Chimpanzees and HIV

One of the constant drumbeats from animal rights activists is that animal models of HIV have given surprisingly little information. This is incorrect on many levels — in fact HIV tests themselves are nothing more than sophisticated animal tests. Now comes news from the Journal of Infectious Diseases that three chimpanzees infected with HIV in the 1980s are finally progressing to full-blown AIDS-like symptoms, giving researchers a prime chance to get a better handle on how and why HIV progresses to AIDS in human beings.

Most chimpanzees infected with the disease don’t progress to disease symptoms. There are several theories as to why this is the case, one of which is that the chimpanzee’s immune system evolved to simply ignore HIV-like diseases. Since chimpanzee immune systems don’t attack the disease, HIV is unable to latch on to the T-cells it needs.

If this is the case, the three chimpanzees progressing to AIDS may have deficient immune systems or may have contracted a form of HIV that their immune system does elicit a response to. Either way researchers hope comparing the chimpanzees that develop AIDS to their brethren that don’t will provide a better understanding of how the disease runs its course and perhaps offer clues to how the disease operates and can be counteracted in human beings.


Chimps may hold important piece of HIV puzzle. Amy Norton, Reuters, September 20, 2000.

The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2000; 182.

Updated Tax Information on Animal Rights Groups

Guidestar, a web portal for information about charitable organizations, recently updated their site with recent tax return information for several animal rights organizations:

Time for a Gender War Truce?

Cathy Young wrote a column for the Detroit News a few weeks ago on her impressions of forums held by opponents in the gender war — the American Association of University Women panel, “Beyond the Gender Wars,” and the Independent Women’s Forum’s, “The XY Files: The Truth Is Out There … About the Differences Between Boys and Girls.” As she deftly put it in her column (It?s time for a truce in gender wars), “Perhaps the clearest fact to emerge from the two panels is that both feminist and conservative ideologies offer a blinkered view of reality.”

One of the things Young is very good at is highlighting the hypocrisy of feminists who tend to think some social phenomenon is disastrous until the discussion turns toward men at which point all bets are off. Young writes, for example,

The leitmotif of the symposium was that instead of pitting girls against boys in a victimhood contest, we should make the schools better for everyone. Sounds good, but isn?t it a bit disingenuous to trumpet girls? victimization and then shout, “Let?s not play victim!” when boys? problems are mentioned? As some IWF speakers noted, the AAUW played a key role in starting the “gender wars” it now decries.

The AAUW angrily denies this. One of its panelists, Barrie Thorne, a women?s studies professor at the University of California, Berkeley, declared that gender equity is not a zero-sum game in which one sex wins at the other?s expense — which is true. But the protestations that girls? advocates never tried to deny or minimize boys? problems are less credible.

The 1992 AAUW report, “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” called for programs to boost girls? achievement in math and science while warning against targeted efforts to remedy boys? deficits in reading and writing. At the symposium, some speakers downplayed the fact that women now get 55 percent of college degrees by suggesting that women need college to earn as much as male high school graduates (which may have been true 20 years ago but certainly not for the current generation).

Young, on the other hand, also sees the dangers in turning around and framing such issues entirely in terms of boys’ needs. Rather, she takes the rather obvious, commonsense view that educational programs should be geared to helping children succeed regardless of sex. Of course that proposal is too sensible to be taken seriously by the radical feminists or their conservative anti-feminist counterparts, except when they are forced into that position as the AAUW has been thanks to new educational research on boys’ poor educational performance.


It?s time for a truce in gender wars. Cathy Young, The Detroit News, September 28, 2000.

If You’re Going to Criticize ‘Blogs’ For Being Shallow…

Carl Malamud wants us to re-think web logs with the sort of jargon-filled nonsense usually preferred by academics (it is interesting that he urges web loggers to be socially responsible and then links to an interview that denounces consumer culture — sorry Carl, I like the stuff they stock at K-Mart).

According to Malamud, “Rather than being a revolution, blogging as practiced seems to resemble a fraternity: lots of people dressing alike, banding together for comfort against outsiders, and preaching lofty goals of brotherhood while practicing digital toga parties.”

I.e. those of us who blog are shallow, isolated individuals, who at the same time use roughtly the same format (again, the idea that this is contradictory seems the sort of thing that belong in academic treatises). Perhaps true, but at least I’ve never said (or read) nonsense like this on a web log:

Throughout history, revolutions and movements have rarely resulted in peaceful resolution, even among the parties who represented unification at the outset. The Russian Revolution started with many splintered sects all moving towards a general goal, then unified under the banner of Lenin to overthrow the Czar. The unity did not last as communism split into a bewildering mass of Socialists, Communists, Socialist Democrats, Trotskyites, Marxists, Leninists, Marxist-Leninists, and Maoists.

Beyond the sheer absurdity of comparing the Russian revolution with the so-called Blogging revolution (Malamud likes to quote from his dictionary a lot, maybe he should look up “equivocation,”) this is historically inaccurate beyond belief. Russians communists unified behind Lenin to overthrow the Czar? Hardly. The Czar abdicated to a democratic government of which the Bolsheviks were only one faction. The Bolsheviks in fact had to overthrow that government in order to have any chance at power in the new Russian state.

Communists didn’t split into many factions after the revolution, most of those groups had existed for decades prior to the Bolshevik revolution. Is the division bewildering? Perhaps to someone like Malamud who has never actually studies the Russian revolution and subsequent communist actions, but for people who want to learn the differences are not quite so confusing.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the thing that really separated the Bolsheviks from their contemporaries was their pointed refusal to cooperate with other socialist parties. When famine hit Russia during the late 19th century, for example, and most socialist parties activitely worked to alleviate the famine, the Bolshevik’s refused to help on the theory that hunger would quicken the fall of the Czar (which turned out not to be the case). Which is why once they illegally seized power from the provisional government, the Bolsheviks had little problem quickly relegating other factions to jail or extrajudicial exeuction.

Bush’s “Subliminable” Press Conferences

This Salon.Com article whines that ever since the press conference where George W. Bush’s mispronunciation of “subliminal” was widely reported, the presidential candidated seems to be avoiding the press. It’s a shame Salon doesn’t spend more time looking at just how unbalanced coverage of such gaffes is.

Last month while giving a speech on women’s health, for example, Al Gore drew a blank when trying to name the procedure used to screen women for breast cancer. He had to ask the audience to help him remember and somebody yelled out the correct answer — “mammogram.” Although there were plenty of members of the press with Gore that gaffe was reported in only a few places, usually by media critics pointing out the obvious: if Bush makes that gaffe it runs on the national news and Gore probably puts it in a commercial pointing out how out of touch Bush is with women’s health needs.

It’s this sort of unbalanced and unfair coverage that makes me laugh when I see people being concerned with how the line between editorial independence and commercial efforts is being blurred, especially thanks to the Internet. That might be a concern except for the fact that the news, especially television news, is already a heavily scripted entertainment package that rarely even comes close to trying to increase people’s understanding of complex issues.

In fact when I watch the news on the three major networks the closest analogue I can think of is to those wonderfully packaged but highly grotuesque wrestling shows. Just like the WWF, network news reduces stories down to heroes and heels, with revolving story lines that are largely made up beforehand — so a gaffe by Bush leads because the media angle is that Bush is stupid, while a Gore gaffe won’t cut it because Gore’s character is the over-intelligent policy wonk.

As far as I’m concerned network news is largely an entertainment program and should be labeled as such.