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Dawn Visitation

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Mississippi Blues

04 January 2012 - 03:34 PM

Something to think about, keep in mind. It's pretty heartbreaking, that the future's so uncertain and painful.

4 January 2012 Last updated at 01:36 GMT

Poverty and progress in the Mississippi Delta

The Mississippi Delta is known as the poorest corner of the poorest state in America. And what little economic opportunity the region does hold is just a few factory closures away from collapse, reports the BBC's Paul Adams.

The Mississippi Delta has long been a byword for hard times.

The region is the home of the blues, it was a centre of American slave agriculture, and it has never quite managed to shake off its reputation as a place of misery, poverty and racial inequality.

When a young photographer, Al Clayton, documented the area in 1967, the images he captured - of malnourished children and people living in abject poverty - helped bring national attention to the region's plight.

"There was a part of it that was so depressing and painful to live with," he says.

The black and white pictures, collected in the book Still Hungry in America, shocked the country, and for Mr Clayton, the experience was shattering.

"It was hard to get through," he recalls.

Dubious distinctions

Although the particular nature of the region's poverty has changed a half a century later, the region remains in crisis.

Nationwide, 14.3% of Americans lived in poverty in 2009. In Mississippi, the figure was 22%, and in some counties in the Delta, it was 48%.

The Delta, where children's bellies were once distended from malnutrition, is now the fattest region in America, and it leads the country in teen pregnancy and single parenthood.

Some corners of Belzoni, a town Mr Clayton visited with civil rights worker Kenneth Dean, seem barely to have changed. Third Street is still lined with ramshackle, draughty wooden shacks.

Though they now have running water and toilets, the dilapidated houses look just the way they did 44 years ago. Two in a field off Highway 49 have been turned into museum pieces.

"They were old in 1967," Mr Dean says as he casts his eye over the scene today.

But some things have changed since Mr Clayton first pointed his camera at scenes of grinding poverty.

In the 1960s, the houses were inhabited by single mothers struggling to feed their children.

Some of Third Street's original inhabitants remain, but most residents now are unemployed men, some strung out on drugs and alcohol.

Belzoni is still full of single women, but many of them live in low-income housing on the edge of town.

Thanks to the Head Start programme which began in the 60s and expanded dramatically over the years, their children are fed and educated in nurturing environments, like the pre-school centre run by the Friends of Children of Mississippi.

The need for such programmes is great, says executive director Marvin Hogan.

More than 93,000 Mississippi children under six years of age live in poverty, Mr Hogan says.

"That's a lot of children," he says.

Some of their mothers work at the catfish processing plant in nearby Isola.

In the 60s, catfish helped to fill the employment gap left by the end of sharecropping and the mechanisation of agriculture.

But competition from Asia has shuttered some of the area's plants, and the industry's decline poses a grave threat to the region, says Dick Stevens, president of Consolidated Catfish Producers.

"I don't see something coming in here to replace it," he says.

"It's only a blink away from being nearly as bad as it was years ago. In this area, you either work in a catfish plant, education or healthcare, or you don't work. That's it. There's nothing else."

'Still regressing'

In an effort to exploit what meagre opportunities do exist, a small job training centre in Belzoni runs courses in nursing and computing.

Marcus Dennard, born to sharecropping parents the year Al Clayton and Kenneth Dean first toured the region, is training to be a nurse's assistant. Little else is available, he says.

"We have no public transportation to get back and forth to work. They're all just standing around, doing what they can to survive."

The Delta, he says, feels trapped.

"Everyone else seems to be moving forward and we still seem to be regressing," he says, "so I'm doing what I can."

In one room at the job training centre, two students are studying phlebotomy. In the 60s, they might have helped to inoculate children against the infectious diseases which ravaged communities throughout the Delta.

Today, those diseases are mostly eradicated, but health workers battle different epidemics: obesity and diabetes.

Painful history

In one major respect, life has improved.

But a fundamental problem, rooted in this region's painful history, remains.

"This large population, created here through the introduction of slavery, is still here," says Mr Dean.

"How does this population rise up to normative, middle-American values and assets when its relationship to the land is severed?"

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk...gazine-16385337

Sponsors Defend the Copyright Bill

17 November 2011 - 03:08 PM

What's interesting the method with a firewall USA wants to use (with this bill) to block out certain content is also a method China is using. Is now the Chinese model of control good enough for USA too? Of course it's censorship underneath it all, it requires censorship to even accomplish this aim. How far are they willing to go for copyright, they are not serving the people and individual rights exactly to be able to make "the choice". A person should be able to decide, judge for themselves what they're willing to do, risk etc. Not the State.

Nov 16, 2011 8:10 pm

Sponsors of the controversial U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act defended the legislation Wednesday, saying the proposal is needed to shut down websites trafficking in billions of dollars worth of online piracy.

Opposition to the bill, called SOPA, is fueled by the desire of giant Internet companies to protect their profit margins, said Representative Melvin Watt, a North Carolina Democrat and co-sponsor of the legislation. Opposition to the bill is "really about the bottom line" of Internet companies, Watt said during a U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill.

Some opponents' claims that SOPA will kill the Internet or result in widespread censorship of the Web are exaggerations, Watt said. "It is beyond troubling to hear the hyperbolic charges that this bill will open the floodgate to government censorship," he said. "I start from the premise that Internet freedom does not and cannot mean Internet lawlessness."

The legislation, which would enlist online advertising networks, payment processors, Internet service providers and search engines in copyright enforcement, is needed, said Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and main sponsor of SOPA. Current copyright laws don't adequately protect U.S. companies against foreign sites offering infringing and counterfeit products, he said.

"We cannot continue a system that allows criminals to disregard our laws and import counterfeit and pirated goods across our physical borders," Smith added. "The problem of rogue websites is real, immediate and widespread. And its scope is staggering. One recent survey found that nearly one-quarter of global Internet traffic infringes on copyrights."

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and opponent of SOPA, asked a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America how many sites the organization would like to see shut down "in order to say you were successful."

"Is it dozens, is it hundreds, is it thousands?" Lofgren asked. "Do you have any idea of the scope of the number of sites?"

The Pirate Bay is one such site, said Michael O'Leary, the MPAA's senior executive vice president for global policy. "There are multiple sites out there," he said. "The problem is evolving and changing. I cannot sit here right now and tell you in good faith that I know what that number is. What I do know is that there are literally hundreds of sites out there that are engaging in this activity."

Another opponent told lawmakers that SOPA's focus on websites that "enable or facilitate" copyright infringement could open up many legitimate sites to copyright complaints and could lead to court orders effectively shutting them down. SOPA allows the DOJ and copyright holders to look at a "portion" of a site to determine whether it enables or facilitates infringement, said Katherine Oyama, copyright policy counsel at Google.

A U.S. e-commerce site with dozens of suppliers could have its payment processing service and advertising network shut down if it unknowingly has one supplier that providers counterfeit goods, Oyama said.

"Under SOPA, your entire site could be deemed to be dedicated to theft because, unbeknownst to you, a portion of your site is being primarily operated for unlawful activity," she said. "Anyone who believes they have been harmed by this single bad seller ... can send a termination notice to the payment processors that you and your other subscribers rely on."

SOPA, introduced Oct. 26, would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders to stop online ad networks and payment processors from doing business with foreign websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. The DOJ-requested court orders could also bar search engines from linking to the allegedly infringing sites and order domain name registrars to take down the websites and Internet service providers to block subscriber access to the sites accused of infringing.

SOPA would also allow copyright holders to seek court orders requiring online advertising networks and payment processors to stop supporting the alleged infringers if those businesses do not comply with requests from copyright holders. The court orders requested by copyright holders could target U.S. websites and services that enable or facilitate copyright, in addition to foreign websites.

Oyama, the only one of six invited witnesses to oppose the bill, called for lawmakers to take a more targeted approach to copyright enforcement, and some members of the committee, including SOPA sponsor Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said they are willing to work with Google and other opponents in the tech industry to resolve concerns.

But Watt and Smith questioned Google's commitment to copyright enforcement. When Oyama raised concerns that SOPA could stifle free speech by shutting down U.S. websites, Watt questioned how much of a website needs to be infringing before copyright concerns trump free speech concerns. Watt asked if a site should be shut down if 90-plus percent of its material was infringing.

Oyama didn't answer his question directly, but said Google and other opponents of the bill are concerned that SOPA would pull in many websites with protected speech on them. "The prospect of ISPs and search engines 'disappearing' entire sites when they have violated no U.S. law, but only facilitated unlawful acts of third parties, raises serious concerns," she said.

Google in August agreed to pay US$500 million to settle a DOJ complaint that it allowed Canadian pharmacies to advertise on its site, Smith noted.

Google's opposition to SOPA "should come as no surprise given that Google just settled a federal criminal investigation into the company's active promotion of rogue websites that pushed illegal prescription and counterfeit drugs on American consumers," he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Source: http://www.pcworld.c...right_bill.html

Signs of ageing halted

04 November 2011 - 02:59 AM

This will make some people very happy.

2 November 2011 Last updated at 18:01 GMT

Signs of ageing halted in the lab

By James Gallagher
Health reporter, BBC News

The onset of wrinkles, muscle wasting and cataracts has been delayed and even eliminated in mice, say researchers in the US.

It was done by "flushing out" retired cells that had stopped dividing. They accumulate naturally with age.

The scientists believe their findings could eventually "really have an impact" in the care of the elderly.

Experts said the results were "fascinating", but should be taken with a bit of caution.

The study, published in Nature, focused on what are known as "senescent cells". They stop dividing into new cells and have an important role in preventing tumours from progressing.

These cells are cleared out by the immune system, but their numbers build up with time. The researchers estimated that around 10% of cells are senescent in very old people.


Scientists at the Mayo Clinic, in the US, devised a way to kill all senescent cells in genetically engineered mice.

The animals would age far more quickly than normal, and when they were given a drug, the senescent cells would die.

The researchers looked at three symptoms of old age: formation of cataracts in the eye; the wasting away of muscle tissue; and the loss of fat deposits under the skin, which keep it smooth.

Researchers said the onset of these symptoms was "dramatically delayed" when the animals were treated with the drug.

When it was given after the mice had been allowed to age, there was an improvement in muscle function.

One of the researchers, Dr James Kirkland, said: "I've never seen anything quite like it."

His colleague Dr Jan van Deursen told the BBC: "We were very surprised by the very profound effect. I really think this is very significant."

The treatment had no effect on lifespan, but that may be due to the type of genetically engineered mouse used.

Eternal youth?

The study raises the tantalising prospect of slowing the signs of ageing in humans. However, senescent cells cannot be just flushed out of human beings.

Dr Deursen said: "I'm very optimistic that this could really have an impact. Nobody wants to live longer if the quality of life is poor."

He argued that young people were already clearing out their senescent cells.

"If you can prime the immune system, boost it a little bit, to make sure senescent cells are removed, that might be all it needs.

"Or develop a drug that targets senescent cells because of the unique proteins the cells make."

Dr Jesus Gil, from the Medical Research Council's Clinical Sciences Centre, said the findings needed to be "taken with a bit of caution. It is a preliminary study".

However, he said it was a fascinating study which "suggests if you get rid of senescent cells you can improve phenotypes [physical traits] associated with ageing and improve quality of life in aged humans".

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk...health-15552964

Troy Davis executed

22 September 2011 - 11:46 AM

RIP Troy Davis

The state of Georgia shamefully executed Troy Davis on September 21, 2011 despite serious doubts about his guilt. But our fight to abolish the death penalty lives on.

Take a stand for Troy Davis. Pledge to fight to abolish the death penalty.

The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

Breaking News: The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency to Troy Davis on Tuesday. This means that very little is standing in the way of the state executing a ptentially innocent man this Wednesday. Join us in calling on the Board to reconsider its decision, and on the Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm to do the right thing.



Davis' final words are reported as follows:

"I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask ... is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls."

Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness

05 September 2011 - 11:04 PM

What happened. Can imagine the headlines when it strikes 100 %.

Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness

By Kate Kelland

LONDON | Sun Sep 4, 2011 7:17pm EDT

(Reuters) - Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study.

With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden -- measured in the hundreds of billions of euros -- as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down.

"Mental disorders have become Europe's largest health challenge of the 21st century," the study's authors said.

At the same time, some big drug companies are backing away from investment in research on how the brain works and affects behavior, putting the onus on governments and health charities to stump up funding for neuroscience.

"The immense treatment gap ... for mental disorders has to be closed," said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany's Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

"Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with the appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies."

Wittchen led a three-year study covering 30 European countries -- the 27 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway -- and a population of 514 million people.

A direct comparison of the prevalence of mental illnesses in other parts of the world was not available because different studies adopt varying parameters.

Wittchen's team looked at about 100 illnesses covering all major brain disorders from anxiety and depression to addiction to schizophrenia, as well as major neurological disorders including epilepsy, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

The results, published by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ENCP) on Monday, show an "exceedingly high burden" of mental health disorders and brain illnesses, he told reporters at a briefing in London.

Mental illnesses are a major cause of death, disability, and economic burden worldwide and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease across all ages.

Wittchen said that in Europe, that grim future had arrived early, with diseases of the brain already the single largest contributor to the EU's burden of ill health.

The four most disabling conditions -- measured in terms of disability-adjusted life years or DALYs, a standard measure used to compare the impact of various diseases -- are depression, dementias such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, alcohol dependence and stroke.

The last major European study of brain disorders, which was published in 2005 and covered a smaller population of about 301 million people, found 27 percent of the EU adult population was suffering from mental illnesses.

Although the 2005 study cannot be compared directly with the latest finding -- the scope and population was different -- it found the cost burden of these and neurological disorders amounted to about 386 billion euros ($555 billion) a year at that time. Wittchen's team has yet to finalize the economic impact data from this latest work, but he said the costs would be "considerably more" than estimated in 2005.

The researchers said it was crucial for health policy makers to recognize the enormous burden and devise ways to identify potential patients early -- possibly through screening -- and make treating them quickly a high priority.

"Because mental disorders frequently start early in life, they have a strong malignant impact on later life," Wittchen said. "Only early targeted treatment in the young will effectively prevent the risk of increasingly largely proportions of severely ill...patients in the future."

David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacology expert at Imperial College London who was not involved in this study, agreed.

"If you can get in early you may be able to change the trajectory of the illness so that it isn't inevitable that people go into disability," he said. "If we really want not to be left with this huge reservoir of mental and brain illness for the next few centuries, then we ought to be investing more now."

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Matthew Jones)