Here's an important controversial film about the so-called OPV ("oral polio vaccine") theory of the origins of the AIDS epidemic, a disease that has already taken more than 26 million lives, with more than 100 million premature deaths in the next 50 ears -- now infecting, for example, more than 5.5 million people in South Africa alone, where it is killing more than 1000 people per day.
This 2003 (poorly-distributed/ legally-threatened) film built on 20 years of investigative reporting and "upstream swimming" against the scientific community by Edward Hooper, a courageous British journalist. Hooper contends that the disease was actually man-made, originating in polio vaccination trials by scientists like Dr.Hillary Koprowski and Dr. Paul Osterrieth, who were rushing to perfect their own polio vaccine.
With the help of local chiefs, the vaccines were compulsory for more than 1 million people in the Congo and Burundi from 1957-60, which may have used chimpanzee tissue as a "substrate" for tissue cultures, in the production of the vaccines.
Hooper's 1999 book The River started this controversy. Contrary to popular mythology, the controversy continues unresolved to this date.
This spring, researchers claimed that HIV had been traced to chimps in the Cameroon, supposedly predating the OPV trials and lending support to a "bushmeat" theory of the virus' origins. However, Hooper has raised several important criticisms of this theory, including its failure to explain the concentration of early HIV/AIDs cases in the Congo, quite far from Cameroon; the low incidence of HIV in Cameroon; and the prospect that Cameroon-type chimps had turned up in the 1950s Congo camps.
Since the original vaccines employed in the Congo trials have all somehow disappeared, we may never get to the bottom of this controversy. All we can be sure of is that this one lone journalist has certainly succeeded in making the orthodox scientific community very uncomfortable.
Interested readers are referred to Hoopers' website for the latest developments.
Tags: chimpanzee, Congo, Dr. Hillary Koprowski, Dr. Paul Osterrieth, Edward Hooper, health and development, HIV/AIDS, origin of aids, Rolling Stone, SIV, The Constant Gardener, Tom Curtis, unnatural disasters
The new year is already off to a turbulent start in Bolivia. During the week of January 7 to 15, up to six thousands supporters of President Evo Morales' MAS party-- mainly cocaleros from the Chapare coca-growing region, campesinos, and indigenous groups -- showed up in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city of 800,000, in the country's center.
They had come to demand the resignation of Cochabamba's right-wing Governor, Manfred Villa-Reyes, who has become an outspoken supporter of the "autonomista" movement, which is seeking greater "states rights" for the country's nine provinces -- especially the wealthier, "whiter" eastern and southern provinces of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz, and Tarija, where most of Bolivia's natural gas and richest farms are located.
As shown in this exclusive video footage from Cochabamba (See Parts I and Part II). shot by Bolivian film crews working under the direction of our colleague, award-winning Hollywood producer Donald K.Ranvaud (The Constant Gardener, City of God, Central Station, etc.), the MAS supporters encountered a fierce reaction from the city's middle-class residents and pro-autonomista forces, including a crowd of more than well-organized thousand stick-waiving people who reportedly attacked the cocaleros and campesinos aggressively on January 13th. In the ensuing conflict, at least two people were killed and more than 150 were injured.
By Saturday January 14th, calm had returned to the city. Governor Manfred returned from Santa Cruz, where he had apparently fled out of concerns for his own safety, and Evo Morales also returned from Nicaragua, where he had been attending Daniel Ortega's inauguration. Steps have been taken on all sides to pacify the situation.
However, as we'll discuss below, the potential for renewed conflict is very high. This is not only because none of the fundamental economic and political causes of the conflict have been addressed. It is also because on all sides, Bolivia's political leaders have not exactly shown the capacity for compromise and the maturity that will be essential to avoid a "lose lose" outcome for Bolivians of all backgrounds and social classes.
Many of us have recently had an opportunity to view Hotel Rwanda, the outstanding full-length feature film that is now making the rounds in US theaters. In graphic detail, this film tells the story of how in 1994, the US, France, the UK, Belgium, and other Security Council members abandoned Rwanda's "Tutsi" minority to a genocide campaign that was led by the country's "Hutu" majority. (The Haitian musician and song writer Wyclef Jean also has a great new song that was featured in film. Here's a short clip from his "Million_Voices.")
The resulting violence cost nearly 1 million lives, and left more than 2 million refugees. The massacre went on from April 1994 to July 1994, and only ended went the Tutsi rebel army defeated the Hutus.
This was not the largest genocide in history, but it was certainly one of the most intensive. During World War II, it had taken Nazi Germany 5.5 years to kill 6 million victims -- an average of about 3000 per day. The Rwandan genocide proceeded at a rate more than twice that high. In addition, in Rwanda' case, mass rape was also used as a systematic weapon of group extermination against the Tutsis.
Those who are quick to attribute the resulting violence simply to "African tribalism'' may be interested in taking a closer look at the history of tribalism and ethnic divisions in Rwanda, which were reinforced and manipulated by the main colonial power, Belgium.
In any case, the Clinton Administration and the entire rest of the world literally watched the massacre from surveillance satellites, the UN withdrew nearly all its forces, and France and China even provided arms and machetes to the killers.
To this day, after more than 10 years, the UN International Criminal Tribunal charged with prosecuting the organizers of the genocide is far behind in its work. Its trials began in 1996, but as of 2005, only 11 defendants have been charged, tried, sentenced and completed their appeals, 9 have been convicted and awaiting appeals, 25 are currently on trial, 18 have been detained and are waiting for their trials to begin, 10 have fled prosecution, 1 has died, 5 have been released, and 16 are still under investigation. At this rate the UN ICT will have a very hard time completing its work by the 2010 deadline for all appeals.
In contrast, in the case of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal that followed World War II, from October 1945 to 1951, the tribunal convicted, sentenced, and processed the appeals of more than 257 defendants.
Many of those senior officials who were on duty at the time, like former President Bill Clinton, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security advisor Anthony Lake, former UN Secretary General Boutrous Boutrous Ghali, and former head of the UN Peacekeepers Kofi Annan, have since had second thoughts about their conduct. They have all visited Rwanda and expressed their condolences.
Unfortunately, under international law, there is as yet no recognition for the crimes of gross negligence, involuntary manslaughter, or corporate negligence with respect to genocide -- no punishment for the "liberal leaders" of the world community who chose to stand by with their hands folded, watching hundreds of thousands of innocent people die -- simply because it was politically expedient.
If there is not a special place in Hell reserved for such people, we should all demand a new eschatology.
On April 7, 2004, people around the world did observe a minute of silence to commemorate the "Rwandan holocaust" victims. (See our April 2004 post on the subject.)
For those who are interested in the aftermath of this story, the following video reports by UNICEF and by Oxfam describes the aftermath of the genocide, including the continuing humanitarian crisis faced by the refugees.
For the history of the Rwandan debacle, see the following excerpts from the excellent PBS Frontline series: Part 1: The Warning. Part 2: Confronting Evil. Part 3: Heroes and Bystanders, and Part 4: Epilogue. Also especially powerful is BBC Journalist Fergal Keane's Eyewitness Account, a home video of the massacres shot by heroic Senegalese Capt. Mbaye Diagne, and the home video shot by Adventist missionary Carl Wilkens, the last American left in Rwanda after the US withdrew all its staff in April 1994.
The Huygens probe to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, landed last Friday, after a journey of seven years. It yielded four hours of video and a handful of not-particularly scintillating scientific measurements during its descent to Titan's inhospitable surface, and then disintegrated. Below is a typically-bombastic video by NASA about the probe's incredible scientific value. For the more skeptical, take a look at a humorous commentary. Meanwhile, the US and Europe are both having difficulty finding a few billion dollars to meet their 1990 commitments to devote .7% (!) of their annual GDPs to development aid.