Tuesday, January 31, 2006

sundaytimes.co.za :: Home of the Sunday Times :: South Africa's best selling newspaper ::

A humorous account of African stereotypes from the Kenyan award winning writer, Binyavanga Wainaina...

sundaytimes.co.za :: Home of the Sunday Times :: South Africa's best selling newspaper ::: "Some tips: sunsets and starvation are good. Always use the word Africa or Darkness or Safari in your title. Subtitles may include the words Zanzibar, Masai, Zulu, Zambezi, Congo, Nile, Big, Sky, Shadow, Drum, Sun or Bygone. Also useful are words such as Guerrillas, Timeless, Primordial and Tribal. Note that People means Africans who are not black, while The People means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress."

How to fold a Tshirt FAST!

Check out this cool video (from Japan I think) on how to fold a tshirt fast!

Take a Hike - New York Times

I personally refuse to eat anything which contains high-fructose corn syrup....

Take a Hike - New York Times: "First, a quiz: What 'vegetable' do American infants and toddlers eat most?

Weep, for it's the French fry. A major study conducted by Gerber found that up to one-third of young children don't eat any vegetable daily, but that the French fry is the single most common one they do consume. And among children age 19 months to 24 months, 20 percent eat French fries at least once a day."...

Think of two of the biggest breakthroughs in improving Americans' health over the last generation or two. They had nothing to do with doctors, but arose from higher cigarette taxes and other efforts to discourage smoking, and from compulsory seatbelts and improvements in auto safety....

Tax junk foods. Some 19 states already impose taxes on particular junk foods, like soda, and a nickel-a-can tax on soft drinks would generate $7 billion in revenues. In particular, we should tax high-fructose corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener in a vast array of products and is a major culprit in the fattening of America....

28 Days to Save Darfur - New York Times

28 Days to Save Darfur - New York Times: "HOW can the United States best use its monthlong turn as president of the United Nations Security Council, which it assumes tomorrow? It could start by devoting itself to ending the violence in the Darfur region of western Sudan — violence that President Bush has characterized as genocide.

There is precedent for such action. The last time the United States assumed the rotating presidency of the 15-member Security Council, it made a real contribution to peace in the region. John C. Danforth, then the ambassador to the United Nations, brought the entire Security Council to Kenya to pressure the government in Khartoum and the insurgents in the south to end their 21-year civil war. The tactic worked. Shortly afterward, Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed a comprehensive peace agreement."

T3 - Red iPod incoming

T3 - Red iPod incoming: "Late last week rumours surfaced that a red iPod is in the pipeline. This began following a post on Popbitch which claimed that U2 front man Bono was overheard “in Dublin's Michelin-starred Patrick Guilbaud restaurant discussing a new charity red Amex card and red iPod.” There was nothing to suggest this was more than pure hearsay until Bono today unveiled the aforementioned red Amex card as part of Product Red – a new brand of red merchandise created to help fight the global battle against HIV. The idea is that around 40 percent of the profits received from the sale of these special red products would go to the Global Fund to Fight Aids.

Although Apple hasn’t officially been named as one of the partners in this new charity scheme, we’ve heard that an announcement could soon be on the cards. Stay tuned for more details."

the new red ipod? Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 30, 2006

Comfort foods that won't blow your diet - Nutrition Notes - MSNBC.com

Comfort foods that won't blow your diet - Nutrition Notes - MSNBC.com: "Some researchers contend that after about four bites of a food your brain reaches its maximum ability to savor and remember it. Since four bites may be enough to satisfy your craving, don’t eat your comfort food while doing something that distracts you from fully savoring it. By turning to another activity after eating a small amount, you may get the comfort you want without the guilt, extra calories, or fat."

CNN.com - Drinking joins smoking as cancer risk - Jan 30, 2006

CNN.com - Drinking joins smoking as cancer risk - Jan 30, 2006: "LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Along with smoking and chronic infections, alcohol consumption is an important cause of several types of cancer, researchers said on Monday.

Excessive drinking raises the risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon and breast. It may also be linked with cancer of the pancreas and lung.

'Alcohol is underestimated as a cause of cancer in many parts of the world,' said Dr Paolo Boffetta of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France."

CNN.com - Museum visitor trips, breaks Chinese vases - Jan 30, 2006

CNN.com - Museum visitor trips, breaks Chinese vases - Jan 30, 2006: "CAMBRIDGE, England (AP) -- A museum visitor shattered three Qing dynasty Chinese vases when he tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and brought the vases crashing to the floor, officials said Monday.

The three vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had been donated to The Fitzwilliam Museum in the university city of Cambridge in 1948, and were among its best-known artifacts. They had been sitting proudly on the window sill beside the staircase for 40 years.

'It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident, but we are glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed,' said Duncan Robinson, the Fitzwilliam's director.

The museum declined to identify the man who had tripped on a loose shoelace Wednesday.

Asked about the porcelain vases, Margaret Greeves, the museum's assistant director, said: 'They are in very, very small pieces, but we are determined to put them back together.'

The museum declined to say what the vases were worth."

Displaced Populations in Darfur Increasingly Face Annihilation, January 28, 2006 :: sudanreeves.org :: Sudan Research, Analysis, and Advocacy

Displaced Populations in Darfur Increasingly Face Annihilation, January 28, 2006 :: sudanreeves.org :: Sudan Research, Analysis, and Advocacy: "Growing number of Janjaweed attacks on camps;
UN High Commissioner for Refugees warns of impending “catastrophe”

Eric Reeves
January 28, 2006

The ghastly final stage in the ongoing violent destruction of non-Arab or African tribal populations in Darfur has begun. An increasing number of reports highlight attacks on camps for displaced persons by Khartoum’s murderous Arab militia proxy, the Janjaweed. In late September 2005, an attack by the Janjaweed on Aro Sharow camp for displaced persons in West Darfur prompted Juan Mendez, UN special advisor for the prevention of genocide, to declare:

“Until last week [September 28, 2005], there have never been concerted, massive attacks of an indiscriminate nature against civilians in camps in Darfur” (Washington Post, October 10, 2005)."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

They're Rounding the First Turn! And the Favorite Is . . . - New York Times

They're Rounding the First Turn! And the Favorite Is . . . - New York Times: "The great race of the 21st century is under way between China and India to see which will be the leading power in the world in the year 2100.

President Bush's trip to India next month is important, for we in America must brace ourselves to see not only China looming in our rear-view mirror, but eventually India as well. India was the world's great disappointment of the 20th century, but now it's moving jerkily forward with economic reforms, reminding me of China around 1990.

One of India's (and China's) greatest strengths is its hunger for education. Most American newspapers lure readers with comics, and some British tabloids with photos of topless women, but a Calcutta daily newspaper is so shameless that it publishes a column on math equations. Imagine titillating readers with trigonometry!"

Sympatico/MSN News - CBC.ca

Sympatico/MSN News - CBC.ca: "Rare video footage shows a giant octopus attacking a small submarine off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Salmon researchers working on the Brooks Peninsula were shocked last November when an octopus attacked their expensive and sensitive equipment.

The giant Pacific octopus weighs about 45 kilograms, powerful enough to damage Mike Wood's remote-controlled submarine.

Wood's first reaction was to panic, knowing the marine creature can exert a powerful bite."

Screen Test - Why we should start measuring bias. By Jay Dixit

Screen Test - Why we should start measuring bias. By Jay Dixit: "'Everyone's a little bit racist sometimes,' proclaims the Broadway musical Avenue Q. 'Doesn't mean we go/ Around committing hate crimes/ Look around and you will find/ No one's really colorblind/ Maybe it's a fact/ We all should face/ Everyone makes judgments/ Based on race.'

How do you test internal bias? You can try asking people, but since most of us don't like to think of ourselves as biased, we won't necessarily admit to it on a questionnaire, even anonymously. But there's a test to detect the kind of bias people won't admit to and may not even be aware of themselves—a test that works. The psychologists who devised it, however, are squeamish about real-world uses of it. They shouldn't be. Though it shouldn't be used as the basis for hiring decisions, the test has its place.

In 2003, Mahzarin Banaji, Anthony G. Greenwald, and Brian Nosek published a paper detailing an experimental methodology they had developed called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT. Rather than asking subjects what they thought about different races (or what they thought they thought), Banaji and her colleagues decided to time them as they paired words and images."

In the test's most popular version, the Race IAT, subjects are shown a computer screen and asked to match positive words (love, wonderful, peace) or negative words (evil, horrible, failure) with faces of African-Americans or whites. Their responses are timed. If you tend to associate African-Americans with "bad" concepts, it will take you longer to group black faces with "good" concepts because you perceive them as incompatible. If you're consistently quicker at connecting positive words with whites and slower at connecting positive words with blacks—or quicker at connecting negative words with blacks and slower at connecting negative words with whites—you have an implicit bias for white faces over those of African-Americans. In other words, the time it takes you to pair the faces and words yields an empirical measure of your attitudes. (Click here for a more detailed description of the test.)

The elegance of Banaji's test is that it doesn't let you lie. What's being measured is merely the speed of each response. You might hate the idea of having a bias against African-Americans, but if it takes you significantly longer to group black faces with good concepts, there's no way you can hide it. You can't pretend to connect words and images faster any more than a sprinter can pretend to run faster. And you won't significantly change your score if you deliberately try to slow down your white = good and black = bad pairings.

Isabelle Dinoire--the world's first face transplant recipient Posted by Picasa

Sunday Times: My strange life with someone else's face [ 29jan06 ]

Sunday Times: My strange life with someone else's face [ 29jan06 ]: "Barely two months ago, the 38-year-old French divorcee received the world's first face transplant and this exclusive photograph reveals the full extent of her remarkable transformation.

Last May, she had a wide, tilted nose, a prominent chin and thin lips. Today, the donated face of suicide Maryline Saint-Aubert has given her a straight and narrow nose, a neater chin and a fuller mouth.

Despite the prominent surgical scars, Miss Dinoire and her doctors say they are delighted by the results."

NPR : An Interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

An inspiring interview. If you find it compelling, read "God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time " by Desmond Tutu
NPR : An Interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, known for work in post-apartheid South Africa, has spent much of his life getting people to look at the world in a different way. To throw away old categories, old concepts and start fresh."

Or, in the archbishop's words: "Each single one of us is said to be of infinite worth... each one of us is a god carrier, each one of us god's viceroy. Can you imagine if we really believed that?"

A Real Taste of South Asia? Take the Tube to Southall - New York Times

If you ever are in London, even for a stopover at Heathrow, you must check out Southall for some of the best Indian food in the world. The atmosphere is often quite festive as well...

A Real Taste of South Asia? Take the Tube to Southall - New York Times: "INSIDE the Glassy Junction pub, a large framed photograph of a smiling Indian wearing a turban and aviator sunglasses looks out over tables of people snacking on naan bread, korma and kebabs. The beer selection ranges from Kingfisher to Carling, and a pint can be had for 300 rupees (about $6.95 at 43 rupees to the dollar), if you happen to be carrying currency from the subcontinent. The hypnotic rhythms of Bhangra music fill the room."

Bird Flu Cases Found in Saudi Arabia

Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia serves as a focal point for the spread of many epidemics, such as the spread of polio to Indonesia from Nigeria, in large part due to the numerous people who converge to Mecca for Haj. I am not sure whether or not this is the mechanism of the spread of bird flu to Saudi Arabia....

Bird Flu Cases Found in Saudi Arabia: "RIYADH, 29 January 2006 — Saudi Arabia has culled 37 falcons after some of them tested positive to the H5 virus of the avian flu, the Agriculture Ministry said yesterday.

A ministry team inspecting falcons kept in a veterinary center in Riyadh, which takes care of the birds that are usually used for hunting, discovered the cases, Saudi Press Agency quoted the ministry statement as saying.

The ministry said the 37 falcons, including the five positive cases “were killed and burned.”"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mad About Medicine - The Good and the Bad about American Medicine

Mad About Medicine - The Good and the Bad about American Medicine: "Nature abhors a vacuum. For years I never understood that line. I always thought that it meant that if you suck everything up there will be nothing left for anyone else and you will be hated. That, of course is not nature and a vacuum but the American insurance industry- sucking up all that is left of healthcare dollars. What I have learned over the years is that if an important thing is left unattended, then it will be attended to by default- usually by the least qualified. This leads us to the obvious- The Government and the press are waging a war they call healthcare reform with no clue as to the problems or the solutions. Our healthcare reform vacuum is being filled by the vacuous. Heaven help us."
If all you did was read the press recently this is what you would learn the "reason" why healthcare is in trouble in America:

  1. An unacceptable number of people are uninsured
  2. American medicine generates tens of thousands of fatal errors yearly
  3. We have a shorter life expectancy that the British, French, German, Canadians, and Japanese
  4. 16% of our resources go into healthcare
  5. There is over 700 billion dollars of waste in American medicine
Source: Bush's Turn to Health Care, Sebastian Mallaby, NY Sun, January 17, 2006

I bring these up, not to point out the NY Sun's expertise in reporting healthcare (not) but only that these are common complaints and were so noted in this article. Unfortunately, solutions are rarely offered in these reports.

One of the big problems we are having is connecting problems with solutions. Here is what the Asylum inmates are saying now:

If you pay bonuses to hospitals and doctors that score well on quality and price measures this will work. Brain dead. The Harvard researchers who preached this should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe they should move to Yale instead. Here's a reality check for Ivy League researchers- insurers don't want to pay. They not only don't pay doctors and hospitals market value, they don't want to pay at all. Ever. They will delay payments and rachet down payments to squeeze out more stockholder value. They certainly will not pay "bonuses." In New York, Oxford Health Plans has not raised any of its reimbursement for 6 years. Not even covering inflation.

Paying market level is NOT A BONUS.

Also- who defines a quality measure? The National Council of Quality Assurance (NCQA) rates health plans on things like pediatric immunization and pap smears. This means that an HMO can hire Vin Diesel to blow up San Francisco but if he immunizes the 3 surviving children and does a pap smear on their mother The Vin Diesel HMO scores high in NCQA ratings. Nice job. Pin a medal on his chest and sign me up.

A small percentage of the gross profit of American insurance companies can pay for the healthcare of the uninsured for 17 consecutive decades. Anyone ever think of that as an idea? That is a little too complex for the current "Abramoff Congress"- Democrats and Republican who have their heads so far up the insurance company lobby's rear that the sun won't shine on the backdoor of healthcare for eons to come.

Certainly there are answers out there but in the end, everyone thinks it's the doctors, hospitals, and patients that are ruining health in America- it is actually the overregulation and the raping of the system by greedy insurers, pharmaceuticals and failure of the lobby-controlled government to act responsibly.

In a truly superb book, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, five points were noted by authors John F. Cogan, R. Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel P. Kessler:
  1. The tax law needs to be changed to reduce the preference for medical-care purchases through employer-based insurance.
  2. Health insurance regulation needs reforming.
  3. Health information needs to flow more freely.
  4. Hospitals, doctors, and insurers need to control anticompetitive behavior. (a corollary is that the government needs to free them in the free market)
  5. Reform the malpractice system.

These are clear and concise suggestions. So what does the Government and the Press say about this? Nothing. They just heap blame on anyone EXCEPT insurance companies.

The uninsured will not magically awake to insurance one day. Doctors do not charge too much for services. Hospitals really do care about the health of patients. Hello.

Years ago, healthcare rooms were filled with caring doctors, nurses and hospitals. Someone thought that while this clinical room was full, the finance rooms and regulations rooms were a bit empty. We then filled them with criminally insane insurance executives, Senators, and Congressmen that control healthcare in America like Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Where is McMurphy when you need him?

Wren Chorus line showing alternating birds seamlessly alternating vocalizations to create a melody Posted by Picasa

Just Duet: Science News Online, Jan. 28, 2006

Just Duet: Science News Online, Jan. 28, 2006: "As the morning mists rose on the slopes of Ecuador's Pasochoa volcano, the burbling of plain-tailed wrens came through the bamboo thickets. Two researchers started their standard procedure of catching wrens, banding them, and letting them go. Soon, however, they were startled when a small cluster of wrens settled into a bush and began singing together. It turned out to be 'one of the most complex singing performances yet described in a nonhuman animal,' says Nigel Mann."
Mann, of the State University of New York at Oneonta, and a colleague had gone to Pasochoa in the summer of 2002 as part of a team that was surveying of the 28-or-so species of the bird genus Thryothorus. That genus is famous for musical duets, in which a male and a female alternate phrases, sometimes so rapidly that it sounds like one song. Ecuador's plain-tailed wrens (Thryothorus euophrys), relatives of North America's Carolina wren, make a rhythmic, bubbling song together.

Red Alert for Red Apes: DNA shows big losses for Borneo orangutans: Science News Online, Jan. 28, 2006

Red Alert for Red Apes: DNA shows big losses for Borneo orangutans: Science News Online, Jan. 28, 2006: "Because they hang out in nests high up in trees and lead relatively solitary lives, orangutans have challenged scientists trying to study them. Now, orangutans face their own challenge, and it's urgent.

UP A TREE. New genetic study portrays a bleak future for orangutans in Borneo if conservation efforts are not initiated. DNA changes indicate a rapid drop in population.
J. Sinyor/KOCP

Increasingly steep population declines over the past century or two have imperiled orangutans' survival in northeastern Borneo, according to a new DNA analysis. In just the past few decades, the population has dropped from more than 20,000 to about 5,000 orangutans, report geneticist Benoit Goossens of Cardiff University in England and his colleagues. This trend coincides with extensive forest clearance that began in the 1890s and accelerated during the past 50 years, the scientists note."

PLoS Medicine: Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies

From a former director of the British Medical Journal...

PLoS Medicine: Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies: "“Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry”, wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, in March 2004 [1]. In the same year, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, lambasted the industry for becoming “primarily a marketing machine” and co-opting “every institution that might stand in its way” [2]. Medical journals were conspicuously absent from her list of co-opted institutions, but she and Horton are not the only editors who have become increasingly queasy about the power and influence of the industry. Jerry Kassirer, another former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, argues that the industry has deflected the moral compasses of many physicians [3], and the editors of PLoS Medicine have declared that they will not become “part of the cycle of dependency…between journals and the pharmaceutical industry” [4]. Something is clearly u"

Friday, January 27, 2006

Committee on Conscience | Analysis | Transcript

A concise summary of the current state of affairs from Eric Reeves, one of the leading experts on Darfur. His increasing involvement in publicizing the Darfur genocide, also illustrates how one individual can make a difference...

Committee on Conscience | Analysis | Transcript: "JANUARY 26, 2006, A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO SUDAN

NARRATOR: Welcome to Voices on Genocide Prevention, a podcasting service of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Your host is Jerry Fowler, Director of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience.

JERRY FOWLER: Our guest today is Eric Reeves. He is a professor of English language and literature at Smith College who now devotes himself full time to Sudan research and analysis. His comments are widely read and are available on the web at www.sudanreeves.org. Eric, welcome to the program.

Web game provides breakthrough in predicting spread of epidemics | Science Blog

Web game provides breakthrough in predicting spread of epidemics | Science Blog: "Using a popular internet game that traces the travels of dollar bills, scientists have unveiled statistical laws of human travel in the United States, and developed a mathematical description that can be used to model the spread of infectious disease in this country. This model is considered a breakthrough in the field.

'We were confident that we could learn a lot from the data collected at the www.wheresgeorge.com bill-tracking website, but the results turned out far beyond our expectations,' said Lars Hufnagel, a post-doctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of an article describing the research in the January 26 issue of the journal Nature."

surgical robots--open your mouth and say "AH!" Posted by Picasa

BBC NEWS | Health | Dextrous mini-robots to aid ops

BBC NEWS | Health | Dextrous mini-robots to aid ops: "Scientists are developing a new generation of dextrous mini-robots for use in minimally invasive surgery.

New Scientist magazine reports that several prototypes of the radio-controlled robots are being tested in animal models.

They have been used to help perform gall bladder and prostate removal in pig experiments.

The University of Nebraska team believe they could potentially revolutionise minimally invasive keyhole surgery.

There are several prototypes of the robots, each about 15 millimetres in diameter.

One has a camera attached, another is equipped with a needle that can extract a small piece of tissue for a biopsy.

The robot that moves around the abdominal cavity has a spiral pattern on its wheels, allowing it to transverse multiple organ surfaces and move around without slipping or damaging tissue."...

In the future, a surgeon removing a gall bladder or performing a liver biopsy may be able to introduce the robots via the patient's mouth, then pass them through a small incision in the stomach wall.

Association for Psychological Science: 'To be or, or ... um ... line!'

Association for Psychological Science: 'To be or, or ... um ... line!': "'How do you learn all those lines?' It is the question most asked of actors and their art. The ability to remember and effortlessly deliver large quantities of dialogue verbatim amazes non-thespians. Most people imagine that learning a script involves hours, days, and even months of rote memorization. But actors seldom work that way; in fact, they often don't consciously try to memorize lines at all. And they seldom consider memorization as defining what they do.

What gives actors their seemingly effortless memory capabilities? Could acting teach us something about memory and cognition, and could acting principles help those with memory problems?"...Hit the link!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oddly Enough News Article | Reuters.com

Oddly Enough News Article | Reuters.com: "NAIROBI (Reuters) - A starving Kenyan woman placed a powerful tribal curse on God, accusing him of sending famine, and died in her sleep, local newspapers said Thursday.

The woman from eastern Kenya's drought-ravaged Kangundo district decided to invoke a dreaded oath from the Kamba community, famed for its potent witchcraft, media reports said.

'Whoever brought this famine, let him perish,' the woman chanted, striking a cooking pot with a stick.

'She accomplished the feat at 10 a.m. and waited for the results, but God's wrath struck at night. She died peacefully in her sleep,' the Kenya Times newspaper said.

Poor rains for three years running have left more than 3.5 million Kenyans on the edge of starvation, prompting President Mwai Kibaki to declare the drought a national disaster."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Men enjoy others' misfortune more than women -study - Yahoo! News

Men enjoy others' misfortune more than women -study - Yahoo! News: "LONDON (Reuters) - Germans have a word for it -- schadenfreude -- and when it comes to getting pleasure from someone else's misfortune, men seem to enjoy it more than women.

Such is the conclusion reached by scientists at University College London in what they say is the first neuroscientific evidence of schadenfreude.

Using brain-imaging techniques, they compared how men and women reacted when watching other people suffer pain.

If the sufferer was someone they liked, areas of the brain linked to empathy and pain were activated in both sexes.

Women had a similar response if they disliked the person experiencing the pain but men showed a surge in the reward areas of the brain.

'The women had a diminished empathic response,' said Dr Klaas Enoo Stephan, a co-author of the report. 'But it was still there, whereas in the men it was completely absent,' he added in an interview.

The scientists, who reported their findings in the journal Nature, said the research shows that empathic responses in men are shaped by the perceived fairness of others."

WSJ.com - A Cold Calculus Leads Cryonauts To Put Assets on Ice

WSJ.com - A Cold Calculus Leads Cryonauts To Put Assets on Ice: "You can't take it with you. So Arizona resort operator David Pizer has a plan to come back and get it.

Like some 1,000 other members of the 'cryonics' movement, Mr. Pizer has made arrangements to have his body frozen in liquid nitrogen as soon as possible after he dies. In this way, Mr. Pizer, a heavy-set, philosophical man who is 64 years old, hopes to be revived sometime in the future when medicine has advanced far beyond where it stands today.

And because Mr. Pizer doesn't wish to return a pauper, he's taken an additional step: He's left his money to himself.

With the help of an estate planner, Mr. Pizer has created legal arrangements for a financial trust that will manage his roughly $10 million in land and stock holdings until he is re-animated. Mr. Pizer says that with his money earning interest while he is frozen, he could wake up in 100 years the 'richest man in the world.'"

Print - The Quiet Revolution: Morocco's King Aims To Build a Modern Islamic Democracy - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Print - The Quiet Revolution: Morocco's King Aims To Build a Modern Islamic Democracy - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News: "Religion is making a comeback in Morocco, and more and more young, well-educated Moroccans are devouring the Koran. The new piety, no longer limited to the mosque or prayers at home, is evident in full public view. More and more women are wearing headscarves, even in Casablanca's western fashion enclaves and Rabat's gleaming shopping centers. The designers of expensive caftans -- creations of brocade and silk, embellished with gold thread -- are now selling their products as luxury couture for the next party, and their clientele is no longer limited to wealthy tourists.

A New Take on an Old Religion

Morocco's 42-year-old King Mohammed VI has discovered religion as a means of modernizing his society -- and progress through piety seems to be the order of the day. By granting new rights to women and strengthening civil liberties, the ruler of this country of 30 million on Africa's northern edge, which is 99 percent Muslim, plans to democratize Morocco through a tolerant interpretation of the Koran.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The New York Review of Books: Genocide in Slow Motion

The New York Review of Books: Genocide in Slow Motion: "During the Holocaust, the world looked the other way. Allied leaders turned down repeated pleas to bomb the Nazi extermination camps or the rail lines leading to them, and the slaughter attracted little attention. My newspaper, The New York Times, provided meticulous coverage of World War II, but of 24,000 front-page stories published in that period only six referred on page one directly to the Nazi assault on the Jewish population of Europe. Only afterward did many people mourn the death of Anne Frank, construct Holocaust museums, and vow: Never Again."

The same paralysis occurred as Rwandans were being slaughtered in 1994. Officials from Europe to the US to the UN headquarters all responded by temporizing and then, at most, by holding meetings. The only thing President Clinton did for Rwandan genocide victims was issue a magnificent apology after they were dead.

Much the same has been true of the Western response to the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, and the Bosnian massacres of the 1990s. In each case, we have wrung our hands afterward and offered the lame excuse that it all happened too fast, or that we didn't fully comprehend the carnage when it was still under way.

And now the same tragedy is unfolding in Darfur, but this time we don't even have any sort of excuse. In Darfur genocide is taking place in slow motion, and there is vast documentary proof of the atrocities. Some of the evidence can be seen in the photo reproduced with this essay, which was leaked from an African Union archive containing thousands of other such photos. And now, the latest proof comes in the form of two new books that tell the sorry tale of Darfur: it's appalling that the publishing industry manages to respond more quickly to genocide than the UN and world leaders do....

reviewjournal.com -- News - NORM: Judges irk mother of Miss Nevada

reviewjournal.com -- News - NORM: Judges irk mother of Miss Nevada: "In Thursday's interview, Miss Las Vegas Crystal Wosik, who won the Miss Nevada title, was asked by one of the preliminary judges about the planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Wosik replied, 'It has to go someplace, and that was the best-built facility in the country,' Nevada's state pageant director, Nancy Ames, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

And if people die?

'We just have to take one for the team,' said contestant Wosik, according to Ames."

Democracy, conflict and the future - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group - Private Sector Development

Democracy, conflict and the future - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group - Private Sector Development: "Martin Wolf is optimistic that recent economic developments favor the rise and stay of democratic regimes. [See graph]. Though he notes two important exceptions – both of which point towards a 'resource curse'.

First, huge natural resource rents cement autocracies, particularly when in the hands of the state. Elites have much to lose from equal sharing of the wealth, while the masses can impose few costs upon them. It is not the efforts of the people of Saudi Arabia who make their elite rich, but oil. Russia is in the same sad situation. Iraq is unlikely to emerge as a stable democracy, not because of ethnic and religious divisions, but because of oil wealth.

Second, sub-Saharan Africa’s natural resources and lack of development are big obstacles to the emergence of stable democracies. The greatest danger is wars over resources among predatory elites. The movement is more likely to be from autocracy to instability than from autocracy to stable democracy."

Democracy, conflict and the future - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group - Private Sector Development

Democracy, conflict and the future - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group - Private Sector Development: "Martin Wolf is optimistic that recent economic developments favor the rise and stay of democratic regimes. [See graph]. Though he notes two important exceptions – both of which point towards a 'resource curse'.

First, huge natural resource rents cement autocracies, particularly when in the hands of the state. Elites have much to lose from equal sharing of the wealth, while the masses can impose few costs upon them. It is not the efforts of the people of Saudi Arabia who make their elite rich, but oil. Russia is in the same sad situation. Iraq is unlikely to emerge as a stable democracy, not because of ethnic and religious divisions, but because of oil wealth.

Second, sub-Saharan Africa’s natural resources and lack of development are big obstacles to the emergence of stable democracies. The greatest danger is wars over resources among predatory elites. The movement is more likely to be from autocracy to instability than from autocracy to stable democracy."

Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: Laughter Proves Good Medicine for Heart

Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: Laughter Proves Good Medicine for Heart: "Lacking a sense of humor might not just be bad for your social life, it might also be harming your cardiovascular health. A new study shows that laughter actually increases blood flow in the body, proving right the old adage that laughter is the best medicine, at least when it comes to the heart.

Cardiologist Michael Miller and colleagues at the University of Maryland tested blood flow in 20 healthy men and women after they watched 15-to-30-minute clips of the comedy movies Kingpin and There's Something About Mary and a stressful film, the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. The researchers measured blood flow both before each viewing and one minute after it ended. 'We wanted to see whether laughter induced a vascular response,' Miller explains."...

They decided to investigate the possible healthy effects of laughter by measuring vascular dilation after people chuckled at funny bits or reacted to intense images. In total, the researchers gathered 160 measurements of blood flow in the brachial artery, which connects the shoulder and elbow, from the 10 men and 10 women. While laughing, 19 of the subjects increased healthy blood flow by an average of 22 percent. And comparing the amused and stressful states brought on by film clips, more than 50 percent more blood flowed when laughing, according to the paper published in the current issue of Heart. In fact, being light-hearted boosted blood flow about the same amount as light exercise or drugs that lower cholesterol. Drama-induced stress, on the other hand, cut that rate by as much as angry memories or mental calculations. "What that suggests, at the very least, is that laughter on a regular basis will undo some of the excess stress we face in our everyday lives," Miller notes. "Patients at risk for cardiovascular disease should loosen up a bit."

The Passion of Kanye West Posted by Picasa

Brash rapper West on Rolling Stone cover as Jesus - Yahoo! News

Brash rapper West on Rolling Stone cover as Jesus - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Kanye West, unafraid to speak out over personal slights and more serious charges of political persecution, wears a crown of thorns as he poses as Jesus Christ on the cover of the next issue of Rolling Stone.

The feisty West also posed as Muhammad Ali for the magazine story, in which he complains that his hit 'Gold Digger' should have been nominated for a Grammy as best rap song.

'That's a gimme Grammy,' said West, who nonetheless garnered eight Grammy nominations, including one for best album for 'Late Registration.'

West caused a stir during an NBC TV benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims last September when in an impromptu remark he accused
President George W. Bush of racism."

Ambergis Posted by Picasa

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Whale 'vomit' sparks cash bonanza

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Whale 'vomit' sparks cash bonanza: "An Australian couple who picked up an odd-looking fatty lump from a quiet beach are in line for a cash windfall.

Leon Wright and his wife took home a 14.75kg lump of ambergris, found in the innards of sperm whales and used in perfumes after it has been vomited up.

Sought after because of its rarity, ambergris can float on the ocean for years before washing ashore.

Worth up to $20 a gram, Mr Wright's find on a South Australian beach could net his family US$295,000 (£165,300)."

Godisa Hearing Aid Posted by Picasa

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: African-Made, Solar-Powered Hearing Aid

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: African-Made, Solar-Powered Hearing Aid: "This story absolutely made my day.

The SolarAid is a hearing aid designed and built by Godisa Technologies, a Botswana company founded to make low-cost hearing aids for the developing world. The SolarAid system combines a small hearing aid and a lightweight solar charger; Godisa developed the first No. 13 rechargeable button battery for the system. Godisa is Africa's only hearing aid manufacturer, and the only one in the world making hearing aids specifically for the sub-Saharan Africa environment.

The SolarAid, including the solar charger and an extra pair of batteries, sells for less than $100, and is built to last at least two to three years. But, as low cost as that is, Godisa wants to do even better: they want to make the design free to everyone -- essentially, to go open source -- if the Botswana government will let them."

The Return of the Puppet Masters. The Loom: A blog about life, past and future

So Toxoplasmosis can cause uveitis, retinochoroiditis, and ...schizophrenia?

The Return of the Puppet Masters. The Loom: A blog about life, past and future: "Some scientists believe that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious."

It's controversial work, disputed by many. But it attracted the attention of E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Torrey and his colleagues had noticed some intriguing links between Toxoplasma and schizophrenia. Infection with the parasite has been associated with damage to a certain class of neurons (astrocytes). So has schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of Toxoplasma antibodies in their blood were more likely to give birth to children who would later develop schizophrenia. Torrey lays out more links in this 2003 paper. While none is a smoking gun, they are certainly food for thought. It's conceivable that exposure to Toxoplasma causes subtle changes in most people's personality, but in a small minority, it has more devastating effects.

A year later, Torrey and his colleagues discovered one more fascinating link. They raised human cells in Petri dishes and infected them with Toxoplasma. Then they dosed the cells with a variety of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. Several of the drugs--most notably haloperidol--blocked the growth of the parasite.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What's With All the Blind Clerics? - Vision and the Muslim world. By Daniel Engber

What's With All the Blind Clerics? - Vision and the Muslim world. By Daniel Engber: "Muslims have revered blind clerics for over 1,000 years. In one scene in the Quran, the Prophet frowns and turns away from a blind man, only to have Allah castigate him for rejecting a spiritual seeker. The man, called Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, became an important early follower of the Prophet. (The tradition of blind religious figures extends back to early Judaism and Christianity as well.)

Today, even blind people without religious training enjoy a certain level of respect in the Muslim world. Turks, for example, refer to a blind man as a hafiz—meaning one who has completely memorized the Quran—whether or not he has earned the title. In Egypt, blind men are casually described as moulanas, a term of respect given to Muslim scholars.

Another factor in the prevalence of blind clerics may be the high rates of blindness in Arab countries. A 2002 study, for example, reveals a dire situation in Lebanon, Oman, and Morocco, where more than 5 percent of the people over the age of 50 couldn't see."


Vanity Fair: PRINTABLES: "Childhood's End
For 19 years, Joseph Kony has been enslaving, torturing, raping, and murdering Ugandan children, many of whom have become soldiers for his 'Lord's Resistance Army,' going on to torture, rape, and kill other children. The author exposes the vicious insanity—and cynical politics—behind one of Africa's greatest nightmares

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sorry I haven't posted to the blog in a few days. I am in Hawaii attending a meeting and vacationing with my family. Nothing real new in ophthalmology, except for results of the SAILOR trial released which basically shows that lucentis works well in classic choroidal neovascular membranes... The difference in mean change in visual acuity of 18 letters for patients treated with 0.3 mg of Lucentis and 21 letters for patients treated with 0.5 mg of Lucentis from study entry compared to those treated with PDT at 12 months. In the first year of this two-year study, patients treated with Lucentis gained an average of 8.5 letters in the 0.3 mg dose group and 11 letters in the 0.5 mg dose group compared to patients treated with PDT, who lost an average of 9.5 letters.

Other impt findings:
95% of patients lost less than three lines of vision at one year
About 1/3 of patients gained three or more lines of vision at one year (versus 6% with pdt)
About 1/3 of patients were 20/40 at the end of one year (vs 3% treated with pdt)

So avastin and lucentis are clearly coming out as the best treatment options for wet armd.
But still the great majority of patients are going to LOSE vision even with this treatment.
Also the above treatments do not address vision loss from dry ARMD.
Thus, I believe there is still a very important role for 360 degree macular rotation surgery. The key for success with this surgery is having it done as early as possible in my opinion. However, I also think that if a patient's prior treatment is an antiVEGF molecule as opposed to pdt, visual results after macular rotation may be better!

Friday, January 13, 2006

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: "Remittance - New Ways to Send Money Home
Money as a Tool – Finance, Venture Philanthropy, Trade and Economy
Ethan Zuckerman

Emeka Okafor, of Timbuktu Chronicles fame, highlights a paper about the Nigerian diaspora on his new blog, Africa Unchained. The paper, by Nigerian scholar Uche Nworah, is about the role of the Nigerian diaspora in nation building, and focuses in part on remittance - the money Nigerians living and working abroad send to family and friends at home.

It's difficult to overstate the importance of remittance income to most African nations and many developing nations. Nworah cites a figure of $300 billion dollars sent from diasporas to developing nations via remittance. In Africa, the amount of money remitted by diaspora workers - $17 billion per year - is larger than the amount of foreign direct investment in Africa, and rivals official development assistance grants or loans ($25 billion per year). In some African nations, remittance represent as much as 27% of the gross domestic product of some nations. According to the UN's Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, the average African migrant living in a developed nation is sending $200 per month home to his or her family.

While remittance income is incredibly important for the developing world, there are at least four major problems with the remittance system as it currently exists: cost, safety, potential for misuse, and scale issues:
Continue reading 'Remittance - New Ways to Send Money Home'"

Jupelo - Who Be Me?

Jupelo - Who Be Me?: "Goal 1: Spend an entire year at Walt Disney World and record every second of it for you to see.

Goal 2: Begin building the world's largest Disney collection (there's more to this - see below).

Goal 3: Not go insane.

By popular demand (you should see my email inbox as of 1/9/06) - an ever-so-slightly more detailed look at the crazy one they call 'Jupelo'.

So - who be me?

- I am male.

- I am 19 years old.

- My name is not Jupelo, although I have the feeling it's going to become a nickname.

- I have allocated $100,000 for these trips (should amount to about 52 total).

- The money came from 3 business I have owned and operated since I was 13 (well, 2 were started when I was 15)."

In Kenya, 'Why Does This Keep Happening?'

In Kenya, 'Why Does This Keep Happening?': "Many are asking that question as yet another drought threatens lives and destroys crops and livestock here. About 11 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia are 'on the brink of starvation,' the United Nations said this week. In northeastern Kenya, at least 40 people, most of them children, have died from malnutrition and related illnesses since December, according to the Kenya Red Cross.

Enough food is grown in Kenya to feed all of its population of 33 million, but many citizens, especially the country's poor subsistence farmers, cannot afford it. When the rains ceased last year, the farmers were left with parched crops, hungry livestock and nothing to eat.

'The month of December 2005 will be remembered for a long time to come by Kenyans as a time when people were starving to death while others were feasting,' said Gullet Abbas, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society."...

"Making food available for the farmers, though welcome, is short-term and short-lived," said Tom Kagwe, who writes about famines and development in Africa for the Daily Nation. "It cannot provide the long-term solutions to the country's food shortage."

There are many reasons for food shortages in Africa. Sometimes war plays a role. In rebel-controlled eastern Congo, for instance, thousands of banana and mango trees produce more fruit than local people can consume. But the excess food never makes it to markets or drought-stricken regions because the roads are destroyed and armed militiamen loot the supplies or tax them heavily.

In northern Uganda, people displaced by fighting between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group, languish in camps, looking out at the land they used to farm. Fields that once produced abundant amounts of yams, peanuts and corn are barren.

In Kenya, a peaceful and stable country, development has been hindered by corruption and mismanagement, according to Transparency International, a watchdog group that ranks Kenya as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Ole Koissaba, the Masai leader, said he was furious that the president turned the herders away from his residence. Even former president Daniel arap Moi, an authoritarian leader who ruled for 24 years, allowed the Masai to graze their cattle near the state house during a drought of 2002, Ole Koissaba pointed out.

"The new leadership cares more about politics than pastoralists, and now it can't do the correct things to save the lives, long term, of its own citizens," he said, adding there should be more international pressure on African governments to develop sound agricultural policies. "No African wants things to stay in this cycle of dysfunction."

To fight Al Qaeda, US troops in Africa build schools instead | csmonitor.com

To fight Al Qaeda, US troops in Africa build schools instead | csmonitor.com: "CAMP LEMONIER, DJIBOUTI – Pointing to his computer screen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Ghormley sounds more like a Peace Corps volunteer showing off holiday photos than the shaven-headed US Marine entrusted with defeating Al Qaeda in East Africa.

'That's what it's about right there,' he says, stabbing his eyeglasses at the pictures of African children celebrating as water gushes from a new well. 'Look at those kids. They're gonna remember this. In 25 years they'll say, 'I remember the West - they were good.' '"

n 2002, more than 1,500 US troops were sent to this former French colony in East Africa to hunt followers of Al Qaeda throughout the region. Now, under General Ghormley, their mission has evolved to preempt the broader growth of Islamic militancy among the area's largely Muslim population.

"We are trying to dry up the recruiting pool for Al Qaeda by showing people the way ahead. We are doing this one village, one person at a time," says Ghormley, commander of the joint task force based in Djibouti. "We're waging peace just as hard as we can."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cells That Read Minds - New York Times

A fascinating discussion of the intersection of cultural interaction and neuroscience..highly recommended...

Cells That Read Minds - New York Times: "MONKEY SEE When a monkey watches a researcher bring an object—an ice cream cone, for example— to his mouth, the same brain neurons fire as when the monkey brings a peanut to its own mouth. In the early 1990's, Italian researchers discovered this phenomenon and named the cells 'mirror neurons.' "

WSJ.com - Personal Technology

WSJ.com - Personal Technology: "First, you cannot use an iPod, out of the box, to copy your music collection to multiple computers you may own. Millions of iPod owners have more than one computer, and it's perfectly legal to copy the music you own to more than one computer. But the iPod won't help you do this.

Second, in families with multiple iPods sharing a single computer, the iPod's companion software, iTunes, doesn't allow you to have multiple music libraries. With multiple libraries, each user could see only his or her own music, and could synchronize his or her iPod with that personal music library.

Apple is aware of these shortcomings, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it solve the second one, multiple libraries, this year. But the first, the inability to use the iPod to copy music to multiple computers, is tougher. Apple was forced to cripple the iPod in this manner at the insistence of the record labels, which feared that it might be used to copy music too widely. So a fix probably requires negotiations with the labels, whose obsession with piracy has caused them to treat their own customers like criminals.

Luckily, there are solutions to both problems available today, through third-party software or workarounds. Here's a guide to those solutions."

WSJ.com - Just-in-Time Inventories Make U.S. Vulnerable in a Pandemic

WSJ.com - Just-in-Time Inventories Make U.S. Vulnerable in a Pandemic: "Like many big hospitals, the University of Utah Hospital carries a 30-day supply of drugs, in part because it would be too costly or wasteful to stockpile more. Some of its hepatitis vaccine supply has been diverted to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf, leaving it vulnerable should an outbreak occur closer to home. About 77 other drugs are in short supply because of manufacturing and other glitches, such as a drug maker shutting down a factory.

'The supply chain is horribly thin,' says Erin Fox, a drug-information specialist at the Salt Lake City hospital.

In the event of a pandemic flu outbreak, that chain is almost certain to break. Thousands of drug-company workers in the U.S. and elsewhere could be sickened, prompting factories to close. Truck routes could be blocked and borders may be closed, particularly perilous at a time when 80% of raw materials for U.S. drugs come from abroad. The likely result: shortages of important medicines -- such as insulin, blood products or the anesthetics used in surgery -- quite apart from any shortages of medicine to treat the flu itself.

The very rules of capitalism that make the U.S. an ultra-efficient marketplace also make it exceptionally vulnerable in a pandemic. Near-empty warehouses are a sign of strong inventory management. Production of drugs takes place offshore because that's cheaper. The federal government doesn't intervene as a guaranteed buyer of flu drugs, as it does with weapons. Investors and tax rules conspire to eliminate redundancy and reserves. Antitrust rules prevent private companies from collaborating to speed development of new drugs."

NPR : Suphala, Savoring the Beat of a Different Drum

NPR : Suphala, Savoring the Beat of a Different Drum: "Morning Edition, January 12, 2006 · The young percussionist known as Suphala studied for years with Ravi Shankar's tabla player, the late Usted Allarakha.

She still goes every year to Bombay, but she also likes to see where else the tabla can take her. Her musical journeys have included a concert in post-Taliban Afghanistan and a tour with the group Porno for Pyros.

Her solo CDs, including her most recent work, The Now, blend traditional sounds with trippy electronica.

For the series 'Musicians in Their Own Words,' Suphala describes how she gets the tabla to speak in many languages."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Science News Article | Reuters.com

Science News Article | Reuters.com: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The one-way journey from the heart of a galaxy into the oblivion of a black hole probably takes about 200,000 years, astronomers said on Monday.

By tracking the death spiral of cosmic gas at the center of a galaxy called NGC1097, scientists figured that material moving at 110,000 miles an hour would still take eons to cross into a black hole.

Black holes are drains in space that have gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. Huge ones are believed to lurk at the centers of many galaxies including the Milky Way, which contains the sun."

Being Overweight in MidlifeWorsens Heart Risks wsj.com

Middle-age people who are overweight but have normal
blood pressure and cholesterol levels are kidding themselves if they
think their health is just fine.

Northwestern University researchers tracked 17,643
patients for three decades and found that being overweight in midlife
substantially increased the risk of dying of heart disease later in
life -- even in people who began the study with healthy blood pressure
and cholesterol levels.

High blood pressure and cholesterol are strong risk
factors for heart disease. Both are common in people who are too fat,
and often are thought to explain why overweight people are more prone
to heart disease.

But there is a growing body of science suggesting that
excess weight alone is an independent risk factor for heart attacks,
strokes and diabetes....

Fat tissue "is not like an inert storage depot -- it's
a very dynamic organ that is actually producing hormones and chemical
messengers," said JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at
Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital. These substances can damage
blood vessels, increase the risk of blood clots and cause insulin
resistance that makes people prone to diabetes -- all without elevating
blood pressure or cholesterol, said Dr. Manson, who wasn't involved in
the Northwestern study.

Still, there is a common misconception that excess
weight is nothing to worry about until high blood pressure and poor
cholesterol develop, and those can then be treated with medications,
Dr. Manson said. "Patients say that all the time, and many doctors
actually will say that to patients" too, she said.

BREITBART.COM - Girl Gets Bird Flu After Kissing Chicken

BREITBART.COM - Girl Gets Bird Flu After Kissing Chicken: "Sumeyya Mamuk considered the chickens in her backyard to be beloved pets. The 8-year-old girl fed them, petted them and took care of them. When they started to get sick and die, she hugged them and tenderly kissed them goodbye. The next morning, her face and eyes were swollen and she had a high fever. Her father took her to a hospital, and five days later she was confirmed to have the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

'The chickens were sick. One had puffed up and she touched it. We told her not to. She loved chickens a lot,' her father, Abdulkerim Mamuk, said of the second youngest of his eight children. 'She held them in her arms.'"

CNN.com - Mummified body found in front of TV - Jan 10, 2006

CNN.com - Mummified body found in front of TV - Jan 10, 2006: "Johannas Pope had told her live-in caregiver that she didn't want to be buried and planned on returning after she died, Hamilton County Coroner O'Dell Owens said Monday.

Pope died in August 2003 at age 61. Her body was found last week in the upstairs of her home on a quiet street. (Watch why the caregiver thought body parts grew back -- 1:37)

Some family members continued to live downstairs, authorities said. No one answered the doorbell at Pope's home Monday afternoon.

It could take weeks to determine Pope's cause of death because little organ tissue was available for testing, Owens said.

An air conditioner had been left running upstairs, and that allowed the body to slowly mummify, he said. The machine apparently stopped working about a month ago, and the body began to smell."

Ghalia driving in the desert Posted by Picasa

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English)

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English): "eddah, Asharq Al-Awsat - In the desert near this western Saudi city, lives a woman named Ghalia, aged 60, in severe natural conditions that make her an exception to the rule. She competes with men in order to enable her family to lead a respectable life, just like those who create a house from a sticks and a palace from stone.

Ghalia has been driving for more than twenty years. She tells the story of a difficult life and continues to labor until this day. Her wrinkly face tells the observer that there is more than life than mere subsistence. Speaking about her driving, Ghalia says, “I did not encounter any opposition but no one encouraged me. My support came from within.” Necessity made her break all the barriers and stand up for herself. Ghalia rejected inequality and the dominance of men. Instead, she inaugurated an eternal partnership."...

Living with her brother and her family, Ghalia never married. Her father died when she was young. She decries the difficulty of everyday life; “We lack a regular income. We rely on selling and buying goats and cows. Work is sometimes hard. Driving has saved me time and effort. We, the older generation, work for them,” she said, pointing towards her young nephews and nieces.

Ghalia understands the desire for women to drive. They, like her, have needs. In meetings with other women, she often gets asked about driving. Ghalia always answers confidently. When asked about whether women can drive in the city, Ghalia hesitates and says, “No, this will never happen.” After a short period of silence, she added, “Generally speaking, women are weak and traffic accidents are many. Women want to drive in cities and populated areas should respect traffic laws and not distance themselves from their homes as this is safer”, she advised.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Time to see the ophthalmologist!!!! Posted by Picasa

African optimism | The hopeful continent | Economist.com

African optimism | The hopeful continent | Economist.com: "THEY may not be the richest, but Africans remain the world's staunchest optimists. An annual survey by Gallup International, a research outfit, shows that, when asked whether this year will be better than last, Africa once again comes out on top. Out of 52,000 people interviewed all over the world, under half believe that things are looking up. But in Africa the proportion is close to 60%—almost twice as much as in Europe.

Yet there is no shortage of downers too. Most of Africa remains dirt poor. Crises in places like Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe are far from solved. And the democratic credentials of Ethiopia and Uganda, once the darlings of western donors, have taken a bad knock. AIDS killed over 2m Africans in 2005, and will kill more this year.

So is it all just a case of irrational exuberance? Meril James of Gallup argues that there is, in fact, usually very little relation between the survey's optimism rankings and reality. Africans, this year led by Nigerians, are consistently the most upbeat, whether their lot gets better or not. On the other hand, Greece—hardly the worst place on earth—tops the gloom-and-doom chart, followed closely by Portugal and France.

Ms James speculates that religion may have a lot to do with it. Nine out of ten Africans are religious, the highest proportion in the world. But cynics argue that most Africans believe that 2006 will be golden because things have been so bad that it is hard to imagine how they could possibly get worse. This may help explain why places that have suffered recent misfortunes, such as Kosovo and Afghanistan, rank among the top five optimists. Moussaka for thought for those depressed Greeks.

Africans have some reasons to be cheerful. The continent's economy has been doing fairly well with South Africa, the economic powerhouse, growing steadily over the past few years. Some of Africa's long-running conflicts, such as the war between the north and south in Sudan and the civil war in Congo, have ended. Africa even has its first elected female head of state, in Liberia."

Starbucks Economics - Solving the mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino. By Tim Harford

Starbucks Economics - Solving the mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino. By Tim Harford: "Here's a little secret that Starbucks doesn't want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.

The drink in question is the elusive 'short cappuccino'—at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the 'tall,' and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the 'customer-preferred' size, the 'Venti,' which weighs in at 20 ounces and more than 200 calories before you add the sugar.

The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one. The World Barista Championship rules, for example, define a traditional cappuccino as a 'five- to six-ounce beverage.' This is also the size of cappuccino served by many continental cafés. Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better."

WSJ.com - A New Way to Do Well By Doing Good

This idea seems to be really gaining traction. For more on the feasability of such projects, read any work by C.K. Prahalad such as "Bottom of the Pyramid...Eradicating Poverty through Profit"...

WSJ.com - A New Way to Do Well By Doing Good: "Making tiny loans to poor entrepreneurs in developing countries has long been a popular charitable cause, but it is now gaining traction as an investment.

Microfinance, as these loans are known, is aimed at lifting some of the world's most destitute people out of poverty by providing seed money for small businesses. Funding for the loans traditionally has come from charities and government-aid organizations. Now, an increasing number of private funds are steering capital to microfinance -- and demanding a return, albeit a modest one in single digits, on their investments. By doing so, the funds hope to boost microfinance's reach and efficiency, while also drawing more capital from investors."...

Many of the new investment instruments have been launched by nonprofit organizations long involved in the industry, including Grameen Foundation USA, the Foundation for International Community Assistance, both in Washington, and Opportunity International in Oak Brook, Ill. The trend also is drawing big commercial players: Deutsche Bank this fall spearheaded the launch of a $75 million investment fund. Microfinance investing got a boost this fall when eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pamela, gave $100 million to Tufts University to create a fund that invests in microfinance vehicles....

Microfinance investment funds generally don't make loans directly to needy individuals themselves. Instead the funds provide capital to microfinance institutions, which are typically small, informal banks or cooperatives that lend money for small-scale businesses, such as vending fruit, weaving shawls or operating small farms in poor countries around the world.

Overall, microfinance borrowers have proved to be good lending risks, according to Microfinance Information Exchange, known as MIX, which is funded mainly by foundations to keep track of the industry. The group says the average percentage of loan portfolios that have payments in arrears for more than 30 days has been well under 5% in recent years. Still, MIX acknowledges that data on default and repayment rates can be tough to verify. Several firms, including MicroRate Inc. in Washington and Planet Rating in Paris, rate microfinance lending institutions. MicroRate also expects to launch evaluations of microfinance investment funds later this year.There are other risks, too, including the possibility of currency devaluations in politically unstable countries. Many of the new funds raise capital through private placements, which means they are more lightly regulated than, say, mutual funds, and many can tie up your money for between five and 10 years. Also, because many of the funds are new, there isn't much of an earnings track record. Due to the risks, many microfinance investments are geared toward sophisticated and wealthy investors...

A few opportunities in microfinance investing also exist for smaller investors. Calvert Foundation offers Community Investment Notes, which require a minimum $1,000 investment, and can be earmarked to invest in developing countries or other initiatives, including post-Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast. Investors can choose among notes with terms of one to three years, which yield as much as 2%, while notes that last for five, seven or 10 years return up to 3%. Other microfinance offerings with relatively small minimum investments are offered by nonprofits Oikocredit USA and Accion.

Smaller investors can also make loans of as little as $25 to specific individual entrepreneurs through a service launched last fall by Kiva, a Palo Alto, Calif., nonprofit organization, whose first loans have gone to individuals in Uganda. The loans are administered by local microfinance institutions. Individual lenders can expect to receive their principal back, but no interest income, within six to 12 months.

The average micro-loan size is about $345 and about 80% of borrowers are women, according to MIX. The loans generally come due within three to nine months and can carry high interest rates and fees, typically ranging from about 24% to 45% annually, MIX says. Industry officials say that is because it is expensive to administer such small loans, and the rates are still much lower than what local moneylenders charge. A rising number of microfinance institutions, which number in the thousands world-wide, are expanding beyond business loans, by offering savings accounts and insurance, products sorely lacking in many impoverished areas.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Close up of circuit bindi Posted by Picasa

Indian Model with bindi circuit Posted by Picasa

Integrated circuit on the forehead

Integrated circuit on the forehead: "Chip on a bindi : An Indian model wears a Analog integrated circuit (IC) with intelligent charging capabillities for Lithium-ion batteries pasted on a bindi during a launch ceremony in Bangalore. [AFP]"

Study: Congo has world's deadliest humanitarian crisis: 38,000 die monthly - Yahoo! News

Study: Congo has world's deadliest humanitarian crisis: 38,000 die monthly - Yahoo! News: "DAKAR, Senegal (AP) - War-ravaged Congo is suffering the world's deadliest humanitarian crisis, with 38,000 people dying each month mostly from easily treatable diseases, a study published Friday in Britain's leading medical journal said.

Nearly four million people died between 1998 and 2004 alone - the indirect result of years of ruinous fighting that has brought on a stunning collapse of public health services, the study in the Lancet concluded.

The majority of deaths were due to disease rather than violence, but war has cut off or reduced access to health services for millions in the impoverished country the size of Europe.

Most deaths reported were due to 'preventable and easily treatable diseases,' the study said. Malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition topped the list.

Major fighting ended in Congo in 2002 but the situation remains dire because of continued insecurity, poor access to health care and inadequate international aid. The problems are particularly acute in eastern Congo.

'Rich donor nations are miserably failing the people of (Congo), even though every few months the mortality equivalent of two southeast Asian tsunamis plows through its territory,' the study said."

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Cambodia Tries Nonprofit Path to Health Care - New York Times

Cambodia Tries Nonprofit Path to Health Care - New York Times: "REAP, Cambodia - Sovan Sna had been in labor all night long. By the 16th hour of contractions, she was in trouble. The baby, her first, was not coming out. And she was so exhausted and in such pain she could barely speak.

Sovan Sna arrives at a district hospital with her husband, Veasna Van.

Her mind churned with fear. In the Khmer language, this most treacherous passage in a woman's life - childbirth - is called crossing the river. Her aunt had died giving birth to a first child who perished in the womb. Mrs. Sna wondered if she and her baby, too, would drown before reaching the other shore.

Not long ago, Mrs. Sna would have had little choice but to give birth at home, like her aunt, and risk both her life and her baby's. But on this morning, Mrs. Sna's terrified husband hired a pony cart and was able to take his wife over a deeply rutted dirt road to a small, no-frills public hospital.

If childbirth is a miracle of nature, then the thriving, honestly run network of clinics and hospitals here is a human marvel, managed not by the government but by one of the nonprofit groups it has hired to run entire public health districts."

The approach is catching on in a growing number of poor countries around the world, from Bangladesh and Afghanistan to Congo and Rwanda, to Bolivia and Guatemala, reaching tens of millions of people.

These contracted services have allowed international donors and concerned governments to cut through dysfunctional bureaucracies - or work around them, and to improve health care and efficiency at modest cost.

Here in Cambodia, the nonprofit groups - all of them international - are instilling discipline and clarity of purpose in a health care system enfeebled by corruption, absenteeism and decades of war and upheaval. They have introduced incentives to draw Cambodia's own doctors and nurses back into the system. Patients, especially the poorest ones, have followed in droves.

"All the evidence is that this worked very well in a situation where nothing much else worked very well," said Shyam Bajpai, the representative here for the Asian Development Bank, which financed the original contracts...

WSJ.com - An African Music Star Uses Fame and Wealth To Help Fellow Albinos

WSJ.com - An African Music Star Uses Fame and Wealth To Help Fellow Albinos: "BAMAKO, Mali -- Salif Keita says that when he was born in a village south of here, his father recoiled in horror and expelled both Salif and his mother. 'What is this thing?' the father wondered aloud.

The reason: Mr. Keita -- now one of the most popular African singers, with several hit albums and a big international audience -- is a black man with white skin.

Like millions of people around the world, Mr. Keita has a genetic condition known as albinism, which deprives skin, hair and sometimes eyes of pigmentation. In North America and Europe, albinos lead relatively normal lives, though many must contend with poor eyesight. But for albinos here in Africa, so starkly diverse in appearance from their neighbors, life is complicated by prejudice and illness. Albinism in parts of Africa is estimated to affect as many as one in a thousand people.

In many traditional African cultures, including Mali's, albinos are seen as bearers of bad luck. Many are abandoned at birth or even slaughtered in ritual sacrifice. 'We are different. When people see us on the street, they usually spit on the ground in disgust,' Mr. Keita says. 'What can be worse than this?'"

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Case for Contamination - New York Times

The Case for Contamination - New York Times: "I'm seated, with my mother, on a palace veranda, cooled by a breeze from the royal garden. Before us, on a dais, is an empty throne, its arms and legs embossed with polished brass, the back and seat covered in black-and-gold silk. In front of the steps to the dais, there are two columns of people, mostly men, facing one another, seated on carved wooden stools, the cloths they wear wrapped around their chests, leaving their shoulders bare. There is a quiet buzz of conversation. Outside in the garden, peacocks screech. At last, the blowing of a ram's horn announces the arrival of the king of Asante, its tones sounding his honorific, kotokohene, 'porcupine chief.' (Each quill of the porcupine, according to custom, signifies a warrior ready to kill and to die for the kingdom.) Everyone stands until the king has settled on the throne. Then, when we sit, a chorus sings songs in praise of him, which are interspersed with the playing of a flute. It is a Wednesday festival day in Kumasi, the town in Ghana where I grew up."Unless you're one of a few million Ghanaians, this will probably seem a relatively unfamiliar world, perhaps even an exotic one. You might suppose that this Wednesday festival belongs quaintly to an African past. But before the king arrived, people were taking calls on cellphones, and among those passing the time in quiet conversation were a dozen men in suits, representatives of an insurance company. And the meetings in the office next to the veranda are about contemporary issues: H.I.V./AIDS, the educational needs of 21st-century children, the teaching of science and technology at the local university. When my turn comes to be formally presented, the king asks me about Princeton, where I teach. I ask him when he'll next be in the States. In a few weeks, he says cheerfully. He's got a meeting with the head of the World Bank....

The contradictions in this argument aren't hard to find. This same Unesco document is careful to affirm the importance of the free flow of ideas, the freedom of thought and expression and human rights - values that, we know, will become universal only if we make them so. What's really important, then, cultures or people? In a world where Kumasi and New York - and Cairo and Leeds and Istanbul - are being drawn ever closer together, an ethics of globalization has proved elusive.

The right approach, I think, starts by taking individuals - not nations, tribes or "peoples" - as the proper object of moral concern. It doesn't much matter what we call such a creed, but in homage to Diogenes, the fourth-century Greek Cynic and the first philosopher to call himself a "citizen of the world," we could call it cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans take cultural difference seriously, because they take the choices individual people make seriously. But because cultural difference is not the only thing that concerns them, they suspect that many of globalization's cultural critics are aiming at the wrong targets.

The Borowitz Report .com

The Borowitz Report .com: "Politicians in Washington hurried today to dump trillions of dollars worth of campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, giving the money to the Treasury Department and all but wiping out the national debt.

Congressmen, senators, and other politicians lined up around the block outside the Treasury building to give back their Abramoff riches, many of them carting piles of hundred-dollar bills in wheelbarrows.The unexpected windfall of tainted cash means that the national debt, long considered an albatross on the U.S. economy, has all but vanished for the first time in the nation’s history.

At a press conference at the White House, President Bush said that the sudden influx of returned donations from the disgraced lobbyist was proof that his economic policies were working.

“Our program of receiving tainted political donations and then hurriedly returning them is finally paying off for the American people,” Mr. Bush told reporters.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, a spokesman said that some of the newly returned Abramoff cash would go to treat an epidemic of amnesia among politicians in Washington, many of whom can no longer remember meeting, speaking to, or having dinner with Jack Abramoff.

Elsewhere, a marine who was arrested for not going to Vietnam forty years ago is expected to plead insanity, claiming that he was under the delusion that he was Vice President of the United States.

“We are processing the Abramoff money as quickly as we can,” said Donna LeBrock, a window teller at the Treasury Department. “There’s just so much more of it than we ever imagined.”

WSJ.com - Science Journal

WSJ.com - Science Journal: "The most famous feline in science belongs to Erwin Schrödinger, or at least to his fertile imagination. A founder of quantum physics in the early 20th century, Schrödinger wondered what would happen if the seemingly magical behavior of subatomic particles occurred not only in the micro realm but also up here in the macro world. Which is how he found himself in 1935 with an imaginary cat that was both alive and dead.

Time was, physicists could blithely dismiss such Alice-in-Wonderland phenomena as irrelevant to the macro world. Sure, quantum physics allows paradoxical behavior such as particles that exist in two opposite states at the same time or that get over hills even though they don't have enough energy to do so. But once objects are much bigger than electrons or atoms, they behave. At least, they're supposed to.

In experiments unveiled last month, though, physicists managed to get quantum weirdness into larger systems than ever. In doing so, they have not only challenged conventional notions of reality but brought closer the day when quantum magic might find practical uses. Teleportation, anyone?"

Prove Christ exists, judge orders priest - World - Times Online

Prove Christ exists, judge orders priest - World - Times Online: "AN ITALIAN judge has ordered a priest to appear in court this month to prove that Jesus Christ existed.

The case against Father Enrico Righi has been brought in the town of Viterbo, north of Rome, by Luigi Cascioli, a retired agronomist who once studied for the priesthood but later became a militant atheist.

Signor Cascioli, author of a book called The Fable of Christ, began legal proceedings against Father Righi three years ago after the priest denounced Signor Cascioli in the parish newsletter for questioning Christ’s historical existence.

Yesterday Gaetano Mautone, a judge in Viterbo, set a preliminary hearing for the end of this month and ordered Father Righi to appear. The judge had earlier refused to take up the case, but was overruled last month by the Court of Appeal, which agreed that Signor Cascioli had a reasonable case for his accusation that Father Righi was “abusing popular credulity”.

Signor Cascioli’s contention — echoed in numerous atheist books and internet sites — is that there was no reliable evidence that Jesus lived and died in 1st-century Palestine apart from the Gospel accounts, which Christians took on faith. There is therefore no basis for Christianity, he claims."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

WSJ.com - Wish They All Could Be Like Estonia

WSJ.com - Wish They All Could Be Like Estonia: "With the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall the world witnessed a backlash against the overintrusive state. A rallying cry in favor of economic liberalization went up around much of the globe. Some governments -- notably in Eastern Europe -- used the momentum to push deep, structural reform. Others -- notably in Latin America -- bungled the opportunity.

Is there any way to explain why it is that some countries have been able to restructure their economies so radically while others have been left in the clutches of special interests?"....

As they do every year, the index authors observe the average per capita income of countries in each category. Not surprisingly, over the years, they have found a strong relationship between economic freedom and prosperity. Yet there is something more that can be observed in this pattern: Countries that liberalize quickly and thoroughly achieve resounding successes, politically and economically. Conversely, gradualism risks stagnation and even reversals, because the benefits are not evident enough to impress the electorate and generate a momentum in their favor.

Take, for example, the difference between the wealth of "repressed" economies and "mostly unfree" economies. The per capita GDP of the former is $4,239 while of the latter it is a tad lower at $4,058. This suggests that reforms that move a country one step up in economic liberty, on average, produce no material benefit to the population.

The jump from "mostly unfree" to "mostly free" yields a much better return but still leaves a country not particularly well-off. "Mostly free" countries have a per capita GDP of $13,530, while "free" countries have, on average, a per capita GDP of over $30,000.

This matters the most in democracies, where leadership needs to produce results if liberalization is to stick. Clearly, it's not the absolute income level that generates support for reforms but the growth in living standards that seems to hold the key. Halfhearted measures generate immense resentment from the "losers" of the old system but often don't yield large enough gains to create a constituency to support the changes.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

After Cairo Police Attack, Sudanese Have Little but Rage - New York Times

After Cairo Police Attack, Sudanese Have Little but Rage - New York Times: "CAIRO, Jan. 2 - Hundreds of Sudanese have been released from police detention camps onto the streets of this city with no money, no place to live - and in many cases, no shoes - three days after the riot police attacked a squatter camp set up as a protest to press the United Nations to relocate the migrants to another country.

The walled-in courtyard of Sacred Heart Church here was packed Monday with men and women searching for a blanket, a meal, a place to live, word of a lost relative, anything that might help rebuild a life after the police charged their camp on Friday. The attack officially left 26 dead, including seven small children, and many others injured.

'It is a terrible situation,' said the Rev. Simon Mbuthia, a priest at Sacred Heart, a Roman Catholic church, as he considered the crowd of people looking for help. 'The government here has done nothing.'

Abdul Aziz Muhammad Ahmed, 29, sat shivering on the steps just beneath the metal door leading to Father Mbuthia's offices. 'I'm not sick,' he said through a far-off gaze. 'My daughter, Asma, was killed.' Asma was 9 months old, and her uncle said he dropped her when the police clubbed him.

'I haven't told my wife yet,' Mr. Ahmed said. 'She is already sick.'

The government waited for three months before sending the police out to empty the squatter camp, in one of Cairo's more upscale neighborhoods.

The police yelled at the squatters through bullhorns, ordering them to leave, and shot water cannons into the crowd when they refused. After the Sudanese remained defiant, the police attacked."...

The Sudanese who had lived together, huddled in a small park in the center of a busy city square, said they were fighting for a better life. Their ultimate goal was to go abroad, to be declared refugees and then sent to live in Canada, the United States or Europe.

But many of them said they would have been satisfied if the United Nations had merely paid attention to their needs, their demands and their rights.

All of the migrants had approval to remain in Egypt, at least for a time. In 2004 the United Nations stopped processing their applications for refugee status, which could have given them a chance to be relocated to the West.

The refugee agency, contending that most of the migrants would not qualify because the part of Sudan they left is no longer at war, said that its decision was in the best interests of the Sudanese.

Many of the Sudanese said that life in Egypt was especially difficult for black people because of widespread racism. And the Sudanese saw the refugee agency's action as a closed door, another indignity....

On Monday, many of the men and women hobbled through the church courtyard on feet wrapped in gauze, with arms wrapped in casts and wounds bandaged. They seethed with anger and despair, directed at Egyptians, the refugee agency, and at anyone who was not one of them.

"We will kill you," the crowd began to shout at visitors.

"A lot of people have died," one man shouted. "I will kill you, I will kill you." He waved his hands over his head as others, calmer, restrained him.

The anger and despair were inseparable. Solaiman Youssef, 32, said he had been holding his 3-month-old daughter in his arms when the police clubbed her over the head. She screamed for a while, and then died. His wife is still missing.

"I just wanted to live with dignity; that is all I wanted," he said. "Now I feel angry, sad and I want revenge. I am boiling and I want revenge. I have no hope, no idea what I am going to do next. No money, no clothes, no family."

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