Monday, July 31, 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

War’s Chaos Steals Congo’s Young by the Millions - New York Times

War’s Chaos Steals Congo’s Young by the Millions - New York Times

July 30, 2006
War’s Chaos Steals Congo’s Young by the Millions

RUTSHURU, Congo — Children die here from the same ailments that needlessly kill children all over Africa — malaria, diarrhea, measles, malnutrition — but on a vast and cataclysmic scale.

The child mortality rate here in the most volatile eastern provinces is almost twice that of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, which already has the world’s highest rate, according to the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit organization that has documented the death toll here in a series of detailed mortality studies from 1998 to 2004.

Though Congo’s civil war supposedly ended four years ago, and the nation’s first democratic elections in more than four decades are scheduled for Sunday, the fighting and chaos here continue to kill about 1,250 people each day, mostly from hunger and disease. In all, nearly four million people have died as a result of the conflict since 1998, almost half of them children under the age of 5, according to the International Rescue Committee.

The stakes in the election are highest for those far too young to vote, but even the most optimistic candidates and international observers say there is little chance that the voting will stop the dying anytime soon. In a report released in July, Unicef described the death toll in Congo as a “tsunami of death every six months.”

“It is fair to say that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the deadliest for children in the past 60 years,” said Richard Brennan, health director of the International Rescue Committee. “No other conflict has had the same lev- els of excess mortality, and children have borne a disproportionate degree of this burden.”

About 30,000 children have been forced into militias, while untold thousands of girls have been raped, according to the Unicef report. Children labor under toxic conditions in gold and diamond mines. Orphans choke the streets of Kinshasa, the capital, bedraggled platoons in Congo’s vast army of want.

Do or Die Against Iraq's Death Squads

Do or Die Against Iraq's Death Squads: "Nouri al-Maliki does not strike a commanding pose as Iraq's new prime minister: Slouching, stubble-faced, uneasy before foreign audiences, he looks more like a doughy Mukhabarat officer than the sleek exile politicians who have been making the rounds in Washington over the past decade.

His visit seemed almost a sideshow this week in the apocalyptic mood caused by the Lebanon war. Certainly Democrats in Congress treated it that way, bizarrely hectoring Maliki for not embracing Israel's war in Lebanon. But the visit was important in its own right because it offered a chance to assess the Bush administration's strategy as the Iraq war spins toward the point of no return."

Maliki's government is the last good chance for a democratic Iraq. Many Americans seem to take it almost for granted that the Iraq project has failed. But as bad as the situation is now, it could get worse. If Maliki cannot rally the country behind his so-called unity government, the civil war will shift into a grim new phase, with pitched sectarian battles for control of territory and the prospect of tens of thousands more dead...

Pander and Run

Pander and Run: "After years of struggling to define their own approach to post-Sept. 11 foreign policy, Democrats seem finally to have hit on one. It's called pandering. In those rare cases when George W. Bush shows genuine sensitivity to America's allies and propounds a broader, more enlightened view of the national interest, Democrats will make him pay. It's jingoism with a liberal face.

The latest example came this week when Democratic senators and House members demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki either retract his criticisms of Israel or forfeit his chance to address Congress. Great idea. Maliki -- who runs a government propped up by U.S. troops -- is desperate to show Iraqis that he is not Washington's puppet. And the United States desperately needs him to succeed because, unless he gains political credibility at home, his government will have no hope of surviving on its own."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 - Doha Is Dead... - Doha Is Dead...

Trade diplomats have been quick to point fingers after negotiations in the Doha Round collapsed Monday, and for once they're all correct. Far more important, however, will be whether the world's economic powers continue to push for the free trade of goods and services by other means, or simply retreat and let the protectionists pounce.

The U.S. has taken most of the criticism so far, some of it deserved. The Bush Administration has never escaped the subsidy shadow cast by the 2002 farm bill, which increased government aid to American agribusiness to $190 billion over six years. This largesse, pushed by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley among others, made it more difficult for the U.S. to cut farm handouts enough for a successful Doha.

It also eroded confidence in the White House's ability to deliver any real cuts in the face of Congressional opposition, particularly with midterm elections coming up. To clear Congress, a Doha deal would have to be ambitious enough in other areas -- such as services and manufactured goods -- to offset the steep farm subsidy cuts that the U.S. would have to make. This is where the talks really collapsed.
George Benson blues miles davis tribute

George Benson and John McLaughlin tribute to Miles Davis

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - More Reasons to Eat Your Veggies - More Reasons to Eat Your Veggies: "Published jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, the more-individualized advice usually adds up to more than the old five servings, which equaled 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables. People can calculate their individual needs at

The push to step up produce consumption is fueled in part by a growing body of evidence that fruits and vegetables offer even more health benefits than previously understood, and may play roles in preventing heart and eye disease, as well as stomach, colon and other cancers. Also, in 2004, the Institute of Medicine, a federal advisory body, recommended that adult Americans increase their intake of potassium, a mineral that helps to lower blood pressure and is plentiful in many fruits and vegetables."

People who eat fruits and vegetables more than three times a day reduce their risk of having a stroke and dying from cardiovascular disease by nearly a quarter, compared with those who eat them less than once a day, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study examining data from a national epidemiological survey. Many other studies find a similar inverse relationship between various chronic diseases and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables may also be one of the best ways to lose weight. For instance, a survey of 7,356 adults published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who ate at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day were less likely than people who ate less to be obese -- even if their diet was high in fat, says Barbara Rolls, one of the study's authors. "Fruits and vegetables really are key players in determining weight status," she says.

There are signs that high consumption of produce may improve bone health, helping stave off osteoporosis. One recent study, also published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found an association between high fruit and vegetable intake and bone mineral density in boys and girls ages 16 to 18, and a similar association involving fruit intake in women ages 60 to 83. Vitamin C and other antioxidants in fruit may play a role, the study's authors concluded. - The Mossberg Solution - The Mossberg Solution: "For the blind and visually impaired, technology has been helpful in many ways. Software can dictate the text on a computer screen, and advancements in voice recognition have made it possible to navigate a computer more easily.

But, for reading printed documents, like magazines, menus and mail, many blind and visually impaired people must still rely on other people to read to them, or must use large, deskbound reading machines that do nothing to allow reading while on the go. These dependencies are affecting more and more people, as aging Boomers confront diseases like macular degeneration and the effects of diabetes on eyesight.
[Device Photo]
The $3,495 Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader takes digital pictures of text and reads them out loud.

Starting this month, there's a new portable gadget for the blind that permits them to 'read' printed documents anywhere, at home or away, without the aid of sighted people. This gadget takes a digital picture of a page of text, and then reads it aloud to the blind person, either through a speaker or through earphones. It's called the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader, and we've been testing it."...

The Would-Be Terrorist's Explosive Tell-All Tale

The Would-Be Terrorist's Explosive Tell-All Tale: "JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- When Abdullah Thabit recently saw a photo of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers for the first time, he felt a jolt of fear, and then a sadness so intense that tears streamed down his cheeks. The hijacker, Ahmed Alnami, was from Thabit's home town, and he looked familiar.

Thabit is the author of 'The 20th Terrorist,' which recounts his years as a religious extremist. He thinks he could easily have been in Alnami's place.

'I felt like someone who'd gotten off a b"

Monday, July 24, 2006

The abolition of slavery - TLS Highlights - Times Online

The abolition of slavery - TLS Highlights - Times Online: "Within fifty years of Columbus’s arrival in the New World, the native population of Hispaniola had fallen from around 500,000 to less than 500. Elsewhere, the collapse was scarcely less dramatic. In Mexico and Peru, it was hastened by the brutal regimens imposed by the conquistadores. Yet, as far away as the Great Plains of North America, people were sickening and dying. Had the Spanish and Portuguese embarked on a policy of deliberate genocide they could not have wreaked a fraction of the havoc caused by the pathogens they had introduced. Unable to comprehend what was happening, they stood amazed as the thriving communities they had conquered evaporated before their very eyes. Within a century of the Europeans’ arrival, roughly 90 per cent of the population of the Americas perished.

What would have happened to Native Americans had they proven less susceptible to Old World disease may be inferred from the fate of the 12.5 million Africans imported to take their place. Africa had been a source of slave labour since ancient times. Over the centuries it is likely that as many slaves had been marched northward across the Sahara as would be shipped westward across the Atlantic. Some were employed as household servants, others as eunuchs and concubines. Many, however, laboured on the sugar plantations that, from the time of the Crusades onward, advanced steadily westward from Palestine to Cyprus, Majorca, the Iberian Peninsula and thence out into the Atlantic. Well before Columbus’s first American voyage, Madeira had become a wealthy sugar colony employing largely African slave labour."...

H. Lecky describes England’s crusade against slavery as “among the three or four perfectly virtuous acts recorded in the history of nations”. Great powers do not as a rule behave selflessly. Not surprisingly, Lecky’s comment has generally been regarded with scepticism. Now, knowing vastly more than he did about slavery and its abolition, Davis believes Lecky was basically right. Although the American abolition movement came later and assumed a somewhat different character, the same might equally well be said of it. Slaves had never liked being slaves, but the rise of a climate of opinion that objected to slavery on moral grounds was something new. There had been nothing like it in ancient or medieval times or in any other society of which we have record. The upsurge of popular support for abolition both in Britain and the northern USA was unprecedented. Perhaps, David Brion Davis hypothesizes, moral progress is possible.

Whatever lay behind it, the cost of doing away with what up to then had been a resilient, flexible and expanding institution proved formidable. “I thank God”, declared Wilberforce on his deathbed, “that I should have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty millions sterling for the Abolition of slavery.” In terms of loss of trade, the cost was much greater. The United States, confronted by a far larger problem and lacking a central government capable of solving it peacefully, barely survived the ordeal.

Foreign Affairs - The India Model - Gurcharan Das

I have been to India five times since 1968. The last trip was about 7 years ago. The turnabout in India's economy has always been a bit of a mystery to me, given the pervasice beaurocracy and corruption. The author touches upon many aspects of the state of the current Indian economy. He feels that the key to the turnaround were modest liberal refroms initiated by Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s. This increased economic growth markedly, but also brought India to the point of fiscal crisis in the early 1990s. This led to critical reforms, created by the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who was then finace minister.
India is a fascinating case study of economic development, and perhaps a model for other developing countries. The article is long, but a good read if you have interest in international economic development...

Foreign Affairs - The India Model - Gurcharan Das: "Although the world has just discovered it, India's economic success is far from new. After three postindependence decades of meager progress, the country's economy grew at 6 percent a year from 1980 to 2002 and at 7.5 percent a year from 2002 to 2006 -- making it one of the world's best-performing economies for a quarter century. In the past two decades, the size of the middle class has quadrupled (to almost 250 million people), and 1 percent of the country's poor have crossed the poverty line every year. At the same time, population growth has slowed from the historic rate of 2.2 percent a year to 1.7 percent today -- meaning that growth has brought large per capita income gains, from $1,178 to $3,051 (in terms of purchasing-power parity) since 1980. India is now the world's fourth-largest economy. Soon it will surpass Japan to become the third-largest.

The notable thing about India's rise is not that it is new, but that its path has been unique. Rather than adopting the classic Asian strategy -- exporting labor-intensive, low-priced manufactured goods to the West -- India has relied on its domestic market more than exports, consumption more than investment, services more than industry, and high-tech more than low-skilled manufacturing. This approach has meant that the Indian economy has been mostly insulated from global downturns, showing a degree of stability that is as impressive as the rate of its expansion. The consumption-driven model is also more people-friendly than other development strategies. As a result, inequality has increased much less in India than in other developing nations. (Its Gini index, a measure of income inequality on a scale of zero to 100, is 33, compared to 41 for the United States, 45 for China, and 59 for Brazil.) Moreover, 30 to 40 percent of GDP growth is due to rising productivity -- a true sign of an economy's health and progress -- rather than to increases in the amount of capital or labor.

But what is most remarkable is that rather than rising with the help of the state, India is in many ways rising despite the state. The entrepreneur is clearly at the center of India's success story. India now boasts highly competitive private companies, a booming stock market, and a modern, well-disciplined financial sector. And since 1991 especially, the Indian state has been gradually moving out of the way -- not graciously, but kicked and dragged into implementing economic reforms. It has lowered trade barriers and tax rates, broken state monopolies, unshackled industry, encouraged competition, and opened up to the rest of the world. The pace has been slow, but the reforms are starting to add up."

Women back under wraps with Taliban vice squad | The World | The Australian

Women back under wraps with Taliban vice squad | The World | The Australian: "AFGHANISTAN'S notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was set up by the Taliban to enforce bans on women doing anything from working to wearing nail varnish or laughing out loud, is to be recreated by the Government in Kabul.

The decision has provoked an outcry among women and human rights activists who fear a return to the days when religious police patrolled the streets, beating or arresting any woman who was not properly covered by a burka or accompanied by a male relative.

'This is a very bad idea at a bad time,' said Sam Zia-Zarifi, the Asia research director of Human Rights Watch. 'We're close to the edge in Afghanistan. It really could all go wrong and it is alarming that the United Nations and Western governments are not speaking out on this issue.'"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Cuts in Africa Aid Thwart U.S. Goals - New York Times

Cuts in Africa Aid Thwart U.S. Goals - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, July 22 — The Bush administration and Congress have slashed millions of dollars of military aid to African nations in recent years, moves that Pentagon officials and senior military commanders say have undermined American efforts to combat terrorist threats in Africa and to counter expanding Chinese influence there.

Since 2003, Washington has shut down Pentagon programs to train and equip militaries in a handful of African nations because they have declined to sign agreements exempting American troops from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

But the policy, which was designed to protect American troops, has instead angered senior military officials, who say the cuts in military aid are shortsighted and have weakened counterterrorism efforts in places where the threat of international terrorism is said to be most acute."

Read All About It - New York Times

Read All About It - New York Times: "Q: You’re one of several Microsoft entrepreneurs who seem eager to live out some fantasy of saving the world. As the founder of Room to Read, do you really believe you can personally “educate the world’s children,” as the subtitle of your forthcoming book, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World,” proclaims?

We’re trying to open libraries and schools, mostly for kids K to 5, in the developing world at a pace that emulates Starbucks’. With 850 million illiterate people in the world, we need the nonprofit sector to scale rapidly.

But can libraries open as quickly as coffee bars?"

Friday, July 21, 2006

Seed: How We Know

Seed: How We Know: "This revealed the essential connection between learning and doing. The human mind understands the world by interacting with it. When we see an inanimate object that we are familiar with, our mirror neurons instinctively imagine what they could do with that object. A tennis racquet causes our cells to imagine swinging it; a violin causes our cells to imagine playing it. If you happen to be taught algebra by Bob Moses, a math equation might trigger thoughts of taking the subway. A separate brain imaging study has shown that our mirror neurons can even be activated by the sound of words. When we say 'tennis' or 'violin' or 'algebra,' cells in our motor cortex automatically get excited.

What's the point of all this neural activity? Mirror neurons let us comb the world for practical things. Because they translate our ideas into actions, they naturally focus on whatever ideas we know how to use, ignoring the abstract and the theoretical. This makes evolutionary sense. The brain, after all, is an adaptive organ: It evolved to help us cope with a world full of concrete problems, not so that we could excel at metaphysics. (As Goethe quipped, 'In the beginning was the deed.') And even though mirror neurons are just a small cluster of cells, their predilection for action is an essential part of the human mind. They have been implicated in every"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

NPR : New Autism Study Shows Discrepancy in Brains

NPR : New Autism Study Shows Discrepancy in Brains: "July 19, 2006 · Men and boys with autism have fewer neurons in a part of the brain involved in memory and emotion, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California in San Diego and the MIND Institute at UC Davis.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, offers the latest evidence that this area of the brain, called the amygdala, may be one of the keys to understanding autism."

NPR : New Autism Study Shows Discrepancy in Brains

NPR : New Autism Study Shows Discrepancy in Brains: "July 19, 2006 · Men and boys with autism have fewer neurons in a part of the brain involved in memory and emotion, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California in San Diego and the MIND Institute at UC Davis.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, offers the latest evidence that this area of the brain, called the amygdala, may be one of the keys to understanding autism."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jeff Beck//Santana

One more for you--santana plus beck and ?jan hammer
Jeff Beck

Check out this video of one of my favorite guitarists--the fabulous Jeff Beck. Eternal thanks to my partner, Steve, for getting me 5th row tickets to see Mr. Beck 2 years ago--an experience I will never forget!

Inside Congo, An Unspeakable Toll

Inside Congo, An Unspeakable Toll: "But has Congo -- nominally at peace since a truce in 2002 ended its eight-year civil war, but still suffering spasms of violence -- ever occupied its rightful place on that list? Has the scale of the tragedy engulfing the Congolese people received proper attention? The answer, sadly, is no. Ignorance of the calamity occurring in Congo remains almost universal, even though the numbers that reflect it -- particularly the key indicator 'excess mortality,' the number of deaths above normal levels -- are staggering.

The International Rescue Committee, which has been providing humanitarian assistance in Congo since 1996, conducted four mortality surveys in the country between 2000 and 2004. We found that in the most affected zones, the mortality rate over the years covered by our studies (1998 to 2004) exceeded the 'normal' rate for sub-Saharan Africa by nearly 4 million people. This makes the crisis in Congo the deadliest anywhere since the end of World War II, dwarfing Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur and even the South Asian tsunami. Yet for the most part, these deaths have gone all but unnoticed.

Perhaps this is because of the nature of the dying. In an era of instant news cycles, more attention is paid to those who die violently than to those who die of disease. In our most recent Congo survey, only 2 percent of the deaths" Macular degeneration: Help's in sight, but at what cost?

This feature about lucentis vs avastin for macular degeneration in the local Reno paper, demonstrates the need for precision in speaking with the media. All the direct quotes attributed to me have a "folksy" feel, as though the interviewer had the preconceived notion to "paint" me as a local country doctor. I don't remember speaking as informally as I was quoted. But the article presented a fairly balanced view of the debate, notwithstanding the unsubstantiated claims by Genentech that avastin is "not as pure" as lucentis and the claim that lucentis is less inflammatory then avastin...

My only other beef with the article is that the author chose not to highlight the fact that we offer 360 macular rotation surgery here and have had some impressive improvemnts in vision... Macular degeneration: Help's in sight, but at what cost?: "Several questions about cost and the manufacturer's motives are dampening enthusiasm for the first approved drug that reverses a potentially devastating eye disease seen in the elderly."

Touch Messenger sends and receives text messages in Braille

View all images for this article
(4 total)

Touch Messenger sends and receives text messages in Braille

(link to this article)

17, 2006 Samsung’s “Touch Messenger” mobile phone for
the visually impaired has landed a Gold Award at the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).
The innovative Touch Messenger enables the visually impaired users to
send and receive Braille text messages. The 3-4 button on the cell
phone is used as two Braille keypads and text messages can be checked
through the Braille display screen in the lower part. Once this product
is commercialized, it is expected to dramatically boost the quality of
life for visually impaired people, numbering as many as 180 million

The Boy Who Sees with Sound

The Boy Who Sees with Sound

FRIDAY JULY 14, 2006 06:00AM EST

"I'm a normal kid," says Ben, who lost his sight at 3. (above, he inspects his prosthetic eyes.) Photo by: Theo Rigby
The Boy Who Sees with Sound

There was the time a fifth grader thought it would be funny to punch
the blind kid and run. So he snuck up on Ben Underwood and hit him in
the face. That's when Ben started his clicking thing. "I chased him,
clicking until I got to him, then I socked him a good one," says Ben, a
skinny 14-year-old. "He didn't reckon on me going after him. But I can
hear walls, parked cars, you name it. I'm a master at this game."

Ask people about Ben Underwood and you'll hear dozens of stories like
this – about the amazing boy who doesn't seem to know he's blind.
There's Ben zooming around on his skateboard outside his home in
Sacramento; there he is playing kickball with his buddies. To see him
speed down hallways and make sharp turns around corners is to observe a
typical teen – except, that is, for the clicking. Completely
blind since the age of 3, after retinal cancer claimed both his eyes
(he now
wears two prostheses), Ben has learned to perceive and locate objects
by making a steady stream of sounds with his tongue, then listening for
the echoes as they bounce off the surfaces around him. About as loud as
the snapping of fingers, Ben's clicks tell him what's ahead: the echoes
they produce can be soft (indicating metals), dense (wood) or sharp
(glass). Judging by how loud or faint they are, Ben has learned to
gauge distances.

The technique is called echolocation, and many species, most
notably bats and dolphins, use it to get around. But a 14-year-old boy
from Sacramento? While many blind people listen for echoes to some
degree, Ben's ability to navigate in his sightless world is, say
experts, extraordinary. "His skills are rare," says Dan Kish, a blind
psychologist and leading teacher of echomobility among the blind. "Ben
pushes the limits of human perception."

Kish has taught echolocation to scores of blind people as a
supplement to more traditional methods, such as walking with a cane or
a guide dog, but only a handful of people in the world use echolocation
alone to get around, according to the American Foundation for the
Blind. A big part of the reason Ben has succeeded is his mother, who
made the decision long ago never to coddle her son. "I always told him,
'Your name is Benjamin Underwood, and you can do anything,' " says
Aquanetta Gordon, 42, a utilities-company employee. "He can learn to
fly an airplane if he wants to."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sleep deprivation doubles risks of obesity in both children and adults

Sleep deprivation doubles risks of obesity in both children and adults: "Research by Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick has found that sleep deprivation is associated with an almost a two-fold increased risk of being obese for both children and adults.

Early results of a study by Professor Francesco Cappuccio of the University of Warwick's Warwick Medical School were presented to the International AC21 Research Festival hosted this month by the University of Warwick.

The research reviewed current evidence in over 28,000 children and 15,000 adults. For both groups Professor Cappuccio found that shorter sleep duration is associated with almost a two-fold increased risk of being obese.

The research also suggests that those who sleep less have a greater increase in body mass index and waist circumference over time and a greater chance of becoming obese over time.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Chirac warns of 'African flood'

Chirac warns of 'African flood'

Two would-be illegal immigrants after arriving in an open wooden fishing boat in Tenerife. File photo
Thousands of Africans are risking their lives to reach Europe

French President Jacques Chirac has warned that Africans "will flood
the world" unless more is done to develop the continent's economy.

In a TV interview, Mr Chirac said nearly 50% of Africa's
950m population was under 17 and that by 2050 there would be two
billion Africans.

He said the necessary resources had to be made available to help Africa.

"We have an immense problem [in Africa] ... which is that of development," he said in the Bastille Day interview.

'Back to basics'

"If we do not develop... Africa... if we do not
make available the necessary resources to bring about this development,
these people will flood the world," he said.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

George Bush singing "Sunday Bloody Sunday"

Thanks to and Rx @

Yahoo! Answers - What can we do to make poverty history?

Bono is asking what you what can be done to end global poverty...

Yahoo! Answers - What can we do to make poverty history?: "What can we do to make poverty history?

Because of people like you, leaders of the world’s richest countries met in July 2005 and made a number of historic promises to help end the kind of extreme poverty that is needlessly killing 9,000 people a day in Africa. Millions of lives and the future of a continent are at stake.

Click here to watch Bono’s video message:

Discuss Bono and with other fans:

Yahoo! Answers staff note: This is the real Bono!
29354 answers "

GetReligion: July 13, 2006

GetReligion: July 13, 2006: "ut here is what hit me, as I read one of those Noonan-esque blitzes of words, issues and images — what percentage of the issues that haunt our non-naked public square are rooted, to one degree or another, in issues of religion, morality and culture? Check them off as you read the following from Noonan’s column:

We are asking our politicians, our senators and congressmen, to make judgments, decisions and policy on: stem cell research, SDI, Nato composition, G-8 agreements, the history and state of play of judicial and legislative actions regarding press freedoms, the history of Sunni-Shiites tensions, Kurds, tax rates, federal spending, hurricane prediction and response, the building of a library annex in Missoula, the most recent thinking on when human life begins, including the thinking of the theologians of antiquity on when the soul enters the body, chemical weaponry, the Supreme Court, U.S.-North Korean relations, bioethics, cloning, public college curriculums, India-Pakistan relations, the enduring Muslim-Hindu conflict, the constitutional implications of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, Homeland security, Securities and Exchange Commission authority, energy policy, environmental policy, nuclear proliferation, global warming, the stability of Venezuela’s Chavez regime and its implications for U.S. oil prices, the future of Cuba after Castro, progr"ess in gender bias as suggested by comparisons of the number of girls who pursued college-track studies in American public high schools circa 1950 to those on a college-track today, outsourcing, immigration, the comparative efficacy of charter and magnet schools, land use, Kelo, health care, HMO’s, what to do with victims of child abuse, the history of marriage, the nature and origin of homosexuality, V-chips, foreign competition in the making of computer chips, fat levels in potato chips, national policy on the humanities, U.N. reform, and privacy law.

And that was just this week.


P.S. Here is my all-time favorite Noonan blitz of information and images, drawn from her classic column about the “Culture of Death,” written immediately after the Columbine High School massacre.

Your child is an intelligent little fish. He swims in deep water. Waves of sound and sight, of thought and fact, come invisibly through that water, like radar; they go through him again and again, from this direction and that. The sound from the television is a wave, and the sound from the radio; the headlines on the newsstand, on the magazines, on the ad on the bus as it whizzes by — all are waves. The fish — your child—is bombarded and barely knows it. But the waves contain words like this, which I’ll limit to only one source, the news:

. . . was found strangled and is believed to have been sexually molested . . . had her breast implants removed . . . took the stand to say the killer was smiling the day the show aired . . . said the procedure is, in fact, legal infanticide . . . is thought to be connected to earlier sexual activity among teens . . . court battle over who owns the frozen sperm . . . contains songs that call for dominating and even imprisoning women . . . died of lethal injection . . . had threatened to kill her children . . . said that he turned and said, “You better put some ice on that” . . . had asked Kevorkian for help in killing himself . . . protested the game, which they said has gone beyond violence to sadism . . . showed no remorse . . . which is about a wager over whether he could sleep with another student . . . which is about her attempts to balance three lovers and a watchful fiance . . .

This is the ocean in which our children swim. This is the sound of our culture.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Camus and Zidane Offer Views on How Things End - New York Times

Camus and Zidane Offer Views on How Things End - New York Times: "Camus, writing during World War II, the son of a man killed in World War I, captured a 20th-century senselessness in his story of a man driven to an irrational act for which he feels no remorse, for which in fact he feels nothing. The story of Zidane in the World Cup final is also a story of his age."
Zidane chose his fate. We all do, or so Camus believed. Zidane chose his moment, 10 minutes before the end of his career. What he could not determine was what would happen afterward in the age of the global conversation.

Already, theories are swirling, a planetary fog of electronic opinion arising from an act virtually nobody who was there saw. Lip-readers and others claim to know what Materazzi said. Zidane's agent is promising a revelation.

Some defend Zidane, or even perceive a certain elegance in his head butt. Others recoil in horror or anger. One or two hail Zidane's cosmic joke. Jacques Chirac, the French president, thanks Zidane for what he has done for France and for showing "the greatest human qualities." Zizou wins the Golden Ball award for best player.

On my World Cup blog (, I have been deluged with mail about the incident. Jessica Torres wrote from Dallas, Texas: "Two minutes before his fall from grace I was sure he was going to go down in history as a man full of honor, grace and control and take his place with the greats. And then he re-wrote his own destiny. But his actions also made me love him more. Before he was a god. But then he showed us all that he was just a man. A man with weakness and hate."

She concluded: "I am much more affected by him than I would have been had things gone as I hoped. But, my Lord, was that head butt sexy."

Another correspondent, writing from Oakland, California, said: "I think Zidane's performance has always been about controlling rage and focusing it, in one way or another. It was, most of the time, a beautiful thing to behold."

The comment continued: "The zone out of which Zidane's football brilliance came was likely some kind of deeply personal state that he indulged and called upon. Zidane believed that he could do impossible things, or that impossible things could flow out of him if he gave himself over to this state."

Certainly, Zidane was in a place denied most mortals during the French victory over Brazil. His smile was that of a man seeing things others could not. And it is true that he could give the impression that the ball was propelled not precisely by him, but by some force emanating from him.

Camus was averse to judgment. Acts themselves, explicable or not, were all that we could know existed. Meursault felt nothing at his mother's funeral and he killed the Arab in the stunning sunlight. We may wish that the story had been otherwise - as we may wish that love not be close to hate - but the story was what it was.

Zidane, it seems, lost his head. Or perhaps he kept his head and chose to write a coda to his story that would have all the complexity of a great novel. Perhaps he sought an almost unseen act of anger that would prompt a global, virtual argument about the merits or demerits of a gesture without sense.

Seed: Mice Can Feel Cagemates' Pain

Seed: Mice Can Feel Cagemates' Pain

If the world's smallest violin is tiny enough, perhaps a couple of mice could play the world's saddest song on it.

A Canadian research team in the Pain Genetics Lab at McGill University discovered that a mouse's response to pain is intensified in the presence of another mouse that is also in pain. In addition, according to a study published in the June 30th issue of Science, the mice appear to synchronize their pain responses.

"Both of those things, ultimately, are suggestive of empathy," said Jeffrey Mogil, a psychology professor and one of the study's lead authors.
Surprisingly, this only occurred if the mice knew each other—that is, if they had been cagemates for at least two weeks.
"The message 'I'm in pain' appears to be transmitted visually," Mogil said. "Humans are very, very good at telling when another human is in pain by looking at the face, and we think that probably mice can do it, too."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Lexington | Faith, race and Barack Obama |

Lexington | Faith, race and Barack Obama | "For someone so inexperienced, and whose policies are so ill-defined, Mr Obama is extraordinarily popular. He is only 44, but people are already begging him to run for president. Something about him fills a gap in American politics: he seems not to be faking when he talks of mending America's religious and racial divides. He is that rare thing, a black politician who addresses the whole nation, not just an ethnic enclave.

That this is rare is tragic. It is also virtually inevitable, given the way the electoral system works. As a senator, Mr Obama is accountable to an entire state's voters. But every other black member of Congress sits in the House of Representatives, where most represent gerrymandered majority-black districts. Unlike Mr Obama, they need not bother appealing to whites. They need not worry about the ideological centre ground, either; since no Republican can win a majority-black district, the crucial contest is the Democratic primary, in which only the most passionate Democrats vote."

Project Syndicate - Print Commentary

From Jeffrey Sachs--Politicians will follow committed world citizens who commit to global projects...

Project Syndicate - Print Commentary: "Twenty years ago, a grass-roots movement led by Rotary International, a voluntary organization with around 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries, decided to attack. As of the mid-1980’s, there were more than 300,000 cases of polio per year worldwide, despite the disease’s virtual elimination in the richest countries, where vaccination was routine. Rotary took on the challenge of getting vaccines to the poor, in regions with weak or non-existent public health systems. Rotarians dreamed not only of reducing the number of polio cases, but of eradicating the disease entirely. This goal is now within reach.

Rather than wait for politicians to take up the fight against polio, Rotarians led the way. A few years later, the World Health Organization, and then other international agencies and donor countries, joined the cause, creating a coalition of official and private organizations that now support Rotary’s vision. By 2006, the number of polio cases had been cut dramatically, to well under 3,000 cases per year."

Still, despite the difficulties of rooting out the very last cases, the progress made against polio has been historic. More importantly, Rotary’s leadership on polio offers a more general lesson in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger, and disease. Even when politicians don’t lead, it is still possible for committed individuals and voluntary organizations to change the world. The key is to link a bold idea with a practical and powerful technology, and then to push the idea and technology forward through mass citizen action.


These same lessons can be applied to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), the targets for fighting poverty, disease, and hunger that the world’s governments adopted in 2000.
Consider hunger in Africa. Most of Africa’s farmers, working tiny plots, do not produce enough food to feed their families, much less to earn an income. The root of the problem is that Africa’s farmers are too poor to obtain the basic modern inputs—including high-yield seed varieties, fertilizers, and small-scale water management systems—that could enable them to double or triple their output of food and cash crops.

The solution is therefore not much more complicated than a polio vaccine. If organizations like Rotary International can help African farmers to get a 50 kilogram bag of appropriate fertilizer and a 10 kilogram tin of improved seeds, the rise in farm output could be enough to relieve extreme hunger and help farm households begin to earn some income.
The time has arrived for a massive effort by voluntary organizations to take up the MDG’s through private action. We need not wait for the politicians. In a short period of time, the world’s citizens can make deep inroads in the fight against disease, hunger, and poverty. Then the politicians will follow.

The key is practicality, boldness, and, most importantly, a commitment by those who are better off to volunteer their time and money to bring practical help–in the form of high-yield seeds, fertilizers, medicines, bed nets, drinking wells, and materials to build school rooms and clinics—to the world’s poorest people.

When Genocide Worsens - New York Times

When Genocide Worsens - New York Times: "genocide by its nature would seem to be the rock bottom of human behavior. But in Darfur, we see a genocide that is growing worse.

The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed on May 5, signaled a ray of hope in a desperate land. But on the ground, its deadlines are not being met, security is deteriorating, and the violence is rippling from Sudan ever wider into both Chad and the Central African Republic.

One measure of how awful the situation has become in eastern Chad is that at least 15,000 villagers have fled ... into Darfur!

In one broad swath of the Chad border region, the only Westerners brave enough (and crazy enough) to stay are French doctors with Doctors Without Borders. Hats off to them."

One problem is that provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement aren't actually being carried out so far — and in the meantime it has inflamed tensions among the African tribes that have been victimized by the genocide. The Fur tribe, one of the biggest in Darfur ("Darfur" means "Homeland of the Fur"), has mostly opposed the deal, and so there has been fighting between Fur and men of the Zaghawa tribe, whose top commander signed the agreement.

The two most important Bush administration officials on Darfur, Robert Zoellick and Michael Gerson (who has been the conscience of the White House), have both announced their resignations, so there is a vacuum in Washington as well. President Bush should address this vacuum by appointing a top-level envoy for the crisis. Mr. President, how about calling in James Baker, or else Colin Powell?

There are specific measures I can suggest. We need to amplify (though not reopen) the peace agreement to bring the Fur in, and we need to ensure that its deadlines are met. We need a U.N.-led or French-led protection force in eastern Chad. We need to bolster the African Union force in Darfur immediately and push harder for Sudan to admit U.N. peacekeepers. We need a no-fly zone. We need to press Europeans to become more involved and to remind Arabs that the slaughter of several hundred thousand Muslims in Darfur is every bit as worthy of protest as cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

But most of all, we must put genocide squarely on the international agenda. One lesson of history is that world leaders always prefer to ignore a genocide, but when forced to face the horrors — as in Bosnia or Kosovo — they figure out ways of responding. The most acute need is not for policies but for political will.

So here's a suggestion: Let's charter a few cargo planes to carry the corpses of hundreds of new victims from Darfur and Chad to the U.N. The butchered victims of Darfur could lie in state as a memorial to global indifference — and as a spur to become serious about the first genocide of the 21st century.

The Immigration Equation - New York Times

A long (11 page) article from the New York Times magazine yesterday that is an excellent digest of the issues surrounding the current immigration debate...
The Immigration Equation - New York Times: "The debate among economists is whether low-income workers are hurt a lot or just a little — and over what the answer implies for U.S. policy. If you believe Borjas, the answer is troubling. A policy designed with only Americans' economic well-being in mind would admit far fewer Mexicans, who now account for about 3 in 10 immigrants. Borjas, who emigrated from Cuba in 1962, when he was 12 (and not long after soldiers burst into his family's home and ordered them at gunpoint to stand against a wall), has asserted that the issue, indeed, is 'Whom should the United States let in?'

Such a bald approach carries an overtone of the ethnic selectivity that was a staple of the immigration debates a century ago. It makes many of Borjas's colleagues uncomfortable, and it is one reason that the debate is so charged. Another reason is that many of the scholars who disagree with Borjas also hail from someplace else — like gardeners and seamstresses, a surprising number of Ph.D. economists in the U.S. are foreign-born."

Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend - New York Times

A fascinating article on the role of the Spanish in American history...

Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend - New York Times

This national amnesia isn't new, but it's glaring and supremely paradoxical at a moment when politicians warn of the threat posed to our culture and identity by an invasion of immigrants from across the Mexican border. If Americans hit the books, they'd find what Al Gore would call an inconvenient truth. The early history of what is now the United States was Spanish, not English, and our denial of this heritage is rooted in age-old stereotypes that still entangle today's immigration debate.

Forget for a moment the millions of Indians who occupied this continent for 13,000 or more years before anyone else arrived, and start the clock with Europeans' presence on present-day United States soil. The first confirmed landing wasn't by Vikings, who reached Canada in about 1000, or by Columbus, who reached the Bahamas in 1492. It was by a Spaniard, Juan Ponce de León, who landed in 1513 at a lush shore he christened La Florida.

Most Americans associate the early Spanish in this hemisphere with Cortés in Mexico and Pizarro in Peru. But Spaniards pioneered the present-day United States, too. Within three decades of Ponce de León's landing, the Spanish became the first Europeans to reach the Appalachians, the Mississippi, the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains. Spanish ships sailed along the East Coast, penetrating to present-day Bangor, Me., and up the Pacific Coast as far as Oregon.

From 1528 to 1536, four castaways from a Spanish expedition, including a "black" Moor, journeyed all the way from Florida to the Gulf of California — 267 years before Lewis and Clark

The Spanish didn't just explore, they settled, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565. Santa Fe, N.M., also predates Plymouth: later came Spanish settlements in San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego and San Francisco. The Spanish even established a Jesuit mission in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay 37 years before the founding of Jamestown in 1607.
The early history of Spanish North America is well documented, as is the extensive exploration by the 16th-century French and Portuguese. So why do Americans cling to a creation myth centered on one band of late-arriving English — Pilgrims who weren't even the first English to settle New England or the first Europeans to reach Plymouth Harbor? (There was a short-lived colony in Maine and the French reached Plymouth earlier.)

The easy answer is that winners write the history and the Spanish, like the French, were ultimately losers in the contest for this continent. Also, many leading American writers and historians of the early 19th century were New Englanders who elevated the Pilgrims to mythic status (the North's victory in the Civil War provided an added excuse to diminish the Virginia story). Well into the 20th century, standard histories and school texts barely mentioned the early Spanish in North America.

While it's true that our language and laws reflect English heritage, it's also true that the Spanish role was crucial. Spanish discoveries spurred the English to try settling America and paved the way for the latecomers' eventual success. Many key aspects of American history, like African slavery and the cultivation of tobacco, are rooted in the forgotten Spanish century that preceded English arrival.

There's another, less-known legacy of this early period that explains why we've written the Spanish out of our national narrative. As late as 1783, at the end of the Revolutionary War, Spain held claim to roughly half of today's continental United States (in 1775, Spanish ships even reached Alaska). As American settlers pushed out from the 13 colonies, the new nation craved Spanish land. And to justify seizing it, Americans found a handy weapon in a set of centuries-old beliefs known as the "black legend."...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dr. Peter Rost: Liquid Gold

Dr. Peter Rost: Liquid Gold: "Wet Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over 65. And it is a wonderful thing when a new drug gets approved, which can treat this terrible disease.

But what if it turns out that new drug isn't really so new, that it is really the equivalent of selling bottled water at $2 per bottle instead of paying perhaps 2 cents for hundreds of gallons of tap water?

Don't get me wrong, water is essential, and so is this new drug, developed by Genentech.

The drug is called Lucentis, and a doctor needs to inject it into the eye. Here's a description of the drug: Lucentis is a humanized antibody fragment designed to bind and inhibit Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A (VEGF-A), a protein that is believed to play a critical role in angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). These blood vessels cause the blindness.

But here's the description of another Genentech drug, called Avastin: AVASTIN® is a recombinant humanized monoclonal IgG1 antibody that binds to and inhibits the biologic activity of human vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Detect the very similar language? Yep. The reason is that these are virtually the same drugs.

So what's going on here, you may wonder?

Well, Avastin is a great cancer drug. It costs about $50,000 a year when used intravenously to treat colon cancer.

But it can also be used to treat Wet Macular Degeneration. The "problem" is that very low doses are needed, so the cost for an injection into the eye is only about $20 to $100. So annual cost is "only" about $1,000.

That's not good news for Genentech.

So they "developed" Lucentis.

And whops, now the cost for an injection of the "new" drug Lucentis is expected to be from $1,500 to well over $2,000. And the annual cost will be over $10,000.

And the world is back to where it should be, with very expensive drugs.

And that's the way Genentech likes the world.

posted by Peter Rost @ 9:54 AM"

Thursday, July 06, 2006

OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts

OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts: "My kids want me to stay home tonight so that they can play Hop on Pop. But I'm hoping that my wife and I will somehow manage to hop on a plane to Finland instead.

Finland, you see, will play host this weekend to the 11th annual World Championship of Wife-Carrying, a bizarre sports festival held in a country that loves peculiar competitions. (The Finns also hold annual contests in mosquito-killing, sand-skiing, beer-barrel rolling, and 'air guitar' playing.)

In the wife-carrying competition, men physically transport their spouses over a grueling 831-foot obstacle course that includes log hurdles, hairpin curves, changing terrain, and a four-foot-deep pool of cold water. Husbands can haul their brides any way they wish--piggyback, fireman's carry, over-the-transom style--but they are severely penalized if they drop their wives at any point."

After everyone has finished the course, the husband with the fastest time wins an array of prizes, including--get this--the equivalent of his wife's weight in beer!

But I think there may be more to this than just a bunch of oafs trying to get in touch with their Inner Caveman by competing to win their wife's weight in beer.

Indeed, I find it curious that a He-Man event of this kind is held every year in the most androgynous region of the world. And I find it even more curious that the Finns--who determinedly promote gender equality in all of their "official" decrees--just as determinedly promote gender-specific roles in the World Championship of Wife-Carrying.


Still, it is important to note that the World Championship of Wife-Carrying doesn't fit very neatly into the Western world's official framework for gender relations.

Over the past half-century, our official gender debate has often forced people to choose between gender equality and gender-specific roles. You could be against misogyny. Or against androgyny. But you couldn't be against both. At least not in the official debate.

But in our private lives--especially in those leisure pursuits that often (unconsciously) reveal our deepest hopes and aspirations--I get the impression that most couples somewhat paradoxically want both gender equality and gender-specific roles....
Related Posts with Thumbnails