Sudan’s President denies role in Darfur Violence

March 21, 2007

[Thanks to Eclecta for not letting me miss this.]

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir

This post might as well be called, “are you fucking kidding me?” In this remarkable MSNBC piece, Ann Curry interviews Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, which is widely viewed by the world to blame for the atrocities that are going on in Darfur.

Ms. Curry notes in her blog, “how does one interview a man accused of unleashing genocide?

Human Rights Watch says President al-Bashir should be prosecuted for war crimes in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has summoned one of the ministers in his government to face possible charges for crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has just suspended cooperation with the ICC investigators and continues to publically state the situation in Darfur is exaggerated and solely a regional conflict . Now, in his first television interview to the west in four years, he will have a chance to answer these accusations.

So how exactly am I to face this man? How will I exact the truth, and at the same time keep the horror that I saw on the Darfur border from being revealed in my own eyes? I was never good at poker. I am gearing up for one of the greatest challenges of my career.

A challenge indeed. Omar al-Bashir is one piece of (rotten) work. Check out how the 2-hour interview came out:

Ann Curry: Mr. President, I have this map from the U.S. Department of State that shows more than a thousand villages in the Darfur region — more than a thousand burned.

And the question is, how can this be done by Arab militias without the support of the Sudanese government? This is shocking.

Omar al-Bashir: What do you think about the picture that Colin Powell presented before the national security that confirmed and illustrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What do you think about it?

Curry: You’re saying this is not true?

Al-Bashir: This picture is the same fabrication and the same picture as the ones Colin Powell presented about Iraq.

In other words, we have Ms. Curry, who to her credit seems genuinely concerned about the atrocities in Darfur, and this creep throws Iraq at her face, as if to say, you and your country have no credibility or moral standing to be asking these questions.

A bonafide war criminal is basically calling George W. Bush and his Iraq wet-dream a war crime. This is even embarassing to write, but it takes one to know one. We have no moral compass to guide us. Lord help us.


McCain Clueless on AIDS prevention – WTF??

March 17, 2007

Yes, I know, I have not posted in a while. I was attending the spectacular annual convention of the American Medical Student Association… more on that in a future posting.

For now let me direct you to a nice little conservative idiot, a U.S. senator who once was formerly known as a “straight shooter”, John McCain. Now he is more or less, how should I put this, full of shit.

McCain Clueless on AIDS prevention - WTF?

Notice I’m not saying, “I don’t like McCain because he is a Republican”, I’m saying I don’t like the guy because he has become what he (once) loathed – a liar. Take his reversal on Jerry Falwell, a demagogue who is getting filthy rich telling people such filth as:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For The American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped [9/11] happen.”

“If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”

“Global warming is Satan’s attempt to redirect the Church’s primary focus.”

But I digress. The man who could one day become president of the most powerful nation ever on Earth is clueless about the deadliest disease to ever affect mankind. The ignorance needs to be read to be believed.

From “The Caucus” Blog of the New York Times:

SOMEWHERE in NORTHERN IOWA — The unthinkable has happened. Senator John McCain met a question, while sitting with reporters on his bus as it rumbled through Iowa today, that he couldn’t – or perhaps wouldn’t – answer.

Did he support the distribution of taxpayer-subsidized condoms in Africa to fight the transmission of H.I.V.?

What followed was a long series of awkward pauses, glances up to the ceiling and the image of one of Mr. McCain’s aides, standing off to the back, urgently motioning his press secretary to come to Mr. McCain’s side.

Feeling awkward answering difficult and important questions is not unusual, even for a speaker at McCain’s high level. Giving a bullshit answer, though, is apparently within the reach of McCain’s level. All emphasis is mine:

A transcript of the encounter follows. (Weaver is John Weaver, his senior adviser, and Brian is Mr. Jones, his press secretary):

Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?

Mr. McCain: “Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it.”

(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: “I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

This went on for a few more moments until a reporter from the Chicago Tribune broke in and asked Mr. McCain about the weight of a pig that he saw at the Iowa State Fair last year.

So folks, there you have it. I was going to sneak in some figures of HIV/AIDS, like 40 million worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, with 25 million of these living in sub-Saharan Africa, 48 million orphans in Africa, a quarter because of HIV/AIDS, but my guess is facts are worthless with these bunch of conservative idiots.

And by the way, asking your assistant about “your” position on a subject is preposterous when it comes to AIDS. If it were something like the microeconomics of Indonesian farmers I would cut you some slack, but AIDS? Give me a break.


Marijuana as wonder drug

March 3, 2007

From the Boston Globe:

A NEW STUDY in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine — and US drug policy — that we still need “proof” of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.

The study, from the University of California at San Francisco, found smoked marijuana to be effective at relieving the extreme pain of a debilitating condition known as peripheral neuropathy. It was a study of HIV patients, but a similar type of pain caused by damage to nerves afflicts people with many other illnesses including diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Neuropathic pain is notoriously resistant to treatment with conventional pain drugs. Even powerful and addictive narcotics like morphine and OxyContin often provide little relief. This study leaves no doubt that marijuana can safely ease this type of pain.

As all marijuana research in the United States must be, the new study was conducted with government-supplied marijuana of notoriously poor quality. So it probably underestimated the potential benefit.

I have always found the ban on using marijuana for medical purposes ridiculous. I’m studying for a doctorate degree in medicine, and when I get there no so-called “moralist” or conservative politician is going to tell me that I can’t give a patient something I my training and the scientific evidence tell me that is the way to go.

With marijuana it is especially a problem, because anyone can grow it. You don’t have to buy it (well, at least initially from somebody!) and growing the plant is like growing any other plant. I have always believed that there is something else to it:

The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to isolate cannabinoids and synthesize analogs, and to package them in non-smokable forms. In time, companies will almost certainly come up with products and delivery systems that are more useful and less expensive than herbal marijuana. However, the analogs they have produced so far are more expensive than herbal marijuana, and none has shown any improvement over the plant nature gave us to take orally or to smoke.

We live in an antismoking environment. But as a method of delivering certain medicinal compounds, smoking marijuana has some real advantages: The effect is almost instantaneous, allowing the patient, who after all is the best judge, to fine-tune his or her dose to get the needed relief without intoxication. Smoked marijuana has never been demonstrated to have serious pulmonary consequences, but in any case the technology to inhale these cannabinoids without smoking marijuana already exists as vaporizers that allow for smoke-free inhalation.

Be sure to read the rest of the article here. By the way, the piece was written by Lester Grinspoon, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, certainly not some ignorant hippie:

Hopefully the UCSF study will add to the pressure on the US government to rethink its irrational ban on the medicinal use of marijuana — and its destructive attacks on patients and caregivers in states that have chosen to allow such use. Rather than admit they have been mistaken all these years, federal officials can cite “important new data” and start revamping outdated and destructive policies. The new Congress could go far in establishing its bona fides as both reasonable and compassionate by immediately moving on this issue.

Such legislation would bring much-needed relief to millions of Americans suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other debilitating illnesses.


The Antichrist will be a liberal!

March 2, 2007

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi

This is too good to pass up. I swear, I’m not making this up. From Times UK & Catholic Online:

March 02, 2007

Pope is warned of a green Antichrist

An arch-conservative cardinal chosen by the Pope to deliver this year’s Lenten meditations to the Vatican hierarchy has caused consternation by giving warning of an Antichrist who is “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist”.

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, 78, who retired as Archbishop of Bologna three years ago, quoted Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900), the Russian philosopher and mystic, as predicting that the Antichrist “will convoke an ecumenical council and seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions.

The “masses” would follow the Antichrist, “with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants” who would fight to prevent the watering down and ultimate destruction of the faith, he said.”

Ok stop it, stop it, STOP IT RIGHT THERE! Now WTF is that? The next Antichrist will be someone who is a “pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist”? The title of the post refers to it as “green” but that’s in the U.K. In the U.S. we know this means a liberal. A LIBERAL! Shit I’m scared.

You honestly want me to believe that the Antichrist will be a liberal? Give me a fucking break! Now I know the guy is old (78) and a religious nut, but several things struck me.

Here is one: the guy was named by the Pope himself. That tells you something right there.

The choice of Cardinal Biffi raised eyebrows in the Vatican, given his sometimes eccentric views. The cardinal gave a warning of the coming of the Antichrist during his two decades as the Archbishop of Bologna, and said that an “invasion” of Muslim immigrants was undermining Europe’s Christian values.

The choice of Lenten speaker has in the past given a clue to Vatican policy, although one source said that Cardinal Biffi had perhaps been chosen because his “verbal fireworks” would keep listeners awake.

I understand his concerns about immigration in general, and of course he’s allowed to have his own opinions, but count the above comment as strike two. “Verbal fireworks”? You’re supposed to love everyone Cardinal. Ever heard of the 10 Commandments?

Here’s strike 3. Bear with me on this guy’s logic…

Cardinal Biffi said that the Antichrist was not necessarily a person but “the reduction of Christianity to an ideology . . . The teaching that the great Russian philosopher left us is that Christianity cannot be reduced to a set of values. At the heart of being a Christian is the personal encounter with Jesus Christ.” But he quoted with approval from Solovyov’s Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History, which suggests that the Antichrist is a real figure.

Cardinal Biffi said that Christianity stood for “absolute values, such as goodness, truth, beauty”. If “relative values” such as “solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature” became absolute, they would encourage “idolatry” and “put obstacles in the way of salvation”.

I don’t give a hoot that he is a Cardinal, here is one conservative idiot for ya’. I understand that values such as “goodness, truth, and beauty” are good wholesome Christian values… but things like “solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature” are not to be considered Christian values? And how the fuck could these values encourage “idolatry” and “put obstacles in the way of salvation”?

Only if you are a conservative idiot, that’s how. 1, 2, 3, you are out.

If I care about the environment – bad, not-Christlike. Love of peace? Peace is for pussies. Respect for nature? Hey, war is good! Jeez. It’s not being a liberal or a conservative that’s wrong, it is taking things to the extreme that is wrong.

However, what struck me the most is this: if the Antichrist will be a “pacifist, ecologist, and ecumenist” and antichrist means “the opposite of Christ“, then what does that make of Christ? Don’t get me wrong, that’s this idiot’s view, and I’m plenty sure the Cheneys, Coulters, and Dobsons of the world feel the same way, but what does this guy think Christ stands for?

Hmmm, lets see here.

Opposite of “pacifist” – how about “warmonger“?

Opposite of “ecologist” – how about “raping the Earth“?

Opposite of “ecumenist” – well we need to define the word first.

In a narrower and more common sense, ecumenism refers to the movement towards co-operation among Christians. For some people, ecumenism is based on the idea that there should be a single Christian Church, but normally it refers to Christians of different Christian denominations working together. Thus ecumenism in reality is usually just the promotion of co-operation and better understanding between religious groups or denominations, without aiming at unity.

The above doesn’t sound that bad on paper. Cooperation among Christians, more understanding… oh right, he’s a conservative idiot. So how about… I’m at a loss for words here. My IQ just dropped a couple of points trying to dissect this idiot. I was thinking of “go fuck yourself“, a la Dick Cheney, but there must surely be something better.

What do you all think?


Gardasil studies stopped due to sucess

March 2, 2007

I just found out about this – rest assured I’ll post more about it when details surface:

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Clinical trials of Gardasil, the recently launched cervical cancer vaccine marketed by Merck & Co Inc and Sanofi-Aventis SA, are to be halted because of the success of the product.

Sanofi Pasteur MSD, a joint venture of the two companies, said on Tuesday the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board for two trials had recommended they be terminated on ethical grounds, so that young women on placebo could receive Gardasil.

Gardasil was approved last year as the first vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. GlaxoSmithKline Plc has a rival product called Cervarix in development.

People without scientific or epidemiological training may be confused about this result. For the uninitiated here are some explanations.

People are somewhat familiar with clinical trials, in which the drug is given randomly to one group and a placebo to the other. It is unethical to not give a patient a treatment that we know that works, so in the case of clinical trials we give one group the experimental drug and the other group the established standard treatment – again, it is unethical to not treat patients.

Specifically, these are parallel track phase III studies, one previously completed in females, the other ongoing in older females and in adolescent males, which had not been completed at the time of original licensure.


Low-Cost Antimalarial Pill Available!

March 2, 2007

A child finds out he got Malaria

God, finally some good news to cheer my day up!

A new, cheap, easy-to-take pill to treat malaria is being introduced today, the first product of an innovative partnership between an international drug company and a medical charity.

The medicine, called ASAQ, is a pill combining artemisinin, invented in China using sweet wormwood and hailed as a miracle malaria drug, with amodiaquine, an older drug that still works in many malarial areas.

A treatment will cost less than $1 for adults and less than 50 cents for children. Adults with malaria will take only two pills a day for three days, and the pill will come in three smaller once-a-day sizes for infants, toddlers and youngsters.

Needless to say, this is a very good thing, and a team effort as well:

“This is a good thing,” said Dr. Arata Kochi, chief of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program, who has publicly demanded that drug companies stop making pills that contain artemisinin alone because they will lead to resistant strains of malaria. “They’re responding to the kind of drug profile we’ve been promoting.”

[…]Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth-largest drug company, based in Paris, will sell the pill at cost to international health agencies like the W.H.O., Unicef and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The rollout of the drug is the result of a two-year partnership between Sanofi and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a campaign started by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders to find new drugs for tropical diseases.

Doctors Without Borders, better known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, has long been one of the harshest critics of the pharmaceutical industry, charging that it spent billions on drugs like Viagra, Ambien and Prozac for rich countries and almost nothing on diseases killing millions of poor people.

But, recognizing that new drugs would have to come from the industry’s major players, Doctors Without Borders founded the initiative in 2003 and began seeking partnerships. This is the first to come to fruition.

See, ain’t that the way to do things? Major disagreements, but communication is still open, and compromise. I know a government or two that could apply these principles into practice.