Saturday, December 30, 2006

The death penalty

It's not such big news that Saddam was hung a couple days ago. Sorry ousted dictator, no 2007 for you. For some it's an issue, for others, like me, not so much. My wife is angry, perhaps at the behest of watching too much Al Jazeera, and under the impression that the Americans chose the most sensitive possible date to snap his neck from a dangling rope - the date being Eid Kbeer, or the celebration of the Muslim Prophet's birthday. Personally, I don't think the American's chose the date, but rather it was a Shi'a decision to finally get rid of the guy - the Shi'as didn't seem to mind the sensitive date so much - at least from what I saw of them dancing through the streets.

The whole issue of the death penalty is a passionate one, with adamant people on the pro and con side. Me, I'm a fence sitter. While I'd hate to see someone hung for a crime they didn't commit - I think hanging is a just punishment for a few horrendous crimes I can think of.

In the past they had public executions, even charging people money to attend. Archaic, but fascinating to watch. The plus side being that they would help recoup some of the funds lost on the judicial process. Humanity's natural blood lust would make such an event a spectacle - I especially like the idea of turning criminals into gladiators and having them fight each other to live another day. They make for great movies anyhow - Gladiator, the Running man. (Okay, maybe not the movie the Running Man, but certainly the book. IMO, much more interesting than seeing which monster truck can bash up the most crap, or watching steroid-massive WWF guys perform fake body slams. It would giver reality TV a twisted new realm of reality and, indeed, pupularity.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I still can't get over that AIDS statistic

More or less, I guesstimate that at least 5 billion a year is earmarked towards AIDS by governments and charities.

Say half of that goes to research and the other half to awareness campaigns.

2.5 billion dollars of gov't money, not the money paid by drug companies to create cheap drugs for people - that is perhaps ten times more.

This is how I do the math in my head.
Assume each researcher gets a generous $100,000 per year.
For a million dollars you get ten researchers.
For ten million dollars you get one hundred researchers.
For one hundred million - one thousand.
For one billion, ten thousand.
For 2.5 billion - twenty-five thousand researchers.

So, I repeat again. It took twenty years and twenty-five thousand researchers to prove the statistic that being circumcised greatly reduces the odds of a man contracting HIV.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Harper calls Hamas genocidal.

It doesn't bother me that Harper is critical of Hamas and Hezbollah. What bothers me is his consistent blindness to the other side of the story. Israel is not innocent and while it is right to condemn the hard-core destruction lines of Hamas and Hezbollah, one must also stand up and condemn Israel's near polar opposite Zionist-apartheid mentality. Like it or not, Hamas and Hezbollah are both democratically powerful forces in the region. The world can condemn and ignore them into further radical isolation - or try to lure them into a more moderate approach. Harper seems to be good at adding lines like "within a United Canada" to important statements. Why not push Hamas to add a line such as "Under the current conditions of aggression, occupation and oppression..." to their non-recognition of Israel's right-to-exist stance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tories look to consult public on Senate choices

I consider myself somewhat more clued in than the average Joe on politics in Canada. But I have to admit, I can't think of the name of a single Canadian Senator at this time. So why the hell would I vote for one? A popularity contest to see how many people have actually heard of Senator Jane Doe representing Frogsfart North West Territories?
While I think democracy is the least imperfect of all political structures, there is a limit on a constituent's mind. We already vote for our national leader through a local representitive MP (most of which are unknown), We also elect a provincial premier, a mayor for the city and even a local representitive for whatever Ward we happen to be part of. The Senate, while technically they have the power to block legislation, they never do. Rather, they are simply elitists who provide regional representation, are appointed for life (or until they reach 75) and act as little more than a debating board so that legislation gets a thoughtful comb over before being passed.
Come on Harper! The people of Canada elected YOU, through regional MPs to make decisions for us. We don't need more voting, we have enough already, and it costs money! If there was a contraversial senator, then I think the Canadian public would let them know they wanted them out.
Otherwise, let it be. Why tinker with something that has worked well for over one-hundred years!

Questions
How many Canadians can name a single Canadian Senator?
How many can name their local MP?

Why am I even babbling on about this, I've wasted way more time than I should have.

AIDS research shows circumsision reduces rate of infection.

Twenty plus years and hundreds of billions of dollars spent in AIDS research and only NOW they come up with the statistic that the obvious trait of being circumsized greatly reduces infections. Isn't that a little sad? Where does all that donated money go? Is there a band of multi-million dollar monkeys in state-of-the-art-labs working around the clock to come up with this info?

From the BBC website - The trial in Kenya found a 53% reduction in new HIV infections in heterosexual men who were circumcised while the Ugandan study reported a drop of 48%.

Results last year from a study in 3,280 heterosexual men in South Africa, which was also stopped early, showed a 60% drop in the incidence of new infections in men who had been circumcised.


Right! Now I assume the study eliminated a possible prejudicing factor that different classes of people are more likely to be circumsized. As well as that different classes of people, namely poorer, are more likely to be infected with AIDS.


Off the top of my head though, here's a random survey designed to give to men in countries with high rates of AIDS and circumsision to determine a correlation between the two.

1) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with another man? - If yes, discount from survey.
2) Have you had unprotected sex with female prostitutes in the last two years? If no - discount from survey.
3) Approximately how often?
4) With the same female prostitute or with many?
5) Approximately how many?
6) Are you circumcised?

Amongst other useful questions such as age, income, tribal affiliation, region, living accommodations, etc...

Give them a blood test for AIDS.

From this info, posed to various random samples of which a good percentage would be circumcised, I could easily have come up with similar AIDS statistics. Pay me twenty grand to do it and BANG - you just saved twenty millions dollars! Again, I ask myself, why is one of the biggest breakthroughs in recent AIDS research so strikingly obvious?

I mean it is known that uncircumcised men can transmit yeast infections, which is why some women who are dating uncircumcised men will get the infections repeatedly. Is it that hard to put two and two together?

This correlation is even a fact I once wondered, and I'm definitely NO brilliant medical mind. In fact, in my life I have dedicated a grand total of maybe five hours to thinking and reading about HIV and AIDS.

Before I go, here's a blurb I came up with through googling AIDS spending.

This shift in emphasis is being driven by funding. The amount of money earmarked for HIV/AIDS is massive. In the United States alone, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is dedicating more than $2 billion to the disease next year, and a five-year congressional initiative is adding $15 billion. The World Health Organization (WHO) will distribute $5.5 billion, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will provide $4.7 billion, and more than $500 million will come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most of this cash will be spent on research, screening or treatment in developing nations. Governments are still spending money on domestic AIDS research, but the amount being spent on such programmes is no longer on the rise so, with the possible exception of postdocs, job opportunities are fairly static. And drug firms, feeling the pinch from the current economic downturn, are tending not to hire scientists to work on new HIV/AIDS drugs at the moment.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bloc leader threatens to overthrow tories over Afghan mission

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't like Stephen Harper or his idoitic bend-over-for-Bush style of government. To me, his policy has so far been equivilant of copying ideas from the world's political village idiot.
But I have to take his side on Afghanistan. We went there to complete a mission as part of NATO. To faff about and not put our boys in the line of fire would threaten to lose all that NATO has fought for so far. My biggest critisism is against other countries for not keeping up with their own war promises and insisting their troops are placed in safe and easy mission areas.
I'd rather Canada be the brave ones there to die for the sake of not only the betterment of the Afghan people, but for the safety of the world from twisted tyrants like the Taliban. We should be increasing our committment so we can get these nutjobs out of there once and for all, rather than be stuck there forever.
That said, the Taliban did have their assets. Peopler were deathly afraid to commit crimes and they had a brutal stamping out of corruption. Deathly and brutal stamping bad - No theft and no corruption good. With the new lax government, the fear is gone and the corruption which led to the extremist Taliban is coming back. A plan must be made to curb these problems, for they are the few cards the Taliban hold at the moment.

Monday, December 11, 2006

No more Victorian Chocolates!

It's a big occasion. Someone's just had a baby, or it's Christmas, or a birthday, or that hated yet unfirable colleague at the office has finally left. You want to celebrate the occasion, so you head to the local supermarket and find the sweets aisle. Chocolate bars, gummy bears, toffees, and then the special occasion boxes and tins of chocolates. In Canada, there's Turtles, Pot of Gold, Toffifee, Quality Street, and a two dozen other brands of recognisable and unrecognizable quality.
Here in Morocco it's similar, except you see perhaps two or three good brands. After Eights (did you hear the one about the guy who bought a packet of After eights? He died at 7:30.) Quality Street, Toffiffee. There are also, among a dozen other crap boxes of chocolates, these Quality Street ripoffs called Victoria chocolates. Same colourful packaging. Small medium and large round containers, and inside, the dodgiest, waxy, all taste exactly the same chocolates. No toffee centre, no strawberry or orange flavour, just this bland, more brown food colouring than chocolate, sugary lumps of disappointment.
When you're next at the supermarket and thinking of buying something for a special occasion, don't go for the cheap chocolates. Go for the real deal, the tried and tested ones. If your money is tight, buy the smaller box rather than subject your friends to the let down of opening a beautiful shiny package only to taste wax-laced sewer drivel.
NO MORE VICTORIAN CHOCOLATES!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Zack's Sbu'a

The official sbu'a party, coming from the word usbu'a, meaning "week" in Arabic, was held with a dozen close friends and family members exactly one week after Zack's birth. In our living room, we ate dates packed with walnuts, various almond based cookies and washed them down with sugary glasses of amber tea.



At noon, the small party headed down to the appartment's garage where our building's concierge and a hired butcher took the sheep we'd bought, swept the legs out from underneath it and slit the beast's throat. Blood spurted about ten feet across the garage, landing just short of my shiny black shoes (I'll spare you the photos!), and soon the sheep began to convulse into its final death throws.
One of Siham's uncle's then led us in a prayer. The photo taken was the concierge with Baah-sil minutes before the carnage scene.


The big sbu'a party took place the following week so as to give Siham time to recover more. Due to the size of our apartment, we had room for a cramped fifty people sitting around five circular tables. When making the list, we counted around twenty-five relatives, and another twenty-five colleagues, and another twenty good friends. Point being, invitations began to get tricky. In particular, Siham couldn't invite a few select colleagues without inviting the entire office.
In the end, enough colleagues, friends and relatives didn't confirm to give us the comfortable number of around fifty guests, plus a couple uninvited ones...

The scandalous Aunt made a surprise appearance, sporting a heavy gift wrapped in gold couloured lacy cloth. She immediately demanded one of Siham's cousins race into town and collect her daughter.
Meanwhile, she trapped Siham's older brother at their table and, when her daughter arrived, brought up the uncomfortable subject of marriage.
Had I realised "The plan," I might have sat Siham's brother next to one of our prettier friends - if only for the joy of creating scandal myself.
It didn't help her husband-seeking daughter's cause that she wore shocking red lipstick that highlighted her disproportionate teeth and a jutting lower lip. I'll move on now before I say something that really gets me in trouble. Again, I'll avoid posting the photos.

Question. Have you ever been in a situation where a relative bought you awful clothes? Did you have to wear them out of respect? It happened to me when I was thirteen. An aunt bought me this green outfit, a sweater and a bright lime green trousers. The sweater was fine, nice even, but how many thirteen year old kids would wear bright lime green pants to school? It was probably the dorkiest outfit ever made. Then again, I have seen some doozy hand-me-downs here in Africa!

Back to Zack. For the big Sbu'a, his grandmother bought him a frilly dress-like gown with a cap that had a bow in it. After they dressed him, I waited for what I thought was a respectable amount of time, and made the excuse he was too hot and put him back in his baby suit. Unlike before, I'm provided pictures. As for my lime-green pants, unfortunately they are long lost and I didn't wear them long enough to even have a photo op.






The guests settled into their seats. Scandal cousin making googly eyes at Siham's brother, who responded with helpless looks toward others not at that particular table.



The first course was meshwi, a huge side of lamb that traditionally is eaten with the fingers. I suppose my table was a little more Europeanised than most, because everyone but me attacked it with a knife and fork while I ripped searing hot pieces off with my right hand, dropped them a couple times, dabbed them in salt and cumin and shoved them home.

Next came a plate of five whole chickens smothered in a thick salty-sweet sauce and decorated with pineapples, apricots, prunes and almonds. Again I was the only one at our table trying not to burn my fingers too much.

Next came dessert, a huge bowl of fruit with a tray of chocolate and merangue ice cream cake jutting out of the top.



People filtered out of the appartment as tea and cookies were served. Soon after that, a hired maid mopped the floor while the caterers dragged the tables and chairs out of the house.

All in all, a smashing success of a party. Happy one week, and two week, and now three week birthday baby Zack.