Well, after having a good evening, watching a couple of Italian films last night, Life is Beautiful and Miracle on Madonna Street, I have a few links for you this morning.
The New York Post has an article about the battles being fought in Africa: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars to Iran
The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection.
Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150.
For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation.
When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran.
Read the rest at the link, it is a long article.
In other news, this time out of Brazil: Fast New Test Could Find Leprosy Before Damage Is Lasting
A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore.
American researchers developed the test, and Brazil’s drug-regulatory agency registered it last month. A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less.
“This will bring leprosy management out of the Dark Ages,” said Dr. William Levis, who has treated leprosy patients at a Bellevue Hospital outpatient clinic for 30 years.
Even more important, he said, it is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear. And the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome. Leprosy is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, related to the one that causes tuberculosis, but reproducing so slowly that symptoms often take seven years to appear.
This new test requires just a drop of blood and the results are given after only ten minutes.
The disease has historically been hard to diagnose, despite the popular, but inaccurate, image of fingers and toes dropping off victims. As the bacteria kill nerves, muscles atrophy and those digits curl into claws. After disuse and repeated injuries, the body reacts protectively by absorbing the bone calcium in the bones, shrinking the digits.
For centuries, some observant doctors have noticed early signs: the numb skin patches, missing eyebrows, drooping earlobes, bulging neck nerves, the flat “lion face” caused by nasal cartilage dissolving.
Since nothing could be done for them before the age of antibiotics, victims lost the use of their hands and had to beg. Some also went blind as the blinking muscles degenerated and their eyes dried out. In the Middle Ages, some towns banned lepers, while others required them to ring bells to warn of their approach. Religious charities created “leper colonies.”
And they still exist, even in the United States. A few elderly residents have chosen to stay on in Carville, La., and Kalaupapa, Hawaii, despite having been cured. Several thousand live at one in northeast Brazil, said John S. Spencer, a leprosy researcher at Colorado State University who has worked there. “People say things like ‘People outside won’t understand what’s wrong with my face,’ ” he said.
Nowadays, he said, most patients are cured before their faces are severely disfigured. Still, he said, he had read a survey in which health experts asked Brazilians whether they would rather have the human immunodeficiency virus or leprosy. Most chose H.I.V. — even though leprosy does not kill, can be cured, and does not make a victim risky to have sex with. “The stigma is that strong,” he said.
Wow. Dr Lewis says he hopes the Brazilian test becomes available in the US so he can test the families of his patients. It takes many antibiotics given over 6 months to a year to cure the disease…these new test provide doctors with more time to could help diagnosis leprosy before permanent nerve damage is done.
I guess my PAD is getting the best of me, I just don’t have the energy to give you more than these…and instead of posting links to more of the same news, give a look at some of the artsy reads below.
With the Academy Awards later tonight, I have two links about film and films.
Hollywood is getting ready to hand out the industry’s most prestigious film awards: the Oscars.
Among the contenders for best documentary is a film directed by an Israeli, and another by a Palestinian.
Both the Israeli The Gatekeepers and Palestinian 5 Broken Cameras tell the same story, but from two quite different perspectives.
Video at the link, and…
Digital is taking over Hollywood, but celluloid’s fans intend to fight on
They are some of the most powerful people in one of the most powerful entertainment industries in the world. And when Hollywood’s grandest gather at tonight’s Oscars there will be no end of smiles and handshakes. But they are also fans, and like all fans, they are given to apparently arcane squabbles. The latest is whether films should be shot on, well, film.
Some of the most successful directors, such as James Cameron and George Lucas, are so obsessed with having the best special effects that they have spent millions embracing computer-generated imagery and abandoned 35mm film. Others, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are wedded to traditional celluloid, which is becoming the film equivalent of the vinyl record.
Epics such as Les Misérables and Lincoln – both shot on 35mm – and digital creations such as Life of Pi have all made millions at the box office. While film buffs may talk about the “feel” of film, with all its subtleties, the reality is that pixilated perfection is winning – the whirring of 35mm film projectors silenced by the hum of digital machines.
Just take a look at the films nominated for best picture:
Although many love a sharp, digital picture with high definition, others prefer something a bit less “real”. The split among directors is highlighted in the nominations for Best Picture. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were shot on film. While Argo, Amour, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty were shot on digital. As was The Hobbit nominated in three technical Oscar categories.
David O Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, said: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m superstitious, maybe I’m romantic – I love film and it has a magic quality, it has a warmth. I may use digital cameras in a pinch because they are small and fast but I like film for its humaneness.” He is one of a number of directors determined to continue shooting on 35mm. Another is Nolan, who made the Dark Knight trilogy: “I am now constantly asked to justify why I want to shoot a film on film,” he said. Nolan likens digital to an “amazing” cookie until you realise “this is some horrible chemical crap that’s giving you this bad illusion that fools you at first.”
You can read more about what actors, cinematographers and directors think about digital vs film at the link up top. I tend to agree with the folks who love film…and think that digital sucks.
Another archaic form of technology that gets lost in this day in age is the typewriter. Take this woman’s use of the typewriter:
As romantic as the idea of working on a typewriter now seems, in reality they’re rather clunky and temperamental things. Writing with one would probably take us an age – and if we made a mistake? Well, forget it.
So imagine trying to draw with one.
London based artist Keira Rathbone, originally from Dorset, does exactly that; clustering together marks made by letters, numbers and symbols, to make brilliant, one-off images.
The English artist clusters letters, numbers and symbols from a typewriter keyboard to composite images; from portraits of friends and celebrities to landscapes and still life. A closer look at what looks like a sketch of Wimborne Minster, a church in East Dorset, England, reveals swirls of ampersands and the ticks of quotations marks.
Watch the video below to see the artist at work, and click through the slideshow to see examples of her typewriter art. Visit keirarathbone.com for more examples of her work.
Be sure to take a look at the pictures, Rathone’s art is impressive…
Another obsolete form of technology is shown below…Keypunch Orchestra: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive
June 1937. “Baltimore, Maryland. For every Social Security account number issued an ’employee master card’ is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank form SS-5, is transferred to this master card in the form of upended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows records office workers punching master cards on key punch machines.” Whew. Longest caption ever? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
That is all I have for you this morning. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, see ya later on tonight…should be quite a show.
So what are you all reading and blogging about today?
Just so everyone will know what’s going on–we are trying out having some ads on the blog so that we can raise a little money for ongoing improvements. We hope no one will be too bothered by this. We are working on blocking ads that we don’t think belong on “the little blog that could.” If you see something offensive, you can let one of us know.
Now for today’s news links. As of late last night, the right wing nuts were still in an uproar about Obama’s birth certificate and whatever else they can think of to try to make him seem illegitimate. I don’t get it. There are so many things to criticize about Obama–why focus on these nutty conspiracy theories? I hate to say it, but it has to be racism and/or xenophobia. Check this out from birther start Orly Taitz:
“Look, I applaud this release. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” so-called “birther queen” Orly Taitz told me in one of her many media interviews this morning. “I credit Donald Trump in pushing this issue.”
But she still has her suspicions. Specifically, Taitz thinks that the birth certificate should peg Obama’s race as “Negro” and not “African.”
“In those years … when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African’,” Taitz says. “In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro’.”
Taitz says she’s not giving up her fight. She also claims Obama isn’t a “natural born citizen” because she uses a standard that requires both parents to be American citizens — a misreading of the Constitution which if enforced would have rendered several other American Presidents ineligible.
These people are utterly shameless. I wouldn’t dare go look at World Net Daily to see what they’re saying. Oh wait…the Washington Post did it for me.
“It raises far more questions than it answers,” said Joseph Farah, editor in chief of WorldNetDaily and birther extraordinaire, almost breathless between media interviews.
Farah, whose online publication has run hundreds of articles over the past couple of years questioning Obama’s citizenship, professed delight at the latest development. So did real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who has found that raising questions about Obama’s legitimacy is political jet fuel for someone pondering a presidential run.
And across the pond they’re laughing at us.
Has there ever been a more absurdly surreal moment, even in US politics, that unchallengeable theatre of the absurd and the surreal? One moment, we were watching a property magnate, with one eye on the presidency, the other on his reality TV show ratings, and puffed up like a bullfrog, rejoicing on an airport tarmac in New Hampshire that America’s President of two years had finally made public his birth certificate.
The next, America’s TV networks interrupted their schedules to cut to the White House, where that self-same President appeared to confirm the momentous fact: not that Barack Obama had indeed been born, but that the happy event indeed took place, as no sane person has ever doubted, on the unimpeachably American soil of Hawaii, one August evening in 1961.
Of late, however, America has seemed to be taking leave of its senses. A quarter of the population, polls showed, and close on half of Republicans, still refused to believe that unassailable fact.
Sometimes it’s just so embarrassing to live in the same country with these bumpkins.
From Think Progress, historian Douglas Brinkley is calling for NBC to drop Trump’s show (I didn’t know he had one) and for corporate sponsors to pull their ads.
Also from Think Progress, another Republican is schooled by his constituents at a town hall meeting.
Rep. Charlie Gibson (R-NY) felt the heat of that movement last week when constituents responded to his fear mongering about undocumented immigrants not paying taxes by asking him, “You mean like GE?!” Yesterday, at yet another town hall meeting captured on YouTube, his constituents angrily and passionately rejected the GOP’s budget plan and demanded that the rich pay their fair share.
Check out the video:
Yelled out at the end: “Tax the rich!” Keep fighting back America!
Minkoff Minx can update us on the storms hitting the Southern states. From the LA Times this morning: Deadly storms, tornadoes kill more than 170 in South
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— A wave of tornado-spawning storms strafed the South on Wednesday and early Thursday, splintering buildings across hard-hit Alabama and killing at least 178 people in five states.
At least 128 died in Alabama alone, officials said early Thursday. Among the cities hit hard by a tornado was Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The mayor said sections of the city were obliterated and its infrastructure decimated.
“What we faced today was massive damage on a scale we have not seen in Tuscaloosa in quite some time,” Mayor Walter Maddox told reporters Wednesday.
The tornado “paralyzed many city operations that directly respond to events like we experienced today,” he said. “Pray for us.”
Did you know you can get leprosy from an Armadillo?
“A preponderance of evidence shows that people get leprosy from these animals,” said Richard W. Truman, director of microbiology at the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge and lead author of a paper detailing the discovery in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Until now, scientists believed that leprosy was passed only from human to human. Every year, about 100 to 150 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the malady, which is also known as Hansen’s disease. Though many have traveled to countries where the disease is relatively common, as many as a third don’t know where they picked it up.
Most of those cases are in Texas and Louisiana, where leprosy-infected armadillos live too.
The good news is that leprosy can now be treated with a combination of antibiotics.
I know this news post has been on the lightweight side, but it’s the end of the semester and I’m stressed out and don’t want to deal with anything too heavy. Feel free to do that in the comments though. What are you reading and blogging about today?