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Lancet Review: 3 Billion And Counting

Open Letter to the Lancet Review of the film 3 Billion and Counting

Firstly, let me say that throughout this whole film making process, I have not felt compelled to respond to a film review thus far.   However, this review is in a medical journal – my field of expertise.  So, I do feel compelled to respond to this “film review”.  I sincerely appreciate and would like to thank the editor of the Lancet, Joanna Palmer and the reviewer Amir Attaran for giving their time to review this important film.  It really is an honor to have a film reviewed in the Lancet.  I wonder how many documentaries have been reviewed by the Lancet?  I suspect not too many.

That said, I really found this “film review” simultaneously amusing and sad.  Why?  Because it was supposed to be a scientific film review of what I consider to be very important subject matter.  But instead, it was primarily a personal attack, often employed when one is at a loss in rebuttal of the science, or the facts at hand.  They are either inept and do not have the capacity to objectively stay with the scientific facts or are so enthralled by their own ego that they cannot perform what they set out to do.  Having interviewed Attaran for the documentary in 2006, I suspect, in this case, it was more of the latter.

Also, I have a question.  Why did the Lancet not ask someone of my same level of expertise to review the film?  Why a lawyer?

Obviously the answer to that question is in your hands.  Now, on to the review.   You will find the review below in its entirety.  Then below it, I will address all the points line by line. My responses will be in bold and italics.

A distorting take on DDT

Amir Attaran

Knowing a good story, and telling a good story, are two substantially different things. The cineasts behind 3 Billion and Counting certainly know a good story: their film explores the medically incorrect, damaging campaign against dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), when the scientific evidence is overwhelming that DDT has saved millions of lives from malaria and continues to do so. Their telling of that story, however, is anything but good, so what could have been an educational and entertaining documentary is instead woefully narcissistic, hectoring, and often inaccurate.

The film’s auteur is an osteopath, D Rutledge Taylor, who practises anti-ageing medicine in Los Angeles and is also the film’s funder, director, and music composer. Dressed in scrubs for effect, he cuts a goofy, nerdish, but sometimes endearing figure, as he jets across continents to learn about malaria and how DDT came to be so stigmatised. The narrative style annoys with tales of boyish adventure, as when Taylor brags his way through a border crossing, but there are several important interviews. Some African malaria control managers candidly admit to Taylor that they are afraid to talk about DDT, much less to use it, lest western donors cut off their funding.

For this, Taylor blames the foreign aid industrial complex, in particular contractors with secure jobs selling anti-malaria bednets to the very poor. But his fiercest, most over-the-top invective is laid at the feet of the environmental movement. While environmentalists from Rachel Carson onward often exaggerate DDT’s risks and belittle its benefits—as seen in this film’s interview with a Ugandan environmentalist, who calls DDT use “primitivity”, and urges armed resistance and to “let one die” instead—Taylor is similarly guilty of losing factual moorings. He claims DDT is suitable for many other diseases, some of which are not even insect-borne, and equates its rejection with genocide—overblown statements that are scientifically and legally untrue. Although cinematic exaggeration can make a point when done comically or ironically à la Michael Moore, here the assertions are merely aggressive and wrong.

Thus at best, this film has flashes of interest, amid cringe-inducing stretches. At worst, it is an example of how ideology turns otherwise valid arguments into unethical posturing. One may rightly fault environmentalists’ ideological loathing of DDT, but what exactly, if not ideology, leads the filmmakers to record what seems to be an Indian woman’s death of malaria, apparently without Taylor, a doctor, or his crew stepping in to offer treatment? The middle-ground lesson, in this film lacking middle-ground, seems to be that if factual and ethical laxity led to banishing DDT as a medical intervention in the first place, resort to neither should be had in bringing it back.

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)62017-X/fulltext?rss=yes

AA was interviewed for 3 Billion and Counting, although that interview does not appear in the film by mutual agreement with the filmmakers.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A distorting take on DDT

Amir Attaran

Knowing a good story, and telling a good story, are two substantially different things.

Ok, film review 101.  This film is a cinema ve’rite’ (no script) style FEATURE DOCUMENTARY. Documentaries of this style do not “tell stories”.  One “tells stories” when one has a pre-written script such as in FEATURE NARRATIVE films.  Today, some documentaries do have a pre-written script but are not considered the purest art form – ie “quasi-documentaries”.  There was no script in this film.  That should be evident in the shooting style.   “3 Billion and Counting” was a fact finding mission of documented events.  However, this reviewer was not expected to know the difference, so no fault.  To review a film for the Lancet, the reviewer is expected to know science and to critique the science.   Again, why a lawyer and not a medical doctor reviewing this documentary?

The cineasts behind 3 Billion and Counting certainly know a good story: their film explores the medically incorrect, damaging campaign against dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), when the scientific evidence is overwhelming that DDT has saved millions of lives from malaria and continues to do so. Their telling of that story, however, is anything but good, so what could have been an educational and entertaining documentary is instead woefully narcissistic, hectoring, and often inaccurate.

Yes, some that view the film may not find it entertaining, especially those who have been steeped in the Rachael Carson School of environmentalism.  However, I know for a fact that the film IS educational.  Try and find one person on this planet that knew all these facts that were dug up over an intense five long years.  You will not find one.  I have been thanked by many modern scientists for that which was revealed in the documentary.  As far as the line “woefully narcissistic, hectoring, and often inaccurate”, this is a matter of opinion to which one is entitled.  However, if one cannot and does not support one’s opinion with specifics, such a diatribe is primarily a useless waste of print space and the reader’s time.  Please do point out the inaccuracies.  I sincerely would like to know every scientific inaccuracy or any other inaccuracy for that matter.

The film’s auteur is an osteopath, D Rutledge Taylor, who practises anti-ageing medicine

Yes, I am an Osteopathic medical doctor who obtained MD board certification, therefore medically trained in both traditional and functional medicine. However, it was not mentioned that I practice preventive medicine and nutrition, which is Anti-Aging and thus my drive to get to the bottom of why malaria was not being PREVENTED.

in Los Angeles and is also the film’s funder, director, and music composer.

An inaccuracy.  I am not the music composer.  See opening title card 5 – composers Debbie Gibson and Rudy Haeusermann.

Dressed in scrubs for effect, he cuts a goofy, nerdish, but sometimes endearing figure, as he jets across continents to learn about malaria and how DDT came to be so stigmatised.

Yes, I do dress in scrubs for “effect” much as lawyers generally dress in a tie for “effect”.  I dress in scrubs every day.  It is my office attire.  Ask any patient I have – they will affirm it.

The narrative style annoys with tales of boyish adventure, as when Taylor brags his way through a border crossing,

This may be perceived by some as “bragging”.  However the line “money talks and men mumble” is a FACT when crossing African borders with cameras and equipment.  Give it a try.  Unfortunately, money talks at borders.  Had I not paid off each and every one of them, we would not be reading this “film review” because they would have taken my vital footage.  That is fact.

but there are several important interviews. Some African malaria control managers candidly admit to Taylor that they are afraid to talk about DDT, much less to use it, lest western donors cut off their funding.

For this, Taylor blames the foreign aid industrial complex, in particular contractors with secure jobs selling anti-malaria bednets to the very poor. But his fiercest, most over-the-top invective is laid at the feet of the environmental movement. While environmentalists from Rachel Carson onward often exaggerate DDT’s risks and belittle its benefits—as seen in this film’s interview with a Ugandan environmentalist, who calls DDT use “primitivity”, and urges armed resistance and to “let one die” instead—Taylor is similarly guilty of losing factual moorings. He claims DDT is suitable for many other diseases, some of which are not even insect-borne.

Truth is never concerned with job security, but job security is indelibly linked to Truth no matter how ugly it may first appear.  Every disease listed in the film is transmitted by insects with the part exception of Cholera – flies indirectly transmit it. However, this is really beside the point.  Strict attention to the film rather than invoking what seems a personal vendetta would reveal the inaccuracy of the “insect-borne” comment.  It was not said that all those cases were insect-borne diseases.  The actual statement said “diseases”.   There are other diseases such as cholera and dysentery that are indirectly reduced by the reduction of flies with the use of DDT.  To quote the late Dr. J Gordon Edwards “when DDT was sprayed in the WWII camps the dysentery wards all closed.”  The very credible Dr. J Gordon Edwards was in that war and was one of the first soldiers to be gratefully dusted with DDT. He had first hand experience with DDT and diseases.

and equates its rejection with genocide—overblown statements that are scientifically and legally untrue.

Having addressed the claimed “scientifically untrue” part, now on to the “legal” part.  I do not claim to be a lawyer.  It really does not matter to me as a doctor what the legal definition of genocide is… If you asked most of the people on the street if withholding a lifesaving technology (DDT) from a destitute population which results in millions of deaths, I think you will find, LEGAL or not, intentional or not, they consider it genocide.  Or, some perhaps prefer the new and improved, more sanitized term, “crimes against humanity.”

Dr. Art Robinson, a world renowned scientist, who is in the film, did call it genocide.  So, is equating what is happening in Africa by the withholding of DDT to genocide LEGALLY inaccurate?  Perhaps so.  However, we are talking about people dying.  Legal or not, they are still dying.  That is a fact.  To me, and many others, save perhaps lawyers, it is seen as genocide.

Although cinematic exaggeration can make a point when done comically or ironically à la Michael Moore, here the assertions are merely aggressive and wrong.

Already addressed – see above on the difference in a narrative feature, cinema ve’rite’ feature documentary, and “quasi-documentary”.  And again, Attaran utterly fails to address exactly which assertions he found” merely aggressive and wrong.” Therefore, I have no comment.

Thus at best, this film has flashes of interest, amid cringe-inducing stretches. At worst, it is an example of how ideology turns otherwise valid arguments into unethical posturing. One may rightly fault environmentalists’ ideological loathing of DDT, but what exactly, if not ideology, leads the filmmakers to record what seems to be an Indian woman’s death of malaria, apparently without Taylor, a doctor, or his crew stepping in to offer treatment?

I will address the unethical comment.  We did not film our giving the girl’s family money to pay for treatment and hospital transport.  We did not feel this personal and spontaneous act was important to the film.

The middle-ground lesson, in this film lacking middle ground, seems to be that if factual and ethical laxity led to banishing DDT as a medical intervention in the first place, resort to neither should be had in bringing it back.

I will address the “factual and ethical laxity”  comment.  I find this comment quite ironic since Attaran’s “review” is so woefully vague, lacking in substance, and absent of scientific critique.  I have no further comment.

AA was interviewed for 3 Billion and Counting, although that interview does not appear in the film by mutual agreement with the filmmakers.

Actually, it was NOT mutually agreed that we not use his interview.  What actually happened?  Attaran line item struck the word irrevocable in the interview release form before signing it.  And, if I recall correctly, he looked up at me and said “I would not give that to my own mother”.  I knew at that moment, I would not be using Attaran’s interview.  It would not have passed the film’s legal review anyway.

Bedbugs and social change

Dr. Rutledge discusses his new documentary 3 Billion And Counting and the current epidemic of bedbugs and the need for social change.

For more information visit:
http://www.3billionandcounting.com

Parasite disease rises in Sudan

The number of cases of a potentially fatal parasitic disease has increased six-fold in southern Sudan.

Visceral leismaniasis- also known as kala-azar – is the most severe form of the disease.

More than 6,000 people have been infected and over 300 have died in the last year.

The World Health Organization and the Sudanese ministry of health are leading the distribution of treatments and testing equipment to affected areas.

Visceral leishmaniasis is caused by the Leishmania parasite and transmitted via the bite of an infected sand fly.

It is the most dangerous form of the disease because the parasite migrates into the spleen and liver.

It causes high fever, significant weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and anaemia. If left untreated visceral leishmaniasis is nearly always fatal.

The number of cases from September 2009 until now is more than six times higher than in 2007-08.

The counties of Old Fangak and Ayod in the south of the country are particularly affected.
Dr Abdi Aden, head of the WHO’s office for Southern Sudan said “The increased number of cases in Old Fangak, Ayod and surrounding areas is very disturbing and it is becoming difficult to contain the outbreak.

“Before the situation becomes uncontrollable, we must do something about it.”

To keep responding to the outbreak over the next six months an additional $700,000 is needed.

This will buy more treatments, diagnostic kits as well as food supplies.

Kala-azar suppresses the immune system making patients vulnerable to other infections like pneumonia and malaria. Those that are malnourished are at particularly high risk of dying.

The disease is difficult to treat – daily injections for a month are needed, so patients need to stay close to health facilities.

But many patients still cannot reach treatment centres due to insecurity, flooding and distance.

Dr Mounir Christo Lado of the Sudanese ministry of health said the kala-azar outbreak could worsen between now and next spring.

“Insecurity, flooding and the lack of health facilities across a vast geographical area are all playing a part in limiting access to treatment for this deadly disease.”

SOURCE

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Deltamethrin is the alternative pesticide to DDT. The datasheet shows that it is moderately hazardous, moderately toxic, there isn’t enough information to know how carcinogenic it might be, and it causes endocrine disruption.

http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33475

http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/88/1/10-040110/en/index.html

Let’s Talk About It

Tonight, Dr. Rutledge will be calling in to Blog Talk Radio’s “Let’s Talk About It”. You can listen live online here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lets_talk_about_it/2010/10/05/3-billion-and-countingdeath-tolls-mountingconspiracy-lets-talk-about-it-1

3 BILLION AND COUNTING…the death toll is mounting… What if there was an effective way to eradicate a disease that has killed more people than any other disease known to man? What if a government ban is between you and the substance that could save your life? What if the incidence of that disease is on the rise? What if the the government had information that refuted the information that the EPA, GreenPeace, World Wildlife Fund and Sierra used to get the ban, but buried it? The New York Times stated “What the world needs now is …” Have I got your attention? People are dying as your are reading this! Why should YOU care? Let’s Talk About It! Then stay tuned for our Elite Savoir Faire-A Taste of Luxury Segment LET’S TALK ABOUT IT! is our runaway hit internet radio talk show broadcast. It features exciting, timely talk with “The Celebrity Doc” on matters that concern contemporary urban dwellers. Hear informative bytes on nutrition, fitness,image management, psychosocial interactions, sexuality, preventive health and disease management, finance, politics, current events, and more! Get set for provocative guest interviews and lively, sometimes outrageous discussions with you our listeners front and center. This is YOUR show!

Behind the Scenes in the War Against DDT

Chris Gilman of Yerba Buena Perry, Debbie Gibson, Dr. Rutledge.

When I first heard about this startling documentary on the 1972-EPA ban on DDT, called “3 Billion And Counting,” I almost did a double take.

DDT was what I had sprayed on myself when I was a kid as a preventative measure against insects, including mosquitoes.

Written, produced and directed, over the course of five years, by Dr. Taylor Rutledge, the 102-minute movie is a revelation.

Rutledge says few realize that a full 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted by insects. The film debunks old 20th century beliefs about DDT being poisonous to humans, animals, the environment or cancer causing agents in humans.

The film reveals that the actual EPA DDT band hearings never before seen by the public which effectively proved the efficacy and harmlessness of DDT.

Rutledge, was quoted in a recent interview, saying: “Even the bedbugs are mounting” … referencing a possible side effect of the ban. Chillingly, the DDT ban is cited as perhaps the greatest technological genocide in world history.

Turns out that the good doctor’s better half is pop-star Debbie Gibson, in town with the doctor last week for a reception at Chris Gilman’s splendid downtown eatery Yerba Buena Perry.

There were scads of familiar faces at the event, including Aubrey Reuben from Playbill, comedian/actress Rachael Robbins, Melissa Daniels from Momentum Marketing, who sponsored the event with the restaurant, uber-publicist David Salidor, David Batista from “Entertainment Tonight,” and, Mark Scheerer from the Public News Service.

If you get the chance, check out the movie here: 3 Billion and Counting .

SOURCE

The Daily Buzz 9-30-2010

Writer, Producer & Director Dr. Rutledge talks about the buzz surrounding “3 Billion and Counting” and why he spearheaded it. The controversial documentary is completing its Academy Award qualifying run this week.

Debbie Gibson was with Dr. Rutledge during the interview that aired today on “The Daily Buzz.” Gibson scored the soundtrack for the film as well as wrote and recorded “Rise,” a song heard during the closing credits. The documentary is currently showing at Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.

For more information visit: www.3billionandcounting.com

Footage used by permission: www.dailybuzznation.net

The Daily Buzz

Debbie Gibson and her documentary directing boyfriend Dr. Rutledge Skype into The Daily Buzz to discuss her new Japanese album, Ms. Vocalist, and his new film, 3 Billion And Counting.

For more information on the album visit:

http://www.debbie-gibson.jp/

And for more information on the film visit:

http://www.3BillionAndCounting.com

Footage courtesy of: http://www.dailybuzznation.net/

Dr. Rutledge and Debbie Gibson stop by The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick

Dr. Rutledge and Debbie Gibson were in New York recently to promote is new documentary 3 Billion And Counting, which features an original song from Debbie called, Rise. The two stopped by Sirius OutQ’s morning show with Larry Flick and Keith Price to discuss the movie, bed nets, DDT, malaria and what you can do to be informed. This video features audio from that interview and stills and footage from that morning.

For more information on the documentary, visit:

www.3BillionAndCounting.com

and for more Larry Flick and Keith Price, visit:

www.siriusoutq.com

*Audio used with permission

Two new videos with Dr. Rutledge