Monday, June 11, 2007

News that caught my attention lately

Biologists Make Skin Cells Work Like Stem Cells
NY Times Online (June 7, 2007)

In a surprising advance that could sidestep the ethical debates surrounding stem cell biology, researchers have come much closer to a major goal of regenerative medicine, the conversion of a patient’s cells into specialized tissues that might replace those lost to disease.
The advance is an easy-to-use technique for reprogramming a skin cell of a mouse back to the embryonic state. Embryonic cells can be induced in the laboratory to develop into many of the body’s major tissues.
If the technique can be adapted to human cells, researchers could use a patient’s skin cells to generate new heart, liver or kidney cells that might be transplantable and would not be rejected by the patient’s immune system. But scientists say they cannot predict when they can overcome the considerable problems in adapting the method to human cells.
Previously, the only way to convert adult cells to embryonic form has been by nuclear transfer, the insertion of an adult cell’s nucleus into an egg whose own nucleus has been removed. The egg somehow reprograms the nucleus back to an embryonic state. That procedure is known as therapeutic cloning when applied to people, but no one has yet succeeded in doing it.
The new technique, developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, depends on inserting just four genes into a skin cell. These accomplish the same reprogramming task as the egg does, or at least one that seems very similar.

The technique, if adaptable to human cells, is much easier to apply than nuclear transfer, would not involve the expensive and controversial use of human eggs, and should avoid all or almost all of the ethical criticism directed at the use of embryonic stem cells.

Bush insists Kosovo must be independent and receives hero's welcome in Albania
The Guardian (June 11, 2007)

George Bush declared yesterday that he had made up his mind that Kosovo should be an independent country, throwing down the gauntlet to Russia and challenging President Vladimir Putin to abandon attempts to block the path to statehood at the UN security council.
On the first visit by a US president to Albania, Mr Bush focused on the fate of the majority ethnic Albanians across the border in Kosovo and voiced impatience at Russian and Serbian blocking tactics, which are holding up a vote on the issue at the security council.
The US was working hard to reach an international agreement on Kosovo, he said. "Independence is the goal. That's what the people of Kosovo need to know. If it is apparent that is not going to happen in a relatively quick period of time, in my judgment, we need to put forward the resolution. Hence, deadline."
If the deadlock continues, western analysts say, Washington could encourage Kosovo to declare independence, afford it diplomatic recognition, and encourage others to follow. That would divide Europe and be very messy, possibly violent.

Dutch banks invest in landmines
Expatica News + ANP (11 June 2007)

Four large Dutch banks invest in companies that are boycotted by the UN because of human rights violations. This emerged on Sunday from a study by television programme Zembla.
ABN AMRO, ING/Postbank, Fortis and Rabobank all reportedly finance businesses that cause serious harm to the environment and produce cluster bombs and landmines.
ABN AMRO for instance invests in defence companies whose weapons end up in countries including the Sudan. The UN boycotts Sudan because of widespread human rights violations.
Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Socialist Party (SP) said on Sunday that they planned to stop working with the ING/Postbank.
Development aid organisation Oxfam Novib also carried out its own investigation into the involvement of the four large banks in the weapons industry.
The organisation said on Zembla that it would not be leaving its bank (ABN Amro) because of the dubious investments. Director Papma did condemn the bank's investments as "horrendous."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Life is elusive,

and yet, this does not take away our curiosity, our longing to mean and understand, shape and change other's perceptions and hence exert power.
Therefore, it was very refreshing for me to meet artists that do all these through other means, in a more impulsive, explosive way than I choose to. The setting was a party we went with James, but also
(more in dutch)

I spent my afternoon in the Dutch Resistance Museum (see the highlights). Such museums are naturally useful for the younger generations etc, but for me it explains quite a lot of details of why things are the way they are here. One major example (think about the institutional repercussions as well) is the signifier: the war. In Turkey, "the war" refers to the First World War, which includes the Independence War as well. In most of Europe, and surely in the Netherlands, "the war" is the Second World War. (To my surprise, in the US, it referred to either the civil war, or WWII, or the occupation of Iraq depending on one's origin or the context.)

Finally, talking of war, John Bellamy Foster's piece on climate change is worth having a look at (A New War on the Planet?).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Travis Concert at Melkweg

Travis (Myspace)was performing at the Melkweg last night. It was great. I couldn't stop smiling for the whole night and the next day.. They were so sweet, so charming, so full of positive energy and in constant contact with the audience (sometimes a little too much some may think), at the same time there were so many different characters on the stage that it was rather
For two youtube videos click on: Closer, and My Eyes.

Darwin's Nightmare

Comment by Dennis Lim
"The Nile perch was introduced to Lake Victoria some 40 to 50 years ago, an apparent attempt to replenish the overfished waters that led to the extinction of hundreds of indigenous species. An oily-fleshed fish that reaches over six feet in length, the Lates niloticus rapidly emerged as the fittest specimen in its new habitat, depleting the food supply and preying on smaller fish (including its young). In a 2001 report, the World Conservation Union deemed the Nile perch one of the planet's 100 "worst invasive alien species." This ongoing ecological disaster happens to be the basis for a multimillion-dollar business: Tanzania , which owns 49 percent of Lake Victoria , is the main exporter of perch to the European Union. Bitter ironies come thick and fast in Hubert Sauper's essential documentary Darwin 's Nightmare, and the most obvious one may be that this unnatural abundance of a profitable protein source—an economic godsend, if you ask the on-message factory managers and government officials—coexists with inhuman levels of famine and poverty.

Quietly outraged and actively upsetting, Darwin 's Nightmare spirals out from a case study of one cannibalistic killer to a far bigger and more rapacious fish. The ruthless supremacy of the Nile perch and its devastating effect on the lake's ecosystem constitute a gruesomely resonant metaphor for the impact of global capitalism on local industry. From intimate camcorder interviews with fishermen, fishery workers, cargo pilots, and the prostitutes and street kids on the fringes of this lakeshore economic network, Sauper, an Austrian-born, Paris-based documentarian, constructs a detailed seismograph of predatory free trade's ripple effect."

The best movie I have seen in at least year's time.
or see wiki for details and contraversies...
"In the Eastern Congo alone, equal the number of deaths of September the casualties of war on each single day 11th in New York."

"I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds,
in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil."

Friday, June 01, 2007

hypocricy has no limits...

Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

NY Times, May 31 — President Bush, fending off international accusations that he was ignoring climate change, proposed for the first time on Thursday to set “a long-term global goal” for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and he called on other high-polluting nations to join the United States in negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement by the end of next year.
“In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it,” Mr. Bush said, previewing the climate change package he is to present when he meets the leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in Germany next week. “The United States takes this issue seriously.”
The White House seems determined to alter the president’s image on climate change before he leaves office in January 2009. The issue is a high priority for two of Mr. Bush’s closest European allies — Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany — and with Democrats now controlling Congress, the president also faces domestic pressure to act.

Mr. Bush promised to convene a series of meetings, beginning in the fall, with 10 to 15 countries that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions, including China and India. Each country would establish midterm national targets for reducing emissions over the next 10 to 20 years, while working together to set a longer-term goal.

The talks also would bring together industry leaders, Mr. Bush said, so that the countries could work with them to pool their knowledge and promote investment in energy-efficient technologies, including solar and wind energy, clean coal and nuclear power. But each country would be free to set its own goals, and there would be no binding international framework for enforcement.
But beneath the faint praise there was caution. The second phase of the Kyoto Protocol talks is set to take place in Bali at the end of this year, and Mr. Bush’s alternative forum risks being seen as an attempt to circumvent or even derail those talks.
“If you take all of this at face value, and you imagine that they go off and actually do it, then it could be a radically different way of organizing the global effort to control these emissions,” Professor Victor [David G. Victor, a Stanford University law professor whose writings helped provide the underpinnings for Thursday’s speech] said. But he said it would be “very difficult for this to be taken as seriously as it should be taken in the rest of the world without some kind of a clear game plan domestically in the U.S.”