Would you like a bionic eye with that bionic hand?

Forgot to mention the BBC also has a report on a Spanish scientist using advanced mirroring technology to potentially give people perfect vision. There have been a number of other innovations recently in vision improvement, including a report a few months ago about a new diagnostic system that is able to detect problems within the eye ball that interfere with vision that were largely unknown to medical researchers before.

PETA: Save the Turkeys and Stop the Rodeos

No Thanksgiving would be complete without People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urging people to forego the turkey in favor of tofu. This year, the animal rights group faxed letters to the top 50 Fortune 500 urging them companies who give employees turkeys to offer tofu substitutes for their vegetarian employees. The only problem being few if any companies still give employees turkeys for Thanksgiving. Several corporations contacted by the Associated Press about the fax said simply they don’t give their employees food — and most large companies already have vegetarian options on the menu in their cafeterias.

The National Turkey Federation told the Associated Press it estimates that about 45 million turkeys will be eaten this Thanksgiving. So far PETA isn’t making any dent in the consumption of turkey at Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile on another front, PETA continues its streak of sexually risque billboards with an attack on rodeos. The billboards were to have featured a voluptuous bond with text saying, “Nobody Likes an Eight-Second Ride. Buck the Rodeo.” Unfortunately, when PETA wanted to place the billboards in the Tucson, Arizona area to mark a rodeo there, it couldn’t find anyone willing to sell it space for the billboard.

PETA must employ a cadre of 13 year old boys to write these stupid ads.

Sources:

PETA asks big companies to give employees meatless turkeys. Sonja Barisic, The Associated Press, November 14, 2000.

“Nobody Likes an Eight-Second Ride” Ad Was to Target Desert Thunder Pro-Rodeo. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Press Release, October 10, 2000.

Global Warming, DDT, and Malaria

After making significant progress against Malaria in the 1950s and 1960s, the disease is back and, in fact, rates of malaria incidence are increasing in many developing countries. Why?

One answer that has been increasingly common is that global warming is responsible for the rise in malaria. Some scientists have suggested that not only is climate change response for the current upswing but that continued warming temperatures could lead to a resurgence of malaria outside of the tropics. Fortunately such claims don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Although malaria today is thought of as a specifically tropical disease, in fact malaria used to be present pretty much everywhere in the world — as entomologist Paul Reiter told the BBC in September, the first major reported outbreak of malaria in the world occurred in Philadelphia, of all places, in the 1780s. As recently as the 1880s, malaria was a serious problem throughout all of North America and was present as far north as Finland.

Improvements in public health monitoring as well as increases in population density helped largely eliminate the threat of the disease toward the last decade of the 19th century. Thus it’s not too surprising to see malaria increases in cooler, highland countries of Africa such as Rwanda and Kenya. This is especially true when one takes into account the increased efforts at diagnosing and reporting malaria cases in countries such as Rwanda — UNICEF spent millions of dollars in the mid to late 1980s to improve Rwanda’s ability to track malaria cases, and its hardly surprising that Rwanda’s health authorities as a result found more cases of malaria.

The really sad thing about the vector-borne disease/global warming link is just how ill-informed the so-called experts were who made this claim in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1996 report. As Reiter told the BBC, “The bibliographies of the nine lead authors of the health section show that between them they had only published six research papers on vector-borne diseases.”

Meanwhile, the Save the Children from Malaria Campaign fears that an ongoing anti-DDT campaign by environmental activists is discouraging the use of that pesticide to control malaria. Some countries have stopped using DDT altogether, and those nations have experience increases in malaria according to tropic disease expert Donald Roberts. Roberts notes that in Guyana, for example, malaria incidence increased 12-fold from 1984 to 1991 when that nation reduced its DDT spraying.

While much of the environmentalist fears about DDT are overblown, neither is DDT a magic bullet as disastrous and counter-productive government application of DDT proved in the 1950s and 1960s. DDT is an important tool, but to rid the world of malaria will require governments and non-governmental organizations to use the pesticide wisely.

Source:

Malaria rising as DDT use falls, scientist says. Reuters, November 22, 2000.

Warming ‘not spreading malaria’. The BBC, September 21, 2000.

Rehabilitating Machiavelli

Salon’s Minna Proctor is not impressed with Maurizio Viroli’s new biography of Niccolo Machiavelli, Niccolo’s Smile. Like most people who comment on Machiavelli, the only work of his Machiavelli’s that Proctor mentions is The Prince.

An excellent revisionist look at Machiavelli is Sebastian De Graza’s Machiavelli in Hell which does a very good job of placing The Prince in its proper context within Machiavelli’s larger view of political philosophy.

No, Machiavelli doesn’t emerge as anything like a classical liberal, but at the same time he was neither a moral relativist nor a simple apologist for state-sponsored violence.

This Friday: Protest Nothing Day!

This Thanksgiving, Adbusters is once again touting its Buy Nothing Day. Instead, why don’t we all get together and have a Protest Nothing Day.

Okay, I’m stealing the idea from PCU which hilariously chronicles life on today’s campuses and ends with students gathering with signs and chanting “We’re not gonna protest,” but it’s still a good idea.

Somebody else will have to lead the protest, though — I’ll be shopping thank you very much.

I Say Tomato, You Say … It’s a Vote for Gore

Attorney Dennis Newman is currently leading the Gore team responsible for handling legal challenges to votes in Florida. Among the efforts Newman is spearheading is a lawsuit aimed at forcing some counties to consider so-called “dimpled” ballots — where there is a slight indentation on the ballot — as actual votes.

The Palm Beach Post reports, however, that in 1996 Newman represented Democrat Philip Johnston who was declared the winner in a Boston race on election day by 266 votes, only to end up losing the election by 108 votes after a recount. Amazingly enough, when it became clear that counting dimpled ballots favored the Republican candidate, Newman argued that considering such ballots was wrong and that the so-called chads might fall out on their own from repeated handling.

Ah, the fresh smell of hypocrisy wafting through the land.