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Archive for September 27th, 2011

Saudi woman faces flogging for driving a car — UPDATED

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Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A Saudi court has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for challenging a ban on women driving in the conservative Muslim kingdom…

The sentence was reported two days after Saudi King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections. He also promised to include them in the next all-appointed consultative Shura Council in 2013.

“Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car,” Philip Luther, an Amnesty regional deputy director, said in an emailed statement…

Under Saudi Arabia’s strict Islamic laws, women require a male guardian’s permission to work, travel abroad or even undergo some medical surgeries. They are not allowed to drive.

While there is no written law banning women from driving, Saudi law requires citizens to use locally issued licences while in the country. Such licences are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive.

In May, as pro-democracy protests swept across the region, some women in Saudi Arabia called for their right to drive. A campaign called Women2Drive issued calls on social media such as Twitter and Facebook to challenge the ban.

Some women posted on twitter that they drove successfully in the streets of Jeddah, Riyadh and Khobar while others said they were stopped by police who later let them go after signing a pledge not to drive again.

Isn’t a boycott of such a backwards nation overdue? Retain the minimal contacts required for commerce and communications – but, suggest tourists avoid this theocracy like the plague.

UPDATE: The King evidently felt enough heat to force the court to withdraw the sentence.

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Shrinking the size of tests – and their cost – down to pennies

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While other scientists successfully shrank beakers, tubes and centrifuges into diagnostic laboratories that fit into aluminum boxes that cost $50,000, George Whitesides had smaller dreams. The diagnostic tests designed in Dr. Whitesides’s Harvard University chemistry laboratory fit on a postage stamp and cost less than a penny.

His secret? Paper.

His colleagues miniaturized diagnostic tests so they could move into the field with tiny pumps and thread-thin tubes. Dr. Whitesides opted for a more novel approach, reasoning that a drop of blood or urine could wick its way through a square of filter paper without any help.

And if the paper could be etched with tiny channels so that the drop followed a path, and if that path were mined with dried proteins and chemically triggered dyes, the thumbnail-size square could be a mini-laboratory — one that could be run off by the thousands on a Xerox machine.

Diagnostics for All, the private company Dr. Whitesides founded four years ago here in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood to commercialize his inspirations, has already created such a test for liver damage. It requires a single drop of blood, takes 15 minutes and can be read by an untrained eye: If a round spot the size of a sesame seed on the paper changes to pink from purple, the patient is probably in danger.

Using paper in diagnostic tests is not entirely new. It soaks up urine in home pregnancy kits and blood in home diabetes kits. But Dr. Whitesides has patented ways to control the flow through multiple layers for ever-more-complex diagnoses. His test has proved more than 90 percent accurate on blood samples previously screened by the laboratory of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard teaching hospital, said Una S. Ryan, chief executive of Diagnostics for All…

The initial target audience is AIDS patients with tuberculosis who must take powerful cocktails of seven or more drugs. Some drugs damage the liver, and deaths from liver failure are 12 times as common among African AIDS patients as among American ones, Dr. Ryan said, because current liver tests are expensive and require tubes of blood…

RTFA. Truly worthwhile effort, starting with grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and carrying through to government assistance both sides of the pond.

Taking the cost of tests from dollars to pennies makes them affordable in the 3rd World – as well as the growing pool of poverty in the industrial West. Many examples, many goals already met. The sort of medical research that doesn’t make billions for pharmaceutical giants; but, helps human beings worldwide.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Dumb crook of the day

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What appears to be French customs officers catching a smuggler with hummingbirds in his pants!

In 2010, French customs officers at the Rochambeau airport in Cayenne, French Guiana after noticing some suspicious bulges, conducted an intimate pat-down of a Dutch tourist and found some tiny parcels in some very personal space.

The tale and photos are making the round and finchwench has interesting commentary about why and more…

Best comment I’ve seen is about “lots of little peckers in that photo”. Har.

Thanks, Ursarodina

Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Smile of the morning

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Thanks, Eric

Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

A lovely autumn weekend on Wall Street with the NYPD

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Same as it ever was.

I’m glad Lawrence differentiated between most cops and the prick-bastards who get off on attacking a peaceful demonstration. Cops who act out their hatred of people who are “different” – because of color or education or that they have the gumption to dissent – are not different in the least from the cowards who join lynch mobs. Excepting their immunity from prosecution.

Though I have obvious reasons to remember a few coppers who beat and attacked demonstrators – scars :) – I always smile remembering the state troopers assigned to follow the car I was in in a southern border state on the way to a sit-in in 1959 who pulled alongside to offer directions to the town while we were gazing blankly at a road map by the side of the road.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

Treasure hunters find wartime wreck with $210 million in silver aboard

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The wreck of a British cargo ship carrying 7 million ounces of silver that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1941 has been identified. Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., announced Monday that it had located and verified the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa approximately 300 miles west of the Irish coast. The ship lies approximately 3 miles beneath the surface of the North Atlantic.

The Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled cargo ship, was in transit from Calcutta to London on February 17, 1941 with 85 people on board when it strayed from a convoy. A German submarine attacked, sinking the ship. Lifeboats were launched, but only the second officer, who washed ashore, survived.

The ship’s manifest included 2,600 tons of pig iron, and 1,765 tons of tea — and a cargo of silver ingots — which was valued then at 600,000 pounds. At today’s prices the silver would be valued at about 150 million pounds, or more than $210 million.

Because the silver shipment was insured by the U.K. government, bids were solicited for locating and salvaging the wreck. If recovered, the silver would represent the largest known precious metal cargo ever salvaged from the sea.

Under its agreement with the U.K. government, Odyssey will retain 80% of the net salved value of the silver bullion recovered.

My favorite kind of deep-sea fishing.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 6:00 am

ASPCA doesn’t think racist symbolism is a threat – WTF?

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A black ASPCA employee who found a noose in the organization’s Queens garage claims officials blew off her complaint and told her the hanging rope was for “operational purposes.”

Sanoy Fleming, a part-time clerk in the records department, made the shocking discovery on Sept. 11 and used her phone to snap a photo.

Fleming, who has hired a lawyer, said a black colleague told her the noose had been hanging for several days in the garage of the spay and neuter clinic, which opened last June in Glendale.

“I was very upset, and it made me uncomfortable that no one thought it was inappropriate,” Fleming, 40, told the Daily News.

“I explained to my supervisor that nooses were used to hang slaves, and I explained how insulting that is to African-Americans.”

Fleming’s supervisor apparently reported the incident to ASPCA higher-ups – four days later she was put on a conference call with the human resources department.

A man who identified himself as “George” warned Fleming that her work was not up to par.

“At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘I heard you were upset about a rope found in the garage,’ and he said that it was used for ‘operational purposes’ to lift things,” the Brooklyn woman recalled.

New York City, eh? So, if someone working at City Hall wore a swastika to a meeting chaired by Mike Bloomberg it would go unnoticed? Hogwash!

Symbols of racist lynchings are brought to the workplace for only one reason. To intimidate Black workers. The culprit may be a white dodo-bird. More likely the culprit is a bigot who enjoys the racism game to prop up his tiny, limp self-image.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 27, 2011 at 2:00 am

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