Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yemen’s Marginalized Class

Why does this kind of discrimination exist everywhere in the world--even in the poorest countries of the world? Why do we dehumanize those who are different than us, and consequently treat them as sub-humans? Yesterday,I was listening to a podcast interview with a Jewish lady whose son was killed by a Palestinian sniper and a Palestinian whose brother was killed by an Israeli lady. They are part of a group that is trying to bring reconciliation to the Palestinan/Israeli conflict through a non-governmental initiative. There was a statement made in that podcast worth remembering:
"We have to use our pain to help heal humanity."

SANA, Yemen — By day, they sweep the streets of the Old City, ragged, dark-skinned men in orange jump suits. By night, they retreat to fetid slums on the edge of town.

They are known as “Al Akhdam” — the servants. Set apart by their African features, they form a kind of hereditary caste at the very bottom of Yemen’s social ladder.

Degrading myths pursue them: they eat their own dead, and their women are all prostitutes. Worst of all, they are reviled as outsiders in their own country, descendants of an Ethiopian army that is said to have crossed the Red Sea to oppress Yemen before the arrival of Islam.


In one Akhdam shantytown on the edge of Sana, more than 7,000 people live crammed into a stinking warren of low concrete blocks next to a mountain of trash. Young children, many of them barefoot, run through narrow, muddy lanes full of human waste and garbage.

A young woman named Nouria Abdullah stood outside the tiny cubicle — perhaps 6 feet by 8 feet, with a ceiling too low to allow her to stand up — where she lives with her husband and six children. Inside, a thin plastic sheet covered a dirt floor. A small plastic mirror hung on the wall, and a single filthy pillow lay in the corner.

Nearby, a single latrine, in a room approximately 3 feet by 3 feet, serves about 50 people. The residents must carry water in plastic jugs from a tank on the edge of the slum, supplied by a charity group.

Wearing a brown dress, with a rag tied around her head, Ms. Abdullah said she and her family brought in no more than 1,000 Yemeni riyals a week, about $5. She begs for change, while her husband, Muhammad, gathers metal and electrical components from trash heaps and sells them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Orphans of Rwanda

I didn't until just now learn that one of my favorite charities, "Orphans of Rwanda," was featured in the New York Times on my birthday!
Here is a great write-up of this organization...

Ange Benitha Bamuyugire is not your typical orphan in Rwanda. Orphans in Rwanda are generally living at or beyond the brink of desperate poverty. Ange, however, is a terrific student who’s studying computer science at the country’s finest technical institution, the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. She’ll be starting an internship soon at a Rwandan company that develops websites. But there’s more to her story.

She survived the 1994 genocide. She saw her father brutally slain by a band of killers wielding machetes. Although she survived with her mother and sister, she lost her entire extended family: grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

In spite of its history and staggeringly high proportion of orphans – approximately 1 out of every 6 children – Rwanda is not exceptional. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa has more orphans than any other region in the world today. The United Nations estimates that of the 43 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, about 14 million are AIDS orphans, a number that is expected to rise to 20 million by 2010.

So the question is: does the world really care enough to help these orphans (or non-orphans, for that matter) beyond the age 18?

PlayPump Water Systems

This is a FANTASTIC idea!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Rip-Off by Health Insurers?

When patients visit an out-of-network doctor, insurers typically agree to pay 80 percent of the reasonable and customary rate charged by doctors in the same geographic area. The patient is stuck with the rest, and as any patient knows, that rate always seems to fall short of what their own doctor is charging. If the attorney general’s investigators are right, we can understand why.

The numbers are mainly compiled by an obscure company known as Ingenix, which — as it turns out — is owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers.
Ingenix collects billing information from UnitedHealth and other health care payers to compile a database that is then used by the insurers to determine out-of-network reimbursement rates.

This system is an invitation for abuse. UnitedHealth owns the company whose database will affect its costs and profitability, so both have a strong financial interest in keeping reimbursement rates low. Even Ingenix seems unwilling to stand behind its numbers.
In licensing its database to insurers, it stresses that the data is “for informational purposes only” and does not imply anything about “reasonable and customary” charges. Yet that is precisely what the health insurers use the data for, as Ingenix knows, according to investigators.

The attorney general’s investigators did their own survey and concluded that $200 is the fair market rate in New York City and Nassau County for a 15-minute consultation with a doctor for an illness of low to moderate severity. Ingenix, the investigators said, calculated the rate as $77, of which United would pay $62, leaving the patient to pay $138.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Saudi Valentine

TOMORROW will be my second Valentine’s Day in the United States. As I’ve discovered, the celebration here bears little resemblance to the one I know from growing up in Saudi Arabia.
Yes, there are dates. But in Saudi Arabia, we eat them. As for the other kind of dating — the kind that will fill restaurants here tomorrow night — don’t count on it.

Can Sugar Substitutes Make You Fat?

In a series of experiments, scientists at Purdue University compared weight gain and eating habits in rats whose diets were supplemented with sweetened food containing either zero-calorie saccharin or sugar. The report, published in Behavioral Neuroscience, presents some counterintuitive findings:

Animals fed with artificially sweetened yogurt over a two-week period consumed more calories and gained more weight — mostly in the form of fat — than animals eating yogurt flavored with glucose, a natural, high-calorie sweetener. It's a continuation of work the Purdue group began in 2004, when they reported that animals consuming saccharin-sweetened liquids and snacks tended to eat more than animals fed high-calorie, sweetened foods. The new study, say the scientists, offers stronger evidence that how we eat may depend on automatic, conditioned responses to food that are beyond our control.

College a waste of time and money for kids

And from the School of Unconventional Wisdom...

Last week I made an off-the-cuff comment in my column that stirred up several e-mails asking if I was serious. What I said was that I had no intention of sending my kids to college. I was dead serious. I find the thought of college abhorrent, particularly for 18- to 20-year-olds. Kids have a lot of energy at that point, and to deaden it with a forced, unsupervised diversity of random topics taught by mostly mediocre professors is a waste of that energy.

ne reader asked what her kid should be doing instead of college. Here are some of my responses: (READ ON)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Remind Me of Me

Artful persuasion depends on eye contact, but not just any kind. If one person prefers brief glances and the other is busy staring deeply, then it may not matter how good the jokes are or how much they both loved “Juno.” Rhythm counts.
They have found that immediate social bonding between strangers is highly dependent on mimicry, a synchronized and usually unconscious give and take of words and gestures that creates a current of good will between two people.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Diabetes Study Partially Halted After Deaths

For decades, researchers believed that if people with diabetes lowered their blood sugar to normal levels, they would no longer be at high risk of dying from heart disease. But a major federal study of more than 10,000 middle-aged and older people with Type 2 diabetes has found that lowering blood sugar actually increased their risk of death, researchers reported Wednesday.


The results do not mean blood sugar is meaningless. Lowered blood sugar can protect against kidney disease, blindness and amputations, but the findings inject an element of uncertainty into what has been dogma — that the lower the blood sugar the better and that lowering blood sugar levels to normal saves lives.

Medical experts were stunned.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Symptoms: Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda

Researchers have found a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome — the collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels — and elevated blood pressure.
the risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who drank one can of diet soda a day compared with those who drank none.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Jackson Pollack

Feeling artistic?

New Food Formula: Tastes Fine, Kills Worms

Kraft Foods, the conglomerate built on macaroni and cheese, is working on a new and unusual product line — food that is not only tasty, but kills intestinal worms.

It is not intended for sale in the United States, but is aimed at rural Asia, Africa and Latin America, where worms leave millions of children lethargic, dangerously anemic and, sometimes, passing blood.

Bring Bri Back

~ Official Brianna Information Site ~

Brianna Zunino Denison
Brianna's website is dedicated to her safe return!

Abducted January 20, 2008 in Reno Nevada
If you have any information please call now!

Reno Police Department Tip Line: 775-745-3521
Secret Witness Line: 775-322-4900

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Clouds over Reno

This picture depicts the mood over Reno as we continue to search for Brianna Denison...

For more on Brianna, check out the Reno Gazette Journal updates here

Friday, February 01, 2008

Nets and New Drug Make Inroads Against Malaria

Widespread distribution of mosquito nets and a new medicine sharply reduced malaria deaths in several African countries, World Health Organization researchers reported Thursday.

The report was one of the most hopeful signs in the long battle against a disease that is estimated to kill a million children a year in poor tropical countries.

“We saw a very drastic impact,” said Dr. Arata Kochi, chief of malaria for the W.H.O. “If this is done everywhere, we can reduce the disease burden 80 to 85 percent in most African countries within five years.”

The Darfur Contagion Spreads

I just had an email from Chad that the U.N. is today evacuating Guereda, a major town in eastern Chad that has been a base for helping Darfuri refugees. Frankly, this will mean that more Darfuri refugees will die, but the U.N. has to protect its own people as well. It’s an agonizing position for aid organizations to face when their own staff are attacked.

One of the most frustrating parts of the international failure in Darfur is that we’ve allowed the slaughter to spread from Sudan to Chad and Central African Republic. We may not be able to send troops easily into Sudan itself, but we can certainly do so in Chad (and France, under Nicolas Sarkozy, is finally preparing to do that). In the meantime, the slaughter is continuing in towns like Guereda, which used to be completely stable.
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