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Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy Hardcover – 20 Feb 2009

2.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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From the reviews:

It's a slender and punchy book, engagingly written and sharply observed, a fascinating insight into what the author describes as a "wacky and destructive world".... Kalichman is generous and thoughtful company, he assiduously attends to the denialist creed, thoroughly debunking their theories without bitterness or rage. An epilogue posits that all forms of medical denialism―whether cancer, AIDS, or autism―could be "part of one movement to promote public mistrust in science and medicine."

-Talha Burki, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Volume 9, Issue 10, October 2009

"Seth Kalichman has superbly captured the contradictions inherent in AIDS denialism. He has deftly captured its religious-like fervor, its vociferous proponents and passionate opponents as well as its destructive force when legitimized by the South African President. AIDS denialism has left confusion in its wake as it undermined public health efforts to curb the greatest health challenge of the 20th century. Kalichman vividly shares his experiences, understanding, and dilemmas as he unraveled this phenomenon piece by painful piece."

-Salim S. Abdool Karim, Member of the 2000 South African Presidential Panel on AIDS, Professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Director of Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

"Significant advances in the prevention and treatment have lead to fewer numbers of new infections and extended and improved the lives of those affected by the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS. However, myths and misunderstandings about HIV/AIDS still abound and pose a real threat to our progress. In Denying AIDS, Seth Kalichman provides a fascinating look into the thinking of those who propagate AIDS myths and the negative impact it has on our response to a deadly disease. He shows us how AIDS pseudoscience has at times confused the public and threatened sound public health policy. Anyone who cares about the global HIV/AIDS pandemic should read this book."

-Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO CARE USA and former Director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Assistant Surgeon General, and Member of the 2000 South African Presidential Panel on AIDS

"Seth Kalichman is an excellent scientist passionately committed to saving lives through the prevention of HIV/AIDS. This excellent volume examines the detailed history of HIV/AIDS denialism as well as its damaging impact throughout the world. HIV/AIDS denialism and its proponents have created confusion when the clear provision of scientifically accurate communication was most needed. At all levels, denial of AIDS results in a failure to face up to one of the greatest health threats of the century."

-James Curran, Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Coordinator of the 1981 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections" and former Director of the CDC HIV/AIDS Division.

"AIDS denialism is destructive and rides on the back of mistrust in science and medicine through our internet world. Seth Kalichman brilliantly uses a psychological lens to expose the wacky world that creates and maintains its presence despite the untold numbers of deaths and suffering it has caused. The book is a wake up call to policy makers and scientists, particularly in places most affected by the pandemic, that denialism must be confronted if we want to bring it under control. A must read for those who want to know more about the power and influence of pseudoscience."

-Michael Merson, Director, Global Health Institute at Duke University and Former Director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS.

"Inadequate health policies in South Africa have reportedly led to some 330,000 unnecessary AIDS deaths and a spike in infant mortality, according to estimates by South African and US researchers. This carnage exceeds the death toll in Darfur, yet it has received far less attention. Seth Kalichman, a US clinical psychologist, shows in Denying AIDS how words can kill."

-John P. Moore, Nature 459, 168 (14 May 2009)

"In this important book, Seth Kalichman provides important insights into the convoluted world of AIDS denialism … . It is … directed at HIV scientists and care providers, and at journalists who cover HIV-related health issues. … This book is a superb and unique examination of a fascinating and important phenomenon. It is also an excellent read and will be interest to all who have an interest in the HIV pandemic … ."

-Ronald C Hershow, Doody’s Review Service, May, 2009

"Kalichman has recently written a book about the denialist movement, entitled Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy, which outlines the history of denialism as well as its consequences. … Kalichman … book will help people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. … the book will help sort out the misinformation that exists on the topic of HIV and AIDS and can cause such harm to newly diagnosed people just looking for legitimate information."

-Bryan Birtles, Vue Weekly, Issue 717, July, 2009

"Kalichman’s book is well-written, timely, thoroughly researched … . serve as a resource for anyone interested in critical thinking … . It’s also the best work I’ve seen … in evaluating the psychology of the believers causing all the trouble. … So buy it! All royalties go to the purchase of anti-retrovirals for people in Africa, so you not only help yourshelf but you help undo some of the damage done by denialists … ." (MarkH, Science Blogs, May, 2009)

"Kalichman’s most impressive accomplishment is … globally understood the denial discourse. … Denying AIDS includes six chapters. … Kalichman’s book is a major accomplishment. He points us in the direction where our work must go next. We must do as he recommends, confront our denials knowing that we will never conquer them." (Anthony Lemelle, Journal of African American Studies, Vol. 13 (3), September, 2009)

"Kalichman (Univ. of Connecticut; The Inside Story on AIDS, 2003) has written a poignant and well-documented exposé of the scientific and sociopolitical forces involved in the organized movement of AIDS ‘denialists’ … . These naysayers reject science, contradict medical advice, and actively spread myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings to refute reality. Their malignant distortions can result in more individuals refusing to be tested, ignoring their diagnoses, or rejecting lifesaving treatments. … Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers." (P. Wermager, Choice, Vol. 47 (1), September, 2009)

"The book focuses on AIDS denialism and people who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. … ‘Denying AIDS’ will help create more awareness of denialism and that his event at the Co-op was just a start." (Kira O’Grady, The Daily Campus, December, 2009)

From the Back Cover

Denying AIDS: Denialism, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy

Seth C. Kalichman, Storrs, University of Connecticut

Paralleling the discovery of HIV and the rise of the AIDS pandemic, a flock of naysayers has dedicated itself to replacing genuine knowledge with destructive misinformation―and spreading from the fringe to the mainstream media and the think tank. Now, from the editor of the journal AIDS and Behavior, comes a bold exposé of the scientific and sociopolitical forces involved in this toxic evasion. Denying AIDS traces the origins of AIDS dissidents’ disclaimers during the earliest days of the epidemic and delves into the psychology and politics of the current denial movement in its various incarnations.

Seth Kalichman focuses not on the "difficult" or doubting patient, but on organized, widespread forms of denial (including the idea that HIV itself is a myth and HIV treatments are poison) and the junk science, faulty logic, conspiracy theories, and larger forces of homophobia and racism that fuel them. The malignant results of AIDS denial can be seen in those individuals who refuse to be tested, ignore their diagnoses, or reject the treatments that could save their lives. Instead of ignoring these currents, asserts Kalichman, science has a duty to counter them.

Among the topics covered:

  • Why AIDS denialism endures, and why science must understand it.
  • Pioneer virus researcher Peter Duesberg’s role in AIDS denialism.
  • Flawed immunological, virological, and pharmacological pseudoscience studies that are central to texts of denialism.
  • The social conservative agenda and the politics of AIDS denial, from the courts to the White House.
  • The impact of HIV misinformation on public health in South Africa.
  • Fighting fiction with reality: anti-denialism and the scientific community.

For anyone affected by, interested in, or working with HIV/AIDS, and public health professionals in general, the insight and vision of Denying AIDS will inspire outrage, discussion, and ultimately action.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Seth Kalichman's absorbing and accessible book, "Denying AIDS", gives the first definitive account of the history and psychology of a toxic ideology - from its origins in the US in the late 1980s to its devastating impact in South Africa in the last decade.

AIDS denialism matters because it kills people. In South Africa, the government of Thabo Mbeki was heavily influenced by a fringe group of conspiracy theorists who claim - in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that HIV is not the cause of AIDS and that the symptoms associated with the disease are in fact caused by the drugs given to HIV-positive patients.

When pseudo-science takes hold over government policy, the consequences can be catastrophic. Under the AIDS denialists' influence, Mbeki's government chose to obstruct the public distribution of anti-retroviral drugs in South Africa. A recent Harvard study concluded that this decision alone has led to more than 300,000 preventable deaths.

Mbeki's involvement with AIDS denial hit the headlines back in 2000. What's less well known is the extent to which the eloquently argued and superficially persuasive claims which led him so far astray had been carefully honed by cranks and conspiracy theorists in Europe and the United States for more than a decade before they reached South Africa.

AIDS denialism matters because its proponents are continuing to disseminate misinformation, and are continuing to lead people astray, notwithstanding the fact that dozens of HIV-positive self-described "AIDS dissidents", who believed so strongly in the ideology of denial that they refused to take medication, have died prematurely from AIDS-defining diseases. This book's great contribution is to explain how such a deadly ideology came about, and why it continues to endure.
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Format: Hardcover
My favorite subject is: myself. So I was thrilled to discover that Kalichman has written a book all about me, an AIDS denialist. He has never met me but that doesn't matter because all of us denialists are the same anyhow.

I used to call myself an AIDS dissident because of my, as I learned from this book, "crusading religious and political overtones" and not as I thought previously, because this word means dissenting, having a different opinion from most people. Kalichman explains that what characterizes my opinions is not dissent but sameness. True, some denialists deny the existence of a disease called AIDS, some accept that AIDS exists but deny the existence of HIV, some accept that both AIDS and HIV exist but deny that HIV causes AIDS, some accept that HIV causes AIDS but deny that HIV is sexually transmittable, some deny only that the HIV test is reliable, and some don't deny any of these things but reject the drugs. All of us who hold such opinions are "'suspicious thinkers' prone to conspiracy theories and other wacky beliefs." We are no different from holocaust denialists like "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Like them, I have "encapsulated delusions ... conspiracy-theory-prone personality style ... and ... tend to be overly independent in [my] thinking." Furthermore, I am "characterized by a fear of homosexuality, or even homophobia." It is understandable that Kalichman thinks this of me. I live in the Netherlands, where different-sex marriages are still legal, though who knows for how long. That's why my spouse (male) and I (female) grabbed our chance while we still could and married although we realized that by doing so we would arouse suspicion of being homophobes.
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What testing have you (Seth Klichman) carried out on Dr Clark's protocols for the treatment of HIV AIDS to determine any or all of Clark's works as being worthy of "quack" status as you put it? You alledge many are in denial - may I strongly suggest you are in denial and should without delay publicly provide proof of your test results forthwith OR publicly apologise for your derogatory remarks.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
12 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, well-argued book 8 Nov. 2009
By Gregory D. Zimet - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Seth Kalichman has written an excellent, well-reasoned, well-argued book in which he systematically dismantles the arguments of the conspiracy theorists who deny AIDS or deny that HIV causes AIDS. Unfortunately, as the author points out (and as some of the negative reviews reflect) once people have staked out extreme denialist territory, they become completely unresponsive to logic or information that counters their beliefs. As a result this book will not have any effect on the hard-core denialists, but it may prove helpful to those who may otherwise be inclined to listen to denialists.
11 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Into the Mind of a Propagandist 24 May 2012
By Clark Baker - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A complete review of this book is posted at [...].

As an historical and scientific examination of HIV and its alleged causation of AIDS, Denying AIDS is incompetent drivel - as intellectually inert as Kalichman's blog. But as a propaganda device, Denying AIDS is a sophisticated tool that can be applied to coerce targets and groups that are unaware of the author's training and intent.

Unfortunately for the industry Kalichman represents, Denying AIDS provides a window into the author's tortured logic and troubled mind - and betrays the deep concern of his funding sources at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the Preface, Kalichman dates the beginning of his "strange journey into HIV/AIDS denialism" to an email exchange with Professor Brennan-Jones.

"My reaction was one of absolute outrage. I mean I was really angry. I was in an emotional upheaval. I surprised everyone around me, including myself, by my seemingly irrational reaction. How could someone I knew to be intelligent, well-trained as a scientist at a respectable university and in a position of influence over college students endorse a book [Duesberg's Inventing the AIDS Virus (1996)] that everyone surely knows is outdated, biased, and of little more value than that worthy of a doorstop?"

Throughout the book, the author's anxiety does not abate:

"What is it about denialists that can push a scientist out of objectivity into a fit of rage? ... In a personal sense, denialists are insulting our integrity and the value of our life's work."

Kalichman's "outrage," "emotional upheaval," and "irrational reaction" at those who question AIDS dogma betrays his feigned objectivity. His behavior, typical of dishonest individuals when caught lying, demonstrates a lack of confidence in his own beliefs about AIDS. Mathematicians aren't "outraged" by formulae. There is no "emotional upheaval" among professional engineers. The idea that flat-earthers would induce an "irrational reaction" among NASA scientists is absurd. So why do difficult questions provoke anger among unfaithful spouses, gangsters, delinquents, government officials and defenders of the pharmaceutical industry?

As a social psychologist trained in the field of gaining compliance with non-compliant self-identifying targets, it is hard to imagine why Kalichman would describe his reflexive emotional response unless he was, in fact, professionally and personally compromised.

Like veteran policemen and infantrymen, scientists understand how and why psychological detachment is often "mission-critical." We understand that those who succumb to emotions are more prone to abandon plans and procedures necessary to maintain unit integrity and accomplish the mission. We prefer pilots, policemen and surgeons who are not subject to "outrage," "emotional upheaval," or "irrational reactions."

If Kalichman is secure in his knowledge and beliefs, it's hard to imagine what triggers his emotional responses. If he was honest, he would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues rationally, without ad hominem attacks. If he was honest, he would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of his position. If he had confidence and integrity, questions would not render him intellectually or emotionally vulnerable.

His admission suggests that he and his associates are concerned that they may be wrong about AIDS. Kalichman admits that such an unthinkable revelation would mean that their life's work had been a complete waste of time, energy and lives - a fraud. He addresses the broader implications of being wrong about AIDS:

"If HIV does not cause AIDS it would mean that thousands of scientists, researchers, medical doctors, and public health officials--essentially the entire biomedical science and public health enterprise--had conspired to maintain a lie for 25 years."

Such a scandal would be unprecedented only in terms of its magnitude. Tuskegee, Guatemala, Pellagra and forced sterilization are just a few of the many government-supported medical scandals of the last century - typically addressed by hand-wringing officials who solemnly acknowledge misdeeds years after the victims and suspects are beyond the reach of a competent court. If someone (or the media) had asked questions about those operations back then, it is likely that someone like Kalichman had been hired to discredit them as delusional troublemakers.

For an industry that paid $10 billion to settle thousands of criminal and civil complaints since 2009, such a scandal is not as unthinkable as it sounds.

Denying AIDS fulfills Kalichman's duty as a government propagandist and pharmaceutical hit-man. Despite its academic patina, the book's content betrays a lack of discipline or inclination that is typically required when asked to examine evidence in the unbiased and dispassionate capacity of a researcher, investigator or scientist.

Kalichman asserts as incomprehensible, that free and independent people do not share the fantasy that unassailable truth resides within the institutions of authority. He doesn't understand how populations can distrust institutions that rely on fear, intimidation, retaliation, corruption, blogs and books to coerce obedience.

The history of science is replete with disputes, contradictory data and opposing studies. There is no way around this conflict - nor should there be. Science has convinced scientists that "scientific truths" are mostly provisional. Healthy, honest science depends on open and honest debate that allows individuals decide for themselves what is and is not verifiable fact.

Like Kalichman's blogs, papers and associates, Denying AIDS indicts not the accused, but their accusers. In it, Kalichman unwittingly assumes a role not unlike the fictional Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg, whose preoccupation with missing strawberries aboard the USS Caine eventually demonstrates the credibility of the men he accuses.

Physicist Max Planck: "A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Antony C. Sutton: "...when statements and assertions are not supported by hard evidence and where attempts to unearth hard evidence lead in a circle back to the starting point -- particularly when everyone is quoting everyone else -- then we must reject the story as spurious."

An examination of the top Amazon book reviews is telling.

Aside from the familiar pseudonyms found on Kalichman's hate blog are names of others who, like Kalichman, are NIH-funded propagandists. John P. Moore's fawning review is clearly in appreciation of being quoted in Kalichman's book. Moore is the Cornell Professor who wrote to one skeptic, "This IS a war, there ARE no rules, and we WILL crush you, one at a time, completely and utterly (at least the more influential ones; foot-soldiers like you aren't worth bothering with)." Foley is the Los Alamos "truther" who used a fake name to pressure and intimidate a witness at the request of an associate who was cited for, among other things, perjury, ID theft, tax fraud, poor patient care... (you get the picture). The most glowing review comes from LISA A. EATON, PhD, who coincidentally has served since 2010 as an untenured assistant professor under the supervision of - you guessed it - Seth Kalichman.

Just as Galileo threatened Rome's geocentric universe, Peter Duesberg threatens governments and politicians that rely on the corruption that permeates the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Denying AIDS is little more than a wheezing gasp from that dying enterprise.

Clark Baker (LAPD ret)
Director, OMSJ

(A complete review of this book, with links, is posted at [...]
27 of 58 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The AIDS skeptics have it correct 5 Aug. 2009
By Doctor - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kalichman went to a lot of trouble and sleuthing to establish something that should be quite obvious to everyone - that a huge, media-savvy, dollar-squandering machine like the AIDS orthodoxy absolutely, positively cannot stand public scrutiny. Instead, it fires off round after round of demonizing, slanderous and lurid claims about its critics.

One wonders what the AIDS establishment like Kalichman is so afraid of? The answer is fairly obvious - a gigantic, global theatrical apparatus has been created over the past 25 years replete with slogans, endless conferences, songs, symbols, candlelight vigils, quilts, jingles, research centers, drug company dollars and armies of misguided volunteers. This enterprise is as huge as it is unstable and it certainly cannot bear to be questioned or criticized. What would all those people do?

There never has been and never will be an "AIDS" epidemic among American heterosexuals. The books by the AIDS skeptics and HIV critics make that abundantly clear.

By all means read this laughably misguided book by Kalichman, but then read the books by Rebecca Culshaw, Henry Bauer, Neville Hodgkinson, Celia Farber and Michelle Cochrane to see clearly why the AIDS orthodoxy has so much to hide and even more to be ashamed of.
24 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Intellectually inconsistent and contradictory argument. 7 Mar. 2009
By D. Sinclair - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Kalichman writes under the heading of "contemporaneousness" (p. 157-158) that

"To understand AIDS one should not have to look back further than the past few years. For the consumer-reader, if a scientific article was published before 2000, I would say it can be considered dated, perhaps even ignored. [..] Any writing in the area of AIDS that relies on sources from the 1980s should be suspect. Of the more than 116,000 scientific articles listed in the PubMed database concerning the HIV disease process, or HIV pathogenesis, over 31,000 have been published in the past 5 years. AIDS scientists are basing their conclusion that HIV causes AIDS on these current studies[..]."

This is a most remarkable admission. Criticism of the HIV theory of AIDS predates the year 2000 considerably. Duesberg made his case against the HIV theory in 1987, and the Rethinking AIDS movement "flourished", purely in relative terms, in the 1990s. Criticisms of the paradigm were given the same response then as they are now: that they are nuts, and that the correctness of the HIV theory of AIDS is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And yet, according to Kalichman, HIV has only been actually, truly, reliably proven to cause AIDS since 2003, and the earlier papers (85,000 of them, by his count) cannot be relied upon! So were AIDS rethinkers then correct in questioning the HIV theory of AIDS between 1987 and 2003?

Kalichman essentially concedes that the self-correcting mechanisms of medical science were inoperative in the field of AIDS research at least until 2002, a time period during which the HIV theory of AIDS was actually unproven, but nevertheless considered proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Then how can we know that these self-correcting mechanisms are working now? How much credibility do AIDS scientists have who are claiming that they have proof NOW that HIV causes AIDS, when they were claiming the same proof all along? And what sort of "science" is it that readily acknowleges that all but the most recent work was of low quality and can't be trusted, but claims that, somehow, reliable results were obtained through work based on these flawed foundations?

This - constantly throwing away all the old research - is the exact opposite of how real science works, and Kalichman seems to realize it, because elsewhere in his book (p. 102), he contradicts himself and writes under the heading "The Single Study Fallacy":

"No one scientific study ever 'proves' anything. Scientists are cautious in drawing conclusions from even a series of experiments. Science requires that independent studies replicate a finding before it is taken as fact. Even then, there is hesitation to accept replicated research findings as 'proof'. To establish that HIV causes AIDS required countless laboratory, clinical and epidemiological studies, all converging to a definite conclusion."

And yet he argues that countless studies should now be considered "dated" or "suspect", or even be "ignored" since AIDS scientists "are basing their conclusion that HIV causes AIDS on [..] current studies"! Which one is it?

Indeed, Kalichman describes here how AIDS science should have worked, but didn't- countless studies all converging to the same conclusion. Instead, a singular scientific publicity stunt in 1984 secured the commitment and funding of the US government to a scientifically unsubstantiated speculation, the hypothesis of a new virus, cutting off all possibility of reasoned dissent and investigation into alternative causes and co-factors.

An army of scientific lemmings, all funded not to ask whether HIV causes AIDS, but how it causes it, subsequently produced over 100,000 papers that accepted it as axiomatic that HIV causes AIDS. After amost 30 years, the best answer that they have come up with is exactly the one one would expect if the underlying assumption was wrong in the first place - "we don't know".

A comparatively recent mainstream paper (Grossman, Z. et al: Pathogenesis of HIV infection, Nature Medicine 12(3):289-295) was published in March 2006 and thus qualifies as one of those current papers on which, according to Kalichman, "AIDS scientists are basing their conclusion that HIV causes AIDS". It states:

"The pathogenic and physiologic processes leading to AIDS remain a conundrum."
11 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of a distressing subject. 7 Feb. 2012
By Slater - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It actually took me a significant amount of time to finish this book, as I have been juggling several other projects the last 6 months, but it was ultimately a worthwhile read that I would recommend to those either new or unaware of the subject matter.

As as general overview of content, the work contains a summation of the psychological, political and social contexts surrounding what is commonly refereed to as "Aids Denialism". This view is championed by a very fringe group of individuals who hold the view that: HIV does not exist, HIV is not the cause of AIDS, Anti-retroviral drugs cause AIDS, AIDS deaths in Africa are a myth, as well as numerous other conspiracy mongering ideas on the subject.

As strange as this sounds (even stranger for me as I come from a microbiology background) these views can and do have dire implications on the lives of numerous people, and this book shows the reader the harms and implications of this dangerous thinking (especially in South Africa).

Upon completion of the book, you will likely feel both anger and remorse at the lives that have been torn apart by this twisted and nonscientific ideology.

The content is engaging, but the writing does tend to leave a bit to be desired (particularly towards the latter half of the book) as it comes off as heavy handed and cliche ridden. While this is only a minor gripe, some additional work during the editorial phase I feel could of alleviated some of these problems. Do not take these minor literary critiques as cause to dissuade you from reading this, as It is overwhelmingly good writing and information, just not quite as polished as it should be.
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