January 2010

For children and innocent people who are suffering from this natural disaster in Haiti, I think all of us, we can help them, we must do so out of solidarity and love our neighbor (Brother). Further details will be in the coming weeks, but today we must help them quickly.
Here I share some Internet addresses (below)
So long.

Carlos Tiger without time (CTsT)

American Red Cross

World Vision


Doctors Without Borders

Although seismic predictions work on geologic timescales and can miss big quakes by decades, one expert said last week that a temblor in Port-au-Prince was of greater concern than a San Andreas slip

The devastating magnitude 7.0 quake that ripped through Haiti Tuesday, reportedly killing thousands, did not catch everyone by surprise.

In an interview last week for an unrelated story, Robert Yeats, a professor emeritus in geoscience at Oregon State University in Corvallis and co-author of a June 1989 article for Scientific American “Hidden Earthquakes,” said that an imminent big west coast earthquake concerned him far less than a “big one” that might occur in Haiti, due to the large fault near the capital city of Port-au-Prince—and the poverty-driven low level of earthquake-preparedness there.

“If they have an earthquake on this fault that runs through Port-au-Prince,” the death toll would be tremendous, he said January 6.

The fault, called the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault, runs some 16 kilometers from Port-au-Prince and is at the intersection of the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, which are slowly sliding past one another. This movement creates a strike-slip fault, the same kind as the San Andreas Fault in California, where the North American and Pacific plates are sliding in different directions. And like the San Andreas, the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault has been building up pressure.

“The fault has been more or less locked for 200 years,” British Geological Survey seismologist Roger Musson explained to TIME. In this area, where the Caribbean plate is moving east against the North American Plate, plate movement is about seven millimeters per year, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

In fact, Michael Blanpied, an associate coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, explained in a podcast recorded hours after the quake, the two plates are “shearing the island, crushing it, grinding it.” So although such a large earthquake has not shaken Haiti since the 18th century, “this is quite an earthquake-prone region,” Blanpied said. And it is not the biggest quake to hit the Island of Hispaniola (which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) in recent history. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake rocked the Dominican Republic in 1946, the Associated Press noted.

Yeats was not the only one to raise concern about a large earthquake in Haiti. Geologic groups have been monitoring the area for decades, and a University of Texas team has been keeping a close eye on the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault. Two years ago at the 2008 Caribbean Geological Conference, the Austin-based group asserted that there was enough stress built up to cause a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, Nature News reported (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group).

One reason the Tuesday quake, which subjected some three million people to “severe shaking,” was so damaging is that it occurred at a relatively shallow depth, the fault having ruptured about 10 kilometers below the surface, Blanpied noted. It also occurred below relatively loose ground, Carrieann Bedwell, a USGS geophysicist, told LiveScience. “A mountainous and rocky setting is more characteristic of not as much ground shaking, opposed to abundant sediments…where there’s a potential for higher ground shaking,” he said. “Haiti would be a more sediment type, more severe ground-shaking geologic setting.”

Although the earthquake has leveled countless buildings in the capital city of more than two million people—and triggered landslides throughout the heavily deforested region—it did not spur a tsunami as was initially feared for at sizeable Caribbean quake, and authorities canceled a tsunami watch two hours after the earthquake itself.

But magnitude and shake dynamics are not what really concerned Yeats and other seismologists. “It’s really not the size of the earthquake that’s the big concern,” he noted last week, “it’s its relationship to big cities.” And an earthquake in this area was particularly worrisome, not just because of the tension-filled fault, but because “the infrastructure there is just terrible,” said Yeats, who is also a senior consultant for geological hazards company, Earth Consultants International, and has studied earthquake preparedness around the world. In a book called Active Faults of the World that he is currently writing for Cambridge University Press, he estimated several months ago that “the poor state of construction in both [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], but especially Haiti, indicates that when the next large earthquakes strikes either [Port-au-Prince or Santo Domingo], it will be a catastrophe, in part because of the lack of a social-services network.”

The Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault is one of dozens around the world that run through populous, but often poorly prepared, areas. Last week, Yeats also called the city of Tehran “a time bomb that is waiting to go off.” The North Tehran Fault could unleash an earthquake similarly massive to the one anticipated to strike southern California in the coming decades. But in the Iranian capital, he says, despite advanced regional technology, many of the buildings are not shake-proof.

Other worrisome locales, he notes, are Lima, Peru, and Karachi, Pakistan, as well as and much of Turkey, where many areas are either unsafely built due to corruption or poverty.

Whether last weekend’s 6.5 magnitude temblor off the coast of Northern California’s Humboldt County and the Haiti earthquake two days later are linked is yet to be determined. Seismologists now widely recognize that a large earthquake in one place can trigger another vulnerable fault thousands of miles away. Yeats calls it the “pulling the buttons off your shirt” idea—by releasing tension on one stressed point, the force shifts and can rupture another “locked” point. “You pull one button off,” he said, “and the next one is ready to go.” A paper published last October in Nature reported the large 2004 seismic events near the Indonesian island Sumatra that spurred the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami had an impact on the San Andreas fault in California.

In the meantime, seismologists will be watching Haiti closely, Blanpied noted in the USGS podcast, and they expect to see aftershocks for days to come. The largest aftershocks so far have already rumbled in at magnitude 5.9, and more could strike at any time.

And Yeats is not convinced that this latest quake at Haiti is the most severe one the Caribbean is likely to see in the near future. “It’s not the big one,” he said in a January 13 follow-up interview. He added he is now worried that a larger one could hit other cities in the region, such as Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic or Kingston, Jamaica. The Caribbean Plate, he noted, is “just sort of sitting there while the North American and South American plates move” west (due to sea floor spreading in the Atlantic). But the next big earthquake could be years or decades from now, he said. “We’re good at placing these forecasts and probabilistic terms on a geological time scale, but we’re not good at putting it at scales that matter to you and me.” And even probability forecasts can turn out to be wrong. The southern San Andreas was pegged as likely to produce a major earthquake before this one was, he noted.


* By Katherine Harmon, News – January 13, 2010

The Rev. Pat Robertson turned heads with his appearance on The 700 Club on Wednesday when he blamed Haitian history for Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. In short, Robertson claimed that the quake was divine retribution for a pact with the devil that was sworn long ago, a statement he was audacious enough to make while the 800 number for disaster relief scrolled at the bottom of the broadcast. Here’s the clip:

“And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon the Third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘O.K., it’s a deal.’ “

So what was Robertson referring to? The theory that Haiti is a nation built on a pact with the devil has circulated on a number of websites, each tracing back to an apocryphal tale of Haitian voodoo priests sacrificing a pig and drinking its blood in 1791 in order to secure Satan’s aid in expelling the French occupation. In return, the priests are said to have promised Haiti to Satan for the next 200 years. The French were soon beat back, and in 1804, Haiti became an independent nation. But even if you believe the story (something many historians doubt), Satan’s lease on the tiny island nation should have expired in 1991.

This isn’t the first time that Robertson has shocked people by speaking off-the-cuff. After then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke in January 2006, Robertson posited that it was punishment from God. He urged the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2005, and hosted the Rev. Jerry Falwell on The 700 Club in 2001, when Falwell made comments suggesting that gays and feminists, among others, were responsible for bringing the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. He has also become famous for his woeful prognostication, after promising a disastrous tsunami in America in 2006 and a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2007, both of which (thankfully) failed to materialize.

* By Dan Fletcher, Time-CNN, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010

It’s hardly a secret that taking cocaine can change the way you feel and the way you behave. Now, a study published in the Jan. 8 issue of Science shows how it also alters the way the genes in your brain operate. Understanding this process could eventually lead to new treatments for the 1.4 million Americans with cocaine problems, and millions more around the world.

The study, which was conducted on mice, is part of a hot new area of research called epigenetics, which explores how experiences and environmental exposures affect genes. “This is a major step in understanding the development of cocaine addiction and a first step toward generating ideas for how we might use epigenetic regulation to modulate the development of addiction,” says Peter Kalivas, professor of neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina, who was not associated with the study. 

Though we think about our genes mostly in terms of the traits we pass on to our children, they are actually very active in our lives every day, regulating how various cells in our bodies behave. In the brain this can be especially powerful. Any significant experience triggers changes in brain genes that produce proteins — those necessary to help memories form, for example. But, says the study’s lead author, Ian Maze, a doctoral student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, “when you give an animal a single dose of cocaine, you start to have genes aberrantly turn on and off in a strange pattern that we are still trying to figure out.”
Maze’s research focused on a particular protein called G9a that is associated with cocaine-related changes in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region essential for the experience of desire, pleasure and drive. The role of the protein appears to be to shut down genes that shouldn’t be on. One-time use of cocaine increases levels of G9a. But repeated use works the other way, suppressing the protein and reducing its overall control of gene activation. Without enough G9a, those overactive genes cause brain cells to generate more dendritic spines, which are the parts of cells that make connections to other cells.
Increases in the number of these spines can reflect learning. But in the case of addiction, that may involve learning to connect a place or a person with the desire for more drugs. Maze showed that even after a week of abstinence, mice given a new dose of cocaine still had elevated levels of gene activation in the nucleus accumbens, meaning G9a levels were still low. It is not known how long these changes can last. Maze also showed that when he intervened and raised G9a levels, the mice were less attracted to cocaine.
It’s a big leap from a mouse study to a human study, of course — and an even bigger leap to consider developing a G9a-based treatment for addiction. The protein regulates so many genes that such a drug would almost certainly have unwanted and potentially deadly side effects. But a better understanding of the G9a pathways could lead to the development of safer, more specific drugs. And studying the genes that control G9a itself could also help screen people at risk for cocaine addiction: those with naturally lower levels of the protein would be the ones to watch. Still, there’s a lot to be learned even from further mouse studies — particularly if the work involves younger mice, unlike the adults used in Maze’s research. (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.)

“We know that the greatest vulnerability [to addiction] occurs when adolescents are exposed,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study. “Would you see the same results in adolescent [mice]? And what happens during fetal exposure?”
New treatments are definitely needed for cocaine addiction: there are helpful medications for addiction to heroin and similar drugs, but so far, none are particularly useful against stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. And with federal reports now showing that more than two-thirds of all cocaine in the country is cut with a veterinary deworming drug called levamisole, which can cause potentially fatal immune-system problems, the risks from cocaine are greater — and the search for new answers more urgent than ever.


* By Maia Szalavitz Friday, Jan. 08, 2010

President Barack Obama told banks Thursday they should pay a new tax to recoup the cost of bailing out foundering firms at the height of the financial crisis.

“We want our money back,” he said.
In a brief appearance with advisers at the White House, Obama branded the latest round of bank bonuses as “obscene.” But he said his goal was to prevent such excesses in the future, not to punish banks for past behavior.

The tax, which would require congressional approval, would last at least 10 years and generate about $90 billion over the decade, according to administration estimates. “If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers,” Obama said.

Advisers believe the administration can make an argument that banks should tap their bonus pools for the fee instead of passing the cost on to consumers.

The president’s tone was emphatic and populist, capitalizing on public antipathy toward Wall Street. With the sharp words, he also tried to deflect some of the growing skepticism aimed at his own economic policies as unemployment stubbornly hovers around 10 percent.

The proposed 0.15 percent tax on the liabilities of large financial institutions would apply only to those companies with assets of more than $50 billion — a group estimated at about 50. Administration officials estimate that 60 percent of the revenue would come from the 10 biggest ones.

They would have to pay up even though many did not accept any taxpayer assistance and most that did have repaid the infusions.
Obama said big banks had acted irresponsibility, taken reckless risk for short-term profits and plunged into a crisis of their own making. He cast the struggle ahead as one between the finance industry and average people.

“We are already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street, suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair, that by some twisted logic, it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the cost of the bailout rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses,” Obama said.
He renewed his call for a regulatory overhaul of the industry and scolded bankers for opposing the tighter oversight in legislation moving through Congress.

“What I’d say to these executives is this: Instead of setting a phalanx of lobbyists to fight this proposal or employing an army of lawyers and accountants to help evade the fee, I’d suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibility,” Obama said.
At issue is the net cost of the fund initiated by the Bush administration to help financial institutions get rid of soured assets.

The $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has expanded to help auto companies and homeowners.
Insurer American International Group, the largest beneficiary at nearly $70 billion, would have to pay the tax. But General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, whose $66 billion in government loans are not expected to be repaid fully, would not.

Administration officials said financial institutions were both a significant cause of the crisis and chief beneficiaries of the rescue efforts, should bear the brunt of the cost.
Bankers did not hide their objections.

“Politics have overtaken the economics,” said Scott Talbott, the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, a group representing large Wall Street institutions. “This is a punitive tax on companies that repaid TARP in full or never took TARP.”
Even before details came out, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said: “Using tax policy to punish people is a bad idea.”

Obama is trying to accelerate terms that require the president to seek a way to recoup unrecovered money in 2013, five years after the law was enacted.
So far, the Treasury has given $247 billion to more than 700 banks. Of that, $162 billion has been repaid and banks have paid an additional $11 billion in interest and dividends.
In Congress, Democrats embraced Obama’s proposal while Republicans rejected it.

“I think it is entirely reasonable to say that the industry that, A, caused these problems more than any other and, B, benefited from the activity, should be contributing,” said Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
But GOP Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who’s on Frank’s committee, called it a “job-killing initiatives that will further cripple the economy by increasing fees passed on to consumers and small businesses, while reducing consumer credit.”

By Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press Writer-WASHINGTON (AP)


Federal Deposit Insurance Corp: http://www.fdic.gov/
Financial Services Roundtable: http://www.fsround.org/
Troubled Asset Relief Program: http://www.financialstability.gov/
House Financial Services Committee: http://financialservices.house.gov/
Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: http://www.fcic.gov

Mr Ratzon declared: “I’m perfect … I have all the qualities a woman wants”
Residents of Tel Aviv’s quiet Hatikva neighbourhood were shocked yesterday to discover a self-styled Jewish sage living in their midst with a harem of 30 women kept as “slaves” in squalid apartments.
Goel Ratzon, 60, is accused of fathering 37 children since 1993 with his “wives” and daughters. Mr Ratzon, who was dubbed by the local media as “Israel’s Josef Fritzl”, is under arrest on suspicion of incest and sexual abuse.

“The evidence shows the suspect controlled his women with a firm hand, including their possessions and their money,” police said. Mr Ratzon even wrote a list of commandments to ensure that the women were kept in “conditions similar to slavery”, police said.
In addition to turning over all their wages, the women were forbidden from making telephone calls or talking to men other than Mr Ratzon. If they broke the rules they would pay a fine or receive physical punishment.

Mickey Rosenfeld, the Israeli police spokesman, said that Mr Ratzon convinced his victims that he had godlike status. “The women didn’t really understand what their situation was, they didn’t understand what freedom was,” Mr Rosenfeld said.
In one case, police raided a three-bedroom apartment where 10 women and 17 children were found living in “horrible conditions”.

The women wore conservative orthodox dresses covering their entire bodies and bore tattoos of their captor’s face — and name. He was married to 17 women but it was unclear how many others he had relations with, police said. All his offspring had names with a variation on his — Goel, which means redeemer in Hebrew.

Mr Ratzon’s family had been known to the Israeli public for some time. Last year he and several women appeared in a television documentary in which the women informed viewers that Mr Ratzon was the Messiah.

It showed the women brushing his hair and feeding him while they declared: “He is the Messiah everyone is talking about . . . The day he decides to reveal himself, the land will shake.”
Mr Ratzon made no claims of deity, but declared: “I’m perfect . . . I have all the qualities a woman wants.” When asked about the commandments, he said: “It’s like a state — I have to uphold my principles, order and laws.”

Neighbours gleaned some details about Mr Ratzon’s communes. One said that he had learnt hypnosis in India and used the technique to subjugate women. “We never heard them, they made no noise at all,” a neighbour told The Jerusalem Post. “The women made a living by cleaning homes, but they were not permitted to work for men.”

Another neighbour said: “Whenever I saw the kids, they were quiet. Sometimes I heard them crying.”
Police said that they delayed arresting Mr Ratzon despite evidence of abuse in the documentary, because they had reports that the women would attempt collective suicide.

Mr Ratzon made it clear in the documentary what the women should do if he was taken away. “When I die . . . you are to lead peaceful and constrained lives . . . but if the state harms me, go out and strike them as much as you can. Even at the cost of shedding your own blood,” he told one woman.
Police said that he preyed on young vulnerable women from broken families. If he was displeased they would harm themselves with razors or burn themselves.

All the women were registered as single mothers, making it impossible to prosecute them under Israeli polygamy laws, but a law passed recently against human trafficking allowed prosecutors to press enslavement charges against Mr Ratzon.
Several women had complained of mistreatment. Two of Mr Ratzon’s “wives” were being questioned on suspicion that they facilitated his crimes. The other women and children were put in the care of social services.

Mr Ratzon will be defended by a woman lawyer. “As far as he is concerned, no sexual crimes have been committed. The women consented willingly to relations,” Shlomtzion Gabai, the lawyer, said.
The Channel 10 documentary showed Mr Ratzon’s nightly ritual. “Do you want to come with me?” he asked one woman in her mid-20s. “Yes,” she said, smiling and hugging him. The other women appeared devastated.

Ratzon’s rules
1 No women shall marry nor shall any woman attack another, either verbally or physically.
Fine: 2,000 shekels (£330) into the family kitty
2 No woman shall question another about her whereabouts.
Fine: 100 shekels
3 No conversation is permitted in rooms other than the living room. It is forbidden to talk nonsense.
Fine: 200 shekels
4 No woman shall sit idle when there are dishes to be washed, cleaning to be done, children to look after etc.
Fine: 2,000 shekels
5 Any two women caught fighting will be punished equally.
Fine: 2,000 shekels
6 It is absolutely forbidden to question Ratzon on his whereabouts or intention.
Fine: 400 shekels
7 It is permissible to ask to accompany him; but refusal is to be accepted without appeal.
Fine: 300 shekels
8 No woman shall interrupt Ratzon or intervene in matters not concerning her.
Fine: 500 shekels
9 All orders are to be obeyed immediately.
Fine: 300 shekels
10 No woman shall work while a man of over 12 years of age is in the house.
Fine 3,000 shekels


* From The Times by Yossi Zeliger/EPA, January 15, 2010