Columns / Discourse / April 15, 2009

Inside out

This week, spring has shown its reluctance to be sprung, and students of all denominations (or lack thereof) joined with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. Outside the Knox bubble, the world’s been busy with more than religious observations and parties reveling in a less-than devout manner.

Here are seven stories that may or may not be more interesting than who you saw leaving your local fraternity house before (Easter) Sunday brunch.

New Alzheimer’s drug

In Britain, a new drug, CPHPC, has given scientists optimism regarding the treatment of Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. The initial study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported that the drug effectively removed serum amyloid P component (SAP), a protein linked to the disease, from the blood. After the encouraging results, UK scientists are planning larger-scale clinical studies on the drug’s use in Alzheimer’s therapy.

Smuggling deaths

While baseball fever seizes fans across campus and the US, smuggling season has begun in the Mediterranean. Migrants typically depart Libya, Tunisia, or Morocco along the northern coastline of Africa in hopes of reaching Italy, Spain, and other European destinations. On March 31, a boat en route to Italy capsized 9 miles off the Libyan coast in rough waters churned up by stormy weather. Over 200 are thought dead (almost 1/7 the number that perished in the Titanic sinking, the 97th anniversary of which was April 15). Tens of thousands of Africans attempt to reach Europe each year, and are exploited by smugglers charging exorbitant fees for what can be a dangerous trip in small, ill-equipped boats. Italy has announced plans to begin sea patrols with Libya in May in order to discourage the heavy flow of immigrants.

Orangutans found

In a remote region of Borneo, scientists found a population of an estimated 1,000-2,000 orangutans previously undiscovered. It is estimated that there are only 50,000 of the animals, which are endangered, surviving in the wild. Orangutans face extreme habitat loss caused by the encroachment of humans and deforestation. The scientists located the animals with the help of locals, and are now trying to arrange a plan with the citizens to ensure the population’s security. The ‘discovery’ is proof that although the world seems to have shrunk to epic proportions, there are still areas of the Earth that maintain their secrets.

Shoe-throwing journalist sentenced

Muntadar al-Zaidi, better known as the Iraqi shoe-chucker, had his sentence cut to a single year in jail (rapper T.I. was also recently served with a year’s sentence, charged not for disrespect of a foreign dignitary, but rather the attempted illegal purchase of machine guns and silencers). The sentence was initially three years, but with good behavior he could be on the streets (with a new pair of shoes?) in five months. Zaidi has been in custody since last December, when he hurled his shoes at Bush, during his final visit to Iraq, as “a farewell kiss.”

First Dog selected

President Obama made good on his (highly anticipated) promise, which he made five months ago on the evening of his election. The Obamas have welcomed six-month-old Portuguese water dog, Bo, to the First Family (coincidentally, Clinton and Bush also favored canines with ‘B’ names, Buddy and Barney respectively). It’s possible that Bo has entered the White House with as much expectation as Obama himself. Hopefully he won’t disappoint.

Cuban travel restrictions eased

A recent announcement fulfilled a different type of pledge made by Obama during his campaign. In a historic move, the US has eased travel restrictions on Cuba to allow freer travel of Cuban Americans back to the island to visit family. Although the action seems minimal considering the stipulations of the general embargo that has lasted almost half a century—since Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959 revolution—it is recognized as a step towards negotiations between the two nations. The changes also lifted restrictions on US telecommunications companies, which are now free to seek operation licenses on the island (does this mean Raul Castro will get a Facebook?).

Tate materials on iTunes

Of interest to the artistic-minded, the Tate galleries have recently made over 400 additions to iTunes in the form of audio and video clips. The files feature a variety of materials ranging from artist interviews to academic lectures. If you can’t wait until the next art major unveils their senior show, or your next trip to the UK to see Tate’s newest exhibitions, fill the time with some free downloads.

Gaby Fox

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