Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: USA TODAY, SECTION: LIFE; Pg. 6D, December 3, 2001
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Amazon tribe study called 'deeply flawed'

From staff and wire reports

Darkness in El Dorado, a book suggesting that researchers spread disease among Venezuela's Yanomami tribe three decades ago, is "deeply flawed," says an anthropology review committee. Releasing a preliminary report Friday at the American Association of Anthropology meeting in Washington, D.C., the panel finds, contrary to the book's claims, that a University of Michigan geneticist did not inappropriately give measles vaccine to tribe members in 1968. Author Patrick Tierney had suggested that the vaccination effort, and shoddy medical care, had exacerbated a deadly measles outbreak. Also, the panel concluded that while retired anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon of the University of California-Santa Barbara committed "honest and unintended" mistakes in researching the Yanomami, his gathering of tribe member's family information did not violate normal anthropological practices. But the book, published last year, rightly raised questions about ethical standards in anthropology, the panel adds. In particular, the panel agrees that other scientists had inappropriate sexual relationships with the tribe. Further, a well-known Yanomami documentary, Warriors of the Amazon, is obviously staged and "immensely problematic," they conclude, in that filmmakers filmed the death of a young woman and her infant, rather than seeking medical assistance for the dying woman.

Gigantic AIDS painting unveiled

An artist has been working 21-hour days over the past three weeks to complete a painting twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. The painting, Hero, was unveiled Saturday -- World AIDS Day -- on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. After the one-time showing, the 41,400-square-foot painting will be cut into 1-square-foot pieces and sold on sponsor art.com's Web site. Artist Eric Waugh hopes to raise $ 4 million to be divided between Camp Heartland in Minnesota and Los Angeles-based Starlight Children's Foundation, which helps seriously ill children. A representative of the Guinness Book of Records declared the painting the largest by a single artist, a new category. The impetus for the painting came when Waugh watched a 1995 CBS News documentary, Before Your Eyes: Angelie's Secret, about a young girl's struggle with HIV. "I was just -- it took my breath away," Waugh said. "And I thought how lucky I was with two healthy boys upstairs." Waugh estimated he spent 1,700 hours planning and painting Hero, beginning in the fall of 1996.

Tiny lizard discovered in Caribbean

The world's smallest lizard, a creature so tiny it can curl up on a dime, has been discovered on a remote Caribbean island, according to a scientific report out Friday. Two biologists found the lizard on Beata Island, which is part of the Jaragua National Park in the Dominican Republic. It is about three-quarters of an inch long from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail, says Blair Hedges, one of the biologists who described the lizard in the December issue of the Caribbean Journal of Science. The discovery illustrates how little researchers know about the many creatures that live on Earth, even those living in areas close to the USA, Hedges says. Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University, and his colleague Richard Thomas, a biologist at the University of Puerto Rico, found the small, brown lizard on the first day of a trip to the remote island to look for new species.

USA's mad cow risk is low, study finds

The likelihood that mad cow disease could invade the USA is "very low," says a Harvard risk analysis, and even if infected cattle did get into the country, the disease could not become established here. Steps taken in 1997 to prevent the spread of the disease through animal feed would keep it from ever becoming established in the USA, says the long-awaited Harvard report. The study, based on computer models that show how bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, could threaten the U.S. beef supply, shows "that the years of early actions taken by the federal government to safeguard consumers have helped keep BSE from entering the United States," said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. Scientists believe the disease spread from cows in the United Kingdom across Europe through infected proteins used in animal feed. Veneman has outlined steps planned by the USDA to more than double the number of cattle brains tested for mad cow disease next year. In 2001, USDA inspectors tested 5,000 cattle brains for mad cow disease and found no cases. In 2002, said Veneman, 12,500 tests will be conducted.

Many at risk for AIDS haven't been tested

Nearly 30% of people deemed at risk for HIV have never been tested, the government said, warning that they could be unknowingly spreading the virus that causes AIDS. The 1999 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention involved more than 30,000 people in the USA. Some 73% of those considered at risk for HIV said they had been tested, but only 30% said they had been tested in the previous year. The study cited lack of access to testing centers and a perceived lack of confidentiality as reasons some people don't get tested.