A Step in the Right Direction

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It often seems like world is going to Hell in a hurry. People are becoming ever more pessimistic and disillusioned. In troubled times, I think it’s therapeutic to get some good news once in a while. And nothing redeems the human race like finding a cure for a widespread disease. That’s why we should all feel a little more optimistic about the future now that German scientists have developed a potential cure for HIV.

HIV, the virus that causes the onset of AIDS, embeds its own instructions in the nuclear DNA of host cells. It lays dormant there, camoflaged among our normal DNA, sometimes for many years, being copied as cells divide and becoming inseparable from its unfortunate carrier. Until now.

“The researchers engineered an enzyme called Tre which removes the virus from the genome of infected cells by recognizing and then recombining the structure of the virus’s DNA.”

“That enzyme was able to eliminate the HIV virus from infected human cells in about three months in the laboratory.”

These hopeful laboratory results are merely the first steps on the long path to producing a drug that is approved for use on human patients, but proof that we have the technology today to attack the virus on its own level. Unlike a vaccine, which can only prevent a virus from infecting new victims, this could actually be a cure, a pardon from the long, lonely death sentence that is AIDS. That’s what I call good news.

Where is the outrage over Cheney?

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The mainstream media apparently doesn’t think this story is too important; I wonder about the average person? How many people have heard about it? As I write this the front pages of CNN and Fox are all about Paris Hilton with no mention of Cheney’s latest corruption.

In case you missed it:

The Daily Show had a great clip last night. After showing these claims by Cheney of not being part of the Executive Branch they showed a clip from 2001 of him saying (paraphrasing) “Congress has no authority to request that information from me since my office is in the Executive branch.”

Why aren’t more Americans upset by this kind of stuff? This is blatant abuse of power, lying, contradicting yourself to satisfy your own ends and just making crap up. These people don’t care what’s legal or in the constitution, they just state their claim as fact and assume the burden is on everyone else to prove them wrong.

Are people just too desensitized by how much corruption has gone on in this White House? Even more depressing is that a Republican may have a chance at winning the 2008 election.

Random pictures

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Cool stuff found while browsing today:

Innocent civilians always pay the price

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Here’s a good visualization and way of understanding the carnage currently going in on Iraq: Civilian Death Statistics in Iraq & Afghanistan Compared

The author took an average of several estimates of the death-toll in Iraq and Afghanistan, and chose 250,000 so far. Based on this number the article notes:

Every 9.62 days, there is an equivalent amount of casualties in Iraq & Afghanistan as September 11th.

There are 9.65 Virginia Tech shootings in Iraq & Afghanistan everyday.

There are 1.61 Madrid bombings in Iraq & Afghanistan everyday.

In 11 days as many Iraqi & Afghani civilians are killed as the entire amount of American military personnel killed since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some people will dispute the 250,000 estimate, but the actual number is semi-irrelevant to get this point across. It’s not any less gruesome to think that the equivalent number of deaths as Sept 11th are killed in Iraq in 20 days or 30 days. So, let’s not waste time on that here.

Hopefully these ideas will help Westerners understand what is being done to these people every day.

Todays good ideas

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Some interesting bits I noticed on the news aggregation sites today:

  • Is this a map of all countries not yet on the Metric system or all countries supporting the war in Iraq?
  • Some towns have created their own currency as a way to promote local businesses as opposed to large chain stores. Quite a good idea. The currency becomes a point of local pride, which probably drives a lot of its usage.
  • No new ideas, but it’s good to see a list of reasons why bottled water is bad. I don’t mind it as a replacement for a portable drink (as opposed to purchasing something like a soda) but I don’t like it as a primary water source.

What is next for the Palestinians?

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I can’t think of any possible way these events will be good for the Palestinian people:

Pictures: Hamas overruns Fatah posts

Palestinian President Dismantles Coalition

As wrong and immoral as I believe Israel to be in oppressing the Palestinians, Israel gains more freedom to keep it going as the Palestinians become more militant. This is because Israel can play the victim just enough for the media to ignore the horrible situation of the Palestinians.

The only real victims here are the Palestinian people at the hands of both the Israelis and their own “government.”

New version of BlackBerry stock quote application

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Following up on the first release, noted here, I have put out a new version of this BlackBerry application.

New in this version:

  • Added color to highlight positive or negative price movement.
  • Charts can be opened to show price and Market Filters score history.
  • More market scans.

Original features:

  • Stock and index quotes.
  • MarketFilter scan results.
  • Uses webservices provided by Market Filters for the scan and quote data.
  • Light-weight and transfers significantly less data than a website.
  • Built for BlackBerry devices.

This has become a solid application, so check it out.

BlackBerry stock quotes, charts and market scans application.

Accelerated climate change and deals

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As I write this there was just an announcement of a G8 climate deal: G8 reach climate-change breakthrough. I’ll wait to read some further analysis on the deal before judging, but I’d guess this has to be seen as some kind of step forward. Getting agreement with the US was the major stumbling block.

I did get worried when Bush went into this still saying “we have to get India and China on board for any real solution.” Yes, that’s true, but holding out until then is horrible negotiation in this situation. Leading by example is a big part of how the US used to influence worldwide politics and Bush’s attempts to not budge until forcing everyone else to his demands have clearly failed. Now all of the G8 can negotiate with the other big polluters and say “look, we’ve made our commitment, now it’s your turn.”

However, climate change still continues, and is even going faster than scientists had estimated: Global warming and the melting of Greenland. Greenland is melting faster than previously predicted.
Interesting quote from the interview:

“Q: How do you view the media coverage of climate change?

A: One disappointment I would raise is if you look at the understanding of climate change by scientists — let’s be generous — 95 percent of scientists say we understand the process and we are convinced there is global warming. The media reports it, like a lot of other stories, as 50-50. They want to always show the other side. That’s good, but I’m disappointed that the media does not reflect that there is a 95-5 percent discussion. It sounds like it’s 50-50. The public reads this and they can’t make up their mind usually.”

I believe that’s part of the problem with public understanding in North America, but it’s also the fault of politicians. They still don’t know if their constituents will accept some sacrifices to confront this inevitable problem, so they don’t push for it. I think the vast majority of the population is ready and the first politician to step up and credibly explain to them what’s at stake will win the “political capital” to make changes.

The North American auto industry doesn’t get it

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I was listening to a piece on CBC the other night, talking partially about Schwarzenegger’s trip to Ontario. They started talking about emissions standards and how Ontario was considering increasing them. California’s standards were discussed and they brought on an auto industry lobbyist.

The lobbyist talked about how California’s standards were destroying the US auto industry and then said (paraphrasing): “… let the industry set these standards itself, that will get the best results.”

Really? Considering North American governments have basically done nothing to setup tough emissions standards, we’ve seen the results of the industry setting the standards itself. A big, fat, nothing. But, we should trust them to now, right?

The industry’s behaviour really puzzles me because there’s no way they can win at this game, and they’re making it worse. Toyota builds the most efficient fleet of vehicles and dumps tons of money into R&D, which is why their vehicles are superior to the “big 3.” What do Ford and GM think they’re gaining by lobbying to allow themselves to stay 10-20 years behind current technology? They are scared that when their vehicles prices increase slightly from new R&D even more people will leave their brands.

There are cases where I think our governments overreach in what they do, but settings emissions standards is not one of them. Individuals, by ourselves, are often short-sighted, which is one of the reasons we have governments. If a money-conscious person is choosing between 2 cars with say a $2,000 difference between them, they might choose the cheaper one even though it’s much less fuel efficient, based solely on sticker shock.

But, first of all, if they were to think ahead they’d probably save a lot of that on fuel costs. Secondly, how much will their taxes increase in the future to pay for the damage and clean-up of an environment ravaged by climate change? Lastly, there’s a bit of game theory involved. If no one else bothers to buy an efficient vehicle, the damage will still be the same, therefore should I bother buying one?

That’s exactly why we need the extra guidance of emissions standards.