And going to the university and the University of Florence in particular, it came out that Professor Ruggiero – that’s myself – was in absolute terms the Best Professor in the Entire University... and not only in biology and medicine but overall, concerning all the professors of the entire university" - Dr Marco Ruggiero, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Florence.

"Derrida's method consisted in demonstrating the forms and varieties of this originary complexity, and their multiple consequences in many fields. He achieved this by conducting thorough, careful, sensitive, and yet transformational readings of philosophical and literary texts, to determine what aspects of those texts run counter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis)."
- Wikipedia: Jaques Derrida (and also copy-pasted to 2,520 other websites)

"I have long ago given up looking at anything from Snout... He has no credentials at all to discuss the things he talks about, yet feels free to denigrate a long-established, peer-reviewed Italian journal, and highly competent, even distinguished scientists and scholars. If anyone prefers to take his opinion rather than mine, I think that shows rather poor judgement in view of the curriculum vitae posted on my website and the anonymity and missing C.V. of Snout…"

- Henry H. Bauer. Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Science Studies and Dean Emeritus of Arts and Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

David Rasnick - how to lie with Powerpoint

HERE'S A QUICKY, from Highly Competent, Even Distinguished Scientist and Scholar David Rasnick’s execrable little lecture on antiretroviral drugs - the one he gave at last year's HIV/AIDS denialists' conference RA 09, and which Celia Farber later posted on youtube so he can mislead and misinform the general web-surfing public. 

It begins with him rehearsing many of the usual denialist canards such as the "skull and crossbones label on laboratory AZT" (that's Canard #016 for AIDS Denialist Bingo players) but this malodorous little nugget is toward the end of the video, starting at 4.30.

Highly Competent, Even Distinguished Scientist
 and Scholar David Rasnick.

He tells us:

"Aids peaked in the USA years before the availability of so-called Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy became available. This is the Centers for Disease Control data:"

At this stage, Rasnick points to one of his Powerpoint slides, which is unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - not visible on the video. But as luck would have it, some kind soul slipped a copy into Snout's kennel. Here it is.  


"You can see that AIDS peaked around 1992 - the years are down here - years before as I said the appearance of HAART  - which is shortened to ARV these days, for antiretroviral drugs."

Well, yes the estimated annual incidence of new AIDS diagnoses did, in fact peak in the years 1992 and 1993 at around 76,000 and 75,000 respectively. This is most likely due to a peak in incident HIV infections a little under a decade earlier. However, the US AIDS prevalence has yet to peak: it’s currently over half a million.
"The important thing to notice here is that there was a natural decline in AIDS and AIDS deaths prior to the appearance of these antiretroviral drugs – these combination drugs."

Here’s where Rasnick stuffs it up completely. First of all, he has not read the y-axis scale correctly. The peak in AIDS deaths is the data point representing the 12 month period to the end of 1995. The next data point is for the year ending December 31 1996, the next for the year ending 1997, etc. Death numbers began to fall in 1996, with the first decline being noted in the first six months of 1996, in comparison to the first six months of 1995.

They fell even further during 1997, and a little more during 1998 before more or less leveling out at around 16,000 to 18,000 per year, despite the rapidly rising prevalence of AIDS.

"But even more – uh sinister I guess – is notice that within months of the appearance of these therapies, the natural decline in AIDS and AIDS deaths stopped abruptly. This is exactly the opposite of what you would expect if these drugs were actually uh promoting health and reducing mortality."

Rasnick places the “appearance of HAART” in “late 1996”. In fact the first protease inhibitor saquinavir was licensed by the FDA in December 1995, and the second, ritonavir, less than three months later on 1st March 1996, and both drugs had limited availability pre-approval. Bizarrely, he places the line on the graph representing the licensing of the first protease inhibitors just before the data point representing deaths to year end 1997.

"And in fact the CDC’s own data makes a strong case for the fact that the antiretroviral drugs are very dangerous things and causing AIDS and killing people."

Fail, David. In fact, the CDC’s own data shows the opposite.  The first recorded decline in AIDS deaths occurs in the period immediately following the licensing of the protease inhibitors that made the first HAART combinations possible, and deaths continue to decline markedly with the rollout over
 the following two to three years. Even after that, when total death numbers remain fairly stable, they are occurring in an ever increasing population of PLWAs: the risk of death per person is actually continuing to fall.

Oh well, perhaps it's time for David to give up his lecturing career, and return to his true calling as boom operator and gopher for House of Numbers director Brent Leung.

Highly Competent, Even Distinguished Scientist And Scholar 
David Rasnick lends a hand on
the set of House of Numbers, financed by his "Rethinking AIDS" organisation.

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