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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Networking applies to many more areas of your life than your profession.
In romance, sports, leisure and even in your extended family, you'll be much more fulfilled and stimulated if you're connected to more people.
It's up to you to make the connections you need, though -- so reach out and don't be shy.
People are much more receptive to your overtures than you realize.
You'll feel surprised and encouraged by the associations you're starting to develop.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Montreal Quebec, Canada
Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
PAris, Ile-De-France, France
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Nancy, Lorraine, France
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Cork, Cork, Ireland
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
London, England, United Kingdom
Munich, Bayern, Germany
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

as well as Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, Israel, Finland, Austria, Norway, Georgia, Mexico, Peru, Kuwait, Serbia, Bangladesh, Latvia, Greece, Scotland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Wales, Iran, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, Sweden, Afghanistan, Belgium, Tibet, Croatia, Pakistan, Romania, Paraguay, Sudan, Vietnam, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, France, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Maldives, Qatar, Brazil, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, China, Iraq, Ecuador, Nigeria, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Paupa New Guinea, Moldova, Venezuela, Germany, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Czech Republic, Vietnam, Norway, Finland

and in cities across the United States such as Missoula, Gretna, Kailua, Sunset and more.

Today is:
Today is Thursday, June 2, the 153rd day of 2011.
There are 212 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holidays or celebrations are:
National Bubba Day
Yell "Fudge" at the Cobras in North America Day.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!
Graphic images of the corpse of a tortured 13-year-old lead to international condemnation.  

"The Berlin Patient"

An end to AIDS?

For his doctors, Timothy Ray Brown [pictured] was a shot in the dark. An HIV-positive American who was cured by a unique type of bone marrow transplant, the man known as "the Berlin patient" has become an icon of what scientists hope could be the next phase of the AIDS pandemic: its end.

Dramatic scientific advances since HIV was first discovered 30 years ago this week mean the virus is no longer a death sentence. Thanks to tests that detect HIV early, new antiretroviral AIDS drugs that can control the virus for decades, and a range of ways to stop it being spread, 33.3 million people around the world are learning to live with HIV.

People like Vuyiseka Dubula, an HIV-positive AIDS activist and mother in Cape Town, South Africa, can expect relatively normal, full lives. "I'm not thinking about death at all," she says. "I'm taking my treatment and I'm living my life."

Nonetheless, on the 30th birthday of HIV, the global scientific community is setting out with renewed vigor to try to kill it. The drive is partly about science, and partly about money. Treating HIV patients with lifelong courses of sophisticated drugs is becoming unaffordable.

Caring for HIV patients in developing countries alone already costs around $13 billion a year and that could treble over the next 20 years.

In tough economic times, the need to find a cure has become even more urgent, says Francoise Barre Sinoussi, who won a Nobel prize for her work in identifying Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). "We have to think about the long term, including a strategy to find a cure," she says. "We have to keep on searching until we find one."

The Berlin patient is proof they could. His case has injected new energy into a field where people for years believed talk of a cure was irresponsible.


Timothy Ray Brown was living in Berlin when besides being HIV-positive, he had a relapse of leukemia. He was dying. In 2007, his doctor, Gero Huetter, made a radical suggestion: a bone marrow transplant using cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation, known as CCR5 delta 32. Scientists had known for a few years that people with this gene mutation had proved resistant to HIV.

"We really didn't know when we started this project what would happen," Huetter, an oncologist and haematologist who now works at the University of Heidelberg in southern Germany, told Reuters. The treatment could well have finished Brown off. Instead he remains the only human ever to be cured of AIDS. "He has no replicating virus and he isn't taking any medication. And he will now probably never have any problems with HIV," says Huetter. Brown has since moved to San Francisco.

Most experts say it is inconceivable Brown's treatment could be a way of curing all patients. The procedure was expensive, complex and risky. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people -- most of them of northern European descent -- who have the mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.

Dr Robert Gallo, of the Institute of Virology at the University of Maryland, puts it bluntly. "It's not practical and it can kill people," he said last year.

Sinoussi is more expansive. "It's clearly unrealistic to think that this medically heavy, extremely costly, barely reproducible approach could be replicated and scaled-up ... but from a scientist's point of view, it has shown at least that a cure is possible," she says.

The International AIDS Society will this month formally add the aim of finding a cure to its HIV strategy of prevention, treatment and care.

A group of scientist-activists is also launching a global working group to draw up a scientific plan of attack and persuade governments and research institutions to commit more funds. Money is starting to flow. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is asking for proposals for an $8.5 million collaborative research grant to search for a cure, and the Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR, has just announced its first round of four grants to research groups "to develop strategies for eradicating HIV infection."


Until recently, people in HIV and AIDS circles feared that to direct funds toward the search for a cure risked detracting from the fight to get HIV-positive people treated. Even today, only just over five million of the 12 million or so people who need the drugs actually get them.

HIV first surfaced in 1981, when scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered it was the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). An article in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of that June referred to "five young men, all active homosexuals" from Los Angeles as the first documented cases. "That was the summer of '81. For the world it was the beginning of the era of HIV/AIDS, even though we didn't know it was HIV then," says Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has made AIDS research his life's work.

In the subsequent three decades, the disease ignorantly branded "the gay plague" has become one of the most vicious pandemics in human history. Transmitted in semen, blood and breast milk, HIV has devastated poorer regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, where the vast majority of HIV-positive people live. As more tests and treatment have become available, the number of new infections has been falling. But for every two with HIV who get a chance to start on AIDS drugs, five more join the "newly infected" list. United Nations data show that despite an array of potential prevention measures -- from male circumcision to sophisticated vaginal or anal microbicide gels -- more than 7,100 new people catch the virus every day.

Treatment costs per patient can range from around $150 a year in poor countries, where drugs are available as cheap generics, to more than $20,000 a year in the United States.

The overall sums are huge. A recent study as part of a non-governmental campaign called AIDS2031 suggests that low and middle-income countries will need $35 billion a year to properly address the pandemic by 2031. That's almost three times the current level of around $13 billion a year. Add in the costs of treatment in rich countries and experts estimate the costs of HIV 20 years from now will reach $50 to $60 billion a year.

"It's clear that we have to look at another possible way of managing of the epidemic beyond just treating everyone forever," says Sharon Lewin, a leading HIV doctor and researcher from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

In some ways, we have been here before. Early AIDS drugs such as AZT came to market in the late 1980s, but within a decade they were overtaken by powerful cocktail treatments known as HAART, or highly active antiretroviral treatment. HAART had a dramatic effect -- rapidly driving the virus out of patients' blood and prompting some to say a cure was just around the corner.

But then scientists discovered HIV could lie low in pools or reservoirs of latent infection that even powerful drugs could not reach. Talk of a cure all but died out.

"Scientifically we had no means to say we were on the way to finding a cure," says Bertrand Audoin, executive director of the Geneva-based International AIDS Society. "Scientists ... don't want to make any more false promises. They didn't want to talk about a cure again because it really wasn't anywhere on the horizon."


The ultimate goal would allow patients to stop taking AIDS drugs, knocking a hole in a $12 billion-a-year market dominated by Californian drugmaker Gilead and the likes of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.

It's unlikely to happen anytime soon, but Brown's case has opened the door to new ideas. "What it proved was that if you make someone's cells resistant to HIV...then all the last bits of HIV, that hang around for a long time in patients on treatment, did in fact decay and disappear," says Lewin.

Now scientists working on mimicking the effect of the Berlin patient's transplant have had some success. One experimental technique uses gene therapy to take out certain cells, make them resistant to HIV and then put them back into patients in the hope they will survive and spread.

At an HIV conference in Boston earlier this year, American researchers presented data on six patients who had large numbers of white blood cells known as CD4 cells removed, manipulated to knock out the existing CCR5 gene, and then replaced.

"It works like scissors and cuts a piece of genetic information out of the DNA, and then closes the gap," says Huetter. "Then every cell arising from this mother cell has this same mutation."

Early results showed the mutated cells managed to survive inside the bodies of the patients at low levels, remaining present for more than three months in five. "This was a proof of concept," says Lewin. Another potential avenue is a small group of patients known as "elite controllers", who despite being infected with HIV are able to keep it under control simply with their own immune systems. Researchers hope these patients could one day be the clue to developing a successful HIV/AIDS vaccine or functional cure.

Scientists are also exploring ways to "wake up" HIV cells and kill them. As discovered in the late 1990s, HIV has a way of getting deep into the immune system itself -- into what are known as resting memory T-cells -- and going to sleep there. Hidden away, it effectively avoids drugs and the body's own immune response.

"Once it goes to sleep in a cell it can stay there forever, which is really the main reason why we can't cure HIV with current drugs," says Lewin. Her team in Melbourne and another group in the United States are about to start the first human trials using a drug called SAHA or vorinostat, made by Merck and currently used in cancer treatment, which has shown promise in being able to wake up dormant HIV.


As scientists begin to talk up a cure, the old question of whether that's the right goal has re-emerged. Seth Berkley, a medical epidemiologist and head of the U.S.-based International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is concerned.

"From a science point of view, it's a fabulous thing to do. It's a great target and a lot of science will be learned. But from a public health point of view, the primary thing you need to do is stop the flow of new infections," says Berkley. "We need a prevention revolution. That is absolutely critical."

Vuyiseka Dubula agrees. The South African activist finds talk of a cure for HIV distracting, almost disconcerting. "This research might not yield results soon, and even when it does, access to that cure is still going to be a big issue," she says. "So in the meantime, while we don't have the answer on whether HIV can be cured or not, we need to save lives."



On The Job

If any of these thorny work situations sounds familiar, it’s time to take action.  
Despite the economy, paychecks in these fields are at least 16 percent fatter than in 2009.  
Use some free time to take online classes and work toward a new degree.  

Tough and Easy Times

Lousy news about jobs and home prices has put the country in a "Jack Nicholson Economy." 
Look for more self-made millionaires in the next five years than at any time in U.S. history, an author says.  

    Living without credit cards

    'Man vs. Debt' blogger Adam Baker ran into one problem traveling the world plastic-free. 

    For-profit college crackdown

    The government cracks down on schools that saddle students with too much debt and few job prospects.

    Taxpayer ID theft soaring

    Crooks have thousands of IRS refund checks with filers’ names and Social Security numbers. 

      And I Quote


      Largest US businesses made $170 billion and paid no taxes

      Obviously taxes are only for the little people.

      Today, and not a moment too soon, the non-profit Citizens For Tax Justice (CTJ) has put out their findings revealing that twelve of the nations largest Fortune 500 companies, while making $170 billion in profits during the period of The Great Recession, paid an effective tax rate of negative 1.5%.

      Yes, you read that correctly.

      Not only have these twelve companies paid zero in taxes for the years 2008-2010, they actually received tax subsidies that added $62.4 billion to their bottom lines.

      Wizard of Id


      A creepy home foreclosure

      Two families fled this Idaho house because something inside gave them the willies.  

      Billionaire's tree dispute

      Oracle CEO Larry Ellison finds a way to get around his neighbors' towering redwoods.

        New Area 51 spy plane pics

        Look inside the 1963 crash of a jet flown from the base the CIA still won't confirm exists.

        Gmail hacked again, China likely culprit

        Since this allegedly happened to senior politicians, does this mean the US is prepared to bomb China in retaliation as the government suggested recently? Or was that just some random nut job talk that we've come to expect from Washington?

        Suspected Chinese hackers tried to steal the passwords of hundreds of Google email account holders, including those of senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists, the Internet company said.

        The perpetrators appeared to originate from Jinan, the capital of China's eastern Shandong province, Google said. Jinan is home to one of six technical reconnaissance bureaus belonging to the People's Liberation Army and a technical college that U.S. investigators last year linked to a previous attack on Google.

        Washington said it was investigating Google's claims while the FBI said it was working with Google following the attacks -- the latest computer-based invasions directed at multinational companies that have raised global alarm about Internet security.

        Soccer Scandal!

        A bribery controversy within FIFA could reopen bids to host the coveted 2022 event.  
        And while we're talking soccer ...
        A high school soccer player picks the perfect time to try a wild trick that's not normally seen.

          The Drug War

          Calling the longtime "war on drugs" a failure, a group of former politicians says the focus must change. 
            A kindergarten teacher's cool reaction to a shootout strikes a chord around the world.  

              Rescuers let man drown

              Police and fire teams were "handcuffed by policy" when they stood by while a man drowned.  

              Amateur Exorcist Guilty Of Murder

              In Indiana: Exorcism claim fails mom guilty of murder.
              exorcist Latisha Lawson still believes she did what God told her to do in November 2009 when she forced her toddler to drink a mixture of vinegar and olive oil.
              Even though it killed him. Even though she was convicted of murder and other charges in Jezaih King’s death.
              Gull set sentencing for late June. She faces at least 45 years in prison.
              She was found guilty of murder, battery causing death and neglect of a dependent causing death concerning her son, as well as neglect of a dependent causing injury, neglect of a dependent and battery for allegedly beating and neglecting her 10-year-old daughter.
              She testified in court, and talked about her faith in God and the Bible. But the jury didn't fall for it. She faces up to 45 years in the slammer, where she'll have plenty of time to read her Bible.

              Inheritance to doomsday group

              A woman is shocked that most of her aunt's $300,000 estate went to the group predicting doomsday. 

              'Above-Average' Hurricane Season Begins

              Hurricane season officially began Wednesday, with forecasters saying it's likely to be an above-average season.

              Arctic time lapse wows Web

              A rare natural phenomenon in which sunset blurs into sunrise becomes a viral hit.  

                Astronomical News

                Rare circumstances mean the stellar event will begin Thursday morning and end Wednesday evening. 
                  Four Percent of Galaxies Are Like Milky Way
                  Researchers have discovered that only four percent of galaxies have similar qualities as our own Milky Way.
                  I guess every galaxy really is a snowflake.

                  The research team compared the Milky Way to similar galaxies in terms of luminosity–a measure of how much light is emitted–and distance to other bright galaxies. They found galaxies that have two satellites that are as bright and close by as the Milky Way’s two closest satellites, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are rare.

                  Cavewomen were the first explorers

                  Ancient hominid males were stay at home dads while females roamed
                  The males of two bipedal hominid species that roamed the South African savannah more than a million years ago were stay-at-home kind of guys when compared to the gadabout gals.

                  Another take on this story:

                   Origin of wanderlust explained.
                  Over two million years ago women roamed the earth, not men. New findings published in the journal, Nature, suggest that "pre-human" females had the travel bug, uprooting from their birth homes in order to hunt for mates.

                  The findings are based on several teeth that date back to our pre-historic ancestors. The differences in . mineral variation between the male and female teeth have paleontologists believing that women were charged with leaving the nest, while the men stayed behind holding down the fort.

                  The evolutionary explanation is fairly unromantic: women were trying to avoid incestuous inbreeding by hunting for non-relatives to mate with. Eat, Pray, Love, it wasn't. But the idea that women left home in search of their future isn't so far from what we do today.

                  Random Celebrity Photo

                  Paul McCartney
                  Paul McCartney

                  Food pyramid out, 'My Plate' in

                  The Agriculture Department says "My Plate," its new healthy eating symbol, aims to show that nutrition doesn't have to be complicated.

                  A Drug That Could Erase Your Memories

                  If you could take a drug that would erase only your bad memories and memories of being afraid, would you take it? Metyrapone is a drug that could do just that. While there are some obvious advantages to not remembering certain experiences, the negative side effects could outweigh the positive.
                  This drug could be a boon to therapists trying to help people deal with trauma. But it’s also terrifying when you consider how it could be used to rewrite the way people remember what’s happened to them. Instead of mistrusting somebody who hurt you, you’d have nothing but neutral feelings about them. And instead of learning from your painful  mistakes, you’d be left in a constant state of ill-informed naiveté.?

                  Caffeine in pants to lose weight?

                  These $50 leggings claim to slim your body — and you don't even have to exercise in them.  

                    Culinary DeLites

                    An unopened bottle of soy sauce can last years on the shelf, but some things need chilling.
                      You may need to add foods with more fats, but make sure you're eating the right kinds. 
                        One greasy starter packs a whopping 2,100 calories and will surely blow away any weight-loss plan.  



                          Trip ideas for animal lovers

                          One resort lets visitors ride water-loving horses along the sand and into the warm ocean.

                            Animal News

                            Thai customs authorities say 431 turtles and other rare reptiles were stuffed into four suitcases and smuggled into the Bangkok airport.

                            When a black bear wandered near a Portland-area elementary school, some students got a day off while wildlife crews got a run for their money.

                            A blue lobster landed in North Rustico Wednesday.
                            A fisherman hauled an extremely rare blue lobster out of the waters off P.E.I.'s North Shore Wednesday.

                            Bird-watcher sues after police mistake her sage for marijuana

                            A Florida woman who took a smudge stick of sage on a bird-watching trip has sued the Broward County sheriff’s office, after police thought her dried herb was marijuana and arrested her.

                            Robin Brown, 49, was arrested in 2009, after a police officer's field kit determined her sage was marijuana. The officer seized her “contraband” for lab tests, and Brown was arrested three months later at her workplace for marijuana possession.

                            “They arrested me in front of my customers, my boss, my co-workers,” Brown said. She said she was subjected to a body cavity search, a strip search, and an overnight stay in jail.

                            A month later, Brown's attorney discovered that the sage had never been tested at the Broward Sheriff's Office crime lab. When it was tested, after Browns’s release, it contained no marijuana. The criminal charges were dropped. Brown has now filed a civil lawsuit claiming public humiliation, mental pain and suffering.

                            Man killed trying to shepherd ducklings across road

                            A Naperville man attempting to help a family of ducklings safely cross Interstate Highway 294 was killed on Monday when he was struck by a limousine. Edward Gardner was traveling north when he pulled over near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport at about 9:30 a.m. because he saw a family of ducklings on the tollway, Illinois State Police Sgt. Nick Hasan said.

                            That's when the limousine, which police said wasn't speeding, hit him. The 38-year-old was pronounced dead about four hours later at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

                            "That's totally Ed," said Jim Gollwitzer, a longtime friend of Gardner's. "That's just how big of a heart he had." Gardner, who worked in the telecommunications industry, had dedicated much of his life to helping animals, Gollwitzer said.

                            He spent his vacations volunteering at a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico, doing construction work and whatever odd jobs needed to be done there. "He cared about animals," Gollwitzer said. "It was one of his passions in life."