Of Dogs and Men

Imagine (because all the studies in this blogpost are fictitious) that, in 1986, Bowser and Blenkinstop, eminent biomedical researchers, published an article in a popular science magazine demonstrating a strong positive correlation between the human acquisition of a dog and a fall in human blood pressure, finding the hypothesis that owning a dog can lower high blood pressure to be probable. Imagine that, in 1984, in an odd reverse of usual procedure, the Secretary of State for Health had held a press conference to publicise exactly this carefully-worded finding. And that the next day all the newspapers had dropped the word ‘probable’ and led with DR BOFFINS SAY PATTING A DOG ADDS DECADES TO YOUR LIFE. Imagine that, in 1987, the world’s first Human-Canine Electromagnetic Skin Response Unit was patented by Blenkinstop (Bowser suing her over intellectual property theft being covered up by agreement at a top level meeting of the heads of their respective countries) and that HCESRUs then proliferated globally. Imagine that shelters were only able to cope with their sudden huge intake of abandoned long-haired dogs by dispensing entirely with home checks for all the short-haired dogs such as Staffies, Pitbulls and Pugs suddenly in such demand that fisticuffs broke out in Battersea Dog & Cat Home. On a Sunday. Imagine that a performance at the Sydney Opera House had to be cut short after a famous fat lady refused to sing the finale of Tosca over all the barking.

Imagine that experts, with Ph.D.s and charts and graphs in colour, suddenly appeared on daytime TV to reassure anxious housewives and the unemployed that while, yes, the HCESRUs did, in fact, show a higher response with short-haired mammals, even patting long-haired mammals had a proved beneficial effect on high blood pressure. Imagine that all the animals shelters everywhere (with a TV) were besieged with mobs of angry people dressed in leisurewear and pinstriped suits demanding their right to own a furry creature, that several hirsute ‘unmarried’ men were chased along streets in 4x4s and corralled in a wedding chapel by a gang of obese Sweet Potato Queens (of both sexes) in Tallahassee and that in New York people were domesticating sewer rats.

Imagine that everyone with the least political consciousness took to wearing bold red Rocket Man Ts when North Korea invaded its southern neighbour to put an end to the dog meat trade and set up an international conglomerate producing frozen canine embryos guaranteed to thaw into living shorthaired womb-puppies upon implantation in specially-designed high end Canine Embryonic Life Maintenance & Birthing Commodities.

Imagine that, always quoting Bowser & Blenkinstop (1986), studies funded by such conglomerates proliferated in the search to determine the best breed of short-haired dog to lower human blood pressure and that the surprising, puzzling, and contradictory data from these studies were either suppressed or interpreted in new and clever ways to provide endless epicycles way out of the orbit of the original hypothesis – that patting a dog could lower your blood pressure, probably – and that all of them called for more research.

Then imagine that, for over thirty years, two groups of biomedical researchers and their supporters in various fields, as well as some investigative journalists, had been patiently putting forward alternative views: that either owning a dog was only a statistical marker for the real cause of lowered blood pressure which was the combination of getting out into the fresh air for walks and light-hearted, non-intrusive, friendly social interaction (with other dog-owners) and that short-haired dogs such as Staffies were more likely to be owned by people lacking the income to hire a dog walker, and so miss out on these benefits, than by those who could afford, say, an Afghan hound – or that the original study was so methodologically flawed that no conclusion could be drawn until a large-scale, longterm, randomised, double-blinded study, with controlled variables and placebo arm, could be undertaken.

Imagine the fury from the merchandisers of Scooby-Doo, from the makers of the famous red heart-shaped D dogtags and from all the grieving friends and relatives of the beloved dead who had departed this life due to a tragic inability to accept this sure cure: fur allergy.

[Reader, all of the above is pure imagination. I have absolutely no knowledge of any study regarding dog owning and high blood pressure – which is a serious medical condition that I do not make light of. I heartily recommend having dogs as companions, especially if you’re the one who’s walking them.]

Now translate this coded metaphor: there are three distinct hypotheses for AIDS. HIV features in only two of them and the scientists credited with its co-discovery disagree on the best hypothesis. The scientists who hold the ‘alternative’ (original) hypotheses – that either AIDS is solely or partly caused by toxins, including anti-HIV drugs – continue to be denied a platform while the hypothesis favoured by the pharmaceutically-funded medical establishment gets more and more complicated with every study that produces contradictory data.

In 1984 the US Secretary of Health and Human Services announced to the press that ‘HIV is the probable cause of AIDS’. Rushing from probability to certainty, ignoring contradiction, is bad science. Meanwhile people are dying, now of liver-failure brought on by anti-HIV drugs.

Isn’t it time for us to reconsider the other two hypotheses?

honden-1451091222P9NThanks to ‘X posid’ for releasing the photo ‘Dogs in the park’ into the public domain.

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WHY I WRITE

An online friend asked a question yesterday: why do writers write? Is it out of love for writing or necessity? The question made me think. Here’s my, thoughtful, answer:

I used to create cartoon strips, about our household, as a kid. I’d love to go back to this subversive activity but, as my freehand skills aren’t great, it would probably be by using some kind of computer programme. As the Benjamin of the family (perhaps as unfairly indulged as Joseph), my earliest literary creations reflected my counterfactual belief that it was me and the dog contra mundum. My elder brother, who still has all his Marvel and DC comics from the 70’s, loved them. Alas, my infant creations didn’t survive long. Neither, tragically, did our lovely foxhound and it was this early loss and the much later acquisition of my beloved tan terrier, Ben, that powered Angels With Hairy Faces – a plea for humanity in our relationships with dogs, who can inspire us so profoundly.

One afternoon in the 80’s, at St Andrews University, an American neighbour in the student residence pushed a short story under my door. I was so intrigued by this action, and by the creation of this elaborate lie on paper, that I don’t think I even commented on it to him. For this I am truly sorry. Affirmation is so important to writers. I can’t remember what it was about, I just recall my first understanding of the magical agency involved in literary creation. During these years I began to write poetry, St Andrews is an extremely poetic (and pretentious) place. I still do, although I find my own poems even harder to evaluate than my prose. But sometimes I feel a powerful emotion that just won’t be communicated any other way. I felt this, as a new(ish) vegan, watching The Levelling in 2017 and by happy accident I was working my way through Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, on poetry forms, at the time. The result was a villanelle.

Although I wrote some liberal student newspaper articles (which I thought radical) in a confessional and impassioned style which would now be called blogging, my first attempt at short story was inspired by dreams and memories and freewriting in the early 90’s at a college in California where I received the most excellent and author-empowering advice on asking for feedback:

  • Don’t say if you like or dislike it, if you think it’s good or bad, that doesn’t help
  • Don’t suggest changes, tell me what it does to you

A few years later, I revisited my infantile work with a caricatured melodrama in daily instalments starring my co-workers in a hotel on the Isle of Skye. To date, they have been my most appreciative readers. Never on a Sunday survives somewhere but is not for publication! Neither is my Mormon Christmas mystery, written for American flatmates, or the various (lively) extrapolations of dreams and desires I have since written as birthday presents for various gay men. People enjoy their dreams coming true but what they really appreciate is getting a mention. Mostly. (Do ask!)

Reading the Tales of the City series back in Scotland started my long preoccupation with the oddities associated with relationships between bisexual/gay and strait (sic) men. (We’re not bent, we’re broadminded.) That had various manifestations (on and off the page!) and culminated in the Bruno Benedetti Mysteries. Tricks of the Mind was an escape from caring for my Dad who had dementia but it was also an exploration of the puzzling power of clairsentience widely experienced by empathetic people and usually explained away. This started a pairing of an aspect of esoterica I found fascinating with an underlying emotional drive. So The Lovers is a meditation on the cycle of life portrayed in Tarot but also on the urgency of love (all in a plot about hospital closures). Shades of the Sun (still my favourite) is a Scooby-Doo type adventure complete with creepy manor and masqued villain combining a now obscure branch of astrology with grief and PTSD. Qismet was meant by me to showcase my amazing ideas on education but the characters (Bruno, Justin, Imogen and Clara, principally) would have none of it and instead it became a ghost story about the evils of trying to rewrite the past. Often the motivations of the characters will remain unclear to me until the end. Then I understand not only what I’ve written, but why I’ve written it. Most of the time they just don’t let me in on their secrets until they really have to. Imogen and that crypt being a prime example! Tir nam Ban was born from the waves of the North Atlantic as they strike mysterious Hebridean isles. Of course it was inspired by many lives on many islands and in many communities, some of them mine, but really I wanted to do justice (however obliquely) to both the Celtic faerie tradition and Christianity and also to use a juxtaposition of sex and socioeconomic slavery to illustrate the rottenness of social respectability.

My academic work benefitted from my growing literary confidence (at least I thought so, a dense critical theory lecturer found my style ‘journalistic’) and Dreaming Anarchy was in the ethnographic tradition of thick description. Now I think I chose to write it for my Master’s dissertation because I was so tired of all the words about words about words, ironic lives lived cynically at a half-remove, that I wanted to live and publicise a more embodied politics. And you don’t get much more embodied than living up the Pyrenees with no electricity or plumbing.

Alchemy at the Chalkface was my homage to Dr Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and my analysis and application of his work first bore fruit in Only Say The Word when I realised that ‘Jesus loves me so you have to accept my lifestyle’ wasn’t a good enough justification for homosexuality when conservative Christians’ main problem wasn’t theological but biological: they just didn’t think it was natural. So I explored the nature of ‘nature’. That also helped with Life-Choice when I realised that women on both sides of the man-made barricades (and those very few trying to dismantle them) had completely different views on the nature of life in a woman’s womb, which their ethics (about what could be done with this life) followed.

Trans/Substantiation started as a departmental paper putting forward the view that ecumenical understanding on the Eucharist was being hindered more by metaphysics than theology but expanded when it struck me that beliefs about gender were exactly that: non-empirical and passionately held. This I found, shockingly, also to be true for establishment views on AIDS (as well as the more outlandish conspiracy theories on the syndrome) but here there was a kind of doublethink going on that, to a Roman Catholic, was very familiar. Researchers know (and so do readers if they read carefully) that the HIV-AIDS hypothesis doesn’t stand up but views contrary to those that sell the products of the pharmaceutical industry (a modern embodiment of Phillip Pullman’s Magisterium if there ever was one) are effectively no-platformed. Meanwhile multitudes of gay men, and Black Africans, especially, die from the known toxilogical effects of pharmaceutical drugs pushed onto populations whose mortality is considered inconsequential in comparison to profit. So, having ignored the subject for decades (because it frightened me) I simply had to write Silence and Dissent.

On a lighter note, there are my plays, dealing with dementia as subversive remembrance, homosexuality in the ranks, shooting shell-shocked soldiers, carpet-bombing and cold-blooded anti-Semitic murder. At least those are the topics of the two I’ve published so far, Mrs Atkins remembers and Redemption (the others are a bit more intense). I wrote the first out of my experience working with UK schools at WW1 memorials, my memories of my grandfather, blinded by mustard gas, and reading Lyn MacDonald’s The Roses of No-Man’s Land; the second because of a remark my Theatre Studies tutor made. It caused me to reconsider Dostoyevski’s negative portrayal of the old Russian pawnbroker, Alyona, and to try to imagine her life story.

Lastly, and just this week, I received the news that my booklet on nutrition, which I wrote out of concern for so many young people starving themselves (and ending up obese) is now an audiobook! Body-Logic is my first successful attempt at reaching the required level of quality in recording and editing (it’s been a very steep learning curve) but now I hope that, gradually, my novels and other reflections may be able to reach a wider audience for whom reading is either inconvenient or impossible. My inspiration for this move has been my mother, who can read but also loves to listen to story tapes.

Have I answered the question? Why do I write? For all sorts of reasons. Mostly because I feel I must, even the stories just have to come out. I’ve never been pregnant but I imagine it must feel like that – only a lot more overwhelming an experience! Do I love writing? Sometimes. But that’s really not the point. It’s about vivid reflection on life.

writing-hand-1443450529gzn

Thanks (again) to Dawn Hudson who has released her illustration ‘Writing Hand’ into the Public Domain.

Notes on AIDS

Notes by Dr Alan McManus on Prof Sir Andrew McMichael’s talk on 15th January 2012 to Glasgow Skeptics: Does HIV Cause AIDS? Available HERE (accessed 4th January 2018)

Disclaimer I am not a medical doctor, nor a scientist or statistician. No medical decisions should be taken on the basis of these notes, which are simply a layman’s response to the words of a competent authority in the field of HIV/AIDS made in the light of the words of other competent authorities in this field. I am working from an online video not a transcription, so please do not take the following as official quotes as they may be slightly paraphrased (as I can’t run back the clip). Some quotes are taken from bulletpoints on the PowerPoint used in the video clip. I do not comment on the illustrative graphs shown in the video clip which have no figures on the X-axis, nor references for their data, as no methodological information is given for any of them – including whether the years shown on the y-axis are based on extrapolated data (speculation). Therefore they have as much scientific credibility as doodles (this does not mean they are therefore wrong, but it does mean they cannot function as scientific supporting evidence).

“It’s fine to be skeptical, as long as you are prepared to change your mind. If you’re not prepared to change your mind, you’re really denying it.”

  • Questioning a controversial hypothesis is not being in denial. Especially as Dr Montagnier & Dr Gallo (official ‘co-discoverers of HIV’) take different hypothetical positions. SOURCE

“There are three prominent denialists.”

  • There are many prominent scientists who dispute the official hypothesis of HIV/AIDS. SOURCE

“This is Professor Peter Duesberg, who’s a Professor of Chemistry at Berkeley.”

  • Peter Duesberg is Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. SOURCE

“He was first skeptical then became a denialist. So, bucking the trend, painting himself as a kind of Galileo.”

  • As far as I can tell, this has been said about Professor Duesberg, not by him. SOURCE

[Speaking also of Dr Kary Mullis, whom he describes as ‘a crackpot’] “These guys are chemists, and I don’t have anything against chemists but they don’t know much about medicine.”

  • Dr Mullis is a Biochemist and Nobel Prizewinner. SOURCE

[Speaking of the position of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa on AIDS] “He was surfing the internet one night and came across AIDS denialism […] He refused to believe that HIV was the root of it.”

  • President Mbeki has never stated this belief. He was concerned at the insistence of global pharmaceutical companies to push AZT monotherapy (now known to be toxic and withdrawn elsewhere) on the people of South Africa and set up a conference of international experts (most of the establishment opinion) to ask for advice. SOURCE

“AIDS is caused by, or is a myth created by, the CIA [etc.]”

  • Prof McMichael (who makes several, unsubstantiated and sarcastic ad hominem attacks during this talk) is here appearing to be speaking of these three ‘prominent denialists’ but, as far as I know, none of them have ever espoused such conspiracy theories. They are not to blame for those who have.

[Speaking of a report in a Ugandan newspaper] “Men were accused of sleeping with fish, as this disease wreaked havoc among Ugandans […] So there were some really wild notions out there.”

  • This report has nothing to do with the debate. Why chose an example of African AIDS hysteria when there are so many European ones? Conflating the reasoned concerns of top scientists and a caring president with such media hysteria is both nasty and illogical.

“They a see circular argument in that we define the disease as having HIV […] but the fact remains that every case has the virus.”

  • This is false. SOURCE
  • There is also the huge problem of different and changing classifications of AIDS. SOURCE

“The next slide shows the virus budding from the particles. So the virus exists and Duesberg doesn’t deny that the virus exists.”

  • This is true, but the Perth Group of scientists (whom Prof McMichael studiously ignore) have maintained for over 30 years that there has never been any convincing proof of the existence of the Virus and that electron micrographs supposedly showing the virus have various inconsistencies with the establishment theory of HIV/AIDS. SOURCE

[Speaking of Koch’s 4 Postulates] “There were two lab incidents in the USA, were people were accidentally infected with HIV and went on to develop the symptoms of AIDS and they were treated in time to save their lives. […] I guess the virus could be isolated from these people.”

  • Anecdotal evidence. No controls. This is not a double-blinded scientific study nor anywhere near it. Gossip doesn’t prove a point. There are many examples (e.g. of spouses staying HIV negative after decades of unprotected sex with an HIV positive partner) to the contrary. SOURCE

[Speaking of Koch’s 4 Postulates] “At least in one animal, AIDS has been caused, so it fulfils 3 and 4.”

  • On the screen, the bulletpoint refers to SIV (Simian [monkey] Immunodeficiency Virus) not AIDS. SOURCE (about 9:56 on the video clip)

“HIV positivity precedes development of AIDS”

  • This is only true if AIDS is defined as having at least one of a list of conditions plus HIV, and if the cases of AIDS in HIV- people are ignored. SOURCE
  • Also there is no control of anti-retroviral drugs as a causative factor for symptoms of AIDS, which they are officially admitted to cause. SOURCE

“HIV appears in population before deaths from AIDS.”

  • HIV doesn’t ‘appear’. Whatever the source of the phenomenon that HIV tests are recording, it does not follow the classic bell curve of a new epidemic. If this is an existing virus, it’s an old one. SOURCE (The author does not say this clearly, although Professor Duesberg does, SOURCE although it is admitted that the data support this conclusion. The author declares ‘no conflicting interests’ even though the research is sponsored by a foundation that is a spin-off of a large pharmaceutical company SOURCE and published by another)

[Referring to Neville Hodgkinson (writer) and Andrew Neal (editor)] “a pretty scurrilous series of articles that appeared in the Sunday Times”.

  • The writer apparently was persuaded by the reasonableness of the ‘dissident’ arguments and the published debate shut down by very unreasonable complaints. SOURCE
  • The writer appears quite reasonable in this interview: SOURCE

[Speaking of the strange absence of HIV in cells in the body] “only 1/10,000 to 1/1,000 cells affected” but “Recent evidence that 20% of gut CD4+ T cells infected in acute infection.”

  • The competing hypothesis of oxidative stress focuses on the rectum and can explain this apparent result without recourse to HIV. SOURCE (a very erudite article from the leading light of the Perth Group, see also the short article by Joan Shenton at the end)

“80% of CD4+ T cells in gut die in acute infection.”

  • This ‘virus like no other’ (Perth Group) is said to kill T cells yet it is grown in them! Researchers advise each other on the best T cell lines to use: SOURCE. Incidentally, this is why it makes no sense to use chemotherapy drugs (which targets the overgrowth of T cells) for HIV (which is supposed to kill T cells). SOURCE

[Speaking of AZT] “It does have side-effects. It was originally made as a cancer drug, to stop cancer cells growing.” “It can stop other cells growing.”

  • AZT was never approved as a cancer drug, because of the results in animal test there were no tests on humans. SOURCE

[Speaking of AZT] “It reduced the transmission from mother to baby by about half. […] So this has been one of the great success stories that can, has been applied in Africa. Not universally. […] Mbeki didn’t help that because he said you didn’t need it and he had a crazy health minister who said you should use extracts of beetroot instead of these drugs and of course they’re useless.”

  • In among the convoluted presentation of the data here is the fact that treatment with AZT is associated with swift increase in mortality. SOURCE So the health minister was not so crazy!
  • Although AZT kills off infection as it kills life (DNA synthesis) even the establishment admits its terrible toxicity. SOURCE

“Anti-HIV drugs have reduced death rate in western countries dramatically”

  • The illustrative graph (which does have numbers on the x-axis and a CDC logo) shows a dramatic decrease in mortality from AIDS mirrored [but not identical as the ‘with AIDS’ figure is far higher] by that of deaths ‘due to HIV’, from around 50/1,000 [‘with AIDS’] & 45/1,000 [‘due to HIV’] in 1995 to around 20/1,000 & 15/1,000 in 1997. This decline is preceded (in 1994) by a lessening of the steep rate of increase (from 1987).
  • What Prof McMichael fails to mention in what he calls this “single most conclusive piece of evidence” is that the toxic drug AZT was licensed in 1986 and replaced in 1996 by ‘combination therapy’ (HAART), which everyone admits is less lethal. SOURCE
  • This odd graph shows this dramatic decrease flattening out from 1997. So what was happening in the years 1994, 1995 and 1996? In April 1994 the results of the infamous Concorde Trial were published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. AZT monotherapy was over. SOURCE
  • The difference in the lines of deaths ‘with AIDS’ but not ‘due to HIV’ is that any disease (such as liver failure) caused by ART or HAART (anti-HIV treatment drug regimes) but not listed as ‘AIDS related’ would be included in the higher figure.

Chart at 25:04 shows falling then plummeting life expectancy in 1980s & ‘90s in 5 African countries (Zimbabwe, South-Africa, Botswana, Uganda & Zambia) with some recovery in 2 of them:

Zimbabwe (fall aprox. ’83, plummet aprox. ’87, plateau at new low aprox. ‘97)

South-Africa (fall aprox. ’92, plummet aprox. ’97)

Botswana (fall aprox. ’87, plummet aprox. ’92)

Uganda (fall aprox. ’83, slight recovery aprox. ’92, better recovery aprox. ’96)

Zambia (fall aprox. ’82, plummet aprox. ’87, slight recovery aprox. ’92)

Chart at 26:00 shows maps of Africa with changing percentages of HIV diagnosis (or assumption/ projection from test) for the years 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, with no correlation given between these two charts other than “while this was happening, this was happening […] you have to go through some incredible metal acrobatics to say the two weren’t connected in any way”.

  • Prof McMichael appears to be relying here on a 2008 article by Chigwedere et al., ‘‘Estimating the lost benefits of antiretroviral drug use in South Africa”. A detailed rebuttal of this article, “HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS – A new perspective”, demonstrates on epidemiological and immunological grounds that ‘mental acrobatics’ are intimately involved in the production of both charts and that the figures of both mortality and incidence of HIV in Africa published by global concerns linked with pharmaceutical companies differ considerably from those recorded by the government of these African countries – as well as differing from the anecdotal evidence of observation of the undertaking industry! SOURCE
  • President Mbeki complained officially about this kind of manipulation of statistics affecting South Africa. SOURCE

“The virus was isolated in 1983, in Paris and then in the USA.”

Not according to Dr Montagnier of the Institute Pasteur, Paris, credited as its co-discoverer. SOURCE

19:58 is all about clades and subtypes of HIV and the “phylogenetic tree” and coloured map of the world, both helpfully labelled with the letters A-J (as well as the word ‘consensus’ and 1959 – referring to the supposed origin found in frozen blood samples taken in Kinshasa, Tanzania).

  • As usual, no reference is provided but the tree diagram (if not manufactured by the advertised software) appears to have been altered from one on Wikipedia, which boasts varied (and varying) examples. SOURCE
  • All very convincing until we get to a now-familiar circular reasoning. HIV-clades are identified by testing with HIV test kits primed with local HIV-clade proteins (which are presumed to occur locally). SOURCE (see paragraph just before ‘Results’). So, as these proteins are non-specific, even to HIV, SOURCE they may react with the antibodies in the blood samples as would those of any other clades.
  • One can’t go wrong in identifying clades as any unfamiliar genotypes can be assumed to be mutations or ‘recombinant’ mash-ups (and more aggressive). SOURCE (also has an interesting twist to the story, ‘co-receptors’, as apparently CD4 sites aren’t the point of entry after all! Who knew?)

[Speaking of SIV, which is harmless to both monkeys and humans] “When you take it out of an African monkey and put it in an Asian monkey, they develop AIDS, exactly like AIDS.”

  • Not unless the poor monkeys are so weakened that they have very poor immune systems in the first place. SOURCE & SOURCE

“SIVsm [sooty mangabees] very close to HIV-2 in West Africa.”

  • Actually it’s genetically identical. SOURCE Which raises the question of why all of a sudden this millennia-old harmless monkey virus should jump to humans and “cause havoc”. SOURCE

35:22 another Wikipedia-type phylogenetic tree (unreferenced, again). This time of HIV-1.

  • What’s interesting is that of the 18 varieties of genotypes (clades or subtypes) the 7 varieties of SIV are no nearer to the root of the ‘tree’ (as one might expect of supposed ancestors). SOURCE (see for yourself among such trees on Wiki)

“It’s suspected that there’s some unlucky gene, in the virus, that enabled it to grow in humans, and that’s an extremely rare event that happened sometime in the 1950’s”

  • A rare event that appears to have occurred hundreds of times since then?
  • This SOURCE lists 63 varieties of HIV-2 and states there are even more for HIV-1. That’s a lot of bad luck!

38:13 [Speaking of another colourful world map but this time with a reference (UNIAIDS December 2001) and the prevalence of AIDS] “Which begs the question of why it is more prevalent in Africa.”

  • HIV testing in Africa is not only poorly done (this recent SOURCE is from the comparatively wealthy country of South Africa) but false positives abound – as even the WHO admit SOURCE in their damage control comment on the damning report of Médecins Sans Frontières. SOURCE

“It may be to do with social and cultural factors of how people interact.”

  • What on earth could the good Professor be referring to? Is he descending into racist European stereotypes of African sexuality?

[Speaking of the dissident claim that the immune system rids the body of HIV, after citing cold sores etc. as evidence of the opposite situation] “Every immune response the virus has thrown up, the virus escapes it.”

  • Yet it lies dormant for years, until the immune system is compromised.
  • This is an odd claim to make. “In other words, HIV is really just an opportunistic infection sometimes unleashed after the immune system has been suppressed.” (quote from SOURCE)

“Most patients in Africa, if they become infected, they actually present in the hospital with TB.”

  • So, given the non-specific nature of the HIV test and the fact that it’s badly administered in Africa, and that a known toxic drug was deployed on the population (and still is) why on earth do we need to be enquiring into the sex lives of the African people? There is a horrible sentence in this SOURCE that sums up the situation in Africa: “In Europe, when ARVs came along, the hospital wards emptied of people who were severely ill,” says Gilles van Cutsem, medical coordinator for MSF in South Africa. “When we started our HIV programme in Khayelitsha, the waiting room was full of sick people in wheelbarrows. There is less of that now, but people are still coming in very sick.”
  • Unfortunately, the toxicity of AZT also became quickly apparent in Europe & the USA. SOURCE

[Summing up] “The denialists seem to have closed minds. They may be religious extremists, they may be driven by fear or ignorance or want publicity or just be plain malignant […] it’s more to do with psychology which I don’t know anything about.”

  • The only response to this is to quote the good professor’s own words: “It’s fine to be skeptical, as long as you are prepared to change your mind. If you’re not prepared to change your mind, you’re really denying it.”
  • So, it seems that the true skeptics are those questioning the establishment hypothesis (which is not one but two and they disagree!) and the true ‘denialists’ are those that in the face of the multitude of obvious and concealed flaws in this hypothesis persist in their adherence to an unfounded belief rather than proven facts.

(Please see Disclaimer at the beginning of my post)

Silence and Dissent

More information from my book, Silence and Dissent: Expert Doubt in the AIDS Debate.

Bruno in January

As January, at least in Scotland, starts and ends with festivity but is infamously dreich (gloomy) in between, I thought it would be fun to do a search through my inclusive mystery series set in Glasgow, using the word ‘January’, to see what the protagonist of the Bruno Benedetti books gets up to in this month of mixed feelings. First of all, I discovered that sometimes it’s getting up at all that’s his struggle:

Waking up at two in the afternoon, in January in Scotland, means that you have about an hour and a half of light left and that situation is just not conducive to having the will-power to do any of the popular January pastimes which the radio assured me everyone else was up and at: de-toxing, joining a gym and committing suicide. I couldn’t even do the other one of ‘pulling a sickie’ like one in four male Glaswegian employees – if the Metro was to be believed. I reburied myself under the quilt and then thought that Justin might be doing his exercises, so I got up. (Tricks of the Mind)

In fairness, Bruno was working night shift. The next book of the series, The Lovers, is set in the four months from June to September, so January doesn’t get a mention. But in the following book, the first month is reported as unseasonably warm, as Bruno takes a short cut through a graveyard that brings back recent memories:

It was as warm as February seemed to be getting – our halcyon days had been in January this year, much to the disgust of most Scots of the third age who seemed to feel it their duty to warn those ‘casting a cloot’ that we’d pay for it. I decided: I would walk to the station and catch the train. I would still have time to get back to my house. (Shades of the Sun)

January, in the fourth book, is when Bruno first realises that the house on Luggie Road is no ordinary residence:

I can’t remember when the noises started, but I remember the first mention of them. Christmas and New Year were quiet and while my family were remembering the sadness of last year, my friends were recalling the horror. I made an effort and celebrated Burns Night in the flat (which is technically a house but that word feels far too settled) and invited everyone associated with the school. And Simone. I was slightly miffed that she’d apparently dismissed any involvement in the project. So it was one of those funny coincidences, thinking these thoughts, that just when I was reaching for another veggie haggis off the supermarket shelf another hand shot out and grabbed it.  (Qismet)

My most recently-published novel skips over January in terms of events but speaks of Scottish sensibilities around Hogmanay  (New Year’s Eve) and prediction:

However there is a strong aversion in Scotland to presumption. Despite the widespread belief and practice of divination in its many forms, as well as the respect for prophecy, it’s considered extremely bad luck to presume that an expected event will actually happen. This might explain the rather laidback attitude towards formal arrangements that prevails in the Gàidhealtachd, and certainly my avoidance of all my North American friends just after Christmas who persist in wishing me ‘Happy New Year’s’ before the Bells. “When it comes”, is my perennial answer (which should always accompany well-wishing previous to an event) as there is the underlying awareness that the wished-for event may not occur at all. (Tir nam Bàn)

The book I’m working on now, tentatively named Transits of Terror, starts in March but I envisage it covering at least till the next May – and with two men and a baby all getting used to each other, January should be anything but uneventful!

Tricks of the Mind Smashwords Cover

Thanks to Petr Kratochvl for releasing the photo of “Prague Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square”, a detail of which I have used for my cover photo, to the Public Domain.