Jul 10, 2009
Huge Fire Breaks Out In Central London
- 2 minutes ago - uk.news.yahoo.com
Twelve fire engines and 60 firefighters are attending the fire, which broke out in a building in Dean Street at around 14:00.
Huge Fire Breaks Out In Central London
43 mins ago
© Sky News 2009
Fire crews are tackling a huge blaze in Soho, central London. Skip related content
Twelve fire engines and 60 firefighters are attending the fire, which broke out in a building in Dean Street at around 14:00.
Part of the basement of the four storey building is alight. The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.
A spokesman for London Fire Brigade says 75% of the building has been destroyed.
Two ambulances have been seen inside the cordon, but it's not known how many people are injured.
Eyewitness Kayleigh Dugdale told Sky News that every building along Dean Street had been evacuated.
Nino Ripani, manager of nearby restaurant Signor Zilli's, said: "It's really shocking, it's something that you don't see every day."
"It's really getting to serious stuff now, we can see the black bits coming out."
Musician David McAlmont was among the crowd stood at the edge of the cordon.
"I saw the smoke for St Martin's Lane and followed it all the way here. It was only then that I realised what was happening."
More to follow.
Jul 10, 2009 9:04am
Jun 6, 2008
Polish toddler gets European prize for live-saving phone callAFP - Tuesday, June 3 09:48 pm
WARSAW (AFP) - A four-year-old boy from Poland has been awarded a European prize for helping save the life of his mother by calling the emergency services, a Polish lawmaker said Tuesday.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski said that young Krystian, whose quick thinking saved diabetic Kinga Szymanska, was to receive his honour in Brussels Tuesday from the European Emergency Number Association, which promotes the continent-wide 112 emergency number.
Last October, Krystian, who was then just three and a half, managed to telephone the number when his mother lost consciousness at their home in Lodz, in central Poland.
Emergency operator Dorota Krolak was able to stay on the line with the youngster in order to locate the call and send an ambulance.
Krolak is also to receive an award for her role in saving Szymanska's life.
As the summer vacation season looms, the European Union is trying to raise the profile of the 112 number, in the face of studies which show that only 22 percent of Europeans are aware that they can use it across the continent.
The number was introduced in 1991, in an effort to make it simpler for people to call emergency services when they travelled outside their home countries.
Previously, travellers were forced to remember an array of numbers, ranging from Britain's single 999 for all emergency services, to France's 17 for the police and 18 for the fire brigade.
The 112 line functions alongside the traditional numbers in many EU member states.
Jun 6, 2008
World's oldest pupil moved to pensioners home
AFP - 1 hour 40 minutes ago
ELDORET, Kenya (AFP) - An 88-year-old Kenyan man who was the world's oldest school pupil was forced to abandon his studies when he was moved to a home for the aged, teachers and aid workers said Friday.
Kimani Nganga Maruge became a celebrity when he joined a school in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret at the age of 84, earning him a Guinness book of records entry as the oldest man ever to start primary school.
A former Mau-Mau who fought British settlers in the 1950s, the elderly Kenyan had already seen his schooling disrupted earlier this year when he was displaced with hundreds of thousands of others by post-electoral violence.
The school's headteacher told AFP that Nganga, now in grade five, never missed school before and his failure to show up for class at 7:30 am (0430 GMT) on Thursday prompted the staff to look for their illustrious pupil.
"We immediately had to establish what had gone wrong to ascertain our fears before his fellow pupils told us they had seen him aboard a Red Cross vehicle," Jane Obinchu said.
Teaching staff expressed their disappointment at Nganga's departure and charged that the decision was hastily taken.
"He is an international figure who was very keen with his studies. I doubt if he can accept his studies to be interrupted," Obinchu said.
"The ministry of education should come to our rescue. As far as we are concerned, this is like abduction because Maruge was a pupil here and his teachers are in the dark over the circumstances," said Albert Kebenei, who chairs the local Parents and Teachers Association.
He explained that Nganga had contributed towards dramatically increasing enrolment at Kapkenduiywo primary school by inspiring families to give their children an education.
A local Red Cross employee explained that Nganga had been identified as vulnerable following the turmoil that shook the region following the December 27 polls and needed care.
"I informed nearly everybody in the school about our move," Robert Lenguiya told AFP.
Nganga, who still enjoyed smoking cigarettes despite the reprobation of the school staff and his 11-year-old classmates, had said he wanted to pursue his studies all the way to his veterinary diploma.
Jun 6, 2008
Police defusing unexploded WWII bombAFP - Friday, June 6 08:14 am
LONDON (AFP) - Bomb experts were on Friday working to defuse an unexploded World War II bomb found near a London Underground station, a police spokesman confirmed.
At one point on Thursday, the 2,200-pound device, found in a river near Bromley-by-Bow station in east London, began to tick but stopped when liquid was poured over it, police said.
Transport for London, the agency responsible for the capital's public transport network, suspended services from the Underground station from 9:30 pm (2030 GMT) on Thursday to Friday morning because of the bomb, the largest World War II bomb to be discovered in three decades.
A 220-yard exclusion zone has been erected around the device.
"It's not yet been made safe," a police spokesman told AFP.
He said that army bomb disposal experts from the Royal Engineers would work on the bomb overnight, and would likely be finished by Friday morning.
"Royal Engineers and partner agencies have been incredibly heroic and have worked extremely hard to defuse the bomb, and we're all working to resolve this issue with minimum disruption to Londoners as soon as possible," Commander Simon O'Brien said Thursday, speaking at the scene.
Jun 4, 2008
Ao abrigo do disposto nos Artigos n.ºs 52.º da Constituição da República Portuguesa, 247.º a 249.º do Regimento da Assembleia da República, 1.º nº. 1, 2.º n.º 1, 4.º, 5.º 6.º e seguintes, da Lei que regula o exercício do Direito de Petição)
Ex.mo Senhor Presidente da República Portuguesa
Ex.mo Senhor Presidente da Assembleia da República Portuguesa
Ex.mo Senhor Primeiro-Ministro de Portugal
1 – O uso oral e escrito da língua portuguesa degradou-se a um ponto de aviltamento inaceitável, porque fere irremediavelmente a nossa identidade multissecular e o riquíssimo legado civilizacional e histórico que recebemos e nos cumpre transmitir aos vindouros. Por culpa dos que a falam e escrevem, em particular os meios de comunicação social; mas ao Estado incumbem as maiores responsabilidades porque desagregou o sistema educacional, hoje sem qualidade, nomeadamente impondo programas da disciplina de Português nos graus básico e secundário sem valor científico nem pedagógico e desprezando o valor da História.
Se queremos um Portugal condigno no difícil mundo de hoje, impõe-se que para o seu desenvolvimento sob todos os aspectos se ponha termo a esta situação com a maior urgência e lucidez.
2 – A agravar esta situação, sob o falso pretexto pedagógico de que a simplificação e uniformização linguística favoreceriam o combate ao analfabetismo (o que é historicamente errado), e estreitariam os laços culturais (nada o demonstra), lançou-se o chamado Acordo Ortográfico, pretendendo impor uma reforma da maneira de escrever mal concebida, desconchavada, sem critério de rigor, e nas suas prescrições atentatória da essência da língua e do nosso modelo de cultura. Reforma não só desnecessária mas perniciosa e de custos financeiros não calculados. Quando o que se impunha era recompor essa herança e enriquecê-la, atendendo ao princíio da diversidade, um dos vectores da União Europeia.
Lamenta-se que as entidades que assim se arrogam autoridade para manipular a língua (sem que para tal gozem de legitimidade ou tenham competência) não tenham ponderado cuidadosamente os pareceres científicos e técnicos, como, por exemplo, o do Prof. Óscar Lopes, e avancem atabalhoadamente sem consultar escritores, cientistas, historiadores e organizações de criação cultural e investigação científica. Não há uma instituição única que possa substituir-se a toda esta comunidade, e só ampla discussão pública poderia justificar a aprovação de orientações a sugerir aos povos de língua portuguesa.
3 – O Ministério da Educação, porque organiza os diferentes graus de ensino, adopta programas das matérias, forma os professores, não pode limitar-se a aceitar injunções sem legitimidade, baseadas em “acordos” mais do que contestáveis. Tem de assumir uma posição clara de respeito pelas correntes de pensamento que representam a continuidade de um património de tanto valor e para ele contribuam com o progresso da língua dentro dos padrões da lógica, da instrumentalidade e do bom gosto. Sem delongas deve repor o estudo da literatura portuguesa na sua dignidade formativa.
O Ministério da Cultura pode facilitar os encontros de escritores, linguistas, historiadores e outros criadores de cultura, e o trabalho de reflexão crítica e construtiva no sentido da maior eficácia instrumental e do aperfeiçoamento formal.
4 – O texto do chamado Acordo sofre de inúmeras imprecisões, erros e ambiguidades – não tem condições para servir de base a qualquer proposta normativa.
É inaceitável a supressão da acentuação, bem como das impropriamente chamadas consoantes “mudas” – muitas das quais se lêem ou têm valor etimológico indispensável à boa compreensão das palavras.
Não faz sentido o carácter facultativo que no texto do Acordo se prevê em numerosos casos, gerando-se a confusão.
Convém que se estudem regras claras para a integração das palavras de outras línguas dos PALOP, de Timor e de outras zonas do mundo onde se fala o Português, na grafia da língua portuguesa.
A transcrição de palavras de outras línguas e a sua eventual adaptação ao português devem fazer-se segundo as normas científicas internacionais (caso do árabe, por exemplo).
Recusamos deixar-nos enredar em jogos de interesses, que nada leva a crer de proveito para a língua portuguesa. Para o desenvolvimento civilizacional por que os nossos povos anseiam é imperativa a formação de ampla base cultural (e não apenas a erradicação do analfabetismo), solidamente assente na herança que nos coube e construída segundo as linhas mestras do pensamento científico e dos valores da cidadania.
Ana Isabel Buescu Caso pretenda adicionar a sua assinatura a este Manifesto, insira os seus dados nos campos abaixo indicados.
António Lobo Xavier
Jorge Morais Barbosa
José Pacheco Pereira
José da Silva Peneda
Luís Fagundes Duarte
Maria Alzira Seixo
Paulo Teixeira Pinto
Raul Miguel Rosado Fernandes
Vasco Graça Moura
Vítor Manuel Aguiar e Silva
Vitorino Barbosa de Magalhães Godinho
(Voltar ao início: www.ipetitions.com/petition/manifestolinguaportuguesa)
Apr 28, 2008
By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel Howden
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.
The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.
Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."
Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.
The "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags – is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.
Mr Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the "North Pacific gyre" – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.
He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by," he said in an interview. "How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"
Mr Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. He warned yesterday that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.
Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, said more research was needed to establish the size and nature of the plastic soup but that there was "no reason to doubt" Algalita's findings.
"After all, the plastic trash is going somewhere and it is about time we get a full accounting of the distribution of plastic in the marine ecosystem and especially its fate and impact on marine ecosystems."
Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump. "Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere," said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.
Mr Moore said that because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just below the water's surface, it is not detectable in satellite photographs. "You only see it from the bows of ships," he said.
According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.
Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic,
Dr Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water poses a risk to human health, too. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. "What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It's that simple," said Dr Eriksen.
Apr 28, 2008 12:22pm
Apr 28, 2008
Why Britain's butterflies are desperate for a dry summer
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Britain's butterflies are in desperate need of good weather in 2008 or they may experience a population "catastrophe", conservationists said yesterday.
They were dealt a massive blow by the record wet summer of last year, new figures reveal. Many species were already declining and the heavy rainfall may have caused them to disappear in many parts of Britain.
Plenty of sunshine is now essential for populations of many species to recover. Survey figures for 2007, released yesterday, reveal that as a consequence of the wet weather, British butterflies collectively suffered their worst year for more than a quarter of a century. Butterflies do not fly in the rain, making it impossible for them to reach the plants whose nectar they feed on, and heavy rain also means they are unable to breed.
It is feared that in many places, the great washout that was June, July and August may have capped years of population decline, and the knock-on effect on breeding will exacerbate the downward spiral of butterfly numbers. The charity Butterfly Conservation said yesterday: "If this happens, the United Kingdom could be facing a butterfly catastrophe with some species facing extinction in parts of the country."
Eight species had their lowest-ever recorded numbers in Britain in 2007, and two very rare species, the high brown fritillary and the Duke of Burgundy, both already plunging in populations, also suffered badly.
The eight species at an all-time low last year were the common blue, the silver-studded blue, the grayling, the Lulworth skipper, the small skipper, the small tortoiseshell, the speckled wood and the wall butterfly. The figures come from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, operated by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which each year collates data collected by thousands of volunteers.
"We know bad weather has a big effect on butterflies, so a bad season is bad at the time," said Martin Warren, Butterfly Conservation's director. "But the problem here is that many species are already declining, and have been for decades. So if you get a bad year on top of years of decline, that will push a lot of species to extinction in quite a lot more sites.
"I would say it was like lights blinking, and this would just flip the switch for lights out, and a local extinction. Imagine your local piece of grassland, with butterfly numbers going down for years – you get a particularly bad year, and that's the year when they disappear."
There have been two other very bad years for butterflies since the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme was set up 33 years ago, both stemming from extremes of weather. The worst was 1981, the last really chilly summer of recent times, when the average peak UK temperature was a mere 14.1C.
The other was 1977, which followed the severe drought of the previous summer, from which some of Britain's rarest species have never fully recovered. The increased frequency of extreme weather is a serious concern for the future.
It is ironic that last year's disastrous summer followed what was probably the best-ever spring for butterflies in Britain, when temperatures were so warm, climaxing in the record warm April, that no fewer than 11 British butterflies recorded their earliest-ever emergence dates.
But that was followed by a soggy and chilly May, and then the three months of summer, which were the wettest, taken together, since modern British rainfall records began back in 1914.
The floods not only did huge damage to property and infrastructure but also to wildlife. It is only now that the full effect on butterflies can be seen. Britain has 58 regularly breeding butterfly species – 55 residents, and three migrants from the Continent: the painted lady, the clouded yellow and the red admiral. Rising temperatures have meant that the red admiral has begun to overwinter here, and so could now be considered a British resident insect as well.
Speckled wood Pararge aegeria
Aptly named as it often flies in partly shaded woodland with dappled sunlight, the speckled wood, dark brown with creamy white patches on the wings, is expanding its range eastwards and northwards. Males sometimes spiral into the airto chase each other.
Lulworth skipper Thymelicus action
One of our smallest butterflies, only found in south Dorset along a stretch of coast near the village of Lulworth. The dull orange-brown wings are held with forewings above hind wings.
Silver-studded blue Plebeius argus
A rare butterfly, now confined to small colonies in England and Wales. Males blue, females brown. Found in heathland where the silvery-blue wings of the males provide a marvellous sight flying low over the heather.
Common blue Polyommatus icarus
This is the most widespread blue butterfly in Britain and is found in grassy habitats. Male has blue wings with a black-brown border, but females are brown in England (though in Scotland, females can also be blue).
Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
With its bright orange, yellow and black wings, the small tortoiseshell is commonly found in gardens. It is one of the first butterflies to be seen in spring but has declined considerably. Nettle-feeder.
Small skipper Thymelicus sylvestris
Small with a darting flight and widespread in southern England and Wales; its range has expanded north in recent years. An insect of high summer.
Wall butterfly Lasiommata megera
Named after its habit of basking on walls, rocks, and stony places, the wall or wall brown is declining substantially in southern England. The light brown undersides provide good camouflage against a stony or sandy background.
Grayling Hipparchia semele
Widespread on the coast and southern heaths, but declining, particularly inland. Rests with wings closed, when the mottled-brown underwing is visible, but appears larger in flight when it extends pale yellow-orange bands.
Apr 28, 2008 12:18pm
Apr 28, 2008
Is it time to give up the search for an Aids vaccine?
By Steve Connor and Chris Green
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Most scientists involved in Aids research believe that a vaccine against HIV is further away than ever and some have admitted that effective immunisation against the virus may never be possible, according to an unprecedented poll conducted by The Independent.
A mood of deep pessimism has spread among the international community of Aids scientists after the failure of a trial of a promising vaccine at the end of last year. It just was the latest in a series of setbacks in the 25-year struggle to develop an HIV vaccine.
The Independent's survey of more than 35 leading Aids scientists in Britain and the United States found that just two were now more optimistic about the prospects for an HIV vaccine than they were a year ago; only four said they were more optimistic now than they were five years ago.
Nearly two thirds believed that an HIV vaccine will not be developed within the next 10 years and some of them said that it may take at least 20 more years of research before a vaccine can be used to protect people either from infection or the onset of Aids.
A substantial minority of the scientists admitted that an HIV vaccine may never be developed, and even those who believe that one could appear within the next 10 years added caveats saying that such a vaccine would be unlikely to work as a truly effective prophylactic against infection by the virus.
One of the major conclusions to emerge from the failed clinical trial of the most promising prototype vaccine, manufactured by the drug company Merck, was that an important animal model used for more than a decade, testing HIV vaccines on monkeys before they are used on humans, does not in fact work.
This has meant that prototype HIV vaccines which appear to work well when tested on monkeys infected with an artificial virus do not work when tested on human volunteers at risk of HIV – a finding that will be exploited by anti-vivisectionist campaigners opposed to vaccine experiments on primates.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), near Washington, told The Independent that the animal model – which uses genetically engineered simian and human immunodeficiency viruses in a combination, known as SHIV – failed to predict what will happen when a prototype vaccine is moved from laboratory monkeys to people. "We've learnt a few important things [from the clinical trial]. We've learnt that one of the animal models, the SHIV model, really doesn't predict very well at all," he said.
"At least we now know that you can get a situation where it looks like you are protecting against SHIV and you're not protecting at all in the human model – that's important," he said.
The NIAID spends about $500m (£250m) on HIV vaccine research each year and despite calls from some Aids pressure groups for funds to be diverted to other forms of Aids prevention, Dr Fauci said this was not the time to stop vaccine research. "I don't think you should say that this is the point where we're going to give up on developing a vaccine. I think you continue given that there are so many unanswered questions to answer," he said. "There is an impression given by some that if you do vaccine research you are neglecting other areas of prevention. That's not the case. We should and we are doing them simultaneously."
More than 80 per cent of the scientists who took part in our survey agreed that it was now important to change the direction of HIV vaccine research, given the failure of the Merck clinical trial, which was cancelled when it emerged that the vaccine may have actually increased the chances of people developing Aids.
Robert Gallo, a prominent Aids researcher in the US who is credited with co-discovering the virus in the early 1980s, likened the vaccine's failure to the Challenger disaster, which forced Nasa to ground the space shuttle fleet for years.
At the end of last month, Dr Fauci convened a high-level summit of leading HIV specialists at a hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss the future direction of research. A group of 14 prominent Aids specialists had already written to Dr Fauci suggesting that his institute had "lost its way" in terms of an HIV vaccine.
He said that one outcome of the meeting was a refocusing of the vaccine effort away from expensive clinical trials towards more fundamental research to understand the basic biology of the virus and its effects on the human immune system.
"We'll be turning the knob more towards answering some fundamental questions rather than going into big clinical trials," Dr Fauci said. "I'm certainly disappointed that we're not further ahead in the development of a vaccine but I don't say that this year I'm more discouraged than I was last year. I always knew from the beginning that it would be a very difficult task given what we know about this very elusive virus."
About 33 million people in the world are infected with HIV and some 26 million have died of Aids since the pandemic began.
The majority of scientists who responded to The Independent's survey said that a vaccine would be the most effective way of preventing the spread of the virus given the failure of many education programmes.
Winnie Sseruma, 46: 'For me, the key has been not to give up'
Ms Sseruma says she believes abandoning research for a vaccine would mean a loss of hope for millions of people. "When I was diagnosed, nearly 20 years ago, it was when the first drugs had come on the market. A lot of people had said before then that there was no hope and that all efforts should be put into prevention. But look where we are now. We cannot lose hope; we need to invest in a vaccine."
She says this latest failure needs to be seen as the first hurdle, not a signal to give up. "Yes, the scientists have not been very successful in their quest for a vaccine, but you can learn a lot from failures. Now they have realised they cannot use the normal routes used to develope simpler vaccines."
Ms Sseruma lives in London, but was born in Uganda and says that the current climate of pessimism for the vaccine is not dissimilar to the initial doubts over the likelihood of treating HIV in Africa.
"I remember when treatment started being available in the West and people were saying it would be impossible to send it to Africa. But look what's happened. We should always do whatever is humanly possible to fight Aids. It's been a long journey, but for me, the key has been not to give up, and the scientists need to have the same attitude."
'Philippe B', 42: 'People are getting resistant to drugs'
"Philippe", who wishes to remain anonymous, discovered he was HIV positive 11 years ago. The 42-year-old believes the search for the vaccination should no longer be a priority, but that it should not stop altogether.
"Unfortunately what's happening now is that people are getting more resistant to drug treatment, and more money needs to be put into finding more drugs for treatment," he said.
For people like Philippe, the fear of building an immunity to drugs and running out of options is a real one. He believes that as long as scientists are still pessimistic about the chances of successfully finding a vaccine, money needs to be invested in continuing to fund research into treatment.
"I've already become resistant to five combination treatments over the last ten years, and if I was on the last one available I'd be very afraid. HIV is not a death sentence in the way it once was, but we do need to fund further research into the drugs that treat it."
Nevertheless, Philippe thinks it is not yet time to abandon all research into a vaccine. "In my lifetime I don't think we'll have a vaccine, but there's no reason we should believe it isn't possible," he said. "But we should now be spending more on other ways of dealing with the disease."
Apr 28, 2008 12:14pm
Apr 28, 2008
Does the Earth's magnetic field cause suicides?
- 13:39 24 April 2008
- NewScientist.com news service
- Catherine Brahic
Many animals can sense the Earth's magnetic field, so why not people, asks Oleg Shumilov of the Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems in Russia.
Shumilov looked at activity in the Earth's geomagnetic field from 1948 to 1997 and found that it grouped into three seasonal peaks every year: one from March to May, another in July and the last in October.
Surprisingly, he also found that the geomagnetism peaks matched up with peaks in the number of suicides in the northern Russian city of Kirovsk over the same period.
Shumilov acknowledges that a correlation like this does not necessarily mean there is a causal link, but he points out that there have been several other studies suggesting a link between human health and geomagnetism.
For example, a 2006 review of research on cardiovascular health and disturbances in the geomagnetic field in the journal Surveys in Geophysics (DOI: 10.1007/s10712-006-9010-7) concluded that a link was possible and that the effects seemed to be more pronounced at high latitudes.
The review's author, Michael Rycroft, formerly head of the European Geosciences Society, says that geomagnetic health problems affect 10 to 15% of the population.
"Others have found similar things [to Shumilov's results] in independent sets of data," says Rycroft. "It suggests something may be linking the two factors."
A 2006 Australian study, for example, also found a correlation between peaks in suicide numbers and geomagnetic activity (Bioelectromagnetics, vol. 27 p 155).
Psychiatrists too have noticed a correlation between geomagnetic activity and suicide rates. A review of 13 years of South African data on suicides and magnetic storms in South African Psychiatry Review, vol. 6 p. 24) suggested a link.
Geomagnetic storms – periods of high geomagnetic activity caused by large solar flares – have also been linked to clinical depression.
In 1994, a study was published suggesting a 36.2% increase in the number of men admitted into hospital for depression in the second week after geomagnetic storms (British Journal of Psychiatry vol 164, p 403).
What may be the cause of the link, if there is one, remains unknown. "The intriguing correlation between geomagnetism and suicide justifies more research into its mechanism," says Rycroft.
"The most plausible explanation for the association between geomagnetic activity and depression and suicide is that geomagnetic storms can desynchronise circadian rhythms and melatonin production," says Kelly Posner, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in the US.
The pineal gland, which regulates circadian rhythm and melatonin production, is sensitive to magnetic fields. "The circadian regulatory system depends upon repeated environmental cues to [synchronise] internal clocks," says Posner. "Magnetic fields may be one of these environmental cues."
Geomagnetic storms could disrupt body clocks, precipitating seasonal affective disorder and therefore increase suicide risk, Posner told New Scientist.
There seems little doubt that the brain responds to electromagnetic fields – coils that generate electromagnetic fields can trigger muscular twitches when placed over a person's skull.
However, Shumilov, who was presenting his data at the European Geoscience Union (EGU) annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, last week, does not believe geomagnetic activity influences everyone equally.
He also presented hospital data from 6000 pregnant women who had routine scans of their fetus's heart rates between 1995 and 2003. In 15% of the fetuses, periods of disturbances in their heart rates coincided with periods of high geomagnetic activity.
Shumilov accepts that light levels in northern countries can influence depression, but believes that geomagnetism may be another factor, and one that is under-appreciated.
The trouble with studying the causes of suicide is that it is a rare condition, says Klaus Ebmeier, a psychiatrist at the University of Oxford. "You are bound to get spurious effects. A study of the causes would have to enrol a country's entire population."
Cosmo Hallstrom, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, agrees. "You have to be very careful with suicide statistics," he says. "Countries report them differently. Catholic countries are very reluctant to diagnose suicide. Scandinavian countries consider it a social injustice not to."
Mental Health - Discover the latest research in our continuously updated special report.
Apr 28, 2008
FOREST CONSERVATION NEWS TODAY
Legal Logging Destroying the Earth's Biodiversity, Climate,
Water and Biosphere
Forests.org and Rainforest Portal projects of
Ecological Internet, Inc.
http://www.rainforestportal.org/ -- Rainforest Portal
http://forests.org/ -- Forests.org
April 28, 2008
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet
It is easy to rail against "illegal" logging, when in fact
typical "legal" commercial logging is far more extensive and
destructive in total to the world's biodiversity, climate,
water and biosphere. Both liquidate life giving natural
habitats, and more people are realizing they are mostly
ecologically indistinguishable. Ancient primary forests
industrially harvested for the first time are in fact
destroyed -- in terms of being a fully intact ecological
system with a unique, unimpaired evolutionary trajectory --
regardless if society considers it legal or illegal. Natural
and planted secondary forest ecosystems managed industrially
as tree farms become further ecologically diminished with each
successive harvest including continued toxification, soil
diminishment, species and genetic loss, reduced carbon and
water holding potential, and so many other symptoms of ongoing
Humanity's relationship with all forests must be transformed
if we are to stop the hemorrhaging of lost species and halt
transformation of the atmosphere. Industrial forestry [search]
is incompatible with sustaining the full range of natural
forest values -- from species to genes, from soil microbes to
local microclimates, from a forest stand to the Earth system
and everything in between. Solving the biodiversity, climate
and water crises requires a new forest protection paradigm
that optimizes ecosystem, biodiversity and climate values
while ecologically sustainably harvesting the annual growth
increment (minus ecological restoration of natural capital to
account in the future for past damage).
To maintain an operable biosphere while achieving equitable
and just global ecological sustainability, the forest
protection movement must unite behind a rigorous set of goals
know to be actually sufficient to stop forest and climate
decline. This includes ending ancient forest logging and all
industrial destruction of relatively intact natural
ecosystems, gaining permanent protections for all remaining
primary and old-growth forests (with appropriate compensation
and continued small scale use for local peoples), promoting
the ecological restoration and certified management of
regenerating and planted natural forest ecosystems, and
assisting local peoples with small-scaled, community-based
eco-forestry projects based upon regenerating secondary and
standing ancient forests.
Ecological Internet's network and partners are committed to
this sufficient, ecology and people based forest protection
agenda. This ecologically sufficient forest vision is the only
way forward for forests including rainforests, species
including humans, and ecosystems including Gaia. To work for
anything less is to acquiesce to the powers of ecological
simplification, accepting ecological diminishment and collapse
as inevitable, while pursuing tokenistic responses that by
legitimizing current trends impede global forest
sustainability. You know who I am talking about, and if it is
you, I urge you to reexamine your motivations and strategies.
Otherwise, your apologist reform efforts causing continued
forest destruction remains a legitimate target for protest.
Related Ecological Internet searches:
* Illegal Logging
* Industrial Forestry
* Natural Forest Values
* Biological Homogenization
RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:
Title: Legal logging decimates forests - group
Source: Copyright 2008, Philippine Sun Star
Date: April 26, 2008
Legal, not illegal, large-scale logging is the major culprit
Lisa Ito of the Kalikasan-Philippine Network for the
Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), during her presentation on the
Philippine environmental situation for the Southern Mindanao
Conference on the Environment held at the Holy Cross of Davao
College Friday, said that in the 1900s, forest cover was
estimated at 21 million hectares of 70 percent of the total
Yet a few decades of "development aggression" wiped out two-
thirds of the forests.
By 1999, forest cover was reduced to 18.3 percent of 800,000
hectares and is still decreasing at present.
"Europe, Japan, and the United states demanded and encouraged
the export of cheap and plentiful logs from underdeveloped
countries in Asia and Latin America and the conversion of
deforested areas into agricultural plantations for export
crops," Ito said.
She said FAO's State of the World's Forests 2007 reports a net
forest loss of 20,000 hectares per day globally.
In the Philippines, Ito said deforestation was a result of
"colonial plunder of natural resources."
"Since the American occupation, corporate and large-scale
logging for exports and massive forest conversion were carried
out as a government policy through Timber Licensing Agreements
(TLAs)," Ito said.
From 1920's to the late 1930's, the Philippines became a major
exporter of tropical wood to the US and Japan. Forty-seven
percent or 9.9 million hectares of original forests were
destroyed in the period alone.
"Philippine forests were nearly wiped out under the Marcos
dictatorship under an unregulated logging industry caused by a
combination of corruption, greed, and weak political
institution. TLAs were liberally dispensed to Marcos cronies,
relatives, military allies, and elite interests," Ito said.
By the late 1980's, the Philippine was one of the most
severely deforested areas in Asia but Ito said this state has
worsened under the Arroyo administration.
"The government has yet to implement a genuine and
comprehensive reforestation program. It has one by one lifted
log bans and farmed out commercial logging permits - TLAs and
23 Integrated Forest Management Agreement (Ifma) contracts
from January 2001 to 2004," Ito said.
Ito explained that Ifmas cover a total land area of 191,250.60
hectares and an Ifma contract allows the holder not just the
right to timber but to all other forest products within the
Ito added that as of their last check, the government has
issued 201 Ifmas as of 2003 covering around 714,000 hectares
Apr 28, 2008 11:49am
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