Friday, August 24, 2012

CNN is reporting an occurrence of immune deficiency without HIV in some populations


CNN is reporting an occurrence of an "evolving" immune deficiency with opportunistic infections among some people with Asian descent without HIV.  The disease appears to be autoimmune in nature and is not communicable. So far, there is no consistent presentation of any particular virus related to the autoimmunity, but this, in combination with environmental or genetic factors, sounds possible.

Don Lemmon of CNN interviewed Dr. Anthong Fauci of NIH about the recent observation of illness.

The CNN video link is here

It's important to note that before HIV (that is, HTLV-III) was identified in 1984, there was a recognized similar retrovirus HTLV-I, which sometimes cause T-cell leukemia, especially in Japan, and was curiously also associated with some opportunistic infections, like pneumocystis pneumonia.  It appears to have been blood-transmitted. It is not clear why HIV became a worldwide pandemic and HTLV-I did not.  

Likewise, the CDC has been saying that babyboomers should be tested for Hepatitis C, which is often without symptoms or only mild symptoms (but possible later cancers) and is caused by an RNA virus (not technically a retrovirus) spread by blood, but apparently not an explosive pandemic, but spreading slowly, somewhat in a manner like Hepatitis B in the past.  

NIH is also dealing with the appearance of a “super bacteria” in some patients at its Clinical Center in Bethesda MD in 2011.  This bacterium was very hard to control despite the strictest possible infection control procedures in the hospital.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Former Nigerian rebels and warlords getting money to "protect" oil pipelines


Back on August 15, 2008 I had received a hostile email from “Ijaw Youth” in Nigeria, which I posted a photocopy of, which bragged about rebellious activities against Nigerian oil companies and their pipelines.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has an applicable story by Drew Hinshaw, “Nigeria’s oil bandits now collect government cash,” link (with paywall subscription logon) here  

It seems that the Nigerian government is paying former bandits or rebels to “protect” these oil lines from other bandits.  It sounds like being approached by someone in a bad part of town to “protect” your car when you park near a nightclub.

Nigeria may have “practical” problems, as rebel disruptions have lowered oil exports considerably. The government seems to be courting relationships with feudal warlords. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

India clamps down on "incendiary" websites, social media


The Washington Post, in a story by Rama Lakshmi on p. A6, reports that India has blocked over 250 websites and blocked some use of social media (including Twitter messages with more than five recipients), claiming that “incendiary content” sparked unrest and panic in rural northeastern India. Sites affected included some Muslim sites as well as someTube channels and other social media. 

The government also claimed that some videos incited riots by Muslims in Munbai recently.

The link is here

Although seemingly an outrage to free speech advocates, the government seems more legitimate, and perhaps so the security concerns in h affected regions, than in parallel situations in the past with the “Arab spring”.  There are perhaps genuine concerns of maintaining order and safety in more primitive areas like these.

India also seems to be imposing downstream liability on service providers, prohibiting them from hosting content that could be “harmful”, “blasphemous” or “insulting”.

In another story, a girl is in jail in Pakistan for allegedly burning or destroying pages from the Koran, but the actual facts seem to be in dispute.  

Update: Aug. 26

Gardiner Harris has an important story in the New York Times, "After violence in India, a crackdown online", which reports that content from established British newspapers and journalists, with no urging or violence, was blocked, and use of Twitter was "rationed".  The article goes into the "socialist" background of India's leaders and its effects on their thinking, here

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Russian court sentences three female "hooligans" to jail for Church protest against Putin


A Russian court has sentenced three women, performing punk rock critical of Putin and apparently mocking Christianity in a Russian Orthodox church, to two years in prison.

There are many media stories, such as this one on Business Week, (website url) here

The Russian court claimed that the young women were inciting religious hatred and “hooliganism”.
  
The court claimed that the women tried to insult “society as a whole” as well as workers at the Russian Orthodox Church.

But many claimed that this was simply a case of Putin (not afraid to try to look macho by revealing his curiously hairless chest in various public photos) trying to keep a grip on “power”.  What else?  Putin must not listen to the Village People!

Friday, August 17, 2012

US dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia increases as Iran. Mexico have more "problems"


Clifford Krauss has an important story in the New York Times Friday morning, “U.S. Reliance on Saudi Oil Heads Back Up”, link here

Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase production while Iran’s production was hampered by sanctions and probably its own activity in the Straits of Hormuz.

Stability in Saudi Arabia is said to be challenged by recent family deaths and by strife in some parts of the desert.

It was Saudi Arabia that led the charge with the oil embargo back in 1973, when the US dependence on foreign oil was first seen as a problem.

Other observers have said that a war between Israel and Iran would probably last several weeks.
Steve Hargraeves has a story on CNN explaining how crude oil production in Mexico by Pemex is falling, link here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Julian Assange gets asylum from Ecuador


Various media sources are reporting early Thursday, Aug. 16, that Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The “fugitive” is holed up at the embassy of Ecuador in London, resisting extradition to Sweden.  It’s not immediately clear that he can actually travel to Ecuador.

The CNN story, with various videos, is here

MSN also announced it as breaking news.

I got an email with an attachment on the matter first from Wikileaks, and I thought it might be spam!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Some foreign airlines will move male passengers away from seats next to minors


Here’s a weird little story.  A couple of foreign airlines, such as Virgin Australia, have policies not allowing adult males to sit next to (unrelated) minors traveling alone. 

No US carrier has such a policy.  But a British carrier was reportedly sued and the passenger won.

The ACLU was not even willing to comment on the measure, although maybe because it doesn’t affect US airlines. 

A male passenger who had reserved a specific seat and perhaps paid for it could lose the assignment.
The story was discussed on CNN this morning.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

European governments practice total net worth taxation


The Wall Street Journal editorial “Germany’s Wealth Grab” on p A14 Tuesday (curiously, not online yet) brings up the subject of European governments’ taxing total financial worth of families or individuals.  Some countries, like Spain, want to play Robin Hood to deal with the debt crisis, almost like a confiscation or garnishment.

Imagine the outcry in the US, in a world where income taxes alone ignite cries of a “Federal mafia” among libertarians!

Imagine if net worth were used for Medicare or Social Security means testing!

Actually, it is done in the US in one scenario, the “spend down” rules regarding getting on Medicaid to pay nursing home bills (and the look back rules regarding gifts to family members, perhaps to be overtaken in the future by filial responsibility laws).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Some Latin American countries surprisingly progressive on gay marriage and rights


Some Latin American countries, despite their macho and conservative Catholic nature, are more progressive on gay marriage than most of the United States.

A Sunday (Aug. 12) story on o A10 of the Washington Post by Juan Forero reports the case of Ana Leiderman and Veronica Botero, married in Germany, but returned to Medellin, Colombia. Their case is now under review by Colombia’s highest court.  Leiderman had children by artificial insemination. If she passes, would Botero have inheritance rights and legal responsibility to raise the kids?

The link is here

Friday, August 3, 2012

Would reducing meat consumption help with climate change?


Ben Grossman-Cohen has an opinion piece on CNN suggesting that the Americans and westerners would forgo meat (especially beef) on Mondays for legumes, global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced significantly.

Raising of livestock adds a significant carbon dioxide burden, he writes, as well as aggravating famine in some parts of the world.

But the US Department of Agriculture won’t buy it.

The link for the story is here.