Friday, 3 July 2015
|A woman inside the Botkin Infectious Disease Hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia. Image by Misha Friedman. Russia, 2013.|
The highest estimate for the number of Russians who have the HIV/Aids virus is nearly 5%, according to a top Russian expert. It is on the cusp of an epidemic like that which has hit parts of sub-Saharan Africa. And Russia is both ignoring the epidemic and carrying out policies, in the name of so-called "values", which are making it worse.
This post is reblogged with permission from Window On Eurasia. For those who might dismiss the source, the same expert is also quoted by RT.
Russian Government has Stopped Fighting HIV/AIDS as Infections Rise 10 Percent a Year, Pokrovsky Says
Staunton, July 1 – The Russian government has in effect stopped fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS and as a result, the number of HIV infected people in the Russian Federation is rising by ten percent a year, according to Academician Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal Center for the Prevention and Struggle with AIDS.
In an interview published in today’s “Novaya gazeta,” Pokrovsky says that there were more than 90,000 new cases last year and that by the end of this one, he expects there will be one million people in Russia registered as being HIV infected, a horrific development Moscow is doing little now to counter (novayagazeta.ru/society/69039.html).
And the actual number, the medical specialist says, is much higher, perhaps seven times higher. Moreover, Pokrovsky continues, last year alone 190,000 Russians died from AIDS or AIDS-related diseases.
Just over half of those contracting HIV now, he says, do so as a result of illegal drug use, but what is of particular concern is the dramatic rise in the number of those who become ill with this disease as a result of heterosexual contacts. That means that the disease is spreading into groups that seldom had cases before.
In Russia today, Pokrovsky says, “about 20 percent of all drug users are infected” with HIV/AIDS. The average male drug user typically has up to 20 sexual partners, while the average female one, who often supports her habit via prostitution, may have “hundreds.” Consequently, Russians are being infected indirectly by their sexual partners who have slept with drug abusers.
And unlike in earlier years, he says, the virus is spreading via blood transfusions as well as “from mother to child and from child to child in hospitals.”
According to Pokrovsky, Russians today “are now at the edge of a generalized epidemic” like those which have hit portions of sub-Saharan Africa. That term applies when more than one percent of the population is infected – or, perhaps better, “when more than one percent of pregnant women are infected.”
In Russia now, more than one percent of pregnant women are infected with HIV in 15 regions. In Samara, for example, the figure is about three times that.
Because most women become infected via sexual contact while men still are more likely to be infected by the sharing of needles, the greatest risks for the spread of the infection are among younger age groups. Among Russians now, three percent of the men between 30 and 35 are officially infected, with two percent in the 25-30 and 35-40 age cohorts.
Those are official figures, Pokrovsky says. The real numbers are at least twice as high.
Increases in the number of HIV infections is already pushing up mortality rates in Russia, the specialist says. In 2013, about 20,000 people died from the disease; last year the number was “about 25,000.” And Rosstat suggests that the growth of deaths from this disease alone will grow by 20 percent annually in the coming years.
Much more could be done to prevent the spread of the disease, he says, including widespread use of condoms. But many in the government, influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church, oppose their use. And in the provinces, many doctors put off diagnosis and treatment of those infected with HIV/AIDS hoping that things will get better.
Treatment is becoming less expensive, but it is not a panacea, Pokrovsky says; and he adds that there is no cure on the horizon.
Many in Russia believe that promoting traditional values will be sufficient to end the spread of AIDS. But that is nonsense. On the one hand, many people will continue to do what they can and want to do regardless of what they are told. And on the other, there are officially one million sex workers in Russia, with their consumers numbering five to ten times more.
Pokrovsky has been attacked by Moscow city officials for the numbers he has released and called “a foreign agent.” What those officials objected to was his pointing out that the city government had artificially lowered the actual number of HIV infections there by counting only those with a Moscow residence permit – and ignoring all others actually there.
Russian public health services had been making some progress against HIV/AIDS until 2011. Then, Pokrovsky says, “the state distanced itself from this problem.” It disbanded the government commission on HIV and indicated that the best way to fight the disease is by moral exhortation rather than any other way.
The tragic results of that approach, the expert says, have not been long in coming.
- From 2008 A closing window of opportunity - DCA report on HIV/AIDS in Russia
"Extensive research indicates that the reliability of HIV/AIDS data from the Russian Federation is low, and the real number of infections may be as high as three times the official statistics and even higher in certain regions of the country."
Thursday, 2 July 2015
|#KievPride picture via @Vissibles|
Reblogged from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign
By Denis Gorbach for the Ukrainian left wing magazine Nihilist
On 6 June, Kyiv hosted an LGBT Pride event – the March of Equality. Roughly 300 people attended this march, which was devoted to defending human rights and equality. While hundreds of police officers protected them, the exact number of their ‘opponents’ – members of far-right organisations – is hard to define, but a few hundred seems reasonable.
There were also a few VIPs in attendance to support the march, including two Rada deputies, European diplomats and American politicians. Their presence was designed to lend the event legitimacy in the eyes of the Ukrainian government, as well as convince the latter to take all possible measures to preserve law and order. The principal slogan of the march was ‘Human rights are always relevant’. After all, the organisers’ main task lay in persuading Ukraine’s coalition government that a successful LGBT Pride event in Kyiv would be a litmus test of just how ‘European’ Ukrainian society is, and would be closely observed by European eyes.
A litmus test
Ahead of 6 June, several public figures led a campaign in support of the march, and their media support eventually encouraged the Kyiv city authorities to let the march go ahead. The city had been planning to stop it with a court order, citing the risks to public safety (which, it seemed, could not be guaranteed by any other means).
To be fair, the risks were unknown. In the lead-up to the march, members of the radical right made it clear that they were not about to give up on their views: they were against the march, and were prepared to stop it at any cost.
And so Right Sector, the right-wing political and paramilitary group which shot to prominence during Maidan last year, made public statements to that effect, as did a string of other organisations (including Svoboda’s youth wing C14), united in a coalition titled Zero Tolerance. The far right announced their intentions a few days prior to the event by picketing the Norwegian embassy, which was holding closed sessions on the issue. The police were even forced to put the diplomats under increased security.
This sense of risk was increased by the fact that Right Sector (which has its own volunteer battalion fighting in the conflict in the east of the country) and other far-right groups now have combat experience and access to weapons, which they could have potentially used against people involved in the march – or as they call them, ‘degenerates’. Right up until the beginning of the event, the police leadership stated that it was not able to guarantee the safety of participants in the march, pushing for it to be cancelled.
Even populist figures on the liberal wing of Ukrainian politics came out against the March of Equality. Though Vitaliy Klichko had previously positioned himself as a liberal, in the run-up to Kyiv Pride, the boxer-turned-mayor of Kyiv publicly called for the march to be called off.
Klichko may have something of a liberal past (before entering the world of politics, Klichko was photographed together with his brother Volodymyr for a German gay magazine), but just like the attempt to hold a Pride march in 2014, Klichko announced that holding the march during wartime was far from sensible (‘untimely’ as he put it), essentially reproducing the rhetoric that the march’s organisers were targeting.
The unambiguous position announced by various European representatives ultimately had the desired effect: on 5 June, President Petro Poroshenko declared that, as ‘a Christian’, he would not attend the march, but as the president of a European state he did not see any grounds for cancelling it. Participation in this kind of event is, after all, a constitutional right of every citizen.
Slow but steady
Monday, 29 June 2015
At Istanbul Gay Pride 2015 Muslim straight allies put their bodies on the line for LGBT.
This is not the world media headline.
The video and pictures of the police assault on Istanbul Gay Pride are horrible. But the event went on. The police did not stop it, after the assault they stopped and the party carried on.
What forced them to stop their assault was that Turkish members of parliament put their own bodies on the line. HDP and CHP MPs formed a line to stop the assault - some got beaten as a result. The MP pictured, CHP MP Mahmut Tanal, actually climbed onto a Turkish water cannon.
The Turkish opposition parties HDP and CHP had just put forward gay and trans candidates in national elections. The HDP's election results have deprived the Islamist AKP of President Erdogan of its majority in Parliament. The AKP, led by Erdogan, assaulted the opposition on LGBT rights and they lost. Half the HDP's new MPs are women. The party is pro LGBT. Its base in Kurdistan is right next to, invaded by, ISIS territory where gays are thrown off buildings.
The Istanbul Gay Pride organisers say their event was banned just before it was to start, with the AKP governor citing Ramadan, despite an event the previous week and that Gay Pride happened in Ramadan last year. Pride has happened for thirteen years in Istanbul minus water cannon. Let us note that a Hizb ut-Tahrir march in Istanbul praising the 'caliphate' went ahead on Sunday unmolested.
When the police assault happened straight HDP and CDP MPs formed a line to stop them.
Some were beaten as a result. But their bodies alongside the (protesting, I assume) presence of US and UK diplomats meant Istanbul Gay Pride continued. The police withdrew.
A little victory happened.
Our straight allies beat the Islamists. Our Muslim straight allies.
This isn't what you will read elsewhere. I doubt that this photo from Istanbul Gay Pride will be widely circulated >
But the likes of Mahmut Tanal should be recognised, similarly his HDP colleagues. Because they are facing down an anti-LGBT hate like nothing we in the West can recognise. They are heroes.
Posted @ 00:44
Thursday, 10 October 2013
I have been following African tech development for years. Many in the West will be unaware that in many areas they are way in advance.
In Nairobi hundreds of buses have Wi-Fi - unlike in New York or London. Africans have been able to use mobile phones to make payments and transfer money for years.
The open source project Ushahidi, which allows users to crowdsource crisis information and began during the disastrous 2007 Kenyan elections, is now used worldwide.
So it does not surprise me that an African has done this:
Kodjo Afate Gnikou has imagination, talent and ambition.
Using rails and belts from old scanners, the case of a discarded desktop computer and even bits of a diskette drive, he has created what is believed to be the first 3D printer made from e-waste.
It has taken him several months to put together his experimental device. Lifting designs off a computer, the 3D printer produces physical objects. He shows us by “printing” a small round container.
And it doesn’t stop there – the 33-year old says he believes this model is only the prototype for something much larger. His aim is to one day transport e-waste to Mars to create homes for mankind.
“My dream is to give young people hope and to show that Africa, too, has its place on the global market when it comes to technology. We are able to create things. Why is Africa always lagging behind when it comes to technology?”, he asks.
Some elements had to be bought new but, in all, his printer cost him 100 US dollars to build.
Gnikou says his printer can also be useful on a daily basis as it can print various utensils needed in any household, that are not always easy to get hold of.More: African Inventor Makes 3D Printer From Scrap. Video of Kodjo after the jump.
NB: If you're interested in following African tech development I recommend Eric Hersman.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
A science broadcasting legend predicts the future, after getting it mostly right 40 years ago, and has some choice words on the NSA 'scandal'.
James Burke is a British broadcasting legend, one who any Brit over 45 years old would recognise as the face of technological progress.
Most familiar as the chief presenter of the long-running BBC science series 'Tomorrow's World', he also anchored the Moon landing coverage and has written many influential books. The Washington Post has called him "one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world."
He may be familiar to Americans for his hit PBS series charting how technological progress happens, 'Connections', and his writing for Scientific American and Time.
Writing in 1973 for BBC magazine Radio Times he predicted life today and marking that 40th anniversary the BBC has looked back to see how his predictions stack up: they mostly do. He predicted the mass take-up of computers, in-vitro fertilisation and cheap air travel.He got right that the British people would resist identity cards. He got wrong that there would be 300,000 computer terminals by 2000 - there were 134 million.
Burke also predicted "metadata banks" of personal information - Facebook, Google - and that "young people" would be completely relaxed about releasing their personal information.
Speaking to the BBC's Eddie Mair (audio after the jump), Burke was asked about this attitude to privacy in the light of the current panic about government and privacy.
Burke says that issues like transparency and accountability are new, they have come forward because of the Internet, the 'information age'. That the general public now has access to more information, and is demanding it - this is "healthy". But matters of privacy are contextual:
When street numbers came out in the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 1820s there were riots, because nobody wanted others to know what your street number was. Times change. When you tick a box when you buy something online that allows them to put you in their big data pile and find out what you'd really like next time.Asked if he's content with this situation (which he had predicted) Burke reflects that when he visited the Soviet Union he was told to be careful of what he said, 'because everyone is listening'. Says Burke:
Walmart does 300 million transactions an hour and they use that information, for example, when there is a big hurricane predicted they'll put torches on the shelves exactly where you want to buy them. And pop-tarts because, believe it or not, that's what people buy when there's going to be a hurricane.
So it's a quid pro quo.
Of course they're not listening. If they had to listen to everything we said in hotel rooms in the USSR in those days they'd be up all day and night.
So called snooping is them looking for metadata, not what you say. Not what you said to Charlie but the fact you talked to Charlie. If Charlie's unimportant and you're unimportant the thing they're happiest to do is dump it because the pile is unmanageably big now.
So called Big Data, the electronic exhaust we leave behind, is unbelievably large and growing at extrapolated rates. Nobody is going to ask me what I said to somebody on the phone yesterday afternoon, they're not interested. The algorithm will say 'I see he's talking to so-and-so and it's not relevant to us', and that's as far as it will go. There's no other way you can run the system anywhere.So you're unperturbed by the NSA and the Edward Snowden revelations and all that?
We've been doing that since we left the caves. Anybody who thinks that governments have not been taking what they can about public behaviour, they haven't understood the political process.
Of course everyone does it, of course they've always done it. Seems to me the press has jumped on the idea that people are snooping without recognising that the amounts of data are so gigantically enormous that there is no way that the NSA cares a rat's ass about me or you.Speaking about the future, Burke cites one development which will fundamentally change the world: nano-factories. (Video about this after the jump.)
We're in a transition period. I don't think it'll be that long before we'll be able to throw out our own search algorithms to, say, find out if anybody is looking at me!
There's always a quid-pro-quo with technology. There's always two sides to every knife.
Let’s say that 2040 sees the start of worldwide wi-fi distribution of software kits to make a nano-fabricator. Sits in the back garden, spare room, somewhere. Uses dirt, air and water and a bit of cheap, carbon-rich acetylene gas. Manipulates atoms and molecules to produce anything you want, virtually free. Each fabber can make copies of itself, so: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 etc: one each for nine billion of us, say, by 2042.Listen to the interview with Burke and watch his predictions for the future after the jump:
Sixty years later, we’ll have adapted to the new abundance and are living in small, no-pollution, autonomous communities, anywhere. Energy from spray-on photovoltaics makes any object (like a house) its own power source. So, here you are in your fabber-fabricated dwelling, filled with Mona Lisas if that’s your wish, with holographic reality transforming any room into anywhere (like: beach, sun, wind ruffling hair). So nobody travels any more. Want to see a pal, have dinner with your mother, join a discussion group? No problem: they’ll be there with you as 3D holograms, and you won’t know Stork from butter, unless you try to make physical contact (I’m avoiding sex and reproduction because that might have to be wild speculation).
The entire global environment will also be covered with quintillions of dust-sized nano-computers called motes. So your life will be constantly curated by an intelligent network of ubiquitous cyber-servants. The “motes” will know you need more food, or that it’s a bit chilly today, or that you’re supposed to call Charlie. And they’ll take the relevant action. Your shirt (motes in the fabric) will call Charlie. Either his avatar will appear, or you’ll hear his voice. Not sound waves, but brainwaves. Brain-to-brain communication (it happened for the first time in summer 2013).
No travel means no need for infrastructure, such as high-speed trains (unnecessary by mid-century, along with superhighways and airports). No need for anything that Government does, because, in our millennial culture of scarcity, Government was primarily there to tax, spend, and re-distribute the wealth. In 2103, with no scarcity, what need for Government? And with abundance, everybody has everything, so what need for criminals?
Saturday, 5 October 2013
Many remixes are disrespectful and frankly don't add anything to the original. This one does.
Funkanomics are a trio from Germany and their bone shaking basslines underlay this version which keeps the original structure, lyrics and hooks.
Superstition remix and two more great mixes from them as added extras (Hendrix meets Sylvester plus - vaguely - Heatwave) after the jump:
Friday, 4 October 2013
Homosexual behavior has been documented in so many species that many scientists believe it is universal within the animal kingdom.
Last year a post of mine '11 'Gay' Animals' for Care2.com was my most viewed ever, being the most read for six weeks and attracting nearly 500 comments. When the site did a rejig last year I got dropped with many other writers so this follow up was never published. A friend picking up on the original inspired me to drag it out. So here's another 11 for you, starting with the most familiar: Homo Sapiens.
Homosexuality in humans has been documented for thousands of years, but we still have no final explanation as to why it occurs and how it develops.
We know that there are a number of features which distinguish homosexual human beings from heterosexuals. Studies have discovered some very odd distinctions -- like finger-length and hair swirl and even penis thickness. The existence of young children who are apparently gay or lesbian has come much more to the fore in recent years, as have transgendered children, suggesting that a "born this way" theory is on the right track.
Research has pointed at a number of possible biological causes with immunology currently a favorite because such traits are known to be influenced in utero. In any family, the second-born son is 33 percent more likely than the first to be gay, and the third is 33 percent more likely than the second, and so on, as though there is some sort of “maternal memory.”
Hypothetical mechanisms include an alteration in the flow of male hormones in the formation of boys and female hormones in the gestation of girls. Why? It could be germs, genes, maternal stress, and even allergy.
In this interview with the renowned evolutionist Richard Dawkins, Dawkins explains how evolutionists have a few theories for why human homosexual behavior would be favored in natural selection, they includes the 'gay uncle theory'. Here, gay members of a group help look after children, increasing the group's survival chances. This is also the case with many other species where non breeding members of a group help raise, for example, pups or other bees. Anthropologist Sarah B. Hrdy argues that for much of human history children were raised by groups, not just their parents alone.
Another theory is that a 'gay gene' could have a double function, just as the gene variant for sickle-cell anemia is maintained because it reduces the severity of malaria. It could be that the gene that causes men to become homosexual also makes women better at reproducing. Women with that gene would have more children than other women, and even though some of their sons become homosexuals who do not reproduce, they would still have enough heterosexual daughters to carry the genes on.
Studies of twins strongly suggest that such a gene does exist, but we are still to definitively idetify it.
Many societies, such as Polynesia's, have clear and approved roles for 'gay' sons and 'lesbian' daughters and throughout history priests and shamans have often been 'gay'. Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University, has found cross-cultural confirmation that gay men and lesbians tend to take up certain sorts of job and have common other stereotypes. This suggests that homosexuality evolved and persists in humans because it benefits groups or relatives, rather than individuals, like how in bonobo chimpanzee society, homosexual behavior has benefits at a group level by promoting social cohesion.
Biologists looking at the rest of the animal kingdom are trying to explain the apparent evolutionary advantages of homosexual behaviour. Researchers Nathan Bailey and Marlene Zuk provide a variety of possible answers in their short paper Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Evolution (pdf). They give numerous examples of how same-sex sexuality appears to benefit various species.
After the jump read more about dolphins, elephants, flamingos, koalas and orang-utans.
Wednesday, 2 October 2013
A story on an obscure American news website, Mint Press, has been central to Russian claims that rebels exploded chemical weapons in Damascus rather than the Assad regime.
The credibility of that story has since been undermined, and today Buzzfeed takes a long look at Mint Press' shadowy backers and their Iranian links.
Middle East specialist Brian Whitaker has been digging deeper and asks detailed questions about its author and whether the story was actually planted by Russia:
I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks looking into the story that Saudi Arabia provided rebel fighters in Syria with chemical weapons. More specifically, I have been looking at the story of how it became a story - along with the questions this raises about the boundaries between journalism and propaganda, and about attempts to manufacture credibility for a report that was lacking in evidence...
...The eagerness with which Syria "truthers" latched on to this tale was bizarre since it relied on anonymous sources and uncritical quoting of them – practices that the truthers object to vigorously when they are found in mainstream media. But on this occasion it told them what they wanted to hear...
...Essentially, what Mint Press did with its chemical weapons story was to take a short cut by piggy-backing on the credibility of an international news agency, the Associated Press. Dale Gavlak's association with AP added enormously to the story's credibility and helped to compensate for its flimsiness in terms of hard facts. That's why Mint Press insisted on including her name on the story, even though her actual role in it is disputed.More: Manufacturing Credibility. How the Syria 'Rebel Chemicals' Story Was Over-Sold
Whitaker has tracked down a comment written by the author of the Mint Press story, Yan Barakat aka Yahya Ababneh, written on the Daily Mail website, before the Mint Press article was published:
Barakat then adds some information that wasn't included in the Mint Press story which has done so much to excite Russian officials: "Some old men arrived in Damascus from Russia and one of them became friends with me. He told me that they have evidence that it was the rebels who used the weapons."More Yahya Ababneh exposed: Syria "rebel chemicals" story may have come from Russian source.