Not So Fast...
December 3, 2004 4:05 PM   Subscribe

That BBC article about AIDS and NYC? Debunked. This one's for schroedinger, who posted the original BBC story about the documentary accusing the NYC Association for Children’s Services of using children in foster care for drug testing experiments without parental consent on MeFi here. Here's an intelligent and well thought out rebuttal from blogger respectfulofotters to the points made (and sources used by,) the documentary.
posted by zarq (38 comments total)
Nice work, Nancy Drew!
posted by joelf at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2004

Thanks, zarq. I was debating whether to post this as a new post, but I posted in the original thread instead. But the debunking should get at least as much coverage as the original documentary.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:15 PM on December 3, 2004

Why is this random blogger more credible than BBC News? Why should I believe him/her? The blogger didn't even see the documentary, AFAICT.

This one's for schroedinger ...

Let's stick to the issues.
posted by guanxi at 4:22 PM on December 3, 2004

In fact, has anyone here seen the documentary?
posted by guanxi at 4:24 PM on December 3, 2004

guanxi: Yes, let's stick to the issues. Her facts check out. I'd say that's as good a reason as any to take her seriously rather than dismiss her arguments out of hand without addressing them.

Frankly, that random blogger's a heck of a lot more credible in my eyes right now than the BBC, who had to admit today that it had fallen for an elaborate deception when it aired an interview with a man posing as a representative of Dow Chemical:
posted by zarq at 4:31 PM on December 3, 2004

mcwetboy, Thanks. I totally missed your comment on that thread! :)
posted by zarq at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2004

guanxi: The BBC news site contained a video of the news story about it on Wednesday with excerpts. You can see daily news clips of news by clicking on the 'video' link on their site.

I don't believe they keep an archive of such stories, though.
posted by zarq at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2004

I don't know who to believe, but I do remember reading Liam Scheff's article in the NY Press, as I stated in the other thread. And I remember that the thing that turned me off about his article was its "HIV has no connection to AIDS" stance.

Look, it's entirely possible that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, and that AIDS drugs do more harm than good. But when 99% of scientists say that's crap, you can't give Scheff much credence.

So (assuming this blogger is right) does that mean that Scheff was using this ACS issue to try to forward the ideas of HIV denialists? Interesting.
posted by fungible at 4:44 PM on December 3, 2004

Did anyone consider "that random blogger" has been staring a bit too long at the advertisements on those pens?
posted by reflection at 4:48 PM on December 3, 2004

Why is this random blogger more credible than BBC News?

Her blog says that "I'm a psychologist working in HIV research and treatment in the inner city." [From elsewhere, that's New York City.] The article says "I do research with human subjects for a living".

As for me - if I have to pick between an HIV denialist and someone else, when it comes to credibility, I'm going with the someone else.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:49 PM on December 3, 2004

This isn't the the only thing the BBC has gotten wrong recently.
posted by rooftop secrets at 4:58 PM on December 3, 2004

To address her credibility:

Her facts check out.

Do they? Who checked? Does she characterize the BBC's arguments accurately? How could even she know, since she didn't see the documentary.

Also, she has a vested interest: She's a member of the medical research community, which would be harmed if the public believed these allegations (true or not).

Her bias comes through when she argues, a priori, that such a violation couldn't have escaped the medical community and be discovered by the BBC.

Everyone makes mistakes and goes too far, even random bloggers, the BBC, and medical researchers. Saying the BBC has made mistakes in the past means nothing, unless you can name someone who doesn't make mistakes (any bible literalists out there)?

The issues

I can't address the issue of the BBC documentary, because I haven't seen it.

The BBC article and her blog bring up some interesting points regarding medical research on children in the care of the state:

* Medical research on children is acceptable, given appropriate standards are met.

* Experimental drugs are indeed the only option for victims of some diseases

But this point overrides the others, I believe:

* Children who are wards of the state are too vulnerable, in my opinion, to serve as research subjects. The potential for abuse is too high. The state is their legal guardian, but the state has other interests and pressures too; it's not the same as being a parent. Everyone is probably aware how well foster children are cared for, for example.

I could be convinced that it could be done safely, if standards were high and someone beholden only to the children (i.e. not the state) represented their interests.
posted by guanxi at 4:58 PM on December 3, 2004

Respectful of otters uses words like purportedly, apparently and appears. S/he damns by association with the denialists, but fails to rebut any of the charges about neglect, abuse of power and consent. "...the BBC documentary and its source articles hardly provide that kind of thoughtful argument." This judgement from a person who didn't see the programme? Please.

S/he doesn't quote any of the prinipals in the BBC story, maybe because he didn't speak to any of them.

The church run Childrens Home has an expensive representative - why did they not attempt to answer the charges the way RoOtters did?

I don't think this blog item can yet be deemed a rebuttal - a counterpoint, with a bit of smear and guilt by association, yes.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:08 PM on December 3, 2004

Nor does it address the forced medication of children or ACS snatching kids who are not kept on the med cocktail regiment. It only pokes a hole at the side effects of some of the drugs.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:20 PM on December 3, 2004

Good post, zarq.
posted by LarryC at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2004

I know the blogger in question. She's good people.
posted by kalessin at 9:38 PM EST on December 3

Kalessin: It's nice to see that you just came to the defense of RoOtters, you must be a nice person, so I'm sure that you'll have no trouble answering a simple question:

posted by crazy finger at 6:43 PM on December 3, 2004

Oh man, sweet! Please, bring on the hole-poking, because it is a hell of a lot better than the alternative.

But like it's been mentioned, this has really only addressed the credibility of a few of the "experts" and raised the fact that these experimental trials are sometimes necessary. Which is quite true--but if the kid's quality-of-life is better off the drugs than on then it's something we need to consider. And there's the consent issues, and the tubes-in-stomachs . . . I dunno if it's good to stop examining the situation just yet.
posted by Anonymous at 6:53 PM on December 3, 2004

A more balanced article manages to give credible details, along with this Reuters story, which the Beeb breathlessly failed to do, making it difficult for the blogger (respectfulofotters) to respond other than by pointing to the AIDS-denialist connections of some of the documentary's sources.

The original NY Post article from February; an Observer article from April. Liam Scheff's original self-published January and
NY Press (July) articles seem to be the primary sources for the Post rather than original reporting. Incarnation Children's Center, the Catholic nursing facility under fire (nothing on their 'News' link at all). The Alliance for Human Research Protection's PR; they seem to be the primary instigator here. Whether they are correct, they make serious charges regarding violation of specific Federal code requirements. It does seem to be pertinent, however, that Scheff has published previously favoring naturopathy-related AIDS therapies, and that the child featured in the article was being treated by a naturopath rather than receiving mainstream medical treatment. It's unclear to me whether the Termination of Parental Rights in these cases is specifically related to their treatment (or non-treatment) by their biological parents, or whether it is normal for such treatment facilities to have the guardianship authority to authorize AIDS drugs, or even whether, Scheff's horror stories notwithstanding, these are truly experimental treatments which should only be authorized with the utmost ethical care. There are many more questions here, therefore, than answers.

I'd like to recommend that schroedinger and zarq (and not to single you guys out -- other new members alike) try harder to bring fully-researched subjects to our attention, rather than accepting single-source, highly POV articles, which fall closer to the MeFi bane of Newsfilter. More advice to new MeFites would be to do better research yourselves rather than quickly respond within the frame of the original post; when the post itself is flawed, it is better to improve the thread by adding material. (Good grief, even Plastic had a better thread.)
posted by dhartung at 7:18 PM on December 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'd trust her over any TV producer, and I've known quite enough of them.

posted by Vidiot at 7:18 PM on December 3, 2004

Look, there's a very simple question here: Were these children yanked from homes because their guardians decided to take them off the meds, or not?

The accusation has been made. I'm assuming the documentary (which I haven't seen) has some documentation. IS there documentation? Is there a rebuttal?

ALL other issues out the window, if they're yanking kids from parents refusing to turn them into guinea pigs, then it's abomination.
posted by InnocentBystander at 7:56 PM on December 3, 2004

From the link: I read the BBC article a couple of days ago, and it didn't sound right to me. Too much is missing... why the lack of specificity?

Because the article is a self-promoting teaser article designed, not to disseminate information, but to get you to watch the documentary that night. It plays up the human interest parts of the story, allows the author/producer first-person contributions, and sloshes emotive language all over the place. (The strand it is a part of a largely human-interest "investigative" doc series about global issues, with many of its stories evidently sourced from print journalism and international news wires.)

Now, that's not a good sign for the quality of journalism in the actual documentary, but it's not enough to damn it. Both internal and external politics around the BBC can often lead to shows being advertised in a manner completely contradictory to the content.

RespectfulofOtters picks up on one or two other suggestive elements (notably the dishonest status given to Dr Rasnick) which imply that this may have been poor quality investigative journalism. But that's not a debunking, and no debunking can be done without having seen the actual doc, or going back to its sources. Or - perhaps - from reading a transcript of the documentary.

Now that can be debunked.
posted by flashboy at 8:05 PM on December 3, 2004

The weird ad hominem of the attack in the blogger's thing is just....unscientific.

Rather than looking at the actual situation, they instantly launch into "Well, so-and-so doesn't like the HIV causes AIDS hypothesis so they obviously are never right about anything."

That'd be like my saying that since Thomas Jefferson liked to boink his slaves, the Declaration of Independence is obviously flawed.
posted by u.n. owen at 9:35 PM on December 3, 2004

HIV does not cause AIDS. if you believe otherwise i suggest you watch this documentary- HIV-AIDS fact or fraud as to why 99% of scientist will commit mass genocide on millions of people the answer is the billions of dollars to be made in HIV AIDS funding that you the taxpayer is paying for while at the same time the absolute gaurentee you will lose all your funding if you question this hypothesis.
posted by godseyeview at 12:09 AM on December 4, 2004

Oh my godseyeview, why did you have to ruin a perfectly good thread?

On another note - thanks, dhartung.
posted by mek at 1:03 AM on December 4, 2004

run on sentences make the baby jesus cry but the tears can be used to treat AIDS patients because I once saw a documentary about it and was so convinced I posted it into every single thread about HIV/AIDS because essentially I am a broken record and hey did I tell you about this documentary I saw it was all about... (ad infinitum)
posted by longbaugh at 3:58 AM on December 4, 2004

Godseyeview, stop being an asshole or else I'm going to have my HIV-infected friends come over to your house to shave with your razor, drink out of your milk carton, use your toilet, spit in your sink, blow their noses in your handkerchief, and try to get you tipsy on a little Merlot in hopes they can get you into the sack. Maybe that will derail your misguided monomania.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:39 AM on December 4, 2004

Just looking at some of the links of choice on your homepage there godseyeview - are you by any chance a conspiracy theorist?

HAARP? CIA brainwashing? Fluoride Action Network?

Oh fuck no - The Knights Templar...
posted by longbaugh at 6:25 AM on December 4, 2004

Respectful of Otters has an update responding in part to this thread. (Her opinions have the strong endorsement of Kevin Drum.)

u.n. owen, ad hominem isn't what she's doing at all. She is, instead, debunking the bogus appeal to authority of the original article. In science, reputation matters. Clearly, using a source such as Rasnick, who has longstanding non-mainstream beliefs about HIV infection and drug regimens even for consenting adults, is stacking the deck. Dr. Rasnick is the only medical professional quoted in the documentary. We don't have a medical ethicist, we don't have anyone associated with the Center, we don't have anyone associated with their liaison hospital facility, the well-known slaughterhouse commonly called Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons, and we don't have anyone from the city agency ACS, even to offer a sandbagged defense. There is only one point of view promoted, and they carefully slide over the key underlying basis that connects them all, and that is the belief that symptoms of AIDS are caused by the drugs prescribed to treat AIDS and not a virus. I think that's fundamentally dishonest.

The author of the hit pieces, Liam Scheff, seems to have a remarkably short resume. I can only find three stories online by him: a series for the alternative Boston paper Weekly Dig presenting "alternative" interpretations of AIDS, a nondescript rabble-rousing piece about Republican machinations in Florida prior to the election this year, and multiple versions of the ICC/ACS story we're discussing here, which he's published in New York to little note (New York being such an apolitical town) and London to somewhat greater credulity. If he has a national reputation, a medical or scientific background, a longstanding career, all of those are well hidden. Are we truly to believe that a story involving the abuse of sick children is being deliberately ignored by the major newspapers in New York for nefarious reasons? Maybe they just didn't think this one passed the smell test at 100 feet.

I think the Beeb got trolled.
posted by dhartung at 8:01 AM on December 4, 2004

whatever i been reseaching this for years before i saw that documentary. dont call me conspiracy theorist. say end of times mastermind, warrior till the end of times, sheeple killing freedom fighter.
posted by godseyeview at 12:05 PM on December 4, 2004

I'd like to see godseyeview take off the tinfoil hat and post about other topics or share his (?) extensive research with us. As it is, his user history seems to be limited to pushing this one link at us.
posted by Vidiot at 12:53 PM on December 4, 2004

whatever i been reseaching this for years before i saw that documentary. dont call me conspiracy theorist. say end of times mastermind, warrior till the end of times, sheeple killing freedom fighter.

posted by scrim at 4:23 PM on December 4, 2004

Are sheeple in season right now?

(Thanks for that update, by the way, dhartung. Good to see that she wasn't satisfied with simply going on first impressions. A good debunking was had by all.)

posted by flashboy at 5:44 PM on December 4, 2004

I'd like to see godseyeview take off the tinfoil hat and post about other topics or share his (?) extensive research with us. As it is, his user history seems to be limited to pushing this one link at us.

The whole basis that HIV causes AIDS is based on correlation which doesn't prove causation. Its just like cholesterol. High cholesterol doesn't cause you to have a heart attack. cholesterol is a clear lubricant. If your arteries are clogged from plaque they become stiff and tend to crack and bleed. cholesterol is only there to lubricate. Its not what is causing the blockage. Likewise HIV is a dormant passenger retro virus. No other retro virus has ever cause a disease. That's the definition of retro virus it doesn't kill its host. In this case the T cells. when a person with full blown AIDS it can only be found in 1 in every 100, 000 T cells. its undetectable. secondly HIV is a very old virus over 200 years old. In fact AIDS symptoms of wasting away have been recorded in heroin addicts since before the 20th century. HIV has remained at a constant 1million in our population for decades since HIV testing was introduced yet AIDS has grown with the same growth curve as intravenous drug use. also HIV infects the population at 50/50 while AIDS is 90% male. the AMA had to add cervical cancer as an AIDS disease because it was getting embarrassing. and aids never had medical peer review before it was announced in a media publicity event. which is the way HIV AIDS breakthroughs are announcement today. There is a enormous HIV AIDS industry making billions of dollars. AZT is a DNA chain terminator. The most toxic substance by far ever approved for humans. It randomly destroys your DNA. On the warning lable its says can cause HIV disease symptoms. One thing that pisses me off is how these sheeple physicians can prescribe this poison. their diagnosis is following directions they just don't think. Same thing with radiology and chemotherapy. Some toxins is causing that cancer to cure it you don't add more toxins like chemotherapy. or radiation. that will only make your body recover slightly for a short period of time because it notices that it is being attacked. But that reaction will make your body break down even more and you'll eventually die. You have to get healthier not put poison in your body. Doctors weren't always like this but only after the AMA took over the united states. you should read up on the history and founder of the AMA. Its based on the german fascist model. A corporation based medical policy of high surgery rates and long hospital stays. There is only like this clan of 5 or 6 doctors that dictate the AIDS policy of the united states. They are in with big pharmaceuticals. AZT that cost them $5 they sell for $500. The CIA gets you in the front because they are in charge of the Drug trade in the world. Opium has grown 60 percent this year since the CIA took over Afghanistan. And the the AMA gets you from the bottom with poisons they charge you to kill you. And all you sheeple are stuck in the middle. I cant site all my sources but two good places are.
Reality is even more subtle. there is alot more detail than what i wrote here. you have to do your own research.
posted by godseyeview at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2004

No other retro virus has ever cause a disease. That's the definition of retro virus it doesn't kill its host.

That is a complete falsehood. A retrovirus is a virus encoded in RNA, as opposed to DNA. In addition to HIV, HTLV (the cause of T-cell leukemia and T-cell lymphoma in adults) is also a retrovirus.

I cant site all my sources

There's a shocker.
posted by NortonDC at 7:45 PM on December 5, 2004

Can we agree not to feed godseyeview, unless the topic of the thread is really pertinent to his pet theories? This topic is important enough that we shouldn't be sidetracked.

OT: The difficulty for your average person/internet user to get a straight answer on any of these questions really bothers me. The fact that either the BBC failed or the American press failed just makes the whole situation seem more hopeless.
posted by rustcellar at 9:02 PM on December 5, 2004

ay carumba. I leave for a weekend and look what happens. :)

dhartung, thank you for posting additional links, respectfulofotters' follow-up post and a lengthy explanation. Your comments answer most, if not all of the issues cited by others, and I thank you for saving me the footwork in answering them as well.

As for my post not being well-researched.... I do agree that I could have spent more time researching the information respectfulofotters posted, but I thought considering the tone of the original post that this link deserved its own.

One way or another, I'll keep your advice in mind when posting in the future.
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2004

In addition to HIV, HTLV (the cause of T-cell leukemia and T-cell lymphoma in adults) is also a retrovirus.

HTLV was the term they gave HIV before they changed its name. They are synonyms. those diseases you mentioned would still be considered AIDS. Get this the core definition of "AIDS" can be expressed by the following formula


In conjunction with HIV, an "AIDS-indicator disease" becomes "AIDS." In the absence of HIV, the "AIDS-indicator disease" is called by its old name.

So with that definition HIV has a 100% correlation rate. No other disease has that.

diarrhea + HIV = AIDS
diarrhea - HIV = diarrhea

The server is back up watch the documentary
posted by godseyeview at 8:55 AM on December 6, 2004

As a person who lost a father to AIDS, godseyeview i hate you. That said i do think the drug regiments are perhaps a bit harsh. Though way back in 93 it gave my father a couple more years.....

did i mention i hate you and that sort of philosophy?
posted by sourbrew at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2004

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