Monday, March 28, 2005

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Baby with anterior staphyoma left eye and corneal opacity from measles seen in Jos, Nigeria last week Posted by Hello

ABC News: Anti-Vaccine Sentiment Plagues Nigeria

Measles already is a huge problem in subSaharan Africa--looks like it may get bigger...

Last year, incredibly, there was an outbreak of polio which spread to several surrounding coutries due to an identical accusation by Muslim Clerics in Nigeria regarding nefarious motivations behind vaccinations...

See picture above for a baby blinded by measles seen in Jos last week.The left eye was enucleated. Devin did an optical iridectomy in the hope of giving the baby even a slight bit of vision in the right eye.
(Thanks to Devin for the link below).

ABC News: Anti-Vaccine Sentiment Plagues Nigeria: "Accusations by Islamic preachers that vaccines are part of an American anti-Islamic plot are threatening efforts to combat a measles epidemic that has killed hundreds of Nigerian children, health workers say. "

Strangers in the Night

Like many other third world countries, one of the constants in Nigeria is the lack of reliable electricity. For example, Laurie tried to run her tiny European style washing machine over twenty times since the early am before there was finally enough electricity around 9pm to run this single load. Those who can afford it have backup systems, consisting of generators and/or a 12 volt truck battery. At other times there can be excessive voltage resulting in fans spinning wildly, appliances alarming loudly, and the everpresent risk of computer death.

I find it most disconcerting when the electricity goes out at night if I have not yet inventoried with which critters I am sharing my sleeping the complete darkness. Thus, I like most Nigerian residents, keep a flashlight with me at all times. The possibilities for roommates include cockroaches, mice, lizards, and the ever present malaria bearing mosquitoes. As long as there are no scorpions, large spiders, or snakes I find I can drift off to sleep.

Such encounters with creepy critters are more prevalent in the bush. Several days earlier I went to Miango, a somewhat rural area, to do a retina exam on a Texan named Tim M. (last name withheld in case HIPPA's tentacles extend into the African bush). He described a series of unfortunate events with snakes and scorpions that I found quite remarkable.

A week earlier his two dachsunds had been attacked by a spitting cornea resulting in severe corneal edema and transient blindness. The spitting cobra was noted by the water cooler, and was about 8 feet long. They can throw their venom ten to twelve feet. (There is a patient in the Kano eye hospital who was permanently blinded from a spitting cobra). The dogs had just recovered their vision when they were attacked by a rabid dog several days ago. Tim had also spotted a 6 inch long scorpion in the bathroom the previous night. Further, he had seen a tree viper drop down onto his roof and then into his attic several days earlier. His encounter with such intruders was not unique as his neighbor had found a puff adder in his house yesterday as well.

These events did not seem to faze Tim and his family. (I am not sure about the dogs). Tim is no stranger to danger--ten years earlier he had been held hostage for ransom in El Salvador! His past history also includes eating off a cow carcass for a week in Zambia. The cow was slaughtered in his honor by a village chief and then left in the field (no refrigerators in the bush) where it was walked on by an assortment of birds and licked by wild dogs. (Yesterday, he had visited a Fulani village where he relished a traditional bowl of sour milk with millet).

Spitting Cobra Posted by Hello

Tim, (with his wife) trying to smile and keep his eyes open in the midDay African sun after dilating his eyes for a retinal exam. Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Grateful Cataract Patient Posted by Hello

Cataract Surgery in Nigeria

This is from Devin's blog:

This photo tells why Hardeep misses the practice of medicine overseas. In America we are fortunate to have excellent medical care. Patients rightly expect good care, and have easy access to physicians. This is not so in many areas of the developing world. This man had cataract surgery in Kano, and when we removed his dressing the next day he was very happy and immediately knelt down to pray. Another reason why we do not see this in America is that patients have cataract surgery done much earlier than they do here. In the US, many patients will have the surgery done when their vision drops down to 20/40 (legal cutoff for getting a drivers licence), but here in Nigeria we
usually wait until the patient is 20/200 (legally blind). So the patients in America usually do not have the same dramatic changes the patients in Nigeria see.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Back in Jos

Devin and I made the four hour ride back to Jos today without incident... Gave out plastic bags of water to the policemen at the roadchecks. They were very appreciative as it is quite hot here!

Had a great time at ECWA eye hospital in Kano the past two days. Saw alot of interesting pathology. I will post about this later with pictures. I even got in two scleral buckles. Unfortunately the cryo unit wasn't working so I don't know what the eventual success will be. I am bringing it back to the States for repair. One of my patients was an albino. I also had an albino with a retinal detachment last year in Kano. If anyone knows of any condition in which albinism is associted with retinal detachment, please let me know.

The cataract patients are so grateful that they can see. One patient who has been blind (count fingers vision) fell to his knees in prayer in front of the entire team (about 8 of us). Saw another huge tumor in a 20 year old.

In discussions with various people here about how to improve healthcare in Nigeria, the number one answer is to decrease the corruption. However, no one has any ideas, or even hope, it seems in this vein. Apparently it is quite frequent for strikes to occur at the general hospitals, even by the doctors. The patients are left to die....It is quite sad.
But at the same time there are people and doctors who are incredibly devoted to the patients, which gives some sense of hope.

Devin and Laurie continue to be wonderful hosts...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

VVF Clinic

VVF Clinic-what is it?
It stands for vesiculo-vaginal fistula clinic. Young women often develop these fistulas here after prolonged labor. These are commonly childbrides... Due to the malodorous sequelae, they are then often released by their husband back to their parents. However, even there they may be shunned by the villagers. They are essentially outcasts of society. Nigeria has 9 vvf clinics, the most successful one is in Jos. After the corrective surgery they can stay at the hospital for as long as three months, during which time they undergo physical therapy. Laurie volunteers much of her time to help in the PT for these patients. They are very grateful to have this treatment. At the hospital in Jos they are also given vocational training, in areas such as sewing. There was apparently a big reunion of VVf patients along with their doctors and physical therapists the week before I came. I heard it was quite a celebration, replete with dancing and drumming. There were even financial sponsors who flew in from the States for the celebration!

I wish I could upload photos from here to show you the smiles of these grateful young women!

Today I did rounds in the 200 bed ECWA eye hospital in Kano and was in clinic thereafter. I saw incredibly advanced disease in all but 2 patients--many of these were kids. Tomorrow is a surgical day....Will write more about the eye disease later....

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Update from Nigeria

Hello from an internet cafe in Kano Nigeria! Just arrived in Kano with Devin today after a four hour ride from Jos.

First, internet access is nearly impossible. (Noter to self: Need to learn where Nigerian internet scammers are going for access). I am having a great time, seeing patients with severe disease who are very appreciate. For ex, today there was a patient who went from Hand motion vision to count finger vision after cataract surgery. She was just laughing and nearly dancing with joy at her new-found vision...hard to imagine similar scenario back home.

Of course seeing lots of tragic unnecessary blindness as well, e.g. 6 month old baby with measles and anterior staphyloma in one eye and dense leukoma (corneal scar) of the other eye. He underwent evisceration of the staphylomatous eye, and optical iridectomy in the other eye. This was all done under ketamine--no intubation. By the way the mother was advised to throw the baby from the bus and leave it to die as the father had died shortly after the baby's birth. But she related that "it was the fear of God" that made her keep the baby.

The ICU in the hospital is quite interesting--no running water and no ventilators! Saw a teen in ICU with probable cavernous sinus thrombosis--severly obtunded. No CT or MRI scanner available to confirm diagnosis. Abcess drained at bedside and on iv antibitics. (Thankfully iv antibiotics are available).

Saw another kid with massive hydrocephalus of unknown cause.

Overall, I am having a great time, with the only concern being for security.--Especially when driving and having to stop at numerous police checkpoints. Some of these are actually decoys for the bad guys to get you to stop so they can rob you.
Here is a link to an article about a boy who was shot on the compound last month and is now recovering in Minnesota...

Have to go--next time will try to post on great results from vesiculvaginal clinic....

Sunday, March 13, 2005

UN Millenium Project

If you are not able to access the Time magazine on poverty mentioned below, go to On the right side of the page you will see a graphic of the Time magazine cover on The End of Poverty. Click on will need Adobe Reader. There is more from Jeffrey Sachs at
(Thanks to Daniel Drezner)

Democracy Activists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

Democracy Activists on Trial in Saudi Arabia
The three Saudi Arabian democracy activists held in prison the past year for leading calls for a constitutional monarchy were sent back to jail today as their closed court trial was suspended for another three weeks so that prosecuting attorneys could gain more evidence against the defendants. The three were to be tried in August of last year, the date was pushed back to December when 9 journalists and family members were arrested for attempting to attend the trial. The trial was then postponed until February and then again pushed back to this weekend (Saturday, March 12th): Reformists Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh are also accused of "using Western terminology" in demanding political reforms. They also allegedly questioned the king's role as head of the judiciary. Only two members of the seven-strong defense team continue to attend hearings as four were dismissed by the judge and another was arrested. The crackdown on constitutional reformists has cast doubt on the government's attempts to introduce limited reforms, claimed to fit Saudi specifications rather than following a Western pattern.


Rock stars tend to cast themselves as emotional savants, folks who feel the plight of vanishing rain forests and anguished Tibetans more acutely than the rest of humanity. Bono's involvement with Africa began in typical celebrity-dilettante fashion...But then Bono and his wife traveled to Wello, Ethiopia, and spent six weeks working at an orphanage. "You'd wake up in the morning, and mist would be lifting," Bono recalls. "You'd walk out of your tent, and you'd count bodies of dead and abandoned children. Or worse, the father of a child would walk up to you and try to give you his living child and say, 'You take it, because if this is your child, it won't die.'"...
The experience remained with him through 1999, when he joined the Jubilee 2000 movement. Jubilee 2000's aim was to get the U.S. and other wealthy nations, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to erase the public debt of 52 of the world's poorest countries, most of them in Africa. By wiping $350 billion from their books, these countries would be free to spend money on health care and education, rather than pay down the principal on loans floated by corrupt and sometimes long-gone governments. ...
"I know how absurd it is to have a rock star talk about the World Health Organization or debt relief or HIV/AIDS in Africa," Bono says. But he also knows that no one else with his kind of access to media and money has taken on the job. In an effort to keep the discussion serious and avoid the appearance of being just another rocker against bad things, he refrains from treating Africa as an emotional issue. "We don't argue compassion," he says. His argument is pragmatic, not preachy. "We put it in the most crass terms possible; we argue it as a financial and security issue for America...There are potentially another 10 Afghanistans in Africa, and it is cheaper by a factor of 100 to prevent the fires from happening than to put them out." ...
"What we're all on about is: Africa. Seventy percent of the problem of HIV/AIDS is in Africa. We're talking about the continent bursting into flames while we stand around with watering cans. That's our one idea. But the closer you get to the policymakers, you need specificity, and you need to know what you're talking about. I'd go in and talk about debt relief, debt relief, debt relief, and people would say, 'But that's only part of the picture here.'"
At 41, Bono says, he has given up on music as a political force. He believes his work negotiating in political back rooms is more vital and effective than singing in sold-out stadiums...
Music does make a difference in one way; it sways people emotionally. But for Bono that is no longer enough: "When you sing, you make people vulnerable to change in their lives. You make yourself vulnerable to change in your life. But in the end, you've got to become the change you want to see in the world.(italics mine).I'm actually not a very good example of that--I'm too selfish, and the right to be ridiculous is something I hold too dear--but still, I know it's true."
Link:,10987,1001931,00.html?promoid=AM2 (subscription required)

Who's Zooming Who?

I am currently in England at London Heathrow. I am nearing the end of an 8 hour layover before the 6 hour flight to Abuja. On my way to England I attended a meeting sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. Having never been to such a meeting, I expected it to essentially consist of aggressive, biased presentations in favor of the company's products. However, much to my surprise, there was actually more science here than at the supposedly neutral society meetings.With the increasingly intricate involvement between academic centers and big pharma drug trials, many presentations at e.g., the AAO and ASER have turned into blatant advertisements for various drugs. This trend seems to have markedly accelerated over the past 5 years. (I have been going to such meetings for the past 15 years). Note:I am not necessarily blaming academic centers for jumping into partnerships with various pharm. companies, but some of the presentations are so over the top it is rather embarassing...

However, at the meeting I attended yesterday there was really very little "fluff." Instead detailed analyses of various treatment options for macular degeneration were reviewed in minute detail. Future treatment options were thoughtfully debated. I was thoroughly impressed. It was probably one of the best meetings I have attended in the last few years.

But it sure makes my head spin to see more biased presentations at society meetings than at a drug company sponsored meeting...

Friday, March 11, 2005

Going to Nigeria

Well, I am about to head off to a one day meeting in Atlanta followed by a loooong flight to Nigeria. I am not sure how much internet access I will have. But I will try to keep you updated from there if possible.

Please make sure you check out the Time magazine article on global poverty. I found it quite interesting.

Also, Elizabeth Vargas, co-anchor of the TV show "20/20" will have a compelling feature on Cambodian refugees and orphans March 18th. I won't be in the States, but hopefully you will get a chance to watch it.


James Nachtwey, an incredible photographer, also has a photo essay accompanying the Time magazine article Posted by Hello

TIME Magazine: The End of Poverty (6)

Excellent Book Excerpt in this week's Time magazine...written by someone who knows what they are talking about. If you can't get the magazine, let me know and I will try and email you the article on my return to the States.
TIME Magazine: The End of Poverty (6): "The outside world has pat answers concerning extremely impoverished countries, especially those in Africa. Everything comes back, again and again, to corruption and misrule. Western officials argue that Africa simply needs to behave itself better, to allow market forces to operate without interference by corrupt rulers. Yet the critics of African governance have it wrong. Politics simply can't explain Africa's prolonged economic crisis. The claim that Africa's corruption is the basic source of the problem does not withstand serious scrutiny. During the past decade I witnessed how relatively well-governed countries in Africa, such as Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Senegal, failed to prosper, whereas societies in Asia perceived to have extensive corruption, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, enjoyed rapid economic growth. "

Thursday, March 10, 2005

NPR : Rokia Traore in Concert

I have been listening to this female vocalist over the past 6 months. Check out the link to listen to her music. I really love her voice!

NPR : Rokia Traore in Concert: ", March 9, 2005 . In 1998, singer Rokia Traore hit the international music scene with a unique blend of modern sounds and traditional roots. Since then, the Malian chanteuse and songwriter has gained a devoted worldwide following.
From a live performance at New York's Zankel Hall, Creators at Carnegie presents an hour of music from Traor�. Accompanied by spare African instruments and subtle harmonies, her voice is intimate and mesmerizing. By the end of the show, she has the entire audience dancing."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Row Over Detention of Woman�s Rescuers

There seems to be new and surprising trend here...another article critical of Muttawahs in the Arab News!
Row Over Detention of Woman's Rescuers: "JEDDAH, 10 March 2005 � A group of men were detained by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for trying to help a woman who screamed for help as she was being forcibly taken away by commission members. The incident occurred in a market in Taif."...

Salah went on to say that there should be no force in Islam. “Even though commission members play a positive role in combating alcohol and drug violations and brothels, they do sometimes overstep their limits and go beyond their jurisdiction. Also the man in the car should be punished in public to deter others from such behavior but I don’t approve of exposing a woman because a woman’s reputation is precious.”

The Triumph of Socialized Medicine - Right here in the USA. By Timothy�Noah

At first I thought this was going to be a satirical piece--the VA the pinnacle of health care in America?! I agree with this comment on the article:
"You can read all the reports you want, and that is certainly one way to start looking at an issue. But at the same time, I wonder if Tim Noah has spent any time, like say one nano-second, in a VA hospital.

Now, I've never sought treatment as such a facility, and never would because the idea of it scares the crap out of me, but I have helped some elderly friends and acquanitances get treated in the two in my area. To say the care is equal to, or indeed superior to, other hospitals and health care is a lie of the most scary type.

Besides working in run-down facilities with obsolete equipment, the places are staffed with new doctors and MD wannabes. Some who are not likely to be able to make it anywhere else, but there they are at the VA. The non-doctor staff is comprised mostly of contract labor - medical personnel that are at the VA today, but will be somewhere else next week, or next month.

And who has ever worked with any government entity and not said out loud in experation "that's the dumbest bunch of #%$^&#$ I've ever had to deal with". Yes that's what you get with this government entity, too.

I suggest Mr. Noah take one of his loved ones there the next time they need major medical attention, and then rewrite his column and see if he agrees with this article."

The Triumph of Socialized Medicine - Right here in the USA. By TimothyNoah

The New York Times > Technology > Doctors' Journal Says Computing Is No Panacea

Based on my evalutation of several systems at the last AAO meeting, I agree with the last author's comment--these systems force you to wrap yourself around the technology like a pretzel...

The New York Times > Technology > Doctors' Journal Says Computing Is No Panacea: "he Bush administration and many health experts have declared that the nation's health care system needs to move quickly from paper records and prescriptions into the computer age. Modern information technology, they insist, can deliver a huge payoff: fewer medical errors, lower costs and better care.
But research papers and an editorial published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association cast doubt on the wisdom of betting heavily that information technology can transform health care anytime soon.
One paper, based on a lengthy study at a large teaching hospital, found 22 ways that a computer system for physicians could increase the risk of medication errors. Most of these problems, the authors said, were created by poorly designed software that too often ignored how doctors and nurses actually work in a hospital setting.
The likelihood of errors was increased"...

Another article in the journal looked at 100 trials of computer systems intended to assist physicians in diagnosing and treating patients. It found that most of the glowing assessments of those clinical decision support systems came from technologists who often had a hand in designing the systems...

These systems force people to wrap themselves around the technology like a pretzel instead of making sure the technology is responsive to the people doing the work," said Ross J. Koppel, the principal author

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

beliefnet: David Kuo asks whether buying an $800 baby stroller is an immoral choice.

beliefnet: David Kuo asks whether buying an $800 baby stroller is an immoral choice.: "My wife and I could conceivably afford an $800 stroller, especially when we compare it to how much college will one day cost. And I've actually done a fairly good job convincing her that it might be a necessity. I'm really tall, and the Bugaboo's push-handle design is comfortable for tall people. The stroller converts into many different configurations, which I take to mean we wouldn't have to spend money on a lot of other equipment. It is likely to last for a long time and maybe even be around for another baby, should one come our way. VH1 featured it as the hot item for celebrity moms and dads. How could I deprive my child of this stroller?

But then I read Ron Sider's statistics about poverty. Nearly three billion people try to survive on less than $2 a day. A million people a year have been added to the ranks of the American poor since 2000. Then I hear that the Unique Learning Center here in Washington, D.C.,the charity the President recently lauded in a faith-based speech that gets kids off the streets, into a safe place, giving them dreams for an educational future is in danger of closing down because funds have dried up. In the face of all the needs, can I allow myself to spring for this Bugaboo stroller? "

Science & Technology at Scientific Eye Contact Triggers Threat Response in Autistic Children

Science & Technology at Scientific Eye Contact Triggers Threat Response in Autistic Children

Monday, March 07, 2005

Rhesus monkeys can assess the visual perspective of others when competing for food

Rhesus monkeys can assess the visual perspective of others when competing for food: "These latest results, however, suggest that rhesus monkeys can do much more than just follow the gaze of others; they can also deduce what others see and know, based only on their perception of where others are looking. These data potentially push back the time during which our own abilities to 'read the minds of others' must have evolved. Moreover, they suggest strongly a reason why these abilities may have evolved in the first place, namely for competitive interactions with others. Finally, these results lay the groundwork for investigating the neural basis for this kind of social reasoning in a readily available laboratory animal � an urgent endeavor for developing a better neural understanding of diseases such as autism, in which this kind of social reasoning appears impaired. "

Amarji - A Heretic's Blog: Rumors, Facts and Heresies!

Amarji - A Heretic's Blog: Rumors, Facts and Heresies!: "The City�s air is rife with all sorts of untoward rumors, everything is now possible: there is talk of arrests, purges, coup d��tats, assassinations, sanctions, invasions, anything and everything, except, of course, freedom. Everything is possible except freedom. Freedom is never mentioned. Freedom never comes to mind. Freedom remains a distant dream.

The world is changing around us, but we, Damascenes, Syrians, Sunnis, �Alawis, Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Circassians, or however we define ourselves these days, including perhaps heretics, can�t feel any hope in that. Nothing has touched us so far. Nothing seems to loom in the air, except for rumors and hearsays, none of which particularly inspired or inspiring. The face of an ugly and malevolent god still stares down upon any possibility of hope within us."

The Speculist: All Our Tomorrows

Freezeframe--the problem of time solved? The first step toward time travel? All past moments rediscoverable? Check out the link...

The Speculist: All Our Tomorrows:
Barbour is a an award-winning British physicist. A few years back, he set out to solve one of the biggest problems in physics, the gap between the classical model of the universe and the quantum model. ... Barbour looked at both models, and he re-crunched the numbers, and he came up with a solution that makes the two theories work together. If his findings are confirmed, it's going to be one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in history. But that's not all. Something emerged with Barbour's solution: something completely unexpected. What emerged is a picture of the universe unlike anything that science has ever considered before." (Click on the link to read more...)

Saturday, March 05, 2005 News | U.N.: AIDS may kill 80m Africans by 2025 News | U.N.: AIDS may kill 80m Africans by 2025: "March 4, 2005 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- More than 80 million Africans may die from AIDS by 2025, the United Nations said in a report released Friday, and infections could soar to 90 million -- or more than 10 percent of the continent's population -- if more isn't done soon to fight the disease.
More than 25 million African have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. UNAIDS estimated that nearly $200 billion is needed to save 16 million people from death and 43 million people from becoming infected, but donors have pledged nowhere near that amount. "...

UNAIDS has reported that life expectancy in nine countries has dropped to below 40 because of the disease. There are already 11 million orphans because of AIDS, while 6,500 people are dying each day. In 2004, 3.1 million Africans were newly infected, the agency said.

"If by 2025, millions of African people are still becoming infected with HIV each year, these scenarios suggest that it will not be because there was no choice," the report said. "It will be because, collectively, there was insufficient political will to change behavior at all levels, from the institution, to the community, to the individual, and halt the forces driving the AIDS epidemic in Africa."

Bono for the World Bank

Bono for the World Bank: "Bono, the U2 rock star, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he is a credible candidate. But we have a better idea on how best to recognize his effective lobbying on behalf of African development Bono should be named the next president of the World Bank."...

Bono could enhance the World Bank's image and sell its poverty-reduction mission far more effectively than the other deserving candidates being mentioned for the job, which traditionally goes to an American — a tradition that deserves to be broken, even if not in favor of the Irish rock star.

For one thing, Bono could mobilize public opinion in favor of getting rich nations to abide by their commitments to development aid, which they rarely meet.

Inseminating elephant takes 2 Germans, an ultrasound and a very long wait

Who you gonna call? The Berlin Boys...

Inseminating elephant takes 2 Germans, an ultrasound and a very long wait: "It is no small feat to artificially impregnate an elephant. "...To begin with, it isn't easy to pin down precisely when Chai is ovulating. She only does this three times a year, and the hormonal signals are complex and not that analogous to the human estrus cycle.

Secondly, there are no male elephants here, so semen had to be collected and flown in fresh from a zoo elephant in Tulsa, Okla., and a donor in Los Angeles -- a bull who works part-time in the film industry.
And all this had to be choreographed to coincide with the arrival from Thailand of the "Berlin Boys" -- two German scientists world-renowned for their innovative methods in overcoming some of the special obstacles to assisted reproduction in elephants....Last night in the elephant house, a scaffold was erected at the business end of Chai so Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt, from the Berlin Institute for Zoo Biology and Wildlife Research, had easy access. Hildebrandt was covered in plastic protective gear and sporting a bike helmet he had equipped with ultrasound imaging goggles. Read the article for further details...and photos....

Mukhtaran Bibi Posted by Hello

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: When Rapists Walk Free

Whatever you might think of the New York Times and/or Nicholas Kristoff, he is the one mainstream journalist who consistently uses his voice to remind the world of the plight of suffering and oppressed....

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: When Rapists Walk Free:

"One of the gutsiest people on earth is Mukhtaran Bibi. And after this week, she'll need that courage just to survive.
Mukhtaran, a tall, slim young woman who never attended school as a child, lives in a poor and remote village in the Punjab area of Pakistan. As part of a village dispute in 2002, a tribal council decided to punish her family by sentencing her to be gang-raped. She begged and cried, but four of her neighbors immediately stripped her and carried out the sentence. Then her tormenters made her walk home naked while her father tried to shield her from the eyes of 300 villagers.
Mukhtaran was meant to be so shamed that she would commit suicide. But in a society where women are supposed to be soft and helpless, she proved indescribably tough, and she found the courage to live. She demanded the prosecution of her attackers, and six were sent to death row.
She received $8,300 in compensation and used it to start two schools in the village, one for boys and one for girls, because she feels that education is the best way to change attitudes like those that led to the attack on her. Illiterate herself, she then enrolled in her own elementary school."...

Until two days ago, she was thriving. Then - disaster.

A Pakistani court overturned the death sentences of all six men convicted in the attack on her and ordered five of them freed. They are her neighbors and will be living alongside her. Mukhtaran was in the courthouse and collapsed in tears, fearful of the risk this brings to her family....

Mukhtaran's life illuminates what will be the central moral challenge of this century, the brutality that is the lot of so many women and girls in poor countries. For starters, because of inattention to maternal health, a woman dies in childbirth in the developing world every minute.

In Pakistan, if a woman reports a rape, four Muslim men must generally act as witnesses before she can prove her case. Otherwise, she risks being charged with fornication or adultery - and suffering a public whipping and long imprisonment.

Mukhtaran is a hero. She suffered what in her society was the most extreme shame imaginable - and emerged as a symbol of virtue. She has taken a sordid story of perennial poverty, gang rape and judicial brutality and inspired us with her faith in the power of education - and her hope.

Friday, March 04, 2005

This is sick--I totally agree with the comments of Amy Wellborn below...

Who is Matt Taibbi
Apparently, he's not twelve. Apparently he's an actual journalist who appears to be an adult.
Could have fooled me. Could have fooled the world, judging from his piece in the NYPress: The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of The Pope
52.Pope pisses himself just before the end; gets all over nurse.
51.After death, saggy, furry tits of dead Pope begin inexorable process of melting away into nothingness, like coldest of Sno-cones under faintest of suns.
50.Pope survives just long enough to be acquired by Isiah Thomas for Stephon Marbury, 2005 #1 pick and cash considerations. "We feel like we've made ourselves younger and more competitive," Thomas says.
49.After beating for the last time, Pope's heart sits there like a piece of hamburger.
48.Whole world waiting until the last minute for a sudden improvement of his condition. Long lines of girls in the Philippines kneeling and praying. Catholics everywhere with ears pressed to radios, transfixed. Pope gives one last groan, spits, dies.
47.Upon death, Pope's face frozen in sickening smile, eyes wide open and teeth exposed, like a baboon.
46.Beetles eating Pope's dead brains.

Amy Wellborn: "This is pathological. It's insane. It's evidence of a mind so distant from reality, so shut off from basic human feeling that one wonders why they're letting him have access to a computer, instead of keeping him locked up, counting his toes.
Here's the thing, my friends: gripe all you want about the bad old conservative pope, the repression and oppression he supposedly represents, his legacy of "traditionalism" that is supposedly such a bad's the alternative. Here are his enemies, those who despise him the most.
Dig those values. Dig that worldview. Live it. Love it. It's yours, all yours...."

The Movie is the Message

Has the movie, "Hotel Rwanda" helped the people of Darfur???

The Movie is the Message: "Hotel Rwanda is an act of memory against forgetting, a reminder to the world -- from presidents and policy makers to ordinary people in front of their TVs--that it turned away as 800,000 people were butchered, in plain sight, in 100 days. (There's a quiet but telling moment in the film where an American photojournalist, on viewing film footage of a massacre, sadly observes, ' 'people will see it, say 'Oh, that's awful,' and go back to their dinners.' And so it proved.) And it's a summons to act now -- to give meaning to the words 'Never again.'
Even before the Oscar nominations, the film had generated a great deal of public and private interest, thanks in large part to a publicity team comprising, in addition to PR types, humanitarian organizations and nonprofits dedicated to grassroots change. Amnesty International has had the largest hand in advocating for Hotel Rwanda, its effort spearheaded by Bonnie Abaunza, the director of Artists for Amnesty, a program that, as the name suggests, promotes Amnesty's work through the arts.
When she first heard about Hotel Rwanda, Abaunza approached MGM/United Artists with a proposal: Amnesty would mobilize its membership to promote the film; the film, in turn, would help generate interest and contributions for Amnesty's biggest current campaign: the fight for humanitaritan relief and international action in Darfur, Sudan, where an ethnic cleansing campaign has caused tens of thousands of deaths and made refugees of more than 1.8 million people. The UN has called the conflict the worst humanitarian crisis in the world; millions are expected to die of hunger and disease anyway. Although response to Sudan has been better than response to the Rwandan genocide, says Abaunza, it still falls short of what is needed. "

For a gripping video interview from Lt. General Romeo Dallaire on a first hand account of the massacres in Rwanda please check out this link (it is definitely worth checking out!) :
Click on the link:
Then click on where it says "watch."

Saudi Arabia Joins Calls for Syria Pullout

Saudi Arabia Joins Calls for Syria Pullout

Syria has been adamant that its soldiers will not leave Lebanon until a peace deal is struck with Israel. Damascus' key negotiating chip for peace talks is its control of Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon on the Israeli border, a leverage it may lose if it withdraws.

"Syria says, 'Well, what are we going to get for [withdrawal]?' " said Mohammed Sayed Said, director of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

"The Americans are calling the Syrian bluff for nothing and forcing Syrians to come to their knees."

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are trying to bridge the uncomfortable gap between the United States and Syria, he said. The three are U.S. allies and among the most powerful voices in the Arab world.

"They don't have much of an answer to tell the Syrians, but they certainly don't want Syria to play tough," Said said. "They want to save Syria, but in a way they want to save Syria against its own will."

The call from Saudi Arabia is significant because it was the host of the Taif Accord in 1989 that ended Lebanon's grueling, 15-year civil war. The agreement, under the auspices of the Arab League, also gave international approval for Syrian troops to remain in Lebanon to keep the peace between the country's warring sects.

news @ makes sweet music-Professional musician distinguishes intervals with her tongue.

news @ makes sweet music-

Professional musician distinguishes intervals with her tongue.
: "Elizabeth Sulston was at school when she first noticed that she saw colours while hearing music. She realized that the same was not true of her peers, although linkage of tone and colour is a known synaesthetic combination.

As she began to learn music more formally, she found that when hearing particular tone intervals she experienced a characteristic taste on her tongue. For example, a minor third tasted salty to her, whereas a minor sixth tasted like cream. She started to use the tastes to help her recognize different chords. "

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Now this is Medicine in the Trenches!!!!

As many of you know I will be going to visit Devin and Laurie in Nigeria in a few weeks. They shared with me an incredible story of doing heart surgery on a patient shot in the chest with arrows----with no heart-lung machine! This is an inspirational story and they have given me permission to share it:

"This story is so great that it just has to be told. About a month ago, a patient traveled hundreds of miles to come to Evangel Hospital. This patient had been attacked and shot by 2 arrows, one in the heart and one in the right lower chest area. He was from up North, so he traveled to several different towns trying to find someone who could help him. Thankfully, no one tried to pull out the arrows. He was finally told to go to Jos and maybe the surgeon there could help him. He was traveling by public transport from place to place. Now, if you’ve never experienced public transport in a third world country, it is something to see. Picture about 16 people with luggage, babies, chickens etc. crammed into a van that we would think would accommodate 8 people. Then you add potholes in the road, etc to feel every bump.

So he arrived, four days later, with 2 arrows sticking out of him. One was swaying back and forth with every beat of his heart because it was imbedded in the heart. Dr. Ardill was the surgeon who began to operate on him. When he removed the arrow from the heart, the heart started to bleed profusely. Miraculously, he was able to sew up the heart and got the bleeding to stop. Keep in mind that Dr. Ardill is a very gifted surgeon, but not a heart surgeon and there is no fancy equipment here like a heart-lung machine. Dr. Anthis and Devin also scrubbed in on the case to assist! The arrow was also removed from the chest and that was sewn up. Everyone around was amazed that the man was alive and made it through the surgery.

As this man recovered in the days following his surgery, he realized that he had been as good as dead, yet had been miraculously saved. This man was Fulani (who typically herd cows) and from a very strict Muslim background...He will be facing a lot of persecution, though, when those around him find out that he is now a Christian. I heard today that some Muslims have found out about his conversion to Christianity and are now trying to get him to convert back with offers of money and paying his hospital bills."

Fulani Heart Patient Posted by Hello

Transportation in Nigeria Posted by Hello

Should a Woman Cover Her Face?

I am absolutely amazed that this article has been published in the Arab News....change is a'comin'....

Should a Woman Cover Her Face?: "Worse still, there is a government body known as The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. It is known generally as the mutawaa, or religious police, and they operate all over the Kingdom without laws or written guidelines.
Their mission is to stop corruption in society, which honestly they have been doing very well. They shut down brothels, crack down on drug traffickers, and detain people who do forbidden things in our cities and towns. For that we give them credit. At the same time, complaints from the public against the narrow-mindedness of some of the organization's members are on the increase. Instead of being something to be proud of, most members of the public fear the organization as if everyone in it were phantoms or bogeymen."

He then goes on to describe an experience than many of us who have lived in Saudi have had:

I personally have had my own experiences with them. The last was a few months ago when one of them approached me and my family in the mall. The shock was not that I found two bearded young men in a public mall, yelling at women who were violating what they believe is a dress code but that the two young men were not members of the commission. “Excuse me, are you from the commission?” I asked one of them after he gave a lecture which in sum was that a woman must cover her face in public as a sign of purity.
“Why do you want to know?” he asked. And I answered, “I am from the media. And my understanding is that every commission member must wear a name tag, according to what the head, Ibrahim Al-Ghaith, said in an interview with Okaz.”
After some hesitation, he said, “No. I am not from the commission. What difference does that make? As a Muslim, you should be happy when a brother Muslim gives you advice and even if I were from the commission, what would you do?” he challenged.
For some reason, I did not want to engage in further discussion with him so I said, “Thank you for your advice” and my family and I walked away. We could still hear him yelling, “The abaya is not on the shoulders!” “Cover your face, woman”!

Now for the most astonishing part of the article:

Yesterday, a local newspaper reported that a member of the commission was sentenced to lashes and imprisonment because he had defamed a woman in public because she did not cover her face. The male member of the family refused to forgive him and brought two witnesses to court who testified that they heard the man use unprintable words to the woman. I personally have spoken to people whose family members have experienced the same treatment from members of this commission. Is this what things have come to in Saudi Arabia?

Convincing People to Take a Small Step

Good article by Abeer Mishkhas on political awareness and elections in Saudi

Convincing People to Take a Small Step

How else can we know if it is worth it or not? If men stay home saying that there is no use in voting, then I suggest we give up on any development in our lives and our country!

It is strange that women are so passionate about change and taking part in building society whereas men, who hold all the cards by default, refuse to exercise their new right.

Last week in a press briefing, Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that in many cases, the government’s designs for change are stifled by public resistance. One hopes that our people begin looking around them, see how the world is changing and decide they want to catch up with the rest of the world.

Hospital Tries to Pre-Empt Probe Into Conditions

Hospital Tries to Pre-Empt Probe Into Conditions: "Corrupt AIDS Cook-Up� by Rashid Al-Zahrani appeared in Okaz Arabic daily on Friday. A translation of the article follows:
�A journalist from an English-language newspaper ran like the wind from the lobby of a hospital in Jeddah which has a quarantined AIDS ward after he was arrested for taking pictures of a patient. When hospital staff and security witnessed this, they made every effort to get the film from the reporter and finally succeeded in doing so. Sources said that the reporter had approached the hospital administration seeking information about AIDS patients but that the administration had refused to talk to him. As he was leaving, he spoke to some members of staff after convincing them that he had �permission� to talk to them and to photograph patients. The staff soon learned that this was not true and that he was making up the story.�
What really happened at King Saud Hospital 10 days ago involved my colleague Roger Harrison, a female trainee and me. As part of an Arab News investigation into conditions there, we were paying an unscheduled visit to the hospital which has an AIDS ward. Arab News had learned that patients were locked in their rooms and were not being given life-prolonging anti-viral medication for as long as it took for them to be deported � sometimes as long as three years."


Fundamentals target muslims too....
Publications: "Conclusions
Despite their rhetoric of defending Muslims from the West and its allies, Jihadists regard those Muslims who do not follow their extremist agenda as little better than infidels. Terrorists are just as likely to kill Muslims as non-Muslims.
Despite their religious rhetoric, Jihadists attack Muslims on religious holidays, at prayer and in their mosques.
Many terrorist attacks take place in Muslim majority countries, costing Muslim lives, damaging infrastructure and impeding economic development."

From The Mesoptamian

Just a quick word: Almost all the important western and international capitals issued their condemnation and expressed their condolences and sympathies on the occasion of the carnage that took place in Hilla. Only the Arabs were quiet and nothing was heard from them. So, it seems that the blood of Iraqis does not concern them much, or worst still, perhaps they were secretly pleased and gratified at the event. Now, this is very serious. It is disturbing. Add to it that almost everybody in Iraq is firmly convinced that the perpetrators of suicide attacks in particular are all non-Iraqi Arabs albeit with the collusion of some Iraqis, you can understand the general feeling towards the Arab “brothers” that is dominating the Iraqi street right now.The tragedy is that our problem does not seem to be with the regimes only, but also with the ordinary people themselves of these Arab countries. And this also recalls to mind the cheering crowds that greeted the news of 9/11 of the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in the U.S.; this is serious friends; this is very serious.Anyway, as far as we are concerned; we assure you that revenge will come and those responsible for these horrors will be punished; though the majority of the people are showing the fortitude and patience of early Christians. Because, you see, we know exactly where these criminals are, which tribes they belong to, where are the filthy huts they are living in. We know that these are and have been bandits and murderers from time immemorial. Do you think that those millions who braved the threats and terror and came out to vote in broad daylight cannot overwhelm and obliterate these miserable enclaves of thieves, brigands and murderers in one furious and hurricane-like convulsion; were it were not for strict instruction from their religious leaders to persevere and forbear, for fear that innocents might be hurt, and in order not to be goaded into sectarian conflict and jeopardize our march to democracy and a decent society?The mood, though, is that of bitterness , pain and sorrow as we watch the bodies of our young people being ferried in wooden carts like the fresh meet of carcasses in a slaughterhouse. Holy anger is swelling up, not only against the perpetrators, but also against all who seek to find excuses, glorify the foul murderers by such appellations as “insurgents” or worst still “resistors” and such like; against the theorists and the “commentators”; against anybody who even shows indifference to such heinous butchery.Yet the decent majority of Mesopotamia will not bend to anything. The Genie has been released from the bottle and no force on earth can stop him.All we can say is: Inna Lillah Wa Inna Ileihi Rajioun: “We are all to God, and to him we shall return”.

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Right to be angryExcerpt: From The Messopotamian:Just a quick word: Almost all the important western and international capitals issued their condemnationWeblog: The BellmanTracked: 03.02.05 - 6:21 am

NPR : Safety of Medical Residents' Long Hours Questioned

NPR : Safety of Medical Residents' Long Hours Questioned: "The Risks of Fatigue

Other researchers have explored risks associated with fatigue among medical interns. Among the findings:

� The impairment associated with 24 hours of sleep loss is comparable to that associated with a 0.10 percent blood alcohol concentration.

� The average reaction time triples when individuals are awake for 24 consecutive hours. The slowest 10 percent of reaction times increase in duration by nearly 10 times.

� Attentional failures occur frequently after being awake for 24 hours. These failures occurred twice as often at night among interns working 30-hour shifts, as compared to those same interns when they were scheduled to work no more than 16 consecutive hours.

� Interns working 30-hour shifts in an intensive care unit made 36 percent more serious medical errors, including 5.6 times more serious diagnostic errors, as compared to those same interns when they were scheduled to work no more than 16 consecutive hours."

Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the World's Poorest Citizens, Makes His Case - Knowledge@Wharton

Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the World's Poorest Citizens, Makes His Case - Knowledge@Wharton: "Last year, a panel of judges from Wharton joined with Nightly Business Report, the most-watched daily business program on U.S. television, to name the 25 most influential business people of the last 25 years. On that list was Muhammad Yunus, managing director of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and a pioneer in the practice of microcredit lending. Grameen Bank received formal recognition as a private independent bank in 1983 and, as of this month, had dispersed close to $5 billion in loans to four million borrowers, 96% of them women. Grameen's strategy is to offer miniscule loans to very poor people, giving them the means to generate income and work their way out of poverty. Yunus was featured in a book entitled, Lasting Leadership: Lessons from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times, co-authored by Knowledge@Wharton and Nightly Business Report. He was recently interviewed by NBR's Linda O'Bryon while attending the World Health Congress in Washington, D.C. "

If these college students from Texas want to display their sardonic wit, then why don't take they take up a serious cause, like the 30,000 people who die everyday of poverty? Posted by Hello

Unbelievable... Posted by Hello

Young Conservatives of Texas -

Young Conservatives of Texas - "A University of North Texas conservative group's demonstration, in which students who captured people posing as illegal immigrants received a candy bar reward, angered some on campus and amused others Wednesday.
The university's chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas held 'Capture an Illegal Immigrant Day' on campus to call for tougher enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Some members of the group wore orange shirts that said 'Illegal Immigrant' on the front and 'Catch me if U can' on the back."

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Sister Dorothy's Killers

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Sister Dorothy's Killers: "ast month, in the Amazon state of Par� in Brazil, gunmen stopped an American nun on the road and killed her. According to her traveling companions, the nun, Dorothy Stang, read to her killers from her Bible before she was shot.
Sister Dorothy, born in Ohio but a naturalized Brazilian, had been an advocate for the rural poor since the early 1970's, helping peasants make a living by farming small plots and extracting forest products without deforestation. She also sought to protect them from criminal gangs after their land.
The public murder of an American nun is not just a ghastly crime - it's a message. Land-grabbers are telling the government that they run Par�. Brazil's government has fought back with resolve, but it remains to be seen whether the government is strong enough to prove Par�'s land-grabbers wrong.
Violence in Par� is not new, but it has intensified because a stretch of highway is about to be paved to create an all-weather road to carry products to markets. The value of land has suddenly soared, and land-grabbers are killing peasants and burning their houses to seize their property. They cut down trees for the timber and sell the cleared land to cattle ranchers or soybean farmers.
In the days since Sister Dorothy's murder, the government has sent 2,000 troops to keep order in Par�, announced a ban on logging in 20 million acres along the new highway and established two more federally protected parts of the forest. The challenge will be to make these changes stick. The additional troops should not be a short-term gesture, but the start of establishing the rule of law. Enforcing forest protection will be difficult because loggers have long done as they pleased. It is also hugely important to establish clear land titles.
Finally, the g"

New Scientist Breaking News - Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon

New Scientist Breaking News - Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon: "The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture."

Armies of Liberation � ****LETTER FROM A SANA�A JAIL****

Armies of Liberation � ****LETTER FROM A SANA�A JAIL****: "(Dear Friends and Fellow Freedom Lovers,
I never thought I'd get to use the stars but we the blogosphere recieved the following letter from Mr. Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani smuggled out of the central prison in Sana�a, Yemen.
I have been advocating for his release since his imprisonment in September as I am convinced that he is a politcal prisoner. He is a newspaper editor, a pro-democracy advocate, and a Yemeni patriot. There are several articles on my sidebar that explain his case more fully.
Kindly read his letter, portions of which are deleted as he is already in jail for insulting the president. If upon hearing from him directly, you wish demonstrate solidarity with this man, kindly sign this petition. Futhermore, please feel free to copy the letter to your site and link to the petition not to me. "

A spiritual treatment?

A spiritual treatment?: "The Hmong spiritual tradition believes in multiple souls, explains Kang Ye Yang, 70, the shaman who performed the woman's ceremony. 'Western medicine doesn't believe in spirits,' Yang said through a translator. 'That is why so many patients die in hospitals. The doctors treat the body, but they have nothing for the spirits.'

That night, the shaman began by burning incense and throwing animal horns to communicate with the spirits. The burning herbs' sweet scent filled the room as the family and Culhane-Pera watched the priest balance the incense across a large bowl. He then plunged a knife through the smoldering bundle. The shaman entered a trance, communicating with unseen spirits until he determined that one of the woman's souls had returned to Laos for reincarnation. A long ceremony would bring it back."

At the hospital, the surgeon invited the shaman to join him as he reviewed the case and prepared for surgery...

A 1998 study of physicians found that 64% say they believe in God, contrasted with 95% of all Americans. "A lot of us don't believe in spirituality per se; we're more science based. I'm not sure I can relate to a patient's spirituality."

...Although a 1994 study found that 77% of Americans felt physicians should address patients' spiritual needs, the same study discovered that only 11% of doctors actually participate in such discussions.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Frozen Mermaids, Scary Sirens

Funny writing from Maureen Dowd at the

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Frozen Mermaids, Scary Sirens: "Others found the Oscars boring; I found the show slightly alarming.

I used to worry that women were heading toward one face. Sometimes in affluent settings, like the Oscars or the shoe department at Bergdorf's, you see a bunch of eerily similar women with oddly off-track features - Botox-smoothed Formica foreheads, collagen-protruding lips, surgically narrowed noses, taut jaws - who look like sisters from another planet.

It's like that futuristic Sylvester Stallone movie 'Demolition Man,' set in 2032, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as president and Taco Bell as the sole survivor of the Franchise Wars.

In the future, there will be only one face. And if the Oscars are predictive, there will be only one body - big chest, skinny body - and one style. It was bizarre how actress after actress came out in the same mermaid silhouette: a strapless sheath with a trumpet-flared or ruffled skirt."

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Brave, Young and Muslim

The latest from Friedman on the nascent reform movement in the world of Islam....
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Brave, Young and Muslim: "Of course, many Americans are surprised by this. America has treated the Arab-Muslim states for 50 years as a collection of gas stations. All we cared about was that their pumps were open and their prices low, and that they be nice to the Israelis. As long as the regimes did that, we said, they could do whatever they wanted 'out back.' They could treat their women however they wanted, they could write about America in their newspapers however they wanted, and they could preach intolerance of other religions all they wanted - just keep their pumps open and prices low and be nice to the Israelis. On 9/11, we got hit with everything that was going on 'out back.'"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Informed Comment

For all who have asked, here is an excellent summary of Lebanese history by the historian, Juan Cole. Be sure to go to the link to get a complete history!

Informed Comment: "It is often pointed out that presidents get too much praise and blame for the economy, since the domestic economy has its own rhythms. We are now going to see everything that happens in the Middle East attributed to George W. Bush, whether he had much to do with it or not (usually not).

What is now Lebanon consists of relatively hilly territory along the eastern Mediterranean coast. The mountains allowed small and often heterodox religious groups to survive, since the mountain inhabitants were relatively isolated and central governments had a difficult time getting hold of them. On the broad plains of Syria, governments could encourage conversion to Islam, then to Shiism, then to Sunnism, and most of the population went along. In the mountains near the coast, the population stuck to its guns. Thus, the Maronite Christians resisted conversion to Islam, as did many Eastern Orthodox Christains. The success the Ismaili government of medieval Egypt had in converting Muslims to Shiite Islam was long-lived, though most of these Shiites went over to the rival 'Twelver' branch of Shiism that is now practiced in Iraq and Iran. Likewise, Egyptian Ismailism spun off an esoteric sect, the Druze, who survive in the Shouf Mountains and elsewhere in Lebanon. In the coastal cities and in the Biqaa valley near Syria, the population adopted Sunni Islam with the Sunni revival of Saladin and his successors in the medieval period in Egypt, which continued under the Sunni Ottoman Empire (1516-1918 in Syria). (Egypt has been since the 1100s staunchly Sunni)."

The Daily Star - Politics - Lebanese opposition has learned much from Ukraine

The Daily Star - Politics - Lebanese opposition has learned much from Ukraine: "Wednesday, March 02, 2005
When opposition members decided to put a red and white scarf around their necks as a symbol of the Lebanese flag after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, they were not recalling the Ukrainian experience that took place five months ago, but were rather based on that experience. The international public opinion that strongly supported the popular protests against the Russian-backed regime and that sympathized with thousands of Ukrainians who supported their opposition, has become ready to accept and support a similar climate in any part of the world."

BBC NEWS | Health | Mice optic nerves 'regenerated'

BBC NEWS | Health | Mice optic nerves 'regenerated'
Scientists say they have completely regenerated damaged optic nerves from the eye to the brain in mice

BBC NEWS | Africa | Why I love Africa

BBC NEWS | Africa | Why I love Africa: "Here are the latest contributions celebrating Africa's colour, rich diversity of experiences and the hospitality of its people."

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Eyewitness: Lebanon protests

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Eyewitness: Lebanon protests: "Thousands of Lebanese protesters have thronged the streets of Beirut in the past few days, demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country after the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the resignation of the government. "

Face of freedom in Lebanon Posted by Hello

Egyptian Name Translator

Egyptian Name Translator

VOA News - Nigerian Christians Brace for More 'Taleban' Attack

VOA News - Nigerian Christians Brace for More 'Taleban' Attack: "Small Christian communities in northeastern Nigeria are bracing for new attacks by groups of Islamic radicals, who call themselves the Taleban. "

TCS: Tech Central Station - Patriotism and Preferences

TCS: Tech Central Station - Patriotism and Preferences: "This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers - or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they're also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference. "

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The American Witness

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The American Witness: "If President Bush wants to figure out whether the U.S. should stand more firmly against the genocide in Darfur, I suggest that he invite Mr. Steidle to the White House to give a briefing. Mr. Steidle, a 28-year-old former Marine captain, was one of just three American military advisers for the African Union monitoring team in Darfur - and he is bursting with frustration.

'Every single day you go out to see another burned village, and more dead bodies,' he said. 'And the children - you see 6-month-old babies that have been shot, and 3-year-old kids with their faces smashed in with rifle butts. And you just have to stand there and write your reports.'
While journalists and aid workers are sharply limited in their movements in Darfur, Mr. Steidle and the monitors traveled around by truck and helicopter to investigate massacres by the Sudanese government and the janjaweed militia it sponsors. They have sometimes been shot at, and once his group was held hostage, but they have persisted and become witnesses to systematic crimes against humanity.
So is it really genocide?
'I have no doubt about that,' Mr. Steidle said. 'It's a systematic cleansing of peoples by the Arab chiefs there. And when you talk to them, that's what they tell you. They're very blunt about it. One day we met a janjaweed leader and he said, 'Unless you get back four camels that were stolen in 2003, then we're going to go to these four villages and burn the villages, rape the women, kill everyone.' And they did.'"

The New York Times > Technology > Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning

The New York Times > Technology > Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning: "Doctors may no longer make house calls, but they are answering patient e-mail messages - and being paid for it.
In a move to improve efficiency and control costs, health plans and medical groups around the country are now beginning to pay doctors to reply by e-mail, just as they pay for office visits. While some computer-literate doctors have been using e-mail to communicate informally with patients for years, most have never been paid for that service."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Times Online - Sunday Times

Times Online - Sunday Times: "The secret life of moody cows
Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

ONCE they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found.
Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety � they worry about the future. But if farmers provide the right conditions, they can also feel great happiness.

The findings have emerged from studies of farm animals that have found similar traits in pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock. They suggest that such animals may be so emotionally similar to humans that welfare laws need to be rethought.
Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, said even chickens may have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems.
�Remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been revealed,� she said. �Our challenge is to teach others that every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust our farming culture accordingly.� "

OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts

OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts: "Susan, who speaks seven languages, now sees herself as an ambassador for chess in America. Study after study has 'shown that children who are exposed to the game are ahead of their peers who are not involved with the royal game. Chess is a wonderful tool to increase concentration, self-control, patience, imagination, creativity, logical thinking and many more important and useful life skills,' she says"

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Tests of faith

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Tests of faith: "First for some figures. Last year, an ICM poll found 85% of Americans believe that God created the universe. In Nigeria, 98% claimed always to have believed in God, while nine out of 10 Indonesians said they would die for their God or religious beliefs. Last month, a survey by the market research bureau of Ireland found 87% of the population believe in God. Rather than rocking their faith, 19% said tragedies such as the Asian tsunami, which killed 300,000 people, bolstered their belief. Polls have their faults, but if the figures are even remotely right they illustrate the prevalence of faith in the modern world.
Faith has long been a puzzle for science, and it's no surprise why. By definition, faith demands belief without a need for supporting evidence, a concept that could not be more opposed to the principles of scientific inquiry. In the eyes of the scientist, an absence of evidence reduces belief to a hunch. It places the assumptions at the heart of many religions on the rockiest of ground."

Abu Aardvark

Abu Aardvark: "Arab TV and Regional Transformation
Hisham Milhem, the acerbic host of one of the best al Arabiya talk shows, made a point on PBS which I've been making in a number of different ways and contexts:
The whole Arab world, by the way, Gwen, is watching on Arab satellite stations, which are covering live the events unfolding in Beirut; and it's having tremendous effect on the Arab people, the Lebanese developments coming after the Palestinian elections and the Iraqi elections.
Arab satellite television has had an extraordinarily important role in the recent seeming 'cascade' of events from Baghdad to Ramallah to Cairo to Beirut. I would argue that Arab satellite television - including most especially al Jazeera - might be more important than the American invasion of Iraq in these events.
Part of it is a long term process: al Jazeera, and to a lesser extent to the other satellite stations, have been eviscerating the legitimacy of the Arab status quo for years. The al Jazeera talk shows are full to overflowing with critics of almost every Arab regime and of the entire Arab system more generally. Hardly a week has gone by in the last five years without a guest on some popular al Jazeera program denouncing some Arab leader as an authoritarian despot, or demanding greater democracy, or complaining about Arab backwardness. While the immediate effect of any individual program might only be to provoke a diplomatic crisis (Jordan getting pissy with Qatar when Asa'ad AbuKhalil criticizes King Hussein, for example) or to get people riled up - the sensationalism factor - the cumulative impact has been to create a vast public sense of frustration with the politically stagnant status quo and the expectation of something more.
There's also the cumulative effect of the way issues have been framed. One of the key things that al Jazeera (and,"

Blocks of ice on Mars Posted by Hello

APOD: 2005 February 28 - Unusual Plates on Mars

APOD: 2005 February 28 - Unusual Plates on Mars: "Explanation: What are those unusual plates on Mars? A leading current interpretation holds that they are blocks of ice floating on a recently frozen sea covered by dust. The unusual plates were photographed recently by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft currently orbiting Mars. Oddly, the region lies near the Martian equator and not near either of Mars' frozen polar caps. Without being covered by dust, any water or ice near away from the poles would quickly evaporate right into the atmosphere. Evidence that the above-imaged plates really are dust-covered water-ice includes a similarity in appearance to ice blocks off Earth's Antarctica, nearby surface fractures from which underground water could have flowed, and the shallow depth of the craters indicating that something is filling them in. If correct, the low abundance of craters indicates that water may have flowed on Mars as recently as five million years ago. " News | Democracy's birth pangs News | Democracy's birth pangs: "March 1, 2005 | Hind el-Hinnawy shocked conservative Muslim Egypt when she publicly declared herself a single mom and launched a paternity suit. The man in the case, Ahmed el-Fishawy, hosted a television talk show offering advice to devout Muslim youth. They had met on the set of a comedy called 'When Daddy Returned.'
Hinnawy's stand became a national talking point in a country where, in theory, premarital sex is banned. Even the grand mufti intervened. But equally surprising, from some points of view, was the support the 27-year-old received for her challenge to what she deemed the hypocrisy of a male-dominated society.
The response to the scandal is said to be indicative of how Egypt is changing. Fishawy's pious chat show has been canceled. And last week, in a precedent-setting ruling, a judge ordered him to undergo a DNA test. An expectant nation awaits the result. "
Taboo breaking in Egypt appears to be catching on at the very top. On Feb. 26, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president since 1981, amazed his compatriots by proposing a multiparty presidential election for the first time in Egyptian history. Until now Mubarak and his predecessors have been endorsed, not elected, in single-candidate referendums. "I took the reins of this initiative in order to start a new era of reform," Mubarak said. "The president will be elected through direct, secret balloting, opening the opportunity for political parties to run." He was convinced, he said, "of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy."

If so, this marks a dramatic conversion. Egypt has been under a state of emergency and martial law since Anwar Sadat's assassination. Mubarak has habitually ruled with caution and an iron fist. Tolerating no rivals, he has no vice president and is suspected of grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him.

The government exercises enormous patronage and closely controls the media. The main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is banned. Last month, Ayman Nour, leader of the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, was jailed and allegedly physically abused. As recently as Feb. 24, a party meeting in Cairo was broken up by "thugs in white training suits and men armed with handguns," according to a Ghad spokesman.

"Serious issues like routine torture of persons in detention and suppression of nonviolent political dissent remain unaddressed," Human Rights Watch said in its latest report. "Emergency rule provides the basis for arbitrary detention and trials before security courts."

Undaunted, reformers have been putting pressure on Mubarak with increasing vigor. Nour is one standard-bearer. Another is the street-level Kifaya (Enough) movement, which has taken inspiration from similarly named activist groups in Serbia and Ukraine, and most recently in Lebanon.

Opponents including the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed Mubarak's shift, but said it did not go anywhere near far enough. "It remains cosmetic and incomplete ... unless it is coupled with canceling emergency laws, releasing all political prisoners and giving complete freedom to the formation of parties," a Kifaya statement said.

Amid confusion about exactly how an individual or party can qualify to stand in September's election, both government and opposition supporters, and the public, appear convinced that Mubarak will in any event win a fifth term. This has led some critics to reject the Feb. 26 speech as little more than a sop to George W. Bush's pro-democracy agenda. The U.S. leader has repeatedly called on Egypt in recent weeks to spearhead reform in the Arab world.

The United States in effect withheld $1 billion in economic aid and $20 million in democracy-building funds last month. The day before Mubarak spoke, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ostentatiously canceled a visit to Cairo, partly in protest at Nour's treatment. Washington, which has to be careful not to interfere too much, said it hoped Mubarak's initiative would lead to real change. And he may conceivably have started something he cannot stop. As the Hinnawy paternity case suggested, taboo breaking is hazardous, and democracy's birth pangs can be painful, especially for a national father figure.

South AFrica's Battle against AIDS

Last week, President Bush issued a short statement congratulating South African President Thabo Mbeki on his country's accomplishments in its first decade of democracy, and singled out South Africa's "great concern over tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria, and other diseases."
The statement may have provoked confusion by anyone following the AIDS pandemic in that country, as it was recently revealed that South Africa's death toll jumped by 62 percent among adults over 15 in the five years ending in 2002. Mbeki has downplayed the AIDS crisis in South Africa and maintained that there is no link between HIV and the AIDS virus. Now it appears his new antiretroviral program, due to slow implementation and a lack of drugs and healthcare workers, is a bust. Overwhelming demand for care has led the government to push its treatment target back a year.
In 2004, Congress appropriated $2.4 billion for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria spending abroad, mostly destined for antiretroviral therapy and prevention programs, including abstinence education. South Africa will receive a proposed $130 million this year with the goal of treating 20,000 people -- awfully slow progress in a population of 45 million people, where 29 percent of pregnant women were living with HIV in 2003.
From Life | The whatever culture Life | The whatever culture: "You write that while our society assumes that teens with alcohol or drug problems must come from a lenient, overly indulgent family, the truth is the exact opposite.
There may be kids who decide to drink themselves into oblivion because people are too nice to them, but I haven't met them. I've talked to plenty of kids who get to that place in their life because people treat them badly.
It is not just the parental pressures to do well. It's growing up in a family where if you don't do well, you get thrown out of the house. And if you don't do better than everyone else in school, your parents tell you that you are a piece of crap. This combination of harshness and responsibility from adults has increased. The specific abnegation of responsibility for the child on the part of parents, schools, helping agencies -- that was a constant theme. I would argue that is new. On the level we experience it now, it's qualitatively worse than it used to be. "

....You come down very hard on parents, treatment centers, mental health professionals -- pretty much everyone in the adolescents' lives except the adolescents themselves.

I wound up being harder on parents and school personnel than I expected. That's partly because when I talked to some of them, I was appalled at the way they perceived parenting. We have to realize that there are a lot of parents out there who don't want to do the job of parenting. It's hard. It involves sacrificing your own pleasures, taking on a very responsible role, which is beyond the capacity of a lot of American parents.

Why do you think contemporary parents have such a difficult time parenting?

In the book I provide two answers: One, it's a problem of resources. Parents are pressed for time and money. In addition, there are very few sources of social support for parents. We're continually taking away money for childcare, school counselors, things that could help parents do a better job of parenting. We don't provide resources the same way many other countries do: universal childcare benefits, vacation time, family allowances.

One of the reasons these problems are getting worse is the hardening of the culture that lies behind this. Careless individualism has become our modus operandi. This behavior has roots in our individualist heritage, but it is sharpening in the 20th and 21st century. People are unwilling to take responsibility, unwilling to think about the consequences of their actions, whether it be barreling down the freeway in a Hummer and not caring about other drivers, other people, or the environment -- it's the same mentality.

Beauty Pageant to Choose Miss HIV

GABORONE (Reuters) - There is a catwalk banquet, hordes of journalists, traditional dancing and time-consuming hair styling -- but at Botswana's beauty pageant every competitor must be HIV (news - web sites) positive...

At a palm tree-studded resort and conference center in the capital Gaborone, 12 girls are competing this weekend for the title "Miss HIV Stigma Free."
"We are saying here we are, we are HIV positive and it doesn't mean it's the end of the line," 33 year old reigning Miss HIV Kgalalelo Ntsepe told Reuters in her cluttered one room cottage, where she displays trophies of her win in 2003.

I Don't Care What It Cures, I'm Not Taking It...

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Alongside life-size posters of Hindu nationalist leaders, Indian political activists can now buy lotions, potions and pills to cure anything from cancer to hysteria to piles -- all made from cow urine or dung.

A new goratna (cow products) stall at the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) souvenir shop is rapidly outselling dry political tracts, badges, flags and saffron-and-green plastic wall clocks with the face of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
"You won't believe how quickly some of the products sold out," says Manoj Kumar, who runs the souvenir shop along with his brother, Sanjeev, at the BJP headquarters in a plush central New Delhi neighborhood. "The constipation medicine is a hot seller."
But the biggest seller is a "multi-utility pill" that claims to cure anything from diabetes to piles to "ladies' diseases."
"It's a miraculous cure" the container declares. A month's supply costs a little over $1.

Greg's Digital Portfolio

Great examples of digital retouching of photos! The examples are inspiring me to pick up this latent hobby of mine again....

Greg's Digital Portfolio

India Call Centers Suffer Storm of 4-Letter Words (

India Call Centers Suffer Storm of 4-Letter Words ( "NEW DELHI -- Rohail Manzoor thought he had what it took to work in a telephone call center. All he had to do was pick up the phone and answer queries from American customers about their long-distance bills. He was armed with lessons on how to speak English like the Americans -- adjust the r's, say 'zee' instead of 'zed,' 'mail' instead of 'post.'
He even called himself 'Jim,' and figured he would pretend to be an American customer service agent. "
But nothing prepared him for the shower of curses that came his way when he picked up the phone one night on the job.

" 'You Indians suck!' an American screamed on the phone," recalled a soft-spoken Manzoor, 25. "He was using a lot of four-letter words, too. He called me names left, right and center."

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