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ATPM 10.01
January 2004


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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

Changing the World, One Piece at a Time

I was reading Scientific American in the airport the other day. It’s my favorite magazine for such situations, because it is written for the educated non-specialist. You can either skim an article, or read it in depth if it’s in a topic you understand. The magazine covers lots of different fields, so the odds are good that there’s something everyone can follow. I finally broke down and subscribed to the magazine, but I will miss the airport SA experience. Now, I guess, the fitness magazines will have to fill the gap.

SA closed the year with its second annual feature on the year’s 50 greatest contributions to research, business, and policy making. Included in that group were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, but for different reasons. Jobs was saluted as innovative in business, as the iPod and iTunes Music Store combo has finally started the move towards legal, consumer-driven digital music purchases. We are actually there, although not as far along as we will be in another six months or so. We have wanted this for a long time; I remain in want, as I have not yet made the switch to OS X, but that’s my choice and I won’t whine about it. The remaining few record companies will have to board this train pretty soon, as CD sales are slipping while online purchases rise. As long as the music sells, they shouldn’t care what format it sells in.

Gates made the list in the “Public Health and Epidemiology” category, as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made substantial contributions to global health care efforts. His company is the bloated, unresponsive, squish-everybody-else New York Yankees of the computing world, but at least he understands that when you have more money than you know what to do with, you give away a lot of it. Congratulations to Gates for getting this part right.

The selections of Jobs and Gates remind us of the very different ways in which we can make the world a better place. We can choose to buy music in legal ways, and refuse to copy it for profit or other unethical uses. We can do the same with software, movies, and all our stuff. Someone worked hard to make that song or game or movie; why would anyone refuse that artist their due compensation?

The other way we can make the world a little better is by contributing to something larger than ourselves. Many people already do this, with donations to organizations of all kinds, that help people in all sorts of ways. If you don’t yet do so, consider looking for a way to help someone else, with either your money or, even better, your time. Money is good. It makes transactions of all sorts possible. Your time is even more valuable than money. Money buys time, but time that is given is worth even more. If you sacrifice an hour to donate blood, or half a day to help clean cages at the animal shelter, those are unique contributions no one could make but you.

We can make the world a little bit better, a little bit at a time. We wish we could make it all better right away, but we have limited spheres of influence. We have to start somewhere and what better place to start than in our own neighborhoods.


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Reader Comments (3)

Jake · January 4, 2004 - 01:43 EST #1
It is wrong to applaud Gates for giving a tiny proportion of his criminally and immorally gotten gains to some charity so he can buy credibility. There is a vast difference between someone like Jobs who tries to make the world a better place with everything he does and someone like Gates who reluctantly does a little bit of 'good' when he starts to get really bad publicity because of how rich he is and how he obtained that wealth. Most of Gates' donations are going to third-world countries so they can buy HIV/AIDS drugs from US companies (who then buy software from Microsoft). The whole HIV/AIDS thing is very controversial. There are two simple points. Many eminent scientists say HIV is not a virus--no one dies of AIDS. They die of pneumonia, TB, etc. From
"If there is evidence that HIV causes AIDS, there should be scientific documents which either singly or collectively demonstrate that fact, at least with a high probability. There is no such document."
Dr. Kary Mullis, Biochemist, 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
"Up to today, there is actually no single scientifically, really convincing evidence for the existence of HIV. Not even once such a retrovirus has been isolated and purified by the methods of classical virology."
Dr. Heinz Ludwig Sänger, Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Virology, Max-Planck-Institutes for Biochemy, München.
If I recall correctly, HIV/AIDS is now the biggest medical industry money-maker--a $22 billion business. That's bigger than cancer and bigger than Windows.
RacerX · January 4, 2004 - 18:42 EST #2
Ha ha ha.

I see that conspiracy theorists still abound.
Gregory Tetrault (ATPM Staff) · January 8, 2004 - 22:03 EST #3
As the resident ATPM medical expert (I am a licensed physician and board-certified pathologist.), I am well qualified to respond to Jake.

Dear Jake: Just because a crackpot chemist didn't believe or understand the medical literature 11 years ago, it doesn't mean that HIV isn't a virus. The HIV retrovirus has been identified, characterized, and RNA-sequenced. We know how it spreads, how it gets into cells, and how it reproduces.

People die of human immunodeficiency virus every day. Guess why? The virus infects and damages or kills the cells that fight off infections and cancers. That's why "immunodeficiency" is part of the name. An AIDS victim dies when HIV damages his immune system so severely that he succumbs to bacterial pneumonia, or a systemic fungal infection, or to viral encephalitis, or to cancer. Regardless of which condition proves fatal, the HIV infection was the cause of death and we indicate that on death certificates.

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