A new all-time low

January 20th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in africa, bad science, dangers, heroes, matthias rath, nutritionists | 55 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday January 20, 2007
The Guardian

If you think the nutritionists and vitamin peddlers in the UK are weird, you really want to go to South Africa, where President Thabo Mbeki has a long history of siding with the HIV denialists, who believe that HIV does not cause Aids (but that treatments for it do), and where his health minister talks up fruit and vegetables as a treatment, as we have previously covered here.

In this world, Zackie Achmat is a hero: the founder of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, he recently won a breakthrough in his long battle against the vitamin-loving Aids denialists of Mbeki’s government, to make HIV medication available through the public health system.

Article continues
Achmat is also HIV positive, and was wealthy enough to afford antiretroviral medication, but deprived himself, risking his own life, as a matter of principle, until they were made widely available, despite even the personal pleas of Nelson Mandela, an avowed and public supporter of both antiretroviral medication and Achmat’s work.

Achmat’s victory, tragically a decade too late, was a deep wound for Matthias Rath, the German vitamin impresario who claims that his vitamin pills are better for Aids than medication, and his colleague Anthony Brink, a barrister and the leader of an allied organisation, the Treatment Information Group, which campaigns vociferously against the currently available antiretroviral medication, claiming – loudly – that they are not just ineffective but actively harmful.

This man Anthony Brink has now managed to file a complaint against Achmat with, of all places, the Hague international criminal court: Achmat is accused of genocide, for successfully campaigning to get access to HIV drugs for the South African people.

Now I have read this ridiculous document – which has been reported as a proper news event in much of the gay and South African media – and for the first 50 pages or so you get the familiar anti-medication and Aids-denialist stuff: they talk up the side effects of HIV drugs, they misrepresent the research.

But then, at around page 58, by which time any journalist covering this story must, I can only assume, have stopped reading, this “indictment” document suddenly deteriorates into full-on fruitcake action.

Brink “respectfully submit[s]” that the international criminal court should punish Achmat with “permanent confinement in a small, white, steel and concrete cage, bright fluorescent light on all the time … warders putting him out only to work every day in the prison garden to cultivate nutrient-rich vegetables, including when it’s raining”. This is supposed to be a serious war crimes document, remember.

Then it gets nasty. Achmat should be forced to take his HIV medication (“which he claims to take”) and it should be “pushed if necessary down his forced-open gullet with a finger, or, if he bites, kicks and screams too much, dripped into his arm”.

And how will this forced administration be possible? He should be, white barrister Anthony Brink respectfully submits, “restrained on a gurney with cable ties around his ankles, wrists and neck … until he gives up the ghost on them, so as to eradicate this foulest, most loathsome, unscrupulous and malevolent blight on the human race, who has plagued and poisoned the people of South Africa”.

I don’t think it’s out of line to suggest this is particularly vile considering that Achmat is a “coloured” man, by the apartheid government’s classification: and let’s not forget that Achmat, a longstanding anti-apartheid and gay rights campaigner, was imprisoned under that brutal regime.

Achmat has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize, and is a hero in ways you’d better hope you never get the chance to be. Meanwhile this vicious and unhinged hatred, this surrealist charge of genocide, comes from a colleague of the vitamin peddler Rath: from Anthony Brink, from the man who is credited with introducing Mbeki to HIV denialism, who has helped cost the lives of tens of thousands of people needlessly deprived of effective treatments.

· Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk


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55 Responses



  1. DocOperon said,

    January 20, 2007 at 4:22 am

    I’m overwhelmed – there’s just so much incomprehensible lunacy in this…

    That’s what I get for being an HIV doc in the US – we’ve got our looneys as well, but Brink’s arrogance/delusion/maliciousness/ignorance (whatever the real combination involved is) tops anything I’ve ever personally run into. Wow. Just… wow.

    Worst of all, he’s got an audience in just the right context – people with just the right level of “knowledge” to believe what he’s saying, in an environment where HIV (a disease that often people are told they have by doctors, despite feeling “fine”) is rampant, ignorance about the science behind HIV and its treatment are almost equally as rampant, and appropriate treatment is tragically difficult to get.

    Again – wow. Just… wow.

  2. AitchJay said,

    January 20, 2007 at 4:26 am

    That’s sad; to see someone noble vilified for money.

  3. Niles said,

    January 20, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Absolutely unbelievable. What a bizarre, malicious action this “genocide charge” is.

    One of those occasions when a vote for science is also a vote for common decency & morality. Does Zackie Achmat have some kind of fighting fund that we can donate to?

  4. stever said,

    January 20, 2007 at 10:51 am

    holy shit. defies belief.

    thats tantamount to inciting crime isnt it? maybe the submission itself is illegal.

    These people have to go down

  5. Tristan said,

    January 20, 2007 at 11:02 am

    It is so tempting to take the really childish option and google Brink’s email address and send him an email with a nice selection of swear words. Soooo, tempting. But I probably won’t

  6. joangel said,

    January 20, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Wow.. words fail me at the sheer lunacy of all this…

  7. Tessa K said,

    January 20, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    This crap just makes it harder for clinical dieticians and nutritionists working with people with HIV/AIDS to get their message across without it being confused with the nutters’.

  8. lilylangtree said,

    January 20, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Crazy indeed. Caught my eye, as your piece came just a day after a friend working in Africa alerted me to this piece in the pro-government Gambian Daily Observer.

    www.observer.gm/enews/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7017&Itemid=33&PHPSESSID=19ae803ddaf8958e34a0699ed7a581ee

    Headlined, “Jammeh starts curing HIV/AIDS patients today”, it reveals that the President of the Gambia has personally discovered the cure for AIDS – oh yes, and asthma! And will, as a side line to running his small nation, start curing 10 patients every Thursday, which is all he can fit in, but it will be a miracle cure.

    The sadness of this laughable stuff is that there are people out there who will believe it.

  9. Mojo said,

    January 20, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Not the first time they’ve tried this sort of nonsense:

    www4.dr-rath-foundation.org/The_Hague/complaint/index.html

  10. Mojo said,

    January 20, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Ben: is the document available anywhere on the web?

  11. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 20, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    it is indeed.

    www.tig.org.za/pdf-files/icc_achmatcomplaint.pdf

    i highly recommend reading the other stuff on rath too, much here:

    www.badscience.net/?cat=11

  12. Jools said,

    January 20, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Absolutely Loony.

    It may be interesting to see how western nutritionists react. Having the underlying basis of their theories so ‘forcefully’ expressed may force them to take a stand, one way or the other.

    Of course, I’m probably underestimating their admirable abilities to smear and smudge the issue into incomprehensible bollocks.

  13. JQH said,

    January 20, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    There could actually be a horrible method in Brink’s madness. He’s a Boer and many of them have never accepted majority rule. P.W. Botha went on record as saying AIDS was God’s way of removing the blacks from South Africa so that it could be repopulated by whites. Brink’s (and Rath’s) actions have gone some way towards bringing this about.

  14. RS said,

    January 20, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Anyone notice the advert on the opposite page in the Guardian?

    “How Many Times A Week Do You Eat Cancer? Dr Vernon Coleman

    Cows, sheep, pigs and other animals all get cancer. So, how do you know, when you cut into a steak, a lamb chop or a piece of ham, that there isn’t a lump of cancer inside your steak, chop or ham…”

  15. stever said,

    January 20, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    eating cancerous cells doesnt mean youll get cancer. thats silly.

  16. swift said,

    January 20, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Looking at the TIG website, they claim at the top that Zachie Achmat has been ‘charged with genocide in the International Criminal Court’. The link actually shows that all that has happened is that they have simply sent this crazy document to the court (‘The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC acknowledges receipt of your documents/letter’). Brink and his fellow nutters clearly have little hold on reality and I cannot believe that anyone at the ICC will decide to go ahead with a prosecution as a result of this ridiculous document. Brink, Rath et al are just trying to get themselves some publicity and are using the good name of the ICC to help them.

  17. pv said,

    January 20, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    “Anyone notice the advert on the opposite page in the Guardian?

    “How Many Times A Week Do You Eat Cancer? Dr Vernon Coleman

    Cows, sheep, pigs and other animals all get cancer. So, how do you know, when you cut into a steak, a lamb chop or a piece of ham, that there isn’t a lump of cancer inside your steak, chop or ham…” ”

    Trouble is people do read this stuff and believe there’s merit in it. How can anyone continue to defend the press against the charge of promoting public ignorance of science?

    Re the vile Anthony Bink, he will lose in the Hague. No doubt about it. He should be prosecuted himself for racial persecution – and for usurping the lowest spot on the food chain.

  18. RS said,

    January 20, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    The advert doesn’t actually say you’ll get cancer, it is just implied. I wonder how common cancer in meat actually is – animals are very young when we eat them, and sarcomas and lipomas are not exactly prevalent, I’d guess you almost never encounter frank cancers (which would probably be noticed and disgarded anyway), I suppose there must be a smattering of cells with malignant changes, but that hardly bothers me (although I’m vegetarian, so I guess I doesn’t affect me).

  19. AitchJay said,

    January 20, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Their whole site is amazing – how much you can talk up every scrap of paper as supporting your case – even a letter that says “Thanks for writing to President Mbeki” becomes “Our mate Thabo was especially glad we alerted him to this issue”..

    It literally beggars belief.

  20. CB said,

    January 21, 2007 at 12:39 am

    RS – surely there could be cancerous carrots also?
    Actually, I’ve never thought about it before, but you never really hear of trees getting cancer. They hang around in the sun all the time for hundreds of years – surely they must be riddled?

  21. DaveKnell said,

    January 21, 2007 at 2:56 am

    I dropped Anthony Brink an e-mail, saying that I’d enjoyed reading the document but he was clearly a complete fruitcake. Got quite a cordial reply.

  22. AitchJay said,

    January 21, 2007 at 4:10 am

    Here’s what I’ve posted in the forum, if all the links and code don’t work it will look a right mess, so ignore it.

    The forum for HIV+ people to discuss treatments other than medication is [url=http://www.hivvoice.com/][u]here[/u][/url]
    [quote] * Does HIV cause AIDS?
    * What are the HIV tests really testing?
    * What does it mean to test HIV positive?
    * Is HIV sexually transmitted?
    * Do the HIV medications do more harm than good?
    * What’s it like living as HIV positive?
    * What’s it like loving someone who’s HIV positive?
    * What’s it like for discordant couples (one positive, one negative)?
    * What are the family issues surrounding HIV/AIDS?[/quote]

    Some of that might be useful, in terms of support, were it not for the anti-treatment bias.

    That forum is run by [url=http://davidcrowe.ca/][u]this guy[/u][/url], who is also the founder and president of the [url=http://aras.ab.ca/][u]Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society[/u][/url].

    Amongst their tabs for the “virus myth” and the “AIDS myth”, was this little gem: [url=http://reviewingaids.org/awiki/index.php/AIDS_dissident][u]the AIDS deniers’ wiki[/u][/url].

    The more I find about this, the more surprised and dissappointed I become..

    I wasn’t completely niave about the issue, I’d read about it on [url=http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/][u]aetiology[/u][/url], but I’m a bit stunned about the lengths that they’ve gone to.

  23. Mojo said,

    January 21, 2007 at 10:59 am

    As a court document, does a complaint to the ICC count as some sort of privileged document (i.e. is it protected against being sued for libel)? Once the it has been submitted, the complaint itself can be reported as fact. For example, if you do a Google search for the 2003 complaint to the international court made by Rath that I linked to above, you’ll find it’s linked to from all over the place.

  24. RS said,

    January 21, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    CB, must say I’ve never thought about that before, but I’d guess that plant cell turnover isn’t sufficient for cancers to develop.

  25. stever said,

    January 21, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I think., more than any badscience fruitcakes i have encoutered before, these people need to be slapped down quickly, and preferably made to pay a heavy price in the process.

    Consider this – unless they are completely insane, which I doubt, the only motivation for this can be some sort of twisted political/religious agenda – as JQH suggests – to eliminate a the poor black underclass who constitutte the majority of AIDS victims – remebering that most vitims are the sexually active and most economically productive members of the population – or an equally sick financial one to market quack remedies.

    This is unambiguously a crime – it will result in lots and lots of deaths. Any and all efforts should be made to put an end to this sorry story. Whilst the aids community are abviously heavily involved they ahve many battles to fight so I the wider scienctific/campaigning public can get ionvolved in any way – they should.

    thats you. *points*

  26. Andrew Clegg said,

    January 21, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    That’s an interesting question, so I did a bit of digging. Apparently some galls (e.g. crown gall) are the plant analogs of cancer, although as far as I can tell they tend to be exogenous — caused by bacteria for example.

    www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22crown+gall%22+cancer

    You learn something new every day, as my mum says.

    Andrew.

  27. Andrew Clegg said,

    January 21, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    … although if anyone knows what protects plants from, say, UV-induced cancer, do share…

  28. Weavy said,

    January 21, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    This is getting away from the very good SA/AIDS story (what a nutter!), but anyone wondering about the veracity of Dr Colemans’ claims should have a look at his website on www.vernoncoleman.com/main.htm, which should leave you in no doubt as to his credibility.

  29. BobP said,

    January 21, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Good link by Mojo in #9. The indictment is pretty comprehensive, isn’t it?

    I used to know an old lady – long departed – who would write a long letter to the Pope every time she got upset about anything. She had a good collection of replies from the Holy See along the lines described “… the Holy Father acknowledges receipt of your letter …etc. ” .

    I’m tempted to put this guy into the same category, particularly as regards the ICC. Obvoiusly he’s better resourced and knows how to put an argument together. Any organisation needs spam detectors to prevent it getting tied up in knots by timewasters and the ICC won’t waste any time on it.

    But I agree, it’s daft, it’s wasting the resources of the ICC, it may distract TAC from its mission (… and what other kinds of pressure are they under?), and it has probably impressed a bunch of gullible people somewhere. Clearly the man should be restrained on a gurney with cable ties ….. ooops, getting carried away.

    It’s my clear impression that the same scientific community which discovered HIV/AIDS in the first place is now able to offer some options for treating it. I’m not sure how a nutitionist would diagnose HIV without resorting to the use of the hated scientific method & techniques – they are terribly inconsistent, aren’t they?

  30. pv said,

    January 21, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Stever, very well put. Surely the word “genocide” (very overused these days) was coined to describe this particular kind of atrocity. After all what Brink and his cronies are doing isn’t so unlike the persecution of Jews in the 3rd Reich.

  31. Tessa K said,

    January 21, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Is a canker the same as a cancer? They have the same root meaning.

  32. teddy boveri said,

    January 21, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    “eating cancerous cells doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer.”

    Unless you happen to live in a dog-eat-dog world: “Sticker’s sarcoma, is a histiocytic tumor that is usually transmitted among dogs through coitus but may also spread through licking, biting, and sniffing tumor-affected areas.”

    Murgia et al. (2006). Clonal Origin and Evolution of a Transmissible Cancer. Cell 126, 477-487. tinyurl.com/33×226

  33. Andrew Clegg said,

    January 22, 2007 at 9:33 am

    As far as I can tell (not a botanist) ‘canker’ is a fairly general term for lesions caused by bacterial/fungal/parasitic infections of various sorts. I guess they come from the same root because of appearances, although I don’t think cankers are to do with cell division malfunctions.

    The etymology of ‘cancer’ (and the German ‘Krebs’) is interesting though — the fact that it has the same name as a star sign is no coincidence… (Impressively off-topic now)

    Andrew.

  34. simongates said,

    January 22, 2007 at 11:33 am

    What’s Peter Duesberg’s relationship to the current crop of HIV deniers? He used to be in the news a lot but I’ve heard nothing of him for several years. Pubmed seems to have only one paper from him on HIV/AIDS since 1998 (published 2003). According to wikipedia:
    “In 2000 South African President Thabo Mbeki included Duesberg and other AIDS dissidents on a Presidential Advisory Panel on HIV and AIDS” – is he still involved? Has he finally come round to accepting the majority view or is he out in the scientific wilderness with only Andrew Wakefield for company?.

    A sad case really – nothing wrong with questioning accepted wisdom, but everything wrong (especially for a scientist) with unshakeable faith in your own opinion in the absence (or in the teeth) of evidence.

  35. Michael Harman said,

    January 22, 2007 at 11:37 am

    I’ve occasionally noticed a very dense bunch of twigs high in a tree in winter, and vaguely assumed that it’s something vaguely cancerous. (But it is highly structured, not just an amorphous lump.)

    On eating cancerous meat, there was an urban myth about a woman who put her shopping bag on the table, only for it to fall off a few minutes later. She picked it up and put it back on the table, only for the same thing to happen again. It turned out that the steak she’d bought had a cancer in it. (The assumption was that a cancer was a sort of giant amoeba which remained alive and moving after the animal had been butchered.) That’s from about 50 years ago (late forties or early fifties).

    (A couple more from the same or slightly earlier period:

    Snow on their boots: there were rumours during the War that Russian troops were being transported through Scotland – they must have been Russian, because there was snow on their boots when they changed trains.

    The grand piano: someone was accused by a department store of shoplifting some trivial item like a packet of handkerchiefs, but after searching through their handbag, they were able to find the receipt for the item, which they’d bought somewhere else. The store was very apologetic and said that in recompense, they could pick any item and have it free. They picked a grand piano, which was duly delivered free.)

  36. FlammableFlower said,

    January 22, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Re: BobP #29:

    I like all of Dr Rath’s various letters written to people who have then blattantly ignored, that he’s then posted on his site – “See everyone I am being ignored and shunned because I know the truth”….. Loony

  37. Andrew Clegg said,

    January 23, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Michael (#35) — cancer worked differently in those days anyway, smoking cigarettes was good for you…

    Andrew.

  38. Fin said,

    January 23, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    If you liked the cancerous sausage ad, have a look at the author’s website:

    www.vernoncoleman.com/

    there are days of entertainment here.

  39. raygirvan said,

    January 24, 2007 at 2:13 am

    > On eating cancerous meat, there was an urban myth

    The trad version is that it was whalemeat: hence the alternative term WTS (whale tumour story) for urban myth (see Rodney Dale).

  40. Barnacle Bill said,

    January 24, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    arbrink@iafrica.com is his e-mail address.

  41. dolfinack said,

    January 24, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Couldn’t agree with Stever more. These people need to be taken down. Taken down to chinatown.

  42. ToeKnee said,

    January 24, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I know what the problem is here. You see biochemistry, as with much of science, can actually be quite complicated. In order to really understand the relationship between HIV and AIDS requires knowledge in a range of areas including virology, epidemiology and statistics. You also need to have a capacity to reason and to avoid assuming that your thoughts are being beamed directly to you from your mothership. ‘Barmy’-ness and a pseudo nazi outlook are also underdesirable. Dress sense is optional.

    On another point don’t you think the “including when it’s raining” is an interesting localisation? If Brink lived in the UK, not Africa, I doubt this would carry the same heinousness overtone.

  43. Delster said,

    January 24, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Fin, post 38. worth reading his 10 things you should know about vaccines and comparing it to his can aid’s be cured piece.

    interesting that he can’t destinguish between AIDS being a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself

    “Largely, I confess, because I’m still not convinced that there is any such specific disease as AIDS.”

    “It would be nice, for a start, if the multi billion pound AIDS industry could actually produce the virus which is said to be responsible for this disease.”

    I thought they had isolated the HIV virus? can anybody confirm or deny that one? if so can we “shoot him up” with a batch of it as he seem’s to think it does not exist.

    “I lost faith in the AIDS industry when I learned that in Africa patients with tuberculosis were being listed as AIDS `victims’. In many years of criticising medical methodology I don’t think I have ever come across an area of medicine where there are more myths and more sloppy thinking than there are in the world of the AIDS industry.”

    Umm… well seeing as how AIDS itself does not actually kill people then quite possibly they are AIDS victims as they might have resisted the Tuberculosis if the immune systems had still been working?

    and for the wonderful classic comment…..

    “First, I have long suspected that patients who are described as being HIV positive are suffering from extremely weak immune systems. And I have, for many years, asked whether such patients might not benefit if they boosted their immune systems.”

    no sh*t sherlock!

    That’s what the whole AIDS thing is…. it effectivly shuts the immune system down so it could possibly be confused with a … oh i give up!

  44. ToeKnee said,

    January 25, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Yes, but the voices in Anthony Brinks’ head tell him otherwise. Anyway being a Barrister has given Mr Brink ‘special’ insight into the efficacy and safety profiles of ARVs like AZT. I’m confident Mr Brink has spent many hours carefully selecting the facts that support his claims. I therefore feel confident I can ignore any of the actual data that has been published surrounding these compounds and instead rely entirely on the unbiased, objective reasoning of this obviously well balanced individual.

  45. hyperdeath said,

    January 25, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    “I know what the problem is here. You see biochemistry, as with much of science, can actually be quite complicated.”

    Damn right. This is the basis of most quackery and superstition. H.L. Mencken said it best:

    “The inferior man’s reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex — because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. All superstitions are such short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious. So on what seem to be higher levels. No man who has not had a long and arduous education can understand even the most elementary concepts of modern pathology. But even a hind at the plow can grasp the theory of chiropractic in two lessons. Hence the vast popularity of chiropractic among the submerged — and of osteopathy, Christian Science and other such quackeries with it. They are idiotic, but they are simple — and every man prefers what he can understand to what puzzles and dismays him.”

  46. Crispy Duck said,

    January 25, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    That Vernon Coleman is an insteresting character. Along with his unorthodox views on HIV/AIDS and vaccines, he also believes he has been visited by the spirit of a dead sheep called Karen.

    www.vernoncoleman.com/astrangeexper.htm

  47. Junkmonkey said,

    January 25, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    … although if anyone knows what protects plants from, say, UV-induced cancer, do share…

    I think in most plants the bits that have evolved to absorb as much of the of the UV that hits them as possible (the leaves) fall off every year, taking any possible potential cancerousness with them.

  48. amoebic vodka said,

    January 25, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    Plants do get tumours – the crown/root galls caused by bacteria are tumours. The reason they don’t seem to get the potentially fatal types that animals get is likely to be that plant cells don’t move around a plant, so the tumour stays where it started.

    All that antioxidant stuff that plants have is there to reduce cell damage from photosynthesis – all the oxygen and reactive oxygen that it produces is just as much of a problem as UV and heat damage from the sunlight (you mean it’s not there to make overpriced beauty products from? *gasp* ).

    I thought they had isolated the HIV virus? can anybody confirm or deny that one?

    Yup, and cloned it, sequenced it and crystallised most, if not all, the proteins it produces. The genome is in Genbank, though it has variants from mutating all the time, so that particular on probably doesn’t exist in the ‘wild’ anymore.

  49. ToeKnee said,

    January 26, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    #46 [Crispy Duck ]

    I find 2 things more suprising than the fact Vernon Coleman believes he was visited by the spirit of a dead sheep. First I find it weird that people actually name sheep and would see a name such as ‘Karen’ appropriate. What exactly was it about that particular sheep that suggested this name? Perhaps a particularly beautifully toned ‘Baahh’ brought the late Karen Carpenter to mind? Secondly, and perhaps more bizarrely, it appears people are not only cremating sheep but are then collecting their ashes. For what purpose? To finally lay them to rest with the rest of the family?

    Remember: Knowledge is knowing a Tomato is a fruit. However, wisdom is NOT putting one in a fruit salad.

  50. Delster said,

    January 26, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    On the plant tumour subject.

    There is such a thing as Burr walnut (possibly other wood types too) This is a bulge that grows in the side of the trunk. The grain of this does not have a structured pattern to it, as normal growth wood does, but exhibits a very chaotic growth instead.

    I don;t know the actual cause of this but it’s apparently quite rare and the wood’s fairly saught after.

  51. Andrew Clegg said,

    January 27, 2007 at 10:08 am

    ToeKnee — love the tomato quote, is it your own invention? I think I might have to steal it.

    Andrew.

  52. Robert Carnegie said,

    January 28, 2007 at 1:26 am

    The tomato line is Mike Tyson’s. HAND :-)

  53. MostlySunny said,

    February 1, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    I have had the privelege of meeting Zackie Achmat. He is an amazing man. Total commitment to his people and his cause. All of the above might make him sound a little “right on” and po-faced. Nothing could be further from the truth he has a devilish sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye which is a welcome anti-dote to the crusading and, lets face it, most humourless (S)CAM world…

    Great column Ben!

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