Thursday, June 30, 2005

Nigerian police free killer cow, charge owner with negligence - Yahoo! News

Only in Africa...

Nigerian police free killer cow, charge owner with negligence - Yahoo! News: "LAGOS (AFP) - Nigerian police have released a cow which they had arrested after it trampled a bus driver to death, but have charged the animal's owner with criminal negligence."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Cheat Seeking Missiles: Six Months After The Tsunami

Cheat Seeking Missiles: Six Months After The Tsunami: "Tomorrow is the six month anniversary of the Southeast Asian tsunami, so expect a bevy of articles in your Sunday paper. If they're honest, the stories will be negative because the tsunami aid program is underscoring the ugliness of human nature throughout the rim of the Indian Ocean."

boffin dogs Posted by Hello

Boffins create zombie dogs | The Other Side | Breaking News 24/7 - (27-06-2005)

File under "Make Your Blood Run Cold"...

Boffins create zombie dogs | The Other Side | Breaking News 24/7 - (27-06-2005)

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.
Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

Plans to test the technique on humans should be realised within a year, according to the Safar Centre.

Telegraph | News | �220bn stolen by Nigeria's corrupt rulers least the G8 has not let Nigeria off the hook...

Telegraph | News | 220bn stolen by Nigeria's corrupt rulers: "The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria's past rulers stole or misused 220 billion.
That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa's most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent"...
Gen Sani Abacha, the late military dictator, stole between £1 billion and £3 billion during his five-year rule.

"We are only now beginning to come to grips with some of what he did," Mr Nwajah said.

Nigeria has scoured the world for Abacha's assets but has recovered only about £500 million.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the current president, founded the commission and launched a crackdown on corruption to try to end the country's reputation as Africa's most venal. The figures all apply to the period before he came to power....

Mr Obasanjo will travel to the G8 summit to press the case for debt relief. Nigeria is Africa's biggest debtor, with loans of almost £20 billion, because previous rulers not only looted the country but also borrowed heavily against future oil revenues.

The G8 has refused to cancel Nigeria's loans, despite writing off the debts of 14 other African countries this month.

Prof Pat Utomi, of Lagos Business School, said that was the right decision. "Who is to say you won't see the same behaviour again if it is all written off?" he said.

Family doctors photo of missing girl to make her "more appealing"

Only in America...

The Watley Review: "Francine Keyes, age 11, went missing from a camping trip with family friends on June 12 in Big Bend National Park. Thousands of law enforcement officers and volunteers spent days combing the park and surrounding regions. The girl was located unharmed on Friday June 17 in the company of an unemployed drifted named Gregory Stokes, who has been arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping. The initial euphoria of the find, however, was soon offset when the first television footage of the rescue hit the airwaves.
'At first I thought the kidnapper had dyed her hair, you know, to make her less easy to recognize,' said Maria Baker, one of the volunteers who spent 50 hours last week searching. 'Then I thought, wow, that week in the wilderness sure was rough on her. Then I saw a closeup, and I thought, man, did a bear get her too?'
It turns out that Francine's family had doctored the photo released to police and the media in order to make her 'more appealing' and spur a wider rescue effort. In the picture, she is a perky, cute blonde girl somewhat resembling Lindsay Lohan.
'In actuality, Francine is neither perky nor blonde,' said a grim-faced Perry. 'In fact, her picture is mainly a testament to her father's skills with Photoshop"...

"This is supposed to be the windfall time; the triumphant return of a photogenic kidnapping victim plays great with the 18-35 viewing audience, and can boost advertising revenues for months with follow-up stories on her return to normal life," said Stacy Umbridge, a producer at CNN. "For crying out loud. The girl's got a gap between her front teeth big enough to drive a car through."

The Keyes family has defended their actions, arguing that there are only five or six slots for widespread searches in a given TV season, and if they didn't give their daughter "every advantage" she wouldn't have made the cut...

"This season we've already had Natalie Holloway and Brennan Hawkins, two really high-profile cases with very appealing protagonists," said Alan Keyes, Francine's father. "Heck, Francine used to scare the cat whenever she smiled. What were we supposed to do?"

The state of Texas has grudgingly concluded that it cannot charge the Keyes family for the search and rescue effort, since Francine's disappearance was the result of an actual crime (unlike recent runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks). However, CNN is considering filing a civil suit.

"Our viewership drops fifteen percent every time we show the real picture of this girl," said Umbridge. "I'm sorry, but CNN has journalistic standards, you know. At least put a wig on the poor girl."

Saudi Men and Women Petition Rights Body on Women Driving

This is the sort of argument you just don't hear here...

Saudi Men and Women Petition Rights Body on Women Driving: "The petition went on,: “We say to those who are against women driving that they should fear God and look at the consequences of letting foreign drivers into our homes, consequences they are responsible for and will be asked about on the Day of Judgment.”"

BBC NEWS | Africa | Pastor Hinn in Nigerian money row

Benny Hinn in Nigeria...file under "The Things that Make You Go Hmmm...

BBC NEWS | Africa | Pastor Hinn in Nigerian money row: "In late April, scores of giant billboards and thousands of wall posters all over Lagos proclaimed the first of three days of divine miracles and healing for at least six million Nigerians - but at the end of the third day, there was more bickering over money than praise to God for mercy received."

Liberals, Conservatives and Aid - New York Times

I am going to have to get a copy of this book and read it for myself...

Liberals, Conservatives and Aid - New York Times: "Karl Rove has his theories about what separates liberals from conservatives and I have mine. Mine include the differences between Jeffrey Sachs and George Bush."...

Sachs is also a materialist. He dismisses or downplays those who believe that human factors like corruption, greed, institutions, governance, conflict and traditions have contributed importantly to Africa's suffering. Instead, he emphasizes material causes: lack of natural resources, lack of technology, bad geography and poverty itself as a self-perpetuating trap.... - Health spending soars for obesity

So let me see if I got this right--medicare won't pay for drugs for defined conditions such as seizures and anxiety disorders, but will pay close to 40 billion dollars for obesity related diseases?! - Health spending soars for obesity: "Private health insurance spending on illnesses related to obesity has increased more than tenfold since 1987, according to the first research to quantify the trend.

The growth in obesity has fueled a dramatic increase in the amount spent treating diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and other weight-related illnesses, says the study, which is published today in Health Affairs, an online journal of health policy and research.

Overall, employers and privately insured families spent $36.5 billion on obesity-linked illnesses in 2002, up from an inflation-adjusted $3.6 billion in 1987. That's up from 2% of total health care spending on obesity in 1987 to 11.6% in 2002, the latest year for which data are available."...

Thorpe's findings add to growing evidence that extra pounds increase medical costs. A study last year by RTI International in Raleigh, N.C., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that obese and overweight Americans racked up about $75 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2003.
Because much of this is covered by Medicare and Medicaid, taxpayers pay about half the total, the study found.

Medicare Won't Cover Some Anxiety Drugs - Yahoo! News

File under "Times are a changing...." I wish there was more transparency to the methodology used by medicare to decide which drugs it will and will not cover...

Medicare Won't Cover Some Anxiety Drugs - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - When the federal government's new prescription drug benefit kicks in next year, it will not cover a category of drugs commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizures.

That means those disabled and elderly people on Medicare who take Xanax, Valium, Ativan and other types of the drug benzodiazepine will have to look elsewhere for coverage or switch to a different, less addictive medication."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 News | U.N.: Rape as weapon of war high in Congo News | U.N.: Rape as weapon of war high in Congo: "June 22, 2005 | Panzi, Congo -- The teenager with flowers in her hair crossed her hands to keep them from trembling and described how she was raped by 10 militiamen.

Abducted two years ago when she was 16, Ombeni was kept as a concubine in the forests of eastern Congo. She became pregnant and at nearly nine months gestation, her captors cut her vagina with a machete, leaving the baby dead and abandoning the teenager in the forest.

'I laid there for one week,' Ombeni said. 'Until insects came out of my body.' Ombeni was eventually rescued by a woman who was foraging for food and made her way to a clinic for rape victims.

She is one of thousands of women who are brutally raped each year in Congo, another layer of degradation in a war that never seems to end."...

Most rapes in the area are committed by Rwandan Hutu rebels, who fled into eastern Congo after Rwanda's 1994 genocide, said Panzi's medical director Denis Mukwege.

Generally, militiamen will circle a village and rape all the women, he said. Then they'll choose the young ones and take them as slaves into the forest-covered mountains.

"I had a 60-year-old woman who was raped with bamboo. Can you imagine?" Mukwege asked. "Yesterday she died."

"This is not an issue of sexual desire," he added. "The aim is to destroy."

The number of rape cases is increasing, he said. Since January, 1,700 women have been admitted to the clinic. The clinic expects to treat about 3,600 women by year's end -- up from 2,700 last year. ...

The global housing boom | In come the waves |

I knew that there was craziness in the housing market in the States and parts of Asia, but didn't realize that the craziness is global!
(Thanks to Freeze for the link)

The global housing boom | In come the waves | "NEVER before have real house prices risen so fast, for so long, in so many countries. Property markets have been frothing from America, Britain and Australia to France, Spain and China. Rising property prices helped to prop up the world economy after the stockmarket bubble burst in 2000. What if the housing boom now turns to bust?

According to estimates by The Economist, the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stockmarket bubble in the late 1990s (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP) or America's stockmarket bubble in the late 1920s (55% of GDP). In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history."

The global boom in house prices has been driven by two common factors: historically low interest rates have encouraged home buyers to borrow more money; and households have lost faith in equities after stockmarkets plunged, making property look attractive. Will prices now fall, or simply flatten off? And in either case, what will be the consequences for economies around the globe? The likely answers to all these questions are not comforting....

While America's housing market is still red hot, others—in Britain, Australia and the Netherlands—have already cooled (see chart 2). What lessons might they offer the United States?

The first is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it does not require a trigger, such as a big rise in interest rates or unemployment, for house prices to decline....

Another worrying lesson from abroad for America is that even a mere levelling-off of house prices can trigger a sharp slowdown in consumer spending...

The housing market has played such a big role in propping up America's economy that a sharp slowdown in house prices is likely to have severe consequences. Over the past four years, consumer spending and residential construction have together accounted for 90% of the total growth in GDP. And over two-fifths of all private-sector jobs created since 2001 have been in housing-related sectors, such as construction, real estate and mortgage broking...

Japan provides a nasty warning of what can happen when boom turns to bust. Japanese property prices have dropped for 14 years in a row, by 40% from their peak in 1991. Yet the rise in prices in Japan during the decade before 1991 was less than the increase over the past ten years in most of the countries that have experienced housing booms (see chart 3). And it is surely no coincidence that Japan and Germany, the two countries where house prices have fallen for most of the past decade, have had the weakest growth in consumer spending of all developed economies over that period. Americans who believe that house prices can only go up and pose no risk to their economy would be well advised to look overseas.

REPORTS | Technology that imitates nature |

Many people probably know the "velcro story," but read the article for some more fascinating examples of natural ingenuity
(Thanks to Freeze for the link)

REPORTS | Technology that imitates nature | "AFTER taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog's fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook-and-loop system that the seeds have evolved to hitchhike on passing animals and aid pollination, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result was Velcro: a product that was arguably more than three billion years in the making, since that is how long the natural mechanism that inspired it took to evolve.

Velcro is probably the most famous and certainly the most successful example of biological mimicry, or “biomimetics”. In fields from robotics to materials science, technologists are increasingly borrowing ideas from nature, and with good reason: nature's designs have, by definition, stood the test of time, so it would be foolish to ignore them. Yet transplanting natural designs into man-made technologies is still a hit-or-miss affair."

MONITOR | Anti-hurricane technology |

Check out the link for a cool picture...

MONITOR | Anti-hurricane technology | "How can you slow down a hurricane? Moshe Alamaro, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a plan. Just as setting small, controlled fires can stop forest fires by robbing them of fuel, he proposes the creation of small, man-made tropical cyclones to cool the ocean and rob big, natural hurricanes of their source of energy. His scheme, devised with German and Russian weather scientists and presented at a weather-modification conference in April, involves a chain of offshore barges adorned with upward-facing jet engines. Each barge creates an updraft, causing water to evaporate from the ocean's surface and reducing its temperature. The resulting tropical storms travel towards the shore but dissipate harmlessly. Dr Alamaro reckons that protecting Central America and the southern United States from hurricanes would cost less than $1 billion a year. Most of the cost would be fuel: large jet engines, he observes, are abundant in the graveyards of American and Soviet long-range bombers."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - Police: Lions free kidnapped girl - Jun 21, 2005

Only in Africa - Police: Lions free kidnapped girl - Jun 21, 2005: "ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Police say three lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage, chasing off her abductors and guarding her until police and relatives tracked her down in a remote corner of Ethiopia."

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Seattle Times: Opinion: Preventing genocide

Public health policy as applied to genocide...

The Seattle Times: Opinion: Preventing genocide: "With the popularity of the Oscar-nominated movie 'Hotel Rwanda,' many Americans have become newly aware of the horrors of modern-day genocide. Whether considering the 800,000 people murdered in Rwanda in 1994, or the thousands killed in Sudan in recent months, one question prevails: Why do such atrocities continue? The world would appear to have learned little, if anything, from these human tragedies that might prevent genocide from recurring.

As scientists trained to promote the well-being of entire populations, we propose a new approach — one we believe gives societies more power to prevent genocide. It is an approach grounded in the principles of public health."...

In fact, some 192.3 million people died from genocide in the 20th century, far exceeding the 110.9 million killed by war. Genocidal death rates worldwide were 7,700 per 100,000 between 1900 and 2000 — an eight-fold increase over the previous 69 centuries. Genocide now results in the death of more people worldwide than any disease, including malaria and HIV/AIDS. In addition, genocide devastates the economic and health-care infrastructure of societies, harming health for generations to come.

Recognizing genocide's public-health implications, we can begin to develop effective prevention strategies. Similar approaches have proven effective against a wide range of problems, from breast cancer and drunken driving to gang-related youth violence...

Analysis of past genocide reveals the specific characteristics that put societies at higher risk for mass killings: a totalitarian government; dominant ideologies that target "outsiders"; recent armed conflict that can obscure genocidal killing; economic hardship; and ambivalence of other influential nations....

Priests told: don’t aid ‘filth’ - Sunday Times - Times Online

Who is the crawling maggot?

Priests told: don’t aid ‘filth’ - Sunday Times - Times Online: "EVERY morning Father Michael looks out of the window of his Harare parish house and sees an ever larger crowd of homeless families outside. “I feel helpless,” said the Jesuit priest, who was too terrified to give his real name.

“I keep telling them my little homilies, that the violent will not win, they will have to answer for what they have done, but I see a city ringed by fire.

“People who worked to look after their families — carpenters, metalworkers, street vendors and caterers — have been turned into beggars by their own government. This is a crime against humanity and all we can do is give them black plastic sheeting.”

As Operation Murambatsvina or “drive out filth”, moves into its second month, as many as a 1m city-dwellers have been made homeless by government bulldozers and axe-wielding police."...

Some have been taken to camps outside the city such as Caledonia Farm, where there is only one lavatory for several thousand people. Those with money have left for villages but many have no family to go to and the country’s fuel shortage means buses are few and far between.

Others have returned to Harare, claiming village chiefs are refusing to accept them because there is not enough food. Zimbabwe is facing its lowest harvest since independence. The United Nations estimates that 6m Zimbabweans are in urgent need of food aid.

With international aid agencies prevented from helping, those who can have sought shelter from the freezing winter nights in church yards and halls...

Yet far from halting the brutal campaign, which has seen people forced to destroy their homes at gunpoint, government officials said yesterday they were extending it to rural areas. “We must clean the country of the crawling mass of maggots bent on destroying the economy,” declared Augustine Chihuri, police commissioner.

Open Loops: Your Central Nervous System: Your Biological Key to Productivity

Activate your sympathetic nervous system to become more productive...

Open Loops: Your Central Nervous System: Your Biological Key to Productivity: "By mimicking the sympathetic reactions to a threatening environment (sitting up straight, standing, moving quickly, deeper breathing), it appears to be possible to activate the sympathetic system, which then takes over. We are ready to act, or in our case, be productive. We can also change our environment to one that causes the sympathetic system to activate, one that is more spartan, threatening, or simply uncomfortable. The result? We take action. We are more productive"

Summer Moon Illusion

Summer Moon Illusion: "June 20, 2005: Sometimes you can't believe your eyes. This week is one of those times.

Step outside any evening at sunset and look around. You'll see a giant moon rising in the east. It looks like Earth's moon, round and cratered; the Man in the Moon is in his usual place. But something's wrong. This full moon is strangely inflated. It's huge!

You've just experienced the Moon Illusion.

Sky watchers have known this for thousands of years: moons hanging low in the sky look unnaturally big. Cameras don't see it, but our eyes do. It's a real illusion."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish--commencement address from Steven Jobs...inspirational reading from the CEO of the most innovative computer company in the world imho (apple)....
'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says: "You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."...

My third story is about death....

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ..

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Friday, June 17, 2005

India Uncut

Interesting book review which documents the continued corruption in India, and which corroborates the experiences my relatives in India have had setting up businesses. Yet, somehow India has managed to increase the standard of living for many of its citizens. I am still trying to figure out how it is that Africa remains mired in such poverty despite much corruption...The answer must involve other factors as well...

India Uncut: "The myth of India's liberalization
The piece below was published today as an oped in the Asian Wall Street Journal, titled 'India's Far From Free Markets' (subscription link).

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to visit Washington in a few weeks, and editorialists and commentators have already started writing about the emerging economic power of India. New Delhi’s decision to start liberalizing its economy in 1991 is touted as a seminal event in India’s history, the moment when it threw off the shackles of Fabian socialism and embraced free markets. It is the stuff of myth--and to a large extent, it is exactly that."...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ulcer bug strongly linked to irregular heartbeat - Yahoo! News

Ulcer bug strongly linked to irregular heartbeat - Yahoo! News: "1 hour, 12 minutes ago

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The gastric microbe, Helicobacter pylori, that's the cause of most stomach ulcers also takes it out on the heart, Italian investigators report.

They found that people with rapid beating of the upper chamber of the heart, atrial fibrillation, are nearly 20 times more likely to be infected with Helicobacter than are healthy 'controls,' according to a report in the medical journal Heart"

Brazilian doctors uncover 'Michelangelo code' - Yahoo! News

Brazilian doctors uncover 'Michelangelo code' - Yahoo! News: "Two Brazilian doctors and amateur art lovers believe they have uncovered a secret lesson on human anatomy hidden by Renaissance artist Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.

Completed nearly 500 years ago, the brightly colored frescoes painted on the
Vatican's famous sanctuary are considered some of the world's greatest works of art. They depict Biblical scenes such as the 'Creation of Adam' in which God reaches out to touch Adam's finger.

But Gilson Barreto and Marcelo de Oliveira believe Michelangelo also scattered his detailed knowledge of internal anatomy across 34 of the ceiling's 38 panels. The way they see it, a tree trunk is not just a tree trunk, but also a bronchial tube. And a green bag in one scene is really a human heart."...

"The problem, and art historians too are certainly often guilty of this, is simply that we often see what we want to see," said Dennis Geronimus, a specialist on Renaissance art at New York University who had a chance to examine some of Barreto and Oliveira's "de-coded" matches.

Their proposals, he said, "stretch the visual evidence far beyond Michelangelo's own specific vocabulary of poses, gestures and symbolic relationships."

Indeed, why would Michelangelo hide drawings of human organs in the Sistine Chapel?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Raped, Kidnapped and Silenced - New York Times

This tragic story continues to get more bizarre...
Raped, Kidnapped and Silenced - New York Times: "No wonder the Pakistan government can't catch Osama bin Laden. It is too busy harassing, detaining - and now kidnapping - a gang-rape victim for daring to protest and for planning a visit to the United States"

Last fall I wrote about Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman who was sentenced by a tribal council in Pakistan to be gang-raped because of an infraction supposedly committed by her brother. Four men raped Ms. Mukhtaran, then village leaders forced her to walk home nearly naked in front of a jeering crowd of 300.

Ms. Mukhtaran was supposed to have committed suicide. Instead, with the backing of a local Islamic leader, she fought back and testified against her persecutors. Six were convicted....

On Thursday, the authorities put Ms. Mukhtaran under house arrest - to stop her from speaking out...

How Lance Armstrong Gets His Unusual Energy - New York Times

How Lance Armstrong Gets His Unusual Energy - New York Times: "Lance Armstrong's strength and endurance sometimes seem too extraordinary to be believed.

Armstrong, a six-time winner of the Tour de France bicycle race who next month will try for his seventh straight victory, can cover 32 miles in one hour of riding. In contrast, the average cyclist covers 16 miles; a top marathon runner can cover 21 miles on a bike."...

Armstrong can ride up the mountains in France generating about 500 watts of power for 20 minutes, something a typical 25-year-old could do for only 30 seconds. A professional hockey player might last three minutes - and then throw up.

So how does he do it? (Check out the link)

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | The lost boys, thrown out of US sect so that older men can marry more wives

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | The lost boys, thrown out of US sect so that older men can marry more wives: "Up to 1,000 teenage boys have been separated from their parents and thrown out of their communities by a polygamous sect to make more young women available for older men, Utah officials claim.

Many of these 'Lost Boys', some as young as 13, have simply been dumped on the side of the road in Arizona and Utah, by the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), and told they will never see their families again or go to heaven."...
Mr Hill said although the boys may have been rebellious, their expulsion had more to do with the ruthless sexual arithmetic of a polygamous sect....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Salon du Chocolat on Yahoo! News Photos

Why am I suddenly in the mood for chocolate? Click link for more photos...

Salon du Chocolat on Yahoo! News Photos: "A Chinese model parades a chocolate skirt during China's first Chocolate Fashion Show as part of Salon Du Chocolat held at Grand Hyatt in Beijing June 10, 2005. Salon Du Chocolat, is a yearly event which started in Paris, is participated by over 20 world's top chocolate makers. China is one of the fastest growing confectionary markets in the world. "

chocolate skirt Posted by Hello

How to Cope With Culture Shock After a Trip Abroad -

Especially relevant for those who still have one foot in the expat parallel universe....

How to Cope With Culture Shock After a Trip Abroad - "t's common to have negative feelings towards certain aspects of your own culture after an extended trip abroad. Take heart that feelings of alienation and disorientation are probably present because you have had a powerful growth experience ' an experience you can now integrate into your life."

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online

Pink Floyd and now possibly the Spice Girls on the same bill?!

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online:

Pigs really can fly – Pink Floyd get back together for big gig in the park
By Adam Sherwin, Media Reporter
RESCUING Africa from poverty is one thing, but persuading Pink Floyd to drop the most acrimonious feud in rock history could arguably be Bob Geldof’s greatest achievement yet.


To get to this point, bassist Roger Waters, the creative force behind The Wall, has broken a 20-year silence to speak to his former schoolfriend David Gilmour, Pink Floyd’s guitarist and singer.

The four shareholders in Pink Floyd Music Ltd have conducted business via lawyers and faxes since Waters sued his colleagues for continuing to use the band’s name when he walked out in 1985.

But at Geldof’s insistence, the acrimony will be forgotten for 20 minutes at Hyde Park in front of a global TV audience of millions. The Africa campaigner starred in a 1982 feature film of The Wall, and told the feuding duo that the band had to unite for Live 8. ...

Gilmour, who is said to be worth £60 million and recently gave the homeless charity Crisis the reported £4.5 million proceeds from selling his London house to Earl Spencer, said: “Any squabbles Roger and the band have had in the past are so petty in this context, and if reforming for this concert will help focus attention, then it’s got to be worthwhile.”

Syd Barrett, the “genius” founding guitarist who left the music business in the late 1960s after an LSD-induced mental breakdown, is not expected to return.

Despite this success, Geldof has still to convince the Spice Girls to reform. He has asked members of the group individually to resolve outstanding differences but a Live 8 appearance has yet to be confirmed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Iranian protestors Posted by Hello

Hundreds of Women Protest Sex Discrimination in Iran - New York Times

Hundreds of Women Protest Sex Discrimination in Iran - New York Times:

TEHRAN, June 12 - Hundreds of women staged an unauthorized demonstration in Tehran today, protesting sex discrimination under Iran's Islamic leadership just days before the June 17 presidential elections.

The protest was the first public display of dissent by women since the 1979 revolution, when the new regime enforced obligatory veiling. 'We are women, we are the children of this land, but we have no rights,' they chanted. More than 250 marched outside Tehran University, and about 200 others demonstrated two blocks away after hundreds of riot police swarmed in and barred them from joining the main protest.

C.D.C. Team Investigates an Outbreak of Obesity - New York Times

Perhaps the CDC has overreached a bit here...
C.D.C. Team Investigates an Outbreak of Obesity - New York Times: "For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent a team of specialists into a state, West Virginia, to study an outbreak of obesity in the same way it studies an outbreak of an infectious disease."...

They went to workplaces, asking whether there were policies to encourage physical activity. For example, Ms. Kennedy said, "if you choose to walk, could you have an extra 15 or 20 minutes added to your lunch break?" And, were there items like 100-percent fruit juices and bottled water in vending machines?

They went to random grocery stores and restaurants, asking whether they offered fruits and vegetables and skim or 1 percent milk. And they asked whether it was safe to walk along the roads, whether there were sidewalks and whether they were in good repair, whether there was good lighting for walking at night.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 - Mother of mauling victim feared family dog - Jun 12, 2005

Absurdity here at home... - Mother of mauling victim feared family dog - Jun 12, 2005: "SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The mother of a 12-year-old boy killed in his own home by one of the family's two pit bulls says she had been so concerned about one of the dogs that she shut her son in the basement to protect him.
Maureen Faibish said she ordered Nicholas to stay in the basement while she did errands on June 3, the day he was attacked by one or both of the dogs.
She said she was worried about the male dog, Rex, who was acting possessive because the female, Ella, was in heat.
'I put him down there, with a shovel on the door,' Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. 'And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me.'
Nicholas apparently found a way to open the basement door.
Despite her concerns about Rex that day, Faibish told the newspaper: 'My kids got along great with (the dogs). We were never seeing any kind of violent tendencies.'
Faibish found her son's body in a bedroom. He was covered in blood from several wounds, including a major head injury.
No charges have been filed.
'It's Nicky's time to go,' she said in the interview. 'When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time.'
Ella was shot to death by a police officer the day of the attack.
Rex was taken to a shelter, but Faibish said she wanted him put down."

Protestors in Guatemala Posted by Hello

BBC NEWS | Americas | Guatemala's epidemic of killing

BBC NEWS | Americas | Guatemala's epidemic of killing: "In Guatemala, a small country not long emerged from three decades of civil war, women and girls are being murdered faster than anyone in authority can cope.
Deborah Tomas Vineda, aged 16, was kidnapped, raped, and cut to pieces with a chainsaw, allegedly because she refused to become the girlfriend of a local gang member.
Her sister Olga, just 11 years old, died alongside her.
The raped and mutilated body of Andrea Contreras Bacaro, 17, was found wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown into a ditch, her throat cut, her face and hands slashed, with a gunshot wound to the head.
The word 'vengeance' had been gouged into her thigh. "...
"The only explanation we can find for the use of extreme violence is as an expression of misogyny, of hate towards women," Ms Morales Trujillo told the BBC News website. ...

"Firstly, there is no respect for the body of a woman. People feel they can treat women however they want. Also, there is the idea that women are the property of someone.

"Because of this we find women are often tortured and sexually abused before they are killed. In some cases they are dismembered."

The Illiterate Surgeon - New York Times

. Kristoff writes compellingly about the ostracization of women with vesiculovaginal fistulas (VVF). This last April when I was in Nigeria, I saw first-hand the joy of these women who had their lives in a sense given back to them after VVF surgery and rehab.Many of these were child brides who had been abandoned by even their own families. At the hospital in Jos, Nigeria they are also put up for three months and are given vocational training...

The Illiterate Surgeon - New York Times: "Just about the worst thing that can happen to a teenage girl in this world is to develop an obstetric fistula that leaves her trickling bodily wastes, stinking and shunned by everyone around her. That happened four decades ago to Mamitu Gashe."...

Ms. Mamitu's story begins when she was an illiterate 15-year-old in a remote Ethiopian village unreachable by road and with no doctor nearby. She married a local man, became pregnant and after three days of labor, she lapsed into unconsciousness and the baby was stillborn.
"After I woke up, the bed was wet" with urine, she remembers. "I thought I would get better after two or three days, but I didn't."
That's typically how an obstetric fistula arises...
Soon she stinks. Her husband normally abandons her, the constant trickle of urine leaves her with terrible sores on her legs, and if she survives at all she is told to build a hut away from the rest of the village and to stay away from the village well. Some girls die of infections or suicide, but many linger for decades as pariahs and hermits - their lives effectively over at the age of about 15...They are the 21st century's lepers...

Ms. Mamitu was exceptionally lucky in that she was brought to a hospital here in Addis Ababa that offered free surgery by a saintly husband and wife pair of gynecologists from Australia, Reginald and Catherine Hamlin. Reg is now dead, while Catherine is the Mother Teresa of our time and is long overdue for a Nobel Peace Prize...

After that operation, 42 years ago, Ms. Mamitu was given a job making beds in the hospital. Then she began helping out during surgeries...Eventually, Ms. Mamitu was routinely performing the entire fistula repair herself.
Over the decades, Ms. Mamitu has gradually become one of the world's most experienced fistula surgeons. Gynecologists from around the world go to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to train in fistula repair, and typically their teacher is Ms. Mamitu.

Not bad for an illiterate Ethiopian peasant who as a child never went to a day of school.

A few years ago, Ms. Mamitu tired of being an illiterate master surgeon, and so she began night school. She's now in the third grade...

Ms. Mamitu shows us what a tragedy it would be to write them off. A couple of Australians once gave Ms. Mamitu a break, and so today Ms. Mamitu is not a victim at all, but an inspiration.

And, I hope, an inspiration to us to be more generous.

The Wisdom We Need to Fight AIDS - New York Times

Interesting perspective from David Brooks, NYT columnist, on AIDS prevention in Africa...
The Wisdom We Need to Fight AIDS - New York Times
Xai-Xai, Mozambique

There's a church in southern Mozambique that is about 10 yards long, with a tin roof and walls made of sticks. Women gather there to sing and pray and look after the orphans of AIDS victims. When you ask those women and their pastor what they tell people to prevent the spread of AIDS, the first thing they say is that it's important to use condoms.
They also talk about the consequences of unsafe sex. But after a while they slip out of the language of safety and into a different language. They say, "It is easier for those who have been touched by God to accept when a woman says no." They talk about praying for the man who beats his H.I.V.-positive wife, and trying to bring him into the congregation. They have polygamists in their church but say God loves monogamy best.
The problem is that while treatment is a technical problem, prevention is not. Prevention is about changing behavior. It is getting into the hearts of people in their vulnerable moments - when they are drinking, when they are in the throes of passion - and influencing them to change the behavior that they have not so far changed under the threat of death. ...

It's about these and a dozen other things - trust, fear, weakness, traditions, temptation - none of which can be fully addressed by externals. They can be addressed only by the language of ought, by fixing behavior into some relevant set of transcendent ideals and faiths...

The most subtle analysis of human nature I heard came in that church made of sticks.

The Nation | Lookout | A Noose, Not a Bracelet | Naomi Klein

Corrupt African leaders hand in hand with Western MNC's together continue to oppress the hapless commoners...

The Nation | Lookout | A Noose, Not a Bracelet | Naomi Klein: "Gordon Brown has a new idea about how to 'make poverty history' in time for the G-8 summit in Scotland. With Washington so far refusing to double its aid to Africa by 2015, the British Chancellor is appealing to the 'richer oil-producing states' of the Middle East to fill the funding gap. 'Oil wealth urged to save Africa,' reads the headline in London's Observer.

Here is a better idea: Instead of Saudi Arabia's oil wealth being used to 'save Africa,' how about if Africa's oil wealth was used to save Africa--along with its gas, diamond, gold, platinum, chromium, ferroalloy and coal wealth?

With all this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa from its misery, it seems like a good time to remember someone else who tried to make poverty history: Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was killed ten years ago this November by the Nigerian government, along with eight other Ogoni activists, sentenced to death by hanging. Their crime was daring to insist that Nigeria was not poor at all but rich, and that it was political decisions made in the interests of Western multinational corporations that kept its people in desperate poverty."...

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People demanded that Shell compensate the people from whose land it had pumped roughly $30 billion worth of oil since the 1950s. The company turned to the government for help, and the Nigerian military turned its guns on demonstrators. Before his state-ordered hanging, Saro-Wiwa told the tribunal, "I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial.... The company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come."

Ten years later, 70 percent of Nigerians still live on less than $1 a day and Shell is still making superprofits. Equatorial Guinea, which has a major oil deal with ExxonMobil, "got to keep a mere 12 percent of the oil revenues in the first year of its contract," according to a 60 Minutes report--a share so low it would have been scandalous even at the height of colonial oil pillage. ...

This is what keeps Africa poor: not a lack of political will but the tremendous profitability of the current arrangement. Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest place on earth, is also its most profitable investment destination: It offers, according to the World Bank's 2003 Global Development Finance report, "the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world." Africa is poor because its investors and its creditors are so unspeakably rich.

The idea for which Saro-Wiwa died fighting--that the resources of the land should be used to benefit the people of that land--lies at the heart of every anticolonial struggle in history, from the Boston Tea Party to Iran's turfing of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Abadan....

Pink Floyd to reform for London Live 8 concert - Yahoo! News

Pink Floyd to reform for London Live 8 concert - Yahoo! News: "LONDON (Reuters) - Four members of seminal British rock band Pink Floyd will play together for the first time in 24 years at London's Live 8 charity concert for Africa on July 2, publicists for the event said on Sunday.

David Gilmour, drummer
Nick Mason and keyboard player
Richard Wright will be on stage with bassist
Roger Waters for their first public performance since they played at London's Earls Court in 1981.

The rock legends will join a star-studded line-up including Coldplay,
Elton John and
Paul McCartney at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, organized by activist rocker
Bob Geldof to pressure rich nations to ease African poverty.

'Like most people I want to do everything I can to persuade the G8 leaders to make huge commitments to the relief of poverty and increased aid to the third world,' said Gilmour"

Friday, June 10, 2005

Malnourished child in sudan Posted by Hello

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Broken promises leave three million children to die in Africa

Exciting times indeed, if we can keep the momentum going to help Africa!

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Broken promises leave three million children to die in Africa: "Three million children will die in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the failure of the global community to meet its promise of slashing the death rates of the under-fives by 2015, the UN will reveal tomorrow.
The grim figure emerged as George Bush paved the way for a landmark deal on lifting the huge debt burden on Africa's poorest countries when he announced that the US will stump up extra cash that in the long term will cancel $15bn (about �8.2bn) of accumulated debt. "
In 2000 the UN said that by 2015 it would cut infant mortality by two-thirds, halve the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, and put every child in school.

On current UNDP projections, there will be 5 million under-five deaths in Africa, compared with 2 million if the goals were achieved; 115 million children deprived of an education; and 219 million extra people living below the poverty line.

But the Washington trip will be remembered for the progress Mr Blair made on debt cancellation and the assertion by President Bush that lifting Africa from poverty "is a central goal of my administration".

On debt cancellation the Americans promised not merely 100% cancellation, but also additional funding to ensure that the World Bank does not lose out over cancelled interest payments.

America had been insisting the World Bank was recompensed through cuts in aid programmes to Africa. Now it will provide additional cash.

President Bush told a White House press conference: "We agree that highly indebted developing countries that are on the path to reform should not be burdened by mountains of debt. Our countries are developing a proposal for the G8 that will eliminate 100% of that debt and that by providing additional resources will preserve the financial integrity of the World Bank and the Africa Development Bank."
He omitted any mention of the debt owed to the IMF since America is opposing the British proposal of funding the cancellation by the revaluation of IMF gold reserves.

Mr Bush insisted he would not lift aid to a fixed formula but said he had already tripled aid.

He added: "We have got a fantastic opportunity presuming the countries in Africa make the right decisions. Nobody wants to give money to a country that's corrupt, where leaders take money and put it in their pocket. We expect there to be reciprocation."

Mr Blair also stressed the proposed $25bn extra aid was not a figure taken out of the air. He said, in comments designed to attract the president, that over the coming weeks the cash could be allocated "on the basis of an analysis of what Africa needs".

He listed areas such as malaria, Aids, peace enforcement and education. It is possible the American extra aid cash will not go through multilateral institutions but through funds set up in Washington along the lines of their existing anti-Aids programme.

Mr Blair also stressed, like President Bush, that the aid was not unconditional. He said: "We require the African leadership to be prepared to make a commitment on governance against corruption in favour of democracy.

"What we're not going to do is waste our country's money."

President Bush bridled at suggestions that America would not provide any extra aid cash. He said: "We've got a lot of big talkers. What I'd like to say is my administration actually does what we say we're going to do."

The ONE Campaign

Letter to President Bush to Fight Poverty from U2's

The ONE Campaign

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Crumbs for Africa - New York Times

Crumbs for Africa - New York Times: "June 8, 2005
Crumbs for Africa

President Bush kept a remarkably straight face yesterday when he strode to the microphones with Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, and told the world that the United States would now get around to spending $674 million in emergency aid that Congress had already approved for needy countries. That's it. Not a penny more to buy treated mosquito nets to help save the thousands of children in Sierra Leone who die every year of preventable malaria. Nothing more to train and pay teachers so 11-year-old girls in Kenya may go to school. And not a cent more to help Ghana develop the programs it needs to get legions of young boys off the streets.

Mr. Blair, who will be the host when the G-8, the club of eight leading economic powers, holds its annual meeting next month, is trying to line up pledges to double overall aid for Africa over the next 10 years. That extra $25 billion a year would do all those things, and much more, to raise the continent from dire poverty. Before getting to Washington, Mr. Blair had done very well, securing pledges of large increases from European Union members.

According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent. As Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist in charge of the United Nations' Millennium Project, put it so well, the notion that there is a flood of American aid going to Africa 'is one of our great national myths.'

The United States currently gives just 0.16 percent of its national income to help poor countries, despite signing a United Nations declaration three years ago in which rich countries agreed to increase their aid to 0.7 percent by 2015. Since then, Britain, France and Germany have all announced plans for how to get to 0.7 percent; America has not. The piddling amount Mr. Bush announced yesterday is not even 0.007 percent.

What is 0.7 percent of the American economy? About $80 billion. That is about the amount the Senate just approved for additional military spending, mostly in Iraq. It's not remotely close to the $140 billion corporate tax cut last year.

This should not be the image Mr. Bush wants to project around a world that is intently watching American actions on this issue. At a time when rich countries are mounting a noble and worthy effort to make poverty history, the Bush administration is showing itself to be completely out of touch by offering such a miserly drop in the bucket. It's no surprise that Mr. Bush's offer was greeted with scorn in television broadcasts and newspaper headlines around the world. 'Bush Opposes U.K. Africa Debt Plan,' blared the headline on the AllAfrica news service, based in Johannesburg. 'Blair's Gambit: Shame Bush Into Paying,' chimed in The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

The American people have a great heart. President Bush needs to stop concealing it."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

TCS: Tech Central Station - The Collectivist Feeling

Liberterians vs collectivists...

TCS: Tech Central Station - The Collectivist Feeling: "In my experience, libertarians and collectivists often talk past one another. Libertarians believe that collectivists are not thinking, while collectivists believe that libertarians are not feeling.

I view economics as training in thinking. That does not mean that you lose your empathy with people. It means, however, that you pay attention to the consequences of policies, regardless of their motives. Or, as Alan Blinder put it, economists have Hard Heads, Soft Hearts.

Although many people remember President Clinton as saying 'I feel your pain,' many economists recall policies of his Administration (in which Blinder played a role) that were based on thinking. Support for NAFTA, fiscal restraint, and welfare reform all ran counter to the 'feeling' wing, which holds sway over the Democratic Party today.

I believe that the Republican Party also is dominated at the moment by its 'feeling' wing, which puts issues like the Schiavo case on the front burner. Each party's feeling wing believes so firmly in its own rectitude that it is intolerant of those who disagree. To a skeptic, these wings appear to be anything but 'warm' or 'tactful.'"...

The Right to Health Care?

Those with the collectivist feeling often speak of a "right" to health care. But in The New Libertarian, Bruce McQuain points out, "you have no moral right to demand that a doctor, nurse, or other health care worker provide their time or talents to you without their permission or at their expense."

I believe that a collectivist would argue that the right to health care does not impose such untoward obligations on health care providers. Rather, it is the obligation of "all of us" to provide resources to anyone who needs health care.

As a thinker, however, I can raise some questions about this. Suppose that Bill Gates would rather spend his money improving the health of Africans than on adding to poor Americans' already extravagant health care spending. From a collectivist feeling perspective, however, he could be viewed as violating Americans' right to health care.

Here is another example. I have never had heart trouble. My lipid profile is good. My EKG's have always been normal. I can exercise as much as I want without untoward shortness of breath. But suppose that I decide that I would like to see a cardiologist, "just because." Do I have a right to do so?

In a capitalist society, I have every right to see a cardiologist, and either spend my own money or try to convince my health insurance company to pay for it. But from a collectivist perspective, my "right" to demand that "all of us" pay for the cardiologist would seem more problematic.

The collectivist feelers base their appeal for a right to health care on the presumption that health care is necessary. However, as I have learned by reading the work of economists such as John Wennberg -- and as I have pointed out here and here -- much health care is in fact discretionary. By that I do not mean unnecessary, but still above and beyond the sort of acute care or basic services which are called to mind when the phrase "right to health care" is invoked.

In fact, if a "right to health care" were defined solely in terms of necessary care, enforcing the right to health care would mean dramatically scaling back government health care for all Americans, including the poor and the uninsured. In practice, it would instead become a political piggy bank, with everyone from plastic surgeons to massage therapists to witch doctors insisting that their services be incorporated into the "right to health care."... - In WHO Bunker, Experts Track Deadly Diseases

Kind of like interpol for international medicine! - In WHO Bunker, Experts Track Deadly Diseases: "GENEVA -- Some two dozen disease experts meet every morning at nine in an underground room at the World Health Organization headquarters here to scrutinize the latest reports of infectious disease.

The 18 outbreaks being tracked on a recent morning in the bunker, hub of the WHO's alert and response operations, ranged from polio in Indonesia and avian flu in Vietnam to anthrax in Guinea-Bissau and the Marburg virus in Angola.

With a giant electronic map of the African nation projected on a screen in front of him, one WHO official fretted that the Congolese government hadn't yet provided virus samples for labs to confirm the disease. Another suggested that if the outbreak worsened, an isolation unit in use in Angola for the Marburg outbreak -- including specially trained staff, protective clothing, generators and other gear -- could be moved to the Congo.

Known officially as the Strategic Health Operations Center, the WHO bunker is home to a high-tech effort to track and respond to infectious-disease outbreaks around the world. Officials here organize lab tests, purchase and ship medical supplies and coordinate the activities of local health authorities. In addition to the electronic maps, the room has four large plasma TV screens, computers and a satellite-video system that can simultaneously link 180 people, including the WHO's 148 country and regional offices, with scores of health ministries and labs world-wide....

But what got everyone's attention was an email received over the previous weekend from the Ministry of Health in the Republic of Congo. A band of elephant hunters in the country's northern rain forests, along with several people with whom they were in contact, had died from an acute form of hemorrhagic fever. The team in the WHO bunker feared the worst: a re-emergence of Ebola, the deadly virus that killed scores of people in the same area two years ago."... - A Good Vacation Can Serve As an Inspiration for Change

Amen... - A Good Vacation Can Serve As an Inspiration for Change: "She ended up co-founding a career- and life-coaching firm called Crystal-Barkley Corp. Nearly 25 years later, she's still president.

She has encountered a number of executives who have come back from vacations depressed. The solution doesn't require a reckless change, like quitting your job immediately, she says. Sometimes you just need to modify your career path rather than abandon it entirely. She recalls a successful New York ophthalmologist who took a trip to central Asia. It was part vacation, part volunteer work with people needing treatment for eye diseases. He came back convinced he needed to do more with his life. 'He said: 'Just making money is not enough for me,' ' Ms. Barkley recalls.

Rather than leaving his practice, he continued to work part time as an ophthalmologist. But he also helped found a company that manufactures low-cost eyeglasses for people in developing countries. 'He managed to keep his activities in his profession, but reorganized his activities in such a way that he really was fulfilling what meant the most to him,' Ms. Barkley says." - What We Can Do About Burma

And now for some atrocities outside of Africa... - What We Can Do About Burma: "Defeating apartheid would have been impossible without corporations world-wide mounting economic pressure to help release South Africa from the grip of a criminal regime. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leading voice in that fight for freedom, declared, 'Tough sanctions, not constructive engagement, finally brought the release of Nelson Mandela and the dawn of a new era in my country.' In 1993, when Archbishop Tutu looked to the brutality of the junta controlling Burma, he called it 'the South Africa of the '90s.' More than a decade has passed, but Western corporations are still playing key roles in boosting the Burmese economy that finances the junta's rule."...

In the past few months, a 23-year-old refugee from Burma has documented reports in horrifying detail that demand our attention. She described an incident in which 10 Burmese soldiers stormed a farm and raped a young woman in her hut for eight hours straight. The woman was seven months pregnant at the time. Her husband was tied to a nearby tree and forced to hear the entire assault. The soldiers then dragged him away, and the woman never saw him again. A few days later she gave birth alone in the jungle.

The most shocking thing about this story is how commonplace it has become in Burma...

Why focus on this regime? Despite a lack of enemies outside its borders, Burma has one of the largest armies in Asia. It spends nearly half its budget on the military. At the same time, the United Nations reports that Burma -- once one of Asia's healthiest economies -- is now home to one of the world's poorest populations. It has also become one of the worst providers of health care, with one in 10 children dying before turning five.... - The Copenhagen Solution

More from the on debt relief... - The Copenhagen Solution: "We're not sure what motivated Tony Blair's visit yesterday to the White House; he came to town with a losing hand -- and played it. The British Prime Minister wants President Bush to commit the U.S. to billions in debt relief to the world's poorest countries through a mechanism called the International Finance Facility, which the Administration rightfully considers a nonstarter. Mr. Blair also wants the U.S. to sign on to his views on global warming. This is tilting at windmills in more ways than the Prime Minister may realize.

Instead, what Mr. Blair mainly got was a commitment from the Administration to release another $674 million in humanitarian relief -- most of it food aid -- for Africa, above the $3.2 billion per year it already provides. This is not nothing. By one estimate, the additional money will help feed 14 million people at risk of starvation in East Africa for a year."...

A better approach to thinking about development is required...
Fortunately one exists, called the Copenhagen Consensus. The brainchild of Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, the Consensus is an attempt by leading economists (including three Nobelists) to set priorities for spending on development using traditional cost-benefit analysis. "We need to know what we should do first," says Mr. Lomborg. "Not being willing to prioritize does not make the problem go away: It simply becomes less clear -- and, most likely, more expensive to solve in the end."

To that end, Mr. Lomborg and his colleagues looked at more than a dozen development challenges, ranging from malnutrition to water sanitation to migration to climate change. The results: Development dollars are best spent on the control of HIV-AIDS, principally through condom distribution and information efforts, followed by providing micronutrients (vitamin and mineral pills) to the malnourished, lowering barriers to trade, and controlling malaria. Taking action in these areas, the authors believe, could do the most good for the greatest number of people in the shortest span of time.... - The Blair Debt Project

An interesting perspective on debt forgiveness from the editorial page... - The Blair Debt Project: "Prime Minister Tony Blair visits President Bush today to make his case for new G-7 aid to the world's poor, particularly Africa. Headlines notwithstanding, the disagreement between the two men is not about whether rich countries ought to help the poor, but rather how.

The U.S. is already the world's most generous donor to the global development cause. According to the OECD, total U.S. official assistance in 2004 was almost $19 billion, nearly twice that of the next biggest givers, Japan and France. And for those who talk about 'aid per capita,' keep in mind that U.S. military spending that defends freedom is also a kind of development aid."

As for the Blair-Bush meeting, both leaders agree that forgiving the bad debts of the world's poorest countries is the place to start. But Mr. Blair's proposal, backed by Bono of U-2 fame, amounts to a mulligan for borrowers and the multilateral institutions (such as the World Bank) that lent money so wrecklessly. This do-over is not just debt "forgiveness." It also seeks huge amounts of new capital to continue business as usual. The Bush Administration is right to want to try something new.

Some 38 nations qualify as "highly indebted poor countries," or HIPCs. Despite $144 billion in bad loans, mostly from official lenders, their average per-capita income is more than 25% below where it was in 1980. Ending this misery starts with diagnosing the problem. And to that end, the British claim that "many countries have to choose between servicing their debt and investing in health, education, infrastructure and other areas" isn't helpful -- because it isn't true.

Lenders stopped expecting repayment on this money years ago. In fact, since 1985 the HIPCs have been regular recipients of new funds to cover their debt service, as Carnegie Mellon economist Adam Lerrick shows in a new paper out from Congress's Joint Economic Committee. This has put the HIPCs further into debt. But the process continues so the World Bank and International Monetary Fund can boast -- preposterously -- that they've never made a bad loan.

These lenders have also figured out that they can wring more foreign aid out of donor countries if they call this process "debt relief." So rather than writing down their worthless assets the way normal banks do with their bad commercial loans, these government lenders now want the G-7 to cover their losses, including interest due. Mr. Lerrick calculates that this means that the banks would get $130 for every $100 of nominal debt. Add in the British desire to forgive the debt of other poor countries that have behaved more responsibly, and Mr. Lerrick figures the total bill will be more than $400 billion. No free lunch.

As a down payment for this, Britain is proposing to tap the IMF's gold deposits, which have a market value of some $45 billion. The pretense here is that this gold is merely collecting dust somewhere and is thus free money to distribute, like finding $20 on the sidewalk. But there is no such thing as "IMF gold." That gold belongs to 128 member countries, and 25% of it belongs to developing countries. India, which has more poor people than all 38 HIPC nations combined, owns more than $1 billion. So selling something the banks and IMF don't own is not an option.

Instead, the free money crowd has come up with an accounting scheme worthy of Enron. The idea is for the IMF to "sell" the gold -- currently on its books at $52 per ounce -- in an "off-market transaction" for its market value of about $430 dollars an ounce, and then immediately buy it back at the same price. This legerdemain will allow the IMF to book a "profit" and suddenly look rich.

The trouble is, there really is no "new money," merely a paper profit. To actually generate funds, the IMF will itself have to borrow; and to pay for the cost of this borrowing, it will have to lower the interest rate it pays to lenders while raising the rate it charges poor-country borrowers. In other words, the cost of the new money will be shared 50-50 between IMF debtor (developing) and creditor countries. We apologize for taking readers through this detail, but someone has to show what a scam this is.

There is a better way, as the U.S. is signaling. First, force the World Bank and its cousins to write down their bad loans and acknowledge their failures. Second, move to a model of performance-based grants that will raise accountability. Mr. Lerrick adds that the IMF ought to return the gold at the IMF to its owners; developing countries would get back about $10 billion, and even the HIPCs would receive $1 billion -- all of which could finance development.

Rich countries could then use their $30 billion in returned gold profits to create an endowment to fund grants based on a country's performance in meeting certain policy and development targets. Imagine: Poor country politicians would suddenly be accountable for aid they receive, and the rest of us wouldn't have to repeat this "debt forgiveness" fiasco 20 years from now.

For Fruit Flies, Gene Shift Tilts Sex Orientation - New York Times

For Fruit Flies, Gene Shift Tilts Sex Orientation - New York Times: "When the genetically altered fruit fly was released into the observation chamber, it did what these breeders par excellence tend to do. It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction."
The observing scientist looked with disbelief at the show, for the suitor in this case was not a male, but a female that researchers had artificially endowed with a single male-type gene.

That one gene, the researchers are announcing today in the journal Cell, is apparently by itself enough to create patterns of sexual behavior - a kind of master sexual gene that normally exists in two distinct male and female variants. ..

The results are certain to prove influential in debates about whether genes or environment determine who we are, how we act and, especially, our sexual orientation, although it is not clear now if there is a similar master sexual gene for humans.

Still, experts said they were both awed and shocked by the findings...

The finding supports scientific evidence accumulating over the past decade that sexual orientation may be innately programmed into the brains of men and women. Equally intriguing, the researchers say, is the possibility that a number of behaviors - hitting back when feeling threatened, fleeing when scared or laughing when amused - may also be programmed into human brains, a product of genetic heritage....

All the researchers cautioned that any of these wired behaviors set by master genes will probably be modified by experience. Though male fruit flies are programmed to pursue females, Dr. Dickson said, those that are frequently rejected over time become less aggressive in their mating behavior.

When a normal male fruit fly is introduced to a virgin female, they almost immediately begin foreplay and then copulate for 20 minutes. In fact, Dr. Dickson and his co-author, Dr. Ebru Demir of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, specifically chose to look for the genetic basis of fly sexual behavior precisely because it seemed so strong and instinctive and, therefore, predictable. ...

Foreign Affairs - Background on the News

A varied collection or articles on the avian flu...

Foreign Affairs - Background on the News: "The Next Pandemic?"

The Zimbabwean Pundit: Here's who really got "cleaned up"

Please read in its entirety, this report by Sister Patricia Wash in Zimbabwe...the tragic effects Mugabe's mad government is spelled out in a very poignant email...The Zimbabwean Pundit: Here's who really got "cleaned up": "'Family and Friends, thank you for your telephone calls, your e-mails and all your support and encouragement in these dreadful days and hours - it is a great help.The international press says that the police are destroying 'illegal structures' in Zimbabwe. Let me share with you a little of what is very legal but has been destroyed.In 1992 many thousands of people were put into a Holding Camp at a Place called Hatcliffe Extension, they were not allowed to build permanent structures because this was going to be temporary."...

On Friday morning last week I got a call that the riot police had come into a section of the area and demolished everything - most of the wooden Shacks are just broken to pieces. I went out on Friday and Saturday - people were sleeping out in the open, many of them sick, cold and hungry....

On Sunday evening I received one phone call after another saying "come quick they are going to kill us" - others would say "don't come you might be killed".Early on Monday morning I drove out to Hatcliffe, already in the distance I Could only see smoke rising up - nothing else. I arrived, I wept, Sister Carina was with me, she wept, the people tried to console us - they were aLL outside in the midst of their broken houses, furniture and goods all over the place, children screaming, sick people in agony....

An emergency taxi (mini bus) stands in the middle of this "war zone" with the words "God is Faithful" written on it!Just now we are going back there with food, clothing, medicine and cash, we can only try. (italics mine)I am NOT cold, I am NOT hungry but I am very ANGRY. I pray that this will pass.We stand in shock and cry with the people but we also have to try to keep them alive. When will sanity prevail?Where is the outside world? Busy talking about a "NO vote by France".How can the "little ones of this world be brutalized in this way"? Their only crime - they are poor, they are helpless and they happen to live In the wrong part of town and in a country that does not have oil and is not very important to the West.One bystander told me that he had phoned the Red Cross asking for help but was informed "it is not a war situation" so there is nothing we can do!PRAY FOR US.

God bless and reward you for your concern.


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* Here's who really got "cleaned up"
* "Cleanup" Exposed
* Anxious expediency
* Blogosphere abuzz
* Life in Harare
* Dear Mr. President: Clean up then what?
* Situation worsens in Zim
* "Mugabe unwell"
* "Is Zimbabwe's land redistribution equitable?"
* So you want
# Click here for front page

Monday, June 06, 2005

Rat brain flies jet | The Register

I'm a rocketman...(rat?)

Rat brain flies jet | The Register: "Florida scientists have grown a brain in a petri dish and taught it to fly a fighter plane.

Scientists at the university of Florida taught the 'brain', which was grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a rat embryo, to pilot an F-22 jet simulator. It was taught to control the flight path, even in mock hurricane-strength winds."...

"When we first hooked them up, the plane 'crashed' all the time," Dr Thomas DeMarse, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida, said. "But over time, the neural network slowly adapts as the brain learns to control the pitch and roll of the aircraft. After a while, it produces a nice straight and level trajectory."

The brain-in-a-dish was DeMarse' idea. To produce it, 25,000 rat neurones were suspended in a specialised liquid to keep them alive and then laid across a grid of 60 electrodes in a small glass dish.

The cells at first looked like grains of sand under the microscope, but soon began to connect to form what scientists call a "live computation device" (a brain). Electrodes monitor and stimulate neural activity in this network, allowing researchers to study how the brain processes and transfers information...

Lost in Translation

This is a pretty cool website...

Lost in Translation: "What happens when an English phrase is translated (by computer) back and forth between 5 different languages? The authors of the Systran translation software probably never intended this application of their program. As of September 2003, translation software is almost good enough to turn grammatically correct, slang-free text from one language into grammatically incorrect, barely readable approximations in another. But the software is not equipped for 10 consecutive translations of the same piece of text. The resulting half-English, half-foreign, and totally non sequitur response bears almost no resemblance to the original. Remember the old game of 'Telephone'? Something is lost, and sometimes something is gained. Try it for yourself!" News | Dutch to reevaluate medical pot program News | Dutch to reevaluate medical pot program: "une 6, 2005 | Amsterdam, Netherlands -- The Dutch Health Ministry, unhappy with legal sales of medical marijuana through pharmacies, will reevaluate its program later this year and may close it, a spokesman said Monday.

In a country where unauthorized marijuana has been easily available for decades, the government was surprised to find that prescription marijuana produced under stringent quality controls has been far less successful than predicted, said Health Ministry spokesman Bas Kuik.

The Dutch were considering their reassessment as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that users of medical marijuana could be prosecuted under federal law even if their doctors had prescribed it legally according to state law.

Official intolerance in America for marijuana still raises eyebrows in the Netherlands, where marijuana is accessible to any adult in 'coffee shops' -- so called to maintain the fiction of legality. In the shops, the sale of small quantities of marijuana remains technically illegal but is tolerated by the authorities."

Nutrition & Exercise Studies Demonstrate Positive Weight Loss Program, Effects on High Altitude Climbers

Latest from the 87th annual meeting of the Endocrine society
Nutrition & Exercise Studies Demonstrate Positive Weight Loss Program, Effects on High Altitude Climbers: "SAN DIEGO, June 6 /PRNewswire/ -- A number of new nutrition and exercise studies will be presented today at ENDO 2005, the 87th Annual Meeting of The Endocrine Society. Research to be presented includes a successful weight loss program, the effect unfiltered coffee has on cholesterol, physical effects of extended exposure to high altitudes on climbers and the skeletal health of rowers versus runners."

Grounding a Pandemic - New York Times

Grounding a Pandemic - New York Times: "Washington — When we think of the major threats to our national security, the first to come to mind are nuclear proliferation, rogue states and global terrorism. But another kind of threat lurks beyond our shores, one from nature, not humans - an avian flu pandemic. An outbreak could cause millions of deaths, destabilize Southeast Asia (its likely place of origin), and threaten the security of governments around the world."...

International health experts say that two of the three conditions for an avian flu pandemic in Southeast Asia have already been met. First, a new strain of the virus, called A(H5N1), has emerged, and humans have little or no immunity to it. Second, this strain can jump between species. The only remaining obstacle is that A(H5N1) has not yet mutated into a form that is easily transmitted from human to human.

However, there have been some alarming developments. In recent months, the virus has been detected in mammals that have never previously been infected, including tigers, leopards and domestic cats. This spread suggests that the virus is mutating and could eventually emerge in a form that is readily transmittable among humans, leading to a full-blown pandemic. In fact, according to government officials, a few cases of human-to-human spread of A(H5N1) have already occurred. ...

Just Do Something - New York Times

You can go to or for more information (These are Bono's organizations).
Just Do Something - New York Times: "Next month could be a historic turning point for the more than 300 million Africans who live on less than a dollar a day. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has been busily lining up international support for his proposal to attack poverty in Africa by ramping up foreign aid. Serious studies commissioned by the British government and the United Nations have identified promising new paths toward economic and human development. The leading nations of Europe have pledged long-term financial support. Leading entertainers like Madonna, Bono, Will Smith and Elton John have announced a set of simultaneous concerts to take place in London, Rome, Berlin and Philadelphia to mobilize grass-roots enthusiasm."...
Only one crucial element is still missing - the wholehearted support of the United States government....
Two weeks ago, the European Union announced that its members would double their aid to poor countries by 2015. The announcement came after France, Britain and Germany - all members of the G-8 - had each laid out timetables for meeting the United Nations' target of increasing foreign assistance to poor countries to 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2015. The European announcements further isolated the American government, which gives only 0.18 percent, and has remained mute about getting to 0.7 percent...

Gehanne Beaulieu, center, a Haitian bank teller, is comforted by a relative after being released by kidnappers on Tuesday in Port-au-Prince.

 Posted by Hello

A New Scourge Afflicts Haiti: Kidnappings - New York Times

A New Scourge Afflicts Haiti: Kidnappings - New York Times: "PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 5 - She is a bank teller. Her husband delivers air mail packages for DHL.
In a country where about 70 percent of adults have no jobs, that means Gehanne and Jacques-Henri Beaulieu are worth a small fortune.

Michael Kamber for The New York Times
As Mrs. Beaulieu arrived for work on Tuesday, in broad daylight, on the busy Rue des Miracles, three men carrying long guns forced their way into her car. Within the hour, they called her husband by cellphone and demanded $20,000.
'If you do not give us the money,' a voice said, at once gentle and cold, 'we will execute her.'
Emptying his bank accounts, Mr. Beaulieu came up with only $2,700. He began calling friends and relatives, many in the United States, asking desperately for money."...
Indeed, more than a year after the start of yet another conflict-ridden political transition, it is hard to tell who, if anyone, has taken charge in Haiti...
By the accounts of diplomats and political observers, human rights activists and business people, this remains a country poised for implosion, with almost all its institutions ravaged from the inside out by corruption. Ruthless mobs have risen in their place, led by drug traffickers, former military officers, corrupt police officers and street thugs. They have set off a devastating wave of murders, carjackings, armed robberies and rapes.

Kidnappings are the latest scourge.

Like most crimes, kidnappings tend to go unreported. But authorities in the interim government and foreign diplomats estimate that 6 to 12 kidnappings occur in this city every day...
Mr. Foley said Haiti - where most people live on $1 a day, more than 40 percent of children are malnourished, and childbirth is the second leading cause of death among women - faced myriad challenges as it struggled for stability. But, he said, unless the government took control of the streets, it would make no real progress on any other front...
"Haiti is close to a failed state," Mr. Foley said. "Many people have looked at the current mission as Haiti's last chance to have a huge international effort to help it become self-sustaining."..
Schools and businesses in the center of the city have closed. Well-to-do Haitians with relatives abroad have begun to leave the country. Those who stay say they are increasingly afraid to leave their homes.

Jean-Gérard Gilbert, the director of a private high school in the city's center, was abducted at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday at the school's front gate. His wife, Maryse Gilbert, said he called her half an hour later.

"I've been kidnapped," he told her. "They shot me two times in my feet."

Then Mrs. Gilbert said the kidnappers snatched the phone and demanded $200,000. "Where am I supposed to get that kind of money?" she asked them.

After hours of negotiations, Mrs. Gilbert said, she and the kidnappers reached an agreement on the ransom. She would not reveal the amount, but said that relatives had delivered the money, and that the kidnappers promised to release her husband.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday, they called to say that her husband was in a coma.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Gilbert was still missing. His students held a demonstration outside their school to demand his safe return.

A gunman drove by and opened fire on them. Two students were wounded and taken to the hospital.

Mrs. Gilbert remained alone at the school on Thursday afternoon, waiting for her cellphone to ring.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

U.S. blasts Saudis, others on human trafficking - International News -

There is a video link available here as well...
U.S. blasts Saudis, others on human trafficking - International News -

US Trafficking Report Biased, Says Kingdom

US Trafficking Report Biased, Says Kingdom: "JEDDAH, 5 June 2005 � Saudi Arabia yesterday disagreed with a US State Department report accusing Riyadh of human trafficking, and said the report was �neither objective nor impartial� as it ignored abuses in the United States and Europe."

Telegraph | News | Blair gives up on his EU dream

Telegraph | News | Blair gives up on his EU dream: "Tony Blair has given up on Europe as an issue worth fighting for, senior allies of the Prime Minister have told The Sunday Telegraph."...

Mr Blair, who will seek to shift the focus of his administration on to poverty in the Third World this week during talks with President Bush, has told his closest allies: "Africa is worth fighting for. Europe, in its present form, is not."

Asymmetrical Information: Wolfie for the Bank

Interesting discussion of the historical forces behind world poverty...

Asymmetrical Information: Wolfie for the Bank: "Wolfie for the Bank

Paul Wolfowitz takes the helm of the World Bank today. So far, so good. But fighting poverty nation by nation is perhaps the hardest job in the world today. A while back I had an interesting debate with Laura, of the ever-excellent Apartment 11D, on whether or not 'unregulated capitalism' was good for the third world. My answer is that when we look at the third world, our heart cries out, as it should, but that doesn't mean that those in the third world are victims of anything but nature. The appalling poverty of Sri Lanka or Mozambique is not some bizarre aberration that can be tracked to a cause we can cure. We are the aberration; Sri Lanka and Mozambique are the normal state of human history. Trying to figure out how to reproduce those abnormal results in a couple hundred more countries is very, very hard. Fascinating, and unbelievably important. But tricky. If Paul Wolfowitz thought he was controversial before, wait until he tries to finance his first dam."

military news about Nations Around the World

military news about Nations Around the World: "June 3, 2005: Zimbabwe is about ready to explode in a nightmare mass murder, or bloody revolution. It’s not genocide this time, but democide (government killing massive numbers of its own citizens.) The Zimbabwe government, in power since the country became independent in 1980, dealt with increasing unpopularity by terrorizing political opponents, rigging elections, and paying off supporters by driving its most productive citizens (the white farmers) out of the country and stealing their property. This move made it impossible for the country to feed itself. Relief agencies sent in tons of food, but this was distributed in a punitive fashion, with anti-government areas getting less food, or none at all. Last year, the government proclaimed the food emergency over, and said it needed no more charity from foreigners. That was a face saving lie. This year, the government admitted there was a food problem, and requested 1.2 million tons of food.

But it appears that the government will again use the food as a weapon."...

Vaccine Shows Promise for Fighting Ebola Virus - New York Times

Vaccine Shows Promise for Fighting Ebola Virus - New York Times: "Scientists trying to develop vaccines against Africa's deadly Marburg and Ebola viruses are reporting an important milestone, a new type of vaccine that prevents the diseases in monkeys. Successfully immunizing monkeys is an essential step toward the goal of producing vaccines for people.
Two new vaccines, one for Marburg and one for Ebola, were 100 percent effective in a study of 12 macaques being published today in the journal Nature Medicine. Monkeys given just one shot of vaccine and later injected with a high dose of virus did not even get sick. Normally, all the animals would be expected to die."

Rape in Sudan Posted by Hello

A Policy of Rape - New York Times

Where is the outrage?

A Policy of Rape - New York Times: "All countries have rapes, of course. But here in the refugee shantytowns of Darfur, the horrific stories that young women whisper are not of random criminality but of a systematic campaign of rape to terrorize civilians and drive them from 'Arab lands' - a policy of rape."

One measure of the international community's hypocrisy is that the world is barely bothering to protest. More than two years after the genocide in Darfur began, the women of Kalma Camp - a teeming squatter's camp of 110,000 people driven from their burned villages - still face the risk of gang rape every single day as they go out looking for firewood...

Gang rape is terrifying anywhere, but particularly so here. Women who are raped here are often ostracized for life, even forced to build their own huts and live by themselves. In addition, most girls in Darfur undergo an extreme form of genital cutting called infibulation that often ends with a midwife stitching the vagina shut with a thread made of wild thorns. This stitching and the scar tissue make sexual assault a particularly violent act, and the resulting injuries increase the risk of H.I.V. transmission.

Sudan has refused to allow aid groups to bring into Darfur more rape kits that include medication that reduces the risk of infection from H.I.V.

The government has also imprisoned rape victims who became pregnant, for adultery. Even those who simply seek medical help are harassed and humiliated...

The attacks are sometimes purely about humiliation. Some women are raped with sticks that tear apart their insides, leaving them constantly trickling urine. One Sudanese woman working for a European aid organization was raped with a bayonet.

Doctors Without Borders issued an excellent report in March noting that it alone treated almost 500 rapes in a four-and-a-half-month period. Sudan finally reacted to the report a few days ago - by arresting an Englishman and a Dutchman working for Doctors Without Borders...

I'm still chilled by the matter-of-fact explanation I received as to why it is women who collect firewood, even though they're the ones who are raped. The reason is an indication of how utterly we are failing the people of Darfur, two years into the first genocide of the 21st century.

"It's simple," one woman here explained. "When the men go out, they're killed. The women are only raped."

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