Taliban opposes polio vaccinations – WTF?

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Miliants in northern Pakistan have triggered a medical emergency by refusing to allow health officials to conduct a polio vaccination campaign. Taliban militants in the former tourist destination of Swat Valley have obstructed officials from vaccinating over 300,000 children.

Militants have seized control of most of Swat and its capital, Mingora, and have extended their rule since striking a peace deal with the government and army earlier this year.

Extremist clerics have used mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations to spread the idea that the vaccinations cause infertility and are part of a US-sponsored anti-Muslim plot.

Dr Abid said that militants have not allowed polio vaccinations to take place at a critical time.

“Polio vaccination is effective in first three months of the year when virus transmission is lowest and so there is no interference with the vaccine virus,” said Dr Abid.

These idiots are the world’s best example what results from theocracy. Putting the ignorant in charge of political decisions about health, safety and education has never worked. Some people discovered this centuries ago. Some still wear the blinders of foolishness and superstition.

Lower costs, quality care, lure medical tourists abroad

“I was a walking time bomb. I knew I had to get on that plane if I wanted to be around to see my grandkids.”

Sandra Giustina is a 61-year-old uninsured American. For three years she saved her money in hopes of affording heart surgery to correct her atrial fibrillation. “They [U.S. hospitals] told me it would be about $175,000, and there was just no way could I come up with that,” Giustina said.

So, with a little digging online, she found several high quality hospitals vying for her business, at a fraction of the U.S. cost. Within a month, she was on a plane from her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, to New Delhi, India. Surgeons at Max Hospital fixed her heart for “under $10,000 total, including travel.”

Giustina is just one of millions around the world journeying outside their native land for medical treatment, a phenomenon known as “medical tourism.” Experts say the trend in global health care has just begun. Next year alone, an estimated 6 million Americans will travel abroad for surgery, according to a 2008 Deloitte study. “Medical care in countries such as India, Thailand and Singapore can cost as little as 10 percent of the cost of comparable care in the United States,” the report found.

I watched Dr. Gupta’s coverage of this on CNN. I’m at an age, of course, when all of this is necessarily interesting.

Living in a border state, I already have a number of friends and family who regularly cross into Mexico for medical and dental treatment, prescription drugs. All for the same reason. Medical practitioners as a class, insurance companies, healthcare facilities in the United States are pricing themselves out of reach for workingclass families and individuals.

And they don’t give a damn. They’re making enough money from those who can afford them – to ignore the rest.

Medical Journal calls on Pope to retract ignorant statements

The medical journal the Lancet has accused Pope Benedict XVI of distorting scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine following his remarks about condom use and HIV.

The attack — which also said that the pope did not know what he was talking about and had put millions of lives at risk — followed his statement last week during a visit to Africa that the use of condoms increased HIV infection rates. This was later amended by the Vatican, which said that condom use merely increased the risk of transmission.

The pope’s remarks, made to journalists on a flight to Cameroon at the start of his visit, overshadowed his trip and provoked condemnation from health and aid agencies, as well as protests from the UN and the governments of Germany, France and Belgium.

Today’s Lancet editorial said the Pope’s statement was “outrageous and wildly inaccurate“. It added: “By saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/Aids, the pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine.

“Whether the pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear … When any influential person, be it a religious or political leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record. Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids worldwide.”

Good thing The Lancet editors don’t read the crap fountaining from the head-holes of American bible-thumpers. They’d have to increase the size of their publication just to keep current.

Thanks, K B

Hybrid wars between Toyota and Honda: Yaris vs. Fit


Everyone in business knows that selling on price is a downward slope to non-profitability, but with profit out of reach for many automakers these days, ignoring price-oriented marketing is pure folly.

In this respect, Toyota appears to be in a conundrum. Its Prius, the darling of eco-minded consumers everywhere and by far the best selling hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) anywhere in the world, finds itself a bit overpriced now that Honda has shown up with its similarly styled and configured, albeit smaller sized Insight. Starting price for the Insight, when it goes on sale globally on April 22, Earth Day not coincidentally, will be a mere $19,800 in the US. That’s $2,200, or about 10-percent less, than the US-market Prius.

Rather than reduce the price of its already value-packed Prius, Toyota may have another solution, or so says industry insider Automotive News. The Detroit-based news service is reporting that Toyota is planning a Yaris hybrid to undercut Honda’s newest HEV, information garnered from Toyota’s chief engineer Akihiko Otsuka.

See a pattern here? Obviously prices won’t drop by 10-percent with every new model, as has been the case since the hybrid’s inception, but like electronics technology, hybrid technology is maturing, build processes are becoming more streamlined and sales numbers are increasing, allowing for better value to the consumer and more profit to the manufacturer, theoretically, at least…

The question that remains isn’t whether or not the Yaris hybrid will do battle against the upcoming Insight, as they’re two HEVs targeting very different market segments, but rather at what price point the new Yaris HEV will go out the door for when it takes on Honda’s upcoming Fit hybrid, a model that Honda CEO Takeo Fukui announced during his mid-year address in Tokyo, May of last year, when also announcing the upcoming CR-Z sports coupe and a small hatchback HEV we now know of as the Insight.

I like it, I like it. Competition producing better product, more affordable vehicles for consumers. Too bad there isn’t much evidence for American auto manufacturers getting into the scrap – at a competitive level.

Obama updates Afghanistan – Pakistan strategy

Daylife/AP Photo

Barack Obama has unveiled his administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan, including the deployment of an additional 4,000 US troops to train Afghan forces, following a review of policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The new strategy includes proposals to counter a persistent Taliban and al-Qaeda campaign that spans the two countries’ shared border, and additional development aid for both nations.

Obama, who ordered the review of Afghanistan and Pakistan shortly after taking office in January, said a new strategy was essential because intelligence indicated al-Qaeda was “actively planning attacks” on the US from Pakistan.

“This is not simply an American problem, it’s an international security problem of the highest order,” he said.

Here’s the full text of his statement.

I watched it live. Something I rarely do with press conferences. I think it’s pretty much on target – and about seven years overdue.

How not to look like a banker – and why and when

Banker chic can be described in so many ways: conservative, unimaginative, boring and, next week, downright dangerous. On Tuesday, the mere act of wearing a plain grey suit – be it from Savile Row or Reiss – anywhere within the confines of the London EC1-EC4 postcodes, will apparently be as provocative as donning a flamboyant matador’s costume in a bullring, at least in the eyes of a G20 protester. So think the Metropolitan police, who have advised City workers to dress down on Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid being identified as bankers.

This is likely to present a sartorial challenge to those whose wardrobe skills usually involve deciding which Sketchley’s plastic wrapping to remove. And it is a conundrum that the police seem to be grossly unqualified in giving advice on. So far, City workers have simply been told to avoid suits and dress down in chinos and loafers. That’s it. No word on what to do about the top half, complete silence on accessories, no styling diktats whatsoever.

Not only is the advice incomplete, it is, as anyone who has ever given the glossy pages of Tatler a cursory flick knows, possibly the worst wardrobe advice ever. Chinos and loafers simply reek of money and poshness. Bankers who choose this option might as well wear a T-shirt with a slogan that reads “I spent my bonus on a yacht”. Consider the poster boy for this look: Prince Harry, regularly spotted leaving any given Kensington nightclub wearing beige chinos and brown Sebago loafers – hardly the best disguise with which to fool those anti-capitalist protesters, is it?

Even though I have no personal acquaintance with most of the brands Imogen references, I get the point. RTFA for her suggestions for women bankers, as well.

All of it humorous, though the premise that G20 protestors will all behave like football hooligans is a bit of a stretch. Even dull-normal anarchists who may come from the same gene pool cul-de-sac as, say, the dolts who occasionally embarrass Swansea supporters – generally haven’t the courage to attack much of anything much more likely to retaliate than a shop window.

Are the Republicans officially the Party of God?

Aides to former Republican presidential nominee John McCain questioned running mate Sarah Palin’s ongoing second-guessing of the McCain campaign.

The McCain aides were responding to a report on CNN that the governor got a laugh when she told a GOP audience in Alaska she had declined to pray with McCain staffers prior to her debate with Joe Biden, who was elected vice president in November.

Describing the pre-debate atmosphere, Palin told the crowd last Friday, she was “looking for somebody to pray with, I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra.”

Should not-so-Christian Republicans prepare to follow sacred writ?

Utah governor vetoes absurd video game bill

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. vetoed two bills Wednesday, including one aimed at cracking down on retailers who sell violent or sexually graphic video games to minors.

“While protecting children from inappropriate materials is a laudable goal, the language of this bill is so broad that it likely will be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional,” Huntsman wrote to legislative leaders notifying them of his decision.

Huntsman also said that, rather than risk the liability, retailers would choose to stop putting the rating labels on their products.

“The unintended consequence of the bill would be that parents and children would have no labels to guide them in determining the age appropriateness of the goods or service…”

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Wednesday that his office had “raised concerns with several different iterations of the bill” while it was under consideration by the Legislature. “Ultimately, we could probably make an argument to defend it, but we will be sued, it will be costly. If we lose we will pay attorneys fees. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money educating people about the rating system?” he said. “The governor apparently decided it wasn’t worth the risk.”

Right-Wing nutballs like the Eagle Forum have been working many conservative state governments this legal season in their quest to sanitize the minds of American gamers. By removing choice from parents and consumers alike.

Probiotic yogurt fights stomach ulcer bacteria


Results of the first human clinical studies confirm that a new yogurt fights the bacteria that cause gastritis and stomach ulcers with what researchers describe as almost vaccine-like effects, scientists in Japan have reported.

Researchers have long known that yogurt, a fermented milk product containing live bacteria, is a healthy source of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Some brands of yogurt are now made with “probiotics” — certain types of bacteria — intended to improve health. The new yogurt represents a unique approach to fighting stomach ulcers, which affect 25 million people in the United States alone, and is part of a growing “functional food” market that now generates $60 billion in sales annually.

“With this new yogurt, people can now enjoy the taste of yogurt while preventing or eliminating the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers,” says study coordinator Hajime Hatta, Ph.D., a chemist at Kyoto Women’s University in Kyoto, Japan.

The new yogurt is already on store shelves in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The study opens the door to possible arrival of the product in the U.S..

There are warnings for side effects for people who are sensitive to eggs. Aside from that – you know me – I’m looking forward to trying it. I’m not in a high-risk group for stomach ulcers; but, I’d like to see what the yogurt tastes like, how it rattles through my ancient system.