Archive for March, 2007

Your Money or Your Life


There is a company that has generously decided to provide medication for meningitis to Africa at a loss. Not for free, just at a reduced cost. Not for AIDS, TB or malaria, just meningitis. In fact, the new drug, which is only available in Africa, is replacing a drug that covers pertussis, hep B, tetanus, diphtheria, and haemophilus influenza.

It’s my contention that companies like GlaxoKlineSmith aren’t doing enough. And neither are governments worldwide. The AIDS cocktail should be available to everyone who has AIDS all over the world for free. Period. An idealist position you say. I think not.

If, as is said, everyone is entitled to life, then this means everyone. Anyone who charges money for a medication that can save a life is a profiteer. It doesn’t matter if its in Africa or The United States or Togo Togo. Two tiered pricing on these medications is not the answer. It’s obscene to charge one AIDS patient an extortionist amount of money and significantly reduced amount to another because of their placement in the world. Governments worldwide should be subsidizing the costs of these medications and giving them away. There should be no amount of money attached to human life.

A more practical view says this: By providing the cocktail governments can have a larger pool of workers which would increase production and overall prosperity. There would be an added bonus. Most hard hit areas have AIDS patients in their teens and early twenties. A younger population generally means a larger drive for expansion and creativity in the marketplace. It’s a win win situation. People get to live and governments get to draw on the creativity and exuberance of a young work force.

As far as the pharmaceutical companies, well, they spend a lot of time yammering on about the cost of research don’t they ? And yet, it’s been 40 years since they have produced a new tuberculosis drug. They are more interested in the profits being made from the so called ‘lifestyle drugs’ like Viagra and Prilosec. They have managed to convince the wealthy Westerners that they are all depressed and have acid reflux disease just so they can charge high prices for drugs people don’t really need. They are solving minor problems with their research while larger health problems are only now being addressed and then only because the public has something to say about it. Thank you Internet. If they thought they could continue to get away with it they would.

Free AIDS medication is not out of the question. It’s just the nature of the question that stops it from being a reality.

The question is this: How much are we willing to sacrifice in profit to save lives?


Sweet Jesus


So I was reading the news with one eye open, ’cause two eyes would just be taking it all in too fast, when I came across this little nugget of information.

Jesus looks like he’s got a bloom on doesn’t he? Oh, that crazy Catholic League. They’re just mad because the sculpture has no loin cloth. Which means the Great Teacher’s bits are hanging out for all the world to see, in chocolate. Would they be upset if the whole thing was done in white chocolate ? And how did the sculptor get everything historically accurate?

I guess I’d be afraid that chocolate starved biddies would start nibbling on the Jesus. It wouldn’t look right to have denture marks on the King of kings now would it..

For the record, I thought George Bush was the “worst assault on Christian sensibilities ever” I had no idea it was a sweet, sweet Jesus. I think Cosimo should create a peanut butter Madonna and a caramel Joseph to complete the ensemble.

Now that’s tasty Art.

Move over Banksy, there’s a new sheriff in town


TB Or Not TB


Let’s talk about the wonderful world of disease. I am a huge fan of infectious diseases. The Black Death is a personal favorite with Ebola running a close second. Infectious diseases are interesting. From the way they look under a microscope, to the wily way in which they elude humans who try to kill them. And we do try to kill them. But then we stockpile them to ‘study’ and gosh they get sold on the black market and well, you read the news. I wonder when we are all going to get our new smallpox vaccines?

Actually I want to talk about a particular disease I’ve mentioned before. Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. Pesky little bugger, that one. The WHO announced that Tuberculosis is on the downswing and maybe in the process of declining worldwide. Yea! That’s good news, yes?

It’s crap. It’s a juggling of figures that makes Mugabe look reasonable. Non resistant strains are probably declining. I’ll give them that. However, MDR (Multi Drug Resistant) Tuberculosis is on the rise across the globe. This particular form is resistant to up to seven types of medication. And if contracted it will take two years of treatment to combat it. The National Lung Association has stated on their web site that over 50 million people are infected with MDR TB world wide. The disturbing part is that there is no real cure as there haven’t been any effective drugs created to deal with MDR TB. And reportedly no new TB drugs created in forty years. A new one popped up 25 years ago that combines three drugs already in existence. The best they can do if someone contracts this form of Tuberculosis is try everything and hope. Another interesting factoid is that HIV patients who contract MDR TB have a 100% mortality rate. They usually die rather quickly, sometimes in as little as ten days.

And now there’s a new kid on the block. Extensive/Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. This one has no cure. At all. And the numbers of cases are rising quickly world wide, from the U.S. to Sub Saharan Africa.

I don’t think the mysterious bird flu is as dangerous as the new tuberculosis. Bird flu takes a great deal of contact to contract, while XDR TB can be spread by droplet transmission. Which means someone, like that person standing next to you in the Starbucks line, just has to cough in your general direction. No amount of Purell will help you then.

My irritation stems from the fact that we are pouring money into medications but not into research. Why? And if I have that wrong and they are trying to create new medications where are the reports? Why can’t I find any articles related to new research on TB medications that combat XDR TB? I find warnings and factoids but nothing on the creation of new medications. XDR TB has the potential, in this age of air travel, to create a pandemic that makes the Black Death look tame.

I like my infectious disease under a microscope or locked securely in a level 4 lab. Not floating about while experts blithely tell me they are winning over a disease that has the ability to mutate if one doesn’t take their medication correctly.

When are people going to stop twisting facts into a more pleasing shape? Have we really become so inured to the truth that we are willing to accept whatever anyone says as long as it sounds good? TB is not declining, it is mutating into more deadly forms. And not just in Sub Saharan Africa. World Wide. The highest concentration may be in Africa but it can spread quite easily anywhere, anytime.

That’s something to think about, isn’t it ?

(I need to go lay down as I think I just sprained my ranting muscle. Oooh, hurts to put thoughts on it.)

See you tomorrow


Check, Mate


There is a situation brewing that must give us pause. Iran captured/abducted 15 British soldiers last week and charged them with entering their waters illegally. They refuse to allow access to the soldiers and insist that these men have confessed. The likelihood of the confession is almost non-existent.

As history has repeatedly shown it is the minor incidents that cause the most trouble. The assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand comes to mind first. And these incidents are always carefully engineered to evoke a reaction.

Iran is playing a dangerous game. And that is what this is a game. Another version of the cat and mouse that they have been playing with the West for sometime. This time the consequences could be more than a few sanctions on paper. I suspect however that this is what Ahmadinejad is after. Some have speculated that the seizure occurred in order to put pressure on the British regarding the U.N. vote on sanctions. Others still, that it was to put pressure on both the British and the U.S. over the contention over the Nuclear weapons program. I personally think it is a power play.

It looks like an attempt to gain more power over other Mid-Eastern states. Probably seems far fetched but follow me here. Using the back drop of the Iraqi war Ahmadinejad has been slowly building up the tension over his nuclear program over the last year or so. He is intentionally creating a situation where the West has to act. Thus creating a conundrum for Western powers. It is obvious that Iran will ignore the sanctions. They have so far and there is no reason to believe they will change their strategy now. By tying the West in diplomatic knots he is slowly gaining support from other nations in the Middle East, effectively putting Western powers in a situation of powerlessness. If they don’t do something they look weak and ineffective. If they vote for war the middle east will explode with anti-Western emotion. Sides will be taken and a war between the West and the East would be inevitable. It seems extreme and not at all pleasant but there it is. Ahmadinejad is slowly pushing the envelope and the capture of the British soldiers is just another chess move that puts the West in check.

While the British try using diplomatic channels I suspect that they will find themselves blocked at every turn. We can hope for a peaceful resolution but honestly what are the chances? Iran refuses to give even an inch and in this situation they have all the power and can effectively do as they like while the West tiptoes around trying desperately not to create too much trouble in an already tense situation. By highlighting this powerlessness Iran can point and say ‘hey look not so tough now eh?’ Other Mid- Eastern states, especially those already in doubt about their ties to the West, may have sudden changes of heart.

It is very important that this situation be resolved quickly and quietly. This is the kind of situation that needs a Clinton/Albright type finesse not the boot tromping foreign policy of Bush/Cheney/Blair. The boots need to come off and deals need to be quietly struck. Bluster and threats are not going to work this time. And we certainly don’t need those threats to become a reality.


And This Matters How?

It must be an excruciatingly slow news day when this makes headlines. Really, who gives a shit?


Dress to Kill


I’ve always loved those images of beautiful women sweeping down grand staircases wearing lovely, flowing dresses. Those models make the clothes they are wearing look so elegant, it makes me want to run to the nearest dress shop. Sadly, I should never be allowed in one of them.

See, I just can’t wear a dress and look like anything but a bag lady. Quasimodo in Dior if you will. Most women can pull it off. I, however, do not have a body that willingly cooperates with the general idea of a dress. I end up looking all bunchy and misshapen. There isn’t a designer on the planet who could make something I couldn’t effectively ruin. I’m more Moss than Kate. I won’t go into how those tiny strappy shoes look on my giant over sized feet. Let’s just say there is a reason they don’t make attractive shoes in size 11.

My dilemma is that a friend will be getting married in the next year or so and that means, gulp, dress shopping. Not just for one, no, I’m going to need two, maybe three. Makes me want to weep.

I’m too young for the pantsuit. Which sucks, because I could pull off some bright blue polyester old lady clothes. I’ve got mad old lady skills. I’m almost certain I was born cranky and overbearing. It’s just taking a while to catch up in years. It would help if said friend was also the type who didn’t look good in a dress but yes, she looks good in everything she puts on. You know the type. They get crawl out of bed, throw on whatever happens to be on the floor and voila, fabulous. She could actually be one of those staircase models. Secretly, I’m completely jealous, but don’t tell her.

I’m hoping if I start now, I might find something that won’t have the other guests ushering me toward the bell tower.

It’s going to be a long year.



Language Police


A few oxymorons that I read almost every day which never fail to make me snicker.

Peacekeeping Force

Military Intelligence

Near Miss

I am sure there are more. It’s just in the two minutes I actually looked at the news those were the ones I found today. I wonder if people actually pay attention to what they say.

No, they don’t . I know this because everyday I hear people use the one phrase that makes my skin crawl, causing the English teacher who still lives on inside me to start screaming. “I could care less” No, no, nonononoononononono, NO! It’s “I COULDN’T care less.” If you could care less, then you would and a statement of this kind wouldn’t be needed.Please, for the love of any deity or lack thereof that you choose, stop using that phrase incorrectly. It drives me nuts.

You know what else makes me nuts? When people take ordinary words and add endings that don’t belong in an effort to sound smarter. Like today at work when a co-worker used the word symphonized. I have no idea what that means. She meant that she understands symphonic music but instead of taking the time to say that she just pulled something out of her ass. I suspect if she can’t grasp the basic rules of Standard English she may have a harder time with the local symphony. I hear this sort of thing all time and it makes me want to purchase dictionaries for the offenders. I would casually open it to the back where they keep all of the suffixes and prefixes and gently explain what they are and how they are used. Then I would smack them with the book. Hard. Right upside their giant thickheaded skulls.

English Teachers never die, they follow you around the Internet and correct you at will.


Sit Down And Shut Up


How much free speech is too much? And should we allow teenagers the right to express themselves willy-nilly wherever they want without some kind of control in place?

There is a case before the Supreme Court on that particular subject right now, the ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case. It involves a young man who unfurled a banner during the Olympic torch relay . Even though he was not on school property, he was suspended.

Now the Supreme Court is debating the issue. How much free speech should students be allowed?

All of it.

We cannot expect students in their later teens to grow up in some plastic bubble where everyone says the right thing all the time. By gagging them or stopping them from wearing t-shirts we find offensive we limit their ability to understand the responsibility inherent in the ‘free speech’ tag. Free Speech isn’t free. It comes with a price. It takes a while to learn how much we are willing to pay for it. Bloggers across the globe have been willing to pay for it with their personal freedom. Students need an arena where they can test limits and schools should be that space.

The crackdown on the rights of students was sparked by the bullying debate and has been taken, like so many things these days, too far. Ripping into someone is not free speech, it’s a reaction of insecurity on the part of the bully when faced with someone different. That behavior should not be allowed. However ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’? It doesn’t even make sense. It’s just something to grab attention.

In my opinion the Principal overreacted to a student with whom she seemed to have personal issues.And that’s the other problem. The personal creeping into situations where nothing of the sort should be. It’s difficult to separate our emotions in heated moments but as the head of the school she should have done just that. It’s what she gets paid for. On top of a Principal’s many other duties, rational arbitration is a job requirement. When that fact gets lost, well, one ends up in front of the Supreme Court.

There are so many controls in place in schools now it’s a wonder any actual learning is achieved. Allowing freedom of speech is not a caveat to break the rules, it’s a tool for teaching how words effect the world around us. Great debates would not have taken place if our speech were impeded. Students need to learn to use this tool, not be told they don’t have access to it because they haven’t reached the age of majority.


Snarking and Appealing


It’s uncharitable to laugh with glee at someone else’s misfortune. But when you have to, you have to. I am all a glitter with laughter and jigging as I read the news this morning. The Red program is taking it up the hole across the web. The one a particular Irish con-err, musician doesn’t sing out of. And rightly so.

Charity isn’t about consumerism and it’s not supposed to be candy coated. It’s difficult for a reason. It’s a reminder to us that however difficult it is for us to pony up the cash someone else has it worse. It’s a reminder that the person we are helping could someday be us.It’s a statement about the strange tides of fortune that shift when we least expect them to. If it were easy it would be called fun and everyone would do it. As it is, it’s not fun, it’s an obligation that we carry because we are social animals that to some extent rely on one another.

In a consumer driven society we tend to forget that people rarely choose to be in difficult circumstances. We expect our poor to be properly embarrassed because they are poor. We call them trash, we make fun of the way they live and generally discount them entirely in the larger scheme of things. We shove the poor and destitute into a little box marked defective and forget they exist. Well engaging in a charitable act forces you to open the box and take a closer look. It’s not about making us feel better it’s about giving someone else a hand just because we can. And if we can, then we must. Right? If we have the capacity to help then we should, especially if it’s hard.

And true charity is silent. It never acknowledges or congratulates itself . It does it’s job and moves on to the next.

Charity to me is a man with no coat giving his shoes to a man who is barefoot. Not a group of men with everything doling out a few pennies to make themselves look good.

To get around the Red program and help out go here. It’s worth it to someone out there who needs whatever you can provide.


I Want To Go To Oprah’s School, Mommy


As a former teacher I always have an interest in educational issues. When Oprah opened a school in South Africa I thought, Well, gosh that’s crap.

It’s crap because is it an affront to all of the children in Chicago, where her show is taped, who need better schools. Could she not have started right in her own backyard to help those inner city children who are drowning in the rush to make sure no child is left behind? Or hey, how about New Orleans where all of the schools are run as private charters because since Katrina there is no school board to administer the education of the city? I’ll bet they could use 40 million dollars. Nah. That won’t get her the international ego stroking she needs. Besides, everyone knows that American inner city youth are beyond help anyway. Best to look across the wide world and find a bunch of young unspoiled kids who will be impressed with the amount of money it will take to build a brand new school.

Hello South Africa.

It actually kinds of hurts to take issue with this ‘great idea’, because I like Nelson Mandela.But…..

Is it such a good idea to build an elitist boarding school in a country that relies international volunteers to teach in the rural schools? While thousands of students go without an education of any kind, Oprah hand picked 156 poor girls to bestow her largess on. It would seem that Oprah has a gift for seeking out the best and the brightest among the uneducated. I guess. In the world wide effort to increase schooling for children across the globe , girls in particular, I fail to see the benefit in opening a single school for a few ‘special’ kids. In this frame of thinking the education for everyone policy that is endlessly touted falls by the wayside. To my mind a few hundred girls does worse than nothing to help the Millennium Goals. It seems to say that only potentially brilliant poor kids worth educating have a right to a decent school and state of the art equipment. Everyone else can just make do with a fly encrusted blackboard in the middle of the desert with some 19 year old English speaking idealist just back from their freshman year to gain experience in the world, as their teacher. That’s also crap. Every child deserves decent classrooms and working equipment with qualified teachers who speak their language and understand their culture.I thought that that was the whole idea behind the push to institute the Millennium Goals with regards to education.

One article stated the Oprah herself is occasionally teaching at the school and I would love to know where she got her teaching degree? Sorry, but building an empire based on backstabbing talk show bullshit does not ever qualify one to teach. I’m not even sure it qualifies one to have a legitimate opinion about any thing as important as educating children.

This is just another example of celebrities who’ve been over-stroked for long periods of time jumping in where they are least qualified to be and making a big muddled mess. Of all thing the things I can think of for Oprah to do in her off time, teaching or administering a school isn’t even sitting next to the list.