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Syphilis makes comeback in Europe amid spread of risky sex, online dating sites December 20, 2007 11:08 AM

LONDON (AP) Syphilis is back: The sexually transmitted disease long associated with 19th Century bohemian life is making an alarming resurgence in Europe.

``Syphilis used to be a very rare disease,'' said Dr. Marita van de Laar, an expert in sexually transmitted diseases at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. ``I'm not sure we can say that anymore.''

Most cases of syphilis are in men, and experts point to more risky sex among gay men as the chief cause for the resurgence. But more cases are being seen among heterosexuals, both men and women, too.

Syphilis was the sexual scourge of the 19th Century, and is believed to have killed artists like poet Charles Baudelaire, composer Robert Schumann, and painter Paul Gauguin. But the widespread use of penicillin in the 1950s all but wiped it out in the Western world.

In the last decade, however, syphilis has unexpectedly returned, driven by risky sexual behavior and outbreaks in major cities across Europe, including London, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin.

In Britain, syphilis cases have leapt more than tenfold for men and women in the past decade to 3,702 in 2006, according to the Health Protection Agency. Among men in England, the syphilis rate jumped from one per 100,000 in 1997 to nine per 100,000 last year.

In Germany, the rate among men was fewer than two per 100,000 in 1991; by 2003, it was six per 100,000.

In France, there were 428 cases in 2003 almost 16 times the number just three years earlier.

In the Netherlands, cases doubled from 2000 to 2004. In Amsterdam, up to 31 men per 100,000 were infected, while the rate was much lower in other regiers more easily than before, and some experts link the rise of dating Web sites to the jump in syphilis cases.

For some men, the Internet connections can be especially dangerous.

``Networks of HIV-positive men to find other positive men have sprung up on the Internet,'' said Jonathan Elford, an AIDS epidemiologist at London's City University.

Some men who have the AIDS virus are seeking condom-free sex with other men who are also HIV-infected. However, they aren't protected against syphilis and other sexually spread diseases. Among gay men who have syphilis in Britain, nearly half have HIV, Elford said.

Amid this resurgence, some officials are now attacking the epidemic online.

Every day, health workers at the Terrence Higgins Trust, Europe's largest AIDS charity, log into chatrooms on a popular British gay dating Web site to spread safe sex messages and answer questions.

``We know that men are arranging hook-ups for sex online,'' said Mark Thompson, the charity's deputy head of health promotion. ``So we decided to tap into cyberspace to try reaching them before unsafe sex might happen.''

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Not news November 28, 2007 5:14 PM

Here is a little something I sent out to a paper.  I get so tired of hearing the same old arguements over things. I can't even watch the Sunday morning news, the weekly roundups.  As I scream at the alledged people in the loop, who know not what they speak about.  So many glaring errors, we are now being spoon feed direct lies here in America.  It is different from the past, the lies then twisted the truth, that is part of democracy, the spin is always in.  But now, there is no basis of truth, they feed us lies from the get go.  Example, and this one you hear everywhere, hydrogen fuel is years away from being viasible.  If that is so why do they have hyrdogen fueling stations in various parts of Europe.  I picked on an easy one, I have rocked the boat hard enough in the past couple of days.  Time to be a good little boy.  Anway, here is that letter, it speaks the truth.   My spin is in, as the issue I speak of is climate change.

Letter To The Editor:

From the unholy, holy wars, to forgotten blue laws and biased condescension; sectoral faith demonizes the ideals of humanistic charity. For twenty-six years this season I enjoy my annual reading of, ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The following is something that caught my eye last night. Within the story, they attribute these words to the Ghost of Christmas Present.

"There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."

People, there is no crime more heinous than that of unaltered, unquestioned faith. During the past several months, have not the diatribes of suppression been heard enough. The issue of same sex marriage and abortion has seen enough editorial space for now. Writers of letters, give it a rest. Humanity has more pressing concerns before us. Suffer not the little children, ye generation of vipers.

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Dire Global Warming Forecast Issued by UN Panel November 19, 2007 2:39 PM

Global warming is "unequivocal," and carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere commits the world to an eventual rise in sea levels of up to 4.6 feet (1.4 meters), the world's top climate experts warned Saturday in their most authoritative report to date.

"Only urgent, global action will do," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling on the United States and China—the world's two biggest polluters—to do more to slow global climate change.

"Both countries can lead in their own way," Ban told reporters.

Still, he advised against assigning blame for global warming.

Climate change imperils "the most precious treasures of our planet," he said. "We are all in this together. We must work together."

Water Shortages, Extinctions, Heat

According to the UN panel of scientists, whose latest report is a synthesis of three previous ones, enough of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide already has built up in Earth's atmosphere that it imperils islands, coastlines, and a fifth to two-thirds of the world's species.

As early as 2020, 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will suffer water shortages. Residents of Asia's large cities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding, according to the report.

Europeans can expect extensive species loss, and North Americans will experience longer and hotter heat waves and greater competition for water. These predictions are detailed in a new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the Nobel Peace Prize this year with former U.S. vice president Al Gore


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 November 16, 2007 9:16 AM

14 November 2007 – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned today that a German court’s decision to authorize the construction of a bridge could lead to the removal of the Dresden Elbe Valley from the World Heritage List of the planet’s outstanding natural and cultural sites.

The erection of the Waldschlössen Bridge over the Elbe River “could irreversibly damage the values and integrity of the Dresden Elbe Valley,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and World Heritage Committee Chairperson Christina Cameron said in a joint statement released in Paris.

“It saddens us that the intense negotiations launched between UNESCO and the national and municipal authorities of Germany have failed to secure the protection of a site so recently inscribed [in 2004] on the World Heritage List.”

The Committee placed the Dresden Elbe Valley on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger last year and said today that it would review the site’s status at its next session, scheduled to take place in Quebec in July 2008, after receiving a technical assessment of the impact of the bridge’s construction.

About 18 kilometres long, the Dresden Elbe Valley site was inscribed for its “outstanding cultural landscape,” which brings together a combination of baroque and other historic buildings and landscape features in and around the city of Dresden into a parkland setting along the river.

Only one other site has been de-listed since the World Heritage List, which features natural or cultural sites deemed to have outstanding universal value, began in 1978. That was the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary of Oman, which was removed in July this year because of the country’s failure to meet what the Committee said were its conservation obligations. In total, there are currently 851 sites on the World Heritage List.

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 November 15, 2007 10:16 AM

15 November 2007 – The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned today that security in West Africa is being threatened by criminals who are using the region as a hub for trafficking drugs, particularly cocaine, from South America to Europe.

“A sniff here and a sniff there in Europe are causing another disaster in Africa, to add to its poverty, unemployment and pandemics,” Antonio Maria Costa said at a conference on cocaine taking place in Madrid.

“The problem will persist until Europeans curb their appetite for cocaine,” UNODC’s Executive Director added, urging Europe’s cocaine users to take greater responsibility for the consequences of their addiction.

He said that since traditional cocaine trafficking routes from the Andean countries to North America are heavily patrolled, and trafficking into Europe has become more difficult, smugglers have found an alternative route through West Africa in order to keep up with the high demand for cocaine in Europe.

West Africa has become a desirable alternative route for two reasons, namely its location and its vulnerability, he noted. “Governments of the region are poor, weak and vulnerable – they cannot patrol their waters, cannot control their territory, cannot administer justice, and are plagued by corruption.

“Africa is under attack and cannot defend itself,” he stated, adding that the international community is reacting, but not as forcefully as needed.

Mr. Costa noted that more than 4 tons of cocaine were seized in West Africa this year, a 35 per cent increase over the entire haul for 2006. “But this is probably only the tip of a cocaine iceberg,” he said, noting that the drugs trade in Guinea-Bissau may be as high as the country’s national income. “Africa faces a crisis of epic proportions, by and large fuelled by Europe’s cocaine users.”

He said UNODC is helping West Africa, and especially Guinea-Bissau, improve its justice system and law enforcement capacity, just as it had done in Cape Verde in the past. The issue is also on the agenda of the Security Council since the implications for the stability of the whole region are serious, he added.

In order to help curb Europe’s cocaine use, Mr. Costa called on celebrities, in particular, to accept a greater sense of responsibility for their words and deeds, and speak out about the dangers of cocaine use “to make it a public enemy rather than socially acceptable.” He also urged the media to refrain from the “reckless” practice of glamorizing the lifestyles of “stars turned junkies.”

In addition, he called for greater investment into drug prevention and treatment, warning that “Europe stands almost naked in the face of the cocaine threat.”

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UN chief: Violence against women has reached 'hideous and pandemic proportions' October 24, 2007 1:50 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) The U.N. secretary-general warned that violence against women has reached ``hideous'' levels in some countries trying to recover from conflict, and the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to impunity for rape and other sexual abuse.

The council expressed deep concern Tuesday that despite its repeated demands for an immediate end to violence against women caught in armed conflicts, ``rape and other forms of sexual abuse, as well as all other forms of violence, ... remain pervasive, and in some situations have become systematic, and have reached appalling levels of atrocity.''

``The council stresses the need to end impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking peace, justice, truth and national reconciliation,'' it said.

The council statement was read at the end of a day-long open meeting on implementation of a resolution adopted in 2000 that called for the prosecution of crimes against women and increased protection of women and girls during war. It also demanded that women be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peacebuilding.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ``violence against women has reached hideous and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict.'' He did not name any countries.

``Together, all of us need to strengthen our collective and individual response to it,'' Ban said. ``This is essential if we are to reverse the damage done by conflict, and to build more inclusive, accountable and cohesive socieites, underpinned by viable democratic institutions.''

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno stressed the U.N.'s ``zero tolerance'' for sexual exploitation and abuse by its more than 80,000 peacekeeping troops.

``While rape is used as a weapon of war in situations such as ... Congo and Darfur, addressing this war crime requires going beyond political compromise, power and resource sharing agreements,'' he said. ``Instead, combating rape and other forms of sexual violence calls for concerted, robust and ongoing action on the part of both national actors and also the international community at every level of engagement.''

Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the secretary-general's special adviser on gender issues, urged all governments, parliaments, international organizations and civic groups to join a worldwide campaign on violence against women and girls that Ban will launch later this year.

``Impunity for perpetrators and insufficient response to the needs of survivors are morally reprehensible and unacceptable,'' she said. ``Sexual violence in conflict, particularly rape, should be named for what it is: not a private act or the unfortunate misbehavior of a renegade soldier, but aggression, torture, war crime and genocide.''

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U.N. reports `alarming' rise in Myanmar's cultivation of opium poppies after years of decline October 11, 2007 8:12 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar rose alarmingly in 2006 after six years of dramatic declines, driven in part by corruption and the lack of government control in areas where insurgent groups operate, the U.N. drug chief said Wednesday.

The amount of land devoted to opium poppies had decreased from about 321,230 acres in 1998 to just 53,100 acres in 2006 after Myanmar's military regime joined neighboring Thailand and Laos in a campaign to eradicate the crop, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said.

But Myanmar's opium poppy growing rebounded 29 percent last year to 68,450 acres, said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency.

The situation ``is extremely alarming,'' Costa said. ``The increase this year may be a single, 12-month experience ... but that's too early to say.''

Opium is the main ingredient of heroin, and Myanmar is the world's second-biggest opium producer, although it trails the top producer by a wide margin. Afghanistan has 477,000 acres of poppy fields, a 17 percent rise from last year's 408,000 acres, the annual UNODC survey said.

Costa said there were many factors in the rebound of poppy growing in Myanmar.

He said the majority of the fields are concentrated in states along eastern Myanmar's borders with China and Thailand, where ethnic insurgents hold sway. Those groups may be using opium sales to purchase weapons, he said.

``Once again, we see, like in Afghanistan, like in Colombia, like in some other parts of the world, illicit activity is taking place in an area where there is no government control,'' Costa said.

He said poor farmers also are lured by good prices for opium, about double in Myanmar what Afghan poppy growers get. Farmers ``think twice before giving up opium, and some of them (are) actually going back'' to planting poppies, he said.

Demand for opium among users in the region has not declined as steadily as it has in Europe, Costa added. ``Opium is still very much the drug of choice there,'' he said.

He also pointed to corruption within the Myanmar government that allows opium to be smuggled into China, Thailand and Laos. ``As a result, plenty of powerful people are profiting,'' he said.

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Snow Blankets Sierra October 05, 2007 10:19 AM

It's only the beginning of but it already looks like winter in the Sierra.

A blanket of snow is covering the trees and roads in Blue Canyon. Snow continued to fall early Friday morning.

Snow levels did get down to about 4,000 feet in some places

For the first time this season, there were chain restrictions on Interstate 80 overnight. The chain requirement has since been lifted.

NBC11 meteorologist Shannon O'Donnell said its cold enough in the area for the snow to last through Friday, but O'Donnell said it should melt by the weekend.

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Meteor Crash in Peru Caused Mysterious Illness September 24, 2007 1:01 PM

An object that struck the high plains of Peru on Saturday, causing a mysterious illness among local residents, was a rare kind of meteorite, scientists announced today.

A team of Peruvian researchers confirmed the origins of the object, which crashed near Lake Titicaca, after taking samples to a lab in the capital city of Lima

Nearby residents who visited the impact crater complained of headaches and nausea, spurring speculation that the explosion was a subterranean geyser eruption or a release of noxious gas from decayed matter underground.

But the illness was the result of inhaling arsenic fumes, according to Luisa Macedo, a researcher for Peru's Mining, Metallurgy, and Geology Institute (INGEMMET), who visited the crash site.

The meteorite created the gases when the object's hot surface met an underground water supply tainted with arsenic, the scientists said.

Numerous arsenic deposits have been found in the subsoils of southern Peru, explained Modesto Montoya, a nuclear physicist who collaborated with the team. The naturally formed deposits contaminate local drinking water.

"If the meteorite arrives incandescent and at a high temperature because of friction in the atmosphere, hitting water can create a column of steam," added José Ishitsuka, an astronomer at the Peruvian Geophysics Institute, who analyzed the object.

By Wednesday, according to Macedo, all 30 residents who felt ill reported feeling better.

Read Full Article:

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European sperm running out in U.S. sperm banks after FDA ban September 20, 2007 1:37 PM

LONDON (AP) For American parents looking for donor sperm to produce blond, blue-eyed Scandinavian babies, the search just got a little trickier.

A ban on sperm from all European countries with exposure to mad cow disease means U.S. sperm banks are running low.

The May 2005 decision by the Food and Drug Administration effectively blocked donors from Denmark to the United Kingdom. And while some sperm banks have had enough frozen stocks to cope with demand, they are now facing shortages.

``We still have a little bit left, but not much,'' said Claus Rodgaard, manager of Cryos International, a Danish-based sperm bank with an office in New York.

``We're not here to promote people to have blond, blue-eyed babies, but if those are the kinds of characteristics you're looking for, then Danish sperm is good for that,'' Rodgaard said. ``That's all we have in Denmark.''

Scientists say the ban is not justified.

``The consensus in the United Kingdom is that this is a silly ban,'' said Dr. Allan Pacey, an andrology expert at the University of Sheffield and secretary of the British Fertility Society. ``There's no evidence to show that mad cow disease can be transmitted in human semen.''

The human form of mad cow disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is mainly transmitted after people eat infected meat. In rare cases, the disease has been spread by contaminated surgical equipment or in transplants of brain tissue. There has never been a documented case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob being passed on after a sperm donation.

Pacey said concerned doctors could always screen potential donors to see if they might be at high-risk for mad cow disease, but that a blanket ban was unnecessary.

Dr. Gianpiero Palermo, an associate professor at Cornell University's Center for Reproductive Medicine, agreed. ``I'd be more worried about genetic diseases,'' he said.

Diseases including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, or bacterial infections like chlamydia would be far more likely to be spread by sperm donors, doctors said.

Rodgaard said the FDA has been asked to reconsider the ban, but there has been no sign it will be lifted soon. ``It's a completely random decision,'' he said, pointing out that even though Canada has reported mad cow cases, ``you are still allowed to import all the tissue you want from Canada.''

For the moment, the best option for American parents desiring children of European stock may be to travel to Europe. ``We just have not been able to import any more Scandinavian sperm,'' Rodgaard said.

Palermo said the ban has not had a big impact.

``There's absolutely no difference between American and European sperm,'' he said. ``If you are looking for a specific type of donor, we can find whatever genetic qualities you want in the U.S.''

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5 Worst Things That Can Happen To A Traveler September 19, 2007 10:20 AM

Travel is risky, of course. But there's just no way of knowing when your number will be up, and your plane will go down.

There are other worst-case scenarios that aren't as random. I'm talking about preventable incidents that might - and probably will - happen to you on your next trip. Things you can anticipate. Things you should anticipate.

Here are the five worst, along with my suggestions for sidestepping them:

Go To:

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Languages Racing to Extinction in 5 Global "Hotspots" September 18, 2007 2:32 PM

From Alaska to Australia, hundreds of languages around the world are teetering on the brink of extinction—some being spoken only by a single person, according to a new study.

The research has revealed five hotspots where languages are vanishing most rapidly: eastern Siberia, northern Australia, central South America, Oklahoma, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest .

"Languages are undergoing a global extinction crisis that greatly exceeds the pace of species extinction," said David Harrison, a linguistics professor at Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College.

Harrison and Gregory Anderson, both affiliated with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages in Oregon, traveled the world to interview the last speakers of critically endangered languages as part of the National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices Project.

(National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society.)

More than half of the world's 7,000 languages are expected to die out by the end of the century, often taking with them irreplaceable knowledge about the natural world, Harrison said.

"Most of what we know about species and ecosystems is not written down anywhere, it's only in people's heads," he said.

"We are seeing in front of our eyes the erosion of the human knowledge base."

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News In General As It Affects All of Us. September 18, 2007 12:37 PM

Non-Hungarian articles can be posted here. Topics can be issues that concern all of us .

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