David Crowe takes it way beyond HIV denial

HIV “dissident” David Crowe is like the gift that just keeps on giving. Last year, I mentioned a paper he’d written in the journal Medical Hypotheses, suggesting that influenza serotype H5N1 doesn’t exist. Well, it just keeps getting better. Now, it seems he’s writing a book on “the infectious myth”–like previous commenter jspreen, he’s going to write about how the germ theory is wrong. Read more about it below…
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Death penalty out in Rwanda

Rwanda abolishes the death penalty:

Rwanda’s parliament voted late on Friday to abolish the death penalty, a move that should clear the way for suspects in the 1994 genocide to be extradited back to Rwanda.

You might think that survivors of such a horrible genocide would want to see those who victimized them put to death, but the president of a group of survivors says otherwise:

Survivors of the slaughter welcomed the decision, noting that the death penalty had existed in Rwandan law before the genocide.

“It didn’t deter people from picking up machetes to slaughter their fellows – that’s why we are not bothered by its removal,” said Theodore Simburudali, president of the Ibuka genocide survivors’ group.

So Rwanda left the fold–that still leaves the US in the company of other death penalty-wielding countries, like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China… But hey, there’s hope…at least Iran now exceeds the USA in number of child offenders executed since 1990. Progress!

Koufax awards–back from the dead!

Via Bora, I see that the Koufax awards are back up and running. All of the categories (I think) can be found at this link. Aetiology was nominated in two that I noticed: best series (for the emerging diseases and zoonoses series–now up to 27 posts) and most deserving of wider recognition. Scienceblogs is also up for best blog community, and many science bloggers here and elsewhere are nominated in the various categories as well, so be sure to browse and check out all the nominees. I’m not sure when voting will open, but I’ll keep y’all posted….

Good epidemiology resource

I keep saying I’m going to update my blogroll, and really, one of these days I’ll get to it. In the meantime, I’ll keep highlighting a few of the sites that I’ll be adding. One of these is Epidemiologic Inquiry, kind of one-stop-shopping for epidemiologists. The site includes updates on epi and research matters and links to other sources of information (such as a list of textbooks), and also has job and fellowship boards.

Sierra Leone takes one step forward…and half a step back

I previously mentioned Sierra Leone when discussing the effect of warfare on the emergence of disease. Sierra Leone has long been a country divided, and suffered through more than a decade of civil war (1991-2002) and decades of instability prior to that. Since the end of the war, changes have happened, but slowly. Most recently, the good news is that their Parliament voted to increase the age of marriage from 11 to 18 as part of a new childs’ rights bill. However, they stopped short from taking action on another controversial area: female genital mutilation (FGM), otherwise known as “female circumcision.” More after the jump.
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Well, this is a new low…

Well, this is a new low. I ran across this blog post from a few months back, discussing the Imus situation:

Anytime a person is negatively labeled because of gender or race, this affronts our shared human dignity. And we should be especially careful here, for this has not always been such an obvious evil. It took the civil rights and women’s rights movements to raise our awareness, and the work is not yet finished.

Okay, sounds reasonable. So far. However, he continues:

There is another assault on human dignity at work in our midst, only this one based on geography. A whole class of persons has only provisional rights, all because of where they live.

Who is this class of people? The unborn.

Yes, the hypocrisy is astounding. While he argues that “the work is not finished” regarding respect for our shared human dignity, he’s managed to strip pregnant women of any dignity at all–reducing them to simply an address. Not even a “vessel” or other flowery language like some other abortion foes–just a generic shelter.

Man, between this and Behe, my irony meter is smoking this week…

Safe haven laws, hidden pregnancies, and the tragedy of Ashley Truitt

My office in the epidemiology department is located within the hospital. Therefore, every day when I walk into work, I pass by a sign like the one on the left. Like most states, Iowa has a safe haven law–a law that allows parents to leave a newborn infant at a designated site, no questions asked, without any threat of prosecution. These sorts of laws were developed in response to cases where babies had been left on doorsteps, or thrown in trash dumpsters, etc. Safe Haven laws, in theory, should prevent those kinds of abuses–the parents abdicate responsibility for the infant, who can then be adopted by a caring family. In theory, everyone should win.

In practice, however, it’s sometimes a different story. Some argue that these laws haven’t helped to reduce the number of babies that are “dumpstered,” and that babies in some states (depending on the particular laws) are simply placed in limbo, unadoptable because of lack of information on both birth parents. In other cases, the very people who may be most at risk are the ones unaware of such laws. For example, at the Iowa site I linked above, they have information for hospitals, parents, etc., but tragically, under “Community Education Information,” it says, “materials are still being developed.” A recent story notes that in Iowa, there’s just no money to publicize these safe havens, and that since 2001, 8 babies have been dropped off, while 4 have died after being abandoned unsafely. Earlier this week, this hit me where I live, as a teenager from my little Iowa town is accused of hiding her pregnancy and killing her newborn infant while on vacation in Florida. More below…
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DNA, schmeNA

Over at her old blog, Karmen had a nice overview of Deinococcus radiodurans, a fascinating organism that’s able to withstand many different extremes: genotoxic chemicals, oxidative damage, high levels of ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, dehydration, and, as the name suggests, incredibly high doses of radiation. (We’re talking high–up to 5,000 Gy without breaking a sweat, while it only takes about 10 Gy to kill a human). However, despite 50 years of study, no one’s really figured out just how it does it, though some clues (such as higher levels of manganese and low levels of iron) have emerged that make D. radiodurans stand out). Over at Small Things Considered, a recent paper is highlighted suggesting that these minerals protect not the DNA from damage, but instead, the proteins:

The researchers postulated that manganese ions transform damaging superoxide radicals (which can’t easily cross the cell membrane) into hydrogen peroxide, which can be excreted. Indeed, resistant cells excrete peroxide following radiation exposure.

Christine Gorman talks global health

Time journalist (and newly minted Nieman fellow in global health) Christine Gorman recently gave a talk at the Global Health Council’s annual meeting. Christine discussed topics that get a lot of press–such as HIV/AIDS–and others that occasionally bubble up to the surface, such as malaria and non-infectious global health issues like female genital mutilation. However, she also noted stories that are rare or missing in mainstream health journalism–more on those after the jump.

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