Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Evil and good in action

Two articles, one about the destruction of a temple in China done with no obvious reason, and the second about the miraculous finding of a new Buddha statue in Afghanistan! The connection- I think China is deliberately destroying religious buildings and especially the unique ones. With this, it notoriously resembles Talibans that destroyed the Buddha statues in Afghanistan. The moral-you can try to destroy history, but you will not succeed, because history is in every piece of material ever touched by a person from that period. And you simply cannot obliterate everything. But still, it's sad to see the destruction going on in the 21st century.

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Temple’s treasures wiped out

A 1,200-year-old Siva temple of the Pallava period at Tiruppulivanam village in Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, has been wiped clean of its beautiful Chola-period paintings. The frescoes, about 975 years old, have been sand-blasted out of existence.

Ironically, at a seminar organised on the temple premises on August 27, 2007, archaeologists, epigraphists and artists had decided on measures to preserve the paintings and inscriptions in the temple.

Two 16-pillared mantapas are among the temple’s treasures that have been destroyed. One of the mantapas, which was commonly called ‘madapalli’ or kitchen, had Tamil inscriptions dating back to Kulotunga Chola III (1215 A.D.), the Telugu Chola Vijayakanda Gopaladeva, Rajanarayana Sambuvaraya and others. The other mantapa, called Alankara Mantapa, belonged to the 16th century Vijayanagara period.

This destruction has taken place during “renovation” that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department officials are undertaking. As part of this exercise, they plan to pull down a 100-pillared mantapa just outside the temple and “rebuild it.”

The Vyagrapurisvara temple at Tiruppulivanam, near Uttraramerur, 95 km from Chennai, was one of the three temples in Tamil Nadu where Chola paintings existed. The others where they still exist are the Brihadeesvara temple in Thanjavur and the Vijayalaya Cholisvara temple near Pudukottai.

New Bamiyan Buddha find amid destruction

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan (AFP) — "We got him!" screamed Afghan archaeologist Anwar Khan Fayez as he leapt from the pit beneath the towering sandstone cliffs, where the Bamiyan Buddhas once stood.

Seven years after Taliban militants blew up the two 1,500-year-old statues in a fit of Islamist zealotry, a French-Afghan team in September uncovered a new, 19-metre (62-foot) "Sleeping Buddha" buried in the earth.

The news that a third Buddha escaped the Taliban's wrath has caused excitement in this scenic valley, where the caverns that housed the ruined statues are an eerie reminder of Afghanistan's past and present woes.

"It was a happy moment for all of us when the first signs appeared. Our years-long efforts had somehow paid off," Fayez told AFP.

A little Christmas special. It's about the power of the mind and the brain. I hope you all have great holidays and enjoy yourself to the maximum. And that you'll read the articles because they can change your life. Or at least to make it more interesting.

  1. Mind Controls Body in Extreme Experiments
  2. The Incredible Power of Contentment
  3. Harnessing The Power Of The Brain

Mind Controls Body in Extreme Experiments

By William J. Cromie/ Source: Harvard Gazette

In a monastery in northern India, thinly clad Tibetan monks sat quietly in a room where the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a yoga technique known as g Tum-mo, they entered a state of deep meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators' shoulders. For untrained people, such frigid wrappings would produce uncontrolled shivering.

If body temperatures continue to drop under these conditions, death can result. But it was not long before steam began rising from the sheets. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour.

Attendants removed the sheets, then covered the meditators with a second chilled, wet wrapping. Each monk was required to dry three sheets over a period of several hours.

Benson is an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He firmly believes that studying advanced forms of meditation "can uncover capacities that will help us to better treat stress-related illnesses."

Benson developed the "relaxation response," which he describes as "a physiological state opposite to stress." It is characterized by decreases in metabolism, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. He and others have amassed evidence that it can help those suffering from illnesses caused or exacerbated by stress. Benson and colleagues use it to treat anxiety, mild and moderate depression, high blood pressure, heartbeat irregularities, excessive anger, insomnia, and even infertility. His team also uses this type of simple meditation to calm those who have been traumatized by the deaths of others, or by diagnoses of cancer or other painful, life-threatening illnesses.

The relaxation response involves repeating a word, sound, phrase, or short prayer while disregarding intrusive thoughts.

During visits to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Benson and his team studied monks living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-mo meditation, raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees. It has yet to be determined how the monks are able to generate such heat.

The researchers also made measurements on practitioners of other forms of advanced meditation in Sikkim, India. They were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64 percent.

To put that decrease in perspective, metabolism, or oxygen consumption, drops only 10-15 percent in sleep and about 17 percent during simple meditation. Benson believes that such a capability could be useful for space travel. Travelers might use meditation to ease stress and oxygen consumption on long flights to other planets.

In 1985, the meditation team made a video of monks drying cold, wet sheets with body heat. They also documented monks spending a winter night on a rocky ledge 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas. The sleep-out took place in February on the night of the winter full moon when temperatures reached zero degrees F. Wearing only woolen or cotton shawls, the monks promptly fell asleep on the rocky ledge, They did not huddle together and the video shows no evidence of shivering. They slept until dawn then walked back to their monastery.
Overcoming obstacles

Instructor in Psychology Sara Lazar, a Benson colleague, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of meditators at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The subjects were males, aged 22-45, who had practiced a form of advanced mediation called Kundalini daily for at least four years. In these experiments, the obstacles of cold and isolation were replaced by the difficulties of trying to meditate in a cramped, noisy machine. However, the results, published in the May 15, 2000, issue of the journal NeuroReport, turned out to be significant.

"Lazar found a marked decrease in blood flow to the entire brain," Benson explains. "At the same time, certain areas of the brain became more active, specifically those that control attention and autonomic functions like blood pressure and metabolism. In short, she showed the value of using this method to record changes in the brain's activity during meditation." source

The Incredible Power of Contentment

Getting to Contentment

So if contentedness is so great, how do you get there? That’s not always easy, but here are some things that have worked for me:

  • Count your blessings. I mentioned this above, and in a previous post, but for me it’s the best way to get to contentment. When you find yourself unhappy with something, or with what you don’t have, take a moment to count all the good things in your life. And I would bet there are many. It puts the focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t.

  • Stop, and remind yourself. When you find yourself unhappy with someone, or trying to change them, stop yourself. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you should try to be happy with that person for who he/she is. Take a moment to think about the good things about that person, the reasons you love that person. Then accept their faults as part of their entire package.

  • Stop, and consider why you want something. When you feel the urge to buy something, think about whether it’s a need or a want. If it’s a want, take a pause. It’s good to wait 30 days — keep a 30-day list … when you want something, put it on the list with the date, and if you still want it in 30 days, you can buy it). Consider why you want something. Are you not content with what you already have? Why not?

  • Take time to appreciate your life! I like to reflect on my life, and all the good things in it, on a regular basis. I do this when I run, or when I watch the sunset or sunrise, or when I’m out in nature. Another great method is a morning gratitude session — think of all the things and people you’re thankful for, and thank them silently.

  • Show people you appreciate them. It’s good to appreciate people, but it’s even better to show them. Give them a hug, smile, spend time with them, thank them out loud, thank them publicly.

  • Breathe, and smile. Once again, advice from one of my favorite monks, but it works in this context. Sometimes when we take the time to breathe, and smile, it can change our outlook on life.

  • Learn to enjoy the simple things. Instead of wanting to buy expensive things, and spend money on doing things like eating out or entertainment, learn to enjoy stuff that’s free. Conversations and walks with other people. Spending time outdoors. Watching a DVD or playing board games. Going to the beach. Playing sports. Running. These things don’t cost much, and they are awesome. (Read the whole article here: source)

Harnessing The Power Of The Brain

(CBS) Once in a while, we run across a science story that is hard to believe until you see it. That's how we felt about this story when we first saw human beings operating computers, writing e-mails, and driving wheelchairs with nothing but their thoughts.

Quietly in a number of laboratories, an astounding technology is developing that directly connects the human brain to a computer. It's like a sudden leap in human evolution - a leap that could one day help paralyzed people to walk again and amputees to move bionic limbs. As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, the connection has already been made for a few people, and for them it has been life changing.

Scott Mackler was a husband, father and successful neuroscientist when he received perhaps the worst news imaginable. At the age of 40, he could run a marathon in three and a half hours, but it was about that time he discovered he had ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.

His brain was losing its connection to virtually every muscle in his body. The near-total paralysis would also stop his lungs. He didn't want to live on a ventilator, so nine years ago he recorded this message for his two sons.

Today, Scott Mackler's mind is sharp as ever, but his body has failed. Doctors call it "locked in" syndrome. Scott and his wife Lynn learned to communicate with about the only thing he has left, eye movement.

To signal "yes," Lynn says Scott looks at her; to signal "no," he looks away.

But recently Scott found a new voice. "Can everyone hear the PC? I apologize for the quality of the voice," he asked in writing.

Scott wrote these words, one letter at a time, with nothing but his thoughts and the help of what's called a brain computer interface or "BCI." He wears a cap that picks up the electrical activity of his brain and allows him to select letters simply by thinking about them. Then the computer turns his sentences into speech.

"I hate being helpless and when other people put words in my mouth," he wrote.

"Scott, I understand that earlier in the progression of this disease you said that, at the point you had to go on a ventilator you didn't wanna go on anymore, but today you are on a ventilator. And I'm curious about what changed your mind?"

"Because I can still communicate," Scott replied, with the help of the BCI device.

It isn't fast. It takes 20 seconds or so to select each letter. Scott told 60 Minutes it took him about an hour to write the answers to our 16 questions. But he writes well enough to continue his research and manage his lab at the University of Pennsylvania, where he still goes to work everyday.

The system was developed by neuroscientist Dr. Jonathan Wolpaw at New York State's Wadsworth Center.

The disks are electrodes that pick up the faint electrical activity that brain cells create when they communicate with each other. Vaughan put a conductive gel on top of Pelley's scalp to help the electrodes pick up the signals.

Pelley was thinking of the letters of a word that only he knew. Every time the computer flashed the correct letter on the screen, he silently thought to himself, 'That's it, that's the one.' That feeling of recognition set off a unique electrical pattern in his brain, which the computer picked up.

It worked the first time Pelley tried it, without a single mistake, spelling out "THOUGHT" with the help of BCI.

As remarkable as this is, some scientists believe this technology is limited, because putting electrodes on top of the scalp is like listening to a symphony from the street outside the concert hall. So what would happen if the electrodes were inside the brain?

That's what they're doing at the University of Pittsburgh, implanting electrodes inside the brains of monkeys. Andy Schwartz, a neuroscientist at the university, implanted a grid of electrodes. It’s tiny, but there are 100 sensors, each listening to a different brain cell, or neuron.

It's like listening to the symphony of the brain, but now sitting in the front row. Schwartz has been decoding that language by watching the monkey's movement and recording the corresponding signals in its brain.

Once Schwartz started to figure out that relationship, he was able to connect the monkey's brain directly to a robotic arm. Within days, the monkey operated the arm as if it was his own.
Cathy Hutchinson is well on her way to finding out: she's among the first humans to have her brain directly wired to a computer. Years ago, Cathy suffered a stroke that left her mentally sharp but trapped inside a paralyzed body and unable to speak, "locked in" like Scott Mackler.

Three years ago, Cathy volunteered to have the same kind of sensors Pelley saw in the monkeys implanted in her motor cortex, which controls movement and is located right on the surface of the brain. The sensors connect to the computer through a plug on her head. The system is called "Braingate" and it was created by a team led by Brown University neuroscientist John Donoghue.
Dr. Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital is leading the clinical trial. Pelley watched as Cathy showed what she can do.

She was able to move a cursor with nothing but her mind. "She's thinking about the movement of her hand, and she's moving the cursor much as if she had her hand on a mouse," Hochberg explains.

So if a paralyzed patient thinks to move his or her left arm, Donoghue says the brain fires those neurons, even though the arm doesn't move. "It’s very surprising. It fires, even though you’re not moving," he says.
Cathy has already driven a wheelchair. source

Religious fun-mormons included

Who said religion isn't fun! What we have today are Polygamous mormons backing ban on gay marriage and mormons baptising holocaust victims. Well, tell me, isn't this ridiculous.
I suggest that you read the full articles from the sources to understand the scope of the religious manipulations that lead to the ban on gay marriage-something I personally find disgusting. I simply don't understand what's the big deal in marriage. It's so useless anyway, why bothering banning people to marry, when most people doesn't want it anyway. So, dear right-wing people, enjoy the victory that mormons won for you.
And on the other articles which is even more fun. You really should read it. It's about mormons baptising dead jews. If that's not fun... I mean, even while I'm writing, I may be baptised to become a mormon. Isn't that cool?! As someone who hates all kind of churches I don't give a damn whether I'm baptised to be muslim, jewish or whatever, as long as people don't approach me and ask me to obey some idiotic rules. But still, I find it very weird to baptise a dead person. I mean, you can as well baptise all the people from before the born of Jesus Christ-people who according to Dante cannot enter Heaven and thus stay in the 1st circle of Hell. How would this affect the faith, I have no idea, but I think that it must be a law that any person can enter in a religion only while s/he is alive. Or even better, let's ban discussion of person's religion. That would do the job much more beautifully.
P.S. Since this post will appear on 25th December, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!

Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage

Published: November 14, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here

“We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.

The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.

As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat — and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.

The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.

First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.

Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying “the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan,” and urging members to become involved with the cause.

“And they sure did,” Mr. Schubert said.

Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.

The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.

It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. “I said, ‘As good as our stuff is, it can’t withstand that kind of funding,’ ” he recalled.

The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group’s Web site declaring a “code blue” — an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from “cardiac arrest.” Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.

“I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God’s precious gift of marriage is preserved,” he wrote.

On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.

In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.

Even with the Mormons’ contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called “more extreme elements” opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.

To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June. source

Holocaust survivors to Mormons: Stop baptisms of dead Jews

NEW YORK (AP) -- Holocaust survivors said Monday they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.

Ernest Michel, left, and Roman Kent look at a list of Holocaust victims who were posthumously baptized.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are making changes to their massive genealogical database that will make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy, a rite that has been a common Mormon practice for more than a century.

But Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said that is not enough. At a news conference in New York City on Monday, he said the church also must "implement a mechanism to undo what you have done."

"Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable," said Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz. He spoke on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.

"We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion," Michel said in a statement released ahead of the news conference. "We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough."

Michel said talks with Mormon leaders, held as recently as last week, have ended. He said his group will not sue, and that "the only thing left, therefore, is to turn to the court of public opinion."

In 1995, Mormons and Jews inked an agreement to limit the circumstances that allow for the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims. Ending the practice outright was not part of the agreement and would essentially be asking Mormons to alter their beliefs, church Elder Lance B. Wickman said Monday in an interview with reporters in Salt Lake City.

"We don't think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines," Wickman said. "If our work for the dead is properly understood ... it should not be a source of friction to anyone. It's merely a freewill offering."

Michel's decision to unilaterally end discussion of the issue through a news conference leaves the church uncertain about how to proceed, Wickman said.

Baptism by proxy allows faithful Mormons to have their ancestors baptized into the 178-year-old church, which they believe reunites families in the afterlife.

Using genealogy records, the church also baptizes people who have died from all over the world and from different religions. Mormons stand in as proxies for the person being baptized and immerse themselves in a baptismal pool.

Only the Jews have an agreement with the church limiting who can be baptized, though the agreement covers only Holocaust victims, not all Jewish people. Jews are particularly offended by baptisms of Holocaust victims because they were murdered specifically because of their religion.

Michel suggested that posthumous baptisms of Holocaust victims play into the hands of Holocaust deniers.

"They tell me, that my parents' Jewishness has not been altered but ... 100 years from now, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?" Michel said Monday.

Wickman said the practice in no way impinges upon a person's "Jewishness, or their ethnicity, or their background."

In May, the Vatican ordered Catholic dioceses worldwide to withhold member registries from Mormons so that Catholics could not be baptized. source

Russia in the spotlight, again

Oh, yeah, Russia again. I'm very happy with the editing I did on the articles I posted, because I made it so short and like essentials.
Again I wont comment because I have to go buy Xmas presents and because there isn't so much to say. I find it most amusing the tone which NY Times uses for Russia and for Mr. Putin. It's very negative, which is kind of odd. Those articles are supposed to be neutral and some of the word in them (words that I happily deleted, you can read them in the sources) were very not-neutral. Negative. Even agressive. Anyway, not my problem. I don't think there is a country in the world that has not problems, Russia included. So, it kind of childish to point the finger so eagerly.
And in any case, I like the answer of Medvedev to the missile system in Europe. He's completely right. This isn't anti-american, this is simply national interest. No country would like a missile system near its border. Obviously. I can't believe the EU allows that at all, but it's probably because it doesn't have a mandate yet to interfere with military problems. For me, this problem should be solved globally- the system should cover all the European borders, not just those in Poland and should be part of the European Defense Shield, not the US one. This way it will be clear that it's not directed to the enemies of the USA, but to the EU and it's not against Russia, it's simply a defense system. Just notice the weak voice of the answer from the Pentagon "we cannot comapare to your defenses". Fun!

  • Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question
  • Medvedev Speech Sparks Rumor of Putin’s Return
  • Russia Warns of Missile Deployment
  • Putin Vows to Fight Economic Collapse in Russia
  • Russia’s Liberal Opposition Loses Its Voice

Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question

November 6, 2008

TBILISI, Georgia — Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

Georgia moved forces toward the border of the breakaway region of South Ossetia on Aug. 7, at the start of what it called a defensive war with separatists there and with Russian forces.

Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion.

Senior Georgian officials contest these accounts, and have urged Western governments to discount them.

The Kremlin has embraced the monitors’ observations, which, according to a written statement from Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, reflect “the actual course of events prior to Georgia’s aggression.”

The monitors were members of an international team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O.S.C.E. A multilateral organization with 56 member states, the group has monitored the conflict since a previous cease-fire agreement in the 1990s.source

Medvedev Speech Sparks Rumor of Putin’s Return

November 6, 2008

MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s state of the nation address went on for 85 minutes and contained more than 8,000 words, but the section that prompted the most chatter on Thursday was a single sentence, the one that proposed lengthening the Russian president’s term to six years from four.

The proposal in the televised speech on Wednesday sounded odd, coming from a man just six months into his first term, and he offered little insight into his motive. It has led to rumors that Mr. Medvedev was laying the groundwork for his mentor, Vladimir V. Putin, the former two-term president who is now prime minister, to return as president, perhaps as early as next year.

Thursday’s issue of Vedomosti, a respected financial daily newspaper, fleshed out this theory in all its conspiratorial glory. Citing an unnamed source close to the presidential administration, Vedomosti reported that Mr. Putin intentionally placed Mr. Medvedev in the presidency “to carry out the necessary constitutional changes and unpopular reforms for Putin to then return to the Kremlin for longer.” The newspaper theorized that Mr. Medvedev would resign and call for a presidential election in 2009.

Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Mr. Putin, called the report “nothing more than the speculation of a newspaper.”

“Mr. Medvedev is in the initial stage of his presidency,” he said. “Now is not the time to think about the next presidency in Russia. We still have a long time to go and lots of things to do.”

Asked whether Mr. Putin intended to run for a third term, he said, “Consider a question to anyone in Washington whether Mr. Obama will run for another term.” Russian presidents are allowed to serve no more than two consecutive terms.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Medvedev said he would like to amend the Constitution to lengthen the presidential term to six years and the term of Duma deputies to five years. He noted that such changes had been discussed by leaders in Moscow since the 1990s.

Kremlin officials said later in the day that the change would not apply to incumbents. source

Russia Warns of Missile Deployment

November 5, 2008

MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia greeted his future American counterpart, Senator Barack Obama, with bristling language on Wednesday, promising to place short-range missiles on Russia’s western border if Washington proceeded with its planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

TV sets in a Moscow store showed President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s speech on Wednesday, in which he spoke of liberalization.

In a speech to the Federal Assembly, Mr. Medvedev said Russia had “no inherent conflict with America” and invited the new administration to start afresh with Moscow. However, he did not congratulate Mr. Obama on the election he had won only hours before, or even mention him by name.

Later in the day, the Kremlin announced that Mr. Medvedev had sent Mr. Obama a congratulatory telegram.

The speech — which was rescheduled twice in recent weeks for revisions as the financial crisis worsened — showed Mr. Medvedev asserting himself with concrete plans, including a proposal to lengthen the presidential term to six years from four. He harshly condemned state interference in civil society, calling for reforms that seemed to have been deferred by a string of crises this fall.

Mr. Medvedev also proposed new rules that would allow opposition parties marginally more representation in Parliament, challenging the consolidation of power that was the trademark of his predecessor, Vladimir V. Putin, who is now the prime minister. He also proposed granting slightly more self-determination in local administrations.

The speech he gave Wednesday, originally planned for Oct. 23, gave scant information about the government’s economic strategy going forward. It did, however, squarely lay blame for Russia’s troubles on the United States.

Mr. Medvedev said that American regulators had inflated a financial bubble and that the ensuing collapse “carried in its downfall to the trajectory of recession all financial markets of the planet.” He also said Washington had started the war in Georgia, saying, “Tskhinvali’s tragedy is, among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the U.S. administration, which hates criticism and prefers unilateral decisions.”

But it was the planned missile deployment, a possible early foreign policy test for Mr. Obama, that captured attention in the West on Wednesday.

Mr. Medvedev described specific measures Moscow would take if Washington went ahead with a plan to station a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. He said Russia would post mobile Iskander missiles — tactical weapons designed for use against targets like long-range artillery and airfields, in addition to missile defense systems — around Kaliningrad, an enclave at Russia’s western border. He also said Russia would use radio equipment to jam the Western missile defense system.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, responded sharply in a telephone interview to Mr. Medvedev’s pledge on missiles, calling it “literally and figuratively misguided.”

“The Russians know full well that our European missile defense system is not capable of defeating their enormous ballistic missile arsenal,” Mr. Morrell said with evident frustration. “Rather, it is meant to counter Iran’s growing missile threat. And we have bent over backwards to invite the Russians to partner with us to defeat this common threat.”source

Putin Vows to Fight Economic Collapse in Russia

November 20, 2008

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, mindful that Russians have already been traumatized by two financial crises in the last two decades, tried to assure the country on Thursday that it would be able to weather the current one.

In a keynote speech to the governing party congress, Mr. Putin announced tax cuts to stimulate the economy and increased spending on social programs. With the steep fall in the price of oil, the economy has slowed significantly in recent months, and the Russian stock market has plummeted.

“We will do everything in order to prevent a repetition of the collapses of past years in our country,” Mr. Putin said. “We will do everything to protect the savings of our citizens in banks, to safeguard the lawful interests of those who invested their own money in the construction of housing, so that there will not be the shocks of 1991 and 1998.”

In his speech, he placed blame for the downturn on repercussions from what he suggested were irresponsible American policies, but he said Russia’s financial reserves would help shield the country.

The Kremlin put away hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years when the prices of oil and other natural resources were soaring, but has been spending that money quickly in an effort to prop up the ruble, the banking system and other areas of the economy. Since early August, Russia has spent nearly $125 billion of its foreign reserves, $57.5 billion of that on backstopping the ruble.

The World Bank estimated this week that the Russian economy, which had been increasing at 7 percent a year, would slow to a 3 percent growth rate next year.

Mr. Putin spoke a day after his protégé, President Dmitri A. Medvedev, warned that the world financial crisis was only beginning. “I am not saying this to frighten anyone,” Mr. Medvedev said. “This is simply the truth, and it is something that people in all countries realize now.” source

Russia’s Liberal Opposition Loses Its Voice

December 23, 2008

MOSCOW — Vladimir V. Putin was sitting behind his desk. Before him was a prominent opposition leader named Nikita Y. Belykh, a beefy and bearded liberal with a fondness for scribbling poems on the side. In one, each stanza began with a word that he said characterized Mr. Putin’s Russia: Autocratic. One-Party. Authoritarian. Aggressive.

Yet there Mr. Belykh was, ready to abandon it all.

Mr. Putin had invited Mr. Belykh to his office on Dec. 5 to make an offer. Renounce the opposition. Come work for the Kremlin.

Mr. Belykh was feeling beaten down, “a sense of my own degradation,” as he explained in an interview last week.

He said he was tired of being vilified in the state-controlled news media, of being hounded by the state security forces, of being arrested at demonstrations, of having his political party thwarted at every turn.

And so Mr. Belykh, 33, who represented the future of the liberal opposition, said yes. He accepted an appointment as one of the Kremlin’s regional governors, turning his back on his party allies and becoming emblematic of the opposition’s difficulties this year.

A man who had once declared, “I have no intention of doing deals with the Kremlin” was doing just that.

With Mr. Belykh’s appointment and the liberal opposition in disarray, some of its leaders have sought to band together in a new movement, called Solidarity after the Polish anti-Communist movement. It is being organized by Garry K. Kasparov, the former chess champion, and Boris Y. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister.

The two have said they will attract a following from Russians disgruntled by the Kremlin’s handling of the financial crisis. Still, political analysts said the movement had little public support, and it has already become ensnared in disputes with other liberal factions.

“The problem that Solidarity faces is that while many of its criticisms are true, its leaders are not perceived by the vast majority of the population as representing the average person’s interests,” said Boris I. Makarenko, chairman of the Center for Political Technologies, a research organization in Moscow.

In the fall, Mr. Belykh said he would embrace Solidarity. Then the message arrived from the Kremlin.

Mr. Belykh’s pact with the Kremlin was a milestone in its lengthy campaign to all but stamp out the liberal opposition. Polls show that roughly 10 to 20 percent of Russians back the agenda of the liberals, which includes a pro-Western, free-market orientation and far less government regulation of industry and the news media.

Even so, the party that Mr. Belykh used to lead, the Union of Right Forces, received only 1 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last year, after being subjected to intense pressure by the government. It did not even run a candidate in the presidential election this year. In October, the party disbanded.

From its remains, the Kremlin created a new party, the Right Cause. The party is intended to espouse liberal ideas and serve as an outlet for public discontent caused by the financial crisis without challenging the Kremlin’s authority.

The new party’s leaders said they had no choice but to agree to exist under the Kremlin’s umbrella.

Mr. Belykh did not join the Right Cause, calling it an imitation of an opposition party.source

Health joke yet again

  1. Women Buying Health Policies Pay a Penalty
  2. Protests Over a Rule to Protect Health Providers
  3. Birth Defects Tied to Fertility Techniques
  4. F.D.A. Scientists Accuse Agency Officials of Misconduct

Again. I wonder how many such posts I can make in a year. Probably a lot. And it's not like I'm looking for them, it's more like they find me. The came to my mailbox straight from NY Times newsletter. Fun.
Now, my opinion on the first article is summarized in its last paragraph. Even if women cost more to insurers than men, they shouldn't pay that cost. Why? Because if I have to pay more to have a baby than a man, then, I'll simply won't have that baby. And what happens if everyone thinks like me? We'll save the Earth the shame to exist on it, because hey, NOBODY will have babies except for rich men who can afford them. This might be slightly fair, but in the end, it won't matter- there simply won't be enough rich men to keep humans alive and fresh. Eventually, we'll simply die off. That's why, women shouldn't pay more than men. If you ask me, they should even get paid to bear babies - this is such a stressful period for the body, I wonder why women even do it.
I won't comment the second article, my opinion is obvious. Shooooes :)
And the other 2 are just for your information. Enjoy!

Women Buying Health Policies Pay a Penalty

By ROBERT PEAR, October 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — Striking new evidence has emerged of a widespread gap in the cost of health insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage, according to new data from insurance companies and online brokers.

Some insurance executives expressed surprise at the size and prevalence of the disparities, which can make a woman’s insurance cost hundreds of dollars a year more than a man’s. Women’s advocacy groups have raised concerns about the differences, and members of Congress have begun to question the justification for them.

The new findings, which are not easily explained away, come amid anxiety about the declining economy. More and more people are shopping for individual health insurance policies because they have lost jobs that provided coverage. Politicians of both parties have offered proposals that would expand the role of the individual market, giving people tax credits or other assistance to buy coverage on their own.

Insurers say they have a sound reason for charging different premiums: Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically use more health care, especially in the childbearing years.

But women still pay more than men for insurance that does not cover maternity care. In the individual market, maternity coverage may be offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium.

In general, insurers say, they charge women more than men of the same age because claims experience shows that women use more health care services. They are more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses.

Most state insurance pools, for high-risk individuals, also use sex as a factor in setting rates.

Thus, for example, in Dallas or Houston, women ages 25 to 29 pay 39 percent more than men of the same age when they buy coverage from the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool.

In Nebraska, a 35-year-old woman pays 32 percent more than a man of the same age for coverage from the state insurance pool.

Representative Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California, said that “if men could have kids,” such disparities would probably not exist.

The individual insurance market is notoriously unstable. Adults often find it difficult or impossible to get affordable coverage in this market. In most states, insurers can charge higher premiums or deny coverage to people with health problems.

In job-based coverage, civil rights laws prohibit sex discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers cannot charge higher premiums to women than to men for the same benefits, even if women as a class are more expensive. Some states, including Maine, Montana and New York, have also prohibited sex-based rates in the individual insurance market.

Mila Kofman, the insurance superintendent in Maine, said: “There’s a strong public policy reason to prohibit gender-based rates. Only women can bear children. There’s an expense to that. But having babies benefits communities and society as a whole. Women should not have to bear the entire expense.”source

Protests Over a Rule to Protect Health Providers

Published: November 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

But three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.

Mr. Ishimaru and senior members of the commission staff said that neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor the White House had consulted their agency before issuing the proposed rule. The White House Office of Management and Budget received the proposal on Aug. 21 and cleared it on the same day, according to a government Web site that keeps track of the rule-making process.

The protest from the commission comes on the heels of other objections to the rule by doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, state attorneys general and political leaders, including President-elect Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama has said the proposal will raise new hurdles to women seeking reproductive health services, like abortion and some contraceptives. Michael O. Leavitt, the health and human services secretary, said that was not the purpose.

Officials at the Health and Human Services Department said they intended to issue a final version of the rule within days. Aides and advisers to Mr. Obama said he would try to rescind it, a process that could take three to six months.

The proposal is supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals.

But the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, 28 senators, more than 110 representatives and the attorneys general of 13 states have urged the Bush administration to withdraw the proposed rule.

Pharmacies said the rule would allow their employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and could “lead to Medicaid patients being turned away.” State officials said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.. source

Birth Defects Tied to Fertility Techniques

By DENISE GRADY, November 17, 2008

Infants conceived with techniques commonly used in fertility clinics are two to four times more likely to have certain birth defects than are infants conceived naturally, a new study has found.

The findings applied to single births only, not to twins or other multiples. The defects included heart problems, cleft lip, cleft palate and abnormalities in the esophagus or rectum. But those conditions are rare to begin with, generally occurring no more than once in 700 births, so the overall risk was still low, even after the fertility treatments. Cleft lip, for instance, typically occurs in 1 in 950 births in the United States, and the study found that the risk about doubled, to approximately 1 in 425, among infants conceived with the fertility treatments.

The procedures that increased the risk were so-called assisted reproductive techniques, like in vitro fertilization, which require doctors and technicians to work with eggs and sperm outside the body. The study did not include women who only took fertility drugs and did not have procedures performed.

But Dr. Reefhuis also said that although her study linked fertility procedures to birth defects, it did not prove the connection or explain it. If the connection is real, it is not known whether the procedures increase the risk for birth defects, or whether infertility itself raises the risk.

Dr. James A. Grifo, director of the fertility clinic at New York University Medical Center, said, “The good news is that the risk is low.”

Dr. Grifo said more research was needed to test the findings, because the study included only 281 women who had fertility procedures. He said that if the association with birth defects was real, the underlying cause was more likely related to the patients’ infertility than to the treatments.

Women considering fertility treatment should be informed that there might be a risk of birth defects, Dr. Fleischman said, but they need not be “overly concerned.”

The researchers used information already collected by a large project paid for by the government, the National Birth Defects Prevention study. Dr. Reefhuis and her colleagues compared 9,584 women who had children with birth defects, and 4,792 control women whose children were born without defects. In the control group, 1.1 percent of the women (51) had undergone fertility procedures; in those whose children had birth defects, the figure was 2.4 percent (230). The increased risk among those who had the procedures was not related to their age, income, the number of children they had or to whether or not their babies were born prematurely. source

F.D.A. Scientists Accuse Agency Officials of Misconduct

By GARDINER HARRIS ,November 17, 2008
The most recent dispute is unusual if only for the number of doctors and scientists who signed their names to the May letter. Previous disagreements involved at most a few agency scientists. Mr. Dingell and Representative Bart Stupak, another Michigan Democrat, released the letter sent to Congress on Oct. 14 but blacked out the scientists’ names and some crucial details the scientists did not want disclosed.

WASHINGTON — Top federal health officials engaged in “serious misconduct” by ignoring concerns of scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and approving for sale unsafe or ineffective medical devices, the scientists have written in a letter to Congress.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will investigate the accusations, first aired when eight agency scientists wrote a private letter in May to the F.D.A. commissioner, Andrew C. von Eschenbach.

Heidi Rebello, an agency spokeswoman, said, “The F.D.A. will respond directly to the committee’s concerns.”

The letter to Congress, dated Oct. 14, is part of a growing chorus of dissent from what had long been a tight-lipped agency. In decades past, scientists rarely disagreed publicly with their agency’s decisions, and any concerns they had about important decisions were whispered among veterans.

But increasing scrutiny of the agency on Capitol Hill has coincided with a growing willingness by some scientists to voice their misgivings. The disputes tend to pit agency managers, who often lean toward approving drugs or devices when the data are equivocal, against agency scientists, who want more certain trial results before allowing the products to be sold.

The letter says that the scientists have documentary evidence that senior agency managers “corrupted the scientific review of medical devices” by ordering experts to change their opinions and conclusions in violation of the law.

Dr. von Eschenbach asked William McConagha, the agency’s assistant commissioner for integrity and accountability, to investigate the accusations, the letter states. Mr. McConagha characterized the documentary evidence supporting the accusations as “compelling” and sufficient to justify disciplinary actions, it says.

The letter further says that Congress should consider reforming a process in which, the scientists say, the F.D.A. agrees to approve complex medical devices on the basis of little evidence of effectiveness. source

The new Buddha

Check out those pictures. The boy really has something in his eyes.
As for me, I don't really care if he's Buddha or not, because i'm not the worshipping type. Or even if I am, I'd rather not go there. But I cannot but be curious about him. After all Buddhism is one of the greatest teachings of our time. Only non-deformed Christianity and Taoism/Tangrism are up to that level.

Pictured: The 'Buddha boy' who emerged from Nepal's jungle after spending a year alone

By Daily Mail Reporter,12th November 2008

A teenage boy who many believe is the reincarnation of Buddha has re-emerged from the jungle in southern Nepal, attracting thousands of devotees, officials said today.

After retreating into the jungle for more than a year, Ram Bahadur Bamjan, 18, re-emerged Monday near Nijgadh town, about 100 miles south of the capital, Katmandu.

Upon hearing the news, thousands of Bamjan's followers, some from as far away as India, traveled to the site Tuesday to see him, police official Abhaya Joshi said over the telephone.

Joshi said Bamjan plans to talk to his followers for a few hours every day for a week before returning to the jungle to meditate.

Ram Bahadur Bamjan is believed to be the reincarnation of Buddha.

Bamjan, 18, emerged from the jungle in southern Nepal after spending more than a year alone

The long-haired Bamjan, dressed in a white cloth, appeared to be in good health as he spoke to his followers about peace and ending discrimination, according to the Rajdhani newspaper.

'It was an amazing experience to hear and see him. I have no doubt now he is the reincarnation of Buddha,' said Sangeeta Lama, a woman who met Bamjan for the first time.

Buddhist priests have been divided on whether the boy is truly the reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in southwestern Nepal around 500 B.C. and later became revered as the Buddha, which means Enlightened One.

There has been no formal declaration by Buddhist authorities that Bamjan is the reincarnation of the Buddha. But people have worshipped the teenager since he was first seen in 2005 meditating in the jungle, where he sat for months, motionless with his eyes closed among the roots of a tree. source

Sleep for more brain

Ok, a major problem for me, so I love talking about it.
People tend to underestimate the importance of sleep and I think it's crucial to understand that sleep is very very important for us. In the article below, you can read a little about the benefits of enough sleep, so I won't repeat them. I'll just tell you that I tested them, personally, it is true. Sleep is essential for your health, especially your emotional health. Without enough sleep, you'll feel more unstable, you'll make wrong assumptions, jump to wrong conclusions and in the end, you have a good chance to ruin what's important for you.
Why I'm saying all this if it's so obvious? Because it's not. There is a let's call it movement for less sleep around the world. There were books how to reduce your night sleep. People involved in meditation or spiritual growth also kind of seek to reduce their hours. That would be great if it wasn't very dangerous. One of my biggest mistakes, ever, was to try to mess with my sleeping process. After I started, I never was able to completely get back to normal sleep. Now, that may be just a personal issue, but it's important to know that sleep has very profound meaning for our brain, so unless you know how to redirect the processes running in your head while you're asleep, better don't start at all.
An important note I probably should make is that this doesn't mean you have to sleep for 12 hours a day. The optimal time should be between 7 and 9 hours a night. More would be excessive, less wouldn't suffice. That's it. Enjoy the article.

Want to Be Smarter? Get Some Sleep


Anchorage Daily News

A friend of mine is worrying himself sleepless about getting enough sleep. He is convinced that he just isn't smart after a short night's sleep.

He's right, finds Robert Stickgold, a Harvard medical professor, and Jeffrey Ellenbogen, chief of the sleep division at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Sleep increases your judgment, creativity and memory.

The advice to "sleep on it" before we decide to go to accept a new job or make other life choices, is backed up by the latest research.

Sleep makes you smarter, but you have to get enough sleep and the right kind of sleep. You need more than six hours.

The brain is not sleeping while we sleep. It is working. In fact, during rapid-eye-movement sleep, our brain waves look much like our brain waves when we are awake. Nor do our brains turn off during the alternating periods of slow-wave sleep. Our brain cells fire in a steady rhythm. When we sleep, our brains are still working on challenges. In one study, people were asked to solve difficult mathematical problems using a tedious, time-consuming process.

Then the people were asked to solve similar mathematical problems the next day. Some were allowed to get a good night's sleep, and others were not.

More than two and a half times the number of people who had gotten sleep figured out the trick.

"Somehow the sleeping brain was solving this problem, without even knowing there was a problem to solve," write Stickgold and Ellenbogen.

Companies like Google and Cisco have paid attention to such sleep research. They have installed "Energy Pods" with leather recliners and egg-shaped hoods that pull down to block light and noise for their creative employees.

After a nap in the Energy Pod, the employees say they can break out of their tunnel vision and get insight into problems that have stumped them.

Sleep also strengthens our memories. During sleep, the brain combs through what has happened to us during the day, creating new neuronal connections, and consolidating memories.

We rehearse difficult tasks when we sleep and do better at them the next day.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging that shows which parts of the brain are most active, the researchers found the brain had actually moved the memories for these number patterns while people slept. The next day people used different regions of the brain ---- but only if they had slept.

Valuable memories can be filled with emotion. We need to remember what is frightening and destructive and what is satisfying and pleasant. In another study, Stickgold and Ellenborgen showed that memories for emotional experiences did not deteriorate but actually improved after a night of sleep.

Excessive sleepiness is a major cause of accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleepy drivers cause more than 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities each year.

Nearly 37 percent of drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel, found a 2002 Gallup Poll.source


When life begins???

I read that article in NewScientist about a vote, are embryos humans and when human life begins.
Below is what I wrote as a comment under the article.

And my question for you is when do you think human life begins and how do you define humans?

Obviously when life begins and when human life begins are two DISTINCT categories. Life begins when you have a living cell that starts dividing. Human life however implies the existence of a human. Can a human be defined by 1, 2 or 20 cells? NO! If it could every egg or sperm would be half a human and every pregnancy that ends in the first 4 weeks would require a funeral. In order to have a human, I think that requirement number one is to have a BRAIN. Our brain is where our personality resides and without a brain, no matter how working, you cannot have a personality. That would mean that yes, brain damaged people are humans and no, brain-dead people are no longer living humans. And obviously then, a human can be defined only from that point on, when the little creatures has a brain, before that it's simply a body in development, an empty shell. And as much as we all can regret for every such shell being destroyed, I think that it's up to the parents and especially the mother, to decide whether that shell should reach a human-sustainable form or not.

This is an interesting debate, that I plan to follow on this blog. It was provoked by an article in NewScientist, that you can read in brief in the bottom of the page, or visit the source page.
Basically, it discuss the ridiculous price of current cancer and the future prices and treatments. The main question is if there is a treatment, but it is impossibly expensive, what's the benefit of it at all. And should we give up to biotech companies that literally black-mail governments to pay the absurd money.
Here is my comment from the NS page.
Please, join the discussion, as it is important to talk about this and have an opinion, because this is crucial for our future.

First of all, I disagree with the cost of the studies related to the approval of certain drug to be estimated to half of the over-all product development cost. I think it very wrongly imply that those trials are unnecessary-something that obviously is wrong. I don't like the way people consider those trials as leading to additional lost of life due to bureaucracy. If we remember of the latest scandals with bad drugs in USA-sometimes inefficient, sometimes even dangerous, I think it's obvious those trials are needed. How about paying tens of thousands of dollars or euros for something that isn't even working!
For me, the problem is in the entire development of the drug and of the choosing of a price. Yes, the development is expensive, but in the end, for a drug with a wide use, that cost will be paid by the shear number of purchases even if the drug is not expensive. A simple calculation-a drug costing $100 purchased by 1 000 000 of people (which is small number, if we talk about cancer) and used 10 times (for example 10 day or 10 months) will give you the 1bn you spent on research. Every purchase above this is profit. True, I'm not accounting for production, distribution, publicity and CEO salaries, but in the end, cancer patients are many many more, they rarely are cured with 10 treatments and no treatment would ever be that cheap. Then, why should those treatments be so expensive?! Shouldn't those companies be controlled by an anti-monopole commission-because for me, they are exploiting their monopolist positions.

Last but not least, I think, we should discuss the over-all price of a treatment. I think that a normal price for curing something like cancer should be few thousands of dollars, probably around $5 000. But I mean a complete curing, like from a working gene-therapy. Not something that will barely keep you alive. My reasoning? Cancer is rarely a disease you get simply because you were unlucky. In most cases, it's a result from wrong life-style, unsuitable for our personality. I won't say we all should be vegetarians, since that is not true. But we all should live the way our body and soul feel happy and useful. If we don't, we're likely to get ourselves in some major trouble. That's why, I think treatments for major diseases shouldn't be cheap. They should have a value, such that they would make us reconsider our life-style. Value, not a cost, that would leave us alive but broke or that would make only rich people able to use the treatment.That's why, people should pay personally for some part of the treatment, but that amount should be expensive but affordable, otherwise we would be discriminating people.

Obviously I exclude children from my thoughts, since they have no guilt over their conditions and who should be cured on government money.

My final thought-we're much better researching how to prevent cancer as a whole than discussing the price of possible treatments. Sure, that's not the happiest option for pharmaceutical companies, but that's the best option for humans and we should make sure that option is always favourited and protected.

How will we afford future cancer drugs?

  • 22 October 2008

With many cancer drugs costing tens of thousands of dollars a year, they have become a flashpoint for anguished debate. If we are struggling to pay even for today's cancer drugs, how will we afford genomic therapy directed to an individual cancer?

First we need to ask why cancer drugs are so expensive. Pharmaceutical companies point to the huge costs of drug development: estimates for a biological product such as an anti-cancer antibody run as high as $1.3 billion. More than half of this is spent on the clinical trials needed to satisfy regulators that a drug is safe and effective.

The cost of such trials could be brought down by recruiting only patients whose cancers have genetic profiles that make them susceptible to a certain experimental drug, this is not happening enough, making the trials inefficient. At present only 3 per cent of adult cancer patients are enrolled in clinical trials.

For some drugs, we do not yet have the tests to predict who will benefit. It may be necessary to change how pharmaceutical companies are paid-under new NHS deal, payment is made only for those patients who respond well, generally around two-thirds.

The cost of clinical research may be high, but the main reason that cancer drugs are so expensive is that historically, around the world, manufacturers have often been able to name their price - exploiting the fact that no one wants to say "no" to the terminally ill. This needs to change, especially in the US, which has the largest market for cancer drugs and consequently the muscle to shake things up. source

Love will find its way

A lovely story, I urge you to visit the source-site to read it all.
It simply left me wordless, it's so sweet. It simply comes to tell us that whatever was meant to happen will happen. No matter what. Aaaaaaaw.

P.S. And yeah, I believe in the story. It's not so incredible. The world is small when higher powers are interfering.

Amazing Holocaust love story lives on


NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Florida (AP) --

Herman and Roma Rosenblat's story has inspired a children's book. There are also plans to turn it into a film.

He was a teenager in a death camp in Nazi-controlled Germany. She was a bit younger, living free in the village, her family posing as Christians.

Their eyes met through a barbed-wire fence and she wondered what she could do for this handsome young man.

She was carrying apples, and decided to throw one over the fence. He caught it and ran away toward the barracks. And so it began.

As they tell it, they returned the following day and she tossed an apple again. And each day after that, for months, the routine continued. She threw, he caught, and both scurried away.

They never knew one another's name, never uttered a single word, so fearful they'd be spotted by a guard. Until one day he came to the fence and told her he wouldn't be back.

"I won't see you anymore," she said. "Right, right. Don't come around anymore," he answered.

And so their brief and innocent tryst came to an end. Or so they thought.

Before he was shipped off to a death camp, before the girl with the apples appeared, Herman Rosenblat's life had already changed forever.

His family had been forced from their home into a ghetto. His father fell ill with typhus. They smuggled a doctor in, but there was little he could do to help. The man knew what was coming. He summoned his youngest son.

Two days later, the father was dead. Herman was just 12.

Eventually, the ghetto was dissolved. As the Poles were ushered out, two lines formed. In one, those with working papers, including Rosenblat and his brothers. In the other, everyone else, including the boys' mother.

Rosenblat went over to his mother. "I want to be with you," he cried. She spoke harshly to him and one of his brothers pulled him away. His heart was broken.

"I was destroyed," Rosenblat remembers. It was the last time he would ever see her.

It was in Schlieben, Germany, that Rosenblat and the girl he later called his angel would meet. Roma Radziki worked on a nearby farm and the boy caught her eye. And bringing him food -- apples, mostly, but bread, too -- became part of her routine.

"Every day," she says, "every day I went."

Rosenblat says he would secretly eat the apples and never mentioned a word of it to anyone else for fear word would spread and he'd be punished or even killed. When Rosenblat learned he would be moved again -- this time to Theresienstadt, in what is now the Czech Republic -- he told the girl he would not return.

Not long after, the Russians rolled in on a tank and liberated Rosenblat's camp. The war was over. She went to nursing school in Israel. He went to London and learned to be an electrician.

Their daily ritual faded from their minds.

"I forgot," she says.

"I forgot about her, too," he recalls.

Rosenblat eventually moved to New York. He was running a television repair shop when a friend phoned him one Sunday afternoon and said he wanted to fix him up with a girl. Rosenblat was unenthusiastic: He didn't like blind dates, he told his friend. He didn't know what she would look like. But finally, he relented.

It went well enough. She was Polish and easygoing. Conversation flowed, and eventually talk turned to their wartime experiences. Rosenblat recited the litany of camps he had been in, and Radziki's ears perked up. She had been in Schlieben, too, hiding from the Nazis.

She spoke of a boy she would visit, of the apples she would bring, how he was sent away.

And then, the words that would change their lives forever: "That was me," he said.

Rosenblat knew he could never leave this woman again. He proposed marriage that very night. She thought he was crazy. Two months later she said yes.

In 1958, they were married at a synagogue in the Bronx -- a world away from their sorrows, more than a decade after they had thought they were separated forever.

It all seems too remarkable to be believed. Rosenblat insists it is all true.

Even after their engagement, the couple kept the story mostly to themselves, telling only those closest to them. Herman says it's because they met at a point in his life he'd rather forget. But eventually, he said, he felt the need to share it with others.

Now, the Rosenblats' story has inspired a children's book, "Angel Girl." And eventually, there are plans to turn it into a film, "The Flower of the Fence." Herman expects to publish his memoirs next year.

Michael Berenbaum, a distinguished Holocaust scholar who has authored a dozen books, has read Rosenblatt's memoir and sees no reason to question it.

"I wasn't born then so I can't say I was an eyewitness. But it's credible," Berenbaum said. "Crazier things have happened."

Herman is now 79, and Roma is three years his junior; they celebrated their 50th anniversary this summer. He often tells their story to Jewish and other groups.

He believes the lesson is the very one his father imparted.

"Not to hate and to love -- that's what I am lecturing about," he said. "Not to hold a grudge and to tolerate everybody, to love people, to be tolerant of people, no matter who they are or what they are."Връзка

The anger of the death camps, Herman says, has gone away. He forgave. And his life has been filled with love. source

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