Tuesday, April 29, 2008

HIV/AIDS Vaccine: Mission Impossible?

The Independent recently asked the provoking question: Should we end the quest for an HIV vaccine? A vaccine for HIV will certainly be based on a revolutionary idea.

The Problem

One of the major problems with HIV-vaccine research is that CD4+ cells like monocytes and macrophage express an IgG Fc receptor. Thus, any antibody that sticks to HIV is internalized via the FcR into the CD4+ WBC, and thus the WBC are infected by the tagalong HIV. Even antibodies that are "neutralizing" in a Petri dish increase infectivity.

Thus, I was not surprised when the recent Merck HIV vaccine study went terribly, horribly awry, actually increasing the likelihood of infection and leading to earlier death in vaccinated individuals.

No Solution?

Any antibody-stimulating vaccine will have this problem, assuming an IgG response. Passive immunization with F(ab') fragments might meet with a better result.

Should We Stop?

Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said in The Independent's survey: “Most people’s immune systems hold HIV in check for years before they develop AIDS. A small number of HIV-infected people seem never to develop the disease. There are also documented cases of individuals who have been repeatedly exposed to HIV, but have not become infected. If scientists can work out the type of immune responses that protect these individuals, it might provide vital clues about how to create a vaccine.”

The above data that Berkley notes is indeed reason for hope. However, a traditional vaccine will not evoke the anomalous immune responses that are so rarely observed.

TK Kenyon
Author of CALLOUS: A Novel, ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601640226 ) a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, Schrodinger's Cat, and the End of Days.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Amazon Oops!

Amazon has made a tiny little mistake and is offering my new novel, CALLOUS, for sale ahead of its May publication date ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601640226 ) . When RABID was released last year, Amazon sold out and even sucked dry its wholesaler, so they had to backorder the book from the distributer and it took a couple weeks to get the fresh meat.

If you want to read CALLOUS any time soon, muscle your way to the head of the line and snatch a copy from some milquetoast's virtual shopping cart now!

TK Kenyon

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Callous Book Trailer

My, oh my! It's the new book trailer for my next novel, Callous, due out in May.

TK Kenyon

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Five Worst Catholic Cardinals in the US re: Clergy Sex Abuse

For all those believers who think that atheism leads to immorality and crime, let us not forget that the Catholic Church is guilty of widespread concealment and even fostering of child sex abuse.

The following press release by SNAP (Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests) today listed the following five cardinals as the most complicit in concealing child sex abuse by the religious. In this, they are accessories after the fact because they concealed a crime rather than reported it to authorities.

Five Worst Catholic Cardinals
1. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
2. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles
3. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston
4. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston
5. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago

-- In August 2005, Fr. Daniel McCormack was questioned by the police because of
abuse allegations. Two months later, the Chicago lay review board recommended
that George suspend McCormack. George refused, kept silent and let his
chancellor promote McCormack. Three months later, police arrested McCormack
again. During those last few months of his active parish ministry in Chicago's
inner city, McCormack molested at least three boys, the district attorney said.
(One of the children, prosecutors say, had been assaulted "on an almost daily"
basis.) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/09/national/09priest.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
McCormack has pled guilty to child molestation. Later, records
obtained by victims' attorneys showed that in 1999, a school principal reported
accusations against McCormack to archdiocesan officials. Nothing was
done. Adding insult to injury, five high ranking church officials closely
involved in this fiasco have since been promoted. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/01_02/2008_01_24_Hogan_TheCardinal.htm
The female veteran school principal (who was the only archdiocesan staffer
to call the police) has, however, been fired. Church authorities refuse to say
why. http://reform-network.net/?p=606 -- While the McCormack
case has received some attention, George has displayed shocking callousness,
recklessness and secrecy in other, post-2002 cases. Perhaps most notably, within
months of the adoption of the so-called 'reforms' in Dallas, George knowingly
and secretly let a convicted predator priest (Fr. Kenneth Martin) work in the
archdiocese and live, part-time, with George in George's mansion. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2003_03_02_Falsani_PriestsCase.htm

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles

In 2005 or 2006, LA church
and school officials were questioned by police about current child sex abuse
allegations against John Malburg. Malburg was a Catholic high school principal
from a politically prominent family. The archdiocese didn't suspend him. They
told no one about the investigation. Six months later, Malburg was arrested and
criminally charged. Parents asked church officials "Why didn't you tell us? Why
didn't you suspend him?" Cardinal Mahony's PR man told the LA Times "Law
enforcement told us to keep quiet." The next day, in the LA Times, prosecutors
said they never made any such request. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/11_12/2006_11_19_NBC4_ArchdioceseChurch.htm
, http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2006_11_17_Hong_CorruptionTarget.htm In
just nine months, police say, Fr. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, sexually assaulted at
least 26 boys in Los Angeles. In August 2007, long-secret church records
about Aguilar were publicly disclosed. According to the New York Times, the
documents showed that then-Msgr. Thomas Curry "tipped off" the accused pedophile
priest who then fled to Mexico to avoid criminal prosecution.(An LA district
attorney said Curry "facilitated" Aguilar's flight.) Aguilar went on to molest
kids in Mexico later. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/09_10/2006_10_21_McKinley_AccusedPriests.htm
Curry is now one of Mahony's auxiliary bishops. Despite public pleas to
discipline Curry, or at least speak out about Curry's irresponsible secrecy,
Mahony said and did nothing. · For years, Mahony stayed secretly let
an admitted child-molesting cleric live in his archdiocese (in a picturesque
religious complex overlooking the ocean), despite the cleric's being wanted on
criminal charges in Canada. In 2005, when SNAP and others demanded that Mahony and his colleagues turn Franciscan friar Gerald Chumik to law enforcement, he
let Chumik move from Santa Barbara Mission Church in Santa Barbara to
Missouri. For 14 years, Chumik has been a fugitive from his native
Canada. SNAP leaders believe this needlessly put children at risk and is a
clear violation of the much-touted Dallas Charter which all American bishops
adopted in June of 2002. Elected district attorneys rarely feud in public
with powerful religious figures. But in October 2005, (more than three years
after Mahony pledged "openness" about child sex abuse and cover ups), Los
Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said "Three years ago, I urged
Cardinal Mahony to provide the fullest possible disclosure of evidence of sexual
abuse by clergy. Despite two court rulings ordering full disclosure, Cardinal
Mahony continues to claim 'confidentiality privileges' that no court has
recognized." http://da.co.la.ca.us/mr/archive/2005/101205a.htm?zoom_highlight=clergy

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston

In November 2007, a victim reported
having been sexually abused by Fr. Stephen Horn between 1989 and 1993. DiNardo
found him credible and suspended Horn. The Cardinal, however, kept the
allegation and his determination secret from parishioners, police and the public
for two months, despite US bishops' repeated pledges to act quickly and openly
with credibly sex abuse allegations. Finally, in mid-January, DiNardo disclosed
his action. (The delay gave Horn, a credibly accused molester, ample opportunity
to fabricate alibis, destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses,
or even flee the country, as some pedophile priests have done.) Part of
DiNardo's secrecy and delay occurred in the weeks between when the Pope
announced that DiNardo would be named a Cardinal (October 2007) and when DiNardo
was promoted amid much pageantry (November 24). Some Houston Catholics have
speculated that DiNardo didn't want the news of Horn's crimes to 'rain on
(DiNardo's) parade.' Weeks ago, SNAP wrote DiNardo, urging him to explain
and apologize for his secrecy. SNAP has urged the cardinal to visit parishes
where Horn worked and emphatically beg victims and witnesses to come forward,
get help and call the police. He has not responded to either the letter or the
request. When he was a bishop in Sioux City Iowa, DiNardo similarly
mishandled the Fr. George McFadden case in Iowa, only disclosing the allegations
against this predator priest long afterwards.) Beginning in the 1990s (and
likely longer), Sioux City church officials knew of repeated charges of child
molestation against McFadden, an admitted abuser, dating back into the 1960s.
(DiNardo was Sioux City bishop starting in 1997.) For at least five years (and
even later), DiNardo had the chance to disclose McFadden's hurtful actions to
police, prosecutors, parishioners, and the public, and to keep McFadden from
other vulnerable children. He stayed silent. According to the Des Moines
Register, "The confessed child molester continued to hear confession and say
Mass daily over the past decade at the Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City's
largest Catholic church.) http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2002_06_23_Rood_ChurchSecrecy.htm
McFadden is accused of abusing more than 25 girls and boys in dozens of
civil lawsuits. Despite his alleged 'treatment' and 'retirement' in the 1990s,
he continued to function as priest until 2002. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2008_01_14_Kever_PriestRemoved.htm
, http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/01_02/2008_01_14_Quinn_ChurchOfficials.htm

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston

Last month church officials disclosed that, for the second year in a row,
O'Malley is in violation of the US bishops' child sex abuse prevention
policy. Much in the policy is meaningless public relations, SNAP is
convinced. But O'Malley's breaking one of the proven, practical requirements
that help prevent abuse: training kids how to avoid or stop being victimized.
Roughly one in five Boston Catholic children is not receiving this
training. Every child is supposed to receive it. Worse, O'Malley tries to
dodge responsibility for this clear, egregious refusal by blaming pastors and
parishioners. But O'Malley's had six years to persuade colleagues to weaken
the national abuse policy, devise alternative programs, or get on board (and get
his employees on board). He's done none of these three steps. Nor has he
disciplined a single individual for flaunting this national requirement. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/03_04/2008_04_11_Hamm_AbuseVictims.htm http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/03_04/2006_03_10_Levenson_88Victims.htm In
a 2006 case with disturbing parallels to many of the hundreds of Boston
pedophile priest cases, O'Malley moved very slowly and gingerly against a
prominent Catholic hospital official who faces multiple allegations of sexually
harassing employees. A high ranking human resources official at the
hospital "accused O'Malley of improperly interceding in the investigation to
help (the accused), giving him advance notice of the probe, providing him with
an adviser, and telling of the reprimand before consulting with the board,"
according to the Boston Globe.
The cardinal's actions ''have made a
mockery of the investigation. It is nothing short of shameful," she
wrote. "Perhaps most troubling" was what she called the ''near absence" of
concern for the women complainants that she said was shown by the church
hierarchy. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/05/21/omalley_reprimands_caritas_chief/
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York

Less than two months ago, the New York Post reported "The former principal
of a
prestigious Catholic high school who resigned amid allegations of
images on his work computer was allowed to stay on the job for
nearly five
months after a priest wrote the New York Archdiocese accusing
him of serious
misconduct." http://www.nypost.com/seven/02282008/news/regionalnews/diocese_let_school_big_slide_99632.htm http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/nyregion/28hayes.html In
2003, Egan became the first US prelate to refuse to say mass for the
Catholic, hand-picked, distinguished lay panel chosen by bishops to
look at the
church's child sex abuse crisis. According to the New York
Times, Egan also
"interfered with" and prevented the US bishops' 'watchdog'
on clergy sex cases
from speaking in his archdiocese.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's
oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for
17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word
"priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of
all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers.
Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NPR's Interview of Kristen Byrnes, Global Warming Denier

Morning Edition on NPR recently produced a puff piece about Kristen Bynes, blogger of Ponder the Maunder, a blog dedicated to refuting the idea that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

While the issue of a 16 yo kid becoming a leading global warming contrarian is devastating for the contrary view's validity as a scientific theory, and it seems that she indeed attended a short course at UGoog in Climate Science to arrive at her pre-ordained conclusions (which is the complete antithesis of how science should be conducted,) and that NPR is succumbing to natural selection by lowest common denominator, it seems that there is more to this story.

Personally, I’m not sold on the whole idea of global warming, man-made or not. I used to be. I was upset by the enormous amounts of CO2 that we humans were venting into the atmosphere, just like we exhaust raw sewage into our oceans, etc., etc., etc. And, you know, it seemed warmer, discounting that horrendous Iowa winter of 1995 when temps hit -40F and the Iowa River froze over. You can eliminate outliers in your data, as long as you can account for them, or at least make a nice statistical argument for ignoring them. It seemed that the consensus of the scientific community is that man-made global warming is a threat, and I generally go along with scientific consensus unless there’s a valid reason to doubt, and it had better be a good one. I don’t like the contrarian position.

I do, however, like data. Hard data. Preferably raw, pre-crunched data.

Here’s what changed my mind on global warming: I read that horrible anti-GW novel by Michael Crichton, which so sticks in my mind that I can’t recall the title, and I thought that his novel was so badly written that surely its conclusions can be tossed aside with great force. Crichton is both a horrid novelist and merely an MD.

(Yes, I am arrogant to snark so widely. I hold a fiction MFA from Iowa, where I received many prizes, and have published two well-received novels. During my PhD work in microbiology, I taught medical students in a Midwestern medical school. They’re great at memorizing things but, let’s face it, medical school does not reward original thought nor critical thinking. Their exams are multiple-guess. So, I’m snarky and arrogant. Crichton has loads more money than I have and a huge house on Kauai. He can take the shot.)

So, I set out on my own course of study at UGoog. I expected to quickly dismiss Crichton’s objections with data and confirm the majority opinion. It seems like an overwhelming opinion. I figured it would take an hour.

Here’s what I found: the global warming data is terrible. The methods that collected the data that produced the scary graph that we’ve all seen (where temperature spikes up in the 1970’s) are beyond shaky. It’s really bad science. I read the whole UN report, and the data that is cited in the prologue, which everyone reads, is a minor part of the whole report. Only surface temps, and only those in major urban areas, are going up. Atmospheric temperatures are not. This is to be expected by the “heat island” effect, where asphalt retains more heat than soil and re-radiates this heat at night.

Personally, I’m on the fence. The data behind GW, whether man-made or not, sucks. Here’s the problem: whenever you say that the data sucks, people jump on you like you insulted Jesus. They label you a “denialist” and, rather than debate the data, accuse you of wanting to rape the planet.

The global warming debate has moved from the arena of science, where one is free to debate data, methods, and conclusions, and into the area of religion, where one must adhere to dogma or else risk retribution.

That’s a huge problem.

When I published a short blog post about this (http://science4non-majors.blogspot.com/2007/11/hoax-of-global-warming-john-coleman.html ), I got hate mail. Not refute mail. Not argue mail. Hate mail.

Even though my blog post encouraged recycling and conservation, people accused me of trying to destroy the planet.

The debate about global warming must return to being a debate, not a tirade, not a crusade, and not a sermon.

TK Kenyon

Author of RABID ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601640021 ) and CALLOUS ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601640226 ): Two novels about science and religion, with some sex and murder.