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Comments

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How Apple's CarPlay Could Shore Up the Car Stereo Industry

the_B0fh Re:Wouldn't trust Apple (171 comments)

But but but... there's over 1 billion Android phones out there!!! That only 2%-5% are running the latest Android, and they're still selling Android v2 phones? *IRRELEVANT!!!*

5 hours ago
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How Apple's CarPlay Could Shore Up the Car Stereo Industry

the_B0fh Re:Wouldn't trust Apple (171 comments)

Funny how these "you don't know what you want, but I'm smart and know what I want" are typically ACs...

6 hours ago
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How Apple's CarPlay Could Shore Up the Car Stereo Industry

the_B0fh Re:Wouldn't trust Apple (171 comments)

Wow. the fanboys are out in droves today. Funny how Google is one of Apple's largest customers is somehow missed by the fandroids (40k Apple systems as I understand it).

6 hours ago
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China Approves Microsoft-Nokia Deal, Gets Patent Concessions In Return

the_B0fh Re:Since when... (26 comments)

Exactly! Like one international shipper used to say - who cares about all those transportation companies that brag about how fast their planes go from USA to China?

Ours is the fastest coming out of China to USA!

about a week ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

Evidence that Jobs was marketing a $20k NeXT cube to consumers?

Evidence that Jobs was marketing a *UNIX* NeXT cube to consumers?

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

While a $20k workstation might be more powerful than your wintel box,

Who designed the $20K box when others were designing much less expensive boxes? Steve Jobs. He didn't care about cost or market viability; all he wanted was the "perfect" box.

You do live in your own little world, don't you? In the 80s/90s, you either had the workstation market, which is the $20k workstation market, or the cheap 386/486 PCs. Sun drove the price down with the Sparc Classics, but those weren't serious workstations. People were buying sparc20s and using it as workstations.

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

You like arguing for the sake of argument, don't you? Did I ever claim the board can't fire the CEO?

No, my claim is that the CEO runs the day to day job, and the Board sets the direction. I guarantee you the Apple's Board of Directors did not tell Steve Jobs "hey, that new iPod thing you have, make sure it works on windows too".

This is Apple Computer, Inc., not Microsoft Computer, Inc. Apple's stuff do not have a mandate to be compatible with Windows.

Stop being a fucking idiot.

about two weeks ago
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Intel Releases $99 'MinnowBoard Max,' an Open-Source Single-Board Computer

the_B0fh Re:dupes (97 comments)

You are having deja-vu.

about two weeks ago
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Intel Releases $99 'MinnowBoard Max,' an Open-Source Single-Board Computer

the_B0fh Re:dupes (97 comments)

You are having deja-vu

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

I did. You have a warped view of the world.

NeXT failed for various reasons, but it never really had a major chance for success since it's target market was full of major competitors, such as SGI, HP UNIX workstations, SUN, DEC and others. This was also the time when wintel was gaining in performance. While a $20k workstation might be more powerful than your wintel box, I can buy 20 wintel boxes for that price.

Additionally, the other competitors feared Jobs, so they did everything they could to block him.

This is why NeXT, the company, failed. The product itself is successful and lives on as MacOS.

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

Wow. Whatever you are smoking, you should share it, it's pretty damned good.

I have *NEVER* seen the board of a Fortune 500 company make decisions on a minor product line, or even a major product line. That job is left to the - wait for it - CEO.

At that point in time, the iPod was only a minor success. No board in the world would have gone against the CEO's wishes. Hell, one of the first things Jobs did as the CEO was to kill off a large number of products he called "distracting".

And you people talk about reality distortion field. Furrfu.

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

How is saying 'F#@k you guys, do whatever you want. You're responsible' admitting their idea is better and moving on? It sounds more like accepting inevitability. You make it sound like Jobs was open to other's idea when there is plenty of evidence that he was just the opposite.

For someone like Steve Jobs, just how is it not accepting the other people's point of view? He is famous for shutting things down. That he let them proceed, even though he was not graceful about it, means he accepted their arguments..

For someone who is supposed to be that much of a control freak, nothing could have gone through without his permission.

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

I didn't realize Phil Schiller and Rubenstein were on Apple's Board of directors, since you claimed:

I doubt Jobs "changed his mind". More likely the Board overrode him.

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Someone has to be in charge (641 comments)

You've been told that Kay is an asshole since forever, and have been doing the same fucked up shit since forever, and you keep defending him.

Why?

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Someone has to be in charge (641 comments)

You did follow the rest of the story, where it is stated that Kay repeatedly fucks over other people by making unilateral changes, and then telling others he won't fix his crap and other people need to fix their stuff?

Keyword: repeatedly.

In other words, Kay is an asshole.

Why are you defending him?

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

the_B0fh Re:Someone has to be in charge (641 comments)

some people are just pure assholes. You can only be nice and polite to them for so long.

You do understand that, right?

about two weeks ago
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Judge Overrules Samsung Objection To Jury Instructional Video

the_B0fh Re:Bad law... (232 comments)

I like the way you didn't look at the video before commenting.

Lets see how might the video not be biased. Oh, it has laptops and desktops from various manufacturers, *INCLUDING* Apple.

Gee, some how, that becomes bias?

What an idiot.

about two weeks ago
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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

the_B0fh Re:Wikipedia ruined the internet (517 comments)

Err, do you know how many books Ken Ham sold, and how much $$ the stupid creationist museum raised and how much it is still sponsored by the state?

about three weeks ago
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One Billion Android Devices Open To Privilege Escalation

the_B0fh Re:Nevertheless, I do thank MS for pointing it out (117 comments)

So... what's your stance on all those vulnerabilities published by Google on Microsoft's applications?

[and jesus, I can't believe I'm "defending" Microsoft]

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Apple demonstrates leadership

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about a month and a half ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "NCPPR pushed for a shareholder proposal that Apple only commit to doing things that were profitable — a position rejected by the majority of Apple's stockholders, receiving only 2.95% vote.

Tim Cook responded by saying, "When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI," and said the same thing for environmental issues, worker safety and other areas where Apple is the leader.

"If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock."

http://www.macobserver.com/tmo..."

Link to Original Source
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High End Mac Pro is 40% cheaper than what you can build it for?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about 4 months ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "That is interesting. Apple is the value proposition. Building your own high end Mac Pro would cost you $14,300. From Apple, it costs just a tad under $10k. If you can even find a PCIe 1TB Flash drive.

And of course, you lose things like the beautiful case, Apple's AppleCare service, the 6 Thunderbolt2, OSX, etc.

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/12/24/apples-new-mac-pro-a-better-value-than-the-sum-of-its-parts"

Link to Original Source
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Is Democracy possible in Malaysia?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about a year ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "ay 5 was the national election day in Malaysia. The people are very unhappy with the government. Over $1.5 trillion was stolen through corruption in the past 30 years. The prime minister is alleged to be involved in a cover up of the killing of a Mongolian model http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Shaariibuugiin_Altantuyaa to hush up the corruption case in the purchase of French submarines — http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/scorpenes-sting-liberation-publishes-expose-re-malaysias-bribery-murder-scandal-05347/"

Now, there allegations of widespread election fraud, tampering with votes, bringing in foreign nationals to vote, paying for votes, and outright fraudulent votes and ballot boxes being moved in during the counting period. Apparently there is wide spread electricity "outages", and after the power comes back on, new ballot boxes have magically appeared.

Does anyone, including the US government, have the power to intervene and force a clean election? Or will the ones in power continue to abuse and corrupt the process in order to stay in power/ Will the citizens of Malaysia be strong enough to stand up for themselves? Will Malaysia experience the Malaysian Spring and overthrow a corrupt government?"

Link to Original Source
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Is democracy possible in Malaysia?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about a year ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "May 5 was the national election day in Malaysia. The people are very unhappy with the government. Over $1.5 trillion was stolen through corruption in the past 30 years. The prime minister is alleged to be involved in a cover up of the killing of a Mongolian model http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Shaariibuugiin_Altantuyaa to hush up the corruption case in the purchase of French submarines — http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/scorpenes-sting-liberation-publishes-expose-re-malaysias-bribery-murder-scandal-05347/"
Link to Original Source
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Did Samsung pull dirty tricks on Apple?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about a year ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "Samsung admitted to paying college students to report fake problems with their HTC phones in Taiwan. Turns out that Samsung also hired a marketing agency to create fake blogs in UK and Sweden:

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/04/21/apple-samsung-agent-provocateurs/?iid=HP_LN

http://brianford.newsvine.com/_news/2012/08/12/13234078-samsung-hired-a-marketing-agency-to-fake-blog-about-its-products

http://www.kullin.net/2010/02/samsung-caught-in-fake-swedish-viral-campaign/

So, the question is — how much of the current anti-Apple campaign by rabid Samsung fanboys are actually paid advertising...?"

Link to Original Source
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Is it inevitable that smartphones will copy each other?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about a year ago

the_B0fh writes "Is it inevitable that new and useful features will be copied from competing smartphones? Even if features and functions are copied, is it OK to mimic it all the way down to the icon?

Samsung seems to be very blatant in copying Apple's passbook over here..."

Link to Original Source
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STUPID SECURITY POLICIES AT BLIZZARD

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about a year and a half ago

the_B0fh writes "Blizzard locks your account everytime it detects an IP address change. My ISP changes my IP address more often than some of you change underwear.

I haven't played a blizzard game in a while, and within the past couple of days, I had it locked, and each time, it is a pain in the ass to get it unlocked — because I did not register with my real name.

1) Why do I have to login *ONLINE* to play StarCraft 2 or Diablo 3, which are offline games?
2) Why are they locking accounts based on IP address changes and *FORCING A DAMNED PASSWORD RESET EACH TIME TO UNLOCK IT* — It's a damned pain in the ass.
3) Why all the damned security theater, especially for people who don't care to play online, you damned idiots.

This is pissing me off so much that I'm seriously considering not buying the next SC2. *GAH*"

Link to Original Source
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Google deletes G+ emails out of INBOX without consent?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about 2 years ago

the_B0fh writes "Make sure you enable emailed notification in G+
Create a public post on G+.
Have a friend post a comment.
Check your INBOX — see the comment.
Have friend delete comment.
See that email disappear from your INBOX.

Isn't that a pretty major violation of trust?"
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ACM performing character assassination

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about 2 years ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "This is fucking embarrassing. The Association for Computing Machinery is performing character assassination based on falsehoods.

Here is the basic issue. Cisco obtained a patent for VRRP, and licensed it under RAND. The BSD license does not allow RAND licensing (constraints). Theo/OpenBSD tried to work with them, and they said — go away.

IANA, the people responsible for assigning IP protocol numbers basically said you have to bend over and we don't use lube.

So, OpenBSD, after 2 years of trying to work with them, released their own implementation called CARP.

And someone this one FreeBSD developer thinks it's all OpenBSD's fault? Do you even understand how the BSD license works?

ACM — *SHAME ON YOU* *SHAME SHAME SHAME*

http://marc.info/?l=openbsd-misc&m=133832434412686&w=2"

Link to Original Source
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Why does a 5 year warranty suddenly disappear when you get a replacement drive?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 2 years ago

the_B0fh writes "I have some drives that are having problems, so I sent them back to the manufacturer. The original drives had various warranty end dates from 2013 to 2014.

The replacement drives that came back all had uniformly warranties that ran out in a few months (something like 90 days).

Shouldn't the warranty last as long as the warranty on my original drive?"
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No good cheap disk enclosures?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 2 years ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "OK, 3TB drives are now out. Rather than building a zfs server in the basement and be limited by wireless, I've been considering just putting some drives in an enclosure and then hooking up a firewire (I have a macbook pro, and prefer that to usb, thank you very much).

Why aren't there any external disk enclosures that just holds a bunch of drives and connect via firewire? I don't want your raid or anything else, I just want firewire, sata backplane, power, and that's it.

MacZFS works fine, and with Tens Complement coming out soon (fingers crossed), I'll have all the ZFS goodness that I can need."
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IBM Tivoli Identity Manager *REQUIRES* RLOGIN?!

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 2 years ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "It's 2011 — why does the Tivoli Identity Manager (TIM) agent *REQUIRE* rlogin to function!?!?

The bigger question — WHY HAS NOT ONE CUSTOMER COMPLAINED ABOUT IT?!??!?!"
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Stupid defaults

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 2 years ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "Been doing some searches in Outlook. Why are the defaults so stupid? Why does it not default to search all subfolders? And there's no option to change that as well!

I'm doing a search. That means I'm trying to find something. That probably means it's here, or somewhere in here....

Another stupid design — why does the "search" menu item disappear and reappear? WHY DO I HAVE TO START A SEARCH SO THAT I CAN GO INTO SEARCH TOOLS TO LOOK AT THE INDEXING STATUS?!

bloody morons designing crap. And lets not get into how they don't understand what a message-id is."
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How badly can hardware vendors suck?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 4 years ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "Adventure in sucky vendor land. Apparently some vendors timebomb their debug firmware — the firmware they ask you to run, to help them, on the hardware that *YOU* own, reducing it to... a doorstop.

Is this malicious? Can it be considered malicious? Or merely incompetent?"

Link to Original Source
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social network games have no customer service?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 4 years ago

the_B0fh (208483) writes "OK.... question — should players of "free" games such as Mafia Wars by Zynga, and so on, be able to expect to get customer service, when the games have bugs and causes the characters to have issues?

Here's my issue — I have been addicted to Mafia Wars on facebook, by Zynga. Last November, Zynga had some "minor issues" with some users, and unfortunately, I was one of them. My char was reset to 500k exp (level 250-300 or so), and the next level up exp was 1.05mil exp (level 409).

I was patient, and waited for them to fix the problem. They claimed to have fixed it, but, apparently didn't fix my char. I wrote to them. Got ignored. Wrote again. Got ignored. Wrote 4-5 times. Keep getting stupid form letters asking me for OS version, how much ram do you have, what browser, etc etc. Sent a screen shot showing them the exp needed to level was too much (average of 4000 exp to level, not 500,000).

Customer service prefers to sit on their ass and keep asking stupid questions, and sending out useless FAQs.

So, my question is — does Zynga have an obligation to me? Am I not a customer?"
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facebook disables because I said IE was crap?

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  more than 4 years ago

the_B0fh writes "My facebook acct just got disabled. Barely 5-10 minutes ago, I commented to someone that IE was "[[soapbox]] crap" and they should use firefox + greasemonkey + facebook invites if they want to add friends to their mobs in facebook games.

And suddenly, without any warning, my facebook acct was disabled. Of course their FAQ tells you nothing. And yes, I reported it to disabled@facebook.com, but you don't even get a response email back.

And so, all of a sudden, I just lost contact with a whole bunch of friends. This sucks. Should facebook have full disclosure on the reason why an account was disabled? Can they disable accounts for no reason at all, or because someone reported you for saying "Internet Explorer sucks"?

At least that's what I think the reason was — when you report your acct being disabled, *YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO TELL THEM WHY YOU THOUGHT IT WAS DISABLED?!?!* WTF?!

Where's the appeals process? Why isn't the appeals process more open?

Disclosure: A friend got me hooked on Mob Wars, and I'm playing a bunch of other facebook sanctioned games. They all want you to invite more and more friends into your mob, so I do it every now and then. And stop sending invites out whenever I hit their warning. The most recent warning a few days ago, so that shouldn't be it.

ps: send invites to http://www.facebook.com/goodb0fh if they turn me back on! :)"

Link to Original Source
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Bad science: The missing chapter

the_B0fh the_B0fh writes  |  about 5 years ago

the_B0fh writes "This is an extract from
BAD SCIENCE by Ben Goldacre
Published by Harper Perennial 2009.

You are free to copy it, paste it, bake it, reprint it, read it aloud, as long as you don't change it — including this bit — so that people know that they can find more ideas for free at www.badscience.net

.

The Doctor Will Sue You Now

This chapter did not appear in the original edition of this book, because for fifteen months leading up to September 2008 the vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath was suing me personally, and the Guardian, for libel. This strategy brought only mixed success. For all that nutritionists may fantasise in public that any critic is somehow a pawn of big pharma, in private they would do well to remember that, like many my age who work in the public sector, I don't own a flat. The Guardian generously paid for the lawyers, and in September 2008 Rath dropped his case, which had cost in excess of £500,000 to defend. Rath has paid £220,000 already, and the rest will hopefully follow. Nobody will ever repay me for the endless meetings, the time off work, or the days spent poring over tables filled with endlessly cross-referenced court documents.

On this last point there is, however, one small consolation, and I will spell it out as a cautionary tale: I now know more about Matthias Rath than almost any other person alive. My notes, references and witness statements, boxed up in the room where I am sitting right now, make a pile as tall as the man himself, and what I will write here is only a tiny fraction of the fuller story that is waiting to be told about him. This chapter, I should also mention, is available free online for anyone who wishes to see it.

Matthias Rath takes us rudely outside the contained, almost academic distance of this book. For the most part we've been interested in the intellectual and cultural consequences of bad science, the made-up facts in national newspapers, dubious academic practices in universities, some foolish pill-peddling, and so on. But what happens if we take these sleights of hand, these pill-marketing techniques, and transplant them out of our decadent Western context into a situation where things really matter?

In an ideal world this would be only a thought experiment. AIDS is the opposite of anecdote. Twenty-five million people have died from it already, three million in the last year alone, and 500,000 of those deaths were children. In South Africa it kills 300,000 people every year: that's eight hundred people every day, or one every two minutes. This one country has 6.3 million people who are HIV positive, including 30 per cent of all pregnant women. There are 1.2 million AIDS orphans under the age of seventeen. Most chillingly of all, this disaster has appeared suddenly, and while we were watching: in 1990, just 1 per cent of adults in South Africa were HIV positive. Ten years
later, the figure had risen to 25 per cent.

It's hard to mount an emotional response to raw numbers, but on one thing I think we would agree. If you were to walk into a situation with that much death, misery and disease, you would be very careful to make sure that you knew what you were talking about. For the reasons you are about to read, I suspect that Matthias Rath missed the mark.

This man, we should be clear, is our responsibility. Born and raised in Germany, Rath was the head of Cardiovascular Research at the Linus Pauling Institute in Palo Alto in California, and even then he had a tendency towards grand gestures, publishing a paper in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in 1992 titled "A Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease Leading the Way to the Abolition of this Disease as a Cause for Human Mortality". The unified theory was high-dose vitamins.

He first developed a power base from sales in Europe, selling his pills with tactics that will be very familiar to you from the rest of this book, albeit slightly more aggressive. In the UK, his adverts claimed that "90 per cent of patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer die within months of starting treatment", and suggested that three million lives could be saved if cancer patients stopped being treated by conventional medicine. The pharmaceutical industry was deliberately letting people die for financial gain, he explained. Cancer treatments were "poisonous compounds" with "not even one effective treatment".

The decision to embark on treatment for cancer can be the most difficult that an individual or a family will ever take, representing a close balance between well-documented benefits and equally well-documented side-effects. Adverts like these might play especially strongly on your conscience if your mother has just lost all her hair to chemotherapy, for example, in the hope of staying alive just long enough to see your son speak.

There was some limited regulatory response in Europe, but it was generally as weak as that faced by the other characters in this book. The Advertising Standards Authority criticised one of his adverts in the UK, but that is essentially all they are able to do. Rath was ordered by a Berlin court to stop claiming that his vitamins could cure cancer, or face a 250,000 fine.

But sales were strong, and Matthias Rath still has many supporters in Europe, as you will shortly see. He walked into South Africa with all the acclaim, self-confidence and wealth he had amassed as a successful vitamin-pill entrepreneur in Europe and America, and began to take out full-page adverts in newspapers.

The answer to the AIDS epidemic is here," he proclaimed. Anti-retroviral drugs were poisonous, and a conspiracy to kill patients and make money. "Stop AIDS Genocide by the Drugs Cartel said one headline. "Why should South Africans continue to be poisoned with AZT? There is a natural answer to AIDS." The answer came in the form of vitamin pills. "Multivitamin treatment is more effective than any toxic AIDS drug. Multivitamins cut the risk of developing AIDS in half."

Rath's company ran clinics reflecting these ideas, and in 2005 he decided to run a trial of his vitamins in a township near Cape Town called Khayelitsha, giving his own formulation, VitaCell, to people with advanced AIDS. In 2008 this trial was declared illegal by the Cape High Court of South Africa. Although Rath says that none of his participants had been on anti-retroviral drugs, some relatives have given statements saying that they were, and were actively told to stop using them.

Tragically,Matthias Rath had taken these ideas to exactly the right place. Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa at the time, was well known as an "AIDS dissident", and to international horror, while people died at the rate of one every two minutes in his country, he gave credence and support to the claims of a small band of campaigners who variously claim that AIDS does not exist, that it is not caused by HIV, that anti-retroviral medication does more harm than good, and so on.

At various times during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa their government argued that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, and that anti-retroviral drugs are not useful for patients. They refused to roll out proper treatment programmes, they refused to accept free donations of drugs, and they refused to accept grant money from the Global Fund to buy drugs. One study estimates that if the South African national government had used anti-retroviral drugs for prevention and treatment at the same rate as the Western Cape province (which defied national policy on the issue), around 171,000 new HIV infections and 343,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2007. Another study estimates that between 2000 and 2005 there were 330,000 unnecessary deaths, 2.2 million person years lost, and 35,000 babies unnecessarily born with HIV because of the failure to implement a cheap and simple mother-to-child-transmission prevention program. Between one and three doses of an ARV drug can reduce transmission dramatically. The cost is negligible. It was not available.

Interestingly, Matthias Rath's colleague and employee, a South African barrister named Anthony Brink, takes the credit for introducing Thabo Mbeki to many of these ideas. Brink stumbled on the "AIDS dissident" material in the mid-1990s, and after much surfing and reading, became convinced that it must be right. In 1999 he wrote an article about AZT in a Johannesburg newspaper titled "a medicine from hell". This led to a public exchange with a leading virologist. Brink contacted Mbeki, sending him copies of the debate, and was welcomed as an expert.

This is a chilling testament to the danger of elevating cranks by engaging with them. In his initial letter of motivation for employment to Matthias Rath, Brink described himself as "South Africa's leading AIDS dissident, best known for my whistle-blowing exposé of the toxicity and inefficacy of AIDS drugs, and for my political activism in this regard, which caused President Mbeki and Health Minister Dr Tshabalala-Msimang to repudiate the drugs in 1999.

In 2000, the now infamous International AIDS Conference took place in Durban. Mbeki's presidential advisory panel beforehand was packed with "AIDS dissidents", including Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick. On the first day, Rasnick suggested that all HIV testing should be banned on principle, and that South Africa should stop screening supplies of blood for HIV. "If I had the power to outlaw the HIV antibody test," he said, "I would do it across the board." When African physicians gave testimony about the drastic change AIDS had caused in their clinics and hospitals, Rasnick said he had not seen "any evidence" of an AIDS catastrophe. The media were not allowed in, but one reporter from the Village Voice was present. Peter Duesberg, he said, "gave a presentation so removed from African medical reality that it left several local doctors shaking their heads". It wasn't AIDS that was killing babies and children, said the dissidents: it was the anti-retroviral medication.

President Mbeki sent a letter to world leaders comparing the struggle of the "AIDS dissidents" to the struggle against apartheid. The Washington Post described the reaction at the White House: "So stunned were some officials by the letter's tone and timing during final preparations for July's conference in Durban that at least two of them, according to diplomatic sources, felt obliged to check whether it was genuine. Hundreds of delegates walked out of Mbeki's address to the conference in disgust, but many more described themselves as dazed and confused. Over 5,000 researchers and activists around the world signed up to the Durban Declaration, a document that specifically addressed and repudiated the claims and concerns-at least the more moderate ones-of the "AIDS dissidents". Specifically, it addressed the charge that people were simply dying of poverty:

        The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clearcut, exhaustive and unambiguous... As with any other chronic infection, various co-factors play a role in determining the risk of disease. Persons who are malnourished, who already suffer other infections or who are older, tend to be more susceptible to the rapid development of AIDS following HIV infection. However, none of these factors weaken the scientific evidence that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS... Mother-to-child transmission can be reduced by half or more by short courses of antiviral drugs ⦠What works best in one country may not be appropriate in another. But to tackle the disease, everyone must first understand that HIV is the enemy. Research, not myths, will lead to the development of more effective and cheaper treatments.

It did them no good. Until 2003 the South African government refused, as a matter of principle, to roll out proper antiretroviral medication programmes, and even then the process was half-hearted. This madness was only overturned after a massive campaign by grassroots organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign, but even after the ANC cabinet voted to allow medication to be given, there was still resistance. In mid-2005, at least 85 per cent of HIV-positive people who needed anti-retroviral drugs were still refused them. That's around a million people.

This resistance, of course, went deeper than just one man; much of it came from Mbeki's Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. An ardent critic of medical drugs for HIV, she would cheerfully go on television to talk up their dangers, talk down their benefits, and became irritable and evasive when asked how many patients were receiving effective treatment. She declared in 2005 that she would not be "pressured" into meeting the target of three million patients on anti-retroviral medication, that people had ignored the importance of nutrition, and that she would continue to warn patients of the sideeffects of anti-retrovirals, saying: "We have been vindicated in
this regard. We are what we eat."

It's an eerily familiar catchphrase. Tshabalala-Msimang has also gone on record to praise the work of Matthias Rath, and refused to investigate his activities. Most joyfully of all, she is a staunch advocate of the kind of weekend glossy-magazine-style nutritionism that will by now be very familiar to you. The remedies she advocates for AIDS are beetroot, garlic, lemons and African potatoes. A fairly typical quote, from the Health Minister in a country where eight hundred people die every day from AIDS, is this: "Raw garlic and a skin of the lemon-not only do they give you a beautiful face and skin but they also protect you from disease." South Africa's stand at the 2006 World AIDS Conference in Toronto was described by delegates as the "salad stall". It consisted of some garlic, some beetroot, the African potato, and assorted other vegetables. Some boxes of anti-retroviral drugs were added later, but they were reportedly borrowed at the last minute from other conference delegates.

Alternative therapists like to suggest that their treatments and ideas have not been sufficiently researched. As you now know, this is often untrue, and in the case of the Health Minister's favoured vegetables, research had indeed been done, with results that were far from promising. Interviewed on SABC about this, Tshabalala-Msimang gave the kind of responses you'd expect to hear at any North London dinner-party discussion of alternative therapies.

First she was asked about work from the University of Stellenbosch which suggested that her chosen plant, the African potato, might be actively dangerous for people on AIDS drugs. One study on African potato in HIV had to be terminated prematurely, because the patients who received the plant extract developed severe bone-marrow suppression and a drop in their CD4 cell count-which is a bad thing-after eight weeks. On top of this, when extract from the same vegetable was given to cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, they succumbed to full-blown Feline AIDS faster than their non-treated controls. African potato does not look like a good bet.

Tshabalala-Msimang disagreed: the researchers should go back to the drawing board, and "investigate properly". Why? Because HIV-positive people who used African potato had shown improvement, and they had said so themselves. If a person says he or she is feeling better, should this be disputed, she demanded to know, merely because it had not been proved scientifically? "When a person says she or he is feeling better, I must say 'No, I don't think you are feeling better'? I must rather go and do science on you'?" Asked whether there should be a scientific basis to her views, she replied: "Whose science?"

And there, perhaps, is a clue, if not exoneration. This is a continent that has been brutally exploited by the developed world, first by empire, and then by globalised capital. Conspiracy theories about AIDS and Western medicine are not entirely absurd in this context. The pharmaceutical industry has indeed been caught performing drug trials in Africa which would be impossible anywhere in the developed world. Many find it suspicious that black Africans seem to be the biggest victims of AIDS, and point to the biological warfare programmes set up by the apartheid governments; there have also been suspicions that the scientific discourse of HIV/AIDS might be a device, a Trojan horse for spreading even more exploitative Western political and economic agendas around a problem that is simply one of poverty.

And these are new countries, for which independence and self-rule are recent developments, which are struggling to find their commercial feet and true cultural identity after centuries of colonisation. Traditional medicine represents an important link with an autonomous past; besides which, anti-retroviral medications have been unnecessarily — offensively, absurdly — expensive, and until moves to challenge this became partially successful, many Africans were effectively denied access to medical treatment as a result.

It's very easy for us to feel smug, and to forget that we all have our own strange cultural idiosyncrasies which prevent us from taking up sensible public-health programmes. For examples, we don't even have to look as far as MMR. There is a good evidence base, for example, to show that needle-exchange programmes reduce the spread of HIV, but this strategy has been rejected time and again in favour of "Just say no." Development charities funded by US Christian groups refuse to engage with birth control, and any suggestion of abortion, even in countries where being in control of your own fertility could mean the difference between success and failure in life, is met with a cold, pious stare. These impractical moral principles are so deeply entrenched that Pepfar, the US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has insisted that every recipient of international aid money must sign a declaration expressly promising not to have any involvement with sex workers.

We mustn't appear insensitive to the Christian value system, but it seems to me that engaging sex workers is almost the cornerstone of any effective AIDS policy: commercial sex is frequently the "vector of transmission", and sex workers a very high-risk population; but there are also more subtle issues at stake. If you secure the legal rights of prostitutes to be free from violence and discrimination, you empower them to demand universal condom use, and that way you can prevent HIV from being spread into the whole community. This is where science meets culture. But perhaps even to your own friends and neighbours, in whatever suburban idyll has become your home, the moral principle of abstinence from sex and drugs is more important than people dying of AIDS; and perhaps, then, they are no less irrational than Thabo Mbeki.

So this was the situation into which the vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath inserted himself, prominently and expensively, with the wealth he had amassed from Europe and America, exploiting anti-colonial anxieties with no sense of irony, although he was a white man offering pills made in a factory abroad. His adverts and clinics were a tremendous success. He began to tout individual patients as evidence of the benefits that could come from vitamin pills — although in reality some of his most famous success stories have died of AIDS. When asked about the deaths of Rath's star patients, Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang replied: "It doesn't necessarily mean that if I am taking antibiotics and I die, that I died of antibiotics."

She is not alone: South Africa's politicians have consistently refused to step in, Rath claims the support of the government, and its most senior figures have refused to distance themselves from his operations or to criticise his activities. Tshabalala-Msimang has gone on the record to state that the Rath Foundation "are not undermining the government's position. If anything, they are supporting it."

In 2005, exasperated by government inaction, a group of 199 leading medical practitioners in South Africa signed an open letter to the health authorities of the Western Cape, pleading for action on the Rath Foundation. "Our patients are being inundated with propaganda encouraging them to stop life-saving medicine," it said. "Many of us have had experiences with HIV infected patients who have had their health compromised by stopping their anti-retrovirals due to the activities of this Foundation." Rath's adverts continue unabated. He even claimed that his activities were endorsed by huge lists of sponsors and affiliates including the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS. All have issued statements flatly denouncing his claims and activities. The man certainly has chutzpah.

His adverts are also rich with detailed scientific claims. It would be wrong of us to neglect the science in this story, so we should follow some through, specifically those which focused on a Harvard study in Tanzania. He described this research in full-page advertisements, some of which have appeared in the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. He refers to these paid adverts, I should mention, as if he had received flattering news coverage in the same papers. Anyway, this research showed that multivitamin supplements can be beneficial in a developing world population with AIDS: there's no problem with that result, and there are plenty of reasons to think that vitamins might have some benefit for a sick and frequently malnourished population.

The researchers enrolled 1,078 HIV-positive pregnant women and randomly assigned them to have either a vitamin supplement or placebo. Notice once again, if you will, that this is another large, well-conducted, publicly funded trial of vitamins, conducted by mainstream scientists, contrary to the claims of nutritionists that such studies do not exist. The women were followed up for several years, and at the end of the study, 25 per cent of those on vitamins were severely ill or dead, compared with 31 per cent of those on placebo. There was also a statistically significant benefit in CD4 cell count (a measure of HIV activity) and viral loads. These results were in no sense dramatic — and they cannot be compared to the demonstrable life-saving benefits of anti-retrovirals — but they did show that improved diet, or cheap generic vitamin pills, could represent a simple and relatively inexpensive way to marginally delay the need to start HIV medication in some patients.

In the hands of Rath, this study became evidence that vitamin pills are superior to medication in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, that anti-retroviral therapies "severely damage all cells in the body-including white blood cells", and worse, that they were "thereby not improving but rather worsening immune deficiencies and expanding the AIDS epidemic". The researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health were so horrified that they put together a press release setting out their support for medication, and stating starkly, with unambiguous clarity, that Matthias Rath had misrepresented their findings.

To outsiders the story is baffling and terrifying. The United Nations has condemned Rath's adverts as "wrong and misleading". "This guy is killing people by luring them with unrecognised treatment without any scientific evidence," said Eric Goemaere, head of Médecins sans Frontières SA, a man who pioneered anti-retroviral therapy in South Africa. Rath sued him.

It's not just MSF who Rath has gone after: he has also brought time-consuming, expensive, stalled or failed cases against a professor of AIDS research, critics in the media and others.

But his most heinous campaign has been against the Treatment Action Campaign. For many years this has been the key organisation campaigning for access to anti-retroviral medication in South Africa, and it has been fighting a war on four fronts. Firstly, TAC campaigns against its own government, trying to compel it to roll out treatment programmes for the population. Secondly, it fights against the pharmaceutical industry, which claims that it needs to charge full price for its products in developing countries in order to pay for research and development of new drugs — although, as we shall see, out of its $550 billion global annual revenue, the pharmaceutical industry spends twice as much on promotion and admin as it does on research and development. Thirdly, it is a grassroots organisation, made up largely of black women from townships who do important prevention and treatment-literacy work on the ground, ensuring that people know what is available, and how to protect themselves. Lastly, it fights against people who promote the type of information peddled by Matthias Rath and his ilk.

Rath has taken it upon himself to launch a massive campaign against this group. He distributes advertising material against them, saying "Treatment Action Campaign medicines are killing you" and "Stop AIDS genocide by the drug cartel", claiming-as you will guess by now-that there is an international conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies intent on prolonging the AIDS crisis in the interests of their own profits by giving medication that makes people worse. TAC must be a part of this, goes the reasoning, because it criticises Matthias Rath. Just like me writing on Patrick Holford or Gillian McKeith, TAC is perfectly in favour of good diet and nutrition. But in Rath's promotional literature it is a front for the pharmaceutical industry, a "Trojan horse" and a "running dog". TAC has made a full disclosure of its funding and activities, showing no such connection: Rath presented no evidence to the contrary, and has even lost a court case over the issue, but will not let it lie. In fact he presents the loss of this court case as if it was a victory.

The founder of TAC is a man called Zackie Achmat, and he is the closest thing I have to a hero. He is South African, and coloured, by the nomenclature of the apartheid system in which he grew up. At the age of fourteen he tried to burn down his school, and you might have done the same in similar circumstances. He has been arrested and imprisoned under South Africa's violent, brutal white regime, with all that entailed. He is also gay, and HIV-positive, and he refused to take anti-retroviral medication until it was widely available to all on the public health system, even when he was dying of AIDS, even when he was personally implored to save himself by Nelson Mandela, a public supporter of anti-retroviral medication and Achmat's work.

And now, at last, we come to the lowest point of this whole story, not merely for Matthias Rath's movement, but for the alternative therapy movement around the world as a whole. In 2007, with a huge public flourish, to great media coverage, Rath's former employee Anthony Brink filed a formal complaint against Zackie Achmat, the head of the TAC. Bizarrely, he filed this complaint with the International Criminal
Court at The Hague, accusing Achmat of genocide for successfully campaigning to get access to HIV drugs for the people of South Africa.

It's hard to explain just how influential the "AIDS dissidents" are in South Africa. Brink is a barrister, a man with important friends, and his accusations were reported in the national news media -and in some corners of the Western gay press-as a serious news story. I do not believe that any one of those journalists who reported on it can possibly have read Brink's indictment to the end.

I have.

The first fifty-seven pages present familiar anti-medication and "AIDS-dissident" material. But then, on page fifty-eight, this "indictment" document suddenly deteriorates into something altogether more vicious and unhinged, as Brink sets out what he believes would be an appropriate punishment for Zackie. Because I do not wish to be accused of selective editing, I will now reproduce for you that entire section, unedited, so you can see and feel it for yourself.

image

image

The document was described by the Rath Foundation as "entirely valid and long overdue".

This story isn't about Matthias Rath, or Anthony Brink, or Zackie Achmat, or even South Africa. It is about the culture of how ideas work, and how that can break down. Doctors criticise other doctors, academics criticise academics, politicians criticise politicians: that's normal and healthy, it's how ideas improve. Matthias Rath is an alternative therapist, made in Europe. He is every bit the same as the British operators that we have seen in this book. He is from their world.

Despite the extremes of this case, not one single alternative therapist or nutritionist, anywhere in the world, has stood up to criticise any single aspect of the activities of Matthias Rath and his colleagues. In fact, far from it: he continues to be fêted to this day. I have sat in true astonishment and watched leading figures of the UK's alternative therapy movement applaud Matthias Rath at a public lecture (I have it on video, just in case there's any doubt). Natural health organisations continue to defend Rath. Homeopaths' mailouts continue to promote his work. The British Association of Nutritional Therapists has been invited to comment by bloggers, but declined. Most, when challenged, will dissemble."Oh," they say, "I don't really know much about it." Not one person will step forward and dissent.

The alternative therapy movement as a whole has demonstrated itself to be so dangerously, systemically incapable of critical self-appraisal that it cannot step up even in a case like that of Rath: in that count I include tens of thousands of practitioners, writers, administrators and more. This is how ideas go badly wrong. In the conclusion to this book, written before I was able to include this chapter, I will argue that the biggest dangers posed by the material we have covered are cultural and intellectual.

I may be mistaken. /.

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