Friday, June 30, 2006

Giant Bat-Eating Centipede

David Attenborough tells the story of the land-living invertebrates. He delves into the private life of Europe's dramatic leopard slug, a common garden resident with a truly bizarre end to its marathon mating ritual; watches the courtship ballet of tiny springtails on the underside of a leaf; sees swarms of bright red South African millipedes find partners, and in the caves of Venezuela meets the giant bat-eating centipede...

(BLOG) RED: Clear vibe on a cloudless day - A note from Tamsin

(BLOG) RED: Clear vibe on a cloudless day - A note from Tamsin: "Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Clear vibe on a cloudless day - A note from Tamsin
Sunday in France

Spent 8+ hours around a table with our brothers and sisters from DATA, talking through how and when best to work collectively, steps to ensure good cross-communication, and updates on summer/fall events.

Covered plenty of (RED) ground too, as we gear up to bring punk rock capitalism to America.

Clear vibe on a cloudless day.

It's been an uplifting session despite the length. We push away from the formal meeting and walk along the beach towards a postcard perfect little cafe right on the water. The tide is rising so we run through waves lapping at the shore. I chuckle as each of us sprint periodicaly across the sand and stones to avoid a soaking.

Just as we sit down a call comes in that hits like a miracle. Bono puts will phone on speaker: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates share news of bracing proportion, which hits the news wires the following day. These men now both have devoted the large bulk of their fortunes to the world's poorest people. They are investing their capital in a mission that won't leave their names on buildings but rather will save individual human beings, most of whom they'll never see or meet.

We are stunned. The whole place seems elevated We say a prayer and make a toast. And smile smile smile.

Towards the end of the night, I have a memorable conversation with Ken, COO of DATA. We fall into a conversation about poetry -- a natural path for two old lit majors after a glass or two of the local grape. I try to recall a favorite e.e. cummings line. Ken confirms it later by email:

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

There's another part that appears earlier, which also bears repeating:

...whatever life you wear/it will become you..."

(BLOG) RED: Clear vibe on a cloudless day - A note from Tamsin

(BLOG) RED: Clear vibe on a cloudless day - A note from Tamsin: "Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Clear vibe on a cloudless day - A note from Tamsin
Sunday in France

Spent 8+ hours around a table with our brothers and sisters from DATA, talking through how and when best to work collectively, steps to ensure good cross-communication, and updates on summer/fall events.

Covered plenty of (RED) ground too, as we gear up to bring punk rock capitalism to America.

Clear vibe on a cloudless day.

It's been an uplifting session despite the length. We push away from the formal meeting and walk along the beach towards a postcard perfect little cafe right on the water. The tide is rising so we run through waves lapping at the shore. I chuckle as each of us sprint periodicaly across the sand and stones to avoid a soaking.

Just as we sit down a call comes in that hits like a miracle. Bono puts will phone on speaker: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates share news of bracing proportion, which hits the news wires the following day. These men now both have devoted the large bulk of their fortunes to the world's poorest people. They are investing their capital in a mission that won't leave their names on buildings but rather will save individual human beings, most of whom they'll never see or meet.

We are stunned. The whole place seems elevated We say a prayer and make a toast. And smile smile smile.

Towards the end of the night, I have a memorable conversation with Ken, COO of DATA. We fall into a conversation about poetry -- a natural path for two old lit majors after a glass or two of the local grape. I try to recall a favorite e.e. cummings line. Ken confirms it later by email:

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

There's another part that appears earlier, which also bears repeating:

...whatever life you wear/it will become you..."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Questions Over New Eyesight Drug That May Be as Good as Older, Cheaper One

A drug that can restore eyesight to some elderly people, even allowing them to read or drive again, is expected to win federal approval this week.



But for patients, doctors, Medicare and other insurers, the drug's arrival will pose a conundrum. That is because the medicine, Lucentis, is expected to be 10 to 100 times as expensive as a similar drug that many ophthalmologists say is every bit as good.

Business Joins African Effort to Cut Malaria

BELULUANE, Mozambique — With malaria spread across southern Mozambique, executives at the international mining company Billiton expected some workers to call in sick as it began building a massive new aluminum smelter amid the cornfields here.
What they did not expect was that nearly one in three employees would fall ill — 6,600 cases in just two years. And they certainly did not expect 13 deaths, not after the company had built a medical clinic, doused the construction site with pesticides and handed out bed nets to thwart malaria-carrying mosquitoes.


"You can imagine, it was a huge disaster," said Carlos Mesquita, the general manager. "We could not deal with that level of absenteeism, and we would have had more fatalities. If we didn't treat malaria we could not operate."

But confining measures to the plant, executives realized, would not protect their 1,100 employees, or their $1.3 billion investment, so long as malaria raged all around it, including in the capital, Maputo, just 10 miles up the highway.

And so one of the world's biggest aluminum producers joined in an exceptional partnership with the governments of three countries and with other businesses to take on malaria systematically across a broad region. Six years later, the scorecard is in. Amazingly, malaria is losing....

Groups Fighting Malaria in Africa - New York Times

Groups Fighting Malaria in Africa - New York Times: "How to Help
Groups Fighting Malaria in Africa"

An Iron Fist Joins the Malaria Wars - New York Times

An Iron Fist Joins the Malaria Wars - New York Times: "he tuberculosis world, Dr. Kochi said, used to be just as fragmented and hostile as the malaria field is now. Then, in the early 1990's, an explosion of multidrug-resistant cases everywhere from New York City to Peru to Siberia forced the advent of a new paradigm: four-drug cocktails, taken daily for six months, always under the eye of a nurse or someone else appointed to oversee treatment, even an imam or a faith-healer.

Under Dr. Kochi's leadership, countries were urged to diagnose and treat in standard ways (sputum smears instead of chest X-rays, for example, or four cheap antibiotics instead of exotic drugs and pulmonary surgery). Drug companies were asked to standardize products so each patient could be handed a box with six months' worth of pills. As a result, some partners, like tuberculosis hospitals and makers of the old BCG vaccine, were very unhappy.

Malaria, he said, will need a similar shift, because everything is wrong with the efforts to fight it: lax counting of cases, mixed messages on which medicines to use, counterfeit drugs, expensive consultants, slothful national governments, weak international leadership."

In Gulu, Uganda, 2-year-old Mustafa Abe gets a drip for quinine.

Push for New Tactics as War on Malaria Falters - New York Times

Push for New Tactics as War on Malaria Falters - New York Times: "The mosquito nets arrived too late for 18-month-old Phillip Odong."The roly-poly boy came down with his fourth bout of malaria on March 16, the same day the nets were handed out at the makeshift camp where he lived in northern Uganda. "It was because of poverty that we could not afford one," his mother, Jackeline Ato, recalled recently, seated in rags beneath a mango tree.

The morning after his fever spiked, she took him to a clinic, but it did not have the medicines that might have saved him. He died four days later, crying, "Mommy, Mommy," before losing consciousness.

It is no secret that mosquitoes carry the parasite that causes malaria. More mystifying is why 800,000 young African children still die of malaria per year — more than from any other disease — when there are medicines that cure for 55 cents a dose, mosquito nets that shield a child for $1 a year and indoor insecticide spraying that costs about $10 annually for a household.

An emerging consensus on solutions, combined with fresh scrutiny and a windfall of new financing, are prompting major donors to revamp years of failed efforts to stem malaria's mortal toll....

Seed: The Reinvention of the Self

Seed: The Reinvention of the Self: "The naturalistic habitat that Gould has created for these marmosets is essential to her studies, which involve understanding how the environment affects the brain. Eight years after Gould defied the entrenched dogma of her science and proved that the primate brain is always creating new neurons, she has gone on to demonstrate an even more startling fact: The structure of our brain, from the details of our dendrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inwards. The mind is disfigured.

The social implications of this research are staggering. If boring environments, stressful noises, and the primate’s particular slot in the dominance hierarchy all shape the architecture of the brain—and Gould’s team has shown that they do—then the playing field isn’t level. Poverty and stress aren’t just an idea: they are an anatomy. Some brains never even have a chance.

Viewed through the magnified eyes of a confocal microscope, a newborn neuron looks fragile, almost lonely. Everything around it is connected to everything else, but the new cell is all alone, just a seed of soma and a thin stalk of axon desperately trying to plug itself in"

(..)

Gould’s research inevitably conjures up comparisons to societal problems. And while Gould, like all rigorous bench scientists, prefers to focus on the strictly scientific aspects of her data—she is wary of having it twisted for political purposes—she is also acutely aware of the potential implications of her research.

“Poverty is stress,” she says, with more than a little passion in her voice. “One thing that always strikes me is that when you ask Americans why the poor are poor, they always say it’s because they don’t work hard enough, or don’t want to do better. They act like poverty is a character issue.”

Gould’s work implies that the symptoms of poverty are not simply states of mind; they actually warp the mind. Because neurons are designed to reflect their circumstances, not to rise above them, the monotonous stress of living in a slum literally limits the brain. ...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More on Buffet

Buffet gives away fortune to Gates Foundation





Buffett has pledged to gradually give 85% of his Berkshire stock to five foundations. A dominant five-sixths of the shares will go to the world's largest philanthropic organization, the $30 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Yes, that Warren Buffet – the world’s second richest man. The market value of that 85% is about $37 billion! Fortune Magazine has the story and interview, also see the NYTimes.
An announcement that will have repercussion far beyond just development
finance. I didn’t see this coming, at least not for a few more years.
Let’s see how the markets react.



Of course, this come just a week after Bill Gates, a close friend of Buffet, made his announcement that in two years he will shift his attention to his Foundation full-time.



Update: Here is a press conference. The NYTimes also has two good stories. Also see the Charlie Rose Show, during which Buffet says: "A market system has not worked in terms of poor people". And it seems that this is the report that Buffet gave to Gates back in the 1990s that planted the seed that would become the Gates Foundation.






WarrenBuffet on charity...

I love it when I'm around the country club, and I hear people talking about the debilitating effects of a welfare society. At the same time, they leave their kids a lifetime and beyond of food stamps. Instead of having a welfare officer, they have a trust officer. And instead of food stamps, they have stocks and bonds.
--Warren Buffett, explaining why he will bequeath $37 billion of his $40-42 billion to charity

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Brazil, Unpaved Path to Soccer Excellence

First came the generation of Pelé, Garrincha, Tostão and Rivelino, followed by Zico, Falcão and Socrates. Since the mid-1990's, Romário, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and now Kaká, Adriano and Robinho have further burnished Brazil's reputation for unmatched excellence. To the average fan around the world, Brazilian soccer appears to be a powerful, well-oiled machine.

But those who know it best are aware that the reality is far more complicated, that the country's record five World Cup championships are more a result of popular passion for the beautiful game, as it is often called here, than of any organized apparatus that methodically finds and develops players.

"There is no system in Brazil," said Carlos Roberto de Oliveira, who, playing as Roberto Dinamite, was a member of the Brazilian national team in the 1970's and early 1980's. "Everything happens on a random, haphazard basis."

To hear Brazilians tell it, organized professional soccer here is chaotic, corrupt and in perpetual disarray. But the game itself is so deeply ingrained in daily life — and in Brazilian identity and self-esteem — that its strength at the grass roots more than compensates for those deficiencies at the top.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kurzweil set to unveil portable reader for the blind

...a five megapixel digital camera attached to the back of a Windows Mobile
5.0-powered PDA, which is loaded with software that uses optical
character recognition and text-to-speech technology to read aloud the
words contained in user-captured photos. Once it's called into action,
the $4,860 device supplies the operator with an initial "situation
report" that attempts to describe whatever's in the camera's field of
vision; if the report indicates that the desired text is within range,
owners can then choose to snap a photo and listen to the resulting
translation.

Latin America's Choice

Good points on development in general and Latin America in particular from Tom Friedman of the New York Times...

There are a lot of ways to describe Latin America's challenge today. Some will tell you it's the age-old question of overcoming the staggering gap here between rich and poor. Some will tell you it's rooting out corruption and misgovernance. But I come at this issue with my own perspective, and I would describe the big question facing Latin Americans this way: Are they going to emulate India or get addicted to China?

This question was, at least implicitly, a subtext of the recent election here in Peru. But it's true throughout this continent, which has always been better at mining its resources than mining its people.

Let me explain by introducing Gabriel Rozman — a Jewish technologist of Hungarian roots who was raised in Uruguay, educated in America and now heads the Latin American operations of India's biggest software/outsourcing company, Tata Consultancy Services of Mumbai.

Mr. Rozman runs Tata's Latin American business out of Montevideo, where 550 Uruguayan programmers, trained and directed by Indians, are writing code and running the computer systems for companies all across this continent. They are backed up by Tata engineers in India, Hungary, China, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina. India now thinks Latin America is its backyard, too.

And so does China. China, though, is almost exclusively focused here on extracting natural resources — timber, iron, soybeans, minerals, gas, fish meal — to feed its voracious appetite and keep jobs and factories humming in China. There is nothing wrong about that. America and Spain did the same for years — and often rapaciously. Today, China's appetite is helping to fuel a worldwide boom in commodity prices that is enabling a poor, low-industrialized country like Peru to grow at 5 percent.

But countries that get addicted to selling their natural resources rarely develop their human resources and the educational institutions and innovative companies that go with that. So after the ore has been mined, the trees cut and the oil pumped, their people are actually even more behind.

"Why can't Latin America do what India is doing?" Mr. Rozman asked when I spoke with him in Washington last week. It can, he insists, but only if it changes — fast. "Right now I have 500 job openings I can't fill, and the problem is education. The prestige career to follow in India is engineering, and in Latin America it is [still] law or being a notary public."

"We need more computer courses with real standards and starting at an early age," he said. A lot of higher education in Latin America is modeled on the French/European system, which is better at producing philosophers than programmers. Philosophers are important, but not in bulk.

Latin America also has to do a better job of teaching English, he added, and eliminating the red tape that prevents economic integration in Latin America and makes it very cumbersome to start new businesses here.

"To go from Argentina to Montevideo is only a 20-minute flight," Mr. Rozman explained, but in terms of the economic integration demanded today by global firms, they are 10,000 miles apart. In addition, most of the legal systems in Latin America are designed to promote agriculture and light industry, not intellectual property or innovation. "All the laws were made for another type of society," he said. "If we don't get caught up with the next wave, we're in trouble."

That next wave is called "follow the sun," he said. "We like to start a project in Bangalore or Mumbai, then, as the day moves on, move it to our offices in Eastern Europe and then to Latin American." Tata expects its engineers in each place to be equally trained, speak English and have the computing infrastructure to seamlessly receive and hand off projects. This is a global-scale business.

"We have 50,000 employees in India and are going to 100,000," explained Mr. Rozman. Eventually, Tata will grow to 100,000 in China. "But I can't go to 100,000 in any one country in Latin America, so I have to be able to put [the whole continent] together."

Latin Americans may think that their big choice is between two models of Western capitalism — a European welfare state model and a hyper-competitive U.S. model. But before they divide their pie, they need to expand it — and here their most important choice is between an India example that focuses on developing human resources and a China syndrome that focuses on selling natural resources. Since countries tend to do either one or the other, here's hoping that Latin America discovers India before it gets hooked on China.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Immigration Consensus

Editorial from the wall street journal on immigration....

Finally a consensus has been reached on immigration. No, not among politicians, who can't agree on a rational immigration reform. The agreement is among professional economists.

In an open letter sponsored by the Independent Institute to President Bush and Congress last week, more than 500 prominent economists, including five Nobel laureates, proclaim that "immigration has been a net gain for American citizens." The letter adds that "while a small percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by immigration, vastly more Americans benefit from the contributions that immigrants make to the economy, including lower consumer prices. As with trade in goods and services, gains from immigration outweigh the losses." Alan Greenspan often made this same point about the benefits of immigration while he was Federal Reserve Chairman.

What is striking about this immigration letter is that it is signed by economists from different fields of research, political affiliations and ideologies. It is possible that no other issue in the economic field, with the exception of the benefits of free trade, inspires such unanimity of professional opinion as immigration does.

Several years ago the Cato Institute surveyed the past presidents of the American Economic Association and the past chairmen of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Eighty percent agreed that immigration has had "a very favorable impact on the nation's economic growth," and 70% said that even illegal immigrant workers "have a positive economic impact." These experts agree that on balance immigrants don't displace native workers, depress wages or abuse welfare. If only these economic facts could break through an immigration debate that is dominated by emotion and political fear.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

World Refugee Day

By taking action right now, you can help turn a potential
setback to the effort to stop the genocide in Darfur into an
opportunity!


Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick - who
personally helped negotiate a peace agreement between the Sudanese
government and Darfur rebel groups - resigned.


Zoellick served as an advocate for Darfur within the Bush
Administration.  With him now gone, we must keep the pressure on
President Bush to act.  And since today is World Refugee Day -
created by the UN in 2001 to recognize the millions of refugees and
displaced people around the globe - there is no better opportunity.


Click here to send a message to President Bush. 
Remind him on World Refugee Day to appoint a coordinator of US policy
in Darfur and to push for creation of a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur.


Last month, Deputy Secretary Zoellick aided in brokering a peace
agreement - an important first step.  Yet with hundreds of thousands in
Darfur already dead, millions more displaced and many at risk every
day, we must continue to press for a solution.


That is why we are asking President Bush to appoint a special US
envoy to the region and to press for a UN peacekeeping force to be on
the ground in Darfur no later than October.  We cannot wait any longer!


Join us in asking President Bush:

  • To push for a UN force for Darfur;
  • To strengthen African Union troops already in Darfur until the UN arrives;
  • To continue supporting humanitarian assistance programs in Darfur; and
  • To appoint a special envoy to coordinate US policy in the region.

Click here to email President Bush today.  Today is World Refugee Day today - a day set aside to remember the millions of refugees around the globe - and now is the time to remind President Bush of the plight of Darfur's 2.5 million refugees.


Thank you for your continued support.

In Somalia, Islamic Militias Fight Culture Wars



MOGADISHU, Somalia,
June 18 — Flush from a military victory earlier this month that caught
Washington and the world by surprise, Islamic militiamen have begun
waging smaller battles — cultural, not military ones — in and around
Somalia's shellshocked capital.



A week ago, when Mexico and Iran
were still playing the first half of their World Cup soccer match,
gunmen allied with the Islamic courts burst into a tiny theater in the
Hiliwaa neighborhood of north Mogadishu, condemned the place as ungodly
and angrily switched off the television set.

When they caught
sight of a man with a trendy Afro, with lines shaved into it, they tied
his hands behind his back, took out a pair of scissors and evened it
out into a scalp-revealing buzz cut.

"They said, 'Your hair is
against our culture and is not Islamic,' " recalled the man, Abdi
Fatah, 26. They whipped him with a belt, then jailed him for three days.

With
the old warlords gone, Mogadishu is safer, and more dangerous, too. It
is a happier place, and a more oppressive one. It is a capital city
that is also a rundown shantytown, churning with change. Where exactly
it is headed nobody knows.

In the old Mogadishu, militiamen would barge into a home and haul a
girl or woman away and rape her. Bullets rang out routinely, and gunmen
set up roadblocks and charged taxes on anybody who happened by.

Fewer
guns are visible now. The man-made roadblocks have disappeared, leaving
livestock and huge craters as the main obstructions to navigation. But
a new, more silent battle is under way, for control of the Islamic
movement in Somalia....

(..)

The scramble for power in Mogadishu is taking place behind the
scenes, in mosques and private rooms where clan elders gather. It
filters to the surface only in the mixed signals that are being given
about what people can wear now, and what they can do.

The
capital's Islamic leaders find themselves in an unfamiliar spot. No
longer can they just preach about the way things are supposed to be.
Now they face the challenge of running a broken-down city of two
million suffering souls.

(..)

When they could manage to track down the gunmen running rampant in
the streets, some courts adopted stringent forms of Shariah, cutting
off thieves' hands, executing killers and doling out lashes for lesser
crimes.

Soon, the clan-based courts merged in a powerful alliance
that eventually took on and toppled the warlords who had been ruling
and running roughshod over Mogadishu residents.

But those courts
owe part of their strength to the Bush administration, which tried
secretly to undermine them. In recent years, American intelligence
agents paid warlords to root out Islamic militants operating in
Mogadishu. The United States said a small cell of Al Qaeda,
made up of foreigners, had set up shop in Mogadishu after the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks and were being protected by court leaders.

(..)

But there have been other confrontations. Earlier this year, Islamic
militiamen stopped Ismahan Ali Mohamed, 18, on the street and ripped
the long, tight-fitting skirt she was wearing. They ordered her to wear
a looser garment next time.

Now, she wears a flowing hijab on the
streets that covers all but her face. "It feels heavy and it's not
comfortable," she said, removing it inside a hotel restaurant to reveal
a bright pink outfit that still covered her but allowed more of a
glimpse of what was underneath. "With this, I feel happy and beautiful
and free," said Ms. Mohamed, an aspiring actress.

A friend, Ubah
Mohamed, 34, who runs a beauty shop, said she feared the new rules. "If
these Islamic people get their way, we'll have to cover all the way,"
she said. "I'm a beautiful girl and I like to show others how beautiful
I am. Behind the veil, no one can tell."

Malyun Sheik Haidar, 31,
who publishes a small newsletter devoted to women's issues, heard from
a man involved in one of the Islamic courts that her publication would
probably be shut down. "He said, 'Women have a right to sit in your
house and do domestic things,' " she said. " 'You don't have a right to
do a journal on human rights.' "

Monday, June 19, 2006

All-American Islam

Most American mosques import their clerics from overseas
— some who preach extremism, some who cannot speak English, and most
who cannot begin to speak to young American Muslims growing up on
hip-hop and in mixed-sex chat rooms. [Sheik Hamza] Yusuf, 48, and [Imam
Zaid] Shakir, 50, are using their clout to create the first Islamic
seminary in the United States, where they hope to train a new
generation of imams and scholars who can reconcile Islam and American
culture.


The seminary is still in its fledgling stages, but Mr. Yusuf and Mr.
Shakir have gained a large following by being equally at home in
Islamic tradition and modern American culture. Mr. Yusuf dazzles his
audiences by weaving into one of his typical half-hour talks quotations
from St. Augustine, Patton, Eric Erikson, Jung, Solzhenitsyn, Auden,
Robert Bly, Gen. William C. Westmoreland and the Bible
. He is the host
of a TV reality show that is popular in the Middle East, in which he
takes a vanload of Arabs on a road trip across the United States to
visit people who might challenge Arab stereotypes about Americans, like
the antiwar protesters demonstrating outside the Republican National
Convention.

Personal Trainers Available by Download

WHY hire a personal fitness trainer to bark at you for $50 an hour
when you can download one online for a fraction of the price — and
spare yourself the embarrassment of having someone watch as you never
quite get in shape?



That is the question an increasing
number of would-be fitness buffs are asking, as more trainers package
their services in audio or video files that can be downloaded into an iPod or P.D.A. for a quick trip to the gym.

The
idea dovetails with the suddenly voracious appetite for downloadable
media among online consumers and the long success the fitness industry
has enjoyed in selling home video products like workout tapes. And
while this trend is too nascent to be judged a success (there are no
Tae Bo sessions for the iPod yet), it does hold great potential for the
personal training business, which has historically been marginalized by
high prices.

In Mogadishu, a New Moral Code Emerges

MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 18 -- That warm February morning felt so
perfect that Abdirisack Noriftin, a 22-year-old movie buff whose
friends nicknamed him "American," said he imagined himself in the kind
of sandy, sexy Hollywood movie he had watched just the night before.

He
had no surfboard or volleyball, as did the carefree stars of that film.
But his girlfriend, Faisa Hassan, 18, cast aside her Islamic modesty by
stripping off her head scarf and exposing her dark hair to the sun.
Together, she and Noriftin walked on the beach. They kissed in the
surf. Never before in their young lives, they recalled later, had they
felt so exhilaratingly free.

Then, this being Somalia rather than
a Southern California movie set, gunmen arrived and abruptly reminded
the couple of the perils of being young and in love in one of the
world's most dangerous cities.

Just hours earlier, when Noriftin
enticed Hassan into the taboo-breaking trip to the beach, he had vowed
to protect her. This, after all, was a man who had taught himself to
walk like James Bond, pump iron like Arnold Schwarzenegger and speak
English like a New York gangster. Many nights, alone in his bed,
Noriftin had practiced saying firmly, yet with seemingly offhand cool,
"Get the hell out of here."

Yet on this occasion, words failed
him as one of the four gunmen reached for Hassan. She screamed. He
screamed. Nearby villagers arrived in time to chase the attackers away.

Noriftin
and Hassan have not gone back and, they figure, never will. Not only do
criminals still prowl the beach, but two weeks ago most of Mogadishu
was taken over by Islamic militias that are curbing crime but also
demanding adherence to strict moral codes in some neighborhoods. Coed
beach trips, already perilous, are now strictly off-limits, the young
couple has concluded.

Caught in this shifting mix of secular
violence and rising Islamic fervor, Noriftin and Hassan say they want
nothing more than to live as they imagine Americans do -- without fear,
without money troubles, without roving gunmen.

Dealing With the Devil in Darfur



The New York Times






Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By








June 17, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor


Dealing With the Devil in Darfur








Beirut, Lebanon


AS the peace talks for the Darfur region of Sudan drew to a close
last month, the United States took over the task of defining the
solution. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick flew into Abuja,
Nigeria, where the talks were being held, on May 2 and three days later
the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed. The only trouble is, the United
States is backing the most abusive rebel leader in Darfur.


The response to the peace agreement was tepid in Abuja. But it was
far cooler in Darfur, where the agreement is widely viewed as a peace
between two criminal elements: the Sudanese government and Minni Arcua
Minnawi, the leader of the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army that is
drawn mainly from the Zaghawa tribe.


Mr. Minnawi's group is one of three rebel groups in Darfur — the two
others rejected the agreement — where the Zaghawas make up less than 8
percent of the population. The wealth and influence they have gained
because of their energy, drive and capacity for strategic action have
caused tensions with other tribes for years.


But since the rebellion began, the abusive behavior of Mr. Minnawi's
forces — often hundreds of miles outside their home area — has awakened
old fears that the tribe has a hidden agenda: the creation of a new
Zaghawa homeland carved out of the more fertile lands of others. Mr.
Minnawi's acceptance of the peace agreement is reason enough for most
Darfurians to reject it.


The tragedy of the people's rejection is that the agreement has some
virtue. There is, for the first time, a timetable for the disarmament
of the janjaweed, the Arab militias that with government backing are
destroying everything that makes life possible in Darfur. In three
years' time, Darfurians will have elections to choose their own
representatives. Until then, a nominee of the rebel movements will
occupy the fourth-highest position in the presidency and will control a
new regional authority with a first-year budget for security,
resettlement, reconstruction and development of more than a
half-billion dollars.


But the agreement also has a number of critical weaknesses. Most
important, it is excessively reliant on the cooperation of a government
that has not honored a single commitment made since it unleashed its
forces against the rebels, and the marginalized tribes from which they
are drawn, early in 2003.


In addition, Mr. Minnawi's behavior in the month since he signed the
agreement has not been promising. In peace as in war, Mr. Minnawi is
wedded to force. On May 20, his men seized one of his most visible
critics, Suliman Gamous. Mr. Gamous has been held in solitary, without
charge, ever since. As humanitarian coordinator of the Sudan Liberation
Army, Mr. Gamous made it possible for the United Nations and many
nongovernmental groups to work in rebel areas. He helped hundreds of
foreign journalists move safely around Darfur and document the plight
of its people.


But Mr. Minnawi denied senior United Nations officials access to
Mr. Gamous for nearly a month. When concerned Zaghawas sought a meeting
to ask why Mr. Gamous had been arrested, Mr. Minnawi's chief of staff
told them, "I can shoot Gamous and sodomize you." They were stripped,
bound, pistol-whipped and burned with cigarettes.


African Union officials have verified the events and have rebutted
Mr. Minnawi's claim that Chadian mercenaries were the perpetrators. But
nobody involved in the peace plan has criticized him publicly. Once
again, his abuses have been passed over in silence.


If the Darfur Peace Agreement is to have any hope of succeeding, the
United States must stop empowering criminals and antagonizing those who
are unconvinced. Rather, the peace brokers should assist rebel
commanders critical of Mr. Minnawi to convene a conference and elect a
leadership that would cross tribal lines and have popular support.
Darfurians must be convinced that this peace is their peace and not, as
many call it, the "Ila Digen peace," the peace of Mr. Minnawi's small
clan.


The United States must increase confidence in the peace agreement by
fiercely rebuking the Khartoum government — and Mr. Minnawi — for every
violation of the agreement and every deadline they fail to meet. All
Darfur's tribes must be brought into the peace process — most
important, the Arab tribes that had no place at the Abuja table, even
though the vast majority of them did not join the janjaweed. And no
regional dialogue would be complete without the involvement of the
janjaweed themselves, who despite their atrocities are one of the keys
to a lasting settlement.


Last, the United States must make clear that there is no peace
without justice. It must provide the International Criminal Court with
intelligence on the conflict to ensure that nobody, government official
or rebel, gets away with murder in Darfur. A first step would be to
distance itself from its new favorite son. Minni Minnawi is not the
guarantor of peace; he is one of the obstacles to it.




Julie Flint is the co-author of "Darfur: A Short History of a Long War."




FrontPage | The ONE Campaign

Check out the newly designed webpage and sign the petition is so inclined...

FrontPage | The ONE Campaign: "Keep the Live 8 Promise: Take ActionAt Live 8, millions came together with one message: make poverty history. 5 days later, G8 leaders made historic promises that could save up to 4.5 million lives every year. On July 15th, the G8 meets again: Sign a petition today asking America’s leaders to keep our promises to the world’s poorest people."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Few Good Doctors


About this time every year, doctors across New York City begin to cast a wary eye at local newsstands. When the bundle of New York magazine's "Best Doctors" issue drops onto the pavement, torture commences for the city's prim and laconic physician class. (Other cities get their chance at other times of year.) It's high school all over again, a life lived at the mercy of cruel arbiters of who is up and who is down. To their credit, I suppose, the compilers of the Best Doctors list define worthiness with more objectivity: They poll local doctors and ask whom they would refer a family member to. With this quasi-statistical information in hand, they go behind closed doors and construct the dreaded list.



To my expert eye, every year the New York survey gets it about half right: Half of the selections are first-rate doctors, no doubt about it. Another 25 percent are people whom I don't know well (though I have my doubts), and 25 percent are certifiable duds—doctors who (hopefully) haven't seen a patient in years but have risen to the lofty realm of high society and semi-celebrityhood.



Of course, the list isn't really about accuracy or quality. It's about sales—not only of doctors' services but also of fancy plaques, directories, and pen-and-pencil sets fitted into paper weights....

The doctor-patient relationship is just that, a relationship, full of all the nonsense and idiosyncrasy that defines the genre. It's why good doctoring has a magic quality, like a good friendship. The intricacy of this symbiosis also is why a "best doctor" can't be determined by asking a bunch of professors whom they might send their brother-in-law to.



Which is not to say the search for a solid doctor is hopeless—just that the guidebook approach has made the task more complicated than it needs to be. Below is my simple one-two-three approach. It's even in glossy-magazine format.



1) Trust your instincts: There are lots of rotten doctors, really really lousy ones, wretched souls you wouldn't want to know as people, much less trust with your health. But they aren't any harder to suss out than the schmucks you meet in everyday life. If your gut says run, then run.



2) Don't trust your instincts if a scalpel is involved: Subjective impression is meaningless when selecting a surgeon. Craft should trump your desire to like them; in fact, it's OK to hate your surgeon. You simply need him to cut and sew very intelligently. So always select the surgeon who has already done the most iterations of whatever procedure you need. Stated in Zagat-ian terms: Which restaurant do you want to go to—the one with the line or the one that sits empty?



3) Shop around: Diagnosticians, sensitive (and craftless) souls that we are, succeed only if we connect. A doctor who is beloved by one person can be a disaster for the next. Think of who ended up marrying whom—there simply is no accounting for taste. So look before you buy. Yes, it takes time, it takes money, it is humiliating and ridiculous and maybe just a sinister plot to give doctors more business. Do it anyway, and do it when you are well.



Magazine "best" lists are a good read for choosing things that don't much matter, like fitness clubs and pizza and a summer vacation spot. But when it comes to the basics—health, education, and welfare—no one but a best-list maniac would seek counsel from the printed page. And for the maniacs, well, we can only hope that someone out there is polishing up a survey on the 10 best ways to cure a best-list addiction.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Mountains of rubbish near residential areas are one reason that a cholera epidemic has spread through the slums of Luanda, the Angolan capital.

In Oil-rich Angola, Cholera Preys upon Poorest


And now back to your regularly scheduled programming (after the micro liposuction article)--reality for much of the rest of the world...


LUANDA, Angola, June 10 — In a nation whose multibillion-dollar oil boom should arguably make its people rich enough to drink Evian, the water that many in this capital depend on goes by a less fancy name: Bengo.

The Bengo River passes north of here, its waters dark with grit, its banks strewn with garbage.


Two dozen roaring pumping stations suck in 1.3 million gallons from the river each day, filling 450 tanker trucks that in turn supply 10,000 vendors across Luanda's endless slums. The vendors then fill the jerry cans and washtubs of the city's slum dwellers, who buy the water to drink and bathe in.


This is one reason, health experts here say, that Luanda's slums are now the center of one of the worst cholera epidemics to strike Africa in nearly a decade, an outbreak that has sickened 43,000 Angolans and killed more than 1,600 since it began in February.


But it is only one reason. Cholera typically spreads through contact with contaminated water or sewage, and in Luanda's slums, both are everywhere. Neighborhoods here are ringed by mountains of garbage, often soaked by rivulets of human waste. Only about half of slum dwellers have even an outdoor latrine.


Children stripped to their underwear dance through sewage-clogged creeks and slide down garbage dumps on sleds made of sheet metal into excrement-fouled puddles.


Much of the city has no drainage system; in heavy rains, the filthy water rises hip-high in some of the poorest dwellings.


One development group estimated that it would take 22,000 dump trucks to clear away the trash. That was in 1994, when Luanda had half the population of 4.5 million it has now.


"I have never seen anything like it," said David Weatherill, a water and sanitation expert for Doctors Without Borders, which is leading the response to the epidemic. "You see conditions like this on a smaller scale. But I have never seen it on such a huge scale. It is quite shocking."


Angola is in the midst of a gusher in oil revenue, its hotels crammed with oil executives and its harbor filled with tankers carrying away the 1.4 million barrels of crude pumped here each day. The economy grew by 18 percent last year. The government racked up a budget surplus of more than $2 billion.

(..)

Only one in six Luandan households is lucky enough to have running water, and for many of them, it comes from a community standpipe, according to Development Workshop, a nonprofit group in Angola. The often-contaminated river water from trucks that roam the slums costs up to 12 cents a gallon — a hefty sum in a nation where two-thirds of the people live on less than $2 a day, and up to 160 times the price paid in better-off neighborhoods with piped water.


So the poor ration their water use, limiting themselves to about two gallons a day per person for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and cleaning. That is far below the five-gallon daily minimum recommended by the United Nations — and one twenty-sixth the average use in Western countries, according to Doctors Without Borders.


(..)

It first hit Boa Vista, a shantytown minutes from downtown. Ombrina Cabanga, a 20-year-old mother of a 2-year-old girl, did everything to protect herself, said her sister-in-law, Oriana Gabriel. She washed vegetables, rinsed plates and cleaned the latrine the family shares with three others. As the Health Ministry recommended, she used bleach to disinfect the drinking water she bought from the neighborhood vendor.


But her house is a few feet from a giant trash-filled gulley. Her latrine, like everyone else's, drains directly into it. And she sold soap every day in the city's famously squalid outdoor market, a job she hoped to escape by taking adult literacy classes.


One Tuesday in late March, she came home and vomited into a bucket. Two nights later, she was dead.

(..)

The cholera epidemic is now waning, having run what epidemiologists call its natural, devastating course. But without an improvement in slum conditions, said Mr. Weatherill, the group's water and sanitation expert, the respite may last only until the next rainy season.


"Unless things change, we probably will be back the next year," he said in a telephone interview, "and the year after that."

Do My Knees Look Fat to You?


LOVE handles, saddlebags, turkey wattle. Self-conscious women have been trying to reduce those body areas for years. But now, with more efficient diets and fitness routines, women are turning to more obscure anatomical zones. The newest worries? "Bra fat" and "back fat."

"I had a little roll of fat hanging over the back of my jeans, like a spare bicycle tire in the back," said Dana Conte, a bartender in Manhattan. It was so obvious that her mother constantly came up behind her and pulled her shirt down over it, Ms. Conte said. "When your mother is doing that, it means there's a problem."


Ms. Conte, 34, says she has an hourglass figure that attracts whistles as she walks along the street. To get rid of the back fat, she tried working out — "like a lunatic," she said — five days a week. Then, she enrolled in Weight Watchers. When neither worked, she turned to plastic surgery.


Last August, she had liposuction on her lower back around her waistline, and in January, she had liposuction again, this time on her mid- and upper-back to eliminate "bra fat," bulges that can occur when "your bra pushes lumps of fat down your back and up over the bra fastening and to the sides right near your arms," Ms. Conte said.


(..)

Patients have developed their own nicknames for these obscure fat deposits. To help doctors understand the exact locations their patients are describing, the journal Dermatologic Surgery recently published an article titled "Lexicon of Areas Amenable to Liposuction." According to the article, patients are now asking for liposuction of the "buffalo hump" (upper back), the "wings" (bulges around the bra area), the "doughnut" (around the belly button), the "banana fold" (below the buttocks), the "piano legs" (calves) and the "chubb."


"Chubb is a Southern term for the kneecap area,

(..)

Doctors are grappling over where to draw the line. Last week Dr. Toledo saw a patient who wanted to have liposuction of her pubic area.


"In Brazil, bikinis are very small, and she complained that a little bit of fat stuck out over her bikini," he said. Dr. Toledo refused to do the surgery. He said removing the fat might make sex painful for her. "Sometimes a change is so small that it is not worth the time, money and risk."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

WSJ.com - In Poverty Tactics, An Old Debate: Who Is at Fault?

A fascinating read on the history of U.S. gvnm't anti-poverty programs...

WSJ.com - In Poverty Tactics, An Old Debate: Who Is at Fault?: "More than 40 years ago, Lyndon Johnson launched his War on Poverty with an ambitious declaration: 'We know what must be done, and this nation of abundance can surely afford to do it.'

Despite decades of economic growth and technological progress, tens of millions of Americans still live in poverty. Efforts to reduce the ranks of the poor persist, but they have moved underground. Today's War on Poverty isn't marked by lofty presidential rhetoric. It is a guerrilla war with platoons of idealistic crusaders and skeptical scholars, with dozens of small-scale experiments and local initiatives that largely escape public notice.

Sprawling government Great Society programs are out. And it has been a full decade since Bill Clinton signed a Republican-backed bill 'to end welfare as we know it.' Except for a flicker of attention in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last year, poverty is neither in the headlines nor on the lips of politicians. When President Bush refers to it, he usually is referring to other countries. ('Free trade is the only proven path out of poverty for developing nations,' he says.)"
(..)

"Either you blame the poor -- 'the poverty is in the people' -- or you blame the system," says James T. Patterson, a Brown University historian. "It is a constant divide." If the poor are primarily responsible for their plight, then government ought to prod them to change their ways. If poverty is primarily the consequence of economic and social forces largely beyond their control, then government ought to give them money and change the rules of the economy.

Among those who dominate American politics and poverty policy today, the argument that government programs create dependency rather than foster independence has stuck
(..)
But at last count, according to the Census Bureau, there were 37 million Americans below the official, albeit flawed and controversial, poverty line. That is 12.7% of the population, about the same fraction as in 1968. Alternative measures that take account of tax credits, food stamps and other noncash government aid put many fewer Americans below the line, but most show a similar trend: ups and downs with the economy, but little sustained, significant progress in the past three decades. (See sidebar: Counting the Poor.)

(..)

There is today, however, a different sense about the potency of any government response to poverty than when the War on Poverty was born. "There was a sense in those early...days that the possibilities were endless," Lisbeth Schorr, who worked in the Johnson White House, recalled at a recent retrospective sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University. "Of course," she said, "nobody knows what would have happened if we had been able to continue and expand what we started

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Outrage, Despair: Soccer Has Arrived in U.S.


Vecsey.190.1




ANY minute now, I expect to hear the name Freddy Adu. From what I gather, people back in the States are exercised that their lads could lose to anybody by a 3-0 score, and they want to know who is to blame.


Didn't Nike pay the peppy Master Adu all that money to wear its gear and to play for D.C. United in Major League Soccer? Maybe the young man could have energized the Americans, given them a little razzle-dazzle. I can hear it now on the radio call-in shows, as the United States heads toward a game against Italy on Saturday and potential elimination from any chance to advance.


The parochial little game called American football always engenders a quarterback controversy. Calling for Adu would be like a mascot controversy. Maybe it is a sign that soccer is arriving in the States when people are suddenly questioning Bruce Arena, the United States manager, whom a huge swath of the population could not have identified until they saw him with severe gastric pains on his face during Monday's disaster of a game.

Can beer bottle caps green Africa?


Can beer bottle caps green Africa?


Beer bottle tops 'make ideal measuring pots for "micro-dosing", a technique that lets farmers focus precious nutrients where they are needed rather than wasting them. The results so far are encouraging… Steve Twomlow of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISCAT), based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, established that about 5 grams of ammonium nitrate is enough to feed three plants: That’s one beer cap full. Conventional scattering of fertilizer uses five capfuls for every three plants…'


That is Treehugger reading New Scientist. More from the African Fertilizer Summit. Though remember, beer bottle tops can also be used as a currency.

Gulf bloggers: a new breed of Arab activists


UBAI (AFP) - Internet blogs are giving rise to a new breed of Arab activist as ordinary residents increasingly use them to press for more political rights and civil liberties in conservative Gulf states.


Typical was a recent posting by a 33-year-old Saudi man. "Are we destined to just listen to the news of all the big changes around the world as we await a good deed from our king?" he questioned in his weblog, or blog.


And in one notable case, blogs in Kuwait were used to rally broad support last month for street demonstrations in favour of election law reforms.


The bloggers write in Arabic, English or a mixture of both. They are eager to set themselves apart from both newspaper and web columnists writing for established sites as well as the hugely popular Internet bulletin boards that often have a militant Islamic bent.


There are now about 1,000 Gulf Arab bloggers, up five times from 2004, according to Haitham Sabbah, a Bahrain-based blogger and Middle East editor for Global Voices, a programme launched last year by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School in the United States that tracks and collects blogs worldwide.


Ahmed al-Omran, a 22-year-old Saudi university student who has been blogging for two years under the name "Saudi Jeans", said his goal was not just to rant but to shed light on issues affecting his generation in the hope that change may come one day.


"When I criticise something, my goal is to have it fixed," Omran, a regular contributor to Global Voices, told AFP in a telephone interview from Riyadh.


Saudi Arabia has the Gulf's biggest blogging community with about 3O0 bloggers, more than half of them women according to Omran. With Saudi's population of some 23 million it has one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the Arab world.


"Saudis are by nature not politically active and fear speaking out, so it is going to take some time," he said.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sudan: The Passion of the Present

Sudan: The Passion of the Present: "As Kuperman says in his op-ed

Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations. The region's blacks, painted as long-suffering victims, actually were the oppressors less than two decades ago — denying Arab nomads access to grazing areas essential to their survival. Violence was initiated not by Arab militias but by the black rebels who in 2003 attacked police and military installations.

I have seen this idea repeated in several places and so I just wanted to try and set the record straight.

According to both 'Darfur: A Short History of a Long War' by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal, and 'Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide' by Gerard Prunier, low-level insurgency - much of it stoked by the southern SPLA/M - and Janjaweed attacks have plagued Darfur for years, if not decades. But more importantly, the emergence of the JEM and the SLA were, at least in part, a response to government repression and ongoing Janjaweed attacks. "

The Incredible sound-mimicking lyrebird


The incredible sound-mimicking lyrebird



Lyrebird
Here's a video clip of a male Australian lyrebird, which sings complex
songs to attract mates. Lyrebirds' songs are composed of sounds they
hear, including sounds from machines, such as a camera's shutter
mechanism and film drive, a car alarm, and logging equipment. This bird
is like a tape recorder. Link (thanks, Coop!)



posted by
Mark Frauenfelder at
10:53:26 AM
permalink
| blogs' comments

Foreign Policy: Our Inequality Anxiety

Foreign Policy: Our Inequality Anxiety: "
What should be a higher priority: reducing inequality or alleviating poverty? It is, of course, tempting to answer that they are equally important. Or, that the question is moot because reducing poverty will automatically shrink income disparities; or that policies that lower inequality will inevitably reduce poverty."

Foreign Aid Has Flaws. So What?


Kristof hits on the very essential point that whatever the complexities of foreign aid may be, the fact is that aid saves lives! This sentiment changes from words on a paper (or webpage) to a much more profound appreciation of the reality of aid benefit when when one travels overseas and see a person journey from near death to life due to e.g. mission hospital care, deliverance of food aid etc...This sort of experience adds a very personal and in fact urgent dimension to the discussion...



June 13, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Foreign Aid Has Flaws. So What?

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF



Don't tell anyone, but a dirty little secret within the foreign aid world is that aid often doesn't work very well.



Now that truth has been aired (and sometimes exaggerated) in a provocative new book by William Easterly, "The White Man's Burden." Mr. Easterly, a former World Bank official who is now an economics professor at New York University, has tossed a hand grenade at the world's bleeding hearts — and, worst of all, he makes some valid points.


Let me say right off that stingy Republicans should not read this book. It might inflame their worst suspicions.


But the rest of us should read it, because there is a growing constituency for fighting global poverty, and we need to figure out how to make that money more effective.


I disagree with many of Professor Easterly's arguments, but he's right about one central reality: helping people can be much harder than it looks. When people are chronically hungry, for example, shipping in food can actually make things worse, because the imported food lowers prices and thus discourages farmers from planting in the next season. (That's why the United Nations, when spending aid money, tries to buy food in the region rather than import it.)


On one of my last trips to Darfur, I had dinner at a restaurant in Nyala called K2. Out back were 18 big white S.U.V.'s belonging to the U.N. and aid groups; that amounted to nearly $1 million worth of vehicles, in a country where people are starving.


The aid workers are struggling heroically in a dangerous and difficult place, and I don't begrudge them reliable vehicles. But something seems wrong when international agencies are more successful at maintaining S.U.V.'s than clinics. (One reason is that budgeting is often done annually, and one of the ways to spend a grant in a single year is to buy a vehicle.)


It's well-known that the countries that have succeeded best in lifting people out of poverty (China, Singapore, Malaysia) have received minimal aid, while many that have been flooded with aid (Niger, Togo, Zambia) have ended up poorer. Thus many economists accept that aid doesn't generally help poor countries grow, but argue that it does stimulate growth in poor countries with good governance. That was the conclusion of a study in 2000 by Craig Burnside and David Dollar.


Professor Easterly repeated that study, using a larger pool of data, and — alas — found no improvement even in countries with good governance.


Saddest of all, Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanian of the International Monetary Fund have found that "aid inflows have systematic adverse effects on a country's competitiveness." One problem is that aid pushes up the local exchange rate, discouraging local manufacturing. Mr. Subramanian also argues that aid income can create the same kinds of problems as oil income — that famous "oil curse" — by breeding dependency and undermining local institutions.


All these findings can be pretty shattering to a bleeding-heart American. But cheer up.



Some other studies indicate that aid does improve growth (economists don't agree about this any more than they agree about anything else). And whatever the impact on economic growth rates, aid definitely does something far more important: it saves lives.


For pennies, you can vaccinate a child and save his or her life. For $5 you can buy a family a large mosquito net and save several people from malaria. For $250, you can repair a teenage girl's fistula, a common childbirth injury, and give her a life again.



The Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, has published a terrific book, "Millions Saved," demonstrating how health projects have saved lives. Eradicating smallpox and reducing river blindness have improved the lives of more people for less money than almost any investment imaginable. In Darfur, we haven't done nearly enough. But our aid shipments have kept alive hundreds of thousands of people.


For my whole adult life, I've sponsored children through Plan USA, and in visiting my "adopted" child in places like the Philippines and Sudan, I've seen how the kids' lives are transformed by American sponsors. Aid is no panacea, but it is a lifesaver.


So let's not shy away from a conversation about the effectiveness of aid. The problems are real, but so are the millions of people alive today who wouldn't be if not for aid. In the end, if we have tough conversations about foreign aid, then I believe Americans will acknowledge the challenges — and then, clear-eyed, agree to dig more deeply than ever, for that is simply the best way we have of asserting our own humanity.

Over Tea, Sheik Denies Stirring Darfur's Torment

"The greatest threat to this peace agreement right now is the
janjaweed," said a senior military intelligence officer with the
African Union who is not authorized to speak publicly. "It is not clear
what is in it for them or how it serves their interests to disarm. No
one is sure what they will do or who exactly controls them."

The
first and most critical step of that agreement, signed in May between
the government in Khartoum and the largest rebel faction, is the
disarmament of the janjaweed. The government pledged to submit a plan
to disarm the militias of their heavy weaponry one month after signing
the agreement and to finish the job before the end of October.

But
how do you disarm a phantom army whose sponsors and leaders deny its
existence? And exactly who are the janjaweed — and is it within
the government's power to disarm them?

"Who are the janjaweed?"
asked Eltayeb Hag Ateya, director of the Peace Research Institute at
the University of Khartoum. "It depends on what you mean and who you
ask."

The term itself has long been used to refer to highwaymen
and bandits from tribes living across Sudan's western border in Chad
who roamed the vast, semidesert plains of Darfur, robbing Arabs and
non-Arabs, nomads and farmers.

But the word came to have a new
meaning after rebels attacked a government outpost in Darfur in 2003,
sparking the conflict that would engulf the region and eventually spill
into Chad.

The militias that came to be known as the janjaweed
were deployed as a kind of counterinsurgency proxy force that the
government used in place of and sometimes alongside its military. It
had used such Arab militias with brutal success in the 20-year civil
war in the south.

These fighters were paid a small stipend,
but their greatest reward was the right to loot and seize livestock and
land from the Fur and Zaghawa, non-Arab tribes from which the rebels
drew their ranks.

The chief figure in the deployment of these
militias, according to the State Department and human rights
organizations, was Mr. Hilal, who leads a powerful Arab tribe in Darfur
called Um Jalul.

Long before the war began, Mr. Hilal wielded
control over a fearsome tribal militia, and because of his deep
connections to the Arab elite of Khartoum, he was the first tribal
leader the government turned to when the insurgency among non-Arab
tribes began, human rights investigators say.

Foreign Policy: Seven Questions: The State of Palestine

Foreign Policy: Seven Questions: The State of Palestine: "Seven Questions: The State of Palestine"

BPS Research Digest: Rare counting ability induced by temporarily switching off brain region

BPS Research Digest: Rare counting ability induced by temporarily switching off brain region: "A minority of people with autism have one or more extraordinary intellectual talents, such as the rapid ability to calculate the day of the week for a given date, or to count large numbers of discrete objects almost instantaneously - they're often called 'autistic savants' or 'idiot savants'. Now Allan Snyder and colleagues have shown that by placing a pulsing magnet over a specific area of the brain, these kind of abilities can, to some extent, be induced in people who aren’t autistic."

Monday, June 12, 2006

OUPblog: 6 Myths about U.S.-Saudi Relations

OUPblog: 6 Myths about U.S.-Saudi Relations: "6 Myths about U.S.-Saudi Relations"

LET THE WORLD CUP BEGIN!


LET THE WORLD CUP BEGIN!
Originally uploaded by BoazImages.
A Great photograhic capture of how TV is often viewed as a community event in the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world...

Why aren’t Latin Americans smiling? - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group - Private Sector Development

Why aren’t Latin Americans smiling? - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group - Private Sector Development: "Why aren’t Latin Americans smiling?

Ugo Panizza and Monica Yanez ask why Latin Americans are so unhappy about pro-market reforms. Theory #1:

What matters is the difference between expectations and actual outcome. Policymakers may have made the mistake of overselling the reforms by promising too much, and the disillusionment with reforms documented in this paper could be due to unmet expectations.

Theory #2:

The current economic crisis happened after a period of intense reforms and those who now oppose reforms might believe that there is a causal relationship between the reform process and the economic crisis.

Theory #3:

A final interpretation has to do with the perceived fairness of the capitalist system. Di Tella and MacCulloch (2004) find that residents of poor countries tend to be less pro-market than residents of industrial countries and argue that this is due to the presence of widespread corruption that reduces the perceived fairness of the capitalist system.

Via DBRB. Also see previous posts on the political cost of market reforms or crony capitalism in Latin America.

Posted by Pablo Halkyard at 06:46 AM in Aid effectiveness, Corruption, Latin America | Permalink"

LiveScience.com - Surgeries Using Cadaver Tissue Pose Risks

This is precisely why I refused cadaver tissue for my Anterior Cruciate Ligament repair...of course my autologous graft tore, but that is another story...

LiveScience.com - Surgeries Using Cadaver Tissue Pose Risks: "
Don't worry, the doctor told Brian Lykins' parents, as he prepared to use cartilage from a cadaver to fix their son's knee. A million people a year have operations that use tissue from donated dead bodies. The nation's largest tissue bank had supplied this cartilage. It was disinfected and perfectly safe, he assured them. But it wasn't.

Four days after this routine, elective surgery, Lykins—a healthy, 23-year-old student from Minnesota—died of a raging infection.

He died because the cartilage came from a corpse that had sat unrefrigerated for 19 hours—a corpse that had been rejected by two other tissue banks. The cartilage hadn't been adequately treated to kill bacteria.

None of this broke a single federal rule."

(..)

Even doctors don't understand the risk of tissue they are using. "It comes in a nice package, it looks sterile,'' said Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, a tissue safety expert at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Most physicians don't even know the questions to ask,'' said Dr. Ty Endean, a Tucson, Ariz., orthopedic surgeon. "They order tissue and they leave it up to the surgical center at their hospital. And those people are just going on price.''


Mia Farrow Visits Darfur on U.N. Mission - New York Times

Mia Farrow Visits Darfur on U.N. Mission - New York Times: "She said the scenes of human suffering she had witnessed in Darfur had haunted her since her previous trip. ''I never spend a day without thinking about it ... it's impossible to put Darfur out of one's mind.''

(..)

UNICEF says it only receives 20 percent of the funds it needs to cater to Darfur's suffering masses, and the U.N.'s World Food Program has recently reduced food distribution to below the minimal rations because of lack of funding."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

While in Surgery, Do You Prefer Abba or Verdi? - New York Times

I too like to play U2 in the OR, especially on a long case such as 360 macular rotation. However, I play music less and less, and if so, it is usually classical (with the exception of Jimi Hendrix for enucleations). I found that the OR staff and my assistant are too easily distracted if the music had any type of beat. This really hit home to me when several years ago, doing an exceptionally diffcult case in Saudi Arabia, I raised my head from the microscope, and upon looking around, saw everyone from the nursing staff to the anesthetist bopping their head to the beat, eyes staring blankly... I felt as though I was in some kind of a Rave hall. That was the day the music died for me in the OR....


While in Surgery, Do You Prefer Abba or Verdi? - New York Times: "'You're basically sending a message to the people around you that it's a cool place to be,' he said. 'I found I get a lot done when I have U2 in the background,' he said. He does take care to lower the volume when the patient enters the room, and he sometimes asks for requests."

Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother under occupation: In times of Israeli closure, breastfeed!

A blog that reveals the details of life by a mother living in Gaza ...

Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother under occupation: In times of Israeli closure, breastfeed!: "In times of Israeli closure, breastfeed!

Ok, I bet you never expected me to mention breastfeeding and Israeli closures in the same sentence. Well, I just did. Now, for the readers who didn't just drop like flies, I'll continue."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Mind not to go off the rails...


Mind not to go off the rails...
Originally uploaded by Bajy.
Amazing colors!!!!

Pure Blue Eye


Pure Blue Eye
Originally uploaded by Iguana Jo.
What incredible lighting to highlight the blue eye!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hope in football

My partner asked me what the status of Sierra Leone's football team is--this is what I could (sadly) find...(I am headed there in September)...

hope in football




Mon Apr 10, 2:19 AM ET


FREETOWN (AFP) - There are no kit bags or towels at the edges of a
makeshift beachside pitch, just a couple of prostheses and a large
plastic bottle of drinking water, but Sierra Leone’s national
amputees football team is in play.


A group of single-legged young men, all victims of the west African
nation’s brutal civil war in which thousands lost limbs and other
body parts not only to landmines or bullets, but also to hacking by
rebel groups, has come together to seek encouragement and hope.


As with any other sportsmen, they first of all warm up, laying their
crutches on the sand of Freetown’s popular Lumley beach so they
can stretch and jump around before taking to the pitch.


When ready they pick up their crutches, the whistle is blown and the game begins.




Maxwell Fornah (C), captain of the Sierra Leone civil war amputees
football team, tries to slip past a tackle at a beach in Freetown.
There are no kit bags or towels at the edges of a makeshift beachside
pitch, just a couple of prostheses and a large plastic bottle of
drinking water, but Sierra Leone’s national amputees football
team, all victims of the west African nation’s brutal civil war,
have already come third in last year’s World Cup single-leg
soccer tournament in Brazil and dream of one day playing at the
Paralympics(AFP/Issouf Sanogo)


Prosthesis are not allowed on the pitch so they play with just one
foot each while balancing only on the crutches. But their skills at
dribbling, passing and scoring are breathtaking all the same.


“We started playing football as a social game after we became
envious of other boys with two legs. It was painful to just watch them
and not play. It was just after the war in 2001 and we were all at the
camp (for amputees and war victims),” said Victor Musa, striker
for the Sierra Leone Single Leg Amputees Sports Club.


“Now we don’t feel that much disabled anymore, we can play football too,” said Musa.


Now they have turned professional and last year came third, after
England and Brazil, at the World Cup single-leg soccer tournament in
Brazil.


“I plan to continue playing and pray that one day I will play
in the Paralympic Games,” said team captain Maxwell Fornah, who
was shot in the leg in 1998 as he fled home from school after his
village in Kambia, northeast of the capital, came under attack during
Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war.


“I don’t even know if it was a soldier or a rebel who
shot me, the only thing I remember was waking up hours later in a Red
Cross hospital,” he said.


Mmidfielder Mohamed Jalloh, 20, said: “I want to become an
international star like Thierry Henry, or Samuel Eto’o.”




Mohamed Fofana (R) of the Sierra Leone civil war amputees football
team eyes the ball at a beach in Freetown. (AFP/Issouf Sanogo)


The sport has not only provided entertainment, but helped to spread a poignant message of hope.


“We are happy that we can get together and encourage each
other,” said Mohamed Lappia, who stepped on a mine that shattered
his leg.


Saidu Mansaray, 22, is the team’s goalkeeper. He has both his
legs but only one active hand. He catches the ball with one hand as the
four fingers, save the thumb, of the other hand were chopped off with
an axe.


“We were at home in Kissy one day when three rebels came and
pulled me out, one put my hand against a mango tree and cut me up.
Another tried to cut on the wrist, but he did not succeed and gave up,
that is why you see this mark here,” Mansaray said, showing a
scar on his right hand.


“Normally I use one hand to catch the ball and this other helps sometimes to deflect the ball.”


Without sponsorship, the team struggles to find transport fares to
attend practice sessions, let alone pay for soccer boots. Most play
with threadbare sneakers, but that does not dampen their spirits.


They have neither a marked pitch nor permanent nets, but they have a team medic.


Oseh Kabiru used to be a nursing aide for a privately-run clinic in
Lunsar, about 120 kilometres (73 miles) northeast of Freetown before he
was attacked during the war and lost half of his hand.


“I massage them and offer first aid treatment. They need help
but people neglect them, so I help them voluntarily,” said
Kabiru, rolling a strip of white fabric cut into strips the size of
bandages.




Players of the Sierra Leone civil war amputees football team pose at a beach in Freetown. (AFP/Issouf Sanogo)


The team was put together in 2001 with the help of the non-governmental organisation Action for Children in Conflict.


While it may struggle for resources and many of the young men yearn
for an opportunity to go back to school as their education was
disrupted first by the war and now by high fees, they never run short
of supporters.


One ardent fan is Memunatu Kamara. She is also a victim of the war.
She was shot on her left arm, but she handles the drinking water for
the players.


“I am always with the team, wherever they go,” said Kamara who was shot when she was 15 years old in 1999.


As for Liberia’s ex-president Charles Taylor, accused of
sponsoring the conflict and facing a war crimes trial at a UN-backed
court here, team captain Fornah says: “If he is found guilty, he
should spend the rest of his life in jail.”

Why soccer rules the world

The World's Game @ National Geographic Magazine









Photograph by Marco Anelli, Grazia Neri





This month 32 nations will compete for
the World Cup of soccer, the "beautiful game" that unites and divides
countries around the globe. To celebrate that we bring you excerpts
from The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup.

The Soccer Wars

The Soccer Wars: "The World Cup is coming, which means a flurry of desperate attempts by tournament promoters to excite Americans about an event that electrifies the rest of the world. This year is no different. ESPN, which will broadcast most of the games in the United States, is airing a series of ads with members of the rock band U2. In one, Bono says that the World Cup 'closes the schools, closes the shops, closes a city and stops a war.'

If stopping a war seems like an exaggeration, another ad explains soccer's peace-building qualities in more detail: 'After three years of civil war, feuding factions talked for the first time in years, and the president called a truce. Because the Ivory Coast qualified for the World Cup for the first time. Because, as everyone knows, a country united makes for better cheerleaders than a country divided.'

Does the World Cup really put a stop to war? Does soccer, known for its dangerously rowdy fans, have the conflict-reducing powers that ESPN and U2 proclaim? To be charitable to the World Cup, which this year will be held in Germany starting June 9, the evidence is mixed. It is undeniable that soccer has the power to unite -- but its power to divide should not be underestimated.

International Crisis Group - Sudan: Divide and Destroy in Darfur

International Crisis Group - Sudan: Divide and Destroy in Darfur: "Negotiating the end of a war is tricky enough. But in the case of Darfur, mediators were also faced with the implicit task of ending what the Bush administration calls genocide, and what nobody can deny have been gross crimes against humanity.

Such a tall order, coupled with an abrupt negotiating deadline, produced an agreement that leaves more questions than answers. And unless a United Nations force is deployed immediately to guarantee its implementation, it will also leave over two million homeless Darfurians vulnerable to further exploitation.

One question without a rational answer is why it took so long to broker this deal. When the U.S., UK and African Union finally set a deadline and committed high level support to the process, it took just weeks to finalize a deal. Why didn't this happen a year and a half ago? Up to two hundred thousand lives could have been saved, and the dynamics on the ground would have been more amenable to reconciliation and reconstruction.

Once a deadline was announced and attention galvanized, the mediators tilted their proposals in favor of the government because they recognized the regime's dominant position on Darfur's battlefield. But if that power imbalance is left unchecked, it will allow the government to continue its divide and destroy approach to dealing with its opposition throug"
Indian Beatles

Check out this hilarious bollywood beatles video!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Center for Global Development : Initiatives: Active: HIV/AIDS Monitor

Center for Global Development : Initiatives: Active: HIV/AIDS Monitor: "Billions of dollars in aid are flowing to developing countries to confront HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS Monitor tracks how this aid is allocated and disbursed to help donors and recipient countries do a better job in responding to the epidemic, and to identify lessons that may be relevant to aid effectiveness more broadly. To support this analysis, the HIV/AIDS Monitor team has prepared brief descriptive profiles of three innovative financing sources that provide most of the money. Despite a common commitment to fighting the epidemic, each donor implements programs in different ways with different targets."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In Praise of the Maligned Sweatshop - New York Times

In Praise of the Maligned Sweatshop - New York Times: "Africa desperately needs Western help in the form of schools, clinics and sweatshops.

Oops, don't spill your coffee. We in the West mostly despise sweatshops as exploiters of the poor, while the poor themselves tend to see sweatshops as opportunities.

On a street here in the capital of Namibia, in the southwestern corner of Africa, I spoke to a group of young men who were trying to get hired as day laborers on construction sites.

'I come here every day,' said Naftal Shaanika, a 20-year-old. 'I actually find work only about once a week.'

Mr. Shaanika and the other young men noted that the construction jobs were dangerous and arduous, and that they would vastly prefer steady jobs in, yes, sweatshops. Sure, sweatshop work is tedious, grueling and sometimes dangerous. But over all, sewing clothes is considerably less dangerous or arduous — or sweaty — than most alternatives in poor countries.

Well-meaning American university students regularly campaign against sweatshops. But instead, anyone who cares about fighting poverty should campaign in favor of sweatshops, demanding that companies set up factories in Africa. If Africa could establish a clothing export industry, that would fight poverty far more effectively than any foreign aid program.

"

25 years of deadly lessons


By George F. Will

Tuesday, June 6, 2006; Page A15


"In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died."


-- Centers for Disease Control,



June 5, 1981


Those words 25 years ago announced the arrival of something most Americans thought anachronistic -- an infectious disease epidemic. At first it was called GRID -- gay-related immune deficiency. In September 1982 the CDC renamed it acquired immune deficiency syndrome -- AIDS.


Its worldwide toll has already exceeded the 20 million killed by the 14th-century bubonic plague. By 2020 it probably will have killed more than any epidemic in history, with most fatalities in sub-Saharan Africa, where it probably began about 75 years ago after some people who ate wild chimpanzees in Cameroon became infected with a low-virulence progenitor of the virus that causes AIDS.


An epidemic requires both a microbe and an enabling social context. In Africa, aspects of modernity in a primitive setting became a deadly combination: HIV was spread by roadside prostitutes serving truckers and soldiers traveling on modern roads. Africa's wars caused population dislocations; economic development caused migrations of workers across porous borders. Both weakened families and dissolved traditional sexual norms. Jet aircraft integrated Africa into the world flow of commerce and tourism. In 1980s America, the enabling context included a gay community feeling more assertive and emancipated, and IV drug users sharing needles.


AIDS arrived in America in the wake of the Salk vaccine, which, by swiftly defeating polio, gave Americans a misleading paradigm of how progress is made in public health. Pharmacology often is a small contributor. By the time the first anti-tuberculosis drugs became available in the 1950s, the annual death rate from TB had plummeted to 20 per 100,000 Americans, from 200 per 100,000 in 1900. Drugs may have accounted for just 3 percent of the reduction. The other 97 percent was the result of better nutrition and less urban crowding. Thanks to chlorination of water and better sanitation and personal hygiene, typhoid, too, became rare before effective drugs were available.


Which suggests that the most powerful public health program is economic growth. And the second most powerful is information.


The 14th-century Black Death killed one-third of Europe's population, but it was in the air, food and water, so breathing, eating and drinking were risky behaviors. AIDS is much more difficult to acquire. Like other large components of America's health-care costs (e.g., violence, vehicular accidents, coronary artery disease, lung cancer), AIDS is mostly the result of behavior that is by now widely known to be risky.


The U.S. epidemic, which through 2004 had killed 530,000, could have been greatly contained by intense campaigns to modify sexual and drug-use behavior in 25 to 30 neighborhoods from New York and Miami to San Francisco. But early in the American epidemic, political values impeded public health requirements. Unhelpful messages were sent by slogans designed to democratize the disease -- "AIDS does not discriminate" and "AIDS is an equal opportunity disease."


By 1987, when President Ronald Reagan gave his first speech on the subject, 20,798 Americans had died, and his speech, not surprisingly, did not mention any connection to the gay community. No president considers it part of his job description to tell the country that the human rectum, with its delicate and absorptive lining, makes anal-receptive sexual intercourse dangerous when HIV is prevalent.


Twenty years ago a San Francisco public health official explained death's teaching power: Watching a friend die, like seeing a wreck along a highway, is sobering. But after driving more slowly for a few miles, we again speed up. AIDS has a more lasting deterrent effect.


There has, however, been an increase in unsafe sex, because pharmacological progress has complicated the campaign against this behavior-driven epidemic. Life-extending cocktails of antiviral drugs now lead some at-risk people to regard HIV infection as a manageable chronic disease, and hence to engage in risky behavior. Furthermore, the decline of AIDS mortality rates means that more persons are surviving with HIV infection -- persons who can spread the virus. And drugs such as Viagra mean that more older men are sexually active.


Still, even with no pharmacological silver bullet, AIDS deaths in America have been declining for a decade. In Africa, where heterosexual sex is the primary means of transmission, the death rate is steady relative to population growth, and the age of beginning sexual activity is rising, as is the use of condoms. Human beings do learn. But they often do at a lethally slow pace.

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