Thursday, August 31, 2006

Latest on Darfur

(via my son Ryan's blog: )
Critical News!!!

This morning, the United Nations Security Council passed a
resolution authorizing a peacekeeping force in Darfur. The presence of
a peacekeeping force is the only measure that will provide the security
the people of Darfur desperately need.

This morning's vote is unmistakable evidence of the effectiveness
that the pressure you, and hundreds of thousands of Darfur activists
like you, have applied to world leaders. The international community
has shown that the will now exists to end the genocide in Darfur.

Yet, before peacekeepers can be deployed, the resolution says the Sudanese government must first agree to permit them.

This means that we cannot yet let up on the pressure.
One way to continue to make your voice heard is to attend the "Save
Darfur Now: Voices to End Genocide" rally and concert in New York
City's Central Park on September 17. Click here for more information.
you cannot make it to New York, there are other September 17 events
taking place all over the country and the world as part of a Global Day
for Darfur. For more information on US events, click here. And for more information on international events, click here.

As always, thank you for everything you do.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Shout Out to "Change the World Kind of People."

This past summer I spent a week in Maryland visiting relatives and family. While there, I was fortunate to be selected to speak at a panel at a leadership conference, in which I met incredibly inspiring people, ranging from the mother of an autistic child, an AIDS activist from Cameroon, a consultant who helps place people with NGOs, a student activist at Yale etc...One of the common threads that we all discussed was that for many of us "our inspiration found us, instead of the other way around." Before our discussion I thought that this experience was unique to me with respect to my initially unplanned journey to Saudi Arabia, which lasted nearly a decade.

That period in Riyadh was a life-changing experience for me in many ways (that would require a separate blog post, or ?novel)...But, one of the most important lessons from that time was how many truly blind people there are in the world. I was fortunate to be part of a very intense effort at the largest eye hospital in the world (The King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital) to "stamp out blindness in Asia Minor." Hence, my continued interest in international ophthalmology even though I have been back in the U.S. for nearly four years

Later that same week in Maryland, I met a friend of mine from college and her husband who have dedicated their post student lives to public health projects in the third world, including Vit A supplementation to prevent night-blindness (a great cause--speaking as an ophthalmologist). They have been living in Indonesia for the past five years and had just completed study on prenatal vitamin supplementation to pregnant women. The study involved over 30, 000 women.

I also have friends referenced before in this blog, who spent two years overseas doing mission work as ophthalmologists in Nigeria. I met them in Saudi Arabia, along with many of my most inspirational friends. Another example of such a friend from Saudi is an ex--airforce pilot, turned ophthalmologist, who has adopted five children (at last count) of mixed ethnicities.

I have been truly blessed to have had the privilege of the friendship of such great people.Every time I meet people like these, I feel refreshed, re energized and enthusiastic...

Thus I want to give
shout-out to my inspired friends who have dedicated tremendous effort to such altruistic causes...and who continue to inspire me...

Africa Adds to Miserable Rank of Child Workers

Watch the video and be glad that you don't live in Zambia...

LUSAKA, Zambia — The boulders here are hard enough that the scavengers who have taken over the abandoned quarry south of downtown prefer not to strike them directly with their hammers.

They heat the rocks first — with flaming tires, scrap plastic, even old rubber boots — so that the stones will fracture more easily.

At dusk, when three or four blazes spew choking black clouds across the huge pit, the quarry looks like a woodcut out of Dante.

A boy named Alone Banda works in this purgatory six days a week.

Nine years old, nearly lost in a hooded sweatshirt with a skateboarder on the chest, he takes football-size chunks of fractured rock and beats them into powder.

Lacking a hammer, he uses a thick steel bolt gripped in his right hand.

In a good week, he says, he can make enough powder to fill half a bag.

His grandmother, Mary Mulelema, sells each bag, to be used to make concrete, for 10,000 kwacha, less than $3. Often, she said, it is the difference between eating and going hungry...

In Chechen’s Humiliation, Questions on Rule of Law - New York Times

Watch this very disturbing video and be glad you don't live in Chechnya...

International News - New York Times: "Chechen security forces��� brutish acts, such as the torture of a woman accused of adultery, have gone unpunished.

* Video: Revival of Brutality in Chechnya"

How a Vaccine Search Ended in Triumph - New York Times

How a Vaccine Search Ended in Triumph - New York Times: "There are fascinating stories behind every advance in medicine, be it hand washing or brain surgery. But the 70-year history behind the creation of a vaccine against human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, is more fraught than most with blind alleys, delicate moments, humor and triumph."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ten Things to Learn This Year

An excellent distillation advice for working in the "real world" from the business guru, Guy Kawasaki...

Ten Things to Learn This School Year iStock_000000218096Small.gif I’m on the campus of UCSB this week at family camp, and it's inspired me to blog about what students should learn in order to prepare for the real world after graduation. This is an opportune time to broach this subject because the school year is about to begin, and careers can still be affected. First, take this little test about the state of your understanding of the real world right after you graduated from school.

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity - New York Times

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity - New York Times: "With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers."

The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back

The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back: "Wanted: Singing, Kung-Fu Stewardesses"

What are the requirements to be a flight attendant? A cute wiggle. A superhuman patience with the bovanity of humankind. The ability to comfortably work for hours at a time in panty hose.

Those are all tall orders. But for prospective stewardesses for China's Sichuan Airlines, their chances of getting a coveted air hostess job got even harder: they need to know how to dance, sing and do kung-fu.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Clinical Cases and Images - Blog: What's New in General Internal Medicine?

Clinical Cases and Images - Blog: What's New in General Internal Medicine?: "The latest Update in General Internal Medicine is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (PDFs free after 6 months). While the whole text is spread over 11 pages, I would like to summarize just a few things I found useful. Recommendations are divided in 3 groups: 'start', 'consider' and 'stop.'"

Psychology Today: The Hidden Side of Happiness

Psychology Today: The Hidden Side of Happiness: "The Hidden Side of Happiness
Pleasure only gets you so far. A rich, rewarding life often requires a messy battle with adversity.
By:Kathleen McGowan"

Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last - New York Times

Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last - New York Times: "EIGHT months ago a mysterious image showed up on YouTube, the video-sharing site that now shows more than 100 million videos a day. A sinewy figure in a swimming-pool-blue T-shirt, his eyes obscured by a beige baseball cap, was playing electric guitar. Sun poured through the window behind him; he played in a yellow haze. The video was called simply ���guitar.��� A black-and-white title card gave the performer���s name as funtwo."

Before the ���04 Tsunami, an Earthquake So Violent It Even Shook Gravity - New York Times

Before the ���04 Tsunami, an Earthquake So Violent It Even Shook Gravity - New York Times: "The giant earthquake that set off a devastating tsunami across the Indian Ocean in December 2004 disrupted the earth enough to change gravity and to deflect satellites passing hundreds of miles above."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics and You - Secret Worlds: The Universe Within - Interactive Java Tutorial

Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics and You - Secret Worlds: The Universe Within - Interactive Java Tutorial: "View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons."

Mirage at the Bottom of the Pyramid | - Development Through Enterprise

Mirage at the Bottom of the Pyramid | - Development Through Enterprise: "Poor people ��� at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) ��� represent a very attractive market opportunity. The ���BOP proposition��� argues that selling to the poor can simultaneously be profitable and help eradicate poverty. This is at best a harmless illusion and potentially a dangerous delusion. My recent paper shows that the BOP argument is riddled with fallacies, and proposes an alternative perspective on how the private sector can help alleviate poverty. Rather than focusing on the poor as consumers, we need to view the poor as producers. The only way to alleviate poverty is to raise the real income of the poor."

The Ad Starbucks Doesn't Want You To See... Because It Sucks. - Consumerist

The Ad Starbucks Doesn't Want You To See... Because It Sucks. - Consumerist: "The Ad Starbucks Doesn't Want You To See... Because It Sucks."

Blood on the tracks - The Boston Globe

Blood on the tracks - The Boston Globe: "David Hume wrote that reason is a ``slave to the emotions.' But new research suggests that in our moral decision-making, reason and emotion duke it out within the mind."

...the results should lead us to be skeptical about our snap moral decisions, however natural and obvious they seem, as they may be very much affected by the mood we happen to be in.

In Niger, Using Vacation to Help the World’s Poor

Beats Disneyland :)...

That was the start of a two-week trip to a nation that the New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof recently called “the most wretched country in the world,” and a venture that grew out of a question our 16-year-old daughter, Leslie Brian, posed after hearing yet another news account of suffering in Africa.

“So, is there anything we can do about it?” she had asked.

For seven nights during an extended spring break, our family joined Wodaabe and Tuareg nomads in the Niger desert in an immersion experience offered through a small nonprofit organization, the Nomad Foundation of Ojai, Calif. Our itinerary hinted at the remoteness of our destination: “Most of these locations refer to wells and will not mean much to anybody but the people who live there.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Princeton University - Snap judgments decide a face's character, psychologist finds

Princeton University - Snap judgments decide a face's character, psychologist finds: "We may be taught not to judge a book by its cover, but when we see a new face, our brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within a tenth of a second, according to recent Princeton research. "

Immune System Might Be Revived in Patients

A spirited race between top immunology teams is set to culminate today with the publication of two scientific papers reaching broadly similar conclusions about the AIDS virus: It exploits the human body's natural mechanism for shutting down the immune system, and the process can be reversed.

The findings raise the tantalizing possibility that doctors one day could switch a patient's immune system back on, so that it could resume its fight against HIV, or even cancer cells, certain parasites or the virus that causes hepatitis C. Those very different diseases "have one common denominator," says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "They persist. They're chronic."

Nevertheless, research in this area is exploding. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding a team researching how to turn the immune system back on in hepatitis C patients. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are studying PD-1 in tuberculosis, one of the world's leading killers.

"This isn't just HIV," says Harvard University immunologist Bruce Walker, the lead researcher on the study published in Nature. "This is much broader."

Research has progressed furthest in cancer, where scientists have shown that PD-1 can shut down immune responses when it is activated by certain types of tumor cells.

The research being published today goes further to address one of the most vexing mysteries in the biology of AIDS. Key immune-system cells known as HIV-specific CD8 killer T-cells exist in high numbers in many HIV-infected patients. Early in the course of the infection, these cells kill other cells carrying the virus. But in long-term patients, these cells barely fight the virus at all. The reigning theory was that HIV somehow disabled them. That may still be true in part, but today's studies reveal that HIV actually exploits the body's own mechanism for shutting the cells down.

The PD-1 molecule buds on the surface of the killer T-cells that target HIV. By itself, PD-1 is inert and does nothing. But when PD-1 encounters a partner molecule, or ligand, the interaction sets off a chain reaction inside the killer T-cells. The T-cells multiply much more slowly or not at all, and overall they secrete far less of their powerful cytokines, the researchers found. Essentially, they abandon the fight.

Malaria's Toll

Malaria's Toll
August 21, 2006; Page A11

Each year, malaria afflicts a half-billion people (roughly the population of North America) and kills a million of them
(roughly the population of San Jose). And the latter is a low-end estimate. The actual number of fatalities is hard to pin down, since a body initially weakened by malaria becomes predisposed to other maladies.

But we do know that malarial mosquitoes are attracted to the tropical climes of sub-Saharan Africa, where they prey on impoverished populations that lack the sprays, screens and bed nets necessary to keep the insects at bay. Hence, some 75% of malaria victims are African pregnant women and children under five.

The economist William Easterly calculates that medicine that would prevent half of all malaria deaths costs only $0.12 a dose, and bed nets that would severely limit new cases cost a mere $4 apiece. "Preventing five million child deaths over the next ten years would cost just three dollars for each new mother," he writes in his book "The White Man's Burden."

Mr. Easterly argues that the tragic incompetence of the Western foreign aid industry -- $2.3 trillion spent, over five decades, but little forward advance -- stems from its overly bureaucratic approach to problem-solving. Agencies like the World Health Organization, the Global Fund and the World Bank traditionally have been staffed by well-meaning "planners," to use his term, who see "poverty as a technical engineering problem that [their] answers will solve."

What these organizations really need, says Mr. Easterly, are more of what he calls "searchers," or people who understand that "poverty is a complicated tangle of political, social, historical, institutional and technological factors." Where planners raise high expectations but take no responsibility for meeting them, searchers prefer to work case-by-case, using trial and error to tailor solutions to individual problems, fully aware that most remedies must be homegrown.
[Lance Laifer]

Lance Laifer, a hedge-fund manager in Connecticut, is a searcher. The horrors of malaria came to his attention in May 2005 via a Charlie Rose interview with Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs, the development expert (and quintessential planner). "I didn't know anything about malaria," Mr. Laifer said in a recent interview. "I didn't know it still existed. I didn't know it was still killing people. I thought it was eradicated a long time ago. I was just flabbergasted."


Mr. Laifer turned his outrage into something of an obsession. He began researching malaria intensely; and he also ran some numbers. Bed nets, medications, insecticide, swamp drainage, etc., came to less than $10,000 for a typical African village of 1,000 people. "That's a doable number," Mr. Laifer concluded.

And then he picked up the phone, turning to friends and associates who help him organize an annual fundraiser to fight cancer. "I basically had a group of people that I know have very big hearts in this area, specifically in dealing with children," he says. "So I called them and said, 'What do you know about malaria and how many people are dying from it?'"

That was the starting point. Where it will end is anyone's guess. Inside of a year, and working with George Ayittey of the Free Africa Foundation, Mr. Laifer's efforts have spawned five "malaria-free zones" in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. Expansion to Ivory Coast and Benin is in the works. He adds that he has the financing to roll out additional zones this year but -- ever the searcher -- first wants to assess what's working and what isn't. If all is going well, "next year I see us doing something like 100 villages."

Mr. Laifer says a future focus will also be DDT, the pesticide used by Americans and Europeans in the 1940s to win domestic fights against malarial mosquitoes. Indoor spraying of DDT is by far the cheapest and most effective way to control the disease. One South Africa province employing DDT saw malaria infections and deaths drop 96% over a three-year span.

African nations, fearful that lucrative European and U.S. markets might ban their agricultural exports, make do with less-effective DDT substitutes. Though DDT, like any chemical, can be harmful in high doses, there's no evidence that using it in the amounts needed to combat malaria has any ill-effect whatsoever on humans.

But Mr. Bate says the reality is that economic development is the only sure-fire anti-malaria strategy. "We eradicated malaria in Malaysia in the '50s and '60s, and in Singapore at the same time. It came back in Malaysia in the '70s but not in Singapore, and the reason it came back is that there wasn't enough wealth for people to have screens on the windows. Singapore's economy, however, grew rapidly, and there isn't a problem there anymore."

Which is why sub-Saharan Africa's poverty and poor infrastructure make it such a difficult case. And why widespread health problems will persist in the region until people are no longer living under exposed conditions and able to get proper treatment. Not that Mr. Laifer is bowed by these challenges. "All I'm trying to do is give these kids their lives back," he says. "Somebody needs to do this."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Seed: Infants May be Able to Detect Arithmetic Errors

Seed: Infants May be Able to Detect Arithmetic Errors: "In a discovery that could shed light on the development of the human brain, University of Oregon researchers determined that infants as young as six months old can recognize simple arithmetic errors."

VOA News - AIDS Worsens Violence Against Women

VOA News - AIDS Worsens Violence Against Women: "���Up to 30 percent of women in the world report that their first sexual experience was forced or coerced. That means they���re not choosing to lose their virginity. They���re actually experiencing that loss of a precious choice by violence. In some places more than half of school children experience sexual or physical violence while they���re at school at the hands of their classmates or their teachers. And some studies have found that women who experience violence are up to three times more likely to acquire HIV than women who do not."

"We go through violence in peace time. We go through violence in conflict. And we go through violence in post conflict situations.”

She says the ABC approach to AIDS prevention, Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condoms, does not work when a woman is raped.

And as for the hope of an effective microbicide, which would help women protect themselves from HIV during sex, Wandia asks:

“How am I going to be able to have time to use the microbicide if somebody is raping me? How is a small girl going to have time to use microbicides when she’s facing violence on the way to school, when she’s facing violence in school?”

She says the violence continues even after the rape. For example, thousands of women who were raped and infected with HIV during the 1994 Rwandan genocide are shunned by their families, disinherited and lack access to any property.

HIV Nigerians Treated Like Dogs

Your colleagues, your landlord and your people stop having anything to do with you. Your family may even build a separate room for you and leave you there to die.

When I went to have my baby I was supposed to have a caesarean section, but the staff refused to do the operation because I was HIV positive.

The folder at the end of my bed was marked "WXYZ" in large letters - a euphemism meaning that you're HIV positive and on your way out.


If a woman talks about a condom people will think she is a prostitute.

If you tell your husband to use a condom he will ask you, "Did I marry you for you to give me an order?"


Without free testing and treatment we have no future and our children have no hope.
Do not let us die like dogs in the streets.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

M.C. Escher photoshopping at Worth 1000

Escher Tattoo
Check out the link for more....

Researchers create human-like "shape-shifting" lens

Researchers create human-like "shape-shifting" lens

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have gone back to
the source for inspiration with their new artificial lens, creating a
so-called "shape-shifting" lens that mimics the way a human eye works.
Like other liquid lenses,
theirs uses a glass-oil-water interface, but it also adds a a ring of
polymer gel around the lens that acts like a muscle, changing the focal
length as it expands and contracts. What's more, the gel apparently
works simply by reacting to environmental changes, like a rise in
temperature or change in acidity, allowing for both smaller and more
power-efficient imaging devices than other similar lenses. One example
the researchers give is an implantable lens that could react to protein
changes in the human body. Not quite Fantastic Voyage territory, but we'll take what we can get.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things

Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things: "Salon reviews a fascinating-sounding book called The Wonga Coup, about a gang of rich western thugs who proposed a competition to hire mercenaries and topple the government of Equatorial Guinea and loot its treasuries -- the winner got to keep the country's wealth."


The Wonga Coup never came off, but not because of the kind of double-crossing anticipated in that early planning document. Adam Roberts, a correspondent for the Economist magazine and a journalist steeped in the skulduggery of modern Africa, describes just how this "improbable escapade" was born and ruined in his new book, "The Wonga Coup." One of the strangest aspects of the story is that the Wonga Coup nearly replicated an earlier failed attempt to take over Equatorial Guinea in 1973. And that coup had since been fictionalized in a bestselling book, popular with the mercenary crowd, by Frederick Forsyth, "The Dogs of War." A case of life imitating art imitating life? The truth is even more bizarrely convoluted: Roberts has found evidence that Forsyth himself financed the 1973 coup. (And Forsyth has more or less admitted as much.)
(via boingboing)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Talking Points - On the Recentness of What We Know by Verlyn Klinkenborg - New York Times

A beautifully written essay on the evolution of cosmology--the kind of writing that illuminates, explicates, and reorients one's perspective...

Talking Points - On the Recentness of What We Know by Verlyn Klinkenborg - New York Times

I’ve been watching the stars for nearly half a century now. Not much has changed up there. The sky is a memory in itself. I stared at the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter through a small telescope of my own when I was a boy in Iowa. I spent part of a summer watching meteors while I was helping my family build a house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and part of a winter star-gazing from the top of a mesa on the Hopi Reservation, where somehow the smell of cedar mingled with the light of the moon. The only thing that has changed in all that time—apart from a few new satellites crossing the sky—is the state of my knowledge.

* * *

The same could be said for the whole of humanity. Besides a supernova here and there or a comet fluttering past, the night sky visible to the naked eye has barely changed as long as our species has been looking at it, unlike the stories we use to describe what we see up there. In a metaphorical sense, each human culture, separate in time or place, has lived under a different celestial roof. The metaphors for the heavens have changed over time, but not nearly as much as what we know about the universe itself.


But I am overwhelmed by the recentness of what we know.

* * *

Take, for instance, a relatively fundamental set of facts, something "everybody knows." Earth belongs to the solar system, and the solar system, with the Sun at its center, belongs to a galaxy called the Milky Way, which is about 100,000 light years across. The Milky Way is one of perhaps a hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe, each one containing perhaps a hundred billion stars. But until 1925, many astronomers believed — on the available evidence — that the Milky Way contained the whole of the observable universe, and that our galaxy was thus the only galaxy. Astronomers had seen and catalogued plenty of galaxies — they were called nebulae in those days — but there was no way to know how far away they really were.


To a casual naked-eye observer on Earth it makes no practical difference whether the universe is the size of the Milky Way or much, much bigger. In fact, it makes little difference whether we’re looking up at stars scattered across empty space or at an empyrean of concentric crystalline spheres. The night sky overhead would look the same.

Or would it? Actually, I don’t think so.

What we see when we look up into the darkness of a summer night isn’t just a pattern of pinpoint lights. We’re also looking up at the state of our knowledge and the contents of our imagination. Does our own galaxy encompass the whole observable universe? Or is it only one among a huge number of galaxies in a vastly larger universe? The difference is enormous. Both are theories. One was plausible before 1925. The other is now true. The revolution in imagining who we are, or rather where we are, is nearly Copernican.


In 1931, Edwin Hubble concluded that the universe was 1.8 billion years old, a nonsensical number since geologists had already shown that the rocks on earth are nearly twice as old. (Recent knowledge in itself!) In 1952, the scale of distance was recalculated with greater accuracy, and suddenly the age of the universe doubled to 3.6 billion years, much older but still a problematic figure. In 1955, the universe aged another 1.9 billion years overnight, again thanks to a clearer understanding of the things that shine in the dark. In the past 80 years the universe has expanded faster and aged faster — in the minds of humans — than it is doing in actuality. The current age of the universe, as measured in 2003, is now 13.7 billion years, give or take 200 million. That is another way of saying that the distance to the edge of the observable universe is 13.7 billion light-years.

What astronomers are seeing when they look at a galaxy like Abell 1835 IR1916 — 13.2 billion light years away — is light (or radiation) that was emitted 13.2 billion years ago, light that is about 3 times older than the planet we live on. Imagine a galaxy just a little farther away, at the extreme edge of what astronomers can observe. Suppose that it emits light even as you’re reading this sentence. How far away will the edge of the observable universe be when that light reaches us? The answer is somewhere between 78 and 90 billion light years. In fact, we — that is, "they" — have no idea how much of our universe lies beyond the threshold of observability. There is even sober speculation that our universe is merely one of a possibly infinite series of universes, that we live in a multiverse. Oddly, one of the best arguments for the multiverse is the simple fact that we exist....

Hezbollah's Other War - New York Times

Hezbollah's Other War - New York Times: The most inciteful and detailed piece I have read regarding the recent history of Lebanon and the role of Hezbollah...definitely worth reading, written by someone in the know--Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper published in Beirut, and a contributing editor at Reason magazine."

Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story -

Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story - "'At night I would fall asleep and be free in my dreams. Then I'd wake up and my situation would land on me like a weight.'
The kidnapping
An interview with an Iraqi politician turns deadly.

NPR : Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures

NPR : Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures: "Morning Edition, August 14, 2006 · Because I have autism, I live by concrete rules instead of abstract beliefs. And because I have autism, I think in pictures and sounds. I don't have the ability to process abstract thought the way that you do. Here's how my brain works: It's like the search engine Google for images. If you say the word 'love' to me, I'll surf the Internet inside my brain. Then, a series of images pops into my head. What I'll see, for example, is a picture of a mother horse with a foal, or I think of 'Herbie the Lovebug,' scenes from the movie Love Story or the Beatles song, 'Love, love, love...'"

Coalition for Darfur

Coalition for Darfur: "The latest analysis from Eric Reeves

There is quite simply no remotely adequate pressure on Khartoum to implement the terms of the DPA, either from the European Union, the US, or other important governments. Nor is there currently any meaningful pressure on Khartoum to accept a robust UN force. It is thus deeply disingenuous for US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack to declare that,

“a United Nations peacekeeping force must deploy without delay. Only a large, robust, mobile, and fast-reacting UN force is capable of stopping the violence and protecting innocent lives and bringing general peace and security under the peace agreement. [ ] Such a transition should take place by October 1 [2006].' (Associated Press [dateline: Washington], August 10, 2006)"

US leadership, as well as that throughout the international community, has recognized only with terrible belatedness the need for a large, robust, well-armed and -equipped force to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur. This has taken over two and a half years.

If the world community waits another two and a half years to deploy an adequate force to Darfur, there will be little to protect other than ashes and bones.

Wired News: Gates Urges AIDS Drug for Women

Wired News: Gates Urges AIDS Drug for Women: "A cream, gel or pill that women can use to protect themselves from the AIDS virus is key to stopping the AIDS pandemic, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to HIV programs, said on Sunday.

Gates said he would step up funding for prevention research but said governments and other donors needed to do so, also."

Saturday, August 12, 2006 | Top Stories | Health | How to wipe out AIDS in 45 years | Top Stories | Health | How to wipe out AIDS in 45 years: "Dr. Julio Montaner, the Argentinian-born director of the internationally acclaimed B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and president-elect of the International AIDS Society, doesn't exactly think small. On Aug. 4, The Lancet published a paper in which Montaner and his colleagues outline a theory to eradicate the global spread of HIV within 4 1/2 decades. And it has nothing to do with condoms, abstinence or free needle exchanges.

The Lancet paper, ambitiously entitled 'The case for expanding access to highly active anti-retroviral therapy [HAART] to curb the growth of the HIV epidemic,' contends that HAART -- which suppresses the number of copies of a virus in an infected individual -- is responsible for the reduction and stabilization of HIV infection rates in the developed world, and that aggressively expanding its use could effectively halt the spread of the virus in its tracks. Furthermore, Montaner maintains that implementing such a strategy, which he acknowledges would cost in the hundreds of billions of dollars, is not only good health policy but cost-effective as well."

HIV prevention pill shows early promise - Yahoo! News

HIV prevention pill shows early promise - Yahoo! News: "The first test of a daily pill to prevent
HIV infection gave a tantalizing hint of success, but a real answer must await a larger study due out next year.

The experiment, done in Africa, mainly showed that the drug Viread is safe when used for prevention. Fewer people given the drug caught the
AIDS virus than those given dummy pills, but so few in either group became infected that valid comparisons cannot be made, scientists said.

Still, 'it's incredibly encouraging,' said Dr. Helene Gayle, president of the antipoverty group CARE and co-chair of the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, where the results were released on Saturday.

If future studies show effectiveness, the drug 'would be an incredibly important new prevention tool that we should make available as soon as possible,' she said.


. . . And in Another, AIDS in Retreat - New York Times

. . . And in Another, AIDS in Retreat - New York Times: "Twenty-five years into the H.I.V. pandemic, there remain few developing countries that have had success in controlling the virus. Thailand is one of them."


It became clear early on that the commercial sex industry — illegal but popular among Thai men — was at the core of the virus’s explosive spread. The Thai response was the 100 Percent Condom Campaign.

As part of the campaign, public health officials aggressively focused on bars, brothels, nightclubs and massage parlors for condom education, promotion and distribution. Sex workers were likewise offered counseling, testing and treatment. The openness of sex venues there and health officials’ access to the women in them made this a relatively simple intervention.

Venues that did not agree to require condom use were shut down. Signs appeared over bar doors saying, “No condom, no sex, no refund!” And the government put resources behind the effort, distributing some 60 million free condoms a year.

This national mobilization was classically Thai — funny, nonthreatening and sex-positive. When we briefed the Thai surgeon general on an H.I.V. prevention program for soldiers, he said, “Please be sure the program maintains sexual pleasure, otherwise the men won’t like it and won’t use it.”

It worked. By 2001, fewer than 1 percent of army recruits were H.I.V. positive, infection rates had fallen among pregnant women, and several million infections had been averted.

The 100 Percent Condom Campaign proves that H.I.V. prevention efforts can succeed by focusing on at-risk populations, providing tangible services and making healthy behavior, like condom use, social norms. Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and other countries have successfully adopted the Thai model.

It’s troubling then that the United States now requires all foreign and domestic recipients of H.I.V. and AIDS funding to pledge to oppose prostitution. After all, the “100 Percent Condom Campaign” and similar efforts have been shown to decrease the spread of the epidemic through sexual intercourse; the pledge policy can make no such claim.

Quite the opposite: the policy may even limit outreach and access to sex workers, and make condom distribution more difficult. This is why Brazil rejected some $40 million in AIDS funding from the United States last year rather than take the pledge.

In One Country, AIDS on the Rampage . . . - New York Times

In One Country, AIDS on the Rampage . . . - New York Times: "When I arrived in Swaziland in 1999, no one even wanted to call AIDS by its name. “Silwane,” people whispered, using a siSwati word for a fearsome animal, “Silwane got him.” Others said it was witchcraft.

In some measure, it was the failure of Swaziland to recognize the disease that gave it the world’s highest prevalence of H.I.V. More than 17,000 people in this tiny kingdom nestled in the hills of southern Africa have been dying each year of AIDS, in a population of about one million. At last count in 2004, 56 percent of pregnant women ages 25 to 29 had H.I.V.

The ascent was swift. H.I.V. prevalence among pregnant women was less than 4 percent in 1992, when the takeoff began, 16 percent in 1994, 26 percent two years after that, and upward ever since. H.I.V. bides its time, leaving young women looking beautiful and men feeling lusty for years before it wears down their immune systems and the debilitating infections of AIDS appear.

That has meant plenty of opportunity for those with H.I.V. to spread the virus unknowingly, and sometimes knowingly. Policies imported from the West haven’t helped to encourage widespread testing."

Grandmothers Rally to Raise AIDS Orphans - New York Times

Grandmothers Rally to Raise AIDS Orphans - New York Times: "TORONTO, Aug. 12 — After burying their children, they must take care of the children of their children.

They are the “AIDS grannies” of Africa: women like Matilda Mwenda, 51, of Zambia, who has lost two of her seven children to AIDS, leaving five orphaned grandchildren in her care, along with two nieces who were orphaned when her sister died of AIDS."

The pandemic has created an estimated 12 million orphans in Africa, with the number expected to grow to 18 million by 2010. The burden of care has fallen on grandmothers, whose extended families often exceed a dozen children.

“Governments haven’t the faintest idea what to do,” said Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations who is Secretary General Kofi Annan’s representative to Africa for AIDS.

“The policies for orphans, more often than not, are a grab bag of frantic interventions, where faith-based and community-based groups try desperately to cope with the numbers, but rarely have either the capacity or the resources,” he said.

His nonprofit Stephen Lewis Foundation ( sponsored the gathering here. As the foundation prepared for the gathering, it learned that a small number of Canadian grandmothers had established connections with grandmothers in Africa, particularly a group called the Go Go Grannies in Alexandria Township near Johannesburg.

Twenty-five years after AIDS was first detected, no master plan exists to deal with its orphans.

“What the world fails to recognize is that these children don’t become orphans when their parents die, they become orphans while their parents are dying,” said Mr. Lewis, the United Nations representative.

In the absence of a grandmother or other relative to care for AIDS orphans, the oldest child becomes the head of the household and looks after the siblings.

“Many orphans play, beg for food and sleep on the streets,” Ms. Matimuna said. Some go naked for lack of clothes. As the orphans grow up, some commit crimes. Some become prostitutes, get pregnant and are infected with H.I.V.

The transfer of love, knowledge and values from one generation to the other is gone, and with it goes the confidence, security and sense of place that children normally take for granted, Mr. Lewis said.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Treehugger: Solar Wi-Fi To Bring Internet to Developing Countries

There are some really neat solar powered devices out there, including e.g., solar powered rechargers for ipods, which my friend Teresa, a peace corp worker, recently took back with her to Niger, as a gift from the local Comp USA mangager. He also gave her an ipod nano...

Treehugger: Solar Wi-Fi To Bring Internet to Developing Countries: "It's nice when green thinking can be applied to closing the gaps between underdeveloped countries; indeed, when power's not available, green solutions are practically a neccessity. Already, MIT and the UN have teamed up to provide kids living in the world's least developed nations $100 laptops, their 2 watts of juice provided by hand or foot crank. Cool, but—and this was one of Bill Gates' criticisms—what's a computer without internet access? Enter Green Wi-Fi, a non-profit that seeks to provide 'last mile internet access with nothing more than a single broadband internet connection, rooftops and the sun.' "

Tale of the Tapeworm (Squeamish Readers Stop Here) - New York Times

Tapeworm and Vit B12 deficiency...

Tale of the Tapeworm (Squeamish Readers Stop Here) - New York Times: "This is a Jewish fish story. Or more accurately a Jewish fishworm story." Photos: British Airways Boeing 777-236/ER

Check out this incredible photo of an air wake from a jet... Photos: British Airways Boeing 777-236/ER: "URL (link) to this photo:"

We use fluorescein dye to image the is a neat video which utilizes the dye to "make time go backwards." Check out the following link for more:

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cheap Solutions Cut AIDS Toll for Poor Kenyan Youths - New York Times

Cheap Solutions Cut AIDS Toll for Poor Kenyan Youths - New York Times: "At a time when millions of people each year are still being infected with the virus that causes AIDS, particularly in Africa, a rigorous new study has identified several simple, inexpensive methods that helped reduce the spread of the disease among Kenyan teenagers, especially girls.

In Kenya, where poverty drives some girls to sleep with older men for money or gifts, teenage girls are seven times more likely to be H.I.V. positive than boys the same age.

The new study found that when informed that older men are much likelier to be infected, teenage girls were far less likely to become pregnant by so-called sugar daddies.

The $1 million study, financed by the Partnership for Child Development, a London-based nonprofit group, did not seek blood tests for H.I.V., since its subjects were minors. Instead, it relied on pregnancy as evidence of unprotected sex.

The study found that when girls in impoverished rural areas were given free school uniforms instead of having to pay $6 for them — the principal remaining economic barrier to education in Kenya — they were significantly less likely to drop out and become pregnant.

Researchers also found that classroom debates and essay-writing contests on whether students should be taught about condoms to prevent "

Class Questions

Class Questions: "THE SHEPHERD PROGRAM for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability is that rare kind of thing that can change your life. It is, its founders say, the only program of its kind in any undergraduate institution in the country. Any student in any major can sign up, but to earn the program's certificate, one must do not only the academic work -- reading liberal and conservative thinkers on theories of poverty and attending lectures on what it is to be poor -- but also complete a rigorous eight-week summer internship. Side by side with undergrads from Berea College, a largely low-income school in Kentucky, and from the historic black colleges of Morehouse and Spelman in Atlanta, they work, live with and live like the poorest of the poor, subsisting on $10 or less a day and bunking at institutions like the District's N Street Village women's shelter."

That the program is based at Washington and Lee University, a school for the elite and the privileged since 1749, is somewhat ironic. This is a school that, in some media and college rankings, turns out among the most CEOs, corporate presidents and political leaders per capita of any university in the nation -- about one-third of all graduates in a given year are from its Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. W & L students are overwhelmingly white, largely from families who can easily pay the $27,960 annual tuition. Its reputation is Southern and conservative: It was one of the last all-male schools to admit women, in 1985, and this spring men from one fraternity were proudly sporting T-shirts with lines from a Hank Williams Jr. song: "If the South woulda won, we woulda had it made."

He wanted to hear Ehrenreich's views on Sen's progressive theory. "The lack of money is not the only thing that makes people poor. There are questions of human capability," he said. "What are some things we should look at, like functional literacy, to measure poverty?"

"Stop thinking of it as something wrong with the person or there's something wrong with the choices they made," Ehrenreich snapped. "You have no idea how easily people can get derailed. I know that undermines the nice Protestant work ethic virtues if you can be blown off course so easily."

One day, Ingrid was helping the trainees practice for job interviews. Some were so filled with self-doubt and gripped by fear that they simply froze up. That night, Ingrid wrote in her journal that, "I like to pretend that I am being selfless and kindhearted by being here and 'working so others can have a better life.' I am learning how blessed I am and how ridiculous it is to think anything I am doing is all that special . . . I have had people telling me since I was born that I would be successful. What is hard is growing up with only negative influences, voices and feedback and finding confidence in yourself."


As she wrestles with her future, trying to be a good daughter and wanting to lead a purposeful life, she's been thinking lately of a poster she saw during her summer internship and noted in her journal. Perhaps it will guide her choices. "Don't try to save the world," it said, "but do what makes you come alive."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Vitamin D often low in seemingly healthy girls - Yahoo! News

This was a well known problem in Saudi Arabia, but it is a bit surprising that it would occur in a Western society...

Vitamin D often low in seemingly healthy girls - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a study of healthy adolescent girls, researchers found that insufficient vitamin D levels were a relatively common finding, with non-white girls more severely affected.

According to the UK-based study team, 'reduced sunshine exposure rather than diet explained the difference in vitamin D status of white and non-white girls' in the study, reported in the Archives of Disease in Childhood."

Alcohol contributes substantially to cancer burden - Yahoo! News

Alcohol contributes substantially to cancer burden - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An international team of researchers reports that 3.6 percent of all cancer cases worldwide are related to alcohol drinking, and these lead to 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths"

Friday, August 04, 2006

New Scientist News - Popular curry spice is a brain booster

New Scientist News - Popular curry spice is a brain booster: "Call it yellow ginger, haldi, turmeric or E100, the yellow root of Curcuma longa, a staple ingredient in curry, is turning out to be gratifyingly healthy. Now Tze-Pin Ng and colleagues at the National University of Singapore have discovered that curry eating seems to boost brain power in elderly people."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Seed: A Hostile Climate

Seed: A Hostile Climate: "n recent years, increasing drought cycles and the Sahara's southward expansion have created conflicts between nomadic and sedentary groups over shortages of water and land. This scarcity highlighted the central government's gross neglect of the Darfur region—a trend stretching back to colonial rule. Forsaken, desperate and hungry, groups of Darfurians attacked government outposts in protest. The response was the Janjaweed and supporting air strikes."
Desertification and increasingly regular drought cycles in Darfur have diminished the availability of water, livestock and arable land. "The effect of climate change on these resources has been a latent problem," said Leslie Lefkow, an expert on Darfur with Human Rights Watch. "And instead of addressing the cause of that tension and putting money into development of water resources...the government has done nothing. So the tensions have grown. And these tensions are one of the reasons why the rebellion started."

Chalking the Darfur conflict up to climate change alone would be an oversimplification, argues Eric Reeves, a leading advocate and a professor of English literature at Smith College. "The greater cause, by far, lies in the policies of the current National Islamic Front regime," he said. Marc Lavergne, a researcher with the French National Center for Scientific Research and former head of the Centre D'Etudes et de Documentation Universitaire Scientifique et Technique at the University of Khartoum, agrees. "The problem is not water shortage as such, and water shortages don't necessarily lead to war. The real problem is the lack of agricultural and other development policies to make the best use of available water resources since colonial times." ...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Larry Brilliant talks about the WHO campaign to eradicate smallpox

Another great talk from it out...

TEDPrize winner Larry Brilliant is an epidemiologist who presided over the last case of SmallPox on the planet. He also founded the Seva Foundation,
which works to reverse cases of blindness, and co-founded several
technology start-ups, including the legendary online community, The Well. He was recently named Executive Director of the Google Foundation.
In this talk, he explains in fascinating detail the key behind the
successful WHO campaign to eradicate Smallpox, and then unveils his
TEDPrize wish: to build a global system that detects each new disease
or disaster as it emerges or occurs.

(Link from boingboing)

Ted talks: Jeff Han

Jeff Han is a research scientist for New York University's Media Research Lab. Here, he demonstrates—for the first time publicly—his intuitive, "interface-free," touch-driven computer screen,
which can be manipulated intuitively with the fingertips, and responds
to varying levels of pressure. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA.
Duration: 09:32)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Four countries commit to buying 4 million Linux-powered OLPC laptops

Four countries commit to buying 4 million Linux-powered OLPC laptops: "spokesperson for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program revealed July 31 that the countries of Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, and Thailand have each tendered commitments to purchase 1 million Linux laptops through the U.S.-based program.

Several media outlets reported last week that Nigeria had committed to buying 1 million of the laptops, and others reported (incorrectly) that $1 million worth of computers -- or about 10,000 -- had been requested by the African nation.

OLPC program director for Middle East and Africa Khaled Hassounah confirmed to July 31 that Nigeria has indeed committed to buy 1 million machines, and then revealed that Brazil, Argentina, and Thailand also have placed similar commitments.
(via engadget)

The Borowitz Report .com

The Borowitz Report .com: "According to the plan hammered out with the U.S., Starbucks will create a buffer zone between the two warring nations by building a Starbucks franchise every two blocks along the Israel-Lebanon border.
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