‘Tis a bittersweet moment.

On the one hand, I am happy that the 102nd Meeting of the Skeptics’ Circle has landed over at Bing McGhandi’s place. Not only is it chock full of excellent skeptical blogging, but the story is amusing, as evidenced by this little taste:

BM: Next, Orac from Respectful Insolence has sent you a warning about Dr. Egnor, the intelligent design advocate and friend of the Discovery Institute.

RB: I know all about this Dr. Egnor. I intend to make him Surgeon [bleeping] General when I become President in 2016!

Oh, but who is RB, this evil incarnate who would appoint Dr. Egnor Surgeon General? You’ll have to click on the link above to find out, but suffice it to say that he has perfectly helmet-headed hair and is unclear on the concept of what constitutes an illegal quid pro quo. And he is definitely evil.

Now, what makes me sad is that the Skeptics’ Circle is going to go on a brief hiatus until January 15. The reason is simple. Two weeks from today is New Years Day. Not only is it a major holiday, but, after Christmas, it’s second worst day for blog traffic of the year (at least in my experience). I realize that our intrepid and most excellent hosts don’t just host because they love skepticism (although they do). They also want to have their work brought to the attention of a larger audience, and how are they going to achieve that when overall blog traffic is in the crapper on January 1? So I, your benevolent Skeptics’ Circle overlord, made a unilateral decision to cancel the January 1 Skeptics’ Circle, despite the pain. Besides, why would I draft some poor skeptic into working on New Years’ Eve when he or she should be out partying, only to have all that work fail to reach as wide an audience as it otherwise should?

Truly I am a benevolent overlord. I think only of my hosts and contributors.

One beneficiary of my beneficence will be Bug Girl, who will be hosting the next Meeting of the Skeptics’ Circle four weeks from now at Bug Girl’s Blog on Thursday, January 15. One other thing: Despite the prolonged break between Skeptics’ Circle #102 and #103, please do not view this as an opportunity to slack off. Rather, view it as an opportunity to have extra time to help Bug Girl put together the greatest, most kick-ass Skeptics’ Circle ever seen! The guidelines are here!

Finally, why not make a New Years’ resolution to host your very own Skeptics’ Circle? This is all it takes. Well, that and passing through a skeptical gauntlet of fire run by yours truly. Actually, that “skeptical gauntlet of fire” is more like a Bic lighter. All it means is that I peruse your blog after you drop me an e-mail request to host, and if it doesn’t look as though it might be Deepak Chopra, David Kirby, Dr. Egnor, or some other maven of pseudoscience trying to pass himself off as a skeptic in order to subvert the Circle, you’re in. Oh, and your blog has to have at least a couple of posts on it that would be at home in a Meeting of the Skeptics’ Circle. That’s about it. It’s a small bar to get over for the glory and fun that is hosting a Skeptics’ Circle.

So what are you waiting for?


  1. #1 O'gust
    December 18, 2008

    Alas poor Y’Orac we knew him well. Tenure is not to be…

  2. #2 Orac
    December 18, 2008

    Hello, Mr. O’Neill. Odd, but for once I didn’t even mention you.

  3. #3 Adam Cuerden
    December 18, 2008

    If it helps, I’ll run a Skeptics’ Circle on New Years’ at Waffle.

  4. #4 DLC
    December 18, 2008

    I read it. interesting idea… Blaggo as segue between blog posts. If I had a blog I’d offer an article.
    Didn’t someone a ways back do a “Doctor Evil” skeptics circle?

  5. #5 bug_girl
    December 19, 2008

    “view it as an opportunity to have extra time to help Bug Girl put together the greatest, most kick-ass Skeptics’ Circle ever seen!”

    Oh great. No pressure, eh?

    December 20, 2008

    Speaking of Evil Incarnate,

    Lets discuss the conflicts of interest and investigation of corruption that is now proceeding against members of the Nobel Organization.


    Oh, by the way, Nobel committee member Jan Andersson has just been added to the investigation for all of his connections to his GlaxoSmithKline hiv vaccine funds and his own company AVARIS, developer of hiv vaccines.

    Andersson was the individual behind promoting an award for:

    The Nobel Prize for Barré–Sinoussi and Montagnier
    The Nobel Prize in medicine has been recently awarded to Barre-Sinoussi and Montagnier for “The discovery of immunodeficiency virus (HIV)».
    This award is, to a large extent, based on a paper published by the laureates et al. in May 1983, in «Science» (vol 220, pp 868-871). The conclusions presented in this paper result, in a large part, from observations made by transmission electron microscopy. Having been responsible for research on electron microscopy of retroviruses, at the Sloan Kettering Institute of New York from 1956 until 1981, I do have scientific competence to raise the following questions related to the significance of the paper under reference.

    This 1983 paper is illustrated (Fig. 2) by an electron microscopy image of thin sections of virus-producing cord lymphocytes. Three day old cultures of T lymphocytes from two umbilical cords had been «infected with the cell-free supernatant of the infected coculture». This «coculture» consisted of cultured human normal T lymphocytes admixed with lymphocytes that originated from the lymph node biopsy from one patient «at risk for acquired immune deficiency (AIDS)». The author’s interpretation of Fig.2 is that it demontrates that cord blood lymphocytes had been successfully infected by retroviruses from that patient.

    Unquestionably, Fig 2 illustrates typical retroviruses (C-type), budding from the surface of a lymphocyte.

    Highly questionable, however, is the origin of these retroviruses.

    The authors of the report claim that they originate from the patient lymph node, via the «cell-free supernatant» of the coculture.

    This interpretation is not satisfactorily supported by the data presented.

    Indeed, if this interpretation was correct, one would have expected :

    1) evidence, by electron microscopy, of the multiplication of retroviruses in this «coculture», and
    2) evidence, again by electron microscopy, for the presence of retroviral particles in the «cell-free supernatant of the infected coculture».

    Since 1) and 2) evidences are totally missing, how could the authors of this paper justify their claim for having «infected» the cord lymphocytes with the «cell-free supernatant of the coculture» ?

    The authors have regarded their «coculture» as «infected» only on the basis of reverse transcriptase activity in sucrose fractions from the supernatant. Sucrose fractions at density around 1.16, however, are known to contain large amounts of cell debris that can readily account for the observed transcriptase activity. In short, one is asked to believe that cord blood lymphocytes have been sucessfully infected with the supernatant of a coculture the viral infection of which has not been demonstrated.

    As indicated above, Fig. 2 of the paper shows typical retroviruses (C-type) budding from the surface of a lymphocyte. Where are they coming from, if it is not from the «cell-free supernatant of the coculture» ?

    There is another possible explanation for the viral electron microscopy evidence of Fig. 2, an explanation that did not, obviously, received the slightest attention from Barre-Sinoussi, Montagnier et al.

    The observed cultured lymphocytes came from cord blood, and therefore originate from the placenta. It is well known, since the late 1970’s (Sandra Panem’s work, in Current Top Pathol, 1979, 66 :175-189), that the normal human placenta contains loads of C type retroviruses (HERVs). Placental lymphocytes are, therefore, likely to contain the same HERVs that, when placed under stimulating culture conditions, may bud from cell surfaces and form complete retroviral particles (C-type) recognizable with the electron microscope (Fig. 2). Barre-Sinoussi et al. avoided to explain why their experiment apparently wouldn’t work with lymphocytes from the peripheral blood, instead of those from cord blood? The simple explanation is that human peripheral blood lymphocytes do not harbor HERVs.

    In my opinion, Fig. 2 illustrating the paper under consideration totally fails to convincingly demonstrate that the observed retroviruses originated in the lymph node of one patient «at risk of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome». There is no scientific reason, therefore, to refer to these particles as «LAV» nor as «HIV». Referring to these particles as «LAV» or «HIV» mislead the Nobel Committee, and resulted in a seriously questionable award of the Nobel prize.

    Etienne de Harven, MD, Emerit. Prof, Univ. of Toronto.

  7. #7 Orac
    December 20, 2008

    Actually, “denialist flat earther” sounds like an accurate description of Dr. de Harven to me.

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