Understanding the History of HIV

On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith explores the story of Gaetan Dugas, a man who was long blamed for precipitating the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The vilification of Dugas had nothing to do with science; instead he was dubbed “patient zero” in a misinterpretation of his study moniker “patient O” (for Outside). Dugas’ portrayal in the media turned him into a modern Typhoid Mary, but he was not an originator of the U.S. epidemic, as a 2007 molecular analysis proved and a new paper in Nature confirms. Smith writes “This is the real scandal and lingering tragedy of Dugas. His story was used to stoke fear of HIV-infected individuals, and especially gay men, as predators seeking to take others down with them.” Does science finally have the clout to revisit such an entrenched media narrative?

In other news, The Verge reports on a man who may hold the key to halting the spread of HIV and AIDS. Patient Z258, as he is known, exhibits natural immunity to “a whopping 98 percent of the de-clawed HIV virus strains the scientists generated in the lab.” Understanding the broadly neutralizing antibody that protects Z258 could lead to powerful new treatments for the disease.

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Keeping Hillary off the Half Dollar

In January, Hillary Clinton still possessed the benefit of the doubt. Memories of her and Bill snarling at Barack Obama in 2008 had faded, and despite her long and dreadful record, it’s always possible to turn over a new leaf. But Clinton’s ongoing response to Bernie Sanders shows why she is unfit for the presidency. Even as the frontrunner, Hillary shows no leadership ability; she, too, follows Sanders, trailing him to the left as he takes meaningful positions on issues like income inequality and campaign finance reform. Her saccharine smile says “I can do that too!” but truly she should be inspired by competition, not forced to shift uncomfortably because of it. Her recent anger at being asked about money from the fossil fuel industry illustrates her shortcomings perfectly. Confronted with a fair election, faced with her own record, she becomes defensive instead of inspired. She says something that isn’t true to blunt the inappropriateness of her rage. She enjoys the benefits of Citizens United just as they were meant to be enjoyed: as a carte blanche that allows her and other mainstream candidates to deny the corrupting influence of big money even as millions of industry dollars are spent on her behalf.

But Clinton has never shown interest in a fair contest; she moved to New York in 2000 because it was the only state in the union that might elect her to the Senate. In her 2008 bid for the White House she carried herself as though presidential candidates are anointed by the Democratic National Committee, a private organization having no constitutional roots. She dismissed the possibility of nominating Obama just as she has dismissed Sanders. She and her jolly encampment harp on her inevitability; one of their favorite terms for her is “our next president.” Having every superdelegate in your pantsuit pocket is one thing, but insulting Americans by saying they have no choice is just asking to get burned.

Clinton seems to think her sex, along with her inimitable résumé, is a golden halo; although she is a lackluster feminist, she yearns to set a historical precedent as the first female president, and casts aspersions on anyone who would deny her the opportunity. Look at her inane campaign slogan: “I’m With Her.” But do you remember Gloria Steinem, advocating for Hillary, saying girls who support Bernie are only doing it to impress the boys? Do you remember the Clintons throwing Monica Lewinsky under the bus after Bill had thoroughly exploited her in the Oval Office? According to CNN, Hillary called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon,” which is at least somewhat ironic. And do you remember Hillary deliberately praising Nancy Reagan for her crusade against AIDS last month, either out of sheer ignorance or else to saint the memory of an arch-conservative? Do you remember how until 2013 she advocated against gay marriage and now she thinks it’s great? Hillary Clinton is not a feminist, she’s simply a woman, and if that’s her strongest claim to the White House, it’s not enough. Her posturing is sexist in and of itself.

Meanwhile Clinton and her handlers and her campaign staff and the last godforsaken newspapers in this country have worked tirelessly to influence public perception with rhetoric and omission rather than take a stand on important issues. Outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times have seriously undermined their credibility by covering this race not as a democratic contest, but as a victory march beset by ungrateful and even dangerous support for Bernie Sanders. First they say “Sanders can’t win” and then they say “Unite! Or Trump will take over in November” and now they say “Bernie is fighting dirty!”

But let’s think about Donald Trump for a minute. Like Hillary, Trump has a long public record, and along with the fact that he used to be very liberal, we all know he’s a world-class hustler and con artist. One thing Trump repeats throughout his fascist babblings is true: he’s a really smart guy. He knows exactly what he’s doing. But do we? Even if he becomes more centrist and “presidential” in the coming months he’ll never win back women and minority voters. But everything he says riles up the GOP’s most steadfast supporters, which is why he can’t be denied their nomination without the whole party going down in flames. Trump’s campaign has been carefully calculated to disrupt and even destroy the GOP. Should he win their nomination, he should be an easy target for the democratic coalition and sensible independents and Republicans.

There are two things that matter to the future of the United States in 2016: income inequality and climate change. Not surprisingly, they are directly related. They both result from an economic system that gives corporations free rein. Like King George III in the colonial era, corporations exploit us with no intent of letting us gain independence. They are designed to pay laborers as little as possible, tell sell the fruits of labor for as much as possible, and to keep all the profit for themselves. As a result the middle class becomes steadily less rich and more people slip into poverty, where some resort to crime. The U.S. compensates for the criminality it engenders by imprisoning more people than any other nation on Earth, and the truly sickening part of it is, many U.S. prisons are now privately owned and for-profit. They want more human beings within their walls, for longer periods of time. Corporations control the media through advertising dollars, and control the government through campaign contributions and even “speaking fees.” They control you and me. This is not how America is supposed to work.

The image at the top of this post shows two cents: the so-called Indian Head and the Lincoln. The Native American figure is not just anyone; she’s a woman, she’s a symbol, and she has a name: Columbia. She appeared on the cent for 116 years; Lincoln has been on it for 107. While the tradition of a noble women conferring respectability on a country’s coinage predates the United States, Columbia once provided to us a beautiful symbol of ourselves, long before she briefly appropriated the ceremonial headdress. In 1909, Abraham Lincoln was the first historical figure to appear on a United States coin, and now our pockets and purses are full of mens’ heads. Even the heraldic eagle has been removed from the quarter in favor of honorary dioramas. This is the best ideal we aspire to now: fame, or at least enough influence to leave a mark and thus be remembered. We used to aspire to something greater: justice for all. Despite the fact that he’s a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders offers a return to our foundational roots, the chance to re-assert our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, rather than the right to liberalism, and the pursuit of security. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, probably wants her profile on the half dollar.

The global ecosystems that nurtured us as a species are withering all around us; climate change is not only raising sea levels, it’s precipitating mass extinction that will likely lead to our own. Even if some of us survive, we won’t be human anymore, we will evolve into something else—hopefully something that can metabolize ash and plastic. Our pollinators are dying, the last big animals on Earth will no longer be wild, and ocean acidification may wipe out the food chain.  There will be so many of us and our new smartphones that we will starve, or else live on bread and jellyfish and soylent whatever. Capitalism has played a valuable role in the development of our economies; but the hard truth is that our economies must not be developed any more, they must be stabilized, streamlined, and even diminished. Democratic socialism is the future, and it is also the present, as some European countries exemplify. Personally I like being human, and I think every human being has the right to be grateful for their existence, and that is why I will vote for Bernie Sanders. I encourage everyone who still has a say in this primary to do the same. It is time to demand that our policies are determined by science and not by for-profit interests.

I understand that you make think of Hillary as your ally, I understand that many in Congress and the executive branch have worked with her and respect her, I understand that she herself is friends with many on Wall Street and around New York; she and her family have made connections everywhere. I don’t think Clinton is a bad person. But I know she has never been a leader.

This election is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s about more than personal loyalty. Bernie Sanders has offered America the possibility of a political revolution. Without it, we will run the risk of a real one. That’s my two cents.