Not in the news


Written by Heydon Prowse
08 Monday 08th December 2008


StarvingThere is currently a humanitarian crisis taking place in Haiti - the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country - although you won’t hear much about it in the broadsheets. In August and September fields were destroyed and livestock wiped out by a series of devastating storms, which killed nearly 800 people and caused $1 billion worth of damage. But the population were already struggling (to put it mildly). Catastrophic decisions made in the 1980s to lift tariffs, which flooded the country with cheap imported rice and vegetables, are still being felt. Consumers gained and the IMF applauded but domestic farmers went bankrupt and the Artibonite valley, the country's breadbasket, atrophied.

Mud cakes - staple diet for HaitiansNow, instead of bread, large parts of the country are so impoverished that people have been reduced to eating mud. In slums such as the notorious Cité Soleil, ‘mud cakes’ have literally become a staple. Despite this donor countries have funded only a third of the U.N.'s $105 million aid appeal for Haiti following the storms, and resources could run out in January.




Bright sunny day in New Delhi

According to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), brown clouds of pollution are hanging over Asia, making "cities from Beijing to New Delhi" darker, melting glaciers in ranges like the Himalayas faster and making weather systems more extreme. A direct result of burning of fossil fuels and biomass, the Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs), made of soot and other manmade particles, are more than three km thick. That in itself is scary enough, but the report also claims that these ABCs may be masking the effects of climate change by between 20 and 80 percent. So if ABCs were eliminated overnight, we would probably see a rapid global temperature rise of as much as two degrees C, which “could have a potentially disastrous effect." So we’re kind of damned if we do and almost as damned if we don’t.

The report has kicked up a storm of controversy in India, however, where government officials have pointed out that India's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are 1.2 tonnes compared to 23 tonnes in the US and 10 tonnes in European countries. The brown cloud was initially called the "Asian brown cloud" in an earlier report in 2002, before protests from India and China led it to be changed to the politically-correct "atmospheric brown cloud".



Doctor Gero Huetter of Berlin's University Hospital speaking to the press about the miraculous recovery of his patientMedical professionals in Germany may have stumbled across a possible cure for AIDS after treating a man for cancer. Doctors in Berlin were surprised to discover that a bone marrow transplant they used for the patient with leukaemia also cured him of the HIV virus. Other scientists have warned, however, that the cure may only have worked because the donor was carrying an extremely rare HIV resistant mutation in his genes called CCR5, which stops the HIV virus from attaching to infected cells. Only one in every 1,000 Europeans and Americans may carry the desirable mutation.


David Southwood can't wipe the smile off his face



Despite the dire economic straights everyone is apparently in, the ministers of the 18 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) who meet every three years to agree on funds, briskly struck a deal at their summit in the Netherlands last week giving the agency its requested 10 billion Euros (US$12.8 billion), which includes 2.34 billion Euros in new commitments. "Just look at the smile on my face," said David Southwood, head of science and robotic exploration at ESA. Perhaps they'll find the cure for AIDS up there, or some food for the Haitians.

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