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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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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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Reformers who risk death saluted


A Brazilian leader braves the shotgun death met by a nun before him

HIV∫AIDS paradigm challengers also endure psychosocial violence

Tarcisio Feitosa Da SilvaA profile in the Times today (Sat Dec 30) portrays a very brave man, Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva, director of the Roman Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission in the Amazon region of Altamire, Brazil.

Tarcisio puts his life on the line in his fight against the ravages of loggers, ranchers, miners and land speculators who will cut down the entire rain forest unless they are stopped. He is now top of their hit list, following the shooting of the activist nun Sister Dorothy last year, who headed the list at the time, one of sixty politically motivated murders so far.

As bad as things are now, Mr. Feitosa fears they are about to become worse. “The war in this region hasn’t even started,” he said. “It’s only going to start when the authorities come to remove the ranchers from the lands they got through bogus means and then deforested illegally. Then it’s going to get really violent.”

Mr. Feitosa said his activities “make my wife nervous, but she understands that I can’t stop doing what I do.” The couple, who married when he was 19 and she 15, have two sons, ages 12 and 13, who are subjected to a strict curfew and have been given cellphones so that they can always be in touch with their parents.

“I watch out for myself,” he said. “I don’t walk around alone anymore, especially at night, and I don’t get into a taxi unless the driver is someone I know. Since a lot of killings have occurred in people’s homes, my father has also put barriers on all the windows and doors.”

Still, Mr. Feitosa said, “If they want to do it, they are going to do it. You can’t impede them. I have to trust in God.”

A hero of resistance to ignorance and violence, few would deny.

The AIDS dissenters are heroes of science, too, in their way

Perhaps we should take the opportunity to say that it should not be overlooked that all those who challenge the current paradigm in HIV∫AIDS face similar attacks on the psychic and economic level.

The litany of bankrupticies emotional and financial which have been visited on the best known players has not been recited in the press, but it is long, much of it secret. But some is public, perforce. The vicious attacks on Christine Maggiore as mother as well as author are well known to all who read this blog and other comment on the Web, including her own site, and are an indication of the lynch mob mentality, religious tribalism and political ruthlessness that are brought to bear on truth seekers and tellers in this arena of supposed science.

The elite scientist who first raised the obvious and overwhelming objections to HIV∫AIDS in print in a major journal, the honorable Peter Duesberg of Berkeley, paid a price for his unique display of public responsibility in the two decades since which stands as a shame to modern science – loss of the greatest accolade the NIH can confer, the Special Investigator Grant, worth $350,000 at the time, and not a penny in NIH funding since, loss of invitations to clubby conferences on holiday isles and other desirable spots, loss of graduate students, loss of teaching responsibilities, loss of domestic harmony, loss of speaking invitations, probably loss of a Nobel for his pioneering work in cancer which continues today as one of the most promising avenues of research in US science, attracting his opponents who are trying to take over the credit as fast as they can.

Celia Farber, the most distinguished literary and social critic in the field, has been visited with uninformed editorial prejudice which has limited the publication of her truly Orwellian contribution, luckily without preventing it surfacing in SPIN over the years, and Harpers in March, and her book of collected pieces from Melville House this year, “Serious Adverse Events”.

All this is the result of the protection of the paradigm by Dr Anrthony Fauci of NIAID, who has for over twenty years imposed media silence on the issue on pain of banning reporters from any contact with scientists at the NIH if they dare to cover the topic. The result of this – a policy the nattily suited Dr Fauci cheerfully posted in a AAAS newsletter – has been that even the New York Times was corraled in support of the propaganda war for unquestioning public acceptance of the paradigm, after it was thoroughly and comprehensively debunked in top journals without a satisfactory rebuttal, and has hardly mentioned Peter Duesberg since.

In other words, just like the movement to ravage the Amazon rain forest for private gain, the few who resist on behalf of the public interest are threatened with injury on the career level. Thus one vicious phenomenon seen in the struggle is the tendency of John P. Moore and other members of the goon squad putting down resistance to the paradigm to call up employers of those who raise questions, and tip them off to the crackpotism they say is being perpetrated by the employee. At least one blog has been affected by this strategy.

Then, of course, most people who try to spread sanity on the social level run into the usual handicap that this is one of the least popular topics in the media and at dinner parties, so if they do mention it they run a risk of social death. This writer last year encountered a delightful woman he had known over a decade earlier in New York City at a book party at Elaines and found out she was heading up an AIDS organization in a poor area of the city. When she learned which side we were on she said quickly “Oh dont’t talk to me about that!” and went off, and later circled back and had a merry chat without once mentioning the banned topic, not that we minded at all. The usefulness of introducing the topic to those infected by the AIDS meme is generally nil, we already know.

The Sachs syndrome

A similar reaction occurs on the public level, which one might call the Sachs syndrome, after Jeremy Sachs, the Columbia economist who has steered the UN into rescuing the world’s poor. Sachs, when we mentioned giving him a report on Duesberg in a personal conversation exiting a Barnard conference, responded “Any topic but that!” and hurried off, instinctively placing as much distance between himself and the topic as possible.

A similar reaction ws shown by the president of the New York Academy of Sciences, when your faithful correspondent discovered him talking about Duesberg to a California physicist giving a book lecture at the Academy. Asked later about what he had been saying as we were leaving, he also accelerated his walk saying he “wouldn’t ever say anything about Duesberg” and he “had to go to dinner” and vanished down the dark street in mid conversation, exactly like Sachs.

This is why we admire Bill Clinton as possibly the only man at the top whose mind is still active and open on the topic. As he told us recently, “I never close the door on scientific questions. It’s wrong.”

Call it evasion, aqvoidance, denial, psychic murder, or social gunning down, but the same process is at work as in the Amazon, and those such as Maggiore, Duesberg, Farber, Bialy, Crowe, Davis, Steele, Scheff, Shenton and all the other names on the long roll call of honor of people who put truth, justice, science, and humanity above their own skins, have to endure the penalty exacted on those who put informing people of the truth above their own self-interest.

Struggling to Save His Amazon, From the Top of a Death List

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December 30, 2006

The Saturday Profile

Struggling to Save His Amazon, From the Top of a Death List

By LARRY ROHTER

ALTAMIRA, Brazil

EARLY last year, a dubious distinction attached itself to Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva, director of the Roman Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission here in one of the most conflict-ridden regions of the Amazon. After the American nun Dorothy Stang was shot to death on a jungle road, he replaced her at the top of the death list that loggers, ranchers, miners and land speculators are known to maintain.

It is, of course, a form of recognition that Mr. Feitosa, 35, and his family would prefer he not have. But it testifies to the effectiveness of his work on behalf of Indian tribes, peasant settlers and river-dwellers and to preserve what remains of the endangered rain forest here.

Along with other religious and community groups, the entity Mr. Feitosa leads has challenged forged land titles, denounced unauthorized logging and organized peasant farmers to resist land invasions. Recently, those efforts have been rewarded with a government decree establishing a system of nature reserves that, if put into practice, will force many wealthy ranchers and loggers to leave the lands they currently control, without compensation.

“We have chosen an option that in this region seems radical, that of keeping the forest standing,” Mr. Feitosa said. “That has jolted powerful interests that in every other part of the Amazon have been able to topple the forest.”

Mr. Feitosa is himself a pure product of the Amazon, born and raised in this frontier town of 77,000 at the junction of the Trans-Amazon Highway and the Xingu River. His mother is a rubber tapper’s daughter, while his father, originally a crab fisherman, came here as a sharecropper around 1970, when the highway was being built.

“Part of my origin is in the forest and the other part is in the water,” Mr. Feitosa said. “I’ve had offers to go elsewhere, but I’ve always insisted on living and working here.”

Mr. Feitosa’s mother had once been a nun, and later worked in a medical clinic here that catered to the poor. It was from her, he believes, that he inherited his vocation for social service.

“My mother always said that you shouldn’t be concerned just with yourself, that you have to worry about society,” he said. “My mother was always linked to church and community movements, so I think that gene came from her.”

She also passed along her religious faith to him, the eldest of her three children. Though he never contemplated becoming a priest “because I didn’t want to spend six years in a seminary,” Mr. Feitosa describes himself as devoted to the idea of living “a Christian life, by Christian principles, as a Christian citizen” and to the Church itself.

“To me, my faith is something essential,” he explained. “People say I’m a real churchgoer. I was an altar boy in my parish for a long time, and used to try to pay attention to the words of the priests who were celebrating Mass. But I never really understood that phrase that comes just before communion, the one about ‘behold the mystery of faith.’ ”

But then one day, while visiting an Indian village, in an episode Mr. Feitosa describes as a turning point in his life, he was invited by his hosts to go hunting in the jungle. The hunting party killed a deer, skinned it and brought the meat back to the settlement.

“I was super happy, thinking my group would get the best part,” he recalled. “But then one old woman came and cut the haunches, then another old woman and another and another. In the end, after all the ribs were taken too, all that remained for us who had made such a big sacrifice was a little piece of meat.

“My first reaction was, how could a thing like this happen? I had gone the whole day without eating, walked I don’t know how many kilometers in the jungle and helped to carry that deer back on my shoulders. But then I realized that what is on the table is meant to be shared, and that is the mystery of faith. So I think that was the first true Eucharist that I ever experienced.”

MR. FEITOSA divides the history of his native region into two periods: before the construction of the Trans-Amazon Highway and after. He remembers swimming and fishing as a child in areas that have been deforested and developed, and notes ruefully that one must now travel far to find truly unspoiled jungle.

“The people who came here after the highway opened saw the forest as a obstacle to development,” he said, adding: “Nobody thought of biodiversity, nobody thought of the potential the forest itself offered; the rule was to destroy.”

The situation worsened, he maintains, in the 1990s. He began working for the Pastoral Land Commission then, and started to confront those who saw the Amazon as a source of quick profits.

“The loggers would first come in to exploit the Indian lands and then move into the Midlands looking for mahogany,” he recalled. “There were moments when you’d get really tense, because there were a lot of invasions and these were big, big companies that would run you right over.”

This year Mr. Feitosa won the Goldman Environmental Prize, which comes with a $125,000 grant, most of which he plans to use for work with jungle communities. The citation noted that Mr. Feitosa’s home state of Pará is now “one of the deep Amazon’s most lawless and environmentally threatened regions.”

THERE is indeed a violent Wild West atmosphere here, which existed long before the killing of Sister Dorothy on Feb. 12, 2005. Human rights groups talk of more than 60 politically motivated murders in the region.

As bad as things are now, Mr. Feitosa fears they are about to become worse. “The war in this region hasn’t even started,” he said. “It’s only going to start when the authorities come to remove the ranchers from the lands they got through bogus means and then deforested illegally. Then it’s going to get really violent.”

Mr. Feitosa said his activities “make my wife nervous, but she understands that I can’t stop doing what I do.” The couple, who married when he was 19 and she 15, have two sons, ages 12 and 13, who are subjected to a strict curfew and have been given cellphones so that they can always be in touch with their parents.

“I watch out for myself,” he said. “I don’t walk around alone anymore, especially at night, and I don’t get into a taxi unless the driver is someone I know. Since a lot of killings have occurred in people’s homes, my father has also put barriers on all the windows and doors.”

Still, Mr. Feitosa said, “If they want to do it, they are going to do it. You can’t impede them. I have to trust in God.”

Sister Dorothy also trusted in God, and that, in the end, was not enough to protect her. “She aroused the ire of a lot of people by discovering all those irregularities that were going to damage a lot of big interests,” he acknowledged. Has he also enraged those same interests? “Maybe so,” he replied, “but they are going to have to leave. The forest must be kept alive for the benefit of all, not just a few speculators.”

“I go to Mass every Sunday at 6:30 in the afternoon,” he added with a shrug. “If someone wants to kill me, they already know the route.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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