Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A scientific theory is to be judged in an Australian court! The judgment is more likely to turn on prestige rather than science, however. Many well-informed people do question whether the HIV virus is the cause of AIDS. There are some murky episodes in the history of research on the question -- with the "discoverer", Gallo, being an undoubted crook driven by a huge ego.

Nonetheless, on the evidence I have seen so far, I am inclined to conclude that HIV does cause AIDS -- chronic skeptic though I am.

All AIDS is not the same however. The defence would do better to concentrate on the case of African AIDS only. They call anything AIDS there.

The Perth skeptics have a critical survey of the main scientific evidence here

Leading scientist Gustav Nossal has stepped into a courtroom showdown, labelling a group of self-styled experts who claim HIV does not exist as "a considerable scientific embarrassment". Sir Gustav, Australian of the Year in 2000 and an immunologist of global stature, will join upto six leading Australian HIV-AIDS scientists in Adelaide this week to give evidence in the appeal of an HIV-positive man convicted of endangering the lives of three women.

Andre Chad Parenzee, 35, was convicted in February last year on three counts of endangering life. South African-born Parenzee - who had unprotected sex with the women but failed to tell them he was HIV-positive - is in custody awaiting sentencing and faces up to 15 years in jail.

Sir Gustav and the eminent scientists will dispute Parenzee's two defence witnesses, Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and Val Turner, who lead the Perth Group of HIV-AIDS sceptics. During two weeks of evidence at the appeal hearing late last year, the Perth Group witnesses presented scientific research and arguments claiming that HIV does not exist and was not responsible for the global scourge of HIV and AIDS. The defence hopes the hearings will lead to a retrial and acquittal.

HIV-AIDS specialists believe the case has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for public health campaigns and the criminal law. Sir Gustav yesterday called the HIV sceptics "a very considerable embarrassment" to Australian science. "HIV-AIDS is the most serious communicable disease ever - worse than the bubonic plague. It is a pretty serious thing to set yourselves up attacking the science behind it," he said.

South Australian prosecutors will today continue their cross-examination of Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos, a medical physicist at the Royal Perth Hospital, and Dr Turner, who told the court last year he was an emergency medicine specialist. They believe HIV has never been isolated as an antivirus, since its discovery in the early 1980s, and that it does not cause the AIDS disease and cannot be transferred by sexual contact.

Up to seven prosecution witnesses will begin appearing from Thursday, when Emeritus Professor Peter McDonald of Flinders University will take the stand. He is an expert in infectious diseases. On Friday, the Royal Perth Hospital immunologist Martin French will take the stand. Next Monday, two HIV-AIDS researchers, including world-leading researcher associate professor Elizabeth Dax, will take the stand. Several of Professor Dax's papers have been quoted by the Perth Group and the prosecution has accused them of misrepresenting Professor Dax's findings. Professor John Kaldor of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology is scheduled to appear next Tuesday, followed on Wednesday by professor David Cooper, director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of NSW.

Sir Gustav will appear next Wednesday if he chooses, otherwise he will send a written report to the court. From his office at the University of Melbourne yesterday, he rejected the claims made by the Perth Group. "The evidence of AIDS being due to a virus is as strong as any other infectious disease you care to name - from measles to polio," he said. "I was recently chairman in a meeting of the foundation that gave $300 million to finding an AIDS vaccine - I doubt Bill and Melinda Gates would be giving that money if AIDS was not caused by a virus."

Monash University professor Suzanne Crowe, head of the Burnet Institute's HIV Pathogenesis and Clinical Research Program and not a witness in the case, said that unless the prosecution wins the legal showdown, it would set a "dangerous precedent" in the global AIDS fight.



The number of people having liposuction treatments to remove fat has risen by 90 per cent in a year, prompting a warning from experts that it should not be seen as a solution for obesity. The operation, which involves vacuuming fat from areas such as the thighs and abdomen, was the third most popular cosmetic procedure last year, after breast enlargement and eyelid surgery.

But the surgery is not without risks. Last year Denise Hendry, the wife of the former Scotland football captain Colin Hendry, accepted more than 100,000 pounds in compensation after suffering complications during liposuction in 2002. She was in intensive care for nearly two months after sustaining nine punctures to her bowel and colon during a procedure. At one point her heart stopped for four minutes.

According to figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, at least 4,000 of the 90,000 cosmetic surgery operations carried out last year were liposuction procedures, compared with 2,100 in 2005. Patients included men wanting to remove excess fat from their chests, often referred to as "man breasts". Side-effects can include permanent scarring and loose skin, but Adam Searle, a consultant plastic surgeon and the association's former president, said that the procedure was becoming more refined.

However, it should not be considered as an alternative to losing weight, he said. "There are lots of misconceptions. Every week someone comes into a clinic weighing 25 stone [159kg] and wanting liposuction. This technique is not appropriate for the obese. "It should be reserved for very specific areas of fat in an otherwise fit person. The ideal candidate would be a woman who says, `I go to the gym, I have lost weight but this area on the side of my thigh refuses to go'."

Members of the association carried out 28,921 plastic surgery procedures last year - up about one third on 2005. The association said that the number of other plastic surgery procedures - such as breast and nose surgery - had also risen.

The figures show that anti-ageing procedures were also popular, with facelifts up 44 per cent on 2005, eyelid surgery up 48 per cent, and brow lifts up 50 per cent. The vast majority of procedures - about 92 per cent - were carried out on women, 6,156 of whom had breast surgery. Nose surgery was most common in men, but they also had eyelid surgery, liposuction, altered their ears, and had face and neck lifts.

Louise Braham, the director of the Harley Medical Group, said that demand had increased in the past year. More professionals - including lawyers, teachers, estate agents and accountants - had opted for treatment, she said. She said that "growth hotspots" included the use of botox - the number of procedures had risen 89 per cent in the past six months - breast reductions, which rose 85 per cent in the same time, and nose surgery, which rose 25 per cent.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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