Death penalty out in Rwanda

Rwanda abolishes the death penalty:

Rwanda’s parliament voted late on Friday to abolish the death penalty, a move that should clear the way for suspects in the 1994 genocide to be extradited back to Rwanda.

You might think that survivors of such a horrible genocide would want to see those who victimized them put to death, but the president of a group of survivors says otherwise:

Survivors of the slaughter welcomed the decision, noting that the death penalty had existed in Rwandan law before the genocide.

“It didn’t deter people from picking up machetes to slaughter their fellows – that’s why we are not bothered by its removal,” said Theodore Simburudali, president of the Ibuka genocide survivors’ group.

So Rwanda left the fold–that still leaves the US in the company of other death penalty-wielding countries, like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China… But hey, there’s hope…at least Iran now exceeds the USA in number of child offenders executed since 1990. Progress!

Sierra Leone takes one step forward…and half a step back

I previously mentioned Sierra Leone when discussing the effect of warfare on the emergence of disease. Sierra Leone has long been a country divided, and suffered through more than a decade of civil war (1991-2002) and decades of instability prior to that. Since the end of the war, changes have happened, but slowly. Most recently, the good news is that their Parliament voted to increase the age of marriage from 11 to 18 as part of a new childs’ rights bill. However, they stopped short from taking action on another controversial area: female genital mutilation (FGM), otherwise known as “female circumcision.” More after the jump.
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Well, this is a new low…

Well, this is a new low. I ran across this blog post from a few months back, discussing the Imus situation:

Anytime a person is negatively labeled because of gender or race, this affronts our shared human dignity. And we should be especially careful here, for this has not always been such an obvious evil. It took the civil rights and women’s rights movements to raise our awareness, and the work is not yet finished.

Okay, sounds reasonable. So far. However, he continues:

There is another assault on human dignity at work in our midst, only this one based on geography. A whole class of persons has only provisional rights, all because of where they live.

Who is this class of people? The unborn.

Yes, the hypocrisy is astounding. While he argues that “the work is not finished” regarding respect for our shared human dignity, he’s managed to strip pregnant women of any dignity at all–reducing them to simply an address. Not even a “vessel” or other flowery language like some other abortion foes–just a generic shelter.

Man, between this and Behe, my irony meter is smoking this week…

Waxing indignant: pointless?

In the comments to the XDR-TB update post, Scott suggested that bloggers were putting too much emphasis on whether the TB patient was stupid/arrogant/self-centered/whatever, and later that “waxing indignant is pointless.” I started this as a response to those comments, but thought instead it might be an interesting conversation–is it pointless? Certainly indignation about this guy’s behavior won’t change what’s happened. Indignation about creationists’ abuse of science won’t make them stop. Does it have a point? My thoughts on it below the fold.
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XDR-TB travels around the globe, update: broader implications of one man’s jaunt

I blogged earlier about the Georgia man who globe-trotted while infected with XDR-TB. I wrote that post late Tuesday evening, and since then, a number of other details about his case have come to light–and they’re not encouraging. In fact, this serves as a nice example of a convergence of a number of areas I’ve written about before–obviously, the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the terrible position it leaves us in, the politics and policies of quarantine/isolation (and how they’d be enforced), and the global spread of infectious disease, so I figured this would warrant another post on the topic.

First, the “compelling personal reason” he had for traveling that was mentioned in early articles was this: that he he was getting married in Greece and then honeymooning in various stops around Europe. Now, I’m probably just unsentimental and maybe a bit too practical at times, but it seems to be a really poor idea to potentially expose not only your future wife (who apparently was tested in January and negative for TB) but also your relatives and other loved ones to a highly deadly bacterium on what’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. I mean, sure, you want people to remember your wedding, but not because they contracted tuberculosis there.

That’s only the beginning of the dumbassery, unfortunately–it gets worse. More after the jump.
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Waiting for antivirals

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I reviewed the HIV/AIDS chapter in Tom Bethell’s book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.” I discussed his characterization of AIDS in Africa:

As the chapter title suggests, Bethell claims that AIDS in Africa is a made-up epidemic; AIDS is really due to simple malnutrition and dirty water supplies, rather than a virus. Government officials, scientists, and journalists are either too brainwashed or too scared to speak against the “AIDS orthodoxy.” The evil liberals aren’t concerned about AIDS because the real concern of the left, according to Bethell, is overpopulation in Africa (and hence the emphasis on condom use to prevent AIDS). Public health officials aren’t actually concerned about disease in Africa–just overpopulation.

Others suggest AIDS is due directly to use of antiretroviral drugs–that it’s the treatment, not the virus, that causes the immunodeficiency that characterizes AIDS. However, a new story, people in Africa are dying because they’re not getting drugs, not because of excess use of them. I know–not exactly a headline, right? What makes this different, however, is just why HIV+ patients aren’t getting the drugs, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres report (downloadable here). More after the jump.
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YearlyKos science panel update

….or, where I impersonate PZ.

As PZ noted last month, he was tapped to moderate the science caucus at YearlyKos, featuring fellow Sciencebloggers Chris Mooney and Ed Brayton, along with Cosmic Variance’s Sean Carroll. However, PZ had to go and get himself some other plans, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen to step in. It’s still early, so I’m brainstorming and have read the comments at Pharyngula and DailyKos regarding what everyone would like to get out of the science sessions at YearlyKos, but in case you didn’t see either of those threads the first time around, or if you did but have additional ideas, feel free to toss them out here. Since it’s YearlyKos, we’re looking at the intersection of science, blogging, mainstream journalism, and politics, so any of that is fair game…

Verdict back in Australian HIV denial case

I wrote a post back in February about HIV’s “Kitzmiller vs. Dover” trial. The trial was appealing the sentence of one Andre Chad Parenzee, a native of South Africa who’d been convicted in Australia back in 2004 of infecting one woman with HIV (and exposing two others). Parenzee knew of his HIV+ status, telling the women he had cancer instead and not disclosing his infection nor using condoms. In the appeal, the HIV “dissidents” led the way, with Valendar Turner and Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos of the Perth group taking the stand and denying that HIV even existed. Papadopulos-Eleopulos also uttered this memorable line:

She was asked by prosecutor Sandi McDonald whether “you would have unprotected vaginal sex with a HIV-positive man”.

“Any time,” replied Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos.

Well, the decision is in…
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World TB day 2007: “TB anywhere is TB everywhere”

Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is as old as civilization. The bacterium infects approximately a third of the world’s population–roughly 2 billion individuals. It’s estimated that 8 million new cases are contracted each year–around a new infection every second. ~2 million individuals die as a result of TB every year. The bacterium also plays a prominent role in the history of microbiology: it was on March 24, 1882, that Robert Koch announced his discovery of the causative agent of the dread disease tuberculosis:

“If the importance of a disease for mankind is measured by the number of fatalities it causes, then tuberculosis must be considered much more important than those most feared infectious diseases, plague, cholera and the like. One in seven of all human beings dies from tuberculosis. If one only considers the productive middle-age groups, tuberculosis carries away one-third, and often more.”

Unlike many other feared infectious diseases of Koch’s time, TB still remains a significant killer worldwide, and its effect has only been exacerbated by the AIDS epidemic. However, a concentrated effort is being made to again attract attention to this bacterium.
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New Tangled Bank, and other must-read posts

The most recent edition of Tangled Bank, your one-stop science blogging carnival, is up over at Living the Scientific Life.

In addition, there are a few other posts I’ve been meaning to plug:

Nick on Texas House overturning mandatory HPV vaccination.

Burt at Panda’s Thumb on Why you should care if cattle get fourth-generation cephalosporins and why doctors need to know about evolution (a takedown of this Discovery Institute essay).

And a nice follow-up to those: Mike on why antibiotic resistance matters.