Saturday, June 30, 2007

UK : a 40 - year journey from shame to pride

Geraldine Bedell in The Observer Review (Sunday June 24, 2007)

Coming out of the dark ages

explores the British forty year experience of developing gay rights:

For most people the Sixties was a time of sexual awakening and experimentation. But it wasn't until 1967 that gay and bisexual men could share that freedom. On the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality, we revisit the appallingly repressive atmosphere of the Fifties and Sixties that ruined lives, destroyed reputations and finally sparked a campaign for change.

Forty years ago in Britain, loving the wrong person could make you a criminal. Smiling in the park could lead to arrest and being in the wrong address book could cost you a prison sentence. Homosexuality was illegal and hundreds of thousands of men feared being picked up by zealous police wanting easy convictions, often for doing nothing more than looking a bit gay.

At 5.50am
on 5 July 1967, a bill to legalize homosexuality limped through its final stages in the House of Commons. It was a battered old thing and, in many respects, shabby. It didn't come close to equalizing the legal status of heterosexuals and homosexuals (that would take another 38 years). It didn't stop the arrests: between 1967 and 2003, 30,000 gay and bisexual men were convicted for behavior that would not have been a crime had their partner been a woman.

'Some newspapers reported court cases but they talked of "gross indecency" because they couldn't bring themselves to mention it, so young people were lucky if they could work out what was going on.'

'We knew from experience that if you called the police and they suspected you were homosexual, they would ignore the original crime and concentrate on the homosexuality.'

This was what happened to Alan Turing, the mathematician and Enigma codebreaker. In 1952, he reported a break-in and was subsequently convicted of gross indecency. Though he escaped prison, he was forced to undergo hormone therapy and lost his security clearance; he later committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

In the mid-1950s, there was an atmosphere of a witch-hunt (probably not unrelated to what was happening in America with McCarthy), with consequent opportunities for blackmail. Leo Abse, who eventually piloted the Sexual Law Reform Act through Parliament, recalls that, as a lawyer in Cardiff, his fees from criminals suddenly all started coming from the account of one man. He investigated and found he was 'a poor vicar. The bastards were bleeding him. I sent for one of the criminals and told him if I had another cheque from this man, I'd get him sent down for 10 years. I sent for the vicar and told him to come to me if they approached him again.'

Homosexuality was tacked on very late in the day to the business of a committee that had already been set up to look into the legal status of prostitution. (Certainly, its remit covered both; its findings were popularly referred to as the Vice report.) That would make sense of the choice of chairman, although it is also possible that, given the secretive atmosphere of the time, Maxwell-Fyfe didn't know Wolfenden had a son who wore make-up.

The Wolfenden Committee sat for three years and recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should no longer be illegal. Setting the tone for the discussion about law reform that would follow, it made no attempt to argue that homosexuality wasn't immoral, only that the law was impractical.

Geraldine Bedell met Leo Abse at his beautiful house overlooking the Thames at Kew where, he says, he is kept alive by his young wife Ania. He is 90 now and deaf, but mentally acute and still writing books. For all its shortcomings, the Wolfenden report is usually regarded as the key turning point in the fight for legalisation, the moment at which a government-appointed body said unequivocally that the law should change.

Abse insisted that its importance has been exaggerated. 'People talk sloppily about Wolfenden, which was not by any means a key turning-point. A myth has grown up: the myth of pre-Wolfenden and after. It was only a staging post. When I arrived in the Commons after Wolfenden, the vote against it was overwhelming. Ten years of struggle came after.'

From our perspective of the early 21st century, when the churches seem so afraid of homosexuality, it's interesting that in this period they consistently and visibly backed reform.

Various stabs were made at bringing the matter before Parliament, but the first really promising development came with a bill in the Lords in July 1965. It was sponsored by Lord Arran, an unlikely reformer: known to his friends as Boofy, he kept a pet badger. He had inherited the title because his older brother, who was gay, had committed suicide.

For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the 'buggers' clubs' which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to 31.

Arran's bill ran out of parliamentary time, but its success meant the pressure was now on for the Commons but there too the bill ran out of parliamentary time. Back in the new Parliament, Abse gave notice that he intended to move a 10-Minute Rule bill. By his own account, he was not the man the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins (who wanted reform, fought for it in cabinet, guaranteed parliamentary time and assiduously sat through all the debates) would have chosen to pilot it through. 'We had a reconciliation before he died, but when Roy Jenkins talked to me in those days, he used to shut his eyes, as though he wanted to blot me out.'

Abse believes Jenkins would have preferred Michael Foot, for two reasons. First, he says, Jenkins wanted 'to bog down Michael', whom he saw as a potential rival in any leadership contest; and second, he 'thought I was too dangerous a character. I was too colorful'. He points to a shield on the wall, given to him by the Clothing Federation for being the best-dressed MP in Parliament. 'I used to dress up. My wife - my first wife - used to dress me up. By God, they needed some color in Parliament! It wasn't only my narcissism. It was a part of opening up society. But I think Jenkins found it somewhat... he didn't feel comfortable.'

Current Human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell points out: 'The tone of the parliamentary debate alternated between vicious homophobia on one side and patronizing, apologetic tolerance on the other.' The Earl of Dudley's contribution in the Lords sums up the level of the opposition's argument: 'I cannot stand homosexuals. They are the most disgusting people in the world. I loathe them. Prison is much too good a place for them.'

But, as Tatchell suggests, the tone of the supporters is, from this distance, hardly less cringe-inducing. No one mentioned equality or love. The consistent position was that homosexuals were pitiful and in need of Christian compassion. Abse argues now that much of this was tactical. 'The thrust of all the arguments we put to get it was, "Look, these people, these gays, poor gays, they can't have a wife, they can't have children, it's a terrible life. You are happy family men. You've got everything. Have some charity." Nobody knew better than I what bloody nonsense that was.'

Commentators have argued over whether Abse was sufficiently ambitious with the substance of the bill, but there is no doubt that he was an adept tactician. He managed to keep the required 100-plus supporters in the chamber all night so as to call for closure on the various amendments. On the last of these, he had 101 people there, which was all he needed but which, he says, 'shows how precarious the bill was, and it's why I get so damned annoyed when people say Wolfenden was a watershed. We got that bill through on one vote.'

The result was same-sex relations were legal only in private, which was interpreted, as Tatchell says, as being 'behind locked doors and windows and with no other person present on the premises'.

While sex may have been legal, most of the things that might lead to it were still classified as 'procuring' and 'soliciting'. 'It remained unlawful for two consenting adult men to chat up each other in any non-private location,' Tatchell says. 'It was illegal for two men even to exchange phone numbers in a public place or to attempt to contact each other with a view to having sex.' Thus the 1967 law established the risible anomaly that to arrange to do something legal was itself illegal.

We shouldn't think this provision was quietly ignored either. In 1989, during the Conservative campaign for family values, more than 2,000 men were prosecuted for gross indecency, as many as during the 1950s and nearly three times the numbers in the mid-Sixties.

Link to the Observer article

So the struggle is over?

Stonewall the equality and rights UK organization has produced its School Report finding

Homophobic bullying 'almost epidemic' in Britain's schools - 150,000 victims

A major survey of Britain's secondary schools has revealed that almost two thirds of lesbian and gay pupils (156,000 children) have been victims of homophobic bullying.

The School Report, the largest poll of young gay people ever conducted in Britain, presents a shocking picture of the extent of homophobic bullying undertaken by fellow pupils and, alarmingly, school staff.

Key findings are:

  • Sixty five per cent of lesbian and gay pupils have experienced homophobic bullying.
  • Of those, 92 per cent (143,000) have experienced verbal homophobic bullying, 41 per cent (64,000) physical bullying and 17 per cent (26,000) death threats.
  • 97 per cent of gay pupils hear derogatory phrases such as 'dyke', 'queer' and 'rug-muncher' used in school.
  • Half of teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it.
  • Thirty per cent of lesbian and gay pupils say that adults - teachers or support staff - are responsible for homophobic incidents in their school
    Less than a quarter of schools have told pupils that homophobic bullying is wrong.

The survey of 1,145 young people, conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit for Stonewall, also highlights the consequences of bullying for gay pupils. Seven out of ten of those who have experienced it say it has adversely affected their school work. Half of those bullied say they have missed school as a result.

The report does demonstrate significant benefits when schools intervene. In schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, gay young people are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied. The incidence of anti-gay bullying remains higher in 'faith schools'.

'On three occasions I've been assaulted and had to go to hospital to be examined and get the police involved' Ali, 17, secondary school (Greater London)

'The teachers join in on the joke' Catherine, 13, single sex independent school (South East)

'People call me 'gay' everyday, sometimes people kick me and push me, they shut me out of games during school gym and they steal my belongings' James, 17, secondary school (South West)

'I go to a Catholic school. I would more likely get told off for being a lesbian' Susan, 16, single sex Catholic school (South East)

Includes link to the School Report

Link to Stonewall site


Hate Newscenter Staff (June 29, 2007) in

Study: Anti-Gay Hate Crimes Widespread

report almost four in 10 gay men and about one in eight lesbians and bisexuals in the United States have been the target of violence or a property crime because of their sexual orientation, according to a new study, which highlights the work of psychology professor Gregory Herek, University of California, Davis.

Hereck says "This is the most reliable estimate to date of the prevalence of anti-gay victimization in the United States."

"The data demonstrate that crimes against sexual minority adults, especially gay men, are disturbingly widespread."

His findings were based on a survey conducted in the fall of 2005 with a nationally representative sample of 662 self-identified gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. The study has been accepted for publication in a future issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Overall, 21 percent of the people in the survey reported being the victim of violence or a property crime -- including physical assault, sexual assault, theft and vandalism -- because of their sexual orientation.

In addition, 49 percent said they had been verbally abused because of their sexual orientation, 23 percent reported being threatened with violence, 12.5 percent reported having objects thrown at them, and 11 percent reported housing or job discrimination. The total exceeds 100 percent because some individuals reported being the target of multiple attacks.

The study found significantly different rates of victimization among gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. More than a third of the gay men said they had experienced violence or property crime because of their sexual orientation, or about three times the proportion of lesbians and bisexuals.

Gay men also reported the highest rates of harassment and verbal abuse. And gay men and lesbians reported two to four times more housing and job discrimination than bisexuals.

The disparities persisted after Herek controlled statistically for age, race, ethnicity and education.

"Men are generally more likely than women to be the targets of most kinds of violent crime, and this pattern seems to hold in anti-gay hate crimes as well," Herek said.

"The gay men and lesbians in the study were much more likely than the bisexual men and women to be open about their sexual orientation. Their greater visibility probably also makes them easier targets for discrimination than bisexuals." Newscenter Staff note, legislation that would add gays and lesbians to the categories included under federal hate crime law is currently before Congress.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed the House last month and is pending in the Senate.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure if it passes.

Link to News report

Prepublication Draft of the Study can be downloaded
Link to pre-publication draft [pdf]

Prof Herek also
write on his blog: Beyond Homophobia
Link to Blog

The Devil Wore a Crucifix (Sydney Carter)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bird Flu - a local view

Erica C. Barnett writes in the current edition of the The Stranger from Seattle in

Be Afraid.
Bird flu is coming.
We're all going to die. Except me.
I'm not going to die. But you sure as hell are.

This is certainly a local appraisal of Seattle's readiness for the H5N1 pandemic in the face of
"The question is'nt whether the pandemic flu is coming but when".
But it also raises the universal issue of how prepared we all are.

Check it out.

Link to The Stranger article

What really ticks us off, is the acknowledgement by all the local experts that we are still not prepared --- and this after false alarms and near misses and certainly plently of warning. What is worse they now seem to be lowering the bar for our expectations of government support when crisis occurs. The "be prepared for three days" campaigns still go on even though the consensus seems to be that will be woefully inadequate. What is worse we seem to be ready to accept with equanimity that local and federal goverment agencies will leave us floundering. Are we supposed to adopt the myth that we will always have FEMA? It seems to be getting more and more ironic that the locAL campaign is wash your hands - - - perpetuating the lie WE are ready.

Apologies for "Exodus"

365.Gay News covers the The Associated Press release (June 28, 2007)

Former 'Ex-Gay' Leaders Apologize For 'Bringing Harm'

Three former leaders of an international ministry that counsels gays to change their sexual orientation apologized for their efforts, saying that though they acted sincerely, their message had caused isolation, shame and fear.

The former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization Exodus International said Wednesday they had all, over time, become disillusioned with the group's ideas and concerned about what they described as the wrenching human toll of such gay conversion efforts.

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," the three, including former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, said in a joint written statement presented at a news conference in Hollywood. "Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates."

The news conference It was timed to coincide with the opening of the Exodus annual conference, which is being held this week at Concordia University in Irvine and expected to draw about 1,000 people.

Founded in 1976, the Orlando, Florida-based Exodus has grown to include more than 120 local ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries in 17 other countries. The group has monthly newsletters, annual conferences, speaking engagements and Web services. It promotes "freedom from homosexuality" through prayer, counseling and group therapy.

Link to News report

Global Prevention

According to Michael Carter writing for Aidsmap (June 29, 2007) in

Half of all new HIV infections could be averted if proven prevention efforts expanded

A new report suggests that 50% of projected HIV infections by 2015 could be prevented if governments and donors increase their HIV expenditure to UNAIDS target levels and implement prevention programmes that have been proven to work.

The Global HIV Prevention Working Group’s report, Bringing HIV Prevention to Scale: An Urgent Global Priority, shows that prevention efforts are not keeping pace with expanding access to antiretroviral therapy. For every person who started effective anti-HIV treatment in 2006, six become newly infected with the virus.

It is estimated that there will be 60 million new HIV infections by 2015, but the report suggests that 30 million of these could be avoided if scientifically proven methods of HIV prevention were implemented.

However, the working group point to evidence showing that few people who would benefit from HIV prevention have access to it. This includes access to interventions that have been scientifically proven to significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission, for example:

  • Prevention of mother-to-child transmission – in low- and middle-income countries in 2005, only 11% of HIV-positive pregnant women had access to cheap treatment shown to dramatically reduce the risks of vertical transmission.

  • HIV testing – only 12% of men and 10% of women in the African countries most seriously affected by HIV had had an HIV test.

  • High-risk groups – prevention efforts reached only 9% of men who have sex with men, 8%of injecting drug users, and less than a fifth of sex workers in 2005. Many governments still opt for general HIV awareness campaigns rather than initiatives targeted at the groups most at risk of infection.

Membership of the working group includes public health experts, doctors, scientific researchers and people with HIV. It is jointly convened by the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Link to Aidsmap report

Global HIV Prevention Working Group
Link to Global HIV Prevention

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Michael Carter writing for Aidsmap (June 28, 2007) in

Over half of trainee surgeons in US don't report needlestick injuries

report nearly every trainee surgeon has experienced a needlestick injury by their final year of postgraduate education, according to a US study published in the June 28th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study also showed that over 50% of all needlestick injuries were not reported, including 16% of injuries that involved a source patient who was infected with HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C.

Feeling too busy was the main reason why trainee surgeons failed to report needlestick injuries, but over a quarter of those who had failed to report an injury said that they did not believe that treatment they may be offered would do any good.

Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 needle-stick injuries are reported annually by healthcare workers in the US. Although any healthcare worker who performs an invasive procedure is potentially at risk of a needle-stick injury, the group most at risk is trainee surgeons.

The risk of exposure to a serious blood-borne infection for trainee surgeons is high: one recent study conducted at a general surgical service suggested that 20 – 38% of all procedures involved a patient who was infected with HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C.

The study was conducted in 2003 and included 699 medical postgraduates in surgical training at 17 US institutions. The investigators established that, by the fifth year of postgraduate education, 99% of surgical trainees had experienced a needlestick injury. The medium number of injuries reported during these five years of training was eight – 1.7 per year. Over half (53%) of needlestick injuries involved a patient with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

A feeling of being “rushed” was the most frequently reported reason for the injuries (53%), and a fifth of trainee surgeons did not think that their injury could have been prevented.

Although the main reason given for not reporting a needlestick injury was “it takes too much time” (42%), over a quarter (28%) of surgical trainees said there was “no utility in reporting” their injuries.

The investigators suggest that the risk of needle-stick injuries could be reduced by the wider use of “sharpless” invasive procedures. They suggest that 20% of all surgery could be conducted without the use of sharp instruments.


Needlestick injuries among surgeons in training.
Martin A. Makary et al

New England Journal of Medicine Volume 356:2693-2699 June 28, 2007 Number 26

Link to NEJM abstract

Link to Aidsmap report

Losing Popularity

The New York Times reports today

U.S. Faces More Distrust From World, Poll Shows

Link to NY Times report

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Fourth Branch


Peter Brookes - The Times

Helping Profession Helping Themselves . . .

Gardiner Harris in the New York Times (June 27, 2007)

Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts

As states begin to require that drug companies disclose their payments to doctors for lectures and other services, a pattern has emerged: psychiatrists earn more money from drug makers than doctors in any other specialty.

How this money may be influencing psychiatrists and other doctors has become one of the most contentious issues in health care. For instance, the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed a new class of powerful medicines known as atypical antipsychotics to children, for whom the drugs are especially risky and mostly unapproved.

Vermont officials disclosed Tuesday that drug company payments to psychiatrists in the state more than doubled last year, to an average of $45,692 each from $20,835 in 2005. Antipsychotic medicines are among the largest expenses for the state’s Medicaid program.

Over all last year, drug makers spent $2.25 million on marketing payments, fees and travel expenses to Vermont doctors, hospitals and universities, a 2.3 % increase over the prior year, the state said.

The number most likely represents a small fraction of drug makers’ total marketing expenditures to doctors since it does not include the costs of free drug samples or the salaries of sales representatives and their staff members. According to their income statements, drug makers generally spend twice as much to market drugs as they do to research them.

These and other stories have helped to fuel a growing interest among state and federal officials to document and restrict payments to doctors from drug makers. At a gathering last month at Columbia Law School in New York, state attorneys general from across the country discussed ways to get similar data for their states.

And today, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is led by Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, will hold the first of a series of hearings on the issue, which could lead to legislative proposals to restrict and require disclosure of payments and gifts to doctors from drug companies nationwide.

Link to NY Times report

National HIV TESTING Day

National HIV Testing Resources
Link to

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Space Dick

I am not part of the Executive Branch

Who ???

Patrick di Justo wrting for Wired in

Infoporn: Despite the Web, Americans Remain Woefully Ill-Informed

More than a decade after the Internet went mainstream, the world's richest information source hasn't necessarily made its users any more informed. A new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that Americans, on average, are less able to correctly answer questions about current events than they were in 1989. Citizens who call the Internet their primary news source know slightly less than fans of TV and radio news. But not surprisingly to many of us Jon Stewart’s Daily Show viewers are more up to date than Fox News followers.

Link to Wired story


365 Gay News covering The Associated Press release (June 26, 2007) in

HIV Pos Particularly Vulnerable To Staph

reports the, drug-resistant staph bug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)may be infecting as many as 5 percent of hospital and nursing home patients. At least 30,000 U.S. hospital patients may have the superbug at any given time, according to a survey released Monday by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

This estimate is about 10 times the rate that health officials had previously estimated.

The new study sampled a larger and more diverse set of health care facilities. It also was more recent than other studies, and it counted cases in which the bacterium was merely present in a patient and not necessarily causing disease.

The infection control professionals' association sent surveys to its more than 11,000 members and asked them to pick one day from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10, 2006, to count cases of the infection. They were to turn in the number of all the patients in their health care facilities who were identified through test results as infected or colonized with MRSA

The final results represented 1,237 hospitals and nursing homes - or roughly 21 percent of U.S. inpatient health care facilities, association officials said.

The researchers concluded that at least 46 out of every 1,000 patients had the bug.

There was a breakdown: About 34 per 1,000 were infected with the superbug, meaning they had skin or blood infections or some other clinical symptom. And 12 per 1,000 were "colonized," meaning they had the bug but no illness.

Most of the patients were identified within 48 hours of hospital admission, which means, the researchers believe, that they didn't have time to become infected to the degree that a test would show it. For that reason, the researchers concluded that about 75 percent of patients walked into the hospitals and nursing homes already carrying the bug.

"They acquired it in a previous stay in health care facility, or out in the community," said Dr. William Jarvis, a consulting epidemiologist and former CDC officials who led the study.

The study is being presented this week at the association's annual meeting in San Jose, Calif., but has not been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Link to 365gay News report

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Web site
Includes MRSA Initiatives

Link to APICE web site

The Guardian's farewell

Steve Bell

Martin Rowlinson

Monday, June 25, 2007

Resistant TB will cost

Keith Alcorn, writing for Aidsmap (June 25, 2007) in

Global MDR and XDR TB control needs extra $2.15 billion by end of 2008, says WHO

reports the World Health Organization said on Saturday that national governments and donors will need to spend a total of $2.15 billion between now and December 2008 in an ambitious program of measures to contain the growing threat of multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis.

WHO says that hundreds of thousands of cases of drug-resistant TB can be prevented, and up to 134,000 lives saved, if national laboratory and surveillance systems are strengthened and a better supply of second-line TB drugs is established.

The reasons for growing MDR TB problems vary from region to region. Although MDR TB is commonly ascribed to poor adherence to TB therapy, a recent study in China showed that MDR TB cases were overwhelmingly associated with poor infection control, not poor adherence in people already receiving TB treatment.

WHO and its partners also need to hammer home the message about the importance of infection control in health care settings, the global response plan states. More attention is also needed to infection control in the community in settings with high HIV prevalence, such as southern Africa. Similarly important is infection control in `congregate` settings, such as prisons, schools and detention centers.

Last November at the 37th World Conference on Lung Health international TB experts called for $15 million in emergency funding to counter the immediate threat of an explosion of XDR cases in southern Africa, as part of a larger $95 million package of measures. So far only half of that sum has been pledged by major international donors.

The $2.15 billion in spending required between now and the end of 2008 will require significant support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Link to Aidsmap report

Why defense blocks HIV resistance

Amber Dance writing for the Los Angeles Times (June 23, 2007) in

Ancient defense may block HIV resistance

reports humans may lack resistance to HIV in part because a potentially defensive protein is still guarding against a long-extinct virus. Researchers have known that some primates, such as macaques, can fight off HIV with an antiviral protein called TRIM5-alpha, whereas the human version, though only slightly different, cannot combat HIV.

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle wondered just what virus the human protein was able to attack. One candidate was an ancient virus, PtERV1, which left relics of itself in the DNA of modern chimpanzees.
Retroviruses can insert themselves into their host’s DNA, sometimes leaving behind their genes as evidence of the infection. Experts estimate that 8% of human DNA is made up of defunct viral genes. But the human genome has no trace of the PtERV1 virus.

"This implies that either humans were never infected or humans were selected for resistance to the virus," said virologist Michael Emerman, senior author of the study, published in Science.

The researchers were able to partly reconstruct the virus, though it has been extinct for 3 million to 4 million years. They found that the human version of the TRIM5-alpha protein could bind to the virus, labeling it for the cell to destroy.

Tinkering with the protein, the scientists found that a single mutation made it better at recognizing HIV but worse at attaching to the ancient virus.

This antiviral protein appears to be able to fight one virus or the other, but not both, the authors concluded.

Link to LA Times story

Restriction of an Extinct Retrovirus by the Human TRIM5 Antiviral Protein
Shari M. Kaiser et al
Science 22 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5832, pp. 1756 - 1758

Link to Science abstract

Mac from The Daily Mail

"Thankyou for the offer, but when the time comes I must limit myself to gently tapping the sword on Mr Rushdie's shoulder."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Where words prevail

PBS is currently showing the documentary

Where words prevail

About the work of Cicely Berry, Voice Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) which watches her working in rehearsals at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-on-Avon, at workshops and Master Classes in Seoul, New York, Moscow and the slums of Rio de Janeiro and even prisons like Dartmoor.

She strives to help people find their authentic voice because she believes that when one has found their voice they can find their place in the world.

As the play-write Edward Bond puts it, as comments on her work

"I have a right to be in the world. This is what children believe and if children do not believe they have a right to be in the world, they can’t think. Their mind won’t work. They become autistic. The mind switches off."

" Human beings have to believe they have a right to be in the world. "

Cecily Berry’s influence has become extensive. Having coached prominent politicians on effective public speaking, she asserts that the political sound byte is now “destroying democratic debate.

“If we do not/cannot express our inner selves, how do we know what we think or what we feel? How can we have any philosophy or viewpoint?

"For it is in the expressing of our thoughts and intuitions that we can recognize them and deal with them – and take action. But if we cannot express these ideas and thoughts, the result can only be silent anger.”

She describes coming across her motivating quotation in The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd:

Where words prevail not,
Violence prevails

The Work of Cicely Berry: Homepage
Link to

Ooh, Vicar!

Not doing stem cell research:

The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25 v14 . . .

For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them

To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey

The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more.

In the same way, the one who had two gained two more.

But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it.

After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them.

The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’

His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed,

So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’


We're on the side of the angels!

Some day soon . . . .

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dame Edna - isms

Out Ranks News covering the Associated Press notice (June 21, 2007) in

Exhibit Examines History Of Gay Vets

reports from San Francisco on Out Ranks, a new exhibit that documents the tortured relationship between gay troops and the U.S. military from World War II to the present. It opened at the GLBT Historical Society on June 14, Flag Day.

The airman's dress blues are faded, the footlocker he carried through three tours in Vietnam has gone to rust. Yet the epitaph he chose to mark his grave is still as fresh as today's headlines: "When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one." Leonard Matlovich's medals, uniform and other personal effects make up the centerpiece of the new exhibit.

Matlovich, who died in 1988, was a decorated Air Force sergeant who came out to his commanding officer a month before the fall of Saigon, hoping to challenge the government's ban on gay service members. In 1975, the idea of an openly gay combat veteran was incongruous enough to land him on the cover of Time magazine.

The goal of the show is to illustrate that gays have always served their country, often with honor and always under the threat of dishonorable discharge.

Through memorabilia, government documents and oral histories, the exhibit traces the evolution of public policies on gays in the military. A panel on World War II, for instance, features an article on the psychiatric evaluations used to screen out suspected homosexuals, along with the blue dishonorable discharge papers given to an effete-looking soldier who spent his last days in the Army in a hospital psych ward.

More contemporary examples include a section from the current Uniform Code of Military Justice explaining that oral and anal sex, even among consenting adults of opposite genders, can be considered grounds for a court martial.

The exhibit was based on interviews with more than 50 gay veterans conducted by Steve Estes, an associate history professor at Sonoma State University, for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. He tracked down most of his subjects through the gay rights group American Veterans for Equal Rights and the Naval Academy's gay alumni association. Estes, who published the interviews in a book called Ask and Tell, said he noticed a big difference in the attitudes of older gay veterans and younger ones who "had gone into the military knowing they were gay" and were much less fearful about getting found out.

"It wasn't an issue for them - just the military," he said.

Link to News story

Hockney, Smoking, and - - - Turner

Lady Constance's Cultural Corner

We have written before about little Malcolm's affinity to the arts and especially the parallels to David Hockney. So of course we had a definite frisson when we discovered that the darling AA Gill was doing an interview with Hockney for last weekend's Sunday Times (June 17, 2007). Yes, you will have to put up with lots of stuff about Turner. I suppose that's why Hockney is doing the interview. But it is worth reading if only for his reactions to the British smoking ban.

Link to Sunday Times article