"
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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

More pseudoscholarship from the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology


(originally published 8th January 2012, now updated)





HIGHLY COMPETENT, Even Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Marco Ruggiero of the University of Florence has scored another coup... in his ongoing campaign to embarrass his university and draw the disgust of the few people who can be bothered watching his self-promoting antics and those of his fellow clowns from Rethinking AIDS.

(Marco's teaching achievements are celebrated here.)
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/


Apparently his and coauthor Henry Bauer's brilliant scheme to secure fame and fortune through promoting  Mad Marco's Magic Yoghurt Cure For AIDS over the internet has fallen through, despite the free advertising to the target demographic provided by Leading Scientific Discussion Forum Questioning AIDS. So Marco and Henry have gone back to writing inept epidemiology papers with their friends Peter Duesberg, David Rasnick, Christian Fiala and the other AIDS denialists, and trying to get them published.


To get it into print Ruggiero has had to call in yet another favor from his dear and close friend Paolo Romagnoli, editor of the prestigious Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology - lauded by Nature news editor Brian Owens on Twitter as "a journal you've never heard of".

Romagnoli has also put his hand up to confess that he was one of the two "peer reviewers" who okayed this drivel for publication. The other wisely remains anonymous.


This is now the third AIDS denialist pseudo-epidemiology paper published by Romagnoli's IJAE in the past couple of years, or fourth if you include a recently published conference abstract by Ruggiero et al that probably could be classified as "denialist" if it were remotely intelligible. The other two papers are discussed here.

As more than one commentator has observed, Romagnoli seems to be trying to convert his journal from a respectable but somewhat obscure anatomy and embryology publication into the Italian Journal of Amateur Epidemiology - a vanity journal for his personal friends in the AIDS denialist movement to gain access to coveted NIH library listing despite the fact that they are - well there's no kind way of saying this - completely nuts.

That seems to be Henry Bauer's idea, anyway:

THE SIX SENIOR AUTHORS OF THE PAPER - Duesberg, Rasnick, Bauer, Koehnlein, Fiala and Ruggiero - comprise about half the board members of Rethinking AIDS. The other three are recent graduates who have worked under Duesberg and Ruggiero. Of the six, Ruggiero was appointed to the board in 2010, according to a press release put out by the organisation:
"In a recent talk at an Italian conference, Dr. Ruggiero speaks of present day AIDS as a scandal and a hoax, a creature of the pharmaceutical-medical complex. He stated that the drugs that are used to treat AIDS cause cancer. He claimed billions are uselessly spent in search of a vaccine for AIDS.


"Dr. Ruggiero stated that in the past three years definitive evidence has accumulated demonstrating that HIV cannot be considered the sole cause of AIDS. For example, a ten year meta-analysis of anti-retroviral therapy published in the Lancet showed that, although the medicines decreased HIV levels, they did not decrease the rates of AIDS or death. Ruggiero concludes that the virus does not cause AIDS, but instead arises as a result of a lowered immune system, thus reversing the cause-effect relationship between HIV and AIDS.


"Dr. Ruggiero referred to Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier who stated that someone with a healthy immune system can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected. It is possible for someone infected with HIV to get rid of the infection by naturally building up their immune system, without the use of anti-viral medicines."

Now, to get an idea of just how seriously deranged the "Board of Rethinking AIDS" really is as a group, have a look at the homicidally negligent Patient Information Leaflet they publish and distribute to people with HIV/AIDS, or who are at risk:



"AIDS doctors accidentally killed an estimated 300,000 people during the AIDS hysteria years of 1987-1997 (by prescribing heavy doses of AZT or similar drugs). It was a mass iatrogenic (doctor caused) massacre, claiming the lives of Arthur Ashe, Rudolf Nureyev, Keith Haring, Kimberley Bergalis, Freddie Mercury and many others.

“They were healthy until convinced to take the medicines. This danger is still with us. Modern AIDS drugs are less toxic, but still life threatening, just not as quickly. Today, 2009, those taking the modern-day ARV therapy are dying at an average age of 45.”

etc...

See also the Press Release these geniuses put out to promote this piece of garbage, which RA president David Crowe described as targeted at "people with limited language skills":


Or check out coauthor Dr David Rasnick's medical "advice" about HIV testing, originally posted on the Rethinking AIDS channel on Youtube:

"People ask me all the time. I don't volunteer - I only answer if they ask. I say: Don't take the test. If unfortunately you take the test don't find out what the result is. If you come back positive I say forget it. If you can't forget it, the test is so unstable keep taking it until you get a negative one and then stop."
Or floridly loopy Rethinking AIDS President Emeritus Roberto Giraldo explaining to the youtube audience that George W. Bush admits that the US government knows HIV does not exist, only they can't say so publicly:
‘In year 2000, when George Bush was candidate to be President of the United States, [then South African president] Mbeki came to the United States to try to do some business. And George Bush told him that they knew, that the government knew, that HIV was not the cause of AIDS, that they knew that HIV didn’t even exist, but that the problem was that they couldn’t say that to the public because the public was going to get crazy. Or that the countries of the world were going to [get] united against those lies that were spread by the government of the United States.’
Or Marco Ruggiero explaining in the AIDS denialist youtube "documentary" The Science of Panic that "the origin of AIDS is chemical in Europe and the Western world, and lack of potable water and malnutrition in Africa and in developing countries". Earlier in the film he tells us that the antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS don't improve survival with the disease, and are themselves "the cause of AIDS, or at least some types of AIDS". Unfortunately, Ruggiero's medical advice didn't help the film's director Isabel Otaduy Sömme. She died with HIV/AIDS in 2009, before her propaganda project was completed. She was 44 years old... Or have a look at the Rethinking AIDS facebook page, where Rethinking AIDS board members do much of their internet "outreach" to people with HIV/AIDS all over the world. For example, here is the advice given by current RA president David Crowe to a South African lady with AIDS whose last T cell count was 107:
In reality, Duesenggiero's IJAE paper is just a rehash of the woeful Out of Touch With South African AIDS fiasco, a work so negligently inept that even the publishers of Medical Hypotheses rejected it. And your paper has to be pretty bad if even Med Hype refuses to accept your payment to print it.
Yep, it's a stinker.
No serious epidemiologist or HIV/AIDS scientist or clinician would consider either the original paper or its latest incarnation even remotely credible, but that's not the point of it. The paper wasn't written and published for a scientific readership: rather the idea is to provide a veneer of credibility for the benefit of their unsophisticated target audience on youtube, facebook and elsewhere on the net - to be able to say "Look! There really is a genuine scientific controversy here about whether HIV causes AIDS!" And when people with HIV/AIDS get sucked into the Rethinking AIDS propaganda, the consequences are often devastating. See also here, here, here and here. And here.
While Romagnoli and his University of Florence might like to pretend to themselves that they are simply providing a platform for genuine and sincere scientific debate about an unresolved issue, in reality they are merely supporting a cynical propaganda campaign targeted at those people who are least able to critically examine the claims of the AIDS denialists, and who can be most harmed by their misinformation. Henry Bauer makes the strategy of Rethinking AIDS perfectly clear:
"At any rate, AIDStruthers [ie the scientific mainstream] are not the audience to be courted. Their arguments must be countered with answers directed to the media and the general public in terms that are understandable by and clearly convincing for unengaged observers. That means the points cannot be too technical."
And when generally credible scientific media outlets like Nature News and Comment provide publicity - even negative publicity - they are playing into the Rethinking AIDS strategy, which is to try to convince their target audience that there is a legitimate scientific controversy going on.  Especially when they trumpet a headline like "Paper refuting HIV–AIDS link secures publication: Work by infamous AIDS contrarian passes peer review" without making any attempt to explain the background to the paper's publication. (A day or two later someone at Nature changed "refuting" to "denying", but this makes little difference).
Because as former "public relations chairperson" of Rethinking AIDS Elizabeth Ely gloats on RA's facebook page:
SNOUT WON'T BORE HIS READERS with a blow by blow dissection thorough, careful, sensitive, and yet transformational reading of the whole paper, but here's a small sample of the Burning Stupid that Romagnoli thought worth publishing. As Actual Epidemiologist Max Essex remarked, when faced with bilge like this "it's hard to respond in an intelligent way". Coauthor on the paper Christian Fiala, of course, excitedly interprets this as meaning "there is no argument against what we have presented", and in a way that's true - after all as Thomas Jefferson once said,"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."
Fiala, of course, is the guy who gained recent notoriety for announcing on the right-wing fundamentalist christian website WingNut Daily that he not only denies that HIV causes AIDS but also that HPV causes cervical cancer.  So anyway, the paper begins with the proposition that:
"The germ theory of disease predicts that a new (relative to a population) pathogenic virus or microbe causes an exponentially spreading epidemic of new microbe-specific illnesses and deaths within weeks to months of the arrival of the new pathogen (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010)." [italics added]
The online encyclopaedia entry they cite says nothing of the kind, because Duesenggiero's statement is made-up nonsense. But no matter, they use this "citation" to conclude that that the AIDS epidemic cannot have been caused by a virus, because:
"A new viral epidemic would have risen and declined exponentially within weeks or months after its discovery in 1984." [italics added]
Pardon? Next the authors express surprise that "the WHO/UNAIDS does not list any numbers on 'Reported HIV cases' and 'Reported AIDS cases'" in South Africa, and just in case you don't believe them, they include an image of the blank data boxes.
Golly gee. Could that have anything to do with the fact that neither HIV infection nor AIDS are notifiable conditions in that country?
Then we come to the main thrust of Duesenggiero's argument: that because the estimated populations of various African countries have continued to increase during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there can't possibly have been significant HIV/AIDS mortality.
That's essentially it.
No, really. It's that dumb.
These amateur epidemiologists have apparently never considered the impact of high birth rates, migrations, and other factors on total population estimates. Nathan Geffen points out the obvious:
"The annual number of births in South Africa over the last two decades has been between 1 and 1.2 million. By the best estimate the number of deaths rose between 1997 and 2006 from about 400,000 to about 650,000 annually. This rise in deaths, as I explain below is entirely consistent with our large HIV epidemic, but it is still far below the number of births: hence South Africa's population has risen."
For example, our geniuses state:
Unexpectedly we found that the population of South Africa had increased by 3 million from 2000 to 2005, based on concordant statistics from South Africa and the US Census Bureau.
Duesenggiero et al appear to be unaware that the Statistics South Africa and US Census Bureau population figures they are citing are not head counts, but estimates that explicitly modelled the impact of HIV/AIDS on mortality.
Then they tell us that:
In all countries where testing was introduced the prevalence of HIV-antibodies was soon found to be steady as it would be expected if HIV were a long-established endemic retrovirus (Duesberg, 1996; Duesberg, 1992; Duesberg et al., 2003).
This is an unbelievably ignorant claim. It is so wrong you can only wonder what morons provided the three references used to support it. And - you guessed it - Duesberg mines this stupid factoid out of his own fundament on all three occasions, despite the authors contradicting themselves only a couple of paragraphs earlier when they inform us that in South Africa:
anti-HIV antibodies were first detected in 0.7% of the population. This percentage then increased gradually (not exponentially!) over about 10 years until 2000 when it levelled off between 25 and 30%.
Hmm. Let me see. A forty-fold rise in seroprevalence in a demographic between 1990 and 2005 is what Duesenggiero mean by steady? Furthermore, they also appear not to have noticed that the figures they are citing were not for the South African population as a whole, but rather were annual surveys of antenatal clinic attendees. In 2005, for example, the whole population (over 2 years old) prevalence was estimated at 10.8%, not 30.2%
Then the authors wheel out the Bedrock Factoid of Denialist Pseudo-epidemiology, namely:
In the US, for example, 1 million have been HIV-antibody-positive since 1985 (Curran et al., 1985; Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1986; Duesberg et al., 2003; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007, 2008).
This is nonsense that has been refuted over and over again - for example see here - and yet they bring out their favorite poor dead horse for yet another flogging. Aside from the fact that they are seriously misrepresenting Curran et al's 1985 estimate (which was based on taking the 10,000 notified AIDS cases to 1985 and guessing what percentage of the total HIV positive population they represent) it is disingenuous if not outright dishonest to suggest that the CDC estimates a steady 1 million prevalence. The CDC's US HIV prevalence and incidence estimates over the course of the epidemic to 2006 are shown here:
And so on. You get the idea - the paper is unutterable crap, even if you disregard the nauseous arrogance of the authors sitting on their fat arses in Berkeley or Firenze or Blacksburg Virginia and telling African communities that have buried far too many of their young adults that - hey! never mind, these deaths never really happened... ... Have some of our yummy yoghurt!
Yet another FAIL for the University of Florence. Please report to the Unsatisfactory Academic Progress Committee.
 Further Reading:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------   UPDATE (1st February 2012): Looks like there's TROUBLE AT' MILL with the editorial board of the Italian Journal of Amateur Epidemiology.  Editor-in-chief Paolo Romagnoli tells us that the peer reviewers for Duesenggiero's silly essay "were chosen on the basis of 'scientific competence' and 'impartiality of judgement'". Given that he himself was one of the two "reviewers" he chose, it's nice to know he has such a high opinion of himself. Unfortunately, it seems, not all the members of his editorial board share this view.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- UPDATE (30th March 2012)
Yet another example of the misrepresentations of Duesberg, Ruggiero and their coauthors in their recent IJAE paper. In the Acknowledgements section of the paper they state:
We are grateful to Colonel Frank Anders, Lieutenant Colonel Clinton Murray and Major Jason Okulicz for encouragement, critical comments and for preliminary results on “HIV-Elite Controllers” (HIV-positives) from the US Military.
This seems to be news to Lt. Col. Murray and Maj. Okulicz.
Jason Okulicz, you might recall, was the lead author of a study that Henry Bauer misrepresented in his previous IJAE offering, to support his stupid claim that half of US HIV positives are elite controllers. Apparently Henry has trouble telling the difference between 0.55% and 50%.
Okulicz and Murray, it seems, are Not Pleased.
Prof. Paolo Romagnoli,
We were recently acknowledged in a manuscript written by Peter H Duesberg et al. titled AIDS Since 1984: No Evidence for a New, Viral Epidemic - not Even in Africa. We would like to indicate that we were never asked to participate in the development of this manuscript including providing encouragement or critical comments. In addition, we do not concur with the findings of the manuscript. Finally, the opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense or the US government.
Clint K. Murray, MD Jason F. Okulicz, MD Infectious Disease Service Brooke Army Medical Center Fort Sam Houston, TX USA 78234 [bold added]

8 comments:

deetee said...

Thanks for doing this Snout.

Snout said...

No worries, deetee.

I was content to leave this well alone, until the rocket scientists at Nature News and Comment thought that giving Rethinking AIDS some free publicity was a good idea.

It isn't, and their editorial decision will inevitably result in deaths. The Rethinking AIDS body count will keep piling higher.

Perhaps now they will do some belated research on the organisation they are promoting, rather than just responding to Marco Ruggiero's fatuous "press releases".

Dora said...

Dear Snout,
many thanks for your post!
I didn’t know your blog, but now we at hivforum.info feel less lonesome in our battle against AIDS denialists in Italy.
Grazie
Dora

Snout said...

Grazie, Dora. I very much enjoyed reading your forum (with the help of Google Translate).

Especially the threads titled I "dissidenti" e l'AIDS: ovvero la triste realtà dei fatti!  and Contro GcMAF e Ruggiero, parla la medicina ufficiale

I'm very pleased that people like Claudia Balotta, Francesco Simonetti and Sylvie Coyaud are speaking out in Italy against Duesenggiero's bullshit.

Dora said...

Hi Snout!

As the “HIVforum Group”, we sent a letter to the provost of the University of Florence, asking for an open dissociation of his Institution from Mad Marco and his Magic Yoghurt (here is the letter in PDF format: http://www.hivforum.info/forum/images/docs/Lettera_al_Rettore_UNIFI_8_febbraio_2012.pdf. Sorry, it’s in Italian …).
A similar letter we sent to many infectious diseases experts, to the scientific board of the “Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology”, to activists, politicians, media and institutional agencies (here you'll find the reactions we are collecting: http://www.hivforum.info/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=925).
But we are also spreading all around the Web an analogous call in English: http://www.hivforum.info/forum/images/docs/Italian_HIVers_against_Ruggiero's_yoghurt-8_February_2012.pdf.

Can you help us giving it the widest possible circulation?

Many thanks.

Ciao
Dora

sweetclaire06 said...

Hi Snout!,

Just came across your blog today. What a great job you've done here! I'm a retired RN. I worked on the AIDS unit at Cedar's Sinai in the mid 80's and early 90's. EVERYONE was dying back then in 'The Bad Old Days'. I held the hand of way too many AIDS patients as they left this mortal plane.Today because of effective treatment Cedar's doesn't even have an AIDS unit.

I've been viewing denialist videos on You Tube and reading other blogs such as Respectful Insolence that address this awful phenomenem.

Honestly, I had no idea these people were even around anymore. In my mind how could they be with all that's known now?

One of the things that disturbs me the most are the ones who insist the HIV tests are a useless fraud. Therefore why bother getting tested.Actually, after I just typed that I realized EVERYTHING about what they are saying and doing is disturbing.The negative impact of their ignorance is immeasurable.

Thanks again for your writings! I'll be a faithful reader from now on!

Regards,
Claire

Snout said...

Thank you for visiting, sweetclaire06.

Yes, I agree that it's disturbing that HIV/AIDS denialist nonsense still features so prominently on the internet, even though it is so thoroughly discredited elsewhere. You know, like in Real Life.

I suspect that such internet prominence is way out of proportion to the importance of the people who post it - in my experience the vast majority of HIV/AIDS denialist nonsense is posted on the internet by a tiny handful of individuals.

Dan Kegel said...

Hi Snout,
here's a little update on the university's inquiry into Marco Ruggiero:

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/07/greater-oversight-but-no-sanctions-for-italian-aids-contrarian.html

By the way, did you know Henry Bauer has branched out into HPV denialism? Might be worth a writeup. Here's my try:
http://hpv.kegel.com/qualms/postmodern.html