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Simmering Hope

Hope is the expectation that something outside of ourselves, something or someone external, is going to come to our rescue and we will live happily ever after. – Dr. Robert Anthony

Archive for February, 2008

Feb 29, 2008

How to fight the hospital superbugs?

Years ago I worked in a bacteriology laboratory identifying various pathogens and I remember my boss always reminding me two things: wash your hands for at least one minute and don’t wave the loop (the gizmo used to culture bacteria).
At that time I was concerned about E.coli, S.aureus and mostly anthrax. But somehow I rested assured that there was medication around and apart from some diarrhea and other unpleasant short lived symptoms, everything would be fine.
It seems not to hold true anymore. Today we are worried about the nasty hospital superbugs, resistant to even the strongest antibiotics.
These superbugs are having a very unnerving habit: to morph into something more and more dangerous.
Disease Control and Prevention. Health Canada reports that superbug infections cost $24-33 million annually to manage and that rates of infection and colonization have doubled annually for each of the past five years.

The scientists seemed to agree that the over-prescription of antibiotics and the increased presence of antibiotics in meat and fish contribute to bacteria developing resistance to the drugs.

It’s seems to be a circle of death: antibiotics over-prescribed and meat treated with antibiotics weaken our immune system- we are more susceptible to mutant strains resistant to common antibiotics- to combat them we need stronger antibiotics which will weaken our immune system even more- bacteria will adapt and morphed to fight the antibiotic.

Let’s review the most dangerous superbugs:
– MRSA- Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
– VISA/VRSA- Vencomycin-Intermediate/Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
– Clostridium difficile

C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) usually occurs during or after the use of antibiotics. Main symptoms include: diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and nausea. Found in feces, it is usually spread through contaminated surfaces such as toilets, bedpans, handles and common chairs.
It is treated with….antibiotics.

MRSA is a potentially lethal bacterium that causes infections in humans and is difficult to combat because it has developed a resistance to certain antibiotics, among them being methicillin.
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus usually strikes in hospitals, where conditions suit it, but it can occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been recently hospitalized or had a medical procedure involving surgery, dialysis or catheters which tend to be a breeding ground for MRSA.
S. aureus is a bacteria normally found on the skin and mucus (nose). Most S. aureus will cause infections, like the ones normally occurring when we get a cut and it’s not properly disinfected. The bacteria move from the surface of the skin into the wound and as a normal response the white cells fight the intruders. To be on the safe side we are using over the counter antibiotic ointments like Polysporin. Again, antibiotic.

To fight MRSA the chosen antibiotic would be vancomycin, until recently when new strains of MRSA showed antibiotic resistance even to vancomycin.

Hence the new and ‘improved’ strain: VISA or vancomycin resistant S. aureus.
Treatment for this strain: the new antibiotic platensimycin.

So, to treat two highly antibiotic resistant bacteria strains we have to use stronger and stronger antibiotics.
Or, maybe start reconsidering the whole antibiotic strategy and switch to phage or maggots therapy.
Disgusting as it may sound, maggot therapy seems to be very effective.
It’s a type of biotherapy involving the introduction of live, disinfected maggots into the non-healing skin and soft tissue wound for selectively cleaning out the necrotic tissue within a wound and promote wound healing.

Phage (bacteriophage) therapy
involves the use of viruses (bacteriophages) that invades only bacterial cells causing the bacterium to burst and die, thus releasing more phages.
The theoretical benefits of phage therapy:
– less side effects
– don’t stress liver
– a small dose is sometimes sufficient
– they are specifically designed to match the bacteria

What can we do to prevent the spread of these nasty superbugs?

Apparently become cleaner.
Wash our hands more often using warm water and lots of soap and disinfect with alcohol rather then using other chemicals that will only make the bacteria to morph into something new.

I am not going to touch the stringent subject of how the contracts are given to shady companies for cleaning the hospitals even if I believe it’s one of the reasons for the hospital mess. Maybe next time.


Feb 27, 2008

How to take care of a deer

About a month ago I talked to a colleague of mine about his moving from Georgia to Virginia. One of the main benefits he pointed out was a bigger house sitting on a very generous acreage including a forest. And he mentioned the presence of deer populations.
Knowing that he is a hunter as well, I asked him if he shoots any of the deers living in his forest.
He said “Oh no! They are mine, they are like my pets; they are not afraid of me anymore and come to our yard every day”. Then, he proudly showed me a picture with one of them.
Because his job involves lots of traveling he decided to try something new: a Deer Feeder to make sure that his dear new pets are well look after when he is away.

Apparently deer populations need a constant contribution of grain and protein, particularly in the cold months of winter and using automatic feeders is an inexpensive way of supplementing with quality feed their diet, and the diet of other wild forest animals.
Now that he is considering taking the responsibility, he started evaluating different models of deer feeders and not even that, he started reading literature regarding feeding wild animals.

Honestly speaking, I was impressed that he was able to see a deer as a pet, rather then a trophy.

Feb 26, 2008

Copyright infringement or How the big fat cats plan to curb down the illegal downloading

We know that entertainment industry is fuming over illegal downloading and it has long expressed frustration for Canadian unwillingness to modernize copyright laws.

Here comes Neil MacBride, a vice-president with the Business Software Alliance, a Washington D.C.-based company (dubbed industry association) that fights software piracy. The company he represents, sent out about 60,000 ‘notice and notice’ e-mails to Canadian users in 2006.
The notices contain language intended to scare the illegal downloaders.

Following is an example of the verbiage used by NBC Universal:
“This unauthorized copying and distribution constitutes copyright infringement under applicable national laws and international treaties. We urge you to take immediate action to stop this infringing activity and inform us of the results of your actions”

Canadian users are tracked by IP address when content is downloaded from the internet.The ISPs are the only ones who know what individuals are doing what and the three major Canadian internet service providers including Rogers, Bell and Telus have voluntarily agreed to distribute the notices to their customers on behalf of the industry associations. Telus forwards an average of 4,000 notices every month ( I have recently heard about a friend of a friend who got one). But allegedly they do not pass any personal information about the users to any of the groups initiating the notice e-mails.

Although tens of thousands of e-mails have been distributed over the last few years, no one has been prosecuted for copyright violation as a result of the notices.

“Notice and notice” differs from the “notice and take-down” program that’s in place in the United States. There, when an industry group notices an alleged copyright violation, an e-mail similar to the ones being sent to Canadian users is forwarded to the American ISP. In most cases, the ISPs are forced to immediately take down the content or face penalties.

In the UK there is a draft proposal to deal with the same issue; according to the draft, ISPs, including BT and Virgin Media will be required to take action against users who access illegal material. It’s called the “three-strikes” regime and the broadband companies who fail to enforce it would be prosecuted and the customer’s details could be made available to the courts.

Isn’t it funny how the big fat cats of the entertainment industry are complaining how they’re losing billions due to illegal downloading, yet at the same time report that they are making record profits?

And isn’t it strange how they can find ways to police the internet when big companies whine that their profits are being affected, but claim they are unable to do anything about the kids pornography?
Oh, yeah right! I forgot a small detail: it’s not copyright infringement, it’s just a kid’s life and who cares about all the freaking pedophiles, when the poor big studios can’t charge us $20 for a miserable recorded album or $30 for a movie that in four months from now would be sold for $9 or less?

If the cable and satellite providers won’t charge a leg and an arm for what they broadcast, people won’t steal the signal.
If a CD or DVD would cost a reasonable amount of money (see the movies sold for $4 at WalMart) people will buy, not download from the net.
That is the reality.

Feb 25, 2008

About airfares and airplanes

Once in a while I dream about going on a well deserved vacation.
For a few hours I mobilize myself into finding info on a sunny spot. Sometimes it is Cancun, sometimes Malta or Tenerife, depending on the mood of the day.
Almost every time it boils down to how expensive it would be and suddenly my enthusiasm is gone.
At one point I put in balance an all-inclusive (flight included) offered by one travel agency vs. contact the hotel and book the plane ticket on your own.
Searching for a non stop flight to Cancun, I found an offer with AirTransat. Non stop flight from Vancouver to Cancun for about $970 round trip.
Nothing wrong with that, only that the listed price did not include all the other hidden costs, which when added to the original offer, brought the price up to about $1200.
As a rule, here in Canada and for that matter, in the U.S as well, advertised airfares won’t include taxes, fuel surcharges and other fees.
Other fees include: Canada Airport improvements, Canada Security charge, Canada Goods and Services Tax (GST); if you fly into the U.S. you pay U.S. Security charge, if you fly into U.K. you must add U.K.Passenger Service Charge.
Very often an advertised price of $699 ends up as being $1,100.

At this point you may think that the cheapest way around would be to choose a not very expensive airline. With that it comes other hidden dangers.
Like the following case, circulated via emails… hoax or not? it’s hard to say, but definitely it raises suspicions.
So here we are:

For anybody who is not familiar with a jet engine, a jet fan blade should be perfectly smooth.
A pilot for a Chinese carrier requested permission and landed at FRA (Frankfurt, Germany) for an unscheduled refuelling stop. The reason became soon apparent to the ground crew: The Number 3 engine had been shutdown previously because of excessive vibration, and because it didn’t look too good. It had apparently been no problem for the tough guys back in China: as they took some sturdy straps and wrapped them around two of the fan blades and the structures behind, thus stopping any unwanted wind-milling (engine spinning by itself due to airflow passing through the blades during flight) and associated uncomfortable vibration caused by the sub optimal fan.

chinese-engine2.jpg
Note that the straps are seat belts….how resourceful! After making the ‘repairs’, off they went into the wild blue yonder with another revenue-making flight on only three engines! With the increased fuel consumption, they got a bit low on fuel, and just set it down at the closest airport (FRA-Frankfurt) for a quick refill.
That’s when the problems started: The Germans, who are kind of picky about this stuff, inspected the malfunctioning engine and immediately grounded the aircraft. (Besides the seat belts, notice the appalling condition of the fan blades.) The airline operator had to send a chunk of money to get the first engine replaced (took about 10 days). The repair contractor decided to do some impromptu inspection work on the other engines, none of which looked all that great either. The result: a total of 3 engines were eventually changed on this plane before it was permitted to fly again.


Feb 19, 2008

A dangerous precedent : Kosovo

On Sunday February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence and only God and maybe the master puppeteers know what’s going to happen next.
One thing seems to be clear: a dangerous precedent has been established.
And where? In the Balkans, known for being ‘an accident waiting to happen’. The First War started because one guy, Gavrilo Princip shot the archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Austrian throne

Maybe my opinions would not be considered strong enough to matter, therefore I will add to this post the article written by Patrick Buchanan with regards to the above subject.

February 19, 2008

Does Balkanization Beckon Anew?
by Patrick J. Buchanan
When the Great War comes, said old Bismarck, it will come out of “some damn fool thing in the Balkans.”

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot the archduke and heir to the Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, setting in motion the train of events that led to the First World War.

In the spring of 1999, the United States bombed Serbia for 78 days to force its army out of that nation’s cradle province of Kosovo. The Serbs were fighting Albanian separatists of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). And we had no more right to bomb Belgrade than the Royal Navy would have had to bombard New York in our Civil War.

We bombed Serbia, we were told, to stop the genocide in Kosovo. But there was no genocide. This was propaganda. The United Nations’ final casualty count of Serbs and Albanians in Slobodan Milosevic’s war did not add up to 1 percent of the dead in Mr. Lincoln’s war.

Albanians did flee in the tens of thousands during the war. But since that war’s end, the Serbs of Kosovo have seen their churches and monasteries smashed and vandalized and have been ethnically cleansed in the scores of thousands from their ancestral province. In the exodus they have lost everything. The remaining Serb population of 120,000 is largely confined to enclaves guarded by NATO troops.

“At a Serb monastery in Pec,” writes the Washington Post, “Italian troops protect the holy site, which is surrounded by a massive new wall to shield elderly nuns from stone-throwing and other abuse by passing ethnic Albanians.”

On Sunday, Kosovo declared independence and was recognized by the European Union and President Bush. But this is not the end of the story. It is only the preface to a new history of the Balkans, a region that has known too much history.

By intervening in a civil war to aid the secession of an ancient province, to create a new nation that has never before existed and to erect it along ethnic, religious, and tribal lines, we have established a dangerous precedent. Muslim and Albanian extremists are already talking of a Greater Albania, consisting of Albania, Kosovo, and the Albanian-Muslim sectors of Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

If these Albanian minorities should demand the right to secede and join their kinsmen in Kosovo, on what grounds would we oppose them? The inviolability of borders? What if the Serb majority in the Mitrovica region of northern Kosovo, who reject Albanian rule, secede and call on their kinsmen in Serbia to protect them?
Would we go to war against Serbia, once again, to maintain the territorial integrity of Kosovo, after we played the lead role in destroying the territorial integrity of Serbia?

Inside the U.S.-sponsored Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the autonomous Serb Republic of Srpska is already talking secession and unification with Serbia. On what grounds would we deny them?

The U.S. war on Serbia was unconstitutional, unjust, and unwise. Congress never authorized it. Serbia, an ally in two world wars, had never attacked us. We made an enemy of the Serbs, and alienated Russia, to create a second Muslim state in the Balkans.

By intervening in a civil war where no vital interest was at risk, the United States, which is being denounced as loudly in Belgrade today as we are being cheered in Pristina, has acquired another dependency. And our new allies, the KLA, have been credibly charged with human trafficking, drug dealing, atrocities, and terrorism.

And the clamor for ethnic self-rule has only begun to be heard.

Romania has refused to recognize the new Republic of Kosovo, for the best of reasons. Bucharest rules a large Hungarian minority in Transylvania, acquired at the same Paris Peace Conference of 1919 where Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina were detached from Vienna and united with Serbia.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two provinces that have broken away from Georgia, are invoking the Kosovo precedent to demand recognition as independent nations. As our NATO expansionists are anxious to bring Georgia into NATO, here is yet another occasion for a potential Washington-Moscow clash.

Spain, too, opposed the severing of Kosovo from Serbia, as Madrid faces similar demands from Basque and Catalan separatists.

The Muslim world will enthusiastically endorse the creation of a new Muslim state in Europe at the expense of Orthodox Christian Serbs. But Turkey is also likely to re-raise the issue as to why the EU and United States do not formally recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Like Kosovo, it, too, is an ethnically homogeneous community that declared independence 25 years ago.

Breakaway Transnistria is seeking independence from Moldova, the nation wedged between Romania and Ukraine, and President Putin of Russia has threatened to recognize it, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia in retaliation for the West’s recognition of Kosovo.

If Putin pauses, it will be because he recognizes that of all the nations of Europe, Russia is high among those most threatened by the serial Balkanization we may have just reignited in the Balkans.
Find this article at:
http://www.antiwar.com/pat/?articleid=12386

Thank you Pat Buchanan! And shame on the rest of the world for doing what they have just did.


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