BrightWorld

Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom

HAIL SUPER-CASSAVA! HAIL AFRICA! September 30, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

If I were a Nazi youth, I’d say “Hail Hitler! Hail cassava! Hail cassanova!”

You see, the “superior race” may have failed to distinguish between ‘cassava’ and ‘Cassanova’, that between the two it is the former that brings life, while the latter drains one of life (pardon me Cassanova, please!).

Who knows, cassava could be among the formula to make the White pupils of America increase their aptitude and IQs that were found to be, well, less ‘superior’ than expected? And these White pupils should study science a lot, as they’ve been found wanting in Science and Math aptitude, in contrast to their Asian fellows who are, well, “monkeys with no tails” that perform the highest in the same subjects?

Surprisingly, Melinda Gates, an American White lady, is herself involved in ensuring the bright potential of cassava. The anti-hunger campaigns worldwide, including my own country’s, will benefit a lot from this development.

The great cassava news is contained below. I feel like wagging my tail!

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]   

Scientists target ‘super cassava’

Source: AllAfrica.com

12 August 2008 | EN | FR | 中文

Selling cassava in Indonesia

 

Cassava, the primary source of nutrition for 800 million people worldwide, is receiving attention from a project seeking to boost its nutritional value.

The BioCassava Plus project, supported by US$12.1 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves researchers from Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

The scientists have been seeking to fortify a single 500 gram adult portion of cassava with essential nutrients, including vitamins A and E, iron and zinc.

Other goals include making the crop more disease-resistant, extending its shelf-life from one day to two weeks and reducing cyanide toxicity.

The scientists now claim to have “demonstrated proof of practice for all the target objectives in three years” since their 2005 start date.

The transgenic cassava plants have undergone a stringent biosafety approval process in the United States, and field trials are currently being carried out at a US Department of Agriculture site in Puerto Rico.

Next on the agenda are field trials in Kenya and Nigeria in 2009, before researchers attempt to combine the traits into a single plant.

Link to full article in AllAfrica.com 

 

PROF ERLE ARGONZA INTERVIEWED ANEW BY GMA7 KAPUSO PROGRAM September 28, 2008

Prof. Erle Frayne Argonza, sociologist & economist, was interviewed anew by the team of the Kapuso program of GMA7. The Kapuso is hosted by Jessica Soho, and operates the 9:30-10 pm block time every Saturdays.

The topic for the September 27 episode, where Prof. Argonza appeared, was about gender and beauty expectations. The title “Kontra-Losyang: Why Is This So?” aptly describes the interview segment for the resource speaker.

Prof. Erle Argonza explained first of all that there is this age-old expectation, in gender relations, that the woman must indeed maintain a beauty demeanor, use beauty kits as part of wellness sustenance, and must delay aging or look young before her husband.

The behavior has both cultural (anthropological) and relational (sociological) factors involved in it. It has become part of human adaptation (anthropological), while it reinforces the power relations between man and woman.

While the old notions of beauty and ‘kontra-losyang’ are still around, Erle Argonza clarified that there is an emerging trend today for men to exude a similar behavior. Young and middle aged men of today are more conscious of their grooming, skin care, hair care and physical wellness than before, and the behavior has to be sustained so as to delay aging and reinforce the marital bond.

As concepts of gender parity become popularized, alongside the increasing paradigm of wellness (health-related), both man and woman must consciously practice skin care, hair care, oral care, physical care, and dress well before their respective partner. Doing otherwise could have a downgrading effect on the self-esteem of any spouse, which could strain marital relations later.

Incidentally, the socialization processes and opportunities for both genders to follow the mutual expectation are well built as early as adolescence when a man or woman begins to practice looking for choices of mate. The older ages, seniors included, are also adapting to the behavior modification patterns, as the new trend picks up pace.

[A & A Consultancy, 28 September, 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

LIMA’S COMMUNITY-BASED XDR-TB TREATMENT TEACHES US September 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

From Lima beans to Lima community-based XDR-TB treatment, Lima got it! The exciting news about lessons that we can cull from Lima’s health teachings is that the components of the community-based approach are comprehensive and not just “let me inoculate you Patient so you won’t be vector to your household members and neighbors” sort of dinosaur treatment.

Below is the news about the special TB treatment that Lima shares to us all.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

We can learn from XDR-TB treatment in Lima

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

11 August 2008 | EN | ES

A nurse prepares TB drugs in Peru

World Lung Foundation

A new report from Lima, Peru, offers hope for tackling extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in the developing world, says Mario C. Raviglione in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The report shows that with “aggressive and appropriate” management, XDR-TB can be cured in most cases.

Raviglione highlights some of the factors that may have contributed to Peru’s success in treating the disease. All patients were given systematic drug-susceptibility tests and were treated with powerful second-line drugs, including a fluoroquinolone and an injectable drug. Where necessary, treatment regimens were reinforced with known effective drugs.

Strict community-based supervision was enforced, comprising psychological support, nutritional support and financial incentives. Additionally, intense bacteriological and clinical monitoring allowed for readjustments where necessary.

Raviglione believes that applying such an approach on a more global scale would help minimise, and effectively manage, drug resistance.

“In 2008, scaling up is indeed the major challenge faced by most complex health interventions worldwide … Effectiveness of a complex intervention depends on coordinated work among all forces.”

Link to full article in The New England Journal of Medicine

 

ICT TRAINING OF PERUVIAN WOMEN – IN THEIR MOTHER TONGUE September 22, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

As late as a century ago, Americans and Spaniards made the public claims that Filipinos were “monkeys without tails.” Before they left the islands, the Spaniards believed that “Indians (including Filipinos) are animals that talk like humans.”

 

That being the case, then let us say to those Americans and Spaniards: “thanks Brothers!” Yes, we are all siblings on Earth, and if one regards the other as monkeys then we are all monkeys for that matter.

 

Now, por las Indias de Peru, there’s good news about their potentials for learning technology through their mother tongue. Read the good news below.

 

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Erle Argonza is 75% Malayan blood, or is an Indio Bravo, a “monkey without tail” from Manila.]

 

 

 

Perú: mujeres aprenden en quechua a usar computadoras

Zoraida Portillo

15 agosto 2008 | ES

Mil quinientas mujeres rurales hablantes de quechua, están recibiendo capacitación en su propia lengua para emplear tecnologías de comunicación e información (TIC), como parte de un  proyecto que busca acortar la brecha digital en América Latina.

Las mujeres pertenecen a 33 comunidades de la provincia andina de Pampa Cangallo, en Ayacucho, una de las zonas más pobres del Perú.

El proyecto se denomina 1@+tú=1€ y es promovido por la Fundación CTIC (Centro Tecnológico de la Información y la Comunicación) de Asturias, institución sin fines de lucro que según un comunicado de prensa de fines de julio, desde 2007 ha capacitado a más de siete mil personas en América Latina. Su objetivo es acercar la sociedad de la información a personas que no tienen un fácil acceso.

En el Perú, el proyecto se denomina “Incorporando las TIC en la Acción Comunitaria de las Casas del Bien Estar” y es ejecutado por la ONG Movimiento Manuela Ramos (MMR), con más de 30 años de experiencia en proyectos de igualdad de género.

Claudia Rosas, asistente del proyecto, confirmó a SciDev.Net que el proyecto ha resultado altamente beneficioso para las mujeres, que ahora se sienten “menos vulnerables, mejor empoderadas y más comunicadas” y ya están enseñando las TIC a más hombres y mujeres de sus comunidades.

Gracias a la capacitación ahora saben, por ejemplo, qué hacer y dónde buscar información sobre sus derechos en cuanto a violencia doméstica y abandono familiar, pueden gestionar demandas, conocer nuevas fuentes de ingresos y realizar actividades de desarrollo comunitario, especialmente en salud.

Como la capacitación se hace en quechua, ellas se sienten cómodas y aprenden con facilidad, precisó Rosas.

Las Casas del Bien Estar han sido equipadas como infocentros. Las mujeres las denominan Rimanacuyta Yachana Wasi (Casa donde te enseñan a comunicarte).

El proyecto, que terminará a fines de agosto, ha permitido incluso que muchas personas ubiquen a sus familiares desplazados de la zona por la violencia política que sacudió a Ayacucho en la década del 80. 

 

CHILE’S RENEWABLE ENERGY POTENTIALS September 19, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Hola compadrinos y compadrinos del pais Chile! Que tal!

I do honestly admire the Chileans for their great drive to propel their country to economic prosperity. And I have no better wish than to see the Chileans let go of that Dark Age past of tyrannical rule by the barracks folks. Chileans might profit the better if they move on in their creative pursuits, undistracted by the impurities of barracks mindsets that they have acquired from their tormentors.

Chileans should in fact thank their tormentors, as the tempest they all experienced, which we Filipinos did pass through as well, have tempered them all for greater challenges, strengthened their collective wills-to-prosperity, and ascend the ladder of national success. Let go of that past, Chilean fellows, please.

Here is a good news from Chileans about the renewable energy potentials of the country.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

Chile: alto potencial de uso de energías renovables

Paula Leighton

15 agosto 2008 | ES

[SANTIAGO] Las energías renovables no convencionales (ERNC) y el uso eficiente de la energía eléctrica podrían satisfacer hasta el 40 por ciento de los requerimientos energéticos de Chile en 2025.

Así lo demuestra un estudio de las universidades de Chile y Federico Santa María, difundido el pasado 8 de agosto, que estimó el potencial aporte de energías como la eólica, hidráulica, biomasa, geotérmica y solar en el país.

La cifra supera largamente las metas impuestas por la Ley de Energía aprobada en marzo pasado.

Según esta ley, entre 2010 y 2014 las empresas generadoras y distribuidoras deberán proporcionar cinco por ciento de la energía que comercializan a partir de fuentes renovables y llegar al diez por ciento en 2024.

En 2025 la demanda del Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC) alcanzará a 105.560 GWh. Para ese año, las ERNC y el uso eficiente de la energía eléctrica podrían contribuir con cerca de 40.000 GWh, estima el informe.  

“Esto significa un mejoramiento de la calidad del servicio, disminución de la dependencia energética, aumento de la competitividad y productividad de las empresas y reducción de los impactos ambientales locales”, dicen los investigadores.

Así, el uso de ERNC reduciría la emisión de CO2 en 16 millones de toneladas por año, estiman los autores.

Según dijo a SciDev.Net Sara Larraín, directora de la ONG Chile Sustentable, incluso considerando que el potencial económicamente factible de las ERNC es de alrededor de 17 a 28 por ciento de los requerimientos para 2025, “el porcentaje triplica la meta obligatoria fijada por el gobierno en la ley de energías renovables”.

Por eso, agrega, “la legislación es el único instrumento que tiene el Estado para obligar a las empresas a desarrollar esta opción, que es a largo plazo más barata”.

Para impulsar el potencial de las ERNC, el estudio propone crear una Agencia Nacional de Energías Renovables autónoma.

 

MEXICO LAGS IN TECHNO- RESEARCH

Erle Frayne Argonza

Buenos dias a todos!

Hola amigos y amigas, que tal! Quires tomar cerveza o tequila? Si no tiene gana o si no hay tiempo para fiesta o baylar salsa con tequila, con tocado de musica de mariachi de la Tijuana, vamos a discutir acerca un desarollo technologia.

Bueno amigos y amigas, we have here an evaluative news concerning the rather honest conclusion from Mexican stakeholders that the country lags behind in technology research. I’d say it is good news to hear that concerned Mexicans admitted the gap, as honesty is a virtue of the highest order.

This comes as a ‘wake up’ call to the oligarchs and politicians of Mexico, who seem to be a haste to create a North American Union with Canada and the USA, for reasons that will advance their own bulsaries and powers to infinite heights.

The news is contained in the article below.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

México: ‘enorme rezago en investigación tecnológica’

Fuente: Excelsior Online

13 agosto 2008 | ES

El presupuesto de México para tecnología aumentó en 2008

Flickr / Fotero

El presidente de México, Felipe Calderón, reconoció que en este país existe un enorme rezago en investigación tecnológica, por lo que urgió a la sociedad y al gobierno a adoptar la calidad y los avances como valores fundamentales de una nueva cultura productiva empresarial y laboral.

Así lo indica el periódico Excelsior Online, citando partes del discurso que pronunció Calderón durante la novena entrega del Premio Nacional de Tecnología, el pasado 9 de agosto.

“Quiero convocar a los mexicanos, a todos los órdenes de gobierno, a la academia, los empresarios, las instituciones educativas, tecnológicas y de investigación, a las universidades y los medios a que sigamos uniendo esfuerzos para que nuestra economía siga avanzando y acelere su desarrollo”, dijo Calderón.

El presidente destacó también el incremento del presupuesto en el rubro tecnológico, que pasó de 118 millones de pesos (US$ 11,6 millones) en 2006, a mil millones para este año (US$ 98,4 millones), los cuales se distribuyen a través de un fondo mixto, consigna Excelsior Online.

Este año recibieron el Premio Nacional de Tecnología las siguientes empresas: Chrysler de México, Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Carso, Nucitec, Centro de Investigaciones en Polímeros, Servicios Especializados y Tecnología Informática y el Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey.

Texto completo en Excelsior Online

 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC UPS ICT USE

Erle Frayne Argonza

If there is anything I wish from the Dominican Republic, it is that the leaders of this esteemed nation will tell the world powers and all other countries to “shut up you bellicose lunatics and take down your armies!” Should the DomRepublicans say that, I will re-echo the message here in ASEAN and say “shut up you blabbermouth warmongers and close down your armies!”

That’s a mere wish thing though. More realistically, a news from our esteemed DomRepublican friends pronounced the increasing usage of ICT in their home country. Latin Americans better pay attention to this news, such as Mexico which seems bent on fattening its oligarchs’ purses from non-sensical if not criminal rent-seeking engagements at the expense of high-tech progress.

The great news is contained below.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.] 

 

Crece uso de las TIC en República Dominicana

Fuente: 7 Días

13 agosto 2008 | ES

73,4% de los dominicanos tiene celular

El 67,1 por ciento de los hogares dominicanos tiene acceso al teléfono celular; el 24,5 por ciento al teléfono fijo y el 5,1 por ciento a Internet.

Además, el 34,3 por ciento de las personas mayores de 12 años usa la computadora y el 25,4 por ciento Internet. En este mismo rango de edad, el 73,4 por ciento de los dominicanos tiene acceso al teléfono celular.

Así lo revelan datos preliminares de la Encuesta Nacional de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples (ENHOGAR), en su versión de 2007, difundidos el pasado 7 de agosto, según consigna el diario 7 Días.

De acuerdo con el diario, para el director de la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, Pablo Tactuk, estos datos muestran que los esfuerzos por insertar al país en la sociedad de la información han dado sus frutos.

Sin embargo, agrega 7 Días, al referirse a la penetración de las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación (TIC) en el país, Tactuk “reconoció que existen diferencias ‘notables’ atendiendo a las características socioeconómicas, geográficas y de escolaridad en el acceso a estas tecnologías por lo que llamó a redoblar los esfuerzos para incluir a los sectores que están rezagados”.

Artículo completo en 7 Días

 

YOUTH NOVEL PARK FOR INNOVATIVE FUTURE

Erle Frayne Argonza

Who says that the youth can’t share much about hard creative products aside from their classroom outputs that are largely novitiate or apprentice level? So many great works of genius have already gone out of universities, straight from the mental banks of adolescents and youthful instructors.

From Latin America comes a welcome news about a ‘creativity park’ whose purpose is to facilitate the build up capabilities for future innovativeness.

See the news item below. Venceremos!

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Futuros innovadores se forman en original campamento

Lisbeth Fog

9 agosto 2008 | ES

Elvis Perea y otros estudiantes en el Parque de la Creatividad

Carlos Andrés Sánchez, cortesía Parque de la Creatividad

[BUCARAMANGA] Desde el 25 de julio, 30 jóvenes se encuentran reunidos en la capital santandereana, al noreste de Colombia, en una experiencia a la que no fue fácil llegar: el Parque de la Creatividad.

“El Parque de la Creatividad es un foro que congrega a jóvenes de últimos años de colegio y algunos de primeros años de universidad, donde a través de su interacción con mentores científicos inventores se promueve la creatividad”, explica el microbiólogo colombiano Raúl Cuero, creador de la iniciativa, actualmente investigador de la Universidad de Texas Prairie View A&M, en Estados Unidos.

Es la segunda vez que sucede en el país. Los jóvenes seleccionados se reúnen en una ciudad colombiana durante casi tres semanas, a crear.

En Bucaramanga hay jóvenes de distintas ciudades colombianas y dos estadounidenses. Hombres y mujeres, negros, mestizos y blancos, de colegios privados, escuelas públicas y universidades.

La filosofía del Parque, dice Cuero, es que de la diversidad sale la creatividad.

“Tuvimos que escribir un ensayo de 800 palabras en el que buscáramos una solución creativa a un problema”, cuenta Elvis Perea, un joven recién graduado de bachiller.

Los seleccionados participarán hasta el 10 de agosto en vivencias que van desde entrenamientos de laboratorio para descubrir el ADN o entender los procesos que desencadena la clorofila, pasando por actividades artísticas, entrenamiento en mercadeo y manejos administrativos.

Se trata de formar jóvenes innovadores, que no solamente realicen investigación, sino que sepan plasmarla en un producto o un proceso eventualmente comercializable en el futuro.

Por eso, también visitan industrias, escuchan a presidentes de empresas, oyen música, una sicóloga los pone a pensar. El programa no está escrito; no saben qué pasará en la siguiente hora.

En mensaje enviado el primer día del campamento, el presidente de Colombia Álvaro Uribe dijo confiar en que “este campamento internacional de invenciones “Raúl Cuero” dará a nuestros muchachos numerosas oportunidades para que despierten su creatividad en beneficio de la ciencia, de cara a lograr su activa participación en nuestras regiones”.

Los Parques de la Creatividad tienen el apoyo de universidades como Harvard, MIT, California en Berkeley y en San Francisco y la de Texas. En Colombia apoyan empresas como Alianza Team y Casa Luker.

 

INDONESIA SHOWCASES E-LEARNING FOR SMEs, YOUTH September 15, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

From our esteem neighbor Indonesia comes a very heartwarming news about enabling its e-learning programs for (a) the small & medium enterprises and (b) youth. E-learning is not new to Indonesia nor to any of the 10-member states of ASEAN, though there are admittedly certain sectors where the technology divide is still a reality.

Taiwan’s stakeholders entered the scene as co-partners with the Indonesian stakeholders to fast-track the e-learning services and bridge the digital divide in the sectors concerned.

Below is the news caption about the e-learning project.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

Indonesia profits from Taiwan e-learning scheme

Ella Syafputri

12 August 2008 | EN

Indonesian students are among those benefiting from the scheme

Flickr/kinjengnet

[JAKARTA] Indonesian students, businesses and government officials are benefiting from a Taiwanese scheme to bridge the digital divide in developing countries.

Some 3,500 people and businesses have been trained in six e-learning centres sponsored by the Taiwan government in three Indonesian cities: Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

The programme of transferable ICT skills has proven to be useful for participants, says Lester Leu, deputy director at the economic division of the Taiwan Economy and Trade Office (TETO).

“After taking part in e-learning programmes, some students and small and medium enterprises [SMEs] start to access technology and get better life opportunities. Many students and SMEs immediately set up e-commerce both for domestic and international markets,” Lester told SciDev.Net.

Lester said Taiwan started establishing the centres in 2006 and the work was finished by May 2008.

“The centres aim to bridge the digital divide as well as enhance ICT capabilities in Indonesia. Some specialisations occur in e-learning centres, such as increasing access for women, SMEs or children,” he says.

Lester says the programme has been particularly beneficial for participants from poorer communities, and the centres train high school teachers so they can pass on the skills to a larger number of people.

“Every year, we invite ICT experts from Indonesia to Taiwan to exchange experience and competencies. There is an annual local competition in e-commerce utilisation and the winners are invited to Taiwan as well,” he adds.

By the end of this year, Taiwan expects to have opened 41 e-learning centres in seven developing countries — Chile, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — under a programme approved by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

The Taiwan government proposed the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) initiative during the 2003 APEC leadership summit in Thailand, with the goal of using Taiwan’s advanced ICT experience to assist other APEC member states in upgrading their technology capacities.

Lester hopes there will be a second phase of the initiative, with centres built in more Indonesian cities. It is due to be discussed in ADOC Week 2008, set for 29 September–4 October in Taipei.

 

CIRCUMCISION AS HIV PREVENTION September 12, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Who says that male circumcision does not have any positive health value at all, that it is more of an esthetic practice than a medical one?

In the Philippines, ‘libreng tuli’ (free circumcision) is among the health services offered by NGOs and social service groups to community members. As President of the KAKAMMPI in 89-93, I led the conduct of this free service for the adolescent boys of Anakbayan in Paco district, (Old) Manila, and in Tondo district, (Old) Manila. Not only were the surgical operations simple and well accepted, they also somehow ensured my group’s relevance among urban poor residents of the beneficiary communities.

But there is the lingering question raised about the true health value of circumcision. With a recent development in HIV research, it seems that the issue is coming to a close finally. Circumcision could very well be very cost effective a way to prevent HIV, and Africa itself could save as much as billions of dollars of prospective medications via male circumcision.

See the exciting news below.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news… The Kakammpi is a national organization of dependents of overseas workers, largely concerned with advocacy and community organizing.  As its president, I was involved in the drafting of a proposed law for migrants that was passed later, as the Omnibus Law for Overseas Workers.]

Circumcision for HIV prevention ‘cost effective’

Mohammed Yahia

11 August 2008 | EN | 中文

Photoshare

[MEXICO CITY] In addition to decreasing the transmission of HIV, circumcision is cost effective and can reduce the risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, researchers have announced.

Researchers presented a mathematical model at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City last week (6 August) that showed that male circumcision programmes are economically feasible in Sub-Saharan Africa.

While they may cost more than US$900 million dollars to initiate, the budget for antiretroviral therapies would be cut considerably with the reduction in new infections.

“Calculations suggest that, over a 20-year period, two billion dollars would be saved,” said Bertran Auvert, professor of public health at France’s national biomedical institute INSERM.

Auvert also announced that HPV infection can be cut by around 40 per cent in men, as well as circumcision reducing HIV infections by 60 per cent.

“Circumcision could therefore be an indirect way of limiting the risk of genital cancers caused by HPV in women,” said Auvert.

According to Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, studies in South Africa show a high level of acceptance of male circumcision. “We’ve seen high uptake and there are lengthy waiting lists right now,” he said.

But expansion of the practice in Africa has proved slow. “If it were a traditional biomedical product, like a pill, I think we would see roll-out much more quickly,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition. “But you are dealing with a deeply cultural and social issue.”

For example, the elders of the Luo tribe, a large community in Kenya, have refused to endorse male circumcision as it is against their culture and they are not convinced it will decrease the rate of new infections.

And in Indonesia, Christians have been reluctant to get circumcised because the practice is associated with the coming of age for young Muslim boys, explained Karen Houston Smith, deputy director of Family Health International, Indonesia. “They feel this casts some doubt on the validity of their Christianity.”

Bermejo stressed that dialogue and information will be essential for any global strategies to roll out male circumcision.

And the messages need to be clear. “We need to be sure we are not putting women at risk. We need to be sure that men who do get circumcised don’t think that they can now stop using condoms” said Warren.

“But that doesn’t mean we should not be scaling up in a strategic and smart fashion that is addressing all of these other factors.”

 

FROM BEIJING: CLIMATE CHANGE MODELS NEED REVISION September 10, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

So many of our scientific models of ecological reality need gross revisions. I am aware for instance that the model for the ‘water cycle’ is badly flawed, yet the scientific community has not done much to revise it.

 

Here is another facet of reality—climate change—where the existing models are found to be flawed. From East Asian scientists, notably Beijing, come the observation that the existing models ‘ignore brown carbon’. It need not belabored that the models must be revised.

 

The news about the observations regarding the model is contained below. What is gladdening is that scientists were able to uncover the flaw, which will ensure revision of the model and the practical technologies coming out from the labs later.

 

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

Current climate models ‘ignoring brown carbon’

Sun Xiaohua and Jia Hepeng

15 August 2008 | EN | 中文

Smog over Bangkok, Thailand

Flickr/gullevek

[BEIJING] Scientists have found that air pollution from East Asia contains an abundance of ‘brown carbon’ particles and say that atmospheric models need updating to incorporate their effect.

Current climate models take into account two types of aerosol carbon — organic carbon and black carbon — that arise from the burning of fossil fuels or biomass.

Black carbon strongly warms the atmosphere by absorbing light, while organic carbon absorbs light at a negligible level and has no warming effect.

It has already been claimed black carbon plays a much larger role in global warming than estimates made by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (see Black carbon climate danger ‘underestimated’).

But this approximation is too simple, according to Peter Crozier, an associate professor at Arizona State University (ASU) in the United States, whose team published their research in Science last week (8 August).

According to the authors, the method that is currently used to measure the warming effect of different types of particle doesn’t take into account the wide variations that can occur between types of carbon from different sources.

They instead used a technique based on a specialised type of electron microscope to directly determine the optical properties of individual carbon particles, and found that samples taken from above the Yellow Sea, east of China, have an abundance of brown carbon particles.  

“Brown carbon has light absorbing properties that lie between strongly absorbing black carbon and materials that only scatter light and do not absorb,” co-author James Anderson, a research scientist at ASU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, told SciDev.Net.

He adds that brown carbon both cools the Earth’s surface and warms the atmosphere, resulting in a complex role in global warming, hence the necessity to incorporate it into climate models.

Hu Guoquan, a senior scientist at the Beijing-based National Climate Centre, welcomes the study, saying it highlights the uncertainties of IPCC models.

“But more studies on the chemical structure and size of brown carbon particles must be done,” he told SciDev.Net.

In addition, Hu says, as many carbon aerosols pollutants are emitted by China or India — which have massive combustion of fossil fuels and biomass — judging their accurate warming or cooling effect must be done cautiously and avoid claims without sufficient scientific evidence, as this will contribute to determining the nations’ responsibilities in global warming.

Link to abstract in Science 

 

FANTASIZE ‘SOLAR TOWER’? SEE NAMIBIA September 9, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Fellow of the planet, in case you may be of the mindset that towers only used for telecommunications facilities and military observation posts, the article contained here will make you modify your thought construct a bit.

From Namibia comes a very exciting news about solar towers. This is not just a tower that can supply the energy needs of a village or town, but an entire region. Funding alone would require $900 Million, which is more than the budget for a new 660-megawatt nuclear fission breeder. The added good news to this solar power project is that it is a ‘green’ project as well.

See the great news from Namibians that is contained below. Even at this moment, my adrenalin already propels me for a visit to the project site later.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Scientists propose ‘solar tower’ to boost Namibia electricity

Carol Campbell and Rodrick Mukumbira

11 August 2008 | EN

Artist’s impression of the proposed solar tower for Namibia

GreenTower

[CAPE TOWN / WINDHOEK] A huge solar energy tower has been proposed to boost the electricity grid in Namibia.

At one and a half kilometres high and 280 metres wide — bigger than two soccer fields back-to-back — the tower could provide electricity for the whole of the Namibian capital Windhoek.

But neither a date nor a site for the proposed tower has been confirmed, though it is expected to be close to Windhoek, says South African mechanical engineer Alan Dunlop from the pan-African intellectual property firm Hahn & Hahn, which is involved in the project. 

The operation of a solar tower involves heating air inside a vast transparent tent, several kilometres in diameter, at the base of the tower. This hot air rises inside a tall concrete chimney, driving wind turbines linked to generators. The tent can also be used to grow crops.

The proposed tower is about three times larger than anything similar on earth and though its running costs would be low, construction would cost at least US$900 million.

“One of the main reasons why commercial solar chimney power plants have not been built is that they have to be very large to be economically viable,” says Theo von Backström from the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University.

Engineers at the university say their research — including a dozen journal papers and 14 conference papers — indicates that a large-scale tower is possible.

It has also been shown that solar chimney power plants can produce power at night. The water used for crops is heated during sunny weather and this heat is released back into the air during the night or during cloudy weather to keep the turbines going. No extra water is required — an important issue for a desert country such as Namibia.

Pretoria-based physicist Wolf-Walter Stinnes, the brains behind the Namibian tower, worked on a pre-feasibility study for a similar solar chimney in South Africa’s Kalahari desert up until 2000.

Stinnes said the project was dropped because its power was too expensive compared with coal power.

But given the price of oil and the issues raised by climate change, there has been renewed interest in solar chimneys in countries such as Australia, Egypt, India and Morocco.

According to a report in Engineering News, the Namibian government has agreed to cover half the costs of the US$780,000 pre-feasibility report once private funding has been obtained.

But Joseph Iita, Namibia’s permanent secretary for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, warns: “We are only prepared to work with serious investors and, despite so many investors showing interest in the field of energy generation, we haven’t seen any project taking off.”

 

MOST EFFECTIVE DRUGS FOR HIV/TB NOW OUT! September 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Tuberculosis could be a way to contract HIV, and cases encountered in the field are replete with this route to the dreaded disease.

From Cape Town comes a welcome news about a wonder drug that is most effective for treating patients who become sick of HIV precisely thru the TB way.

The good news is contained below.

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

Scientists reveal ‘most effective’ drug for HIV/TB patients

Carol Campbell

15 August 2008 | EN | 中文

Efavirenz capsules

Flickr/MikeBlyth

[CAPE TOWN] The antiretroviral drug efavirenz has been recommended for tuberculosis patients who then contract HIV.

Researchers compared the effectiveness of the antiretroviral drugs efavirenz and nevirapine in 4,000 South African HIV patients. Some already had tuberculosis (TB) and were taking rifampicin.

Nevirapine — the cheaper of the two drugs — was found to be less effective in patients with existing TB, with higher HIV loads in their blood than those on efavirenz.

HIV-infected patients who were already on antiretroviral drugs when they subsequently developed TB were unaffected, highlighting the complexity of treating concurrent HIV and TB infections.

Researchers from the Western Cape provincial health department, Médecins Sans Frontières and the University of Cape Town (UCT) published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (6 August).

Study leader Andrew Boulle warns that the research is not a rejection of nevirapine, which is popular in the developing world because of its low cost, simplicity of use and its safety for pregnant HIV-infected women.

“Four out of five of our patients in the study continued to do well on nevirapine,” said Boulle, a public health specialist from the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at UCT.

The long-standing anti-TB drug rifampicin slows down the liver’s ability to process nevirapine, making the anti-HIV drug less effective and causing an increase in virus levels.

Efavirenz is only slightly affected by rifampicin, said Katherine Hildebrand, another UCT researcher. But it costs twice the price of nevirapine. “We need to get the price of efavirenz down in places with high HIV/TB co-infection,” she told SciDev.Net.

The research also disproves earlier assumptions that people with both TB and HIV may need increased doses of efavirenz. Researchers found that efavirenz in normal doses was ideal for HIV patients regardless of whether they had TB or not.

“Efavirenz should be used unless there are compelling reasons not to use it. Unfortunately many developing countries do not have access to efavirenz which is more expensive,” said Gary Maartens from UCT medical school’s clinical pharmacology division. Botswana and South Africa both use efavirenz extensively.

Link to abstract in Journal of the American Medical Association

 

 

VOUCHER SYSTEM FOR DISEASE: US EXEMPLAR September 5, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

The United States seems to have come a long way in strengthening the institutional aspects of development concerns, by way of voucher systems. I still remember the voucher system instituted as intervention scheme to salve education ailments early this decade, and I hope evaluation studies were conducted to measure the levels of success of that intervention from state to state.

 

Here comes another voucher system by the United States, this version being applicable to tropical diseases. Accordingly, it is a boost for tropical disease drugs, which is welcome news for many developing countries. Among diseases that are eligible to the system are sleeping illness, leprosy and malaria.

 

The news is contained in an article below.

 

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

 

US voucher system to boost tropical disease drugs

Source: Intellectual Property Watch

14 August 2008 | EN | FR

A patient with malaria, one of the tropical diseases eligible for the scheme

Flickr/.ash

The United States is set to launch a prize system to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for tropical diseases.

Sixteen tropical diseases, including sleeping sickness, leprosy and malaria are listed as eligible for the scheme.

Under the system, companies producing a drug or vaccine for a tropical disease can apply for a Priority Review voucher, which allows them a shorter approval time for another drug at a later date.

The shorter approval process would take approximately six months instead of ten, meaning that drugs could hit the market sooner and potentially be more lucrative. Thus, the vouchers are estimated to be worth around US$300 million.

Companies can also take advantage of the Orphan Drugs Act, under which drug developers receive tax credits, a waiver of the US Food and Drug Administration’s user fee and seven years market exclusivity on drugs that have no economic viability.

The first vouchers can be legally issued from 27 September 2008.

But the wording of the voucher law needs tightening up, say commentators, and some aspects — such as a rule stating that drugs can’t contain active ingredients that have been approved in another application — could restrict eligibility.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently drawing up guidelines on how the law will work in practice.

Link to full article in Intellectual Property Watch 

 

EPIDEMIC CONTROL VIA EDUCATION: SRI LANKA’S KIDNEY DISEASE CASE September 4, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Kidney diseases are potentially fatal, and I’d say this from out of experience. I suffered from nephritis at Age 8, and lucky was I to survive a two-year agony due to medication availability in my home town (it was almost a 4th World town then!). That ailment ruined my chance to do athletics in grade school, it made me shrink in esteem, and the weak kidney (aside from weak tonsils) contributed to my sickliness since then.

 

So it pays not only to understand the ailment, its diagnostics and medication. It pays all the more to know the preventive side of the ailment or any ailment for that matter. If the diagnostics side shows some shades of grey, then that could surely baffle the experts (medical scientists) and specialists, as a case proves in Sri Lanka.

 

Read the news below about Sri Lanka. The ‘good’ news about it is that the ailment has provided some nice research problems for the public health experts and pharmacologists.

 

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news. This expert/analyst was former Silver Medal, National Powerlifting Class A Competitions, Middleweight Division, early 90s, Philippines. He is also a yogi & health buff.]

 

 

Sri Lanka kidney disease epidemic leaves doctors baffled

Chesmal Siriwardhana

12 August 2008 | EN | 中文

Almost all those affected are men from farming families

Flickr/World Bank

Doctors and researchers are puzzled by a sharp rise in chronic kidney disease among farming communities in the North Central province of Sri Lanka.

The number of cases has been steadily rising since the disease first came to light around eight years ago. Over 18,000 cases have now been reported, with cases in Eastern and Uva provinces as well as North Central.

In 2003, almost 200 hundred patients died from renal failure in the North Central province and the figure is increasing every year. Over half the population there is engaged in agriculture.

Almost all those affected are men from farming families without pre-existing conditions than can lead to renal disease, such as hypertension or diabetes.

The absence of clinical symptoms until the late stages of renal failure is also puzzling researchers and making early diagnosis difficult, leading to many deaths.

Local researchers have come up with several possible risk factors for the disease, including high groundwater fluoride content in some affected areas, leaching of heavy metals such as cadmium from agricultural chemicals into water sources, exposure to inorganic pesticides and fertilisers, and usage of aluminium vessels to store drinking water.

Several studies conducted by local researchers have found a strong link between high cadmium concentrations in water sources and high disease prevalence.

A team of medical experts from the WHO visited Sri Lanka to assess the situation in May this year. They recommended that non-affected agricultural regions be used as control areas in studies to find the disease’s cause, and preventative measures such as using clay pots to store water are used.

A long-term clinical study was also proposed by the WHO but has yet to be implemented, Rohana Dayaratne, a geneticist and physician attached to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in Colombo, told SciDev.Net. 

He says local and international researchers should lead a combined effort to identify the causes and preventive measures, and that local researchers have a good knowledge about ground realities that should be combined with the financial and other resources of the international community.

The majority of the affected farming communities were settlers from different parts of the country, he says, meaning that there could be a genetic component to the disease.

The growing number of patients suffering from chronic renal disease is becoming a heavy burden on the health sector, as the treatments — dialysis and organ transplants — are costly procedures.

Efforts are underway to educate the public about risk factors, maximise early diagnosis with weekly clinics and field visits to vulnerable areas, and introduce preventive measures.

 

 
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