Malaria Vaccine Trials Underway in Gambia

The BBC reported last week that trials of a new vaccine for Malaria are now underway in the African nation of Gambia. The vaccine has already been tested in small trials held in Great Britain which were successful, but this will be the first widespread test of the vaccine in a country with a high prevalence of malaria.

There have been other vaccines to attack malaria, but they all relied on killing the malaria parasite before it infected the cells of the body. The new vaccine, however, incorporates portions of the malaria parasite’s DNA structure and is able to target the disease when it has already infected cells.

If the Gambia trial proves successful, the vaccine could become available for widespread inoculation within 5 to 10 years.


Malaria vaccine goes on trial. The BBC, September 18, 2000.

FDA Approves RU486 — With Restrictions

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finally approved the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 after more than 12 years of battles between pro- and anti-abortion forces. Unfortunately while they approved it, the FDA attached ridiculous restrictions to the drug that will make obtaining the drug more of a hassle for women.

The drug, originally developed in France, blocks a hormone, progesterone, which in turn causes the lining of the uterine wall to thin resulting in a spontaneous abortion. The drug is more than 90 percent effect in causing an abortion if taken within 49 days of the beginning of a woman’s last menstrual period.

In a bizarre, though not unexpected, move, the FDA placed numerous restrictions on RU486 approving it only for distribution by doctors who, as the Associated Press described it, “can operate in case a surgical abortion is needed to finish the job or in cases of severe bleeding — or to doctors who have made advance arrangements for a surgeon to provide such care to their patients.”

This is ridiculous. This would be like saying that only surgeons able to preform back surgery should be able to dispense medication for back pain. Millions of people see non-surgeons for heart and other ailments which might later call for surgery without having to find a doctor who himself is a surgeon.

The Associated Press story on the approval speculates RU486 might become an issue of debate in upcoming presidential election, but oddly claimed that

Republican candidate George W. Bush opposes abortion; his father’s administration banned RU-486 from this country in 1989. The pro-choice Clinton-Gore administration worked for seven years to bring mifepristone here.

No, actually, Clinton-Gore did absolutely nothing for the past 7 years while the FDA stood around and dragged its feet on a drug approval that should have been extraordinarily routine, and apparently did nothing to try to dissuade the FDA of the ridiculous conditions they attached to the drug.


FDA approves abortion pill. The Associated Press, September 28, 2000.

John McCain As the Voice of Reason?

Not really, but it was odd that the same man who has in the past had no problem championing campaign finance reform laws that would clearly be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court was one of the few politicians who spoke up last week to suggest taking a bit more time and discussion before going after the entertainment industry.

On the other hand, McCain’s comments illustrate the absurdity of the whole situation. McCain actually told ABC’s This Week,

Before we embark on censorship we’d better make very sure where this leads. … Frankly I don’t know the answer. I’m reluctant right now to say I’m ready to pass some kind of law that imposes some sort of censorship on the industry.

He’s reluctant(!) to impose censorship? Oh thank goodness — that makes me feel so much better. Apparently the big political choice Americans have these days is between politicians who are reluctant to impose censorship and those who are ready to go ahead and impose censorship right away. What part of the First Amendment don’t these yahoos understand?

It’s a sign of how little respect their is for the principle of free speech today that the main debate between the Republicans and Democrats has devolved to a contest over who is willing to impose the most censorship. Gore’s campaign chairman WIlliam Daley appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation to say Gore wants to encourage the industry to self-regulate with the clear implication that if they don’t, then government will step in. George W. Bush’s response to this government strong-arming is that it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

To be fair, Lynne Cheney did note that nobody has the power to impose the sort of regulation that Gore (or Bush) was proposing, but she completely fails to understand the effect this sort of rhetoric has in undermining support for the First Amendment. It is because of relentless attacks like this that you see close to half of people in some polls saying newspapers should have limitations placed on their ability to criticize public officials.

Cheney also noted the hypocrisy of Gore and Lieberman hanging out with Hollywood’s power brokers and then calling for censorship of Hollywood (whereas the Bush position is apparently that he wants to censor them and he really can’t stand them). The part that I still don’t get is that Hollywood has lined up behind Gore and even Nader — both candidates who are pretty clear that they would regulate speech as a commercial product which could be applied to everything from movies to newspapers to this web site. Even Bush isn’t willing to go that far to my knowledge.


McCain Leery of proposal to sanction entertainment industry. The Associated Press, September 17, 2000.

Latest Dave Winer Eruption

Dave Winer is at it again, throwing down with Tim O’Reilly. I’m not even going to bother quoting or linking to the specific posts in question — you can go to Winer site above and search on O’Reilly to follow the sordid tale.

To sum it up, Winer always tends to make outlandish accusations very publicly and then gets upset when people point out that he’s acting rudely. In the latest blowup Winer was actually angry at O’Reilly for posting a very public explanation of why he didn’t invite Winer to participate in a Peer-To-Peer conference, saying essentially that Winer is too disruptive.

And why, you’re asking yourself, should I care? Because it’s a great illustration of how you can have the greatest product in the world and still get yourself into a lot of trouble unless you have rudimentary people skills. Winer has written incredible programs, but he tends to alienate folks and burn a lot of bridges with people who should be his strongest supporters. It’s almost like he’s intent on sabotaging himself.

One of the most difficult things in the world for most people to do is to accept criticism without it eating at their self-respect or self-esteem, especially if the person receiving the criticism thinks that it is unfair. Winer doesn’t seem to have learned how to do that, and moreover like many people he compounds the problem by regularly dishing out unfair criticism (such as his bizarre suggestion that O’Reilly backstabbed him over RSS), which inevitably provokes tons of fair and unfair criticism in return.

It amazes me that after all those years we spent as kids singing silly “Sticks and Stones” rhymes that people still freak out because of comments made by others. Seth Dillingham mentions a common situation where relatives in an extended family say one thing or another about each other and then those things tend to snowball.

I have a similar experience both in that most of the people in my extended family really don’t understand pretty much every decision my wife and I have made and a lot of it comes back to us through the grapevine, but who cares? The bottom line is that if you are secure in who you are and know where you want to go with your life, what somebody else thinks is a minor annoyance at worst.

The key in dealing with other people, from my experience, is to become good at distinguishing between unreasonable requests and opinions, which can be safely dismissed and ignored, and between reasonable suggestions and views which are worth listening to and considering even if you do ultimately go your own way.

NBC Olympic Coverage Reaches New Lows

I have been very sick the past couple weeks and last night took some cold medicine and settled on the couch to watch some Olympics coverage before the medicine kicked in. At first I was geeked watching the thrilling end to the springboard diving competition. Then NBC cuts to commercial and when they come back they actually run this long story about the NBC crew touring Australia by train before the Olympics. I want to watch people running, jumping, and throwing, but instead I’m learning all about the conductor of a train as well as getting a history lesson on the construction of railroads in Australia.

Very, very bad.

The Need for Speed

On the theory that faster is always better, I went out last night and got a 128 meg. RAM chip to upgrade my new Athlon 900mhz to 256mb. As Keanu Reeves would say, “Whoa!”

Before the RAM upgrade when I’d play Unreal: Tournament I settled in at 1024×768 with 16-bit color and the system was smooth as butter. After the RAM upgrade, even after setting the color to 32-bit and turning on all of the display options the frame rate was so fast the game was unplayable unless I added in a huge number of bots to keep the processor busy.

Unfortunately because of the limits of the ATI’s 3d acceleration the system was still too sluggish to go up to 1600xwhatever, so I settled in at some display rate around 1152 or somewhere in there and it’s still very purty, especially on the 19-inch monitor.