Tuesday, August 5, 2008

12-year-old with HIV to open world AIDS conference

Associated Press Writer


Keren Dunaway was 5 when her parents used drawings to explain to her that they both had the HIV virus - and so did she.

Now the 12-year-old is one of the most prominent AIDS activists in Latin America and a rarity in a region where few children are willing to break the silence and tell their classmates they have HIV for fear of rejection. She edits a children's magazine on the virus.

On Sunday evening, Keren shares the stage with the Mexican president and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as they open an international AIDS conference.

She flashes a dimpled smile, exposing a row of braces, and settles comfortably into her chair before expertly fastening on a microphone. She talks matter-of-factly about the virus she has had since birth.

"It's like a little ball that has little dots, and is inside me, sort of swimming inside me," she said in an interview with The Associated Press, curling her fist as she recalls what her parents explained to her with drawings long ago.

Keren's openness about her HIV status comes as the virus's victims grow increasingly younger.

Worldwide, people ages 15-24 accounted for 45 percent of people infected with HIV in 2007, according to the 2008 U.N. AIDS report.

In Latin America, 55,000 of the nearly 2 million people with the virus were under 15 years old, the vast majority of them infected by their mothers. Only 36 percent of pregnant women in the region receive medicine to prevent transmission, although that is an increase of 26 percent since 2004.

And while more than 60 percent of the adults with HIV receive antiretroviral drugs in Latin America, only about one-third of children do. Experts say less research and funding has been dedicated to medicine for HIV-positive children, who require smaller doses and additional medication to offset the aggressiveness of antiretrovirals.

Even so, children born with HIV are increasingly looking forward to long lives.

"There's a whole new generation of young people that were born with HIV that are reaching adulthood. It presents very interesting challenges," said Nils Katsberg, UNICEF'S director of Latin America and the Caribbean.

It won't be easy encouraging HIV-positive children to speak out in Latin America, where talking openly about sexuality is often taboo.

When she first started school, Keren's classmates refused to play with her. Speaking out about HIV made all the difference. At 9, she began accompanying her parents - founders of the AIDS advocacy group "Llaves" - on talks to schools. She has visited half-a-dozen countries to share her story.

Last year, she started up "Llavecitas," a children's version of a magazine her parents publish. The Llaves foundation distributes 10,000 copies every two months across Honduras.

But too often, children with HIV "live in a culture of secrecy," said Maria Villanueva Medina, a psychologist with Casa de la Sal, a group that runs an orphanage for children with HIV in Mexico City.

"They can't talk about their diagnosis in the school because they can be kicked out. They can't talk about it in their communities with their neighbors."

At Casa de la Sal, children are told about the virus around the same age as Keren was, but few dare to tell their schoolmates even where they live.

Casa de la Sal is adapting to a new reality. When it first opened 22 years ago, many of the children died by the time they reached their teens. Today, the orphanage has not had a death in 10 years. The government provides antiretrovirals.

Faced with the challenge of preparing the children for adulthood, the orphanage eventually began sending them to regular schools instead of giving classes within the institution.

The hope is that someday, many will be outspoken advocates for their own cause.

"We need to start getting young people involved in leadership again in HIV and AIDS because it's easy to get kind of complacent," said Joe Cristina, whose Los Angeles-based Children Affected by AIDS Foundation helps fund the orphanage.

Keren writes an upbeat editorial each week. ("I want to congratulate all the boys and girls who have graduated and got good grades. Keep it up!!") She is now popular among her classmates.

She takes singing and acting lessons, dreams of going to Hollywood and breathlessly notes that she shares the same Zodiac sign - Sagittarius - and favorite color - purple - with her teen idol, Miley Cyrus.

"Sometimes I have so much fun that I forget I have this" virus, she said.

But she often gets e-mails from other children with HIV worried about telling the truth to their friends.

"I tell them to first explain about the disease, how its transmitted, how it can't be transmitted, what it is," she said. "And then they should tell them with confidence that they have it - if they want."

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The world's oldest form of medicine may cure aches and shed pounds

by Eric Lenkowitz

There's no way to make it sound pleasant—dozens of thin metal slivers inserted into the skin will send chills up just about any first-timer's spine. But it may be worth it. Acupuncture can drastically speed recovery from sports injuries and increase the effectiveness of your workouts. It is also known to help shed pounds, reduce stress, and improve performance in the bedroom—so you can return your body to the temple it's meant to be.

THE THEORY. Envision your body as a building and the meridians that transport energy as the pipework. "Water flows from one pipe to another," says Igor Mayzenberg, L.Ac., a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based acupuncturist who studied his trade in New York and the former Soviet Union. "If there is stagnation, water cannot pass through." In simple terms, an injury blocks the movement of energy. Acupuncture helps reopen those channels in order for the body to heal itself.

PUTTING IT TO USE. With regular treatments, even the most healthy soul will experience a spike in energy levels as circulation is improved and the body gets the most of nutrients you consume. Weekly visits are ideal, but even going biweekly "can help with maintaining health, improving stamina, boosting immunity, and getting better sleep," says Lawrence Lau, M.D., a dean at Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Los Angeles. If you exercise regularly, "it gives you more energy to do your workouts," he says.

With injuries, acupuncture can help reduce swelling and even alleviate pain. "You literally feel the results," says Philippe Manicom, L.Ac., who regularly treats Miami Heat stars Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, among others. As for weight loss, don't expect to lose eight inches on a waistline with two weeks of needle-work, but it can get you on the right track by decreasing appetite and improving the digestive process. Mayzenberg says the ear points work best, because they calm the spirits down, fight hunger, and speed up metabolism. "If the appetite is decreased, the body will burn more fat," says Lau.

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Man Sues Wal-Mart Over Tainted Peppers

Wal-Mart, which is being sued over a Colorado store purchase, said it destroyed all Mexico-grown jalapeños following an FDA warning last month.
Wal-Mart, which is being sued over a Colorado store purchase, said it destroyed all Mexico-grown jalapeños following an FDA warning last month. (By Gregory Bull -- Associated Press)

Washington Post Staff Writer

A Colorado man is suing Wal-Mart and an unnamed supplier, saying that he fell ill after eating jalapeño peppers bought from the company tainted with the same strain of salmonella that has infected more than 1,300 people over the past three months.

Brian Grubbs' wife purchased the peppers at a Wal-Mart store in Cortez, Colo., on June 26, according to the lawsuit. Grubbs eats them raw on sandwiches and said in the suit that within a few days he began experiencing diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, among other symptoms. He also claimed that he was severely dehydrated and could not walk without assistance.

Tests of his stool and the peppers were positive for Salmonella saintpaul, according to the lawsuit. Federal health officials on Wednesday identified jalapeño and serrano peppers from a Mexican farm as the source of the outbreak, which initially was linked to tomatoes.

The suit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Colorado, alleges that Wal-Mart and its supplier were negligent in distributing and selling tainted peppers and liable for the quality of its merchandise, among other claims.

"Hopefully, this lawsuit will send Wal-Mart a bit of a message that they are just as responsible as the farmer in Mexico for providing healthful food," attorney William Marler said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Davis Moore said the retailer had not yet reviewed the suit and would not comment on Grubbs' claims. She said the company destroyed all Mexico-grown jalapeños following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning on July 25.

"Obviously, food safety is very important to us. It's a matter we take very seriously," she said. "We'll take a very close look at it."

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The 10 Real Reasons Why Geeks Make Better Lovers

Editor's note: Some links in this story lead to adult material and are not suitable for viewing at work. All links of this nature will be noted with "NSFW" after them.

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I've read recently that geeks make better lovers because they are so unaccustomed to romance that they will do anything for their mates. Also because geeks don't have the social skills to cheat (wanna bet?).

Yeah, ha ha, let's chuckle at the stereotypes. Might as well add that geeks won't waste valuable relationship time watching football. Or that geeks are clueless and fashion-impaired and have the social skills of a bowl of fruit.

But you know what? Humorous Top-10 lists aside, geeks really do make the best lovers, for reasons that have nothing to do with adolescent ostracism or puppy-like devotion.

It's all about sex-tech. (Tell us what you think below.)

Geeks build it so you will come

Second Life's SexGen animation system, Red Light Center's (NSFW) beautiful sex animations and open-source teledildonics did not simply coalesce out of the mists during a marketing department meeting.

These projects require strong technical know-how along with an open-minded approach to sexual variation. After all, you can't build sex-tech that serves only your own preferences if you expect others to use it. Especially if you want them to buy it.

That geeks have the passion to commit their technical skills to expanding sexual options for everyone is evidence enough of their enthusiasm and dedication as lovers.

Geeks get personal with tech

All engineers may be geeks, but not all geeks are engineers. Doesn't matter. You don't need to know how to build a platform in order to do a half-gainer in full pike with a twist into the river of love.

A geek is more likely to figure out how to customize toys and to design arousing environments for your avatars to play in than a non-geek. And that experience translates into a greater sensitivity to atmosphere and mood during sex -- beyond lighting a candle.

Don't be surprised if your geek lover puts more thought into arranging the boudoir than you do, or if common household items ("pervertibles") soon take on a new dimension. More than one geek has told me that Home Depot is their favorite adult store.

Geeks dig consensual role playing

Geek lovers combine a well-developed and oft-exercised erotic imagination with their physical technique. It isn't a big leap from "I'm a level-13 thief, evil-aligned" to "I'm the prison warden and you're the new detainee." Scientists and therapists alike claim that the brain is the most critical sexual organ; a geek's familiarity with fantasy arouses your mind even as the handcuffs -- or the bag of loot -- bring your body to attention.

Geeks interact

A technophobe mostly talks to you in person, but a geek is happy to be with you by texting your phone, flirting with you in a chat room, Skyping you, Twittering just in case you're on your vibrating couch (NSFW), sending funny cell-phone snapshots to your e-mail, playing online games, commenting on your blog, Digging articles that interest you, seducing you by instant message….

Geeks get things done

Geeks know all the shortcuts. They research your interests, send you surprise gifts, plan your perfect vacation, get the bills and grocery shopping out of the way, write to their mothers, and tease you mercilessly, all while pretending to work. And when you ask them to set up your home Wi-Fi or install a home theater, it's done quickly, expertly and without complaint.

In other words, geeks know how to get everything else out of the way so there's more time for lovemaking.

Geeks are hot …

… and wear the coolest glasses.

Geeks don't shock easily

Geeks have seen all the porn you can imagine and then some, priming them to be open to your sexual peccadilloes. They are not only less likely to be shocked by your exotic requests -- they might not even realize that other people think your turn-ons are exotic.

Conversely, your geek lover might be relieved that your wildest fantasy involves only two other people, five utensils and a trapeze.

Geeks know kinky people

Geeks haven't just seen a variety of positions, kinks and fetishes in blue movies. They know (or are) people who enjoy those things, so they don't dismiss entire categories of sexual interests as the sole province of a bunch of weirdos in San Francisco.

It's hard to sustain prejudice and bias against an abstract group when you develop relationships with individuals and discover they're just like you. It doesn't matter if they dress up like ponies, or refuse to conform to a societal idea of gender norms, or eat pancakes for dinner. Geek lovers know better than to try to impose their sexual preferences or standards on others -- including your friends -- and are more likely to love and let love.

Geeks understand multi-dimensional relationships

Geeks connect with their online buddies in several guises, often getting to know the person behind the avatar as friendships deepen and move from adult communities to personal IM.

A geek can flow seamlessly between conversation about a friend's partner and kids in one window and an elaborate group sex scene in another, without feeling any discontinuity between the personas. Even if the friend is a 43-year-old father of two in IM, and a 22-year-old dominatrix in the group.

With all that going on, a geek has no problem accepting that sometimes you want mocha ripple cherry fudge chunk swirl with almonds and a waffle and sometimes you want vanilla lite.

Geeks aren't threatened by new tech or "the future of sex"

Geeks have read the science fiction. They know the dire predictions of a world in which the sticky press of flesh is replaced by neural nets and sex robots that also do housework (or is that house robots that also do sex work?).

Geeks have imagined more sexual dystopias than the average person and are the first to see the technological developments that could lead us down dark paths. Which only makes sense, considering who develops those technologies in the first place.

At the same time, geeks know better than anyone that something always goes wrong when you lean on machines for your social fulfillment. A geek doesn't mind if you bring home the iiErotoTrix 5000 v3 -- as long as you share it.

Literacy and the printing press did not replace sex; neither did photography, automobiles, video, online porn or 3-D escort services. Geek lovers spend enough time with technology to appreciate the unique wondrousness of human touch.

See you next Friday, Regina Lynn

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Surgeons 50 Percent Better After Wiimote Sim

Back in January we pointed out that research was underway in Phoenix to create a surgery-practice application using the Wiimote. They've finished the project. That's the device at the left, and the researchers have found that for a fraction of the cost of a high-tech simulator, they've improved residents' skills in certain procedures by 50 percent.

"One of the problems we’ve had over the years is we had no method to teach surgeons surgical skills without going into surgery," said Dr. Mark Smith, a co-developer and a gynecological surgeon at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. "We now have simulators that help them develop those skills. The problem is they are incredibly expensive — like a flight simulator for a pilot. This gives us a much less costly way to train these fine motor skills that the surgeons employ during surgery."

WABC-TV in New York did a story on the Wii simulator, which includes video. News8 Austin, a Time-Warner cable news channel, also features a Q&A with Dr. Smith on its site (where we got the pic).

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Old tires make new roads


Those tires on your wheels may end up on your roads, thanks to a more than $325,000 effort to divert 21,000 waste tires from California landfills and use them to create rubberized asphalt concrete, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

The waste board awarded the money last week to El Cerrito up north in Contra Costa County and Baldwin Park.

Rubberized asphalt concrete is made by blending rubber from recycled waste tires with asphalt and uses about 2,000 waste tires for ever lane mile paved. Not only does it cut down in noise, but it resists cracking, retains its original color and can save up to $50,000 per lane mile compared with the standard 4-inch thick layer of regular asphalt.

So far the waste board has provided more than $25 million in such grants to find new uses for the roughly 42 million waste tires generated each year in California. About 75% are recycled, but roughly 10 million tires remain and are often found in landfills or illegal stockpiles. These surplus tires can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rodents and other pests, according to the board. They also can pose a high fire risk, and these fires are not only hard to put out but they also create heavy smoke and toxic runoff.

Money for these grants come from the $1.75 recycling fee charged on each new tire sold in California. The waste board receives $1 for each tire, and the rest of the money is used for tire-related air emission programs.

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Me, Myself and I

Why do we capitalize the word “I”? There’s no grammatical reason for doing so, and oddly enough, the majuscule “I” appears only in English.

Consider other languages: some, like Hebrew, Arabic and Devanagari-Hindi, have no capitalized letters, and others, like Japanese, make it possible to drop pronouns altogether. The supposedly snobbish French leave all personal pronouns in the unassuming lowercase, and Germans respectfully capitalize the formal form of “you” and even, occasionally, the informal form of “you,” but would never capitalize “I.” Yet in English, the solitary “I” towers above “he,” “she,” “it” and the royal “we.” Even a gathering that includes God might not be addressed with a capitalized “you.”

The word “capitalize” comes from “capital,” meaning “head,” and is associated with importance, material wealth, assets and advantages. We have capital cities and capital ideas. We give capital punishment and accrue political, social and financial capital. And then there is capitalism, which is linked to private ownership, markets and investments. These words shore up the towering single letter that signifies us as discrete beings and connote confidence, dominance and the ambition to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

England is where the capital “I” first reared its dotless head. In Old and Middle English, when “I” was still “ic,” “ich” or some variation thereof — before phonetic changes in the spoken language led to a stripped-down written form — the first-person pronoun was not majuscule in most cases. The generally accepted linguistic explanation for the capital “I” is that it could not stand alone, uncapitalized, as a single letter, which allows for the possibility that early manuscripts and typography played a major role in shaping the national character of English-speaking countries.

“Graphically, single letters are a problem,” says Charles Bigelow, a type historian and a designer of the Lucida and Wingdings font families. “They look like they broke off from a word or got lost or had some other accident.” When “I” shrunk to a single letter, Bigelow explains, “one little letter had to represent an important word, but it was too wimpy, graphically speaking, to carry the semantic burden, so the scribes made it bigger, which means taller, which means equivalent to a capital.”

The growing “I” became prevalent in the 13th and 14th centuries, with a Geoffrey Chaucer manuscript of “The Canterbury Tales” among the first evidence of this grammatical shift. Initially, distinctions were made between graphic marks denoting an “I” at the beginning of a sentence versus a midphrase first-person pronoun. Yet these variations eventually fell by the wayside, leaving us with our all-purpose capital “I,” a potent change apparently made for simplicity’s sake.

In following centuries, Britain and the United States thrived as world powers, and English became the second-most-common language in the world, following Mandarin. Meanwhile, the origin, meaning and consequences of our capitalized “I” went largely unchanged, with few exceptions.

One divergence stems from the Rastafarians, who intentionally developed a dialect of Jamaican Creole in order to break culturally from the English-speaking imperialists who once enslaved them. Their phrase “I and I” can be used in place of “I,” “we” or Rastafarians as a group, but generally expresses the oneness of the speaker with God and all people. “I and I” is thus, in some ways, a conscious deviation — really the exact opposite of the English ego-centered capital “I.”

Not long ago, certain presidential candidates could have used a bit of the “I and I” spirit. At the close of the primary season, the news media scrutinized Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama’s use of the first-person pronoun, the implication being that a string of “I” ’s signifies ungracious self-inflation. On the last day of voting, Clinton led the pack with 64 “I” ’s and McCain followed with 60. Obama’s “I” count lagged at 30, and he was the only candidate whose combined “we” ’s (37) and “you” ’s (16) outnumbered his “I” ’s. These were spoken pronouns, but, of course, our understanding and use of language is informed by the printed word.

So what effect has capitalizing “I” but not “you” — or any other pronoun — had on English speakers? It’s impossible to know, but perhaps our individualistic, workaholic society would be more rooted in community and quality and less focused on money and success if we each thought of ourselves as a small “i” with a sweet little dot. There have, of course, been plenty of rich and dominant cultures throughout history that have gotten by just fine without capitalizing the first-person pronoun or ever writing it down at all. There have also been cultures that committed atrocities even while capitalizing “you.”

Still, there seems to be something to it all. Modern e-mail culture has shown that many English speakers feel perfectly comfortable dismissing all uses of capitalization — and even correct spelling, for that matter. But take this a step further: i suggest that You try, as an experiment, to capitalize those whom You address while leaving yourselves in the lowercase. It may be a humbling experience. It was for me.

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