Chan confirmed as head of WHO

first_imgNov 9, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Dr. Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong health official who has battled H5N1 avian influenza and SARS, easily won election today as the next director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).Chan received 150 votes in a closed meeting of the 193-nation World Health Assembly, well above the two thirds majority she needed, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. The WHO’s executive board nominated her yesterday to succeed Dr. Lee Jong-wook, who died on May 22. Dr. Anders Nordstrom has been serving as acting director-general.Chan, with the WHO since 2003, has been serving as the director-general’s representative for pandemic influenza and as assistant director general for communicable diseases. Her term as director-general will run until June 2012, according to the Associated Press (AP).In accepting her election, Chan said her top goals will be to improve the health of Africans and of women around the world. She also told reporters she would set her Chinese nationality aside as she works to combat major threats such as avian flu.”I want us to be judged by the impact we have on the health of the people of Africa, and the health of women,” a WHO news release quoted Chan as saying in her acceptance speech. “Improvements in the health of the people of Africa and the health of women are the key indicators of the performance of WHO.”Concluding her speech, she said, “The work we do together saves lives and relieves suffering. I will work with you tirelessly to make this world a healthier place.”Chan is the first Chinese to become the head of a major United Nations agency. China has been accused of being slow to share H5N1 avian flu data and virus samples, especially with regard to poultry outbreaks.Chan promised to use her influence with Beijing in the battle with avian flu, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.”Now I’m elected as the WHO’s director-general I no longer carry my nationality on my sleeve. I leave it behind,” she was quoted as telling reporters.”I will speak up if some member states need to strengthen their effort, and in this case if you are referring to China I will definitely speak out and urge China . . . to share information,” she said, according to AFP.As Hong Kong’s director of health in 1997, Chan led the city’s effort to stop the first major H5N1 outbreaks in poultry and the first human cases. Her decision to quickly slaughter all 1.5 million poultry in the district has been credited with stopping the outbreak and possibly preventing a major international health crisis.Chan was also in charge when SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) spread through Hong Kong in 2003.Infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, a leading proponent of pandemic influenza preparedness, praised the election of Chan. He said she provided “outstanding” leadership during the SARS crisis and has “timely and needed” expertise on avian flu.”Margaret Chan understands infectious diseases at the household and neighborhood level, based on her longtime, hands-on public health work in Hong Kong,” said Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of the CIDRAP Web site. “This type of experience is invaluable in her role now as the leading international public health policy leader. She’s well grounded in the most practical aspects of what the WHO must be doing on a global basis.”See also:Nov 9 WHO news release read more

Russia defiant as team slashed to smallest in 104 years

first_imgWhat goes around, comes aroundRussian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov took a swipe at the track and field ban, which affects top stars like pole vault world record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva and 110m hurdles world champion Sergey Shubenkov.Zhukov said it was “unfair” that athletes from other countries who have previously served drugs bans, such as American sprinter Justin Gatlin, will compete in Rio.“We think it’s unfair that some Russian athletes like Yelena Isinbayeva and Shubenkov, who have never been accused of doping, are not allowed to compete this time,” Zhukov told a press conference.“However in contrast some other athletes, like the American runner Gatlin, have been admitted to the Games.”Russian swimming great Alexander Popov also hit out at the track and field ban and levelled a personal attack on Britain’s Sebastian Coe, president of the IAAF.“I hope that he will not regret his decision about Russian athletes because as you can say, what goes around comes around,” Popov said of Coe earlier.“I hope that he will sleep well at night,” the four-time gold-medallist added, in comments after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Rio.Among 31 swimmers cleared by the investigation are Vladimir Morozov and Nikita Lobintsev, who were initially banned.While all Russian weightlifters have been banned, all of the country’s boxers have been allowed to compete.World Sailing has also let a competitor initially banned back into the contest.“The Russian team may have experienced the toughest checks of the Olympics, because they had to go through multiple tests and checked,” Zhukov said.“On top of all that, Russian athletes are going through additional testing which is taking place at the Olympic village.“So as of now, the Russian team is probably the cleanest in Rio.”Share on: WhatsApp Russia vowed to win a hatful of medals and hit out at the expulsion of some of their top athletes on Thursday as they announced their smallest Olympic team in 104 years after a major doping scandal.Despite drugs investigations which have robbed Russia of nearly a third of its original team, the mood in the camp was bullish on the eve of the Rio Games’ gala opening.Russian Olympic gold medal-winners said the team had been galvanised by the fall-out of revelations of state-orchestrated doping on a grand scale.The ensuing crackdown on Russia’s team has slashed numbers from 389 to 271, the fewest since the pre-World War I Olympics of 1912 when they competed as the Russian Empire.But Elena Zamolodchikova, a two-time gymnastics gold medallist, said Russia was determined to finish top-10 on the medals table, a position they have occupied since the 1950s.“Yes, sure,” Zamolodchikova told AFP at the Russia House team base at Rio’s Copacabana, when asked if they would stay in the top 10.“We’ll do our best and I’m sure we’ll be in the top 10. Knowing the Russian character, we will compete.”Former pistol champion Mikhail Nestruyev said Russia expected to win “many” medals, adding that the troubled build-up had given them added incentive to do well.“We’re a small team but we have strong sportspeople,” he said. “I think this tense atmosphere has done us some good. Now all athletes are much stronger.” Russia entered 389 athletes but many competitors implicated in last month’s bombshell World Anti-Doping Agency report, which uncovered state-backed drug cheating, have been eliminated by sports federations.A three-member International Olympic Committee panel reviewed the list submitted by the federations and announced a final figure of 271 on Thursday.Russia’s track and field team had already been suspended in separate action by the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, following similar revelations of state-backed doping last year.last_img read more

Your Senses Awe Scientists

first_imgThe ear, the eye, the nose, and the mind itself continue to display wondrous capabilities.The EarIn a paper meant to argue for evolution, Science described the phenomenal capabilities of the human ear, likening it to a piano:In mammals, the chain of auditory biophysical events starts with the transformation of airborne acoustic energy into the mechanical vibrations of an eardrum. The lever action of delicate middle ear bones passes these eardrum vibrations to the oval window (Fig. 1), generating force gain via surface area ratio. This is the critically important step of impedance conversion that enables the efficient transfer of acoustic energy from airborne vibrations to the liquid-immersed mechanosensory hair cells in the cochlea. A second salient feature of many auditory systems is their capacity to analyze the frequency content of incoming sound waves. This process makes use of the mechanical anisotropy of the fluid-bathed basilar membrane to spatially decompose the acoustic signal into its frequency components, a biological form of the Fourier transform. Cochlear hair cells receive mechanical inputs at specific frequencies, depending on their position along the stiffness gradient of the basilar membrane. This “piano keyboard” mapping, or tonotopic organization, is the canonical mechanism for frequency selectivity in mammals.The authors found a similar chain of acoustic-mechanical-fluid energy transfers leading to frequency selectivity in a katydid ear, leading them to claim it was an extreme case of “convergent evolution.”  Ronald R. Hoy in his summary of the paper in Science actually used an illustration of a piano keyboard to portray the frequency selectivity mechanism.  See also the 11/15/2012 entry.The NoseA short article on Science Daily described a new finding about the sense of smell.  How are odors mapped to the brain? In “How Cells in the Nose Detect Odors: Braking Mechanism in Olfactory Neurons Helps Generate Amazing Diversity of Sensors,” the article introduced some of the complexity involved:The human nose has millions of olfactory neurons grouped into hundreds of different neuron types. Each of these neuron types expresses only one odorant receptor, and all neurons expressing the same odorant receptor plug into one region in the brain, an organization that allows for specific odors to be sensed.Scientists at UC Riverside studied the olfactory mechanisms in insects, and found another convergence: both insects and mammals – far removed from any possible evolutionary relationship – use a similar and very complex “braking” mechanism to repress genes until they should be expressed.  The article compared the mechanism to another human device: a typewriter –Ray explained that one way to understand the mechanism in operation is to consider a typewriter. When none of the keys are pressed, a spring mechanism or “brake” can be imagined to hold the type bars away from the paper. When a key is pressed, however, the brake on that key is overcome and the appropriate letter is typed onto the paper. And just as typing only one letter in one spot is important for each letter to be recognized, expressing one receptor in one neuron lets different sensor types to be generated in the nose.“If this were not the case, a single cell would express several receptors and there would be no diversity in sensor types,” Ray said. “Our study then attempts to answer a fundamental question in neurobiology: How do we generate so much cellular diversity in the nervous system?”But the nose’s “typewriter” is much more elaborate, because it can modulate the response level of the inputs.The EyeImitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  That’s why scientists at Case Western Reserve University are working to imitate the human eye’s lens, reported Science Daily.  A crucial trait of the lens’s effectiveness is its graduated index of refraction (GRIN), a property difficult to replicate in glass.  The researchers at Case Western have now achieved the fabrication of GRIN lenses by stacking thousands of nanoscale layers.  This “visionary design” promises a “new, more natural lens technology” that can begin to duplicate some of the benefits of biological lenses for those needing lens replacement surgery.  And that’s not all:Drawing heavily upon nature for inspiration, a team of researchers has created a new artificial lens that is nearly identical to the natural lens of the human eye. This innovative lens, which is made up of thousands of nanoscale polymer layers, may one day provide a more natural performance in implantable lenses to replace damaged or diseased human eye lenses, as well as consumer vision products; it also may lead to superior ground and aerial surveillance technology.It’s good they said “nearly identical” instead of identical, because polymer-based lenses only duplicate the graduated index of refraction.  They are not capable of self-repair and genetic self-replication.  It is, though, an important step in trying to replicate something natural that many of us take for granted as we read articles like this one.  “The human eye is a GRIN lens,” Michael Ponting, who is applying the research to a spinoff industry. “It’s a very efficient means of controlling the pathway of light without relying on complicated optics, and one that we attempted to mimic.”The BrainA remarkable story was posted on Medical Xpress: doctors in Canada have apparently succeeded in communicating with a man thought to be in a “vegetative state” for 12 years following an accident (a vegetative state is defined as inability to communicate or respond, even though an EEG shows brain activity).  Though Scott Routley is incapable of body movement, his brain and hearing are still apparently responsive.  Using functional MRI (fMRI), the scientists found an ingenious way to make contact:To try to communicate with Routley, doctors asked him to try to visualize himself playing tennis and recorded the way his brain responded using fMRI. They then asked him next to try to visualize himself walking around in his house and recorded the way his brain responded to that exercise as well. Then, they asked Routley to use the visualizations as a means of responding to questions – to visualize the tennis match as a means of answering yes to a question, for example…. team lead Prof Adrian Owen, said tests were run multiple times using the same question and answer process and he reports that the results indicate that Routley was definitely communicating with him and his team.Some are not yet convinced, doubting the interpretation of the scans.  If confirmed, though, serious ethical issues arise: “such research raises the possibility that science will discover that some people have been left to lie immobile for years under the assumption that they are unaware of the reality of their situation – a situation that would have to be addressed if it’s determined that they are and have been, capable of conscious thought.”  The BBC is making a documentary about it.  This is definitely a story to watch.  Doctors may have found a key to communicating with patients once thought to be out of touch with reality, giving them a way to reach out and express their pains and pleasures simply by thinking about them.Wonderful stories that speak for themselves.  Darwinism is useless to all this.  It’s like ugly fat that clogs the arteries of science.  Let’s put science on a fitness program.  The future could be bright for open minds running a lean, mean, well-designed machine. 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Bloemfontein ready for Confed Cup

first_img30 March 2009Bloemfontein has declared itself ready to host the 2009 Fifa Conferations Cup and 2010 Fifa World Cup, with a R314-million upgrade to the Free State Stadium now complete.Addressing the media at a conference at the Stadium, Mangaung Executive Mayor Playfair Morule said the revamped Stadium would be officially opened on 4 April, when the Cheetahs host the Brumbies in a Super 14 rugby clash, followed by a Premier Soccer League contest between Bloemfontein Celtic and Orlando Pirates on 5 April.The South African Press Association (Sapa) reports that seating capacity at the Free State Stadium has been increased by 8 000 to 46 000. In addition, the facility now boasts 100 private suites with 200 seats, as well as a VIP suite which has been upgraded to 650 seats.The size of the media centre has been increased, while more parking is now available and security features at the ground have been improved.Under budgetGeorge Mohlakoane, chief executive officer of Mangaung 2010, said the upgrades cost R9.5-million less than the allocated budget of R325-million. That money will now be used to improve the Seisa Ramabouda Stadium, the home of Bloemfontein Celtic, which will be used as a training venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Morule also said measures had been taken to ensure that the Confederations Cup is well supported. Concerns have been expressed about the slow pace of ticket sales for the showpiece event, and about the slow buy-in by South African football fans, who have a culture of making last-minute purchases when it comes to sporting events.He said Bloemfontein and the Free State Department of Sport have allocated R8-million towards a “mass mobilisation” programme to make sure the stadium is full during Confederations Cup games.Four Confederations Cup matchesThe Free State Stadium will host four Confederations Cup matches, starting on 15 June when five-times World Cup winners Brazil face Egypt.On 17 June, world number one Spain will take on Iraq, followed by a showdown between the European champions and Bafana Bafana on 20 June.Bloemfontein will also host one of the semi-finals on 24 June, with the winners of Pool A – made up of South Africa, Iraq, New Zealand, and Spain – facing the runner-up in Pool B – featuring the USA, Italy, Brazil, and Egypt.SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

SA to supply security vehicles to Brazil

first_img23 April 2013 South Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace firm, Paramount Group, has won an international bid to supply security vehicles to Brazil, the company announced last week. It will supply its Maverick security vehicles, which have been designed to be used by security forces. The Maverick vehicle will be used by Brazil’s special police operations battalion and its shock police battalion, which is part of the country’s military police and special resources battalion. “Sharing defence and security equipment represents a new level of international trade cooperation, and this announcement not only demonstrates strengthened alliances between Africa and Brazil but the unity of the BRICS alliance,” Paramount chairperson, Ivor Ichikowitz, said in a statement. The deal is expected to help the country deal with security concerns for the hosting of the 2014 Fifa World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. “The equipment to be supplied by Paramount Group will play a critical role in the security infrastructure for both these events,” Ichikowitz said. “Paramount Group is very proud to have been selected to support the government in this important role and is looking forward to being part of the growth of this dynamic country.” The awarding of the contract came after intensive technical evaluations, field testing and a procurement process open to local and international companies, Ichikowitz said. “South Africa has a proud heritage in the defence and security sector and Paramount Group is continually investing in research and development thus ensuring its products are at the leading edge of technology,” he said. SAinfo reporterlast_img read more