Chinese folly in Eithiopia/Kenya

China may be the next best imperial beast but it should be prepared to get bloody noses everywhere (not that it particularly cares) within the hard as well as soft boundaries.

Africa’s fourth-largest lake could drop by 20 metres, causing an ecological and human disaster to rival the shrinking of the Aral Sea in central Asia, if Ethiopia goes ahead with massive irrigation projects linked to a giant dam, according to a university paper….Lake
Turkana, located almost entirely in Kenya but fed by the river Omo,
which rises in Ethiopia, will be severely impacted by the 243 metre-high
Gibe III dam, which is due to be completed this year, says the study,
published by the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre. It suggests water levels could drop by half, devastating the lake’s fisheries and affecting the livelihoods of 170,000 agro-pastoralists.

…. protests outside the Chinese embassy in Nairobi, with campaigners calling on
Beijing to halt funding for the scheme. Angelei says the Nairobi
government is divided on the issue, but that at least protests are legal
in Kenya, unlike in Ethiopia, and she urges donors to heed Human Rights Watch’s concerns that “funds given to Ethiopia are not used to oppress its people”….Although
progress on Gibe III has been considerably delayed by funding
constraints, China signed a memorandum of understanding last year to
finance construction on another mega dam on the Omo, Gibe IV, and plans
further dams on the Blue Nile as well.

Ethiopia’s plans for
constructing dams on the Nile have traditionally met with robust
opposition from Egypt, which has tried to maintain control of more than
half of the Nile’s flow through the colonial era Nile Waters Agreement, as well as through threats of armed force.
…Perhaps
reflecting Cairo’s recent decline as regional strongman, Burundi last
week joined five other upstream nations in the new Nile Basin Initiative,
creating the two-thirds majority of riverine states required to put the
new treaty into force, and thereby effectively wresting control of the
Nile waters from Egypt and Sudan. It threatens Egypt’s right to 55.5bn
cubic metres annually, conferred by the previous agreement.

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(HIV) Cure is a 4 letter word (miracle is 7)

We can go back to having as much sex as we want  (unfortunately STDs are again on the rise). However the promise of GM cure is now endless and that must be a good thing (we like living like Mr Micawber). The best goodies (like age reversal therapy) will be reserved for the 1%, the “annual income twenty
pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six” folks will perhaps need to wait for Indian origin generic therapy to take shape (and if WTO approves).

Scientists have been excited about the prospect of genetically modifying
patients’ immune cells to make them resistant to disease since doctors
effectively cured an HIV patient in 2008. Timothy Brown, also known as
the Berlin patient, had a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukaemia.
Spotting their chance to treat both conditions, his doctors found a
donor who carried the rare mutation that made their immune cells
resistant to HIV. Immune cells are made in the bone marrow. Since the
operation, Brown has had no detectable level of HIV in his body and no
longer takes anti-HIV drugs.

Bone marrow transplants are risky
operations and cannot be given to everyone with HIV. But modifying
patients’ immune cells might be the next best thing.
One shortcoming of
the latest therapy is that the patients still make normal immune cells,
which can and will be infected by the HIV virus. Levine said one
hope for the future was to genetically modify stem cells in the
patient’s bone marrow that grow into immune cells. Those patients might
then produce a steady flow of resistant immune cells, leaving HIV
nowhere to hide.

The latest treatment was not without its problems. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine,
the authors report a total of 130 mild or moderate side effects, 32 of
which were linked to the modified cells rather than the infusion
procedure. The most common reactions were fever, chills, headaches,
muscle and joint pain. One patient was taken to the hospital’s emergency
department after falling ill. The scientists note too that the
patients’ body odour took on the smell of garlic, a consequence of them
breaking down dimethyl sulfoxide, used to preserve the genetically
modified cells.

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Kachins against ka-ching

The dams across the Irrawaddy were to be built and the power exported to Big Brother. However the Burmese govt suddenly had a change in heart, in part driven by resistance to the project from Kachins who populate the headwaters and have been displaced. BB has now launched a “win hearts and minds” operation but the natives remain unconvinced. There is also fear that if/when general Thein Sein steps down the projects will be restarted and the lands that they hold sacred will be no more.

It was a project conceived, financed and – so far partially – built by the
state-owned Chinese Power Investment Corporation (CPI), to take
electricity across the border and help industrialise the Chinese
province of Yunnan. At 152 metres high and with a potential capacity of
6,000 MW of electricity, the Myitsone was to be the largest of seven
dams at the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River. If completed, it will be
the 15th largest dam in the world.
But soon after work started in 2009,
the project ran into trouble.

Environmentalists objected because
the Irrawaddy is Burma’s most important water resource, supporting a
thriving fishing industry, irrigating Burma’s rice bowl, and supplying
silt to the Irrawaddy delta….Ordinary Burmese objected because the Irrawaddy is the country’s spiritual
lifeblood, the subject of stories, songs and poems. With around 90% of
the electricity from the dam going to China, the Burmese saw little benefit for themselves….Finally,
the people of Kachin state objected because the 296-square-mile
reservoir would not only submerge 63 villages, it would also drown a
sacred site at the confluence of the N’Mai and Mali rivers. As
work got underway, the Kachin Independence Army broke a 17-year-old
ceasefire to attack the dam site. In 2010, 10 bombs exploded around the
dam site, killing a Chinese worker.

Still the Burmese government pushed ahead with the project, keen to placate Burma’s staunchest ally and biggest trading partner. Then in 2011 Burma’s new president, Thein Sein, abruptly announced a halt to construction,
and promised that the dam would not be built during his term in office.

It was a stunning turnaround that infuriated the Chinese.

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SAsia (mostly India) and the USA


Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally of the USA and managing that relationship will
be in the best interests of the USA in order to ensure a smooth passage out of
Afghanistan (not to mention the real motivation/fear: Taliban will capture the
nuclear complex). Accordingly today we have the announcement that $280 million in military aid and $446 million in civilian aid (reduced from $703 million in 2013) will be directed to Islamabad for 2014 (this information is as per Times of India, Dawn confirms $280M mil budget but states $720M for civilian aid). The announcement from the US State Department (excerpt below) is curiously worded to say the least (suggesting perhaps that the lower amount of civilian aid will help improve US-India relations).

“The
OCO (Overseas Contingency Operations) resources will support critical US
activities such as sustaining close cooperation with Pakistan, ensuring
the safety of Pakistani nuclear installations, working with Pakistan to
facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan, and promoting improved
relations with India,
” the State Department said as it proposed USD 446
million in civilian aid to Pakistan.

Sri Lanka and Nepal are probably too deep in China’s embrace.
The dark horse is Bangladesh and how long the Hasina govt is expected to
survive (perhaps with Indian backing), the
opposition BNP won 43-34 in the local elections held in February.

The Election Commission has just announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls- April 7 to May 12 in nine phases over 34 days. India (right now) is very much in a cold embrace with the USA, perhaps because (a) it has
proven difficult to mobilize India against China and (b) due to lack of faith in the present regime. The question of interest is how regime change will help improve market access for US companies (unlikely, all
parties against FDI in retail for example). Even if NaMo wins, there may be a
tilt towards China and (depending on how the west reacts to his rise) a frozen relationship
with the USA.

Japan, China and Korea (and perhaps France and old-timer Russia) will
IMO outpace USA both in the commercial and government sectors. The
real bottle-neck is infrastructure development, right now the Japanese are involved
in building the transport corridors.
 The
Chinese have expressed interest as well (30% of total!!! what do they want
in return???).
 Regardless of all the
sweet
talking editorials
(see excerpt below) the USA is not proposing to sign up
for any such initiative. There lies a hope that the hammer blow on IT exports will be softened (unlikely). There are in addition a number of other trade fights looming on patents (see below) and solar PV installations. Finally, Hillary
is rumored to having a soft spot for India
so the next administration may be
more receptive to Indian concerns (but still no special relationship).

Our
successes are significant:
a
nearly fivefold expansion of US-India trade between 2000-12 to reach almost
$100 billion, a thriving defence relationship that is founded on a common
strategic vision and a commitment to expand our partnership across most fields
of human endeavour — from education to innovation, intelligence sharing to
counterterrorism, space collaboration to energy cooperation — including in
areas that once seemed impossible given where our relations were just a few
short years ago……It is becoming widely accepted that our
converging interests will shape Indo-Pacific strategic and economic geography,
and with it the future of the 21st century and half the world’s population that
call this region home.

all this sweet music composed by Neha Biswal above to be contrasted with the grim reality below

US
drug companies complain that India has rejected patents for some
blockbuster drugs (like Novartis’ Gleevec), while issuing a compulsory
licence (which ignores patent rights) for Bayer’s anti-cancer drug. They
say India is flouting established norms on intellectual property rights
(IPR), cheating patent owners of billions, and conferring a bonanza on
Indian producers of cheap substitutes (generic drugs). US companies want
the US International Trade Commission to investigate India’s treatment
of IPR, and recommend sanctions (under Section 301 of US trade laws) if
required
…..Few countries stand up to the threat of US sanctions :
the costs typically exceed the benefits. But India has refused to
co-operate even in a USITC visit to New Delhi, saying its bureaucrats
are too busy with other things. India has told the US that WTO rules
provide for all members to settle patent disputes through that body, not
through unilateral action.
India is confident that its IPR rules are
WTO compliant. For that very reason, the US has avoided WTO, and is
attempting bilateral pressure instead.  

Silver Lining: Indian
companies claim to have invested 11 billion dollars in the USA and created 100k
jobs.
If true this is quite promising. Indian (private sector) lobbying is also ramping up (but still small) and may
be in the long run more effective in managing the relationship than any govt
initiated lobbying.

One trend that is expected to continue
is the induction of more and more Indian Origin Persons (IOP) to the royal
court.
All appointments are (a bit) political in nature, the above may then reflect
favorably on the persuasion powers (aka fund-raising skills) of the
Indian-American lobby. This is certainly a good thing (in and of itself) but the I-A lobby may find itself to be a divided house re: NaMo (reflecting divisions within expat Indians).

Top
IOPs in Obama administration (total now exceeds 50): 
Rajiv Shah (administrator
of USAID), Nisha Desai Biswal (assistant secretary of State for South Asian
Affairs), Azita Raji (member, President’s Commission on White House
Fellowship), Islam Siddiqui (chief agricultural negotiator, US trade
representative), Vinai Thummalapally (executive director, Select USA,
department of commerce), Vivek Murthy (surgeon general). Awaiting appointments:
Arun Kumar (assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the US and
Foreign Commercial Service) and Puneet Talwar (assistant secretary of state for
Political- Military Affairs). If
confirmations proceed as expected, two assistant secretary of state positions
at the state department would be held by Indian-Americans.

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A new (unwelcome) guest

As if we do not have enough problems with real polio here is possible evidence of a copycat virus. Permanent guests of Hotel California beware!!


The first known case appeared in
2012. Sofia Jarvis in Berkeley began to experience wheezing and
difficulty breathing. The 2-year-old spent days in the intensive care
unit at Children’s Hospital Oakland. Doctors thought she had asthma. On a follow-up visit, her mother Jessica Tomei, 37, realized something else was wrong.

“As
we were leaving the doctor’s office, I noticed that she went to grab
something with her left arm and she stopped, midway,” Tomei said. Eventually
Sofia was brought to Van Haren’s clinic with “a unique set of
symptoms.” She was treated with steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin
therapy, used to reduce the severity of infections by giving the body
antibodies to protect against bacteria and viruses.
“None of it
helped,” said Van Haren, a neurology professor at the Stanford
University School of Medicine.


“We don’t have a final case count, but it’s
probably in the neighborhood of 25 cases, all in California,” said Van
Haren. The median age of those stricken is 12.

The children don’t have
polio, but their symptoms look much like the disease that terrified
generations of parents beginning in the 1890s. Patients lose the
ability to move their arms or legs, which “just dangle, like empty
balloons,” Van Haren said. Because the children can’t move their limbs,
the muscles atrophy and the limb shrivels.


The
cause of most of these cases is not known. Some clinical and laboratory
features, such as the pattern of inflammation seen in the spinal cord
on MRI, are consistent with a viral process,” said Glaser. Van Haren suspects the culprit is an enterovirus.
That is a family of viruses that includes polio but also the milder
hand, foot and mouth disease, common in infants and children. Unfortunately while there’s a vaccine for the polio virus, “we don’t have vaccines for the other enteroviruses,” Van Haren said.

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Traitor

Kamila Shamsie in her own words. The most thought provoking are these words below:

If you had asked me my feelings about the union jack, I suspect I’d have
said the image with which I associate it most closely is Jessica Ennis smiling her beautiful smile with a flag around her shoulders at the Olympics
– a joyful thing to think about for even those of us who roll our eyes
at all nationalism. But I had spent the last couple of years writing a
novel set during the Raj, and as the camera clicked, I found myself
remembering pictures of the union jack strung along the streets of
Peshawar in the days of empire. It brought about a strange unease, which
wasn’t in any way about my feelings toward Britain, but rather my
feelings towards Pakistan, a nation of which I would continue to be a
citizen.
 

I had thought dual citizenship would feel like a gain, not a
loss. Instead, as I took my seat in the chamber I found myself
reflecting on what it means to be from a country in which acquiring a
second passport is regarded across the board as reason for celebration.
Weeks later, I was trying to explain this to British-Libyan writer,
Hisham Matar, who knew exactly what I meant. “In that moment you are
betrayed and betrayer both,” he said. “You’re betraying your country by
seeking another passport, and you’re betrayed by your country which
makes you want to seek another passport”

IMO it is a good thing that India does not permit dual citizenship. Naturally a “best of both worlds,” “cost-free” dual citizenship seems like a perfect choice. But this I firmly believe, citizenship is not an entitlement, nor should it be easy to attain (or buy). Also that your (original) country needs you more than your (adopted) country. Today, in her own words, Pakistan has lost more than Britain has gained.That is a pity.

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Eternal youth

the promised land where (rich) people will stay young forever.… as always…Bahamas

Bahamas resident Peter Nygard says he is receiving stem cell therapy
and that a study from the University of Miami suggests he is getting
younger, the Bahamas Tribune
reports.  

“They are looking at me, and my markers have shown exactly
that I have been actually reversing my ageing and getting younger,” the
70-year-old says.



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Gorakh Hill for a quiet time

The highest point of Sindh, due for a major makeover. The views are remarkable and the journey is for the adventurous. Pleasantly surprised by the fact that Sindh has a 5688 ft peak and also by the name (probably since ancient times).

Yet as we climbed up towards the summit of Gorakh Hill, the mountain
hues were stunning. There was grey, ochre, brown and a speckle of green
here and there. The natural sculptures, fashioned by wind and water no
doubt, were a sight to behold. The climb was only punctuated by the
occasional sighting of a lonely shepherd tending his flock or a camel
herder watching over his beasts, or construction workers being hauled to
the top.


The sights as one climbed up the hill were indeed something for sore
eyes, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon in the US. At night, a canopy of
stars was visible in the clear sky above — more stars than one could
count. What is more, the silence was all-encompassing while the air was
crisp and cool.


A VIP rest house exists along with a regular guest house, while staff
quarters and tourist huts are under construction. While the weather in
Dadu and Johi below was pleasant, on Gorakh Hill it was absolutely
nippy. And as the sun came down, the cold started to bite. Late at
night, as load-shedding hit and the wind started howling on the pitch
dark hilltop, the feeling was otherworldly.

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