The temperature went down to 27 F this morning. My fig tree and both grape vines leaves died. I hope the tree and vines weren't killed. Global Warming my ass. (And I don't mean Donkey Quixote)
Posted by: Deacon Blues ||
In other news, a report of a new species of Pig in the Capitol Building was incorrect. The person in question was released from a Virginia farm after the person's family identified them from a photo-array.
Posted by: Charles ||
CAIRO (IRIN) -- Rising poverty, overcrowded public transport, and sprawling slums threaten to reverse the gains made in eradicating tuberculosis in Egypt, experts say.
In recent days, the government has released new figures showing a significant decrease in mortality caused by TB.
But medical experts warn the government will never be able to stamp out the disease through a narrow medical approach. Rather, it must tackle the socio-economic problems at the disease's root if it is to avoid a dramatic increase in infections.
"Our slums, our transport, and the poor economic conditions of millions of Egyptians make many people prone to the disease," Mahmud Amr, a chest disease expert from Cairo University, told IRIN. "TB will continue to shatter the lives of thousands of people as long as no progress is made in these areas."
The political instability that followed the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 sent Egypt's economy into a downward spiral.
In 2011, 25.2 percent of Egyptians became poor, up from 21.6 percent in 2009, according to the state-run Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. More than half of these poor people lived in Upper Egypt, it added.
"Although most tuberculosis patients are poor, poverty itself is not the problem," said Ahmed Attia, head of local NGO Egyptian Society for Fighting Tuberculosis. "The problem lies with the living conditions this poverty brings to people."
In 2007, 12.2 million people lived in 870 slums across this country, according to CAPMAS. With whole families living in narrow rooms and sharing toilets and sewage-filled alleyways, these slums, experts like Amr say, offer fertile soil for the spread of serious diseases like TB.
TB is the third greatest killer in Egypt, after Hepatitis C and Bilharzias, according to Amir Bassam, deputy chairman of parliament's Health Committee.
Naeema Al-Gasseer, the World Health Organization representative in Egypt, says Egypt is one of nine countries out of 23 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (which stretches as far as Pakistan), where 95 percent of the region's TB patients live.
In a recent interview with private TV station CBC, Al-Gasseer linked TB to poverty and malnutrition, which also appears to be rising in Egypt, saying "malnutrition is a big problem for both children and adults."
Despite the challenges, Egypt has managed to make remarkable progress in TB control, according to the Health Ministry.
Health Minister Fouad Al Nawawy outlined in recent statements to the media huge drops in the effects of TB from 1990 to 2011: TB incidence, the number of new cases every year, fell from 34 per 100,000 to 18 cases per 100,000.
TB prevalence, the total number of infections in any given year, fell from 79 per 100,000 to 24 per 100,000; and the mortality rate, the number of people who die from TB every year, fell from 4 per 100,000 to 1.1 per 100,000, he said.
Egypt offers free medical treatment to TB patients in around 32 chest hospitals and the Health Ministry hopes to eradicate the disease altogether by 2019.
But independent experts say the incidence of TB is far higher than the official numbers of 18,000 new patients every year. In a sign of the skepticism that exists in some camps, one lawmaker asked the Health Ministry to give a full breakdown of TB figures in all governorates.
"The public has the right to know all the facts," said Basel Adel during a session of parliament on 9 April. "The Health Minister has to tell us what preventive measures his ministry has taken to prevent the spread of these diseases," he said in reference to TB and meningitis.
"There must be immediate action to control these diseases or the present government will be repeating the same mistakes of the governments of the former regime."
The number of patients in the country's chest hospitals, for instance, seems to belie claims that the disease is on the decrease.
"We have 50 beds at the TB section," said Mahmud Abdel Aziz, the head of the Abassiya Chest Hospital. "These beds are always full. When a patient is treated, he/she gets out for other people on the waiting list to take their place."
Experts say Egypt's ability to make progress in TB control hinges on its success in improving the living conditions of slum dwellers; making its public transport less crowded; and reducing poverty.
"Patients - most of them are poor people from the slums - use public transport, which is always busy, and pass the infection on to others very easily," the Health Committee's Bassam said. "The nation's prisons are also hotbeds for infection."
Described in numerous human rights reports as being dirty, unfit for human use, and suffering an extreme lack of health care, Egypt's prisons, according to people like Bassam, send out to society a large number of TB patients.
This is why Health Ministry specialists pay regular visits to the prisons to make sure they do not turn into centres for TB infection, according to Essam el-Moghazi, head of the Tuberculosis Section at the Health Ministry.
"We must take firm action to eradicate this disease," el-Moghazi said. "This is why we need everybody to contribute to this action, or this disease can spread like wildfire," he told IRIN.
CAIRO (IRIN) -- A coalition of 100 Egyptian child rights advocacy groups is intensifying its pressure on the government to take measures to counter rising child abductions across the country, threatening to resort to the UN if the government does not take action.
"The government does not attach enough importance to the problems suffered by children," Hani Helal, secretary-general of the Egyptian Coalition on Children's Rights, told IRIN. "This leads to increasing violations against the children. But if the government does not act now, we will have to take the matter to the UN."
A noticeable rise in child abductions has swept through the country, with the media reporting a new child abduction case every day - either in the capital Cairo or in the other governorates, putting parents on alert and challenging the police service.
The Interior Ministry has not given exact figures about the rise in child abductions, but independent security experts say it has increased as much as threefold since a popular uprising ousted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ...The former President-for-Life of Egypt, dumped by popular demand in early 2011... in February 2011. The political transition has been accompanied by an almost total collapse of Egypt's security system, with police absent from the streets for extended periods of time.
"The kidnapping of children has become a very worrying phenomenon," ex-policeman and security expert Maher Zakhry told IRIN. "Our country's deteriorating security conditions make this crime more possible."
Egypt's National Motherhood and Childhood Council called on the government to take action against what it described as a "rising crescendo of child abductions", warning against the serious consequences of turning a blind eye to the problem. The council has launched a new hotline service through which it can receive complaints by parents, refer them to police and better lobby the government.
The Coalition on Children's Rights says the number of calls about abductions it receives from parents has increased 300 percent -- from one or two a day before the revolution, to six or seven on some days now.
The Coalition on Children's Rights says the number of calls about abductions it receives from parents has increased 300 percent -- from one or two a day before the revolution, to six or seven on some days now. Helal says most of the people who call his coalition are poor and have no connections. They come from all governorates, but more often from Cairo and the coastal city of Alexandria. Most of the kidnappers know the families of the children they abduct, he added.
"We have major difficulties dealing with the government, which does not view children as first-rate citizens like everybody else," Helal said. "But what I want to say to the government is that its silence will encourage criminals to kidnap even more children in the future."
Advocates are calling for tougher action by the government against criminals; a larger police presence on the streets; and laws that would increase punishments for those who violate children's rights. Many Egyptians, especially activists involved in the revolution, believe the government is intentionally neglecting safety and security to increase a desire for "the good old days" under Mubarak and to justify the continued rule of the military council that took over after Mubarak left.
Anecdotal evidence appears to indicate two main motives for the abductions -- body organs and ransom money . Mahmud Al Badawi, head of local NGO Egyptian Society for the Assistance of Juveniles and Human Rights, says child abductions and organ trafficking are strongly interconnected in Egypt.
Anecdotal evidence appears to indicate two main motives for the abductions -- body organs and ransom money.
When Hayam Rabie left her one-year-old daughter, Alia, with neighbors in a vegetable shop while doing some shopping, it did not cross her mind that she would never see her again.
But when Rabie, a mother of two from the poor village of Damleeg in the agricultural governorate of Sharqia in the Nile Delta, came back one hour later, she could not find her daughter.
''As a sign of Egypt's deteriorating security conditions, child abductions have become an easy way for criminals to make money''
That was one year ago.
"Until four months ago, I had hopes that I could find my daughter," Rabie said. "But this hope turned to be a mere illusion."
Rabie discovered that one of her neighbors had kidnapped the girl, hid her inside her home for few days, and then killed her before she put her body in a sack and threw it in a village canal.
Mahmud Al Badawi, head of local NGO Egyptian Society for the Assistance of Juveniles and Human Rights, says child abductions and organ trafficking are strongly interconnected in Egypt.
When Rabie's relatives and neighbors broke into the house of her daughter's kidnapper, they found empty blood bags, syringes and tubes.
"Nobody understood why an uneducated woman would need these tools," Abdel Aleem Al Guindy, the girl's father, said.
The mother of a child kidnapped in Alexandria told private Al Nahar TV in February that her son heard children screaming and calling for help while held by his kidnappers. His parents paid a ransom to get him back.
"One of the kidnappers told my son that the children would be sold to body organ traders," the mother said.
Security experts say most kidnappers demand a ransom from the parents of kidnapped children -- starting at 5,000 Egyptian pounds (US$833) and going up to six million pounds ($1 million), if kidnapped children's parents are wealthy enough.
A famous construction mogul had to pay two million Egyptian pounds ($333,000) in February to secure the release of his two grandchildren.
"As a sign of Egypt's deteriorating security conditions, child abductions have become an easy way for criminals to make money," ex-policeman Zakhary said.
He advises parents not pay ransoms, and instead to report the kidnappings to police. But child rights activists say the police do not have a very good track record of arresting or prosecuting kidnappers, and have only succeeded in rescuing children in a few cases.
In April 2011, police placed in long-term storage five suspects in relation to the kidnapping of the daughter of Effat Sadat, a businessman and the nephew of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, but only after Sadat paid the kidnappers five million pounds ($833,000).
"Poorer parents, however, cannot find the money necessary for the return of their children," said Al Badawi of the juveniles' society. "This is why many of the abductions go unreported because the parents are simply not connected."
[An Nahar] Guinea-Bissau troops staged a coup attempt late Thursday, attacking the prime minister's residence and taking over ruling party headquarters and the national radio station.
Gunshots and rocket-propelled grenades were fired in the darkened streets of the capital of the putsch-prone former Portuguese colony, which is in the middle of a bitterly disputed two-round presidential election.
Soldiers attacked the residence of the winner of the first round, outgoing Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.
"It was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and we were forced to retreat," said a police officer who had guarded the building. He said Gomes had been there earlier but could not confirm his current whereabouts.
Ambulance sirens were heard across the city, which was plunged into darkness as electricity was cut off.
The military earlier took control of the ruling party headquarters and national radio station, an Agence La Belle France Presse correspondent said.
Guinea-Bissau's opposition -- led by second-placed Kumba Yala, who claims the first-round vote was rigged -- have called a boycott of the April 29 run-off vote and warned against campaigning.
[Bangla Daily Star] Persons who got jobs in Bangladesh Railway East Zone in the last one year, almost all of them had to pay bribe ranging from Tk 2.5 lakh to Tk 6 lakh to a nexus of the zone's General Manager Yusuf Ali Mridha, some other bigwigs, and some leaders of local Railway Sramik League.
The allegation was made to The Daily Star by Railway Sramik Karmachari Sangram Gay Pareehad's Chittagong Divisional Coordinator SK Bari, and a private contractor for the railway department who did not want to be named.
The nexus also used to take bribe from private contractors in exchange for work contracts, they added.
Mridha quite often used to openly brag that the railway minister was behind him, Bari said adding that the syndicate even took money from the children of railway employees who were seeking jobs in the department.
Bari and the private contractor said many job applicants, who qualified for interviews after written tests, did not get the interviews because they could not pay bribes.
They also alleged that the railway department published advertisements for recruitment to more than 3,200 posts in 38 categories in October and November 2010. Tests of the applicants in many categories were completed by April last year and the deadline for completing the recruitment was August last year, but the deadline was extended to give the jobseekers time to arrange bribe money.
Bari said on May 19 last year there was a robbery in Mridha's bungalow that he shared with some of his colleagues. Additional Chief Engineer SM Liakat Ali of the department, who used to share the bungalow with Mridha, filed a case with Kotwali Police Station after the incident. In the case statement he mentioned that about Tk 2 lakh and other valuables including a laptop and some mobile phone sets were looted.
But Assistant Commissioner of Police Mahmud of Kotwali Zone said yesterday that five robbers who had been locked away by police weeks after the robbery later confessed to looting over Tk 12 lakh from the bungalow.
More than 100 workers and employees of Bangladesh Railway East Zone held a rally yesterday morning under the banner of Railway Sramik Karmachari Sangram Gay Pareehad at the Carriage and Wagon Repair Workshop in Pahartali demanding termination of Yusuf Ali Mridha from the job.
The demonstration was arranged after Mridha along with 3 others were caught in a car in Dhaka on Monday night with Tk 70 lakh in their possession.
Later the demonstrators brought out a march in front of the Central Railway Building.
Speakers at the rally demanded proper investigation of the allegations against Mridha and his associates, and demanded their punishment if proven guilty.
Gay Pareehad's Chittagong Divisional Coordinator SK Bari, and conveners Shahabuddin Ahmad and Nizam Uddin spoke at the rally among others.
Mridha could not be reached for comments as he did not receive phone calls despite repeated attempts over the last two days.
[Bangla Daily Star] Railway Minister Suranjit Sengupta has defended himself against his alleged links to Monday's cash haul and dismissed it as a conspiracy to ruin his political image.
Some people were after him as he has been trying to revive the long-not-cared-for railway sector, he said in a press briefing at Rail Bhaban yesterday.
The seizure of money from his assistant personal secretary and the railway general manager on Monday may be part of a conspiracy against him, the minister said. Those, who take advantage of the underdeveloped railway sector for their own benefits, do not want to see it flourish, according to Suranjit.
He, however, clearly said he would resign if his involvement in the incident could be proved. "Accepting a post or leaving it has been a very simple matter in my long career in politics. I will not stay for a moment if any such situation arises."
h/t Gates of Vienna
Earlier this week, Federal Reserve boss Ben Bernanke again warned that out of control borrowing and spending will eventually destroy the country.
Said Ben to the the Budget Committee:
Sustained high rates of government borrowing would both drain funds away from private investment and increase our debt to foreigners, with adverse long-run effects on U.S. output, incomes, and standards of living. Moreover, diminishing investor confidence that deficits will be brought under control would ultimately lead to sharply rising interest rates on government debt and, potentially, to broader financial turmoil. In a vicious circle, high and rising interest rates would cause debt-service payments on the federal debt to grow even faster, resulting in further increases in the debt-to-GDP ratio and making fiscal adjustment all the more difficult.
[Daily Nation (Kenya)] Greece's Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday set the stage for early elections on May 6 by submitting his resignation to the country's president after heading a five-month debt rescue.
Papademos was meeting with President Carolos Papoulias after telling the cabinet that a May 6 ballot was necessary to secure a new mandate for reforms to return Greece to growth and secure its place in the eurozone.
"These challenges constitute a national issue that the new government must handle. I recommend that a proposal be made to the president to dissolve parliament and hold elections on May 6," state television ... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
NET quoted him as telling ministers.
A new parliament will be convened on May 17, the PM added, according to NET.
Under the constitution, the president will dissolve the current parliament and call for elections within 30 days.
Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice president appointed as caretaker prime minister five months ago to complete a debt-saving deal for Greece, told the cabinet that the next government must draw up a new economic plan for 2013-2016.
The country must also pursue structural reforms to restore growth and keep its place in the eurozone, he said.
Papademos is expected to stay on to supervise the electoral process, along with most of his key ministers.
[Dawn] About 10 people were maimed and some three dozen placed in durance vile, when police restored to baton charge to disperse a rally of Pakistain Paramedical Staff Association (PPSA) here on Thursday.
As per details, the rally was on its way to Chief Minister House when police intercepted it on M A Jinnah Road near Services Hospital.
Police used tear gas and baton charge. Protest leaders claimed that 10 protestors were maimed and about 50 were placed in durance vile.
The PPSA and Sindh Doctors Tahreek (SDT) have announced boycotting hospitals in the province to condemn the police action on Friday.
As spaceborne energy-harvesting schemes go, this one seems faintly possible -- an array of curved mirrors directing sunlight toward solar cells, their energy production microwaved down to Earth. It's so realistic, actually, that NASA is providing funding for a proof-of-concept study. Harry Stine rules!
Beats burning raw materials for synthetics industry for energy
Actually they were all set to do this during the 60's to power los angeles but guess who sued them and ran the company out of money. Environmentalists. They claimed that the collector would damage the ecology of death valley.
Posted by: Silentbrick - Halliburton Lost Drill Bit Division ||
Does anyone seriously think this will fly, once the Left/Greens figure that bit out.
IMO, watermelons' arguments only work on people who:
(i) Comfortably off.
(ii) Believe this to be a natural state of affairs, which will last for ever.
"High Frontier" by o'Neill many years ago. Same idea.
Then there's Asimov who had a collection staion on Mercury, sending the energy back in a narrow beam. The robot in charge started getting whacky and we had a robot's rules of order story.
Posted by: Richard Aubrey ||
Before everyone jumps on the solar power in space bandwagon (which was the initial proposal for the ISS back in the Reagan era) consider the cost. It costs millions to put a bag of M&Ms up there let along a giant, fragile, solar array. This is just a multi-decade pipe-dream.
Now if this was made from high ground, using lunar materials and all it would be practical but we are a long way from having that sort of space presence.
Try everything. Drill, frak, build nuke plants, cut red tape to encourage private solar on rooftops, mandate flexifuel on new engines, and set prizes for anyone that can make wind or tidal power or whatever work.
The program would hinge on cost, engineering and dangerous side effects from the microwave power transmissions. I suspect that would create a definite "no fly" zone due to effects to passengers and equipment. I wonder if it would fry birds, bats, bees as well.
I regret to say that I only have but 1.080 kilowatts of solar cells to give to my country.
Posted by: Alaska Paul ||
I understand economy of scale, I also understand putting all your eggs in one basket is rarely wise. The US is a very large country, there is no reason we should only consider one option. Especially options that demand an army of union employees to run and that create targets for enemy exploitation.