NAME)

I was impressed. I invite you to read this fascinating book and decide for yourself whether Duesberg has a point or two. I took time from a busy schedule to see quickly how the saga would end, and came away enlightened by a rich body of information about issues of profound significance that cry out for resolution. The message is quite serious, but the presentation is buoyed by abundant humor and wit – a pleasure to read. This is one of those books that will inspire unending conversations with friends and colleagues. Rarely have I been as moved by a book as by this very scientific biography.”

Honestly, could one ask for a simpler, more truthful sounding recommendation? Exhibit B, Dr. Moore! Readers can compare all these with HIV researcher Moore’s newly rewritten diatribe for sense, evidence of having read and digested the book, underlying motivation and other aspects:

1 of 14 people found the following review helpful:

Missing the point on Duesberg, June 25, 2006

Reviewer: John P Moore, PhD (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

The author completely misses the point when writing about Peter Duesberg. His book comes across as a hagiography, not as an objective review of Duesberg’s flawed and ultimately failed scientific career. A more considered approach to the subject would have discussed why it was that Duesberg adopted foolishly contrarian and scientifically inaccurate positions on oncogenes and, a few years later, on HIV and AIDS. Were Duesberg’s thought-processes at this critical time in his career purely science-based? Or were they, as many of his scientific contemporaries believe, driven by his jealousy over the far greater career successes of his then-rivals in cancer virology (Bishop, Varmus, Gallo, Baltimore, for example)? An objective reviewer of Duesberg’s career would have explored such a critical issue. A detailed exploration of whether personal jealousies drove Duesberg’s public posturings should have been a critical component of the story; the book is the worse for such an important omission.

There is another glaring flaw in the book: Duesberg’s perceived (but, nowadays, not real) stature as a professional scientist underpins the activities of a small group of individuals who, bizarrely, deny that HIV causes AIDS (it is, of course, almost universally understood both within the scientific community and by the general public that HIV infection is the cause of AIDS). Like Duesberg, a few of the AIDS denialists are scientists whose careers fizzled out; but others are zealots with extreme political views (both on the far-right and the far-left) who find AIDS denialism politically convenient; and some are deeply troubled individuals with disturbing behavior patterns who deserve pity and professional help. Again, an objective book on this general subject area would explore the role played by Duesberg as the figurehead of the AIDS denialism movement. Why have such an eclectic gallimaufrey of people rallied to Duesberg’s banner? The present author utterly fails to tackle this component of the Duesberg story. As a result, his book is simply not worth reading. The definitive book on Duesberg remains to be written, although he’s probably not an interesting enough subject for a professional biographer to tackle.

John P. Moore

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology,

Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York

Only a man who has never met Duesberg could publicly suggest that “personal jealousies drove Duesberg’s public posturings”, or state “Duesberg’s perceived (but, nowadays, not real) stature as a professional scientist”. Only a man whose position in science leaves him clambering about in shoes two sizes two big for him, a man who is personally familiar with the motivations he suggests, a man who has not read Bialy’s book without prejudice and all the way through, could possibly write such calumny without embarrassment. Pity John Moore, who will have to face all his life the responsibility of having written such self revealing text, as the paradigm is eventually recognized for what it is.

Here are the full Margulis and Culshaw reviews, if you don’t want to click to the complete list at Amazon:

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful:

Riveting narrative documents the troubling censorship and punishment of a tenacious scientist seeking answers, July 17, 2006

Reviewer: James MacAllister “Lynn Margulis and James MacAllister” (Univerity of Massachusetts Amherst) – See all my reviews

(REAL NAME)

The embroilment of Harvey Bialy and Peter Duesberg in controversy came to our attention when we read George Miklos’ glowing review of Bialy’s book. Mentally meticulous Miklos, a colleague and a hard-nosed critic (even of our own scientific work) is a focused, profoundly educated cell biologist. We read Bialy with scepticism but with the open-mindedness mandated by the severity of criticism both Bialy’s book and Miklos’ review provoked. Demand for evidence and criticism are intrinsic to the scientific enterprise.

Bialy’s message in his hotly contested book Oncogenes, aneuploidy, and AIDS. A scientific life & times of Peter H. Duesberg is of crucial importance to everyone with an interest in the science that should underlie the practice of medicine. “Oncogenes” are defined as “cancer-causing genes”, “aneuploidy” refers to any anomalous number and arrangement of chromosomes in a nucleated (plant, animal, protist or fungal) cell. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to an illness, a constellation of opportunistic infections and pathologies in a patient with diminished capacity for production of the repertoire of antibodies typical of healthy people. In 1984 a virus now named the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was announced to be the cause of AIDS. Duesberg disagrees. Duesberg’s accessible, comprehensive and scientific book, Inventing the AIDS Virus that explains why is more an epiphenomenon of the controversy than its cause. Bialy defends Peter Duesberg.

Duesberg’s real sin, as Bialy reports, was his review paper in the most prestigious scientific journal in the United States, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) that questioned the data and interpretations claimed to prove that. Duesberg found a troubling lack of evidence and a number of glaring anomalies in the body of literature.

Duesberg’s paper caused such an uproar in the medical research community that it led to rewriting of the rules for submission by members of their own scientific articles for the PNAS. His questions are still valid. Lives are at stake. We find the paucity of evidence published in standard peer-reviewed primary scientific journals that leads to the conclusion that “HIV causes AIDS” appalling. No amount of moralizing censorship, rhetorical tricks, consensus of opinion, pulling rank, obfuscation, ad hominem attacks or blustering newspaper editorials changes this fact. The conflation “HIV-AIDS” may be good marketing but is it science? No. Yet certainly the political and economic implications of the term “HIV-AIDS” are staggering. (See Harper’s March 2006 article “Out of Control” by Celia Farber).

Peter Duesberg continues his splendid 35-year research career at the University of California at Berkeley where, since 1986 he has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences and hence, eligible to publish any of his own scientific work. Although his government research funds (like ours, on a far smaller scale) were cut from $350,000 per year to zero, he continues investigations into the cause of cancer with work on aneuploidy.

Harvey Bialy’s book may be hard at times for readers with little or no background in this arcane science, but its riveting narrative documents the troubling censorship and punishment of a tenacious scientist seeking answers. Unjustifiably labelled “denialists”,

“homophobes”, “charlatans”, or “Nazis”, Bialy and Duesberg are foremost excellent scientists who follow David Bohm’s adage “Science is the search for truth, whether we like it or not”. It strains credulity to ascribe any other motivation to their stance.

“Cancer keeps more people alive than it kills” claimed a colleague who compared the ample federal budget for cancer research to that for “exobiology” i.e., all NASA’s life sciences investigation except manned spaceflight. Bialy’s “aneuploidy” in the title of his superb account of the state of life science funding refers to Duesberg’s turn of attention to the concept that “genes cause cancer”. Peculiar genes, touted to be responsive to other genes that reverse their action are called “oncogenes”. (As “onco..” refers to tumors, oncology is the study of cancer.) The other genes, to which oncogenes are responsive are called tumor-suppressor genes. Voilá, the onco.. gene causes the tumor, add the suppressor gene and the tumor disappears. This sort of facile equivocal language added to the universally agreed upon fact: tumor cells are aneuploid with high frequency, led Duesberg to pursue not prizes, just scientific truths.

Cells, in their nuclei, in the bodies of animals and plants are “diploid”. Nearly all of the billions of cells contain two sets of chromosomes. In humans the distinctive staining bodies, the chromosomes (made of protein and DNA) are present in pairs: 23 pairs to a total of 46 where one member of a pair is inherited from the mother and the other member from the father. Diploid here means “normal”. When sperm are made in men’s testes and eggs are produced in the ovaries of women the number of chromosomes per cell is halved such that the sex cells have only a single set. They are haploid, also normal. Fertilization (23+23=46) restores the number to the fertile egg that becomes the embryo. Aneuploidy refers to abnormalities, excursions from either haploidy or diploidy: 47 chromosomes, broken small extra chromosomes, etc. Cancer cells are aneuploid. Tumors form in the body at sites of chemical (nicotine, lungs) or mechanical (metal plates) irritation. The cells in those tumors tend to aneuploidy, all different kinds of aneuploidy that become more extreme as the tumor cells proliferate. Duesberg begins with these observations in his recent cancer research and ignores the kind of nonsense that Bialy exposes.

In Bialy’s “Hoofbeats on the road to the prize” (chapter 2) Bialy quotes an article by R.A. Weinberg, “The action of oncogenes in the cytoplasm and nucleus that summarized years of work and cost enormous amounts of money:

“This review attempts to synthesize much of the currently available data on these issues. It is written with the belief that much of the information about oncogenes will eventually be understandable in terms of a small number of mechanisms and that the outlines of some of these are gradually becoming apparent.” Science 230:770-776 (1985)

And Bialy, who supports Duesberg’s contention that there is as little evidence for oncogenes as there is that HIV causes AIDS, comments: “Even for those who have raised equivocal language to new standards, the escape clause in this [Weinberg’s] last sentence is truly extraordinary. With promises like these it is not surprising that twenty years later we are still waiting for the first biochemical pathway whose disruption by …a [point or otherwise] mutated oncogene or genes is necessary, let alone sufficient, “for the crud to get its start”(Bialy, p. 47).

As both Bialy and Duesberg emphasize, let us see the research results of those who show that cancer is “caused by an oncogene”and that “AIDS is caused by the rapidly mutating HIV virus”. Please point us to the published evidence.

Lynn Margulis and James MacAllister, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful:

More to Duesberg than AIDS, July 12, 2006

Reviewer: Rebecca Culshaw – See all my reviews

(REAL NAME)

Many of the recent reviews posted on this page have been criticisms written by people who show no evidence of actually having read this book, but rather feel compelled to attack the book for the mere fact that it reports Duesberg’s controversial (but compelling) views on HIV and AIDS.

Although some of the book’s devastating – and fascinating – moments do indeed come when Bialy is exposing some of the more distasteful tactics behind what is surely the most politicized medical issue in history, by focusing on AIDS, many reviews will likely draw attention to a book that is equally important for what it reveals regarding the politics, and the science, of cancer research.

Beginning with Peter Duesberg’s unwelcome criticisms of the single gene mutation theory of carcinogenesis and leaving the reader with an introduction to the current theory of aneuploidy on which Duesberg now focuses his attention, Bialy weaves a tale of the man and his mission, which is simply to find out truth. Would that so many scientists have similar motives.

Bialy does his readers the service of never insulting their intelligence, so be warned that this book does get technical at times, but it’s worth the effort. Unexpectedly, it’s also quite funny and had me laughing aloud at times.

With the result of John Moore’s attempted slander on Amazon a total rout, Cornell’s Times Op-Ed writer and favorite son of David Ho and John Maddox has a further humiliation to worry about in the form of a defeat at the hands of Hank Barnes, anti-HIV blogger extraordinaire.

Lawyer uses Padian to defeat all comers, routs Moore

For last week Hank Barnes of Barnesworld, the alter ego of a busy lawyer in real life, reeled in his biggest fish to date, and it was none other than John Moore of Cornell. Moore seemed unable to escape Barnes’ net, and the blogger has been happily spearing this thrashing porpoise of HIV∫AIDS at will in their email/blog exchange, apparently now concluded, with Moore retired injured:

July 24, 2006

Curtain Call for the Moore Follies! (Say Goodnight, Gracie)

With the 4-part installment of the Amazon Wars, (also known as the “Moore Follies,”) we have taken a rare glimpse into the mindset of the modern-day, AIDS scientist activist. Specifically, we have engaged (or, more precisely, been engaged by) the haughty, insufferable, highly perturbable John P. Moore from Cornell University, by way of Cambridge, by way of H.Salt Fish & Chips.

So, what did we learn? Well, it’s hard to say. Ignoring his television drama-show gaffes, sarcasm, poorly attuned sense of wit , and overall dyspeptic demeanor, we learned one salient feature:

We have a scientist, who refuses to “discuss or debate” science.

Is this not a rarity on par with the finding of an offspring of a Dodo Bird?

If he were alive today, would Einstein be ducking simple questions about relativity?

Anyway, NO, we are not comparing the great Albert Einstein, to the not-so-hot, John P. Moore – we are illustrating the absurdity of self-professed “Colonels” in the AIDS War, who get awful shy and tempermental when asked to explain their opinions, bases for said opinions, and references to the scientific literature (not gov’t websites, John) that support these opinions.

Instead, all we get is a strange repetitive mantra: “HIV causes AIDS. You’re a denialist. HIV causes AIDS. You’re a denialist. HIV causes AIDS…..”

Moore must be unused to having his efforts at email putdown kicked out of the way with such despatch. Barnes will not let up. He is cleverer than Moore, wittier, and merciless – and a good deal bouncier. Moore struggles to keep up, while Barnes is behind him kicking his butt in between chortles and pirouetting 360 degrees before sinking another boot in:

Out of good cheer and perhaps a bit of devilish mischief, right before the weekend, I e-mailed Moore with the links to the aforementioned “Moore Follies.”

It was a nice e-mail. It was very short. It consisted of 6 words in the subject heading:

“John & Tara, Check out Barnesville”

So, how do you think he responded? A polite “f@%@ off, Hank”? A non-response? No, he again tried to engage with meaningless, pitiable, self-abasement. Here’s his response, in full:

Moore: I don’t waste my time reading your Blog myself, Hank, but we do monitor them, and sometimes we do pick up some useful information from there that helps us counter more influential AIDS denialists in areas where WE think it matters (trust, me the Blogsphere is not where the real fight is being played out). This particular exchange will probably not lead to any useful information, as we’ve already got enough on the kinds of people who have the time to read and respond to your Blog postings. But hey, you never know, so thanks for trying on our behalf, even if you don’t realize what you’re doing (or, more to the point, what WE’RE doing). We don’t publicize our successes, but if you did you would be surprised at how helpful you and your fellow Bloggers have been to us. In reality, as I say, the real fight is being fought elsewhere. You guys just don’t realize it – yet.

And I really don’t give the proverbial rat’s ass if the kind of people who read your Blogs have a laugh at what they think is my expense. If I cared about what you and your internet buddies think, I would never have entered into any email exchange with you (nothing in emails ever stays private unless they’re between close and trusted friends, in academia or in any other walk of life; you think I maybe don’t realize that at my age?????).

So, post away, do whatever you like. If I think there’s something useful to be gained from communicating with you, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, what’s the phrase? Knock yourself out, buddy!

John

Nicely disdainful and cavalier, but a big mistake when dealing with pit bull Barnes, who rips it into small chunks and chews it up item by item:

Moore: “I don’t waste my time reading your Blog myself, Hank,…”

Hank: Well, you DO waste time reading and writing Amazon reviews of Duesberg’s biography, right?

You DO waste time writing a whole buncha letters and e-mails to the editor of Harpers’ right?

You DO waste time lurking at Aetiology, right?

What’s the difference?

Moore: but we do monitor them, and sometimes we do pick up some useful information from there that helps us counter more influential AIDS denialists in areas where WE think it matters (trust, me the Blogsphere is not where the real fight is being played out).

Hank: Who is this ubiquitous “WE” you keep blabbering about? The same incompetents who wrote that unreadable, unpublishable “grid” rebuttal to the Harpers’ piece?

Why not simply stand alone – like a man. Why do you need a buncha AIDS sychophants and lapdogs around you at all times to “monitor” people? This ain’t the goddam Soviet Union, you know?

Moore: This particular exchange will probably not lead to any useful information, as we’ve already got enough on the kinds of people who have the time to read and respond to your Blog postings.

Hank: Yes, but it’s quite witty and enjoyable.

Moore: But hey, you never know, so thanks for trying on our behalf, even if you don’t realize what you’re doing (or, more to the point, what WE’RE doing). We don’t publicize our successes, but if you did you would be surprised at how helpful you and your fellow Bloggers have been to us. In reality, as I say, the real fight is being fought elsewhere. You guys just don’t realize it – yet.

Hank: What successes? The vaccine success. The success with Mbeki. The success in spiking the Harpers’ piece. The successful strategy to scare and kill a lotta gay men with AZT in the 80’s? Your only success has been to waste a lot of tax-payer $$, shut down scientific discussion, and hornswoggle a small claque of gays into joining the bad guys to oppress the vulnerable guys. This ain’t gonna last forever, John. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Big Tobacco came tumbling down. Merck is a bit wobbly over Vioxx. You’d best be thinking of an exit strategy, when it gets ugly, my friend.

Moore: And I really don’t give the proverbial rat’s ass if the kind of people who read your Blogs have a laugh at what they think is my expense.

Hank: Well, the mirth-meter is pretttttty high today, I must say. As for the kind of people, do you care whether Dr. Lynn Margulis and her colleagues read the blog. If you had ANY cojones whatsoever, you’d call them “Denialists” in public. In fact, by now, you’ve read (or had your flunkies read to you) the Margulis review of Bialy’s book. A salient excerpt for you: “We find the paucity of evidence published in standard peer-reviewed primary scientific journals that leads to the conclusion that “HIV causes AIDS” appalling. No amount of moralizing censorship, rhetorical tricks, consensus of opinion, pulling rank, obfuscation, ad hominem attacks or blustering newspaper editorials changes this fact. The conflation “HIV-AIDS” may be good marketing but is it science? No.”

Any written response to her, or just that same awkward silence, when you get flustered?

Moore: If I cared about what you and your internet buddies think, I would never have entered into any email exchange with you (nothing in emails ever stays private unless they’re between close and trusted friends, in academia or in any other walk of life; you think I maybe don’t realize that at my age?????).

Hank: Well, I don’t know your age (late 40’s?), but that’s not what you said Wednesday at 2″13 p.m. Do you remember this:

Moore: “Yes, I object to you publishing what I believed was a private exchange. John”

Hank: You’re a wily fellow, John. We should play chess sometimes. I didn’t go to Cambridge, but I bet $500 bucks I’d whip ya. Even with black.

Moore: So, post away, do whatever you like. If I think there’s something useful to be gained from communicating with you, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, what’s the phrase? Knock yourself out, buddy!

Hank: This is the second time you’ve utterly wasted 7 good words with a meaningless, tautological platitude. Post away, do whatever I like? Well, gee, John, don’t I always?

Best,

Hank.

p.s. I construe your statement “So, post away, do whatever you like” as permission for me to publish this exchange too. You don’t mind, do you:)

This concludes the Moore Follies. The curtain is down, the lights are on. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Good day, my gentle readers.

As Barnes, says, this exchange (there are three previous postings in the saga, with a selection from other mail today ) was an unprecedented look inside Moore’s mind and rather revealing. In the comments Moore’s “we” versus “you” framing of the discourse was highlighted, since it suggests so clearly that Moore views the debate not as scientific but as a political battle, with patients’ needs rather low on his list.

This particular exchange will probably not lead to any useful information, as we’ve already got enough on the kinds of people who have the time to read and respond to your Blog postings. But hey, you never know, so thanks for trying on our behalf, even if you don’t realize what you’re doing (or, more to the point, what WE’RE doing). We don’t publicize our successes, but if you did you would be surprised at how helpful you and your fellow Bloggers have been to us. In reality, as I say, the real fight is being fought elsewhere. You guys just don’t realize it – yet.

“Got enough on the kinds of people….the real fight is being fought elsewhere….” Does Moore realize the extent to which such phrasing gives the game away to onlookers? It is certainly not science or medicine.

Comments

“We don’t publicize our successes, but if you did you would be surprised at how helpful you and your fellow Bloggers have been to us. In reality, as I say, the real fight is being fought elsewhere. You guys just don’t realize it – yet.”

Hank, who are the “WE” Mr. Moore refers to? Fellow scientists? If so, he mentions them fighting…fighting for what? And what are these “successes”? Are they medical successes? It would be obvious if there were. I’m guessing if they exist at all, he’s talking about PR successes.

So, this is about a FIGHT. Strange, I thought it was about helping people. He and his “WE” can fight all they want. I want to help people, help them out of this horrible medical nightmare.

Posted by: Dan | July 24, 2006 at 10:17 AM

Dan,

Exactly. They are fighting to get more drugs to more people. Period. However, they are oblivious to the notion that more drugs may make matters worse.

Hank

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 24, 2006 at 12:37 PM

Stop being cruel to AIDS babes, Hank. At least leave them a shred of tattered dignity.

He certainly is a faithful reader of your blog. Cannot imagine why he would want to deny it. The reason is surely that those who stand on a deep fault line must pay attention to know when the quake comes.

The rumbling seems to be getting louder and louder, John. Well, just cling to Bob. He is good in emergencies. We were once stuck in an elevator with him for 40 minutes and he behaved very well.

Posted by: TS | July 24, 2006 at 01:10 PM

Nice going, Hank. What do you think, could we get as much mileage out of Tony Fauci?

Hatchet Day is drawing near, you know.

Posted by: Wilhelm | July 24, 2006 at 03:37 PM

I recently heard from a student of a former colleague the following explanation for why the (often strenuously) peer-reviewed papers of Duesberg must be wrong: If they were not, then they would have persuaded the majority of scientists.

Simple. Incontrovertible. Idiotic.

Perfect for Moore to add to his “Johnny One Note” arsenal of argument.

Posted by: George | July 25, 2006 at 08:05 AM

I wonder what Moore has in store for us. Are we all going to be rounded up as terrorists for attempting to spread a virus we don’t believe exists? (or maybe we really do believe it exists, but being scientific psychopaths, we’re trying to encourage people to spread it around). I just hope when the big shot dissidents get arrested that I do too because, after all, this is only an attention getting device (questioning AIDS, that is) and I’d hate not to get the attention of others!

Posted by: David Crowe | July 25, 2006 at 01:22 PM

David Crowe,

Hah! I have 2 good friends at home who ain’t gonna let ole’ Hank get rounded up by nobody!

HB

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 25, 2006 at 01:35 PM

Moore apparently has finally learned better than to tangle with Barnes, and now disappeared for good. This is a great pity, since Barnes’ feisty, barnyard style (he knows how to take advantage of a pseudonym) allows him to make fast, pithy points which nail HIV∫AIDS escape artists before they can say “We don’t debate denialists”.

After starting a ThinkPad blog in December last year, Barnes has upset the hens in the HIV∫AIDS coop with shot after shot. One nailed David Baltimore:

February 19, 2006

Irony Meter!

“It’s no accident that we are seeing such an extensive suppression of scientific freedom. It’s part of the theory of government now, and it’s a theory we need to vociferously oppose.”

Strong words, No?

Who said this and where, I ask?

Well, golly gee, it’s Dr. David Baltimore at the New York Times.

But the first was the most brilliant. It brought up the Padian study, which he has since repeatedly used as a bazooka to blast the squawking chickens of HIV∫AIDS into clouds of feathers at every opportunity.

Anyone who is unfamiliar with the Padian study should read Barnes’ deft, hilarious lead in and summary of this remarkable mainstream HIV∫AIDS project, which all by itself is enough to defeat the global HIV∫AIDS pandemic and expose it as utterly specious, since it removes its main pillar. Nancy Padian showed that HIV positivity is not transmitted by heterosexual sex. (In fact, her results indicate that it isn’t a homosexually transmitted virus either, if its logic is pursued).

Mebbe, Fumento is only half-right. Mebbe, it ain’t a heterosexually transmissible disease, nor a homosexually transmissible disease.

Mebbe, this damnable disease has not a damn thing to do with sex — of any kind!

Enuf, sez ‘ole Hank. We gotta get to the bottom (no pun intended) of this mystery

I need to see some epidemiology.

No, I don’t want dumb-ass reports by gov’t bureuacrats at the CDC, NIH, FDA.

No, I don’t want dumb-ass literature from the local Planned Parenthood.

No, I don’t even want to take Fumento’s word as gospel.

I want the source. I want to see the peer-reviewed published literature. ‘Ole Hank spends a fair amount of time reading, the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. This boy ain’t a rookie.

But, where is the American Journal of Epidemiology? Ahh, here it is.

Padian, Heterosexual Transmission of HIV in Northern California: Results from a Ten-year Study, Am. J. Epidemiol., Vol 146: 350 – 357. (1997)

(Note to my friend, Dale aka Daf9: The title says Ten!)

So, what did Dr. Nancy Padian find? Well, lemme offer a few salient quotes:

1. “To our knowledge, our study is the largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States. The consistency of results over the 10-year duration argues for the validity of our results.” (Padian, page 354.)

2. “We followed 175 HIV-discordant couples over time for a total of approximately 282 couple-years of follow-up.” (Padian, page 354.) (Discordant couple means one is HIV+, one is HIV-)

3. “We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study.”(Padian, page 354.) Huh, run that by me again?

4. “Forty -seven couples who remained in follow-up for 3 months to 6 years used condoms intermittently, and no seroconversions occurred among exposed partners.”(Padian, page 354.)

So, lemme understand this, Nancy:

1. Over 10 years, a lotta HIV+ folks had the audacity to continue having sex with their beloved uninfected partners, ……and none contracted HIV;

2. Some used condoms, ….and none contracted HIV

3. Some refused condoms, ….and none contracted HIV

4. Even some – about 38% – had anal sex, ….and still none contracted HIV. (See Table 3, pg 355.)

So, Nancy, I gotta ask: How do you have a sexually transmitted disease, that ain’t transmitted by sex?

I mean when you write, “We observed no seroconversions,” doesn’t that mean, ahem, no seroconversions?

February 15, 2006

Cargo Cult Science: AIDS & Sex

“Yikes,” says the casual reader, “I like sex, but I’m afraid of AIDS. Better use a condom. Better yet, let’s just not talk about it.”

For 25 years now, we’ve been taught that AIDS is caused by a virus, mostly transmitted by sex.

Millions of people believe this. Aren’t folks dying in Africa from all this sex and all this AIDS? Shouldn’t we help them? Shouldn’t we send them billions of $$ for medicine?

Slow down, Pal.

Take it easy.

Take a breath.

Fact: The human species is at least 500 million years old. That means……shhh…… people have been having sex for a long time. Not decades, not centuries, not millenia, but millions of years. China has a population of 1 billion people. So, ahem, that means — a heckuva lot of fluids being exchanged!

Even my Grandma from Salzburg, Pennsylvannia — unpleasant imagery notwithstanding — was once having sex.

I was taught that sex is a good thing, not a bad thing.

I was taught that sex breeds life, not death. Ask my wife and 2 beautiful children, if you don’t believe me.

So, in addition to right-wing nuts Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schafly preaching to me about the dangers of sex, this little left-wing twit at the Public Health department is gonna lecture me about the “life-or-death” decision to use condoms?

Huh?

So, how did a supposedly fatal virus (HIV) emerge from the bath houses of the Castro and Greenwich Villiage circa 1981 to kill multitudes of innocent people and, more importantly, wreck our sex lives?

Well, the first crack in this fog of propaganda came from Michael Fumento in The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS. He simply looked at the numbers, and found that 95% of the AIDS victims in USA were (a) homosexual males and/or (b) drug users. Less than 10% of said victims were women.

Hmmm. How can a stupid, little 9 kilobase virus (HIV) discriminate between men and women? That makes no sense. Don’t women get the flu, herpes, chicken pox, too?

So, Fumento says, Hey, you heterosexuals out there — don’t worry, you can enjoy sex again! It’s mostly a “gay” disease!

“Hmm,” says ‘Ole Hank. This don’t sound right. Mebbe they have been exaggerating the risk of heterosexual transmission, but for good motives — they don’t want to stigmatize gay folks. Hell, I don’t wanna stigmatize gay folks. Hell, I don’t wanna stigmatize anyone. The Fumento book refutes all this hype and exaggeration about hetero sex, but sheesh, does that really make it a “gay” disease? I mean, on a purely numerical basis, there are millions of more straight women, (about 141 million) than gay men (4.5 million). If only 1/10 women enjoy a good bugger every now and then, that would still exceed the frequency of anal sex by homosexuals.

Yeah, it’s a little awkward to ask, but I will: Why aren’t many more women contracting AIDS thru anal sex?

Mebbe, Fumento is only half-right. Mebbe, it ain’t a heterosexually transmissible disease, nor a homosexually transmissible disease.

Mebbe, this damnable disease has not a damn thing to do with sex — of any kind!

Enuf, sez ‘ole Hank. We gotta get to the bottom (no pun intended) of this mystery

I need to see some epidemiology.

No, I don’t want dumb-ass reports by gov’t bureuacrats at the CDC, NIH, FDA.

No, I don’t want dumb-ass literature from the local Planned Parenthood.

No, I don’t even want to take Fumento’s word as gospel.

I want the source. I want to see the peer-reviewed published literature. ‘Ole Hank spends a fair amount of time reading, the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. This boy ain’t a rookie.

But, where is the American Journal of Epidemiology? Ahh, here it is.

Padian, Heterosexual Transmission of HIV in Northern California: Results from a Ten-year Study, Am. J. Epidemiol., Vol 146: 350 – 357. (1997)

(Note to my friend, Dale aka Daf9: The title says Ten!)

So, what did Dr. Nancy Padian find? Well, lemme offer a few salient quotes:

1. “To our knowledge, our study is the largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States. The consistency of results over the 10-year duration argues for the validity of our results.” (Padian, page 354.)

2. “We followed 175 HIV-discordant couples over time for a total of approximately 282 couple-years of follow-up.” (Padian, page 354.) (Discordant couple means one is HIV+, one is HIV-)

3. “We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study.”(Padian, page 354.) Huh, run that by me again?

4. “Forty -seven couples who remained in follow-up for 3 months to 6 years used condoms intermittently, and no seroconversions occurred among exposed partners.”(Padian, page 354.)

So, lemme understand this, Nancy:

1. Over 10 years, a lotta HIV+ folks had the audacity to continue having sex with their beloved uninfected partners, ……and none contracted HIV;

2. Some used condoms, ….and none contracted HIV

3. Some refused condoms, ….and none contracted HIV

4. Even some – about 38% – had anal sex, ….and still none contracted HIV. (See Table 3, pg 355.)

So, Nancy, I gotta ask: How do you have a sexually transmitted disease, that ain’t transmitted by sex?

I mean when you write, “We observed no seroconversions,” doesn’t that mean, ahem, no seroconversions?

Oh, C’mon Hank, just because the fact in this large, epidemiological studycontradicts our theory on HIV, doesn’t mean we have to jump ship. Hell, we estimate that heterosexual transmission is merely low, male-to-female is 1/1000, and female-to-male is 1/10,000. We won’t even mention the lack of seroconversions in the abstract — Hell, most folks don’t even read these damn papers anyway.

And, more importantly, Hank, wear a condom for goodness sake!

Joking aside, in my humble opinion, the findings of this one paper obliterate almost 75% of most of the AIDS dogma we’ve been taught for over 25 years. Some (all?) of those of folks should have become infected over the 10 years of the study. None did. No explanation is offered by the authors. Further, the authors note that 38% of the people engaged in anal sex, but no explanation is given as to why these women did not contract HIV.

There is only one reasonable, logical, scientific conclusion: The retrovirus HIV isn’t transmissble by sex of any kind.

Much obliged

Posted by HankBarnes on February 15, 2006 at 12:35 PM

Since February Barnes has been using this study as it should be used – to whack into stunned silence anyone who suggests that there is a global pandemic (or, as he has noticed, anyone who suggests that “HIV” is sexually infectious among gays either).

He has played especial havoc with Aetiology, the popular blog on the SEED magazine blog site run by Tara Smith, a young epidemiologist and curvaceous brunette (judging from her picture in what looks like a swimsuit or the equivalent form fitting attire) with too ready a faith in the mainstream view. Barnes has since March confounded her utterly with the Padian study, despite much waffling escapism in response.

Barnes won the latest round ten days ago, reducing the unfortunate Tara to what looks like quivering jelly:

[Partially] Banned at Aetiology!

Our favorite Science Babe, Dr. Tara Smith, has banned my ass at her blog. Here’s the recap:

1. Smith wrote this typical, ignorant throw-away line — straight outta AIDS talking points memorandum:

One of the major scourges in the countries they’re targeting is AIDS, and one of the most successful prevention strategies is regular condom use.

2. I needled her a bit about the Padian Paper, reminding her that the longest American study of heterosexual transmission of HIV found “no seroconversions.” This carries frightful implications for AIDS Cult members. If the risk of HIV transmission is ZERO, then obviously condoms add nothing to the equation.

So I asked her:

If Padian remains the “largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States” (Padian, pg 354), How come none of the HIV+ folks having sex without condoms transmitted HIV to their partners?

3. Smith got mad, responding:

Hank, all that was extensively covered in the post and comments of that discussion. I didn’t dodge anything–you just keep misrepresenting both the paper’s intent, and the very data within it. I’m sick of it. Stick to the topic here, please–you have your own blog if you want to continue discussion of the Padian paper. Otherwise, I’ll treat them as spam.

“I’M SICK OF IT.” — yelps the frazzled Sorority Girl of Epidemiology:). I love that!

4. I continued needling her, she deleted a few of my posts, I accused her of dodging, she accused me of lying and misrepresenting Padian, then, finally, she answered with some long-winded tripe, which contained these nuggets:

I didn’t dodge anything. For those of you who didn’t read the prior post (which apparently includes Hank), I addressed that in the post: [Blah, blah, blah]

Seroconversion was found in the retrospective study. For the prospective portion, there were a number of limitations that reduced their ability to find seroconversions:

Attrition was severe.

Couples were counseled to use condoms and avoid risky sex practices (and indeed, condom use went way up and anal sex went down).

The vast majority of couples were followed for only a short time (~ a year).

There was a low rate of infection with other STIs in the study population.

And finally, Hank, if this study disproves sexual transmission of HIV, why isn’t the author in your camp? Maybe you can answer this at your own blog; don’t bother to here. Go ahead and cry “censorship,” but I’ve allowed you to repeat yourself on here dozens of times already. Bring something new to the table and I’ll retain the comment

5. Then I wrote a tour de force (which was deleted and got me banned:)

Reduced their ability to find seroconversions?!!? I’m laughing my ass off:) You sound like one of those Bush flunkies trying to explain a “reduced ability to find” non-existent weapons of mass destruction:)

Look, Tara, the prospective study was the whole ball of wax.

Let me remind you that the authors wrote:

“To our knowledge, our study is the largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States.” (Padian, pg 354.)

Let me remind you that the authors wrote:

“We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study.” (Padian, pg 354.)

Let me remind you that the authors wrote:

“Nevertheless, the absence of seroincident infection over the course of the study cannot be entirely attributed to significant behavior change. No transmission occured among the 25 percent of couples who did not use condoms consistently at their last follow-up nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up” (Padian, pg 356.)

The authors found “no seroconversions,” tried to attribute this surprising result to increased condom use, but didn’t know what to do with the 25% of HIV+ folks who refused condoms, but still did not transmit virus.

So, Why did all these reckless, condom-free, HIV+ sex maniacs not infect their partners in the study?

The problem, Tara, is that the FACTS of Padian, conflict with your THEORY.

Honest Hank Barnes

New rule: Whenever you hear some B.S. artist yap about AIDS and condom use, remind them that the largest epidemiological study of sexual transmission of HIV in America, showed that NOBODY got HIV. The HIV+ folks with condoms didn’t spread the virus, but neither did the HIV+ folks without condoms. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.NIL. Surely, after at least 6 years of condomless sex with an HIV+ person, you’d expect at least ONE person to have contracted the virus. But none did. Oops. There’s goes the paradigm!

July 13, 2006

[Partially] Banned at Aetiology!

Our favorite Science Babe, Dr. Tara Smith, has banned my ass at her blog. Here’s the recap:

1. Smith wrote this typical, ignorant throw-away line — straight outta AIDS talking points memorandum:

One of the major scourges in the countries they’re targeting is AIDS, and one of the most successful prevention strategies is regular condom use.

2. I needled her a bit about the Padian Paper, reminding her that the longest American study of heterosexual transmission of HIV found “no seroconversions.” This carries frightful implications for AIDS Cult members. If the risk of HIV transmission is ZERO, then obviously condoms add nothing to the equation.

So I asked her:

If Padian remains the “largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States” (Padian, pg 354), How come none of the HIV+ folks having sex without condoms transmitted HIV to their partners?

3. Smith got mad, responding:

Hank, all that was extensively covered in the post and comments of that discussion. I didn’t dodge anything–you just keep misrepresenting both the paper’s intent, and the very data within it. I’m sick of it. Stick to the topic here, please–you have your own blog if you want to continue discussion of the Padian paper. Otherwise, I’ll treat them as spam.

“I’M SICK OF IT.” yelps the frazzled Sorority Girl of Epidemiology:). I love that!

4. I continued needling her, she deleted a few of my posts, I accused her of dodging, she accused me of lying and misrepresenting Padian, then, finally, she answered with some long-winded tripe, which contained these nuggets:

I didn’t dodge anything. For those of you who didn’t read the prior post (which apparently includes Hank), I addressed that in the post: [Blah, blah, blah]

Seroconversion was found in the retrospective study. For the prospective portion, there were a number of limitations that reduced their ability to find seroconversions:

Attrition was severe.

Couples were counseled to use condoms and avoid risky sex practices (and indeed, condom use went way up and anal sex went down).

The vast majority of couples were followed for only a short time (~ a year).

There was a low rate of infection with other STIs in the study population.

And finally, Hank, if this study disproves sexual transmission of HIV, why isn’t the author in your camp? Maybe you can answer this at your own blog; don’t bother to here. Go ahead and cry “censorship,” but I’ve allowed you to repeat yourself on here dozens of times already. Bring something new to the table and I’ll retain the comment

5. Then I wrote a tour de force (which was deleted and got me banned:)

Reduced their ability to find seroconversions?!!? I’m laughing my ass off:) You sound like one of those Bush flunkies trying to explain a “reduced ability to find” non-existent weapons of mass destruction:)

Look, Tara, the prospective study was the whole ball of wax.

Let me remind you that the authors wrote:

“To our knowledge, our study is the largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States.” (Padian, pg 354.)

Let me remind you that the authors wrote:

“We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study.” (Padian, pg 354.)

Let me remind you that the authors wrote:

“Nevertheless, the absence of seroincident infection over the course of the study cannot be entirely attributed to significant behavior change. No transmission occured among the 25 percent of couples who did not use condoms consistently at their last follow-up nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up” (Padian, pg 356.)

The authors found “no seroconversions,” tried to attribute this surprising result to increased condom use, but didn’t know what to do with the 25% of HIV+ folks who refused condoms, but still did not transmit virus.

So, Why did all these reckless, condom-free, HIV+ sex maniacs not infect their partners in the study?

The problem, Tara, is that the FACTS of Padian, conflict with your THEORY.

Honest Hank Barnes

New rule: Whenever you hear some B.S. artist yap about AIDS and condom use, remind them that the largest epidemiological study of sexual transmission of HIV in America, showed that NOBODY got HIV. The HIV+ folks with condoms didn’t spread the virus, but neither did the HIV+ folks without condoms. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.NIL. Surely, after at least 6 years of condomless sex with an HIV+ person, you’d expect at least ONE person to have contracted the virus. But none did. Oops. There’s goes the paradigm!

UPDATE!

Anticipating the rhetorical response — What about Africa? — I commend y’all to read the great work of Dr. Gisselquist on the subject. He’s way more diplomatic than I’d be!

UPDATE: II

Tara has arrived to scold me in the comments. As if I don’t get enuff hen-pecking at home from the missus….

Posted by HankBarnes on July 13, 2006 at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

Comments

The Padian study is the paradigm-killer.

I think that’s why there’s so much anxiety coming from the paradigm promoters whenever Padian is brought into the conversation.

Posted by: Dan | July 13, 2006 at 12:46 PM

Hey Dan the Man,

My sole ally at Tara’s blog!

Have you ever seen that woman squirm and worm and weasel as she did?:)

Ask often:

How come NONE of HIV+ folks tranmitted the virus?

It bugs ’em!

HankB

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 13, 2006 at 12:51 PM

Actually, Liam showed up with a righteous, ass-whooping comment as well. So I had 2 allies!

Hank B

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 13, 2006 at 12:55 PM

COMMENTS

Hank,

Even if you accept that the tests are able to determine infection with something called HIV, the fact that there were no seroconversions effectively kills the paradigm.

Liam also makes a broader observation that includes Padian:

“Nowhere in Padian is the algorithmic/subjective/non-standardized methodology for so-called HIV test interpretation discussed. The results are accepted, a priori, as they are throughout AIDS eugenics.”

Posted by: Dan | July 13, 2006 at 01:12 PM

Tara, huh? Wasn’t that Scarlet O’Hara’s summer home and didn’t she routinely hide her head in the sand too. I see a connection here.

LS

Posted by: Lawstud6 | July 13, 2006 at 01:14 PM

Dan,

That’s exactly right. Padian ASSUMES that there is a virus HIV, and it can be detected, by reliable tests.

So, that’s why its so effective (in my view).

Lawstud6,

Our Tara is more like Scarlet O’Horror!:)

HankB

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 13, 2006 at 01:50 PM

Hank,

You are correct David Gisselquist challenges the empirical evidence linking HIV to sexual behaviors and belief that sex is the primary mode of hiv transmission in sub-saharan Africa.

But you make a HUGE error in thinking or announcing that Gisselquist supports the notion that HIV CANNOT be heterosexually transmitted. Gisselquist claims no such thing.

”For more than a decade, most experts have assumed that more than 90% of HIV in African adults results from heterosexual transmission. In this exercise, we show how data from studies of risk factors for HIV can be used to estimate the proportion from sexual transmission, and we present our estimates. Calculating two ways from available data, our two point estimates – we do not estimate confidence intervals – are that 25-29% of HIV incidence in African women and 30-35% in men is attributable to sexual transmission; these estimates assume 10% annual epidemic growth..” David Gisselquist Int J STD AIDS. 2003 Mar;14(3):162-73.

Posted by: McKiernan | July 13, 2006 at 03:29 PM

“But you make a HUGE error in thinking or announcing that Gisselquist supports the notion that HIV CANNOT be heterosexually transmitted. Gisselquist claims no such thing.”

McKiernan,

it doesn’t look like Hank is making the error you accuse him of at all. I’m willing to bet that he’s pointing this out for those critical thinkers out there to ponder.

I think Padian slays the paradigm all on its own, playing by the paradigm’s own rules. If heterosexual transmission is non-existent for white folk, then it’s non-existent for darker-skinned folks…unless “HIV” harbors some kind of racism? I’ve heard “HIV” described as “angry” and “furious” before, so who knows?

Posted by: Dan | July 13, 2006 at 03:40 PM

I may have to retain Dan as my alter ego on these matters:)

McK,

I know this is difficult for you, but, jeez, stop making up claims. Gisselquist has done heroic work in Africa. He, like others before him, have been stonewalled and ignored.

He thinks HIV is not spread sexually in Africa, but mostly by dirty needles and sloppy hospital practices. He probably saw what happened to Duesberg — so he’s not gonna jump on that same limb to be sawed off.

He’s trying, valiantly, to be diplomatic — on this one discreet issue. I doubt he has examined the entire enchilada of HIV causation. If he has, he probably sincerely believes HIV causes AIDS. I haven’t claimed otherwise, you old goat!

If you read his papers, you would learn something. Try Google Scholar — type in “Gisselquist”

HankB

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 13, 2006 at 03:59 PM

Hank, can you ever be straightforward? You’re not banned; I simply said I’d send your repetitive, incorrect, off-topic, many-times refuted posts on Padian into the spam box. Note your comments on the obesity post from today are still up. Not that I’d expect honesty from you, I suppose.

Posted by: Tara | July 13, 2006 at 04:20 PM

Ack!

It’s like a surprise visit from my grade school principal to further scold me!

Well, I was banned on the topic that mattered!

Hey, I have a suggestion, Scarlet O’Tara. Why not let me interview you about science and stuff here by e-mail and let me publish here?

I promise to behave!

HankB

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 13, 2006 at 04:30 PM

“Hey, I have a suggestion, Scarlet O’Tara. Why not let me interview you about science and stuff here by e-mail and let me publish here?”

I think you may only get the sound of crickets chirping from asking that question, Hank.

You might want to go back and check out Tara’s blog. Looks like the place to be today!

Posted by: Dan | July 13, 2006 at 05:24 PM

Hank, I wonder when they will ever get it? If HIV truly causes AIDS, I don’t think that my husband could sleep at night as we have had unprotected sex for many years. Why doesn’t he have HIV or AIDS? The answer is simple, because AIDS is due to immune deficiency of the person. AIDS cannot be passed to anyone any more than a toothache can be passed to another.

Posted by: noreen martin | July 14, 2006 at 06:16 AM

If anyone is up to it at the moment, I could use some help with Tara, Jefferys, and a few others on the Aetiology blog, under the post “The boredom of debating Denialists”.

Posted by: Michael | July 14, 2006 at 12:17 PM

More on the topic:

http://liamscheff.com/blog/2006/07/14/africa-malthus-and-eugenics/

Come on everybody, it’s fun!

Posted by: LS | July 14, 2006 at 04:45 PM

Libel and Refusal to Answer: It’s AIDS, Inc!

Of note:

I challenged Tara Smith (a Seed Magazine blogger, Univ. Iowa epidemiogy PhD’er) to the Incarnation Children’s Center test: would you do what is/was done there to your children?

She refused to answer, multipley, then stated that she did not have to answer because the ICC story was made up(!!), then closed down the blog thread, disallowing comments, as far as I could tell.

It’s her “Gates and Buffet as supervillians” blog – have a look.

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/against_gates_adn_buffet.php

She is truly warped, and a complete and utter coward.

And a libelous skunk to boot.

But what’s new?

Posted by: LS | July 15, 2006 at 01:24 AM

Liam,

I only hope that there are people in medicine and science that are reading this thread of hers and are seeing that she can’t answer such simple, hypothetical questions.

She mischaracterizes your questions and refuses to answer them for emtional/personal reasons(?!)

By not answering your questions, getting in the last word and then shutting down the thread, she’s sending out some powerful messages, the biggest would be her lack of credibility now. Quite the desperate move on her part.

Posted by: Dan | July 15, 2006 at 07:09 AM

Looks like our favorite epidemiology-babe is clamping down! I’ve just been banned too. I wasn’t even commenting on “AIDS”!

Posted by: Dan | July 15, 2006 at 08:57 AM

The frazzled sorority girl has banned us all!!!!:)

Hank Barnes

Posted by: HankBarnes | July 15, 2006 at 10:45 AM

Tara libels and pseudo-recants:

Well, she’s a pseudo-scientist.

Celia Farber put it to her:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/coming_soon_to_a_store_near_yo.php#comment-170891

“No[w] I understand Tara Smith has claimed that the catastrophe at ICC in which orphans were hurt and in some cases killed by life-saving drugs tubally cut straight into their stomachs was a fabricated tale? (Liam Scheff’s story.) I worked on the documentary that aired on BBC and across Europe on this. I stood on the mass grave and collected each name, and checked the death records, and got two death certificates, which repudiate the NYT lie that “no children died.” Those two were only the ones I was able to secure, after months of work.”

“Are you really not embarassed to take truth and break it in your bare hands Tara? Does nothing inspire you to look, seek, question, investigate?”

Tara defensiv-ates back:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/coming_soon_to_a_store_near_yo.php#comment-170928

“Once again, Celia, putting words in my mouth. I’m doing exactly what you suggest–being skeptical and questioning.”

Was she just being skeptical? She was libeling:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/against_gates_adn_buffet.php#comment-170274

“He then extrapolates that to ask if I’d treat my children in that manner, when he’s the source of the story that any children are being treated in this manner. He can pout, throw insults and make ridiculous accusations about me, but I’ll not play his game, thank you.”

I’m the source? I’m the reporter – the sources are here:

http://www.nypress.com/18/30/news&columns/liamscheff.cfm

http://www.larryflynt.com/notebook.php?id=111

http://www.altheal.org/toxicity/icccont.htm

http://www.altheal.org/toxicity/house.htm

My response to the girl:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/coming_soon_to_a_store_near_yo.php#comment-170967

Naw Tara,

you’re not being skeptical, you’re being a corporate whore.

And you’ve libeled me, the NY Press, A&U Magazine, Hustler magazine, the BBC, the Associated Press, GNN, CruxMag, the NY Post, the UK Observer, Jonathan Fishbein, Vera Sharav, the producer and director of the BBC piece, and more.

You’re not skeptical, you’re a bloody coward. You refuse to answer the very clear question – would you do what has been done to these children, to your own.

If you doubt the veracity of the research, princess, come with your best fucking shot. My books are open.

Liam Scheff

Posted by: LS | July 15, 2006 at 11:23 AM

My comment that will not post at Tara’s blog, which I will attempt to post later:

Just to let everyone in on the joke.

I asked Smith many months ago to answer the ‘would you do to your children what is done at ICC’

She did not answer. I asked and re-asked. She deflects, as is her skill and wont, and I asked again.

She then decides to imagine that the story is not true:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/against_gates_adn_buffet.php#comment-170274

“But it’s not that simple. Liam is suggesting that all children given antiretrovirals are treated in an abusive manner when the drugs are administered, based on an exposé written by none other than…himself. He then extrapolates that to ask if I’d treat my children in that manner, when he’s the source of the story that any children are being treated in this manner. He can pout, throw insults and make ridiculous accusations about me, but I’ll not play his game, thank you.

Tara then shuts down the thread, perhaps knowing that you just put your entire blog at risk for suit.

Tara, I’ll offer you some schooling, dummy, First, I’m not the source of the story. I’m the reporter who broke the story, and, as Celia illustrates with the heartbreak that dogged and scarred every fucking person who had to cover this goddamn monstrosity born out of your beloved paradigm, I am but one of the people who brought it to public attention, who interacted with the children and the moms, the docs and the ACS, the city and the state, the NIH and the CDC.

You can find the sources of the stories and the reference information in any number of the stories from various authors and published in various outlets.

You can trace back through the grizzly files of clinicaltrials.gov to look up each and every one of the trials that was conducted –

The trials that are still being conducted, under your obscene enforced death-paradigm.

That’s www.clinicaltrials.gov , you illiterate corporate shill.

And if you find that you haven’t been robbed of your ability to read, along with your ability to think before you act, you can find reference after bloody reference, personal story, interview, etc throughout.

You want to say you don’t believe it?

What do you believe in, angel? Santa Claus? That Anthony Fauci doesn’t know and understand that he’s sitting on the ugliest medical lie since…I won’t even say it.

You bloody people are practicing eugenics. You target the poorest of the poor, blackest of the black,

you give them your make-believe bloody tests,

you enforce your needful sex-death-curse right on them, for ever and ever,

And when the little negro crack babies don’t take the drugs – well, what’s the point. You’re being ‘skeptical!’

I’d like to illustrate denialism for everybody.

Tara thinks that this

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/105/6/e80

and this

http://www.altheal.org/toxicity/icccont.htm#Q7:

does not exist.

And that these people:

http://www.nypress.com/18/30/news&columns/liamscheff.cfm

do not exist.

And that these people:

http://www.larryflynt.com/notebook.php?id=111

do not exist.

And these people:

http://www.altheal.org/toxicity/orphans.htm

And these studies:

http://www.altheal.org/toxicity/icccont.htm#Q2:

And these studies:

http://www.altheal.org/toxicity/icccont.htm#Q13:

And this practice:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11366843

Do not exist.

In fact, in Tara’s world, none of it can really exist,

so that Tara, the eugenicist, denialist, libelous fool,

does not have to think that it might, so that she does not have to consider who and what she is defending so vigorously.

Libel, Tara.

That’s a big, expensive word.

Posted by: LS | July 15, 2006 at 11:25 AM

I am the latest member of the band, I mean banned club. I have just been banned from Aetiology. I am a naughty, naughty boy. I posted some rather graphic descriptions under her heading titled “The Boredom of Debating Deniers”. Well Gee, I was just trying to liven it up a bit. I hate to see Tara bored. She gets soooo cranky!

I did however, after being banned, send her the following email:

Dear Tara.

I noticed that you are preventing anything from being posted by me. I believe I can understand why. Am I being an obnoxious brute to those that don’t agree with me? I would have to answer affirmative. But am I really being much more of a brute than the 15 people, including yourself, whom

wish to label me and others whom share my usually humble opinions as some kind of freak and subversive, and, your favorite term, “denialist”, and whom would place me in a box with holocaust deniers? I lost my grandparents

in the holocaust. How dare any of you make such thoughtless assumptions.

Gee, can you think of anyway to provoke me a little harder?

And yes I am bright enough to know that my vivid descriptions of sexuality are shocking and appalling. I consider it to be more of a statement to those whom ignore the basic points involved. A kind of “Can you HEAR ME NOW”?

As a gay man, I am shocked and appalled myself that these behaviors continue in the gay community. Although I do believe that it is much lessened than 10

years ago. I also post these outrageous descriptions to bring about an awareness of the facts of what a minority of gays have lived and that some are still living (btw, it is pretty much the only subset of gays that are

presenting major disease based (not HIV drug based) illness. I am also appalled that those behaving in these ways, do NOT share it with their doctors, nor researchers. Perhaps you do not think the research community

has a right to these facts? As ugly as they are? Most of the affected gays do not believe this should be shared, as not too many are going to take much pity upon them after hearing it. It might even cut their subscriptions

to the SSI Check of the Month Club, and other vast benefits of the gravy train that many of these people (most healthy and only diagnosed AIDS due to a questionable T-cell count) have lived off of for the last 20 plus

years.

I don’t really care if you post my messages or not. I don’t think any message really goes anywhere unless it happens to be one the receiver wants to hear, but at least I have been able to express myself and my frustrations, if to no-one else, but you.

Thank You, Yours,

Michael Geiger

Board Member HEAL SAN DIEGO

PS let me know if your ever in town, we’ll do lunch and I will be glad to introduce you to some very well known scientists that fully agree with the re-thinker movement, but are unable to come out of the closet due to their

perceived threat of a loss of funding and being Duesberged out of financial existence. Although they have no qualms about one on one discussions as long as they are not public.

Posted by: Michael | July 15, 2006 at 11:35 AM

My final comment in this go-round on Tara the libelous coward’s blog:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2006/07/coming_soon_to_a_store_near_yo.php#comment-171041

We’re ‘waiting for blog owner to approve second half of this comment,’ you can read it here, for your edification:

http://barnesworld.blogs.com/barnes_world/2006/07/banned_at_aetio.html

“That’s it for me, unless you have anything useful to say in terms of backup for you libel.

I’m sure we’re all waiting with baited breath, to see you unravel the mysteries of gastric tubes and NIH orphanages for us. Won’t you just show us the way, Tara? Cleanse us of what we’ve seen, and make it all better?

Or maybe just answer the question, you fucking coward.

Would you do what they do there, to your own children?

You already gave the answer –

You wouldn’t even think about it. You couldn’t even consider it. It’s just too goddamn barbaric and inhumane.

You bloody hypocrite. Stick your aids,incorporated, up your ass.”

Posted by: LS | July 15, 2006 at 11:50 AM

Great letter Michael,

I’d love it if you’d get over to my blog and sign up, we want to hear the stories you know, have seen, have lived, have observed.

http://liamscheff.com/blog/wp-register.php

It’s reality from the ground up that I’m interested in, not pseudo-science fiction from the sky down, that never reaches the earth…like our friend the Cowardly Libel.

She really is over the freaking rainbow.

Posted by: LS | July 15, 2006 at 11:55 AM

Not surprised, but Tara closed down another thread.

I’m noticing a pattern…

Posted by: Dan | July 17, 2006 at 08:22 AM

The comment string is distinguished by a heartfelt expression of disgust by Liam Scheff, the reporter who broke the appalling story of the HIV drug experiments on tots without guardians at the Incarnation Center. Scheff’s blog Liam’s World is worth a read on this and other topics.

As his opponents are finding out, however, Barnes, a lawyer versed in logic and debate, is the most dangerous man to tangle with just now. He’ll flip a weak argument into a quick somersault and flat on its back in a second. Moreover, he is unperturbed by verbal violence – the rudeness, the putdowns, the refusal to reply, the scorn, or the referrals to un-peer-reviewed Government sites or the new Cornell center for misleading HIV∫AIDS science, AIDS Truth. To Barnes this is just more catnip.

What’s striking is how he puts the Padian study to good use. Padian utterly refutes any idea that HIV or whatever it is that actually causes an AIDS test to score positive is passed between heterosexual couples. Over six years, of hundreds of discordant couples she studied, not one couple managed it. This is the paradigm killer. Hank wields a mean pen, but Padian will do the trick for anybody who uses it. It is unanswerable. That is all that any newcomer needs to know to realise that the paradigm remains as hollow today as it was when Gallo first launched it on the basis of papers which contradicted it.

Barnes’ pithy, razor sharp, amusing, shorthand style punches through to the empty core of HIV∫AIDS in a way that anybody can follow.

Exit the paradigm, at least the huge part of it represented by the heterosexual pandemic sweeping the world through sex according to Laurie Garrett of the Council of Foreign Relations and other less than scientific authorities, and almost certainly the gay HIV epidemic too.

Exit Tara Smith, exit John P. Moore, exit paradigm, leaving center stage, Hank Barnes, paradigm killer.

Someone call up Bill Gates and let him know the url. It’s Barnes World. It’s a very easy read, and he’ll probably enjoy it.

Mbeki spoke with Gates, but will anything come of it?

July 24th, 2006


Dissidents delighted, but no sign of change

No need to speculate what would happen if Thabo Mbeki was able to sit down and brief Bill Gates about his doubts on Western medicines for HIV∫AIDS. A correspondent just sent us a Webclip from the South African Mail-Guardian, headed Bill Gates, Mbeki discuss Aids pandemic – Johannesburg, South Africa 12 July 2006 09:11.

So HIV∫AIDS critics have got their wish. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has had his chance to plant a seed of doubt in Bill Gates’ mind concerning HIV∫AIDS in this meeting a week ago. Whether or not anything took is of course not going show up in public for a while. But it seems impossible that Gates wasn’t tipped off by Mbeki, and HIV∫AIDS critics are excited by that.

“He has the passion and the experience to address the problem,” Mbeki was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association.

Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested billions of dollars to fight diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria, said he was “excited” to have the opportunity to take up the issue with Mbeki.

Gates is in South Africa to attend a Microsoft-sponsored forum of African government and business leaders on ways technology can improve competitiveness on the impoverished continent.

Bill Gates, Mbeki discuss Aids pandemic/Johannesburg, South Africa on 11 July 2006:

Bill Gates, Mbeki discuss Aids pandemic

Johannesburg, South Africa

12 July 2006 09:11

Microsoft chairperson Bill Gates flew to Pretoria on Tuesday (Jul 11) to discuss the Aids pandemic with President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki, who has drawn criticism for his sluggish response to the virus that has infected up to six million South Africans, told journalists that health is one of the “principle challenges” facing Africa and he wanted to discuss how Gates’s foundation could help.

“He has the passion and the experience to address the problem,” Mbeki was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association.

Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested billions of dollars to fight diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria, said he was “excited” to have the opportunity to take up the issue with Mbeki.

Gates is in South Africa to attend a Microsoft-sponsored forum of African government and business leaders on ways technology can improve competitiveness on the impoverished continent.

Gates told the conference on Tuesday that Microsoft is working with its partners to train more than 45-million people in Africa in information and communication technology by 2010. The company’s efforts include a new initiative with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to support the growth of tourism in developing countries.

“By providing more affordable access to technology and helping partners build strong local software economies, Microsoft can help create knowledge-based economies in Africa that generate new jobs and offer new opportunities for growth, prosperity and innovation,” he said.

Also attending the conference is former United States president Bill Clinton, who underlined the importance of technology in helping Africa achieve its development goals.

“Technology has expanded opportunities of millions of people around the world and — whether expanding access to information, education or health care or increasing the collective power of individuals — it has an important role to play in creating a thriving, competitive Africa,” Clinton said. — Sapa-AP

Our correspondent excitedly writes that he believes that a recent post on this site with encouraging views about Gates was by Thabo Mbeki himself, and says “If this was indeed Mbeki himself, we were very fortunate to have received any communications from him at all. This July 11th meeting is the single biggest and best news that we could get.”

That Gates hasn’t changed his tune in any way since doesn’t worry him. “Of course Gates has to do something to be seen as placating the mainstream paradigm. Gates is not a fool. He is not about to let himself be targeted at this point as a denialist or looney tune, or create a public uproar, as our forum is yet perceived in most of the public eye as the lunatic fringe, although this is changing very fast, and we have all played a big part in changing it. Gates is smart. Very smart, verry verry smart. Looks like we have got Buffet and Gates after all! I see light at the end of the tunnel, and I don’t believe it is an oncoming train this time. Maybe we owe Gates an apology. I will sleep better tonight.”

In line with this reasonable prediction that even if Gates did take a Mbeki tip off to heart he is going to conceal it in the short run, perhaps dissidents needn’t be disappointed that Gates’ only reported remark after the meeting was that “the country’s progress in rolling out anti-AIDS drugs as “disappointingly slow”.

South Africa: Mbeki And Gates Meet On Aids Issues

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

July 12, 2006

Posted to the web July 12, 2006

Johannesburg

Computer software billionaire Bill Gates met with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday in the capital, Pretoria, to discuss issues relating to HIV/AIDS.

Mbeki, who has drawn criticism for his sluggish response to the pandemic, admitted that health was one of the “principle challenges” facing South Africa and the continent as a whole, and said he wanted to discuss how Gates could help.

Gates described the country’s progress in rolling out anti-AIDS drugs as “disappointingly slow”.

The local Business Day newspaper quoted him as saying, “Everyone would like to see more patients on treatment … in this country a lot of the credit for progress goes to the activists.”

Gates said he was willing to share whatever ideas the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organisation, might have on improved HIV prevention, treatment and care.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

No doubt from now on HIV∫AIDS revisionists will be reading the tea leaves daily, however, with a strong bias in the optimistic direction. Hank Barnes, for example, noticed one possible sign buried today in the Washington Post piece about the selective giving of the Foundation. The first part of this suggested to him that just possibly Melinda might be backing away from antiretrovirals:

In explaining why the foundation has not invested heavily in delivering lifesaving antiretroviral drugs for AIDS, for example, Melinda Gates said that only governments have enough money to provide such costly treatments.

But no such luck, judging from the rest of the mention:

An exception is Botswana, a sparsely populated country where the Gates Foundation has helped pay for some such drugs.

“Our role has to be a catalyst to get government funding into programs,” she said recently during a stop in the tiny southern African country of Lesotho. “We don’t begin to have enough money to [buy] antiretrovirals for every person who needs them today in Africa.”

Largess With Clear Limits

In Africa and Elsewhere, Gates Foundation Takes Focused Approach to Giving

By Craig Timberg

Washington Post Foreign Service

Sunday, July 23, 2006; A12

KHAYELITSHA, South Africa — Bill and Melinda Gates came to the cramped tin shack of Nkosebaca Thingathinga one day this month to understand how the 61-year-old man had contracted tuberculosis — a major focus of research for the couple’s foundation — an astounding four times.

But as they asked the man about his sickness, Khanyisa Thingathinga, 20, announced she had something else to talk about. “Since you are here,” she said, “are you going to help our father? We are suffering. Are you going to help him have a right house?”

A “right house,” she later explained, would be one with cinder-block walls rather than flimsy sheets of metal, a roof that kept out the rain and more than three rooms to hold 10 people. Even better would be a way out of Khayelitsha, a crowded and disease-ridden slum near Cape Town.

Yet here in Khayelitsha, as in similarly impoverished areas throughout the world, the almost unfathomable wealth of the Gateses met the reality of unlimited need. And though they did give the Thingathingas money that will pay for new walls and a roof, there will be no new house, no new rooms, no new address as a result of their interaction with a foundation that defines itself not just by what it does, but by what it chooses not to do.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s richest charity, with resources that eventually will double to $60 billion because of a gift last month from famed investor Warren Buffett. The Gateses say they will also eventually give “the bulk” of the rest of their wealth, estimated at more than $40 billion, to the foundation. [Both Melinda Gates and Buffett are on the board of The Washington Post Co.]

Despite its unprecedented resources, the foundation tends to avoid the broad-based approach of traditional aid programs, putting relatively little money into such popular and immediate causes as job training, road building, schooling African children, easing famines or — aside from rare cases such as the Thingathingas — improving housing.

Even in the sphere of global public health, the foundation’s top focus, there are many things it avoids in favor of the development of potentially powerful new vaccines and drugs targeting the leading maladies in the poorest parts of the world.

Some of these are well-known — AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis. Some are obscure — Guinea worm, trypanosomiasis and cysticercosis, all parasitic diseases. But the more than $5 billion in grants devoted to global health so far reveal a striking faith in the transformative power of new technologies — a fact perhaps not surprising for a foundation created by Bill Gates, who revolutionized the computing world with a company started in a dorm room.

In explaining why the foundation has not invested heavily in delivering lifesaving antiretroviral drugs for AIDS, for example, Melinda Gates said that only governments have enough money to provide such costly treatments. An exception is Botswana, a sparsely populated country where the Gates Foundation has helped pay for some such drugs.

“Our role has to be a catalyst to get government funding into programs,” she said recently during a stop in the tiny southern African country of Lesotho. “We don’t begin to have enough money to [buy] antiretrovirals for every person who needs them today in Africa.”

The Gateses cut a striking image as they walked through Khayelitsha. With Bill Gates, 50, in a golfing shirt and baseball cap, and Melinda Gates, 41, in a khaki skirt and a navy blue top, they peered into the windows of dilapidated shops, squeezed past rusty shacks and attempted to skip over piles of dog waste. They chatted with many of the residents they came across, inquiring about their lives and the illnesses that diminish them.

Asked later that day why he was personally visiting Africa to investigate the foundation’s work instead of just sending staffers, Bill Gates said: “I don’t do that with software. Why would I do that with this?”

Like Bill Gates himself, the foundation has a taste for gee-whiz technology. Last year, despite only modest investments in ongoing food crises, it gave $36.8 million to researchers working to put more nutrients in such staple foods as cassavas, bananas, sorghum and rice. That same day, it gave $37.8 million to research ways to make vaccines that can be inhaled rather than injected. And $5 million went to learning how to keep malaria-spreading mosquitoes from smelling — and hence finding and biting — potential victims.

Officials point out that the foundation reflects Melinda Gates’s personality at least as much as her husband’s. The list of grants reveals a persistent attention to women’s issues, with major spending on reproductive health and cervical cancer. The Gateses, on their recent visit, each singled out foundation-funded research into vaginal microbicides, which they hope will give women new power to protect themselves against AIDS, as key to curbing the epidemic.

“If I had a magic bullet to accelerate something,” Bill Gates said during an interview, “it would be the microbicide.”

At a health clinic in Khayelitsha, Eric Goemaere of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said that the Gates Foundation should concentrate more on solving immediate problems, such as the devastating flight of doctors and nurses to rich countries, rather than focusing primarily on research whose results lie in the distant future. Doctors Without Borders was among the first groups to bring antiretrovirals to poor Africans, moving several steps ahead of most governments on the continent.

“You shouldn’t wait for a vaccine,” Goemaere said.

The Gates Foundation has made some major investments in projects with immediate impact, including more than $900 million — an amount exceeding the sum contributed by all the world’s governments combined — on the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. It has delivered vaccines to millions of poor children.

But the Gates-funded alliance has struggled in its efforts to accelerate the widespread deployment of potentially lifesaving vaccines against varieties of pneumonia and diarrhea. Delays in production and distribution have pushed back intended release dates in poor countries by several years.

Researcher Mary Moran, who last year co-wrote a London School of Economics report on the development of drugs targeting diseases mainly affecting the poor, said the Gates Foundation had taken the lead in reviving the field with its grants.

Moran, speaking from Sydney, predicted that six or seven major new drugs for malaria and tuberculosis are likely to become available by 2010, thanks to Gates money. Several vaccines, though less certain, may become available in the years soon after that, she said.

“The amount of money they have will not begin to touch the world’s problems. So high-risk, high-return probably suits their mind-set,” she said. “And no one else will do it.”

Yet she warned that the foundation’s reluctance to get involved in the complicated realm of providing public health care in Africa — with its high costs, mixed results and distracting politics — could eventually limit its power to improve the health of the world’s poor.

“That’s the problem with a technology-led solution. There’s a lot of medicines out there that aren’t used. There’s only so far they can go,” Moran said, referring to the Gateses. “Then they need the public health partners.”

© 2006 The Washington Post Company.

Very little has changed so far, it seems, in the Gateses stance towards AIDS:

The Gateses, on their recent visit, each singled out foundation-funded research into vaginal microbicides, which they hope will give women new power to protect themselves against AIDS, as key to curbing the epidemic.

“If I had a magic bullet to accelerate something,” Bill Gates said during an interview, “it would be the microbicide.”

The trouble is that their personal visits to suffering villagers are not going to tell them anything about who’s right or wrong in HIV∫AIDS treatment, given that wholesale reinterpretation of symptoms and treatment effects which is HIV∫AIDS.

The Gateses cut a striking image as they walked through Khayelitsha. With Bill Gates, 50, in a golfing shirt and baseball cap, and Melinda Gates, 41, in a khaki skirt and a navy blue top, they peered into the windows of dilapidated shops, squeezed past rusty shacks and attempted to skip over piles of dog waste. They chatted with many of the residents they came across, inquiring about their lives and the illnesses that diminish them.

Asked later that day why he was personally visiting Africa to investigate the foundation’s work instead of just sending staffers, Bill Gates said: “I don’t do that with software. Why would I do that with this?”

Someone has to tell them that in science, a true picture doesn’t emerge from anecdote. In fact, one of the biggest flaws in the HIV∫AIDS picture in Africa is that most people now involved are most convinced by the sudden quick improvement they see in very ill patients when they are given the current drugs.

They view this as proof of the correctness of the theory that HIV is causing all the illnesses now labeled HIV∫AIDS in Africa. But the literature gives other reasons, much more in line with traditional mainstream science.

But the Gateses, as they wander kindly through squalor manfully resisting the temptation to do too much, will be wearing the spectacles that these firm believers will give them, amd these spectacles will frame everything the Gateses see.

How to be super rich, virtuous, and foolish

July 20th, 2006

Gates proves Buffett’s handover misguided with his first move

Billions down the same rathole, with no independent research in view

“This is as much of a win-win as I have seen for a long time”, said Charlie Rose three weeks ago, as he proudly hosted Bill and Melinda Gates and their new partner in charity, Warren Buffett, on his show.

In the aftermath of Buffett’s announcement that he would hand over $31 billion to the Gates Foundation, the whole world was smiling and laughing, it seemed, right along with these wonderfully generous and admirable people in their happy backslapping session. Everyone involved felt pleased, and virtuous, and comfortable, and relaxed, and jolly.

Well, though we more or less agreed in principle with this party spirit it seemed to us that there was one rather large black fly in the ointment, so to speak. That is, if there was anything misguided in the very conventional policies of disbursing funds at the Gates Foundation, wouldn’t this move double the error?

Now we have Gate’s first move after receiving Buffett’s largesse to add to his own giveaway, and it confirms our worst fears. Quite frankly, we now find the self-congratulatory laughter of the supine Rose and his new megarich buddies even more nauseating than it was at the time.

Wait a minute, you are saying, how could one possibly object to Buffett handing over $31 billion to make the Gates charity more than $60 billion, when it is all aimed at the world’s poor, sick and starving?

Because today (Thu Jul 20) Larry Altman informs us that Gates and Melinda have handed over $287 million for one of the most useless and silly boondoggles in the history of medicine, the search for an HIV∫AIDS vaccine.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded more than a quarter of a billion dollars on Wednesday to researchers in 19 countries to speed the lagging development of an H.I.V. vaccine.

The grants, totaling $287 million, are the largest private investment in making such a vaccine, the foundation said. They represent a significant shift in emphasis, to large-scale collaborative projects instead of small teams of researchers working independently.

The money will be given over five years to 16 scientific teams, including two New York groups. The scientists applied for the grants before Warren E. Buffett announced last month that he was giving $31 billion to the Gates Foundation.

Gates to Finance H.I.V. Vaccine Search (pA16)

The New York Times

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July 20, 2006

Gateses to Finance H.I.V. Vaccine Search

By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN

SEATTLE, July 19 — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded more than a quarter of a billion dollars on Wednesday to researchers in 19 countries to speed the lagging development of an H.I.V. vaccine.

The grants, totaling $287 million, are the largest private investment in making such a vaccine, the foundation said. They represent a significant shift in emphasis, to large-scale collaborative projects instead of small teams of researchers working independently.

The money will be given over five years to 16 scientific teams, including two New York groups. The scientists applied for the grants before Warren E. Buffett announced last month that he was giving $31 billion to the Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation has made development of an effective vaccine against H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, a major goal, and the new grants bring to $528 million the foundation’s investment for this purpose. By contrast, the National Institutes of Health has spent $3.4 billion since the 1980’s to develop a vaccine.

A vaccine to fight H.I.V., the human immunodeficiency virus, is the best hope to control the AIDS epidemic, health officials and experts say. But that hope has been frustrated again and again.

In 1984, Margaret M. Heckler, President Ronald Reagan’s health and human services secretary, and Dr. Robert Gallo, a discoverer of the virus, predicted an H.I.V. vaccine by 1986.

Although more than 30 experimental H.I.V. vaccines have been tested in people, only one has completed full-scale testing. That vaccine, Aidsvax, made by VaxGen, failed in a large trial that ended in 2003.

Until now, most H.I.V. vaccine research has been conducted by small independent teams. But the new grants are being structured to encourage the 165 scientists receiving them to join forces. The goal is to overcome major immunologic and other scientific hurdles that hinder development of such a vaccine.

The body can invoke two types of immune reactions to defend against dangerous infectious agents.

One way is to produce neutralizing antibodies, which are proteins that bind like a lock and key to areas on the infectious agent.

A second way, cellular immunity, is to produce T-cells that seek and destroy infected cells.

Most licensed vaccines work by stimulating the body to make neutralizing antibodies. But experimental H.I.V. vaccines have failed to produce such antibodies. The virus’s propensity to mutate and produce different genetic subtypes will require an effective vaccine to produce antibodies that can neutralize a wide range of strains.

The foundation said an effective vaccine might also have to stimulate T-cell production. Six grants will focus on ways to develop cellular immunity.

Five grants will go to identifying new techniques to develop novel vaccines that produce neutralizing antibodies.

The remaining five grants are for creating central laboratories and information analysis facilities so that all the grant recipients can openly share data and develop standardized ways to compare their findings. Lack of such standardized tools hampers H.I.V. vaccine research, the foundation said.

A team led by Susan Zolla-Pazner, an immunologist at New York University, will receive $8.4 million to investigate the use of a specific area of the outer coat of the virus, known as the V3 region. The aim will be to develop neutralizing antibodies that attack a broad range of H.I.V. strains.

Another team led by Dr. David Ho of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in Manhattan will receive $24.7 million to design experimental H.I.V. vaccines that bind to dendritic cells. These immune cells help strengthen production of antibodies and cellular immunity.

An expensive wild goose chase

That stricture is a fair description, because the best vaccination against HIV is clearly HIV itself. Inject someone with HIV, and the body will soon manufacture enough antibodies to reduce the multiplying viremia all the way back down to negligible levels.

That is why it is not a surprise that efforts to develop an HIV vaccine haven’t worked out too well, since anyone who is HIV positive has already been vaccinated against HIV.

Although more than 30 experimental H.I.V. vaccines have been tested in people, only one has completed full-scale testing. That vaccine, Aidsvax, made by VaxGen, failed in a large trial that ended in 2003.

(Apparently however our idea of using HIV as a vaccine against itself strikes even the leaders of HIV∫AIDS in whom we have so much confidence as so blatantly absurd that it might be a little risky to suggest themselves, so they haven’t yet done so. But we predict that in the future HIV will be somehow eased into this role, perhaps as a variation which is guaranteed not to cause AIDS, which should be easy to arrange, given that the evidence to date that any HIV does cause AIDS is still zero after all these years.

And after all, as we have noted earlier, HIV was in fact shown by Gallo in one of his four original papers prima facie to act against the onset of AIDS, since he found more of it in pre-AIDS patient blood than in blood from patients with AIDS. Apparently, the more HIV in one’s blood the less likely one was to get AIDS. Hmmm. Perhaps we should stop writing this column long enough to get over to the patent office ourselves.)

Anyhow this is why the HIV test is for antibodies, not for the virus. Anyone who tests positive for HIV is, as you know, testing positive only for HIV antibodies, of which he or she is undoubtedly full, and not for the virus, which if sought out by researchers will in the years pre-AIDS (if the immune system is functioning normally) be present in such negligible quantities that PCR has to be used to tease it from a blood sample. In other words, so negligible that a method has to be used powerful enough to detect a virus particle as hard to find as a pin in a wheat field.

Of course, this basic truth is veiled by the authorities in HIV∫AIDS at every turn. Closely inspect the Altman item and you will find the current diversionary tactic of suggesting that the body’s defenses could be boosted in a second way, by multiplying CD4 cells.

The body can invoke two types of immune reactions to defend against dangerous infectious agents.

One way is to produce neutralizing antibodies, which are proteins that bind like a lock and key to areas on the infectious agent.

A second way, cellular immunity, is to produce T-cells that seek and destroy infected cells.

Most licensed vaccines work by stimulating the body to make neutralizing antibodies. But experimental H.I.V. vaccines have failed to produce such antibodies. The virus’s propensity to mutate and produce different genetic subtypes will require an effective vaccine to produce antibodies that can neutralize a wide range of strains.

The foundation said an effective vaccine might also have to stimulate T-cell production. Six grants will focus on ways to develop cellular immunity.

Five grants will go to identifying new techniques to develop novel vaccines that produce neutralizing antibodies.

The remaining five grants are for creating central laboratories and information analysis facilities.

What all this seems to overlook is the fact that no one at the top of HIV∫AIDS except Anthony Fauci (and Bob Gallo, now known, since he publicly listed 56 mistaken objections to the Harper’s piece in March, for his lack of familiarity with the up-to-date science in his field) is saying any longer that HIV kills T cells either directly or through any auto immune route. How T cells are removed by HIV remains an unsolved mystery. Occam’s Razor (and a host of other data) suggests that HIV is not the cuplrit.

In fact, with dreary predictability and the usual neglect of the literature and of logic (not to mention plain common sense) a big slice of the funds will go to NYU for “developing neutralizing antibodies” and a bigger slice to the discredited Time Magazine cover hero of HIV∫AIDS, the charming David Ho, to “design experimental H.I.V. vaccines.”

A team led by Susan Zolla-Pazner, an immunologist at New York University, will receive $8.4 million to investigate the use of a specific area of the outer coat of the virus, known as the V3 region. The aim will be to develop neutralizing antibodies that attack a broad range of H.I.V. strains.

Another team led by Dr. David Ho of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in Manhattan will receive $24.7 million to design experimental H.I.V. vaccines that bind to dendritic cells. These immune cells help strengthen production of antibodies and cellular immunity.

In fact as noted, it is clear there is no sense in working towards a vaccine for HIV, even if it was a dangerous item in some mysterious and yet unfathomed way (no sign of it yet). The immune system already despatches it as well as any vaccine might. So it is hardly a surprise that the effort to date to find a vaccine has had no luck at all to date:

Although more than 30 experimental H.I.V. vaccines have been tested in people, only one has completed full-scale testing. That vaccine, Aidsvax, made by VaxGen, failed in a large trial that ended in 2003.

And indeed this is why the time estimated to bring the effort to develop a vaccine has stretched from two years (1984) to ten or twenty years, or (according to Gallo), “maybe never”.

Advisers from the priesthood

But has anyone troubled to inform Gates or Melinda of the relevant facts which explain why this is a wild goose chase and shouldn’t be funded? We can be sure that they haven’t. One reason is that the HIV∫AIDS specialist of their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is none other than Helene Gayle, who joined in 2001 from 17 straight years running HIV∫AIDS matters at the CDC:

Gayle’s 17-year career at CDC began in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, and has spanned 10 different appointments. She counts among her successes at CDC the launch of a global AIDS program to develop prevention, care and infrastructure for HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis in 14 countries in Africa and Asia.

She sees her move to the Gates Foundation as coming at the right time: “This is a unique opportunity at a unique moment in the history of the global epidemic, where an organization that has made such an extraordinary commitment to global health can really make a huge difference in the response to the global HIV epidemic.” She adds, “I think I can further enhance the very strong foundation they already have in HIV.” Gayle’s role as Senior Advisor for HIV/AIDS will include “bringing more players to the table,” and promoting the battle against HIV/AIDS in both the public and private sectors.

Gates Foundation hires CDC AIDS boss, by Myrna Watanabe

The head of their Global Health Project is also unlikely to tell them anything new.Tadataka Yamada, M.D.comes straight from the big drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, where he was chairman of research and development and a member of the board of directors, positions he previously held at SmithKline Beecham.

We can be sure Dr Yamada is hardly going to introduce the idea that maybe he had led GlaxoSmithKline down the garden path and didn’t want to make the same mistake with Gates. Does a leopard change his spots? Not at that salary level. You don’t climb K-2 and then say at the top, Oh sorry, wrong mountain.

And how about their chief scientific advisor, none other than Dr Harold Varmus, Nobel winner for an achievement which even he seems to think of doubtful value, judging from his autobiographical three lectures at the New York Public Library.

Dr. Harold E. Varmus, president of the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the foundation could fight some of the major preventable causes of death in poor countries: cigarettes, alcohol abuse and automobile injuries.

Dr. Varmus was the chief scientific adviser for the Grand Challenges in Global Health, a sort of contest in which Mr. Gates gave out $437 million to teams pursuing exotic goals like vaccines that can be inhaled or chemicals that can knock out mosquitoes’ sense of smell. He said his advisory committee particularly wished it could make grants for water purification and for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer that have loomed larger in the poor world as people live longer.

Anyhow, the HIV∫AIDS crowd must be delighted as their hold on Gates money gets stronger by the year. It is just as Bill and Melinda promised on Charlie Rose. Their good luck would double. “We see it as doubling the impact on diseases we have been working on” said Melinda. “We’ve been making good progress and we think our impact can more than double” said Gates, looking fresh in a dark suit, a pale blue shirt and some sort of blue tie with dotted symbols.

Everything was in place, with the fight against HIV uppermost in Melinda and Bill’s minds. At the New York Public Library, both made this clear. What is evident is that the HIV∫AIDS crowd has scored a direct hit with their latest strategy of emphasizing that women are the ones most threatened around the world.

Her “fondest dream,” Mrs. Gates said, is an AIDS vaccine, something scientists have been pursuing since the 1980’s and which she admitted could take an additional 20 years. A stopgap measure, she said, could be a microbicide: an undetectable protective gel that women could insert before sex.

And on Rose, Melinda talked of the need to expand the supply of antiretrovirals to the poor world and Gates confidently listed the top disease priorities for children around the world as “AIDS, TB, Malaria.”

Meanwhile, anyone familiar with the true state of internal science politics these days, not just in HIV∫AIDS where the censorship of review is most blatant, can only find the whole performance of this unimaginative, wildly powerful trio depressing. But at least the Gates have some excuse for it, since they probably have had little exposure to the research academy or to reformist views in their lives other than the unsuccessful prosecution of Microsoft as a robber baron monopoly, which all users of PCs must have joined in mentally as they struggled with their operating systems before the era of XP.

Buffett on the other hand has surely little excuse for his cheerful handoff of so much potential science and social funding to a close friend in total blindness to the need for alternative views in research driven by paradigm politics. If there is anyone who should realize the value of a second opinion in any arena where the true facts are not on the front page it is Warren Buffett, who has made his fortune betting against the market and winning.

But he doesn’t have the appetite for listening to too many conflicting opinions, it is clear.

Bill Gates was a quicker study on new topics, like medicine, that he would have to master, Mr. Buffett said, and added: “I wouldn’t want to listen to as many people with as many different opinions as they do.”

This way Bill and Melinda can do the unpleasant job of divining the truth amid the cacophony, Buffett is saying – but isn’t this an admission that there are always competing demands and views and if Buffett had captained his own charity ship he might have escaped the establishment wisdom that seems to grip the Gates’s to the exclusion of any other?

He really isn’t interested in the work at all. As he told Rose,

They can use me as a sounding board. Anytime I can be of help, fine. But I won’t get involved in their investments. I’ve seen what they are interested in. They are a couple of outstanding minds, and passionate.

Clearly there was no hope of getting to Buffett and changing his mind short of a plane crash, he made all too clear. “When I decide something, that is it.” Only if they go down in a plane he will take a fresh look, he said. “These are two extraordinarily talented people applying themselves big time to the problems of the world.”

One can only marvel at the ability of riches to make anyone they bless absolutely confident they know best, without them or anyone else ever considering that their advisors may be wholly one sided purveyors of conventional wisdom, when they are drawn exclusively from the usual club membership in top official and professional positions in a field, as Gates’ are.

This seems to be true even though both megarich men made a bow in the direction of fallibility:

Later in the exchange, which was in front of 200 philanthropy executives, scientists, students and a few reporters, Mr. Gates got in his own reflection on the partnership. “It’s scary,” he said. “If I make a mistake with my own money, it isn’t as big as making a mistake with Warren’s money.”

To which Mr. Buffett replied: “I won’t grade you more often than daily.”

Somehow we don’t think this is an invitation to get in touch and present a different view of HIV∫AIDS, though.

The disgrace of funding tyranny

It seems to us that one of the greatest scandals in science today is the lack of alternative funding even for remarkably qualified and credentialed paradigm challengers such as Peter Duesberg, whose leadership in cancer research is in danger of collapse month by month for lack of basic funding in an era when the Wall Street Journal counts six million millionaires.

How come so many of these potential patrons ignore his predicament that still only one now remains, the remarkable Bob Leppo of San Franscisco? A Stanford educated investor and start up angel, Leppo supports Duesberg for several reasons, none of which hinge on him making up his own mind on the vexed question of whether HIV∫AIDS makes any scientific sense. Leppo is a sturdy libertarian, and strongly objects to the censorship, ostracism and funding strangulation which have redounded onto Duesberg for his independent view. He also believes in Duesberg personally not only as a very fine scientist but also as an idealist with old school values, where science, scholarship and public spirit come before surrender to falsehood for personal gain.

It seems possible that such values may not be as widely appreciated even among Leppo’s peers as one might think. Duesberg’s patron has introduced Duesberg to several gatherings of his fellow investors over the years, many of whom were quite capable of responding to the social injustice and potential loss of valuable scientific research that the ongoing crisis in Duesberg’s professional career represents.

Amazingly enough, none have responded, and Leppo is at a loss to explain why, since the meetings were otherwise a success. They each have their own reasons, he has concluded. He recently has offered on the Web to match dollar for dollar any assistance people want to offer Duesberg, however, and there has been one taker at the $25,000 level. That represents one quarter of Duesberg’s minimum lab costs each year.

We conclude that this is the effect of the media and meeting blackout of Duesberg’s professional review of the paradigm imposed by Anthony Fauci of NIAID and colleagues. Censorship in the media has a very powerful effect in an era where it is hard to get any topic attended to, although one that means life or death for many survives it better than most. But the rich know as little about science as any other group of outsiders, and depend as much on friends, hearsay and credentials. Censorship probably veils the truth from them very effectively, prejudicing them even if they meet Duesberg in person recommended by a peer.

As you can see, there is much in this side by side comparison of Bill, Melinda and Warren’s $60 billion moneypile, and the blocking of what may be society’s path to the cure of cancer for the need of a mere $100,000, to disgust the thoughtful reader. We won’t even go into the financial pressures imposed on independent journalists who flout the NIH censorship, which can only be survived by those who find some other way of making a living.

Warren Buffett had the chance to do something to change the picture overnight, and free scientists and journalists from this tyranny. None of his advisors had the intelligence or the understanding to advise him correctly, it appears. So much for the prospects of private funding to rescue the situation in this and other fields. Science as banana republic continues undisturbed.

(show)

June 27, 2006

Buffett’s Billions Will Aid Fight Against Disease

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. and RICK LYMAN

Warren E. Buffett’s $31 billion gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help the foundation pursue its longstanding goal of curing the globe’s most fatal diseases, Mr. Gates said yesterday, along with improving American education.

The foundation hopes to use the enormous gift, among other things, to find a vaccine for AIDS, Mrs. Gates said. And Mr. Gates went further, saying that while he might be “overly optimistic,” he believed there was a real shot at finding cures for the 20 leading fatal diseases, as well as ensuring that every American has a chance at a decent education.

“Can that happen in our lifetime?” Mr. Gates said, sitting next to Mr. Buffett at the New York Public Library, where the gift was formally announced after news of it broke on Sunday. “I’ll be optimistic and say, Absolutely.”

But Mr. Gates acknowledged that spending the money effectively would be difficult. The scientific tasks the foundation has set for itself in fields like malaria and tuberculosis take time as well as money, because they require years of laboratory work followed by years of clinical trials, sometimes ending fruitlessly. Improving American education — once better ideas have been found — can take just as long.

“It’s incredibly difficult to give this much money away well,” said Jean Strouse, a biographer who has compiled an oral history project on the Gates Foundation. “And giving it away to people who can use it well, especially in places where poverty is so overwhelming, where there’s not much real infrastructure.”

Both Mr. Buffett, who will join the foundation’s leadership, and the Gateses acknowledged as much.

“In the last few months we have begun to really talk about and try to come up with a plan for that,” Mrs. Gates said.

They must, for instance, improve their dialogue with the governments of poor nations to make sure that vaccines get down to the people who need them.

Mr. Buffett, for his part, said he saw no need to tinker with the foundation’s essential goal: improving the lot of poor people elsewhere in the world without regard to their color, religion or other differences.

Describing his own way of choosing companies to invest in, Mr. Buffett, one of history’s most successful investors, said, “I’ve learned to adapt to other managers” and then jokingly compared the process to picking a spouse. “It’s not a good idea to marry one expecting them to change,” he said.

Mrs. Gates was a Microsoft executive when she married Mr. Gates when he was 38 and she was 29. Upon hearing Mr. Buffett’s remark, Mr. Gates leaned back on his stool with a big sheepish grin as his wife glanced knowingly at him.

Then Mr. Buffett said, “I’m happy with the ones I’m marrying here.”

Later in the exchange, which was in front of 200 philanthropy executives, scientists, students and a few reporters, Mr. Gates got in his own reflection on the partnership. “It’s scary,” he said. “If I make a mistake with my own money, it isn’t as big as making a mistake with Warren’s money.”

To which Mr. Buffett replied: “I won’t grade you more often than daily.”

Mr. Buffett is giving away about 85 percent of his fortune, most of it to the Gates foundation. The gift, representing the current value of 10 million Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway, the insurance conglomerate he formed nearly 50 years ago, will nearly double the wealth of the Gates Foundation, which was already the world’s biggest, at almost $30 billion. The stock will be transferred to the foundation in increments over many years; the first transfer will be half a million shares this year, worth about $1.5 billion.

Although the money will not change the foundation’s larger goals, Mrs. Gates mentioned yesterday that it had been moving quietly for the last 18 months into microlending, which is the granting of small loans to poor people so they can start small businesses. A microloan of less than $50 might finance, for example, the purchase of a loom or a set of bicycle repair tools.

Though he is also leaving billions to separate foundations for his children, Mr. Buffett said he felt he was “not cut out” to be a philanthropist like the Gateses and preferred to remain at the helm of his company.

“They’ll spend more time and energy on it,” he said. “I’m having so much fun doing what I do, and I think they’ll be more able to accept any mistakes they made than I would if I made them.”

Bill Gates was a quicker study on new topics, like medicine, that he would have to master, Mr. Buffett said, and added: “I wouldn’t want to listen to as many people with as many different opinions as they do.”

Rather than spend every cent on fruitlessly trying to rebuild broken health care systems, the Gates Foundation follows a pattern of spending generously to chase solutions like a malaria vaccine. It also buys supplies, like vaccines or mosquito nets, but then tries to get rich countries to match its donations and poor countries to get organized well enough to distribute the goods.

Similarly, in education, it creates model schools that public school systems can use as examples, rather than spending endlessly to pay the expenses of every impoverished American school district.

Her “fondest dream,” Mrs. Gates said, is an AIDS vaccine, something scientists have been pursuing since the 1980’s and which she admitted could take an additional 20 years. A stopgap measure, she said, could be a microbicide: an undetectable protective gel that women could insert before sex.

Mr. Gates said he wanted to use improved global health as a base upon which to build what he called “the virtuous cycle” of longer lifetimes, jobs, markets, infrastructure, tax bases and all the other steps that lift poor countries out of poverty.

Dr. Richard Klausner, a former director of the National Cancer Institute and the Gates Foundation’s former head of global health, said that besides microlending he also would not be surprised if the foundation followed the Rockefeller Foundation’s example in seeking higher-yield, drought-resistant seeds for poor farmers.

Dr. Harold E. Varmus, president of the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the foundation could fight some of the major preventable causes of death in poor countries: cigarettes, alcohol abuse and automobile injuries.

Dr. Varmus was the chief scientific adviser for the Grand Challenges in Global Health, a sort of contest in which Mr. Gates gave out $437 million to teams pursuing exotic goals like vaccines that can be inhaled or chemicals that can knock out mosquitoes’ sense of smell. He said his advisory committee particularly wished it could make grants for water purification and for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer that have loomed larger in the poor world as people live longer.

Asked if a richer Gates Foundation could divert scientists from other fields, Dr. Varmus said he was “more concerned with using the scientific horsepower we’ve already developed.”

Noting that the National Institutes of Health give out $28 billion a year — ten times as much as even the enriched Gates Foundation will — he said its inflation-adjusted budget has been shrinking.

Some aid recipients also worry that the Gates-Buffett fortune will let other donors, including the American government, feel that they can back away from public health. That would be disastrous for the world’s poor, they said, since the foundation is only one stream in a vast river. If anyone does back away, Dr. Klausner said “it’s because they were looking for an excuse, not because there’s no need.”

Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, a nonpartisan coalition that represents charities and foundations, said she expected the Buffett money to give the Gates Foundation more power.

“They haven’t served multiple programs,” Ms. Aviv said. “They’ve been much more generous in a few. This gives them leveraging opportunities.”

Mr. Buffett said yesterday that he was a student of the same philanthropists that Mr. Gates modeled himself on: the oilman John D. Rockefeller; the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie; Irene Diamond, the widow of the real estate developer Aaron Diamond; and Joan Kroc, the widow of Ray Kroc, who founded McDonald’s.

Mr. Buffett is also famous for loving efficiency. He runs a company with 200,000 employees from an Omaha headquarters with fewer than 20 employees. The Gates Foundation, in Seattle, has about 300.

Mr. Buffett was scathing yesterday in describing his feelings about estate taxes, which the Bush administration is trying to kill. The ability of rich men to pass on “dynastic wealth” to their grandchildren is offensive to the American tradition of meritocracy, he said.

He gets particularly upset at his country club, he said, hearing members complain about welfare mothers getting food stamps “while they are trying to leave their children a more-than-lifetime-supply of food stamps and are substituting a trust officer for a welfare officer.”

To widespread applause, he smiled and asked: “Is there anyone I forgot to insult?”

K. C. Cole explains why mainstream editors can’t handle science

July 19th, 2006

– they are too smart to want to feel dumb

But shouldn’t K.C., and the editors of the CJR, question their own mainstream assumptions too?

Ignorant CJR editorial against Harper’s an example

No good writer fails to flatter editors, but K. C. Cole has come up with an unusually clever way of explaining why difficult science topics don’t easily get into “newspapers and other major periodicals”, such as the New Yorker.

It is because editors are “the smartest guys in the room” and don’t like to feel dumb:

Editors, however, seem to absorb difficulty differently. If they don’t understand something, they often think it can’t be right — or that it’s not worth writing about. Either the writers aren’t being clear (which, of course, may be the case), or the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about (in some cases, a given).

Why the difference? My theory is that editors of newspapers and other major periodicals are not just ordinary folk. They tend to be very accomplished people. They’re used to being the smartest guys in the room. So science makes them squirm. And because they can’t bear to feel dumb, science coverage suffers.

On close examination this breezy piece of superficially persuasive comment seems at least partly questionable, however.

In the first place, it is always possible that editors are smart, and hate to look dumb, but isn’t hating to look dumb a sign of lack of intelligence? We have to say that we have never noticed any intelligent person of any kind worry about being dumb. If anything, it’s the dumb question that they find most interesting to explore such as, Is HIV the true cause of AIDS?

No, it’s not that editors aren’t smart enough to understand science. Actually, it’s the opposite: they’re too accustomed to being smart, and thus can’t deal with the fact that they don’t understand it. And because they’re uncomfortable feeling confused, readers are left in the dark about a universe of research that eludes easy explanation.

I was discussing this problem recently with a colleague who had been beating his head against the wall for months trying to get a story about a mysterious “dark force” in cosmology past editors at The New Yorker: “They kept saying they didn’t understand it!” he complained. Well, of course they didn’t understand it. Nobody understands it. That’s precisely what makes it so interesting.

Well, why shouldn’t editors ask science writers to make it clear what they are saying, even if the material itself is not clearly worked out by the scientists themselves? That is what editors and writers are for, as far as we are concerned.

In fact it is the only thing editors are for, shaping and editing to elucidate, not to change the nature of the piece, which they may want to do for political reasons, not always good ones.

As the gatekeepers of science publishing, editors have much to answer for in the last twenty years of not covering the flaws of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm, for example, in their conscious or unconscious acquiescence with the censorship of the NIAID of that area.

The egregious action of the New York Times recently in publishing the violent diatribe of Cornell’s John Moore against the critics of that paradigm, Deadly Quackery, and ignoring any replies, is the latest example of editors doing the not-even-secret censor’s bidding in that area instead of doing their job, which is to inform their readers fully.

But that’s another story.

CJR blots copybook once again

Maybe it’s just the heatwave in Manhattan, but it seems to us there is something leaden about this whole piece, which may be the fault of the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review, which has to be the most analytically challenged, committee flavored, middle brow review of journalism in the country, even if it didn’t print knee jerk diatribes against HIV∫AIDS critics to please its mentors on the Times.

This editorial is what we are referring to, one which all informed readers will have to acknowledge as … “imbecilic”:

Under Lapham, Harper’s has made great sport of ridiculing all manner of establishment thinking, so publishing Farber is not entirely out of character. What is out of character, especially in light of Lapham’s routine swipes at his brethren in the press for what he sees as their infuriating weakness for stenography and intellectual dishonesty, is that Farber was allowed to argue her cause without wrestling — even a little bit — with the mountain of scientific evidence to the contrary. If someone unschooled in the AIDS debate were to read the piece, he would assume that Duesberg is the only right-thinking man in the scientific community. Yet, as far back as 1994, the journal Science published a thorough investigation of Duesberg’s claims and found the evidence for them unpersuasive. Many of Duesberg’s so-called supporters quoted in that investigation said they did not so much believe in his ideas as in his right to dissent.

Farber, too, is entitled to dissent. But when dissent morphs into an “imbecile vision in the desert,” as it does in her Harper’s article, then the editors owe their readers the courtesy of being a little less civil, a little less silent.

Thus out of youthful ignorance and disrespect the editors of Harper’s, instead of gaining credit for their signal achievement in being the first to break ranks from the censorship induced conformity of the mainstream press in HIV∫AIDS science are subjected to mice chewing their cheese, in the form of some callow student untutored in the ways of the modern scientist naively assuming that they are automatically wrong to challenge the “mountain of evidence” in question, not to mention a Science article by Jon Cohen (whose journalistic incompetence was exposed by Serge Lang), when even the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review would know better than to print such an article as Celia’s – God wish they ever would ever have the honor – without looking into its assertions pretty thoroughly.

That the editors of Harper’s maintained their silence in the face of this indictment is a satisfying enough comment on its worth.

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Editorial

On Context

AIDS

Lewis Lapham, who recently stepped down as editor of Harper’s magazine after twenty-eight years, has long displayed a special disdain for the mainstream press. In the May 2005 issue, he wrote: “Far from being scornful of the messages blown through the trumpets of doom, the news media make a show of their civility and a virtue of their silence; here to please and not to think; every American free to worship the reflection of his or her own fear; no superstition more deserving than another, no imbecile vision in the desert that can’t be sold to a talk show, a circus, or the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.”

Lapham was referring to the press’s context-free rendering of the National Association of Evangelicals’ plan to inject its faith even deeper into American politics. His comments apply just as easily to his own magazine’s handling of Celia Farber’s piece on AIDS in its March 2006 issue. For the last fifteen years, Farber has been among the loudest proponents of the notion, put forth primarily by a lone virologist, Peter Duesberg, that the HIV virus does not cause AIDS. In her Harper’s piece, Farber executes a jarring bait-and-switch, devoting most of the first three-quarters of her fifteen-page article to a well-reported examination of a horribly botched AIDS drug trial in Uganda, before veering off into her well-worn rant about how conventional wisdom on AIDS is the product of a conspiracy between greedy scientists and their benefactors, the pharmaceutical companies.

Under Lapham, Harper’s has made great sport of ridiculing all manner of establishment thinking, so publishing Farber is not entirely out of character. What is out of character, especially in light of Lapham’s routine swipes at his brethren in the press for what he sees as their infuriating weakness for stenography and intellectual dishonesty, is that Farber was allowed to argue her cause without wrestling — even a little bit — with the mountain of scientific evidence to the contrary. If someone unschooled in the AIDS debate were to read the piece, he would assume that Duesberg is the only right-thinking man in the scientific community. Yet, as far back as 1994, the journal Science published a thorough investigation of Duesberg’s claims and found the evidence for them unpersuasive. Many of Duesberg’s so-called supporters quoted in that investigation said they did not so much believe in his ideas as in his right to dissent.

Farber, too, is entitled to dissent. But when dissent morphs into an “imbecile vision in the desert,” as it does in her Harper’s article, then the editors owe their readers the courtesy of being a little less civil, a little less silent.

The CJR’s coverage of HIV∫AIDS is a study in itself, since it has the job of critiquing the coverage of an area where it shares the same false assumptions as the purveyors of misinformation. Read this and weep for the lowering of standards at an institution associated with a great university: AIDS: Hiding in Plain Sight How Lurid Reports Obscure the Bigger Story By Kai Wright

Too bad it’s such a distortion of reality. Crystal meth use is indeed spreading among well-heeled, largely white, urban gay men. And HIV is certainly on the rise among gay men as well — new infections shot up 17 percent between 1999 and 2002. The problem is that that increase is driven by infections among low- and middle-income African Americans. And those infections have little to do with “sex marathons.” To the contrary, they’re most likely the result of serial monogamy within small social circles where HIV is already present.

AIDS: Hiding in Plain Sight

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How Lurid Reports Obscure the Bigger Story

BY KAI WRIGHT

Bob’s story was certainly compelling. The New York Times found him “prowling” for sex in a Manhattan bathhouse, high on “a wildly addictive stimulant” even as he spoke with the reporter. The sentiment of most of the men in the bathhouse was that, as one of them said, “rubbers are a killjoy.” None cared about the threat of AIDS, and all were hopped up on crystal meth — a drug the story’s headline described as THE BEAST IN THE BATHHOUSE.

The article was but one in a recent spate of shocking tales about how the nexus of drugs and sex has led too many gay men to ignore the danger of HIV. It’s gripping stuff, and it’s this year’s hot AIDS story in the U.S.

Too bad it’s such a distortion of reality. Crystal meth use is indeed spreading among well-heeled, largely white, urban gay men. And HIV is certainly on the rise among gay men as well — new infections shot up 17 percent between 1999 and 2002. The problem is that that increase is driven by infections among low- and middle-income African Americans. And those infections have little to do with “sex marathons.” To the contrary, they’re most likely the result of serial monogamy within small social circles where HIV is already present.

That’s a far less eye-popping tale, and one we have seen woefully little coverage of. Nor have we seen much coverage of the fact that the epidemic is aging — 44 percent of new HIV diagnoses in New York City each year are among people over forty — because of growing infections among middle-aged blacks who aren’t using condoms with their partners. No beasts, no bathhouses, just the small but crucial miscalculations that add up to today’s still growing AIDS epidemic.

All reporters love a good lead. From drugs to crime to poverty, we cover America’s social concerns with a dose of perception-skewing hype. An ambitious study recently released by the Kaiser Family Foundation makes this clear. The study illustrates how, from the beginning, the AIDS story has been driven by a series of big, attention-grabbing events. In the early years, it was the effect on the blood supply and debate over San Francisco bathhouses being shut down. Next came the public infections of Rock Hudson and Magic Johnson, followed by a pair of very large events, the discovery of the drugs that have staved off death for so many people, and, finally, by the AIDS devastation in Africa.

The Kaiser study didn’t analyze how much the hot story of the time colored how life with HIV was depicted. But it offered a disturbing hint at what this approach misses: overall, only 3 percent of stories focused on U.S. minorities. African Americans account for half of all new infections every year, but they have rarely been involved in the epidemic’s high drama.

Even when blacks have entered the frame, the picture has remained out of focus. A recent hot story was about black men “on the down low” — guys who consider themselves straight, and live as such, but maintain homosexual relationships on the side. For most publications, those pieces offered a rare focus on black gay men. Yet, just before the down-low infatuation emerged, a high-profile study estimated that a third of twentysomething black gay and bisexual men are infected with HIV. Beyond the initial news reports, journalists have shown little interest in these largely out-of-the-closet (and thus boring?) people whose primary risk is unprotected sex inside a relationship with someone they’ve trusted too quickly.

To be fair, the quest for a dramatic story angle goes beyond journalism. Many of those leading in the fight against HIV insist on framing it as an emergency rather than a lasting concern. That means creating a sense of urgency — something best done by focusing on hyperbolic scenarios.

In its laudable effort to get the epidemic onto the front page, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses journalists on attention-getting theories. The down-low hysteria began when the CDC started pushing studies that speculated that such men form an “HIV bridge” to straight black women. The crystal meth hype is now being driven by the CDC’s effort to understand what it’s calling an “HIV-prevention fatigue” among young gay men.

The result is a myopic understanding of this epidemic. We see white where there’s actually black. We see drug-induced orgies where there are really complex sexual choices complicated by the search for intimacy. And we see something that demands our attention for just a few fleeting, hysterical moments when we’re actually facing a systemic, decades-long problem.

Anyhow, getting back to Cole, she tells us that

In fact, this is one place in which the intelligent-design people have a point. It is unfathomable that complex life forms evolved in tiny increments over time through random mutation and natural selection — that our ancestors are bacteria and our siblings are fish.

We know it happened nonetheless because we have multiple lines of evidence: the fossil record, DNA, morphology, embryology and so on. (We even see evolution in action right in front of our noses. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t be worrying about bird flu.) But to pretend evolution “makes sense” in some ordinary way does our readers a disservice (and too often leads journalists to neglect to mention the evidence at all).

Even this is questionable, it seems to us. A veteran science correspondent like Cole should know by now that the essential problem with evolution, and the reason it is still credibly attacked even by intelligent design advocates as missing part of its modus operandi, is that random mutation is not quite enough to explain evolution. Not, that is, random in the sense of random changes on the molecular level, which could never effectively interact with natural selection. Evolutionists are confident in the truth of their hypothesis, of course, since in outline it explains everything and alternatives explain nothing, but let’s not mislead readers. There is something interesting going on which allows wholesale change above the molecular level, and biologists are struggling to nail it down. To slide past this is to ignore one of the great stories in science today.

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CJR Home » Issues » 2006 »

Columbia Journalism Review

Voices

Weird Science

Why editors must dare to be dumb

By K.C. Cole

Like many beat reporters, science journalists spend a great deal of time educating their editors about the peculiarities of their fields, and by and large those exchanges are not only illuminating but ultimately lead to better stories. But there’s one place we hit a wall.

No, it’s not that editors aren’t smart enough to understand science. Actually, it’s the opposite: they’re too accustomed to being smart, and thus can’t deal with the fact that they don’t understand it. And because they’re uncomfortable feeling confused, readers are left in the dark about a universe of research that eludes easy explanation.

I was discussing this problem recently with a colleague who had been beating his head against the wall for months trying to get a story about a mysterious “dark force” in cosmology past editors at The New Yorker: “They kept saying they didn’t understand it!” he complained. Well, of course they didn’t understand it. Nobody understands it. That’s precisely what makes it so interesting.

In science, feeling confused is essential to progress. An unwillingness to feel lost, in fact, can stop creativity dead in its tracks. A mathematician once told me he thought this was the reason young mathematicians make the big discoveries. Math can be hard, he said, even for the biggest brains around. Mathematicians may spend hours just trying to figure out a line of equations. All the while, they feel dumb and inadequate. Then one day, these young mathematicians become established, become professors, acquire secretaries and offices. They don’t want to feel stupid anymore. And they stop doing great work.

In a way, you can’t really blame either scientists or editors for backing off. Stumbling around in the dark can be dangerous. “By its very nature, the edge of knowledge is at the same time the edge of ignorance,” is how one cosmologist put it. “Many who have visited it have been cut and bloodied by the experience.”

All the more reason it’s so refreshing that readers of science stories don’t seem to mind a bit of confusion — even when the subject matter is difficult or counterintuitive: ten-dimensional space, for example, or fossils for foot-long “bugs” that crawled out of the sea 480 million years ago. Every science writer I know has had the experience of readers coming up to them and saying: “Gee, that was fascinating; I didn’t understand it, but I’ve been thinking about it all day.” Readers often inquire about books where they can read further on a subject, or even primary sources.

Editors, however, seem to absorb difficulty differently. If they don’t understand something, they often think it can’t be right — or that it’s not worth writing about. Either the writers aren’t being clear (which, of course, may be the case), or the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about (in some cases, a given).

Why the difference? My theory is that editors of newspapers and other major periodicals are not just ordinary folk. They tend to be very accomplished people. They’re used to being the smartest guys in the room. So science makes them squirm. And because they can’t bear to feel dumb, science coverage suffers.

So what is it about science that makes them uneasy? Surely it is more than the obvious fact that it’s hard to understand things that aren’t (yet) understood. In science it can be just as hard to understand what is understood. Relativity and quantum mechanics have been around for nearly a century, yet they remain confusing in some sense even to those who understand these theories well. We know they’re correct because they’ve been tested so thoroughly in so many ways. But they still don’t make sense.

On the other hand, why should they? Humans evolved to procreate, eat, and avoid getting eaten. The fact that we have learned to understand what atoms are all about or what the universe was back to a nanosecond after its birth is literally unbelievable. But the universe doesn’t care what we can or cannot believe. It doesn’t speak our language, so there’s no reason it should “make sense.”

That’s why science depends on evidence.

In fact, this is one place in which the intelligent-design people have a point. It is unfathomable that complex life forms evolved in tiny increments over time through random mutation and natural selection — that our ancestors are bacteria and our siblings are fish.

We know it happened nonetheless because we have multiple lines of evidence: the fossil record, DNA, morphology, embryology and so on. (We even see evolution in action right in front of our noses. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t be worrying about bird flu.) But to pretend evolution “makes sense” in some ordinary way does our readers a disservice (and too often leads journalists to neglect to mention the evidence at all).

Science muddles our minds in many other ways as well. For example, much of it deals with essentially invisible things. I once had a hard time convincing an editor of the reality of curved space-time (Einstein’s extremely well-tested explanation of gravity) because, she said, “You can’t see it.” Actually, you can see it — among other ways, through gravitational “lenses” that bend light just the way the lens in a camera does.

Science is also innately uncertain. What makes science strong is that these uncertainties are out there in the open, spelled out and quantified.

It’s essential to know not only what scientists know, but also what they know they don’t know. This is an unfamiliar concept to editors used to dealing with politics or sports.

And then there’s the fact that data are always to a certain extent ambiguous. Translating the behavior of retroviruses or superconductors into words takes a lot of interpreting — even for scientists. There may be more than one correct answer. Or no description in lay language may be able to do justice to the subject at hand.

For all these reasons and more, good science journalists know that if they’re not dealing with subject matter that makes them dizzy, they’re probably not doing their jobs.

The best editors understand all this. As for the rest, perhaps Weird Al said it best: sometimes you just need to “dare to be stupid.”

A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, K.C. Cole teaches science journalism at the University of Southern California. Her latest book is Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos.

A reminder as to who Kary Mullis really is – thank God

July 18th, 2006

Why he really deserved his Nobel

and how he surprised an audience in Spain

Just to move the quality of this blog up a notch further from the more trivial concerns of recent posts, here’s a good interview with Kary Mullis. Perhaps you haven’t yet read Dancing Naked in The Mind Field, his own book, or Celia Farber’s chapter on Mullis, possibly the best one in her book. But anyway this Mullis interview is the best of all, better than the one we did for OMNI, a heroic and inspiring statement for all those who haven’t yet realized how creative and liberating a model of a scientist and thinker Mullis really is.

This is the man that Cetus his company awarded a $10,000 bonus for inventing PCR and subsequently sold the patent for a record $300 million. Now he still has to suffer drivel in the Wikipedia suggesting that he share credit.

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Some controversy surrounds the balance of credit that should be given to Mullis versus the team at Cetus (see below); in practice, credit has accrued to both the inventor and the company (although not its individual workers) in the form of a Nobel Prize and a $10000 Cetus bonus for Mullis, and $300 million for Cetus when the company sold the patent to Roche Molecular Systems.

Luckily the Nobel established the uniqueness of his achievement and his credit for it once and for all. And he did alright financially with a $400,000 Japan award as well as the Nobel.

But all that doesn’t matter now. What matters is his attitude and philosophy, justifying the perennial child in all of us. No wonder this guy dreamed up the greatest advance in biotechnology ever:

CREATIVITY

One doesn’t usually associate scientists with the sort of freewheeling creative energy you bring to your work How do you keep it going?

Left to themselves in a situation where creativity will be beneficial, anyone will be creative. I think it’s almost like the natural state of the human being, not like a substance that you throw away or not. Any kind of situation where creativity is rewarded will in fact bring it out. It’s not something that you have to foster–you just don’t squish it.

We don’t want to have too much of it because it implies lawlessness and non-cooperation. It is a completely anti-social act to be creative. There’s a constant balance between how much creativity society wants, and how much it is willing to put up with.

In Japan, kids are not rewarded for creativity very much, though they talk about it a lot. They are not creative because it has not been a very beneficial thing for them–being packed onto a fairly small island, you don’t want too many creative people. It would be like being in an asylum. We had a frontier here for a long time, lots of space. It’s easy to be creative here because you’re not punished for it, you’re rewarded for it–generally. There are places where people are punished for creativity–like my English class in high school.

What happened?

There was this one English teacher who thought diagramming sentences was like God’s answer to teaching kids how to talk or something. I was constantly trying to make the point to her–probably a little too forcefully at times–that it is not the way people think or how they talk. People don’t talk in logical sentences.

Pull out a Hemingway sentence and say, OK, diagram that one. We all know what it means. It’s poetic, even. But it isn’t diagrammable.

DIET

After all these thousands of years, we still don’t know how to eat?

Well, I think we do. My eating habits are like my exercise habits. Whenever I’m hungry, I eat–whatever I’m hungry for. I don’t care what it’s made out of, I really don’t. I know the general rules of biochemistry, but I don’t apply them in my eating habits because I figure my mouth knows better. And I exercise when I want to do something fun that requires my body. I’d never sit in a room with weights because I wouldn’t think that would be fun. These people who sit on indoor bicycles–they ought to make the bicycle at least generate electricity.

That whole obsession with foods reflects the fact that most people don’t know much biochemistry, and therefore they don’t have any way of assessing the validity of somebody’s five or 10 major food groups. The government spent millions of dollars to redefine the food groups, and now they have the food triangle–that whole weird thing.

My five major food groups are grease, sugar, salt, chocolate and alcohol. So a good power-breakfast is a chocolate donut and a margarita, or if I’m in a hurry, a Reese’s peanut butter cup and a shot of tequila.

WOMAN AS MUSE

You have been quoted as saying that being romantically involved enhances your creativity.

The concept of a woman being an inspiration to a man is an old, traditional one. Everyone knows that–they call it the Muse Effect. Women have had a very strong and positive effect on me. A lot of people think it’s some sort of disease if you’re attracted to young women, but I’m attracted to young people in general, young women in particular. It doesn’t mean you’re a sexist pig just because you enjoy the company of young women.

People are the most variable sorts of things around, and you have to use your most creative facilities to deal with them well. In that regard, relationships with people keep you on your toes and allow your ideas to be more in flux.

YOUNG IS BETTER

I don’t like the people my own age–actually it’s not that I don’t like them, I just don’t associate with them. I associate with younger people. They’re more interesting. Older people are usually more fixed. I guess I’ve never really grown up too well. I don’t want to.

Why does creativity seem to be stronger in people under 30?

The energy of being younger–you’re not fixed in your ways. It’s easy for people to get fixed in their ways. It’s not easy for me because I’m not intentionally trying to be the way I am–I just am that way. I do get bored. I find it’s not stimulating after a while to be doing any particular thing. I’ve never had the same kind of job for more than about six years in a row. In general, I’ve had chemical-related jobs but in very different fields. And I find it really stimulating to be around younger people because they’re not like 40-year veterans of some particular thing.

Every now and then I find a woman my age who is interesting, but in general I like women to be considerably younger because they don’t have annoying little habits that are fixed. They haven’t yet figured out what they are going to be like, and I’m always changing the way I am.

IDEALLY 27

Didn’t you say that the ideal age for a woman is 27?

Somebody picked that up and took it out of context, and made it stupid sounding, but I have found that women around 27 are really interesting. They’re 10,000 days old. It was a joke. Turns out it’s also the time astrologers say it takes for the moon to progress through all of the signs one time. You are then starting the second cycle, and it feels like that. There’s something–there’s a high-energy kind of state in somebody around that age. They’re starting to be self-reflective, they’ve gone through everything once, sort of, they’re out of college and worked a little while or maybe they’re in graduate school. But they’re starting to think of themselves as an entity that’s formed, and I love that little region in their lives. To me it’s fascinating.

Has there ever been a scientist with a more interesting personality? Mullis for President 2008!

Read the whole thing at The Unconventional Genius of Dr. Kary Banks Mullis By Gary Goettling

For dullard balance, there is Nicholas Wade’s bourgeois placating Scientist at Work/Kary Mullis; After the ‘Eureka,’ a Nobelist Drops Out:

For those who would like to analyze creativity and sell it in bottles, Dr. Mullis would seem a promising subject. His invention is highly original and significant, virtually dividing biology into the two epochs of before P.C.R. and after P.C.R. Yet the Mullis formula for creativity, on closer inspection, is a brew probably somewhat unsuitable for general consumption.

One ingredient is unbounded self-confidence. ”Part of it has to do with his ego and belief that he’s much smarter than the people around him,” said Dr. Corey Levenson, a former Cetus colleague now at Ilex Oncology in San Antonio. ”Most people who launch into an unfamiliar area would first speak to recognized authorities and get all the background. Kary saw that as a waste of time. He figured it would take less time to do the experiments himself.”

Dr. Mullis’s friends speak of his physical as well as intellectual risk-taking. Dr. Frank McCormick, a cancer biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, recalls seeing Dr. Mullis in Aspen skiing down the center of an icy road through fast two-way traffic. ”Mullis had a vision that he would die by crashing his head against a redwood tree. Hence he is fearless wherever there are no redwoods,” Dr. McCormick said.

Along with lack of fear comes a lack of concern about people’s opinions. In his new book Dr. Mullis describes episodes that others might keep private, such as the time he addressed the Empress of Japan as ”sweetie” when being awarded the Japan prize, and how he was nearly arrested when he went to Stockholm for his Nobel Prize, for playing a laser beam from his hotel room at passers-by.

His fondness for the heterodox is evident in the account of a lecture he gave in April 1994 at a medical society conference in Toledo, Spain. ”Just before the lecture, he told me he would not speak about the P.C.R. but would tell his ideas about AIDS not being caused by the H.I.V. virus,” the ambushed president of the society, Dr. John F. Martin, wrote afterward in a letter to Nature.

”His only slides (on what he called ‘his art’) were photographs he had taken of naked women with colored lights projected on their bodies,” Dr. Martin continued. ”He accused science of being universally corrupt with widespread falsification of data to obtain grants. Finally he impugned the honesty of several named scientists working in the H.I.V. field.”

Of course, one wonders if what he said had any impact on the good Spanish doctors. Did they recognize that the principle involved is that the better idea usually comes from the misfit? We like to believe they were excited enough by their brief exposure to free thought to consider the idea on its merits.

But as for the readers of the Times, they were not to be disturbed. Wade made sure of that:

Asked why people should accept his views on AIDS when he has no standing as a virologist, he replies, ”I don’t care, I’m on my vacation life here.”

Marvelous how our Times correspondent forgets one of the basic principles in intellectual progress, which is that the visiting outsider is often the best source of originality in and revision of a field. Of course, the real operating principle in HIV∫AIDS is not mentioned at all. That is, dissent inside the field is simply not allowed.

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September 15, 1998

Scientist at Work/Kary Mullis; After the ‘Eureka,’ a Nobelist Drops Out

By NICHOLAS WADE

KARY MULLIS, Nobel laureate in chemistry, is jumping up and down at the kitchen table of his cabin, a place in the woods several miles beyond where the paved road ends. His large head and wiry body shake as if in rage. From his lips comes an angry buzzing sound.

He is imitating a swarm of yellow jackets, acting out an episode in which the wily insects ambushed him, inflicting five stings around the mouth, after he attacked their nest. He goes on to tell how he invented a brew, concocted in his kitchen blender, that eliminated the aggressors from his property for a season.

He feels somewhat the same way toward his former colleagues at the Cetus Corporation, where he invented the technique that won him the Nobel Prize. ”None of those vultures had anything to do with it,” he says emphatically. He is aggrieved that Cetus paid him a mere $10,000 for the discovery but later sold it to Hoffmann-La Roche, owned by Roche Holding Ltd., for $300 million.

His invention, known as the polymerase chain reaction or P.C.R., is used for amplifying chosen sections of DNA and has quickly become an essential tool for biologists, DNA forensics labs, and almost anyone else who needs to study the genetic material. Amplifying DNA, a requirement for most tests, used to be done in bacteria, a process that took weeks. With P.C.R., performed with chemicals in a test tube, the job takes a few hours.

Science has been just one of the keen interests in Dr. Mullis’s life, competing with psychedelic drugs and women, although he is now happily married to his fourth wife, Nancy Cosgrove. His newest interest is writing. A book of essays, ”Dancing Naked in the Mind Field,” was published last month by Pantheon.

For those who would like to analyze creativity and sell it in bottles, Dr. Mullis would seem a promising subject. His invention is highly original and significant, virtually dividing biology into the two epochs of before P.C.R. and after P.C.R. Yet the Mullis formula for creativity, on closer inspection, is a brew probably somewhat unsuitable for general consumption.

One ingredient is unbounded self-confidence. ”Part of it has to do with his ego and belief that he’s much smarter than the people around him,” said Dr. Corey Levenson, a former Cetus colleague now at Ilex Oncology in San Antonio. ”Most people who launch into an unfamiliar area would first speak to recognized authorities and get all the background. Kary saw that as a waste of time. He figured it would take less time to do the experiments himself.”

Dr. Mullis’s friends speak of his physical as well as intellectual risk-taking. Dr. Frank McCormick, a cancer biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, recalls seeing Dr. Mullis in Aspen skiing down the center of an icy road through fast two-way traffic. ”Mullis had a vision that he would die by crashing his head against a redwood tree. Hence he is fearless wherever there are no redwoods,” Dr. McCormick said.

Along with lack of fear comes a lack of concern about people’s opinions. In his new book Dr. Mullis describes episodes that others might keep private, such as the time he addressed the Empress of Japan as ”sweetie” when being awarded the Japan prize, and how he was nearly arrested when he went to Stockholm for his Nobel Prize, for playing a laser beam from his hotel room at passers-by.

His fondness for the heterodox is evident in the account of a lecture he gave in April 1994 at a medical society conference in Toledo, Spain. ”Just before the lecture, he told me he would not speak about the P.C.R. but would tell his ideas about AIDS not being caused by the H.I.V. virus,” the ambushed president of the society, Dr. John F. Martin, wrote afterward in a letter to Nature.

”His only slides (on what he called ‘his art’) were photographs he had taken of naked women with colored lights projected on their bodies,” Dr. Martin continued. ”He accused science of being universally corrupt with widespread falsification of data to obtain grants. Finally he impugned the honesty of several named scientists working in the H.I.V. field.”

Kary B. Mullis was born in 1944 in Lenoir, N.C., and grew up in South Carolina, where his father was a furniture salesman and his mother, who raised him after a separation, sold real estate. He trained as a chemist at the Georgia Institute of Technology and at the University of California at Berkeley. Then, shortly after getting his Ph.D., he dropped off the scientist’s usual career path, first to write fiction and then, for two years, to manage a bakery.

It was a friend, Dr. Thomas J. White, who found him jobs back in science, first at the University of California, San Francisco, and then at Cetus in Emeryville, Calif., one of the first biotechnology companies. Dr. Mullis’s job, essentially that of a technician, was to make short chains of DNA for other scientists. When machines became available to do the job, he had time on his hands for other pursuits.

Dr. Mullis has often described how the concept of P.C.R. came to him during a night drive along Highway 128 to his cabin in Anderson Valley. He was playing in his mind with a new way of analyzing mutations in DNA and suddenly realized that he had thought up instead a method of amplifying any DNA region of choice. Before the trip was over, Dr. Mullis has written, he was already savoring prospects of the Nobel Prize.

The night journey was made in 1983; the Nobel Prize came 10 years later. But by then Dr. Mullis had dropped out of full-time science again. He left Cetus in 1986, earning his living by consulting and lecturing. He has published no more scientific papers. The divine spark that kindled the idea of P.C.R. has not struck again.

”I like writing about biology, not doing it,” Dr. Mullis says. ”I don’t want to go back to the lab myself and don’t want to have people under my command. Fiction is my way around doing experiments.”

He also enjoys giving lectures. ”I love a microphone and a big crowd; I’m an entertainer, I guess.”

Some of his agenda seems to have been selected with an eye to the shock value of adopting beliefs untypical of Nobel prize-winning scientists. He echoes the contrarian belief of the distinguished virologist Peter Duesberg that H.I.V. is not the cause of AIDS. He disputes the arguments that chlorofluorocarbons are depleting the ozone layer and that industrial waste gases may cause the climate to get hotter.

”Scientists are doing an awful lot of damage to the world in the name of helping it. I don’t mind attacking my own fraternity because I am ashamed of it,” Dr. Mullis says.

He jumps to his feet to swat a yellow jacket that has infiltrated the cabin.

Given his success as an independent thinker in chemistry, Dr. Mullis’s challenges to other kinds of orthodoxy are not to be lightly dismissed. But the line between fact and entertainment in Dr. Mullis’s world can be hard to discern. In his book he professes to believe in astrology, to have been rescued from a fatal accident by a person travelling in an astral plane, and to have conversed with an alien disguised as a raccoon.

Asked why people should accept his views on AIDS when he has no standing as a virologist, he replies, ”I don’t care, I’m on my vacation life here.”

Vacation life? ”I have a spiritual thing in me. After lots of tough lives I got a vacation.” Is he speaking of reincarnation as a metaphor or the real thing? ”I believe it,” he says. ”If reincarnation is a useful biological idea it is certain that somewhere in the universe it will happen.”

Is it not awkward to accommodate reincarnation within the theory of evolution? ”I don’t think DNA is the whole thing even though I invented a cool way of playing with it,” Dr. Mullis declares.

The invention of P.C.R. may well become a paradigm of scientific discovery because of its significance and because Dr. Mullis has described the eureka moment so graphically. But though the idea was central, proving it worked was also important. According to Dr. White, the friend who got him a job at Cetus and oversaw part of the development of P.C.R., the reduction of the idea to practice was done largely by others.

”Mullis as an experimentalist is sort of hit and miss,” Dr. White said. ”He got a lot of data but he was having personal problems and tended to do uncontrolled experiments, so it wasn’t very convincing when he did get a result.”

Even after a year, Dr. Mullis had not developed definitive proof of his concept, so Dr. White then enlisted another scientist. Within a few months, Dr. Randall Saiki, a rigorous experimentalist, produced data that convinced everyone at Cetus that the process worked, Dr. White said.

Dr. Mullis believes his colleagues tried to take credit for the invention away. Dr. White denies that, saying a plan to have Dr. Mullis author the first paper describing the theory of P.C.R. went awry because Dr. Mullis whiled away the summer creating fractal pictures on Cetus’s computers instead of doing experiments.

By default, a paper by Dr. Saiki and other scientists on the applications of P.C.R. was published first. Dr. Mullis’s own paper was rejected by the journals Nature and Science on the ground that it was not new.

”I feel he has never accepted responsibility for the course of how the publications came out,” Dr. White said, noting that he and colleagues attempted to let scientists know Dr. Mullis was the inventor, such as having him describe the technique at an important conference.

Dr. White pays tribute to Dr. Mullis’s fertile mind, describing how he came up with practical ways to improve P.C.R., such as the use of Taq polymerase, an enzyme made by bacteria that live at high temperatures. But managing his friend’s creativity was not a carefree task.

”He’s a hard person to know, hard not only on his spouses but on his friends,” Dr. White said. ”In the midst of being extremely charming, he could be extremely abusive.” The two men are no longer close friends, but Dr. White, now vice president of Roche Molecular Systems in Alameda, Calif., owned by Roche Holding, said that Dr. Mullis was ”a very unusual person, no doubt about it — I am happy I knew him.”

Dr. White’s version of events is supported by Dr. Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley, who made a study of Cetus at the time P.C.R. was invented. His book, ”Making P.C.R.,” was published in 1996. ”Mullis is a brilliant, gifted guy who at Cetus found himself protected by a very steadfast character, Tom White,” Dr. Rabinow said. ”The one person who never said he wanted credit for P.C.R. was Tom White.”

As for the monetary rewards for P.C.R., Dr. Mullis says in his book he was ”plenty wrong” in his assumption that he would be amply rewarded by Cetus. His former colleagues consider he did not do too badly. He voluntarily quit the company in 1986 at a time when no commercial value had been established for P.C.R., and five years before its sale to Roche for $300 million. ”If the guy had been around five years later he would have been handsomely rewarded,” Dr. White said. Dr. Levenson said: ”Any invention you make is owned by the company. That’s the deal.”

Dr. Mullis has blazed through his friends’ lives like a meteor, leaving so blinding a trail that few feel they see the core. ”I don’t know where creativity comes from,” Dr. Levenson said. ”He built his model of the universe to fit what he observed.”

In Dr. Rabinow’s view, Dr. Mullis is ”a tinkerer, a bricoleur, he loves to play with things, he loves to try things out, he ignores people who say you can’t do it.” He adds, ”He was an experimentalist not in the high scientific sense but the magician sense.”

In Dr. Mullis’s new profession, as author and lecturer, the magic is less evident. His book is amusingly written, but some of its viewpoints seem a little ad hoc, like a surprising attack on the Federal Reserve Board as a ”tawdry sepsis.”

Dr. Mullis repeats the words several times to savor their resonance. It’s a good fighting phrase, but why apply it to the Federal Reserve? Dr. Mullis explains that with the Board’s ability to intervene in currency markets its members have ample opportunity to profit from their inside knowledge. ”If you can get around the law you do it, and Alan Greenspan is no different from Kary Mullis,” he declares.

”But Kary, you’re not dishonest,” his wife protests. ”With money I am,” he says defiantly. The bottle of red wine at his side, full three hours ago, now stands empty. The yellow jackets are resuming their campaign. A mind that made a brilliant invention is wandering between sense and solipsism.


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