Thursday, April 23, 2009

WEST AFRICA: Meningitis wanes in Nigeria

The meningitis epidemic – the worst to hit West and Central Africa in five years according to the UN – is waning in hard-hit Nigeria, but Médecins Sans Frontières staff say the deadly disease is still spreading in parts of southern Niger. Agencies estimate at least six million people in Nigeria and over two million in Niger between the ages of two and 30 – the highest-risk group for infection – require vaccinations.In Nigeria meningitis had stricken 39,841 people and killed 1,886 as of 12 April.

Stem Cell Compromise

The Obama administration took the easy political path on embryonic stem cells last week by proposing to pay for research only on stem cell lines created from surplus embryos at fertility clinics but not on lines created in the laboratory to study particular diseases.
The proposal is not bold enough and will continue to deny federal financing to some potentially promising research. Still it is a significant improvement over former President George W. Bush’s rules that allowed federal support for work with only 21 stem cell lines already created from surplus embryos at fertility clinics.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The bright future of ethanol

A little more than a year ago, Gov. Rendell celebrated the groundbreaking of the first ethanol plant in Pennsylvania. That was before the recession deepened, gasoline prices rode a roller coaster, credit tightened, and most industries were shuttering plants and laying off workers.Now, after all the economic calamity, construction is continuing on BioEnergy International's new plant in the central Pennsylvania community of Clearfield. When the $270 million facility opens in January, it will be capable of producing 108 million gallons of corn-based ethanol and an additional 15 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from plant matter such as wood pulp and agricultural wastes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

HIV deal shows need for new pharmaceutical models

The pharmaceutical industry is going back to the lab for its business models as it faces historic challenges.
Large drugmakers are experimenting with various collaborations as their major products face revenue declines, research productivity stalls, and governments and health insurers crack down on drug prices and healthcare costs.
The new ventures -- from deals on products to mega mergers -- seek to meet these challenges by cutting costs and mitigating the risks of research into new treatments.

How to raise our I.Q

Poor people have I.Q.’s significantly lower than those of rich people, and the awkward conventional wisdom has been that this is in large part a function of genetics.
After all, a series of studies seemed to indicate that I.Q. is largely inherited. Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal twins who grow up together.

Tens of Thousands Displaced by Flooding

Namibia is experiencing flooding on a scale last seen nearly 50 years ago. The northern parts of the country are the worst hit.President Hifikepunye Pohamba has declared Caprivi, Kavango and other parts of the country disaster areas and the United Nations has launched a snap appeal for US $2.7 million to help the disaster response.

Friday, April 10, 2009

No time to retreat

Last month over 2,000 climate experts convened in Copenhagen with a common cause — to provide a scientific update to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 assessment on global warming. They also shared a common concern that despite the gathering pace of climate change, their message is simply failing to permeate through to policymakers and the public.

Science journalism: Supplanting the old media?

John Timmer's slide into journalism was so gradual even he can't put his finger on the point at which he stopped being a researcher.
He started reading Internet websites and message boards a decade ago, while he was working as a postdoc in a developmental neurobiology lab at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. One day, one of his favourite sites, Ars Technica, announced that it was looking for someone to help with its science coverage. It was 2005, and a school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, had gone to court over the promotion of intelligent design. "I thought, wow, it really feels like the public has completely lost touch with what science is all about," says Timmer. "So I basically e-mailed the existing author and volunteered."

Disease in a warming climate

Climate change takes the blame for many dim future prospects: rising sea levels, more frequent droughts and disappearing glaciers, to name just a few. But perhaps the warming trend should be absolved of responsibility for a predicted bump in the global burden of infectious disease.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ghana's rocket man

On the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, BBC News asks one of Africa's pioneering scientists, Dr Ave Kludze, of the US space agency Nasa what inspired his stellar career and what he thinks of the standard of science teaching in Africa today.

There’s a bright future for cellulosic ethanol investment

These are tough times for everybody, including the biofuels industry. The Associated Press has an interesting article about how corn-based ethanol producers are literally struggling to stay afloat. The article notes how shares of leading ethanol producers in the country, such as Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc., Pacific Ethanol Inc. and BioFuel Energy Corp, lost about 95 per cent of their value in 2008. Volatility in prices of corn, the article observes, is mainly to blame.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Within the Internet Lies Africa’s Clay of Wisdom

The people of Africa must take note that the Internet is our modern-day compass, and within it resides our own clay of wisdom. As we prepare for our great journey into the cyberspace of the future, with its technological promise — its clay of wisdom — we must understand the strategic value and potential of this all-important tool. Our image of the future inspires the present and the present serves to create the future.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

For a High-Tech President, a Hard-Fought E-Victory

There is one addiction President Obama will not have to kick: his BlackBerry.
For more than two months, Mr. Obama has been waging a vigorous battle with his handlers to keep his BlackBerry, which like millions of other Americans he has relied upon for years to stay connected with friends and advisers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

As Africa celebrates Obama

It is more than two months since history was made with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Africans all over the world celebrate this unique feat. It is indeed a moment of glory not just for Americans but for all lovers of democracy worldwide.
It is a good coincidence that the inuaguration of president Obama is coming a day after the Martin Luther King Day was marked. In President Obama we see to a large extent the realisation of the dream of MLK. Indeed, forty years after MLK's death, Obama is living his dream.
For many African Americans who will troop to Washington to watch the inauguration, it sure will be a momentous occasion; one that would remain indellible in their memories. Africans on the continent celebrate with them. We are happy with the success of Obama because it inspires a new kind of confidence to many people of African descent. But much more than that, we are happy that race was not allowed to be an impediment to the emergence of the candidate generally considered the best choice.
I very much agree with a quote credited to Jann Marie Hodge, a Colorado nurse, 'Obama didn't win for being black, but for being the best candidate'. I believe this is very instructive before we reduce this success to a race one. Hear what Hodge said of Obama in an interview: "I'm black and even I'm sick of hearing it (the emphasis of emergence as the first black American president). I don't want this American victory to be minimised to a black victory alone. He didn't win because he is black.
"Obama won because he is clearly the best person for the job. He gives Americans from all walks of life hope for the future. Through him, our credibility as Americans has been redeemed in the eyes of the world. He embodies the definition of a transformational leader -- one who can inspire and one who will bring about major positive changes."
For Africans on the homeland, Obama's victory calls for some deep reflection. While we celebrate the monumental feat it should challenge us. The time has come for excellence to be our watchword in our choice of leaders rather than the ethnic group they come from.
On a continent like Africa, where people often vote under conditions of intimidation and violence, where leaders serve the interests of themselves and their own ethnic group, Obama's election is a brush-up lesson in what democracy is all about. Isn't it ironical that some Kenyans would watch Obama's inauguration from the tents that became their homes after the violence that greeted the presidential elections in their country in 2007.
As we celebrate Obama's rise in America, I want to say to all readers of this blog that it is great to be back after four months off. I am back and back for good: Back to continue in this task of making strong case for development in Africa. Indeed if Africa must develop, leadership is key. The best that we as Africans can make out of Obama’s success, is following in the footsteps of his journey to White House with the belief that became his campaign slogan “Yes, we can!”