Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Forecasts for week beginning December 10, 2011.

By Jonathan Cainer

This week begins with a lunar eclipse, suggesting the chance to conquer a fear. It also brings the end of two ‘retrograde phases’. Mercury and Uranus have been apparently slipping backwards through the zodiac for some while. As they start moving in ‘the right direction’, we should gain a greater sense of progress, an increased ability to create positive change and an improved ability to communicate and negotiate. Different signs will feel the influence in different ways but we all can expect a week when the long, drawn out stories of our year move faster towards a pleasing conclusion.

ARIES (March 21 – April 20)
Why do wars start? Why do marriages end? What causes conflict? What prevents peace? These, like all big, complicated questions, have simple answers. Problems of this nature invariably have just one cause. Intolerance. It is poisonous stuff. Indeed, intolerance is the only thing on this Earth that we have any real right to be intolerant of! But, if we are intolerant of intolerance, we only make it worse. Given the time of year and the spirit of the season, what can we do but be patient? No matter how justified resentment may feel, forgiveness is the only way.

TAURUS (April 21 – May 21)
Acupuncturists believe that invisible lines of energy run round the human body. By tweaking them lightly with a needle, it is possible to change the nature of these meridians and make a vast difference to a person’s health and state of mind. Some insist that ‘states of mind’, similar to those attained under the influence of powerful intoxicants, can be reached simply through needling crucial pressure points. A similar principle applies to you this week. One tiny, seemingly insignificant intrusion into your life is about to make you a whole lot happier.

GEMINI (May 22 – June 22)
Take a look at the sky and you can witness a big round moon full of potent portent. Guess which sector of the tropical ecliptic it has become full in? Your sign! That says plenty. It explains why life has lately been exceptionally intense. It tells us plenty about the emotions that have been stirred up within you – and the profound hunger for positive change that you now feel. The lunar eclipse invites you to savour and nurture that yearning for transformation. Mercury’s change of direction this week is a further promise of an easier time ahead.

CANCER (June 23 – July 23)
Look, up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, hang on… it is a bird. Sorry about that, for one moment I thought I could see a strange fellow in a red Lycra stretch suit, wearing bright green underpants on the outside. But then I realised, it is high time I went to the opticians. Superdooper-Xmas-Man is not going to come racing to your rescue this week. But then you don’t really need rescuing. Your situation is enviable not pitiable. You do not need help now. You merely need hope. The eclipse will yet provide you with plenty of that.

LEO (July 24 – August 23)
How many things are wrong with your world… and with this world? Shall we stop to list them and count them? Or, let’s not bother. It seems we all survive by turning blind eyes to that which we do not wish to see. This is not due to narrow-mindedness, ignorance or prejudice, it is simply a survival mechanism. Ignorance often feels like bliss… and avoidance, like ecstasy… sometimes, at least. An important eclipse suggests that this week, you are now skirting gingerly around the edge of a difficult subject. That might be the wisest course of action.

VIRGO (August 24 – September 23)
You have a skeleton key. There’s not a lock in the world it cannot open. Psychologically speaking of course. You don’t have such a thing in the physical world. But even if you did, you would not be interested. You respect other people’s privacy. That’s what makes you so special. It is through your sensitivity, wisdom and compassion that you manage to melt away other people’s barriers and defences. They soon learn that you are a person of integrity. This week, as Mercury changes direction, your special ability helps make an important emotional breakthrough.

LIBRA (September 24 – October 23)
How far away is Alpha Centauri? It is a nearby star, yet experts are at great pains to stress that we could never expect to travel there. Even at the speed of light, it would take longer than a lifetime to reach. Unless, that is, neutrinos really do turn out to be faster than light. Maybe they can build a neutrino-powered craft that can arrive before it sets off. We think we know our limitations. But really, we are only guessing. Don’t allow yourself to be told that something is impossible. You can get much further than you think between now and Christmas.

SCORPIO (October 24 – November 22)
Festive cheer has yet to light up your life. Too many factors seem to be intense and worrying. You feel as if you’re caught up in a difficult situation that is beyond your control. You cannot bring yourself to relax and believe that it’s all going to work out. You feel inclined to try any trick you can think of, no matter how unrealistic. You just yearn for a sense of power in an area where you feel vulnerable. Resist this urge as bravely as you can. Think of your life as a roller-coaster ride. Dramatic downs will yet give way to exhilarating ups. Hold tight and trust.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 – December 21)
What do you need to prove? To whom do you need to prove this? Why on earth should you have to make such a gesture? Unless, inwardly, you want to, of course. But we have to question some of the powerful impulses and restless leanings you have lately been experiencing. Might your motivation be suspect? Could there be a better direction to take your life in? Must you be as anxious or as uptight about a particular matter as you have lately felt? The eclipse in your opposite sign heralds a decisive drama, followed by a simpler solution.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 20)
The best things in life require imagination, commitment, effort and faith. How difficult is it to attain these? Very difficult if you are not inspired. Not difficult if you have passion, love, enthusiasm and appreciation. So, if you are inspired, what can you do with all these qualities? What can you create? What can you convert them into? Anything you like or nothing, if you prefer. They are not means to an end. They are an end in themselves. As we edge ever closer to the holidays, you need to reach for what inspires you today. Then what you need, you will get.

AQUARIUS (January 21 – February 19)
There is an old saying, ‘What you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts.’ I have never understood this. How can you lose anything on a ride? It is important to understand that nobody now, has the power to take anything away from you. And nor can any sincere involvement or engagement leave you any the worse off. But you have the power to make yourself a winner. Stop worrying about recent losses, real or imaginary, emotional or material. Just give your heart and soul to what’s looking so good in the run up to Christmas.

PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
There’s something exciting about making a definitive statement. To make an emphatic announcement is to enhance your own sense of security. Somehow, the very act of uttering a knowledgeable statement becomes an anchor in an ever-changing sea of uncertainty. All anchors, though, must sooner or later be raised. Just because something was true once, you can’t assume it will remain beyond question forever. Watch, as we get closer to the festive season, for a situation that is evolving rapidly and for rules that no longer apply.

To purchase a full personal chart reading based on your exact date, place and time of birth, or to hear Jonathan’s weekly spoken forecast for your sign, visit www.cainer.com.

Filed under: Week Ahead

Man Sets Self Alight Beside State Palace

JAKARTA

A man is in critical condition with 95 percent burns on his body after he apparently set himself alight beside the State Palace.

The man, believed to be in his 40s, doused himself in petrol and torched himself near the palace on Wednesday before running towards a billboard bearing the photograph of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Jakarta police spokesman Baharudin Djafar confirmed the incident, saying investigations are underway.

“He had apparently set himself on fire and the police had rescued him. He’s in a critical condition with 95 percent burns on his body,” he said on Thursday.

“We have yet to determine his identity. We don’t know what spurred him to commit the act as there’s no eye-witness,” he added.

A doctor said the man was hooked up on a respirator to help him breathe and has a slim chance of surviving.

The man had reportedly shouted anti-government messages but Djafar played down speculations that he had been protesting against the government or the president.

“We can’t make such a link at this point,” he said.

Presidential adviser Daniel Sparingga said Yudhoyono had been informed of the incident and “expressed his sympathy and concern.”

“At this moment, our focus is to do all we can to save his life. We think that every living creature is a blessing from God,” he said.

“We regret the action and hope it will not be repeated,” he added.

Protests are common in Indonesia but self-immolation is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

Yudhoyono’s popularity rankings have slumped despite strong economic growth, amid corruption and incompetence across all levels of the state. He was sworn in at the start of his second five-year term on October 20 2009.

The first Indonesian president to be directly elected, Yudhoyono has won two clear mandates to get tough on corruption but he is seen as too weak and indecisive to take on powerful vested interests.

Filed under: Headlines

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yogi Bends Over Backwards for Afghan Peace

When 30 Afghan prison guards took a break from warden duties to try yoga, they lunged sideways in unison to meditate on pursuing a more peaceful existence in Afghanistan.

The unusual scene was orchestrated by French yoga enthusiast Amandine Roche, on a personal quest to promote the idea that for fighting to end and battle scars to fade in the warring nation, inner peace must out.

Taliban, Afghan and Western troops should practise yoga and meditation, she believes, to work towards more harmonious and brotherly social relations and help bring three decades of war in Afghanistan to a close.

It is a message she has been taking to powerbrokers on both sides of the conflict, albeit with limited success.

So far her project is self-funded and small in scale, but while yoga for the masses may seem naive in a country steeped in warrior culture, she has at least won some high-profile audiences.

“Real peace starts within, like the war starts within. We need to raise the level of consciousness;, it’s as simple as that,” Roche said at her home in the Afghan capital Kabul.

“I say: ‘Guys, why don’t you stop? It’s pointless for 30 years; just sit, sit and cool down.’”

Downward dogs and sun salutations are not common manoeuvres among military commanders running the war in Afghanistan but at least one senior officer, in charge of US-led detention facilities, listened to her plan.

Roche spoke to Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a Navy SEAL then in charge of Task Force 435 that heads US-run detention facilities in Afghanistan. “He did think it might be a constructive programme,” said Major TG Taylor, spokesman at US Central Command where Harward now works.

“He is open to evaluating non-traditional ideas and supports consideration of new and unique ideas,” Taylor added.

Ultimately, however, his successor in Afghanistan did not pursue it.

“We took an exploratory look at this thing,” said US Navy Captain Kevin Aandahl, current spokesman for Task Force 435. “But it just didn’t go forward.”

Undeterred, Roche now teaches yoga and meditation twice a week to NATO troops in Kabul, with up to 16 soldiers and non-combatants attending each session, said a NATO welfare officer.

She has also held one meditation session with a former Taliban commander, and has approached several government ministers in the hope of receiving state support – so far none has been forthcoming.

In May her project Sola Yoga was given a celebrity boost when she attended a peace conference in New Jersey and met Iranian-American Cameron Alborzian – yoga devotee, fluent Dari speaker and one-time male supermodel.

“Yogi Cameron” – star of Madonna’s 1989 music video Express Yourself – was now earning up to $30,000 per week as a restyled guru to the stars in Los Angeles and was an eager recruit to Roche’s cause.

He travelled to Afghanistan for a fortnight in June, visiting officials to drum up support for the project and managing to obtain access to Kabul’s Pul-e-charkh jail and the prison in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan, where they persuaded guards to try out some stretches.

The Afghan commander in Bamiyan, Ghulam Ali Batur, said his men tried yoga briefly but was doubtful it would catch on, though he admitted that “it tends to calm people, violent people.”

“Trust me, it will be a too difficult job” to convert Afghans, deeply suspicious of any foreign influence, to yoga, he said, citing its Buddhist and Hindu roots.

Roche, who used to work in peacekeeping for the United Nations, points out that Afghanistan has its own tradition of meditation in the mould of Abdul Ghafar Khan – a Pashtun spiritual pacifist who died in 1988.

But yoga seems a long way from catching on in a country where resolving disputes through violence is deeply ingrained.

Mental health is also hardly discussed in Afghanistan but Roche’s vision is that meditation and yoga can give Afghans a tool to help them discover inner calm away from the traumas that result from the violence surrounding them.

“They say that you are possessed by the genie, by the devil. They don’t know what’s mental health,” said Roche.

“I can give them a tool to control their mind because they’re all traumatised,” she mused. “All Afghans have a horrible story to tell you, a book to write.”

Roche’s greatest success has been teaching yoga to street children in Kabul, working with charity Afghanistan Tomorrow to inspire a calmer generation.

Leading a group of young girls with candles burning in the room, she encouraged them to sit cross-legged, close their eyes and forget their troubles. Later the girls tried to pose like trees, standing on one leg.

“This tends to calm me and helps me to be better and faster in my studies,” said 11-year-old Roquia.

Filed under: LIFE

Islam and Democracy Not at Odds in Tunisia

By Radwan Masmoudi

The October 23 elections in Tunisia were as important and as historic as the revolution itself. I saw with my own eyes masses of people crying from joy and pride as they cast their votes in the decision on who would represent them in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), feeling the dignity of participating in an election for the first time in their lives as truly free citizens. A free nation was being born anew.

Today, Tunisians are working on negotiating a relationship between religion and politics, an issue which has only become more pressing as extremists on both sides, secularists and Islamists, have been using their new-found democratic freedoms to push for more radical views. However, compromise and prioritising the nation’s interests are essential ingredients for a successful transition to democracy, and must take precedent over partisan bickering.

Not surprisingly, Al Nahda, an Islamic party with a focus on democracy and human rights, won a plurality with 41 percent of the vote and 89 seats in the NCA. Four secular parties, that do not advocate a role for religion in government, fared well: the Congress for the Republic, Al-Aridha As-Shaabiya, Attakatol and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

Three other secular parties, the Modernist Democratic Pole (PDM), Afek-Tounes and the Communist Workers Party (POCT), fared poorly, mainly because they appeared anti-Islamic and anti-religious. By defending a movie entitled No God and No Master that many believe promoted atheism, and one that depicted God in a cartoon, Persepolis, on the grounds of defending freedom of expression, these parties and their leaders appeared out of step with the religious sentiments of the majority of Tunisians. Even the PDP adopted this position and saw its popularity drop from around 20 percent in February to barely six percent in October.

Al Nahda, in the end, emerged as the main political party in Tunisia. After 30 years of being systematically put down, it was finally recognised as a political party in February 2011. More importantly, it succeeded in portraying itself as rooted in Islamic values, but simultaneously and deeply attached to democracy, human rights and dignity for all.

Tunisians do not see a contradiction between Islam and democracy, or Islam and modernity, and do not want to choose between them. They want to be both Muslim and modern, and Al Nahda provided them with a ticket promising just that. In an interview with Reuters, published on 4 November 2011, Rached Ghannouchi, president and co-founder of Al Nahda, said: “We are against trying to impose a particular way of life. […]All the parties have agreed to keep the first article of the current constitution which says Tunisia’s language is Arabic and its religion is Islam. This is just a description of reality; it doesn’t have any legal implications. There will be no other references to religion in the constitution. We want to provide freedom for the whole country.”

This is exactly what the majority of Tunisians wanted to hear. Tunisians did not overthrow a secular dictatorship to replace it with a religious or theocratic dictatorship. They do not want the state to interfere with or enforce religious practices. Religion should be a personal matter and choice, and the state should respect and protect the individual freedoms and liberties of all citizens. So can Al Nahda succeed in leading Tunisia to real, genuine and lasting democracy? If the party can emulate the Turkish model in Tunisia, as it has promised to do, I believe that they will be successful and their popularity will increase.

Although the new constitution will not stipulate that Tunisia is a secular state, as the topic of secularity is deeply divisive in Tunisia and across the Arab world, it is equally clear that Tunisians want a civil and democratic state.

The question of the relationship between religion and politics will continue to be debated for many years, and perhaps centuries. It is still debated today even in Europe and the United States. But the main challenge for all Tunisians today is to remain focused on what unites them rather than what divides them.

What the new constitution of Tunisia should do is enshrine the principles of human rights and religious freedom, justice and equality before the law, as well as women’s and minorities’ rights. Just like Turkey has been able to merge Islamic and democratic values and build a successful modern state in the Muslim world, so too can Tunisia lead the Arab world towards reconciling Islamic values and principles with modernity, freedom and democracy.

Radwan A. Masmoudi is President of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

Filed under: Opinion

Corruption Must Be Tackled ‘at Recruitment Stage’

DENPASAR

The chain of corruption in government needs to be broken at the recruitment stage, according to a senior official.

The assistant deputy for systems development supervision and administrative reform at the Ministry for Administrative and Bureaucratic Reforms, Hendro Witjaksono, said law-enforcement and careful recruitment were among the most important anti-corruption measures.

“If measures for the prevention of corruption are strengthened, of course the incidences will be reduced,” he said.

Witjaksono was in Denpasar on Tuesday to attend a meeting on implementation of good governance and corruption prevention at the governor’s office.

He said law-enforcement had been the main focus of anti-corruption activity in 2011. Stopping the possibility of bribes from entering the civil service was the main aspect of this, he added.

“The chain of corruption usually begins with the recruitment process. Certain elements try to become civil servants through dishonest means, and once they manage to get in office, they pursue corruption as a way to get back what they spent [on bribes during recruitment],” he said.

Stopping the possibility for such practices during recruitment would be the single most effective way of cutting corruption, he said.

“The police, prosecutors and judges are certainly regarded as not entirely clean by the general public, although we have made various efforts to reform the recruitment process,” he said.

Filed under: Headlines

Schoolies in Bali Struggle without Safety Net

By Vyt Karazija

So I’m sitting there on a torpid Tuesday afternoon, slurping down my caffeine fix and watching the endlessly fascinating passing parade along Jalan Padma Utara. Suddenly, there is an eruption of demented yells and a group of boys zoom unsteadily into view on their rented motorbikes. Shirtless, barefoot and helmet-less, they weave between both kerbs, oblivious to the attempts of oncoming traffic to avoid them. Their age, about 17, their self-absorbed demeanour and their disrespectful attitude marks them as schoolies, a peculiar subset of Bali visitors that come here to unwind and wreak havoc at the end of each school year.

The first seven pass my vantage point and hurtle around the nearby right-hand bend, barely in control of their bikes. In their testosterone-fuelled exuberance, they ignore both basic road rules and standard rider courtesies. Naturally, they are completely unaware of their limitations as riders. Many of the boys have female companions riding pillion, almost as under-dressed as they are. Some are waving their arms about and twisting on the seat, throwing the bike into barely controllable swerves. I think of debridement, permanent scarring and crippling injuries, and shudder. A bad outcome is inevitable.

The eighth rider, the least confident of the bunch, is trailing by 20 metres and seems desperate to catch up with his peer group. In a series of inept wobbles, he tries to cut the blind corner. Inevitably, oncoming traffic stymies him and he tries to get back to the left side of the road. The trouble is, he has no idea how to turn a bike – or at least has not internalised the process enough to properly respond in an emergency – so he turns the handlebars to the left. Um, you don’t do that, mate. The bike already has a 30-degree lean to the right; his reflexive attempt to counter-steer the wrong way slams the bike down hard on the pavement with an explosive bang. His right leg is trapped under the bike as it grinds to a halt, shredding both bike fairing and ankle tissue, and leaving a smear of wet red stuff mixed with shiny bike bits on the tarmac.

Dragging himself from under the bike, he re-mounts, foot oozing blood. Bystanders offer help and ask him if he needs help. Looking embarrassed and angry, he snarls “Ah, f*** off!” at them. He doesn’t feel the pain yet, but at his age, he keenly feels the loss of face. The pain will come later. His little lapse does not deter the others in his group, though – they continue to ride up and down the street for another 20 minutes, clowning around while hooting and yelling and generally causing chaos, until they finally vanish. Whether this is because of another accident or just the onset of a bout of ADD is difficult to say.

Later, a friend who works at a bar nearby says, “Ah, yes. Skuli. Very drunk. Very rude. Very loud. And very young.” He shrugs. “But they spend money.” Oh, that makes it all right, then. I think what it must be like to be 17 years old, full of piss and vinegar, having just burst out of the restrictive confines of regimented schooling and going to a foreign country to decompress. I can hardly remember being that young, but I do remember feeling invulnerable, immortal and rebellious – attitudes common to many at that age.

But if I put all disapproving, grumpy and somewhat envious thoughts aside, I realise that most of these kids are having fun. It helps no one when the media in Australia runs sensationalistic “exposes,” with headlines screaming “What your kids are really up to,” and to selectively imply that Bali – that terrible den of iniquity and sleaze – is full of drunken, drug-addled, sex-crazed, motorbike-crashing and semi-naked underage children. It might sell newspapers and boost the ratings, but the real casualty is the truth. They’re having fun.

As with any group, some will act up and some will thoroughly enjoy the experience without acting like dorks and risking their lives. There is no doubt that the antics of a few will result in injury, perhaps even death. Others will fall foul of Bali’s seamier side, contracting STDs and getting robbed, or just end up falling for the scams of those police in cahoots with drug peddlers, thereby spending a far longer time in Bali than they ever anticipated. It’s the oldest rule of life – maximum fun is often accompanied by maximum risk.

So how can we reduce the risks for these young people? Knowledge is power, and I suspect that schoolies have so little knowledge of Bali that they are powerless to survive an environment that can suddenly turn hostile on them. The real problem for them here is they assume that the same parental, community, government and police protections are available to them as at home. They are not. There is no safety net, and it’s time that one was provided.

Instead of being negative and sensationalistic about schoolies week, Australian media could provide useful survival guides – information that could help schoolies in Bali to manage an ostensibly “rule-less” environment, but one that is in fact a veritable minefield for the inexperienced. Let schoolies know that coming here without travel/medical insurance is the epitome of craziness. Let their parents know that a medical evacuation will cost them up to $75,000 without insurance. Let them know that three motorcyclists die every day on Bali’s chaotic roads and that if you ride without a licence or helmet, a police fine is the least of your problems. Even if you survive, your medical insurance will be invalid.

Tell the kids what to do in case of emergency. Give them phone numbers for hospitals, but warn them that they won’t be treated, even in emergency situations, unless they pay in advance. Make them understand that there are no “emergency numbers” in Bali. You can’t just call for an ambulance, and even if you manage to get an expensive private ambulance from one of the clinics, it might take an hour or more to arrive through the choked traffic. Taxi drivers will flatly refuse to take you to hospital if you are bleeding. It messes up the seats.

Let them know where to call if they are arrested. Make sure they have their embassy’s number. Explain the culture of bribery, and the corruption that is necessary to get things done – but also warn them about being too blatant about offering bribes so that they don’t get charged for that as well. Consider setting up and publicising a government-sponsored emergency number – somebody to call when things go wrong, as they will. I’m sure there are many expats here who would be happy to be part of a volunteer network of non-judgemental call-takers to offer advice to young people in trouble.

The thing is, would schoolies listen to such advice or warnings? Would they use a safety net like this? Maybe they would; maybe they wouldn’t. Would I have listened at 17? Probably not. I knew it all then. It took quite a few decades before I realised I didn’t.

Filed under: Vyt's Line

Our Liberty Going Up in Smoke

By Richard Boughton

You’ve got to be kidding me. A no-smoking law passed in Bali? It can’t be, and yet it is apparently so. Soon hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, government offices, places of worship, and who knows what else — bars, boats, cars, bikes, malls, the insides of buildings and the outsides of buildings and anywhere within 50 feet of a building – will all be smoke-free havens for those few people in Bali who actually don’t smoke. Congratulations to the Bali legislative council – you’ve just become a Western nation. Now big brother is watching you, too.

What, I wonder, is the irresistible attraction of this runaway anti-smoking campaign? What causes the leadership of just about every country to want to jump on the bandwagon of legislation that rests not only on bad science but on the dangerous notion that the freedom of an individual to make his own choices can be made subject to government control? Do we really want to join that party? Does Bali – does Indonesia – really want to bleed itself dry of all the colour of character by imitating the restrictive, conformist, stodgy, reductive, timid, paranoid social rules of political correctness that plague modern-day Western countries?

I say that if you want to smoke, smoke; if you don’t want to smoke, don’t. But don’t make a law of every little thing. This is one of the reasons I left America. It was suffocating. Not from cigarette smoke, but from the strangulating grip of countless special-interest groups – humourless, lacklustre, anal-retentive biddies and snobs who somehow managed to make law of opinion, and a travesty of the right to personal choice.

Here in Bali I found a different society – and ironically, a society much like the one I used to know as a young man in America. I rediscovered a society of common agreement, ordered not so much by law as by common sense. I found a freedom of expression and movement and action that made me feel once again like a dog with his head out the window and his ears flapping in the wind. I could breathe again. I could speak my mind. I could jay walk (at my own risk, and yet by choice). And I could smoke a cigarette just about anywhere I wanted to.

What are the real facts about smoking? Well, for one thing it doesn’t cause lung cancer. It may contribute, along with a multitude of other considerations. The process of developing cancer is complex and multifactorial. It involves genetics, the immune system, cellular irritation, DNA alteration, dose and duration of exposure and much more. It’s not a simple matter – and don’t let them tell you it is. Every member of my immediate family died of cancer. None of them smoked. How’s that for a statistic?

How about the dreaded secondhand smoke, that fairly recent modulation of paranoia that has made pariahs of those who smoke. Well, by the time secondhand smoke is inhaled by another person it has been filtered by the cigarette itself, and then by the smoker’s own lungs. What’s left? Not much. A World Health Organisation study did not show that secondhand smoke statistically increased the risk of getting lung cancer. Environmental Protection Agency statistics, moreover, show that living with a heavy smoker over a period of 30-40 years will only increase the non-smoker’s chance of getting lung cancer from 0.4 percent to 0.6 percent. Want a better chance of getting lung cancer? Try stepping outside your door in any modern industrialized city and taking a good, deep breath.

All cancers combined account for only 13 percent of all annual deaths, and lung cancer only 2 percent. Given the actual numbers, one has to wonder what’s really behind the hysteria.

It’s not a question of public health; it’s of individual freedom. If I die of lung cancer, that’s on me. If I die from eating too much fried chicken, or from someone sitting near me eating too much fried chicken, that’s on me, too.

“Yes, smoking is bad for you,” writes J.P. Siepmann in the Journal of Theoretics, “but so is fast-food hamburgers, driving and so on. We must weigh the risk and benefits of the behaviour both as a society and as an individual based on unbiased information. Be warned, though, that a society that attempts to remove all risk terminates individual liberty and will ultimately perish.”

Smoking is an Indonesian pastime. It’s part of Indonesian heritage. It’s as Indonesian as bakso and sate (neither of which is probably good for you). What a shame it is that this government of Bali has so bought into another culture’s propaganda and agenda.

I’m a smoker. I like to smoke. I regret that there are some who do not appreciate smoking, but I will not fault them for it; nor will I seek a law against them.

Richard can be contacted via richybeester@gmail.com.

Filed under: Practical Paradise

Politicians Blame ‘Cafe Culture’ for AIDS Spread

DENPASAR

A senior politician has blamed the proliferation of cafes – late-night drinking venues which often double as venues for prostitution – for an increase in HIV cases in Bali.

Ketut Kariyasa Adnyana, deputy head of the Bali regional assembly, said cafes, which are popular with many local men, and have been associated with drugs and violent crime, were now spreading into even remote rural areas of Bali.

“Cafes have spread into remote villages on the island. The condition is worrying because of the high spread of HIV and AIDS. Many of the victims are housewives who got infected from their husbands,” he said.

Another assembly member, Made Arjaya, said the cafes were usually hubs for prostitution, with many “waitresses” doubling as commercial sex workers.

“Data shows that 1,000 commercial sex workers in Bali have been infected by HIV and AIDS,” Arjaya said, adding that many of them were ostensibly employed as waitresses in cafes, rather than openly working as prostitutes in brothels.

Arjaya said that local governments should continue with their policy of closing down cafes.

However, Adnyana called for the establishment of localised tolerance zones where prostitution could more readily be managed and monitored by the authorities.

“If cafes are spread in many places, there are even some in residential areas, it is hard to observe them. Centralising the location will make it easier to supervise and control the threat of the disease,” he said.

Utami Dwi Suryadi, another assembly member, called on Balinese men to consider the impact of using prostitutes at such cafes.

“If the husband spreads the disease to the wives, who will suffer? The children might lose their parents and even their future,” she said.

Filed under: Headlines

Monday, December 12, 2011

Obama, Clinton Praise Indonesia Over Nuclear Treaty

WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama has praised Indonesia for ratifying the nuclear test ban treaty CTBT, a move that brings the pact a step closer to coming into force.

Obama said the decision by a country where he spent four years as a boy showed the “positive leadership role” that Indonesia could play in combating the spread of nuclear weapons.

“I urge all states to sign and ratify the agreement so that it can be brought into force at the earliest possible date,” Obama said on Tuesday.

The president said he will continue to press the US Senate to ratify the treaty, which he said was important to future US security.

“America must lead the global effort to prevent proliferation, and adoption and early entry into force of the CTBT is a vital part of that effort,” Obama said.

The Senate blocked ratification of the treaty in 1999 and it has still not been ratified, despite a pledge by the Obama administration to seek such a step.

Advocates say US ratification of the treaty would send an important signal to the rest of the world on the importance of checking nuclear proliferation.

But US critics of the treaty argue that by committing itself to a long-term binding pledge never to test nuclear weapons, the United States could undermine confidence in its atomic weapons arsenal.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also praised Indonesia’s move.

“The United States, which has observed a moratorium on nuclear-explosive testing since 1992, is committed to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and to its early entry into force,” she said.

“The United States calls on all governments to declare or reaffirm their commitment not to conduct explosive nuclear tests, and we urge all states that have not yet ratified the treaty to join us in this effort,” Clinton said in a statement.

So far, the CTBT, which aims to outlaw all nuclear explosions, has been signed by 182 states but 44 key states – all with nuclear technology – need to ratify it before it can come into force.

With Indonesia’s vote, 36 of these countries have now ratified the treaty.

But among those still missing are North Korea, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, India, China and the United States – all states known to have or suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

Filed under: Headlines

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Increasing Imports Indicate Growth

DENPASAR

Imports of foreign retail goods to Bali reached a value of US$85.1 million between January and August this year, with economic experts saying it is a sign of a healthy economy. The value of exports from the island in the same period reached $387.2 million.

“The value of Bali’s non-oil imports increased from the same period in 2010, when they were worth $74.9 million,” said Sunarto, a senior economic researcher at the Bank of Indonesia (BI) in Denpasar on Tuesday.

Sunarto said the highest import figures were during May, when a total of $15.1 million of foreign imports entered Bali.

He said high rates of foreign imports were a sign of the rapid economic growth in Bali, which currently stands at around 6 percent annually.

Sunarto said much of the import value was accounted for by high-cost specialist items, including mechanical and electrical equipment, optical instruments, jewellery and metal goods, as well as top-end consumer goods.

China and Singapore accounted for much of the import goods, with $5.3 million worth of imports from Singapore in August alone.

Imports of pearls, gemstones, precious metals and jewellery in the first eight months of 2011 stood at $10.3 million, up from $9.7 million in the same period last year. Imports of photographic equipment, meanwhile, stood at $7.2 million.

Sunarto said items exported directly from Bali to foreign markets amounted for a value far outstripping that of imports, with the handicraft trade alone worth more than $150 million in the first eight months of the year.

However, he said the increasing import rates should be welcomed, as the predominance of high-cost goods amongst the imports was a sure sign of Bali’s increasing prosperity.

Filed under: Headlines

HIV Gel Trial Scrapped

In a major setback for AIDS prevention research, a clinical trial of a new vaginal gel supposed to reduce HIV infections has been suspended after studies showed it to be ineffective.

Researchers from the Microbicide Trials Network, set up by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), expressed surprise at the outcome as a previous study on a gel containing the drug tenofovir had shown encouraging results.

Researchers are striving to produce a gel or a pill that protects women against HIV infection but still allows them to get pregnant so it can be used in sub-Saharan Africa and other places where condom use can be a problem.

A first trial by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) showed reduced HIV infections in 39 percent of women treated with the tenofivir gel, and in 54 percent of those who used it regularly.

Those results, published in 2010, raised hopes that a new gel could slow the transmission of HIV/AIDS and finally provide women with a groundbreaking means of protecting themselves.

Observers had hoped VOICE (Vaginal and Oral Interventions to Control the Epidemic), a trial started in September 2009 and conducted with the help of 5,000 women in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, would back those findings.

An interim review of VOICE by an independent data and safety monitoring board, however, determined that the tenofovir gel was even less effective than a placebo. Part of the research has now been cancelled.

Filed under: Health

Bylaw Bans Public Smoking

DENPASAR

A new bylaw banning smoking in hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities was passed by the Bali government this week, but will not come into effect before approval from the central government.

The long-discussed ruling requires all “tourism support facilities” as well as other public areas such as temples, schools and churches to be smoke-free, and has the personal backing of Governor I Made Mangku Pastika.

The law, which also bans smoking on public transport and in government offices, as well as the sale and advertising of tobacco in affected places, was passed on Monday at a Bali legislative council (DPRD) plenary meeting headed by deputy parliamentary chairman I Gusti Bagus Alit Putra.

“I want all people to be healthy and the bylaw is an implementation of the 2009 Health Law,” said Pastika.

Breaking the new bylaw could lead to a six-month jail term or a Rp50-million (US$5,450) fine.

Pastika said he believed most foreign visitors to Bali would understand and support the move, but that there would be more difficulty convincing locals to comply.

“I think tourists will understand. Instead, it is Bali’s people who often do not understand,” he said.

Pastika’s sentiments were echoed by Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Bali Tourism Board.

“Every time I am invited for a hearing at the DPRD, members smoke in the meeting room,” he said. “But I don’t think we will have a problem from tourists,” he said.

Nyoman Sutedja, head of the Bali Health Department, said the authorities would conduct individual checks on businesses and other public places to assess compliance with the law, and to award rankings.

“There will be hotels with blue, yellow or red category ratings. The blue category means totally free from cigarette smoke,” he said.

The 22-article bylaw, which is an implementation of the 2009 Health Law provisions, will not be put into force, however, until it is evaluated by the Home Affairs Ministry. Pastika said an extensive socialisation process, with public education carried out through various methods, would be run to inform people about the ban.

According to government figures, 31 percent of people over the age of 10 smoke in Bali. A preliminary survey to canvass support for the bylaw last year revealed 93.1 percent support, according to officials.

Filed under: Headlines

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Forecasts for week beginning December 3, 2011.

By Jonathan Cainer

December begins with Uranus, Jupiter and Mercury all seemingly slipping backwards. It then brings a powerful eclipse of the Moon. We can expect more stress than the usual, pre-holiday season tension. Problems with transport, commerce and communication may surface. Dramas in our personal lives may also intensify. But by Christmas, that eclipse will be long forgotten and those planets no longer retrograde. When we look back, we’ll see that 2011 was the truly tough time for the world. 2012 for all its reputation, is going to be surprisingly good for almost all of us.

ARIES (March 21 – April 20)
‘Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.’ Not everyone agrees with Zig Ziglar, the legendary motivation guru. Some would say attitude isn’t everything. But none can deny it counts for a lot. You now have strong feelings about a particular matter. These are causing you to see problems where none need exist. Adjust your perspective. Try not to care quite as much. Though passion can sometimes be a sword that hacks you a path through a jungle, it can also be the spade that digs you a hole. Just be calm and confident in December.

TAURUS (April 21 – May 21)
In libraries, people are asked to be quiet. At stadiums they are expected to make big noise. When we do the right thing according to the circumstances we find ourselves in, we are applauded. We are frowned on when we make a faux pas. You now fear that you are acting inappropriately. Others may suspect this too. But this month, there is more to find out about the situation that you are a part of. Once you discover this, you may well decide that you have been having the perfect response. You don’t need to succumb to pressure in December.

GEMINI (May 22 – June 22)
What do you feel you need to say? Why do you feel you need to say it? Who will benefit if you fully express yourself? Is it really likely that someone will hear you, take heed and bring about a constructive change as a result of listening to you? Or will you simply feel better for a while, having got something off your chest? In December, you need to consider the potential outcome of a sensitive dialogue before you enter into it. Remember that ultimately, if you want to be heard, it always helps to use language that others actually enjoy listening to.

CANCER (June 23 – July 23)
I have always loved you. Our relationship means more to me than life itself.’ When these words are spoken to us by the person we adore, we feel we are walking on air. They are not so impressive, though, when they come from the parking attendant or the person behind the counter in the bakery store. We should be even more concerned if we hear such sentiments being expressed by someone who is trying to sell us a car or an insurance policy. Watch for what’s appropriate this month. Keep a clear head and December will yet be wonderful.

LEO (July 24 – August 23)
When things don’t go quite as you were hoping, you can rage and rant, worry and regret, fear and fret, or smile and celebrate. Why might you decide to do the latter? Well, if you truly trust the cosmos, you will credit it with some intelligence. So you will wonder, if it throws an obstacle in your path, whether it is inviting you to take a diversion which might ultimately suit you better. You won’t, this month, chicken out of a plan at the first sign of trouble. But you will be flexible and willing to learn. You may not know it now. But you are winning.

VIRGO (August 24 – September 23)
If people are talking behind your back, that’s wonderful. It means you do not have to listen to them. And you most certainly don’t need to be sensitive to your own fears about what people might (or might not) be saying. Think, in December, about what matters to you and why. While Mars remains in your sign, think too about what you’re prone to take too seriously and allow yourself to get anxious about. Then think about how you, just by thinking differently, can solve a problem, heal a wound, overcome a fear, deepen a bond and have a truly wonderful Christmas.

LIBRA (September 24 – October 23)
We all tend to think that ‘doing nothing’ is not an option. But at times it can be the very best option. Far too often we meddle and fiddle with processes that are best left to run their natural course. At best, our intrepid activity makes no difference. At worst, it gets in the way. It holds back positive forces that might otherwise be released. Perhaps, eventually, you’ll have to take action. First, though, it may prove wise to leave everything much as it is. Give the dust a chance to settle in December. Wait till you see what’s truly needed before worrying about anything.

SCORPIO (October 24 – November 22)
We all want someone or something to look up to. We need to feel that we belong. We need to feel that our life has purpose. We need to feel loved. We also need to feel that we are connected to some higher intelligence with a smarter plan than our own. Sometimes, this need causes us to abdicate responsibility for our own actions and choices. Watch out now for a state of dependency that may be doing you no great favours. Trust your own wisdom. Grant yourself permission to be yourself and to love yourself. In December, that’s really all you need.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 – December 21)
What’s missing? What are you short of? Or have you just convinced yourself that life would be better if only you had something else? You need to establish the answer quickly because soon you may well have your wish granted. It may then prove difficult to return the gift that the cosmos has given you. Furthermore, nature abhors a vacuum. For as long as there is a gap in your life, there is a chance it can be filled. But once you put something in that place, you no longer have a space. It may be better, in December, to accept an absence than to force a presence.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 20)
‘Every move you make, I’ll be watching you.’ So sang Sting. This is, is, depending on how you choose to interpret it, a tender promise of protection or a stalker’s anthem. But, then, the line between appropriate and inappropriate affection, is not always as clear-cut as we might wish. Nor is it only in the realm of love that desire can turn to lust. Somewhere in your world now, there are lines that really need to be redrawn in different places. Some are too fuzzy and some are clear enough but wrong. December brings your chance to make essential change.

AQUARIUS (January 21 – February 19)
Seasons greetings. Here, courtesy of a kindly cosmos is some seasonal advice. Stop caring. Stop investing so much hope, faith and determination into a temporary situation. You are clouding your judgement by allowing a sense of need to overwhelm you. You have an objective and you somehow feel that success with this is the be-all and end-all. Ironically, you are more likely to get the right result if you can only persuade yourself to believe this a little less. Perspective and patience are the keys that can open every locked door in December.

PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
Do adventurers ever sleep easy? Must they not remain forever alert to danger? It depends on what kind of adventure they are having. When hunting tigers, they are indeed, wise to keep a constant eye out for stripes. Much, in your life, has lately been stressful. Whilst you have handled your challenges well, you are keen to avoid a repeat of some old drama or difficulty. In an effort to remain diligent you are mounting a constant guard on the weaker areas of your empire. But none of this is necessary. December brings a real chance to ease off and enjoy life more.

To purchase a full personal chart reading based on your exact date, place and time of birth, or to hear Jonathan’s weekly spoken forecast for your sign, visit www.cainer.com.

Filed under: Week Ahead

Cut-Price Toll Road Construction Set to Start

BENOA

Work on the Nusa Dua-Denpasar toll road is due to start this month, despite a lack of funding.

The 11.5-kilometre road which will run along the east coast has experienced delays and funding problems, but Sumaryanto Widayatin, deputy minister for infrastructure and logistics at the State Enterprises Ministry announced last week that work would begin on December 21.

Widayatin said that although funding to meet the original Rp5.5 trillion (US$603 million) cost of the project had not been raised from private investors, it was now hoped that the work could be done for just Rp2 trillion. The revised sum meant work could now go ahead, he said, adding that work was set to be finished ahead of 2013’s APEC Summit in Bali.

The revised amount will now be provided by a consortium of state organisations and sourced from credit loans from state-owned banks, including airport operator Angkasa Pura I and the Bali Tourism Development Corporation.

Widayatin said concluding funding arrangements were now underway.

“We’re finalising the bidding process and it will be completed within two weeks. We will start construction on December 21,” he said. “We will use only local resources, including human resources and construction materials so that we can keep the budget down.”

“We have proposed the preliminary design to the Bali administration, and they have agreed with it,” Sumaryanto added.

Widayatin said that costs had been drastically cut by plotting the entire route of the road above water, meaning that the project no longer depended on expensive and time-consuming land acquisition.

“The breakthrough was not only in speeding up the projected construction time but also in reducing the project budget,” he said.

The road will be built on raised pillars above water and coastal wetlands, including 1.5 hectares of protected mangrove forest. The work around the mangroves has been approved by the Forestry Ministry.

Local campaigning NGO the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), has raised concerns about the environmental and social impact of the project.

“Besides the impact on mangroves and waterways, we are concerned that if the road crosses through that area, it may block access to the sea for subsistence fishing communities. It would need to be quite high for them to get their sailboats underneath,” said I Wayan Gendo Suardana, Walhi’s Bali head.

Suardana said claims that the toll road would cure Bali’s chronic traffic problems were flawed.

“It will just move traffic jams elsewhere. Bali needs regulations to promote public transportation and limit private vehicle ownership,” he said.

Filed under: Headlines

Tuberculosis on the Rise in Denpasar

Tuberculosis is an increasing issue in Bali, according to health officials.

Recently released figures for 2010 show a total of 479 people were listed as suffering from the disease in Denpasar. This marked an increase from 418 TB cases recorded in the Bali capital in 2009.

Chairman of the Denpasar branch of The Indonesian Tuberculosis Eradication Organisation (PPTI) I Made Sudhana Satrigraha said that as well as recording increasing cases of the disease, cure rates for TB in Denpasar were still below the national target.

Government targets require a full cure for 70 percent of TB patients whereas doctors in Denpasar are currently managing a rate of just 65 percent, Satrigraha said.

“The low level of recovery is largely due to the fact that patients change addresses frequently, so it is very difficult for health officers to monitor them during the treatment process,” he said.

Satrigraha said compliance with treatment was also a problem. A full six-month course of antibiotics was needed to cure TB, he said, but many patients stopped taking the drugs when they began to feel better after just a few months, leading to relapses.

He added that PPTI was making increasing efforts in the field of public awareness in Denpasar to highlight these issues to potential patients.

Satrigraha said the occurrence of HIV-AIDS exacerbated the threat of TB, and AIDS patients were particularly susceptible to the disease.

“The issue of HIV-AIDS could increase the occurrence of TB, because sufferers’ immune systems have very weak resistance,” he said.

Filed under: Health

December 2-8, 2011

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M; www.worldhealth.net), a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Is Happy Disposition Key to Long Life?
A British study finds that older adults who report feeling happy and content live longer than others. Andrew Steptoe, from the University College London, and colleagues monitored “positive affect” (states such as happiness, peacefulness and excitedness), and “negative affect” (anxiety and hostility, for example), among 3,850 people ages 52 to 79 years who were asked to describe their feelings – happy, excited, content, worried, anxious or fearful – four times during one 24-hour period. Then, the team tracked the participants for the next five years, and found that over 7 percent of those who died were in the lowest third of those with positive affect, compared to 6 percent in the third with the highest level of positive affect. Even after ruling out confounding factors, the researchers found that those who said they were the most happy were 35 percent less likely to die than those who described themselves as the least happy. The study authors conclude that: “The results endorse the value of assessing experienced affect, and the importance of evaluating interventions that promote happiness in older populations.”

Dr Klatz observes: This supports prior evidence that lends credence to the life-extending benefits of a positive attitude.

Co-Q10 Helps Reduce Exercise-Related Muscle Damage    
Co-enzyme Q10 – also known as ubiquinone – is a powerful antioxidant found in every cell of the body, where it has important functions within the mitochondria – the “powerhouses” of cells. Javier Diaz-Castro, from the University of Granada in Spain, and colleagues studied elite runners participating in a 50-kilometer run across Europe’s highest road in the Sierra Nevada. Twenty athletes participated in the study who were divided into two groups: one group received one 30mg capsule of Q10 two days before the run, three 30mg capsules the day before the run and one capsule one hour prior to the run. The other group received placebo at the same time. Whereas the placebo group displayed a 100-percent increase in oxidative stress markers, only 37.5 percent of the Q10-supplemented runners experienced the same stresses. Suggesting that Q10 countered the overexpression of certain pro-inflammatory compounds after exercise, the researchers conclude that: “Co Q10 supplementation before strenuous exercise decreases the oxidative stress and modulates the inflammatory signalling, reducing the subsequent muscle damage.”

Remarks Dr Goldman: Adding to the body of evidence that supports the role of Co-enzyme Q10 supplementation in counteracting oxidative stress, these researchers reveal a potentially important therapeutic approach to reduce the effects of strenuous exercise and related subsequent muscle damage.

Resveratrol May Benefit Oral Health
Resveratrol, a bioactive compound found in grapes and red wine, has been most extensively studied to date for its potential to increase lifespan in laboratory models of aging, as well as for its anti-inflammatory benefits that may extend cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes benefits in humans. R.W.K. Wong, from The University of Hong Kong, and colleagues studied the effects of resveratrol on two strains of bacteria involved in periodontal disease. After incubating the bacteria with resveratrol for one hour, significant decreases in the bacteria counts were observed; no viable bacterial cells were observed after 24 hours of incubation with resveratrol. The researchers conclude that: “The results suggest that resveratrol possesses significant antimicrobial properties on periodontal pathogens in vitro.”

Comments Dr Klatz: This team’s findings support emerging data that suggests the compound exerts vital anti-pathogenic activity.

Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at www.worldhealth.net, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavours and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

Filed under: Longevity News & Review

Global AIDS Funding Cuts Will Affect Millions, Activists Say

A US$1.6-billion cut in funding for AIDS treatment could affect millions of people as donors failed to meet commitments to the Global Fund, campaigners have said.

The Global Fund last week said it would not bankroll new AIDS treatment projects until 2014 because the world financial crisis forced donor countries to cut spending.

A civil society coalition including groups like aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign accused rich nations of using the crisis as an excuse.

“This is not an issue of funding. It comes down to broken promises,” said Daygan Eager, of the Budget Expenditure Monitoring Forum, which campaigns for AIDS funding in southern Africa.

“In a crisis, donating to the Global Fund is not good politics,” Eager told a press conference in Johannesburg.

The Global Fund is the world’s largest multilateral funder of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programmes, and says its programmes have saved 7.7 million lives.

It has financed 70 percent of anti-retroviral drugs in the developing world and is one of the major funders of medicine in sub-Saharan Africa, home to two thirds of all people living with AIDS.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and the European Commission reneged on funding commitments, while Germany is delaying disbursements, according to campaigners.

The announcement came as the United Nations reported last week that expanded access to treatment had slashed the number of AIDS deaths, as the number of people receiving treatment in sub-Saharan Africa had jumped by 20 percent between 2009 and 2010.

“We are calling on the international community not to give up on this. Local governments are doing their bit, but it’s not enough,” said Fazil Tezera, MSF head for Zimbabwe, which relies on the Global Fund for over 60 percent of its monies.

“The more we treat people, the fewer infections we will have,” said Eric Goemaere, South Africa medical officer at MSF (Doctors without Borders).

“Unfortunately the political message today is to treat less people.”

The last funding round in October 2010 fell $8.3 billion short of the Fund’s $20 billion target.

After the Fund’s board met last week in Ghana, the organisation announced that it would focus its more limited resources on poorer countries, and urged the rich world to follow through on promised donations.

Filed under: Health

Rare Strain of AIDS Virus ‘Moves Beyond Cameroon’

A very rare strain of AIDS virus previously found only among a few people in Cameroon has most probably spread outside the West African country, according to a case reported by The Lancet medical journal.

The first identified infection with the so-called “group N” strain of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was found in 1998 in a Cameroonian woman who had progressed to AIDS.

Since then, more than 12,000 HIV-infected patients living in Cameroon have been tested for group-N infection, but only 12 cases, including two couples, have ever been found.

The new case, reported by French doctors, involves a 57-year-old man who was admitted to the Saint Louis Hospital Paris in January suffering from fever, rash, swollen lymph glands and genital ulceration.

The patient had high levels of a virus in the HIV-1 family, but tests to pinpoint the particular strain proved inconclusive. On February 9, the patient developed facial paralysis.

The French team then carried out further tests on blood samples, which were found to react in an antibody essay of the N strain.

Tracing his sexual history, the researchers believe the infection was “probably” acquired from intercourse with a partner in Togo, from which he had just returned.

“This case of HIV-1 group-N primary infection indicates that this rare group is now circulating outside Cameroon, which emphasises the need for rigorous HIV epidemiological monitoring,” says the doctors, led by Professor Francois Simon.

The finding is important because the patient suffered not only severe symptoms but also a fast-track decline in his immune system, as shown in the number of his CD4 white blood cells.

He was given a powerful five-drug combination of antiretrovirals, to which he responded, but needs close monitoring in the future, the letter said.

Group N may have leapt to humans from chimpanzees, possibly through the handling of bushmeat infected with the simian equivalent of HIV, scientists say.

It is one of four subtypes of virus gathered in the HIV-1 family, the others being M, which is by far the most prevalent, O and P. The P strain, like O and N very rare, may have jumped to humans from gorillas, according to a study published in 2009.

There is also a minority viral family called HIV-2, which also may have passed to humans from animal primates.

Filed under: Health