Sex and KFC

November 27, 2007

We can no longer trust our major media to report the news properly any more because of corporate interference trying to sell us hot pants and fast food which, you would think, are fairly mutually exclusive items*- if we’re lucky. The other area where it affects us heavily is medicine. It was pointed out long ago by concerned research scientists that if you put combating disease in the hands of profit-oriented companies alone without having government labs involved what you will get is only treatments- not cures. A cure, after all, is only for Christmas- a treatment is for life.

The first truly awful science of my generation was the way AIDS was handled in the 80’s. Cargo-cult science from a doctor of dubious repute connected a retrovirus to a syndrome and transmission to sex and we were told, with the usual enthusiasm of the tabloid media, of the bodies piled high on the streets come the year 2000. Sex sells. Sex kills. Those alive, paying attention and not out shopping for hot pants holding a bucket of KFC would have caught, at the time, the BBC Panorama documentary which questioned the science and pointed out that the odds on contracting the HIV retrovirus, should it exist, from sex was thousands to one**. The threat increased to one in hundreds only if both partners had an open wound on their genitalia. I personally lack the commitment to have sex hundreds of time with my penis bleeding profusely and even if I did I lack the charm, I feel, to talk another person into rigorous sex whilst suffering from severe blood loss.

Lunatic fringe thinker, I, joined only by Nicholas Regush of ABC News, Harpers, a few Nobel Prize winners for chemistry and around ten thousand scientists outside the USA whose income is not dependant on companies making billions from HIV treatments in thinking there is some less than robust thinking here are now re-joined by the BBC.

The method that has been proposed (but never proved) by which the retrovirus kills our T-cells has as much credibility as a trial lawyer representing OJ Simpson or Robert Downey Jnr. according to, for all my dissing Americans, a study led by Emory University in Atlanta. In reporting the story the Beeb, though, fearful of the American treatment of the English language, decided to get a quote from a trustworthy British scientist at Imperial College, Cambridge. Professor Jaroslav (very British) Stark said: “Scientists have never had a full understanding of the processes by which T helper cells are depleted in HIV, and therefore they’ve been unable to fully explain why HIV destroys the body’s supply of these cells at such a slow rate. Our new interdisciplinary research has thrown serious doubt on one popular theory of how HIV affects these cells, and means that further studies are required to understand the mechanism behind HIV’s distinctive slow process of cellular destruction.”

What’s worrying is this: they decided HIV causes AIDS by killing T-cells without ever understanding or proving the process by which it happens. Then how do you know that HIV is doing it, exactly? There is a word for this kind of thing: it is called a guess. Guessing, as you may conclude, is not great science. Guessing is what loses you huge amounts of money at the track. Guessing is what you do when you try and win the lottery. Guessing is not something you want from, say, a person packing your parachute, deciding on the length of your bungee cord or sending you to a foreign country to find weapons of mass destruction. So filling yourself with toxic chemicals to kill a retrovirus which may be sitting around, chilling, and generally showing the activity and work ethic of a procrastinating grandma on a weeks break in Torremelinos based on a guess may be considered to be less than smart.

The problem is the way we demand answers from medicine. Other sciences get to dabble around and have fun trying to make the universe accidentally fold up or putting new elements together to see how big a bang we can get. We, as individuals, don’t really care so we place no pressure on them. But we want to be cured of every tiny ill. Since none of us really believe in heaven any more we are afraid of death, otherwise we would let ourselves be “taken” at the first opportunity. Lying there, measle-infected, “See God,” we could utter, “it’s not suicide- just your will. See you in a minute- put my sexy birds on ice and pour me a Martini.” So we believe in something new: we have faith in medicine. Which is dumb. Medicine is reason and evidence. And profit. When we substitute reason and evidence for faith we end up with faith and prophet. Possibly one called Mohamed, or Jesus, or Dave The Amazing Faith healer. Or GlaxoSmithKline.

It is really our fault. Our brain seeks conclusions to problems and it seeks them quickly. We are designed to suffer anxiety about the unknown because early humans who were not quick to decide the best option when faced with, say, a large and pretty kitty with sharp teeth and savage claws, never got to decide anything ever again… least of all who to accidentally get pregnant at the prom.

So we get betrayed, every day, by our Selves. Our Selves are not something to be trusted. They will fuck with us at every given opportunity making us think our hair looks bad, our hot-pants don’t suit us and make us buy another bucket of comfort-KFC. We tend to believe what will make us happy and accepted rather than what is inconvenient and, quite possibly, true.

One of those things is: you’re going to die. Get over it. Stop worrying about it. Get laid. And use a condom not because you think you’re going to die from some random infection but because you’re considerate, because you are careful, and because if you have kids they will want you to send them to school and college and will want to borrow your car- which will eat into your drinking money and destroy your social life. Who wants that? Honestly.

*- bridged by the diet supplement market.

**- “Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight times more efficient than female-to-male transmission …The constant per-contact infectivity for male-to-female transmission was estimated to be 0.0009 [Meaning that female-to-male would be 0.00001125 or about 1/10,000]…We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study…No transmission occurred among the 25% of couples who did not use their condoms consistently, nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up. This evidence argues for low infectivity in the absence of either needle sharing and/or other cofactors” Padian NS et al. Heterosexual Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a Ten-Year Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Aug;146(4):350-7

Terrorist cells want to blow up everything these days with no regard for human life. Not yours and not mine. The terrorist cells I am mentioning specifically in this piece had attempted and been thwarted once before, four weeks ago, without the authorities at large being aware of the attempt.

It had been mistaken for a bout of severe food poisoning which was tempered using 20 or so asprin and caused no permanent damage. On March 9th, however, another attack was launched and was very nearly successful. The authorities, though, were quick to act. Informing command after realising the danger a fast ride to the hospital prevented the terrorist cells from being successful in their attempt at a damaging explosion.

A timely surgical strike on the location removed not only the offending terror cells but the organ as well and saved the day. The appendix to this exploding story of an event that failed to burst onto the scene involved much in the way of happy drugs, a celebratory mood and a quick recovery.


I am nerdier than 50% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


The biggest reason that statistical medicine in general and AIDS specifically really steams my boat is the situation in Africa. In Africa today if you die of an AIDS-related illness you are classified as an AIDS death whether you have been diagnosed with HIV or not. Really. Even in South Africa with a first world infrastructure this is true.

The reason is not insidious. It is just too costly to test a person who is already dead of, say, pneumonia for HIV so it is just classified as an AIDS death. Statistics from AIDS related deaths are then extrapolated to provide assumed HIV infection rates amongst the rest of the population. That’s why the statistics are so high in Africa (and we use a different, less reliable test more likely to show false positives- because it’s cheaper).

There are no reliable statistics that show the death rate as a percentage of population in Africa has increased from disease in the last 20 years. The reason is simple: there are no reliable long-term statistics in Africa. Period. Again the closest you get is South Africa post 1994 when we got our first properly democratic government (hopefully the USA and China will follow our example soon). Even then statistics are not close to properly reliable until, perhaps, 2000 onward.

The biggest killers in South Africa are still Cancer and Heart Disease. The same as the rest of the world. I do advocate the promotion of condoms, especially in those who get lucky a lot, to prevent the spread of diseases but AIDS drugs are expensive on a continent that has much larger problems.

People in Africa need houses. People in Africa are starving. People in Africa are being massacred by brutal regimes. Yet there is no profit in attending to these needs so they do not get addressed. Do you provide medicine to one person with HIV or feed 20? Do you try and save one person from AIDS or do you save 10 children from being turned into killers?

The money put into AIDS goes straight back to the USA and Europe via pharmaceutical companies. Money put into housing, food aid, debt relief, or encouraging democracy and education does not. It only benefits that country.

For anyone out there who thinks Africa creates it’s own problems I have for you this to say. Countries with no mineral wealth in Africa, almost always, are peaceful. If you have nothing the developed and developing world wants you end up in a war only when armies are ousted from one of the countries that do and are looking for more soldiers.

The son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, pled guilty recently to a charge of trying to overthrow an African government (Ivory Coast I think) to try and get that country’s mineral rights. He was caught trying to flee South Africa after it all went wrong.

I kid you not at all.

I have been meaning to write a piece on statistical medicine for a while now. Since I just got a comment on my post “Should we all be worried by the HIV-AIDS hypothesis?” and also since much of the marketing and, more disturbingly, research into AIDS is done via statistical medicine I thought now might be the time.

I have spilt this into two parts the first is not my writing but two other texts I copied for my own interest some time ago and do not know exactly who to attribute them to.

One is a real medical study showing that “Leos” are 15% more likely to be admitted to hospital with gastric bleeding and “Sagittarians” are 38% more likely than others to land up there because of a broken arm. The second is a flippant piece about the dangers of bread. It is thought-provoking nonetheless.



Research on bread indicates that:

1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations.
4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
5. Bread is made from a substance called “dough.” It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!
6. Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low incidence of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and osteoporosis.
7. Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days.
8. Bread is often a “gateway” food item, leading the user to “harder” items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter, and even cold cuts.
9. Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90 percent water, it follows that eating bread could lead to your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person.
10. Newborn babies can choke on bread.
11. Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.
12. Most American bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.

In light of these frightening statistics, it has been proposed that the following bread restrictions be made:

1. No sale of bread to minors.
2. A nationwide “Just Say No To Toast” campaign, complete celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers.
3. A 300 percent federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we might associate with bread.
4. No animal or human images, nor any primary colours (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.
5. The establishment of “Bread-free” zones around schools.


PEOPLE born under the astrological sign of Leo are 15% more likely to be admitted to hospital with gastric bleeding than those born under the other 11 signs. Sagittarians are 38% more likely than others to land up there because of a broken arm. Those are the conclusions that many medical researchers would be forced to make from a set of data presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Peter Austin of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto. At least, they would be forced to draw them if they applied the lax statistical methods of their own work to the records of hospital admissions in Ontario, Canada, used by Dr Austin.

Dr Austin, of course, does not draw those conclusions. His point was to shock medical researchers into using better statistics, because the ones they routinely employ today run the risk of identifying relationships when, in fact, there are none. He also wanted to explain why so many health claims that look important when they are first made are not substantiated in later studies.

The confusion arises because each result is tested separately to see how likely, in statistical terms, it was to have happened by chance. If that likelihood is below a certain threshold, typically 5%, then the convention is that an effect is “real”. And that is fine if only one hypothesis is being tested. But if, say, 20 are being tested at the same time, then on average one of them will be accepted as provisionally true, even though it is not.

In his own study, Dr Austin tested 24 hypotheses, two for each astrological sign. He was looking for instances in which a certain sign “caused” an increased risk of a particular ailment. The hypotheses about Leos’ intestines and Sagittarians’ arms were less than 5% likely to have come about by chance, satisfying the usual standards of proof of a relationship. However, when he modified his statistical methods to take into account the fact that he was testing 24 hypotheses, not one, the boundary of significance dropped dramatically. At that point, none of the astrological associations remained.

Unfortunately, many researchers looking for risk factors for diseases are not aware that they need to modify their statistics when they test multiple hypotheses. The consequence of that mistake, as John Ioannidis of the University of Ioannina School of Medicine, in Greece, explained to the meeting, is that a lot of observational health studies—those that go trawling through databases, rather than relying on controlled experiments—cannot be reproduced by other researchers. Previous work by Dr Ioannidis, on six highly cited observational studies, showed that conclusions from five of them were later refuted. In the new work he presented to the meeting, he looked systematically at the causes of bias in such research and confirmed that the results of observational studies are likely to be completely correct only 20% of the time. If such a study tests many hypotheses, the likelihood its conclusions are correct may drop as low as one in 1,000—and studies that appear to find larger effects are likely, in fact, simply to have more bias.

So, the next time a newspaper headline declares that something is bad for you, read the small print. If the scientists used the wrong statistical method, you may do just as well believing your horoscope.

Part two to follow…

shaved_head.jpgActually, this post has bugger-all to do with lesbianism, feminism, nihilism or altruism. What it is about is female stars hacking off their hair and the “Golden Children” of pop and what happens to them.

Britney shaved her head to go a little punk and somehow this made it onto our local TV news program in South Africa. Thirty minutes to bring us the world and they bring us a bald prima donna more usually clad in skimpy outfits replete in tracksuit with half- a- head- shave.

Leaving for a moment the publicity value of the “Mad Cow” action and completely passing over the fact that you don’t need to go to a very public hair salon to do it right in front of the window if you are really going through some sort of personal nightmare, a $15 shaver will do the job at home, we get to the important stuff.

BSE Britney actually is going to look pretty good. Like Sinead O’Connor before her- who actually shaved her head for a reason other than self aggrandisation- it may well suit her face and should take people’s mind off the public crime that was promoting Kevin Federline, a man that made Vanilla Ice’s come-back look a good bet.

Hopefully it is followed by her actually showing a talent besides looking good in a red latex catsuit and hitting a note. Not that I have anything against those qualities- it just should not be enough to spawn a long career. One album is enough and we’re, I believe, well past that point.

So with this publicity stunt underway and television psychologists getting their first real money since Big Brother, the OJ Trial and the Michael Jackson inquest we can at least take solace that the children of a few more hollywood psychologists won’t be going hungry this winter.

Annie Lennox looked good to. Does Britney have the talent of a Sinead or an Annie waiting beyond that boob-job? On evidence so far I think not.


*- this piece was a necessary knee jerk reaction to the previous, overly serious, overly long piece.

I grew up in apartheid South Africa. The government had kept us in fear of terrorist attacks (which were real but overstated) for so long we had become numb to it. It did not figure in everyday thinking.

When I lived in the UK in the 80’s it was still under threat of terrorist attack by the IRA. No-one really thought about it much or considered it a threat to their daily lives. In both countries there was a lack of public litter-bins, especially in crowded areas as they are an easy hiding place for bombs. Both countries had looped announcements in airports (and in the UK, on the tubes) warning of suspicious packages.

So why oh why is it so scary now? More people are not dying in terrorist attacks in the first world. A UK government document admits that terrorist attacks are down since 1982. With the exception of the 9/11 attacks in the USA which were easily preventable at multiple points- had there been an iota of competence in any single US agency from the Executive government through the CIA, FBI, air control or Republicans for Oprah; loss of life in acts of terrorism (1st world) are down.

Admittedly the new breed of terrorist seems willing to give their life for a cause, something unthinkable in an era where everyone is a sell-out for money (hey there P. Diddy, 50 cent, Rolling Stones, Limp Bizkit) but this would make you or I no less dead than if they were not. I do not make these claims without the numbers**, this will be my most researched piece ever.

I have picked the UK to look at for two reasons: (1) it has fairly reliable statistics and (2) I have lived there (twice) so I have a frame of personal reference (and the hypothermia to prove it).

Any week we are bombarded with terrorism, bird flu, AIDS, mad cow disease, serial killers, an out of control youth and grannies with automatic weapons*. Usually all on Sky News, every half hour. My, but their female Anchor is pretty…

So, what is going to kill you? What should the newspapers be reporting to you and what should the government be doing to protect you? Is it a virus with a grudge? Is it an uncle after an inheritance? Your employer working you to hard? Is it a bird? a plane..? Sue Perlman?***

The most likely culprit in your death, it turns out, is you. I added up cancer (genes, your diet, sunbathing, living near Chernobyl), smoking deaths (idiot), accidental deaths (idiot), liver disease (alcohol, idiot) and suicide (depression, idiot) to find that just under 50% of people who will shift the mortal coil in the UK will have done it to themselves.

I have not, since never meeting anyone who had a car accident that was their fault, even added vehicular deaths to ones that are your own fault. I am not even including heart disease, allowing all you fat bastards clemency, and instead blaming that on stress and your employer.

In fact, the three things most likely to kill you are cancer (153,000), smoking (114,000) and heart disease (70,000). All, barring from your genes screwing with you, easily preventable or postponable by adopting a vaguely healthy lifestyle. So, when the government tells us that we are lazy, fat and smoke too much do we welcome the information? Do we thank them? Do we bollocks! We vote for someone else. When television tells us the same thing do we listen attentively? Take notes and change our lives? Our response: “Screw the bastards! Don’t tell me how to live my life!” We change the channel.

Personally, I have no fear of death (not the same for pain, not a fan of pain). I don’t believe in an afterlife and always have tried to live my life to the fullest. And whereas I will prolong my life as much as I can I still go out in the sun, jump off bridges with rubber bands tied to my feet, eat bad foods when I want and drink when I please, in between I also eat healthy food when available, play fun sports as excercise and get laid whenever possible to keep my blood pressure down.

But even if you do not change your unhealthy, binge-drinking, fast-food eating, chainsmoking sedentary television-slave life your chances of dying are still infinitessimally small.

Of the things making the news and making people scared: in 2006 0 people died in terror attacks in the UK (worst year 2005: 37 people), in 2004 9 people died of the human version of mad cow disease (worst year2000: 28), in 2002 234 people died of AIDS related illness, 513 people were murdered and exactly 0 people died of avian flu. By the way, of the 513 people murdered most were killed by someone they new well, not by strangers. Isn’tthat nice? I think the personal touch counts.

A better way to put this, so you understand how hysterical this crap is:

60,208,545 or 99.99994% of Britons did not die of super-flu’.
60,209,266 or 99.99961% of Britons did not die of AIDS
60,209,472 Britons did not die of mad cow disease in 2000, it’s worst year
All Britons did not die of terrorist attacks in 2006
All Britons did not die of avian-flu ever.

Okay, maybe you think that’s a little unfair, playing with the numbers like that. Try it like this: You, living in Britain,

had a 0.00006% chance of dying in a terrorist attack in 2005, the worst year.
had a 0.00005% chance of catching human BSE (mad cow disease).
had a 0.05442% chance of dying of pneumonia (didn’t see that in the news).
had a 0.25477% chance of dying of cancer (or that one, much).

All right, you still think that’s unfair. How about comparing the total amount of people who died in 2005 with how they died: 512993 deaths (in 2005, but the figures don’t change much between then & 2002, where the figures all come from).

If you died in 2005 there was a 29.9% chance that you died of cancer.
If you died in 2005 there was a 22.2% chance that you died because you smoke.
If you died in 2005 there was a 0.67% chance that you died in a car accident (not your fault).
If you died in 2005 there was a 0.05% chance that you died of an AIDS related illness.
If you died in 2005 there was a 0.01% chance that you died in the London bombings or of BSE.

Time was when we lived our lives. You are not going to die today. I say this with the certainty of a person who knows by saying this to you, living in Britain, my percentage correct will be higher than I ever scored on any exam ever:


You don’t get odds like that in any betting anywhere else. Ever. Stop being scared. Have a cup of tea. You’re going to live. So don’t run that credit card bill up too high.

* I made that up.

** Some are from different years, could not get 2006 stats for everything in time available. I have a life, you know.

*** phonetic joke, not very good.

reference materials: as if you care…
ref#1: (pop.deaths)
ref#2: (smoking)
ref#3: (cancer)
ref#4: (superflu)
ref#5: (aids)
ref#6: (all)
ref#7: (statistics of war)
ref#8: (road deaths eu)
ref#9: (air)
ref#10: (terror)
ref#11: (mad_cow)
ref#12: (heart disease)

Never, except when listening to religious extremists, have I before come across an argument where ordinary people, doctors and scientists with a differing viewpoint have been aggressively dealt with. I am an adult of the “sex kills” generation. The very first. I was 12, one year away from the terrible teens, in 1987- the year it was announced that a Syndrome causing the human immune system to fail was first linked to HIV. A retro-virus that could be transmitted through blood-to-blood contact and therefore sexual activity.

In 1988(about) I remember a British TV Documentary that went through the solid parts of the theory and exposed the holes and that was the last dissenting view I ever remember being accepted as rational or believable by government agencies or most of the popular press.

Since I heard no further dissent and returned to SA from the UK in 1989 I assumed the controversy was long dead. It was never shown in any mainstream media, for certain. In a moment of boredom while deciding what to write in an email to whatever incompetent company was raising my hackles that week I did a quick “AIDS” web search. One of my friends was studying medicine and a story of hers was fresh in my mind.

I was surprised at the reports of just how many respectable, well known scientists had a problem with HIV-AIDS. I got intrigued and spent, in the end, around 72hours researching both sides. Without being a scientist myself and with what knowledge I have of science being in the Physics realm I cannot comment deeply on the validity of either party’s argument. What i can comment on, however, are their methods of argument.

All good science is based on questioning orthodoxies. If it were not we would have remianed on a flat world circled by a sun and moon. If you are questioned you never answer “the debate is over, let’s move on.” You either provide the answer or, if you have answered it before, refer to the paper in which you (or another scientists) did so.

You do not shout those questioners down. You do not deny them space at AIDS conventions (maybe you set up a stall opposite explaining how they are wrong, but you don’t lock them out). You do not have reporters telephoned an called “babykillers” because they wrote a column saying they weren’t entirely convinced (happened to Nicholas Regush, of ABC News “Second Opinion”, now deceased).

Respected and award winning scientists and journalists have a problem with it but instead of listening the public sides with the bully-boys. When I bring up this argument with friends they are shocked that I would consider having an alternative viewpoint. Somehow I am a kook or an oddball. But these are the same, presumably intelligent, people who when you ask them if they would trust the mainstream news solely for their information would laugh at you. “Of course not”, they laugh, “It’s way too biased by special interest, you need to look for a broader base of information for a vaguely balanced view.”

Today was the day I decided to have another look at what’s happening and the scene hasn’t changed. A multi-billion dollar industry doesn’t want dissent and is as cruel as a multi-billion dollar industry can get. AIDS has, of course, now been re-branded worldwide as “HIV-AIDS” to make it clear there can be no other opinion. Only four governments worldwide make public any support for research in other directions: UK, Australia, Canada and South Africa, and SA’s President got attacked viciously on the international stage for it.

I am always wary of those who shout down others. Especially when those they shout down have just as much right to an opinion and whose education and knowledge base in the area is just as large. Very suspicious indeed. So should you. If you’re interested on what might, one day, be revealed as the biggest fraud in history (making Enron look like a kiddie’s game) you could do worse than visit a few of the websites I list at the bottom of this piece or have a bit of a google.

“The important thing is to not stop questioning.”- Albert Einstein

Oh, and it turns out the guy who discovered HIV is somewhat of a dangerous egomaniac and fraudster.

some sites:

PS. The most frequent retort when I take the side of the argument against HIV causing AIDS at drinks, dinner, birthdays, weddings and wakes (I also do Barmitzvahs) is “what does, then?”.

My answer: I do not know. But I would rather live in recognised ignorance than believe a potentially dangerous lie. It’s why I’m an athiest.

I have no problem with lies that are not potentially dangerous, like:
“I do not have a small penis”
“One more piece of chocolate will be fine”
unless you are a diabetic wanting to act in pornographic movies.