Sunday, April 30, 2006

BBC NEWS | Africa | Darfur food rations cut in half

BBC NEWS | Africa | Darfur food rations cut in half: "The UN is cutting in half its daily rations in Sudan's Darfur region because of a severe funding shortfall."

Weichegud! ET Politics: 'Never Again' to 'Yet, Again'

Weichegud! ET Politics: 'Never Again' to 'Yet, Again': "Darfur is probably not the sprightliest subject to discuss while breaking the Easter fast, but there you go. That’s politics for you. It insinuates itself even in between ambitious gurshafulls of delectable doro weT.

Darfur came about because we had started talking about Rwanda—yet another rosy subject that should not be discussed at a celebration marking the resurrection of our Lord. But there you go.


I ran across an entry from a journal I kept about this time in 1994 that I oft time wish I had not kept. Some of my entries are frantic epistles about the Rwandan genocide we were all aware was becoming an absolute horror.

Most of us, deservedly, excoriated the Clinton administration for its absolute incompetence in handling Rwanda.

At a State Department briefing, spokesperson Christine Shelley is asked, 'How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?'

'That's just not a question that I'm in a position to answer.'

'Well, is it true that you have specific guidance not to use the word 'genocide' in isolation, but always to preface it with these words 'acts of'?'

'I have guidance which I try to use as best as I can. There are formulations that we are using that we are trying to be consistent in our use of. I don't have an absolute categorical prescription against something, but I have the definitions. I have phraseology which has been carefully examined and arrived at as best as we can apply to exactly the situation and the actions which have taken place ... '

She said that not in April 1994, but on June 10, 1994. Close to 800,000 people had already been slaughtered.

When you read the chronology of events of the Rwandan genocide, you are left with a sense of disgust and shame. Sure the West failed, but as Africans, we failed even more. Whatever the West could have done, it could not make us not want to machete our neighbors to death because of something as inconsequential as ethnicity and color of skin."

Annan is on the second genocide of his watch. Even though the Bush administration learnt from Clinton and was early to call Darfur ‘genocide’, and although Condi Rice was dispatched to Sudan to discuss this matter (both much more than what Clinton ever did), Darfur is a reminder that we as Africans are failing Africa more than the West can possibly.

No, they are not. The African Union went in with such limited mandate into Darfur that it barely rises above Meter Maid status in law enforcement. Just yesterday, more Darfuri were displaced and we saw on TV AU troops take down stories and drive away into the sunset. The AU has extended its pitiable stay in Darfur until September, and that has delighted the Sudanese government. Whatever treaty it signed in Addis to entertain replacing AU forces with UN forces is so laden with preconditions that the likelihood of UN peacekeepers in Darfur is no likelihood at all.

But Annan is floating on Cloud Nine.

Eric Reeves has an excellent analysis that is a must read, African Union Decision on Darfur Mission Fails ‘Rwanda Test.”

Knowing full well the consequences of leaving humanitarian personnel and vulnerable civilians without protection, the international community has nonetheless disingenuously welcomed the African Union decision to retain control of the Darfur mission---suggesting that somehow this decision represents either a triumph of tactful diplomacy or, at worst, the innocuous preservation of a status quo that couldn’t be fundamentally changed in any event.

Such dishonesty will be recorded by history as the defining moment of the Darfur genocide, inaugurating what will become the greatest cycle of human destruction. It no longer matters what happens in Abuja (Nigeria): peace has been irretrievably lost on the ground and only exhaustion through destruction will bring an end to the killing and dying.

Excuse me. 400,000 people have died. When do we start getting a little less trite?

Darfur happened because we, as Africans, were unable to stand up to a government that thinks nothing of raiding and raping its own people.

Sure, the West can give more money, more aid, more troops. But what the West cannot do is make us not want to kill each other. We do that to ourselves with the kind of efficiency and adeptness of a well-run death factory.

I am sick of it. And I am sickened that the Ethiopian government has been using ‘genocide’ so lightly and cynically to silence its opponents. As Africans we should be enraged that the Ethiopian government has cheapened the meaning of genocide. When the Prime Minister of Ethiopia casually and appallingly lobbed the charge of “interhamwe” at its unarmed opposition, the African Union stayed mum.

If we don’t take genocide seriously, why should the rest of the world? The Prime Minister has yet to apologize for his gratuitous showboating, and has in fact repeated the charges. Yet we point the finger at DC and ho-hum what’s in our backyard.

On Sunday, April 30, thousands will march in DC to bring awareness to the situation in Darfur. The world seems to be saying, “Never again.” The whole world, except Africa.

Sign the petition. Tell a friend.

Enough is enough. Africa's New Kind of Money Laundering -- Page 1 Africa's New Kind of Money Laundering -- Page 1: "African money is among the dirtiest in the world — literally. Many African central banks simply don't replace notes until they fall apart. In countries torn by war, like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Sierra Leone, years can pass before new notes are printed. In Somalia a few years back, bank notes became so scarce that warlords started printing their own money, causing inflation, predictably, to skyrocket.

Now the continent's most populous country is trying to clean up its currency's act. In recent weeks, the Central Bank of Nigeria has launched a campaign urging citizens to take better care of their money. Advertisements in newspapers, magazines and on television ask Nigerians to 'Stop the Abuse of the Naira' and 'Handle the Naira With Pride,' referring to the Nigerian currency that was introduced in 1973 and originally worth just over $1.50.

The public service campaign may seem unusual, but in many ways it simply reflects the country's desperate economic situation. During the oil crisis of the early 1980s — when Nigeria was awash with petro-dollars and its president boasted to his neighbors that his country's problem was not poverty but how to spend all its money — the Naira was almost worth $2. Since then, though, military rule, corruption and mismanagement have crippled the country's economy and its currency. One U.S dollar is now worth around 140 Naira."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Osama's Crusade in Darfur

Practical suggestions to end the war in Darfur from Kristof of the New York Times.
 If you have any interest in this issue, please consider finding out where in your city the Save Darfur Rally will be held tomorrow. This will be a nation-wide rally....

Those of us who want a more forceful response to genocide in Darfur should be sobered by Osama bin Laden's latest tape.

In that tape, released on Sunday, Osama rails against the agreement
that ended Sudan's civil war with its Christian and animist south and
accuses the U.S. of plotting to dispatch "Crusader troops" to occupy
Darfur "and steal its oil wealth under the pretext of peacekeeping."
Osama calls on good Muslims to go to Sudan and stockpile land mines and
rocket-propelled grenades in preparation for "a long-term war" against
U.N. peacekeepers and other infidels.

Osama's tape underscores the fact that a tougher approach carries
real risks. It's easy for us in the peanut gallery to call for a U.N.
force, but what happens when jihadis start shooting down the U.N.

So with a major rally planned for Sunday to call for action to stop
the slaughter in Darfur, let's look at what specific actions the U.S.
should take. One reader, William in Scottsdale, Ariz., wrote to me to
say that he had called Senator John McCain's office to demand more
action on Darfur. "The lady on the phone asked me for suggestions," he
said — and William was short on suggestions.

The first step to stop the killing is to dispatch a robust U.N.
peacekeeping force of at least 20,000 well-equipped and mobile troops.

But because of precisely the nationalistic sensitivities that Osama is
trying to stir, it shouldn't have U.S. ground troops. Instead, it
should be made up mostly of Turks, Jordanians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis
and other Muslims, and smaller numbers of European and Asian troops.
The U.S. can supply airlifts, and NATO can provide a short-term
bridging force if necessary.

Second, the U.S. and France should enforce a no-fly zone from the
French air base in Abéché, Chad.
American military planners say this is
practicable, particularly if it simply involves destroying Sudanese
aircraft on the ground after they have attacked civilians.

Granted, these approaches carry real risks. After we shoot up a
Sudanese military plane, Sudan may orchestrate a "spontaneous" popular
riot that will involve lynching a few U.S. aid workers — or journalists.

But remember that the Sudanese government is hanging on by its
fingernails. It is deeply unpopular, and when it tried to organize
demonstrations against the Danish cartoons, they were a flop.

The coming issue of Foreign Policy magazine publishes a Failed
States Index in which Sudan is ranked the single most unstable country
in the entire world. If we apply enough pressure, Sudan's leaders will
back down in Darfur — just as they did when they signed a peace deal to
end the war with southern Sudan.

A no-fly zone and a U.N. force are among the ways we can apply
pressure, but another essential element is public diplomacy. We should
respond to Osama by shining a spotlight on the Muslim victims of Darfur
(many Arabs have instinctively sided with Sudan's rulers and have no
idea that nearly all of the victims of the genocide are Muslim).

The White House can invite survivors for a photo-op so they
themselves can recount, in Arabic, how their children were beheaded and
their mosques destroyed. We can release atrocity photos, like one I
have from an African Union archive of the body of a 2-year-old boy
whose face was beaten into mush. President Bush can make a major speech
about Darfur, while sending Condi Rice and a planeload of television
journalists to a refugee camp in Chad to meet orphans.

Madeleine Albright helped end the horrors of Sierra Leone simply by
going there and being photographed with maimed children. Those searing
photos put Sierra Leone on the global agenda, and policy makers
hammered out solutions. Granted, it's the fault of the "CBS Evening
News" that it gave Darfur's genocide only 2 minutes of coverage in all
of last year (compared with the 36 minutes that it gave the Michael
Jackson trial), but the administration can help when we in the media
world drop the ball.

The U.S. could organize a summit meeting in Europe or the Arab world
to call attention to Darfur, we could appoint a presidential envoy like
Colin Powell, and we could make the issue much more prominent in our
relations with countries like Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and China.

Americans often ask what they can do about Darfur. These are the
kinds of ideas they can urge on the White House and their members of
Congress — or on embassies like Egypt's. Many other ideas are at and at

When Darfur first came to public attention, there were 70,000 dead.
Now there are perhaps 300,000, maybe 400,000. Soon there may be 1
million. If we don't act now, when will we?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Connecting developing nations - Print Version - International Herald Tribune

Connecting developing nations - Print Version - International Herald Tribune: "BARCELONA A pregnant woman at home alone in her remote village in Sierra Leone unexpectedly went into a difficult labor and, with no access to a doctor or medical facilities, a minor medical emergency could have taken a tragic turn.

But the woman, Emma Sesay, managed to use one of the few cellphones in the village of Port Loko and called her husband, who borrowed a car and rushed home from his job, picking up a midwife along the way. They arrived in time to help Sesay give birth to a healthy boy, whom she promptly christened Celtel, the name of the cellphone company that provides services in her village and many others across 14 African countries, including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar.

Sesay's story was recounted in an interview on Wednesday with Celtel's chairman, Mohamed Ibrahim, who said, 'You cannot underestimate the effect a cellphone can have on the lives of people who live in conditions where there are no roads, no transport networks and no postal service.'"

Vilhelm Konnander's weblog: The Chernobyl Myth

Vilhelm Konnander's weblog: The Chernobyl Myth: "Exactly 20 years ago to the minute, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant 100 kilometres north of Kiev exploded in a nuclear meltdown that ever since has remained a symbol of the dangers of nuclear energy and the hypocrisy of the soviet system. Today, the consequences of Chernobyl stand out as the apocalyptic disaster it was in terms of the thousands of victims that it hit and the grave effects on the environment it had. Morever, it has become a symbol in the hands of different actors, which for various reasons use Chernobyl as a myth in their own interest or for higher purposes. Exactly 20 years ago to the minute, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant 100 kilometres north of Kiev exploded in a nuclear meltdown that ever since has remained a symbol of the dangers of nuclear energy and the hypocrisy of the soviet system. Today, the consequences of Chernobyl stand out as the apocalyptic disaster it was in terms of the thousands of victims that it hit and the grave effects on the environment it had. Morever, it has become a symbol in the hands of different actors, which for various reasons use Chernobyl as a myth in their own interest or for higher purposes. "

*Radio Diaries*

A compelling audiobroadcast bringing home the realities of AIDS in a young South African woman...*Radio Diaries*: "Thembi's AIDS Diary:
A Year in the Life of a South African Teenager

Thembi is 19 and lives in the township of Khayelitsha. For the past year she has been carrying around a tape recorder and keeping an audio diary of her struggle to live with AIDS. "

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One Day, That Economy Ticket May Buy You a Place to Stand - New York Times

One Day, That Economy Ticket May Buy You a Place to Stand - New York Times: "The airlines have come up with a new answer to an old question: How many passengers can be squeezed into economy class?

A lot more, it turns out, especially if an idea still in the early stage should catch on: standing-room-only 'seats.'

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal"

Center for Global Development : Opinions: Nigerian Debt Relief Now a Done Deal: Q&A with Todd Moss

Center for Global Development : Opinions: Nigerian Debt Relief Now a Done Deal: Q&A with Todd Moss: "Q: What does this debt deal mean for Nigeria?

A: The completion of the deal, which will see Nigeria exit from $30 billion in Paris Club debt, is absolutely historic. In the short-term it will mean that the budget can focus more on promoting private sector growth and development. But the longer-term implications could be much more important. Debt has been hanging over President Obasanjo and is one of the major barriers to consolidating the aggressive reforms being undertaken by his economic team. This gives them momentum to push further, including the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility bill now before parliament.

Q: What is the background to the completion of Nigeria’s debt deal this weekend?

A: Nigeria had been trying to get debt relief since Obasanjo was elected in 1999. These efforts failed until last year when three things finally came together. First, the government started cracking down on corruption. Second, the country was reclassified by the World Bank as 'IDA only,' a technicality that kept them out of consideration for either HIPC or a favorable Paris Club deal. Lastly, the treasury was able to save oil revenues (reserves have risen from almost nothing in 1999 to about $34 billion today) which gave Nigeria the cash to put on the table to get the deal done."

Exercise Trumps Diet for Weight Loss

Exercise Trumps Diet for Weight Loss: "April 14, 2006 -- Active monkeys stay lean, while couch-potato monkeys get fat -- no matter how much they eat.

The findings come from a research team led by Judy Cameron, PhD, senior scientist at Oregon National Primate Research Center and professor of behavioral neuroscience and obstetrics/gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University.

'Far and away the biggest predictor of weight gain was how active the monkeys were -- that overrode how much food they were eating,' Cameron tells WebMD.

The study may explain why people who try to lose weight by dieting alone rarely succeed.

'These findings were surprising to us as scientists,' Cameron says. 'We always assumed food intake was the main control of body weight and that dieting was the best way to control this. From these results, you are forced to think how active you are is more important than how much you eat.'

Cameron and colleagues report their findings in the early online edition of the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology." :: Columns :: Africa Malaria Day: Action or bombast? by Roy Innis - Apr 22, 2006 :: Columns :: Africa Malaria Day: Action or bombast? by Roy Innis - Apr 22, 2006: "Every year, 400 million African parents and children are stricken by malaria. Many are unable to work, cultivate fields, attend school or care for their families, for weeks on end. Others are permanently brain damaged. Nearly 1 million die.

Every year, Africa Malaria Day (April 25) brings promises to control the disease. But the calls for action are mere bombast, as healthcare agencies emphasize “capacity building,” the European Union and radical greens continue to obstruct proven strategies, and disease and death rates climb.

This year, though, things may be different.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, and hundreds of physicians, clergy and human rights advocates have joined me in demanding that DDT be put back into the malaria control arsenal. (See Congress now supports indoor DDT spraying as a vital component of any successful malaria control program, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has initiated DDT and other insecticide spraying programs in several countries." - Catching Malaria - Catching Malaria: "Today is Africa Malaria Day, which is intended to raise public awareness of a disease that each year kills more than a million pregnant women and children under five. We suspect many readers are plenty 'aware' of this health travesty already. The good news is that private individuals have begun to attack the disease after years of official aid and policy failure.

In his new book, 'The White Man's Burden,' economist William Easterly says medicine that would halve the number of malaria deaths world-wide costs just 12 cents a dose; a bed net that wards off malarial mosquitoes costs $4; and 'preventing five million child deaths over the next 10 years would cost just $3 for each new mother.' But despite spending $2.3 trillion on foreign aid in the past half century, the West hasn't managed to get 12-cent medicines and $4 bed nets to poor people.

A big part of the blame can be laid to bureaucratic incompetence at international aid agencies such as the World Bank. Eight years ago the Bank launched an ambitious campaign to halve malaria deaths by 2010. Yet according to Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa, malaria cases have actually risen in recent years as the Bank has reneged on promises and wasted money on ineffective medicines."

Outlook: Africa's Destructive Leaders

Outlook: Africa's Destructive Leaders: "Douglas Farah , former West Africa bureau chief for The Washington Post and author of 'Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror,' was online Monday, April 24, at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss his Sunday Outlook article, African Pillagers , ( Post, April 23, 2006 ), on the capture of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor and the destructive leaders still in power on the continent.

Despite Taylor's arrest, Farah notes that there are many like him who still maintain their grip on power to the detriment of their own nations: Omar Bongo of Gabon, who has been in power since the Johnson administration, Chad's dictator Idriss Deby and others who have been unchecked for decades. Despite their number, they have escaped the international attention and condemnation focused on equivalent leaders elsewhere. Farah argues that they are a danger both to the countries they control and to the stability of the region as a whole, and the assumption that are irrelevant outside of Africa is shortsighted."

Daryl Hannah, the beautiful actess, is video blogging from Rwanda

Daryl Hannah, the beautiful actess, is video blogging from Rwanda.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Nuclear Nightmares: Twenty Years since Chernobyl

A compelling photoessay documenting the Chenobyl tragedy.... - Nepal's Crisis - Nepal's Crisis: "

Nepal's Crisis
April 24, 2006

Once upon a time, a little Buddhist kingdom's political unrest wouldn't mean much to the rest of the world. No more. Authoritarian King Gyanendra's offer to return 'power to the people' on Friday did little to quell violent pro-democracy protests and chat of a 'failed state' in South Asia. The clash is worrying to Washington, which doesn't want a terrorist haven, but downright scary for neighboring India and China, who don't want the mess spilling over their borders. Given Beijing's lackluster diplomacy, it's up to New Delhi to try to broker a peace.
[King Gyanendra]

To India's credit, that process has begun -- if belatedly. After all, it's been well over a year since the King seized authoritarian power, claiming that only he could suppress Nepal's Maoist rebel uprisings. India, like the U.S. and the U.K., decried the move. Yet in the months that followed, little concerted, concentrated diplomatic pressure was exerted on the king to restore parliamentary democracy. New Delhi seemed more focused on domestic economic problems and negotiations with Pakistan than with little Nepal.

What a miscalculation. While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress Party dawdled, Nepal's seven opposition political parties formed a loose alliance with the Maoists -- in New Delhi, no less -- and embarked on a general stike that's morphed into a grassroots push for a return to democracy. The King dug in. After two straight weeks of violent protests and police crackdowns this month, India's foreign minister and a "special envoy" finally shuttled up to Kathmandu last week to chat with the beleaguered king and the opposition political parties"...

The Maoists have cannily slowed their attacks over the last few weeks to win international support. But that's the exception, not the rule. Until the rebels renounce their armed struggle -- through which they have killed over 12,500 innocents -- including them in peace talks only rewards terrorism. King Gyanendra's Friday offer might not have been the right one, but at least it's a start toward compromise. Now it's up to India, one of the world's most vibrant democracies, to cajole both the palace and the parties toward peace.

How It Works | GlobalGiving

How It Works | GlobalGiving: " is an online marketplace for international giving. Potential donors can browse and select from a wide offering of projects, organized by geography or by themes such as health care, the environment, and education. Once a donor chooses a project, he/she can contribute any amount, using a credit/debit card, check, PayPal, or stock transfer. Gift registries can be set up for special events, and donors can 'give' any project as a gift.

These contributions directly support the entrepreneurial work of project leaders throughout the world, who are bringing innovative, empowering solutions to challenging social problems at the local community level.

All donations made to projects go through the GlobalGiving Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 entity, and are fully tax-deductible."

Notes from a small island

Notes from a small island: "The news that the Guyanese Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Satyadeow Sawh, was brutally gunned down at his home along with his brother, sister and bodyguard early Saturday morning is sending shockwaves around the Caribbean.

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail: "Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi's luck is running out. Eight weeks ago the Taliban diplomat turned special Yale student made a media splash on the cover of the New York Times magazine in which he proclaimed: 'In some ways I'm the luckiest person in the world, I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale.'

But the continued outrage over the news that an unrepentant former official of a criminal regime whose remnants are still killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan is part of the Ivy League is catching up with him. Yale is about to establish tougher standards for the program under which he is applying to become a degree-status sophomore next fall, and the consensus is that Mr. Hashemi won't measure up.

Taliban Man's days as a Bulldog look to be numbered. But Yale may be about to stir up new controversy as it appears to be on the verge of offering a notorious anti-Israel academic a faculty position."

Sudan: The Passion of the Present

Sudan: The Passion of the Present: "China and Sudan, Blood and Oil (by Nicholas Kristof)

Mr. Oregon has reprinted his latest column...

Americans make a habit of bashing China for all the wrong reasons.

It's hypocritical of us to scream at President Hu Jintao, as we did during his visit last week, about China's undervalued currency. Sure, that's a problem for the world economy — but not nearly as much as our own budget deficits, caused by tax cuts we couldn't afford.

We're now addicted to capital from China and other foreign countries, and that should be a concern. But our deficits aren't China's fault, and junkies like us don't have any basis to complain about the moral turpitude of those who supply cheap capital or other narcotics.

But there are two good reasons to complain to President Hu. First, he has presided over a broad clampdown on freedom of expression in China, including the imprisonment for 19 months of my colleague Zhao Yan, an employee of The New York Times.

Second, China is now underwriting its second genocide in three decades. The first was in Pol Pot's Cambodia, and the second is in Darfur, Sudan. Chinese oil purchases have financed Sudan's pillage of Darfur, Chinese-made AK-47's have been the main weapons used to slaughter several hundred thousand people in Darfur so far, and China has protected Sudan in the U.N. Security Council.

Indeed, it's because of China's support that Sudan felt it could get away this month with sending a proxy army to invade neighboring Chad.

For more than two years now, I've been holding President Bush's feet to the fire over his refusal to make the Darfur genocide a priority for his administration. But Mr. Bush has taken half-steps in the right direction — including pushing President Hu to cooperate on Darfur — and that's more than can be said of the leaders of most other countries. Europe has snored through this genocide. Then there's the Arab League, which met last month in Sudan, in effect legitimizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Muslims (almost all the victims in Darfur are Muslim).

As Fatema Abdul Rasul wrote in The Daily Star of Lebanon this month: "For the entire Muslim and Arab world to remain silent when thousands of people in Darfur continue to be killed is shameful and hypocritical." Do you hear that, Hosni?

And where's the Arab press? Isn't the murder of 300,000 or more Muslims almost as offensive as a Danish cartoon?

The biggest obstacle to forceful action is China. The latest outrage came a few days ago when the U.S. and Britain tried to impose the most feeble possible sanctions — targeting just four people, including a midlevel Sudanese official. China and Russia blocked even that pathetic action.

Why is China soft on genocide?

The essential reason is oil. China traditionally was self-sufficient in oil, but since 1993 it has been a net oil importer and it is increasingly worried about this vulnerability.

So China has been bustling around the globe trying to ensure oil supplies from as many sources as possible. And partly because most of the major oil fields are already taken, China has ended up with the world's thugs: Sudan, Iran and Myanmar. China has been particularly active in Africa.

About 60 percent of Sudan's oil flows to China, and Beijing has a close economic and even military relationship with Khartoum. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report on Africa notes that China has supplied Sudan with small arms, anti-personnel mines, howitzers, tanks, helicopters and ammunition. China has even established three arms factories in Sudan, and you see Chinese-made AK-47's, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns all over Darfur.

Last month in a village on the Chad-Sudan border, I interviewed a man who told how a Sudanese militia had grabbed his baby boy, Ahmed Haroun, thrown Ahmed to the ground and shot him in the chest. The odds are overwhelming that that gun and those bullets came from China.

Likewise, the women and children I've seen torn apart by bullets in Darfur and Chad — that lead and steel was molded in Chinese factories. When women are raped and mutilated in Darfur, the gun barrels pointed at their heads are Made in China.

Let's hope China's 13 million bloggers take up this issue, for this has received very little attention in China but it is not so sensitive that discussion of it will get anyone arrested.

One of the central questions for the 21st century will be whether China's rise will be accompanied by increasingly responsible behavior in its international relations. Darfur is a test, and for now China is failing.

Global Campaign for Education, U.S. Chapter

Global Campaign for Education, U.S. Chapter: "The Global Campaign for Education (GCE), founded in 1999, brings together major NGOs and teachers’ unions in more than 150 countries around the world to promote education as a basic human right and mobilize public pressure on the international community and governments to fulfill their promises to provide free basic education for all people."

NPR : Programs Teach Savings to Ease Poverty

NPR : Programs Teach Savings to Ease Poverty: "Some organizations have found a way for low-income people to save money, then build on those savings over time. One such program in Tulsa, Okla., has brought life-changing financial security to local residents, some of whom were able to build a business."

New Scientist Tech - Breaking News - Solar-powered implant could restore vision

New Scientist Tech - Breaking News - Solar-powered implant could restore vision: "AN IMPLANT that squirts chemicals into the back of your eye may not sound like much fun. But a solar-powered chip that stimulates retinal cells by spraying them with neurotransmitters could restore sight to blind people.

Unlike other implants under development that apply an electric charge directly to retinal cells, the device does not cause the cells to heat up. It also uses very little power, so it does not need external batteries."...

Last year engineer Laxman Saggere of the University of Illinois at Chicago unveiled plans for an implant that would replace these damaged photoreceptors with a set of neurotransmitter pumps that respond to light. Now he has built a crucial component: a solar-powered actuator that flexes in response to the very low-intensity light that strikes the retina. Multiple actuators on a single chip pick up the details of the image focused on the retina, allowing some "pixels" to be passed on to the brain.

The prototype actuator consists of a flexible silicon disc just 1.5 millimetres in diameter and 15 micrometres thick. When light hits a silicon solar cell next to the disc it produces a voltage. The solar cell is connected to a layer of piezoelectric material called lead zirconate titanate (PZT), which changes shape in response to the voltage, pushing down on the silicon disc. In future, a reservoir will sit underneath the disc, and this action will squeeze the neurotransmitters out onto retinal cel

Photoblog of the unrest in Nepal

A darkening mood over Doha |

A darkening mood over Doha | "Efforts to liberalise world trade have suffered a setback, after large trading powers admitted that a self-imposed deadline of April 30th for preparing a deal on farm and industrial goods will be missed. Ministerial talks planned for this weekend have been called off. Although more negotiations are expected in May and June, and there will be renewed efforts to get a deal by the end of July, there is every reason to be gloomy about the Doha round

Europe and America are both to blame for the latest setback, and each is making strenuous efforts to hold the other responsible. But the failure to get a deal on the controversial question of cutting subsidies for farmers casts doubt on the chances of getting agreement in other areas. Negotiations on the liberalisation of trade in services may prove as impossibly tricky to achieve as a deal on farm and industrial goods.

Nor is the G20 group of developing nations giving much impetus to the talks. Led by India and Brazil, the G20 is refusing to negotiate without deeper concessions on agriculture. India, with its large population, may turn out to be a big problem. Its government worries that competition from Chinese factories and American farms represents too great a threat, while gaining more access to world markets is of only limited attraction.

Other poor countries are also unsure what they would gain. There is general talk of hopeful prospects for poor farmers gaining greater access to rich-world markets. But the benefits will not flow evenly from rich to poor. The World Bank estimates that removing current agricultural distortions would produce a general benefit of more than $300 billion a year. Relative to national income, poor countries would enjoy a third more of this benefit than rich, industrialised, ones. However, nearly half of that benefit would come from reforms by the developing countries themselves, something governments might do anyway were it not for the serious problem of the political pain the reforms are bound to cause.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

France's Ties With African Leaders Fading - Yahoo! News

France's Ties With African Leaders Fading - Yahoo! News: "PARIS - When hundreds of rebels in pickup trucks attacked his capital, Chad's President Idriss Deby did what comes naturally: He telephoned French
President Jacques Chirac.

Now, with Chirac nearing the end of his tenure, France's tradition of close personal ties with leaders of its former African colonies appears on the way out — and other world powers could fill the void.

Like predecessors stretching back to Charles de Gaulle, Chirac has long had an African connection and has built many African contacts over his four decades in politics. As president since 1995, he has continued the practice of holding summits with African leaders every two years.

For France, the payoff has been both economic and diplomatic. From regimes France backs militarily, Paris receives support at the
United Nations. African leaders in turn enjoy French military, economic and technical assistance.

But Chirac's sagging political fortunes, his health problems and advancing age — he turns 74 this year — make it highly unlikely that he will stand for another presidential term in 2007. With him gone, to whom will Deby and other African leaders turn?

'The departure of Chirac from the political scene will change the nature of relations between France and Africa,' said Africa expert Albert Boungi, an international law professor at Reims University, east of Paris....

The United States, and possibly China, could step in, mainly to tap oil. Chad exports 160,000 barrels a day through a U.S.-Malaysia consortium including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Petronas....

Relations between Britain — Africa's other major former colonial power — and its one-time colonies also often are close, but they did not develop along the same lines, for cultural and political reasons. Africans under French rule could aspire to French citizenship and former French colonies pegged their currencies to the franc and now the euro, while Britain kept its African subjects at a distance.

France says stability is priority No. 1 in its former African colonies. Its frequent calls for greater democracy in Africa often ring hollow, given France's track record of dealing with despots and leaders-for-life in many countries over the years, seemingly more comfortable with familiar dictators than the unknowns democracy might bring.

The Bank of Mom and Dad - New York Times

The Bank of Mom and Dad - New York Times: "The bottom line is that the assumption that financial obligations to children ended after graduation from high school or college is going the way of the pay phone. Today, parents are finding that they are on the hook for more, sometimes much more — contributions of thousands of dollars a year to help young men and women get on their feet economically, often into their 30's.

The economic dilemmas facing young adults were chronicled in two recent books: 'Generation Debt' by Anya Kamenetz and 'Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead,' by Tamara Draut. Both explore how paychecks have stalled, housing costs have risen, education costs have skyrocketed and credit has become so available as to be dangerous."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Note taking for webgeeks

This is an exhaustive list of webapps that can help in organizing oneself. Of the programs listed, I have used backpackit and now use protopage. It is definitely checking out this well-organized list...

ScienceMatters @ Berkeley.

ScienceMatters @ Berkeley.: "Diamond's original plan was to launch her Enrichment In Action program at a hospital in Siem Reap, Cambodia where landmine-injured children had recovered. The director of the hospital introduced Diamond to a child with bandaged legs who would have to remain in the bed for six weeks.

'In our animal studies, we showed the brain could be statistically decreased in four days with a lack of stimulation,' Diamond says. 'What would happen to his brain in six weeks?'

As it turned out, there were actually very few children injured by land mines in the area at the time, but there were many orphans. Several years ago, the hospital directed Diamond to the Wat Racha Sin Khon orphanage in the forest near the temple of Angkor Wat in northwestern Cambodia. Managed by monks, the orphanage had no electricity, running water, or septic change. Conditions were brutal for the children living there, aged 10 to 17.
The children of the Racha Sin Khon orphanage.

The children of the Racha Sin Khon orphanage.

Diamond's first step was to get the kids on a better diet. In studies in Africa and elsewhere, Diamond had determined that nerve cells in the brain depend on healthy diets to form the branches, called dendrites, that enable learning. The orphans' meals of fish and rice, with the rare vegetable, wouldn't do the trick. The researchers' first action was to provide the children with vitamins and mineral supplements. Since then, the children planted a vegetable garden and the children's diet, Diamond says, has greatly improved.

'Meanwhile, the kids line up to take their vitamins that are handed out each day by the older children,' she says."

Driving in India

This short video accurately captures the craziness of driving in a land without traffic rules:

Microfinance Gateway: Site Content: Hype and Hope: The Worrisome State of the Microcredit Movement

Microfinance Gateway: Site Content: Hype and Hope: The Worrisome State of the Microcredit Movement

Has the widespread enthusiasm for microfinance transformed a noble idea into a panacea? Thomas Dichter, long-time practitioner in the international development industry and author of "Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World Has Failed," takes a critical look at the microcredit movement and argues that it has done more harm than good.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 - Study: Multi-tasking triples car crash risk - Apr 20, 2006 - Study: Multi-tasking triples car crash risk - Apr 20, 2006: "CNN) -- Multi-tasking drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a crash as more attentive motorists who don't dab on makeup, eat breakfast, or chat on cell phones, a new study reveals."

Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery

Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery: "The FM 100-hue testing showed no difference in color perception between subjects with AcrySof Natural IOLs and those in an age-matched phakic control group or in those with a UV-only filtering AcrySof IOL with or without yellow clip-on lenses."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose

An interesting web essay on perceptions of females in Western culture--check it out...

Opening Page: "A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose"

Creating Passionate Users

This is an interesting post on happiness and neuroscience with practical suggestions to increase your happiness quotient ...
Creating Passionate Users:
"A few things I'll try to explain in this post:

1) One of the most important recent neuroscience discoveries--'mirror neurons', and the role they play in a decision like Robert's

2) The heavily-researched social science phenomenon known as 'emotional contagion'

3) Ignorance and misperceptions around the idea of 'happy people'"

Executive compensation out of control

From Dennis Gartman (a leading financial analyst):

"In what must be the singularly worst public
relations gambit in history, ExxonMobil announced yesterday that it is
giving its outgoing president, Lee Raymond, one of the most generous
retirement packages in the history of American business: nearly $400
million, including pension, stock options, a $1 million consulting
deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver,
and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.
were Mr. Raymond and the Board thinking when they allowed this sort of
retirement package to be granted -- and made public -- at a time when
gasoline prices are skyrocketing? We are capitalists here at TGL, and
we are far to the right on almost all questions; but for ExxonMobil to
grant this sort of package to a mere caretaker, albeit a very excellent
one, is beyond reasonableness. The timing could not be worse. The
entire oil industry will suffer because of ExxonMobil's public
relations idiocy in this matter."

Dining Out in Saudi Arabia a Police Matter

This article makes me long for the adventure of eating out in Riyadh where international cuisine was matched with the possibility of a potentially exciting muttawah encounter...

Dining Out in Saudi Arabia a Police Matter: "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- I was still looking over the menu when the commotion began. The waiter sprinted in and shut off the TV that was airing a female pop singer's video clip. Another waiter hastily put up a wooden partition to screen me from the male diners.

Saudi Arabia's religious police were on the prowl.

Eating out in Riyadh is an unusual experience, apt on occasion to give the diner indigestion. The restaurants are trendy and serve all manner of local and foreign delicacies. But they are subject to the austere mores of an Islamic kingdom _ no unmarried men and women together, no pop music, not even service with a smile.

Saudis in the capital take the extremes of the muttawa, or religious police, in stride. But among expatriates, they're a favorite topic of conversation."

A Slight Change in Habits Could Lull You to Sleep - New York Times

A Slight Change in Habits Could Lull You to Sleep - New York Times: "While not every insomniac's problem is so easily solved, many if not most of the millions of Americans who now rely on sleeping pills could cure their insomnia simply by changing their living and sleeping habits."

Seeking Ancestry in DNA Ties Uncovered by Tests - New York Times

Seeking Ancestry in DNA Ties Uncovered by Tests - New York Times: "Alan Moldawer's adopted twins, Matt and Andrew, had always thought of themselves as white. But when it came time for them to apply to college last year, Mr. Moldawer thought it might be worth investigating the origins of their slightly tan-tinted skin, with a new DNA kit that he had heard could determine an individual's genetic ancestry."

The results, designating the boys 9 percent Native American and 11 percent northern African, arrived too late for the admissions process. But Mr. Moldawer, a business executive in Silver Spring, Md., says they could be useful in obtaining financial aid.

Shonda Brinson, an African-American college student, is still trying to figure out how best to apply her DNA results on employment forms.

In some cases, she has chosen to write in her actual statistics — 89 percent sub-Saharan African, 6 percent European and 5 percent East Asian. But she figures her best bet may be just checking all relevant boxes.

"That way, of the three categories they won't be able to determine which percentage is bigger," Ms. Brinson said.

Girl's heart restarted after donor organ removed - Yahoo! News

This is cool!

Girl's heart restarted after donor organ removed - Yahoo! News: "LONDON (Reuters) - A British girl is thought to have become the first heart transplant patient in the UK and possibly the world to have had her donor organ removed and her own heart re-started, a London hospital said on Thursday.

Hannah Clark from south Wales had a heterotopic transplant operation -- known as a 'piggyback' because the donor heart is placed next to the original organ -- 10 years ago.

However, complications arose after her body recently started reacting badly to the drugs she had to take to stop her body rejecting the new heart and surgeons took the decision to remove the donor organ.

'We discovered that actually her old heart was now working quite well,' said a spokesman from London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

'So we removed the transplant heart, we were able to take her off the anti-rejection drugs and reconnected her old heart back up again and it worked. She's doing very well.'

He added: 'We would be surprised if anybody came up with another case. Maybe it's a world first.'" - Restrictions on Cellphone Use While Driving Gain Traction

It's about time! - Restrictions on Cellphone Use While Driving Gain Traction: "Addressing what safety experts say can be a deadly distraction, states are scrambling to impose restrictions on cellphone use by drivers. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have written legislation on the issue, mostly since 2003. This year, other legislatures are tackling the subject, and two states have passed laws on it."

Human rights sanctions blocked - World - Times Online

Human rights sanctions blocked - World - Times Online: "China and Russia last night thwarted a year-long diplomatic drive by Britain to impose United Nations sanctions on the perpetrators in of the violence in the Darfur province of Sudan.

The two powers, joined by Qatar, used their position on a UN sanctions committee to block the imposition of a UN travel ban and asset freeze on four unnamed Sudanese, including one government official, proposed by Britain.

The United States, which backed the British initiative, reacted angrily by threatening to call a public vote of the 15-nation Security Council that would force Russia and China into making a formal veto."

Coalition for Darfur

Coalition for Darfur: "From UNICEF

Eman Musa Eltighani is a young Sudanese women who has been working with UNICEF in Darfur since 2004. In this Frontline Diary entry she documents her thoughts on recent developments – and fears for the future.

In a few days, I will have completed two years of work in Darfur, travelling between camps for internally displaced people in rebel-controlled parts of the region and in urban areas. Every day, I used to sense a slight improvement in the general situation compared to how it felt in August 2004 when I first came to the field, but now I worry we are heading back to where we were two years ago.

Indelible images of suffering are now deeply rooted in my mind: Endless queues of women wait for food rations under a sizzling sun. They carry crying children on their backs. Other kids wander around them, closely watched so they don’t disappear. A child dying of malnutrition sits on his mother’s lap. Children scream, watching strangers come and go in the camps. All they dream of at night are the horsemen who destroyed their villages.

Meanwhile, the same camps have become the focus of numerous efforts by humanitarian workers, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to help provide as much of a normal a life as possible for those who’ve fled their homes.

My concern is that those efforts will vanish with the wind if no serious action is taken to stop the deterioration of the security situation."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Irma Turtle Posted by Picasa

East Valley Tribune | Daily Arizona News for Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale

East Valley Tribune | Daily Arizona News for Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale: "Irma Turtle led a very different life 22 years ago. She lived on Manhattan’s East Side and spent her days dressed in power suits marketing the products of Fortune 500 companies.

She was at the top of the advertising world, sought after by clients, and named president of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather’s Brazilian office.

Then one day Turtle decided she’d had enough. And quit.

She traded the power suits, Madison Avenue lunches and $85,000 salary for the life of an adventure traveler and then what some would say is a frustrating and penniless existence —that of a humanitarian working in the remote
regions of Africa.

“I never looked back,” she says before taking a sip of tea in her Cave Creek home. “For the longest time there was this neon question mark going off over my head — so what, so what? What am I doing to help the world?” "

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fatima Juma, 13, shot in chest while fetching water Posted by Picasa

The Slaughter Spreads - New York Times

The Slaughter Spreads - New York Times: "Over the past week, Sudan has sponsored a full-scale invasion of Chad, seeking to oust Chad's president and replace him with the warlord who has overseen the murder, rape and pillage in those border areas.

Sudan seems determined to extend its genocide to Chad, and the upshot is that the catastrophe of Darfur may now be multiplied manyfold."

One of the towns I stayed in during my visit to Chad last month was Adré, which by some accounts — denied by the government — has now been seized by this Sudanese proxy force known for throwing babies into bonfires. So I wonder what happened to the children I met in the Adré hospital, like Fatima Juma, a 13-year-old girl who would have been unable to flee because she had been shot in the chest and arm while fetching water.

That the fighting has spread to Chad underscores that our policy in Darfur has not only been morally bankrupt, but also catastrophic in a practical sense.

President Bush and millions of Americans today will celebrate Easter and the end of Holy Week. But where is the piety in reading the Bible while averting one's eyes from genocide? Mr. Bush, how about showing your faith by doing something a bit more meaningful — like standing up to the butchers?

Mapping religion in America (

Mapping religion in America ( "Let's look at a remarkable set of U.S. maps. Using 2000 Census information on a county-by-county basis, the maps focus on various aspects of religion. Each section of this post will look at a particular map."

Counting Aid Dollars

Counting Aid Dollars: "THE SPRING meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund will take place this week, and the workings of these global agencies will be debated around Washington. But official aid is not the only kind. Unofficial philanthropy also flows to poor countries, some of it from famous outfits such as the Ford Foundation, and some from millions of ordinary givers. Conservatives argue that this private aid is less bureaucratic and more effective than the government kind, and that incorporating it into international lists of donors could end the common complaint that the United States is stingy.

A new study by the Hudson Institute sets out to prove this point. It concludes that U.S. private giving to poor countries came to $71 billion in 2004, a sum more than triple the U.S. government's foreign aid and nearly as large as the $80 billion given away by all donor governments combined. By itself, official U.S. foreign aid comes to a minimal 0.17 percent of the gross domestic product, the second-lowest share among the 22 rich countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Add in private philanthropy, and U.S. help to poor countries jumps to 0.61 percent of GDP, only slightly less than the 0.7 percent target urged by development advocates."But who's giving most of this private aid? Foundations, corporate philanthropic efforts, religious organizations and voluntary aid groups account for only about one third; fully two-thirds comes from migrant workers sending money home. These worker remittances have become a powerful engine of progress in countries from the Philippines to El Salvador. But these transfers, mainly within families, clearly aren't the same as "foreign aid" or even "charity." Moreover, they don't tend to flow to the regions most in need -- notably, Africa.

Eliminate these remittances, and the United States doesn't stand out for its generosity. Official aid plus private charity comes to 0.39 percent of GDP, tying the United States for 10th place in the OECD's table of donors. Add in a reasonable estimate for private giving in Europe and elsewhere, and the United States slips into the bottom half, according to Steve Radelet of the Center for Global Development. The Hudson Institute is right to draw attention to unofficial aid; private actors can be more innovative and nimble than governments -- though they can also be more amateurish. But a nation that wants to lead the world should invest more in the battle against poverty.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 "PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A scathing editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

If Republicans lose control of Congress in November, they might want to look back at last Thursday as the day it was lost. That's when the big spenders among House Republicans blew up a deal between the leadership and rank-in-file to impose some modest spending discipline.

Unlike the collapse of the immigration bill, this fiasco can't be blamed on Senate Democrats. This one is all about Republicans and their refusal to give up their power to spend money at will and pass out 'earmarks' like a bartender offering drinks on the house. The chief culprits are the House Appropriators, led by Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of California and his 13 subcommittee chairmen known as 'cardinals.' If Republicans lose the House--and they are well on their way--Mr. Lewis deserves the moniker of the minority maker. . . .

A category five political storm is building in GOP precincts around the country, and it is going to blow Republicans right out of the majority in November if they don't soon give their supporters some reason to re-elect them. So far this year they've passed limits on free speech that liberals love, but they haven't been able to extend the wildly successful 2003 tax cuts by even a mere two years. And now they won't even allow a vote on budget reforms that their own President and a majority of their own Members support.

At the current pace, a Democratic majority in Congress would be preferable, if only for reasons of truth in advertising.


Fiddling While Darfur Burns - New York Times

Fiddling While Darfur Burns - New York Times: "It is enormously distressing to watch the sausage-making that passes for the world's attempt to do something about the carnage in Darfur. The United Nations is still dawdling over plans to replace the African Union force currently there with a well-armed U.N. peacekeeping force. An attempt last week by the United Nations' top official on humanitarian issues, Jan Egeland, to visit Darfur was rebuffed by the Sudanese government. With all of the raping, murdering and butchering going on in Darfur, why would Sudan want an eyewitness account from a high-ranking international diplomat?

While this goes on, Arab militias calling themselves the janjaweed and backed by the Sudanese government continue to raid villages in Darfur and now across the border in Chad. Not satisfied with the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children they've systematically raped and murdered as part of their ethnic cleansing campaign, the janjaweed are continuing their campaign to eliminate entire African tribes from the Sudanese countryside.

Where are the Muslims who took to the streets to protest Danish cartoons? Where are the African leaders who demanded boycotts of South Africa?

The Bush administration, to its credit, has finally stopped dragging its feet and is now trying to push the United Nations in the right direction. But the diplomats are moving too slow. For weeks, the Security Council's sanctions committee has been working on a list of Sudanese responsible for the bloodshed in Darfur. The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said yesterday that America is pressing to get out the list, which he called a 'down payment toward justice.'

We're waiting. But time is one thing that what is left of the Darfur population doesn't really have. We're glad to see that a rally is planned in Washington on April 30. We're glad to hear that Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick invited Darfur refugees to the State Department. Now President Bush needs to do the same thing. A photo op at the White House with Darfur refugees would go a long way toward embarrassing the government of Sudan.

That should also embarrass the rest of the Security Council members, like China, Qatar, Ghana and Tanzania, that continue to give diplomatic cover to Sudan. Rwanda should have taught us all something; it's tragic that it apparently has not."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - Catfish Hunt on Land - Catfish Hunt on Land: "

You might think a catfish on land would fare as well as an elephant on roller-skates, but a new study reveals they slither around and adeptly catch insect meals [Video].

The finding helps scientists imagine how ancient fish made their first hunting trips ashore prior to evolving into land creatures.

This study is detailed in the April 13 issue of the journal Nature."

Actor-Patients’Requests for Medications Boost Prescribing for Depression, April 27, 2005 Press Release - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Actor-Patients’Requests for Medications Boost Prescribing for Depression, April 27, 2005 Press Release - National Institutes of Health (NIH): "Researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, have found that requests from patients for medications have a 'profound effect' on physicians prescribing for major depression and adjustment disorder. These findings indicate that direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of prescription medications for depression may exert significant influence on treatment decisions." : Health news - Drug firms 'inventing diseases' : Health news - Drug firms 'inventing diseases': "Pharmaceutical firms are inventing diseases to sell more drugs, researchers have warned.

Disease-mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine reported.

Researchers at Newcastle University in Australia said firms were putting healthy people at risk by medicalising conditions such as menopause.

But the pharmaceutical industry denied it invented diseases.Report authors David Henry and Ray Moynihan criticised attempts to convince the public in the US that 43% of women live with sexual dysfunction."

Coalition for Darfur

Coalition for Darfur: "Chad government troops reinforced the capital N'Djamena on Wednesday and embassies took security precautions in response to reports that rebels were moving closer to the city, residents and diplomats said.

Security sources, who asked not to be named, said a French military aircraft on a surveillance flight had spotted a rebel column at Massenya, 160 km (100 miles) southeast of the capital of the landlocked central African oil producer."

Comparison of Schizophrenia Drugs Often Favors Firm Funding Study

Comparison of Schizophrenia Drugs Often Favors Firm Funding Study: "In fact, when psychiatrist John Davis analyzed every publicly available trial funded by the pharmaceutical industry pitting five new antipsychotic drugs against one another, nine in 10 showed that the best drug was the one made by the company funding the study."

NPR : Bassist Christian McBride, Plying the Bottom Groove

I saw Christian McBride with Pat Metheney last summer in a small out door venue in Reno. He is amazing!

NPR : Bassist Christian McBride, Plying the Bottom Groove: "Christian McBride, a protégé of the late jazz great Ray Brown, compares playing the bass to being an offensive lineman in football: 'You're kind of not noticed until you're not there.'

But he can't see himself playing anything else.

The acoustic bass is 'probably just the most beautiful-sounding instrument,' the Philadelphian says. 'Just something that low and that resonant, you see this huge instrument and this wood -- this house -- on stage. You feel it more than you hear it.'"

Sudan: The Passion of the Present

Sudan: The Passion of the Present: "From today's edition (thanks to the Save Darfur 'Latest News' section)...

Ending genocide requires more than slow-motion intervention. The United States and the United Nations must act much more aggressively and quickly to protect civilians trying to escape violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

The U.S. government has labeled the violence in Darfur, which began in 2003, as genocide. That's appropriate: The militias that have been trying to erase the population there are backed by the government in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Sudan's president, Omar el-Bashir, responds to such charges with a 'Me? No, never.' But then government helicopters buzz overhead to strafe villages and camps for the displaced, who number 2.5 million.

Estimates of those who have died from violence or illness in refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad range from 100,000 to 400,000."

Wired News: Getting Evolution Up to Speed

Wired News: Getting Evolution Up to Speed: "New evidence suggests humans are evolving more rapidly -- and more recently -- than most people thought possible. But for some radical evolutionists, Homo sapiens isn't morphing quickly enough.

'People like to think of modern human biology, and especially mental biology, as being the result of selections that took place 100,000 years ago,' said University of Chicago geneticist Bruce Lahn. 'But our research shows that humans are still under selection, not just for things like disease resistance but for cognitive abilities.'

Lahn recently published the results of a study demonstrating that two key genes connected to brain size are currently under rapid selection in populations throughout the globe."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

solar eclipse 3-29-06 as viewed from the international space station Posted by Picasa

Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Photographic Highlights

Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Photographic Highlights: "Total Solar Eclipse of March 29, 2006

The International Space Station (ISS) was in position to view the umbral (ground) shadow cast by the Moon as it moved between the Sun and the Earth during the solar eclipse on March 29, 2006. This astronaut image captures the umbral shadow across southern Turkey, northern Cyprus, and the Mediterranean Sea. People living in these regions observed a total solar eclipse, in which the Moon completely covers the Sun’s disk. The astronaut photograph was taken at approximately 2:00 p.m. local time. The terminator of the eclipse—the line between the light and dark parts of the Sun’s disk— is visible as it passes across central Turkey. This total solar eclipse is the fourth to have occurred since 1999. The portion of the ISS visible at image top is the Space Station Remote Manipulator System."

Hazardous to Your Health - New York Times

The foisting of high fructose corn syrup on the American public is one of my pet peeves!
Hazardous to Your Health - New York Times: "Our government needs to do much more to control potentially deadly substances — plutonium, anthrax and high-fructose corn syrup.

Nicholas D. Kristof.

O.K., so Osama bin Laden isn't scheming to release corn syrup in the New York subways. But that's because he doesn't need to: Americans are guzzling it themselves — every year, the average American drinks 56 gallons of soda.

The major sweetener in pop is high-fructose corn syrup, which is also found in everything from ketchup to hot dog buns. Americans over the age of 2 get an average of 132 calories a day from high-fructose corn syrup." - Study: Obesity not in eye of beholder - Apr 10, 2006 - Study: Obesity not in eye of beholder - Apr 10, 2006: "-- Obese people have a blind spot when it comes to their own weight problem, according to a study that showed only 15 percent of people in that category view themselves as obese." - Lens solution linked to fungus outbreak - Apr 11, 2006 - Lens solution linked to fungus outbreak - Apr 11, 2006: "WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bausch & Lomb voluntarily suspended shipment of a contact lens solution after federal health officials linked it Monday to a fungal eye infection that can cause temporary blindness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 109 reports of Fusarium keratitis infection in patients in 17 states since June 2005.

Federal and state health officials have interviewed just 30 of those patients. However, of the 28 who wore soft contact lens, however, 26 reported using Bausch & Lomb's ReNu brand contact lens solution or a generic type of solution also made by the Rochester, New York, company.

Bausch & Lomb said it would temporarily suspend shipments of ReNu with MoistureLoc made at its Greenville, South Carolina, plant.

Monday, April 10, 2006

New Saudi King Faces Challenges to Reform - New York Times

New Saudi King Faces Challenges to Reform - New York Times: "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- The all-black abayas have splashes of bold, glittery color. The book fair opened its doors to once-banned books. And stuffy government-run TV stations have started to play music, forbidden for decades.

In the seven months since Saudi Arabia's new monarch, King Abdullah, took the throne, there have been small but striking signs that he is leading his country toward more openness.

''He wants to turn this nation from a one-way country in which conservatives have the upper hand into a two-way state where both liberals and Islamists can express themselves,'' Saudi analyst Dawood al-Shirian said.

No one expects Abdullah's ride to be smooth, though. He needs to keep the reform momentum going despite reported differences within the royal family over the pace and direction of change."

With Big Boost From Sugar Cane, Brazil Is Satisfying Its Fuel Needs - New York Times

With Big Boost From Sugar Cane, Brazil Is Satisfying Its Fuel Needs - New York Times: "PIRACICABA, Brazil — At the dawn of the automobile age, Henry Ford predicted that 'ethyl alcohol is the fuel of the future.' With petroleum about $65 a barrel, President Bush has now embraced that view, too. But Brazil is already there."

Swollen limbs from Filariasis Posted by Picasa

Beyond Swollen Limbs, a Disease's Hidden Agony - New York Times

Let us hope that this disfiguring disease can indeed be eliminated...

Beyond Swollen Limbs, a Disease's Hidden Agony - New York Times: "LÉOGÂNE, Haiti — Like many surgeons, Dr. Yves Laurissaint is a man supremely sure of himself."

"I've trained a lot of other surgeons to do this operation," he said as he sliced open the engorged scrotum of 68-year-old Gesner Nicé, emptied more than a pint of clear liquid, then began trimming away with a cauterizing scalpel, filling the operating room with the acrid smell of burning skin. "But they don't do it. They say it's too complicated."

Mr. Nicé, a woodcutter, has lymphatic filariasis, a disease in which clusters of four-inch worms as fine as blond hairs nest in the lymph nodes, the body's drainage system, stretching them until lymph fluid can only drain downward.

To anyone who has visited poor tropical countries or seen pictures of the disease, the instantly recognizable symptom, which afflicts both men and women, is elephantiasis: legs so swollen that they resemble an elephant's....

Five years ago, the World Health Organization adopted eradication by 2020 as a goal, and progress toward it for the next five years will cost about $1.5 billion, the Global Alliance said. But that estimate assumes that billions of deworming pills will be donated by GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, that technical advisers will be lent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and that American graduate students and local people will work for no pay.

It also presumes continued financing from the biggest donors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and Unicef.

Some Parents Let Children Choose College, and Pay - New York Times

From friends who are parents of college aged children, it seems that the rising cost of higher education is indeed placing incredible financial stress on households. I am shocked at the tuition of many schools. With four kids who will be in college (God willing) I am worried as well!

Some Parents Let Children Choose College, and Pay - New York Times: "Alexandra Baldari and her parents have talked a good deal over the past year about how to pay for her college education, and the upshot is this: If she enrolls at the University of Miami in the fall, she will bear much of the cost, which could total $40,000 or more a year, on her own.

'The problem here,' said Ms. Baldari, who lives in Parkland, Fla. 'is I'm 18 and looking to go to college, and my parents are looking to retire.'"

Thursday, April 06, 2006 - Iraqi's Blog Chronicles Daily Life of a Nation in Turmoil - Iraqi's Blog Chronicles Daily Life of a Nation in Turmoil: "In the first bloody hours after insurgents destroyed a revered Shiite shrine in Iraq in February, Baghdad dentist Zeyad A. watched his Sunni neighbors grab machine guns and cobble together roadblocks to keep out marauding Shiite gunmen. Zeyad had a different response: He booted up his computer and began blogging about what was going on.

Zeyad's blog, Healing Iraq, has become a primary source of information on Iraq's daily deterioration for readers around the world. An agnostic of Sunni descent, Zeyad has written of friends manning impromptu neighborhood-watch patrols and religious leaders being murdered and dragged through the streets by mobs. He has also posted photos of uniformed Iraqi police driving through the streets in cars emblazoned with photos of radical Shiite clerics."

Wired News: New Hope for Head Injuries

Wired News: New Hope for Head Injuries: "'A triage device is desperately needed. This device can help with early diagnosis, which reduces the chances of secondary injury,' Manley said.

The device, which consists of a scanner and a Windows-based PDA, uses patented near-infrared optical brain imaging to determine if there is bleeding in the brain. After scanning eight points on the head, the InfraScanner sends the data through a Bluetooth connection to the PDA, where it is displayed and stored. Results for each point scanned are coded green for no bleeding and red for bleeding."



Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English)

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English): "“The Kingdom cannot remain frozen while the world is changing around us,” said King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz in his address to the Majlis Al Shura earlier this week, as he reviewed the country’s foreign and internal policies. This is the essence of the truth and the key to the country’s future."

World Bank should link loans to press freedom - Print Version - International Herald Tribune

World Bank should link loans to press freedom - Print Version - International Herald Tribune:

Top News Article |

Top News Article | "NYUNGWE FOREST, Rwanda (Reuters) - Surviving a rebel attack and braving crocodile-infested waters, a group of explorers has completed an 80-day voyage down the world's longest river reaching what they say is the source of the Nile.

The three explorers from Britain and New Zealand claim to be the first to have traveled the river from its mouth to its 'true source' deep in Rwanda's lush Nyungwe rainforest.

'History has been rewritten,' British explorer Neil McGrigor told reporters on Friday. 'This is the end of an 80 day amazing and exhausting journey.'"

Western reporters in Africa struggle over when to help |

Western reporters in Africa struggle over when to help | "JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – It was three school-age siblings, orphaned by AIDS and fending for themselves in rural Swaziland, who were the last straws. They finally made Canadian reporter Stephanie Nolen question the age-old journalistic principle of not giving help to people she encounters while reporting.

Every morning these kids, whom Ms. Nolen met last year, would put on their school uniforms and stand outside their home, watching other children go to school. They couldn't follow because they didn't have money for school fees."

Years of seeing such situations finally got to Nolen. During a "somewhat sleepless night," she argued with herself: "I can't do this, it's a slippery slope." But in the morning she made a beeline for an ATM and withdrew $150, enough for all three to go to school for a year.

Daily journalism involves many dilemmas. But Western reporters covering developing countries often face unique conundrums: A little humanity - just the change in their pockets - can sometimes feed 10 or 20 people. Such giving can violate a basic tenet of journalism: Observe, don't engage. It's a cornerstone of the effort to stay objective. But Western reporters often ask themselves: Should I help anyway? : Millennium Man

As a fan of Professor Sachs approach who, by the way, is also Bono's (of U2) mentor, I highly recommend reading this description of a successful development project based on his principles.... : Millennium Man: "Sauri, Kenya — Jeffrey Sachs is standing in the thick red dirt of a field in Kenya, surrounded by gleaming waist-high cassava plants, and one begins to picture him in a white lab coat.

Imagine him lifting a narrow test tube to the light, squinting one blue eye while he swirls the contents: Sprinkle in a fistful of fertilizer, stuff in the gossamer panels of a mosquito net. Scrape in a plate of beans, some plastic tarp, a pill or two, some gaunt and weary Kenyan grannies. Add water. Shake briskly.

End poverty.

The village of Sauri, not far from the shores of Lake Victoria, is the famed U.S. economist's test tube, the pilot site for an audacious experiment in poverty alleviation he plans to roll out all over Africa.

It is Sauri that, a year and a half after the experiment began, is showing the results Prof. Sachs says vindicate his claims: Malaria is down by half, school performance has shot up, harvests have tripled.

'Things are very different for us now,' Edwina Odit, a hunched and weathered 58-year-old farmer, said with simple understatement.

The conventional wisdom on aid these days is that it doesn't work. Only trade and economic growth will lift people out of poverty. It's the 'rising tide' theory, that the prosperity born of globalization will come to lift all boats."...

If he were anybody else, his plan wouldn't be getting any attention at all.

Over the past 25 years, Jeffrey Sachs has done the near-impossible, injecting the world of economics with a quality that verges on glamour. He is the jet-set, go-to economist, with the ear of governments and powerful people, squashing inflation here and yanking a creaking communist economy into the market era there. Tickets to his lectures are scalped on eBay....

They started in Sauri because it had so many of the typical characteristics of extreme poverty. Two-thirds of its people were living on less than $1 a day, a quarter of them with HIV-AIDS, almost half infected with malaria parasites and half the children victims of chronic poor nutrition.

In addition, the community had some history of working with international organizations, which Prof. Sachs believed would remove several steps of groundwork.

In August, 2004, they met with the villagers, whom Prof. Sachs said were wildly enthusiastic. They also got a warm nod from the government of Kenya, which promised to support the project's infrastructure needs, with paved roads and an extended electrical grid. Medical advisers began testing everyone for malaria. The soil experts started analyzing samples.

Six months after Sauri, they went to Koraro in the desolate Ethiopian highlands. And now, the Millennium Villages Project is six months into setting up in Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

Each village is located in a distinct environmental zone. Some have farmers, some nomadic herders; some are chronically short of water, some in an equatorial fug. Each poses particular problems in terms of disease, agriculture and infrastructure.

These factors of geography help explain why so much of Africa remains terribly poor: Having endemic malaria all year long and being 15,000 kilometres from a railway line are huge issues, not just a local quirk....

"We're running because we think every country needs this push. And we're running because we're trying an interesting thought experiment — treating the Millennium Development Goals as real and not just a nice thing," Prof. Sachs said during a recent visit to Kenya.

"I'm kind of desperately rushing, hurrying everyone to the point of distraction, because I'm watching the clock — because every year lost is 10 million deaths. I can't believe we live in a world like that. I can't understand why it's not the biggest damn cause on the planet."...

"I would like Prof. Sachs to look at the faces of Sauri people. They are shining because they are not hungry any more," Monicah Oketch, an imposing woman who is the chair of the local council, boomed in Kiswahili...
People in Sauri are quick to talk about how much has changed. Edwina Odit, for example, declares herself very happy. "We got food and planted fallow, which we have never done before. And we were given ground nuts and soy beans [to plant], although these were destroyed by drought. It is a big difference compared to past years."

Ms. Odit had grown 10 bags of maize, compared to three the year before. She gave one bag to the school, where it will be used to make the school lunches for her six orphaned grandchildren.

"The project gave us fertilizer, and that was the biggest factor in the high yield," she said. "Plus, we used to plant just anyhow. After the project came, they taught us how to use ropes in spacing, and when we did this, the result was more harvest."

It was the first instruction in farming technique she had ever had.

"When I was very young, I saw one big harvest or another, but since I was married, I have not seen a harvest like this. . . . I longed to buy fertilizer, but had no means."

Because she now sleeps under a bed net with her grandchildren, no one has had malaria in a year — a miracle in itself. There have been no costly trips to the regional hospital, no one rendered unable to help with the chores.

When someone does fall ill with a minor ailment, they go for free treatment at the little local clinic, built with the assistance of the Millennium Project and staffed by health workers it has trained and paid....
Even so, the Sachs formula runs completely counter to most of the ideas that now dominate international development. Many even see it as heretical, coming from a man who has championed the free market.

In particular, the idea of buying so much stuff goes against the grain. It is derided by all those who say that 50 years of aid to Africa has been squandered by dictators, bloated bureaucracies and corrupt leaders, leaving the continent worse off than ever.

That kind of talk enrages Prof. Sachs.

"The whole development discussion has become unhinged from ground realities. There is endless discussion about process and corruption and governance, as if these are realities of life in Africa — and it's all deflected attention away from things like growing food, and drinking water," he said.

He sees condescension at the root of the argument that all aid is futile. "It starts from the fundamental idea that the problem in Africa is that people just don't take care of themselves or their money, and if we could just give them courses in decency . . ."

"The problem here," he adds with a sigh, "is extreme poverty and biophysical conditions — soil depletion, malarial endemicity. It's not about people's decency or not. That's the case for aid."

Scientific American: Does Globalization Help or Hurt the World's Poor?

Scientific American: Does Globalization Help or Hurt the World's Poor?: "Globalization and the attendant concerns about poverty and inequality have become a focus of discussion in a way that few other topics, except for international terrorism or global warming, have. Most people I know have a strong opinion on globalization, and all of them express an interest in the well-being of the world's poor. The financial press and influential international officials confidently assert that global free markets expand the horizons for the poor, whereas activist-protesters hold the opposite belief with equal intensity. Yet the strength of people's conviction is often in inverse proportion to the amount of robust factual evidence they have."...

aid.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Macroeconomic Challenges of Scaling up Aid to Africa (from the IMF)
aid.pdf (application/pdf Object)

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Originally uploaded by dR. . ..

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Child in Darfur Posted by Picasa - Darfur

From Mr. Rusesabagina--the author, with Tom Zoellner, of "An Ordinary Man," published this week by Viking. The film "Hotel Rwanda," was based on his personal story as a hotel manager who saved the lives of numerous Tutsis by offering them refuge in the Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali, Rwanda. A recipient of the National Civil Rights Museum's 2005 Freedom Award, he lives in Brussels. - Darfur: "History shows us that genocides can happen only if four important conditions are in place. There must be the cover of a war. Ethnic grievances must be manipulated and exaggerated. Ordinary citizens must be deputized by their government to become executioners. And the rest of the world must be persuaded to look away and do nothing. This last is the most shameful of all, especially so because genocide is happening again right now in Darfur and the world community has done precious little to stop the killings.
* * *

What is happening in Darfur is exactly what happened in my home country of Rwanda, which was left to choke on its own blood from April to July of 1994.

The United Nations took virtually no action during the genocide. A detachment of well-equipped peacekeepers, made up of less than one-twentieth of the American troops now stationed in Iraq, could have easily stopped the killings without risk and sent the powerful message that the world would no longer tolerate mass murders of civilians, a real expression of the phrase 'Never Again.' But this simple act was deemed, then and now, to be somehow beyond the power of the United Nations, the United States, NATO, the European community and everybody else with the real power to stop another holocaust.

There are now about 7,000 soldiers from th African Union stationed in Sudan, which is mostly an exercise in public relations. They lack helicopters, jeeps and firepower. More importantly, they lack a sense of purpose. There are no clear rules of engagement and many of the soldiers appear more interested in collecting their per diem payments than inserting themselves between the government-backed Janjaweed militia and their victims in the farming villages. The African Union recently said it will stay into September, and a handover to the United Nations might take place at that point. By that time, the genocide will have lasted for three years with a likely half-million dead, or more.

To be sure, part of the debate involves the fear of an Iraqi-style campaign of insurgence against any humanitarian or peacekeeping force deemed "too Western" by the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed thugs. But we should not let ourselves be cowed by these threats. Will we allow murderers to intimidate us away from doing the right thing and saving lives?

Historically, I am sorry to say, the answer has been "yes." When modern genocide has loomed, the United Nations has shown more concern for not offending the sovereignty of one of its member nations, even as monstrosities take place within its borders. Yet "national sovereignty" is often a euphemism for the pride of dictators. Darfur is just such a case. The world cannot afford this kind of appeasement any longer.

The real lesson here is that the United Nations is not only in need of reform but also a basic rethinking of its peacekeeping philosophy. World governments must agree that the extinction of a race is a crime worth stopping at any cost, and back up this sentiment with action. And the U.N. Security Council must create a tool that it has lacked for far too long -- a small multinational "rapid response" force which can quickly airlift tanks, jeeps, helicopters and troops to spots where the evidence of genocide is overwhelming.

Such a force would not require endless dickering, delicacy and will-testing; it should be made up of no more than 10,000 troops and deployed only in extreme situations, because its real power is not in its gunbarrels -- it is in the message to genocidal regimes that the world will refuse to overlook atrocities. This would have stopped the Rwanda tragedy from happening, probably without a shot being fired. It could now stop Darfur from getting worse, with similar ease.

History offers us another lesson about genocides: The apologies, recriminations and resolutions of Never Again usually begin after the genocide is safely finished and it becomes safe once more to mourn the lack of action. That should not happen this time. The proposed extinction of an entire race should now be considered an override clause to the rule of national sovereignty. Rwanda is over and everybody mourns it comfortably. We ought not to wait until Darfur is over to start saying Never Again yet again."

Living on Impulse - New York Times

Living on Impulse - New York Times: "'The way I think of it is that one factor has to do with the urges people have, and the other has to do with the brakes they apply,' she said.

How and when people apply the brakes is crucial to distinguishing those who can flirt with regular heroin or cocaine use while finishing an Ivy League degree and those who die trying.

The people who can binge, gamble or try hard drugs and get away with it have a native cunning when it comes to risk, this and other studies suggest. They are prepared for the dangers like a mountain climber or they sample risk, in effect, by semiconsciously hedging their behavior — sipping their cocktails slowly, inhaling partly or keeping one toe on the cliff's edge, poised for retreat.

'These are highly self-directed people,' said C. Robert Cloninger, a professor of psychiatry and genetics at Washington University in St. Louis and author of 'Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being.' 'They have goals and are resourceful in pursuing them.'"
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